Bring Me Sunshine
Gadeaux checks the climatometer on his wrist. Three hours of light on his beat today, straddling noon. G the people on the streets call him. Officers don’t wear a name-tag now, not since forever. He gets the people who live on the streets off the streets. For the hours predicted daily. This time of year it’s mostly a few hours, either side of noon. In the summertime there might be as many as five hours when the sun breaks through the clouds. The rain that falls is unpredictable and less acidic than a few years ago. But the rich people don’t like to go out in it. His uniform is protection enough from the precipitation. Unless it hails. If it does, street people die in their hundreds around the city. Dozens die on his patch. G’s ID lets him into the nearest building, as long as it’s not in the Oligarch district.
Every ward has a compound, naturally. The street people are herded into them, by people like G. They’re not allowed into the sun, not even in the zone where they live. That’s for taxpayers. The sun will be out in two hours. So it’s time for G to start the round-up. Most go quietly. There’s methadone in the compounds. The kind of building used depends on the district. In G’s zone, it’s just a warehouse. There is no compound in the Oligarch district. Street people are not allowed there. G shot two in Beverly Hills, when he was a rookie. His T.O. said he had a future in the job, fast tracked his probation period. G transferred out to Watsonville straight after. Hasn’t shot anyone in 20 years.
G knows everyone on his beat. There’s a couple of old guys, Vladimir and Estragon they call themselves. G knows it’s some kind of joke. They speak like college professors do in those movies on the heritage channel. Imagine getting your entertainment from a flat screen? People used to though. His grandpa complained things had never been the same since TV disappeared altogether. Grandpa has the latest holo-vision installed in his apartment. G pays some of Grandpa’s taxes, so he gets some sunshine, when it’s available.
At the academy, some guy with a beard came in to talk about the ultra-micro-climatising of the weather. Nobody passed that module on his intake. Nobody ever has. Basically, a few miles can make a difference to how much sun penetrates the cloud and where. So vitamin D is in short supply. There’s no black market in the weather. It’s all under government control. If you pay your taxes, you can lift your face to the sun when it’s out. Estragon has told G that he thinks maybe some of the Oligarchs don’t pay their taxes, but they still have a sun-tan and strong legs.
G herds yet another gang of straggle-haired men and women towards the compound, about 300 people already. They all look pretty strung-out. They’re a diverse group. That’s as it should be, no discrimination on G’s watch. He’s only put a foot wrong once in his whole career, G. He asked the supervisor before coming out on patrol in his second year at Watsonville, why all the Oligarchs were white.
‘Check the attitude, Son. You’ll never get out of Watsonville that way.’ The supe said.
The straggle-haired go easy into the compound. There’s still forty five minutes to sunburst. G knows there are at least two more people to round up.
He finds them on a park bench in a public space right on the edge of Watsonville.
‘Come on, guys. We’ve got 20 minutes left to get you to the Methadone Motel.’
‘I think we’ll stay here.’ Estragon says.
‘Hey, got a death wish, all of a sudden? Why? You’ll be out in three hours today.’
Street people don’t have a climatometer. Most taxpayers don’t, unless they earn enough to pay a lot of taxes and feel no pain.
‘We’re waiting, you see.’ Says Vladimir.
‘You’ll be dead if ya don’t move. You know the law.’
Estragon asks him, 'What is your name? Everyone calls you G?’ Gadeaux tells him, without knowing why.
Estragon says to Vladimir. ‘It must be tomorrow, at last.’