Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"SWEAT BOX" (1984)

This story started as a sort of remake of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS - with obvious influences from Huxley, Orwell and George Lucas (his THX 1138).


David N. Nevarrez

“The Protector will keep you from
harm. Trust in the Protector.”

They climbed the seemingly endless gray stairs. He coughed from the exertion. At one point, he had to stop and rest against the wall to catch his breath. She stopped immediately beside him. She looked down at his frail bent form. “Shall I carry you?” she
asked, her voice a monotone.
“No,” he gasped, “I’ll be alright.”
After several minutes they continued the ascent. All about them was the lifeless gray of their cement world, deep within the war ravaged earth. He wondered to himself if they were really the survivors of the nucleur devastation. After all, they were buried under ground.
Finally, they reached their destination. A sign over the door read CAPTAIN OF SECURITY. They entered.
Behind the compact metal desk in the little gray office, sat a robot, crudely made to look like a woman. As they entered, it’s head swivelled towards them.
“May I help you, SR1018-13?” it asked in synthesized voice.
“I was told the Governor of Computer Operations is here seeing the Captain.”
“That is correct.”
“I need to see both of them. It’s about the special project I’ve been working on.” He looked sidewise at his companion.
“Just a moment,” replied the robot. It clicked and clacked for a moment. Then it said “You may enter.”
The pair walked through sliding steel doors.
Inside they found a large gray office. At the far end stood a large uncluttered steel desk, behind which a tall swivel chair faced the wall. To one side of the desk stood the Captain, broad shouldered and straight backed, in his neatly pressed blue uniform. His broad, hard face was stiff and flat.
“May you always be protected,” chimed SR1O18-13. The Captain simply grunted in reply.
As they approached the desk the woman glanced at a man sitting in a chair that faced the desk. He turned to look at the newcomers. His horse face was riddled with scars, resembling patchwork. He wore the green uniform of Military Police. Ignoring the man he gave the woman a good looking over, his eyes growing hard.
“How nice of you to come,” came a voice from the swivel chair. The woman looked at her companion.
Lazily the chair turned to face them. Seated in it was a middle-aged man wearing a voluminous black robe. His thinning blonde hair was pasted to his head, his round baby-face clean shaven and well scrubbed. His half closed deep blue eyes merely faced their direction,
focusing on nothing.
SR1O18—13 made a slight step forward. “I came as soon as I was finished.”
The Captain’s pale gray eyes fixed on the woman. “Who is this woman?” he demanded.
“Is she it?” asked the man in the swivel chair, sitting forward, his eyes flaring up with keen interest.
“Yes, Governor.”
“Explain to the Captain what it is.”
SR1O18—l3 looked to the Captain. “ is an android. The Governor asked SR1008-25 and I to create a robot for the Military Police.” He then noticed the frowning glare on the Governor’s darkening face. The Governor leaned forward, clasping his hands in front of him.
“You should not mention that SR. She displeased me greatly.” He again looked at the android. “Fool! It looks like that SR!”
SR1O18—l3 looked down at his feet, which squirmed about. Almost inaudibly, but firmly, he answered “Yes.”
“I hope for your sake, 1018, that you did not intend to anger the Governor!” barked the Captain.
1018 looked from the Captain to the Governor. “May I be sent outside if such a thought ever crossed my mind.” He struggled to smile.
The Governor sat back, regaining some of his former composure.
“No offense," pleaded the SR.
“None taken,” waved the Governor, “for the moment. So, tell us more about the robot.”
SR cleared his throat. “She is fully programmed in fighting, weaponry, and persuasion. She will not tire. Only superficial wounds are possible. She has an independent computer, which recharges itself during down time, and which can communicate with the Central Computer at all times. She is the perfect M.P.” He thought of the long arduous
hours, his fervour the only thing keeping him from collapse. He thought of his love for SR1008—25.
The scarfaced MP chuckled. It was the first sound he had made. SR looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
“Well,” said the Governor after a moment's pause, “shall we put your toy to the test?”
“If it pleases your honour,” answered SR.
“It does.” He looked at the Captain. “Captain, can you think of a good test for this robot?”
“How about the case we were discussing with MP1042-112?”
“Yes, that’s it!” beamed the Governor. “A contest. The robot versus the human. Winner take all.”
MP1042—112 shifted uneasily in his chair, squinting at the android.
The Governor chuckled. “Well, 112? What do you say? If you win I’ll give you one hundred food credits.”
“And if I lose?”
The Governor just smiled.
“I think you had better not lose,” suggested the Captain.
The MP frowned deeply. He looked again at the android, then at the Governor.
“Do I have a choice?” he asked, knowing the answer.
The Governor looked at SR. “And if your robot wins, you will make more of them, and you will get one hundred food credits.”
SR bowed.
“Captain, give the robot it’s orders.”
“Yes sir.” The Captain picked up a file from off the desk and turned to the android. “In the Computer Maintenance block there is a worker who has been preaching rebellion to her co—workers, as well as workers in other areas. A few hours ago she illegally acquired top secret information from the Brain.” He looked from the android to the MP. “You two will seek out and execute the rebel and destroy her stolen information.” He paused. “You will find her in the CM Womens Block.”
The MP stood, bowed, and turned to go. The android looked at SR.
“You have your orders, robot! Carry them out!” demanded the Captain.
“You must obey the Captain,” SR spoke quietly.
“Yes,” was all the android said. She turned and went out behind the MP.

“The Protector gives the Law,
the Brain interprets the Law,
the Governors enforce the Law.”

She sat on her cot in her sleeping cubicle, #67, reading the computer printout she held in her lap again and again. She wore the light blue coveralls of a Computer Maintenance worker. The I.D. tag over her left breast read “CM1053—67”.
She put the printout down, put her face in her hands.
Another CM, 1050-83, came and stood in her doorway.
“They’ll be coming, you know,” she said.
“I know,” answered CM1053—67.
“You should leave.”
“And go where?”
The other CM carefully looked up and down the passageway between the two rows of cubicles, all so close together, the doors all closed. She then stepped into the tiny room. She sat down next to 67. Keeping an eye on the doorway, she whispered “PP1053-133 has found a way to Outside.”
“Outside?” 67’s eyebrows creased, her eyes searched her friend’s face.
“Yes, Outside,” said the friend. “You are sure it’s safe, aren’t you?” Fear crept into her voice.
1053-67 held up the printout. “According to this, yes, most definitely.”
1050-83 looked at the printout. “But what if it’s a trap?”
“This is classified info, straight from the Brain. I had to break in to get it.”
83 considered this. “Yes, of course.”
67 broke in on 83’s thoughts, “What about this exit 133 found?”
83 leaned close to 67. “133 took some equipment into an old storeroom. He noticed a door at the back and decided to check it out. When he opened it he found stairs leading up. He climbed them, until he came to a door marked ‘DANGER - DO NOT OPEN’. He believes, and I agree, that it leads to Outside.”
They were both silent.
“I guess it’s my only chance.” Her hands shook slightly.
“133 is on shift now. He can show you the way.” She paused a moment. “You should go now. They probably know about the theft already, with all their security.”
“Yes. I knew they would find out. But I had to know. They have been lying to us for so long.”
“But now what?” queried her companion.
“I shall go Outside, and see what there is to see.”
83 put her arm around 67.
“I had thought I was completely abandoned.” 67 tried to smile.
83 looked at the open door. “I’m afraid 133 and I are the only ones. The others are afraid.” She turned back to 67. “You should leave right now.”
“Yes. Let me jUst gather a few things.”
“Fine. I’ll go down the row to see if any MP’s are coming.”
CM1050-83 got up and walked out. CM1053-67 folded the printout and put it into a pocket of her coveralls. She picked up her jacket, put a clean pair of underpants and a few food bars into the pockets. She looked about the tiny rectangular room. Then she stepped out into the passageway, looked down to the end just as her friend turned the corner. Then she turned and walked briskly in the opposite direction.

“The Protector will keep you
safe from the poison Outside.”

CN1050—83 died with a snap of her neck. She had not even seen MP1042-112. He had grabbed her from behind, twisted her head with skill and speed, and let her drop to the floor.
He smiled, then moved on.

“Worry not.
Let our Governors worry for us.”

The android listened in to MP1042-112’s conversation with Security Eyes over his transcom. He had found CM1053-67’s cubicle just as she escaped, could they locate her via Electro-Eyes.
After several minutes she was found in Sector 5, where the Breeding Labs were.
The android followed the MP, keeping out of sight.

“For your safety,
report all deviant behavior
to your work supervisor
or a Military Police asap.”

She stood looking at the entrance to the Power Plant. Only authorized personnel were to be admitted. It was the same in all the Occupaes. Workers were not supposed to be anyplace out of their Occupa, cubicle, or sector eatery, unless otherwise directed by a Governor, their assistants, or an MP.
But she had to get in. She walked up to the SG on duty, in his little booth beside the entrance.
The SG slid the door open. “What are you doing here?” surprise breaking his intended bark.
“I’m tracing a power surge in one of the formulators.” She took a breath. “We need to check your output gauges.” She was more suprised than he, but she managed to keep her face impassive.
He came out of the booth. He looked her up and down. Then before she could react he was hit over the head by PP1053-133 with a wrench.
“Come on, quickly!” he gasped.
Security Eyes alerted the MP.

“Give thanks to the Supreme Trilogy
Our Father, the Protector,
his creation, the Brain,
their attendants, our Governors.”

MP1042-112 walked briskly past the Breeding Labs. Without stopping he spun on his heel and examined the passageway behind him. No one in sight. Just the empty gray corridor. Where’s that damned robot, he wondered as he turned back to his direction.
He couldn’t stop the nagging feeling it was right behind him.

“It is the Conception Day of
the Governor of Food Processing.
All workers’ meal break will
be extended to ten minutes."

“Did you have to bit him so hard?” she asked, her voice tight. “You know they saw you?”
PP1053-133 looked at the wrench in his hand. He looked at her face. “We don’t have time for this.” He fidgeted.
She sighed. “Show me the way Out.”
He lead her through a maze of machinery and piping. Women and men sat at their posts. They moved only as much as required in their duties. Their eyes were drooping and glazed. Only rarely did a worker look at the pair as they passed by, and then they gave a blank stare.
It was just another shift in the “sweat box”.

“It has been confirmed by the Red Expedition
that our retaliatory strike against the Enemy
almost two thousand years ago was a success.
As our Governors have said all along,
the Protector is on our side.”

The MP reached the Power Plant, where, a few minutes ago, Security Eyes had located the rebel CM. He stopped over the unconscious SG. He looked over his shoulder down the way he had come. What was that?! Movement? All was still. Now.
He turned back to face the depths of machines humming rhythmically.
Hey!” came a booming voice. MP1042—112 looked to his left to see the PP Day Sup huffing towards him. “What’s going on?!”
The Sup stopped when he saw the prostrate body of the SG.
“MP matter,” answered 112, not straining to raise his voice above the noise. He went back to examining possible routes his quarry could have taken.
“One of my workers is missing from his post,” offered the Sup.
“Who?” demanded 112, louder than before.
The Sup looked at his digiscreen, at the circled ID number. “PP1053—133.”
Where could they go, the MP asked himself.

“The Governor of Waste Disposal has passed into
the Company of the Protector,
far above the poisoned Outside.”

PP1053-133 opened the door to the storage room and let CM1053—67 enter first. He closed the door behind them. He leaned against it.
She watched his face. She leaned towards him and wiped the sweat from his brow. He struggled to smile.
They moved closer together. Their hands moved, searching for what to do. How to express their feelings.
It was forbidden.

“Congraulations are to be given to TE1060-19
who has been successfully Transinduced
into the Afterlife.”

Security Eyes had seen the CM and PP enter the storage room, and alerted MP1042-112. He had the Sup lead the way.
As they twisted through the sweaty machines and workers, 112 thought how glad he was not to be one of the latter. He liked his job. He had almost free reign of the city. If he didn’t like someone, he busted their head. If he liked a woman, he took her (as long as it didn’t interfere with her work shift).
The PP Sup stopped in front of the storage room door. Sweat poured down his face. The MP felt his own coveralls sticking to his body. He wiped his forehead.
“This is it?” he asked the Sup.
“Is there another door?”
“You can go back to work. I’ll take care of the situation.”
The Sup turned and walked back to his post.
The MP turned to the door, opened it, and stepped into the storage room. He looked the room over. Dusty, old bits and pieces of machinery were piled up and scattered throughout the room.
He crouched down to examine the dust on the floor for disturbances. He followed a trail to the back, uncertain of how recently it had been made.
The android slipped in the door quickly, without making a sound. It kept behind the piled equipment, listening to the MP’s footsteps.
Down behind a large generator crouched 67 and 133, breathing as little as possible. MP1042-112 stepped suddenly in front of them, his Phantom IV drawn and aimed. They rose slowly.
“So what now?” the CM asked evenly.
“Don’t you know?” returned the MP.
“Of course.”
PP1053—133 attempted a plea, “But she has...”
“Shut up!” the MP cut him off, and backhanded his face for emphasis.
He aimed his Phantom IV between -67’s eyes. —133 grabbed her arm, fear filling his eyes. One side of MP’S mouth curled up slightly.
-67 gave a deep sigh, “Just following orders. No questions asked.”
“I enjoy it,” replied the MP sardonically.
-67 gave a dry laugh. “Fool. Will you spend your pathetic life wallowing in ignorance?”
The MP wasn’t completely sure why, but the question hit a nerve. He didn’t hear the android step up behind him, but he saw the quizzical looks in —67 and -133’s faces. As he turned on the ready, the android grabbed his gun-hand round the wrist, twisted it easily, with an audible snap. The MP cried out, dropping his weapon.
Both -67 and -133 stared at the android uncomprehendingly.
“Who are you?” asked -67, feeling a strange dread in the pit of her stomach.
The android looked at the CM. “You are CM1053-67?”
-67 pulled nervously on her overalls, took a deep breathe, and nodded.
“RUN!” yelled the PN as he dove, the wrench at the ready, at the android. —67 ran, as the android easily grabbed -133’s upswung arm, and threw him on past her into the machinery behind it.
As it looked back it found -67 had moved out of sight, but with it’s enhanced "hearing" could detect her movements heading to the other side of the storage room. As it preceded to follow, the PP jumped it from behind, upon which it promptly flung him over it’s shoulder, slamming him to the ground on his back, the force of which knocked the wind and his senses out of him. The android then quickly continued in it’s pursuit of it’s quarry.
The android detected the sound of a door softly open and close at the far end of the room. It headed straight, as the debris would allow, to the door, which had an ineffectual sign reading “NO EXIT”, through which it exited.
The android found itself before a metal stairway leading up to other sets of stairways, upon which the CM was ascending. The android follows.
The android came upon the CM at the top of a last set of stairs, across from a door on which was written “DEATH BEYOND, THE OUTSIDE, POISON, GO BACK!” The CM had her hand on the doorhandle. She looked back at the android, and said “Come with me,” then she opened the door and passed through. The android followed.

Yes, this is Outside. It’s sensory mechanisms told it so. It’s computer brain rattled off the incoming information, which came in a flood.
Colour. Green, red, brown, blue, yellow. It is everywhere. And all organic. It is as close set as the cement walls, but there is no feeling of confinement.
A small creature hops up on a rock and peers at the android. It is a slimy grey, with spots of rusty red hair, it’s four limbs connected by membrane. It’s eyes are fully black.
Looking past the curious little creature, the android sees the CM twirling about, running her hands over everything within reach.
“Look!” cries -67. “It’s like the Brain said. No poison. The Governors have been lying to us. We don’t have to live in hell anymore. We’re free!”
“Please explain,” queries the android, monotonously.
“Don’t you understand?” -67 asks, stopping suddenly.
“The data given on the Outside says that the air is filled with radioactive particles, leaving everything dead.
“It’s a lie. The Governors didn’t want to lose their control. They kept up the fear of the radiation all these years after it ceased to be a threat.” She steps forward, causing the little creature on the rock to jump off into the underbrush. “We can live on the surface again. We can put an end to the Governors’ tyranny.”
“It means to control with cruelty. I came across the word once when I was fooling around in the Brain. I learned a lot I wasn’t supposed to from the Brain.”
“But this is illogical.”
“I was sent to kill you. To cease your threat to the city. That was what I was created for.”
“I am an android. I am programmed to carry out justice.”
“But the Governors are unjust. Don’t you see?”
There is a pause as electrons fire in the android’s brain. “Your conclusions are logical.”
There is a rustling in a tree overhead. The android and the CM look up as a large—winged, multi—coloured creature buzzes out of the foliage and swoops down just missing —67’s head as she ducks. In it’s return dive it heads for the android who grabs it just below the face. The creature’s powerful mandibles bite into the android’s wrist, cutting only slightly through the steel-chip latex.
“Don’t hurt it!” cries the CM.
The android tosses the creature back into the bush, where it scrambles away.
The android looks at CM1053-67.

They look down upon strange looking structures, of many different colours, nestled together, surrounded by trimmed vegetation.
“I think those are houses,” -67 says wistfully. “Humans used to live in them, before the War.”
They hear strange sounds as they approach, which seem human in nature.
Stealthily they creep between two of the buildings until they see a large central area covered in green. There are a number of children of many different ages running and jumping about. The noise is emanating from the children. The scene brings back memories to the CM, of her childhood in The Nursery. Until she was of working age, 13 years, she had thought The Nursery was all there was. She is puzzled by the open world these children have. And hurt.
She looks at the android. “Do you know what this is?”
“I have been receiving new information, preprogrammed to be released by being Outside. It seems the Governors have many secrets. These are probably their habitations, and their children.”
“Damn them!” says -67 through clenched teeth. “How can they do this to us, their own kind?”
“Such is the nature of human history.”
They watch the children for awhile.

The android enters the Captain of Security’s office, without waiting for the robot—secretary to announce it.
Behind the desk the Captain is holding the arms of a young girl in the chair, as the Governor bites deeply into the girl’s flesh between her naked breasts, drawing blood. The girl cries out.
The android looks to one side where SR1018-13 stands cowering in a corner, his eyes glazed, sweat pouring down his face.
The Captain looks at the android, stiffening. “Well?”
The Governor looks up as the girl begs for mercy. “Ah, you’ve returned. And what have you accomplished?” he asks as he rises from his sanguinary entertainment. He steps forward and sits on the edge of the desk.
“I learned that you have deceived the people you claim to protect.”
The smile fades from the Governor’s face, as the Captain barks out, “What’s that?!”
“I have been outside. The CM informed me of the true situation.”
To the SR the Governor now turns, “What is the meaning of this, SR1018—13?”
The SR comes out of his stupor. “She,” he says, pointing to the android, comprehends the difference between right and wrong.”
The Captain releases the girl, who climbs under the desk, and he walks around the desk to face the android and the SR. “You dare to question the judgement of the Governor!”
“You are evil!” cries —13. “You killed my wife for not bowing to your will!”
The Governor laughs. “Your wife?” he questions derisively. “There’s no such thing as a wife, you fool.”
-13 focuses all his energy on the Governor. “SR1008-25 was my wife. That was our decision. You,” he spits, "have no say in it.”
Suprise fills the Governor’s face, as the Captain looks to him for guidance.
Taking control the SR says “My wife knew you had to be stopped. She programmed the android to bring justice to this city. And now, in the name of SR1008-25, and the CM you would have had destroyed today, and all those oppressed by your evil, she,” he indicates the android, “will squash your tyranny.”
“Really?!” demands the Captain, as he steps up to the android. He grabs the android’s lapels in his big meaty fists, “I think not.”
The android reaches up and clamps a hand on the Captain’s larynx, choking off his air, and throws him across the room into the wall, which he bounces off onto the floor, out cold.
“You can’t do this!” cries the Governor, cowering behind the desk.
The doors to the office open, and -67 enters. The girl, whom the Governor had been torturing, comes out from under the desk, looks at the android, the SR, and the CM, then at the cringing Governor.
“Call Security,” whimpers the Governor to his victim. She punches him square in the nose. He drops to his knees, blood gushing out over his upturned hands.
“The revolution has begun,” says -67 inatter-of—factly.

1 comment:

    I blog fiction off of myspace now because of myspace terrorists who have harassed me to death.