Every Last One: The Rise of Sylvia Boone

J. B. Velasquez
10 min readJan 23, 2024

CHAPTER ONE: H20-NO!

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Sylvia pulled a pillow over her head to drown out the sounds of people shouting outside her fourth-story window. This wasn’t new. Winnipeg had been under a great deal of turmoil in the years since the Canadian government had fallen and the corporate regime took over. What is it this time? She rolled onto her side and looked at the clock — 5:52 a.m. No chance she would fall back asleep now. Of course, this had to happen on her day off, the one day she got to sleep in.

She let out a deep sigh, dragged herself out of bed, and shuffled into the bathroom. She stepped into the shower and closed her eyes awaiting the pre-warmed cascade to dispense from the shower head, but nothing came out. She checked the digital control panel: Connect Water Source. What the hell? She stepped out and placed her hands under the sink’s automatic faucet. Nothing. A notification appeared again, this time against the surface of her mirror: Connect Water Source. Dammit! Now she was going to have to put in a work order, and when they don’t respond after a week, she’ll have to put in a second one. In the meantime, she figured she’d have to stay at her dad’s place, which had older yet more reliable plumbing, ironically.

Three gunshots rang out in rapid succession followed by screams. An involuntary yelp escaped her mouth as her shoulders tensed around her neck. When the initial jolt subsided, she scuttled to the window and pulled the blinds apart just enough to peer through. She searched for a gunman, but everyone seemed to be hurried and frantic. It could have been any of them. Pedestrians dashed around on the sidewalks below her downtown apartment, some carrying cases of bottled water over their shoulders.

Sylvia placed her holospecs over her eyes. “Show me the news,” she commanded as she dressed. The augmented reality-enabled smartglasses displayed the following news headlines onto her visual field: Water Crisis in Winnipeg, No Water for Winnipeg, and H2O-NO! She highlighted the final headline by focusing her eyes on it and blinked twice to open the link. A 3-D holographic reporter appeared on a busy street corner not far from her building.

If you’re joining us now, we’re in downtown Winnipeg where looters are overtaking local establishments in search of the last remaining drops of water. This, of course, in response to a cyber attack on the city’s water supply, which occurred early this morning around 2:00 a.m. Luckily, authorities were able to catch the breach soon after it was executed and immediately shut down water pumps through the city. We’re not certain who is responsible for this cyber-attack but authorities are working to identify any suspects. Utility services are working to recalibrate the chemical balance in the water supply and get it back into homes and businesses as soon as possible. Authorities are urging residents to please stay home and ration available water responsibly. Stay tuned as we continue to report on this devastating event.

This wasn’t the first time Sylvia had experienced cyber-terrorism. It was the basis for the Tech Wars that started in 2049, before she was born, and had never officially ended. This was the first time they’d attacked the water supply, but she’d been through several power outages, satellite disruptions, privacy and data theft — it happened so often that it had become a defining societal encumbrance for her generation. She just wished it had happened after her morning shower. She knew this meant she’d have to put in overtime this week.

Her holospecs produced a gentle vibration and the caller ID appearing in the top right corner of her visual field alerted her to an incoming call. She moved the cursor with her gaze and blinked twice on the caller ID: Dad. A full-color, 3D hologram of his head and shoulders projected onto her visual field.

“Hey, Dad. Is everything okay?” Sylvia asked with concern in her voice.

“I’m fine. Just watching the news. You’re right smack dab in the middle of all this,” he said in a raspy belabored voice from a chronic respiratory illness. “Do you have enough water there?”

“I don’t know, probably not. I’ll check the corner store here in a bit.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Syl. Looters probably got to it by now.” He paused to take a breath. “Why don’t you just come stay with me until all this blows over? At least I have the rain barrels.”

“That’s true. I probably need to head to the station first though. I’m sure they’re going to need all the help they can get.” She let out a groan. “This city is falling apart.”

“It’s been falling apart for years. It’ll still be a shithole tomorrow. It wouldn’t kill you to call in for once.”

