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(by dragonclaw) It was a bright day in Miami - the sunlight almost poked through the thick clouds of smog overhead. But there was reflected lumincescence from the city that brightened the day, and even lighted the city by night. Dori loved days like this. The air was warm from the massive waste processors - they incinerated most of the waste they procesed - and the air was clear and clean, thanks to a rare ocean breeze. Usually, the air was hazy from waste gases, and breathing stung.

Dori skipped down the concrete sidewalk, dodging rotten boxes and holes in the surface. Despite the trashed surroundings - she had to sidestep a pile of shattered glass, pausing her skipping - she was in a light spirit. Today was Saturday, the only off day she got. As a student of the Hope Academy, she only got Saturdays off. Monday to Friday were taken up by classes, and Sundays were reserved for 'resting' - almost twelve hours of manual labor in a local plastic factory.

But this wasn't only a special day because of the break - she was going to see Philip. Philip was her best friend, who had been moved to a military school on the other side of the city. He was hoping to get out of the Orange Zone by making a name for himself there. Dori wasn't too concerned with escaping the hellhole that Miami had become - she was happy where she was. And even happier when Philip was around.

Dori stopped and looked around. She was walking down what was once a busy shopping district - there were large and fancy buildings on either side of the wide road. But the decorative glass had all but been reduced to powder by looters, and the magnificent buildings had been etched and scarred by constant acid rain. The streets were broken and cracked, showing up the pipes and cables beneath. The general devastation was a trademark of an Orange Zone, and many people spent large portions of their lives trying to move out of these areas, and into the Yellow - and very rarely, Green - Zones.

There were only three real ways out of an Orange Zone. The first a very good report from any one of the three local Government-run academies, which allowed the bearer to apply for work in one of the neighbouring Yellow Zones. The catch was that the work was extremely difficult, and less than five percent of the entire population had managed to succeed with that method.

The second was the local military base - the method Philip had dedicated himself to. Dori didn't know much about it, except that it was gruelling work, and carried a very real chance of getting killed. But if Philip was promoted to Lieutenant, he had the option to move to another part of the country - and the first choice was usually Kansas, the largest Green Zone in the United States.

The third method was death. And outside of those three escapes, there was no hope. The gates at the giant walls would remain locked for those trying to escape without permission. It was a hopeless situation for many, but every person that left the Orange Zone spurred the others on. It could be done, and it /will/ be done - that was the motto of those who remained behind.

Dori had reached the train station. It was a Saturday, and many people wanted to travel to the oceanside - the station was crowded, smelling of urine and carbon smoke and humanity, dressed mainly in tattered denims and torn shirts, some with overcoats despite the warm day. Dori had to force her way through the crowd and to the ticket desk. Being fourteen years old wasn't much help here, and it took her almost thirty minutes of constant shoving and heaving to make her way to the desk.

"One ticket to Lambda Sector," she said, handing her GID card to the lady behind the ticket desk. The Global Identity card was a total record of her life - from her birth certificate, to her Government credit account, to her achievments at the Academy. Every person in the Orange Zone had one - it was compulsory.

The lady handed the card back, saying "Gate twelve,". Another commuter immediately pushed her away, and she had to fight her way through the crowd again. Gate twelve was on the other side of the station, but the density of human traffic decreased as she drew closer. Not many people picked the Lambda Sector as their destination on a Saturday, and the platform was almost empty when she got there. There were about twenty people standing around, waiting for the train. The clock on the wall was broken, but she knew it would probably be about ten minutes until the train arrived.

Lambda Sector was the part of the city that housed the military base that Philip was a conscript in. It was bleak and gray - more so than the rest of the city - and generally had an unfriendly air about it. But to Dori, it was heaven. She smiled to herself as the train pulled up, generating a bloodcurdling screech as the defective brakes brought it to a stop. The doors slid open, and hundreds of people crowded out. Most were wearing the standard-issue light grey pants and shirts of the miliraty academy, and several were wearing dark green - squad captains. Lieutenant was one rank above squad captain - these people were already halfway out of the Orange Zone.

The flood of commuters slowed to a trickle, and Dori hopped on board. The inside of the train had been stripped of seats and other furniture in an effort to create more space to stand. She walked over to a window - it had been broken clear out - and looked back towards the station. When the train started moving, she would get to see the city from an aerial view - this train ran on the inter-sector speedrail.

The train started moving with a jolt, and Dori stumbled, grabbing at the window pane to steady herself. There was a brief flash of pain as a small shard of glass dug into her hand, causing a yelp of pain. She quickly pulled her hand away and inspected the damage. It wasn't too bad - the bleeding would stop soon. The pain was only an annoyance - these sorts of scars were picked up on a daily basis in this sort of life. She exhaled and looked out the window again. The train ascended a ramp and linked up to the high speed rails, and she had a better view of the city.

The city stretched as far as the horizon - all flat, grey buildings. In the extreme distance, Dori could make out the hydroponic farms that served Miami. Closer to the central city was a cluster of large factories, surrounded by apartment blocks. That was where she spent her Sundays, hating every minute of it. The first thing about the place she hated was the smell. Then the choking fumes and the torn buildings and excessive heat. But it was part of her life, and she had to bear it.

