The Interregnum Mile: Chapter Five

Story Summary: 

Ryder, Keesha and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

Chapter Five

Kelley was on duty with the watchmen late that evening.  He volunteered most nights. The job of protecting the data pods from data thieves took the place of having a family of his own; something he had never shown in interest in pursuing. The data pods, once churring and whirring with around -the -clock action now lay stagnant.

While the system was dead, thanks to Kelley and the others in the original insurgency, the data that had been reaped for decades still remained locked inside. They resembled the enormous first computers he had seen pictures of in history books-the computers which lined walls from ceiling to floor in the rooms of NASA space stations and the Pentagon back in the 1950s and 1960s. The data pods each ran fifty feet in length and thirty feet high, linked together by thin pipe like strands of iron sausage-holding  inside them the latest technology devised by Romer Onyx (R.O.).

R.O., as they were better known, were the first colonizers to invent a way to store data in these Intercept Nodes made of a hybrid alloy that wedded ancient alchemy with 21st century coding techniques. They intercepted all transactions that occurred electronically, which before going off script, was pretty much everything everyone did. The result was genius: Data that could never be destroyed or erased. But it had to kept in an Intercept Node to be preserved. The alchemical recipe transformed it from mere bites of binaries into true “gold.” But the temperature controls required special storage facilities.

Like electrical towers and landfills of centuries before them, these data pods were built just within sight of the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods, who lacked the legal or financial resources to fight it. Kelley’s community had been the first to have one built. No one knew of the potential health hazards that the alchemical wizards may have overlooked in their formulaic construction. No tests on effects to human development had ever been done. Some theorized it was worse than radiation. Scientists, often on the R.O payroll, made media statements convincing the public of their safety.

Kelley walked up and down the steel catwalks, his boot heels clanking and echoing in the silent evening air. The stars blinked through the clear navy blue sky. He looked down thirty feet below at the rolling hills festered with milkweed, dandelions and metal fragments from old household items. The hills spilled down toward the level fields and walls that lined the outskirts of the neighborhood.  Kelley considered the same dilemma he considered every evening as he walked back and forth across the catwalk while keeping an eye out for intruders.

He thought, “Until the community could find a way to disappear the data their job was to protect it. They couldn’t just simply blow up the data pods. That would potentially be the equivalent of exploding an oil refinery-since no one but the alchemists understood how the data pods even worked, no one could hazard a guess as to what elements might be released into the air, ground or water, if they did.”

But the insurgents had found a way to kill them, in effect. Kelley, then in his late teens had conspired with two of his friends, one a chemical genius (working as double agent from inside R.O.), and the other an expert metals expert in the properties of metals and welding, created a cocktail which they anticipated, if thrown into the right pipeline between the data pods, would create a neutralizing effect on the active agents needed to transmute the data. It took them years of meeting in secrecy to devise a successful cocktail. But finally, they created the perfect combination. Then, it was a matter of waiting and watching for the right moment to insert the cocktail into the alchemical beast. That was the window of opportunity the community needed. While the data pods grew weaker and weaker, infected with this invasive metallurgical kryptonite, the people took back their power. They took it all back.

And Romer Onyx had no forgotten. They would never forget. This community, right here, had started it all; the decolonizing insurgency that swept like wild fire across the nation once the people had finally had enough under the growing weight of corporate ownership. The secret cocktail for destabilizing the data pods was passed long through cryptic messages communicated by tags and art on city walls, passed from one city to the next. Despite their best and brightest, R. O analysts could never crack the secret code.

Alliances with other groups and communities, comprised of multiple social classes, ethnicities, gender identification, and religious affiliations all shared one thing common: Living under the pervasive yoke of corporate control; control of their behavior through social media, control over their choices through consumer product manipulations, control of freedoms through sorting and tracking, pipelines to prison, job, and placement in the economic hierarchy….all handed freely to the colonizers by way of data handed freely decade after decade. The public blindly outing their faith is goods and services promoted for their benefit.

