In the first half of the 21st century, economic downturn and social upheaval led to the collapse of many nation states. Corporations expanded and a core of several conglomerates formed and took over many key industries, including fuel, manufacturing, media, and security. Most countries dissolved or sold large portions of land to these corporations. Remaining countries soon adopted radical ideologies to survive. Meanwhile, the United Nations reformed to become the United Global Confederation, a multinational entity with more power and authority, mostly in Europe and Oceania.
A new kind of official arose: the social administrator. Trained to incorporate economics, political science, and sociological analysis, the social administrator was tasked by their governments to assess the likelihood of insurrection, riot, or revolution in a given population.
Induction Facility #21
Territory of New Mexico, Desert Territories
Administrator Tiller arrived at the facility early in the morning, around 6:00 am local time. A squad of 8 SafeGuard security personnel had escorted him the entire way from Montreal, the regional capital of the Confederation. The UGC’s reliance on SafeGuard Securities and Protections, an effective outsourcing of the military, eased the strain on the Confederation’s budget. Tiller’s analysis indicated that UGC citizens supported SafeGuard’s actions across the world.
The UGC held a tentative alliance with the authoritarian Desert Territories, located in the American Southwest. After the collapse of the United States, after the failed invasion of Mexico, old American and Mexican states formed the Desert Territories to protect themselves from the uncertain times. The Territorial Guard, a massive army made up of hundreds of thousands of conscripts, protected the borders of the Territories against the Central American Union and corporate lands to the north.
Tiller’s role of regional administrator for the UGC required him to inspect the Territorial Guard to ensure their fitness in defending UGC interests in the region. Tiller never particularly enjoyed meeting with Desert officers, as they were arrogant and dismissive. However, it had to be done, and Tiller always got valuable intel from his visits.
The entrance to the facility was heavily guarded by female soldiers, sporting the classic Desert tan uniform. The SafeGuard personnel regarded the conscripts with a certain degree of respect, but they were not professionals in the corporate sense of the word. Tiller nodded at the guards as he showed them his papers. The two female guards, both with buzzcuts, opened the gates and allowed him to enter with two of his SafeGuard escorts.
After walking down a bare hallway, Tiller and his men were escorted into an office with a waiting officer. The Desert officer looked intimidating, even when seated. Her black hair was cut short into a crewcut, capped with a red beret. Her tan uniform was crisp and immaculate, a sign of her neatness. The officer, holding the rank of colonel, was comparatively young, but she put off an air that demanded respect.
Tiller, wearing a simple dark blue suit and orange tie, put his arm horizontally across his chest in the Desert salute, a deferential gesture for the colonel. She looked at him sternly for a moment, then softened her expression slightly.
“Mr. Tiller, I presume?” The colonel inquired stiffly. Her Spanish accent was present, but the Desert Territories enforced English as the official language.
“I am he, colonel.” Tiller responded.
“Colonel Mariana Ramirez. I welcome you to Induction Facility #21.” Her tone anything but welcoming. “This is an all-female facility, designed to induct and train female soldiers and auxiliaries for the Territorial Guard.”
“Excellent,” Tiller said. In truth, he never enjoyed touring these facilities. It was essentially a bunch of fascists displaying their overemphasized military power, compensating for their broken society. The Desert Territories was known for bad education, poor agriculture, and urban poverty. Still, as a Confederation ally, it held value beyond the sum of its parts.
Colonel Ramirez motioned for Tiller and his guards to accompany her. The tour was long, stretching into the later hours of the morning. The facility itself was decently impressive, especially its large stockpile of aircraft and military ration kits. However, toward the end of the tour, Colonel Ramirez stopped in front of a door at the end of the hallway. At the other end, a row of women and girls entered into the room through a door. They were all dressed in white T-shirts and tan pants, the uniform of conscripted recruits. They all wore long hairstyles, ranging from long bobs and shoulder-length shags to butt length braids and longer. Each recruit wore an expression of resignation or dismay.
“New recruits?” Tiller inquired. Colonel Ramirez smiled strangely.
“Of yes, Mr. Tiller.” Ramirez’s tone changed from strict to somehow sadistic. “We get dozens of new recruits every week. Today is the induction day, where they get uniforms, vaccinations, and especially, haircuts.”
Ramirez pronounced the last word with particular relish. Tiller furrowed his eyebrows. He turned and looked at the guard on his left, a tall blonde female soldier with long hair done in a braid to her mid back. SafeGuard was not a military, and so eschewed military restrictions on many things, namely hair. It was considered barbaric and unnecessary for many nations to cut a soldier’s hair short, as it had little value in the way of convenience, and its primary purpose was to degrade and humiliate.
Ramirez eyed the soldier’s braid.
