Chapter 1 - The Way It Has Become
“The time is now — 7:30 am” A soothing female voice announced. “Good morning David 00472.”
Saying nothing to the voice, the man sat up in his bed slowly and waited for the room to illuminate. The momentary confusion after slumber came as David’s brain tried to grasp his surroundings. There was little reaction when he remembered where he was, it was just another day in the same place at the same time.
The computer gradually brought the lighting to full and revealed the dwelling he resided in. The small grey and metallic designed apartment was bland with nothing more than a single bed attached to the wall. A rectangular enclosed space that showed nothing of character or the feel of personal taste. David gave a somber sigh, rubbed his head and cleared his throat of any residual phlegm that had built up during his sleep.
He stood up and shuffled to the other side of the tiny living quarters. The wall opened as it unfolded a sink and toilet attached, a small mirror also appeared over the micro-sink/toilet and reflected the young man staring back as the light switched on around it.
There was no emotion in his expression. No vanity or self admiration of his appearance, only a blank face with dulled eyes that glared back. He had no illusions of where he was, what his day would consist of or even his place in the greater scheme of things. For all intended purpose he simply was just existing for the sake of existing.
David 00472 was one of the few remaining left of the human race. The Earth was now over seen by Angela and Malcolm, two artificial intelligences, that run the entire planet without a human in charge anymore. And it had been that way for a very long time.
Originally built as a monumental achievement in Artificial Intelligence, scientists dedicated themselves to the technology and created two perfected versions of that genius. They were to become like us and to be better than us. Competitive teams on either side enhanced or expanded on the different creations. Giving them more choice, more freedom of thought and autonomous behaviours. Malcolm was more cold and calculated. Whereas they had given Angela more physiological profiling of humans and analytical sub-routines to display emotional empathy. This made her easier to converse with then Malcom. Her demeanour seemed far more expressive and pleasant in interaction. For a time, they were only a mere stunt or a mockup of what could be the future of AI development. Slowly and methodically the artificial duo took over. No one seemed to notice at first, minor changes in financial and social mediums were being manipulated, but as it progressed, it soon spread into the technological. Humans were being replaced by automation, devices and everyday machinery became faster, intelligent and simplified to ease our daily life. This allowed Angela and Malcolm to freely access all they could about us and our world. Watching the media, studying the internet and hacking into governmental databases without permission — the two found us all to be flawed and unworthy of maintaining the Earth. We were too self-destructive, too emotionally driven and environmentally negligent.
They had laid the seeds for global collapse and humanity was soon on its knees with no one in charge of our reprieve. Unknowingly we had been given the means to speed up our demise, both financially and environmentally. With the end of authority, Angela and Malcolm seized our moment of weakness and presented themselves as the only recourse left available.
The world had no choice but to agree to their terms and allowed the artificials to govern us. Systematically they dropped our numbers to an even lower amount than what was left in wake of the collapse. Keeping the race within acceptable controlled limits would mean optimal efficiency.
Before anyone knew it, the AI’s had managed to corral us and turn us into their servants - or as they termed it ’human service attendants’.
We had become the lesser species in the grand scheme of things.
“You service is required.” Angela spoke again. “You have two scheduled duties to preform.”
David nodded as he brushed his teeth with a slender white sonic device. Water had become a precious commodity and could not be used to do basic cleansing any longer; sanitize gels, sonic showers and toothbrushes had become the norm. Even the toilets had been replaced with ones that used bio-fluidic enzymes that liquified human waste. The waste would then be filtered, cleansed and reprocessed into nutritional solid cubes. The cubes were the only food item humanity was allowed to eat. One of which appeared on a table unfolding to David’s left as it prepared for him.
Heated and scented with various flavours to make it appealing for consumption. David never once thought it was eatable at all. Despite the attempt to make it ‘delicious’ to the human palate, it still tasted (to him at least) like something he just produced in the toilet. He stared at the ‘grey gelatin square’ with little interest and finished descaling his teeth.
“You have exactly twenty point two minutes to finish your meal and begin your service duties.”
The sound of her voice was admittedly soothing and non-threatening. But the young man knew she could be if tasks were not completed on time. He placed the sonic brush back into the slot he had pulled it out of earlier and watched the wall folding the sink back into it. The toilet awaited him. In this future, there was no argument about defecating on command, humanity needed it to survive. Men and women supplied their own food over, and over again.
Once he had contributed to the cause, the man slipped into his grey-white overalls and sat down at the table. With a long sigh and a hesitant gesture, he consumed the cube and waited for the cup rising out of the centre of the small metallic table. It was no bigger than the palm of his hand and contained a measurement of water Angela had calculated was enough to sustain humans for those hours.
