Street side; Arthur stood and watched the world go buy, or what was left of the world, everyone was so scared now there were very few people on the streets with the exception of the armed guards on every corner.
It was farcical how much there was to be scared off after a spate of terrorist attacks in 2017 everyone became scared of each other, It was indiscriminate, the terrorists themselves unidentifiable. Unidentifiable in that they did not match any one profile or persona.
The government's response to it was extreme, every part of society was locked down. Every interaction was scanned for subversion. eMails, SMS, Instant messaging, phone calls, snapchat, twitter, everything. Every conversation. Ears were placed on every corner,
The only thing where you were safe was in your own thoughts, although Arthur even doubted this after his experience over the last couple of days.
Because of all of this, the technology market had boomed, whilst society had crumbled. Now people scurried from home to shop only if they had to. The only people attending work were those in the service industry, trades and otherwise, the corporate white collars of the worlds stayed in their homes, HoloConferencing their way through the day.
The only reason Arthur was out and about was that he had a need to meet up with Anastasia. Anastasia his childhood sweetheart had hand written a note to him asking to meet. A furtive note asking him to meet her on the manly ferry, at 10 am on the 22nd of August.
Why the ferry, why that date, why that time, why the letter. It was Anna though, he always had a soft spot for Anna, she always held a place in his memories, in his heart. It was clear why she had written.
For all the digital invasion of privacy that was out there letter writing, as long as you could keep it from the 'Eyes' was the safest way to communicate.
So here he was, furtively making his way down George Street. He'd left his phone at home, as he knew they could track that. He'd raided his dead fathers note and coin collection for some plastic money and left his wallet at home. He'd left everything they could possibly track him with.
Putting on his black overcoat, black fedora and a pair of old Ray Ban Wayfarers, the blues brothers glasses; he was ready to go. They wouldn't be able to retina scan him, no physical profiling, especially as he was wearing an inflation vest under his jacket.
All he had to worry about was the eyes that would video track him and the ears that would listen for his audible ticks, he'd even bought new walking slippers because of this.
Leaving his apartment block he'd waited twenty minutes for one of his neighbours to exit the building, that way it was not his identity that was flagged by his swipe card as he exited. So as far as the government was aware he was still at home.
That was three hours ago, since that time he'd caught a black market transporter through the shipping ghetto's getting dropped off in the rail precinct where he entered one of the denizen shacks to wait. After awhile he left and made his way to George street.
Now all he had to do was make his way down George street, all 2.6km's of it. 2.6km's which would have hundreds of eyes and ears.
All he had to do was not rush, take it easy, move at a pace that was slow enough that the Sentinel monitoring the eyes and ears would not recognise him moving from zone to zone. Fast enough though that they would not accuse him of loitering.
He'd made it a little over a quarter of the way down the street before he encountered his first trouble. The vigilantes. It was now he took his glasses off for the first time, why? because he needed this lot to see his eyes.
These guys were scary, all young twenty somethings, clean cut, always travelling in squads of six. On the surface, they look like neat tidy fellows. In reality, they were violent racists.
They were lashing out at everything that they felt had created the world they now lived in. Not the government, that was too large, nebulous and withdrawn. they lashed out at and bullied the minorities.
In particular, those they blamed for the terrorism, those that were different to them. Those that could not defend themselves. Arthur walked steadily down the street, not bowing his head, making sure they saw his face.
He dares not establish eye contact with any of them, he also did not dare to cover his face for fear they'd decide he was a threat. They walked by talking loudly; one of them bumping him as they passed. He ignored it and continued on.
As he heard their voices fade behind him on the quiet street he put his glasses back on. As much as he needed to be visual to the vigilantes he did not want one of the eye's to retina scan him.
He stopped at Jet one of the last cafe's that sold real coffee, he paid with a two dollar coin knowing that this was one place that would not remember who did or did not pay with cash, in fact, it welcomed cash.
He sat, sipping his coffee watching the clock. He knew the sentinels 12-hour shift was finishing, it was 8 am. He hoped in the hand over he would not be commented on. He hoped everything he had done so far had gone unnoticed.
At 0815 he was on the go again. It was busier now so he was a little more relaxed. He'd removed his inflatable vest while he had a coffee and shoved it under a chair at the cafe. So his profile was different again now and he felt comfortable blending in with the other suits wearing their overcoats.
In a little under 30 minutes, he'd arrived at circular quay. Street side; Arthur stood and watched the world go buy, or what was left of the world. Now all he had to do was get a ticket. He found a bench and sat to watch.
