An's Workshop

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Chapter 7

At work, the air has changed. First, there was a shadow of fear in the associates. The managers internalized and were emboldened by this new geist in the futurehouse, perhaps making up for the culprit getting away with the felony theft. Then what was once fear has now molted into resigned melancholy among all. Associates talk less. They are waiting for the investigation to end and for the guilty to be cast out. Prepurg will be the sentence. Each of them does not want to be mistaken for the guilty.

Azzam has taken on a new vengeance. He paces the killing floor in thought. His movements are faster and more alert. There is tension in his large frame, as though a lever has been pulled back and notched-- a catapult’s suspended energy. He is watching and tabulating anyone who avoids him, anyone who averts his gaze, anyone who strays from their personal algorithmic formula. A new scanner has appeared at security with the same technology as the vending machine. Now they have to press another button, it scans the emotions on their faces and inputs the data. He is building a database on all the associates’ emotional responses.

The two of them are now actors. They and only they know who the culprit felons are. Obviously it’s Ari who is being watched more methodically. He has special status now. Security treats him differently. They search him if he doesn’t press red on the random button. There are more Learners around him. Security patrols linger near. He is no longer a seeker but now he is packing at the station next to An -- easier to watch together. He is on his training week as a packer, and the new attention impedes his gamescape thoughts. In addition, his own self-consciousness is slowing him. This week he is under-rate. This will again trip some algorithm and point a finger at him. It is a self-fulfilling drubbing he receives underfoot the jackboot, facial-recognizing cameras at his every turn.

Azzam himself looked up the exact location of the newest Surveil camera, marched to L1, A102, B12, scanned it out, ripped open the box right on the floor and installed it exactly at the locus of the incident, between aisles one-twenty-one and one-twenty on the chain-link corner of the high valuables. He simply clipped the camera’s flexible stand onto a metal rafter. Its streaming chronotape now wirelessly transmits to the central security grid, serving as a reminder that anything overlooked can be remedied.

The only saving grace that keeps them both alive is what they achieved over the two-day break. After most of the parts arrived they made several evolving mock-ups of what L will be. Each time they solved a problem. Each time they made it a little better. It may work. It should work. They have gone over the specs again and again. The fact that they have the manifestation of their combined thoughts that they can hold in their hands, machine L, (which is hidden in a space they had to chip out of the cement foundation of the COR single female housing unit) warms their hearts.

But they are back from their hiatus, working in this slaughterhouse of the soul, so they can’t help but hum and sing a few words to free themselves, ’I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder.’ (random22)

hey harmonize, ’Give me absolute control, over every living soul.’

They enjoy the work now. They can see it in each other. They are no longer doing someone else’s bidding. They are the builders of these things they move. The molecules that are pushed through space are ordered by them now. There is something enlightening about this fact.

And now the wheels of heaven stop

You feel the devil’s riding crop

Get ready for the future:

It is murder.

Someone has joined them. They already know who it is.

‘It’s no use you two. You will only be… happy… for a little while longer so enjoy it.’

‘I wonder what you meant… by that?’ An asks without missing a note.

‘Oh you are so clever, the both of you. We have sifted through everything-- all the surveillance. The investigation is nearly closed.’

‘So if you are so sure we are guilty, why are we still here?’ Ari asks.

‘That is for us to know. That and we are waiting on your positive traces of recognition,’ Azzam rumbles. ‘So go ahead and sing your victory song. I would watch yourselves though. No telling where you will end up.’

‘Good luck with that,’ An says as she slams a box shut and tapes it in in one motion. ‘Everyone in the futurehouse probably has their traces on whatever you found.’

Ari gives a quick glance at her.

Azzam’s jowls shake as though he has just got his own joke. ‘You practically admit it. Just say it to Mr. Azzam and I will take care of everything… I promise.’

‘I trust you as far as I can throw you Azzam,’ Ari chimes in.

‘Just go ahead and admit it you two. I will take it easy on you. I will put in a good word.’

An looks over her shoulder at the man straddling their two stations. He managerially offers his large fists on the shelves to either side of the stations, yet the palms seem to hold something within. A marker pen, a ripped barcode, a COR knife that promises not to cut. He catches her glance and looks condescendingly down. His smug look burns in her memory and angers her enough to start singing again, but softer now.

Give me absolute control,’

Azzam joins in as he did one time before in his baritone gruff.

Over every living soul.’

Ari hears the hoarse words falling below the noise of the conveyer and joins again to make a trio.

Get ready for the future; It is murder.’

The fog of Azzam’s voice falls away and he is gone, back to his glowing monitors and dark algorithmic code.

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