Brutal Efficiency

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A man fighting for his life on a world whose inhabitants are preyed upon by lethal machines. He can run, hide or pray, there is no fighting them. A woman just doing her job. Juggling morality and
indifference she watches over the machines.



This will hopefully be the first of a series of shorts within this universe.

Submitted: November 12, 2017

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Submitted: November 12, 2017

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Face down in mud, his trousers covered in his own piss and shit, he lay as still as a corpse in the pitch black of the personnel tunnel. His slim malnourished body pressed into the ground as he prayed that he hadn’t been followed. He had been in a similar position to this in the past, the day his survival instincts had switched on and never switched off. The last 24 hours had been considerably better than that day.

***

He had been four years old. Lying on the dirt floor of his bedroom, shaking in fear, his father crouched over him and whispered in his ear, “Sasha, listen to me. Stay still and don’t make a sound. No matter what happens, you don’t move! I’ll always love you” In Sasha’s memory his father was calm and in complete control, perhaps because that is how he strives to be. The last he saw of him was as he closed the bedroom door, the look in his eyes couldn’t be overwritten with a more pleasing memory, the façade of calm slipping to reveal a look of pure terror.

He lay motionless on the floor for hours that day. He barely moved a muscle as the screams of his parents rang through their subterranean home, nor as the crashes culminated in a gentle thud against his bedroom door as the juggernaut, having finished with his parents, considered ending an entire family line. By the time his neighbours found him he had regressed into himself, the shock too much for him to cope with. It was years before he spoke again, whilst being helped to dress by the daughter of one of the neighbours who had found him, both her parents were dead at this point, he had looked her in the eyes and said, “I never moved”.

***

A sound from further up the tunnel catches Sasha’s attention. He strains his ears and can just make out the faint sound of a body being dragged along the dirt tunnel floor and the occasional splash of the juggernaut treading in a puddle. He wills himself to sink deeper into the mud, his head turned sideways to allow himself to breath. His black hair plastered to his boyish face. Calming himself he starts to consider his options, further up the tunnel there’s a store room on the left with a heavy steel slab of a door. It wouldn’t hold long but it may buy him enough time to get into a service duct. From there he could head over to an old railway tunnel that runs parallel with the personnel tunnel he was currently in. The problem was that there was a juggernaut in that direction which could possibly be between him and the store. It was also rumoured that the juggernauts used the railway lines to get around during their raids; however, Sasha had always been sceptical of any information concerning them that he hadn’t gained through his own experiences, most people would exaggerate or just plain lie in an attempt to glorify themselves.

He could head back the way he had come, back towards the workshop and generators. He had left the area at a flat out run as the raid began. The gun shots of the trapped workers ringing in his ears. Half a minute later the lights set in the tunnel roof had gone out, plunging him into darkness, at that point he had lost his footing and gone tumbling face first into the muddy floor, and there he still lay. That option didn’t seem any better than the other.

He could always just stay where he was, perhaps they wouldn’t search the tunnel. Perhaps it just wasn’t his time. Perhaps he should just resign himself to the realisation that it’s all out of his hands and what will be will be. Well that’s not happening. He would go forwards, towards the store. Hopefully he can make it there and get the door closed. Hope that the door holds long enough for him to escape into the railway tunnel. Hope and the will to survive, that is all he has now, and with them he will never give up.

Gritting his teeth he slowly rises to his feet. Cold aching muscles protesting the whole way. His legs feel weak like they’re about to give way and nervous sweat starts inching it’s way down his lean back. Slowly, one foot after another, he heads down the tunnel, from darkness to darkness. His senses alert to anything out of the ordinary. The dank smell of mud, dirt and grime is cut through by the toxic fumes of petrol. That was not ordinary. Down in the haphazard array of tunnels, rooms and caves fuel was a precious commodity and spills had caused fires which had been fatal on multiple occasions. The sound of Sasha’s rustling clothes and footsteps is uncomfortably loud to his ears, uninterrupted by even the drip of water or the rush of a draft.

Stooped and with his right hand scraping the timber braced wall he progresses around a slight bend. Thirty metres ahead there’s the faint glow of a laptop screen illuminating a sharp right hand bend in the tunnel. The desk and chair where Helen, the sixteen year old store master, usually works is empty but undisturbed. Possibly a good sign that she wasn’t attacked. The storeroom door is open. Sasha stops just before he would be visible to anyone, or anything, inside. He crouches low and listens for any sign of danger. No sounds come from inside but at that moment he hears the distinct rhythmic thudding that warns him of the fast approaching juggernaut. It’s approaching from the direction he had just come from. With no time to waste on caution the young survivor steps out into the open door way, the inside of the store is veiled in darkness. He steps over the threshold and starts pushing the heavy door shut, sweaty hands clamped to the crude handle. He knows he must be quick but also quiet, lest he draw attention to his presence, assuming it wasn’t all ready known. Just as the slab of steel was about to fit into it’s frame the hinges let out a horrendous screech. The rhythmic thudding quickens, it’s agonisingly close now. As the door closes darkness envelopes the room. Sasha, heart pounding in his chest, engages the bolt and takes a step back as the thudding stops outside the door.

