Some things you have no reason to notice. And at first, I didn’t notice them. Kids with green caps—that evergreen shade that is so natural. I was in New York City on vacation, visiting an old friend, Bill. Since I didn’t usually pay attention to school children, I didn’t notice them.
It was Bill who pointed them out.
“Look,” he said, “another kid with a green cap.” I nodded. “Yep, there’s another one,” Bill went on. “They’re all over.”
“I don’t know what. Just start looking for them and you’ll start seeing them. They’re all grade school kids.”
So I started looking. We were down near Times Square so there were a lot of people about. Then I did start to notice them. Not lots of them, but enough. It wasn’t like the green caps were good camouflage.
As I looked for them and then started to watch them, I noticed they were all waving around handheld devices. The devices could have been smart phones but they weren’t talking into them. Just waving them around and looking at them once in a while.
“Did you notice the device each of them has?” I asked Bill.
“They wave them around and then look at them periodically. Then they push something and begin waving again. Strange.”
“Yes, very strange. Let’s go have an ask.”
We walked over to the closest Green Cap we could find. He was waving away. Pretty much oblivious to the throng around him, who were in turn pretty much oblivious to him.
“Hi, I’m Johnny. This is my friend Bill. That’s a pretty sharp hat you got there. And what’s this fancy device you got there?”
The Green Cap acted as if I hadn’t spoken, which probably is a wise move for most kids roaming a crowd alone. But I was not deterred.
“What’s this thing do, Greeny? You’re sure waving it around a lot.”
“Why are you talking to me? You should just leave me alone.”
“Ah, but now I’m really curious. My curiosity says there is something curious about your behavior and your gadget.” With that successful tact, he gave me the old “piss off” and darted into the crowd.
I didn’t get my answer but I was still plenty curious. By the time we finished our day of moseying about we had seen plenty of Green Caps, all young kids, all dong the same thing. My curiosity wasn’t satiated so I contacted my network to see if there was buzz on this.
The Green Caps, it turned out, were the Green Youth: a new youth organization sponsored by FemCad. Something like the Boy Scouts. They were organized with the idea of being a youth group dedicated obviously to green issues, and specifically to green issues of interest to FemCad.
They piloted the program in New York. Like the Boy Scouts, they had troupe leaders and meetings. They studied green and environmental issues like recycling and greenhouse gases and water conservation and so on. They earned merit badges as well for activities and tasks.
One of these merit badges was given for learning how to monitor whether someone was wearing their collection unit. Thousands of detection units had obviously been made available for this merit badge.
The Green Caps were now essentially a gang of FemCad informants, looking for people not wearing Methane Collection Devices. The detection unit sniffed for gas. If gas was detected, the Green Cap tried to trace it back to the source. If they thought you were the source, you were confronted. You had to produce an exemption card on the spot. If you failed to produce an exemption card you were issued a citation and your name forwarded to FemCad. The message: FemCad is watching. The lesson FemCad wanted you to learn: be afraid.
If you didn’t have an exemption the penalty for a citation was usually just a fine, but the damage done was much greater. Your name was placed on a watch list. Even the slightest aberration in quota or behavior might result in a monitoring belt and a FemCad prescribed diet. You would produce whether you liked it or not.
FemCad was devious. They wanted you to try to buck the system, wanted you to acquire Anti-Matter. Because FemCad was going to watch you. And they were going to catch you. And they were going to punish you. But catching and punishing you was a bonus. FemCad wanted to catch the Anti-Matter distributor: Alvarez and his friends. They wanted me.
What that told me and Alvarez was that FemCad was desperate. That FemCad hadn’t figured out how to combat Anti-Matter with any kind of reliable test. They might know you had taken it but they couldn’t prove it. For as powerful as FemCad was, the court system still placed the burden of proof on them.
The Green Caps were a desperate move. Desperate, yet brilliant. The Green Caps allowed them to create a massive monitoring system that would have been fiscally impossible to implement and a public relations nightmare to defend. Worst case scenario was public backlash, and pressure to disband the Green Caps. It was worth the risk.
Alvarez was across the border and wasn’t going to quit. And as long as people wanted Black Gas or Anti-Matter and as long as money was to be made there would be people to transport and distribute it. Fear was useful to FemCad and lucrative for Alverez.