But isn’t that how colonizers operate? They created the illusion that there is a problem (one which they create but transpose onto those they wish to correct), and then they move in (physically, psychologically, economically) into the space they need to grow their own interests, off the backs and minds of those whose space they have overtaken. All in the name of “progress.”

Even the middle class neighborhoods who had experienced mere fractions of controls and abuses at the hands of the elite were starting to catch on and begin the process of decolonizing their own communities; taking advice, and notes of wisdom from lived experience and histories from those in Kelley’s neighborhood. They had had the tools for resistance against tyranny built up for generations. Only now people, all people, were beginning to finally use it. But twenty years later, vigilance was still key.

Sure, the pods were stagnated, at least for now, but no one really knew how long the chemical cocktail Kelley and his friend had created would last. In addition, data thieves were known around the country to hack into segments of the pods and tear out smaller sections of the Intercept Nodes, and hook them up to makeshift computer-machine hybrids that could unlock the alchemical composition and release the original data.

He was pulled back from his thoughts when he heard what sounded like the shuffling of feet below him, coming from behind a small copse of scrub trees. He leaned into the walkie-talkie resting in his shirt pocket, “Hey, Lou. I think I got something. Over.”

He waited. Seconds later a voice, fragmented and crackled, came back, “OK. Go find out. I’ll stay up here. Tell me what you see. Over.”

Kelley checked to feel the two-foot metal pipe hanging from his belt. There were no guns of any kind in the community. They had been eliminated as well when they went off script, discarded alongside their electronic devices which has been the pipelines to the data pods and surveillance. They agreed during the insurgency that guns, too, would have be eliminated from their homes and streets. They had not had a single murder or violent assault in their community since decolonizing celebration day. Disagreements flaired. But the community had developed series of restorative and supportive practices that folded in legal, economic and health related professionals into teams. Teams also included committees of the youth.

Kelley wound down the spiral stairway at the far end of the metal catwalk and softly pressed his feet onto the soft grass, careful not to create any sound. He could see small movements from around the other side of scrub trees that were now only fifteen feet away. As he edged closer, keeping his body close to the walls of the data pods so as to blend in and not reveal his figure in the moonlight, he could hear voices. At least two. Maybe three. Then figures appeared. One of them was wearing a bright yellow shirt.

“Dumb ass,” Kelley noted to himself. “Some way to be invisible while trying to stealing Intercept Nodes.”

Kelley lunged into the scrub trees grabbing wildly for a solid grasp of the yellow shirt. He yanked hard, and pulled a tall thin figure from out of the brush. He locked the person’s head under one of his thick arms, and with his other arm. raised up the metal pipe over the person’s head.

“Don’t move you bastard, or I’ll knock you out!”

A second figure leapt out from behind the trees, waving his hands wildly. “Uncle Kelley! Stop! It’s me. Ryder!”

Deacon’s body went limp under the restraint of Kelley’s forearm. Kelley released his grip and Deacon crumpled to the earth. He moaned, and then coughed.

“What the hell, Ryder!” Kelley demanded. “Hold on.” He reached for the walkie-talkie. “Lou. Come in. Lou, you hear me?”

“Yeah. I hear you. What’s out there, Kelley? Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Kelley sighed. Ryder could vaguely make out the frown of his displeasure through the darkness. “It’s my dumb-ass nephew. And his buddies. I’ll be back up in a sec. Over.”

Lou replied, “OK. Gotcha. You tell that Deacon, if he’s there, that he and I are gonna have a few words tomorrow morning. Over.”

Kelley peered at the patch of scrub trees. “You too, Keesha. Get your ass out here. I know you’re there.”

Keesha slowly slunk out from the darkness.

“I can explain!” Ryder began.

“I’ll bet you can,” Kelley said, laughing. “Can’t wait to hear you explain it to your mom!”

Ryder groaned. “Come on!” he pleaded. “She doesn’t have to know!” Ryder’s mother was not known for an easy or flexible nature when it came to child rearing.

“Humph. I see. Well, I’ll make a deal with you. You tell me the truth about what you all are doing out here. And maybe, just maybe, she won’t have to know.”

So they told him everything.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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