by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
"Attention Bob Sandom, Block 15, Sector 57, Central North Freedom."
At that instant, the wall switched from the latest sensie starring Lythia Anthrass and changed to the symbol of Freedom as Williamson spoke directly to him.
"Bob Sandom. It has been determined that for the good of this city you must undergo conversion into a new form. By law the decisions of the brains are absolute and uncontestable. Report immediately to the local Transmorgrification Centre to enter your new form. That is all."
And then the screen blanked and silence fell, the first silence Bob had ever heard in his entire existence as a content sampler for Pediatric Industries. He'd heard rumours -- everybody had heard rumours -- about the Transmorgrifcation Centre.
What the hell was he going to do?!
He liked his job! He'd been picked for it genetically at birth by Harvey himself! Or so the records on his genetic files stated. What the hell?!
He could appeal. That was it! But the message had said that he couldn't... Wait! It had to be a recording, a mistake. It had been the voice of Williamson, the ruling Brain of his sector, but that could be faked. Everybody had heard of the Underground.
Bob couldn't help but shudder even at the thought of the Underground, those who refused to work for Freedom and expected Freedom to give them what they needed.
He knew where Williamson was -- where the local Brain was. Everybody did. He would go there, directly, tell his story, help the authorities destroy the Underground.
With that thought, Bob forced himself up from his chair, his athletic frame shaking at its first movement in months, and pulled the IV feeds from his arm. Oblivious to the droplets of crimson blood, he staggered to the door which opened flooding his room with salt air from the dark polluted sea far below the platforms. Then, as his limbs and mind remembered how to move, he turned down the hallway, making the way towards Williamson's home. Bob ran faster, easier, inhaling the sweet fresh air filled with the scent of contented and employed humanity. He'd never been out, but he knew the way -- it was always shown, audiences were broadcast, and it had been stated time and again that all were welcome.
"Bob Sandom! In the name of the Brains of Freedom stop!"
Years of conditioning wanted him to stop, but he only let himself slow down. Behind him he could hear the soft hum of the Law Enforcers as their metallic bodies floated above the metal.
"Bob Sandom! The decision has been made by Williamson for your own good. Please do not make us use force."
He was almost at a corner. Just a little further, a little...
Bob dove around the corner, just in front of the electrical bolts that impacted where he had been seconds ago.
"Bob Sandom! It is not too late. Do not resist -- this is for your own good. Freedom exists to serve the good of all!"
Bob ran, frantic, his genetically perfect lungs, maintained in perfect shape along with his muscles by machines as he slept, sucking in the fresh air. He could smell clean contented humanity all around him, but he knew with a chilling realization that no one would help him. To them he was part of the Underground. Even though it was all lies, a setup, they didn't know that. Williamson didn't know that.
Williamson had to be told for the good of all!
The humming of the enforcers suddenly grew louder behind him as they rounded the corner, and Bob instinctively ducked into a cross corridor as more bolts of stunning electricity ionized the air behind him.
Where was he? Where the hell was he?! Bob had never seen this area on the display. It was dim, and though the white plastic was spotlessly clean, he saw spots of decay, specs of whiteness from the few rodents who resisted the attempts of the Brains to hunt them down and infect them with nanites so that they could serve Freedom.
Bob didn't know what to do. In all the sensies it was easy, obvious, the hero was always vindicated, the system always worked! All he could do was run, his soft shoes rasping the plastic sealed grate that held him above the cold ocean far below.
Faintly behind him he heard, "Bob Sandom, stop resisting the Brains. This is for the good of all, for the good of Freedom, for your own good."
"NO!" Screaming he stumbled, rolling along the warm plastic, scraping his skin in a soft shush and staining the whiteness with red. He wouldn't end like this. He refused to let the Underground win. His lungs heaving, he picked himself up and ran forward, hoping, knowing the system would work, knowing that the system would vindicate him because the system was perfect...
Suddenly he was within a brightly lit square, white, empty. Lights blazed, doors remained shut, but the statue in the middle, the anthropormorphic rabbit, all told him where he was. He was almost there. Almost!
Then humming came from all around him. Calm voices filled the square, relaxing. "Bob Sandom! Please stop. We understand why you run. We understand --"
"I WILL NOT LET THE UNDERGROUND WIN!!" Remembering the sensies he'd viewed and had his reactions recorded about, he fell to the white floor and rolled, placing his body below the electrical storm that suddenly appeared above him as the Enforcers fired at where he had been. Then he was up, as they recharged, and then out of the square and down a main corridor. The corridor was empty, white, like all the rest, but somehow it was warmer, friendlier, for it led to Williamson.
There was the entrance! Colonnaded, a pale yellow that was warm and friendly. He was almost...
"Bob Sandom! This is your last chance. You must listen to the Brains. This is for your good, for the good of Freedom!"
"IT'S LIES, ALL LIES!" Staggering, Bob ran into the doors, knowing in his heart of hearts that they would open, that they would welcome him in so that he could explain to Williamson, to all the Brains that ran Freedom, that he was innocent. Knowing absolutely that those divine beings, mortal centuries ago and raised into cyber-enhanced neural existences that served only the good of all, knowing that those disembodied brains would listen. Knowing...
Bob knocked himself out as he ran into the door that remained shut.
Deep beneath Freedom, deep inside one of the massive sewage waste tubes, the creature that had once been Bob Sandom clung to the wall, piping the filthy water in and through his body. He was massive, his genetic structure transformed into something that most closely resembled a long extinct starfish. With slow movements he crawled along the pipe, eagerly inhaling the filth of Freedom and cleansing it through his body. In the distance he sensed a clump of industrial waste, and moved towards it, distending his body and extending out his stomach that glistened in the water until it engulfed the piece of flesh drenched rib and began to consume it. He had been wrong, oh so wrong, to resist. The Brains had been right, he had let the Underground control him. Through the pipe the same sensies he'd once sampled played, and in his mind he sang along with them. "Inside out, inside out, in the service of Freedom..."
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org