The Boy Who Wondered

Chapter 1

It’s the year 2065. Pierre watched the electronic clock silently, his bright eyes trained intensely on its luminous numbers. 0529. Another minute till the day started. It was out of sorts to diverge from the routine, but Pierre’s mind was in overdrive. This was eccentric and entirely peculiar because, you know, his mind was plainly blank. He ground his teeth together, watching the numbers blur together for a moment, before it settled on five thirty. Alarms blared across the room, lights immediately blinking on. Pierre knew that : in every other room in the colony dormitories, alarms and lights were blaring; waking everyone up to start the routine.

“Good morning, Soldier 325.” Pierre got out slowly from his air bed, and the wardrobe slid open smoothly as soon as his feet touched the ground, bringing along with it on its robotic arm, a one pieced suit, coloured in monochrome colours, black and white and pushing it into his front. His fingers clutched the rubbery material between his fingers. “You have five more minutes to report to your station, Soldier 325.” Pierre glared at the automated machine.

“I know.” He paused, pulling on the rubber suit and zipping it up, his vacant eyes staring out of the circular window into the deep dark watery depths. It was practically pitch black out there, only an occasional “glub, glub glub” of the hydraulic machines powering the entire population or the dark shapes of fishes swimming in the water. “Say, Bertrand, do you know how it was outside previously?” Pierre placed his palms flat on the thick cool glass and pressed his face to it, watching the murky darkness outside. “I’ve read and heard about beaches, trees, flowers, sun, wind…and everything that was before this happened.” He gestured to his advanced and mechanized room, crammed with robotics and scientific and military diagrams and holograms floating in the space of the room. More accurately speaking, Pierre hadn’t even got a clue how the old world looked like. He had only heard much about it from his older friend, Asher. Asher was twenty oh one, spoke weirdly, ending his sentences with lots of improper use of language like”lah”,”lor” and many other words Pierre couldn’t comprehend. He was long used to hearing the perfect automated English of the robots that taught him, of the automated machines that surrounded their now everyday lives. Asher was sixteen when Singapore first moved underwater, for safety and most of all, for survival. He remembered clearly the Singapore way before their underwater premises and technological advancements. He regaled Pierre’s fertile mind with talks of beautiful females dressed skimpily in bikinis, whatever bikinis were. Apparently females never wore one piece suits. They dressed baring their toned stomachs, slim arms and legs, shaking their booty, whatever that was. Asher had tried to educate him on what those words meant, but he never understood it. Everyone got to do what they wanted, what they liked; there wasn’t any military training for boys till they turned eighteen. They could feel sand beneath their feet, see colours apart from black and white, flashing disco lights, drive…Yes, in the devices now obsolete called cars. They were even allowed to have and consume stuff called booze, beer, ink tattoos and stuff that made them high, hot and awesome in the eyes of females. Pierre longed for a world like that, one full of freedom and brilliance in a way that he couldn’t describe. Apart from the fact that such a world was way beyond reach,ever since sea levels rose and gobbled up the small island they used to call home. Well, of course, now it was more like the Greek myth city Atlantis, but unlike the myth, it was a city alive and bustling under the deep surface of the blue sea waters. Everyone here that lived and breathed were categorised and scrutinised. Most girls were sent to the birthing section, given their ability to carry and bring forth new beings, unless they had been genetically altered in the labs, like he was. There’s wasn’t much choice anyway. Your designation was already chosen for you way before birth. Those who had affinity with things like, for example, wool, cloth or yarn would have been categorized into the sewing department. That was, if they had one. The sewing department had been dissolved the moment technology broke through, enabling robots and gracing them with the ability to live and serve, to sew, to cook, to fight, maximising the population for military use. The alarm and panic for military training would come in the later years, after everyone had settled, been content with life ; news that the superpowers like US had crumbled and the UK had been entirely decimated. China and India were now the new risen powers of the universe and world, in every way, be it economically, technologically or even military wise. Their military power was devastatingly terrifying, and panic had taken hold once the news had spread. The new, younger generation ruling party had immediately taken to action and implemented the new regime, that there was an urgent need of extensive and intensive military manpower and training. Studies and topics were changed drastically. Children learnt war techniques from the young age of five, and even before that, in games and play, they were taught the basics of war. Capable ones were turned into leaders, promoted to Captains, while the labs threw themselves into developing military weapons and beings that could rival the nucleic power both underwater and above water, be it militarily or physically and mentally in the beings within the population. Food was also made sure to be ample and bountiful here, despite the natural food provided by the Piscator team and colony, which was seafood. The labs found different ways to grow vegetables and food using hydrogel and nutritional gel. These provided the vegetables with water and nutrients when needed. Of course, there was a never ending supply of water, they simply drew water from the sea around them and filtered and distilled it, creating new water and fresh water in the process…

“Soldier 325, you are late. Please report to the detention centre for your punishment for going out of routine.” Pierre froze. So. Five minutes had passed. “Please acknowledge that this message has been received.” He reaches out his finger, pushing the middle of his index finger and revealing the network of wires meshed together with tangled veins and muscles. It infused together with his vessels and veins, and the robot Bertrand reached out a sharp whirring device that nicked the artery, the fresh red blood spurting out onto a plate. Almost immediately, the veins had sealed themselves together smoothly, without any trace of being cut in any way, and the skin snapped itself back in place.

