Control: Chapter Eight

control.jpg

Governor August passed through the glass doors, his expression completely blank. Straight-backed and impassive, his footsteps echoed over the marble walls. For a regime set on colour and creativity, the interiors of their government building, at the heart of The Sanctuary, were cold and impersonal. Giving a nod to a passing colleague, Governor August scanned his key card and entered a room filled entirely with computers. Code ran across the screens, materialising into words faster than one could read them, and at the helm of this immense operation was a young man. Governor August did not disturb the man, but merely watched as the codes, from chips all over the city, were received by The Sanctuary’s mainframe. Here, the codes would be processed and spat back out as new ideas spawned by the one and only true genius, the sole provider of the only right answers… the mysterious force that was The Sanctuary.

It was a collection of the right people, who had the stomach to cut off dissenters and enforce the necessary acts of compliance, peppered with a few computer geniuses, sourced from the city’s slums and salvaged from the rejection of a creative society, that ran every chip in The Sanctuary.

The current regime came to power slowly. At first, it was a war against laziness; key people in the right places spoke up, advocating mental acuity and innovation. Technology was key, they said. It was being used the wrong way, to numb the mind rather than sharpen it. This came to fruition in what historically became known as the Age of Self-Improvement. Self-help books were flying off the shelves, and phones were the first and last thing society looked at, before they woke up and fell asleep. Let us control the technology, the government said. Society was sickly, desperately dying for something to break the spell of their addictions and sluggish ways, and so, in the next election, they were voted in.

The new government always reminded the people that this was their choice. The rest of the world vehemently disapproved, naturally, with international legal bodies condemning the government under human rights law. But what was the point of that, when the government could withdraw from key covenants of human rights law enforcement? And so, the society was withdrawn from any dialogue within the international community.

Slowly, away from the prying eyes of the rest of the world, the chip was developed. The media had a field day. Ethical debates about brain implants sparked up, and the usual spiel about technology’s overreaches was taken up by many. Still, many had chosen this. The procedure could only be done on children of a young age, and nearly every child was enlisted for a procedure date. With that, the government had their first generation of followers, tied to the mainframe by an unbreakable string of computer code… lethal if broken.

The only way to stop it safely was to shut it down from within. Governor August knew a revolution was coming: The Sanctuary’s government building was crawling with talk. From what he knew, no such talk had escaped the glass doors and reached the public, as they trundled past on the vibrant streets outside, ignorant as always. But that was only a matter of time, and such things had to be controlled. The building was a fortress - it would be near impossible for anyone to break in. His eyes glazed over as he watched the computer code coming in, and for a moment, he let himself dwell on his daughters.

Gracie was at home, under close watch from Cora. Georgie was safe, at home too, but where was Louisa? The chips weren’t yet advanced enough to track, or he would have found her already. He wondered whether she’d found those planning to rebel. He sighed. She was so like her mother - like Rose.

But now, she was a dissenter. A single string of code in the entirety of The Sanctuary’s database, nothing more. And he, Abel August, Governor of Defects, was about to undertake his biggest job yet. The coming revolution was rumoured to be the biggest backlash against The Sanctuary, and what concerned him most was that the majority of rebels didn’t have a chip. There was no direct way to cut the cord - no direct way to silence them at the press of a button. But Louisa was one of them. Governor August had to keep reminding himself, that to keep Gracie safe, and Georgie, and Cora, he could not think of Louisa as his daughter now. She was a defect, and he was the Governor of Defects. But, he did wonder where she was.

~

Louisa’s wrist was slowly healing - Ada had fashioned a splint from the branches by the rivulet where she’d fallen, and she was strong enough to move about Camp Code and help with basic chores. Most days, she and Lily-Belle would talk as they washed up, and Lily-Belle would tell Louisa about her and Rose’s childhood. For Louisa, it was the first time anyone had talked openly about her mother. It solidified something in her heart to know she could ask anything, and Lily-Belle would do her best to answer. The feeling of guilt, at leaving her father, faded to the back of her mind. For the first time, she felt as though she had something close to a mother. She felt like she was home.

The camp’s central tent was home to their haphazard collection of computers and hardware. Mostly stolen and revived from the dumpsters behind The Sanctuary’s government buildings. Internet connection came in patchily, piggybacking off rogue signals from the outskirts of The Sanctuary. Normally, this would have been impossible, but the camp was full of mathematicians, coders and hackers, who could together run the technology on a shoestring. Louisa would sometimes go in and sit on the forest floor, by the tent flap, and watch as they practiced hijacking signals and converting code. As one of them had explained to her one day, computer code was easy; solid, incontestable numbers. The key was to bend it and coerce it into gradual submission.

It looked, Louisa thought, like they were almost ready.

Tara Wesson is a second-year Journalism and Creative Writing student. She likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. But no, she's really just a book-lover with a dog called Shorty, a love of travel, and a penchant for dad jokes.

The final chapter of Control will be published in The Comma’s Annual Edition, available from 26 October 2018.