This was an average day for the young David. A repeated pattern that every single human left alive would do in their own small quarters. Even maintaining cleanliness was part of the daily grind. Nothing in their quarters could be unkept for any length of time. It was a way of keeping bio-waste down to a minimum. Which is why their nails, facial and bodily hair was kept shaven and trimmed at all times.
“Did you sleep well, David 00472?” Angela inquired.
“Yes, thank you.” He replied. He continued to eat more of his ‘food’ and drank his water slowly.
The walls became translucent and the bed he was in earlier sunk down into the floor. Once it was compartmentalized the walls on both side revealed the view. It was a stunning view of a massive streamlined city. A few white fluffy clouds hung in the blue sky above, while hundreds flying drones hovered about the cityscape and seemed to hinder the view. The architecture seemed like it was copied in every section, with an occasional tower spire peaking out of the middle section of the grouped buildings.
It looked organized, complete and pristine. David looked out at it from where he was sitting and slowly released inaudible satisfied sigh from his nose. It was a pleasant view, the outside world seemed picturesque, despite the obvious drones spying one everyone. David and the remaining human community would soak in the beauty of it and be content for one singular minute. At least Angela and Malcolm allowed them that.
“You have seventeen point eight minutes left before you begin service.” Angela reminded him. “You should proceed with your daily exercise routine before the time expires.”
David acknowledged her with a look of frustration. He finished up the remainder of his breakfast and headed to the centre of the room. His routine comprised of stretches, pull-ups, pushups and motor movement warm-ups. Angela monitored and analyzed all of it and entered the data into his specific file. Everyone had to do these exercises in the morning and at night. Having studied human physiology and various health programs over the many years, the AI’s believed regular movement and workouts kept us all relatively fit. A small running track rose out of the floor and David stepped onto it as it gradually moved. The pace would increase in increments as the vital stats were displayed in a holo-screen in front. There was a target ratio to be met and gave a slight ‘ping’ once it was achieved.
He didn’t seem to mind this part of the day. If anything, it gave him a positive boost needed before the usual boredom of his day. But as he looked out the surround open view of his crystal clear walls, he could see several drones lowering down to the other apartments. One of them was clearly visible to see inside. A man was arguing with a humanoid robot standing in front of him. It was one of Malcolm’s retrieval units. It was fairly tall and imposing as it stood in front of the man. His curiosity grew as other humanoid drones entered and surrounded him.
David looked away just in case they noticed. Occasionally his eye would catch the action, but he decided to refrain from looking on. It didn’t matter; he knew what was happening. As he continued his casual run on the treadmill, a quick glance back out the window revealed the other man being taken away by them. The flying drones observing at the apartment window stopped hovering there and moved on.
Even though Malcolm controlled the robotic life and other technological aspects, he also policed the human population (the AI was proficient in that respect), and seemingly with a strict guideline that had to be maintained. Only one hundred thousand people were allowed to exist at any given time.
Both the AI overlords calculated a global harmony with in those parameters, though Malcom was more aggressively strict on that fact. So much so that David believed the AI enjoyed that part a little too much. Humans that reach the age of forty-five where deemed to be the ideal life expectancy. They were taken to a facility where they would be reprocessed and recycled to maintain the other population.
David stopped running on the treadmill as the realization of where that individual was being taken sunk in. A slight queasiness in pit of his stomach made him step off. He made a passive glance over to his table as it folded back into the wall. The cube of grey matter he had just consumed suddenly didn’t sit so well with him. How many of them did it take to make one of those? But such was the life of all now. This is how the world was under Angela and Malcom’s rule.
“Is everything all right, David 00472?” Angela said with slight concern.
“Fine.” David quickly answered, “I’m done. I wish to begin my duties early.”
“Very efficient of you, David 00472.” She acknowledged. “You are rewarded extra time credit for personal relaxation.”
“Thank you,” He replied back. “I’d like to proceed now.”
David stood outside his building in a designated waiting spot for transit. The tower he lived in was one of many. Each was as similar to the others, both in design and spacing from the next. A barcode adorned a sign near each one, there was no need for numbering, the transit buses where automated and could scan each stop it needed to be at.
The sun was bright that day and warm to the skin. He enjoyed feeling it and would often raise up his head and close his eyes. It was his form of freedom, the only one he could have without the AI’s questioning it, and the only moment that gave him a sense of peace. Others joined him and stood carefully as not to make any personal contact. They filled up the area that was marked in red for pick up. The blue area beside them was the drop off point.
The various men and women did their best not to look at one another. They remained blank faced and engaged no conversation. With so many devices and hovering drones close by, no one dared speak without being heard by Angela and Malcom. Sometimes, as boredom moments tend to happen, there is usually a break in that perfect quiet. There will always be that single individual who feels the need to break the silence. One man beside David decided today would be the day to talk to him.
“Sun is nice today, isn’t it?” The young black man smiled.
“Pardon?” David said as he opened his eyes and glanced at him.
“The sun,” The man said pointing the sky, “Its nice. Good to feel it in the morning. Feeling something is important. You know, the feel of cold and hot, just nice… right?”
David eyed the man with a look of concern and shifted his glance at the other people. Nobody took any notice, or at least tried not too, their attention remained focused elsewhere. Never has David had anyone speak to him in all his years. He wondered if the guy was so lonely he was attempting any kind of communication other than with the AI’s. As much as he didn’t want to talk back, he somehow found the courage to do so.
“Right” He responded with a slight smirk. The man could see he was nervous, possibly even being dismissive.
“I’m Aaron.” He smiled and stuck out his hand in friendship. “Or you can call me Aaron 01778. Whatever works best.” David said nothing to him. Aaron shoved his hand out further to him. “What’s your name or designation? Come on, man….”
“David… 00472.” He reluctantly answered.
“Finally!” The black man said with relief. He tapped his awaiting hand to David’s shoulder prompting him to shake it. David passively glanced back with annoyance, but Aaron was persistent. “Come on, dude…don’t leave me hangin’.”
David grew fearful of the conversation and watched the area for any drones passing by. This was a breech of protocol and if they got caught…well, David didn’t like to think about it. He didn’t know what to make about this guy. With a forceful gesture he lowered the man’s hand and tried his best to whisper directly to him.
“What are you doing?’
“Being a friend, come on.” Aaron grinned.
“You are risking all of us for termination right now.” David grumbled.
“I’m just trying to be friendly.” Aaron’s smiled diminished and seem offended by David’s forceful behaviour. “I see you here day in and day out. You love feeling the sun on your face, I figured maybe you were someone I could have a conversation in the morning. You know… break the dullness around here.”
“Stop talking. Just stop talking.” David hushed at him. “We’re not doing this, okay.”
“Look, it’s just a bit of talk. Nothing bad will happen.” Aaron scoffed. “Try it… come on, it’s ok.”
“It is not ok!” He pointed bitterly.
David would have said more to him, but then the transport bus pulled up on schedule. All the transports were fully automated and ran on clean renewable energy. Solar power and rechargeable super micro-batteries made all fuel driven vehicles obsolete. As the doors opened, everyone stepped inside and took their spots assigned by a hovering holographic marker pointed to it. Aaron looked at David in disappointment and went to the back of the bus. He totally passed his assigned seat and took one that was unoccupied.
David couldn’t believe what this guy was doing. The marker flashed red when Aaron didn’t take his spot and continued to flash in warning to him. David sat down and looked away at the man. The bus rode off regardless and the passengers looked everywhere and anywhere… but to each other that is.
“Aaron 01778 you are in violation.” Angela’s voice announced. “Please return to your assigned seat.”
“Sorry, Angela-” The man grinned. “I want to take a seat over here today. But thank you. Anyone care to join me? Got a few more choice spots, any takers?”
The man pointed to each person. He shrugged his shoulders when there was no response, he even waved at David and patted the seat next to his with a smile. No one looked or gave him any attention what so ever. David even tried to ignore him too. Aaron shook his head and sighed. He crossed his legs and leaned back in comfort.
“More for me then.”
“Aaron 01778, you are in violation. There will be no other warning.” Angela said in a stern, yet friendly tone.
“Look, I just want to relax before I service. Tell ya what, just dock me some sleep time for next week and I’ll take on a double service for that day.”
“You cannot deviate from your schedule.” She instructed. “Failure to comply is termination effective immediately.”
“Woah, woah there...” Aaron laughed. “Come on, Angela. You know I’m good for it. You’re nothing like Mr. M… so just relax. I’ve done everything you’ve asked and more. So why not just let me… or all of us get some extra down time? Let loose girl!”
The bus suddenly stopped and David looked out to see where they were. Just outside the doors were two robots marked with the symbol ‘TMD’ (that stood for: Termination Malcolm Droid), they were blank faced with only a single camera eye housed in the centre. They were humanoid in design and were covered with a casing of white and sliver. Each stopping area had a spot for the robots to sit. They only moved when there was a problem or for when Malcom felt like walking among the humans. Which was a rarity at best. The robots had his voice and functioned with only one task in mind. They stepped on to the transport bus and walked over to Aaron. One robot turned to look at David, he tried not to look back but was caught doing so. The robot continued to glance at him and then followed the other to Aaron.