As he watched he noticed a young boy of about ten, he looked neat and tidy well kept, yet he also appeared to be alone. Arthur watched him inquisitively wondering why there was no parent helicoptering nearby.
After a few minutes, he realised why, the young fellow was ducking and weaving his way through the crowd, his hand stealthily cutting in and out of jackets, purses and bags. He was a Pickpocket.
Arthur waited and watched, as the minutes ticked by the boy got closer and closer to where he sat. He had not seen Arthur watching, or if he had he did not see him as a threat somehow intuitively recognising that he did not want to draw attention to himself.
Finally, as the boy was within arm's length Arthur reached out, grabbed him by the arm and firmly pulled him to the seat 'Sit!' cracking the silence he had been preserving for hours.
The boy sat. He knew his gig was not up, there was just a little rupture to his routine.
'Can you get me a phone?'
'Easy. It'll cost ya. How ar you goin ta pay?'
'Mate, you've been watchin ain't ya, I don't need money.'
'A gold watch then'
'OK, show me?'
Arthur pulled his sleeve up slightly revealing a hint of the gold band and bezel of his watch.
'I need one from someone who is leaving the ferry, not going to it.'
'I want to use it, and if they've just left the ferry I've more chance they won't notice it missing until they get to their office, more time before they activate the find my phone function'.
'Ok, wait here' Then the boy was gone.
Arthur sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity. His anxiety growing by the minute. He knew the longer he sat here in his fedora and sunglasses the more suspicions would arise. The sentinels monitoring the eye's or ears might get suspicious.
A security guard passed him for a third time, casually walking up to two police officers with MP-7's slung over their shoulders, their hands resting on the weapons comfortably as if they were an extension of their bodies.
He watched as they spoke, the security guard nodding in Arthurs direction, the police officers looked straight at him. He had to go know. He stood calmly and started walking towards the ferry wharf. Where was the kid?
As he walked he felt a tap on his right hand, he looked down just as the boy took his hand. The two of them without flinching, not missing a stride continued on as if this was natural as if they were a father and son simply walking.
'Did you get the phone?'
'Yes, give me the watch.'
'Phone first.' Arthur felt a tug in his right-hand pocket, releasing the boy's hand he put his hand in his pocket and felt the cold smoothness of the phone.
Arthur casually put his thumb under the clasp of his watch, gave it a slight tug like he had hundreds of times before. The watch dropped loose from his wrist and he passed it to the boy. Then not a word said the boy simply peeled away and disappeared into the crowd.
Arthur did not pause, he didn't need to, he knew what he was doing, he had run this part of the plan through his head a hundred times. He casually turned onto the Pier 3, waved the phone over the card reader at the turnstile, the gates opened and he walked onto the wharf.
The 10 am ferry was already alongside the crew out of sight having a smoko before they had to set off again. Arthur casually walked across the gangway, through the ferry cabin to the starboard side, turned right and walked aft to what would be the stern of the boat for the trip back to Manly.
He casually walked across the stern and leant on the rail, looking down onto the wharf. He figured from here he would be able to see Anna approach. He started to casually scan the crowd, letting the phone slip from his hand disappearing into the water below.
A crew member wandered by 'Howdy Mate'
'Hi' With a nod. don't bring attention to yourself.
Then he saw her, he was sure it was her. Her dark, full curly head of hair had not changed. She looked great, she too was wearing an overcoat, although not as thick and bulky as his, clinched at the waist it looked very feminine, she looked good.
Then she saw him, their eyes locked momentarily, a flutter of a smile crossed her face, then it was gone, just a moment then she looked away, as did he. Best they not bring attention to each other, not just yet.
He resumed watching, waiting, his impatience growing. The engines of the Ferry revving up, vibrating the whole boat as the captain was moving against one of the hawsers causing the bow of the boat to pull away from the wharf. Where was she?
Arthur couldn't wait anymore, he turned to look down the port side of the boat, surely she would be walking towards him, smiling. He so wanted to see her again, she wasn't there. The last line holding the boat to the wharf was released and the ferry started to pull away.
Where was she?
Arthur turned back looking towards the wharf. His heart sank. Anna was stood on the wharf talking to two heavy set men in brown barberries; the uniform of the anti-terror bureau.
Arthur turned away and walked inside the ferries cabin. His mind abuzz with thoughts, with panic, fear. What if she gave him up, what if she told them who she was meeting with. He had to keep calm.