“I’ll come by later, I promise.”

“Be careful out there, bug.”

“Bye, Dad. End call.” The hologram disappeared.

Sylvia threw a few changes of clothes and some personal items into her pack so she could go straight to her dad’s house after checking in at the station. She figured she’d stay the weekend at least. Hopefully, they’d have this water crisis resolved by then.

Sylvia opened her refrigerator to take inventory of her water reserve. She sighed as she scanned her meager food supply: two beers, a bottle of BBQ sauce, and a pizza box with a single week-old slice of Hawaiian pizza. Her freezer contained a bag of whole coffee beans and a mostly empty pint of dairy-free cherry vanilla ice cream. An industrial-sized container of protein powder sat atop her fridge. What good was that going to do her without water?

She drained the remaining water in the lines from the refrigerator’s in-door water dispenser. She emptied all the ice from the ice maker to allow it to melt in an aluminum mixing bowl. Her coffee maker contained another liter in its reservoir. Altogether, she ended up with roughly six liters of filtered water. Sylvia shook her head in resignation as she pondered how she was supposed to ration such a minimal supply indefinitely.

Sylvia dipped her toothbrush into the pitcher of water to brush her teeth. She tried to expel as much frothy toothpaste from her mouth after she brushed so she wouldn’t have to use precious water to rinse, then wiped her mouth and swallowed what remained with a frown. She needed to pee but quickly realized that once she flushed, there would be no more water left in the tank. It occurred to her she might have to use the remaining tank water to sponge bathe eventually. She would have to hold it until she got to the station.

Even though her dad warned her about going to the store, she felt a nagging sense of ethical responsibility to be somewhat present in her immediate community — even if it was her day off. She threw on a baseball cap, clipped her badge to her waistband, and shoved a fully charged bolt gun into her shoulder holster. When she stepped out onto the sidewalk outside her building, a distracted man bumped her shoulder as he rushed past. “Hey! Watch it!” Sylvia hissed.

She walked to the general store two blocks away, hands plunged deep into the pockets of her army green field jacket. Desperation pulled on the faces of passersby as they scuttled along dirty sidewalks, looking back over hunched shoulders with wild eyes and slack jaws. Broken glass crunched under her boots as she approached the aging storefront. The security alarm blared in futility. People ran out of the store with whatever they could carry. Before she could apprehend any looters, a grim scene caught her eye.

Inside, the store clerk slumped over the counter, bleeding onto the floor. Another man slipped on the clerk’s blood and fell onto his back. “Hey!” Sylvia shouted. “Get out of here!” She addressed the rest of the looters holding up her badge. “CPG! Everybody out!” she shouted. “You!” Sylvia singled out a man with a box of canned beans under his arm. She unholstered her bolt pistol. “Leave that! Leave it! Get out!” Unbelievable!

Once the store was empty, she checked the man’s pulse. Dead.

She tapped the side of her holospecs. “Get me dispatch,” she commanded. An ellipsis appeared in her field of vision and the female voice calmly announced: Calling dispatch.

“Third precinct, go,” came the voice after picking up.

“I got a one-three-one at the corner of Carlton and St. Mary. I repeat, one-three- one at the Becker’s Mini Mart on the corner of Carlton and St. Mary.”

“We have a unit in the area. They’re on the way.”

She hopped over the counter to disconnect the alarm, keeping her pistol out to deter further plunder. “We’re closed!” she yelled at the next man who stumbled in, who upon seeing the barrel of her pistol pointed at him, turned as if on a swivel and stumbled back out. Could this day get any worse? Sylvia yanked the wires from a control panel under the register and the alarm stopped, yet continued echoing in her head. She looked around at the ransacked shelving. The coolers had been completely emptied of every available beverage. A siren chirped from outside.

