Categories > Original > Sci-Fi

So Nice

by MarkPoa 4 reviews

In a future where everything is perfect, everyone's needs are taken care of, every person has a role... If everything is so nice... why doesn't it feel that way?

Category: Sci-Fi - Rating: G - Genres: Sci-fi - Published: 2006-03-28 - Updated: 2006-03-28 - 3670 words - Complete

So Nice

"Another day, another cred," Sam cheerfully said, as he stepped past the scanners and inserted his time card into the slot. The machine spewed out the punched form, deducting ten more hours from his mandatory work quota.
After hours of continuous produce-picking, he was ready for some much needed R&R. And with his two weeks off coming up in four more days...
Sam smiled at the thought of visiting his family in the suburbs. He was certain that his Joey was doing well in high school and his little Amy was garnering another award for her watercolors. No doubt they would take a quiet walk with him around the house and tell him all about school, the neighbor's dog, or the latest Community News. And then his wife would call them, and they'd enjoy a nice peaceful dinner of enriched rice and fresh produce salad.
Sam shrugged. That was still four days away.
"See you again tomorrow, AL," he called to the security guard as he left the compound.
"-HAVE- -A- -NICE- -DAY-" the android sentry answered back in its standard monotone.

It was the fifth hour, according to the Community Announcement. Sam realized that there were still two hours to spare before curfew was called in his building. He decided to spend his designated leisure time in the Community Lounge.
Upon entering the area, Sam breathed and took in the smell of the perfume. Genuine flower smells, the district managers advertised it. It smelled wonderful! Sam only wished there were actually real flowers left. But, until the biotechs successfully engineered specially adapted flowers, the synthetic stuff would have to do.
The Community Lounge was incredibly homey. The gradually fading late afternoon light poured through the huge glass panel windows, giving whoever sat in the cubicles near them a nice view of the sunset. There were a few couches along the wall, arranged for the best view of the large monitor in the Public Mural.
At the sixth hour, the Authorities would broadcast the Community News and the Agenda for tomorrow. Sam made a mental note to watch it.
Several tables were available for those who preferred to dine. In the middle was a dance floor for those who wanted to dance, but no one was using it at that time. In one corner, the Harmonizer continuously played orchestra music from the old days. For some reason, some of the academics called it a jukebox, said to be the name of an old contraption that did the same thing. They also called the music "classical music," though Sam wondered why. There weren't any other kind of music, were there? he reasoned.
For a midweek afternoon, the place was a bit under crowded. A couple-Sam thought as probably a pair of lovers from the way they held hands-was sitting on one of the couches, talking. A group of four Clerics, recognizable from their orange uniforms, was sitting around a table having an early dinner. Sam could almost smell their steamed carrots and wondered if they would like some company. But they were almost finished anyway, so he decided it. He waved to them as he passed though. The group cheerfully waved back and gave him wide smiles. Sam returned the smile.
There was only one other guy. The young man wearing a white coat was nursing a mug of milk in one of the booths near the window, staring intently outside. From his clothes, Sam recognized him as a professor in the State University.
"Good day, citizen!" he greeted as he approached the professor. He flashed a wide smile as he extended his hand. After all, it was nice to greet someone "good day." And no one should really be all alone in a public place like this. Everyone enjoyed company.
The man looked up at him. Sam noticed that he seemed to have a weird look on his face. The man hesitated a moment before shaking his hand and smiling back.
That was new. It was a rather awkward smile. Sam never saw anyone smile that way. It was as if his lips were a bit crooked, he thought. But it wasn't nice to criticize another person's appearance, so Sam let the matter drop. He settled for introducing himself.
"Hi! I'm Sam McNeil, Laborer level 12 from sector 7G," he announced proudly before taking the seat across the professor.
"Alex Stuart, assistant Biotechnology professor from the 17th State University," the man answered. "I'm sorry for looking nervous a while ago. I have a lot on my mind."
"It's not a problem," Sam assured him with a smile. He pushed a few buttons on the tabletop panel and a mug of milk was delivered for him. He took it from the robot waiter, muttered his thanks, and set it the mug on the table to find the professor staring intently at him.
"Err... do I have something on my face?" he asked naively.
The professor chuckled, and then shook his head vehemently. "No, no, my good man. There's nothing wrong with you." Alex lifted his mug and drank.
