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Another Day


Cailean Darkwater

He clocked on, 8 sharp as he always did, strode into the office, entered his cubicle and powered up his terminal.

Some people working in another company might have been late, even just occasionally, but not him. No delaying event entered his life; actually, no adverse event ever entered his life, whatever time of the day.

It wasn't in the schedule, which meant it wasn't part of the Plan.

Anything that didn't affect the Plan (which wasn't much, being such a widespread and intricate Plan) was ignored. Anything that interfered with the Plan (such as a late worker), was deemed counterproductive, henceforth not tolerated.

Working for the Corporation had its benefits!

He liked his work. He'd been told about the Plan in his induction, about how it kept everything going like clockwork. He was proud to be a part of the Plan that kept everything running so smoothly. The Corporation's Plan allowed the seamless flow of Events, organizing everything behind the scenes.

Like clockwork.


The robot smoothly activated, lights gradually blinking on, the rising hum of servomotors spinning up to speed, relays switching to new configurations. The faint smell of ozone.


He'd been in Recruitment for a while now, everyone in-house knew it was the fast-track, if you did well you could write your own ticket to a good position anywhere. Once you proved your worth - earned your spurs, as it were - to the Corporation in Recruitment, you were virtually rocketing up the corporate ladder.

Recruitment was difficult and esoteric work. It took skill to classify the different units and divine their possible use in the Plan. (It was policy to use the term "unit" for the same reason that laboratory hamsters are unnamed; no emotional attachment that way.)

Really effective Recruiters found units and modified them ahead of time, preparing for the future steps of the Plan. This was quite an art, and the powers that be in the Corporation really concentrated on people who had an intuitive grasp of the Big Picture.

Units were altered by Events, created by other individual units or Special Operations. There was a symbiosis between Recruiters. The Event you created with your unit that helped another Recruiter's unit to be altered might allow you to create an Event later that would affect another unit under your care. It paid to scratch each other's backs.

It was teamwork. They were all working in line with the Plan.

Like clockwork.


The robot began its task, every movement totally efficient, unbelievably accurate, working in seamless harmony with the rest of its steel siblings.


"Request for a #8276 in Operation 7924. Psych profile follows. All Recruiters, please present suitable candidates."

Looking through the basic unit type and the accompanying psychological profile, he knew he had the perfect candidate for the operation.

"Request for Operation 7924 filled by Recruiter #5062. Thank you for your cooperation."

His co-worker next to him in #5063 asked him "How did you get it so fast?"

Replying with professionalism and confidence he revealed his technique. They weren't competing in this organization. "Think of them as acronyms. Instead of a #8276, it's an LMJ."


"Loud Mouthed Jerk. Then you check the psych profiles, and see which one is the closest match. LMJs are common, but rarely called in for much precise work, occasionally the call for a mob of them for some Events. Sheer chance that I had what they wanted, sheer chance."

"Ah, you're kidding yourself, stop being so modest! No chance at all, you're just one with the Plan. You're going to go far, son. Really far. You know what's going on."

Uplifted by his colleague's vote of confidence for his advancement, he sat back at his terminal and brought up the details of the Event. Pity he'd never got the guy's name, it just never came up in the office.

Hmmm, the Event was the #8276 slamming into a #0408 and #0411 unit with his car, deactivating them. It would be deemed a tragic accident, of course, and this Event would lead the surviving #8276 to another Event, the unit's self deactivation. Such an Event would cause other Events to ripple out within the units related to all three of the deactivated units. These Events would cause improvements to road safety against other unit deactivation. Consequently, a key unit that would have been deactivated without these improvements would be spared.

Like clockwork.


The robot picked up the components before it, assembled them into one complete form, finely machined pieces slotting together exactly. Each movement never changing, always the same twists and turns, perfect in motion.


The few must suffer for the sake of the many. It was all for the greater good.

(The term "death" had been removed from official Corporation terminology. The term "deactivation" had been deemed far more productive and efficient.) He didn't know how they would get the #0408 (RAG; Rebellious Angst-ridden Girl) together with the #0411 (MWS; Mild-mannered Wage Slave). Both of the units seemed completely inappropriate for any type of social interface.

