Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Modern Man - Part 1

In the year 2187 the earth is quiet. Humans are banned from its surface, blamed for the impending disasters assured by global warming. Instead life is lived in Vision Capsules, where the mind is linked to the Googleplane, a computer generated world that mimics the lost one.

It is a future where mankind has lost the ability to physically do anything for themselves, where artificial intelligence has created robots and computers that seduce the modern human into a self imposed immobility. Now they live in a world where they can do no more damage.

It is the year 2187.

And it's all in your mind.


“Mmm. I can see where the planet was, but it’s gone now.”

“ It’s not gone. Your in the wrong galaxy.”

Her eyes narrowed as she led her cursor across the screen, but it always confounded her, these names for galaxies - U - 487 - Green, T - 8832 - Red. You would think by the year 2187 someone would have thought of names for these places. “I’m done, brother. I’m going outside.”

“Sure. I’ll be here when you get back.”

She hit the icon and a world of green flooded her screen. Trickling water. Warm sun. It was always perfect out, that’s what the program was made for, instantly beautiful days appeared with the dilation of a pupil. In fact it was anything you wanted at the dilation of a pupil, and though her friends thought she was losing her mind, Kia was letting perfection piss her off. Something inside her had begun to unravel, even rebel at the life lived in a capsule and experienced through a mindlink to the Google earthplane.

Ordinarily she wouldn’t have noticed that there was anything amiss, never have felt the angst that scattered her concentration. Once a body was plugged into the Vision Capsule, The Maturation System program took care of that, regulating hormonal, chemical and sociological influences so that humans achieved what Science deemed ‘prime’ condition. A perfect world had been created. Kia yearned for imperfection.

Months ago, finding some time alone, she had released herself from her capsule. The air tasted odd and she could barely stand, she hadn’t used her body in years. Her legs were frail, and in frustration she wondered how free she could be if she could never unplug herself. Who would want to unplug, what’s the point? That was true. In a world where everything was done by robots or eyepoint, there was simply no need to lift a hand. Bodies withered while minds expanded. One could spend their whole lives in one room, yet see the wide world and have relationships through common intraworld channels or customized programs. No one hungered for the human touch, the sexual nature of mankind had been tamed by the State long ago using the Maturation System, in the name of population control and environmental preservation. The primal urge to copulate and reproduce had been stripped down to an ejaculatory chemical reaction, to be shared by ‘hooking up’ through the NetLink. All pleasures, regulated by the state for optimum mental health, were body chemical triggers that could be bought like a movie ticket and credited to your member account. Food. Drink. Entertainment. Sex. All sensations were just a dilated pupil choice away through the NetLink, since actually indulging in them was forbidden . Man was deemed a threat to the natural world around it, so planners had relegated it to a place where the balance was again controlled and humanity pacified.

There were no poor, no rich, no starvation and no obesity. That was because no one worked and no one got sick. No one married and no one divorced, few knew what another actually looked like because life in the Googleplane meant all you really were was a computer generated fixation, your likeness created for the Net. There were rare stories of people who rebelled against the laws and even learned to walk, but why? The State controlled everything so that all needs were met. Those who could not be satisfied or ‘crashed’ in the Googleplane were simply sent for Maturation System reinstallation, which wiped our most of your memory and reset all your hormonal levels until you functioned no better than a rat with a lobotomy. The human body was now fit into a custom capsule that hovered a few feet off the ground in sterile rooms assigned you by master planners in the urban model. Laying in a prone position, fed and monitored, the body had become the appendix of the modern human. Those in the Great Council considered it even degrading to speak of it, and that was generally the approach taken by all. The world was run by robotic runners programmed to serve mankind in its impotence. But mankind had earned it glorious impotence, been exorcized of its superstitions and its base instincts, the apex of human progress had been attained. There was no more need for imagination or self - revelation; the true philosophy had been discovered and it was naturally the law; if a thought or motivation was counterproductive to the aims of the state in its pursuit of the perfect being, it was frivolous and subsequently erased. There was no such thing as freedom, but who wanted it anyway?

Frivolous thoughts. Kia wondered at the word frivolous. Frivolity. Had she ever been that? Felt that? She searched the chemical banks but there was no trigger for it. Unplug yourself. The words broke through her wandering mind like a challenge. Her moment outside the capsule was no idle curiosity. She fingered the release button by her right hand, but resisted the temptation. Unplug Yourself. Those words she had first heard on the Darkplot, an offline commune she found one day when she was wandering the outer limits of the Googleplane , beyond the reach of the NetLink. Those that gathered there were wild and conspiratorial, speaking of things she could not understand but wanted to believe in. She hovered there stunned into silence until they invited her in. It was the fourth time she was there that she met Connor, and over the months he had honed her from a trained monkey spouting party lines to a cigarette smoking switchblade in denim. The influences there started to show in her Net Projection, her digital self she used to travel the Link, and she was warned by the group to tone it down or their little hole would be found out and they’d all be scattered. She listened to them, she had fallen hard for Connor and there was nowhere she wanted to be than with him. She felt for the first time, maybe, love. Real ‘cry your eyes out’ love, where two people could finish each others sentences or sit silent for hours just satisfied to be in each other’s company. Connor was a poet at heart and he found a thousand ways to tell he her he loved her. But he wouldn’t hook up with her. He said he wanted more than sharing a ecstacy trigger. Kia was confused. She had been hooking up since she was eight, the act had become meaningless to her, it was only sex. Now she was 16 and for the first time since she could remember it meant something to her and he didn’t want to. He told her he wanted to [I]make love[/I] to her. She had no idea what he meant. When she learned, it horrified her; the physical touching, the tasting, the feeling. The germs.

Connor told her to wait, it could not be rushed, and he was willing to wait for her. He talked of an experience that was more than physical. There was another world out there. Kia was frozen with doubt for weeks. Unplugging meant more than leaving the Net Link, or abandoning the Googleplane altogether. It meant leaving your Net Projection. Your projection started with a basic likeness of your physical form, but as you got older you learned how to manipulate it so it became a reflection of who you think you are. She had no idea what she really looked like, she hadn’t seen herself in years. Connor said he didn’t care what she looked like, but she knew better. Unplug yourself. Kia dug deep. Could she do it for love? Yes. But if she couldn’t stand on her own two feet none of it mattered. She pressed the release.

The capsule hissed open, tripping the sensor that gave her five minutes before the health officers were called. She brought her hands up slowly to lift off her screen, the intranet shield that was the window into her computer generated world. The contraption fought her clumsy fingers, until she found the tab and the reflectors that surrounded her eyes withdrew into the sleeves past her ears. She laid there quiet for a moment. She wiggled her toes and rubbed her eyes. The room was bright, white, windowless, empty. They had outlawed windows in 2096 when the World Government had called for stricter measures to address predicted calamities of global warming. All human influence on or interaction with the environment was strictly regulated and coldly enforced. So it was that no one had seen the world in nearly a hundred years. Rumors were that it was a barren wasteland despoiled by the capitalistic greed of primitive man. Kia hated the twentieth century for that.

She looked down her legs. There was barely enough muscle to fill out the silver pants she was wearing. “One Minute Thirty Seconds.” voiced the capsule timer. She leaned forward in her seat, her hands searching for grip at the sides. Her legs were stiff, fighting her for control. She rubbed her thighs to draw blood to them, and they began to tingled with life. As she reached for her toes the pendent that hung from her neck drifted out and dangled on its dark leather strap. It was a gift from her mother, a soft blinking portrait that pulsed bright in time with the recorded cadence of her late mother’s beating heart. Kia held it a moment to feel its warmth. Sliding forward she lifted herself from her form fitting seat and put a foot to the ground...then another. She balanced herself on her two feet until she could stand firm. “Two Minutes Thirty Seconds. Please Close Capsule Hatch.” The sterile voice inspired her to push off and she began marching around her capsule, gangly and unsure, her loose feet flapping under her, trying to keep up with her leaning body. She had taken an uncoordinated third turn around the capsule when she fell, hitting the hard floor like a two year old child crashing out of control to the pavement. Her pinky finger smashed into a cannister on her pod and the pain flashed through her arm. Pain. It was a distant memory brought to life. The shock of it nearly knocked her out. “Three Minute Thirty Seconds. Close Hatch Immediately. Environmental Contamination Imminent.” She had to get herself back inside her capsule, at five minutes the glass hatch would lower and lock closed. She rose to her knees and gripped the hovering seat, pulled herself up and walked gingerly to the front. “Four Minutes. Health Ministry Alerted.” She spun herself around and tried to slide herself in but her body wouldn’t comply, it felt like lugging sacks of sand over a wall. “Four Minute Thirty Seconds. Thirty Seconds Until Health Officers Are Dispatched.” The door began to lower, Kia scrambled to align herself before she was pinned down. As it latched closed her screens were drawn about her eyes and she found herself plunged into a world of red. She tried to jump back into the NetLink but nothing happened. Suddenly a code box appeared, soon filled by a scrutinizing face.

“Kia Morrison. Your capsule hatch was open for 4 minutes 39 seconds. Explain.

“I, I couldn’t breathe, I panicked.” she answered quickly.

“Vital monitors show no variation within the last 24 hours. Explain.”

Her mind raced, and arguing with a computer generated bureaucrat was always futile. She only had one choice. “I thought I crashed. I couldn’t get the system to reboot.”

“Recite infraction remedy 314, paragraph 4, line 4.”

“Any unauthorized exit from capsule risking environmental contamination will be punishable by 200 days Googleplane access denial and Maturation System Reinstall.” Kia quoted from memory.

“Kia Morrison, did you leave your capsule?”


“All computer systems are functioning correctly. You will await Health Officers being dispatched to diagnose mental dysfunction.” The hatch snapped tight as locks sprang to set position as ordered by the Health Ministry. NetLink access was suspended, her screens just showed a sedate scene of nature located somewhere in the Googleplane. Kia sat back. The officers were thugs but she could talk herself out of trouble, Connor had told her all about them. She was dead tired. Her heart was beating like the wings of a hummingbird. Tonight she would tell Connor her decision. She hoped that in a few weeks, after she gained her strength, they might meet. And see each other for the first time. The room light dimmed. Kia took a deep breath, her eyes closed slowly.

Under her pod blinked her pendant, a mother’s picture laying in a curled up pile of well worn leather cord on the hard floor.

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