Ian was taken to another cell. A larger cell. He could only reason that he would soon stand before a judge. The Diversionary companies were nothing if not quick in their processing of offenders. Then he would be taken to a larger jail.
He felt anger well up in him again. There were other inmates in the cell with him. He couldn’t say why these people were here, but he knew he didn’t belong Their clothes, their hair…college kids. They spoke about a protest.
Ian ignored them.
One of the guards soon placed himself by the door. Just another kid. Ian strained not to say something. Too late.
-Do you have a child, son?-
It took the guard a while to realize Ian was talking to him, but he eventually understood and moved closer to the cell door.
-No. Don’t have a kid.-
Such arrogance. Where did they get these private security soldiers? Ian moved closer to the door.
-Then you can’t understand why I’m here, can you?-
The guard said nothing. He looked at Ian, almost through him, as if he wondered what the other inmates might think.
-You know, we weren’t supposed to have another child – my wife and I. The doctors said I had late-stage cancer. Turns out they were wrong, but still, I didn’t have a chance for a child.-
The guard ignored him. Tried to, at least. Ian felt his voice swell with persistence.
-The damn green revolution – that’s what happened. I took part in the great cleanup of all the former coal plants in the state. The Great Dismantling they called it. It was supposed to be safe. The government doctors said nothing could possibly happen to us.
The guard nodded, maybe just a kid when this all went down. Ian wouldn’t let him get away so easily.
-Have you ever tried to take a piss but nothing came out?
The guard stood straighter for a minute. He shook his head.
-I can’t imagine where you’re going with this, sir.-
-Hold on - you know what I can’t imagine? What’s the worse kind of harm: being lied to or being manipulated. You see, when someone lies to you, you make decisions based on false information. My volunteering for hazardous waste disposal, for instance. I didn’t do it because I believed in the Green Revolution. I decided to wade up to my crotch in 50 years of coal dust sludge because I was told nothing would happen to me. I wasn’t manipulated into doing this. I was just lied to. Ah…but when someone manipulates you, they get you to believe something - and you no longer believe in something else. Sometimes it’s something important to you. For example, you - standing there - aren’t a police officer. You’re an employee of a corporation - not an employee who serves the public welfare.-
Ian waited for the guard to respond, his body now fully square to the door. The guard responded, in kind. Kindly.
- You’re wrong sir. I am a law enforcement officer. By law.-
-Oh, no one is doubting it’s by the law. We all voted for those laws. The people voted for it. And why?-
The guard folded his arms. Ian continued.
-I’m asking you.-
The guard unfolded his arms and put them on the bars of the door.
-I’m done talking about this.-
Ian approached the door. He saw the shaving pimples on the neck of the guard, and smell the pine scent aftershave he used to stop the bleeding. He also noticed something else. The other inmates – the one’s he never would have talked to – they’d begun to murmur. Ian heard approval. Kids sure could get excited. School must’ve done that.
-We, the people of the U.S, thought of money when we should have been thinking about people…And if you cared about anyone in your community - you would be letting me out of this fucking cell so I can be with my son before he fucking dies!-
Ian was quick. He grabbed the guard’s hands, and before the guard could do anything, he pulled his arms completely inside the cell. The guard yelled for help. Ian thought he sounded like a boy. And he was, Ian reasoned.
Ian now rushed to grab the guard’s gun. He realized for a split second that he'd done something no one should do. Commotion and more yelling. Then the cell filled with a gas. The other inmates began to scream. Kids yelling fuck the police. He had a chance to cough once, until more guards showed up. The door of the cell automatically slid open. It nearly broke his and the guard’s arms. He fell down on his knees. Tear gas. It made him think of the end of the Eco Wars. He was gassed then. Now his own government gassed him. The one he’d voted for.