Clear Springs Press

The Non-Conformity Chronicles

Chapter 6 - Why Me?

"Confusion comes from trying to frame an experience of reality into a belief system in which it does not fit. Confusion is also the result of a complete lack of a belief system or knowledge base that is relevant to the experience." - From The Non-Conformist Training Manual

         "Not unless you want to walk for two more long days, sleep on the ground and eat grubs and dandelions," she replied.

         Dora pulled a pocket terminal from one of her pockets, attached an interface module, extended its antennas and started typing. Such devices were occasionally used by maintenance workers where access to COMM terminals was limited. A few minutes later the bot paused, retracted its camera booms and started moving rapidly toward them. It came to within a few feet of Dora and stopped. They opened the hatches and climbed in. While it was normally operated in automated mode under computer control, it also had seats and control interfaces for human pilots and passengers. With a little more typing, Dora activated the manual controls and the bot sped down the highway.

         "You're hacking again, aren't you," he asked.

         "Of course I am. This is how everything works," she replied.

         "But won't the bot be missed and security sent out to find us?" he asked.

         "No. I only had to establish administrator access and take it off line. As far as the monitoring grid is concerned, we are invisible. We don't exist," she replied.

         "And if you didn't have these skills?" he asked.

         "We'd have to walk and stay out of sight," she replied.

         After a few minutes, Dr. Baker's fatigue caught up with him and he fell asleep in his seat. Hours later, Dora shook him to wake him up. They were entering the outskirts of the city. It was an eerie sight with completely empty streets and empty buildings. There were birds nesting on the tall buildings, deer and elk grazing in the parks, squirrels in the trees, and an occasional predator lurking in the shadows. In the distance, a small number of inspection and maintenance bots were making their rounds.

         "The maintenance bots and service personnel keep the vegetation in check enough to prevent damage to the structures. The structures and infrastructure is kept in functional repair and the apartments and offices are furnished and clean. Stores are stocked with merchandise and restaurants are stocked with non-perishable food," she said.

         "You mean there are no people here at all?" he asked.

         "Officially, there are only a few maintenance personnel on temporary assignment. Unofficially, some of my people use the facilities here for our work. Discretely of course! There are fiber optic network hubs, power connections and tube shuttle stations. It is all fully functional," she said. "We are very careful not to be detected. The only patrols here are the electronic sensor networks. We have, of course, re-wired them so that they always send back an image of complete boring stillness!"

         "Who are your people, and what is your work?" he asked.

         "All in due time, doctor. Our next step is to get to a motor pool and get a new vehicle," she replied.

         Dora pulled the inspection bot into a transportation terminal. They got out and she quickly reset the programming of the maintenance bot.

         "It will return to its prior location, resume its duties and delete all memory of our encounter," she said.

         There was no one around, but a variety of service and patrol vehicles were parked in the terminal. Dora quickly hotwired the controls on one of the patrol vehicles and they got in and sped away.

         "Wheeled vehicles were used before tube transport. It is slow but very versatile and fun." She glanced at him hanging on for dear life as the vehicle sped down abandoned streets.

         "What work?" he reminded her.

         "The world is much larger and more interesting than you have been told doctor."

         "What work?" he asked again.

         "Here is a piece of history that you don't know. At the time of the great economic revolution, the human race began a dramatic shift in its genetic structure. The manifest expression of psychic faculties became common and they led to a disruption of all of the control structures that existed at that time. It could have been a peaceful and wonderful transition to a better more enlightened system of living and expression, but the controllers fought to hold on to their power and control. To do so, they created the Central Accountant as a tool to monitor and control everyone and everything and they genetically modified everyone to facilitate conformity and suppress psychic faculties. Thus, your world was created."

         He knew that she had not been genetically modified, but never had he even suspected that a complete world existed completely separate from the one he knew. "You are not from my world are you?" he asked.

         "Not really," she replied.

         "You were not born in my world were you?" he asked.

         "No," she replied.

         "You haven't been genetically reprogrammed have you?" he asked again.

         "No," she replied.

         He already knew this but had refused to accept it. He sat silently slowly letting it sink in. The clues had been staring at him, but he had been slow to accept them. Only a few hours earlier, he had been living a comfortable, predictable, prestigious life. In the past 48 hours, he had been disowned and locked out of his entire world, made a fugitive and criminal, rescued by a mysterious non-genetically modified telepathic hacker, nearly eaten by an alligator, nearly drowned in a raging river, taken to an abandoned city that probably doesn't exist and is now heading at terrifying speed toward . . . an unknown that he could not allow himself to imagine.

         "What work?" he croaked.

         "I have to admit that I was surprised to see you at my window" she said. "I assumed that I would have to rescue you from custody. You were more resourceful and adaptable than I expected."

         "What do you mean?" he asked.

         "You live in a highly conformist society. Very few individuals would have the composure to face what you have experienced without completely losing it. You were a mess, but you made it. I think we made a good choice," she replied.

         "What do you mean?"

         "We need a genetic surgeon. So, we scanned the Central Accountant's databases looking for someone who was qualified to help us and who would need our help as well. You were identified. It was only a matter of time until you were taken in for genetic reprogramming to destroy your non-conformity and individuality. We save you from becoming a COMM terminal operating zombie and you help us with our work."

         "What work?" he asked again.

         "We intend to fix what is broken," she replied.

         "But there is nothing broken, the system is working perfectly," he replied.

         "Oh, I hadn't realized that. Perhaps you are right. I'll turn around and take you back. Your COMM terminal awaits you," she said.

         She hit the brakes and started turning around. They turned and looked at each other. Staring into one green eye and one blue eye sent a shiver down his spine . . . again.

         "So, what's broken?" he calmly asked.

         "The people are broken. Their birthright has been stolen from them by the genetic programming, social engineering, false indoctrination and forced conformity," she replied.

         "But genetic programming has eliminated disease, increased the lifespan and . . . ," he said as he reacted.

         "And that is good. But the enforced conformity has taken the creativity, joy and fun out of life. More important, it has stopped all growth and evolution of the human being. How much joy did you see in the face of that COMM terminal operator that you spoke with? And that's not all. The psychic faculties are supposed to be a natural part of everyone. They are supposed to be used in a positive constructive manner to enable everyone to explore the deeper meaning of life," she added.

         "What are psychic faculties?" he asked.

         "The sense of knowing something without intellectually knowing why or how, the ability to communicate without speaking, the ability to communicate non-verbal messages with non-human intelligence, the ability to see without using your eyes, the ability to separate your consciousness from your body, the ability to be something more than a group of defined limitations," she responded.

         "That sounds absurd," he replied.

         "How do you think I shielded you from the scanners? How do you think I heard you thinking when you weren't speaking? Where do you think I got the passwords to hack into the Central Accountant?" she responded.

         "Are you saying that everyone should be able to do that?" he asked.

         "Absolutely!" she replied.

         "So do you want to be a COMM terminal operator, or do you want to help us with our work?" he asked.

         "What work . . . exactly?" he asked again.

         "We need to restore the genetic traits for individuality, creativity and psychic faculties in the entire population. To do that, we need your help. So, COMM terminal operator or hero, what's it gonna be?" she asked.

         "Either way, I'm dead," he replied.

         "Not likely, but if it should go wrong, how would you rather die, as an elderly zombie slumped over your COMM terminal or as the man who did the right thing?" she asked.

         "Can you not mention the COMM terminal operator again?"

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