Wayne Kramer became a civilian again, a mere month shy of the twenty-five years the Force or the Service, as it came to be known, required to be eligible for the cop sized pension.
“Not that I need it, but still,” was his complaint mantra.
Police departments across the globe were swept out of existence by automation, education, social advancement, and what the last few thousand lawmen called the big layoff. It was the end of an outdated institution and the end of Wayne’s way of life.
He looked down at the pile of random office supplies in the last drawer of his cleaned out desk and saw nothing he needed nor wanted. The cardboard box on the empty desktop held his ten and twenty-year plaques, three medals of accommodation, and a mug his dead partner gave him after his first year on the urban assault squad. The ceramic cup boldly stated: “Up against the wall, motherfucker!”
Wayne’s therapist told him not to hold on to the violent and often racially charged slogans of his career and to focus instead on the new life of possibilities ahead of him.
“I know,” he said to himself, “don’t hold onto the bad stuff.”
He rubbed the dirty mug and snagged his finger on its chipped edge. It smelled like acidic coffee and shattered in a way that made him flinch when he dropped it into the trashcan. He picked up the box and chucked it in on top of his broken mug.
“I joined to make a difference,” he’d told his therapist.
“And you did,” she replied.
“It was my whole life. It’s who I am. I lost two wives and killed three people. The last was a teenager, just a kid that didn’t know any better. He didn’t deserve to die,” Wayne finally admitted.
“How could crime drop to zero in under a decade? Makes you wonder why they didn’t make changes to society earlier?” he repeatedly asked.
“Change comes slow,” his therapist would say.
For Wayne, the changes came fast, hard, and constant. One year he was warring with gangs in the streets, the next he was busting protester’s heads open and getting rewarded for it, the following year his team was disbanded, and he was reduced down to a beat cop monitoring spotlessly clean streets. He couldn’t even get traffic duty as the new driverless cars made no infractions and never had accidents. In his last year, he was nothing more than a glorified information booth attendant.
He looked down at his stuffed trashcan and wished he could throw himself in.
“What am I supposed to do in a perfect world?”
He could hear his therapist answer, “just because you were a defender of the old ways doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the new.”
“I know, I know,” he told himself again.
He walked away from his desk, away from the empty office, down the dusty steps, and out the door that locked an empty building behind him. The billboards in front projected a high-rise with a school, an item replicator, and a food court. The faces of multinational children on the posters smiled with perfect teeth.
Wayne ambled off toward the loop station that would take him home from work, one last time. He’d come to enjoy the short walk and didn’t miss commuter traffic at all. The move away from carbon fuels made the air smell fresh and the city greener. It was a paradise compared to the town he grew up in.
At the station entrance, there were four boys dressed in floppy shoes, puff coats, and big hoods. Wayne profiled them as suspects, street thugs, possible gang members, but caught himself in the act.
“Don’t confuse fashion with criminality,” his therapist advised.
Four girls in sweatshirts representing the new compulsory city college showed up with smoothies. Wayne took note of one being transgender. She reminded him of training classes he’d received at different points in his career with very conflicting attitudes.
“Hey, Mister,” she said to his disbelief.
He slowed his shuffle to a crawl and acted like she was talking to someone else.
“You talking to me?” asked Wayne.
“You don’t look so good. Everything alright?”
All the kids circled Wayne, concerned for his mental state.
“I just retired, today was my last day,” he found himself saying.
“That’s great!” said one of the boys.
“Yeah, man, good for you.”
“Here, I think you need this more than me.”
The girl shoved her drink towards Wayne’s hand and he took it, not knowing what else to do.
“It’s a new flavor. Banana Schnoz Berry. Try it.”
Wayne took a sip. It was delicious.
“Thanks. You kids are alright,” he said and made his way down the steps to the platform.
“Take it easy, old-timer. You’re on easy street from here on out.”
“That’s what my therapist keeps telling me.”
Wayne lifted an arm in a wave without looking back and entered the sea of 3D animated ads offering FREE services, experiences, and life improvement opportunities. One suggested volunteer positions open on the new moon colony. Previous security clearance was a plus.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut… or a police officer. Maybe it’s not too late?”
A pod chain entered the station, decompressed, and opened to let Wayne board. He took an empty window seat and rocketed down the tunnel at 400 k/hr letting childhood dreams of moon landings fill his long-dormant imagination.