Chips: 30 Years After 9/11

The day Charlie was born he had a microchip implanted just behind his left ear. He would become known as Microchip Charlie. A tattoo of a small heart was inked over this location, to mark its spot.

Charlie was the first of millions of babies to have this chip implanted. The back story to why this custom came to pass is wrought with corruption, conspiracy and ill intent, and I will tell this story now.

Four years prior the body of a dead boy had been found along a highway in Vermont. He had a messy head of blonde hair, blue eyes, and Batman sneakers. He was dressed in jeans, an Old Navy t-shirt, and a windbreaker. He was clean and healthy, except that he was dead. It was apparent he had been well cared for, probably (hopefully) even loved. But who was he? Who was frantically looking for him? Seemingly no one. No missing child report matched his description. No mom or dad or aunt or uncle or teacher or neighbor was handing out fliers looking for a five year old boy with messy blonde hair, blue eyes and Batman sneakers.

The big news at the time, on that day four years ago, was the newest terrorist attack. It was the second major attack waged on American soil. The first had been 9/11, twenty-six years earlier, and that attack had been fading in relevance for over a decade. Adults around during the 9/11 attacks were in their fifties, sixties, and seventies now and their stories rang of a different time, a time before now. In the generations that followed tensions had eased, the Patriot Act had come under numerous law suits costing the Federal government billions, and the Middle East had quieted following the assassination of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden in 2011. All had been good for a nice chunk of time. Then, about six months before the boy with the head of messy blonde hair was found, and four years before Microchip Charlie was born, a dirty bomb killed seven thousand people in Los Angeles, and life changed for the American people.

Ryan was sitting at her kitchen table when she happened upon the picture of the boy on the homepage of GoogleNews. Now, six months later, every once in a while, a story other than the West Coast Attack made its way to the front page of GoogleNews and this was one of those stories. Ryan never bothered to wonder why this was. The picture was creepy to say the least. The local police department up in Vermont had created a moving and talking CGI image of the boy based on pictures of his dead body. This image now spoke to Ryan from beyond.

“Do you know me?” the image asked in a typical little boy voice.

(”¹…”Did they pay a child actor to do this voiceover?’ Ryan thought morbidly).

“I was found on the side of Route 100 in Ludlow, Vermont underneath a fleece NY Yankees blanket. I was wearing an Old Navy T-shirt, jeans, and a blue windbreaker. Do you know who I am?”

Ryan clicked away from the horrid image of the dead boy, ran to the kitchen sink and vomited her breakfast. How could they post that? Truth was her stomach had not been good since the West Coast Attack. She and probably four hundred million other Americans were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and it did not seem to be letting up. If anything it was getting g worse. How could it not? All day ,everyday, GoogleNews ran terrifying stories of new threats and endless images of the 7000 killed, the children of the 7000 killed, the babies that were now being born to women whose husbands and boyfriends were victims of the attack; images, stories, threats, editorials, ”¹…”Breaking News’, ”¹…”Urgent Breaking News’ — .

“Media waged terror,” Ryan mumbled.

“What?” her husband Sean asked as he entered the kitchen.

“Nothing. There’s just this horrible talking picture of a little boy — ” Ryan began and trailed off.

Sean took her shoulders firmly.

“You have to stop looking at GoogleNews. It’s not good for you right now”, he said sternly, but lovingly.

“I know, I know. I promise today I will work. Or garden. Or do something else. Promise.” Ryan smiled up at her husband as she said this, the same solemn vow she made every morning.

“Sure.” Sean said knowingly. “I gotta go. See you at dinner. I expect to see some green beans planted.”

“Aye, Aye,” Ryan accepted a peck on the cheek and watched him walk to the corner. She hated that he took a bus every day, she was sure the next attack would happen on public transportation, but what could they do? Gas was definitely too expensive for him to drive. Before the attacks it was hovering at seven bucks a gallon. That had doubled in the past six months since though, and now, no one drove. No one went anywhere.

Ryan turned around and her eyes immediately fell upon her computer tablet lying on the table. The screen had morphed into the psychedelic kaleidoscope that was her screen saver, but she knew that as soon as she tapped it the dead little boy would spring up. Her eyes darted to the counter where three packages of green beans seeds sat waiting patiently to sow.

