The Border

tagnone

5

5

The new machine has made Officer Mihail Filip's job easier than it already was. Painstakingly looking over every passport and judging if the monochrome faces matched their owners was tedious, time-consuming, and imperfect.

And he could not afford to be wrong, for it was him who controlled the flow of men from EURASIACOM to WESTCOM. It was him who oversaw the motion which turned the city of Istanbul into a bottleneck. It was him who acted as the first line of defense against the Unrighteous.

It was not the busiest or most violent frontier by any stretch of the imagination, since areas such as ASIACOM tended to see more action. Of particular note was the "Special Zone" which stretched from Mongolia to the Himalayas. There, the rebels fought even when their country turned to ash and glass.

Still, manning Terminal #17 was his job and he took pride in it. He failed to join the military due to asthma, but he was still serving the Righteous Authority — helping them.

He looked down at the black screen, its darkness colored by lines of red, blue, purple, orange, and white which formed into words, phrases, and shapes. It was this machine —a computer, it was called — which considerably sped up his job. It was simple: the machine scanned the faces of all those who entered the booth located outside of his terminal. Then, it proclaimed them as a member of one of the four distinct groups, and he acted accordingly.

An elderly gentleman from EURASIACOM entered. Despite his age, he had life in him — and much of it too. It took some time for him to position himself in the machine, but there was no rush at the time. "Righteous" was inscribed above his face in purple. He was told to move to the next terminal.

A smartly dressed man with a flatcap all the way from the southernmost district of AFRICOM was next. He was built like a swan and had the face of a rat. In blue, the word "VIP" labeled him as such. Immediately, he was directed to a priority terminal.

A young man, also from EURASIACOM, walked in after him. "Under Surveillance" was imprinted above his face in orange. As before, he was told to move to the next terminal. Dealing with those under surveillance required a little more finesse, for he needed to make a brief call to the acting security overseer. If he failed to perform this task, anything that the man did could be pinned on him.

The last one was more troublesome than most. Bandages covered their face — layers and layers of them that made the man indistinguishable from a mummified corpse. His features, too, stretched around the white fabric, adding to the decomposed appearance. Before he could even ask the thing to remove its face covering with little regard for any potential skin condition, there was a flash of light. Then came the dull noise of a pathetic explosive — not much louder than a firework. Mihail neither moved nor screamed, for he knew that the glass could withstand larger charges. The device was so poorly made, in fact, that its wearer remained alive — failing to perform his one final task.

Mihail then began his task of cleaning up the booth. The still-wailing body was already gone. Moving the bodies — when they appeared — was done by two other officers with whom he worked.

Praying that he could still perform his duties in a timely manner after relying on this technical wonder for weeks, Mihail had a look inside. For the first time, he actually noticed how sterile the thing smelled. It didn’t look to be badly damaged, and the competing smell of smoke wasn't pungent enough to make him wince.

He didn’t bother thinking about the incident. It was not his job to think about the incident. Still, he did think about not thinking about it. There were security agents tracking down the man. They were painting a map of all his movements since birth. They were putting together a database of all those accountable — be it by action or associated. He could not be blamed, only commemorated on yet another quick recovery.

There was a flash of filthy white light as the machine activated. Its components acted with the same finesse as the muscle tissue of a dying animal, with the monitor screeching for attention. Mihail was not the one to touch the console, and the slit of glass assured him that nobody else did the same. After all, his terminal was closed off.

Exhaling sharply, he walked back to the computer to see if the screen still displayed anything coherent. To his surprise, it did. There was the picture of his sheep-shaped face with those two, large brown eyes. As expected, a rectangle and text were displayed around it.

His heart sunk as the phrase "Under Surveillance" adorned his round head like a crown. He looked down at the report, explaining the phenomena by the data still displaying the overlay meant for the man who came before. But no. There it was. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Under Surveillance. Mihail Filip. Under Surveillance. Under Surveillance.


Mihail Filip arrived at Terminal #17 the next day. Still, the memories of yesterday lingered and had a horrid aftertaste. It was early in the morning, and so he decided to see the machine again. He needed to confirm something.

There was a picture of his sheep-shaped face and slanted eyes. They were puffy and formed into dark purple bags which mimicked shadows. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Under Surveillance.

Surely there must be an issue with the machine — there must be. And so, Mr. Filip refused to reopen his terminal until the said issue was fixed. He could not be blamed for delaying any of the arrivals, could he?

Again, he went. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Under Surveillance.

Again. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Under Surveillance.

Once more. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Under Surveillance.

Until, finally, the report changed. Mihail Filip. WESTCOM. Civilian Security Officer. Unrighteous.

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