By H.A. Raynes
So, this is freedom. No sirens pierce the air. Buildings in the distance are whole. Yet the ground beneath his feet feels no different. Dr. Cole Fitzgerald glances past their docked cruise ship, to the horizon. The sky blends into the ocean, a monochromatic swatch of gray. A chill in the air penetrates him, dampens his coat and makes all the layers underneath heavy. When they left Boston, pink-tinged magnolia petals blanketed the sidewalks, blew across overgrown parks and the burnt remains of brownstones. He’d reached up and touched a blossom, still hanging on a limb. It’s remarkable to see beauty amid war.
The din of discontent is constant. On the vast dock of England’s Southampton Cruise Port, a few thousand passengers stand in line, all on the same quest to flee the United States. He’s heard that three million citizens emigrate annually. But no one documents whether those people are more afraid of the lone wolves and militias, or of their government bent on regaining control. Cole isn’t sure which is worse. But London is a safe place to start again. They have family here, built-in support. No point in dwelling.
Beside him, Lily’s usual grace and composure are visibly in decline. He reaches out and gently strokes the nape of his wife’s neck, where pieces of her dark hair have strayed from her ponytail. The coat she wears can’t hide her belly, now twenty-nine weeks swollen with a baby girl. Cole wishes he could offer her a chair. Instead she rests on one of their enormous suitcases.
Their son Ian sits cross-legged on the asphalt and reads a paperback. Throughout the journey, he’s gone along with few complaints. Ten years ago he was born the night the Planes Fell, the night that changed everything. Living in a constant state of fear is all he’s ever known. The joy and devastation of that night was so complete. To become parents at the same time terrorists took down fifty passenger planes … there were no words. It was impossible to celebrate while so many were mourning.
The mist turns to rain as night comes. Every fifty feet or so instructions are posted: Prepare left arm for MRS scan; Citizenship Applications must be completed; Use of electronic devices prohibited. Finally they cross the threshold of the Southampton Port Customs and Immigration building. The air is sour with sickness and stress and filth. Dingy subway tiles cover the walls of the enormous hall. Ahead, above dozens of immigration officer booths, a one-way mirror spans the width of the wall. Cameras, security officers, judgment. Cole’s skin prickles.
In one of numerous queues they finally near the end. Lily elbows him and juts her chin toward the front of the line. People are scanned and then directed to one of three signs: Processing, Return to Country of Origin, or Hearings. Bile stings Cole’s throat. He calculated the risk of this trip, turned the possible outcomes in his mind endlessly. But thanks to Senator Richard Hensley and the biochip he legislated, it’s all about genetics, DNA. Black and white.
They shuffle forward. Cole takes Lily’s hand in his. It’s comforting, despite the sweat coating her palm. He only wants to live a normal, safe life with his wife, with their children. It doesn’t seem too much to ask.
The immigration officer at desk number 26 does not smile. The man’s shorn, square head sits atop a barely discernible neck. Without glancing up, he shouts, “Next.”
They move quickly. Cole hands him their citizenship applications.
“Prepare for scanning,” the officer says. Wearing latex gloves, he holds the MedID scanner aloft as Cole lifts his left arm. The officer scans the biochip, barely discernable under the forearm skin. The process repeats with Lily and Ian.
“Mrs. Fitzgerald, please come forward again,” the officer orders.
She trades concerned looks with Cole. “Yes?”
The officer rifles for something under the desktop and his hands return with some kind of an apparatus. “Excuse me,” Cole says. “What is that?”
“IUMS,” the man says.
“I don’t know what that is,” Cole says.
“In Utero MedID Scanner,” he explains. “It’s just another version of the MRS.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Lily asks.
“Ma’am, I need you to lean forward.” He gestures with the scanner in his hand.
“We don’t have those in the U.S.,” Cole says quietly. His mind spins. They opted out of prenatal testing, wanted to enjoy their baby girl before knowing what her genetic future might hold. Despite his research, he’s never read about this technology.
“New protocol.” The man smirks. He aims the scanner at Lily’s belly. “Handy device that’ll shed light on the fetus.”
“You don’t need a MedID? A blood test?” Cole presses.
The officer shakes his head. “It’s an estimation but it’s good enough for our purposes.” He swipes the wand across her sweater-covered belly and once again regards the small screen.
With wet eyes, Lily wraps the coat tightly around her. Ian leans into them and the three meld in anticipation. They watch as he stamps each application. From this angle, Cole can’t read it, but he knows. Lily’s MedID number of 67 is eight points from the clean benchmark of 75. There’s a thirty-percent chance she’ll develop leukemia. A fifty percent chance depression will strike. And a ten percent chance she’ll be diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, both Cole and Ian are in the clear with MedID scores of 84 and 78 respectively. They have virtually no markers for disease. In the eyes of England’s society, Lily will be a drain on public resources. But what about the baby?
Wearing the same bored expression, the officer says, “Cole and Ian Fitzgerald you’ve been approved and may proceed to the Processing line. Lily Fitzgerald, you and your unborn child have been denied and will immediately return to the United States.
H.A. Raynes is a Boston author. This preview is a is sample from the first pages of this new thriller, Nation of Enemies. Click on the book cover to go to the Amazon site.