By Frederick Pang (4G 2019), Kavin Lim (4G 2019) from the CID4+ English Dystopian Module 2019
“We pleaded, begged, struggled, fought. But it was pointless. It was all our mistake. We got thrown out. We never lived that high life ever since. But you’re different, Vindicta, you didn’t do anything. Go on, you got a bright future.” I kept my head high, I didn’t look back.
“Come on in, Vindicta. Make yourself at home.”
The Principal’s office is cluttered with the detritus of scholarship. Books piled everywhere, and manila folders lying on the wooden desk under windows that adjusts its opacity upon command. Transparent, floating screens fill the room, as live footage of all parts of the city plays continuously. Best of all, they disappear at a snap of the Principal’s fingers. Amazing, technology I’ve never seen before. The city really is different. I heard that the cameras that are everywhere in the city are able to track heat signatures, and even recognise people from their body movement, and face! There is even a giant screen in the middle of the city that tells the time, weather, and broadcasts the trending music for that day. The best part? There is a vaccination that is so effective, anyone who gets it is basically immune to everything. Everyone in this city has had the vaccination, and since then, there hasn’t been a single incident of anyone falling sick, much less dying from an illness. Everything in this city is so perfect, as if it is a utopia, possibly even an illusion.
The Principal sits in his chair opposite his desk and gestures for me to have a seat. “I’ve heard about your request to enroll in this school. However, you are the child of people who were exiled. I can’t really let you in that easily, you know?” The Principal says, as he narrows eyes. “I know. But I’m different from my parents. I will never commit a crime. Anyway, it was my parents’ fault that they were exiled. Not the government’s. I really don’t understand why they’re so angry about it. To be honest, I dislike the way they think.”
The Principal bursts out laughing, slamming the table with one hand, clutching his stomach with the other. “I really want to enroll in this school. Please.” I stare at the principal with overflowing amounts of determination and sincerity. “Fine, fine. I have taken a liking to you. So I’ll make an exception. Just this once.” The Principal replies with an assuring nod and a questionable smile. “Really? Thank you! Thank you so much!” I feel nothing but anticipation.
“You’ll start school tomorrow. For now, I’ll have you move in to the school dormitory and vaccinated. You didn’t get a chance to get a vaccination since you were born outside the city, right?” The Principal asks. “I understand. Thank you!” I say, as I catch something at the corner of my eye. Something shiny. It is a badge, sitting on the top shelf right next to us. “P. Batyre.” Is that perhaps the Principal’s surname? It’s the same as the Prime Minister’s. Are they related? Well, I’m curious, but not that curious. I relay my thanks again, and walk out the Principal’s office.
As I move into the dorm, I realise something. My home is nothing compared to it. The dormitory room is huge. Way too big for one person to stay in. Technology I have never seen in my life fill the room. A floating television screen. A window that turns opaque upon touch. Lights with brightness that can be adjusted at command. The bed? Re-adjusts itself according to the user’s physique. Back home, we did not even have running water or electricity. Water had to be collected daily from the community well,and we used candles as our source of light. Our house was so small we basically slept in the kitchen, toilet and living room all at once. If school dormitories are like this, I wonder what normal homes are like in the city. Why did my parents have to go and commit crimes and get themselves exiled, if they could be living their best life in the city? There is even air conditioning in here. I’ll probably never get used to that. “It’s too cold here.” I mutter to myself as I start shivering and... sniffing? Strange. The nurse told me that the vaccination is supposed to kick in immediately. Well, I guess it doesn’t give us immunity to low temperatures.
A couple of weeks have passed since I joined the school. I took up law, made some friends and took the top spot in the recent test. In this fair and just society, law is essential to uphold the order and peace. I dream of becoming the government’s most capable lawyer, ensuring that those who mean harm to the government are exiled and punished accordingly. Just the other day, a student from our class was exiled for criminal activity. It was no wonder that the day before, she had watery eyes, and was sniffing all day. She was probably crying from guilt. I can’t believe some students had the audacity to think that she was sick. If she was sick, wouldn’t that make the government a bunch of liars?
