The old man sat on the sidewalk outside the granite building.
He removed his left shoe and massaged his foot through the sock, looking toward the sign at the entrance: "People's Village of Concord". Finally he coughed and stood up. He walked through the wide doors and stopped, confused.
There were dozens of offices along a dimly-lit hall, and from several of these were long lines of dejected people winding back through the corridor.
Haltingly he stepped past a few lines and resignedly picked one at random.
An hour passed, during which he moved forward in fits and starts, dozing from time to time, punched awake by those behind him when the line moved again. At last he came to a cluttered desk and a cluttered dignitary behind the desk.
"Where did it go?" he asked.
"Lost and Found is up on the fifteenth floor, next to Security," the clerk replied.
"No, the dream, the Free State, we were winning. I think we were winning," he wailed.
She looked at him more carefully. He had to be a hundred years old, wearing a tattered jacket that must once have been of some military style. He didn't seem to be a danger, but this Free State talk, every child in the People's Creche knew you could go straight to jail for that. But it didn't seem right to turn a senile old guy in to the Sedition Squads just for babbling.
"I didn't catch what you said. This is the Land Development Office, Residential Section," she said. "You may have been directed to the wrong area. If you want a Building Permit to paint your bathroom wall, please fill out these forms and pay the cashier, and we'll call you in a few weeks to let you know if it is approved. Otherwise I would advise you to go home and sleep, and don't talk to anyone today."
The old man appeared to straighten and grow. His eyes blazed, and he tried to stand up. He pulled back his jacket, exposing a holster. He grabbed at the holster and the clerk screamed and pushed a red button on her desk. But a fit of coughing overtook the old man and he collapsed back into the chair.
When the Security guard arrived the old man was sobbing softly. The guard pulled his arms behind his back and squeezed his thumbs together. He pulled a whittled twig out of the old man's holster.
"He's harmless, just a nut reliving the bad old days I guess. We'll take care of him."
The clerk was still shaking. "You don't think he's a Republican?"
"Nah, you think those baby-eaters would let a decrepit old guy live so long? You know what they're like, survival of the fittest, no compassion, no souls. He must have been in the People's Home for years; somebody's gonna be sorry they didn't watch him more closely."
The old man was snuffling, looking beseechingly from one face to the other. "What about Wyoming? Did they make it?"
The guard's face hardened. "You must really be out of it, that's all a long time ago. You'd better come along and watch your filthy mouth."
"Shot heard 'round the world?"
The guard laughed. He patted the old man's shoulder. "You've got the wrong Concord, wrong century, wrong life. Don't worry about it, everything's going to be fine."
The old man was gently guided back to the street and along the sidewalk for two blocks, then into a parking lot. The guard unlocked a stall and took out an underfed mare, then unlocked a two-wheeled cart and harnessed the horse to it. He helped the old man into the cart and they started off down the street.
After a few miles they turned right onto a bumpy road and continued for another hour. Suddenly a shadow passed over them and the guard nearly jumped out of his seat. He pulled a baton out of a loop on his uniform and brandished it at the golden craft that was settling down before the cart.
A man and a woman stepped out of the machine and walked to the cart. The man said, "If they're not going to let you have guns, at least they ought to teach you not to wave a stick at armed men."
The guard bristled. "You have no authority here. I'm going to report this as soon as I can find a working telephone."
The woman said, "The Treaty of 2015 gives us the authority to protect our Citizens as long as they don't violate any of our laws. You know that we don't recognize most of yours. This man wants to go peacefully about his business, and I demand that you hand him over to us."
The guard said, "Fine, he's your problem, but there's gonna be trouble if you stay here. All the Treaty gives you is undisturbed passage; you can't set up shop here and do... those things you let people do."
The man and the woman accompanied the old man to the flying machine and took to the air. "Thank God for the GPS system in his jacket, Zack must be badly dehydrated, so confused," the woman said. "He's never gotten this far before." She turned the craft to the north.
In a few minutes a mile-high golden wall appeared on the horizon. It curved away to both sides and was at least five miles across. The woman flew the machine over the huge sign on the wall: