Friday 26th June
Listen very carefully,” his voice was suddenly threatening and loud, “there is no way back for you. If you choose to come with me, you come all the way, if not I will push you out of the door we just came through and you will be free to continue your life as if nothing had ever happened. Do you understand me?”
I don’t know how I found the strength to actually say “Yes”, but I did. I knew that if I chickened out now I would be left forever wishing I had had the guts to do it. Besides my world was closing in on me fast; this may be a way out after all, some glimmer of hope in my desolate life.
“Hold on to my sweat shirt and don’t let go.” And off we went, him striding through the darkness and me stumbling blind behind him. Like a child I simply had to trust this adult, leading me Cosmos knew where. After a minute or two he switched one of those tiny old led light-torches and I could see we were in some old storage room, or wide corridor. It was full of reels of thick black cable and those old red plastic cones I hadn’t seen in decades, piles of oil-stained overalls and towers of folded and black dust-covered cardboard boxes. At the far end of the corridor or store-room was another metal door, but with no writing on it at all. This time he opened it with a T shaped piece of metal that he inserted into the tiny round lock and wrenched in a circular motion for a couple of revolutions. The door swung outwards and there was a waft of cold musty air that felt as if it came from another century entirely.
And actually it did. This was an old part of the network that had been closed down almost a century ago. It was called the Aldwych branch and only served one small stop called unsurprisingly ‘Aldwych’. I later found it on-line as I perused old tube maps, but the building called Aldwych was long gone, the ten lane North Thames SuperUrbanway now covered the site entirely, tube-line and all.
Closing the door behind us my companion/abductor reached up and pulled down a red metal handle and a string of bulbs like a giant’s fairy lights lit up and curved away into the distance.
“Now” he said, “before we go any further I need to know who you are, and make sure any coms you have on you are switched off. Then please give them to me.” I quickly took off my micro-glasses, handed him my personal screen and undid my wrist-phone and held the tiny off switch for the required five seconds. The words “Dis-Phone going to sleep” scrolled across the tiny surface, Mickey waved goodbye and the screen went black and I handed it to him.
“You won’t be needing these for some time, and for safety sake I am going to lock them away in this cupboard” he reached up and opened a heavy galvanised door set high up on the wall, and placed the glasses and wrist-phone inside. I noticed there were several others in there already, so I knew that this must be a well practised procedure. “Don’t worry it’s perfectly safe, but disabled, no coms can get in or out.” He said, “Now, I have to ask you if you are wearing a chipped body-suit?”
“No, I hate them actually”
“Really? I thought they were pretty clever actually. One of the few advances I approved of.”
I kept quiet about this laptop, but really no-one carried such bulky items around any more. He didn’t ask what I was carrying in my shoulder bag, and I didn’t tell him either. But I was careful not to even unwrap it while I was underground.
“What now?” I asked him.
“Well – that depends on you, doesn’t it?” And he smiled at me, a slightly skewed off centre smile, as if only half his face was really working. He saw that I had noticed and explained. “Lack of dentistry I am afraid, a friend pulled out my wisdom tooth and I have lost some facial movement as a result. Small price to pay, but there you go.”
“I think we need to establish exactly who we both are first.” I said, “I mean you could be anyone; you could be the people who I am scared are watching me. This could all be some clever artifice for all I know.” Was I really that paranoid? Apparently I was.
“And you too, my friend, could be one of them too. I have as much, no, actually far more to lose than you do. Why don’t we just trust each for the time being, and see how we go.” He replied again half-smiling at me.
“Where are we?” I said looking at the ancient tiled platform with its filthy wooden seats and torn old posters half-hanging off the walls.
“We are in an old part of the tube system that everyone seems to have forgotten about; it is only a short stretch and if you will follow me I will introduce you to a few of my friends. We live down here, in a funny way we like to call it home. We are a small cell; we are only in tentative touch with others, though there are far more of us than the government likes to admit. Despite their amazing computers it is a little known fact that thousands of people disappear every year. They catch a lot of them, very clever tracking cameras and lack of cred means most are short-lived rebels. We understand that most will be re-strata-ed and become obedient citizens again, but a few escape forever. Or for however long they choose. Sooner or later people, and the Polis, forget about them completely.”
“So, you are actually rebs then? You want to overthrow the system?” I asked him, not sure if I was excited or terrified at the prospect.
“Well, we like to think of ourselves as an alternative, and actually we don’t want a revolution at all. It is probably too late for that, besides the system, imperfect as it is, is for a large majority far better than anything that went before. It just isn’t for us. For me, I was just too old to go along with it, I harkened for a simpler life. For a few years I eked out an existence on Orkney, a simple farming life, largely unaffected by computers, but even there we were eventually subsumed by the con-gloms. Even us few hill-farmers couldn’t hold out against a system with no money, only cred. So, after drifting around for a few years I ended up here, in this little bunker, right in the heart of the beast, you might say.”
Again he half-smiled, and held out his hand to me. “Welcome aboard laddie. My name is Jonathon, and you may be able to tell from the accent, I used to be Scottish; that’s all you need to know at present. I have to assume you will at least stay awhile with us, and in any case I cannot just now return you to your world. Not until we are sure you will not betray us, although in the long run we cannot force you to join us. Unlike those who rule over us we believe in voluntary actions. Just spend a bit of time with us and make your own mind up. Follow me, then.” And off he walked to the end of the platform and down onto the tracks. I had no choice; I followed him. I had made my decision the moment I had followed him off the tube-line train. Whatever was in store for me I knew there was no going back now. This was it.”