Current Events p.6
In the St. Andrew Herald article ‘Nation anxious for action’, by Jerome Knowles, he interviews people in and around St. Andrew to see what they are hoping the Anti-Terrorism Coalition will achieve. Everyone is looking forward to a meeting on Sunday, when the ATC will announce their plan for stopping the terrorists. The ATC has already recruited thousands of new officers, helping the poor economy by getting the unemployed young people off the streets and back to work. Knowles found that the community appreciates the opportunities that the ATC offers those who have gone so long without work. Also, he reports that most people are positive that the ATC will make a major impact on the war on terrorism. I agree and feel that it is important that we support the government in hopes that they can make this country safer.
President-Elect Wendell Stevens filed into the Capitol Building’s rotunda with the other members of the newly formed Anti-Terrorism Coalition. Together they represented the major offices of the government. Trailing behind him down the hall were Celine Mattucci from the State Department, General Michael Kobayashi of the U.S. Army, Daniel Foster, director of the FBI and Deshaun Haley, head of the CIA.
A raised platform was set up on one side of the rotunda, along with a large table with five chairs. The audience was filled with reporters and rows of cameramen from the many different news stations. The members of the Anti-Terrorism Coalition made their way to their seats. President-Elect Stevens took the center chair. He could see the Secret Service agents stationed all around the room.
“We’re ready when you are,” said a man in front of the platform, wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard.
Senator Stevens looked into the camera and began to speak into the microphone.
“My fellow Americans, thank you for joining us this evening. We, as a country, have suffered deeply from the constant attacks of the Righteous Front, or RF. As you may recall, I had received some information, which would be able to aid our nation in ending the terrorist threat that exists in every town across this great nation. As I promised, we created the Anti-Terrorism Coalition to administer the great task that stands before us. Together with the different governmental agencies, the Armed Forces, the FBI, the CIA, and the State Department, we have been able to prepare a program that will ensure the safety of all Americans. The information I received was a long list of possible traitors with whom we would like to meet and interview. As it has been reported, we have already identified some criminals that we have in custody who have ties to the RF. To explain the process, here is Ms. Celine Mattucci of the State Department.”
“Thank you, Senator.” She nodded in his direction. “In tomorrow’s newspapers, in every city and town across the United States, there will be a list of people in the local area that we would like to interview. We expect anyone whose name appears on this list to report to the location listed in the newspaper by five tomorrow evening. You will be assisted by local members of the Anti-Terrorism Coalition. If you in any way attempt to deviate from this process, you will be considered a traitor to this country and you will be promptly arrested and all of your rights will be forfeited. This also pertains to any newspapers refusing to print the lists as they have been ordered. Any found not in compliance will be shut down and all employees will need to register with the ATC as well. ATC agents will also be present in communities across the country to assist local law enforcement with this massive undertaking. This process is meant to be quick and efficient. We are hoping that all citizens posted on this list will understand that this process is for the good of all Americans. We all want to live in a safe country with no fear of terrorist attacks. With your cooperation, we hope to make that possible. Thank you and good night.”
The end of the address caused the reporters to explode in a barrage of questions.
“Is this process legal?”
“This doesn’t sound supported by the Constitution. What do you have to say in defense of that, President-Elect Stevens?”
He stood up and took the microphone.
“Ladies and gentleman, I understand your concerns,” he had a large grin on his face, “but I assure you that this certainly is legal under the Constitution of these United States. This group is absolutely committed to following a proper legal process. Our intentions are completely pure here. We are just looking to protect our citizens—to save mothers and fathers, sons and daughters from the evils of terrorism and nothing more. We thank you for your time. We will not be taking any more questions this evening.”
The questions swirled around them as they stepped down from the platform, flanked by men in dark suits, and were led down a corridor away from the crowd of reporters.
They entered a conference room and took seats around the table, sitting stiffly in the large, cumbersome chairs.
“I think that went well.” President-Elect Stevens poured himself a glass of bourbon from a decanter in the middle of the table. “It appears that Phase One is ready to roll. I don’t anticipate many problems. Kobayashi, where are we on Phase Two?”
“Phase Two is currently at fifty percent completion. It is scheduled to be ready by your inauguration.”
