Pluribus 13


September 16, 2031, 11:45 AM.

Gordo Loco woke up pregnant.

He was sitting in a cubicle facing one of those old tube monitors the size of a small refrigerator. The screen saver of colored lines swirled and added to his dizziness and nausea. He tried to stand up but the pain from his back and swollen feet were killing him. It was then he noticed his delicate condition.

“Good morning, Mr. Loco. I am Don Jin, we met last night.”

Loco turned the cubicle doorway to see two men wearing khaki pants and blue button down shirts with Netrosonics ID badges. “Where am I? What have you done to me?”

“I can tell you that. I am Tapas Kalki, chief investigator for Applied Karma. You are in our virtual reality interrogation center. Actually you are strapped to a bed and hooked up to our patented process.

“You intend to torture me?”

Tap switched to his Goldfinger accent. “No Mr. Loco, I intend to have you torture yourself.”

Loco tried to stand up but could not. “This is illegal. I want to talk to my lawyer.”

A third man in khaki and blue shirt appeared, but with a familiar voice. “Hi Gordo, this is Bill Hansen. They have got you on human rights violations, insurance fraud and maybe a homicide. If you cooperate, you might get protection and money for the rest of your life. If you do not, you wind up in here or an American prison. I strongly advise you to cooperate.”

“No! Antzen will get me out of this. He will not want me to talk.” Loco shouted.

Tap seemed to pull some explosives and detonating devices out of thin air. “Antzen tried to kill you last night. Hanging on to his coattails is a bad idea. Shall we run the Demaggio program? We have placed you in the body of Trixie Demaggio on the day you fired her some thirty years ago. With information gathered from her deposition, statements and evidence from other sources we are going to put you in her shoes. You will feel and experience everything that happened to her.”

“Geeze, I barely remember it.”

Tap reminded him. “Oh she remembered it. She was nine months pregnant, lost her job and health insurance, had a difficult delivery and suffered severe post-partum depression. It also cost the taxpayers over a million dollars in medical expenses and years of treatment. It was another example of pushing business expenses on the public.”

Loco tried to defend himself. “We had to reduce head count before the end of the year or I would not get my Christmas bonus. I had bills to pay. I had a wife and kids. It was not illegal. Life is not always fair.”

“Ah yes, using the ‘I was protecting my family so destroyed someone else’s’ excuse. It is a little bit better than the ‘I was only following orders’ excuse but not much. Any sociologist will argue about where one family ends and another begins. When you hired Miss Demaggio, you told her the company was like a family. You did not tell her it was a dysfunctional family. Besides, I am always amused at people who say life is not fair and then get upset when something happens to them.”

“You cannot punish me for a crime that was legal when it occurred.”

Bill Hansen advised his client. “Not under old American law, Gordo, but you are in the Free Trade Zone now. You are under UN mandate and denied someone basic human rights. They can do this. I advise you to cooperate.”

“No. This is illegal. I am being held against my will. I demand to be released.”

Tap sighed. “So arrogant. No wonder he did so well at Netrosonics.” He looked up in the air. “Okay Trixie, you have the honor to push the button.”

Suddenly the three men disappeared, replaced by a younger version of Loco bracketed by two security guards with guns. He heard Christmas music over the radio on the desk.
His younger version smiled and said in the most insincere manner. “I am sorry, we have to let you go. Your things will be sent along later. The guards will escort you out.”

The older Loco felt dizzy and nauseous. His back and feet hurt. There was a cramping sensation in his stomach. It felt like his insides were about to be pulled out. Contractions started as the water broke creating a mess in the chair. The guards grabbed his arms and escorted him down the hall and out to the parking lot. Loco screamed in pain.

Don turned to Tap as they watched it on monitors in the adjoining control room. “You really enjoy your work.”

Tap turned to him. “We tortured a lot of bad people in Iran. I prefer to have them torture themselves. When I heard about Applied Karma’s technology, I had to use it. A strike against another is a strike against oneself. I am no different than anyone else. I have to go next door and relive the experiences of all the people I shot with tranquilizer darts last night.”

Don did not believe it. “So you can experience the pain you have caused others?”

He nodded and laughed. “Of course, but also to improve my shooting technique. I need to see if anyone saw me. Go write your reports.”

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Pluribus 13”

  1. Reading this chapter reminded me of one of my favorite sci-fi novels back in the early 1960s, “The Big Ball of Wax”.

    I can easily see how the futures described in “Pluribus” and “The Big Ball of Wax” can co-exist, since that story was about the XP Machine (XP standing for “experience”) that recorded people’s experiences and played them back through the brain.

    This seems to be an unexpected twist in the development of the XP Machine: modifying the recorded experiences for customized playback.

    Quool! My imaginary future seems to be right on track.

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