What a strange man, Sam thought. Then, he quickly admonished himself for having such a thought. That certainly wasn't nice.
Sam drank from his own glass. It was delicious. The Community Lounge always synthesized the best milk, he decided. Idly, he wondered how milk used to taste when they still came from farm animals.
The professor was still looking out the window, but he didn't seem to be watching the workers dutifully heading home to their apartments.
He also didn't seem to be in the mood for conversation. Sam finished his milk and proceeded to order another one.
"Drones," Alex suddenly said.
"Beg your pardon?" Sam replied in surprise.
"You know drones?" the professor said, turning to look at him. "I'd be surprised if you weren't. Everyone is educated nowadays." Alex downed a gulp from his mug. It was now halfway empty.
"You do know that in the old days," he continued, "there were more species of insects than there are now, right?"
Sam nodded. He hoped that this would not turn into a boring scientific lecture, but he allowed the professor to continue. It wasn't polite to interrupt someone speaking, after all.
"Some of these insects," Alex elaborated, making some motions with his hands, "lived in societies. Similar to humans. They lived like we do... with leaders, soldiers, and... of course, workers. Laborers like yourself." He pointed to Sam with his mug and took another drink. "Then there were those who lived their whole lives just serving their leader, the Queen. Those were the drones."
"I see," Sam nodded, taking a few sips from his milk. These science fellows were different from the people he worked with. But still, he thought, it wasn't nice to think that way of other people.
"No," Alex said, shaking his head, "I'm afraid you don't see, my friend." He drained his mug empty and set it down. Then, Alex looked around carefully and reached into his lab coat. Slowly, he drew out a green canteen and opened it. He poured the brown-colored liquid contents of the canteen into the mug and recapped the canteen.
"You brought your own drink?" Sam asked, curiously. The liquid smelled... strange. Sam was pretty sure he never had one of those before.
Alex only smiled back and brought the mug to his lips. He took several large gulps and brought the mug down on the table with a thud. "Ahhhh! That's better than any milk!" he remarked. He pushed the mug closer to Sam. "The synthesizers in this place won't be able to make this drink. Have a taste," he offered the laborer.
Sam's curiosity was piqued. He grasped the mug and brought it up to face level. He took a sniff. It smelled strong. Holding his breath, he opened his mouth and took a gulp.
He quickly brought the mug down and gasped. His lungs felt like they were burning. He coughed and pounded a fist on the table. He felt the professor giving him a few pats on the back.
"No problem here, folks! My friend just had a little trouble swallowing," Alex assured the other lounge patrons, who were presently staring in their direction. They either nodded or shrugged, but all returned to minding their own business.
It wasn't nice to pry, after all.
"Wha... What was that?!" Sam gasped.
Alex laughed.
Sam clutched his chest. It felt like he just ate a ration that was still on fire.
"I mixed it myself," Alex said, grabbing the mug and drinking. He set it down. "I haven't found out what it's called... yet. I was lucky enough to find the recipe for this."
"W-what is i-it?" Sam rasped.
"It's a drink from the old days," Alex explained, bringing the mug to his eye level and swirling the liquid around. "People used to drink this a lot. But when the new order came along, it was banned and forgotten along with the rest. Something about the alcohol being harmfu-"
"That thing has alcohol?!" Sam almost screamed, but lowered it so as not to disturb others.
"Precisely. Another drink?" Alex offered.
Sam stared at the glass suspiciously.
"It will go down better this time. I insist."
"Well, okay," Sam agreed, taking the vessel from Alex's hands.
"I knew you'd say that," the professor commented smugly.
Sam wondered what the professor meant by that statement. He brought the mug to his lips and prepared himself for the torment to come.
Surprisingly, Sam found that the liquid did go smoothly that time. In fact, it tasted quite good.
"Thanks. It does taste good." He handed the drink back to Alex.
Alex took the mug and looked into its brown depths. He saw himself mirrored in the murky liquid. The professor turned to Sam.
"You're happy, aren't you?" he suddenly asked.
"Beg your pardon?"
Alex shook his head. "It's nothing. I had better get going now." He rose, offered a hand for Sam to shake, and left.
Sam looked down and noticed the mug of milk that had been delivered in front of him a few minutes ago. It was funny how he didn't realize it arrived. He took a sip of the white liquid.
"Nope," Sam muttered to himself as he placed the mug down, "that stuff still doesn't compare to milk."
He picked up his drink and went over to a group of workers that just arrived. Maybe they wanted some conversation. He had a few more minutes to spare before the Community Announcements started.

The next day after work, Sam went to the Lounge with a few of his co-workers. They took a table near the window and proceeded to order their drinks.
Unlike the other day, the Lounge was filled with people. Conversation hung over the air as the orchestral sounds floated along with it.
Sam saw Alex enter the Lounge a few minutes later. The professor scanned the crowd and his face contorted into something unfamiliar. Sam found it looked a bit humorous, like the time he found a cabbage that looked exactly like his son's ball.
When Alex's gaze happened to pass by his direction, Sam waved to the professor, smiled and motioned for Alex to join their group. His co-workers noticed he was inviting someone over. They followed his gaze towards Alex and extended the same invitation.
Alex held up a hand and shook his head with the same smile Sam saw on him yesterday. He moved towards an isolated cubicle near the window and sat down. A few minutes later, a robot waiter delivered a mug of milk to him.
"Your friend seems preoccupied," Sam's co-worker commented.
"He's probably had a lot of work to do," Sam reasoned.
"Teaching is hard, after all," another of his co-workers noted. "I am satisfied that I wasn't selected to become a professor."
The others nodded in agreement. Everyone was satisfied.
"I'll go over there and keep him company," Sam announced.
His co-worker nodded. "No one should be alone, after all." The others agreed.
Sam carried his drink towards Alex's table. The professor turned as he approached, though he didn't look pleased. Sam thought he looked concerned about something.
"Can I sit down?" he asked politely.
Alex shrugged. "Sure. Help yourself."
Sam sat down across the professor. He studied the professor. Alex looked like he had been working too hard. His hair was a bit messy and his clothes... well, they seemed the same to Sam as they did yesterday... only a little dirtier.
The professor drank his milk silently, looking around the Lounge as if searching for something.
"Waiting for someone? If you are, I can leave," Sam inquired.
"Huh? Oh, no, no, my friend," Alex denied, shaking his head fervently. "I've been... well..." He sighed. "It's nothing. I've just been working too hard."
Sam beamed with satisfaction. He had guessed it!
He lifted his own glass and drank.
They sat silently for a few moments. Sam didn't want to initiate a conversation if Alex didn't want to talk. It wouldn't be nice.
Sam turned to scanning the crowd. Most of the people hanging around were Clerics. The dance floor was practically orange from their uniforms. The people swayed slowly and rhythmically to the sounds of a string solo. The dancers flashed warm smiles at the watchers as they moved wonderfully in time with the tune.
Two newcomers entered the Lounge. Sam recognized them as Officers from their blue and white uniforms. From near the exit, they scanned the crowd.
Sam looked at them and smiled. They were probably there to make sure everyone was safe. They were certainly selfless individuals.
However, Sam noted, it was rare that he saw the Officers join in their leisure time.
The two Officers had obviously realized that there weren't any accidents or dangers around the Lounge. They turned and departed.
"Are they gone?"
"Huh?" Sam turned and saw Alex looking away from the direction of the door. "Who's gone?"
"The Officers," Alex whispered in reply.
Sam turned from him back to the exit. "Yes, they're gone," he reported.
Alex breathed a sigh of relief. He took out his canteen and filled his mug with the same brown-colored liquid as the day before. He lifted it and took a long drink.
Sam looked at the professor. The professor seemed... energetic. His hands were shaking.
"Want to have some again?" Alex offered, holding the mug closer to Sam.
"No, thank you," Sam declined. "I'm fine with my milk."
Alex brought the mug down and sighed. "Listen. You're probably thinking I'm strange and all. Maybe even crazy." He took a quick sip from his drink, brought the glass down again and stared intently at Sam. "In a way, it may be true. But do you know what?" He brought his voice down to the faintest of whispers. "I know the truth!"
"Huh?" Sam answered intelligently.
Alex hesitated. "Maybe I'm crazy for telling you this. Maybe I really have gone off the bend. But I also know you won't do anything to harm me." Alex looked around again before continuing. "I know a secret, but I don't know if I should trust anyone with it." He shook his head. "But I really can't blame you. Everyone's a victim."
Sam wondered if all the professors in the University were like Alex.
Alex continued, "I found my great-great-grandfather's diaries, you see." He paused, then amended, "No, you probably don't. Diaries are written records of someone's thoughts and other stuff. My great-great-grandfather was one of the scientists of the Project... the project that everyone's now a part of." Alex paused to take another drink. "Ever wondered why everyone's so nice to everyone? Do you know the reason why everyone smiles at everyone? Do you want to know? Why is everyone so nice to everyone?"
Sam didn't know how to reply. The professor was not making any sense to him. But he felt it wouldn't be nice of him to stop listening.
"I read all about it in my great-great-grandfather's writing. He described it vividly, using words I didn't even know the meaning of. In the old days, he wrote, people can become "angry." They can become 'afraid.' Also, 'excited!' People do... what's that word? 'Nasty,' that's the word he used! Nasty things to others! Like hurt them!"
Sam studied Alex curiously. The professor seemed to be... Sam couldn't describe it. He'd never seen anything like it. Alex's eyes were quivering. His voice sounded like he was speaking and running out of air at the same time.
The closest he could compare it to was the Authorities telling them about the latest crop harvest levels... only more. Much more What Alex was talking about... Sam didn't understand it. Why should he be wondering about those things? Everyone was always calm and nice. Sam was always calm and nice.
No one hurt anyone, too. Everyone was nice.
Sam looked at the professor as he continued to finish his drink and talk. "I discovered that they... Horrible! They started implanting chips into infants. Everyone of us!" He motioned with his hands in a wide arc. "We were all... programmed. Like... like the computers we use!" He pounded on the tabletop panel, eliciting a muffled beep from the defenseless mechanism. "Only... I have found the secret. It was plainly in my great-great-grandfather's notes." He turned to Sam and looked at him with desperate expression. "They told me how. I have... disabled it."
"Disabled what?" Sam asked politely.
"It," Alex whispered as he tapped his head. "The chip! The one that makes everyone complacent and obedient! The thing that represses everyone's fierce emotions! Everyone has it! That's why we all keep being so nice to everyone else!"
He leaned over and Sam saw the glimmer in his eyes again.
"My great-great-grandfather's notes gave me the way. I did the procedure on myself a few weeks ago. It opened my eyes!" Alex stared at his hands before continuing. "I feel differently now! I... I don't know what these feelings are, but I never felt them before. Before you arrived, I felt... I don't know the word to describe it, but I just felt like speaking very loud at everyone to listen. I wanted to run and go home to my room. I... I didn't know what to do! When you walked over to me, I felt... it was strange. My hands felt cold, and I felt thirsty. I never felt such a myriad of feelings before I was freed. Patriarchs! It feels wondrous!"
Alex finished off his drink with one last gulp and stared into his empty mug.
"But, no. You don't know how it feels," he said softly. "No one but I might ever feel this way. You might never know."
Sam wondered. Computers? Machines? All of them? How ludicrous!
Would he want to feel... Sam tried to remember what were those words Alex used. Afraid? Angry? Excited? Sam wondered what those were.
Yet, that glimmer in Alex's eye... Sam never saw it in anyone else before. It was... interesting.
A few moments later, his thoughts drifted. He wondered what rations he should have later that night.
"... I wonder," Alex mused, breaking Sam's train of thought.
"Wonder what, friend?" Sam inquired. He didn't want to offend the man by making it obvious he was thinking of something else and not listening. It wasn't nice to do that.
"Do you want to be free?" Alex asked back.
"Free? I am free," Sam stated matter-of-factly.
Alex hesitated for a mere moment, but decided to go with his plan. He had nothing left to lose. "Come to this address at the eighth hour." He wrote an address on a sheet of table napkin and passed it on to Sam. "I can disable the chip for you and you'll see for yourself." After speaking, Alex stood up. "I'll see you. Bye." He headed towards the exit.
"Bye!" Sam called after him. He studied the address on the table napkin. Maybe he should accept Alex's offer... whatever it was. It would be the right thing to do. He wondered what Alex was going to do, when a thought hit him.
At the eighth hour? That was past his curfew. He couldn't go out by then.
Sam shrugged. He thought to catch up to the professor, but Alex was already well away and his designated leisure hours were almost up. On the other hand, he was bound to see Alex again. He would apologize to him then.
He realized that his conversation with Alex had caused him to miss the Community Announcements. Sam would have to check his personal mail later that night for his Agenda tomorrow.
He couldn't blame Alex for it, though. That wouldn't be nice.
Sam stood up, cheerfully waved goodbye to the other patrons, and started for his apartment.

The next day, Sam didn't see the professor in the Lounge. It wasn't really strange. Many people had other ways to spend their leisure hours. Sam would probably see him again some other day.
The Community Announcements started. Sam watched it, enrapt as the other people in the Lounge.
Production was growing. As expected, the collective had reached their quota.
Everyone was happy.
Everything was nice. Everything was wonderful.

Sam inserted his time card into the slot.
Idly, he wondered about Alex the professor. When Sam had chanced upon passing by the university on an errand, he had overheard two Officers talking about someone committing... What was that term the Officers used again? Sew-side? Soo-side? Sam couldn't recall clearly.
Whatever it was, it happened in the university. Sam hoped that Alex had not been caught up in it... whatever it was.
His thoughts did not stay long on the topic as they drifted towards a mental picture of his family and a quiet dinner.
"See you in two weeks, AL," he said to the guard as he left.
"-HAVE- -A- -NICE- -WEEKEND-" the android replied.
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