Panoptica chapter 6

I have finally completed my tax return. If I discount the lab rent for 2018/19 (there won’t be any for the next one because I closed down the lab at the end of 2018), Leg Iron Books made a loss of around £45. It is entirely possible that the business will reach break-even next year – maybe even (dare I say it) a profit! I’m still well within the personal allowance so it’ll take a few years of building up profit before I pay any tax, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

Still, I am worn out after finding and adding all those little bits together so here’s another bit of Panoptica. Note that the restraining method described is actually in use in Chinese police stations now. I didn’t invent it.

Panoptica: Chapter 6

10538 woke to stark grey concrete. Gradually he became aware that he sat in a small cage, his wrists bound by metal hoops to the metal table they rested on. The dim lighting was just enough to allow him to make out a desk and chair opposite. The room, as far as he could tell, contained nothing else. No window and no door that he could see.

“Where am I?” His voice came out as a croak. He pulled at the bonds on his wrists but all that did was make his medichip beep. Behind him he heard the sound of a door opening. 10538 relaxed. Resistance is futile and only makes things worse. He recalled being arrested after running for the bus and felt confident that it was all a mistake. It would be sorted out soon. Although he had never heard of the police making a mistake. Everyone they arrested was always guilty. This must be their first ever mistake.

The unit who entered the room passed 10538 without looking at him, placed a screenpad on the desk, sat, and considered the screen for a time. 10538 licked his lips. The unit’s barcode identified him as 86929, a very senior unit in the medical ranks. This did not look good at all. He decided it was best to remain silent.

After several minutes, 86929 looked up. “10538. You have not asked why you are here. Do I take it that you already know the reason for your arrest?”

“I…” 10538 swallowed and tried again. “It’s a mistake. I was running to catch the bus. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Catching a bus is not a crime.” 86929 sniffed. “You were tasered for resisting arrest after you were seen running. Who were you going to meet?”

“Meet? Nobody. I was just trying to get to work. This is all just a misunderstanding.”

“That’s what they all say.” 86929 tapped his screenpad. “The police do not make mistakes, 10538. You were arrested because you are guilty. This interview is to determine exactly what you are guilty of.”

“Nothing! I just wanted to get on the bus.” 10538’s medichip beeped furiously.

88929 tapped a few times on his screenpad. 10538’s medichip stopped beeping.

“I have disabled the warning signals on your medichip for now. No sense in wasting our overstretched health service’s time on a criminal.” 86929 leaned back in his chair. “You were an associate of 11712. You became obese. You partook of alcohol and tobacco. And you discussed private information with 11712 after you deliberately walked to his bus stop, from your allocated stop, to speak with him. So, what was the plan?”

10538 tensed against his restraints. “I don’t know anything about any plan. I hardly knew 11712. We just talked. I had to walk to his stop because I was overweight. The bus wouldn’t let me on. I… I was the one who reported him when I saw him running. I can’t be a terrorist. How can I be a terrorist when I reported two of them in two days?”

“Two?” 86929 tapped at his screenpad. “Ah yes, the ghost. Well that one had clearly messed up whatever was planned by losing his chips and was therefore expendable—a liability even, for your insurgency. As for 11712, well, there is no honour among criminals. You could have reported him to raise your own credibility. Going deeper under cover, maybe?” He fixed 10538 with a hard stare.

“I didn’t. I’m not.” 10538 slumped in his chair. Tears rolled down his cheeks. “I was just running to catch the bus.”

86929 snorted. “That’s what they all say. 11712…” He paused and pursed his lips for a moment. “Well, no doubt you saw last night’s news.”

“He jumped the safety fence.” 10538 stared at the restraints holding his wrists to the table. “He fell onto the rocks. So he must have been guilty. But I’m not. I’m not a terrorist. I was just running for the bus.” He blinked a few times, trying to dispel the doubt entering his mind. Why was 11712 running? Was he running for the bus too? No, no, then why would he jump the fence?

“If the police had not tasered you, would you have jumped the fence too?” 86929 raised his eyebrows. “Would you be willing to die for your treasonous cause, 10538? Is it really that important to you that our comfortable, compliant conformity is destroyed?” He leaned forward. “Why do you hate our way of life, 10538? What would you put in its place?”

“I don’t.” 10538 looked into 86929’s eyes. “I am happy in my life. I don’t want it to change.”

86929 sniffed. “Overeating, tobacco, alcohol… these are rebellious acts. Nonconformity. Noncompliance. You have been reckless with your health and happiness and with that of those around you. You are in very deep trouble here and it would be wise for you to be truthful with me. It would be much better for you in the long run. You don’t want to be deleted, do you?”

“No!” Tears blurred 10538’s vision. “Please. I’m not planning anything. I’m not a terrorist. I don’t know anything. I just want my life back to how it was. Safe. Compliant. Comfortable. Conforming. I just want to do my job and be happy again. Please. I’ll do anything to go back there.”

“Going back is not possible.” 86929 narrowed his eyes. “However, there are options to how you go forward. I will consider those while you consider your crimes and how best to make amends for them.”

“I’ll do anything. Anything.”

“Yes, I’m sure.” 86929 stood. “One more thing, 10538. Do you know who I am?”

10538 dared not even raise his head. “You are 86929. Please, I’ll do whatever you say. I don’t want deletion.”

“Hm. So it’s true.” 86929 pushed back his chair. “I will leave you in this period of self-reflection on your guilt, 10538, and will return with options for your future. I’m afraid none of them will be painless.”

His body shaking with sobs and fear, 10538 heard the door behind him open and close.

___________________

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