Writing > Code

Chapter 18


Chapter 18

As soon as her boat got in, people practically stampeded off of it. Vicky was in no rush, despite the huge pile of tasks no doubt waiting for her in Scheria. One by one the embarkees were isolated and screened before being taken off to a waiting area.

Another boat had also docked a few minutes earlier, carrying relief workers from the Bahamas. They'd been doing the same as her group, just on the various islands hard-hit by the same storm. They were also cordoned off as soon as they stepped off the boat.

Just as any American citizen who wanted to fly overseas would do well to make sure that their immunizations were up to date, people here had to quarantine after arriving from other countries. After all, Scheria's population had grown by leaps and bounds, and the island was now packed with people.

It still took her breath away every time she got back.

The Cay was less than two miles in length, but what had started out as a small research station had exploded in size almost immediately. Only about one in ten coded people had chosen to live here, but that was more than enough to build a city. People who didn't have the schooling to help evaluate or code people had just found other ways to contribute. Hence the Need Board.

When she finally got to a place where she could plug in her laptop, Vicky sat against a wall, pulled up the local net, and looked at the Need Board. With a combination of both reluctance and relief, she removed her name from any active projects. She would have to decide how to help, but it couldn't be more relief work.

Someone tapped on her shoulder. Vicky looked up to see a smiling Tom looking down at her. "Hey!" She set the laptop down, jumped up and hugged him tightly. "How are you doing?"

"I'm fine," he said, gently lifting her off the ground for a moment and then setting her down. "I had a little smoke inhalation, and then I lied my ass off to the nation. Business as usual, really."

Vicky gave him a sympathetic look. "This is why I only wanted to do small-time interviews. I can't lie to strangers anymore like you can. But it is necessary. If they actually came here, and saw what this place is like.. they just wouldn't understand. I mean I helped build it, and I sometimes have a hard time understanding."

Tom nodded, glancing out the window of the isolation rooms and onto the rest of Scheria. Amir's family funding had dried up almost immediately, but it had been replaced by donations from coded people. One of the things Vicky could have never predicted about coding was that it gave some people such a sense of purpose that it changed their lives completely. It seemed in a society where every single person could trust every single other person with their lives, and the whole community was devoted to the benefit of the whole community.. money didn't mean much anymore. As such there had been a flood of donations at first, which had leveled out into a steady stream nowadays.

Vicky still didn't understand how the codes had caused Scheria to grow so fast, or be so different than other modern cities. She and Devin had thrown ideas around for a long time, trying to make sense of it. They couldn't say what was right and wrong for each coded person, but they could analyze trends. So far, coded people hadn't physically hurt anyone else, ever. Unless it was an accident. Being coded didn't make you omniscient or any wiser than you were before.

That much they had predicted. Amir had even hoped for it back when they'd gotten started. The no-lying bit had been a welcome addition, but it had quickly spread into a general sense across every coded person living here. If Vicky had to define it, her best guess would be: no coded person ever put themselves above anyone else.

However it worked, Vicky was just grateful that it did. Still, a society that put no importance at all on materialism was so very alien to the outside world, and to America especially, that Vicky was doubly grateful they didn't know about it. That was why Tom had to lie so often about them, and why he was literally the only uncoded adult living here. Even Max had been coded by now, despite his early misgivings about it. The only other uncoded person so far was Max's grandson Joey, who was only ten. According to Devin, it just wasn't safe to code anyone younger than twenty-one. As a result Joey mostly home-schooled, when he wasn't following Angie around and helping her organize things.

Coded people living in the rest of the world could fit in quite easily with the people around them. They were just nice people, according to most. Coded people living in tight concentrations like here.. might as well be an alien species for all they had in common with the uncoded. Vicky didn't really feel like an American anymore, or even like a human, if that's what uncoded were. Maybe the Humanity First movement had a point, at least about that.

"So I pulled my name from the Need Board," Vicky said, trying not to dwell on dark thoughts like that, as she slid back down to the ground with her back to the wall. "I'm just burned out. I want to stay here for a while, maybe get my drone production going again. Those things were really helpful in Florida, by the way."

"I can believe it," Tom said, sitting next to her. She would be in quarantine for at least another day, and he was scheduled to head back to the mainland and then fly across the ocean tomorrow, so he seemed resolved to get comfortable for now. "Oh, I heard from Fai Tan on my way back here. Only because he couldn't reach you first," he added quickly. "Apparently they've had a breakthrough with their molecular.. work or something. I don't speak scientist. He wanted you to drop by as soon as you're free."

Vicky nodded. Another thing she couldn't have predicted was how amazingly self-sufficient Scheria had become. At first they had used gas generators to power the original lab, but then they'd switched to solar power. When more people started living here, they'd eventually built a full-on tidal generator, which stored and used power every time the tides rose and fell. It was a lot more reliable than solar, especially when it rained.

The people here still had to trade with the mainland when it came to exotic substances like insulin or kidney disease medication, but food had become self-sufficient as well. It wasn't exactly gourmet, but algae and insects were easy to grow and process as food, and were amazing sources of protein. The main 'normal' plant that was used as food was potatoes. They were remarkably resilient and easy to grow, but kind of a delicacy here due to the limited space.

Vicky was grateful for the sustainable food, too. The sooner they could become completely independent from the mainland, the smaller the chance the uncoded would find out just how different Scheria was from the rest of the world. They would find out eventually of course, but the longer she could shield them from the full truth, the less of a blow it would be to them, and the less ammunition Humanity First and others like them would have.

