I slump back against a wall, totally and utterly confused. What just happened? How did the cybs manage this? Why would they rebel? And what have they done with the manager? I press my fingertip against a workstation, activating a holoscreen. With my flesh hand, I use the calling option to notify the University.
“Greetings,” the machine says to me in a slow, calm voice. “How can the University be of assistance?”
“Greetings,” I say into the screen. “I need to report a group of rebellious cyborgs.”
“Do you need an emergency medical service?” the voice asks me.
“I need to speak with law enforcers!”
“Connecting you with law enforcers.”
I relax a bit, grateful to be rid of the obnoxiously slow program. Then, the screen beeps, loudly and shrilly.
“I’m sorry,” The holoscreen’s monotone rings out through the screeching of the screen. “We are unable to connect you with law enforcers. If any cyborg is in need of University-level help, they should contact a non-metal citizen immediately.”
I have never met with anything that needed University-level help. I never knew the University was so cruel to their own citizens.
“If you don’t even like us, why do you stop us from dying in the first place?” I scream out into the grey darkness of the unlit food prep room. Then, my body shaking with silent sobs, I curl up under a grill and sleep.
When I awaken, two hours have passed. I stand up, stretching the stiffness from my back. I once again start up my holoscreen.
“How may I be of assistance to you?” the annoyingly monotone voice asks.
“Please connect me with the manager of the food preparation center.” I need to contact the manager, to make sure everyone gets their midday meals on time.
“Connecting you with food preparation manager.”
I hear a ringing coming from a shadowy corner of the room.
I feel lightheaded with fear and shock. Has he been there the whole time? Is he injured? Unconscious? I shudder. Dead? Slowly, tiptoeing, I make my way over to the far end of the workplace. Then I see him. Using the holoscreen as a light source in the shadows, I examine him. There are no obvious wounds. However, he is not responding to my frantic whispers. I once again activate the calling option.
“How may I be of assistan-” I cut off the holoscreen mid-word.
“I need emergency medical services. 23 West Street,” I say, my voice catching.
“Emergency medical services are on their way,” the now reassuring voice replies. “Please stay calm and near to the injured individual.”
Possibly seconds, although it felt like hours, later, I hear the squealing noise of an emergency airbus siren.
I am in a chair. I do not know how I am in a chair. Emergency workers are taking the manager to an emergency airbus. Now we are at the hospital. I am in a different chair. There is food in front of me. A woman in a white coat is telling me to eat. I do not eat. I am tired. The woman brings me to a bed. I sleep.
I awaken in a room not too different from my own. There is a bed. There is a desk and chair. There is a window, through which I can see nothing but rain clouds. Someone knocks on the door.
A woman in a white coat enters. I recognise her as the one who attended to me yesterday. “Good morning, Robin,” she says.
“What happened?” I ask. I know that I probably sound like a Primary student, but I am scared. I am scared for the manager. I am scared for my mother and father. I am scared for the rebels, for Jacob and Michael and the others. I am scared, too, for myself.
“There was a break-in at the University. A group of rebellious cybs were trying to protest their jobs.” The woman, who I now realize is a hospital worker, hangs her head, as if ashamed for the deeds of our workers.
“What happened to the manager?” I sit straight up in bed.
“Mr. Harrison-” The woman’s eyes blink rapidly. “He- he was operated upon. He was successfully turned cyborg.”
“Is he all right?”
“Am I all right?”
My eyes fall upon a meal-carton on the desk.
“How is there food here?”
“There has been a- a struggle to find workers.”
“How so?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Two-thirds of our food preppers rebelled. We had to employ citizens.”
“This food was produced by non-cybs?” I am shocked. No citizen works in a cyb-issue labor job.
“Not- not exactly.”