It’s the first thing they’re told when they arrive: “Do not switch lines.” We even have it translated into the different languages. It’s followed by the usual instructions: “Arrivals from Orion Beta, follow the blue line. Arrivals from Cassiopeia , follow the red line. If you are unsure which line to follow, wait in the orange zone and one of our associates will direct you shortly.”

For the most part, they shuffle into place without much trouble. You might occasionally find a particularly addled one who’s in the wrong line, but we try to be as pleasant as possible in these situations. It’s not like it’s their fault after all. They’re caught up in the middle of all this, same as the rest of us.

I’m one of the people in charge of the red line. I handle the pertinent details: names, gender, skills, and documentation of belongings. It’s rare that any of them make it through the gate with more than the clothes on their back and whatever food they might have scrounged up along the way. No, I’m not fluent in Cassiopeian, but I like to think that we communicate just fine.

You see them trying to wait for family members, inventing some kind of new illness, or lingering in doorways. A few actually are sick, but you’d be surprised at how many are just trying to get sympathy. We do our best to explain them that they have to be processed and that their families will join them on the other side. Most times, they believe us.

Once they’re processed, they all get sent to the dormitories. Really, it’s not that bad. I mean, it has to be better than whatever was on the road for them, right? In the dorms, they get a mattress and some food every day. And yes, I’ve heard the same bullshit you have about how “we can’t afford to feed all these extra bodies”. But the truth is, it’s our responsibility as society to take care of them. And none of us are on rations yet, anyway.

The first part of my day, outside of coffee, is getting the workstation organized. With an enterprise like this, organization isn’t just important, it can quite literally save lives. Our main focus here is dividing them into the necessary groups. You hear a lot of complaints of course, about couples being separated, and the young ones being placed in different camps entirely, but that’s just common sense.

And it’s not like they are separated forever. We’re not in the business of breaking up families or anything. I mean, there’s a common area where the arrivals can meet in between the different dorms after processing. It’s not our fault if they have such a hard time locating each other. All they have to do is fill out a few forms, and they’re fine. There are plenty of options set up for communication. If they choose not to take advantage, it’s their own fault.

Look, if I sound defensive it’s because I hear this all the time. You don’t know what it’s like, to have people constantly accusing you of breaking up families. It’s not like we asked for them to come here. We stayed out of their war, y’know?

Sorry, where was I?

Right, setting up the workforce.

They’re split up so that we can figure out who has what skills and how best to utilize their labor. And really, we do our best to assign the right individual for each job. A lot of them just aren’t that bright, so often times they get processed into manual labor. The few that show some aptitude for language are considered for housework, provided they can learn Alphan.

Way back when this first started, we didn’t have a system. They just kind of flooded in through the gates. This made it impossible to keep track. A ton of them got lost. Now, every gate into the city has painted lines and loading areas and dormitories, and everything works so much better.

We have Dr. Carver to thank for this new found efficiency. I’ve never met him, but I know a few people who have. Much higher up on the food chain than I am, so to speak. They all say the same thing: he’s smaller than you’d think. Always in his office, thinking up new concepts. He’s very meticulous, which of course, he’d have to be to come up with this system. When you think of the thousands of them that we process every day, like I said, organization is of key importance.

The line starts processing through somewhere around 8 AM. After my station, we do our best to divide them by age and gender, then send them off to the various medical stations. From there, I suppose they go on to the dormitory or housing assignments, although that’s not really my concern.

You hear stories of agitators at other gates. Some are carrying old grudges from the war, or maybe just driven mad from the journey here, I guess. Sometimes, I’ll get a few in my line that come through with dark purple bruises, or bloody wounds. Of course, before we can get them any kind of medical treatment, they have to fill out the proper forms. Like I said, organization saves lives.

Occasionally, you have some that just want to cause problems. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking them out of the line ahead of time, though. Once I alert the guards, they get pulled aside and given time to calm down in one of the quiet rooms.

The guards are great. When they pull one out of line, they do all of the processing on their own. I’ve shown them how to use the system, and a few are definite pros at it. Of course, I kept a few things back that only I know, or I’d be out of a job.

I usually take lunch around noon. At the moment we’re a little over-booked, what with the steady influx of refugees. After New Athens fell, I think we’d expected the workload would drop off a bit. I know that sounds cold, but it’s just a fact of life. I try to keep my lunch break short, only an hour or so. The way some of them complain, you’d think I’d kept them waiting all day or something. Once the line gets moving again, though, the grumbling stops.

The second half of the day is a lot more of the same. Most days, I really start to find my groove right after lunch, and that’s when I process most of them. I know the medical staff have had a couple of days where they’ve actually asked me to slow down a bit, as the Cassiopeians were being pushed through faster than they can examine them.

Towards the end of the day, things slow down a bit. The folks manning the gates stop letting them in around 4 PM, so the line thins out pretty steadily. The remaining refugees are left out front til the next day, but I don’t know what you expect us to do. We can’t leave the gates open permanently.

And really, if Orion Alpha fell, who would be left to take in the refugees? No, we have to limit spaces. And yes, I’ve heard the same stories you have about what happens to the children and the elderly. That’s all propaganda set up by agitators on the outside. There’s a family on my block that hired three refugees just last week, and one of them was a child.

I don’t know what people really expect of us. We’re doing more for them than anyone else has. It’s why they keep coming here. I mean, if conditions were better in Fornax, you know they’d all be going there instead.

But yeah, that’s pretty much my day. Sometimes, if I want to get away from the wife and kids, I’ll come in on the weekend and pull a little overtime, but mostly it’s right in and out. The thing is, it’s worth it. Some nights, I’ll go out on my balcony before bed and watch the lights of the dormitories. They have these spotlights shining down from the watchtowers to make sure that nobody is sneaking in under the fences to hurt the refugees, and armed guards at the entrance to every building for extra security.

The other night, I stood out there with a drink for two hours, watching the spotlights sweep back and forth. It’s best part of my day, reflecting back on all the lives I’ve saved. I just wish I knew a little Cassiopeian, so they could thank me.

©2015 Chris Page. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Arrivals

  1. Wow! Powerful statement, reeks of WWII and the concentration camps and man’s inhumanity and how propaganda brainwashes the public. Excellent creation you’ve started here. Hope you continue…

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