Malik Trevor sat upon his precipice overlooking the city, sipping tea. This was his city. Not in any official way sanctioned by the politic of the day. Much deeper than that. At its root, in its heart. Yes, this city was his. It belonged to him, and he to it.
His surroundings may not seem much to the ill-informed. His penthouse highrise apartment building might look to be just one more bombed out hulk of a former glass and concrete symbol of bourgeois excess, but in fact it was a fortress, secure both strategically and in its anonymity.
Amidst the broken concrete and twisted rebar on the twenty-second floor Malik was at home. From here he had a good vantage. From here, he felt the pulse of his city. Ultratech may own the lungs. But Malik owned its heart.
It was an odd kind of a rebellion. One could not fight the power head on. Ultratech was too powerful, too big. Its tentacles reached deep, into every part of the lives of those subject to its authority.
For a long time, those being oppressed saw Ultratech as the giver of life. After all, did they not provide the very air we breathe? Malik’s war was necessarily a crafty one. He first had to change the people’s minds, to open their eyes to the truth.
The truth was, the air used to be free. This was a hard concept to grasp. Clean air, good air, plentiful, and free. Before the air burned the lungs, before it poisoned the body.
Before Ultratech destroyed the air with its polluting factories. Before the invention of the UBU. before it was necessary for every living human to be fitted with a prosthetic breathing device from birth, simply to allow them to survive.
It was night. The street was dark, a lone figure barely noticeable against the facade of an office building. He was loaded with weapons, but there would be no loud sounds, no explosions. No one would die. No property would be destroyed this night.
Only mildly defaced. And it wouldn’t last long. But long enough. Enough to be seen. Not by all, but by some. Not quite many, but a few. By enough. And they would talk. Talk was hard to stop, if not impossible. And they would think. Which was the very best kind of weapon.
His message was subtle. He carried twenty-four posters. Each thirty by forty inches. He would paste them two high, twelve long, at street level. And the workers arriving early would notice.
Within an hour it would be gone. No official acknowledgement that it ever had existed. There would be no manhunt for the culprit, as that would require an admission that someone had dared to defy them in the first place.
No. No one ever stood up to Ultratech, and they would not, could not, allow themselves to think now that someone might challenge their authority.
Sarah awoke at exactly ten minutes before six, as she did every workday morning. She showered as the coffee automatically brewed. She sipped black coffee as she dressed. By six twenty she was out the door for her ten minutes walk to work.
She was focused on some mundane thought, about an issue at work. Something she would have preferred not to think about on her own time, as she considered every moment outside the office building to be her own time, but she was a diligent worker, and couldn’t help herself solving company problems on personal time.
As she turned the corner, ready to enter work for her regular shift, at one minute before six thirty a.m., there she saw it. And once seen, it could not be unseen. In the coming weeks, the message would haunt her, being always just below the surface, and never very far away.
She consciously wondered what it meant? But subconsciously, and maybe even in her active thoughts in those few moments just before sleep, she knew what it meant. She knew exactly.
An island, on a clear blue sea. With crisp sand beaches. Swaying palm trees. And a crystal sky.