Ethan refreshes his screen again. Finally, the page loads. He signs in and clicks on the button to register. To his dismay he sees a yellow warning: ‘the maximum number has been reached’. A chill approaches him from his feet as he wakes up sweating on a Monday morning.
He then goes about his morning routine preparing himself as today was the day, the day he gets to choose where he goes for the next six months of his life. His TV turns on as programmed sharp at 8:00AM and everyone is talking about the destined doom, the end of the beginning, the apocalypse engulfing the world, the Horrifying OLT. It’s inching close and it can no longer be ignored, this is his last chance, he thinks.
He has to get HS-21 (Havensafe – 21). There are a lot of open safe havens available for rich people like Ethan. He was one of the gentlemen who had contributed heavily to the construction of the havens. He gained the opportunity to choose among the various locations. The last time people were allowed aboard the havens, he was unaware of how this whole open haven system operated. Though he had donated before, he chose to just stay at his home. He realized when he talked to his friends from haven that it was a much better experience to spend the last six months in this world before OLT hits.
He realized he had missed an opportunity but it didn’t matter to him, he was happy with his current home. That was until he heard about the new havens opening this last session. The new haven was called HS-21 codenamed Japan. Ethan had always been a huge fan of Japan and its culture, but he hadn’t gotten an opportunity to visit Japan before. After OLT started, all travel except via the UN was banned. This was the absolute last chance for Ethan to go there and experience this haven.
He finished his morning routine and started driving to the location where the current safehaven bookings would take place. He glanced at the message he had received from the UN, mentioning the details about the time and venue. It was the same venue as last time. He remembered how hellish a zone it was and all the activities that took place because of these havens. He had seen people booking multiple havens and reselling the tickets at the original venue itself. The UN seemed to not care as this was not their biggest priority. There was so much going on, friends of people booking extra slots for them, people using BOZZ. (an unfair method where they called in their ancestors to help them with their booking).
He parked his car, got down, and walked slowly towards the entrance. He desperately needed this, this was his absolute last chance to go to Japan. He would resort to almost anything to get this haven. His strides increased in pace, and his face unbeknownst to him, leaked a devilish smile.
He sees a lot of familiar faces at the site. He talks to a few of them to see where each one is headed. As the time to book approaches everyone looks at the object at the center of the site. A singular phone booth is present, and painted on it with a large blocky sans-serif typeface is the number ‘404’. The UN assumed this was the fairest method to allocate havens, since only limited seats were available.
The system was simple. Have people call the phone booth when it is time and then allocate the havens based on a first come first serve basis. Behind the anticipation on everyone’s faces, was hidden the backup of BOZZ. Ethan knew how this was going to proceed, everything looked the same, he could see a medieval-steampunk machine next to the phonebooth, connected to it. The machine looked like it could break any second, that machine was in charge of a lot of things, and he knew for a fact that it could do none of them well.
Ethan and everyone fully expected the machine to fail. They knew that under the influence of 30-50% of the people using BOZZ, the machine wouldn’t be able to hold. Yet as time drew close Ethan grew nervous. He went over his plan once again. He had contacted one of his friends and gotten ahold of the workings of the BOZZ system. He simply had to call his ancestors from his village and ask them to spam calls to the phonebooth. But this wasn’t enough, he knew everyone would try to do this. So he had thought of other ways. Desperation is the mother of creativity, he said. He knew he remembered it wrong, but he couldn’t bother correcting himself now.
He recalled speaking to one of his friends over at Havensafe 19, one thing Ethan had noticed last time this happened was that the calls to the booth were much more successful when done from the haven locally. Apparently the haven uses some ‘new’ satellites instead of the usual ‘reg’ional satellites. So he had asked this friend of a friend for help, and they had graciously agreed. Ethan thought that no one else was privy to this information.
The wretched time arrived and unsurprisingly, the booth didn’t ring. Too many calls were being made and the poor machine couldnt handle it as expected. The situation was tense and it was clear this was happening due to the BOZZ. Ethan surprisingly didn’t try the BOZZ, because it turns out, he was a huge coward. But he did speak to his friend and made sure calls were being made from the other network. He had a gut feeling that this plan would work.
The same situation continued to persist, he got a call from his friend. He realized the booth doesn’t ring for calls using the ‘new’ satellite, his friends were unaware of this fact. He picks the call, while feeling that somehow something went wrong. “The call went through”.
“The call went through, but the haven you wanted wasn’t available”. Ethan screamed internally. He was so close… so close. He’s about to respond when there is a recorded announcement from the secretary general, a young Mr. B. Gotham.