But he didn't have their psych profiles. He had to handle his own part in this Event, other Recruiters would handle theirs. Time to get to work.

He had it. As well as some minor situations he could arrange, he had two units which would alter the specific #8276 to the appropriate state for the Event. First, after the unit had performed wage-earning activities for higher designated units, he would be approached in his favourite bar by a #8352 unit (STD; Sexy Teaser of Drinks) who would ply him for cocktails and leave after she was sated, lowering his meagre funds without any return on his investment. Result to unit #8276: increased anger, frustration, blood/alcohol level, decreased feelings of duty and compassion. Next, the #8276 meets a #4989 (SAD; Speeding Abusive Driver) while driving home. Result to unit #8276: increases in frustration, anger and vehicle speed. Specially prepared mechanical faults in unit #8276's car cause said unit to lose control of the car at a critical juncture, causing the successful deactivations of units #0408 and #0411. He set the wheels in motion; it would be ready by tonight. Event completed.

Like clockwork.


The robot had finished its work, not wasting a single joule of energy with unnecessary motion. Precise, perfect. It moved on to its next job, different pieces, same motions.


All part of the Plan.

Barring UEs, of course.

They had been cropping up far too often for the powers-that-be to ignore as "acceptable inefficiency."

It was believed that these UEs, Unknown Events, were caused by a shadowy reflection of the Corporation, an organization pitted against the Plan. In essence, an anti-Corporation whose Plan was the destruction of the Plan.

He refused to believe that such people existed. The Plan was humanity's only hope - imagine what life would be like if things just happened, no control, no organization, no Plan. Such an existence would be indescribably chaotic, no underlying reason or logic behind anything. He shivered at the thought, such a thing was anathema to him.

He was thoughtful as he left his cubicle, preparing for his trip home.

Scheduled to be uneventful, as always. He thought of arranging a "chance meeting" with an old friend from his college days. As long as it didn't interfere with the Plan, it should be fine.

On the train ride home he read through the Corporation's edition of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." He found the utopia described therein enchanting, comforting, a society that worked, all people in all strata of society determined to fulfill the Plan. For the greater good.

Like clockwork.


The robot, now in stand-by mode, ran through a self-diagnosis procedure. Finding minute temperature-alteration cracks and repetitive stress points, quickly repairing these minor flaws carefully and methodically.


Looking over the aisle, he couldn't help but notice a young woman in black; hair, clothes, nails. She was reading the same book, although a conventional version, containing the sections that were considered anti-Plan, which had been removed from his copy.

She looked at him, nailed him to the fibreglass wall of the carriage. Deep electric blue eyes, cerulean orbs, held him rooted to the spot. Why was she looking at him? Why did her eyes show so much animosity? He was just another face in the crowd, what made him stand out? Why did she see him different to anyone else?

It was hard thinking of this living, breathing human being by a unit designation. She was real, she was THERE, right in front of him. At the office it was easy; units were designated with code numbers, not names. Units were deactivated, people didn't die.

Here, in the midst of humanity, the knife-sharp edges of the Plan started to blur. He clenched his book with trembling hands, priest grasping for holy scripture.

"I know what you did."

He could hear the soft whisper of anger in her velvet tones, accusing him, focusing her wrath upon him, sunray shining through magnifying glass.

He felt like an ant.

"You TOY with people's lives, twist them, MANIPULATE them for your MASTERS. And you only have a vague notion WHY. You are an ignorant fool; while you control other people like puppets you are just a PUPPET yourself. At least I know they are messing with me, and I'm not going to TAKE it any MORE!"

He'd found one. Someone that opposed the Plan, and worse, knew far too much about it. They weren't mythical - they were real. The enemy.

He blurted out, almost by reflex in his shocked state: "It's all part of the Plan."

Like clockwork.


The robot suddenly was patterned with tiny rust spots over the featureless metal,  growing larger by the moment. Self-repair systems were initiated to stave of this new threat to the tireless worker. An alert flashed through silicon mind, "DANGER!"