“Ok”, Ryan reasoned with herself, “Thirty minutes of GoogleNews, and five hours of gardening.”

But even as she sat, she knew it would be another wasted day.

Her usual routine was to spend about an hour reading the actual news, in other words the latest ”¹…”developments’ in the aftermath of the attacks. Then she would spend another hour (or two) reading and listening to the comments (GoogleNews had launched audible comments a decade before). This was active reading, rather than passive, for Ryan would not just read (or listen), she would shout back in vehement disagreement, or passionately nod her head while empathetically exclaiming “Exactly!” Then she would have lunch. After lunch she would turn to the editorials and opinion pieces and the ”¹…”Thoughts From Our Viewers’ section. All the while, the 3D TVs imbedded into her walls (three altogether, kitchen, living room, bedroom) would be tuned into GoogleNewsLive, providing a backdrop of “Imminent threat — ” and “This just in to the GNL news room — ” and “Coast to coast as our nation sits at high alert — “. And then she would cook dinner and wait for Sean, pretending she had done anything but waste another day.

This day was different though. It was different because of that little boy. He kept popping up and asking Ryan “Do you know who I am?” Ryan did not, but soon she, and everyone, would.

Meanwhile in a secret room behind heavy doors at the Pentagon a conversation was taking place between several cabinet members, fourteen senators, and three top executives from GoogleWorld Inc.

“The American people are in a fragile state” one senator stated to solemn agreement.

“The affects of the attacks have not waned. The coverage has exasperated them.” All eyes shifted to the GWI execs, and all three nodded self importantly.

“We must capitalize now. The future of America depends on it. The future of humanity depends upon it.” This was said by the senior member of the gathering, the Secretary of State, and was met by nodding heads and nervous blinks.

“So where do we stand?” The Secretary looked over at the GWI team, and all other eyes followed.

“Well,” their senior member began, “As you know we implemented phase two this week. And all indications are that the results will be just as we had imagined. The comments, all of which we closely monitor, of course, reflect that — . that America is very scared and, we think, vulnerable, impressionable. We are ready for phase three”

Of the twenty five or so people in the room for this conversation, eight of them were women. One of these women, a senator from Wisconsin, uttered a single sob hitched sigh and covered her face with her hands. With a quick shake of her head she regained her composure and looked out at her colleagues with glistening eyes.

“I’m fine,” she said resolutely, then added meekly, “I have three sons. And a grandson.”

“Of course, Susan” said the Secretary, “we all have children and this is horrible, just terrible, and may God save our souls. But we know we have to. The President knows we have to. In twenty short years, there will be no more food, no more gas, no more fresh water. The rationing will be extreme. If we do not go through with this now, today, the rioting will tear America to shreds. You want your grandson to have food and water, right? Because not everyone will be able to.”

The senator from Wisconsin nodded and the secret meeting continued, behind very heavy doors.

It was about a week later that Ryan heard the first mention of chips. It was a very off the cuff remark made by a senator from Illinois who was appearing as one of the countless talking heads on GoogleNews. Ryan had been amazed at how quickly the missing boy had swept into the American mainstream consciousness. Suddenly it was the biggest news out there, all anyone was talking about. How could this little boy disappear and no one miss him? Someone had dressed him that day, someone had bought him those Batman sneakers, someone must miss him. In America well dressed little boys with messy blonde hair did not disappear without someone noticing.

The comment the senator from Illinois made was this,

“If only children had microchips imbedded in them, they could never be lost, and we could always find out where they belonged. If this boy had such a chip, we would have all the information we needed to bring him home.”

“What a great idea,” Ryan thought. Though never in her craziest dreams did she think it would come to pass.

Three weeks later a four year old girl in Vermont disappeared from her own backyard. Her parents were frantic and their pleas for her safe return emanated from every 3D TV in Ryan’s home. The chatter on the internet was rife with assumption. Must somehow be connected to the mysterious dead boy. Must be. Two weeks later another child disappeared, this one another five year old boy, also in Vermont. Then a six year old girl, this one in New Hampshire.

