Naked Agenda

tale of termination by d.s. black

"We would rather 'tailor' a person to the loop, than leave the ones and zeroes to their own devices," said the Coordinator of Technical Services, carefully choosing his words. "We must get away from the tyranny of paper, and its attendant security problems. If this means the marriage of the employee to the machine, then so be it. The Human Resources Committee has formulated its decision matrix, based on your recommendations."

Weintrager grinned inwardly. For years he had felt locked in a static career lattice, overseeing the Cybernix Control unit of a discrete government agency. Now his subtle calculations were coming to fruition. A new path was in the offing, his career destiny on the rise.

The Coordinator continued. "Quite a well thought-out idea package. The Information Reserve has, as you know, been trying for years to staunch the leak--more accurately, hemorrhage-of data relating to our manipulations of the media. So long as the public is aware of our role as more than a simple regulatory organ of information, we cannot effectively program their understanding of the world."

"It won't take them long to forget, once we've ruggedized our work force," said Weintrager softly. It pleased him to imagine a cap on all those unauthorized transmissions.

"You wish to begin with the key operator in the CPD Division? I understand you've already brought d-termination proceedings against her. Would that not tend to conscientize her against the Reserve?"

"For that reason, it's been a very delicate process," Weintrager explained. "I've brought in support staff over the last couple of weeks to help during the employee's down time to try to neutralize the trauma, and ease the pain of separation. They have helped her through periods of ventilation, mourning, and burial of this lost position. She is under the impression she is being riffed--that is, part of a Reduction In Force--and that she is lifo--Last In First Out--with no blame attached. She will, if she accepts our new proposal, return to the Center for Public Debt, under terms in which she will have to upgrade her physique to fit the new qualifications. To perform at the raised level of expectation will require she have digital connections made to electrosensitize, reconfigure her nerve endings. The modifications will include input/output bundles for dedicated recreation, which she will be able to run on a separate track while the primary work load is executed automatically by the core system, with minimal need for worker awareness. The system is self-regulatory .

"It represents a new level of freedom and empowerment for the employee through ganglia amplification, refinement of the body's electro-chemical transmissions along lines we devise which largely bypass the cul-de-sac of human consciousness. Our strategy is to wait till the final analysis, which comes in the exit interview; the employee will then be presented with this option to abort their dismissal. The trick is to show them it's not the end of the world."

"Which it is, in a manner of speaking." The Coordinator smiled. "And the beginning of a new one. The employee has yet to realize that he or she is now working in a world where Total Management is able to terminate at will that part of them which hinders the job mission. Do you really think they'll accept this contingency exchange of yours?"

"Not all. We've factored in for an acceptable level of avoidance failure. We can always hire replacements, using tightened background filtration, which can screen external candidates at the cellular level. With samples of their RNA on tap, we should be able to hire only those with the requisite receptivity.

"Where the carefully choreographed dissimulation succeeds with our incumbents, I think we can expect a greater malleability than with those new applicants we accept, who have not been through our tenderizing routines. This salvage will simplify reconditioning, before we even install the neural adaptors. And, if it's handled right, we should be able to engender a sense of gratitude and renewed loyalty for this employment reprieve, a rare opportunity to join hands and be on the cutting edge of a new and exciting improvement over their natural abilities." Weintrager spoke with the zeal of one who has pared down the possibilities to arrive at truth, a naked singularity.

The Coordinator was similarly self-assured. "We shall see. The reality is: in a time of superfluous populations, personnel can and will accommodate the legitimate desire of management for high-precision, customized performance. This sort of biological streamlining is an eminently practical innovation worth developing."

INTIMATIONS OF IMMORALITY

in a chest pane: terms of enhancement

The exit interview was in fact an introit to conceptual hell. Victorrhea saw through Weintrager's language of annihilation. She wondered why she didn't just stand up and leave the sucker room.

Simple: she had worked long and hard to establish a profile that was considered cool and collected, and most of all, cooperative. She had seen too many friends strike out in this game of survival, condemned to live forever on edge. For all her principles and ideals, she recognized certain rules of the jungle. One is that while there may be freedom on the margins, everything is relative; to really stake a claim in a world grown this psychologically small requires a chameolonic transparency--or extraordinary good luck. She didn't care to gamble.

But those fuckers were after more than her body, the voluntary part in which she rode the seat of intelligence each day, at her station from 8 to 5. Nor were appearances any longer the thing; now they were after her autonomic nervous system, ferChrissake, under the guise of promotion.

Weintrager had some nerve. He wanted her to believe that They could build her better. "In your work, it's very formal: the gestures are corrected, repeated, and rehearsed. Some people are afraid in the beginning, because it means ceding a part of their physical inheritance. But counting numbers and keeping time is a terrible waste for creatures of our sophistication. We can measure the energy and tolerances needed for given tasks. We can reorganize and amplify the skills and abilities of individual cells--these small bits of being were made to serve you; they can be improved in numerous respects to serve you as Nature could never have imagined. It will free your mind, rendering you uniquely qualified to take on the world of tomorrow."

