Exhausted, a man in his mid twenties has completed the long walk to his residence from Terminus XX21, the central rail station in his city - his only method of transportation to and from the soy mill where he was assigned to work for the past four annui.
Part of the “Producer Level One” group, “Lor” was in his prime of productivity, so his hours of efficiency were longer than any other “PL group” - fourteen…would be fifteen but he was afforded a travel time allowance due to his consistent, accurate reporting of threats to the council’s security.
Snitching on his pod-mates strained him. Wore his conscience thin. Knowing the other pod-mates he had turned in were exe…he couldn’t even think the word. He still had nightmares of about the stories of the cybernetically enhanced beasts at the camps. . . but those were just . . . rumors. . .right?
Don’t, he said to himself. The council is safe, so we are safe.
He scrunched his face to burrow his eyes…blocking out not only the incessant light from the excessive number of street lights, but the light of mental examination as well.
Tattling on your neighbors was a highly esteemed virtue. There was nothing personal in it, save that you were personally benefiting.
He kept his stride swift, eyes to the pavement, head tilted down. Slowing as he reached his pod, he looked up, taking in the gray-tinged glass square structure. No curtains, or walls…only opaque dividers existed around each floor’s communal toilet and sterilization area of the four story cube. Totally alike to every other cube, this had been the closest thing to home he had been permitted to have, being the longest he had spent anywhere.
The other sixty-three residents of this cube were also “PL1”, though he was the only one assigned to the soy mill. A fact for which he was always grateful, as spending only minimal and almost exclusively sleeping hours with them was preferable due to him hating them all. Other people always seemed to get in the way or need something. Or be selfish and do stupid things that didn’t benefit the collective. The pod was like a family, but better. You only owed each other cohesion to the council directives. Better than family. True unity. Cube “PL1-A4”. Sixty-four ideal residents.
Climbing the stairs and stepping into his pod, he casually nods to his 3 other pod mates - all penised individuals: “Pat” sat against the exterior glass, “Kyl” in their bunk (the male genitalia was not necessarily indicative of their actual gender…it was never spoken of), “Ter” doing pushups in the middle of the space.
Owning nothing made daily life and chores simple - get up, put on the daily-delivered uniform allotted by your work assignment, perform daily sanitary tasks, travel to work assignment, consume efficiency nutrients (this month it was PeriPlaneta brand), report for hours of efficiency, consume recovery nutrients prior to departure, return home and place used uniform in the collection bin by the entrance…no doors in the pod-space, no meals, no messy cooking or laundry. This was a life of purpose and zero waste. A life of contentment, designed by the council. A life made for Lor by a group of citizens that knew what was best for the collective was what was best for the individual.
He entered the pod space, stripped his uniform into the bin, and made his way to his bunk. The need to urinate was strong, but going to bed early gave him something to do later in the evening…an excuse to be out of the pod space and in the communal toilet…alone. And he had plans for that alone time. Plans…no one could know.
A model producer, Lor followed every rule to the letter. Correct hours of sleep between the minimum of seven and maximum of nine. Relentless endurance at the mill, stepping away only to relieve himself at 2 of his allotted 5 break periods during the day…working through the rest. Always exceeding quota, never stopping early when reaching it. Accurate reporting of all podmate activity both voluntarily and when questioned.
A model resident.
But Lor had a secret even he was only barely aware of, so buried in the recesses of his mind that he couldn’t fathom it awake or in slumber. But it was about to come roaring into the forefront.
The buzzer sounded - it was time for the pre-sleep ejaculator session.
For no more than five minutes, a small suctioned-powered contraption descended from the ceiling and the penised residents were compelled to insert their anatomy into an autonomous semen extractor. If expression was achieved within that five minute period or less, residents had ten seconds to vacate the terminal before it closed again.
No one knew where those emissions went.
No one…but Lor. He had found something out that he shouldn’t have. He forewent this daily ritual as he desired to maintain his full wit for his brief time in the toilet area. His plans, if you could call them plans, were to enter a stall, shut the door, and read the shred of paper he found on his morning commute that he had expertly placed in his shoe, which now was, in a fashion, “glued” to the bottom of his foot. He hadn’t seen much paper as it had been banned and all news, data, and records had been kept electronically for a few generations now, but somehow a two inch, jagged scrap of it made him question everything he thought he knew.
A tiny scrap of paper with unsettling words. Words that had already begun to change him.
After the sound of a few dozen residents of the cube climaxing had subsided and the chime signaled the hours for sleeping, he quietly observed his pod mates were reduced to husks of themselves in their bunks, now drifting to sleep. Come morning he would be first to wake, but tonight, the last asleep. He slipped out of his bunk and quietly glided through the pod space into the hallway. While the lights in the cube were off, the entirely unobstructed glass exterior walls meant the copious street lights illuminated everything inside and out as though it were daylight. Reaching the toilet area, he opened the frosted glass door, and after verifying the room’s emptiness, found a toilet stall, entered and shut it.
You have to read it. All of it. There can’t be any mistakes. Then you have to get rid of it.
He was having to psych himself up to violate nearly every rule that now existed. He reached down, pinched a corner of the scrap, and stopped just before pulling. He recognized now it was not curiosity holding him, it was fear.
The fear that the words on that scrap of paper meant what he immediately thought they meant; “Specimen samples from nightly extractor units, used to further research through breeding programs” burned into his mind.
He had to know. He started to pull. The frosted glass door opened.
“Lor…that you?” It was a penised-male's voice. “Sen” from another pod on the fourth floor.
Lor hastily put his foot to the ground and sat on the metal toilet as scattered thoughts came:
Shit. Sen was on the train with me this morning on his way to the mill. He must have seen.
The main door shut and Sen’s footsteps were soft but vectored intentionally toward Lor’s stall.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Busy day today…saw you finished over five thousand units again.”
Chuckling lightly Lor replied; “Yeah. Don’t know when to quit.”
“Big fire outside the town. Heard it hit a containment facility. Wind blowing ash and…all kinds of stuff around today.”
“I guess that explains the burnt smell,” Lor said, trying to cover his growing fear.
“Yeah well…” a long pause preceded a statement which triggered an even longer pause, “I saw you tying your shoe on the train…”
Lor’s mind immediately saw the scrolling screen of laws and their penalties that repeated throughout the day on the trains to and from work, and in the work toilets.
The punishment for possessing illegal materials like printed works of any kind was severe. Losing not only your entertainment credits and movement permits but a host of other penal measures awaited even just an accusation, let alone a conviction.
And a voluntary eyewitness report to the council was a guaranteed removal from the pod, work, everything.
No one knew where you were reassigned to, but there were always rumors. Lor's response would be the line between life and death and he had already sensed the mental alarm of an excessive passage of time.
To Be Continued…