Cog 19239 of Binney Corporate Colony 24

Cog 19239 of Binney Corporate Colony 24

AI Image generated by Joseph Street Digest using NightCafe Studio

Part 1: The Cog

Every Binney Corporate Colony operates under the regime of core artificial intelligence. In this case, an entity named Monolith oversees the colony, having established a community where humans, devoid of emotions, manage the resource processing centers within the GI 563.2 system, some 13.15099 light years from Earth.

Elias (Cog 19239), aged 42, wears coveralls and a grey mask and lives in his one-room apartment. Each morning, he wakes up and walks to the communal bathroom to freshen up.

Unlike before, there was a discernible difference this time. The long-haired ginger haired woman, who usually stands next to him at the sink, had her mask up to wash her face and she grimaced as soap entered her eyes. She opened her mouth as if wanting to say something but didn’t. Did she do this on purpose? Everyone knows not to get soap in your eyes. I can’t sugarcoat it – this was not just bad; it was terrible in every sense of the word. Monolith and its robotic enforcers were always watching. Showing any emotion was a crime punishable by reconditioning if one was lucky. What was wrong with her?

Elias pulled down his mask. As he did, the woman left out a gasp, a cross between enjoying the experience, and the pain she experienced from the soap she was wiping away. He quickly left the bathroom, but something was wrong with him. His pace was fast, and his muscles were tensing up. He was in a corridor junction when it happened… “Ahhhhhh!!!!”

He couldn’t help it. He had to yell it out. That woman made him angry for putting soap in her eyes, and he couldn’t control it anymore. This primal scream gave him relief. Afterwards, his body loosened up, and he felt more in control.

“Cog 19239, you are under arrest for an emotional outburst.” Said the monotone voice of Monolith above him. Soon robotic enforcers were surrounding him.

Elias knew he had done wrong and went willingly to judgement.

Before the-all judging blue eye of Monolith, it pronounced its verdict of reconditioning. One of the robotic enforcers walked Elias down a long corridor until it reached a series of numbered doors. He entered door 13 and was strapped into a chair where a robotic contraption with multiple arms containing an array of sharp medical equipment lowered from the ceiling. Elias’ mask was removed, as the machine announced, “preparing for rehabilitation of Cog 19239.”

Elias tried his very best to maintain a stone face, but he felt his heart beating faster than ever. There were these thoughts racing through his mind that he was about to die. Despite being strapped in; his hands and arms shook. Then there was the sharp pain in his neck from the first injection. This was followed by five more to other parts of his head and neck. His eyelids were held open mechanically, and lights flickered into his irises. He felt weird. Like he was floating. He heard voices and the zap of electric gun fire. Then darkness came.

Part 2: The Fall

Elias sat up awake in some dimly lit subfloor of the colony complex, a forgotten part of plumbing and support structures. The smell of grease and oil permeated the damp air. It was like when he was part of that maintenance crew for the heavy processing machinery.

“Brother, you have finally awakened. You’ve been asleep for at least two days. I’m sister Sarah. I was part of the team that rescued you from the machine.”

“I didn’t ask to be rescued. I was scheduled for rehabilitation. Wait a minute, I was out for two days?”

“Yes brother, two days. You might feel different because we pulled you out in the early part of the rehabilitation process. That’s the best time to be pulled out because you return to having normal emotions. See, none of us here wear masks. We are free to express ourselves. See the two over there.” She points to two dimly lit people in the corner fornicating. “They are expressing their emotional desires for each other in public, as it should be.”

“This is so wrong. I want to go back.”

“Sorry brother, you can’t go back. Once you’re here, you need to acclimate. Get used to our ways.”

“I must become like you. Show whatever I feel? Like that woman over there banging her fists against the wall?”

“If you feel like hitting something, go ahead. Do whatever you feel. Express yourself. That’s how we live. For instance…” Sarah grabbed his jumper and pulled him into a semi-romantic kiss. Elias had experienced none of this kissing before. It felt wet and warm. Instinct took over, and he embraced Sarah and pushed slightly back with his lips. She pulled away from his embrace. “See, that’s what I mean.” Elias sat there, struck with a mixture of awe and a strong desire to kiss Sarah again. So, he leaned in again, not knowing what he was really doing. Sarah moved back, putting her hand on his chest. “Sorry, only one free one.”

