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The Perfection Program

Her name is Linda, and she is running. The skies above are dark with clouds, and the pouring rain makes the suspension bridge slippery.

Going back in time to when it all began, one year ago, we discover that Linda was the last subject to be Programmed by Patrick 017, before the City Council had him arrested and Deprogrammed for his ideas of revolution. When she was hatched, Linda’s file read:

NAME: LINDA 002
FEMALE, AGE: 18 YEARS
EYES: BROWN; HAIR: BLONDE;
HEIGHT: 1.71 M; WEIGHT: 61 KG

She was given clothes to wear; a plain gray dress, stockings and undergarments, shoes, a jacket, and a gray hat. Then Linda was sent out from the Lab and into the City. Like every other Citizen, she was Programmed with a mental map of the city. She found her way home to the 002 household, where four other Citizens lived. They were her family: Agatha, Crissy, Daniel, and Frederick.

Linda began work at the Lab, where she monitored Nurturing Chambers for the next generation, all of whom would hatch in eighteen years. Lab H, her specific work place, was on sublevel eight of thirteen, and the last of the Programming labs.

“Can I confide with you on something?” Crissy asked one night before it began. They were just preparing for bed and as the two youngest of the household, they shared a room.

“Of course,” Linda replied, setting down her comb. They sat side by side in front of identical oak vanity benches. She frowned; Crissy was a girl who spoke her mind. If she had to ask before telling Linda something, it had to be important.

“Our fellow Citizen, Kyle 075 told me something today. He said that there’s actually more water.”
“What do you mean?” Linda whispered, “Are you saying-?”
“I didn’t say it!” Crissy said quickly, “Kyle did –he says that the Council is hoarding a portion of the supply, that there’s actually an enormous reservoir of pure, clean water, just below the City.”

“That’s impossible.” Linda scoffed immediately. She fiddled with the skirt of her nightgown. This was unheard of –you simply did not talk that way about the Council. “Sublevel thirteen is the Factory.” She said, “All of the sublevels are listed, and I work with Audrey 213, whose brother is a Mechanic for the lifts. He goes down to S-13 all the time.”

“Yes, but sister, think about it: bottled water prices are higher than ever, but the Council and legionnaires never have a low supply and even they don’t have that much money.”

“-Stop!” Linda burst out, “The subject is closed, Crissy! I won’t have this terrible gossip reach my ears for a minute more. You know the penalty for speaking against the City. You are disrespecting the Council with every word you utter!” Linda stood up quickly, knocking her stool over, and marched across the room to her four-poster bed. Flushing angrily, she quickly shrugged off her robe and hung it up nearby before climbing onto her mattress and pulling her curtains shut.

The next morning, 7 o’clock sharp, all members of the 002 family met downstairs for breakfast.
Daniel and Frederick, both brunettes, 1.8 meters tall, and in their early thirties, ate their breakfast quietly.

Crissy, on the other hand, had a habit of slurping up her oatmeal loudly. Linda, still troubled by the things her sister had told her, hardly even touched her food.

Agatha was the mother hen of the family. She was fifty years old and reaching the time in life where Citizens are registered for Deprogramming, but that didn’t stop her from doing anything.

“Crissy, beloved sister,” she said, as she entered the kitchen with a paper that had recently been printed from the fax machine. “The Council is sending for you.”

Linda froze. Had they somehow found out about the conspiracy theories Crissy believed in? Thankfully—

“You are to report to the Factory to be Perfected this afternoon at one o’clock.” Agatha announced, scanning her eyes over the paper in her possession.
“That’s wonderful!” Linda gasped, her excitement pushing all previous thoughts away. She turned and gave her sister a hug while Daniel and Frederick also voiced their congratulations. Crissy herself sat in her seat, eyes wide in shock.
“You’ll finally have your hair Perfected,” Agatha sighed happily.

Crissy self-consciously touched a hand to the chestnut-colored locks resting on her shoulders and looked down with embarrassment.

“Crissy’s going to have some trouble,” Frederick pointed out, “She has to have her eye color Perfected.”

“Are you excited, sister?” Daniel asked, “I remember how much I was.”
“I’m …” she started in a small voice, “Yes, of course.”

Daniel and Frederick left for work first. They donned their overcoats and fedoras, bid the women good day, and stepped out on the busy streets of the City.

