Name: Mark Cooper
Genetic Identification Code: TBCD0425241412631
Physical Health: Good
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Occupation: Welfare Recipient
Criminal History: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Citizen Status: Pending
“Huh,” the single syllable escaped his mouth in a puff of carbon dioxide.
It was surreal experience to see your entire life laid out on a slip of polymer. Anyone could take the 10 x10 centimeter card and scan the barcode to bring up his entire life. It was the first time he’d received one of these slips. It was one hell of an eighteenth birthday present.
Mark Cooper absentmindedly scratched his forearm as he read over the card again; alleviating the itch right above the black barcode that had been fused into his body before birth. Like every single one of the twenty billion Earth-bound residents of the United Commonwealth of Colonies, he’d been tagged before his momma had pushed him out, and a nurse’s slap on his ass had forced him to take his first breath of what passed for air.
The Genetic Identification Code (GIC) on his reinforced piece of plastic matched the one on his arm. You could tell a lot about a person by that code; a code that was mandated by law for the last four generations of human beings. Not only did scanning it reveal every aspect of your life, but the code itself held useful information. The first few letters always destinguished the metropolis you were born in. In his case, that meant the Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis. His home’s mix of ancient brick, millennial steel, and modern polycarbonate encircle the once great Lake Erie. Now, it encircled 130,000 billion gallons of brown sludge from over 500 years of sewage dumping. There was nothing great about the lake anymore.
The next eight digits were the day someone was born. He had entered the disappointment that was his life on April 25, 2414, and it had all gone downhill from there. The final five digits of the GIC was your position in the computer registered tally of newborns that day. 12,630 people had been born before him just in the Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis alone on that April day eighteen years ago. His metropolis was one of hundreds, maybe even thousands of metropolises that covered the face of the planet.
He’d only been born at 8:04 A.M.
Anyone could do the math. The problem was pretty obvious unless you were stupid; so everyone knew it, but nobody gave a flying fuck.
One of the few things he took pride in was his physical health. He wasn’t some jacked, ripped dude like on one of those body building infomercials; but he was categorized as good. It was hard to get a good rating where he lived.
The “authorized personnel only” print under the mental health heading just made him laugh. Privacy law was bullshit. The government didn’t care about his privacy, and any government hack could scan his arm, or the new slip, and bring up the data. There would be a lot of key words in that text; things like problems with authority, mild sociopathic tendencies, antisocial behavior, and a bunch of other words that were long and had definitions in some thick medical dictionary somewhere. It was all a lot worse than it sounded, and five minutes of diagnosis by a government shrink didn’t mean shit in his neighborhood. All that medical babble meant was that he looked out for number one, and wasn’t afraid to let people know about it.
The blank reading next to his education was a sore point with him. Anyone you talked to would say Coop, no one called him Mark or Marky, was smart. He just thought that the Commonwealth education system spouted out more crap than a football fan with raging diarrhea. He’d gotten all A’s his freshman year in high school, started to read between the lines sophomore year, and stopped going all together junior year. There were much more lucrative things he could do between the hours of seven and three thirty every day.
He had to engage in his extracurricular because of his listed occupation; welfare recipient. That was the most politically correct way anyone had referred to him in his eighteen years. Most people just called him, and everyone who lived in any Public Housing Authority neighborhood, a Rat. Society meant it as an insult, but he didn’t look at it that way; especially since the number of Rats was rapidly outpacing the number of good, law abiding citizens on this spinning blue and green ball of shit. Coop knew for a fact that there were over ten million Rats packed into clustered fifty-story shoeboxes in his metropolis alone.
Being a welfare recipient, and needing extracurriculars to bring in more Commonwealth dollars, led to the second “Authorized Personnel Only” reading on his card. Those wouldn’t be accessible to any old government stooge who scanned him; although every cop on his block would have instant access. It was a juvenile record, but still a record. It was mostly petty stuff; assault, breaking and entering, burglary, possession of a controlled substance, nothing bad enough for the government to ship him off to juvie. To punch that government paid ticket you usually needed to kill someone, and he hadn’t been caught doing that.
The PHA didn’t care if a Rat stabbed another Rat in an alley over their Basic Subsistence Allowance. A finite amount of food got dispensed every week, and they didn’t really care who ended up eating it. If you made a scene, or were psychotic in your killings, then they stepped in. It was bad publicity to have a serial killer lurking around government owned housing. Shooting a person in self-defense didn’t count; all you had to do was deal with the smell until garbage day.
The only truly scary thing about Coop’s brand spanking new slip was his pending citizen status. That could be a problem.
“Hey, kid, you’re holding up the line,” the man behind Coop yelled.
“Shove it, Grandpa,” Coop replied, not bothering to turn around to see the man give him the finger. On the street he would have kept one eye on the older man, but in the Civil Administration building doing anything out of line earned you a beat down. Plus, no one was carrying weapons in here thanks to the scanners at the entrance.
Coop pocketed the card and looked at his watch. The soft glow of the digits ticking by on his pale skin told him he had an hour. <Shit,> Coop quickly walked toward his next destination. He’d be cutting it close.
The welfare office of the PHA was perpetually busy. Sitting in line at the welfare office was one of the realities of being a Rat, and you learned to cope. Thankfully, Coop only had to cope for forty-five minutes.
“Next,” the heavy-set woman in the blue smartcloth of a PHA employee waved him forward. “Arm.” Coop obediently held out his arm so she could scan him. “Mark Cooper, congratulations on your first welfare check,” The woman said without any enthusiasm.
Now that he was legally an adult he would start withdrawing the twenty thousand dollar a year welfare stipend. Of course that money didn’t do shit, which defeated the entire purpose of monetary income.
“I gotta pay rent,” he replied, taking the twenty thousand dollar data chip from its slot and handing it back to the woman.
Scanning his arm had already brought up his block and unit number, as well as the balance due. The woman took the money chip from him, inserted it into a slot and that number dropped to zero. It was the entire purpose of the welfare check to pay for the housing costs the government incurred, but that didn’t make it any less depressing knowing that your entire income for the year was gone in a ten second transaction. Usually his dad did this, but since Coop was here anyway he decided to get it done.
In the past the government might have done more for its economically destitute than pay for housing and food, but that was all that was given out today. If you didn’t like it you could always go die in a gutter, and they’d pick up your body for recycling once you expired.
With his errand done, and his melancholy thoughts receding, Coop checked his watch. <Five minutes!> He ignored his better judgement and ran.
Running in the Civil Administration building identified you as a threat, and being a threat wasn’t good for your health. Angry calls and the energizing of stun batons followed his progress through the halls. It was a good thing it was a short run, because any longer and he’d get a hundred thousand volts of electricity shoved up his ass.
He came to an abrupt stop at a large faux wood door, and had to catch his breath in front of a stern faced, armored, PHA guard. “Mark Cooper,” he held out the card with one hand as he rubbed the stitch in his side with another.
The guard put the card in a slot by the door and waited for the response. Mark would never get that card back. Anyone who needed anything from him would just scan his arm, but the card was needed for this particular circumstance.
“Mark Cooper, you’re checked in,” the guard opened the door, waving off the other guards who’d just come around the corner. “The judge will see you soon.”