Elias sat back down. What the heck did she mean by only one free one? He felt like he wanted to do that again. Why couldn’t he just get what he wants? Wasn’t this how this place worked? Are there any rules that are not specified? Monolith’s rules were so straightforward. Everyone knew them, and if you broke them, it was reprogramming. But this place is chaos and if they were caught, Monolith would end them all as deviants.

Then Elias heard what sounded like someone banging on a pipe.

“What’s that about?” Elias asked.

“Come with me. It’s a special meeting.”

Elias followed Sarah to a large dome shaped room. There were fifty people there. Up on the large metal seat was a well-built man carrying what looked like a shovel. He banged it on the floor to get the people to quiet down.

Elias whispered to Sarah, “Who’s that?” Sarah whispered back, “That’s Simon, our leader. And the five women next to him are his wives.”

Wives? What the heck were wives? Elias had never heard of this term. People grew up in the nurseries like he did. Recalling his teen year education, these people clearly had reverted to a savage way of life reproduction. It must result from letting emotions control you. You become nothing more than a savage beast, and Monolith was right after all. These people are proof.

Simon spoke, “Our brother, Gideon, has been found guilty by his fellow brothers and sisters for stealing, raping, and other treasonous acts against the clan. For his crimes, his punishment shall be death by acid bath.”

Gideon was brought out and placed on a dais, and the crowd booed and hissed.

Simon continued, “That’s it, my brothers, and sisters. Express yourself against Gideon.” Some threw rocks or whatever pieces of metal that lay on the floor.

Sarah handed Elias a small rock. “Here’s a rock.”

“But I don’t know Gideon. I wasn’t here when he committed his crimes. I feel nothing against him.” Elias handed back the rock, which Sarah immediately chucked at Gideon.

Such violence. This seemed so unjust to Elias. No one did what Gideon was said to do in the colony. Elias had never heard of those crimes. There was only one crime, which was emotionally expressing oneself. This “clan” that he was rescued into was all backwards to Elias. Filled with the freedoms of expressing oneself, but at the same time harsh punishments for doing so wrongly. And what was wrong? Who determined that? It was like this kissing thing with Sarah, unwritten rules that she could kiss him whenever, but he couldn’t kiss her when he wanted to.

Simon ended Gideon’s public humiliation, and people began to return to their parts of the subfloor.

Elias wanted to return to his old life under Monolith but didn’t know how to get back to the main complex. Being the one who complied with social norms, he tried to fit in. Over what felt like days, Sarah showed Elias his job helping her prepare meals for the clan. The kitchen was a hodgepodge of makeshift cookery and foodstuffs the clan’s scavengers foraged from the upper levels. Some of it was prepackaged, but some of it was from the hydroponic gardens and not in the best shape. Sarah, Elias, and a couple of others had to do with veggies that smelled of the sulfide smells of rotting eggs. Despite Elias’ high standards, he acknowledged that the rotten veggies could have caused some cases of gastritis and diarrhea, regardless of how well they were cooked. The problem was what else could the group do… this resulted from their choice to be emotionally free from Monolith’s rule. Elias felt like he wanted to say something to Sarah, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out like that woman in the bathroom.

“Is there something you wanted, Elias?”

Elias closed his mouth, then spoke to Sarah, “No. I’m good.”

Elias was dumbfounded. Why didn’t he say something? He couldn’t. He felt emotionally paralyzed. He knew the food was making people sick, but he was the new guy and he wanted to fit in. He always wants to fit in. That’s what Monolith drilled into him since he was a kid… socially comply. Here he was in an expressive community, and yet couldn’t emote.

Sarah explained at one point, the clan adds new people for more offspring. They do so by going up to what Elias called “reconditioning” and rescue someone. Their future mate is part of that rescue team, like Sarah was. Sarah was assigned to Elias by the clan for more offspring, despite being 25 years younger. She had this peculiar smell to her. It was like the shop grease they used on the joints in some of the lighter machinery. Evidently, she used some of it as moisturizer. It reminded Elias of his early days of working in the colony. While he didn’t mind her kisses, other advances felt odd to him. This whole sexual relationship thing was absolutely confusing to Elias, and he had mixed emotions he couldn’t sort out. In fact, he had trouble sorting out much of what he was feeling, not just for Sarah, but for being with these beastly people. He was periodically feeling odd things where his body would tense up and he would walk about stomping on the ground. Once Sarah refused his kissing advance, but his muscles tensed up, and he pinned her to the floor. He wanted to kiss her and felt angry with all this constant refusal of his advances. But as he looked into Sarah’s eyes, which were wide with fear, he relaxed and got off her. Elias lay next to her. Sarah then got up and left. What was he doing? Was he going to be considered a rapist? Was he going to be killed? He felt this desire to be punished for doing wrong. Sarah returned, and he sat up. She said nothing.

