A Vigil for Justice: Episode Nine

Flag

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

 

Melanie sat at the kitchen table drinking chai tea and eating a bagel, while she flipped through the Denver Post. May, 14, 2021 Friday, more riots, robberies, rapes, and murders pages of it reported from sea to shining sea. The announcement of the Justice Law had not stifled the flow of violence on the streets anywhere, what made them think its institution would.

Jennifer shuffled into the kitchen in her floral print bathrobe and white slippers. She pressed start on the coffee machine. “Will you be home after school today?”

“I’m going to the firing range with Holly and have something I have to pick up. I should be home around seven. Do you need me to do something?” Melanie sipped her tea, but didn’t look up at her mother. The percolator bubbled to life and Austen jumped onto the table bumping his grey head against Melanie’s hand.

“I was hoping you could make dinner.” Jennifer took down a mug and set it on the kitchen table across from Melanie.

“I can grab a pizza if you want?” Melanie looked up from the newspaper and rubbed her hand along Austen’s slender form, which was now sprawled across the newspaper.

Jennifer nodded toward the paper. “Anything new in there?”

The aroma of coffee filled the kitchen. Austen meowed and bumped Melanie again. “Same stuff.”

“Could you take your sister with you after school? But not to the firing range, I don’t want her there.”

“Sure. We were planning on the firing range first anyway.” Melanie took Austen’s head in both of her hands and rubbed his ears. His purrs rumbled like a distant dirt bike motor. Melanie flipped the fur off her fingers and it drifted to the moss green tiles.

“What do you have going on tonight?” Melanie asked and bit into her bagel.

Jennifer poured a package of strawberries and cream oatmeal into a pink Hello Kitty bowl, poured some milk in, and set it into the microwave. “There is a city council meeting tonight and I want to get more signatures on the no kill petition.”

Melanie nodded and pressed her lips together. “So, you’ll be late?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Around ten, you don’t mind putting Sam to bed do you?” The microwave peeped and Jennifer set Sam’s breakfast on the table.

“Nope, we’ll paint our finger and toenails while we watch one of her shows.”

Jennifer smiled and patted Melanie’s hand.

“Samantha, your oatmeal is ready.”

Melanie pulled up in front of Sam’s elementary school ten minutes before the bell rang releasing the children. She and Holly were going through two boxes of ammunition more quickly now that they both had guns and Melanie was more confident with hers. She could load, unload, and clean her gun as well as Holly and her marksmanship was improving. She needed to thank Holly’s dad for paying for their ammunition. There was no way that Melanie could afford to practice as much as they had been, and without the practice, the gun would be more of a danger than security for her family.

The bell rang, and a swarm of children exited the building running, laughing, and shouting at one another. Melanie smiled and filed the image away with all the others she was saving for when everything changed.

Sam charged at Melanie’s car, eyes full of childhood sparkle. She wrenched the door open and climbed in, backpack still attached, breathing hard, as she clicked her seatbelt into place.

“Hi Mel.” Sam smiled.

“How was your day Sam?”

“Loads of fun.” Sam rattled off everything she had done during class and at recess while Melanie drove out to a large house on a secluded mountain road. She pulled onto the long dirt drive way.

“Where we going?”

“You’ll see?”

“Oh a surprise? Will I like it?”

“I can guarantee you will love it.”

Melanie stopped the car in the horseshoe shaped driveway and turned it off. She and Sam climbed out of the car. Pine trees towered over the house on all sides. They were so dense you couldn’t see the road where they had just come from.

Low barking came from behind the door as they stepped up onto the white weatherworn porch that wrapped all the way around the house. A porch swing, small table, and two wicker chairs sat before the windows hung with white lace curtains.

Melanie knocked on the gray door. Sam looked up at her and slid her small hand into Melanie’s. A woman’s voice came from inside of the house.

“Gideon, Iris, sit. Stay.” The door swung open and a petite woman with silvering black hair stood before them with a smile that tugged at the corners of her eyes.

“You must be Melanie Craig?”