A loud coughing distracted her, and she looked around to see who it was. In the far corner of the train, she saw three men, crouched together, looking miserable. She thought there was something odd about them. One of them looked up, and light from the window caught his eye, reflecting the red light back at Dori.

Instantly she felt her hate rising. They were addicts to the single most powerful narcotic in human history - Bloodfire. Bloodfire was a composite narcotic - it provided the ultimate high, but eventually it resulted in death. A very horrible death too - it dissolved blood vessels, causing massive internal bleeding: Hence the name 'Bloodfire'.

Dori hated people who were enslaved to it - but not because of their involvement with the drugs, but rather the fact that they had given up at life. That was the main reason for taking any sorts of drug these days; surrender to the horrid reality of the world around you, and thinking that you could do nothing about it. She hated people who gave up, and hated even more those who did something that would eventually take their lives away. Bloodfire was the choice of the useless: the choice of those that wanted an easy way out.

And it was one of the reasons she loved Philip so much. Philip had remain drug-free all his life, choosing instead to focus every last ounce of his energy into improving the world around him. Philip was the model citizen - ever serving, never tiring. Dori knew that he would never fall prey to the darker influences of this world - he was too far into the light to ever turn back.

The train would reach the Lambda station in about twenty minutes. Dori settled herself in, thinking of Philip with a smile on her face, and all the things they were going to do today...


The train slowed down, coming to a bumpy stop. Dori, grinning hugely, ran out the door and into the station. There were people milling around - not nearly as much as those back at her home station. She ran to the entrance, then out into the street. Lambda Sector was quiet today, she thought, as she turned and sprinted down the street.

A sign on a wall said "Eastern Living Quarters" in faded red-on-white letters. This was where Philip lived - a large concrete cube, almost ten stories high. The windows on all sides were open because of the heat, and several had clothes or other material hanging out to dry. She ran up to the entrance - a gate contained within a large arch. To the side was a security booth with a glass window facing the entrance arch. She walked up to it - inside was an officer. She handed him her GID card.

"Purpose of visit?" he asked in a tired voice.

"Personal. I'm here to visit Philip Westwood."

The man nodded absently, wrote something on a log sheet and handed back her card. Then he reached under his desk and pressed a button, and the gate clicked open. Through the gate was covered parking for the Lieutenants and Captains of the base, and a short distance ahead was another arch. This led to the central atrium of the housing block.

She through the door, pausing once she had reached the other side. The atrium had a tiled plaza at the ground level, and staircases all around the inside. She looked up, squinting through the harsh floodlights at where Philip's room was. She thought she could discern some activity, but she wasn't sure. She jogged across the plaza to a metal staircase, installed against the wall at an angle, and started running up. Philip was on the sixth floor, and it would take about a minute to reach it.

Reach it she did, panting from exertion. And there was a problem. Between the rooms and the atrium there was a walkway, with a balcony rail to keep unsteady walkers from plummeting to their deaths below. But the space between Philip's room and the rail was crowded by officials.

Now she ran without heed. Arriving at the commotion a few minutes later, she asked "What's going on?"

A man turned to her. He was dressed in the standard issue outfit - obviously a conscript. "I dunno, think someone's hurt."

At this, she became terrified. She shoved past him, frantically working her way through the crowd. There was an opening at Philip's door - but then she realised that it was his door they were crowding around. At the door, an official stopped her.

"Let me in!" she shouted, wrestling in his grip.

"I need identification," the man said, pushing her away. Dori glared at him and produced her GID card.

"Doris Burton," she said, practically throwing the card at him. "Registered friend. Now let me in."

The man looked at the card, and then back at her, his face dropping.

"I hate to be the one to tell you this," he began, but Dori had already pushed past him. She ran into Philip's bedroom - as she entered, another man grabbed her from behind, restraining her. She turned to fight him, but stopped when she saw the shape in Philip's bed.

It was Philip. He was staring straight at the ceiling, his eyes glassy and unfocused. It hit her hard ... Philip was dead. She started fighting again, tears filling her eyes.

"No!" she shouted, desperately trying to free herself, to run to him, to see him... But the grip was too strong, and she collapsed in the man's arms, sobbing. This was it - it was over. The one thing that had kep ther alive, sane, hopeful - the one person she had loved - was gone. How could he leave her like this? In this way - no warning, no goodbye? Her heart disappeared into a dark, bottomless pit, and her mind was following.

"Poor bastard," she heard. The voice was coming from far away, and barely reached her in her state of pain.

"Yeah. His future was bright, no need to take himself like this."

"What caused the death?"

"Drug overdose."

"Damn, okay."

"Yeah. He was an addict. Been that way for God knows how many years now."

"Any family, friends, people we should tell?"

"Nah. He never mentioned anyone to us."

There was a long silence, then the first person spoke again.

"What drug was it?"


story Information

Upload Date: 31/12/1969

Downloads: 1984

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