The checkpoint guard turned his eyes towards Theresa. Biting her lip, she brushed her stringy black hair behind her ear and stepped forward.
Behind her the commuter crowd formed a queue that went all the way back up the stairs. The Federation lacked the troops to man all the turnstiles, forcing the milling crowd into a bottleneck two at a time.
Theresa felt her heat rate pick up and did her best to ignore it as she approached.
“Hal-lo.” Said the guard in his heavy Indian accent. The United Federation of Terra, in their infinite wisdom, had decided that Vishnu should provide the latest rotation of garrison troops to pacify St. Aloysius. Even from a distance Theresa could tell he was reading off a phrase sheet in his augmented reality vision. He sounded like a grade-schooler trying to memorise their lines for a school play.
“Please to be giv-ving your arm for the scan-ning of your nano-mo… namo… your mano-machines.”
In her nanoputer Theresa moved her identification protocols to her public network before obediently raising her left hand.
“Bahut-shukriya.” The guard said in his native tongue before he could catch himself.
Theresa cast a wary glance towards his companion, who watched the crowd behind her like a strict head master at a math test. Both men wore the lighter, open armour of the marine infantry squadrons. So making a nanohack attack was still within her options should this go south.
She did her best not to look like she was tensing up, but her mind was already racing. If the scanner revealed her falsified I.D. she would have to act quickly, the fresh bullet holes along the back wall stood in grim testament to his off-sider’s itchy trigger-finger.
Before she could formulate the rest of her plan the first guard smiled unconvincingly and waved her on. Theresa returned her own plastic smile and got moving.
The next train out of the Green Zone stopped at the platform right on time. Theresa found a seat and felt a little sorry for the commuters still at the checkpoint. By the time the next train came that mass of humanity would have to fight for elbow room.
Theresa sighed and leaned into the seat. The train zoomed out of the tunnel and she looked over the clean streets of the Green Zone, a sight marred only by the constant presence of uniformed soldiers. Armoured troop carriers and aerial drones buzzed around the district like flies on a dung heap. Theresa snorted at them. At their shiny, totalitarian, dung heap.
The train entered another tunnel and came out again in the city proper. Out here the garrison troops treaded lightly as they patrolled the streets, ducking between narrow alleyways and dodging the crumbling remains of turn of the century buildings. This close to the Green Zone was no-ones’ territory and the civilians here knew it better than anyone. If you were in trouble here, you had microseconds to work out exactly what kind of trouble it was before going to the correct faction for help, choose wrong and your trouble was only beginning.
Theresa saw the ride from the Green Zone back to the HQ as the perfect metaphor for the Federation Core worlds and what they called ‘the Periphery’.
As the train sped further away from the Green Zone the well-worn streets began to give way to cracked pavement and the ruined statues of saints. The closer the train got to the neighbourhoods of Aloysius’ pre-war elites the worse it got.
Theresa turned away from the window. The territory of the ‘Order of Latter-day Saints of Aloysius’ wasn’t even worth her scorn. If anyone deserved to live in the mess their planet had become it was the Order.
As the train approached the next station the A.I. driver’s calm, feminine voice spoke over the P.A. system. “Due to terrorist activity on this line, all passengers must alight at the next station where alternative transportation will be provided. We apologise for the delay.”
Theresa cursed under her breath as the train began to slow. Alternative transport meant the Feds were diverting troop carriers to ferry the civilians to their destination, after dropping soldiers off at every nearby station to increase security.
Theresa bit her lip again. Would it be better to hide amongst the commuters in full view of the garrison troops or try to get to the next station on foot through civilian streets? Even if they were crawling with the Order’s supporters, they were all on the same side right?
While the small huddle of Green Zone civilians filed into the waiting area Theresa passed through the garrison checkpoint and slipped into the streets.
She couldn’t believe even the Order were stupid enough to attack the train lines. The mag-lev system was a planet-wide infrastructure project the feds had paid for as part of their hearts and minds campaign. While Theresa may have recognised the propaganda stunt for what it was only a fool would bite the hand that spends billions of credits to improve your way of life. Why make them waste funding on repairs when they could be giving Aloysius more?