And just like that the entire nation’s complete attention was firmly on this story. The fear and anxiety that had been planted by the West Coast Attacks, stoked by the endless coverage, and rekindled by every ”¹…”new yet unconfirmed threat’, was thrust at full velocity into this new unfathomable story. Every news report now dripped with a new phrase; serial child abductor.

Ryan of course was obsessed with the coverage. She felt in her Google warped mind that she had almost broke this story herself, since she had seen that mystery boy on the very first day. Her fear of terrorist attacks was gone and replace with intense fear of her nieces’ and nephews’ safety and she Skyped her sister everyday updating her on the newest events and theories.

During these first weeks of abductions Ryan heard the mention of microchips creep from the lips of various Washington mouth pieces more and more. The jargon was theoretical in nature, filled with “if onlys” and “it’s a shame that we don’ts”

“They should make that chip,” she thought out loud, “If they had it, I’d put one in my kid, if I had one.”

She heard a slip one day and in the end she would revisit it in her mind. It was a senator from Wisconsin on some talk show. This senator seemed very passionate about the killings and when she spoke of microchips this is what she said;

“Children nationwide will be safer when microchips are in.”

Not if. When. The interviewer did not press her on that ”¹…”when’. Somehow, though, it remained in Ryan’s subconscious mind.

After three or four more abductions, bodies began to show up. First the six year old from New Hampshire, then a seven year old Massachusetts boy who had never returned home from school. Now the GoogleNews phrase was changed to the unthinkable; serial child killer.

And the nation went into complete panic.

By the summer of that first year of abductions no one spoke of the West Coast Attacks anymore. Parents watched like hawks every moment of their child’s waking life, they kept them home from school, and the talk of microchips took a turn from fanciful science fiction to a cry for true implementation. The nation sat in horror as eleven more children were killed that first year, making it a total of sixteen missing and thirteen dead. The area affected grew, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts. GoogleNews dubbed the killer The North East Child Killer. They never placed that first blonde haired boy, and although his face was the poster child of the nightmare, his story faded. No one cared who he was anymore, everyone just wanted their own children safe, protected, and they looked to their elected officials to make this happen, and GoogleNews to report the progress.

By the end of year two forty two children were dead or presumed dead and the crime area spread as far west as Ohio and as far south as New Jersey. Parents screamed for those microchips that talking heads had been squawking about for years now. Software and hardware companies worldwide submitted designs. In the end the federal government went with GoogleMicroTech and their design for a chip that would be loaded with information at birth, implanted at birth, and updated with each well visit after age one. For current children, a chip could be fitted just under the scalp, for parents who wanted it (all did), but, it was decided all newborns would be mandatorily implanted once the development was complete. GMT assured the American public they would have a viable working chip within a year’s time. The members of the meeting behind the heavy doors of the Pentagon that day would refer to this as phase four.

The day after sixtieth child’s body was discovered, a senator from Wisconsin named Susan Shaw was found dead of an apparent suicide. Ryan recognized her as the senator who had slipped two years before when she had stated that children would be safer when they had chips, not that children would be safer if they had chips. Her brain grasped at something then, but she pushed it away.

“The first chip is being implanted today,’ Ryan told her haggard husband on the morning that Microchip Charlie was to be born.

“Well, that’s just great,” Sean answered. He had seen his country descend into a GoogleNews inspired madness. He had seen his wife go right with it, practically leading the way.

“You know, now that they’re starting this, finally, I think we could consider having a baby.” Ryan had become petrified of parenthood. Once upon a time they had planned to have a baby soon after they married. Unfortunately The West Coast Attacks occurred just four months after they exchanged vows, and, well, that was that.

“You know Ry,” Sean said in a testy voice, “these killing are horrible, but they are hardly the only reason out there to not procreate.”

Ryan looked at him blankly. Sean was not surprised. For the past four years as the country reeled in the moment to moment events of child slayings, gas prices had rose to twenty three dollars a gallon, milk was at eight dollars a gallon, and bread was at five dollars a loaf. But no one spoke of it, especially not on GoogleNews. Just like they never spoke of the six wars America was waging around the planet, or the genocide that was being committed throughout Africa and rural China. Or how 50% of American urban children and 20% of American suburban children did not attend school because they could not afford it (education had been completely privatized twenty years earlier and even though parents were given vouchers, every year fewer and fewer vouchers went out and those that did covered less and less). No, none of this was covered, none of this broke through the child slaying coverage. Sean shook his head.

