My last memory of my biological parents was from the mid-70s of the late 23rd century. At the time, I lived in a small apartment with my mother and father in the up-and-growing city of Orange Coast. The political tension was palpable, taking the form of hush-hush discussions between my father and his colleagues late at night over bottles of whiskey; the laments of my mother as she talked about how wayward and backwards the world was becoming as technology progressed; conscious memories of demonstrators marching Century avenue; stalled traffic marred by the red-and-blue of law enforcement while my dad squeezed my seven-year-old hand unbearably tight.
The political tensions were fueled by the transition of federal and international government to a cooperative of human and networked sapient intelligences. Its effects were weightless upon me, for I lacked the knowledge to meaningfully comprehend the goings-on and articulate an emotional response. Instead, I took my father’s advice to “be tough” and put those intangible emotions aside, dealing with the world with boyish machismo and immersing myself in school, books, and media. Superheroes were the center-piece of my imagination back then. Jay Arcent, the orphan who who immersed himself in rigorous physical and mental training during his upbringing and later became the outlaw “Darkwing” formed the the backbone of my internal fantasy universe at the time.
It wasn’t until I was permanently separated from my biological parents as part of the communal reforms of that era that a poignant cognizance about the gravity of life back then would dawn on me. It was an acute awareness that would eventually be honed into sharp cynicism.
When I was taken away from my parents, there was no forewarning and no tearful goodbye. That made it easy for me, and I hope, for them. My parents had already been removed by the time I returned from school. At that time, I had no idea that they had been identified as potential dissenters, purposely removed to professional communes designed to defuse possible instigators.
When I got to my front-door, I found it wide-open with only SI-augmented law enforcement (SIALE) officers there to greet me. A kindly officer by the name of Goodwin immediately greeted me, her dark brown hair tied into a tight bun, her face a radiant, warm, and tender expression of motherly empathy. She was completely reassuring and absolutely trustworthy as she told me that my parents had consented to my going to a boarding school that would offer me tremendous opportunities in my growth as an individual.
“They wanted to see you off themselves, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t make that work. The bus leaves soon, and your parents need to finish filling out some forms downtown.” This preempted any troublesome questions on my part. Her uniform, a neatly pressed gray-and-blue, helped.
Since I did not know what a boarding school was then, and being it was my first real interaction with the police, my only inquisition was: “am I in trouble?”
Goodwin had smiled sweetly. “No love, you’re not in trouble. Think of it like this: the government chose you to receive a special education.”
“Like special training?”
“Exactly. You’ll meet other young men and women like yourself and get opportunities other people could only wish for.”
That she called me a “young man” and made me feel special comforted me, and I lost myself in some daydream about the secretive Jay Arcent and his years of rigorous training in his childhood to later become a vigilante and self-proclaimed upholder of the law. This sounded more and more like that, except it was official.
As we’d walked down the stairs, Goodwin had instructed me to consider it a “vacation” and glorified me as being a “pioneer of a brand new form of society.” Put at ease by these words, it did not occur to me that I would not see my parents again. No, my first thought about my parents as I got into Goodwin’s vehicle was recalling the last thing my mother had asked me the night before: “tomorrow’s laundry day, honey. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t, mom. I won’t.”
My dad had smirked over the tablet he was reading.
As I pulled myself into the front seat, I suddenly did a double-take and stopped. “I forgot to put my laundry in the hamper.” I decidedly announced to Goodwin.
“No worries honey.” Goodwin smiled reassuringly and spoke into her comm. “Alex? This is Jen. Could you make sure to put his dirty laundry in the hamper?”
“Wilco.” came Alex’s reply.
“See, love? All taken care of.” Goodwin smiled. I nodded, satisfied, and buckled up.
Still not knowing what a boarding school was, under the spell of Goodwin’s reassurances, and hypnotized by the thought of the adventure and mystery in my future in “special training”, I got into that vehicle without any conscious doubt. I was confident I’d see my parents tomorrow or maybe the day after, tell them all about my new special training, and they’d congratulate me for being selected. Mom would make meatloaf, dad would chew slowly and moan delightedly, complimenting my mom on her cooking, and she’d laugh and tousle his hair playfully.
That one imagined scene was burned into my mind like an old black-and-white photograph burned into tin. A single tear rolled down my cheek as Goodwin began to drive, the familiar scenery of Orange Coast against a cream-and-vermilion sky playing like the background credits of some film I’d seen before.
I brushed my tear aside, unable to fathom its gravity.