In a world where Cybersyn has created a life of its own, only an act of rebellion can save us.
Elise was taken from her home becuase of her father's courage to stand up to an old system. By paying his price, the government might have to pay theirs..
Strength and luck
The windows of the plane rattled unsettlingly as I stared down at my hands, callused with work, neatly chained together. I had been securely fastened into the seat, locked in, so even if my hands had been free, they wouldn’t have been much help. Looking around the bleak aircraft, the others seemed similarly distraught. Since birth, we feared that this day would come, but prayed it never had.
Beginning as an accountability tool, Cybersyn had let workers report to the government, permitting them to tweak factory conditions and shape Chile into the most functional workforce on the planet. Soon, the system evolved, and after the third world war and re-factioning of the countries, it became a system with which to shape the population instead. By setting this standard in place, the government relied on human nature to work itself out. People turned on one another the way they had turned on witches in the past; a scorned lover, a fired employee, an angry friend. The world lived in fear of a neighbor reporting them to the government, who, without question, plucked them from their homes and took them to wherever I was going. Chile was closed off from the rest of the world, we were told that the world was still at war, though there were rumors of towns who were rescued by kind men who helped them begin new lives without any surveillance at all. People in my town were hesitant to talk about it, so I never learned anything more.
There were rumors that takings had turned random, that someone didn’t even have to be reported to be taken, that it was done just to show they could, and as I stared at the wing of the plane, I knew I was an example. My father had been recently elected mayor of our small town, elected positions being a small semblance of normalcy we clung to, and he had promised those in our town that he would limit the presence of Cybersyn. Because there were so few of us, the government had never taken notice before, but somehow word of his promise had escaped our town, and the next day I was taken.
Around me there were others, most of them older, some seemed to have mental disabilities, thereby explaining their removal from the workforce: they had made too many mistakes. And yet, facing me with his back to the wall, hands and ankles chained together, there was a boy about my age who seemed perfectly lucid, tapping his fingers against his leg as if to tick off a count. He wore glasses, and when he looked at me, his eyes were full of life. It confirmed my suspicions that the government took people who were fit to work in order to send a message.
By the time we finally arrived at our destination, rain was pounding the windows. Guards unbuckled us quickly and roughly and led us out of the plane into the cold weather. I squinted against the spray of water and took in the large concrete complex, fenced in by daunting curls of barbed wire. Smokestacks rose above the roof, and it reminded me almost of home, though the black smoke rising into the sky left an acrid stench in the air. The guards pushed us roughly, the elders stumbling under their shoves, but I kept my head high, following the blonde hair of the boy who I knew was here for the same reason I was.
They ushered us inside a large, empty, warehouse-like room and lined us up quickly, seeming to be waiting. A moment later, stepping out onto a loft above us, a gruff man emerged from a door in the wall and looked down at us with disdain. He smiled, his lips curling unsettlingly around yellowing teeth.
“Welcome,” he purred, “to the rest of your life. I’m the Commander.” I looked around at the others, who hung their heads, either unable or unwilling to look up at the Commander. “It seems that the system has deemed you unfit to continue your lives in society, so you will work the rest of your days in this factory, putting yourselves to use.”
He paused as an older man erupted into a fit of coughing, unable to catch his breath. With a smirk, he nodded to one of the guards flanking the wall, who grabbed the man by the arm and dragged his feeble frame out the door, not noticing the weak struggle as he heaved against each cough. I flinched and shut my eyes as a gunshot echoed through the walls and the coughing stopped abruptly. The man on the loft smiled once more.
“Though you all are essentially useless to the outside world, we do not tolerate weakness, and you will be dealt with the moment you stop serving your purpose here.” He eyed the guards once again. “Now, take them to their posts.”
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked back into the doorway in the wall as the guards unstuck themselves from the background and began to push us once again, leading us through a maze of hallways as the stench grew stronger. They continued to usher us through the dank hallways until we reached an iron door where the loud screeching of machinery was muffled. A guard who seemed to be the head of it all stepped in front of our group, his back to the door, to address us.
“Now this is where you will prove your worth,” he said gruffly. “You all may have slowed down the factories in your homes, but this will not slow for you. You will work with the machines or you will be eradicated.” He opened the door.
