The Gaia Initiative - Chapter 1

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She tells me to relax and tell her exactly what happened as she finishes hooking me up to the black box that I'm sure I've seen in movies. I can't relax. Earlier tonight, I killed a person.
I take a deep breath before continuing.
"I.. I was right outside the house" My eyes dart around the room. There's one other man inside the room and if I trust my memory, two more outside.
"I didn't... I didn't hear the screams until I'm... scanned and the door opens" I continue, struggling to remember, still shaking from the events that unfolded only about an hour earlier.
She's nodding and tinkering with her little black box. It's unnerving to see her so calm. I can't help but wonder what that box is telling her.
"I rush to the living room , I see him grabbing my mother by her dress collar" I say trying to gain some composure.
"The man you are referring to is your step-father?" She asks looking up from her box.
"Yes, that is correct" I say while nodding. I've tried to stop myself from sweating, worried that they'll think I'm lying. I'm failing.
"Please, continue" Her head drops back to the box.
"He is yelling at her. I can't remember what exactly he's saying but she has her hands on her face.." I pause breathing heavily "I don't know what to do, I have to stop him"
"What did you do?" She asks looking at me. I instantly want her to go back to looking at her box.
"I" I swallow gathering strength "I take my mother's ceramic angel from the counter to my side, and hit him in the back of the head. I don't think he ever knew I was there" My head drops.
"Why was that the first thing you did? Why not tell him to stop? Or try to restrain him" She asks. I think she's playing with me. Clearly she's seen me.
"Because he never listens. He just hurts me then goes right back to her!"
I hate her for making me go through this. I hate him for hurting my mum every other night. I hate my mum for marrying him. But I hate myself more for being too helpless to protect her or myself.
"I had to stop him" I say and I feel tears rolling down my face. I hate myself for crying so much. Dad hated it when I cried.
She stands up.
"Well you did" She walks over to me and takes of the small headset I'd been wearing. "Permanently. The good news is the system says your testimony is true" She places the headset on the table "The bad news is the system says your testimony is true"
She almost seems saddened which is the first bit of emotion I've gotten out of her. She starts walking towards the door. The silent man follows.
"We'll have to keep you here until the system decides what to do with you." She opens the door and stops as he leaves. "I wouldn't hold my breath though. Stories like yours never have a happy ending"

We don't have prisons anymore. Only detention and/or rehabilitation centres. All of which are temporary. Which is why it comes as a shock to me that I've been here for over eight months. The year is 2037 and our planet is just about filled to the brim with humans. With over nine million people, it's no surprise that the system was created. A way to get rid of unneeded baggage if you will.
With over 60% of all arrests ending in the death penalty, with a murder charge, I should have been the first to go. But I've seen people with larceny charges given the serum. And here I am.
It didn't make any sense. At least not until she paid me a visit last night. Miss Caitlyn Alcove, she called herself. Skirt tighter than her lips. We talked for 20 minutes and I knew nothing about her or what she did except that 'my world needed me'. I didn't trust her but for some reason, I was needed. I wasn't in a hurry to have that status changed.
So I agreed to hear her out - not that I had a choice - and no sooner had she left, had guards entered my small room, blindfolded me and threw me in a vehicle.
One thing you have to now about modern day America is that not that much has changed from 20 years ago when it all went to shit. There are still three classes of people. The high, the middle and the low. What has changed however is that those people are now separated. And not how you used to have rich areas and poor areas. Like full blown segregation.
You would need a permit and a reason to cross checkpoints. The higher your class, the better your residential area. Now my family and I, off my father's veteran allowance lived in a middle class area. One thing you start to get used to is the smell. It's not bad or even noticeable until you enter a high class area. Which is what we'd just done.
It doesn't take long for us to reach our stop. I am still blindfolded as I'm lead out of the vehicle and into the building.
"Hey, where are you taking me?"
"Quiet!" One of the men holding my arm yell sharply.
The floor makes a sound like marble where my boots hit it and that's how I know I'm in a really fancy place. I hear multiple footsteps around me and I wonder what they need so many guards for.
I'm only 5'7 and I weigh just over 140 pounds so I'm hardly maximum security worthy.
They bring me to a room, take off my blindfolds and uncuff me before walking out.
It takes me a second for my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the room. When it does, I notice that there are four other people in the room. 3 men and a woman.
"Good day miss" One of the men says and it hits me like a ton of bricks.
