The UMA: Benedicts Rising

I don't really write at all, but I figured I'd give it a try. I started this idea in my head a while ago (while I was bored at work) of a not so distant dystopian future. This is just a short initial introduction to a few characters and the world they live in.

I have an idea of where I'd like it to go. I want to include chapters chronicling how the US transformed into this different world, maybe in the form of flashbacks through some of the main characters ancestors. And even though the whole idea is still in its infancy, I think it'd be neat to have a sort of series. Tell side stories, introduce new characters, maybe explore other countries and areas of the world in this future. I hope to put the "historical" stuff in writing soon, so people can grasp how and why things happened.

Like I said, I'm new to writing fiction, but just putting this little bit on paper has been pretty enjoyable. I just want to get some feedback on the idea, the characters, etc.

I hope you enjoy!

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1. Chapter 1

“Threat eliminated,” she said calmly, leaning forward towards her microphone. She glanced at the large monitor to the right, confirming that the kill was recorded on the map. A small red circle appeared just west of the river, joining the splatter of blots that already covered the satellite image like the floor of a crime scene. Two hundred forty-eight dots covering a map of roughly two hundred square miles, each representing an eliminated Threat. A red “12” in the top left corner of the screen changed to a “13.” Thirteen Threats eliminated this week, “Benedicts” as most people called them. A disappointing number for a Friday. The weather is keeping them indoors, she figured. Seven inches of snow and a thick layer of ice fell earlier in the week. Kelley hated this region, a decent sized square in the middle of the country. The only thing worse than the frigid winters were the scorching, humid summers. Inclement weather can have a devastating effect on a Shield’s numbers, and with four consecutive weeks below twenty eliminations, Kelley was falling in the rankings.

 

She sat back in her chair, observing the man at the workstation across the room. Damn it! she thought, Rudy got another one. Of course, his region was ideal for making numbers. Somewhere in the west, on the outskirts of The Angels. His Threats were real Benedicts. The dangerous ones. He gets to strike their camps as they approach the cities. He gets to eliminate Threats in the top quartile of the list. Only once has she eliminated a Threat anywhere on the list. Most of the time she hits some loner wandering by himself in the woods, completely oblivious of the drone flying high above his head. She felt her jealousy growing as she continued to stare at him. Rudy looked up quickly, met her eyes, and gave an excited grin. Kelley turned her head, embarrassed and trying to picture the loathsome scowl she had just been wearing.

 

The bell rang loudly, bringing Kelley out of her daze. The room of fifty or so Shields began to empty, all of them walking out with expressionless faces like a hoard of well dressed zombies. Staring at a computer screen and pushing a button for seven hours a day has that effect on people. She shut down her station, grabbed her lunch box, and started for the door, hoping to avoid the daily conversation with Rudy.

 

“Hey Kelley! Wait up!”

 

She lowered her hand from the door. So close, she thought. Rudy weaved in and out of the crowd towards her, his shaggy blonde hair bouncing around his head as he walked. Rudy was taller than average, a relatively good looking boy. Kelley watched him navigate through the hoard. As he approached her he held out his hand. Kelley instinctively received it in hers and they shook, squeezing firmly five times. “Hi Rudy. Big numbers today?”

 

“Eh, decent.  Twenty-seven...no wait, twenty-eight. I forgot about that last one.”

 

Kelly instantly envisioned herself beating Rudy in the head with her lunch box. She quickly shook the thought from her mind. He’s a patriot, just like her. A Metropolitan. Even if he is a little denser than the rest, he does a good job protecting the people. A better job than her, she thought. “Twenty-eight in one day? Impressive. The people of the The Angels should feel safe with you in the sky.”

 

Rudy let out  another grin. “Not just the people in The Angels, the people in all the Megalopolises. When I get up to management, those Benedicts are in for a real treat. And guess what, when I do, I’ll make you a top agent. I’ll assign you any region you want. You deserve it...but you know that, I tell you everyday.”

 

The thought creeped back in her mind. The hard plastic of the lunch box would definitely draw some blood, probably break his perfectly straight nose if she swung it right. The idea of working under Rudy infuriated her. He’s a nice enough guy, just not the brightest. And he’s definitely not fit for a position in management. The only reason he got on as a Shield in the first place was because his uncle was a big shot at the Department of Homeland Security, under which the Shields operated. But still she couldn’t help thinking, while he may be an undeserving employee, he would make a great husband for a Metropolitan woman. Attractive, strong, and well-connected in a great position, even if he did nothing to earn it. And she knew he’d agree to wed her in a second. He’s practically stalked her since she was a child. She often wondered if he took the job with the Shields just to be close to her.