“Hey Vindicta! Want to go grab some lunch?.” My classmate, Zack asks, smiling. “Not now, too busy studying for the upcoming test.” “Aw, come on, don’t be like that!” Zack says as he sits in the chair in front of my table, facing me. He stares at me for a few seconds with a weird look on his face, and asks me, “Vindicta, since you’re new here, want me to show you around the city after school?” “Sure! That’ll be great.”
“Why are we heading towards this place? I’ve already been here before.” I ask confused. “Just watch. And by the way,” Zack brings his index finger to his lips, a gesture telling me to keep silent. I nod my head, still puzzled as to what Zack is trying to do. Next to the door to the Principal’s office, Zack keys in some numbers on a keypad, resulting in a click. The door opened just enough to peek inside the room, and enters after confirming that there was no one inside. I follow in tow.
Again, Zack gestures for me to stay silent. I do as told. With a snap of his fingers, a transparent, floating screen appears in front of Zack. He touches the screen a couple of times and shows it to me. Live footage of the city, like the ones I had seen before. Zack smiles as he points at many places in the city. Restaurants, parks, where he lived. Curious as to how the screen works, I try pressing some of the things on the screen. Live footage of the classrooms are shown. I can see hard working teachers trying their best to make lessons enjoyable, and students trying their best not to fall asleep. Zack smiles and continues to navigate around.
A red flicker. As Zack switched to a different live footage, a red flicker appeared for a split second at the top corner of the screen. I gesture for Zack to switch back. There it is again. I gesture for Zack to switch again and this time, I’m ready, with my finger positioned right above where the red flicker will appear. Zack switches live footage, and I immediately press down.
A new tab pops up on screen. I can’t believe anything I’m laying my eyes upon. No way. We found a backdoor.
Zack stares at the screen expressionlessly, glances at me and nods his head assuringly. It is as if he had already been through this before. There are thousands of folders labelled with random numbers and letters. My instinct leads me to click on a certain folder and it shows a picture of my mother. "Maria Hutz. Age: 46, Status: Exiled. Reason: Potential threat to Government's supreme control." Under that, oscillating sound waves, and a live recording of some sounds are being played. "I wonder how our boy Vindicta is doing now, I sure hope he's doing well on his own.” How is this being recorded? Still, I cannot believe even after I left my parents for my own future, they still want nothing but the best for me. In my mother’s file, I click on a sub-section labelled ‘Evidence of Rebellion’, and immediately, a holographic recording materialized right in front of my eyes.
“Both of you really thought you could get away with it? Trying to expose and ruin what we have been establishing all these years? Trust me, having ultimate jurisdiction over these slaves isn’t what we want, it’s what we are already achieving.” As I watch my parents get forcefully dragged away, I cover my mouth with both hands, struggling to keep my sobs silent. I click on other folders and in each of them, live recording of sounds are being played, but none had the file my mother had. What does this mean? Is everyone’s voices being recorded without them knowing? No way. Has it all been nothing but a deception? I wonder what Zack is thinking right now. He must be as shocked as I am. Right? I glance over. Nope. Still the unfazed expression. Zack looks at me apologetically, and nods his head towards the entrance of the Principal’s office, and we leave.
"Zack, did you know this all along? Is that why you brought me to the Principal's office?" "Vindicta, I'm sorry. I didn't think you would believe me otherwise. You see, my parents were…" Zack pauses, and takes out a pen and paper from his bag. He writes "Let's communicate through writing instead of speaking. My parents were also exiled. They told me about what the government in the city was doing to their citizens. So I came here to make things right. I could really use your help, Vindicta."
"I have a couple of questions I need answered." I wrote. "What has the government been doing? Why did they really exile our parents from the city? If my parents knew about this why didn't they tell me?" I'm curious to know the answers, but yet my reluctance is telling me otherwise.
"Everyone who was exiled knew about what the government was doing. They were exiled because they were a threat. But unlike my parents, yours probably didn't want you to spend your whole life trying to avenge the unjust they received from the government. They wanted you to live life to the fullest." I'm dumbfounded.
“Speaking of the government, how does the principal have this much access to the city? Is he related to Prime Minister Batyre?” “He is the Prime Minister. I’m speculating that he is only acting as a principal of this school, and that he set up his main office here, because no one would expect him to. It is a perfect place for a criminal like him to hide his secrets.” I remain silent, because I know that once I start, I’ll never stop rambling. I have too much to say.