“Yes, and this is my sister Samantha.” Melanie reached out her hand and the woman shook it and invited them in.

“I’m Amber.”

Samantha eyed the two ninety-pound Rottweiler’s and inched in behind Melanie.

“Don’t worry about them sweetie. They’re the reason you’re here aren’t they?”

Sam cocked her head to the right and glanced up at Melanie.

“I didn’t tell her why we were coming here. Surprise.”

The woman beamed.

“Well then Ms. Samantha, let me show you to the backroom, she said with a wry smile and quick glance to Melanie.

Samantha followed Amber, dragging Melanie along by the hand. Gideon and Iris pushed passed them. They went through the kitchen and stopped at a dark doorway. Gideon and Iris disappeared into the dark. Melanie could hear whining.

Sam looked up at her. “Puppies?”

Melanie nodded and smiled. “Will you help me pick out a girl?”

“Mom’s going to kill you,” Sam said, but the board smile never faded from her lips.

Amber turned on the light and waved for them to come in. Iris was laying inside the huge kennel with eight or nine puppies surrounding her and clamoring over one another trying to find a nipple.

“Are they ready to be separated from their mom?” Sam asked.

Amber nodded. “They are three months old. Let me take Iris and Gideon out, so that you can look at the puppies.”

Once the adults were out of the room, Sam got down on her hands and knees to see the pups. Melanie sat next to her legs folded.

“A girl?” Sam asked.

“Yes, and her name will be Daisy.”

Sam picked up one puppy after another checking to see if they were girls. Amber slipped back into the room.

“I can’t find a girl,” Sam said as she put her hands on her hips and scanned the wiggling mass of fur.

“Let me help you. There are only two girls left.” Amber kneeled down next to Sam. “Here you are.” Amber placed a black ball of fur into Sam’s lap and then another one into Melanie’s. The one Sam had was playful with bright eyes and larger than the one Melanie had.

“What do you think?” Melanie asked.

“I like this one.”

“We’ll take that one,” Melanie said getting to her feet. They stopped at the pet store on the way home for a collar, harness, leash, and food.

Daisy slept in Sam’s lap for the ride home filling the car with the sweet smell of puppy.

“You’re going to help me potty train her right?” Melanie ruffled the fur on the puppy and gripped the extra skin she would soon grow into.

“I don’t know how.”

“Guess we’ll learn together then.”

It was raining when they pulled up to the house, Melanie put the red collar and leash on Daisy, and then handed it to Sam. Daisy bounded through the front door and peed on the kitchen floor.

Melanie frowned and Sam laughed. Melanie pulled a bunch of paper towels off the roll hanging beneath the counter and began wiping up the mess.

Austen growled and arched his back when Daisy toddled toward him. She was not afraid and licked his face. He bolted for the stairs causing another fit of laughter from Sam.

“Is Daisy going to protect us from bad people who want to hurt us?” Sam asked.

“When she is big like Gideon and Iris she will.”

“How long will that take?”

“Not long.”

Melanie and Sam spent the evening painting their finger and toenails yellow, purple, and green while eating pizza and taking turns letting Daisy outside to use the bathroom.

Sam was right, Jennifer was not happy about the dog.

“A gun, boxing, and now a dog,” she yelled at Melanie the next morning. Melanie pushed passed her mother, and walked to her car.

“Don’t you walk away from me Melanie Craig.”

Melanie turned to face her mom. “I’m doing everything I can to make sure this family is safe when that stupid law goes into effect. What have you done?”

Sam stood in the doorway with Daisy dangling from her arms. Jennifer stalked toward Melanie, but she got into her car, slammed the door, and drove away squealing her tires on the wet roads.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Seven

Flag

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie pulled her car into the parking lot of the red brick building of the gun range. She parked the compact car between two trucks with tires that were level with the bottom of her windows. She and Holly stepped out of the car. Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans and shoved her keys and phone in her pockets.

Guns were not something her family had passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation. Her parents had never fired a gun let alone owned one, and her mom probably never would. That left it to her.