With raging fires subsumed underwater, hissing and sending up great gouts of scalding steam, she retorted: "LISTEN to yourself. Whose Plan is it? Why is it so freaking good? Why are They right, with Their Plan? It's not MY plan, not YOURS, either. Freak, WAKE UP and smell the REALITY, bud. You're just a slave like the rest of us, but while we are slaves through ignorance, you know the score and you still SUBMIT to the masters. You have CHOSEN to be a fool."

He had to concentrate on the Plan, its beauty, its purpose, its comfort. Her foul lies  were getting to him. He had to remind himself that it was not up to him to ask why.

Like clockwork.


The robot saw the rust race across its surface, leaving holes and crumbling framework in its wake. Inside the inner workings came a metallic screech of gears clashing discordantly. Humming of servomotors faltering slightly, occasional lights burnt out.


She left at the next station and he couldn't let her go. Not only was there major kudos for bringing in such evidence, it really would help the Plan, remove the possibilities of UEs from the equation. Noticing that he was following her, she broke into a run, striding speedily into the concealing night. He picked up the pace. She opposed the Plan, but once she understood, she would help them in the Corporation. Once the Corporation showed people the magnificence of the Plan, they saw the light of reason, saw the wondrous order that the Plan brought.

Like clockwork.


The robot perceived its self-repair systems repairing holes within its form, patching holes, restoring integrity to the unit. Threat neutralized for the moment, it sought for a logical explanation for this degradation of its substance.


Just a little out of his reach, he'd almost caught up with her as the road curved sharply. Bright headlights illuminating sable cloth on dead-white skin.

Suddenly she about-faced and grappled him into the undergrowth. Behind them, a scream of tyres, thundering smash of metal on wood. The jack-knifed sedan slowly sped off again unsteadily. Scorch marks on the road and the smell of burned rubber surrounded the place where they had been locked in pursuit. Around the track lay the highway pickets, red cat's eye plastic sparkling in the darkness, wood strewn around like corpses blasted by violent explosion.

She got up from the greenery, brushed herself off, but she didn't run away. Just stood defiantly in front of him.

"You saved me."

The shock tore through him - he had almost died, and she had averted that terminal event. Wordlessly she showed him a dossier, her picture emblazoned on the front of the innocuous beige folder.

"UNIT #0408-80-9249. Scheduled for deactivation by a unit #8276 in Operation #7924."

The fury was back in her voice as she recited the Event that described her scheduled death, mixed with regret and pity. She'd found out the when and where, and had avoided her execution. He thought the aspect that infuriated her most was that she had been reduced to a simple number, to be removed from the equation of Life at a whim.

She held forth another dossier, photo glinting on beige in the flickering streetlight.

UNIT #0411-15-5062

His number. His photo.

The Corporation had set him up to be deactivated (screw the euphemisms!), to DIE.

He was merely another pawn to be sacrificed in another move of the great game. Bloody heart ripped out of still-living chest, burnt in holy homage to the Plan.

He imagined all the people whom he had reduced to numbers, killed for "the greater good." Not to mention the countless individuals warped and tortured from their choices, enslaved by the Corporation's wishes.

Regret and anger ran through him; fire and ice hopelessly intertwined. But she could see the signs stamped upon his face, she embraced him firmly, lovingly. They were both crying, tears of anguish, tears of rage. Blinking back the drops, she looked deeply within his eyes, and he knew her, he could feel her. A person who cared about him. Not a number, never a number. She whispered softly, voice tear wracked:

"Welcome back to the human race."


The robot searched for the threat, but the self-diagnosis program intervened. "DANGER" The rust had returned, destroying integral structure faster than before. The unit seized up with rattles and clanks, vibrating madly, falling supine upon the ground. Shuddering, breaking itself apart.

From the broken shell a man arose, eyes wide with wonder, as if seeing the world for the first time, seeing life through fresh eyes. He saw the robots slaving away perfectly at their tasks, never changing, and knew that this shrine of stability was not his place. An open door led to a lush meadow, cool breeze blowing lightly on his bare skin. He left this world of steel and glass and entered another.

He did not look back.


"Request for a #0411 in Recruitment, cubicle #5062. Existing position holder rendered untraceable due to UE in Operation 7924. Need another."

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