Anybody who wants this job shouldn't have it. They would just be thugs. The people who should have it burn out or flip out. Philip Baker was just trying to hang on to his retirement and self respect.
Once being a special agent for the Bureau was a respectable job. That was the job he had signed on for twenty-seven years ago. That seemed like a long time ago. Before the wars. Before the genetically engineered plagues were released. Before the Night of the 13th Prophet when Islamic terrorists nuked Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, LA and Seattle and the great capitals of Europe from Moscow to London. Before the Great Crusade when Muslims were systematically slaughtered globally to the last toddler. Before a string of Christian religious fanatics had seized power and turned the United States of America into the Christian States of America.
It was a very damaged nation and world. Summers were short. Global warming was replaced by nuclear winter. Millions of people worldwide were dying of radiation poisoning. Millions more were dying slowly of cancer. Plagues periodically flared up when the viruses released by the Jihadis re-emerged. The jury was still out on whether the ecological damage to the planet could ever be healed. The world population had crashed from a high of seven billion to a little less than three billion.
The Bureau had became the Bureau of Purity- greatly expanded with wide latitude and new mandates. Instead of a special agent, he was now an inquisitor. In addition to the laws that the Bureau traditionally enforced, a new Uniform Code of Morality was enforced by every law enforcement officer in the land. The UCM was passed at a time of great fear. When things went bad, the Evangelicals claimed that the country was being punished for tolerating immorality. The laws were passed out of fear and were being expanded every year. Things that had not been a crime before were now capital offenses. Alcoholism, drug addiction, insanity, homosexuality were all grounds for summary execution. More than likely they would simply be conscripted in the slave labor gangs that were forced to clean up the radioactive waste lands that were once our largest cities.
As Baker thought about the past, he tasted bile in the back of his throat. How many had it been? Once we thought of Hitler as a great villain of history. How would history judge the Christian States of America? Lady Liberty's white robes of piousness were dripping with the blood of billions.
He was working inside the Atlanta restricted zone. Some parts were hotter than others and fugitives had taken to hiding in the fringes of the various hot zones around the country. He was after a bad one. Jason Sutter had been a gay activists back in the day. He wrote books and was a dissident leader according to his file. The Bureau had wanted him for years and a snitch had finally fingered him in the ruins of Norcross, Georgia.
Sutter had been on the run for almost twenty years. What the Bureau really wanted him for was he obviously had information about the underground railroad for perverts that closet miscreants or the misguided had set up to get them out of the country.
Baker entered the restricted zone from the East at the checkpoint at Duluth, GA on I-85. The main roads had been cleared and it was obvious that a great deal of clean up had already taken place. He slowed down and keyed the suspected address into the vehicles GPS.
Working in the zones never failed to give Baker the creeps. When he got off the interstate at Beaver Run Road to drive into Norcross, he passed a shopping mall. On one side the mall was wrecked and burned. On the other side cars were still parked in neat rows. In the neatly landscaped parking lot, trees provided shade. The only thing that moved down there now were crows.
Driving past the mall on the eerie deserted streets, businesses and homes sat still and deserted. Abandoned cars had been bulldozed out of the main roads. FEMA's spray painting was still clearly visible on the fronts of buildings. There appeared to be nothing visibly wrong except all of the windows facing West had been blown out in the shock wave. Of course he was ever mindful of the clicks of his vehicles geiger counter. In some places the radiation was so intense that a flat tire might be a death sentence.
He took Buford Highway West and then turned North on Jimmy Carter Blvd and passed through the ghost town of Norcross. After crossing Peachtree Industrial, he turned off into the suburbs and came to a house on Summit Point Drive.
While the rest of the neighborhood was deserted, the house and yard was well kept. When he got out of his vehicle, he noticed an old woman wearing a bright blue blouse with a kitten on her knee sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. She raised her hand and waved in greeting. Red roses were blooming on trellises framing the porch.
Baker approached the old lady cautiously and noticed that as he got closer, she was very obviously blind. The kitten in her lap eyed the approaching inquisitor suspiciously, hopped out of the old womans lap and vanished into the bushes.
She said, "Welcome stranger. I get visitors so seldom that it makes my day. Would you like a cup of tea?"
Astonished, Baker replied, "No thank you mam."
She said, "Please, call me Meridith young man. No- you aren't that young. I can tell from your voice. You're from before."
"Yes Mam. I'm Philip. How long have you been here?"
"I've been here since the world ended Philip. I was in my late fifties when it happened. I didn't see much point in evacuating."
"Meredith, I'm a policeman and I'm looking for a dangerous suspect."
Meredith said, "Hump. Morality police?"
Philip said, "Yes Mam."
"You're looking for a boy that had the misfortune of being born gay?"
"Just saying that is a violation of the Uniform Code of Morality mam. Homosexuals chose their perversion."
Meredith laughed, "Don't try to bully me. I grew up in a time when we spoke our minds. Besides, my cancer will kill me soon enough. There's very little you can threaten me with."
Baker sighed. This was going nowhere. "How do you live here?"
"They help me. You know why I never left this huge grave yard?"
"No Mam. Why are you still here?"
"Because the Ayatollah's won. The evil men that destroyed our cities. They had morality police and morality laws. They had things you could say and things that you couldn't. We may have destroyed them but we became them. I had rather live out my days in the radioactive ruins than live in chains. I was free once and I chose to remain that way."
Baker said, "Is there anything you need Mam?"
The old woman sat on her rocking chair like an ancient monarch. She shook her head and said, "Leave those kids alone Mr. Morality Policeman. They're just trying to live. The preachers and the false prophets in power now have forgotten that the lord said live an let live."
Baker got back in his car. He called into headquarters and told his supervisor that the lead in Norcross was a dead end. When he passed the checkpoint and left the restricted zone, he pulled out his badge and threw it out the window.
He had grown up before. He remembered what it was like to be free and not live in constant fear. It was time to live again.