As for other differences, Dr. Fai Tan was also one of many scientists who had joined in on the work. He wasn't a surgeon or neurobiologist like most of the early coded group, but it turned out that within a society that didn't value greed- and didn't actually have a military force at all- scientific advancement was a lot easier. Fai was a molecular chemist, who had originally worked on large-scale solutions to global warming before getting coded. Now he continued his experiments here in Scheria. Like Vicky, he tended to get absorbed in his work. She resolved to visit him sooner rather than later, and remind him to sleep sometime this week. If it weren't for his lab assistants, he'd probably forget to eat as well.

"So, any news on the new colony?" Vicky asked idly, her eyes sliding past the computer screen and towards the sky out the window. They had been looking into leasing another island about forty miles to the southwest, as a possible expansion location for coded people.

Tom nodded. "I finally got approval from the Bahamians just before heading out to Japan. It's a similar deal to the one we made for Darien Cay. We're lucky the Bahamian leadership knows a good thing when they see it. You coded people are much more valuable to them here than you would be somewhere else," he added wryly.

"Has anyone started living there yet?" Vicky ignored his tone.

"A few hundred. They started with tents and are now assembling some basic houses. Next up is a tidal power generator like the one you have here."

"That's good. I don't know how many more times we can do that, though. Eventually the Bahamians will get tired of letting us use their territory."

She and Tom passed ideas back and forth, as the sun lowered in the sky. It reminded her of all those late-night brainstorming sessions they and Amir had shared back on the mainland. Even now she felt his absence keenly, though it didn't really hurt anymore. It was more like a phantom limb. She knew what he would say some of the time, and added it for him, injecting it into their conversation.


Tom departed the following day. As part of their agreed-upon plan, he was heading out to Kiev, and then on to Moscow. It was just the most recent of dozens of international trips he'd taken in the last year, and it wouldn't be the last one, either. As comfortable as he was in all these meetings, it was clear he'd be glad when they were done. Tom's efforts would be vitally important to all the coded people here, but that didn't mean they didn't take a toll on him.

After she was finally cleared on the following morning, Vicky made her way into the city. She stopped at her home briefly for a shower and a change of clothes. It was only a home in that it had some of her things- she spent almost no time here.

That was another peculiarity of life among coded people. Sentimental attachment to objects was common enough, but to places was much less so. Most coded people here seemed much more attached to each other than to any specific 'home'. Vicky had heard a bunch of different possible reasons why, but there was know way of knowing which one, or if more than one, were true.

Vicky made a stop in the coding center itself, just to say hi to Devin. He was in surgery, but did wave hello at her through the glass. A voice called out to Vicky as she left the building, though. "Miss Brandt?"

She did a double take at the thirty-or-so year old, heavily muscled man who'd spoken. "Leon? Is that you?"

He smiled broadly and nodded. "I wasn't sure you'd recognize me."

"I can see why," she agreed, moving over and shaking his hand warmly. He looked much better than the last time she'd seen him, all shaking and clammy from withdrawal. He was also much more tanned, although Scheria residents made common use of sunblock.

Like any other recent coding patient, the top of his head had also been shaven. From the swelling around the implant, it had been done recently. "I had no idea you'd been scheduled for coding so soon!"

Leon shrugged. "I passed all the examinations with flying colors. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but emotionally I'm as steady as a rock. Thanks to you, Miss Brandt."

"I told you before- call me Vicky. And you did all the work, Leon. You got clean all on your own, before you ever got coded. You can be proud of that; I sure am proud of you."

He looked a little self-conscious at that. "I guess now I find out what happens next. I'm supposed to go through orientation, but I don't know what that will be like." He rubbed at his arm absently, at the needle marks which hadn't quite faded even now.

"It's different for everyone," Vicky explained. "Some people need months to get used to their new situation, and others only a few weeks. Devin calls them codepacetic. He only thinks he's funny." At least Leon smiled at that. "Anyway, someone will be assigned as your guide, and they'll stick with you until it's done. Then, you just have to choose if you want to go home or stay here."

"I, uh, can't really go home," Leon admitted hesitantly. "I called my dad just before the surgery. He said he's glad I'm clean and all, but it would be better if I don't come back to Philly for a while. He's got his new wife and kids to think about. I guess I'm not really surprised. I did some pretty messed up things to him when I was high. I don't.. deserve to just go home like that."

That was concerning. Vicky remembered her early experiences with the code, and how she couldn't drink wine, not because it was harmful to her but because it would harm her loved ones. If Leon didn't think he had anyone like that, would he fall back into old habits? "You're not alone here," she assured him quickly. "There will be dozens of other people in orientation like you, and your guide will keep you from messing up. So will your code, but you won't like it at first. Besides," she reached up and gestured to the whole city, "every coded person here is basically family. I'm sure your dad will be ok with you eventually, but until he is you've got the rest of us to lean on."

Leon gave her a disbelieving look, but eventually nodded and reached up to the top of his head. "I've gotten clean before a few times, but at least I can rely on this thing to keep me that way now. Oh, I'm sorry to keep you. If you've got somewhere to be, don't let me hold you up," he said suddenly.

Vicky shook his hand again, offering a few more words of encouragement, and then turned away. Before she got too far though, she came to a stop. She wasn't sure exactly what it was keeping her there, but it seemed like a better idea to stay. "Say, Leon?" She asked after a bit, and he turned back to her. "Would you be all right with me being your guide?"


[0] Message Index

Go to full version