The battle—riot; revolt?—lasted into early the next morning in downtown Phoenix! Ritch Falls was caught right in the middle of it during all those hours! Both literally and figuratively. He had always been more of a moderate person when it came to politics and social issues.
Back in 2020, when the Great Pandemic hit the world for the first time, he was in his twenties. Young, but he was not one of the youth that had gone out in America’s streets in protest—sparked by racial inequities, via police officers’ involvement with an African-American man’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota; which spilled over to other societal problems that had always been simmering in America back then. Indeed, it turned into a global movement…
Just as the current insurgency Ritch, now fifty, found himself in. Another global movement. But this time Ritch was stuck in the middle of downtown Phoenix, where citizens that had strongly opposed the shadowy governance of the Shepherd, fought against the municipal enforcement agencies that had worked with that Shepherd network.
The seven-foot, computer screen-clad Kiosks were not a danger themselves. Indeed, it was believed by Ritch’s generation that the main reason for the Kiosks’ sudden appearance in major cities all over the world at the start of the Great Pandemic was to regulate humans all over the world; given how the COVID-19 disease was not being controlled very well by the then-world governments. What was seen more as a threat by global citizens were the ruling governments and their enforcement institutions that had utilized the communications capabilities of that Shepherd network—from mass civilian surveillance to publicly stopping citizens from walking public places all over the world when some of them were sick, beyond the simple Cold, of course…
Even at that point, during the citizens’ revolt in Phoenix’s downtown, Ritch just didn’t view the Shepherd system as so bad that it justified the civilian battle against the law enforcement agencies. But that was all moot at that point…
Ritch had turned off his personal device again, to conserve its battery power. The pd’s had wireless-charging capabilities. But being stuck in the same alley during the whole night while the pedestrian battle with the cops was going on, he had no way of accessing a charging kiosk.
“My pd’s battery is down to twenty percent,” a woman’s voice suddenly appeared around from Ritch’s hiding place, behind a large street dumpster. Around the alley, the street battle between the civilians and the police and other enforcement agencies was still reverberating against the alley’s walls, though not quite as severe as hours ago, during the darkest of night.
Ritch got up off the paved alley, brushed himself off, and looked around the dumpster. The woman, her husband standing at her side, smiling, was holding up her personal device while still looking at it. They were one of the several families that had found cover in the same alley as Ritch the night before; just as the revolt blew up. Most likely, like Ritch, they probably were some middle-classers, from out of state visiting Phoenix and did not have their personal vehicles with them to be able to drive as far away from the battle scene.
“Yeah, that’s why I turn my pd off from time to time,” Ritch stated conversationally. He had just placed his device into one of his slack’s back pocket. “Ritch…”
“Thomas,” the slender, thirty-something male said; smile still on his face.
“I’m Tamara…I see that London’s enforcers had taken their streets back!”
“Ohh,” Ritch said with genuine surprise. “Last I checked from one of those global sources, it looked like some of the crowds were heading toward Parliament!”
Apparently taking Ritch’s soft advice, Tamara had just turned off her personal device just before responding. “Probably sent in reinforcements. All this would end, here in Phoenix, if the authorities would take a page from the UK! Same damn thing is happening everywhere on the globe…New York, LA and Chicago…Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Berlin, Sao Paulo…”
“Something like twenty shot dead in Lagos,” the husband said with a worried look on his face. “Makes me wonder how far all this will go?”
The couple noticed Ritch winced a bit to himself, but with a slight smile. Noticing this, Ritch explained.
“Speaking of Sao Paulo…I met this organizer; from that restorative sovereign movement, I guess what all this is about. I attended one of his meetings about a month ago. He goes by his street name, Black Sheep. He and a friend of mine tried to get me…”
Now, it was the couple that had an inside thought; the husband and wife looking at each other with surprised faces.
“Did you say, Black Sheep,” Tamara asked Ritch, with almost an accusatory tone to it!
Ritch looked at them both, curious where the conversation was going next. “Yeah…he said his real name is –”
“Paulo Ferdinand,” Tamara finished for Ritch. Apparently, she knew a bit more about Paulo than Ritch did, because he never even got the man’s last name! “He’s some retired, disgruntled engineer from Ohio or somewhere out there…Tommie and I saw one of those media special videos on the—what did they call them, again: restorative sovereign movement—RSM? Anyway, we watched it while on the plane coming here. Your friend was one of the featured organizers on the show!”
Ritch thought for a bit. The noises from the street battle between citizens that were in revolt and the law enforcement agencies had clearly died down by that point, as the families hiding in the alley could tell.
“Did this news feature say about how many organizers there are,” Ritch asked; his eyes darting toward the other families beginning to pop up from all their hiding places in the alley.
“So many, Ritch,” Thomas said, his head shaking for the situation at hand. “Too many for the authorities to even keep track. Of course, that means they dragged in the Shepherd to deal with this movement!”
During the lull in their conversation, the couple’s two young children, a girl and a boy—both around ten—ran up to their parents and embraced them. Clearly, things were changing outside of the alley. Now, all families in hiding were coming out, brushing themselves off and gathering their personal items. Some turned on their resting pds and checked for the latest updates on the insurrection.
“So, you met one of those organizers,” Tamara brought up again. She seemed less accusatory, but a curious look came across her countenance. “On that newscast, the issue of who’s manufacturing the Kiosks came up…did this Black Sheep mentioned anything about who the Builders were, Ritch?”
Now it was Ritch who had the curious face! “The Builders…? That’s a new one for me! Obviously, Paulo didn’t say anything to me about them. What did this newscast say about these Builders?”
A shrug from the short woman; her son at her side. “Not much…just a name the media is using for whoever the manufacturer is—”
“Or, are,” Thomas input.
“Right,” Tamara agreed. “Could be more than one manufacturer! It would make sense; given how fast those Kiosks spread throughout the Earth over the years! Anyway, the journalists on that video yesterday said it’s most likely some kind of loose network of organizations that put all those Kiosks together and ships them out to the cities…somehow, anonymously, so no one will figure out their location.”