"D1245XW please send your report again. There was a failure in transmitting."
Robin looked down at the computer terminal and shook his head. He hated school and now his desk computer wouldn't even let him submit his essay to his teacher. Several other students looked around, obviously having the same trouble.
The hologram of a teacher appeared in the front of the class. "It seems your link to the PhilaYork central computer is down again. Class is dismissed while I report the problem to Western Central teaching authorities. Make sure you try submitting your final report to me through your home links. None of you will be allowed to graduate this level until I have your essays. For those of you who can get through, I release you for summer break. Have a good summer, children. The rest of you must come back tomorrow."
Robin grabbed his computer book and notepad. He knew there was no chance his building would link to teaching central, but his good friend, Gavin, lived only a building over and he could. Robin hid his smile as the rest of the kids muttered about having an extra day of school.
Robin hung around long enough to not make a show of hurrying to a computer terminal. As soon as he was sure no one was paying much attention, he hustled out to the Maglift. His shoulders slumped some as he found the lift was full and the other two were down for maintenance. Realizing every lift would be just as packed, he forced his way in.
One of the adults grinned at the unhappy red haired, green-eyed boy. "What section and floor lad?"
Robin looked up, "1245XW please."
The man nodded and input the numbers into the Maglift controller, accidentally elbowing a few people as he did so. One of the men muttered something about another worthless kid. He looked over the Maglift trying to see whom, but whoever had said it escaped Robin. He glanced over about seventy faces of the one hundred twenty-five people riding in the lift before giving up.
The minutes crept by as people continued to get on and exit. Robin had learned long ago to stick close to the door because chances were those in front of him would not get out of the way and he would end up spending an hour or more in the Maglift until he could squeeze out and then get back in and have someone else input the code and it would start all over again. There were just too many people and too few lifts for people to care about some kid stuck in the back of the lift.
Because of this, Robin stayed glued to the wall next to the door he knew would eventually open to his floor and wing, even if this meant getting stepped on several times, which it inevitably did. To pass the time, he listened to those around him. Most of the talk centered around the failure of so many lifts, but others talked about the problems with other US CHZ's and the possibility of armed conflict. It seemed there was a new argument between PhiliYork and CleveBalt over fresh water again, and both CHZs had sent armed ships out, but were stopped by the federal government again.
Robin continued to listen as those around him debated if PhiliYork should try to break away from the US, but others pointed out the last CHZ government to try was all but wiped out. Robin cringed, having seen the vids of fierce aerial battles and the subsequent bombardment of NashAtla. Hundreds of square kilometers of the CHZ were now nothing more than ruins and the federal government was still, even after two years, refusing to help those who survived. The Federal government simply was taking the stand they did it to themselves and they need to help their own citizens.
Robin continued to listen to the chatter until the monotone voice announced, "Floor 1245 Section X Zone W"
The man who had input the codes for him pushed a few people out of the way so Robin could get out without having to squirm between the legs of those new arrivals to the Maglift who had managed to get between Robin and the opening door only a meter away. "Thanks sir."
"Not a problem young'un. Have a good day."
Robin gave the man a warm smile, showing slightly buckteeth as he quickly slid out. He stepped over a guy passed out on the floor with a synth-whiskey bottle tucked under his arm. Robin shook his head. The security drone must also be malfunctioning again. He briefly thought of pushing the alert button next to the zap camera, but dismissed the idea just as quickly. With some 60 billion people on the planet, did it really matter if this guy was sleeping in the hall of his 3800 floor apartment building? Besides, what was he hurting?
Robin noticed, as he moved up to his apartment, that someone had, yet again, tried to mess with the security panel. Scratch marks around the bottom of the Ferro-create materiel suggested the want-to-be-thief had a very hard tool. He quickly input time of last door opening and found it was when his mom had left for her part-time job a few hours before, down on the 1100th floor. He shrugged and input his code. At least Mom and Dad made enough to buy good locking equipment. Once inside, he verbally ordered the door to close.
