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Meet-Cute in the Time of Empire

by on November 3, 2015

Carter Leckwith heard the explosion a mile away. He had been standing guard over the daily food ration line in District 7-B. Some people occasionally tried to sneak back in, with duplicate ration cards. Carter’s mates usually shot without warning. Carter, being sensible, preferred not to waste ammunition on ration-line cheaters. It was easier just to confiscate their card. They’d come back next day hungrier and wiser, and the system rumbled on.

“Did you hear that?” Carter asked Becky, standing next to him. It was Becky’s task to dispense the ration once Carter had marked off the card. “Sounded big.”

Becky shrugged. “If it’s important, Command will let us know.”

Carter looked in the direction of the explosion. A towering black cloud mushroomed lazily up towards the sky. “Looks bad.”

“Yep.”

“Wonder if we should check in?”

“They’ll let us know,” Becky repeated. She smacked a protein bar into the outstretched palm of a waiting civilian. They mumbled a word of thanks and staggered off.

“You’re probably right,” Carter said nervously.

His communicator remained obstinately silent. Carter checked off another card, and the civilian filed on past for the protein bar from Becky. The process was orderly as ever. Carter could do his job practically without thinking. He often used the time to think about other things.

“Say, Becky…” he ventured, after a long moment. The cloud, in the distance, kept billowing on upwards. It flickered with different colors now, from inky black to flecks of angry red. “Do you have any plans for Empress Margaret Day?”

“Parade, of course,” Becky said laconically. “Afterwards, I don’t know. Why?”

Carter paused, to scrutinize a ration card. It looked a little too shiny, he thought. But there, in the corner, was the proper ID mark. The duplicate-makers always forgot that. He waved the card-holder on, and then turned to Becky. She was reaching out with the next protein bar. “Well, they’ve just opened the new canteen. Near the outskirts. I hear this one has a cache of real alcohol, from the old days. I thought maybe… we could….see it.”

He could’ve kicked himself. The question had sounded better in his head, but the explosion and the ominous cloud had distracted him.

“Sure,” said Becky, plopping a protein bar into yet another hand. “Sounds fun. After Parade, yeah?”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Carter said. He was so encouraged he almost forgot to check the card for the ID mark. Then he noticed it wasn’t there. Exuberant, Carter abandoned his usual restraint and pulled out his rifle. It was turning out to be a good day after all.

This story was inspired by Rowan’s suggestion of setting a romcom in a police state, as part of yeah write’s focus on dystopia fiction this month. It takes place in the Megverse, in a tangential way. The explosion in the background resulted from the events of the last story. What effect that will have on Carter and Becky’s date following E.M.D., I don’t know. Yet.

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From → 8. The Megverse

10 Comments
  1. Wait, he shot Becky? Or did I just have too much wine?

    • I was going for him shooting the random civilian with the duplicate card; at least, that’s the way I pictured it playing out in my head. ….

  2. Ha. When I saw where you were going with the Megverse, knowing I had dystopia scheduled? I steepled my fingers, I confess.

    • I also admit that I was very happy to see the dystopia category set up for this month, not to mention the time travel suggestion. šŸ™‚

  3. Ah, you can’t stop love! Plus Becky looks so perky in that uniform!!! šŸ˜‰

  4. Quite an interesting build up of story

  5. Wow. I am hooked.

  6. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    I love this clash of ho-hum normalcy with dystopian-horrible and violent universe. “They’ll let us know.” šŸ™‚

  7. Great world building, Michael! I like that you’re thinking of stories that happen concurrently rather than chronologically. Becky seems like a dud (btw). Carter might do better to ask someone who reacts to explosions in their environment.

  8. I just got to reading this exceptional, well written piece, Michael. Seems like everyone else has already said what I wanted to. šŸ™‚

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