“It seems that many of you have resorted to calling friends inside the havens to take advantage of the ‘new’ satellites. In consideration to have this session as fairly as possible, we have reset your allocations. We shall restart your allocations in 4 days time.”
Ethan screams internally, he was so close. He still couldn’t figure out why havensafe 21 wasn’t available. It gave him chills but he could not do anything about it. He went home. He didn’t realize that many other people knew about the ‘new’ satellites, to such an extent where all the available seats got booked. He had a bad feeling that the UN was about to do something.
A day later.
Ethan had received another notification, stating a change in the procedure, firstly one person could not buy more than one ticket. It was really dumb that this was allowed in the first place. This essentially shut down the black market and everyone was fighting for themselves now. This also reduced the usability of the BOZZ to a certain extent.
Ethan knew he couldn’t depend on his friend anymore, now it was just him and his BOZZ. He was having a dilemma about resorting to the BOZZ. On one hand he saw it impossible that he gets the haven he wants without using BOZZ, but on the other hand if the UN decides to punish people who have resorted to BOZZ, he’ll lose his chance to go to HS-21. Ethan didn’t believe in religion, but he believed in god. He decided to not use BOZZ and try to get the haven on his own.
On the day of the allocation.
Unsurprisingly the machine fails again when the allocation starts. The general secretary of the UN decides to have an online meeting with the people who were present on site. “Hello Guys, so our server is old and it cannot handle the load of a ton of people trying to call at the same time. So it’s best if all of you stopped trying, so that it works when you try again.” Everyone was dumbfounded at hearing this. A few people did not bother with this and continued to make calls back to their ancestors to use the BOZZ system. The secretary general looks at them while saying “Please do not call constantly, and please do not use BOZZ” while still staring at them. “Because there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop you from using BOZZ” he says while his screen is surrounded by ten soldiers with guns.
The allocation gets postponed again after a few hours. In the course of these few hours, calls could be made to the booth, but the calls would not be considered. Because there was a limitation to the booth that it could not be turned off for some reason. There was something weird Ethan noticed at this time, his preferred haven, the HS-21 was not available for allocation during this time. He had a bad feeling about this, but he didn’t think much of it at the time. To top all this, that day was Friday the thirteenth.
He just shook the thought off his head and went to speak with his friends over at the site. He wasn’t very confident about getting the haven, but if he gets any haven at all he decided he would work extra hard to visit HS-21 when he can, as inside the havens, work was considered currency. It didn’t feel very good, but it felt better than not getting a chance to go to HS-21 at all.
And just as the feeling of discomfort was about to vanish, there was an announcement from the UN. There was a bunch of stuff being said, but Ethan lost hope after the first point itself. “After a lot of discussion in the general assembly with the representatives of all the member nations, it has been decided that havensafe-21 has been removed from the list of available havens, as the UN realized the haven was added very recently and a few formal procedures haven’t been finished”. The world zooms out while Ethan zooms in into despair.
His one chance at enjoying his life before OLT hits. He sits down nearby. He starts overthinking. He curses out. Everyone around him was annoyed as well, but they only wanted similar havens because of the relatively less lack of work and brilliant scenery available. They wanted to enjoy their last few months in any place that was comfortable. But Ethan really wanted this. He talks to his friends. He vents out his frustration, and wonders what he must do. He had a preference order for the havens, his second choice was still available but he was disheartened, he didn’t even know if he should try anymore. He decides to not give up like last time and fight till the end. In this war, he shall prevail.
The allocation starts again, and really unsurprisingly, the machine doesn’t work. But the UN has backups this time, they restart the machine and even bring another identical machine. And eventually the UN secretary comes to the meeting and says ”We’ve done everything from our side, we will not be postponing this anymore, We’ll restart the machine again, it will restart in 15 mins, try your best, you can leave the meeting now”. With the last stand inching closer. Ethan keeps on trying. He occasionally talks to his friends while still trying.
Ethan stopped worrying about the meeting and spoke to his friends, while still trying to phone the booth. Suddenly his call went through, his mind went into autopilot and he booked his second preference, HS-17, and it got booked successfully without any errors. Ethan immediately notified and cheered for his friends to try. And while that was happening he looked around in dead silence as everyone was trying their best to book their preferred haven.
He looked up at the sky. It was beautiful, but Ethan wasn’t processing any of this. He was in a daze. He just sits nearby and waits for his friends to book their havens. He wasn’t happy getting his second preference, but he sure wouldn’t complain about it seeing how many people didn’t get it. He still felt like shit especially when the previous batch of allocations got HS-21, who had their allocations just a few days before. This was his last chance. And now he wouldn’t be able to visit Japan ever. He looks into the distance, and hopes that he makes the most out of his next few months before OLT hits.