Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
Mr. Sattari’s name was holographically projected on a door that dematerialized as Basil came within a foot of it. It was the only executive door in the entire upper chamber that did not mirror the person approaching it. Instead it was opaque, black. Once the door had vanished, Basil could see that Mr. Sattari’s office had two stories. Little boats floated in a small pool in the far left corner—real boats, real water, no holograph. Along the other corner sat what looked like a wide, squat armoire, its handleless doors closed tight at the bottom, its one drawer lying open in the middle, displaying a long row of black and white blocks arranged in a regular pattern of twos and threes. Leather-bound books, their spines decked in stately purples and forest greens, lined glass-enclosed shelves. Certain sections of the floor were transparent and revealed several stories below.
Three servants fluttered about the space. A woman in a purple corset that pressed her breasts up was removing the remains of a food tray to a hole in the back wall. Two barelegged men in tunics were busily dusting with an ion-sweeper.
Mr. Sattari’s desk was on the upper level, which was accessible only by a short arching stairway of wide platforms that seemed to have no visible supports. The high plateau was crowded by a huge mahogany desk; a straight-backed chair facing it; a more comfortable chair behind it, in which Mr. Sattari sat; and a small sofa off to the side whose back was unprotected from the one-story drop. Just behind Sattari’s left elbow, an unmoving servant with a solemn expression stood at the ready for anything he might desire, though whether the servant was real or holo Basil couldn’t tell.
Mr. Sattari, the Siyo of the Noke Corporation, had a stern face which was frozen deep in concentration in the light of his AVE. His fingers manipulated symbols which floated around his head in a green halo, his eyes oblivious to the images blinking in the air before him as if he could see their characteristics without regarding them. To his right was a small wooden bowl full of shelled almonds.
Basil should have been in awe of this man with his green halo of faces and data. The Siyo of the Noke Company controlled one of the many conglomerates that made up the Corporation of the United States of America.
But Basil had his own job to do. His position in the Drug Church kept him from losing himself. The Siyo would need him.
As Basil ascended the platforms, he had the strange sensation of getting smaller. Mr. Sattari’s expression did not change; his brow did not unfurrow, nor did his eyes lose their focus. By the time Basil had mounted the lip of the last stair, the Siyo had returned his gaze to his fingers.
Basil stood uncomfortably for a second. “Sit down,” Mr. Sattari dictated in a faraway voice. Basil took the straight-backed chair and waited.
After a while, Mr. Sattari looked up with the same distant expression and said, “I was expecting the Padre.”
“He sent me, Mr. Sattari.” Basil used his best Spanish.
Mr. Sattari regarded the boy critically up and down. “You’re very young.” “I know the rites,” Basil said, defending himself. “He sent me on my first assignment because I know them all.”
Still, Mr. Sattari regarded him severely. “How old are you?”
“That doesn’t matter, señor,” Basil answered.
Surprised, Mr. Sattari started back in his chair. His eyebrows had exploded upwards, but his eyes remained where they were. Then he nodded, relaxed, sat forward. “You’re right. You have the drugs, after all, don’t you?” Now that Basil was closer, the Siyo looked very different. His brown face appeared much older, despite the absence of any grey in the bob of jet-black hair. He sat stiffly, his body thin and erect under a white suit-blouse tied with a black ribbon at the neck.
“The Body and Blood,” Basil corrected.
Mr. Sattari barely heard him. He leaned back in his chair and regarded Basil more curiously. “How old are you?” he asked again, but this time the meaning of the question was different.
“Most boys start learning at four.”
“Do all eleven-year-olds make these trips?”
“My Padre’s a stern man,” said Basil with curious emphasis.
“So you really know what you’re doing,” Mr. Sattari answered, understanding his meaning.
“What about your mother?”
“Don’t have a mother,” Basil answered. “She moved to another Church.”
“Really?” asked the Siyo. “That’s something we have something in common. I didn’t have a mother either. I sometimes think I can remember her. Not her face, but everything else.” The Siyo passed his hand in front of his face. “Maybe she was there when I was a little child. I can almost see her in my mind, but then she backs out…fades away. Sometimes I feel her. She must have held me…” Mr. Sattari paused, his eyes distant again, no longer talking to the boy. Basil didn’t reply. He had heard that sometimes before drug-parties the clients felt like sharing personal things, that the experience of taking the drugs scared them, and they wanted to confess before they said things they shouldn’t.
“You know we’re not worshippers,” Mr. Sattari said abruptly.
“But you bring us the drugs anyway.”
“We have to,” Basil replied. Immediately he wondered if he should have said so in front of Mr. Sattari’s servant, still standing obliquely behind the Siyo. Although anyone might have guessed how CUSA and the Drug Church were connected, no one was supposed to say it openly. CUSA liked to pretend that the Church, by offering free, limitless substances to its addicts, was evil. But the Corporation paid for everything. It was a compromise. The Church broke its rules, and the Corporation got its parties.
“It’s a strange thing,” Mr. Sattari said into his hand.
Basil didn’t know what the Siyo meant. He sat in the straight-backed chair and waited.
“You give these drugs to addicts for free.”
“Yes, señor.” It was true. The addicts came and the Church provided. No questions were ever asked; no demands were ever made. Whatever means of worship addicts required, they got.
“They come, we serve.”
“But they aren’t happy,” Mr. Sattari argued.
“Not until they use.”
“But the drugs make them vomit. They turn them into slaves. They blindly roam CUSA like zombies. They don’t even know how to feed themselves.”
“We take care of them,” Basil replied.
Mr. Sattari paused to consider. “Yes, but—” he began. “Why don’t you help them quit?”
“That’s their part,” Basil said.
“That’s the burden placed upon them,” Basil said, parroting his Padre.
“What do you mean?”
“They have to quit. They take the drugs to learn what they need to learn. When they get enlightenment, they quit.”
“But they never quit!” Mr. Sattari exclaimed, obviously irritated. “The drugs are so addictive!”
“It’s up to them to quit,” Basil said, simply.
Baffled, Mr. Sattari stared through Basil the same way he stared through his green halo. He leaned back, his hand on his mouth, his eyes pensive. After a while he straightened up. “Are you going to give my people addictive drugs?”
“No,” Basil said. “We don’t give those to nonbelievers.”
Mr. Sattari nodded again through his hand. He seemed to have dismissed Basil with a thought. “Well,” he said. “That’s fine. Why don’t you go down and wait by Ms. Sanchez’s desk? The party won’t start until this evening.” By the time Basil had gotten to his feet, Mr. Sattari was lost in his symbols again.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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