A Short Story In Multiple Parts
On the day before everything she believed in changed, she remembered that the clouds looked like ice floes seen in old VR image-texts. The clouds were broken in the sky against the moon beautifully; a natural phenomena not to be awed by, but for some reason that evening, as she sat outside smoking on the balcony, this wholly common occurrence seemed weighted with potential.
The following morning, a voice came over the com-link. “You’d better come see this”, Rollie said. He sounded flustered, worried even. “What?”, she replied, sure it wasn’t anything all that out of norm. Rollie was new and prone to hyper-acuity, after all. His tests confirmed this. His inter-com cut out for a moment, then it picked back up and started again. “There is a…situation.” Lorraine sat back in her chair, the white plastic with leather contouring to her frame, especially her cybernetic left leg. She didn’t think about her leg often, having been born with a defected one, which was removed and replaced a few times during her growth spurts with fresh, shiny, nerve-connected plastic and metal legs. Lots of people had better parts. Truthfully, she barely noticed it. She absentmindedly clicked off the textreader, where she had been reviewing an old document from the Racist days, something called Combahee River Collective Statement. It seemed odd to her now that people used to have to live with those types of labels. Punching up the response node on the com-link, she replied “Could you be more specific please?” Of course, if something were all that interesting, the ColonyVid would have reported it. “I don’t know how to describe it.” Lorraine began to think Rollie might not be a good fit for duties. “Someone passed out? Warped?” Warp overload was common in Twentytown, nothing to be alarmed about. Just the populace enjoying their new vice. “No boss. Something else. The Kasparovs are here”
At that Lorraine stopped cold. This wasn’t a Warp. Kasparovs meant serious. The defacto peacekeepers, the standard ‘bots, pretty much ran the policing in Twentytown – and everywhere else. Karparovs were next level. Lorraine had always assumed having humans on the job was some weird perfunctory role, people staying calm through duty. Because if the standard ‘bots couldn’t handle it, the Kasparovs did. It wasn’t until later that she would come to view that idea as bizarre.
After the second Civil War of Ideologies, racial and sexual difference had finally been normalized, when it was finally accepted that people were all the same under the skin: bags of meat, with the same internal organs and cancers, hormones and hungers. Who you desired and who you connected with became more important than who you hated or feared. Through a series of pre-birth modification processes, the drives of humanity were isolated and corrected. No longer would racial heritage warrant class division, hatred, or jealousy. Sexual need was understood natural and not something to be feared. Hatred was isolated and ‘fixed’ through scanning. Corporate control of the populace was eradicated within a generation. The human species could now progress free from the old systems of control, because what was discovered was that prejudice and repression weren’t inherited at birth, but through the process of accumulation. The slogan on the front of each Ministry of Information building reinforced the Citizen Freeform tenet: “Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.”
As engineered babies replaced live births, the agreed-upon course of action was to isolate people by age range. What was found through observation was that people, as they aged, accumulated more responsibilities, wealth, status, baggage. Once it was decided that prejudices and restrictive laws designed to tell others what to do was a result of the fear of losing accumulated power and status, the Colonies, already an idea before that, were constructed.
Within a generation, all Citizens were divided by age. Those under 20 were kept in Colony A. Colony A included the birthing pens, developmental zones, and rebellious zones. Colony A was the most divided of the Colonies, because of the massive shifts that occurred during development. Most remembered it as 0-6, 7-11, 12-19, with plenty of ‘bot supervision. When Citizens reached the age of 20, they went to Colony B, referred to as Twentytown. Here, young adults were allowed to find duties, or be artists, or just hang around with others of their own age. Auditory and visual stimulation were provided by the ‘bots, and by any humans interested in performing for others, but most people preferred to stay home with their collectives.
When it was found that people’s fear of their own sexuality and racial beliefs was constructed by repressive societal or parental teachings, those negative influences were removed. Citizens became more comfortable in their own sexual desires, with sexuality becoming something to be celebrated, not hidden away for shame or fear. This eventually led to the collectives, homes where 3,4, 5 or more people all lived together, male and female, and what went on between them was up to them.
There were, of course, other Colonies after Twentytown, and Citizens could still learn about the past via their VR image-texters if they so desired. All Citizens were also welcome to visit one of the many Ministries of Information, open all the time, but why? Most of Twentytown primarily wanted to enjoy themselves. Lorraine could see the beauty in that concept, but she herself liked duty and knowledge. “I’m heading to you, Rollie,” she spoke into her com-link, “I have your location from your trackerpack.” Lorraine stepped away from her cube and poked her head into one of the cubes near hers. “Hey, Jenna,” she said, looking at a tall mocha woman in her mid-twenties, “Rollie says something weird is up. It’s not on the ColonyVid but he seems freaked. Come with me?” Jenna turned, looked up at Lorraine and smiled. “Sure.” At this, Jenna stood up, grabbed her gear, and followed Lorraine over to the lifts. Lorraine enjoyed Jenna’s company, and thought maybe she’d invite her over to her collective soon.