The next day, Chess felt uneasy over what had transpired. And he was not sure if he should seek out Ileana and ask her to come back to shelter. But, early in the afternoon, she came looking for him.
“So… I guess we all have secrets,” she shrugged in answer to his questioning look. “I admit, I was concerned, at first. But, I won’t tell her secret -- your secret -- if she won’t tell mine. Besides, which one of us is Razor more likely to believe?”
Chess scraped his chair back from the computer table. “Ileana, those people down there…”
“I know, they’re in danger,” she interrupted him, glancing toward the door. “Let’s take a walk.”
She surprised him by bringing him on a brisk twenty-minute journey into the forest. As they traveled, Chess told her what he knew about the people living in what he referred to as shelter. Ileana caught the reference immediately, and grasped it only too well. Mostly, she listened in silence, only occasionally asking a question -- questions that showed she understood what was going on.
For a while, Chess thought that they were wandering aimlessly, and he was content just being able to talk freely. But then she led him to a clearing beside a pond, surrounded by the woods.
“It’s beautiful here,” he commented, listening to the bird song that trickled through the trees. For a moment, he could actually imagine having some kind of peace. “How did you find this place?”
Ileana settled herself just beyond the edge of the pool’s muddy bank. “I go hiking around here a lot. I can’t stand to be in those musty buildings, even though I know it’s not really safe out here.” Chess sank to the ground beside her, surprised that Ileana dared to venture out beyond the borders of the compound. Because of the thriving businesses there, the surrounding roads and the entire area always seemed to be filled with trucks -- trucks that were guarded by swarms of armed men. And then, there was the question of who and what lived out in the woods itself. Ileana, he realized, must be every bit as restless as he was. “I’m surprised Razor lets you out,” was all he said, though.
Ileana frowned at him. “I’m not a prisoner,” she said gravely. “Anyway, I think this is probably where the people in your ‘shelter’ get their water. It’s not safe to drink, but then, what is?” Then her frown became earnest. “I want to help you. I want to help them.”
They headed for shelter as soon as they got back. Ileana spent her time there talking -- at first, to the small group of women who crowded around her. And then, eventually, with everyone that she could manage to engage. The following day, she returned with a written plan of action and a schedule.
“So, I think you and I should be the ones who bring the food.” Ileana nodded at Chess, who sat cross-legged next to her. Sariel, half-kneeling and looking as though she might jump up and flee at any moment, completed their small conference circle. “That will free up Sariel to focus on healing, which these people seem to need a lot of.” She smiled pleadingly at Sariel’s glaring eyes.
“Meanwhile, I’m going to work on Razor. I won’t say a word about shelter,” Ileana added quickly, as Sariel made a noise of protest. “I’ll just try to appeal to his altruistic side.”
At this, Sariel made a loud snorting noise, rose with a flourish of skirts, and walked away.
Chess shrugged apologetically. “I doubt she even knows that word. So, really? Altruistic?”
“Oh, yes,” Ileana assured him, setting her papers aside. “Didn’t he ever tell you how he left his business career in civ to come out here and work with people who needed his help?”
“He did tell me that,” Chess admitted, afraid to say all that was on his mind and offend Ileana. Cautiously, he added, “He’s a smart guy. I think he would succeed no matter what he did.”
Ileana nodded. “He’s definitely ambitious. And as for Tez…” She grimaced. “Tez’s ambitions are as big as Razor’s, without a doubt. But Razor sees what has been done by others and thinks he could do it better. Tez, on the other hand, is always on the lookout for a new idea, something never tried before, like this thing about the water wizards. Maybe Tez will end up ruling the world.” She was quiet for a moment, and then added solemnly, “Tez is… I enjoy his company. But I love Razor.”
Chess could feel his life getting more precarious by the minute. “It’s none of my business.”
Continued next page...
Sisko: By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.
Bashir: Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?
Sisko: No, people with criminal records weren't allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.
Bashir: Then what did they do to deserve this?
Sisko: Nothing. They're just people without jobs or places to live.
Bashir: So they get put in here?
Sisko: Welcome to the 21st century, Doctor.
-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Past Tense Part I, Season 3 Episode 11
It’s not so much strange, but merely terrifying that I was introduced to this episode of Deep Space Nine after I began to describe “Shelter” in my story. Even with my love of Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG, I had never watched much of Star Trek:DS9, so I knew nothing about this idea. But I found it, to quote Mr. Spock, fascinating. It only goes to show that many people must look at how we currently treat the homeless or other down-on-their-luck people and come to the same conclusion: that eventually, in our capitalistic society that requires monetary success, we will try to separate out the unsuccessful. And although we probably will not completely abandon people who lack their own resources, the social safety nets might thin progressively. And eventually we might marginalize such people in a manner that is far more literal than the current way that they are pushed to the edges of society.
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