“You look upset,” Linda said as she and Crissy sat on the shuttle to the Lab less than half an hour later. “Are you nervous about going to the Factory? I’ll go with you, if you’d like.”
“Would you?” Crissy said, relief spreading over her features. “Thank you so much, beloved sister. You’re too kind. Will you forgive me for my comments from last night?”
“Of course,” Linda replied, “I’ll meet you in front of the lift on your floor at ten to one, alright?”

“I just hope it goes well. Everyone says it doesn’t hurt, but I’m still a bit nervous.”
“It’ll be alright.” Linda patted her sister on the knee and looked out the window, “Looks like it’s going to rain, doesn’t it?” she asked, changing the subject.
***
It was not alright. Had it been ‘alright’, Linda would not be racing across a mile long suspension bridge right now. Oh, but here she is.

Thunder rumbles overhead –KRAKOW! THOOM!
Lightning flashes, lighting up the sky.

She is unused to this weather. In the City, feeling the rain is unheard of. There is a Climate Control Net above the Citizens’ heads to keep them dry and safe, but now, Linda’s dress, soaked with water, weighs her down and keeps her from running quickly. Running –there’s another thing that doesn’t happen in the City. Citizens are highly encouraged to travel in an orderly fashion, no matter what their class was.

Linda is halfway across the bridge and completely winded when the sky-glider rises into the air in front of her. Her cries are lost in the thunderstorm, and she puts a hand over her eyes to shield them from the blinding lights aimed at her.

In her moment of weakness, Linda 002 is captured and nearly dragged into the sky-glider, which has been lowered down next to the bridge for convenience. It is dark but dry inside. Dripping wet, Linda is surrounded by two legionnaires and taken to a small cell a flight of stairs down from the control rooms.

“Linda of the 002 bloodline,” one of the men says, “In the eyes of the City, you are under arrest for sedition and disturbing the peace.”
“What peace, fellow Citizens?” Linda screams, attempting to attack the legionnaires from behind her bars, “My sister! My beloved sister! The City has murdered her!” She grabs hold of the bars and shakes herself against them in a useless attempt to break out. Her tears mix into the rainwater that drips down her face from her hair.

“The Council will hold a meeting to determine your fate as soon as possible.” And that is all that is said to Linda before the legionnaires leave her in the brig of the sky-glider and close the exit, sending the room into darkness.

Linda’s knees buckle beneath her and she drops to the ground as violent sobs rack freely through her body.

Backing up just a few hours, we learn that at ten-to-one, Crissy and Linda met at the lift as scheduled. They rode down to sublevel thirteen, where Crissy was allowed out of the lift by a legionnaire, but Linda was not. Curious as to what the infamous Factory looked like, she leaned forward as Crissy was escorted away. Unfortunately, the lift doors closed before the Factory’s double door entrance could be opened. All that Linda saw were those tall metal doors.

Having been told that Perfecting could take up to six hours, Linda went home at five o’clock without Crissy. At eight o’clock, Agatha sent a fax to the City Council. By eight-forty-five, there was still no response, so Linda grabbed her coat, put on her gloves and hat, and headed out.

Outside of the City, it was beginning to drizzle. Linda walked briskly through the streets, where only a few other Citizens still remained out and about. The shuttle was deserted, and as she sat, waiting for it to arrive at the Lab, her worries began to build up. She could hardly believe she was on her way to the Factory to find Crissy in the first place, but those conspiracy theories of Crissy’s had sown seeds of doubt into Linda’s mind. She was ashamed that she couldn’t trust that the City wouldn’t do anything to her sister, but she just had to see Crissy for herself.

Linda thought back to what she knew about the Factory –what she had been Programmed to know about it. According to the City’s history books, everything had been built around the Factory; the Lab had been built above it, the Housing Quarters around it, and the suspension bridge to the Barren Lands right next to it. The Factory was all about Perfecting the people of the City. Woman were Perfected to have golden-blonde hair, blue eyes and the height of 1.71 meters.

Crissy had been in dire need of Perfection. When she had hatched from her Chamber, she had been brunette, blue-eyed, and 1.79 meters. She did not look sweet, and delicate like ladies were supposed to; instead, she appeared strong and wild.

