Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
The Siyo continued speaking. “Basil, I don’t tell these things to just anybody. They’re secrets. Do you understand?”
Now Basil nodded because it was what the Siyo wanted. His bag seemed heavy on his shoulder. These were secrets he didn’t really want to know, and the weight of them scared him.
“You see,” said the Siyo, “Many of our decisions are automated, controlled by an algorithm and executed by the network. But not this one. The Rand Act prohibits technology from taking life. That must be done by a person, a Siyo.”
Still going on in that reassuring, fatherly tone, Mr. Sattari continued, “ I wanted you to understand what my job is like, why I need absolution.”
Basil’s throat tightened as he clutched the bag before him. Half the ice in the glass was melted, but Basil didn’t dare reach for it to drink. “You see,” said Mr. Sattari, “a man like me, he has to make extremely difficult decisions.
For the last time, Mr. Sattari rose solemnly to his feet. “You have to make a difficult decision, too. Right now.”
Basil didn’t want to hear. He wavered on the edge of the platform, rocking from side to side.
Mr. Sattari put his finger over one floating button near his desk. “This symbol,” he said, moving the icon over a little, “begins a process which will solve CUSA’s problem. Executives will make adjustments and give orders. Termination centers will open for 24-hour service. Young Guns will come around to peoples’ houses and begin taking families away. More than a million of them.” The Siyo moved his finger. “This symbol,” he said, “opens the door and lets you out.
“You can stand there and watch while I begin ordering the early removal of someone you know, or you can give me the drugs I want, which will surely incapacitate me and possibly make me forget you. Then you can get out the door and run to your Padre.”
Mr. Sattari looked expectantly at him. “Make a choice.”
Basil did not answer. His eyes searched the room, the little glass ceiling raised to a point above them, the distant lights of the buildings beyond, the desk, Mr. Sattari’s face, Mr. Sattari’s fingers.
“I don’t want to,” said Basil.
“I don’t want to either,” said Mr. Sattari. “Isn’t that awful? We all have to make difficult decisions. You have ten seconds,” said Mr. Sattari.
Basil looked at the door, which was obviously locked. He wanted to run, to get out. “One,” came the Siyo’s voice. He looked up at Mr. Sattari, who was watching him with his finger over the first button. What if Mr. Sattari slipped and his finger fell through it? “Two,” continued Mr. Sattari. “Three. Four…”
Basil could smell the sweat of the man, now. Mr. Sattari remained still as stains grew around his armpits and his hand hovered over the symbol.
Basil looked through his bag, going over the possible choices. He put his bottom on the floor, his back to the empty space. What would Padre suggest? A stimulant; the Siyo would feel it much sooner. He was asking for a hallucinogen, but that would take too long. Basil’s hands found a syringe and a phial with a rubber membrane sealing it. He pulled them out. Leaving his bag on the floor, he rose to his feet and held the implements up to Mr. Sattari. “This is what you want,” he said.
Mr. Sattari gazed in wonder at the phial and syringe. “That will make me a…believer?” he asked in a surprisingly small voice.
Basil nodded. Mr. Sattari reached for them, but Basil held them back. “Take off your blouse,” he instructed.
Immediately Mr. Sattari did so. He fell back into his chair with a thump of flesh against leather. Basil looked at the executive’s virgin forearm. The veins were large and easily defined.
As Basil came around the desk, Mr. Sattari’s body lurched forward. Basil jumped back, but Mr. Sattari was only reaching for the symbol that unlocked the door. Falling into his chair again, he looked up at Basil. “I’ve ordered a rickshaw to drive you home,” he said. He offered up his soft forearm to Basil.
His heart beating wildly now, Basil applied a tourniquet to Mr. Sattari’s triceps. Returning to his bag, Basil took the syringe, expelled the air, and inserted it into the membrane. He drew all the fluid out of the phial.
Smoothly Basil injected the needle into Mr. Sattari’s forearm. “ ‘He was crucified’”—he gave the syringe a slow, steady push—“‘under Pontius Pilate, suffered, and died.’” Fascinated, Mr. Sattari watched the fluid leave the syringe and enter his vein. “‘And on the third day he rose.’” Now the drug was completely gone and was coursing through Mr. Sattari’s system.
The Siyo leaped to his feet. An obscene grimace stretched his face so far it could have pulled the skin from the bone. He began to shake triumphantly. “Go,” he whispered to Basil.
But Basil was already gone.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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