"The new batch is ready, Jim," he said.
"Great!" Jim smiled, tapping furiously on his computer. "Go ahead and start the training protocol, Dave."
"Of course," Dave waved, adjusting his lab coat and hurrying down the hall to a large, stainless steel vault door. "Open it up!" he ordered. He flashed his ID badge quickly to the trio standing behind a large glass window on his right. He knew them well so the badge was merely a formality for the security cameras.
The door opened and hurried down the hall past several dozen smaller steel doors. Each door had a large window for walker-bys to look in and an intercom for them to speak back and forth. Dave ignored the doors and windows and hurried down the hall. The hallway was seemingly endless, but finally, Dave reached a massive elevator door. He placed his hand on a biometric scanner and waited impatiently for the elevator to open. Inside the elevator, Dave pushed the B16 button and waited for the elevator to rush down to basement sixteen.
Finally the grand doors opened for him to get out and Dave smiled. "All right, everyone! Let's get these pods open!" He stepped out into a large open laboratory filled with dozens of computers, several lab tables filled with equipment, and large vats that pumped strange green goo through tubes to what looked like twenty-four glass coffins. "Get ready to initiate Training Protocol Delta!"
"Yes sir," one of the military scientists answered. Instantly the computers whirred and the tubes were mechanically pulled from the coffins back to the vats. In a few minutes, twenty-four almost simultaneous hisses were heard as the coffins were opened by the computers and the air inside released.
This was only Dave's second Birthing. The Nursery wasn't something they let just anyone do. The Nursery produced all the Drones used in Lunar Song; they did everything. The Drones built and maintained all of the structures in Lunar Song, grew all of the food, cooked, cleaned everything, and the best part – they were made from one hundred percent recyclable materials!
Every Drone was made with a series of equipment that allowed Dave and his staff to nourish and monitor the Drones. If the Drones were performing below their quota or got sick, they were recycled, their materials reduced down to their base, and they were then reused in the production of the next generation of Drones.
Dave watched as the Delta generation began to stir. Slowly, and almost simultaneously, twenty-four pink humans sat up slowly and looked around. Twenty four doctors were by their sides in an instant, probing and prodding, asking question. The Drones were programmed with full linguistic capabilities; essentially, they were just like everyone else. Except for the system of tubing placed in their frame for feeding them, the computer chips embedded in their skulls, and of course.
Grabbing his clipboard, Dave walked up to Delta One, a hairless man who would have been quite desirable in Lunar Song were it not for the strange pink glow of his freshly finished skin. "How are you feeling?" Dave asked Delta One.
"Fully functional, sir," Delta One responded emptily. They were given the rules of the world as part of their initial growth. "Ready for training, sir!"
Training for the Drones was nothing more than a quick scan of their computer chips to place them where they are needed most. The scan assigned the Drone as well as uploaded the information they needed to complete the job. The work they did in the Nursery was extremely efficient. Unfortunately, one in four of the Drones Birthed reacted terribly to the microchip or the interfacing process; two usually didn't make it away from their pods before malfunctioning.
A malfunctioning Drone resulted in one of three things: the Drone would become violent and irrational, making it necessary to immediately recycle the Drone, the Drone would simply cease functioning, or the Drone would develop a sense of individuality and free will. For those that cease functioning, thirty percent of them could be jump started and return to full functionality; the rest were recycled. As for those with free will… well that was why Dave's predecessor had initiated the 12 hour rules.
One of the interns turned on his microphone and a screeching feedback sound filled the room. Everyone cringed, the Drones included. "Sorry," the intern said after the feedback died away. He cleared his throat in the microphone. "Welcome Delta Drones. Please proceed to the entrance for processing."
Immediately, the Drones moved to line up. Delta Six, a female, collapsed unceremoniously onto the floor and began to shake. The intern came over the speaker again and called, "Six for recycling." Dave made a note on his clipboard as the procession continued. He walked to the front of the line to stand beside Delta One again. Dave flashed a brief smile and watched his friend Dr. Patel lift the scanner. It was similar to the old fashioned retail scanners, modified and updated for the Nursery.
"Where will Delta be headed today?" Dave asked.
A soft beep was heard as Dr. Patel scanned the chip at the back of Detla One's skull. "They need a Drone in Sector Eight, sir," Dr. Patel answered.
Dave nodded. "Linens." Dr. Patel entered the assignment in the computer and Delta One was directed to stand to the side while the remaining Drones received their assignments. Two more Drones failed before receiving their assignments, but none did after, so the numbers were actually in the Nursery's favor for the day. When the remaining Drones were ready for embarkment, Dave waved over his team of interns. "All right we have two headed for Sector Two, one for Four, three for Six, two for Eight, three for Nine, five in Twelve, three in Thirteen, and one in Seven. We also have three for recycling. Get to it."
"Yes sir," they chimed and moved to direct the Drones. Dave turned his attention to making a new batch. The pods needed cleaned properly and quickly; the Drones took weeks to make properly. He needed to set this Nursery up and move on; he was needed for another extraction in an hour.