Just on the off chance his room terminal could connect, he tried submitting his report. The voice came after a full minute, "D1245XW, please send your report again. There was a failure in transmitting."
Robin couldn't help but laugh. This was part of living in a lower class building that made life a little more challenging. While his friend, one building over, never had security problems and always had a good link to Education Central for the combined Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo Combined Habitat Zone (also called a CHZ), Robin was nowhere near as lucky. Of course, his parents were mere laborers, so they didn't rate nearly as high of a priority as his friend's mom, who worked with classified government information.
Such things were accepted by most, but Robin's parents pushed him to make the most of everything from scouts, to school, to playing soccer, to martial arts. They told him on almost a daily basis, the way into a better building and life was to stand out in PhilaYork, which was the common name for the massive CHZ. In fact, for all of Robin's twelve years, he had only heard his home CHZ referred to as PhilaYork. The only reason he knew the full name was his parents had taught him it. The school system didn't even care any longer.
Of course, the only time he was called Robin was by those close to him. To the rest of the world he was PY-QZRX2507-D1245XW, or D1245XW for short. In fact he could only name fifteen adults who had ever called him Robin. Why names were even put on birth records was a giant mystery to Robin, since his CHZ ID card didn't even bother to show it.
Robin punched up Gavin's number. A few seconds of static suddenly cleared as Gavin's face appeared. His long blond hair was wet from a real water shower, and his blue eyes had a shine to them.
"Robin! School's out!"
"Only if you can help me get an essay to teaching central."
"Not a problem. Come on over and I'll up-link you."
"Hey, before you come, Mom wants to know if you want to get put in for Adventure Quest."
"Are you kidding?" Robin shouted, "Of course I do!"
"That's what I told her. She had three extra picks because one boy died, and two others didn't get good enough grades. She already put your number in!"
"Are we going together?" Robin suddenly became nervous.
"Yeah, but Mom needs you to come over so we can decide which zone we want to go to. We'll have to go to training for a pair of weeks. I'll punch a security entry code for you to come over."
"Same as always or do we need to move to the next one?"
"Next one Robin, the building government has really started cracking down on regular codes. We'll start going up one letter each time from now on so they don't track it back to me."
"Okay, I sure don't want you getting into trouble. But I need to contact my mom and dad about Adventure Quest!"
"My dad took care of that. Bring your report so we can send it. Otherwise your number will automatically be deleted from the list. Then you stay here until we leave for DalHouston for training."
"Mom bent the rules for you to go. If you leave from your building, alarm bells could go off and you will not be allowed back. Your classification will only allow you to go once. I can go every year because my dad is a scientist and mom works for the government. Your dad had to sign over custody to my parents to make this happen."
"Wow. Your mom could get into a lot of trouble, couldn't she?"
"Not anymore. You and I are brothers as of 1346 this afternoon. Mom was owed a favor by one of the juvenile judges. He pushed the paperwork through without question. We even have a room for you too."
"What about Mom, Dad and Jenny?"
Gavin's mom appeared standing behind Gavin, "You can see them all you want, but not until we get back. Sorry Robin. It's the only way we could make this work without alerting PhilaYork Gov-net. Gavin wouldn't go without you either, so your parents and I worked out a way to make it happen. We couldn't tell you because you may have accidentally said something. Gavin didn't know until I told him about twenty minutes ago. Your parents left a message here for you, so bring whatever you want. If you look in your closet, you will find we already have your clothing."
Robin turned and saw his closet standing open and empty for the first time. "Okay, I'll be right over." He stammered for a second before recovering from such shocking news, "Mrs. Athens?"
"Will I ever be able to live here again?"
"That will be up to you son. We will give your parents custody back the second you ask us to, or you can live here for as long as you like. But you must get here to send off your essay before teaching central closes."
"I'm on my way Mrs. Athens. Thank you!"
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