“We can’t have a baby, Ryan.” Then he got up and left for work. He had to leave an hour earlier now. He walked the whole way most mornings. The bus was just too expensive.

Ryan clicked onto GoogleNews the moment Sean was out the door. He did not peck her cheek any longer, and she did not watch him to the corner. She was going to watch today’s continuous coverage of the birth of Charlie Brennan, though.

GoogleNews did not disappoint. Interviews with the doctors and nurses and Charlie’s soon to be aunts and uncles. Interviews with medical scientists and software experts who explained how and where the chip would be placed, and how it would work. Interviews with Washington bigwigs who praised the day and extolled how safe our children would now be.

And live video of the parents as they prepped for the birth was heartwarming. Like when Mr. Brennan hugged his glowing wife as she was wheeled into surgery (this would be a c-section, almost all were), and then turned to the camera with a tear in his eye and smiled. Five minutes later the camera caught Mr. Brennan exiting the changing room donned in hospital gear from head to toe and looking like a little boy full of wonder as he headed toward the operating room to watch his son be born.

At 10:17 am Charles Michael Brennan was born to a nation of adoring fans. When they showed his sweet little face and the heart that marked the spot of the chip Ryan applauded and sobbed big tears. She did not know she was even crying, she was so caught in the moment.

Deep in her mind she wondered, ”¹…”What can I be afraid of now?’

It did not happen right away, but it happened pretty quickly. Before Microchip Charlie was even a year old, the abductions and killings stopped. And of course coverage of the slayings stopped as well. And when this stopped, Hell on earth began for the American people.

With no sensational story to immerse itself in, America woke, as if form a dream, into a nightmare. Gas and fresh food prices were nearly beyond reach of even the richest of the middle class, if they could even call themselves that. Really, can you claim to be in the middle class at all if you must walk to work, eat nothing but canned food, and downsize your living quarters to subdivided shacks? No, it was clear, the middle class no longer existed. There were the rich, and then there was everyone else. And everyone else was, well, pretty much everybody.

By the time Microchip Charlie was ten, meat was a luxury, fresh fruit was unheard of, and milk was strictly rationed for children under five only.

Ryan’s marriage was a thing of the past by the time Microchip Charlie was ten as well. Sean moved in with his family in another state and Ryan, forty-four now, moved in with her sister’s family, who at this point lived in a one bedroom basement. Her brother-in-law and nephew were lucky to have jobs in local construction and were therefore able to provide food and rent.

Of the twenty five or so from behind the heavy doors that day fourteen years ago at the Pentagon, most were retired, a couple were dead (including the senator from Wisconsin who killed herself) and all were better off than 99% of America. But they all knew that judgment day would come, and that phase five was still left undone.

America continued on. Every family did whatever they could to get food. Most families that once considered themselves middle class scraped together enough every month to live a decent, though very unglamorous life. They said, at least we are alive, and at least we are together. But they did not know the worst was yet to come.

Globally, the same scenarios played out, some places worse than others. During the mass child slayings in America, most governments were able to keep their citizens unfocused on important events, for the whole world had been caught up in the killings, so much so, that most countries easily got their citizens to agree to chip implantation as well. But when the killings stopped, as in America, the real nightmare began. Western countries were now faring as America, scraping by, glad to be alive. Poorer nations were starving, but no one knew about this, for GoogleNews did not cover it.

Time passed. Microchip Charlie approached fifteen. Life got harder for the people. Less food was available and families had to skip meals. The Great Depression of the previous century had returned. Even some Americans now were starving. The poorest and most destitute, but Americans none the less, starving. The once middle class looked at this with increasing anxiety. Would that be their fate? Their family’s fate? To this point their children were still fed, but how much longer could they go on? How much worse could it get?