Holly walked to toward the glass doors. “You coming Mel?”

“I’m right behind you.”

Holly held the door open while Melanie passed into a world of new sights, sounds, and smells. Holly grew up around guns, and has been shooting them since she was eight.

The men behind the counter wave to Holly as they approach.

“Ms. Stein how can I help you today?” asked a short pudgy man with a greying beard.

“We’d like to rent a 357 Magnum George.”

“I thought we were shooting your guns?” Melanie whispered to Holly.

“We are, but you should shoot a revolver too.”

Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans again.

“You need ammo?” George asked. He set a silver barreled revolver on the counter.

“Just for the 357.” Holly set a black bag on the counter and picked up the gun. She flipped the cylinder out and spun it. “Did my dad call today?”

George set a box of ammo on the counter. “He did, just a few minutes before you ladies walked in.”

Holly handed the gun to Melanie, who took it like it was a piece of rotting meat. It was heavier than she expected it to be. She didn’t know what to do with it or how to hold it, so she held it by the black handle barrel down.

George raised his eyebrows. “First time?”

Holly smiled and picked up the ammo and her bag.

“Lane thee and four are yours.”

“Thanks,” Holly called back. Melanie followed. The smell of gunpowder accosted Melanie as she passed through the door behind Holly. They were in a concrete room. Twenty-five yards out were plain circular targets.

Holly put the bag on the floor next to their lanes. She set two other guns on the top of the concrete barriers between lanes. She dug around in the bag, pulled out two boxes of ammunition, and set them on the floor. She handed up a pair of eye and ear protection to Melanie.

“When I first started shooting my dad gave me a .22 because it doesn’t have a lot of recoil. Now I shoot a compact 9 mm semi auto.”

“Okay,” Melanie said not sure what any of that meant or if it was somehow important.

“You want to shoot both a revolver and a pistol to see which one you like more.” Holly put eye and ear protection on and Melanie did the same.

“Does it really matter? A gun is a gun. You pull the trigger and it shoots a bullet out the other end,” Melanie yelled to make sure Holly heard her.

Holly rolled her eyes. “It matters.” Holly slid bullets into the revolver. “I want you to watch me shoot it and then you will shoot it, okay?”

Melanie nodded and took a step back. Melanie had never seen Holly so confident and serious. It was strange to see her bubbly slightly ditzy best friend take control of a situation, especially one involving instruments of death.

Holly stepped up between the concrete dividers and pressed a switch bringing the target toward them. Melanie took a step forward to see what Holly was doing. Her stance was about shoulder width apart and her knees bent a bit. She held the gun out with both hands, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

Melanie jumped with the first shot and cringed at each successive one. The shots were loud.

Holly lowered the gun and turned to face Melanie.

“There are four things you have to remember whenever you are around guns. First, treat every single gun as if it were loaded. Second, always point a gun in a safe direction. Third, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Fourth, do not point a gun at anything you are not willing to totally destroy.”

Melanie nods.

“I’m going to drill you on these every time we shoot, so remember them,” Holly said.

Melanie starts to smile, but Holly is totally serious. Holly releases the cylinder on the revolver, spins it, and closes it.

She hands the gun to Melanie. “Check it first and always.”

“But I just watched you do it.”

“Do it anyway. You don’t know what I saw in there. Load it while you have it open.”

Melanie checks and loads the gun.

Holly motions for her to step up to fire the gun, and she stands behind Melanie. “Okay, now when you hold it make sure your thumbs are on top of one another, so they don’t get in the way. Hold it steady and pull the trigger slow at first. You gotta lean into it a little to catch some of the recoil.”

The gun is heavy in Melanie’s outstretched hands. She takes a deep breath and pulls the trigger as she exhales. The recoil drives the gun back into her hand, and she nearly drops it.

“Don’t drop it,” Holly cries out.

Melanie holds on. She is a shade paler and shaking. She wants to put it down and never touch the thing. She had to learn how to shoot. There wasn’t a choice.

“Okay?” Holly asks looking at her.

