November 22 & 23: T. Berto

November 22 & 23: GROUNDED

T. Berto

CHARACTERS:

Our Activist

GROUNDED

Our Activist stands in the middle of the stage. He starts talking hesitantly. But then realises that, well, there’s nothing to hide.

ACTIVIST: I remember it started with certificates. For like, travel. Well that and your social media would get strange. The certificates came in so slowly over time that no-one really realised. Originally, they were just passes, for guys that needed to travel to like, upstate New York, or to Detroit and get across the border faster. E-Zee passes they were called. But eventually they kinda crept into everything. There were always just a few more things that you wouldn’t be allowed to do, or places you couldn’t go on a certain day, or at least go or do in the same way that you grew up going or doing.

I don’t mean ‘you’ particularly, but you know, most folks. On Mondays now you need a pass for the 401 – to prove you’re doing something for the economy. “Leisure travelers” had to go on another day. And of course you always said you were travelling for leisure – ‘cause you wanted them to mind their own business. If you said business, then they wanted to know.

If you were working, most – well, half of those that applied would get one – if you were working. But not if you were working for yourself. Self-employed like. And then, after a while, you wouldn’t get anything if you didn’t have a Secure-it 5000 pass. Ever since the eco-terrorists took had to be taken down on the 427, you need a Secure-it 5000.

And if there was a protest, if you were gonna meet at a site where the pipe was going to come through, or something that you were known to support – well then you just couldn’t get a certificate for that day at all. Or the days running up to it. It got so that if you couldn’t get a certificate all week, you’d ask around, and see what it was that was being planned..

There was always an excuse that this was ‘traffic management’ or a ‘clean air day” – those were the most ironic – but it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out why they were denied one. And of course there was no recourse. You could do the 800 number for days with no luck. After the Supreme Court overthrew the protest/terrorism bill – and we were allowed to protest again, well, suddenly it became a lot harder to move around instead.

And then there were days, weeks, you wouldn’t get a certificate at all. You had to rely on straight, or ‘benign’ friends, and hitch a ride. But of course you couldn’t bring a phone – cause then they’d know you were there and your friend would get pulled over for a clean-air check, or for speeding, or a vehicle safety check. If you just wanted to go to the city to do whatever you wanted to do there – even if there was no meeting, or action event – you just had to sneak a way.

The official line was that the highways should have been widened 20 years ago, and then we’d have been ok, and they wouldn’t have to ‘ration’ travel. But terrorists used too many of our resources – so now we, that is Securi-Can, have to prioritise our travel. Of course not a single person believed that. It always made us wonder why they keep up the ruse. But the highways are terrible, though. Just being on them was likely a palpable message saying that this is what the ‘terrorists” did – they stole your roadways.

Not only didn’t they ever widen them, they never were paved again.

But you see, we all thought that was a good idea. The whole point was that we were all using up our earth just to mindlessly drive. But they couldn’t even comprehend that. They figured we all loved to travel, and that this was our punishment for trying to decide what kind of fuels, and morals, and living things, our country should have.

So still you see though, if you can get near a highway, that there are still just bigger and bigger SUVs – now powered by Tesla – with giant tires and wheels that don’t mind the gravel and the potholes. Paramilitary luxo-tanks. Of course, approaching highways is next to impossible without a certificate. Those in proximity just get shut down through their signal. If you tried to walk there, the barbed wire would let you know too.

I guess we should have seen it coming. Back in the early days, I mean, on airplanes it came fast and obvious. Brown folks were being excluded – back in the 20-teens even – and they were never allowed to know why – that was the thing, the kicker. So the ‘grounded’ person would just live in a mystery for the rest of their lives, always looking over their shoulder. Of course it’s all our fault. Everyone – or at least most people – didn’t give a damn about them. They all thought that if you’d been excluded – well, why weren’t you in jail? You must have done something wrong.

But of course then everyone saw what it was eventually. But by then you couldn’t do anything about it. Facebook, Publics, Twitter, and Showtime, they were all just controlled by the Securi-Can so they had a good idea of everything about you. We saw that coming really early too. That prick that ran Facebook initially – he was an early cop out. They say that no one’s actually seen him in the flesh in 20 years. But, nowadays, what does that mean anyway? In the flesh? It’s a weird concept.

The brown and black people had been complaining for years. But they never even could have imagined how bad things would get. But people started to react in really strange ways. By 2028, the biggest group online was hindu-christians. “The new consumers” was their catchline. You see ‘christian’ became synonymous with capitalism, and complacency. And Islam – well, it was completely erased. At least as far as you could tell. I’m not saying they weren’t there anymore, but you would never be able to know about it. You couldn’t post or flash about it. Not even the word. All gone. I had some friends earlier – but you stopped seeing them if they had the slightest bit of faith. It was another compromise that we all did for the fight.

The worst of it was things just got shittier, but slowly. Almost unnoticed-ably. You’d get this cough that you’d get every fall – the one your doctor would eventually, reluctantly give you an anti-biotic for. Well then, one year, all of a sudden that was gone. Your GP, and then after that, Can-med would never authorize or dispense it. Or tellingly, say they’d never heard of that drug. So sometimes you’d be sick for, well, weeks, if not months, if not… well you all knew guys like that. I remember it was really weird to meet someone who was sick regularly in the 20-teens. But by the late 2020s. Well, we all just said ‘better them than me’. Another thing we didn’t complain about. Complaining raised flags. Got you a mal designation. And we still were trying to do work.

