Chapter 4: Normalized

The news and rumors of everything happening to Jena exploded out of control. On every social media platform that the party of Mother and Father allowed this piece of news and rumors were all that was being talked about.

Both her supporters and those who felt a sense of schadenfreude as they watched people’s lives and careers destroyed, argued back and forth.

[I hope Jena doesn’t get Normalized.]

[She’s not going to be Normalized and even if she did, so what?]

[Everyone knows she is a good person and not a Non-believer!]

[Who are you to say what Mother and Father decide is wrong? Are you a secret filthy separatist?]

[What? Why are you attacking me now?]

[Even if she is normalized she deserves it!]

[She wasn’t really normalized, you all are overacting. She can still do other stuff.]

[Right, she can still act even if she is Normalized.]

[You idiots. Do you not know what it means to have a C grade SCS?]

[Have to agree with the post above. If she is normalized, who will hire her for such work?]

[No one. Once you have the taint you can’t return.]

***

PING! PONG!

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It was late at night when the automatic doorbell went off. Her NerViz received the video feed and started to stream it in front of her face in a small 2d opaque window, allowing her to see who it was.

Three people were standing outside, all wearing black suits. Before she could inspect the three of them further, a large man stepped up to the door.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

“We are field agents of the Office Of Reason. Open the door!” said the man. His voice boomed out louder than any normal voice box could allow. 

“Open up! We know you are here.”

Jena threw off her covers and stumbled around her bedroom as she tried to hurriedly get into a robe to cover her nightclothes and slip some shoes on.

The banging on the door was getting louder as the man at the door was getting impatient.

With such a loud racket Jena knew that the tens of neighbors on this floor could all hear the man as well.

She walked to the door and waved her right hand over the door’s lock scanner and unlocked the door. With a slight hiss, the door smoothly slid open.

“Jena Kara?” asked the large man who had been banging on the door. He was wearing a black suit and a dark visor that completely covered his eyes. Each of the three agents were dressed this way.

“Yes. What is this…”

A female on the left took a scanner out from inside her inner suit pocket and pointed it at Jena’s right hand.

Immediately Jena’s information popped up on a holo-screen and started to scroll up.

“It’s her,” said the female agent.

“Jena Kara, you have been accused of committing crimes deemed unacceptable by the [Office Of Reason],” said the large man.

“After investigating the allegations you have been found guilty and must be Normalized,” said the second male agent.

 “Your job as an actress has been revoked. Your social credit score has been reduced to the rank of C: 600. Your bank account as well as all other assets, have been frozen and will be thoroughly investigated. If everything checks out you will only be able to access the allowed amount based on your social credit score and the laws set by Mother and Father. Everything else will be held onto by Mother and Father.”

“We are here to fulfill the will of Mother and Father. You WILL follow us to the MagLev. We will be escorting you to the first level,” said the female agent.

“Now? What about my belongings? Can I put on some proper clothes?”

Both of the male agents reached out and grabbed her arms putting them into magnetic cuffs.

“When you inform the [Office of Reason] of your new residence on the first level, we will send your belongings to you. Of course, only the items that a C rank SCS person is allowed to have will be sent to you. Everything else will be handled by Mother and father,” said the female agent.

Jena was pushed on the back by one of the agents forcing her to exit her apartment.

The door hissed shut as the four walked down the hallway and exited the building using the Mag-shoot.

Those that were still outside at such a late hour were few and far between. There were mostly only transport robots and drones flying around. But those that were out and about all had looks of shock on their faces when they saw her. It was as if she was the worst criminal they had ever seen in her life.

Jena ignored the stares. She knew that they were probably recording her and this would most definitely end up on the news. 

When she tried to take her mind off everything by accessing the Holo-net to make a call she only received an Error message. 

[Access denied! Your Social credit score is too low to access the 4th level’s Holo-net.]

Jena walked in a daze and wasn’t paying attention to where she was being led to until she was shoved onto the MagLev and pushed down into a seat with a buckle automatically snapping around her waist.

The MagLev was filled with questionable people who all stared at Jena and quickly looked away when she or one of the Field agents looked their way.

Soon the MagLev exited the 4th Level’s large MagLev station and plunged almost straight down as it headed for the first level of the megacity several hundreds of floors below.

After the gut-wrenching drop, the MagLev did a sharp spiral turn that split off from the main track and led through the open gates of the first level’s sector 1 MagLev station. The open gates shut immediately after the MagLev shot through.