The black smoke from the smokestacks erupted from the doorway into the hall, leaving us all choking on the stench. The guards seemed unbothered. As they pushed us forward, I finally understood the use of Cybersyn.
Before the Third World War, the factories worked without regulation. The giant metal gears worked against human touch rather than with it, as the factories back home did. If you were to make one wrong move, you would be swallowed in the machinery. These buildings in particular had become banned after the winning of the war, because the government had told the public we were finally at peace with the rest of the world. The agreement between nations maintained that none of them would make weapons of war in order to guarantee that peace was maintained. However, this building was the same one that we had been told had been eradicated, and it was clear that we were here because no one would miss us if we died; they assumed we were already dead. After a brief overview of what buttons to push and some unsettlingly brief safety instructions, the guards planted us at our posts, separate from those who, judging by their soot-stained faces, had been here for a while. Many of them were old, their joints clearly near breaking under the weight of their stress, and it was clear that those who suffered from mental illness did not last long in these conditions. The mentally disabled, the elderly, the rebels, we were disposable, unfit to join society, and thus were left to live out our days in this smokey room or die early.
I was positioned next to the boy I had seen on the plane, and about half an hour into our work, he nudged me, his eyes flitting to a guard who had just turned his back on us.
“I’m Lucas. I need to know if you’re mentally able.” He didn’t look at me as he spoke.
“Yes.” I whispered, my voice covered by the screeching of metal on metal. “I’m Elise.”
He nodded, returning his gaze quickly to his work as a guard completed his rounds right next to us. “I think I can help stop this, even pause it, but I am going to need your help.” He barely moved his lips as he talked, but I heard him and gave him the faintest nod. “We’re going to do this tonight.” He finished, and we both resigned to our work.
At the end of the work day, our group was swapped out with another, and we were led through the halls once again towards what I could only assume were the barracks. My hands ached from twisting the machinery all day, careful to keep my fingers away from the crushing gears. They left us unguarded in our sleep, tucked into beds that nestled themselves in the barracks walls, leaving the rest of the room free. Leaving us unguarded made sense because my muscles ache too badly for me to even fathom moving, so when Lucas tapped me on the shoulder right as I was drifting off, I considered ignoring him. Then, I remembered the outlook for my life if I did.
I rolled over and he spoke quickly, his eyes darting around the room, as if waiting for a guard to stop him.
“I’m here for similar reasons to you, I was a rebel. I’ve worked in computer technology my entire life, meant to be a techie for Cybersyn,” I was taken aback, very few people were techies, they were chosen at birth and groomed for their entire lives to manage the system. “I was young when I realized what this system had turned into, and I spent years figuring out the code to disable it. I’m here because I tried, but I wasn’t able to finish. The door where the Commander came out of this morning hosts one of the master computers. If we can get in there, alone, I think I can input my code to pause this for everyone here to get out. Are you in?”
“Absolutely.” I nodded, swinging my stiff legs over the edge of my bed and stood. He slipped me a screwdriver and I looked at him incredulously.
“I took it from the workroom, you have to be able to do anything to get this done tonight.” I nodded again, heart sinking at what he was implying.
Satisfied with my response, he took off on silent feet towards the door, pausing to peer out the small window. The hallways were empty as we padded to the main room, stopping again at the doorway. Two guards stood at the foot of the stairs. Lucas pulled another screwdriver from his pocket and slung it in the opposite direction from us, where it clattered down another hall. The guards looked at one another and both ran in that direction, while Lucas grabbed my arm and dragged me up the stairs to the control room. We looked again through the small window to see one man, presumably a techie, sitting in a chair, surrounded by large screens covered in words. The lists. The people they were planning to take from their homes and bring here.
Lucas looked at me for confirmation that I was ready, and when I nodded, he threw open the door. We were both shocked to see a guard standing to the left of the door, and in a frenzy, I plunged my screwdriver in his chest, shoving him to the floor. As I tried to run past him to the techie, he grabbed my ankle, pulling me down. The guard lay on the ground, gasping for air, blood gushing from his chest. Lucas threw himself on top of him, holding him down as he released me and struggled to reach his gun, which had slid just out of reach. I sprinted across the room and thrust myself towards the keyboard, slamming the techie into the counter, where he slumped, unconscious. I began pressing any button I could, praying that the screen would respond. Suddenly, they all went black. The system was off.