UNITED STATES—Indeed. The different chapter for the world had begun. It was a phone that was the start of definitively breaking relations with the Underground Cities in 2033, Zorba recalled. The Leader “up there” had abolished all phones in a startling degree. Years earlier photography had been abolished. Phones had been thought to make people stupid, to ridicule them and their self sovereignty on a daily basis. Phones undermined their esteem daily and ruthlessly preyed on the human trait of blaming oneself beyond what one should be blamed for. So the Leader preached, and the survivors of the Vegan Wars took it to heart.

Detective Zorba’s grandmother had passed on the fable that the unleashing of warheads “up there” had all started because a government official had left their phone at home by mistake. “My this feels wonderful,” they must have thought, “to be free of the enslaving beeps and buzzes, the bells and whistles.” And then all hell broke loose.

Down below, in the underground cities which sprung after the toxic spring, things were calmer. Theoretically. Since the phone was now implanted with lifetime batteries, no one fretted over lost phones and charging cables. They were quaint relics of the past.

Meanwhile, in the land above, a fine swathe of continent above wedged between toxic shores, they went into full embrace of technophobia, according to the sketchy reports they received. It was said, perhaps apocryphally, that to make an undergarment, the individually spun and wove threads. They turned pieces of paper with words on them called books. The Leader embraced the radical vision that contentment of the body precedes happiness of the soul. Sweat, toil and repeated actions were seen as salvation. The ditch digger was respected as the doctor.

Right now, during a lull in work, Detective Zorba was listening to one of the few recent clandestine chronicles from “up there.” If they wanted to play a song, they had to crank a thing called phonograph. Oxen pulled plows over the land. It was the vision of the Leader, who according to sketchy reports, was a 100 hundred years old or who had died years ago, and seen most often in unchanging bib overalls and graying porcupine hair. The pill-pods that in the advanced societies helped people modify mental states and play moods like a piano, were strictly forbidden. The possessor of these subcutaneous leech-like forms could be punished by death.

Detective Zorba was piqued by a blurry and unofficial photo of the Leader not in overalls, but brocaded papal robes and lips smeared with hot-red lipstick. Somebody’s idea of a joke? Zorba started.

“Off silent!” he ordered his phone back on. He’d gotten so lost in the revelry of the researching the Wilcox case, he’d left the phone in off mode. It was like the second time this afternoon he’d forgotten about it.

Well, it had been a heck of a Friday. And just when he thought it was over, and he’d soon be in the calm warm tube of the Metro, Lieutenant Robbins called him into her cubicle.

“What are you doing, Detective?”

“I’m happy with what I’ve done on the pill-pod case.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said without raising her voice and then prolonged the silence, as her eye pierced him. “You’ve been using time and resources on your hobby case. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.”

This peeved him to no end that you were supposed to act busy for the brass. The homicide rate was down 3 percent. Sure, there was still robbery and cyber fraud. Those were other guys’ meat. Detective Devon Zorba had a mind to tell Lieutenant Robbins to take this job and you know what!

Robbins surprised him with, “I’m putting you on leave of absence.”

“Go ahead. Say it like it is: I’m being fired.”

“O.K. You’re fired.”

To be continued…