“Foster, Haley, you have your procedures in place for Phase Two?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Deshaun Haley. “We have task forces from our groups running simulations. Efficiency is key here.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself!” President-Elect Stevens swirled the bourbon in his glass.
“Everything needs to run quickly and quietly as well. The parcels need to be moved to the facility within a week of inauguration. Earlier, if possible. They have to be processed and out of the general population before they know what hit them. Then the ATC can commence with Phase Three,” added Haley.
“I’m so impressed. You have thought of everything. I like what I hear. And I promise you, if we can make it from Phase One to Phase Three without a hitch, you will all be rewarded. You are the ones who truly understand the importance of this operation. The safety of this nation depends on it. If we can put an end to these terrorists, this will go down as the most influential administration since Abraham Lincoln.” He leaned back in the large chair and folded his hands contentedly over his expansive belly.
Paivi spent the rest of the weekend in a fog. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was attempting to force her mind back into the visions of her mother at the camp with no success. She spent the rest of the time laying on the couch in the family room, frustrated and tired.
Christian had finally called her back on Sunday morning. The conversation was brief. She wasn’t in the mood for chatting.
“21-14 Chicago,” she mumbled into the phone.
“Nice job, Paivi. I knew I could count on you! I gotta go—I have some calls to make. See you at school tomorrow.”
“Okay, bye.” She feebly let the phone drop from her ear. She didn’t care about Christian and his stupid game. She didn’t even care about him exposing her family anymore. What did it matter anyways? She saw what was going to happen. The fact that Christian could be the one to cause that horrible vision continued to haunt her. Paivi couldn’t forget her mother’s eyes. But she couldn’t figure out how it was possible for Christian to cause her mother to end up in a place like that. She doubted he had access to his own prison camp.
And what was this place? she kept asking herself.
She remembered the dusty ground and the rocky peaks that surrounded the cage-like enclosure. It looked like it could be somewhere out west, maybe in Nevada or Arizona, she guessed. The Andersons had traveled to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas a few years back, and the landscape looked similar.
Thinking about it only made her feel worse, and she knew she had to get herself together. No one would understand and she didn’t want people asking questions. Her parents had showed some concern already, asking if she was feeling all right. She told them she wasn’t feeling well, which really wasn’t a lie.
Paivi woke up Monday morning feeling a little better. School would be a nice distraction to help her get the awful images out of her head. After a quick shower, she threw on jeans and a t-shirt and headed downstairs to grab some breakfast. She walked into the kitchen to find her parents talking quietly over the newspaper. Her mother looked like she had been crying.
“John, I just don’t understand! We’re good people! Why on earth are our names on this horrible list? We aren’t terrorists!”
“Honey, I know. I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do.”
The floor squeaked as Paivi stepped into the doorway. Her parents jumped and exchanged a desperate glance.
“Paivi…um…you and your brother will have to stay home from school today. And I suppose we aren’t going to work either.” He picked up the newspaper and slid it across the table to Paivi. “We are on the Anti-Terrorism Coalition’s list. We have to go to their office at city hall today by five or we could be in some trouble.”
“Dad, I don’t understand.” Paivi felt a bit sick.
“Neither do we honey, neither do we.” He put his arm around Mrs. Anderson as he sat down at the table.
Paivi joined them at the table, not taking her eyes off of the newspaper. There had to be a few hundred people on the list. She recognized some of them, Officer Brickman, who worked with Mr. Anderson, Christian Nelson and his parents, Elena Pappas from her basketball team and Mr. Kingsley, a science teacher at St. Andrew High. The list had their names, addresses, birthdates, and employers or schools. There was no way to hide with all of that information revealed. She was surprised they didn’t have pictures posted as well.
“So they must know about us, about what we can do,” observed Paivi.
“That’s what we thought,” sniffled Mrs. Anderson. “But how could they know?”
“I don’t know, but I do know one of the boys on the list, Christian Nelson. He goes to my school. And I know he’s like us,” Paivi admitted. “But there are so many people on that list. Can they all do something special?”
“We recognized most of the people on the list that are like us. They are all good people. Where would they get the idea that we’re terrorists?” She spat the word out like it was poison.
Torsten burst into the room at that moment, still in his pajamas.
“Mom, can I have…,” he trailed off, taking in the atmosphere of the room. “Uh, who died?”
