God it was true.  She scanned her card again and held the reader in the slight shadow.   It read  “Shanna Mathews:  0.5.”  One half day.  That was all the carbon credits she had left and she knew what happened after that.  A coldness shook her soul like a strong wind.   She had to have a strategy – a strategy to survive.  

 That previous fall, her roommate Jeffrey, who was ahead of her in the State Conditioning School, had his card expire.  Well, maybe it was just an error – does it matter? – the outcome was the same.   He was ineligible for renewal.  As soon as the Magistrate found out they recycled him – right there in class.  God, this can’t be happening she thought, watching him reduced to gases.   Oh and the self-congratulatory Magistrate?  They talked about deliberated Performance ratings were making us better and better.  What a hero he was for recycling.  That was the best any citizen could hope for.  

    It’s been four days now,  she spent the days slumped inside her flat wondering if and how she’s be detected.  But miracle of miracles, they haven’t called her name.  She saw two other people recycled, Kate Bucknell and Craig Thompson, so she’d been on her guard since then.  It was Sunday night, tomorrow she’d had no choice but to return to work.  It was State Stores disbursement day.

   When Shalman Nem started the day,  he knew he was behind.  Three solid days of recycling can do that but now he was back to the chore of reading the databases, updating and correcting.  He was sure there were citizens near their expiration date.  He scanned his own card – good he had 1500 still remaining on it, logged into the State computer system.  Brushing his long red hair aside, he began reading, his speckled face reflecting in the flat screen.  There was doubt to it, it was their destiny to face this, there honor to serve the State in this manner.   Shalman considered all this and thought “I’m a special case.”   He clicked on a name “Phillip Greenstand”, opened his file. 

“Hmm….  he has 5000 hours,  he won’t miss a few.”  Shalman pressed the appropriate keystrokes, subtracted the credits and added them to his own.  That gave him 2000 credits.   

“He probably won’t even notice”  he grinned.  He went back to the credits listing, sorted by credits.  He stared out the full wall window overlooking the Corpus Bay.  The waves were breaking gently on the beach.   The screen cleared and filled with the list.  



To be continued: