Starting at the back of the line, slowly trickling forwards, time seemed to lose all meaning. The moving mass of people crept like a slow wave, a disorganised, slightly clumpy wave, occasionally broken against the jagged rock of a security officer. Mond ached, to lap at the coast at the far end. In his mind the ceiling began to melt, drip down to meet the disintegrating floor, the walls tumbling away, flying off into space impossibly fast, the watch on his wrist ticking faster and faster until the hands were just a gray smear across the face. All there was, was his suitcase, and the dreadful shuffle towards what felt like oblivion.
Mustafa stood with a firm and practiced posture, somewhere between formal and casual, the physical form of elocution, knowing just how to stand, the right
way to stand. Occasionally he would dab at the perspiration at his forehead, replacing the handkerchief in his pocket and proceeding to draw it out over and over again as time crushed onwards.
During this time, however, he grew to know the individuals behind and ahead of him in great depth, despite having not spoken a word, or shared any sort of pleasantry. The woman ahead of him was some sort of raging technophile, with perhaps too many screws loose, and far too many cheap augments to be healthy. Her breathing was loud, as if a turbine was turning inside of her. Which was the case. It turned out the only real parts of her were her tongue and brain. And from the snips of call he overheard, she was trying to get them replaced as well. Much to her detest, her parts dealer informed her that the tongue would be too hard to swap out.
The man behind him was a debtor, as so many of those around Mond were, having spent one too many credits. Finding, abruptly, that they defaulted on loans that for the most part they weren’t aware they had. He was babbling on a communicator to what must have been a lawyer, trying to get his sentence reduced. Mustafa Mond’s lips curled into a small, knowing smile, these contracts were ironclad, and the fees required to launch an inquest would probably put the man in debt once again.
It was like returning home after a long trip, the sense of relief was palpable as he stepped up to the desk and submitted his documents for review. The man on the other side butchered the arrangement of the paperwork, but Mustafa took it in his stride, watching with a curt smile as he was processed, and digitally stamped.
“Many thanks,” he paused, to read the attendant’s name tag, only to find it bearing the Party’s logo. “Sir.” He landed on, before passing through, being quickly replaced by the debtor, and the subsequent tide of people yet trapped behind him.
Mond crossed that threshold, from the ship that he called home for 6 years, on to the platform of that seemingly fictional vision. He allowed his face to break from its usual, placid expression, grinning and nodding slightly, as he mentally counted the encrypted credits he had stashed in the code of his tablet. Certainly enough for new clothes, as much as he liked to be frugal, he had worn the same limited apparel for 6 straight years. Exhausting every combination.
And just as he pressed forwards, feet carrying him towards the crash barriers that divided the unloading bay and that pungent, disorientating, towering buildings… He was cut off.
He marched beside his crew, or crew to be, slightly disgruntled, but with a well kept posture and disposition. Mustafa was glad there were some familiar faces at least. The pair he had become acquainted with at the Cantine, namely. Though he could not remain miffed for much longer.
As the group walked, his eyes panned around, to witness similar scenes unfolding about. Men, startling identical to the officer leading the group forwards, leading around similar, hapless people to far ends of what felt like a cavernous hallway. It seemed as though in the quest towards making themselves seem outwardly warm and personal, they had settled on one face for its ‘greeters’ and had them grafted on like uniforms.
Despite that, the same face spliced on to differing skulls yielded differing results.
But just like that his attention was taken, as the lights echoed on, the sounds of switches tripping introducing the arrival of the ships. It was like window shopping for a new suit, or watch, or some such luxury item. His eyes marveled over them, lingering over the yacht, before he chastised himself internally.
‘Much too tacky’ He thought to himself, his eyes resting on the Trade Vessel, strong, robust, enduring. Surely a much better choice if they wanted to survive the century of servitude. He was brought out of his thought by the young woman. Astrid.
“Maybe it got hit by a solar flare?”
He looked between the prototype ship and her, bemused, he stretched his mind’s legs a little, recalling something he had read a long time ago.
“Certainly, if that were the case, we’d see the ionisation burns on the hull’s paint? Though do correct me if I’m wrong.” He spoke with confidence, but toned it down to leave space for a hint of innocent uncertainty. Know everything, but don’t be a know it all, a distant, ancient voice spoke in the back of his head.