Paivi handed her brother the newspaper.
“I don’t understand,” he started, as his eyes scanned the list.
“Join the club,” Paivi interrupted.
“But this is stupid! We’re not terrorists!” His eyes flashed.
She could see Torsten was truly angry, which didn’t happen often.
“You’re both just going to have to stay home today so we can go and figure this out,” offered Mr. Anderson.
They decided to head to City Hall early, to get the process over with. As they got into the SUV, Mr. Anderson tried to remain positive. “We’ll just head down there and get this all straightened out. There has obviously been some kind of misunderstanding.” He backed the SUV down the driveway.
A lump rose in Paivi’s throat. There had to be another way.
“Mommy, Daddy, please, I saw something, and I think it might have to do with this list stuff. I saw Mom in a dream and she was in some kind of camp and she looked awful.” She continued rambling, pleading, not wanting to stop. “Look, maybe we should just keep driving. Can’t we just drive to Canada or something? We’re only like four hours away!”
Torsten stared at her.
“Honey, we’ve discussed this. We’ve seen a few things too. But we can’t leave. This is our life here. And if we leave now, everyone will think we are the bad guys or helping them. We owe it to ourselves to stay and prove that we are innocent. We are good people and we can hope that our friends and family see the truth. We are not running,” answered Mr. Anderson firmly, his eyes on hers in the review mirror.
Paivi leaned sulkily against the window, as they passed the neatly groomed lawns in the tidy St. Andrew neighborhoods. The gray sky and light drizzle added a misty haze to the already dreary day. A sense of dread coursed through her, running up and down her body before settling in her stomach. The neat little houses looked strangely alien to her now, not as warm and cozy as they used to appear.
After parking the car, the Andersons walked slowly across the St. Andrew City Hall parking lot, avoiding the large puddles that had collected from days of rain. Mrs. Anderson held Mr. Anderson’s arm tightly. Paivi and Torsten trudged silently behind.
City Hall was a very uninteresting building made of metal and glass. Unlike many of the historic buildings in St. Andrew, it was built in the late nineteen-sixties and instead of charming it just looked a bit boring and tired. They entered the lobby and joined a line of people in the non-descript hallway. The carpet was worn and stained in spots, and the walls painted white, which made the fluorescent lights glow brighter. Paivi observed the people in line, their faces pale and solemn. Despite the crowd, the hallway was very quiet. She could hear a few small children whining to their parents about being tired and wanting to sit down.
The line moved slowly towards a set of double doors at the end of the hallway. Paivi didn’t notice anyone coming out of the office, but she did notice the two armed guards on either side of the doors. They were dressed in black from head to toe, the only exception was a glowing silver badge they each wore on their breast pocket. The white letters read ATC. They also wore armbands on their right arms bearing the same letters, but these were not nearly as impressive as the glowing badges. On their heads were black caps, similar to a policeman’s cap, which bore a silver eagle just above the brim.
Paivi’s eyes were not so much drawn to these aspects of the men’s appearances—instead they were glued to the large machine guns that the men carried in their arms. The only gun she had ever seen in real life was her father’s service revolver, given to him by the St. Andrew Police Department. The gun barrels were pointed towards the doorway, so that as each person passed, it was pointed at their heads. Both men were expressionless, looking straight ahead— giant, menacing statues.
Paivi shifted nervously from one foot to another. She hoped once they registered, they could just go home and have a normal day tomorrow, like none of this had happened.
Finally, it was their turn to go through the door. Paivi did not like the sensation of guns being pointed at her head, even if the people holding them didn’t appear to intend to use them. Paivi and Torsten followed their parents closely, not wanting to be the first ones to reach their destination. They were led through a room by a woman, dressed in black like the men at the door and wearing the same glowing badge and armband they had sported. She walked them to a desk where they took a seat in some stiff, metal folding chairs in front of a man wearing the now familiar ATC uniform.
He looked up as they sat down, an indifferent expression in his eyes.
“Name?” he demanded.
Mr. Anderson was a bit flustered by the man’s abruptness.
“I, uh, I’m John Anderson. This is my wife, Maria and my children, Paivi and Torsten.”
The man entered some information on the computer in front of him. He then handed Mr. Anderson a booklet.