 

“That’s so kind of you, Rudy, but you know there are plenty more productive Shields than me,” she replied.

 

“Sure, but only because of their region placements. You’re a great Shield, Kelley. I can tell you hate the Benedicts as much as anyone here, and you have the can-do attitude to produce some serious numbers if given the opportunity,” Rudy said, smiling as if satisfied with his compliment.

 

Maybe he was cut out for management, Kelley thought, using phrases like “can-do attitude.”  


“Thanks Rudy, you really are kind. Look, I got to get to an appointment, but I’ll see you on Monday, okay?” Kelley started off quickly, pretending not to hear him asking about her plans for the weekend.

 

Walking briskly through the long, dimly lit hallway, Kelley fell back into her own thoughts. Unfortunately, those thoughts still involved Rudy. How could Rudy, and so many others, get placed in better positions than her? She had to assume her test scores were higher than his. She knew her test scores were higher than most of her peers’. It had always been an unspoken rule to not discuss grades, but even as a child, Kelley couldn’t control her competitive nature. She used to steal glances at the other students’ scores whenever she had the chance. This was before test scores were abolished altogether, of course. In the fourth grade, she was sent to Discipline for telling another girl about her high marks on an exam. The teacher said bragging was a selfish act. She spent two weeks out of class as punishment. Two weeks spent in the closet she called a room at the children’s home. By the time she returned, she had learned her lesson. She kept her mouth shut, but those selfish feelings never went away. In fact, the only reason she ceased to brag was to avoid missing more class, a selfish act in itself. She always felt guilty about it, the same way she felt guilty about her negative thoughts towards Rudy.

 

Kelley stepped out of the building and into the city. She lived in Chicago, or the Center City. The UMA (United Megalopolises of America) government changed the name almost twenty years ago, but most people still referred to it as Chicago. It was a cold day. The wind knocked down Kelley’s hood exposing her face to the brisk breeze. She instinctively reached in her pocket and pulled out her pillbox. She looked around the small compartments and grabbed the red pill. Almost immediately after swallowing it, she began to feel warmer. Her doctor said she had a condition known as Frigiditis. It had become something of an epidemic, with most of the population of Chicago experiencing symptoms. But the medicine helped.

 

A quick train ride brought her within two blocks of her appointment. She’d often lie to people, especially Rudy, about having errands to run. Just another one of her selfish traits which haunted her throughout her life. But today she was telling the truth. She walked into the old brick building where her mandatory therapy was normally held. Most of her peers went to therapy in the towering glass buildings near the lake, but somehow she got stuck in a crumbling triple-decker on the West side of the city. She climbed the two flights of stairs, holding on to a rotting wooden handrail, and sat down in the waiting room by herself.

 

She liked therapy. The doctors keep everything confidential, so she could tell them anything. She could tell them how she really feels. About her selfishness, her constant urge to compete, her disappointment with her region placement, even about her contempt for Rudy. Her therapist, Dr. Jack Andrews, was incredibly kind to her. He’d been trying to diagnose her for years now, prescribing different pills and exercises to cure her selfishness. Only she didn’t take the pills. In a way, she enjoyed her sick feelings. She had accepted the fact that her condition had become so bad that she was past the point of being cured. Still, she enjoyed their conversations.

 

“How are we today, Ms. Adams?”

 

“Oh, alright. It’s that time of year again. My Frigiditis is acting up. Have you noticed it at all?”

 

“Yes, yes I have. Such an inconvenience,” said the doctor as he took a seat in his large leather chair.

 

Kelley sat on the couch across from him. That was another reason she enjoyed therapy. This was the most comfortable couch she had ever felt. It was something of an antique, similar to the building that housed it, with dark wooden legs and a maroon floral design covering the overstuffed cushions. They don’t make couches like this anymore, she thought. She wondered if Dr. Jack was being selfish himself by keeping it and not buying a new one.

 

“Tell me about your week,” the doctor said inquisitively.

 

Kelley didn’t want to think anymore about Rudy or her job. “Well I went to the show on Tuesday. I had been arranged for a date. We were supposed to be a great match. I think I spoke too much about my job and the recent waves of Benedicts in the West. He seemed very uninterested. Actually, he seemed uninterested in everything I had to say. And the movie, as well.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that. What movie was it?”