"What better cure for invisibility, than to be in the new wave of personal n-hancement? Once you are hooked up, you will adjust to a new level of facility in our electronic environment; you can do so many of the mechanical things that presently take needless toll on your thoughts--your imagination--without so much to think, you will be free to think of other things."
Weintrager's eyes were screen deep, flashed her thoughts back through a forest of hypertrophic cursors, to her machine in CPD. She had always wondered when the much feared Debt Squad, with scrambler face plates, would come, automatics leveled, to collect her share of the Public Debt. If she came up short, she could see them twitching a few knobs on their portapacks, then punching a hole in her chest, where they'd install a smartcard to monitor and broadcast her role in the State of Things. It would make no difference whether she was part of the problem or final solution--she had to live their question, even if that meant terminal absorption. So she had always hoped to elude their harsh, relentless scrutiny through proximal visibility as an insider. Last in first out, Weintrager told her.

Her blood ran colder than the air conditioning. So, too, it was the end of the century; what did she care for sensation? Too many bodies out there in the world, too much noise with them rubbing up against each other. The press of flesh in a dry fuck, a command performance in the brownian motion of rush hour at war in the morning. She wore one way lenses to protect her from i-contact. Some days, nevertheless she still woke to feel a slight corneal abrasion. The residue of dreams left a callus of impressions.

Was flesh worth the future? Knowledge could be a sore temptation, considering these new vistas of light and shadow. Before taking the job at the Information Reserve, Victorrhea had been impatient, nay, filled with hatred for the serpent tourniquet on the media. She wanted to know what was withheld by the organs of information.

A little stealthy research identified the source of suppression as a low-profile info-processing agency, which seemed to be a budget dump for an evasive Senate subcommittee, well out of the public eye. She decided to infiltrate through an entry level position, deflectors on full, protective coloration set to drab; she took the oath and plunged through a flickering tube to obscurity.

Having long hardened her eyes to an alphabet of atrocity--ABC broadcasts, CAL-OSHA coverups, ZARP and its successors--she kept her m-motions under a bushel of watchful silence. There was considerable surface tension to keeping a blithe, uncaring demeanor, a face in the crowd. She very much doubted, when she signed on board CPD, that it would be too much of a strain on her youthful resilience.

What she encountered took all the spring out of her step. The immune-resistors came up, and she was able to release her breath. But how many more gasps could she afford? Her info-mania would make her an easy mark. What she mistook for nourishment, in this day of machine dreams, was perhaps mere exposure to the harsh rays of reality. There was a fine line where lies begin; it made the fear of dismissal a sort of junk nightmare. She saw death in exile from her phosphordot screen of vision. What worried her most was the thought it could become a two way glass.

After leaving her to shake a while, Weintrager had called her in for one of those proverbial offers difficult to refuse: eyes in electrodes to hone her resolution.

The System's giving you a raw deal, it railed inside, till her ribs began to show. She remembered when she was a volunteer at a cerebral palsy clinic, what the handicapped used to call her: TAB: temporarily able bodied.

"Tailoring to the position" was no more radical than yielding the spiritual realm to churches and mosques. It might even be a kind of evolution, albeit state of the art.

"We're talking about freedom here in the making," Weintrager went smoothly on. "A new world can be built around your dreams; we can bring them out in our mind-screen interface, creating a comfort zone that is uniquely your own."
Victorrhea remembered an odd bit of electronic graffiti that had scrolled across her screen when she just started in CPD. It seemed relevant to her now.

Futile

I will not be pushed, filed,

stamped, indexed, briefed

debriefed, or numbered.

My life is my own;

aye...aye,

The Prisoner

Later, she thought to strip time down to its essentials, in the form of a calendar of cruelty, or "the daze of the weak." It had only five days--years were without weekends, as was only natural.

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Maundy

maundering

hither & yen

bee stings

syringes

bleed pressures

from the head

Dewsday

woke to

a breath

damp burlap

Vennsday

gridlocked

circuitous

highways

a chest of

shipwrecks

Thirsty

seconds

sandpaper

dry lips

Fried Eggs

glaze of swollen

eyes false

teeth on

steel links

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On reflection, it appeared the Info Reserve proposed to cut through the web of carnal inefficiency--give back more than just the night. It wasn't just the moon they promised this time, but the sun to boot. High on a horse, rearing in ecstasy, she could drink the nervous light of insight in a blakean frenzy.

Meanwhile, in a darkened room, with a screen of many windows open behind her eyes, she would channel the violence of ennui across a liquid sea of variable density. Back to back with heightened efficiency were the trodden hopes for severing routine, green fatigue. It was a challenge she could just as easily choose as lose.

--by D.S. Black