"Remember when you were given a vaccination? That wasn't actually a vaccination. You would think if they were giving us a vaccination, that they would tell us what diseases they were giving us immunity against right? That was a technology they developed in secret. It is nanobots that are able to receive and transmit information. By allowing these nanobots to stay in our body, the government is able to keep tabs on us, including what we are saying. How they managed to make it seem like nobody has fallen sick yet, I don’t know, but I’m guessing people who get sick, get exiled, like the last exiled student from our class." I'm lost for words. What about my dream to uphold justice for the government? If I work for the government, doesn't that make me one of them?
"Everyone who has had the vaccination is under surveillance without them knowing. The reason why the exiled are exiled was because they weren't cautious enough. There may only be a one out of a millionth chance we may come out victorious, but their mistakes opened our eyes. As long as we do not tread on the same path, we'll be able to manipulate this thread of fate." I clenched my fists in rage, ready to tear down the government no matter through what means. “ Look, I know this is all too much to take in at once, and asking you to risk your life is too much, so if--”. “I’m ready. I’m in.”
“Vindicta! I figured it all out!” Zack seems less lively than usual. Pulled an all nighter, maybe? He starts writing on a piece of paper. “You know how the nanobots in us can receive information and send it to the government?” I raise my eyebrows. “Yeah? What about it?” “Since the nanobots are travelling in our blood vessels, which means that they will be travelling through our brain, we may be able to transmit radio-like waves from our brain to the nanobots in other people by accessing your files through the screens in the Prime Minister’s office.” “English please.” “What I’m saying, is that we may be able to broadcast our memories to the public!” “No way! Then what are we waiting for? Let’s expose those wretched souls and bring justice to everyone who have been wronged.” “I guess we could wait till Christmas to do it.” Zack dead-panned. I stare at Zack with disbelief. “Are you serious?” “I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Let’s do it.” Zack smiles, blushing.
Blushing? This is the first time I have ever seen Zack blush. I put the pieces together and realise. I put my palm on Zack’s forehead, and he immediately pushes me away. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.” Zack says, letting out a sigh. “Wait a minute.” He starts writing on the paper again. “The plan won’t work. Large amounts of radio waves being transmitted from the brain will probably fry it due to the immense amount of radiation. I’ll think of another plan. I’ll let you know tomorrow.” I nod and say “Take care of yourself, Zack.”
“Zack has been exiled for criminal activities and will not be here anymore. I hope you learn from this and don’t commit the same mistake Zack did. With that, let us move on to lessons…”
I stare at the empty seat a few rows in front of me. Don’t worry, Zack. I will make sure the government regrets what they have done. “Um, Vindicta. Are you alright?” A student sitting next to me asked. “Oh, I’m fine.” I said, realising I had unconsciously crushed the worksheet that I was holding on to. I smile and say “Oh, it's nothing, just a stomach ache.”
Files, Vindicta, records, transmit to, select all.
I stare at the “I agree” button, hesitating. I don’t want to die. I haven’t even said a proper goodbye to Dad, Mom, and Zack. Will I make them sad? Or angry? No. If Zack were me, he would do this without any hesitation. After all, doing this will save thousands of lives. “Don’t do it, Vindicta.” A figure appears from behind the shelves in the Principal’s office. It was Prime Minister Batyre. “You are still so young. You have a bright future ahead of you. Why do you want to lose that just to bring us down? Is it really worth it? Stop what you are trying to do now, and I’ll let this slide.”
“What do you know? You took the same bright futures I have from so many others. It’s time to stop.”
“Why do you want to do this? Will it do you any good? No. What has been done has been done. You cannot change it.”
“You’re right. I cannot change the past, but I can create a new future.”
“That is nothing but nonsense. What makes you think the people will believe what you show them?”
“You know, listening to you has cleared up my thoughts. I was wrong to even hesitate in the first place. As for your question, I’ll let fate do the talking.”
I had a bright future. I was going to become a lawyer no matter what. I was going to uphold “justice” for this corrupted group of people. But now, I have to do this for my close ones, and for others.
Will I regret this? Probably not, because I won't be able to.
All I know is that many more people who were about to have their futures stolen from them, will have bright futures ahead of themselves, if I click this.