The Shepherd: Book 2

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Chapter 2

A month later…

The Shepherd system had determined, about a week earlier, to lift population-movements in certain sections throughout North America. The most recent virus storm, that Ritch had referred to a few weeks before with Alma and Black Sheep, was at a low enough level that citizens in certain regions of United States, Canada, and Mexico could all have their restrictions lifted.

Like millions of other citizens throughout the continent, Ritch took advantage of the freedom to travel as they saw fit—by plane, long road trips in their cars, or a simple walk out in various cities that no longer required citizens to wear facemasks!

Yet another, relatively new custom had come out of the Shepherd era after the Great Pandemic: Public celebrations!

Somehow, in the early years after the Kiosks first started to appear throughout, at first, the biggest cities of the world, humans would eagerly wait for the 12:00 AM countdown that the Kiosks displayed; letting citizens know when it was officially safe to carry on without facemasks and that said-virus storm was officially over…

Mayhem ensued! Similar to the way humans used to do after a major sporting event took place and a hometown’s team had won! Ritch felt, at fifty, he was far too old for that, anymore. So, instead, the last few years, he would treat himself to a getaway in some other city for merely two or three days…

But the Shepherd Kiosks, the ramrod, seven-foot tall piece of technology fitted with flashing monitors with directions and regulations via simple graphics, would flash their Yellow-Mode signage to remind the populace to stay alert.

And that was why Ritch, on that particular day, while out on a getaway in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, was alarmed when he saw several Kiosks suddenly flash bright red simultaneously!

Ritch had just bought himself coffee and was about to explore an open market. But like the thousands of citizens of Phoenix and many tourists in that portion of downtown, he froze on the spot to watch and listen to what the Shepherd was advising the citizens:

“This is a Delta Advisory,” the Shepherd system spoke via the speakers within the Kiosks scattered throughout downtown; it’s collective “voice” was low and male in tone. "All citizens and visitors must take cover, now…this is a security alert…the public enforcement agency will be using lethal methods…take cover, take cover, take cover…This is a Delta Advisory. All citizens and visitors…” and the message repeated, non-stop!

Panic took over for much of the public! Screams and loud communications between office workers and visiting families filled Phoenix’s downtown air, now! The traffic signals were over-ridden by the Shepherd system and only certain major streets were open for vehicular traffic! The traffic kiosks were set on Green during the whole Delta Advisory phase, in order to expedite getting the public to safety, plus getting them out of the way for the police to do their job without putting the citizens’ lives at risk!

“What’s going on,” Ritch heard an office worker ask a co-worker as a small group of them quickly gathered their personal things from an outdoor lunch table they were sitting at.

“This has nothing to do with any of the virus storms, does it,” another within that group asked; more of an observation.

“Never mind all that,” another put poignantly, “let’s go…come on!”

That scene was repeated all around Ritch at that moment! And like some of the other tourists he saw—standing slack-jawed and looking about—he wasn’t quite sure where he was supposed to go! Since he had flown to Phoenix, his vehicle was in his garage at home in his hometown. He had taken a hired ride to get to his hometown’s airport. And now, obviously, tourists and local citizens without a vehicle had no choice but to improvise and find cover anywhere they could in the downtown area!

Ritch and the other tourists all finally dashed at hiding places—some made it to restaurants before the managers locked their doors; other tourists and locals jammed themselves behind large garbage receptacles or other public fixtures…

The audio warning from the Shepherd had never stopped! Now that Ritch had found secured cover behind a public dumpster in a nearby alley—as did several other people at other dumpsters just yards away—he decided to link to the local news out of Phoenix with his personal device and see what live coverage he could get from them. The news media, in such dangerous events, usually utilized their AI air-drones. Ritch was able to find three sources on the media network via satellites.

He kept his pd’s settings where he could watch all three live news castings at the same time. He made sure to keep the volume to his pd very low; should whatever security danger it was come near the alley he was hiding in!

It took about another five minutes of waiting before Ritch was able to see on the three news cast at least three scores of police vehicles drive up to the city block that Ritch found himself on. The officers, dressed in protective gear, shot out of each of those vehicles; brandished their guns!

The other tourists and some of the locals that were hiding in the same alley as Ritch must have been watching on their personal devices as well. For Ritch heard gasps right at the moment the police officers exited their vehicles.

In one of the media footage, the scene panned out from the live video of the scene: the cops taking their combat positions while Ritch could see the tall Kiosks in the shot; the unmovable monuments they were to humanity since the latter days of the Great Pandemic. And in that same video footage from one of the media aerial AI-drones, Ritch saw a tidal wave of humanity running straight for the Kiosks all over downtown Phoenix!

Now that Ritch thought on it, about a month ago he had attended one of those restorative sovereign meetings with a co-worker, off the clock, of course. Ritch didn’t think much of it at that time, but he remembers hearing Black Sheep—one of the RSM’s leading figures in the world, seeking independence from the Shepherd network—say something like:

“…A great tidal wave will come someday, brothers and sisters. Only this tide will turn from blue to red. Not due to any political affiliation, but from the fight of humanity’s freedom!”

And the first shots of America’s war against the Shepherd echoed among Phoenix’s towering edifices…

(Image: itl . cat)

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