Fiction Friday #17

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Excerpt From Othella Chapter 1
~
Quentin
( 5 Years Ago )

I call it the “last supper.” I’m morbid that way. But it’s an accurate enough description.


After greeting the recruits as a group, I lead them to the temporary dormitories where they’ll be spending less than a night, nervous and excited for the orientation program that doesn’t exist. They have most of the day to unpack belongings that will be trashed by the end of the week, get acquainted with fake orientation class schedules, and get a taste of the spa and gym area I had cleaned and prepped two days ago for their arrival.


Droids have no use for facial scrubs and elliptical machines. And God knows I haven’t exercised since my MBA stint at Harvard. So dark it stays for most of the year like most things droids and I don’t need. It’s a hassle to get all that crap up and running again for less than twenty-four hours. I’d do away with the pretense if Howard would let me, but he lectured me again this morning about how the recruits deserve a few moments of rest and relaxation before the transfer.


So I head yet another table of bright young things with glorious visions of the future. Howard was right—this recruitment round has brought in major talents. Sachiko Nakamura, who started inventing clean energy tech when she was twelve. Vincent Star, who revolutionized gene therapy before he finished his undergrad years. Clarissa Salt, who built her first computer in elementary school. Brilliant kids.


It’s a pity they have to die.


I open dinner with a warm welcome and begin carving a freshly cooked turkey, handing slices out one plate at a time.


Star, scratching his stubbly chin, passes a plate to Nakamura and asks, “Mr. Q, when will we get to meet some of the other scientists? I noticed there hasn’t been anyone around since we entered the community.”


I smile and nod. “Yes. It’s just a ritual. When we have your official welcoming ceremony tomorrow, everyone will greet you together as a group before you’re split into your respective departments for orientation.”


“Ah, I see.” He grabs a biscuit from a nearby basket. “I look forward to it. One of my old mentors is here. Green, you know?”


“Of course. Dr. Green is currently heading up one of our major genetics projects. I’m sure you’ll be working with him again soon, Dr. Star.”
The children dig into their meals and chat amongst themselves. One of them throws a question my way every now and then, and I answer with the same dull lies I repeat every dinner. Yes, there is a pool. Yes, we purchase all the latest films for your enjoyment. No, skydiving is not an available leisure activity at the Heights. Try bowling instead.


I’m munching on a slice of pie when I hear the patrolmen coming. Their boots pad against the hallway tiles, and their shadows slink through the gap underneath the dining room doors, lining up in attack formation. I remember the first transfer. A bloody, awful battle. I made the mistake of trying to convince the recruits it was the best choice. I earned a broken collarbone for my efforts.


I wipe my mouth off with a napkin and rise from my seat. “I’ll be back momentarily, everyone. I have an important business call to make.”
Most of them ignore me and continue their discussions about mass bat die outs and gene splicing—God, science is a bore—but one of them stares at me curiously when I make for the door opposite the assault force entrance. Clarissa Salt. Frowning. Her eyes are narrow, rife with suspicion. As I slip through the door to safety, she glances at the same shadows I perceived moments ago.


Observant, that one. But too late.


The instant my escape door clicks shut, the patrolmen burst into the room. Children scream. Glasses shatter on the floor. Chairs overturn. Some try to run but are swiftly captured and sedated by the patrolmen. A few of them attempt to fight, using whatever they can find. I listen to silverware bounce off bulletproof chest armor and plates fragment as they’re swatted to the side by robot men who feel no pain or fear. But then, the kids don’t know that. To them, the community guards are flesh in powered suits.


I begin to march off through the darkened kitchen area, but something thumps against my escape door. I pause and wait. Another thump. Then the knob spins around and Clarissa Salt bolts into the kitchen, slamming the door shut in the helmet-covered face of an oncoming patrolman. Before I can react, she’s got me by the throat, dinner knife flush with my carotid artery.


The patrolman kicks the barrier out of its way, hinges splitting on impact, and the thick metal door crashes into the cooling stove in the corner. Beyond the now door-less threshold, the other patrolmen are carrying the unconscious recruits two at a time into the main hallway. The dining room is a wreck. Typical.


“What the f**k is going on?” Clarissa Salt’s rapid breaths are hot against my ear.


I blink at the patrolman in Morse code. Wait. The machine registers the order and pauses mid-step. I wet my bottom lip and say, “Only what’s necessary, Dr. Salt. I promise you that.”


The serrated edges of the knife nip at my neck. “Don’t give me that non-answer bullshit. What are you doing to the recruits? Where is everyone else? Dead? Are you killing them?”


Yes. “No. I’m changing them. In a way most of them won’t accept, unfortunately, if I give them the option to decline. And I can’t have them all decline, Dr. Salt. We’re on a tight schedule here.”


“If you don’t stop speaking in riddles, I will slit your throat.”


I raise my hands in a non-threatening manner, fingers extended and spread. “Don’t be rash. I’m doing what needs to be done.”


“For what?”


“For the world.”


Her hair tickles my cheek as she leans over my shoulder. “Explain.” The knife bites deeper.


“You know why the Heights was created.”


“To speed up scientific advancement and improve the prospects for the future.”


“Yes, except, you see, there is no future. Not for the current human civilization anyway. It’s all going to fall down. Guaranteed. We started this project too late to stop a total collapse. So instead of planning for a better future for our society, we had to plan for a better future society. We had to plan to rebuild. And in order to create a human society not doomed to repeat the same cycle of rise and fall, rise and fall, we need to achieve an optimal level of advancement across eighty-six critical disciplines before we go about rebuilding. And we need to be ready at the moment of the fall, too, or the community will inevitably collapse before we can implement anything. So, you see—”


“You’re rambling. Make it quick. I want the whole story.” She puts her thumb on the knife blade and increases the pressure every three seconds.


“For f**k’s sake! You’re slow, okay? You’re too damn slow. We tried this the real way at first, providing the safety and the funding and the leisure activities and everything else we advertise to ‘boost your productivity.’ But it wasn’t enough. Human beings are too slow. You cannot create at the rate necessary to reach the tech level required at the fall.”


“So?”


“So we came up with an alternative solution. One that cuts out your inefficiencies. One that increases your productivity to the appropriate level.”


“What solu—?“


A second patrolman leaps out of the shadows behind us, grabs both of Salt’s arms, and rips her away from me. She shrieks, kicking and clawing at the iron grip, but the first patrolman is already on her. It roughly yanks her hair to expose her neck and injects the sedative. She struggles for almost a minute more, the energy draining from her limbs as the seconds tick by. The patrolman who jumped us lifts her weakened body into its arms and strides in the direction of the ruined dining room.


Before it crosses the threshold, Salt mumbles, “What are you going to do to me?”


I dab at the blood pooling on my collar. “Remove the inefficient parts. The parts that cause all the problems, all the time. That have always caused our problems. The parts that have built empires and ground them into dust. The parts that make us act when we shouldn’t yet idle when we should. You know, Dr. Salt: the human parts.”


 

woman-silhouette - Therin KniteTherin Knite is a college senior majoring in Finance and English who occasionally writes speculative fiction and has the odd delusion of literary stardom. She writes every length of literary work known to man, from flash fiction to epic-length novels, but her genres are a bit more limited.  Her short stories and flash pieces ten to be any genre she’s in the mood for that day, while anything longer is pretty much limited to some variant of sci-fi or fantasy (50% Dark, 50% Snark).  Mostly sci-fi though.

Knite lives in a humble little place known as the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia and spends every possible second of free time reading books and writing what may possibly qualify as books. She has published two: Echoes and Othella.

Website: http://www.therinknite.com/
Blog: http://knitewrites.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TherinKnite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Therin-Knite/663841677010575

Watch for Therin’s Author Interview this Sunday when she stops by to visit Infinite Pathways.

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