Ryan decided she wanted to meet Microchip Charlie. GoogleNews ran stories about him periodically, especially on his birthdays, when his chip was updated. Of course this was all just symbolic. All kids these days had chips, there was nothing special about Charlie, just that he had been the first. Ryan was his biggest fan though. She had been there when he was born, via GoogleNews, of course, and she felt like she had a right to meet him. Ryan was almost fifty now, and Microchip Charlie’s birth brought her back to another time. A time when she was married, and had a house, and occasionally ate cheeseburgers. No one even knew what a cheeseburger was anymore. She decided she would meet Charlie on his fifteenth birthday. Her sister tried to stop her, but she could not be stopped. Ryan was at this point a bit mad.

In a secret room in the Pentagon, behind heavy doors, another meeting was taking place. Of the original members in attendance nineteen years ago, several were here again, including two of the GWI heads, the ex-Secretary of State, and three or four senators, who were younger then, and older now. Also there were a dozen or so new attendees, the new watch dogs, so to speak, the current Secretary of State, and several heads of states from various other countries.

“We are close now,” the new Secretary of State said as he looked out at the others, “It will be this year.

“We agree,” answered a delegate from Great Britain, and the other heads nodded.

“They’re young and idealistic and they were born into a world that they barely got to taste.” This came from the ex- Secretary of State, the one who had been in office for phases one through three, and supervised phase four, the implantation of the chips.

“Yes, unrest is brewing in our country,” the French delegate stated. “They see that some have more, and they are understanding that they never will.”

“We show as little as we can,” an aged GoogleNews exec chimed in, “But there are alternative sources. These sources used to be dismissed as crazy. More and more they are being embraced though, especially by the youth, the Chippies.”

The new Secretary of State nodded firmly.

“Yes, it will be within the year.”

It turned out to be pretty easy for Ryan to find Microchip Charlie. His hometown was well known, and once she made it there, the very first person she asked knew his exact address. He was the local celebrity, after all.

Ryan made her way to the address she had been directed to and did not hesitate, but knocked immediately on the thin front door of the small apartment. A woman her own age answered the door and Ryan knew right away that this was Mrs. Brennan. But she looked so old, nothing like the vibrant young mother-to-be from GoogleNews fifteen years ago.

“Can I help you?” her voice was clear and strong.

“Yes. My name is Ryan Ross. I have traveled a far. I am here to meet your son. I saw him born and — ” Ryan stopped for a moment, “and I wanted to tell him happy birthday.”

At first Mrs. Brennan stared at Ryan and Ryan thought for sure she was going to call the police. Then she smiled.

“My son is the only fifteen year old celebrity whose groupies are in their fifties. Girls his age could not care less, they all have chips too.”

Ryan blushed a bit.

“I’m not a groupie. Just — a fan. If I could just meet him for a moment. Just to say happy birthday.”

“Sure,” Mrs. Brennan said, “That would be fine with me. But he’s not here. He spends most of his time down at The Tolls. He rarely comes home,” she motioned to the small room behind her, “such as it is.”

Ryan understood and left. But she was yet determined. It only took a few questions once she was in town to find out what The Tolls were. Once upon a time, when people drove cars and went places, states collected tolls, so there were tollbooths. Now these booths sat vacant and overgrown with weeds and it was there that the local youth, including Microchip Charlie spent their days.

She found him in what was once the Easy Pass booth. He was there with two others, a girl of about fourteen and a young man of about twenty. Ryan felt suddenly old, and certain that they would laugh at her. A fifty year old woman, broken and half mad, here to wish Charlie a happy birthday because in a past life she had witnessed his birth, of course they would laugh. But they did not.

“Thanks,” Charlie said. “Sometimes I forget about all that. I mean we all have chips, that’s why they call us chippies.”

“I don’t have a chip.” the other young man said.

“No. That’s true. Ms. Ross, this is Scott Shaw. He was born five years before the chips program began. He’s chip free. We call him Chip Free Cheese,” Charlie said with a chuckle, “Cos he’s from Wisconsin. And this is Andrea Noore.”

Ryan shook hands all around.

“So,” Ryan took in the small booth, “This is where you kids hang out?”

“Glamorous isn’t it?” Scotty said.

“We don’t just hang out here.” Andrea said, with a bit of defiance in her voice, and the other two shot her a silencing glance.