Elias realized Sarah would not turn him over to Simon, but still felt he should be punished. Grabbing a length of wire that was nearby, he asked while holding the wire to Sarah, “Sarah, please whip me with this.”

Sarah took the length of wire and began whipping Elias with intense pleasure.

After some time, Elias said, “Enough, I’ve been punished.”

Sarah said back, “No, you haven’t!” And she kept whipping him.

From that point forward, Elias was learning who oversaw this supposed relationship, and that Sarah had an emotional mean streak in her.

Then one day, while preparing for a meal, he lost it and threw a large pot of water onto the floor. He didn’t know why, but he felt a primal need to express his anger. Throwing the pot of water on the floor satisfied that need.

As Elias relaxed from tensing up, Sarah punched him in the side, saying, “Idiot, water is rare! Tossing it on the floor is a waste!”

Elias turned and looked at Sarah, whose face was twisted into rage. Her eyes were burning like the fires in the smelting furnaces he had seen. He didn’t know what to say. An odd mixture of thoughts entered his mind from running away to hugging her. He knew he did wrong. Was he going to be punished? Is he a clan traitor now? And why does he keep doing these anger fits? Am I broken?

Sarah calmed down, grabbed a towel, and gave it to Elias. “Here, try to soak up whatever you can, and put it into the recycler.”

That night Elias lay next to Sarah, who curled up behind him on the plastic covered floor that was their bed and thought about things. He did not know how much time had passed, but it had to be at least a week, maybe two. Elias had worked with others, which was not a problem, but living with a person like Sarah was different. She kept mentioning that Simon would decide the time of their marriage, then they could try to have kids. But Sarah seemed so emotionally unstable to Elias, like a lot of the people in the Clan. Maybe this happens to you when pulled out of reconditioning prior to finishing the treatment. The outcome of this situation is that you become emotionally unstable. Would he become increasingly emotionally unstable? If they have children, would they inherit this problem? Besides, who raises these kids? If this clan thinks I’m going to do that… that’s so not my skill set. I don’t even know how to make a family with Sarah. I suppose she does, but how’s this going to go? Will it be like the kissing thing where she’s totally in charge? I don’t understand any of the sexual and emotional stuff of this community. Some men dominate women, and some women dominate men. Then there’s those doing it in groups. I can’t take all this sexual-emotional drama that happens here. The main colony was so straightforward with its lack of emotions. Honestly, I’ve tried it, but I can’t stand living this way. I wish I could take Sarah with me, but she’d have all the same problems I have here. She couldn’t tolerate living with Monolith. There’s just no in between place. It’s all or nothing here or with Monolith.

Elias woke up early the following day and went back to the main complex. He made his way back through the tunnels based on his conversations with those who did raids. He liked Sarah a lot, but he knew he didn’t fit in. He couldn’t understand all the hidden meanings of all the unsaid things. He always feared he’d mess up and end up being branded as a traitor. Living under the Monolith’s rules was simpler. Maybe not freer with expressing oneself, but Elias realized that absolute emotional freedom leads to cruelty. And that absolute suppression is a brutal evil that can bring a certain high-cost peace. If only there was a third choice where the rules are known, but emotional expression was allowed in limited ways. But given a lack of third choice, or even how to achieve it, I’m left with the option offered by Monolith where there’s total societal suppression. For the alternative is living in an underground existence like an animal groping in the dark. Emotions need boundaries, but so does control.

Once in the main complex, he let out one last primal scream and was immediately arrested. He didn’t resist, was reprogrammed, and returned to wearing his blank mask and being Cog 19239 for the Binney Corporate Colony 24 of system GI 563.2.

This story was fully human created.


Subscribe now

Read The E-JSD in the Substack app

Available for iOS and Android

Get the app

Click Here To Go To E-JSD.