a tale of hub city
As I was ushered into the first entry points at the city’s outer wall, I was impressed with the speed and efficiency of the staff as they coordinated everyone’s entry into the city. Security forces maintained control of the entry point but were cordial and civil to everyone. There was very little grumbling in line. Their police uniforms were spartan and crisp and each officer looked well fed and fit, unlike most of the people in line.
While we waited, we were given water and a real fruit, whose origins were unknown but it was pleasant, sweet and much needed after the dusty road. When I reached the front of the line, a young woman appearing to be in her late twenties was scanning my identity card and checking my authorization papers. “Welcome to Hub City sir, do you have anything to declare? No outside perishables will be allowed. Any gear or technology you have will have to be checked, sterilized and cleared before entry. Recording equipment can be made available for you, given the nature of your work.”
I opened my bag and gave my equipment to the guards standing next to her. “I’m going to need a receipt for that.” They gathered all of my gear and when they got to the bottom of my bag, they pulled out my micro-recordings of the King James Bible on a dedicated player. It was a complete holographic recording of the New Testament and the tales of Jesus of Nazarath, recording sometime before the turn of the century. A classic.
She looked at it as if it were a poisonous snake, and the guard placed it with the rest of the tech gear. “You understand there is no religion allowed in Hub City, sir?”
The young woman speaking to me was quite lovely but I could not place her origin. After the most recent hemorrhagic plague, that was far less relevant than it had been in the past. There had been so many deaths, everyone knew someone who died. She was one of the lucky ones, I could see signs of the disease on her arms and she was only mildly scarred near her neck. Her face showed none of the ravages common to recent survivors. “I read the transfer brochures when I was issued my papers upon leaving New York, but I was not sure what that really meant. Could you explain?”
The look on her face gave me the impression she had said this for the umpteenth time today and was hoping this would be the last, but she somehow knew it wouldn’t. “Sir, in accordance with the Renewable Earth Acts that lead to the creation of all Hub Cities, no partisan religions would be allowed within the city walls. What this means is you are free to worship who you like in your home.
“There are no churches or permanent religious affiliations allowed in any public area. Nor are religious reasons for any proscription allowed. You are not allowed to use religion or religious ideas to prevent you from participating in any communal or obligatory service duty during your time in the city.”
“That doesn’t seem unreasonable,” I began.
“You might want to let me finish. There are important things you will want to remember. Any act of violence on your part regarding religion, religious idea or ideals, is subject to immediate removal from the City and a ten year ban on any possibility of return. You will be tried based on information gathered by the city’s management AI and subject to swift and fair justice. The AI does not allow for appeal, so it is in your best interest to show a complete understanding of this principle before you enter the city.
“In short, religion has no place in Hub City other than as an expression of art or culture. As soon as your religion becomes intolerant, oppressive or violent to anyone, it will be deemed a failure and you will be expelled. The expression locally is ‘your religion stops at your finger-tip.’”
“Let’s assume I’m not the brightest light and I don’t understand why this is the case. Can you tell me as simply as possible why you don’t allow any religious activity in the city?”
“Sir, look around you. There were once nine billion people living on Earth doing what they wanted when they wanted. Warfare, religious intolerance, hatred, a failure to learn science and an overall failure of reason, have lead to a world that now has an estimated population of two billion people. Religious wars, plague and biological weapons, a failure to pay attention to rising sea levels, social manipulations which forced consumerism and completely irresponsible capitalism have destroyed almost all of the best of the world’s technologies, billions of lives and left the world a shattered ruin. In Hub City, we have decided Reason, principled decision-making and a focus on making the world we live in, the world we want to have, means we cannot abide religion and magical thinking, nor any of the irresponsible habits the previous world had allowed.”
“You actually believe this?” I know I didn’t. This seemed like a rigidly controlled police state and the ideas about religion certainly reinforced that viewpoint to me. Religion is one of those things that separated man from animals. I think of all the great pieces of art and architecture created around religious ideals.
The young woman looked at me with a gaze that could melt stone. “Yes, I do believe it.” She turned around and lifted her shirt. I gasped despite myself. Her back was a battlefield of terrible scars wildly crossing each other. She held her shirt up, making me drink in the horror, my eyes sweeping through the tattered lines, each a burning mark of violence.
“This is my experience with religion. A preacher told me if I was beaten, the evil and plague would be removed from my body. I lived with his band of religious rapists and madmen for nearly two years before I could escape. If I never saw another act of religious piety, that would be fine with me. Hell yes, I believe in what Hub City enforces. Will there be anything else Mr. Franklin? I have a long line waiting to get into the city. Medical processing continues down that hallway over there.”
I wanted to argue. I wanted to say he was not an example of the best of religious thinking or belief. I wanted to say how religions did help people find strength in hard times. Hell, I wasn’t even religious and it seemed like a bad idea to simply say ‘no’ to organized religion. Then she turned around and I lost my words. My belief in my convictions drained out through my feet. “No, I don’t have any other questions. Thank you for your time.”
Her professional smile came back just as quickly and she spoke more kindly than she had a moment ago, “You seem like a nice man, Mr. Franklin. If you decide you need a tour of the city, you can give me a call. My name is Marisa Wells. Once you are linked to the grid, you can ask for me by name and occupation.”
“I don’t think my wife would approve. I’m married.” Truth be told, though she had taken a second husband, I was not in the market for anyone else.
“You’re married, not dead. There are twelve million people living in this city. Everyone needs a friend sometimes. I saw that look in your eye when you walked up. I know an appraisal from a man when I see one. Made me feel pretty.”
Fair enough. “Okay Ms. Wells. I will call on you once I am settled in. How long does indoctrination take?”
“About three weeks.”
“Three weeks? You have to be kidding, right? What could take three weeks to learn before I am allowed to move into the city?”
“I don’t know how much you have been told about Hub City before you got here, but whatever you did for a living won’t be enough to pay your way here. Everyone here learns multiple skills, has multiple jobs and will get the opportunity to develop in ways the Old World didn’t allow. We promote both the harnessing of human potential and the expectation that everyone will be doing their best to contribute to the public good.” A sound of pride resonated from her, and the other agents stopped what they were doing while she was speaking. When she was done, they nodded quietly and went back to work.
Having reported on cults earlier in my career, this place seemed to have all the hallmarks of one. These people seemed slavishly loyal to Hub City and its principles. Best I tread lightly until I know the ropes. She continued, a bit quieter now, “There is a lot to know, and even more to learn about your new home. It’s not like out there. You will have a lot of duties here to learn about and many of the previous models of living have been done away with. We are dependent on technology but still have to do a lot of things here to maintain our way of life. Despite what it looks like, we’re civilized here. Again, welcome to Hub City.”
After all I had been through to get here, it was off to a rocky start. A siren blared. It was a terrifying sound designed so it could not be ignored. Small children began to cry and everyone began looking around for guidance. The police and other staff members begun packing up the registration material and moving people into the city, proper from the holding area.
“Storm alert, storm alert. Incoming super storm, weather inversion front, estimated arrival: ninety minutes. Enhanced Fujitsu scale-5 tornado front, multiple funnel clouds sighted. Estimated duration three to five hours. All personnel to emergency shelters. Prepare for Regenesis dome operations. We will be raising the dome in thirty minutes, all personnel to their storm stations. This is not a drill.”
I had wondered about the darkening skies. Running behind her before she got out of sight, I shouted, “Ms. Wells, I’m going to need my camera.”
Ralos Franklin, reporting.
Freelance Investigative Reporter ID #NY3296-173
Hub City Blues © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved