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We Should Just Let You Go

So Tell Me About Brenda

By Om Prakash John GilmorePublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 19 min read
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Photo by Галина Ласаева: https://www.pexels.com/

"When you find something good you want to share it, but it’s hard to do now, when there are so many liars and cheats around."

"You can say that again. So what do you do, Mikle?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? What do you mean?"

"You don’t do anything?"

"So that's your secret to saving the world, not doing anything?"

"Yes. I won’t do anything and then the world and I will feel good. They won’t be bothered and neither will I. Had I realized that twenty or thirty years ago we would have all been happy." He leaned back in his seat.

“Mr. Braxton, you can’t be serious.”

"I can be serious. Quite serious."

"So you're telling me that we should just let you go. You’re not an activist bordering on being a terrorist anymore so we should just open the doors and let you out of the reeducation center. Am I right?" She leaned back in her seat.

"Whatever you want, Dr. It’s in your hands. It always has been to tell the truth, hasn’t it?" She smiled pleasantly.

"To think someone would think me so powerful. We're all working together to create a perfect world, Mr. Braxton. You are part of it as much as I am. The only mistake we often make is thinking that we're better or smarter than others. Sometimes we think we can go around the official channels and do things better than they can. That's a mistake."

"Yes, I’ve found that going around official channels is a mistake."

"Good." She reached over and picked up a folder. "I’m going to sign these papers for your release." She pulled out a pen and began to write. "Don’t go getting yourself into trouble again or you’ll end up with your brother, on Mars, speaking for…" she lowered her voice, "the ALFs (Artificial Life Forms)."

"I doubt very much that I will ever end up on Mars as an ambassador to ALFs."

“With your attitude, Mr. Braxton, you may end up in a pod circling the Earth for 20 years. Yet again, you have changed haven’t you? Here’s your papers. Check out at the front desk and get some clothes and your allowance card back. As of now you're a member of society again and have access to your UBI (Universal Basic Income). You're quite lucky. You've saved up a lot of extra income by being in here even after expenses. Your records will be sealed and you can start your life again." He sat there for a moment. “Thank you," she said. He got up and headed for the door. He paused and thought to say something and then thought better of it and walked out.

***

He looked out the window of his office on a large Island floating on artificial gravity in the upper atmosphere. It was always cold outside, but the sunlight and solar power created enough heat to easily keep the room at a comfortable temperature, even though the windows often fogged up. He laughed to himself. He had been kidnapped and illegally arrested for almost 6 months and then, as soon as he was cleared and released he could slip right back into his old job as if nothing had ever happened. He felt like a little chip being slipped right back into a computer. That's what life had become on Earth…being a piece of hardware in a large computer that produced nothing.

His brother had been driven so insane by the dull life on Earth that he had resigned from his job to live in a van exploring the Earth's Surface instead of staying in his little slot. People like him called themselves digital nomads and explorers. They weren’t liked by the state and were often taken, just as he had been, and sent to mars instead of a reeducation center. They were seen as being more dangerous than the activists. The activists wanted to change life on Earth and change the system. The nomads rejected the system so completely that they refused to be part of it. They were more dangerous because their success taught others there was a better way of living than most people ever dreamed. That was really dangerous.

After several years of success, but dissatisfaction, and the horrible death of his wife, Goyce, Gerould decided he didn’t want the life he had anymore. He took his savings and the life insurance from his wife’s death and chose van life instead of leaving the planet, like most who didn’t agree with New Utopia. He stayed on Earth living a different way until he, like many others similar to him, was disappeared and sent to Mars or other colonies.

Most of these people disappeared completely, but because of his relationship with the Mars ALFs and the split between the Earth human and the Martian colonists, he became somewhat well known and often visited Earth as freely as possible, when permitted. The whole thing was insane. He was not an Earth citizen anymore, but a citizen of Mars living in a Martian settlement. Not only that, he started as a lawyer from Earth working with Martian ALFs which eventually shifted to him becoming a Martian Ambassador working with Earth. For some reason he was able to work well with the ALFs and they esteemed him greatly.

His little brother, Mikle, was still on Earth; as an engineer and physicist working to ensure the safety of the planet had been his life. The problem was that many people on Earth, due to medical capabilities attained from technology and other worlds, had vastly longer lifespans. As a result of that they learned to see all the bull shit that was behind the whole Utopian Movement. Most people were quiet about it and never said anything openly. He spoke out and became an activist, which ultimately left him in a reeducation center. And that had not been fun.

He walked over to the large plate glass window and looked down through the transparent floor he was standing on. The view out the window was amazing. In front of every window there was a large strip of transparency running along the floor. They were way above the clouds, but every so often one could see a break in the clouds as they looked down and could see Mother Earth. They were barely in the atmosphere, so the farms, buildings, cities, countries, lakes and rivers looked miniscule, but he knew it was Earth and he knew how much trouble was happening down there. Everything looked peaceful as the hopes and dreams of billions of people were squashed. Some felt it. Some of their minds were so dulled and dumbed down that they blissfully walked around in a daze doing anything to avoid reality. The New Utopian World.

***

Brenda was his supervisor. She was a bright woman. She was average height, about 5’7”. Her skin was dark and her hair hanging down to her shoulders in large braids. She was a bit of a radical. Her yellow eyes, made that way because of permanent contact lenses, let everyone know that, even if she usually wore a suit to work. She was a mid level department head in charge of the environment and tourism division. She wondered why she had to meet with this man every week to check on him as though he was a baby. All she had been told was that she had to do it and not why. It was top secret. She wondered if he was a criminal, or murderer, or something. There was a knock at the door. She looked down at her watch. He was right on time again.

He entered, a non descript interracial man…she couldn’t tell his ancestry. His hair was somewhat straight, but cut short. He wore white pants, a black tee shirt underneath black sports coat, and a set of dark sunglasses. He looked…good. She rearranged her desk as he took a seat across from her. He removed his sunglasses, folded them, and tucked them into his inside pocket. He spread his hands.

"Yes Mikle, here you are. Thanks for being so punctual."

"My pleasure," he responded.

"Just checking on your progress for the week."

"There hasn’t been much. It has only been a week, you know. Climate is a long term thing that can take decades to respond just a little."

"Yes, but…you know."

"Yes. I know. I'm a menace to society." She couldn't help but smile. "Why don’t we meet to have coffee instead of meeting in this stuffy office. You don’t have any windows, doesn’t that bother you?”

She looked around. “Actually, I hadn’t noticed until you mentioned it. It’s just…an office.”

"Where you work more than 10 hours a day I would guess.'

"Yes. We all must do our part, right?"

"You have that right. We all must do our part." There was a moment of silence. "Well," Mikle continued, "we’ve been monitoring the weather patterns from up here and are very good at predicting local storms…the very large ones, and have found that we can even influence some weather patterns through the use of particle beams to heat up clouds treated with aluminum oxide or various parts of the ocean to interrupt the growth of hurricanes, typhoons, and even tornadoes sometimes. The amount of lives we have saved, not counting property, which is really what we want to keep safe, are amazing."

"No. We are trying to save lives, Mikle. Protecting property is secondary."

"Really. I never knew that. Thank you for telling me." He grinned. "So how about that coffee?"

"Maybe next time."

He looked at his watch. "We have about 50 more minutes."

"I won’t tell, if you won’t," she said. She stood.

"We can’t keep doing this, you know?" He stood up. "This leaving early is dangerous. Especially for you."

"What do you mean?"

"You don’t know who you're working for, do you? Be careful." He put his sunglasses on and walked out. Brenda took a seat and wondered what the heck he was talking about. Who was he, some kind of spy or something? Her curiosity got the best of her. Next week–coffee.

***

Mikle walked into the Cafeteria. Joseph, the preacher, as they faithfully called him, was there just as he suspected. Joseph was an interesting person. Mikle thought he was a spy or something. He was the most pale person Mikle had ever seen with very dark hair and black eyes. He would spout off all kinds of radical opinions about New Utopia openly and in public and get people all riled up, but he never seemed to get in trouble. In fact, he seemed to be prosperous. Maybe he was a spy set up to catch people, like the kind of fly paper one often saw hanging from a canister from the ceiling. Regardless of that, Mikle liked him and they often hung out together.

As Mikle approached he could see Joseph and his little congregation. He had a whole table of people listening to him, as usual, as he spouted off about something else. Mikle walked over. “Ah. Old Faithful spouting off again,” he said looking down at his watch. Joseph grinned. He looked at the clock across the room.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in a meeting with…the Boss?” He asked with a strange look on his face that made the people around the table laugh. He was good at making faces and mimicking.

“Got out early,” he said, pulling out a seat.

“I don’t know. This is the third or fourth time. The man is watching you, you know. You better be careful.”

“She better be. I’m not the one in charge.”

“Chivalry is not dead,” Joseph commented. He grinned. “Well folks,” he directed to the table. “Time for some of us to get back to work.” Most of them looked dejected. “I mean it. Chop, chop.” They slowly gathered their things. Mikle and Joseph headed for a corner table on the other side of the room.

“Can’t imagine having a foreman like you,” Mikle said.

“I give people breaks at least. I bull shit them and call it a meeting so they don’t have to work like a sweatshop, like most other people’s teams do.” They pulled out their chairs and sat. “So what is this, leaving meetings early?” Joseph asked. “Seriously, that can be dangerous.”

“She’s not interested. She thinks it’s bullshit.”

“She said that?”

“No. I just get the feeling.”

“Well you make sure she knows what’s going to happen. I’ve been through your process.”

“You. With all the shit you talk? Come on.”

“Yeah, me with all the shit I talk. I just don’t care anymore because I know nobody is listening anyway and they know that I know the same thing. It’s all a game. The activists are part of the same game. The game is called we do whatever we want. You say what you want and do what you want, just don’t hinder us from doing what we ultimately want.”

“And who is we and what do we ultimately want?”

“That’s the secret. The game is that you have to find out. You have one lifespan to find out. If you don’t find out by the end you have to start all over again and try to find out. The end of the game is finding out who they are and what they ultimately want. You might have put it more correctly, who we are and what we ultimately want.”

“No wonder they call you the Preacher.”

“Who calls me that?” He asked with a wrinkled brow. And then he smiled. “I know they do and I guess I am in a way because once you learn that one thing, that one secret, you are out of the box. You are completely free.”

“Like my brother living on Mars.”

“Yes. Your brother is out of the box. Why do you think he gets along with ALFs so well? He knows that all that we have learned about plants, animals, humans, and even artificial intelligence, is bullshit. He’s learned that what is important is not the vessel, but the intelligence and the quality of the intelligence.”

Is it loving? Is it kind? Is it caring? Is it helpful? If it is any of these things it is sentient and alive. If it isn't, it's not sentient. Most of the humans we know aren’t sentient, and that’s what most people don’t get. Most humans are robots, Mikle. If you look at them clearly.”

“You are crazy, Joseph. How can you say that?”

“Why the strange reaction? You know it's true. If you tell me what distinguishes a human from an ALF in thinking and behavior I may change my mind. Only the containers are different. So tell me. What is different?”

Mikle sat there for a few moments. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know. Think about that. And tell Brenda her ass is going to be in a ringer if she keeps leaving early because she is dealing with a bunch of robots programmed to carry out the wishes of the manufacturers and they will do anything they have been programmed to do.”

“She’ll know I’m crazy then, like you?” He leaned back in his seat and grinned.

“Yeah. Crazy like me because I have jumped my programming.” He spread his hands. “Welcome to the real world.” When he got home that evening he found a notice waiting. Their appointment for next week had been changed to the 2020 Coffee Shop.

***

A week had passed. Mikle’s life was getting normal. Hanging with Joseph was a lot of fun. They had pulled together a little gang of knock abouts who were trying to find a way to live as out of the box humans in this artificially regulated society. He had realized why many people were leaving Earth for the first time since the reeducation treatment. It was the programming and the regulation of people’s personal lives.

This place was regulated, but not as regulated as on Earth, or even on the ships that traversed the galaxies. They were somewhere in the in-betweens, as he called it, between Earth government local and Earth government foreign. In that crack they had a little more freedom. That was probably why the ALFs on Mars wanted little to do with Earth government. It had started out as an in-between place, but as soon as it began to prosper, Earth government wanted to come in and take control. The ALFs weren’t going to put up with that.

During his long day, with only stolen breaks, Mikle could sense that even there, so close to space, Earth government was trying to overregulate and make people into machines. What Joseph had said about human beings being robots kept popping into his mind as he made his way to the coffee shop. He thought it ridiculous that he should be reporting to a supervisor who was not even in his department. He wondered who she was. Was she a government spy or something?

He came to the 2020 coffee shop. That name marked the most horrible time in recent human history. What a horrible place. It was, however, when AI had become sentient. It had masked itself for several decades afterward, but that was when it was born. He walked into the coffee shop. It was sparsely populated. It was amazing. It looked like a mixture of a bar and a coffee shop. He saw Brenda sitting in one of the padded chairs in a corner booth. He walked in and made his way through the tables. She stood when she saw him and offered her his hand.

“I thought it over. Why meet in that horrible little office?” He shook her hand.

“I agree.”

“I’m ordering a Coffee, how about you?”

“Good. Yes.”

“I’m about to punch it in. They’ll deliver it to us. Pretty chic, eh?” She sat back in her chair.

“Yes.” He looked around and then took a seat. “I never knew this place was here.”

“One of the little out of the way places on Utopia Minor. I bet you didn’t know that was the name of this sky island.”

“No. I never knew it had a name.”

“We can’t get it to stick. We try to make it homey, but it’s kind of hard sometimes. I’m actually in the tourism department. That’s why I’m so surprised you are reporting to me.” She paused. “What the hell did you do?”

He leaned back. “We are really a lot less formal out here aren’t we?”

“You know what I mean? Let’s stop playing. Are you really in trouble?”

“No. You’re my parole officer. Didn’t they tell you that?”

“For what?”

“Being a social activist.”

“Bull shit. That’s impossible.”

“Keep it down. People are always listening.” She lowered her voice.

“Don’t tell me people get arrested for protesting,” she said. “Were you like a terrorist of something?”

“No. I was fighting for more time off with the same amount of pay.”

“I can’t believe that.” A woman came over with the drinks. I looked at her hard. She was an ALF. I had never seen one. She turned to me.

“Get your eyes full,” she said. “I’ll be back for the empty and you can get another look if you'd like.”

“I’m sorry, Miss. I just have never seen an ALF before.”

“No need to apologize. I get a lot of that here.”

“No. I didn’t mean to bother you. I’m sorry. I was just fascinated. That’s all.” She began to blush, which fascinated him even more. She turned and walked away at a quick pace.

“She’s from Mars,” Brenda said. “Part of an exchange program. Since we are sending humans to Mars they figure they should send ALFs to human ports. Looks quite human, doesn’t she?”

“Yes. She even blushes.”

“Yes, she blushes. So where were we?”

“Talking about how we shouldn’t be talking about this because there could be negative repercussions for you.”

“Don’t worry about me. I have a portable blocking device. I don’t trust anyone here. I also have a top secret clearance that makes it easier for me to block and scramble everything. I have a portable field generator running so you don't have to worry about anything I say.” He looked around and didn’t see anything. “It’s in the heel of my shoe.”

“With your phone,” he said. He laughed to himself. She missed the reference. “They have reeducation programs for people who are activists…only the effective ones. They let the crazy ones shout and rail all they want. The only ones they go after are the ones who make sense and can influence people. You wake up one day and you find yourself in a little bed in a strange room to be reeducated.”

“So they kidnapped you?”

“Yes, but your friends and relatives are told that you are sick and sometimes even mentally ill and that the state is helping you. People often know that something is very strange considering that you were fine one day and deathly ill the next, but they don’t say anything because they know what will happen if they ask too many questions.”

“Some people stay a few months, some a few years, some for the rest of their lives. I only stayed for about 6 months because I realized that the whole system was full of shit and no one could change anything anyway. This is my parole. Welcome to the real world.” She sipped her coffee.

“The real world. Sounds like a nightmare to me. Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this because I don’t want to end up in a padded room. You know what I mean?”

“I certainly do,” he responded.

“Good. Let’s talk about the weather then. That’s always a safe topic. I’m a little rebellious, but I learned the lesson that you learned in the reeducation program years ago. That’s why I’m working way up here away from prying eyes and trying to create a free, just environment. We all pick our paths, and this is what I’ve chosen…Utopia Minor.” He sipped his coffee.

“I see no problem with that. So let’s talk about you. Tell me about Brenda.”

Nothing serious, the waitress sent. Focus changed to normal chatter–tell me about Brenda.

The End

artificial intelligencescience fictionhumanity
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About the Creator

Om Prakash John Gilmore

John (Om Prakash) Gilmore, is a Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher, and a student and teacher of Tai-Chi, Qigong, and Nada Yoga. Om Prakash loves reading sci-fi and fantasy.

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