Panoptica Chapter 10

Well, it seems Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard from Star Trek) has declared that the next series of Star Trek will cover both Brexit and Donnie the Trump.

That’s going to send it into the same ratings tailspin as the nonsensical politically correct lecturing of the latest Dr. Who. Another programme I used to like, gone. No point having a TV these days. There’s nothing left worth watching.

Star Trek is set so far in the future that both Brexit and Trump would just be footnotes in history books. Furthermore, at the time of Star Trek, there is one world government on Earth and even that is superseded by the Federation of Planets. Nobody in that fictional world is going to give the tiniest spatter of shit about past presidents of a country that used to exist, nor the separation of a country that used to be part of the EU but is now, like every other country on a whole load of planets, subsumed into the Galactic Union.

Bringing modern politics into that far-future fiction will kill it stone dead. I’ll re-watch the Kirk years on DVD, I think. I was so desperately disappointed in the political crap they injected into Dr. Who, I am not even going to try watching the new Star Trek.

Still, there’s always Panoptica. That’s only a generation or three into the future. And no, I am not going to add in Trump or Brexit or the EU because they are all dead by the time 10538’s story happens, and nobody in that world is taught any more than they absolutely need to know. A part of the story that is already here, for many people.

So, 10538 already has doubts about what he’s seen on TV. Let’s give him a bit more reality to consider…

Panoptica : Chapter 10

Click-clack. Click-clack. The train made an odd noise that cut through 10538’s muddled thoughts. Retirement. Pensionville. 11712. The cold grey warm colourful room with no windows and windows and hard seat, soft seat, the bus… 71556. Why was that unit’s designation drifting in the mess in his head? They could never have met.

Click-clack. Click-clack. The train shifted to one side. 10538 grabbed his seat on either side, his eyes wide.

71556 turned to face 10538. “Something wrong?”

“That noise. The clacking. And it felt like it was going to fall over.”10538 swallowed. “Is something wrong with this machine?”

“You’ve never been on a train before, have you?” 71556 stared at the window again. “It’s perfectly okay. Safe, at least until we get to the end of the line.”

“Pensionville? You’re going for retirement too?” 10538 blinked rapidly. Something in his head had linked 71556 and retirement but it tried to tell him that was in the past. It made no sense. He pushed the thought away.

“You could call it that, I suppose.” 71556 sighed. “It’s the end of the line, that’s for sure. You won’t know what’s coming, of course. Just as you never connected what you saw outside the train with what you’ve seen from inside it.”

Puzzled, 10538 stared at the window. The city limits passed, the red flashing lights warning of crossing into the deserted lands ran into the distance, along the tops of the fence they had just passed through. He shivered. He knew Pensionville was a long way off, of course, but it had not occurred to him they would have to cross the ravaged lands to get there. He hoped it wouldn’t be too long before the train crossed another, similar fence and returned to civilization.

What had 71556 meant about him not connecting outside and inside? He had seen the platform pull away, and now seen the edge of his city as the train passed it. What could be different outside? The sevens were scientists, he knew that. Although a seven-one was not a high-ranking scientist, they would still be able to understand things that a one-zero could never hope to grasp. 10538 shook himself. Such matters were above his rank and he had enough confusion in his head already. No sense adding to it.

Outside, the world was a bleak and horrible place. Twisted stumps of trees, smouldering grasses, decaying animals. Just as the TV had shown him. The sun beat down through a red haze, the flames on its surface licking at the sky. He had seen this on TV many times, but faced with its reality he found it hard to bear.

10538 stared at his hands. He saw faint red bands around his wrists and wondered where they had come from. His brain tried to tell him but could not, as if some ethereal hand covered his brain’s mouth. They told him this would all pass in Pensionville but how long would it take? How long before he felt normal again? How long before the thoughts in his mind could connect rather than bounce around aimlessly?

He stared at the window but found no comfort in the twisted stumps and decaying animals. He glanced at 71556 and wondered why his mind pushed and pushed at that designation as if trying to warn him of something. The train. The bus. Running. Movement. Trapped. Noise. Silence. Windowless windows. Inside and outside. Something was trying to get through but something else swatted it all aside. Click-clack. Click-clack.

Perhaps if he talked, perhaps the sound of his voice would silence the roar of his thoughts.

“I guess you took retirement too. Isn’t it great? We get to do whatever we want for the rest of your lives. Although…” 10538 licked his lips, “I’m not really sure what I want to do. My job was pretty much everything. I guess yours was too.”

71556 leaned back on his seat and closed his eyes. 10538 tried to ignore the obvious snub.

“I’ve been granted early retirement. I’m going to Pensionville. No more work for me. It’s all because I can read barcodes, well it wasn’t hard, I’ve been a camera watcher for so long now, I started to recognise the patterns and how they fit with the numbers. I have a special talent. So I get early retirement.” 10538 bit his lip. It was clear 71556 was ignoring him. One more try.

“I can read your code. You’re 71556. So you’re important. I can understand why you don’t want to bother with me.” 10538 lowered his head. It seemed he was not going to make a new friend today.