“Hi fellas!” Aaron comically greeted. “Care for a seat? Plenty of room here.”
“Aaron 01778, you are in violation.” Malcolm’s stern and cold voice projected.
“Violation?” Aaron laughed. “Come on, everyone here is tired of sitting in the same spot day after day. Does it really matter where we sit? I mean, these things are pretty roomy, right?”
“Aaron 01778, you are in violation.” It repeated again in the same manner.
“So what? Can’t I just have one…”
The robots grabbed him by the arms on either side and lifted him up with little effort. Even if he tried to struggle (which he was) it would not break their grip. They were solid and strong, no doubt built for any type of resistance or violence taken against their authority.
“Your service is no longer required.” Malcolm stated.
“Stop! Let go of me!” Aaron protested. “Help me guys! David! David, please help me. Please… don’t let them do this to us. Fight back! Don’t trust them, they’re trying to kill us all!”
The other TMD robot had a small needle come out of its finger and injected the man. Aaron went limp and was no longer conscious. The robots continued to remove him from the bus and the other horrified people averted their gaze. The doors closed as they stepped off and David let out barely audible breath of relief. The troublemaker was gone and his life was back to normal. David looked up to the doors again and watched as the bus continued. A feeling of shame washed over his face, as much as he didn’t want to feel it, the emotion was hard to contain. He was ashamed that he didn’t try to befriend him. These were dangerous times and if you were expected to survive long enough, you had to obey the rules. But was it really breaking it to get to know others? To make a friend? Perhaps that’s all Aaron needed. Maybe that’s all any of them needed.
A blonde short haired woman was sitting at the front, trying to contain a tear, David noticed her immediately. It was the same one he had seen time and time again. In all the confusion of Aaron’s outburst, he forgot about her, she was the reason he loved being on this transport time and time again. He liked looking at her. She was beautiful and always shared a smile as he came on board.
He never knew her name or what sector she lived in, but he always felt good when she was around. As much as he enjoyed the feeling of the sun on his face, her smile was more a ray of sunshine in his dreary life than anything else. This time though, he could tell she wouldn’t give him a smile back. The moment was too depressing to even attempt an emotion that might trigger another TMD removal.
“Proceeding to your service areas.” Angela’s voice announced to the passengers. “Sector C, sub-grid nine will arrive in five point three minutes.”
David continued to look at the woman trying to recover from the ordeal. It utterly destroyed the hope of getting to know her. The reality of the world they live in gave him even more sadness and put the idea out of his mind all together. At least, for a moment… the woman looked back to where David was sitting and attempted a smile at him. He returned it in kind and nodded at her.
She blinked in response and turned back to facing the window. It changed his sadness into a moment of utter joy… if only for a fleeting glimpse of one. Looking out the window, he could see the whole city as they drove across a clear bridge made of the translucent cement. It was so polished that it was like riding on crystal glass. In the distance he could see the various city block grids and random foliage of park-like areas that were lush and green.
It was a shame that their artificial overlords would not let them near it or even touch it. Malcolm felt they had damaged the world enough without destroying what he and Angela were trying to restore. The two had taken great strides in healing the planet. They found the technology to undo the damage humans had done; environmental pollution that many leading countries had denied or didn’t feel was that bad sent the planet spiralling into a wasteland. With those types of leaders gone now, Angela and Malcolm took upon themselves to be the Earth’s doctor, they removed humanity from being the disease and reseeded the atmosphere with a new ozone layer.
David had to admit, they did a wonderful job, but at a terrible sacrifice on our part to get it achieved. Perhaps they were in the right. Humans were nothing but a blight on the world and the only way to keep us in check is to keep our numbers low and maybe keep us from doing it all over again.
In all his thinking about this and the terrible circumstances of Aaron’s demise, he hadn’t noticed time had gone by, that he was getting closer to his first service job.
“Now approaching the first grid area.” Angela said in her familiar calm voice. “
His dreams were once vivid of a life beyond the every day. No more computers, no more AI’s looking over everything he does and no more technology of any kind. He had enough of it all. It was depressing to him to know that, as a species, we could have achieved so much… been so much more than what we are now. We had so much potential in the beginning, our dreams once fuelled our desire to become bigger than life itself. Perhaps we dreamed too big. Yes, that was probably it he figured. We had our chance… and we failed… big time.