In silence he inches away from the door. Turning, to start his search for the service duct, he is suddenly illuminated by a dim red light from the rear of the room. Just outside of his reach looms the unmistakable silhouette of a juggernaut, it’s four triple jointed legs flexed as if ready to pounce. A startled scream escapes Sasha’s throat. Crippled by fear he falls backwards. Before he’s even hit the ground his vision has blurred and then ceased to function, joined shortly by every other sense, he has lost complete control of his body. His limp and senseless body slumps to the ground. In the split second before his consciousness shuts down Sasha’s mind is all consumed by fear. That’s it, no memories or rational thoughts, just primal fear enveloping his entire mind. And then there is nothing.

***

Head of the Harvesting Efficiency Section Addilyn Tanner withdraws from the memory of the 19 year old male human called Sasha. The memory was of the last hour of his life, most of which had been skipped to get to the beginning of the raid. She severs her direct connection with her offices computer. Her internal server reconnected her consciousness with the rest of her body and she experienced the familiar tingling sensation. Reclined in her chair, slowly getting used to her own body, she experimented with moving fingers and toes, all seemed normal. Returning to your body from a virtual reality could be very disorientating, even for those who frequently used them. Her eyes open and she takes in the office. The white walls and ceiling are in stark contrast to the black hard plastic floor and red furniture.

Feeling comfortable that she was in full control of herself, Addilyn slowly rose to her feet. Her slim but athletic body, porcelain skin, blood red hair and piercing blue eyes easily identify her as a body enhancement enthusiast to anyone who cared to take note of such things. Moving from behind her desk she stands in front of the office window, it makes up one of the four walls, and enjoys her hard fought for view. When she had first joined the Solar systems Harvesting Division ten Earth years ago she had an office facing the Moon, shared with nine others. She saw beauty in it at first but quickly got bored with it. Numerous promotions later she had finally gotten the office with the best view in the Solar system, by her reckoning anyway, the 500 people she managed were a secondary concern. The section that she now headed within the Harvesting Division, which itself was part of the Biological Cultivation Group (BCG), was focused on the collection of biological matter within the Solar system. The biological matter on Earth was primarily human although other fauna and flora was occasionally collected.

The harvested humans would be used for parts for those in need of a transplant or in their entirety for a full body transplant. The vast majority of the population were not aware that the transplants were coming from unwilling donors having been fed the lie that they were being grown in a lab. That was the original intent of the Biological Cultivation Group but it had proven impossible to cultivate these complex elements. So instead they started creating colonies on habitable but unused planets and satellites and left them for years to progress on their own. The colonies were then manipulated to ensure that the donors would be suitable for transplants. The wealthy and powerful would also have clones of themselves implanted in women to allow them to maintain the same appearance throughout their lives, and since this donor system had been put in place those lives could easily go into the thousands. The truth of where the transplants come from is suspected by many but the threat of having their life spans drastically reduced was more than enough to stop widespread discussion.

Usually the reviewing of individual collections would be carried out by her staff; however, the recent replacement of the AI controlled harvesting ship required her attention. This wasn’t due to the risk of decreased harvesting efficiency, the AIs were far superior in that regard than any human had ever been, but was due to the potential of the AIs using methods that were deemed morally unacceptable during their work. The naming of the section was deliberately misleading, the majority of the population were distrusting of artificial intelligences all ready, why let them know that those in charge were also distrusting of them? At least that was the reason given to the employees within the Harvesting Division. The new AI was called the Disconcerting Certainty (registered as Sirius 309 881 001 “Disconcerting Certainty”) and had previously controlled supply drones on routes between the solar system and the Alpha Centauri system. It had applied to replace the AI on Earth as soon as the position had opened.

Gazing at Earth as it slowly span in front of her, Addilyn reconnected with her computer and accessed the file concerning the previous days collections. Along with Sasha there had been 53, of which she had personally reviewed ten of them. The others had been more successful although there was a running theme through them all, the Certainty appeared to be playing with the Earthlings. It had dragged out the collections and was building up their fear before driving them into a trap. This had proved to be an effective method but only on large scale collections, it also risked injuring the donor body, Addilyn couldn’t see the sense in using it on individuals. She was concerned but it was only it’s first day on the job and may have gotten it out of it’s system, whatever it was. She cycled through the numerous options attached to the file and chose to attach a comment.

Record audio comment”, she said to her empty office.

Recording”, it replied in a gender neutral and strangely natural voice.

The Disconcerting Certainty has used methods that do not meet our standards for humane harvesting. This has so far been seen in 37 cases of 53 after it’s first day and I will review it’s second days collections tomorrow.” She paused, considering how much of an incident to make of it. Chances were that none of the higher ups would bother checking these reports anyway, or at the very least wait until it was a major incident. Best to leave the facts to speak for themselves and not draw attention to it herself, she decided. “I will monitor the Certainties progress closely and contact it directly to find out the reason for it’s chosen methods which will be included in tomorrows report. End recording”, she finished, her sweet yet stern voice cutting off abruptly and leaving the room in silence.

Compared to previous inhumane collections this was a non-incident, but due to them the section was expected to monitor the entire process far more closely. “What a pain in the fucking arse”, Addilyn exclaimed as she drew herself away from the view and went and sat behind her desk. There was only a minority within the BCG that actually cared about the humane treatment of the donors, Addilyn was not one of them. They were going to die anyway, she thought, why waste time and energy trying to make there last moments a little less frightening? As long as their bodies weren’t damaged she couldn’t care less.

She sat back in her chair resenting the necessity of her job. Glancing at the Earth she said aloud, “perhaps my old view wasn’t too bad”, the room never replied, it just quietly logged the outburst. It would be reviewed later.


© Copyright 2018 A J D. All rights reserved.

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