When the MagLev came to a complete stop, Jena was pulled up out of her seat and dragged off the MagLev onto a bustling platform. 

The station’s platform was far busier than the few glimpses she had seen on the 4th level. There were several hundreds of people walking about, all not caring or paying attention to Jena and the three agents huddled around her.

The temperature was far warmer and more humid on this level than she had grown accustomed to on the 4th level.

The magnetic cuffs let out a loud click as the female agent unlocked them and took them off of Jena’s wrists.

“Don’t cause any more problems for us or we’ll be paying you another visit,” said the female agent as she gave Jena one last shove away from the MagLev. The shove pushed her into the milling crowd of people who still paid no attention to her as if this was nothing new.

Jena stood motionless in the crowd trying to gather her wits and think of what she should do now. The air all around her smelled of mystery food along with garbage.

She used her NerViz implant to access her contact list but found almost all of the names on the list were now grayed out. She could no longer call any of them even if they would accept the call.

She pressed one of the only names not grayed out, hoping he was still awake and would pick up.

The call was picked up after several seconds passed by.

“Hmph…. so you finally call me after acting like I don’t exist for the past several years,” said a gruff voice that sounded groggy from just waking up.

“Uncle, I wasn’t ignoring you, I was just too busy with work!”

“Saw you on the news the other day.”

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“None of it is true! I really have no idea what happened!”

 “You need someplace to live right? You know where the workshop is. I’ll be waiting for you,” said her uncle before hanging up.

 Jena walked out of the station and hailed a driver-less hover cab paying the heavy fee to be taken to Sector 7.

The city lights, signs, and heavy traffic even at such a late hour brought back many memories. There were a few flying vehicles far above the heavy hovercar traffic jam.

When she arrived at the outskirts of Sector 7 zone 2, she exited the hover cab and began walking through several familiar streets. Before long she arrived at her uncle’s medium-sized workshop near the border of zone 2 and zone 1. The garage sign above the large parasteel garage doors had long been taken down.

Loud clunks and clacks came from the small side door as numerous different types of locks were being unlocked by someone from the inside. The small but thick parasteel door opened with a screech loud enough to wake the dead, showing its need for a good oiling of its hinges.

 A man nearing 50, with a gray speckled beard and hair, stood at the entrance looking at Jena for several seconds not saying anything. 

“You better come in before you start trouble dressed like that,” said her uncle as he stepped to the side allowing her to enter the workshop.

The door screeched shut behind her and the loud clunks and clicks were heard again as the locks were put in place.

When her uncle was sure the door was properly locked, he turned back to Jena.

“So… you have returned. Did you get all that hopeless dreamer out of you?”

“I’m not like those idiot dreamers! I actually made it!” said Jena.

“And look where you are now. Right back where you started. You of all people should know that Mother and Father should not be trusted after what they did to your parents.”

“I am not like them! They were …”

“Don’t insult their memory! They loved you and only wanted the best for you.”

“If Mother and Father heard you say that…”

“What? Are you going to report your own family to the [Office of Reason] like any of the mindless dreamers? Dreaming of gaining just a few more points, so that maybe, one day in the distant future, they can move to a higher level of the city?”

“Uncle…how could you say that? You know I wouldn’t do that!” said Jena, hurt that he would even think such a thing, let alone say it to her face.

“How am I supposed to know who or what you have become after several years living up there with ‘them’.”

They two stood silently for over a minute before her uncle scratched his neck and pointed.

“Your room is still empty. It will need to be cleaned as there probably is a lot of dust covering everything. I’ll get the cleaning bot to do it. Recently it has been glitching out and doing odd stuff, so you might want to do it yourself.”

He turned around and started walking through one of the maze paths between the large piles of junk that filled almost all of the building except for a small work area and the rooms that they lived in.

He looked over his shoulder and said “You’ll start working at the office in the morning to pay for your rent. I won’t be having you doing nothing but moping and lounging around in your room for several weeks.”

***

Arron sat at the breakfast table with his parents. He was drinking his last cup of coffee while he half-listened to the news and thought about the chores he had to do on the farm.

“Here is agent Goose from the [Office of Reason] to give a short statement to all our viewers.”

“I want to first give thanks to all who sent us information, and want to remind you that if you send us any information you will receive the proper amount of points added to your social credit score depending on how useful it is. As for our recent big case with the former actress, we investigated the accusations and in the end, the situation was normalized.”


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