“Maybe this woman could learn a lesson from our barbers,” the colonel said temptingly. Tiller frowned.
“Specialist Martin is a professional security officer, not a common conscript, colonel. Short haircuts offer no value for a soldier.”
“It depends on the message you are trying to send.”
Tiller cocked his head in confusion. Ramirez smiled, and she opened the door in front of her. Tiller and the guards followed her inside. Within the room, a shocking scene played out. Four barbers worked on new recruits, shearing their long hair to a short fuzz with electric clippers. The recruits looked stunned as their long locks were mercilessly cut short. The recruits entered from the left side of the room, waited their turns, and then stepped into a barbers chair to be shorn. Then, they exited through a door in the back on the right. At that very moment, Tiller saw a girl, no older than 17, sit in a chair with magnificent black hair tumbling past her waist to her hips. The barber, a surly looking woman with short curly hair, through a white pinstriped cape around the girl and immediately started with the clippers. Rivers of black tresses flowed over the cape and down onto the floor, which was already covered with hair of many different hues. A girl in another chair had her glorious wavy brown hair shorn to a crewcut as she looked down into her lap in sorrow, which was filled with her chopped-off locks.
Tiller realized that his move was hanging open, as was Specialist Martin’s. Colonel Ramirez looked at Tiller with satisfaction.
“This is how we do things in the Desert Territories. Each recruit is shaved, regardless of gender, race, or condition. The cut hair has a surprising number of applications. We use it in composting for agriculture, stuffing of pillows and lining of dresses, machine belts, to name a few. Of course,” she paused as she bent down and picked up an incredibly thick, three foot long dark brown braid. “Some of the hair we keep.”
Tiller stared at the events unfolding before him. The girls he had seen enter were already shorn after only a couple of minutes, and new victims had entered the barbershop. A recruit with thick coarse black hair to her waist was being buzzed, but she had a smile on her face as she was shorn. Another girl with curly dark brown hair to her mid-back laughed as her curls were ruthlessly cut off and fell into her lap. The barbers continued their work with grim determination, never changing expressions. One barber began to shave the head of a girl with an incredible black braid, the hue of which was almost navy blue in its intensity. The barber plunged the clippers into the girl’s hairline, and after a minute of clipping had severed the entire braid, along with the rest of the hair, intact and tossed it onto the floor.
“This is about domination,” Ramirez explained. “These girls have no other value than to the state, and they serve the state to earn value. They contribute their time, energy, intelligence, blood,” she paused to pick up a long length of dark brown hair, about 2 feet long, at her feet, “and hair.”
Specialist Martin narrowed her eyes as she saw a recruit with a long blonde braid, similar to hers but slightly darker, sit in a chair and the barber began to buzz the braid off at the nape of the neck. The braid stood no chance against the clippers, and it was dropped in the lap of the girl, who stared at it forlornly.
“As a servant of the great Desert Territories,” Ramirez went on, “I prefer to lead from the front. Observe, if you will.”
Ramirez stepped into the barbershop and indicated for one of the barbers, at the chair on the far right, to stand relieved. The barber, about to bring the clippers to the forehead of a young recruit, maybe 18 years old, with gorgeous black hair flowing over the white cape to what would have been her waist, stepped back and handed the clippers to the colonel. Ramirez took the clippers and immediately plowed them through the recruit’s thick hair, right at the forehead. The recruit gasped as her long hair was shorn so efficiently. Pass after pass sent masses of luscious blakc locks to the floor and onto the cape. Ramirez’s expression had turned from intense concentration to a pleasured smile. Tiller felt sick but at the same time he was fascinated. Did Ramirez get off by cutting hair? He had heard of this sort of thing before, but he had never seen it up close like this.
Ramirez carefully clipped the girl’s hair first on the left side, then the right. The girl’s face had changed from sadness to interest as her eyes darted upward to catch a glimpse of her long hair falling to the floor. The whole spectacle continued until the last of the girl’s glorious locks were shorn and had fallen to the floor. Ramirez, with a look of triumph and pleasure on her face, unpinned the cape and let her victim go free. The recruit immediately rubbed her newly buzzed hand with delight. She bounded off into the other room for the rest of her processing. Ramirez looked down at the huge pile of hair she had created with relish. Tiller gaped at the pile, and Ramirez looked up and returned to her place with the visitors.
“You see,” Ramirez said wryly, “leading from the front. I have my own crewcut maintained every three weeks, as do the rest of the recruits during their time at Facility #21. Now you know why we cut their hair short.”
Tiller nodded in awe. He had to admit, it was an effective message. The next victims with long hair had already sat down and were clipped like those who came before them. Ramirez smiled and walked through the door back down the hallway. Tiller and his escorts followed the colonel.
“Come, Mr. Tiller. We have the rest of the tour to do.”