Plastic Soldier

Plastic Soldier
by Irene Iris

 



 

The crisis of the 2030s changed it all. Oil was no longer extracted from the depths of the earth. It had nothing to do with the depletion. Something else superseded it. It was the Plastic Revolution.

The amount of plastic production – and disposal – reached a critical point of no return. The problem had to be solved by eliminating its root cause. And plastic was rooted in oil…

Under the pressure of the worldwide environmental movement, a new global Law was issued that prohibited oil and its derivatives. No more plastic produced. No more petrol-fueled combustion engines in cars.

The Great Economic War erupted. The nation-states could no longer exist as separate geopolitical actors. To avoid a collapse, a new international entity was formed, meant to control the newly emerged, one, truly global economy.

The world of 2053 was dreamed to be the Paradise on Earth. Yet, it was still a Purgatory.

Chapter 1


Theo’s world could be defined by a one-room apartment in the service quarters, a black cotton uniform, and a mobile device that buzzed any time of day or night. This buzz meant a new “call”. Like now, at 2AM. 

The man’s hand reached for the shiny metal object that emitted the buzz and looked like a pen, shook it once, and the object self-unfolded into a rectangular frame. A hologram emerged inside it, showing the coded message with coordinates.

All the calls started the same. Theo and his squad stood in front of the closed doors of an apartment they were meant to invade. Each squad Leader had a universal key. Theo hated this key card for being made of the artificial material he despised most in the anthropogenic world. Yet, this piece could open all the doors for him, so it was a necessity.

After the Revolution and the unification of the global standards of life, new Laws were enacted to help maintain the control over the global citizens. One of such Laws gave the soldiers of the Seizure Squads the right to enter private property upon a – usually anonymous – report on the “suspected possession”. Such reports came predominantly from neighbors and were highly appreciated by the authority. They helped keep the crime monitored and tamed.

Theo sighed and beeped the electronic lock on the door open. 

Once inside, the squad turned all the lights on, unveiling the scene with two frightened adults and a kid huddling in one bed. While the trained eyes of all the squad members scanned the space for the signs of crime, and their hands were swiftly turning the apartment upside down in active search, Theo was the fastest to register the object of interest. His eyes narrowed. 

Shit. 

This is the type of the insurgence Theo hated most – with a child as a criminal.

The boy’s hands were clinging to an object. This object was the single reason for all the havoc.

Theo approached the child, face neutral, and extended his arm. His fingers flexed in an unmistakable “give it to me” gesture. When the boy did not obey, Theo boldly grasped the object, yanking the stubborn clingy boy out of his between-parental shelter in bed.

The scene was eerie in its absurdity. An adult in uniform engaged in a tug-of-war with a child. The object of mutual interest was a little khaki-green plastic soldier.

“Sir, please, this is the toy my son has got as a legacy from his great-grandfather!” pleaded the mother.

For a long second, Theo fixated his gaze on the naturalistic soldier figurine. It was old. About seventy or eighty years old. An imitation of the soldier of the past war unknown to Theo. Yet, strangely, Theo recognized himself in this little plastic fella. He, Theo, was a soldier of sorts. A soldier in the human war against plastic. Theo knew, behind their backs, his squad was called the “plastic soldiers”. Ironic.

According to the protocol, the personal data of the boy and his family would be entered into the database. The plastic item would be confiscated. The little soldier was kept hostage and now became the property of the Seizure Squad.

“It’s just a toy,” the mother snapped defensively, looking at Theo when he was leaving.

“Plastic is not a game, ma’am,” retorted Theo, gravely serious.

The squad members called their Leader’s philosophy “THEOlogy”. Almost like the preaching of the new age. The age without plastic. Of course, it was still far until that end. Humankind was still busy cleaning the mess the ancestors had left them. The illegal plastic production was still existent. The Great Pacific Vortex was not entirely cleaned up. Plastic waste was not yet bio-degraded. Not all plastic toy soldiers were confiscated. Still much work to do.

It was a strange new world – a world full of old things. Among those were the cars. The car manufacturing was affected severely during the Oil Crisis and the Plastic Revolution. Under the new Law, the cars could no longer exist. At least not in their usual configuration. No one planned such a radical change – it was a mere side effect. Since the era of petroleum and diesel internal combustion engines was over, all the billions of cars that had been produced before became outlaws.

For this problem, a solution was found, though. The fuel tanks and motors of the old new cars were modernized to become capable of processing biofuels. Yet, it did not exhaust the problem. While the already manufactured cars could be upgraded, the new ones could no longer be produced. And the reason was plastic. Innumerous details in the 21st-century cars were made of plastic. Control panel cover, synthetic belts, even rubber wheels – all were forms of plastic or petroleum derivatives.

The Law put a fifty-year moratorium on the production of new cars altogether. As a result, two types of old cars were now in use: the retro cars with reconceptualized engines, and the electric ones, for they were manufactured before the Law enactment and were more or less in line with the green transport philosophy. It was a solution to the oil crisis, plastic production, and the CO2 pollution all in one.

In the world of old cars and retro old cars, Theo possessed the latter. After the call, as his squad packed themselves into a Tesla Hammer, he jumped into his black Jaguar XK 120 GM (“gm” stood for “green modification”). It took much effort to maintain that car of his, yet it was worth it.

Ensconced inside his little shelter on the wheels, Theo sighed and relaxed. His eyes located a book on the control panel. It was Fahrenheit 451. Like his car, this paper book was barely holding in one piece, yet Theo loved it.

The man associated himself strongly with Fahrenheit’s main character. Yet, unlike Montag, he believed he was doing the right thing. He regretted he could not burn plastic right away, the way Montag was burning books. For starters, it would be inefficient (everyone knows what happens when plastic burns). For last things, liquid hot plastic was even more dangerous than the inert one. So, confiscation it is.

Theo thought of the plastic soldier in his pocket. He was expected to bring it to the storage, from where the piece would be redirected to the processing plant and then – the ultimate, disintegration facility.

The fuel tank showed low, so the man had to do a U-drive for the BioStation.

The Station lay by the road and did not differ much from its predecessor – the petrol one. It also had cisterns buried under the ground and filling units, but all were stuffed with biofuels of all possible types.

“Nice babe!”

These words snatched Theo from his thoughts, as he put the fuel gun into the side of his car. He turned his head and saw a man in a classic Tesla.

“You are a retro lover. Hmm…” mused the man. “So what do you feed it? Bananas?”

“Algae,” replied Theo, trying to be polite. He understood the allusion to DeLorean and Mr. Fusion.

“I prefer electric. Kinda more elegant. Hey, have you ever thought, what would the world be like if the car evolution took the initially planned turn?”

“The car evolution?” Theo was not quite following.

“Well, the first cars ever were originally electric. Their heyday was around the 1900s. And then, around the 1920s, mankind stepped on the slippery oily path of gas-powered engines. It started the oil era. It started the era of global warming. It started the end. And now imagine the other way ‘round…”

Even though Theo did not like the man who talked too much, those words did get at him. Indeed, what would the world look like if the car evolution took the right turn?..

By the time Theo opened his mouth for a reply, the man in Tesla was already on the highway. Theo sighed, moved Fahrenheit to the side, so that it did not mess with the augmented reality projected onto the car’s windshield, and pressed the accelerator pedal to the floor. Time to go home.


To be continued…



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©️ 2024 Iryna Dihtiarova-Deslypper.  All rights reserved.

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