“I see,” Ryan was going to make her exit then, glad to have met Charlie, and knowing she did not belong with these kids, when Charlie spoke.

“Why were you interested in my birth? Why did anyone care?”

Ryan thought a moment, then answered.

“Well, it was a very strange time in America. We were all so scared. Not like now, I mean now we all know why we are scared. Back then we were scared of phantoms, and ideas. After the West Coast Attacks, um you guys know about that right? I mean it happened before you were born.”

Scott nodded.

“We know about it. I was a baby. They weren’t born yet.”

“Yeah, well, that opened, like this floodgate of fear. It was truly unreal. Then, well, you probably know, there were the horrible child abductions and murders — “

“Abductions, right,” Andrea sniffed.

“Well they were abductions, and they were murders,” Charlie shot back.

Ryan looked at the three, lost to whatever inside information was flowing here.

“Right,” she said, “And then, well everyone was just beyond terrified because the murders didn’t stop, for years they just didn’t stop!”

“And did they ever catch the killer?” Andrea asked, a knowingness in her teenage, angst filled voice.

“No,” Ryan said sadly, and slowly, “After Charlie was born, they just stopped. They guy, I’m sure it was a guy, must have decided not to hedge his bets. If he continued he would have surely been caught once the chips were in place.”

“Ryan,” Scott said suddenly, “Why don’t you come in and sit down, you look tired?”

Up till now Ryan was still standing in the doorway of the tiny tollbooth. Now she stepped in. It had been stripped of whatever was in it the days it served as tollbooth. Now it was a perfect tin rectangle and with the addition of Ryan, it was pretty much maxed out in space. Charlie motioned to a pink beanbag in the corner and she lowered herself into it. Her fifty year old muscles ached as she did, but, it was the only place to sit. From her new vantage point Ryan took the room in anew. It was dingy, but clean, sparse except for two stools (which Andrea and Charlie were sitting on) and two bean bags (which she and Scott were slumping in). In the middle was a small wooden end table with a few notebooks and a computer tablet sitting on it. The tablet was opened to a site called ChipsUP. In one shadowed corner, two rifles stood on end. Ryan saw this and frowned. Across the room, above Charlie and Andrea’s heads a number was written in heavy marker. The number was 200,000,000.

“What’s that?” Ryan asked pointing to the number.

“That?” Charlie said, following her gaze, “That represents the number of Chippies in the U.S. Two hundred million, a third of the population, can you believe that?”

Ryan shook her head,

“No, that’s — a lot.”

“Well, I’m fifteen, which means they’ve been implanting chips for fifteen years. Roughly seventy million babies are born a year. That’s a hundred and five million. Add to that the existing kids that were chipped before I was born, about ninety five million, and you have two hundred million.”

“That’s right,” Ryan said looking at Scott, “I forgot they also chipped the older kids that first year. You must have been, what? Four or five? And you don’t have a chip?”

“Nope,” Scott said, “No chip for me. I was exempt.”

“Your parents chose not to chip you? Why?”, Ryan asked.

“You’re assume chipping was a good thing and my parents were negligent. What if I told you the negligent parents were the ones who allowed it.” Scott looked at Charlie and Andrea and added, “Of course the program was mandatory for anyone born after Charlie, their parents had no choice.”

“Of course it was a good thing.” Ryan said, “It saved lives!”

“Not your Grandmother’s,” Andrea said to Scott.

“That’s true.” Scott replied, then turned to Ryan, “She died when I was a baby, I never knew her.”

“I’m sorry,” Ryan said, “But I don’t understand what that would have to do with — “

She trailed off as her brain crunched through almost two decades of material.

“Wait, your name is Shaw?” From Wisconsin?” she asked slowly, “your grandmother wasn’t a senator, was she?”

“She was,” Scott answered, “You knew of her?”

“I — . I saw her interviewed once,” her mind churned, “something she said, made me remember her, I can’t remember what it was. Then she killed herself,” her eyes darted to Scott, “Oh, dear, you knew that didn’t you?”

Scott smiled kindly.

“No worries, Ryan, I did. Yes, my grandmother was a senator. She committed suicide when I was a baby. At the height of the murders. A few years later the chip program began, and I was not chipped. Neither were most of my friends. Why?”