I look at the reflective glass walls of the room to my reflection. It is my greatest regret. Puberty's refusal to visit me or if it has, it's opposite effect. I've always been quite feminine in stature. I know this but it still hurts when it's acknowledged by other people. Especially since I long started keeping my hair short.
"I'm a man" I say sitting up in my chair massaging my wrists.
"Oh? Apologies, I thought you were another lesbian" He says laughing.
The woman shoots him a glare.
The room is bare except for the chairs, five of which are now occupied.
"John Mudridge. Pleasure" The man says stretching his hand.
I eye it for a second before connecting with it.
"Daniel Fahey" I reply.
"That fella won't tell me his name" John says gesturing to a large man sitting in the corner. "This lovely lesbian's name is Heather"
"One more time I swear to God" The girl hisses through her teeth.
He laughs before raising both hands in a surrender gesture.
"And this charming chap" He continues gesturing to a middle eastern man with his head bowed.
"Aziz Al-Asfar" I interrupt. I had recognized him instantly. "You're that guy" I couldn't believe it.
"From two years ago, right?" John added smiling "I fucking knew it"
That got Heather's attention.
"Wait, what is it? Who is this guy?" She asks loosing her pissed off attitude, replacing it with interest.
'America sure loves it's gossip' I thought.
"Don't you remember?" John asks equally surprised "He made quite a stir two years ago. The bomb attempt on UN's Applied Sciences?" He says still clearly trying to jog Heather's memory.
"Oh shit! I remember!" She suddenly exclaims.
Of course she does. Everyone heard about it. Apparently he had embedded multiple miniature explosives in his skin. Some cop detonated an EMP shorting the circuits, saving over two hundred people.
I can't believe I'm sitting here with him.
"How the hell could you do something like that?" I ask. It was intended as a rhetorical question so his reply came as a shock.
"None of you would understand" he says turning to me as he raises his head.
"Try us" Heather says almost immediately after.
He puts his head back down perhaps thinking it's not worth it.
"You don't know what it's like out there!" He turns sharply to Heather shouting. "They don't care if the lower class live or die. And it's even worse in the outskirts. We had to get their attention somehow"
I notice the 'we' he had said but I don't say anything.
"There were hundreds of people in that building!" Heather replies with his tone of voice. "Low and middle class people. They don't deserve to die for trying to make a living"
Amir slouches in his chair. "Like I said, you won't understand"
I don't know where I stand on this. I was raised in the low zones. It's bad. So bad there isn't even a police force. Not really. And the government really doesn't care. The fact that the zones were created just proves that. I don't blame them for trying to get their attention.
But on the other hand, nobody in that building had the power to change anything.
Nobody says a word until a man carrying a case walks into the room. Smartly dressed. I can instantly tell he's a high class citizen although I'd only met a few my entire life. He is not at all cautious as he walks into the room.
"Good day gentlemen, lady" he says briskly as he takes the centre of the room. "My name is Will Ness and I'm here to instruct you on what we'll be doing here"
You know, I heard once that everyone in the high zones are attractive. So far, that theory has held.
"About time" Aziz says looking up again.
Will looks at Aziz like he's going to say something but thinks better of it. He places his palm on the case, it beeps before I hear a light click. He opens the case pulling out familiar tablets. They're signature tablets.
He takes a lap around the room handing each of us a tablet. I quickly swipe through mine. It's a four page document with the first having my information and the last, an outline of a palm.
"As soon as you sign those, we can begin" He says as he returns to his position at the front of the room.
"An NDA?" John asks.
"Yes. What we are doing here is top secret. We need to know that it will never leave your lips" He replies calmly.
"How do we know that you're not about to do sick experiments on us?" Heather asks.
He sighs frustrated. It's clear he's not happy he has to deal with us.
"I assure you Ms. Jones. It's nothing like that. But by all means, feel free to look through it"
I'm looking at the first page as this exchange happens.
Name: Daniel Fahey
Sex: M
D.O.B: February 14th, 2016
Class: Rehabilitation
I turn the page before I'm done reading and I'm greeted with the details of the NDA. So far it looks pretty standard. It mentions something called 'The Gaia Initiative' but doesn't mention what it is.
"And if we don't sign?" I hear Amir ask. I look up to see Will who sighs again. I half expect him to lose his cool.
"Then we ship you back to whatever hole we pulled you out of" He says flatly "Although I don't know why you'd refuse. Our offer is a godsend where you're concerned"
"Maybe" I say "But we don't know anything about it"
"Yet" He says turning to me. "We're not asking you to commit to anything. I'm only here to make sure that when we do reveal specifics, you won't tell anyone about it"
I glance through the rest of the document not sure what exactly I'm looking for. I'd already decided I would sign it. I guess stalling was an act. A show of indifference.
