Chapter 28

Rachel dragged herself to the door and braced to meet the day. There was no way to avoid being late, since it would take an hour to get to Salt City. Excuses would be needed. Excuses that would be better received if she was contrite as opposed to bitchy. She sighed deeply, kicked off her shoes and went into the bedroom. She dropped onto her knees beside the bed and rested her head on her clasped hands in the position of prayer.

“Oh God,” she groaned. Her thoughts tumbled madly. She was so tired. Her mind felt like a strobing fluorescent light, nothing was clear. She let the thoughts careen around for a while until one image solidified. It was Carlton.

“Oh God,” she breathed. Carlton. What an idiot. But since he was there in her head she prayed for him. Her thoughts began to line up in a more orderly row now, and she prayed for her parents, her brother, she remembered to ask forgiveness for her sins, gave thanks for… but then she got lost again and the images came in a rush.

“Oh God,” she cried plaintively. Dunning and Kruger. Her security detail in the unmarked sedan downstairs. Those guys definitely needed prayer. Salt City. Utah. The United States of America. The world.

“Oh God,” she sighed deeply, feeling the blood pulse in her temples. She wondered if her blood pressure was up. By now her body was relaxing and she sank lower, parting her knees, sliding back from the bed, lowering her head and stretching out her arms above her still resting on the edge of the bed.

“Oh God,” she whispered, then she remembered the elevator.

“Oh God!” panic rose up but she quelled it by remembering the situation. Friday was D-Day. She only had to make it to Friday. There was a reason for everything, God was in control. She only needed to have faith in Him.

“Oh God,” she prayed for her pastor and her church in Salt Lake City, then her church back in Washington DC. She prayed for the many friends and people she knew of who had quietly dropped out of society and made their way to camps like the one in southern Utah. Camps for people who rejected the World Monetary Union system and the registration tattoo.

“Oh God,” she thought again about her upcoming appointment on Friday afternoon. It would be Dunning and Kruger’s job to get her to the appointment as soon as possible after the linguistics conference ended on Friday afternoon. She prayed that God would intervene in some way that would mean that she didn’t have to do anything drastic. Killing them was an option, but, let’s face it, she reasoned, how could that be part of God’s will for her life?

“Oh God,” she was going to have to simply trust Him. She turned sideways, parallel with the edge of the bed, and stretched out her hands on the floor. She was still kneeling, and she spread her knees as far apart as she could as she lowered her body. Her hip popped in a satisfying way and she relaxed, prostrate, her forehead touching the cool floor.

“Oh God,” she sighed as she thought with swelling passion of the work she was doing with Biblio, the library computer. There was a reason for everything. If nothing else she was going to make sure that the Word of God lived on the mind of the most spiritual computer ever made. She prayed that she was right about Biblio, that the nature of his system being blood meant that he had a soul. The life is in the blood. She prayed fervently that she had understood right the scriptural teaching about the spirit and soul, that Biblio, even though he had been made by a man, could have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It was a long shot she knew, but a sense of total peace calmed her mind.

“Oh God,” she whispered again, thanking Him for the Holy Spirit that had guided her to the place and the work that she was doing for the Lord.

“Oh God,” she breathed. She gave thanks for His mercy and grace, praised Him for the bird she could hear singing outside the window, and dozed off.

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Chapter 21

Rachel stormed out of the library, mostly for show, just to make sure that no one slowed her down with stupid questions about was she feeling well. She stamped to her car, slammed the door shut, and by the time she tire squealed out of the parking lot she was laughing to herself about how absurd she must have looked. She just needed to collect her thoughts, so to maintain a façade of frustration and anger served no purpose now that she was alone.

Stupid Carlton. That was the real problem. But not really, since he was totally clueless about what was going on. She drove carefully home, checking frequently for the plain sedan that was tailing her. Her body-guard, she rolled her eyes. She was involved is some highly sensitive work for the military so there were always people watching to make sure she was doing what she was supposed to do.

Stupid, stupid Carlton. Idiot. But that was rather harsh since he was really just a pawn in an over-sized game of chess. She had to keep him on track to make sure the computer system was fully ready for the start of the international linguistics symposium that started Wednesday morning. He better have everything ready or his ass was on the line.

Stupid, stupid, stupid Carlton. Moron! But that was totally unfair since he was just doing his job, and hers was the ass on the line. He had no idea that he had just built the brain for a secret military counter intelligence facility. He had no clue that the international symposium was just a ruse to make the installation seem legit.

She arrived at her rented town house and went inside. The plain sedan saw her go in. She would have to report right away, and she hadn’t quite got her story straight yet. She was regretting giving a top-secret classified thumb drive to a dumbass like Carlton, poor guy, and she wasn’t sure what the reaction from up top would be. She could lie about it. Tempting, but the words of her Pastor rang in her head, “There are no liars in heaven!”

She picked up her secure phone to call in and took a deep breath. Remember Rachel, she told herself. After Friday none of this will matter anyway. Stupid Carlton.

She dialed the phone, gave her clearance code, and asked to be connected with Agent Smith.