 

“I forget the name. A new one about a boy from The Angels who is matched with a girl from Seattle. It was pretty silly. They miscommunicate and end up going to visit each other at the same time. I can’t really blame him for being uninterested.”

 

“Oh yes, my wife has been wanting to see that. I’ll have to try and talk her out of it,” laughed the doctor.

 

“Anyway, I woke up the next morning for work and he was gone. I assume he had to work early, as well. It seems we were another exception to the Matchcomp. Or maybe I’m just the exception to the Matchcomp”.

 

Kelley and Jack talked for about an hour, as usual. This week’s conversation stayed along the lines of Kelley’s relationships, or lack thereof. He prescribed her a month’s trial of a new drug called Erosta, meant to increase the desirability of women. She had no intention of taking it, but she thanked him, savored her last minute on her favorite couch, and started to leave the office.

 

“Kelley! I almost forgot. I have something else.” He turned to his desk and shoveled through the drawers. “I have a new drug that might help with your selfishness...ah, here it is.” He held up a small box with about a dozen pills inside. “Try this out. I know you don’t normally like to take these medicines, but this one is different. It’s a one time thing. You take the blue one first, then the others once a day for ten days.”

 

“And that’s it? Then I’m cured?”

 

“Yep, if it works. And it should, so far it has had incredible results. The only downside is that it reacts badly to most other medicines. You can’t take anything else while you’re on it.”

 

“What?!” Kelley yelled. “So no Zanix? And my Frigiditis medicine, not to mention my night and morning pills!”

 

“Please, just try it. It’s supposed to curb your other symptoms while you’re off your normal drugs.”

 

She looked at the box, snatched it out of his hands, and stormed out of the room.

 

“Come back and see me as soon as you fin….” She was already gone.

 

As she walked outside, she threw her Erosta prescription in the first trashcan she saw in an act of defiance towards the doctor. But after a few more steps and a little more thought, she found herself turning around and digging through the trash to retrieve it. Maybe she could actually use this one.

 

Kelley boarded the crowded train for her commute home. She grabbed the box from her pocket. Tiny round pills. How could such a small thing cure her of such a powerful illness? she thought. If this one could actually cure her, maybe she would be more like her peers. Maybe she would be looked upon more highly at work. Maybe she would get promoted to a better region once her selfishness was gone. She hesitated for a second. Better just get it over with, she thought and swallowed the blue pill. A week off my medication, this better work, if it doesn’t kill me.

 

Located thirty miles west of Dr. Jack’s office, her apartment was almost to the city wall. It was long dark by the time she arrived. Walking into the lobby, Kelley noticed she had just missed the elevator. She waited for a minute and then grudgingly opted for the stairs. She rarely used the stairs. They creeped her out. It was colder than the rest of the building, and there always seemed to be a light flickering somewhere. Aside from this unfounded fear, living on the sixth floor made the stairs quite an inconvenience.


About halfway up, she noticed that her body was feeling unusually weak. Her legs were shaking slightly and her forehead was damp with sweat. “Exactly why I hate these medications,” she whispered with what little breath she could find. As she passed that flickering fixture by the entrance to the third floor, she heard a door below burst open and slam shut. Elevator must still be gone, she thought. The loud noise echoed up through the staircase, followed by a pair of quick footsteps. The unusually loud clang sent slight chills through Kelley’s body. Paranoia was never an issue with Kelley, but she found herself picking up her pace, not knowing exactly why. The footsteps below her were getting closer and noticeably faster. The noise from the shoes, or were they boots, maybe hooves, was now echoing even louder and sounding strangely distorted. She suddenly realized her vision was blurring. How long has it been like this? I could see fine in the lobby. How long have I been in these stairs? Who is down there? The flickering light amplified these effects on her senses and added to her now somewhat founded fear. Before she knew it, she was sprinting up the stairs like a kid out of the basement. She felt relief when she saw the last turn before her floor. Glancing back to make sure this mysterious, seemingly hooved character wasn’t right behind her, she flung herself around the last corner. She turned her head forward and saw a large figure standing right in front of her, colliding with it at full speed. As her world darkened, her mind slipping out of consciousness, she was able to make out a miniature pin on the figure’s collar. The bust of an old man. With long white hair and a strange blue jacket. As her vision gave out and she fell to the ground, that image was all she could see.

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