“I don’t know.” Ryan answered.

“Neither do we,” Charlie said, “But, it makes us think that chips are not what they’re cracked up to be. Scott came from an elite family, and elite circles. And they weren’t chipped. Why?”

Again Ryan shook her head, she had no idea.

“What is ChipsUP?” Ryan asked, pointing at the computer tablet.

The other three exchanged glances.

“Well, Ryan,” Scott began, “the truth is it stands for Chips Uprising.”

“Uprising? Against what? Who?” Ryan’s eyes fell on the guns in the corner.

“My family was rich Ryan. They’ve fared well since the economy broke. We still ate meat, and chocolate, and fresh fruit when families around us downgraded to canned beans and rice. But now, even my family cannot eat meat more than twice a week. We were rich! Things are going to get very bad soon Ryan. Because you know what? As rich as we were? We weren’t the richest. Not by a long, long shot. When America’s economy collapsed, there were at least a million billionaires around. And those families are still eating meat. And they are going to watch the rest of us starve. Unless we rise up.”

Charlie and Andrea were nodding in agreement, watching Scott with the awe that only teenagers can have. Ryan’s head was spinning.

“I’m not saying I believe a word of this, but if I did, what does all this have to do with the chips?”

“We don’t know,” Charlie answered deflated, “We think maybe they implanted them to keep track of us. But we don’t know why it was so important that they had to kill all those kids.”

“What? What are you saying? The government killed those kids? The American government?” Ryan felt dizzy. Scott answered.

“We’re sure Ryan. I know this is a lot to take in. And honestly, the only reason we are telling you this is because — well, why not? You don’t seem like much of a threat. You’re a nice lady and you came here to see Charlie which was nice. But, there’s so much more to the story of Micro Chip Charlie. They killed all those kids, and my grandmother knew about it and she killed herself. They wanted these chips in, but we just don’t know why, yet.”

“Meanwhile,” Andrea spoke for the first time in a while, “we are not going to sit and starve while the super rich eat meat and cake. We are five hundred strong just here in the Tolls. Look!” she pointed to the number above their heads, “there are millions of us, millions!”

“Right, but not tonight, Annie,” Scott said big brotherly, “our guest is tired. Let’s find her a place to crash.”

And that’s what Ryan did, once they found her a nice spot and provided her with a blanket and a pillow. She crashed hard. Sleep had been allusive most of her adult life, but tonight it came strong. And surprisingly dreamless.

Ryan decided to stay at The Tolls. She did not know if she believed what these kids were saying. That the government would kill all those children was crazy. Some of these kids even said the government had masterminded the West Coast Attacks! That was insane. But that was okay. Youth always enjoyed their conspiracy theories, that was nothing new. The bottom line was, Ryan liked these kids, and they seemed to like here. And she had nowhere else she really had to be anyway.

So the weeks passed and she became a mother to all the Chippies at the Tolls. After all these years, she was finally a mother.

By the middle of summer, Americans coast to coast were losing hope. They were starving. ChipsUp proclaimed that the time was now. So at the Tolls, they prepared.

For the first time Ryan worried when she saw Charlie and Andrea sling the shot guns onto their backs.

“You should not do this.” She said, “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“We have to Ryan,” Scott had entered with a pistol stuck into his jeans. “This is what we have been preparing for. It’s time.”

Ryan closed her eyes. So be it. She walked outside where all the Chippies from The Tolls were gathering. She did not know that three hundred miles away another meeting behind heavy doors was happening. She did not know they were sitting in that secret room watching groups like this all over the country gather today or that they were monitoring every movement of ChipsUp. She did not know phase five was about to occur.

It happened so quick. One moment there was nervous excitement coursing through the young militia, as they the prepared to launch their moment of uprising, and then —

FLIP

Behind those heavy doors they flipped the switch. And across the country, the chip in the brain of 200 million angry, starving youth came into their complete control. Andrea shot Scott before he could even register the change, and Charlie shot Ryan as she ran to Scott’s side.

And across the country an army of 200 million chippies took out nearly half the population of America and then killed themselves, as those behind the heavy doors instructed.

And thus the elite saved America.

The End.