Sylvia, who was out of uniform, holstered her sidearm, stood where she could be plainly visible, and held out her badge. Cops in this town were known to shoot first and ask questions later. When the two officers entered the store, one fat and unshaven, the other skinny and acne-laden, Sylvia announced herself. “Corporal Sylvia Boone, 9th Precinct.”

The fat officer, more put out than alarmed, took a half-hearted glance around the shop giving the dead body no more attention than the overturned shelves. “What do we got here?”

“I just found him like this while the place was getting stripped. That was at 7:22 a.m. He was shot at close range . . . nine mil, looks like.”

The officer continued looking around the store. “You check those ice bins?”

“What?” Sylvia was genuinely confused.

“The ice bins, for the fountain drinks. Did the looters get all the ice?”

Sylvia’s mouth was stuck in a half-opened position. “Ahh . . . No, I didn’t check.”

He ordered the younger officer to check the ice bins. Sylvia’s eyes widened in disbelief. She looked back at the deceased man whose blood was still dripping from his fingertips onto the floor. The skinny officer climbed up onto the counter at the fountain station and opened the lid.

“Bingo! What do I put it in?”

“Find a bucket or something,” the first officer said. “Check the back room.”

The skinny officer jumped off the counter and entered a small storage room. He emerged with a yellow mop bucket, hopped back up on the counter, and began scooping ice into the bucket. After filling the bucket there was still more ice left.

“Isn’t there another bucket back there?” asked the fat officer.

“No, I checked,” the skinny officer confirmed.

The first officer snapped his fingers. “I know. Put the rest in a body bag. They don’t leak.”

“But we only have the one,” the skinny officer replied.

“Not anymore.” The fat officer flung the last remaining body bag toward the skinny officer who dutifully began scooping ice into it.

“Wait!” Sylvia protested. Were they blind? “There’s an actual dead body here.”

“We have to wait for the coroner anyway,” the fat officer said. “They’ll have more.”

“Well, aren’t you going to ID him?” Sylvia asked.

“Hey! Don’t tell me how to do my job,” the officer snapped. “We’ve been at this since 3 a.m. There’s a dead body on every goddamned corner! You want any of this ice or not? If not, you can go. We’ll take it from here.”

Sylvia shook her head. She walked toward the doors and then turned around again. “You’re going to notify his family, right?”

The officers looked at one another and laughed. “Yeah, sure thing, lady. Hey, try not to find any more cadavers on your way home.” The half-witted laughter continued as she walked out.

Assholes! She despised cops like this for having the audacity to call themselves civil servants. The majority of officers from other precincts were nothing more than street thugs in uniform. The Canadian People’s Guard were less concerned with justice than they were with compliance and civil obedience. People’s ‘guard,’ my ass. Her dad was right. She shouldn’t have gone to the store.

After leaving the ransacked market, Sylvia plodded back to her apartment to pack a bag. She figured she’d be staying with her dad for the next few days. At least he had a decent supply of water. But first, she thought she’d check in at the station to see if they needed another pair of hands.

When the elevator door opened on the fourth floor, she saw a five-gallon jug of water sitting on her welcome mat with a red bow and a card. She checked her security feed from her holospecs and rewound the footage to see a uniformed CPG officer, careful to hide his face. He placed the jug on the mat, knocked on the door, and skulked away. Chills cascaded through her body. What do they want?

Sylvia opened the door and dragged the heavy jug by its spout into the apartment. She opened the small envelope and pulled out a folded piece of cream-colored stationery. A photo slipped out onto the floor and rested against her boot.

It was a photo of her father’s house and the bottom right corner had been burned. It was a recent photo because the sycamore tree in the front yard had been struck by lightning less than a week ago in a thunderstorm and one of its limbs was resting diagonally on the lawn. She hadn’t gotten around to removing it. She turned the photo over. On the back were written two words in black sharpie: Walk Away.

Want more? Every Last One: The Rise of Sylvia Boone is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CNL3PWRN

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J. B. Velasquez

Author of two novels and a growing number of whimsical short stories. He lives in the American Southwest and subsists mostly on tacos and external validation.