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Persona Non Grata

by John Ridgway 3 years ago in science fiction
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Anticipatory Socialization

"HARFILDOOP, eh? Changing jobs is it, then?" The older man squinted a bit as he looked him over, then smiled kindly and motioned toward the wooden chair in front of his desk. He was wearing the typical office outfit of a tie, shirt, dress pants and shoes.

"No, sir. I had a fall, head injury. Since then... well, it was recommended to me that I overlay my last programming again," Harfildoop lied.

He was in a great hall in the Receiving Area, tucked into a small cubicle with just enough room for a wooden desk and a chair for visitors. Visitors had to be led in and out of the maze of cubicles and desks. The building was over four blocks long and absolutely stuffed with brown room dividers. All of the administrators looked the same in this department—programmed as they were, to be kindly administrators filled with genuine concern for the people they deal with.

He was surrounded by hundreds of other workers who were being reassigned the personality best suited for their new jobs. To be fair, everyone had to change jobs every three years—otherwise no one would do the menial labor. One could buy one's way out of this, like one could almost anything in Trumpville.

Everyone was programmed to love their job, no matter how menial. He has gone along with the system since his birth, for over three hundred years, and had no idea there was a choice—until the rebels programmed him to join their cause...

The administrator laughed and told him, "Oh, well, that sounds very easy, doesn't it? Okay, yes, I would recommend a full memory dip, destroy any last vertiges of your subjective experiences. Any phobias developed since your last personality adjustment?"

"No, sir... well, wait no... have I always had the rat thing?"

"Well, I'll check on that. Can't be having you fear rats out in space, eh? No getting rid of them buggers. No matter where humans go, we bring them fucking rats."

"Really?"

"Well, I like to think so. Love rats, myself. Real troopers, they are. Okay, I have everything we need to input your data. Have a seat over there, and as soon as we have the new you programmed, we'll bring you in."

"Of course."

Harfildoop looked nervously about the room; the tranquil blue color was designed to make him sleepy, and usually did, when he was changing jobs and needed his personalty adjusted. Personality reconstruction was required, though it hardly had to be—who would want a personality ill-suited for their job?

People once had done something like that, had to work at jobs they hated—he remembered as much from ancient history. Humans were miserable until psychiatry matured enough to provide relief of the mental anguishes, both large and small, that had been man's lot since they were ooze.

The personality overlays had never been a problem for him before. They usually inserted enthusiasm for the next job into the personality, so he was always happy, in fact. He had always accepted that his tastes changed, and his ideas were those that best suited being in harmony with geographical area, as determined by the computers and then injected into him through drug induced hypnosis, and mild, very selective, electric shock. He had never cared that he was changed into something else... or he thought that he didn't. Now that he knew they were making people to run machines, that they were all part of a mind-numbing religious bureaucracy that was entrenched world wide, he was ready to do what he could for mankind, as the machine trained them. All personalities were willing to sacrifice to save the Trump Empire.

Now he wanted to stay who he was. There was a woman who he did not want to forget. She was programmed for him, and he for her.

He slides his hand into his suit coat pocket, feels around for the detonator... puts his index finger on the button... he breathes in deep, and as his lungs expand, he feels the bomb belt pushing hard against his ribs. A terrorist? At first, before the overlay was complete, he had been so damned surprised. The resistance was hacking into the personality reconstruction site, and they gave him a personality meant to thrill at the thought of fighting and love explosions—convincing him to blow up the Personality Processors...

He didn't like the idea of killing his agent, and the more he thought about, the more he realized that he did not want anyone dead.

He had never felt like he had a choice until right then... he had never tried to deny a personality trait, in fact he had always encouraged them, of course—they were expensive, after all. But now... he did not want to die.

Two months ago, he reported for a new work assignment and was excited to see that he was going to get to go off planet to help mine an asteroid belt out near Venus. He did his paperwork, then went down to get his personality traits. He was going to be amiable for a while, which he liked. Management types had to be hard asses sometimes, and he was no better than anyone else, so he had to play the asshole sometimes... Everything that day was normal until he went under... he laid down on a slab of steel covered in a white sheet, and then the slab pulled back into the machine, into a steel tunnel leading into the metallic bowels; a very small space that seems to wrap around him like a fist.

The usual images that flooded the mind were benign, comfortable. This time the images were horrifying, showing the outers, the ones living in the radioactive dust beyond the Trump Ecosphere. Horrifying babies born with grotesque arms and heads growing out of their stomachs, four eyes, six arms... all dead... dead... probably killed. He had known next to nothing about the outers; knew just what his various personalities needed to use his best work years for the good of all. He had always believed that they wanted to live outer, but now he knew better. Now he has met with them, in the months since his personality changed into codename Praxis.

They are new at making terrorists. They made mistakes with him. For the first time in his existence, he felt free will. He had no idea such a thing existed until his last overlay. Now it seemed precious somehow. He didn't want another personality to posses him that has no free will—in fact, he would not even know the term, since the computer would consider such knowledge 'Socially Disruptive.'

He thought, "At least I'll never have to be a plumber or anyone else who loves the smell of shit... god, I seemed to hate that even though I loved it. Weird."

He knew that there were nine terrorists, one at every center in the city. The timing was exact, and the routine at such places never erred. They would all be sitting, waiting for the computer to put together a program for their next life. Everyone in their place, tucked into the small island of humanity that is left here in what was the United States. Almost ten million people.

He looks out into the hall at the garbage can with the nuclear bomb. He had not known they still existed until the machine inserted the how to into his brain.

Now he hated everything the unholy temple stood for—making men into machines serving a mindless system that goes on of its own accord... a mental disease, and he was the cure.

Around his was a world that he was about to help destroy... "Whoever programmed me as a terrorist had to be among the ruling thirty," he thinks.

They were the consensus voters on all new personality adjustments. Their job was to keep mankind moral through deep psychological training. One of them had decided that the only moral thing to do was destroy the tools of the system. Someone would build more personality adjusters, of course. The resistance planned to strike fast, before the machines could start producing the merciless soldiers that they create as needed.

The agent will be gone for up to a half an hour; the apparatus of the programmer was so cost prohibitive that their clinic was forced to share nine of them.

Plenty of time for him to find his way out of the building to somewhere safe. He was detonating the bomb through a cell phone, and could set it off from the other side of the world if he wanted. He left to get the program. The process usually took up to half an hour.

He thinks, "No one is to blame." He could see the system now with new eyes, comprehend how it just went on and on unchallaenged; it could be defeated without the bombs... he was sure of it...

A fog was lifting from his mind. The rebels told him that they had enhanced his intelligence, sight, smell and sense of touch. They were trying to make what they called "great men and women."

There were no great men anymore. Great men cause trouble. The histories dismissed them as narcissistic users.

Now the rebels were making them again. His conditioning had him convinced that their cause would win and that he would be a martyr welcomed in heaven with laurels and song...

He looked out of the cubicle, and seeing no one, he began to make his way toward the door, following red arrows on the floor. He thought maybe he would leave the building, and then detonate the bomb. He had to ask three people for directions on his way out.

He finally made it to the revolving glass doors, pushed his way in, and began to come out the other side. A black shape appeared in his peripheral vision, then there was pain in his chest, like someone had punched him hard as hell.

Another knife stabbed deep into his back, through his ribs into his heart... they were stabbing him again, and again... Someone reached into his pocket and found the detonator. He recognized his killer. A woman from the resistance. They had sent her as backup... in case he did what he did.

He wished like hell the machine had never made him a terrorist. He longed for a quiet, peaceful life. As he slowed, he closed his eyes and thought, "Death feels just like falling into a nice deep sleep. That's a fucking relief. I thought this was going to be so..."

The blast threw him through the air, across the plaza in front of the building, into the glass window of a bank kitty around the corner from the administrations building. The thick glass held firm, breaking his body—though he could care less, since he was already dead.

science fiction

About the author

John Ridgway

I have five published books, wrote for two small tv shows, hosted the comedy hit PEACE AND PIPEDREAMS, playing 14 comedy characters plus... on FEARLESS RADIO. I also consult for the intelligence community in various capacities.

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