A Short Story
It was the 17,884th day of the war that was supposed to last a week. Gredon pulled himself out of his sleeping tube in the G-sector habitats, the unique smells of a functioning subterranean fort hit him in the face and he felt perspiration start to run down his back.
He was a “conflict-brat”. His 27 years only knew life with the war and his position was absolute. Perhaps there was a time when childhood was allowed; Gredon hadn’t known one. Since his earliest memories he had been a G5/Engineer. What would have been pre-school was given to the task of process orientation and, through sleep teaching and accelerated “persona indenting” he had been made a G5/Engineer. If he had had the desire to do so, he may have supposed that he would always be.
In truth, none of this occurred to him as he swung his feet out and let then down onto the cool steel of the checker-plate floor. It was just another day that was like every other one had been for as long as he could remember.
The Off-World Confederation had given them more than enough leeway. It was just an unfortunate characteristic of the human race that “their lot” was just never enough. Perhaps it may have been different if the geo-political model was more like it was in the last years of the second millennium. At that time nations existed and the world was more likely to be a little introspective when deciding the fate of the people it represented. As the third millennium approached all decisions were made by an elite-few on the boards of the controlling conglomerates. Their only motivation was profit and there was no justification beyond it.
Across the galaxy, outposts of this corporate world were fighting to keep what were the companies’ the companies’ and into this foray Gredon and his peers were born and raised. Quadrant 1301-Gama Alpha 13 was an earth-like world in orbit around a distant small-white star at the arse-end of the constellation of Orion, it was a tropical world with a remarkable environment. Unfortunately the fauna was as deadly as any known and this beautiful place was never appreciated by the on-world operatives who’s every waking moment was spent making sure they stayed alive.
For 12 hours each day Gredon worked at his tasks, the rest of the time was spent either sleeping or wishing he was. Most conditioning patches worked well in the field although it became apparent that the G/series persona’s had more than a few irregularities. Most operatives were programmed to work and sleep within the companies’ operational parameters. It had been established that sleeping was the least resource-intensive activity and it had been both a practical and simple addition to the personas at all levels.
For some reason, Gredon’s batch of G5’s didn’t conform. In the scheme of things the problem was of little importance given the low number of these upper middle-level operatives spread through the system and the cost to reprogram them was not considered viable so the companies had just let it go.
They had readjusted the sleep systems in the infant dormitories subsequently and, as best as anyone could ascertain, it was only affecting the 56,000 odd G5’s generated between 2970 and 2973. Gredon was on the back-end of it all. There were thoughts that the conditioning programs had been doctored in some way by some body for whatever reason they would have for doing so. Notwithstanding, it was never proven conclusively and it just wasn’t considered important enough in the scheme of things.
The manifestation of the irregularity was twofold. First, he was never automatically tired and second, he dreamed.
Actually, it was more than dreaming; he imagined; remembered. That’s not to say that the rest of the operatives didn’t imagine; it was just that they did it within a tight set of parameters that the conditioning had well and truly established.
Gredon didn’t seem to have the barriers that he could sense in so many of his co-workers. Their realities were so easy to identify and were always at one with those of the companies’.
Gredon has learnt to go along with all this very early on. After all he was stuck in his life and it would not serve him well to try to move outside it. So he just kept quiet and survived. While those around him slept and felt what they were supposed to feel Gredon said and did nothing and kept on becoming Gredon. The pain of it all was that becoming Gredon meant being an individual in a sea of conformity.
The best way he knew to survive was to conform more than the rest and that was exactly what he did. His personnel records showed an exemplary history, so much so he was marked down from a “must watch” status. Given his being on the cusp of the changes in the programs those that controlled such things considered him normal.
So, on this particular day in a sea of sameness, Gredon stretched and yawned the way he had always done and dived right in.
* * * * *
Effectively the 1300 series quadrants were far removed from the main areas of conflict. This world housed a GM1309 K series message relay and triangulation facility. Its job was to work with other such installations spread throughout the galaxy which formed part of a highly sophisticated navigational aid to all craft equipped with the appropriate huge-number decoders.
Because of the number of stations in the grid they were able to shift the transmission from world to world. This was done with such speed and with such irregularity any hope of finding any one of the installations in the cell was considered too remote for the enemy to waste resource doing so. It was a quid pro quo issue in that the same logistical considerations surrounded finding the enemy’s so both sides didn’t bother and just got on with the more important parts of the war.
The environment of the fort was completely controlled and most operatives were content remaining in the metal sub-world. The fauna of this planet included a high number of potential man-killers and, except for 700 acres of protected land that was used for a number of small food plots and was cultivated by robots, man had made little impact on this world.
Gredon’s roster rotated through all major and minor engineering tasks in the fort and changed each 14 days. On the current shift rotation Gredon was responsible for the maintenance and control of this robotic farmyard, the task he most enjoyed in the humdrum sameness of his life.
He was starting his day as the planet’s evening was beginning. This was a little confusing in itself because there were two stars in close proximity to GA 13 and night was, at best, twilight.
After making a number of changes to the hydroponics system in the hothouse he moved on to the programming of the work-droids for that shift’s work. The corn crop was ready for cultivation and the Toyonissan “Crop Masters” needed to have their articulated tools and harvest programs changed.
The work was enjoyable and the vents in the upper third of the geodesic dome, even though the were fitted with micro-filter mesh to stop all external life-forms from getting in, were letting in the cool sweet evening air which smelt like nothing Gredon could explain. Sometimes these smells would fire trace memories and he had just grown to accept it as much as any other part of his special programming.
The evening progressed and Gredon adjusted the illumination systems to their lowest output so he could get the most enjoyment from the soft evening light. He stood on a mound in the center of the corn plantation and watched as the various Crop Masters worked on the vegetable plots at the extreme end of the compound.
A control system sat on the ground near his feet and a series of images floated in front of him as the small box generated the various holograms of each robot’s tactile feedback systems.
The dome’s surface membrane was an organic film that was as strong as steel yet as light as silk and it blew gently in the breeze that always accompanied the late evening. He could hear the night noises of the jungle outside the dome and a swarm of fireflies danced gently around the vents. He shivered knowing that these small insects could kill a man within nanoseconds but could not help but be in awe of their beauty.
He moved his hand across the control hologram and the various driods stopped as he selected them one by one.
A number of further selections shut down the workshop lights and locked the inner bay doors. Now, he was alone, about as alone as he could ever be.
The control system had reduced to a single pattern that shimmered in front of him and he further reduced it so that the time and date were all that were showing. The readout was showing 23:58:00.
Gredon turned away from the control system and took a small canvas tote bag he had carried with him from his habitat. He kept it hidden behind a wall panel and had only removed it twice a year.
From the bag he removed a small hologram reader and a set of book disks. He turned on the device and its screen cleared, a single green eye blinking, waiting for him to load a book.
He inserted the third of the crystal disks and keyed a number of commands into the control menu that had appeared as the system registered the disk identification. As the thing searched and whirred, reading its data, he reached into the bag and withdrew a simple bronze cross that he had made many years prior.
Its surface was dull in the half-light and it reflected distorted images of the control panel and the new image floating above the reader.
The time on the panel now showed 00:00:00 and the date 25/12/2999.
Gredon watched as the reader started to show the story of the birth of Christ, the voice over a gentle hum in the earpiece he was wearing. He closed his eyes and prayed silently, rejoicing in his solitary acknowledgement of a God who had been programmed out of existence through countless generations of conditioning and image indenting.
Gredon could only guess that his faith was something he had to keep his secret as no one else knew that it was an option open to conscious thought. He had found the current images in a research system he had managed to access a number of years ago and had used all his skills to both down load them and avoid being caught doing so.
For the few hours he had left before his shift change he sat and watched the holograms as they told the stories of the New Testament. Quietly and alone he worshipped. Later, he would have to return to the world that was his reality. Now, as the Christmas day began, he could remember his God.
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