Melanie presses her lips together and nods.

“Give it another go. Make sure your stance is solid and don’t flinch now.” Holly made her fire off all of the rounds. The recoil made her arms and hands ache. She was going to have to get use to this and the only way to do that was to shoot many more rounds.

“All right, now I want you to shoot the 9 mm. Then you can answer your own question of whether or not the type of gun matters,” Holly said.

Holly showed Melanie how to load the magazine with cartilages and then how to slip the magazine into the well. She pulled the slide back and had Melanie watch her empty the gun into the target.

“Your turn.”

The first thing Melanie noticed was that the balance of the gun was more even. The grip was larger, but not too big for her hands. She took a few deep breaths and held her arms out. She pulled the trigger one after another until the slide locked back.

“So?” Holly asked.

“I like this one better.” Melanie said sheepishly.

Holly tilted her head and smiled crookedly. “Do you want to try a smaller one?”

“Sure.” The 9 mm didn’t feel as sinister as the revolver. It felt more natural to shoot. She knew that it carried the same potential, but it didn’t feel like a cannon at the end of her arms.

“This one is small enough to be a conceal carry, but its shoots the same caliber as the compact,” Holly explained.

They took turns firing off some rounds.

Melanie took off the ear and eye protection. “I’m going to get a compact 9 mm.”

Holly was packing everything into the bag. “It’s my favorite. We can go fill out the paper work tomorrow. They don’t sell guns here.”

Melanie looked at her best friend with fire red hair and emerald eyes. She could not imagine Holly aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger. Here at the range, it was different.

They returned the 357 to George and walked out to Melanie’s car. Melanie could smell the gun powder on her hands and wondered if her mom would be able to smell it too.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Four

Flag

A Vigil for Justice is a serial thriller novel. Updates of 1000-1500 words are posted every Friday.

Recap: Melanie has returned home from school on the first day after the Justice Law was passed. She is angry and confused about the law. She is afraid of how it will change the lives of her and her friends. She gets into a fight with her mom and retreated to her bedroom.

A stabbing pain in her hip woke Melanie. She had fallen asleep on the hardwood floor at the foot of her door. Her shoulder hurt on the same side of her body and her neck. The moon shone through the window. It was nearly full and threw its glow about the room. Melanie pushed herself up off the floor and powered on her ipad. Her stomach rumbled and she realized she didn’t finish much of her dinner. She opened her bedroom door. The house was pitch black. She headed downstairs for some milk. A blue glow was coming from under her mother’s door. She stopped and leaned toward the door listening. The president’s muffled voice reached out to her. Her mom was watching the press conference from earlier in the day.

Melanie poured a glass of milk and looked in the pantry. She grabbed a package of graham crackers. Back in her room, Melanie typed “Justice Law” into google. It was a broad search term, but she wanted to be able to decide what to read. The first few hits were the language of the law and how they would be tracking justice deaths, but that’s not what she wanted to know. She scrolled down until she found it.

It wasn’t the language of the law or the technology which had Melanie confused and struggling for understanding. It was the reasons and justification behind it passing.

“Meow.”

Melanie looked up at her door. Austen’s gray paw flicked beneath the door. Smiling, Melanie let him into her room. He sprung up onto her windowsill and stretched his long lean body. She rubbed his ears and then went back to the ipad.

Lobbyists had made two vastly different proposals to the Crime Prevention Committee. The committee designed a separate bill and fiscal note for each proposal and sent them to the House of Representatives for a vote.

The first option, which was the most popular among the Democratic Party, was called INDECT. It’s an intelligent information system that uses observation, searching, and detection for security of citizens in urban environments, at least that’s how the scientists and research teams who developed INDECT described it. Basically, it would be the ultimate big brother nightmare of the conspiracy theorists come true. It included video cameras with heat sensitivity being set up on just about every street corner throughout the nation. Walls would be virtually invisible to the cameras.