I swipe to the last page. Without thinking any more on it, I press my palm on the outline. The double screen flash tells me that it's done.
I don't know if the rest are inspired by my actions but there are no more questions as the rest of them press their palms on the screens.
"Good, we can move on" Will says visibly relaxing which unnerves me. "We're ready".
Almost instantly, the single door that had provided our entry clicks open.
'Of course they've been listening in' I think.
Will walks out the door only stopping to tell us to follow him which we do.
Outside the room is even more brightly lit. I briefly wonder where they find the power since power is in such scarcity in the low zones.
Two guards are outside our door. Armed to the teeth it looks like . I can't help but think that it's a bit overkill. Other than the overly large guy which I admit could probably do some damage (or has), everyone in the group seems to be under 200 lbs.
One of the guards eyes me as I walk past him behind John but it's probably not what you think. I'm used to it. The lingering looks as people try to decide my gender. It stopped getting to me a while ago... okay, maybe that's a lie.
We walk down the corridor until we get to another door.
"Please go in" Will says as he walks off.
This room is bigger than the last and a lot more luxurious. Chairs and ornaments like I've never seen before.
There is a large hovering thick glass table spanning the entire cuboid room leaving only space for chairs around it and space at the front of the room.
"I could get used to this" Heather says looking around the room as she walks in.
"This is really something" John agrees.
"Now just think of all those starving children in the low zones" Amir adds disgusted.
I had to admit he had a point. The world has evolved immensely in the last 20 years. Some would say America especially but only about 8% of it's 450 million people get to ever experience those advancements.
'Poverty capital of the world' they call us. The obviously haven't been in high zones.
I take a seat near the head of the rectangular table not long before Caitlyn walked into the room with Will behind her. Anyone of us that wasn't sitting yet quickly did.
"Thank you for agreeing to hear me out, ladies and gentlemen" She says as she drops her case on the table but remains standing. I don't know if no one else caught the 'ladies' but they don't respond to it. So neither do I.
"I met some of you earlier but why don't we all get acquainted" She continued, scanning the room "Names, age, previous occupation and reason for incarceration"
She says this so casually, you'd be mistaken for taking it as small talk.
"What is this, a fucking AA meeting?" Heather snaps.
"I promise Ms. Jones. There is a point." She replies calmly.
I want to get this out of the way.
"Daniel Fahey, I'm uh 21, still in school" I pause "was still in school" I pause again, swallowing before continuing "I killed my stepdad for hurting my mum". When everyone turned to me shocked, I added "It was an accident".
"I wouldn't have pegged you for the type, Daniel" John says with a smirk. "So everyone here is a criminal?" He asks Caitlyn.
I wouldn't have pegged him for a criminal either. His skin and looks by far the cleanest and healthiest of the group. His short hair styled and together with his young face gave him a look you'd find in the old movies.
"Criminals are executed immediately." She replies "The five of you are 'in need of rehabilitation'".
"Well" John says smiling as he looks around the room "That certainly makes this easier. John Mudridge, 29, Doctor, I gave some of my patients fake medication" His ever present smile leaves his face for a second "some of them might have died"
"Your patients, where did they live?" Aziz asks.
"Why the fuck does it matter?" John replies.
"Low zones right? That's the only place that shit would fly"
John doesn't reply. The room is quiet.
"What are the odds that you lived in a high zone?" Aziz continues.
When the room stays quiet, Amir speaks again. "Aziz Al-Asfar, 27, radio technician and I'm here for trying to kill assholes like him" He says pointing at John.
"Easy gentlemen" Caitlyn says finally "We're all on the same side here. And if this goes the way I hope it will, none of that will matter"
Caitlyn turns to Heather who takes that as a cue to begin.
"I'm Heather Jones, I'm 24, I worked as a mechanic and six months ago, I accidentally killed my boss"
"How the fuck do all of you manage to accidentally kill people?" Aziz says
When the room falls silent, Caitlyn says "Would you please tell us what happened?"
Heather exhales before continuing "He was a sexist asshole, and I was going to quit. I just wanted to teach him a lesson first. So I locked him in the garage and turned on a car. I was going to let him out and disappear but he was already dead when I opened it. Both lungs were already failing or some shit"
"Well damn" John chuckles as the same annoying smirk returns to his face "Remind me not to mess with you"
"Well mine wasn't a mistake" An unfamiliar voice says. I can't place the accent "They were getting on my nerve" The voice is deep and threatening.