71556 opened one eye, then the other. “I can’t read barcodes. Who are you?”

Elated at getting a response, 10538 grinned. “I’m 10538. I’m amazed that a Seven-One can’t do what I do. So did you get retirement too?”

“Same as you.” 71556 turned his face to the window.

10538 followed his gaze. “It’s awful out there, isn’t it? Global warming has destroyed the planet.”

71556 snorted, then pointed at the scenery. “See that tree? The scorched one, twisted over? Look hard at it.”

“I see it.” 10538 shook his head. “What about it?”

“We’ve passed it many times on this trip already.” 71556 half-smiled. “You’ll see it again in three minutes.”

“Oh come on.” 10538 leaned back in his seat. “You think we’re just going in circles?”

“Wait three minutes,” 71556 stared at the window. “Also take note of that pattern of five blackened stumps.” A minute later: “See the way that decayed badger lies? Remember it.” Then: “The smoke from that smouldering grass. Remember the shape it makes.”

The twisted tree came into view. 10538 blinked. It couldn’t be the same one. Five blackened stumps. The badger. The shape of the smoke from the smouldering grass.

10538 sniffed. “Coincidence.”

“Keep watching.” 71556 waved him back to the window.

The twisted tree. The five stumps. The badger. The shape in the smoke.

10538 slumped in his seat. “We are going in circles.”

“No.” 71556’s voice was gentle. “Those are not windows. They are screens, like the ones on your buses and trams. They show you what you are supposed to see, not what’s really out there.”

“So what’s really out there? Something worse?” The chaos in 10538’s head intensified. Tears of confusion and terror welled in his eyes.

“Something better.” 71556 inhaled sharply as the train wheels squealed and their movement slowed. “Something I might not see again, and something you’ll probably never see. I think we’ve arrived at the end of the line.”

“I don’t see a platform and we haven’t passed an environment fence.” 10538 looked at the window. “We’re still in the ruined lands.”

“I told you, those are screens.” 71556 rolled his eyes. “Nothing to do with what’s out there. End of the line. It’s time to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye? Aren’t you going to the same place as me?”

“Yes. And that’s why—” 71556 froze, eyes wide, as the door opened.

“Are we there? Is this retirement?” 10538 pulled his onesie tighter at the neck. “They didn’t say it would be cold.” All he saw was white outside and little white flakes drifting in through the door.

A voice shouted from the white void beyond the door. Mary. Run. This won’t work for very long.

“That’s Terry.” 71556 stood and grabbed 10538’s onesie at the chest. “You want to live? Come on, this is your only chance.”

“But… Retirement.” 10538’s mind filled with contradictions. The warm place. The cold place. Noise. Silence. Did he retire twice? 11712. The one-way window. The twisted tree. The badger. Red marks on his wrists. The ghost. The ghost!

“There is no bloody retirement. You are an anomaly. You showed initiative and you learned to do something beyond your station. They will take you apart, analyse you, and whatever’s left will go into the power station furnace. If you’re lucky you’ll be dead by then.” 71556 pulled 10538 to his feet. “You want to see past those screens you call windows? Come on then, let’s go look.”

“It’s all burned out there. Nobody can live there.” 10538 struggled but 71556 pulled him towards the open door. “It’s all blackened and dead and…” They reached the door.

Green shoots through a white landscape. People, living people, not wearing barcodes. The sun, a gentle yellow orb with no flames. The sky, blue not red and with white patches moving over it. No blackened stumps. No smouldering grass. No badger.

It was impossible to deny this. It was impossible to correlate it with what he had been shown his whole life. Impossible to make it conform. Impossible to adjust this sight to reality. He could not achieve CCC no matter how he tried.

His mind overloaded with contradiction, 10538 passed out.

6 thoughts on “Panoptica Chapter 10

  1. I am one of your original Trekkies. Nothing of Star Trek has quite jelled for me since then. Although my fifty year old son thinks it’s great. I’m not sure if he ever saw the original, but even if he had it would have been second hand.
    Oh, the mind blowing wonder of it all, and I must have been knocking on thirty at the time.
    And it’s how I learned about Split Infinitives. I had never heard of those before, although I had been inadvertently using them for all of my life. Still do actually. It’s a hard habit to beat.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I Gave up Star Trek when they started with the new films. Not because of politics, but because they were just pants and full of continuity errors
    I’ve always found Patrick Stewart to be a bit of a dick, ever since he complained about people only wanting to talk to him about Start Trek, when he is also an acclaimed Shakesperian actor.
    If that was a problem for him, he shouldn’t have taken on the roll of the captain of the flagship in an iconic sci-fi series
    Nobody gives a crap about Shakespear

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed. He was a total dick to the lovely Lalla Ward when she was gallivanting about the Tardis with Tom Baker (in the show and in marriage). She was playing Ophelia in an RSC production of Hamlet and he was really snobby about her being in a ‘sci-fi show’ while he was doing ‘real theatre’. I’m sure she had a good laugh about it a few years later!

      Liked by 1 person

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