Read Chapter 24 “Life in The Above”
Within a few very short minutes, Patrick was facing massive wooden doors leading to the Corporate Government’s presidential chambers. He felt pretty confident that whatever information he had about the time travel, it was going to be of high value for the Corporate Government. Still, he knew that his objective during the meeting should be to prolong it, in order to give Maggie and the kids as much time as he could.
J.T. Walton was the proud founder of the Corporate Government and a champion of the Old World’s regressive and restrictive rules. He was a charismatic leader, who at the start of his career was able to inspire millions of people with his vision of the Old World’s order. He was a wizard in social engineering, always able to get out of people whatever he wanted, which always made Patrick nervous about being around him.
Walton came from a long tradition of old money and was brought up in fear of progressive change. His privileged upbringing gave him a considerable jumpstart in life, generating a lifelong detachment from reality. He could never understand or sympathize with the ordinary people, which made him a perfect president of the Corporate Government. Over the years, throughout the ups and downs, J.T.’s stamp of approval or disapproval was highly visible in the Old World. Amongst his followers, he cultivated a culture and belief of himself as a visionary leader. There was no room in his vision for regrets or doubts, regardless of the consequences his misguided decisions had on the Old World.
Despite his advancing age, he was still in charge of everything that was happening and taking place in the Down Below and the Above. No major decision was ever made without consulting J.T. first.
For many years, prior to the construction of the Above, Walton knew that saving the Earth would require massive human undertaking stretched over many generations. He wasn’t prepared to lead that challenge towards a very uncertain outcome. Instead, the Corporate Government under his rule was to stay the course, despite the environmental collapse. Adjusting politics to scientific facts was perceived as a weakness amongst the active members of the Corporate Government. For a true leader of an Old World, a weakness wasn’t an option.
Walton always liked Patrick and enjoyed his company immensely. He watched Patrick rising through the ranks of the Corporate World; it always gave J.T. a huge pleasure to see how devoted Patrick became over the years. J.T believed that Patrick was humble enough not to care if he was recognized or rewarded for his service. Unlike everyone else who surrounded Walton, what always made him feel uneasy.
At one point, J.T. even began entertaining an idea that, perhaps, Patrick could take over one day. But it was way before he observed a slight shift in Patrick ‘s attitude. A lesser observer of human nature wouldn’t notice that Patrick was becoming disengaged and disheartened. However, a vigilant observer, like J.T., could see it, and witnessing Patrick’s change of heart put an end to that dream.
The catastrophic damage, caused by Corporate politics and policies, driven by the self-interest of a tiny group of people meant that restoring and rebuilding life in the Down Below was an impossible dream. Blinded by bling and unshakable belief in their own invincibility, the greedy bunch kept taking until there was no more to take.
Since Walton was chosen to protect the corporate interest above everything else, his temporary solution to massive problems in the Down Below was to build up and leave the damage behind. In no time at all, all the remaining resources were used up towards building the Above. There was no proof that the Above would be able to shelter people or withstand unpredictable weather patterns, but Walton knew that desperate times call for desperate measures.
Patrick noticed how much older and frail J.T. became since he saw him last. The man behind the huge wooden desk could hardly be recognized. Lack of sun and fresh air, however, polluted that fresh air may be, was surely taking a massive toll on him. Patrick waited for the old man to acknowledge his presence and to allow him to take a seat before any business could be conducted. This time, however, no words of invitation were uttered, which could only mean that the visit wasn’t business as usual.
J.T. Walton just looked at Patrick for a long time. Patrick’s father used to look at him that way every time Patrick dared to do anything that profoundly displeased him. His father was a controlling man and approved of very few things in life. Luckily, Patrick’s mother was a protective and loving parent, always putting his well-being first. Unfortunately, both of his parents died in a very mysterious way. He tried to get to the bottom of this for years, but his efforts came to nothing.
– “So?” – started J.T.
– “What does this woman Maggie know that we don’t?”
– “I don’t know, Sir” – Patrick’s reply came bluntly.
J.T. shifted in his chair and pulled out a screen from a pad onto his desk. An image of a boy and a girl trapped in a cave came up.
– “If you tell me what you know, your kids will be allowed to return to Ecotopia” – that surely caught Patrick by surprise. He knew showing fear would only give Walton an advantage. Instead, he played for time.
– “How long have you known?” – asked Patrick.
– “We’ve been keeping tabs on them since they were born.” – replied Walton.
– “How?!” – even though Patrick learnt how to control his emotions, he could still feel his anger rising.
– “Do you think we have no people on the inside? Do you think that everyone who lives in Ecotopia believes in this utopian wishy-washy crap?” – J.T. was visibly tired and has allowed his impatience to take hold of him.
– “Why didn’t you tell me?” – Patrick’s voice was rising, despite his best efforts to stay calm. Ever since he joined the Corporate Government, he believed in the measures it took to keep the society going. But now it was clearer than ever that his blind unquestionable devotion was a mistake.
– “And? What would you do with such knowledge? Would you try to escape to Ecotopia? We have eyes everywhere; nowhere would be safe for you. Now listen, very, very carefully. Either you tell me all you know about the time travel, and remember that I have to believe you, or you will never meet your kids, neither see Maggie again.” – when J.T. finished, Patrick noticed sweat running down the side of his forehead, which Walton wiped with annoyance.
In that instant and completely involuntary, Patrick switched to a survival mode. At the end of the day, that very government trained him for extreme life-threatening situations like the one he was presented with now.
– “You have half an hour to give me what I want. If not, well… you know what we can do” – Walton was visibly exhausted, saying these final words, and simply turn around to look out of the window at the greyness surrounding the Above.
Two armed guards were waiting for Patrick to escort him to a temporary holding room. A place he often used himself for those who were considered the enemies of the corporate order. When the door to the temporary holding room closed behind him, a small light in the middle of the ceiling started flickering. The Above was trying to save electricity in any possible way and cutting down on lights was one way of doing that. Since Patrick was in a survival mode, his anxiety didn’t surface as yet. But he wasn’t sure how long that would last, so he needed to act fast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly piecing together the map of the Above. He was nearly done when his watch beeped unexpectedly. He opened his eyes and looked at it, a door opening barcode was flashing with a thirty-second count down.
Patrick swiftly swiped his watch across the door handle, and the door opened.