INDECT would record, code, and rank everything everyone did for the possibility of violence or any criminal activity. Something similar, but less extensive, was used experimentally in New York City in the early 2000s, and there were major reductions in crime rates. The major issues with INDECT, and the reason the House ultimately voted against it, was the amount of money it would cost and the high level of invasion into the private lives of citizens.

The remaining option was the Justice Law, which was much less expensive because it was set up for the NCPS to piggyback on the SAFE system, and mass production of RFIDs would create jobs and cost pennies to produce.

A transcript from the legislative session had Representative Hartford statement about the reasons the Republican Party felt the law was necessary. There were not enough police officers in the United States to investigate, control, or prevent the massive amounts of crime occurring in all but the smallest cities across the country. Every city was in bankruptcy, due to its attempts to hire more officers to protect the citizens. There was no conceivable way for the federal government to fund police agencies. Alternatives to officers patrolling the streets had to be found.

The transcription of Representative Hartford’s statement continued, with the passing of the Justice Law the government is giving control of personal safety back to the people. The hope is that the criminally minded will stop committing criminal acts against others when their potential victims have the ability to immediately exact justice.

The next morning, Melanie said little to her mom, and her mom gave her the space she needed. Melanie and Mitchel walked into the school to find it in pandemonium. Students were crying, posturing up to one another, and a few fights had broken out. Teachers were trying to get control over the students, but it wasn’t going well.

Mitchel took ahold of a passing sophomore. “What’s going on?” The kid shrank back like a turtle and pointed toward the lockers. Black and red targets had been painted on some of the light yellow lockers.

“Holy shit,” Mitchel said. Melanie ran to her locker. Mitchel was on her heels pushing past the students who filled in the space behind her as she went. She was like a boat cutting through the waves in a lake.  No target. She then went to Mitchel’s locker. No target. Thank god at least her friends had not been targeted.

The loudspeaker blared over the din of crying and yelling teenagers. “Clear the halls immediately. All students must report to their first period classroom.” Melanie didn’t recognize the voice.

“I’ll walk you to class,” Mitchel said. Melanie looked into his eyes and saw that there was no arguing the point.

“You still think it will be safe in Blue River?” she asked as they made their way through the sea of bodies.

He looked down at her. Nothing was certain anymore.

“We’ve still got 27 days to prepare,” he said. They stopped just outside the doorway to her classroom. Holly waved at them from inside and took a desk at the back.

“I’ll see you at lunch?”

“Of course.” She gave him a kiss and watched him melt into the sea.

Once the hallways were cleared, Mrs. Christensen closed the door to the classroom and sat quietly at her desk. Dark circles hung below her eyes and she wrung at her scarf.

The loudspeaker crackled. “All Sophomores are to report to the gym immediately.  All juniors are to report to the theater in ten minutes. All seniors are to report to the dining hall in twenty minutes. Teachers do not release your classes until the appointed time.”

Holly held Melanie’s hand as they walked toward the theater with the rest of their class. Melanie wondered if the principal had contacted the parents of students with targets on their lockers. She was relieved that there were not targets on her friend’s lockers or hers, but she felt awful that there were targets at all. She and Holly took a seat near the front, but on the edge of the row.

Mayor Brady stood on the stage.

“Good morning, class of 2022,” he said smiling down at them.

“I know that things have been a bit chaotic this morning, but I want to talk to all of you about the Justice Law.” He was reading from a card.

“I’ve been instructed,” he held up the cards, “to provide you all with a copy of the Justice Law and to briefly go over the basics. Please save your questions until the end. Some of this information many of you already know, but bear with me.”

“The Justice Law goes into effect on June 1, 2021. All citizens over the age of 16 will have the ability to purchase firearms and to issue three justice deaths. Justice deaths will be tracked by the local and federal police agencies. No other agency or individual will have access to that information. Local police officers will conduct an investigation as appropriate into each death within their jurisdiction and determine if it is a justice death, suicide, or a murder. Torture is considered murder and will be punished as such. Justice deaths must be issued by firearm. All firearms over a .22 caliber must be registered and chipped.  Schools and churches are safe zones. Firearms will be remotely disabled using the RFIDs. Metal detectors will be installed at schools and churches as another level of protection. In addition to these precautions, Blue River is instituting a curfew of 10:00 p.m. for all citizens.”