It turned out to be easier than she thought. Agent Smith already knew about how she stormed out of the library. Thankfully her misogynistic security detail had put the incident down to “women’s problems,” so she rode that story all the way to the end of the call. Always be a bitch when you have the chance to.

She went upstairs to her bedroom and turned on the TV, the radio, an oscillating fan and the shower. She peeled off her dress and hose as she did, and made her way to the walk-in closet. She had a plan for Friday, and she wanted to check her kit.

Rachel had not registered for World Monetary Union or received her tattoo yet. She had put it off and put it off with excuse after excuse. Time was running out. She had convinced Agent Smith and the higher-ups that she would take the last appointment on Friday afternoon, as soon as the linguistics symposium was over. She was a government agent with high level security clearance so compliance was expected, but Rachel was also a Christian. She had convinced the higher-ups that this was a good cover, since anyone who had known her in the past knew that she was a devout church goer. They were worried that she was just stalling and that she was going to try to do something to avoid her registration appointment on Friday.

Rachel searched the back of the closet and pulled out a slinky looking black garment. It was very heavy for its size because it was not fabric, but a finely woven Kevlar body armour. It was a tight squeeze but she got into it, like a wet suit with short sleeves and cut off above the knees. It would be quite hidden underneath a pant suit or any of the dresses that she normally wore. It was the best protection money could buy that could be concealed under a party frock. Next came a combination of guns and knives. Three guns and six knives to be exact. Two small pistols were in a cross-draw holster on her hips, with extra ammo clips. Then another pistol with a bit more heft in a shoulder holster. There were six throwing knives in a pouch across her belly. It was uncomfortable and hot. She figured on wearing go-go boots instead of heels, to conceal another knife or two and for traction if she had to run or climb. There were a few other accessories that she added, perusing herself in the full length mirror as she did.

By the time she was done she was ready for fight or flight, and she looked herself in the eye and vowed that she would escape on Friday, or die trying.

And then there was that stupid Carlton. She laughed out loud.

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Chapter 4

The United States is not really united at all.  The Eastern States of America is run by Washington DC.  The Western States of America now has it’s capital in Dallas, Texas, another major city that has become a giant-sized version of Venice. The Independent Republic of California is now, well, independent. There is only one President, and only one White House. The relationship of all these pieces is being worked out.  The United States, if it could be called that, is limping along, far past its peak of world prominence.

That was fine with Carlton.  He paid attention to the news coming out of Europe and the Asia-Pacific zone, but he was happy to be left alone in a peaceful little spot here in the heartland of The Western States of America. This was one of the few places where there was stability.  Owning a home and having a job were still possible.  It was feasible that a soul could spend their days being bored silly.

Salt City had been a work in progress for twenty years.  Directly west of Antelope Island, Utah, it was built on an island of rock in the midst of the Great Salt Lake.  You take I-80 west out of Salt Lake City, and the turn off is just after Burmester, before you get to Skull Valley.  The domes were built first, their geometrical perfection was a masterpiece of engineering that had taken years to complete.  Once the framework was constructed the domes were sealed with glass and plastic and a system of environmental controls installed.  This did everything from opening the windows to misting the air, providing an exquisitely comfortable environment.

People had been living here all that time engineering and building, but it was very exclusive.  Of the millions of Americans that were displaced or living in very poor conditions, only a select few had been invited to be part of the population of Salt City.  It was intended to be a model, a prototype of the way in which all people would one day be living.

No one believed that hype any more.  The decline in the economy and lawlessness in places made it unlikely that there would be any more dome cities. The once powerful streak of American idealism was on the verge of being snuffed out by the spasms of a tortured earth.

Yet there was at least a small ray of hope.  For the time being, at least, the people of Salt City could set aside the darkness that brooded on the fringe of their consciousness and have a big celebration.  Now it was going to be official.  The dedication of the city was today.

Carlton was installing the computer system in the Salt City Municipal Library, and working up a sweat trying to finish in time.  He was on his back on the floor beneath a terminal in the circulation desk of the main lobby.  His head and shoulders were crammed into the space under the counter when a pair of shapely legs stood beside him. Carlton considered them carefully. Two finely sculpted calves were there beside him, hanging out the bottom of a pencil skirt. Carlton’s work momentarily forgotten, he followed the shape of those calves down to feet in simple black pumps.

Carlton had been holding his breath and biting his tongue in concentration, worming his fingers into the underside of the terminal, but now he gently released the breath in a steady stream.  A skirt.  Most of the skirts he had ever seen had been clothing the body of a girl he went to high school history with. The girl with the red eyeglasses.

Rachel Robbins, the girl that he could never forget.  Now he was completely distracted.  While contemplating the elegance of the curves and the fine skin he let his mind wander back to his youth.  His first crush had been the girl who wore the red eyeglasses and skirts.   He daydreamed about that girl.  He had loved her in secret all those far off days of high school.

“Wow, nice legs,” Carlton murmured quietly, shook his head, and re-applied himself to finishing his task, packing away the bundles of wires and tubing.

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