It was 2024, after we invaded Palestine, or, sorry, new Israel, that things really shifted. You just couldn’t find shit anymore. If you wanted say, bananas, for a birthday party, well, you couldn’t look on the net anymore. I mean every little banal thing was there, but those kind of things that you actually needed, well they weren’t listed. There was a lot of people pissed at the Norcom – or the ‘freedom-net’ as they called it – at the time, but, well, shortages were supposed to be what we had to put up with. It was the price of fighting terrorism. Like the power dims in the evening.

If you weren’t labelled a mal yet, but were just partially grounded, because you’d been careful, they’d still just try to fuck you up. The easiest way to deal with the potential threat of you was of course to throttle you. I had a friend, Sadie – she was all over everything in the day – just like me – but never seemed to respond to the signs, her loss of certificates, the day to day harassment. We told her to shut up, but she had a personality that wouldn’t take to that.

She got so throttled so bad all she could do was watch old “Friends” reruns – the safe ones that is – not even the full library. I think she saw herself becoming a mal, and thought it was some duty to keep just being herself, saying what she had always said. Now, they force her post about all her socoms; these banal and bot-edited idiocies. I don’t even know if she’s really there. She’s become a retarded ghost on line now. I don’t dare do a personal to her, I’d lose half my bandwidth at the drop of a hat.

It’s not that I haven’t lost others before. I’ve certainly known lots of agree-ables and benigns over the years. Sometimes they drop you, sometimes the other way. I always tried to hang on. Helped with my cover. And you never know when you might need to go on someone else’s port in an emergency.

I can always tell when they are transitioning away though. They don’t tell you or drop you, or what was that one in the teens… um… “unfriend” you. Hell no. Everything is more subtle. It again becomes like a socom. All you get is family updates. Pictures of food. Cats. And then finally just dayposts – nothing personal. By then you figure they’ve moving to Ravenswood and poof!, they’re gone.

Although some will get nasty. I tried a few years back. J. David Holmes. Knew him from service days. After a few attempts of contact – even tried to find a celtalk connection, got asked to stop pursuing. I guess you get over the wall and that’s it. I wonder what kind of travel certificates he gets?

I remember I used to go to Vancouver every x-mas. I know, I know, absolutely appalling carbon-guilt. I’d get a certificate for family reunion and elder care. But then my dad died out there, and then they pointed out my declaration as atheist on my election file, and I couldn’t register enough veracity to go for xmas out there with my brother. I wasn’t christian enough in my consuming nor in my voting Been in the east ever since.

The funny thing about it all is. That we’re still here. And that the pipes are too. And so, our mission is as well. The pipes travel everywhere. So it’s not like they can stop you from getting to one. And we don’t have to communicate with each other on line anymore. We all have the same thing in mind so there’s not that much to say. If you’re near a pipe, you just have to follow it. Oh sure there’s SecuriCan guards in all the cities, but you just have to follow it into the country. They can’t hire enough crappy guards to patrol the whole countryside. Of course you will never know about any real work done to stop the flow, other than that you do yourself. But every time I walk the pipes, I see the signs of past operations. Seen where someone has spit at the pipes.

See, we realised that consciousness is manufacturable and that we couldn’t do anything with it anyway. We couldn’t beat petro-consciousness in a fair fight. This, still in the days before the freedom-net took everything. Consensus is impossible when the nation’s mind is purposefully fractured. So our intentions changed. Talk was pointless. Action is better. And we found an action.

This guy Jonathan had a project about twenty years ago. He was creating a super-bacteria that had a trained, sustainable mutation evolution where in about 700 generations it developed and exuded this super catalyst enzyme of his design. And it was both an airbourne and water stable cell – it was something that could travel the world anywhere. He called in the rancid-flu as a joke. It basically broke down the long carbon chains in petro into really short ones, in like no time… well way, way faster than that would ever happen naturally. You know – short chains, like methane and propane. All it needed was exposure to oxygen. He said he was just speeding up what mother nature was doing anyways. And he made it so the bacteria had a wide range of tolerance to heat, cold, pressure, acid/alkali, anti-biotics and after it initially started to grow, it created its own oxygen from its own digested oil. What’s better is it attacked it all, bitumen, sweet light crude, gasoline, diesel, plastics, and synthetic rubbers, you name it.

He showed me how it would work, with his end design. Innoculate a tiny titch of it in a sealed room with a jar of motor oil on a table. You come back in one week and the room is very explosive, packed full of converted, explosive short carbon gases. And the laminate is off the table, and the varnish is off the cupboards. This stuff was wicked. Spectacular. Ate anything that came from petro.

We met a few times. He told us he would be perfected in about another three years. The prototypes he had needed a warmer place to live for now, and had to be kept a bit moist still. It would mutate on its own and in 15-17 years it would come to full strength – if it could be left alive. But the full monty version was coming, and with that one he’d just have to put it out in the wind.

And then he shook all our hands, and we left. And we were never to meet again.

(he looks at his hand)

All we would have to do is be carriers. That if we ever were near any, I mean, any kind of petro system, see if we could just touch, or worse, spit on the valve, or a drip. Anywhere there was fluid. Or solid for that matter. Petro. Before Fort Alberta was closed, a few of us went up to the tar sands. That was about twelve years ago.

When we used to be able to communicate about it, some left and said we were nihilists. But I guess there were just choices we had to make. Some even came back when they saw how bad things became.

We’ll see what happens. There’s likely little to ever be done, nor any going back to a lot of ways of living. Medicine, agriculture, movement. It will all have to change. The freedom net won’t be able to even be powered in half the world. We’ll likely never see half the people we know again. At least not for a number of years. Certain places will be dangerous – and the climate will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

We’ll have to get used to so much. But then again, we’re over the travel thing already. They did that to start. They grounded us.

END.