The room was silent. Mayor Brady took a drink from a water bottle at his feet and pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe his face. Sweat was seeping through his light green shirt under his arms.

“I’ll take questions now.”

Hands shot up.

“But know that I don’t understand all the technology behind this new law. So I can’t answer those questions,” he said.

Everyone’s hand sank down like a sinking ship in the ocean. He glanced around the room and shuffled through his cards. Stopping at the last one, he held it up and stared at it for a while.

“One last thing I need to mention. If you scrub, Homeland Security will hunt you down and shoot you on site.”

Whispers began and the students all looked at one another. A small girl in the front raised her hand.

“Yes, sweetheart?” asked the mayor.

“What do you mean scrub?” she asked.

“If you remove your SAFE chip from your arm.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode two

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

RECAP: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

Flag

Melanie’s second class was history, and her teacher had the television tuned into the president’s news conference on the Justice Law. After the assassination of President Faust last year, Vice President Ammon Vick assumed the office.  President Vick was a military man with a clean-shaven sharp angled face and long nose. He had piercing blue eyes and short obsidian hair. President was a title Vick had held at the NRA as well, but that was during the war. He held himself straight and bold, shoulders back and his expression even the American flag rippling in the wind at his back. His hands rested lightly on the podium

“—the NCPS will be synced with the SAFE system allowing the tracking of justice deaths. The security codes emitted from the RFID’s in designated safe zones will disable all firearms reducing the possibility of justice deaths in the vicinity of schools and churches. Metal detectors will be installed at the entrance of all schools and churches, which do not already have them. The safety of our citizens while at an educational facility is paramount. If we are to overcome this crisis the education of our children is essential.”

Melanie’s dad had helped develop the SAFE system. It was never meant to be connected with the National Cybersecurity Protection System.  The NCPS had the ability to monitor any cyber activity of U.S. citizens. Homeland Security has always said that they only monitor for terroristic threats and acts of violence, but Melanie knew it was more. Ever since the Homeland Security Act was passed in 2002, the government has inched its way into private homes. It had become such a ubiquitous presence that when the SAFE system was proposed, it was accepted by the people with minor opposition.

Her father had been so proud of SAFE.

“It will change everything Melbelle,” he said. The flecks of green in his hazel eyes caught the rays of the sun as he danced her around in a circle holding her small hands in his larger ones.

“Five years, that’s my prediction. It will take five years to really get going, but then it will fix everything.”

It has been four years, and she still believed in her father’s dream. Just a little more time and things would get better, she thought. SAFE revolutionized the social services system of the United States. The economy was going down before World War 3 broke out in 2016, but the war finished the job. In 2017, SAFE, Social Alliance Freedom Emission, was implemented. Her father had appeared on television with the flag waiving behind him to announce SAFE to the public.

“The Social Alliance Freedom Emission system will create thousands of jobs through manufacturing, installation, debugging, and monitoring. Every American is entitled to food, shelter, and medical care despite their income, race, religion, or sexual preferences. SAFE will replace the current social security and public welfare systems that are bleeding our depleted economy dry. Meeting the basic needs of the starving will eliminate much of the crime.” Her father’s words had convinced sixty-three percent of the American population to vote for SAFE.

“The SAFE system was supposed to fix many of the problems you are now saying will be solved by the Justice Law,” commented an off screen female reporter.

“The SAFE system has failed to do what Robert Craig promised it would,” said President Vick.

Melanie clenched her jaw. Several of the other students who were listening turned their eyes toward her at the mention of her father’s name, but just as quickly refocused on the television.

“We have seen some decline in the street violence, but it is just taking too long. Our cities are war zones and something more has to be done. The Justice Law—“

The bell rang, and the teacher clicked the television off.

“This is history in the making Mr. Johnson, why’d you turn it off?” asked a boy named Harrison.