“This contains all of the information that you’ll need. You are all considered to be possible Enemies of the State, so you are currently being placed under what we call work-home-containment. You are allowed to be away from your home between the hours of 5 A.M. and 5 P.M., only for work purposes. Children are also required to be home by the 5 P.M. curfew. Weekend curfews are also in place. Adults will remain in the home with the exception of the hours from 7 to 8 A.M. on Saturdays when they are allowed to go to the grocery store in town. Children are allowed out of the home from 9 A.M. until 9 P.M. on the weekend.”
Another man in an ATC uniform dropped off a box to the man at the desk and waited for him to look at the writing on it and nod. He then scurried off.
“Also, due to the fact that you are considered dangerous, you, as possible Enemies of the State, referred to hereafter as EOS, will have your passports revoked. This means that it will not be possible for you to leave this country or enter any other country.”
Paivi took a quick glance at her parents. Their eyes were wide and their skin had taken on a sickly pallor. She looked back to the man at the desk, fearing if she looked at them again, she’d burst into tears.
“Note that information has been sent to your schools and employers, and certain policies will be in place starting tomorrow to help them better deal with your situation. Lastly, here are your EOS badges. Each of you has been issued an EOS badge with a number, which will identify you to the ATC officers in the area.” He opened the box, which displayed four round, silver badges. They were attached to a charger and glowed like the ones the ATC officers were wearing. However, they glowed with a deep red light. Each badge had the capital letters EOS and two initials underneath, which Paivi assumed represented their first and last names. On the same line as the initials stood a number, each one different. The man took the badges from the box and handed one to each of the Andersons.
“By law, you are required to wear your EOS badge at all times when you are outside of your home. When you are at home, your badges must be placed back in the charger. If they are not all back in the charger by curfew, ATC responders will be immediately dispatched to arrest you.”
“Mr, um, Mr…?” Mr. Anderson paused, waiting for the ATC officer to give his name. He didn’t. “Okay, sir,” he continued. “I am a police officer in this town. I know my rights. This infringes on every right given to me by our Constitution. I demand an explanation!”
His voice had risen, causing ATC officers at the other desks around the room to glance over in alarm. A few ATC officers began to move in their direction. Paivi sank down into her seat as far as she could, trying to avoid the stares.
The ATC officer in front of them raised his hand, indicating to his fellow officers that he had the situation under control.
“Mr. Anderson, in your situation, it is not advisable to make a scene,” he leaned back in his chair. “According to the government of the United States of America, those rights no longer apply to you or your family. I have explained your new rights to you. If you know what’s good for you, you will quietly take your family home,” he stood up, as if to signify their meeting had ended. “And I should also mention that you will be subject to private interviews with the ATC. They will contact you.”
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson rose from their seats, as did Paivi and Torsten. Her parents looked like balloons that had lost their air, their shoulders sagging and faces drooping. They put their arms around Paivi and Torsten, holding them close.
“Don’t forget to put your EOS badges on,” the ATC officer gestured to the exit.
The Andersons moved towards the back door in a daze. The ride home was silent. The only sound was that of Mrs. Anderson crying softly in the front seat. Paivi looked at the badge affixed to her coat. The silver looked dull in the gray light of the day. The letters stood out, slightly warm to the touch. Under the letters EOS stood her initials: PA. Next to that were six numbers: 150778.
She looked across the car at Torsten. He was also inspecting his badge. He looked up, noticing she was watching, and stopped, turning instead to look out of the window. She leaned back in her seat and returned to looking at the homes as they passed back through St. Andrew towards home. She couldn’t believe she would have to wear this stupid thing to school. She thought about what her friends would say, who else would have one, and what would Jason think. She had hoped this would all just go away, the dreams, Christian, everything. But instead, she would be wearing it right on her shirt for all to see.
She thought back to what the man had said about the curfew. She hoped maybe they would adjust the times for her basketball games; after all, she was not the only one with a curfew problem on the team. Elena Pappas was one of their best players and she couldn’t imagine the team would want to play without them. Or would they? She leaned her head against the window; the dread was traveling again, spreading and extinguishing hope. Tomorrow was going to be the first day of school all over again. Only this time, she would be the one wearing a glowing badge, advertising her as a big, fat freak.