Upon reaching the Lab, Linda made a beeline for the lift and pressed the button for the lowest floor.
***

“You can’t come here without being called for,” The legionnaire tells Linda when the doors open.
“My sister is…” Linda starts to explain, trying to look past him to see the Factory. He continues to block her path. “Please…” She peers up at the legionnaire with pleading eyes. “I need to see her.”

He remains in place, but asks, “What’s your household number? I can check the records.”

The moment the legionnaire turns away to grab the logs for the day, Linda darts out of the lift, across the hall and through the Factory doors, ignoring the cries for her to stop.

The doors fly open with surprising ease and Linda stops in her tracks, eyes widening. A narrow walkway extends across the circular room, which is lit by the glow hundreds and hundreds of chemical-filled clear beakers that clutter shelves up and down the walls.
“Stop, Citizen!” The legionnaire shouts.

Linda glances over her shoulder to the white-uniformed man and picks up her skirts, racing out of his grasp and down the path. She screams at herself internally –What are you doing, Linda?! Stop running!

But she can’t stop. She dashes across the room, to the end of the very end, and grabs the handle of the door. It opens with a whoosh of wind and flash of arresting light. Linda steps forward blindly and then screams when her foot never touches the ground.

Her story dissolves into white, and when the scene is solid again, we find ourselves watching a woman with long blonde locks and brown eyes who is standing next to an old man. A frown appears permanently pasted upon her face. In truth, it has not been a very pleasant day for Crissy 002. She’s come to visit the Reprogramming Center on sublevel twelve, and she wants answers. Particularly to “Will she be alright?”

“Our fellow Citizen will be fine,” the old Reprogrammer says. “The 002 household is lucky. The Council nearly decided to send your sister straight to Deprogramming, but they took mercy on her when it was discovered that she was Programmed by Patrick 017. He probably impaired her Programming somehow.” He shakes his head at the thought.

“What happened?” Crissy wants to know. She arrived home late the night before, newly Perfected, to learn that her beloved sister had been arrested.

“Linda 002 broke into the Deprogramming Center yesterday, believing that it was the Factory.” The Reprogrammer pauses and casts Crissy a significant look, “A legionnaire reported that she cut across the chemical inventory and into the Deprogramming labs, where she happened across the Chamber of a Deprogrammed young woman whom she mistakenly believed to be you, her beloved sister.” He pauses, turning to peer into the Chamber where Linda is being kept in Nurturing Liquid. Wires attached to control panel next to the Chamber tap into Linda’s mind due to science much too complicated to explain. “Cerebral scans indicate that she is reliving a warped version of recent events –most likely in a loop, but we’ll soon be able to wipe memories from the last forty-eight hours and begin Reprogramming. She’ll be able to hatch again in less than a month.”

“And she’ll be alright?” Crissy inquires a second time, drifting closer to the Nurturing Chamber and presses a hand to the glass window.

Linda 002 floats in the Chamber peacefully, unaware of her surroundings. Her hair is spread out in an explosion of gold around her while her arms hang, suspended in the Nurturing Liquid. Linda’s skin, pale as can be, almost matches the color of the white dress she is wearing. It all creates the eerie illusion that she has been Deprogrammed, but the illusion is shattered when we notice the clear tubes that snake around Linda’s body to her nose and mouth, supplying oxygen to her lungs.

“Linda?” Crissy says softly, pressing her forehead against the wall of the Chamber. “You’re going to be fine.” she whispers. “You’ll be Reprogrammed in no time, and then…” –She lets out a shaky breath and closes her eyes-“And then you can come home.” A moment of dead silence passes and she opens her eyes, “Right?” But the question receives no answers, so all Crissy can do is gaze sadly through the glass at the lifeless form of her beloved sister.

Behind closed lids, Linda 002 sits in a shuttle by herself. She is on her way to rescue Crissy from the Factory and is willing to fight her way in if necessary, when in reality, all she needs to do is open her eyes and smile once more.




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

syavian1019 said...
Aug. 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm:
I kind of like the viewpoint changing and the time jumping around. It was different and that made it unique from a lot of others I read. It was cool :) and I like the idea of "Perfection".
 
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Caesar123This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 14, 2012 at 11:48 am:
I thought the story was good. Really futuristic. The only thing that bothered me was how you’d jump around so much, and change points of view without really saying anything. Other than that, I thought it was really good!
 
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