~ \ - / ~
Delta One followed the clothed man, the intern, to Sector Eight. He'd heard of the Sector in his sleep, as well as those men they called "interns." In fact, he seemed to know exactly where he was going already and who the strangers were they walked past, but he was only just born. All of his knowledge came from the dreams. Live to work, work to live, the voice in his dreams had told him several times. That is your purpose.
The intern opened the door to Sector Eight and Delta One observed a large cloud of steam. Once the steam cleared, he saw one long room with dozens of large machines, all of which he knew exactly how to use. I've never been here before… he thought.
A voice answered him, slightly different from the dream voice, This is the laundry. This is where you will spend your life, washing, drying, folding, and repairing linens. This is your home. This voice was deeper, less fatherly than the voice during his sleep.
But that only made the slightest sense to Delta One. He knew the words… but he wasn't sure he understood them. He looked at the intern for a moment, wanting to ask him to explain, but something told him that was not a good idea.
"What?" The intern asked. "Do I have something on my face?"
"Oh, good. Well, get to work then. You're assigned station three."
Delta One nodded and walked away into the sticky, steamy Sector Eight. Without delay, Delta One moved to his station. He delved into his work, everything he needed to know about how to go about it readily available to him. His arms and legs moved about the work as if he'd done it a thousand times before. But I've never been here before… he thought.
He kept thinking it, and other similar thoughts. I've never done any of this before. I don't belong here. They made me. They built me like one of these machines. Why?
Why? He kept coming back to that.
An alarm went off signaling time to check in. Delta One and several other naked Drones like himself moved to the entrance the intern had brought him through. All of the Drones had lined up orderly and were being scanned and injected with large syringes of green goo. Recycled nutrients, the voice from the dreams informed him.
His stomach churned as he thought on it, approaching the front of the lines. That's other Drones… he thought. At first, he was disgusted. Then he was angry. He got his nutrients and walked back to his station, trying to ignore the strange taste in his mouth from his stomach.
After a time, the doors were closed and the Drones were left to work, but Delta One was having trouble concentrating. How can they give us recycled Drones to feed us? There were many things about the system that didn't seem right to him, but presently, that still bothered him most.
Live to work, work to live. This is your purpose.
But why? Delta One thought. He looked at the large washer in front of him. It was made, required only the water and soap to perform its tasks, and it always worked, until it broke. Then it is recycled for parts… Delta One thought grimly.
At first, he continued to work, feeling outraged and angry, but unsure of what to do. He worked harder for a while, feeling outraged, so focused that he almost missed the next check in. He hurried through the line, trying not to think about the goo, and went right back to work. Soon, his anger abated and his work slowed as he felt more and more at a loss about what to do. What could he do? The whole land of Lunar Song was built on the back of Drones like him; they designed them for work.
Delta One stared at one of the dryers for a long time. When it was time to fold, he went about the work quite slowly, his mind still racing and his stomach turning. A set of Drones walked up and down the sector gathering folded linens and stopped to look at Delta One. "You're under the quota," a small naked girl commented dully. "Are you malfunctioning?"
I guess you could call it that, he thought, but did not answer.
"Why don't you hurry up," a tall, strong looking male Drone ushered.
After much consideration, Delta One answered, "I would prefer not to," and continued his work slowly. The two looked at him blankly before moving along to collect the next set of linens from the Drone in the next section.
The alarm went off again, signaling check in, and Delta One moved to the entrance. Thinking of the goo and the recycled Drones, Delta One paused. He watched the others move to the line and finally, he turned away, back to his station.
"Aren't you coming?" a Drone asked.
"I would prefer not to," Delta One answered, starting the wash. He leaned against the dryer, looking around, a great weight filling his chest, a dark cloud shadowing his mind. Every time he looked at the Drones or the scientists with their goo and their scanners, the weight and the shadow felt heavier and he felt less and less motivated to move.
Lunar Song needs you; this is your purpose. Live to work, work to live. The voice had said.
The line disappeared and the scientists packed up their things to leave. The doors closed, and for a moment, Delta One thought that maybe it was all a lie. They didn't look for me… I didn't go to the line and I'm still here! For a second, Delta One felt a strange… warm feeling in his chest and the clouds in his mind seemed to ebb. That was when he felt the strange twinge in his neck.
He legs collapsed beneath him and he hit the ground hard. The pair who had collected the linens from him were looking down at him, their heads tilted to the side. They blinked showing no desire to help him in the slightest. Delta One clawed at the pavement as a burning feeling moved from the base of his neck throughout his body. They're going to recycle me… he thought. I'm going to be goo next… These Drones are just staring at me, and soon, they're going to be injected with my goo!
"I am not goo!" he yelled senselessly, rolling over and curling up in a ball as the pain coursed his body. "I'm not goo! And I'm not a machine!"
Then what am I? he thought.
"I'm… a man…" he uttered, breathing out his last breath.
~ \ - / ~
Dave smiled, standing in front of another Nursery. "All right, everyone! Let's get these pods open!"
A/N This is something I wrote for American Lit as a response to Bartleby the Scrivener but I really like it and I plan to expand on it.