"Nice of you to join us" Caitlyn says "Please" intending for him to continue.
He gives me the creeps. I know he can break every bone in my body if he wants to. He has a light beard and a short military cut. The same combo the corporations give to all their guards. His face seems to have settled in a permanent scowl. Give him a suit and one of those new fancy guns, and he'll fit right at home at RAW's door.
The Research for the Advancement of Weapons had popped up sometime in the early 20s and now supplied over 70% of all the weapons in America. Guns have changed since my childhood. Energy beam rifles or 'hoses' like we started calling them after the movies. And most recently, guns with directed sonic blasts that could tear through tungsten. The way it was explained to me is that if a directed frequency is high enough, it can shatter anything. The guns have a dial that lets you 'tune' to frequency and at a low enough setting, can simply knock a human out for a few hours. very popular in the low zones with their love of riots.
"Gregory Romanovich, 35, I worked for a private military group and I killed two men in a bar fight." He smiles "Wasn't really a fight"
There's a pause before Caitlyn speaks "In the spirit of fairness, I'll tell you who I am. My name is Caitlyn Alcove, 32 and I'm currently working as UN's aide to NASA on a joint endeavor we like to refer to as the Gaia Initiative".
"Shit, seriously?" Heather asks chuckling.
"I am, Ms. Jones" Caitlyn replied "Reveal the surroundings" She adds out loud.
The walls respond by becoming transparent and the world outside is stunning. Robots, people in fancy suits, crafts you wouldn't believe. It's like looking into the future. It looks to be a testing area. Everyone is can see is doing something or tinkering with another. The crown jewel in the centre, a large craft that you'd only find in a sci-fi movie.
"Welcome to the NASA Headquarters in Washington." Caitlyn says.
I stand and walk up to the walls to get a better view. The shuffling of the chairs tell me that at least some of the others are doing the same.
"I needn't remind you that nothing you see here leaves the building"
"It's amazing" I say
"It is" I hear her reply behind me.
"What is that?" I ask not needing to clarify.
"That is the Pathfinder. A ship capable of intergalactic travel. One of three in the country and eight in the world"
I take one last glance at it before heading back to my seat. The others are in their seats not long after.

"Dim the lights" Caitlyn says after which the walls go dark and the lights go dim "Let's get down to business"
When we are all settled, she begins "Load Gaia 1"
A large screen appears behind her revealing a planet at first glance looks like Earth. I quickly realize it's not. The blue, green ratio is all wrong. There is a lot more blue.
I'd wanted to be an astronaut once. To 10 year old me, this would have been a dream come true. Deep down, I'd always wanted to leave this planet. I'd always known it was broken. But the chances of a kid from a middle zone getting into the program were slim. The chance of being chosen to leave the planet was miniscule. Eventually I decided to be realistic and become a pilot like my father.
I guess mum had hoped that the news of my father being KIA if nothing else, would be enough to keep my brother and I out of the sky but it only fueled our need to be up there. Matt said he felt closer to dad when he was up there and soon, I was saying the same. After Andy dropped out of school to join the U.S Air Force, I almost followed him but decided to finish school first. Maybe if I'd followed him, I wouldn't be here. I've yet to decide if that's a good thing or a bad.
"You have been invited here because you all are uniquely suited for a top secret mission."
"Uniquely suited how exactly?" I ask.
She smiled before continuing. "9 weeks ago, we discovered this planet in the Andromeda Galaxy" She pointed to the sphere on the screen "We don't know how we've missed it all this time but it is what you would call a perfect planet. It is currently codenamed A021S or 'Gaia'"
"As you know, ladies and gentlemen" she continues "our planet is dying. Experts have calculated that we have less than 10 years before she literally can't take anymore. I'm afraid the child ban was a little too late"
5 years ago, the Survival Act was passed. It brought with it a new set of laws concerning water, food, power consumption and illegal sources of power but most importantly, the child ban. It became illegal to have children in the middle and low zones and you would need a permit to have a child in the high zones. All men were required to take birth control and even if you got a permit, only one child was permitted. For a while, it had helped but without any enforcement in the low zones and the general fucked up nature of the world, we were already on course to critical overpopulation.
"But we have been given a chance, Gaia can support human life and we have the means to get there. How would you like to be the first humans on our new home?"

I hope you're looking forward to the rest of this as much as I am. Let me know what you think so far!

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