chapter 15: in dreams 1

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The son of a trader. The son of a proponent for understanding. The son of a woman who spoke out against isolation.

He who controls all programs has the right to control all things, it is said in Selatan. The wishes of He who controls all is best served by the leader of the country, it is often forced upon all in Selatan.

Soji just shrugged at it, the way his mother and father did. He who controls all programs deserved his respect and his prayers for his life, his family, and his country. Still, He who controls all probably knew better than any of the leaders over the country. The leaders were not divinities, just leaders. If such leaders would act like leaders and less like tyrant divinities, maybe Selatan would be ruled less harshly. Of course, Soji was taught never to say such thoughts aloud outside of their house.

Ordinary citizens lived in the meridian encircling the outskirts of Selatan. The army buildings, training fields, and barracks protected the area between the meridian beyond and the government and religion buildings at the center.

They lived in the section of the meridian nearest to border river Pembagi. Like many other families in the area, they were involved in trading: illegal exchanges between Pendi and Selatan. To them, it was merely a way of life. Most of the families traded in foodstuffs, vegetables or rice for ice or ice-makers. His mother traded in a dangerous commodity: knowledge. She exchanged program textbooks on trance codes and military strategy from Selatan for academic research journals and scholar discourses from Pendi.

He was a little boy then, asked to run back and forth, giving and retrieving the packages from ferry boats. He was never allowed to read through the books they swapped…but once in a while he saw a picture book in the Pendika language. He flipped through it before sending it off to his mother.

It was dangerous only at night. During the day his mother was also the nicest, greatest cook he knew, whipping up salads out of nowhere that could feed all the people who suddenly appeared at their house. She made cream cakes that were the envy of the whole town.

It was taken for granted at their house that their icebox had no malfunctions. Soji did not think it was anything special that the icebox worked at all: he regularly encoded ice programs into it.

As he grew older, he became part of the group that rode the trading ferry boats. He was armed with some basic Pendika: good evening, here is the package, thank you for paying, goodbye. But the people at the Pendi side of the border talked to him, told him about Pendi and their ways, taught him more words. He was probably not the best student they met, but it was fun when it happened. They also told him of the great work his mother was doing for both countries, and he loved her more. He loved learning about the country beyond the river, and wondered with his mother when Selatan and Pendi became Bersa again.

The trade runs became more secretive, more dangerous, as the department of information learned of the family business. But his mother refused to stop. Knowledge was a right, she told him, people should be allowed what information they want, to make choices on that information.

He joined the brigade because he was drafted, not because he asked for it. His mother let him, did not hide him or send him away. It is not right to fight your country when you can fight for it and make it better from the inside, she said. He agreed.

On the first night of his first vacation, he turned the corner to his house, in time to see a shadow assassin shoot an ice spear through his mother, on the way home from a trade run.

The department of information took and buried his mother without fuss or consent.

His father escaped to relatives in the meridian area farthest from the river. Soji was told to return to the army, like nothing happened.

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