“It will be your children’s history Harrison, not yours.” Mr. Johnson pushed his black wide framed glasses up on his nose. His brown plaid button down shirt was tucked into a pair of light blue jeans. People in Blue River held onto the past. That’s one of the reasons Melanie’s family had moved there. Her father had been a technological genius of Steve Jobs proportions, but he also held onto relics of the bygone age of the hippies. He was a contradiction in many ways.

In Blue River, you could forget that the war and resulting economic crash had happened, at least on most days. The only reminders that the US economy had fallen into the abyss were the newscasts of the violence in other cities and of course SAFE. And although these were a constant backdrop to daily life, people had a way of not noticing them.

As Melanie walked out to the parking lot to meet up with Mitchel, Holly, and Seth for lunch, she sent a tweet to a couple of her dad’s geek friends she has remained in contact with after her dad’s death. People in Blue River may be happy going with the flow of a simplistic life, but she needed information.

Seth was leaning against Mitchel’s truck clicking through messages or something on his phone.

“Hey Melbelle,” he said, glancing up at her for a flash. She hated it when he called her that. Only her father called her by that name.

“I’ve asked you not to call me that Seth.” She frowned at him.

“Sorry. Did you catch any of the president’s press conference?” He shoved his phone in his pocket.

“Bits and pieces, Mr. Johnson turned it off. You?”

“Not much. June first is the big day.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s when the Justice Law takes effect. Guess they wanted to give everyone time to prepare, so they announced it early,” Seth said.

Twenty-eight days, Melanie thought.

Mitchel and Holly strode up. Mitchel fist bumped Seth, and kissed Melanie. His eyes were soft as they met hers. They piled into Melanie’s car.

“Where to for lunch?” Holly asked, leaning forward between the two front seats.

“TacoTime,” Mitchel suggested.

Seth groaned, and Melanie started the car. None of them wanted to talk about the Justice Law, but everyone’s thoughts were consumed by it. Melanie knew they would eventually have to talk about it. Something like this couldn’t be ignored by friends. The ride to TacoTime was quiet other than the pine filled air blowing through the windows of the car at freeway speeds. TacoTime was a few miles away in Frisco. Melanie slowed down as they reach the town. Still no one spoke.

They stood staring at the menu inside the brightly colored dining room. Melanie looked at each of them. She would trust anyone of them with her life. They were her best friends. She had trusted them with her life many times already camping, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.

None of the others were ready, so Melanie stepped forward and ordered.

She waived her left wrist over the SAFE scanner. It beeped indicating it had received the signal. Her credit union information appeared on the screen below her order and the total. She tapped her finger on the touch screen to pay and then stepped out of the way to wait.

Melanie checked her phone, pushed her earbud into her ear, and listened to the video @geekedout had sent her. The others ordered and paid just as she had. They slid into a yellow and orange booth in the corner of the dining area.

“Do you think it is really possible Mel?” Holly asked. Melanie’s mouth was full. Holly had never had much interest in technology. She relied on Melanie for all of her information on the latest innovations whether it was a device or a program. Unlike Melanie, Holly never wanted to leave Blue River. Holly had no reason to leave. Everything she could ever want was right here.

All of them waited for her to finish chewing even though both Mitchel and Seth had an idea of what Melanie was going to say. Especially Seth, sometimes he had information that not even Melanie, with all her dad’s connections, had heard about yet. She thought he was a hacker, but Mitchel didn’t think his twin was that smart.

Melanie swallowed and took a pull off her soda. She assumed Holly was asking about tracking what the president had called justice deaths. She disagreed with the terminology, but answered Holly question.

“Yes, it’s possible to track justice deaths. Most of the early technology has been in place since 2012. It just wasn’t rolled out to the public. In 2012, a guy named Ron Conway started the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation, which offered millions of dollars to innovators to come up with new idea to stop the school shootings. They developed the Radio Frequency Identification Device or RFID to track firearms and to disable them. I’m sure they have continued and with the combination of the NCPS and SAFE, anything is possible.”

She loved twitter, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.