“Acknowledgement, complete.” The automated voice blared from the robot, swallowing the bloodied plate that the blood had been collected on. “Please remember to take your injections on the way out.” Pierre grunted in response, quickly grabbing a satchel on his way out and jamming his wrists on the thin sharp needles on the wall next to the door, feeling the miraculous microchip slide into his veins and under his skin. It was part of the routine, the compulsory additional advancement added to each being in this colony. Pierre had analysed and evaluated the chip itself, as part of his technology class. He was categorised to be a thinker, a strategist, and one of the compulsory things strategists needed to be able to do and know was to be adaptable and immensely capable with different components of the robotics, so as to target and manipulate the other enemy’s robots or controllers and machines created. Honestly, they were only supposed to dismantle the microchip and identify the components within, but the microchip itself had intrigued and piqued Pierre’s interest. He had immediately taken it apart, sketching diagrams and graphs of the components and how they worked in his notebook, the one in paper, because if it was in his electronic pad, the content would have been erased or deleted the second it was saved. He had learnt that the hard way. He splayed open his palm, walking slowly to the station. It made no difference, hurrying there when he was already late. He’d rather take his time. It gave him a wide berth and a huge leeway to think. He tapped the holographic pads on his palm gently, pressing the configuration of his password on his flesh. Technology had evolved, even though electronic pads were still used, some could be configured on human skin, If you were clever and smart enough to hack into the system and transfer it. The screen flashed on his palm. He had just sent a message to Asher to help him record the lessons that he’d be missing while in the detention centre. Pierre turned a corner, pivoting on the tips of his feet nimbly, striding towards the station. Rows of two wheeled magnetic suspended scooters were hung neatly row by row, the gates barring them from being utilised till the users were identified.

“Identification?” Pierre sighed softly before leaning forward, speaking into the electronic box.

“Pierre Wong. Soldier 325, Strategist, Lieutenant Captain. Aged ten oh six and a half years.”

“Purpose for use of transporter?” He gritted his teeth. Was that really necessary? They knew he had to arrive in the detention centre for his punishment. He pursed his lips.

“Travel.” He allowed the word to escape his lips.

“User not authorised. Specify again, Lieutenant Captain 325.” Pierre felt like smashing his fist into the device. It wouldn’t hurt him, due to his genetically altered genes. He wasn’t sure if the microchips had currently turned on the genes that enhanced his physical strength and increased his pain threshold though. They could do that, he knew. That was the purpose of why the microchips were inserted into them everyday. He had come up with this assumption after taking apart and studying the components that made up the microchip. It ran on electrical currents transmitted to the brain, altering the certain genes at different pulses and different times. There, in the brain, electrical currents could be controlled or analysed and patterned into brain waves, which are then transferred into a field generator within the microchip, creating the electromagnetic field within the chip itself. This tricky device would then activate the infrared light, illuminating his genetically modified cells that required to be in a certain state. As the the infrared light shone on the certain cells, the proteins created then send “artificial signal cascades” hence switching on certain genes at different times. It enabled them to think more clearly when a crisis hit, be emotionally retarded when required, which was, most of the time, and well, lots of other things.

“Purpose of Transport?” The automated voice asked again. Pierre unclenched his clenched fists.

“Travel to Detention Centre.” He breathed reluctantly. The automated machine beeped. “Access granted.”

“Bitch.” He grunted under his breath, feeling the surge of rebelliousness welling up within him. That was a bad word taught to him by Asher, after they had been reprimanded by a military lady officer. It felt liberating, this new word, and apparently, that was what Asher used to call the females up above in the old days. Pierre found it hilarious and entertaining, and the word danced in his mind, as he watched the flashes of black and white, the uniform that everyone had to wear, be it race or gender. The black and white uniforms, freshly pressed and clean, and the word danced around foully in his brain every time he brushed past the females in the colony. He could practically count the number of times he had spoken the bad word in his mind. Considering that the females and males stayed in separate dormitories and colonies, not many. The gates swung open with a hiss, the transporter dropping smoothly on its two wheels and magnetic suspensions. He stepped lightly onto the board, adjusting the strap of his satchel on his shoulder before leaning forward, smoothly gliding along the designed track.

“He’s still using the old satchel, eh?” The man in the suit mused, watching the clip of the black haired boy on the traveller.

“It’s been his twentieth time to the detention centre. As much as I would not like to put him down, Minister, it seems that a problem has cropped up. He’s an anomaly.” The bespectacled lady beside him, dressing in a white laboratory coat said primly.

“He’s a thinker, isn’t he?” The man in the suit swivelled his chair round to face the lady. “Is it not natural? Strategists that were created in the past years have been like him, brooding, intelligent and silent—”

“But he’s too intelligent for his own good. He has developed a sub consciousness and clarity that makes citizens harder to control and convince. Pierre has the high intelligence needed for a strategist, like when he figured the way to hack into the systems to transfer his electronic device onto his hand and body for convenience, or even when he managed to analyse, disassemble and discover the use of the microchip. That’s what makes him dangerous to the society. He doesn’t conform to it. He makes his own little world. Recordings have been shown that he is of a highly suspicious and curious nature, with an ardent longing to live in the old world we once had.” The man’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “He’s also taken a liking to the sole unconverted human here. Asher Tan has not had any memories wiped nor any implant to combine the robotics and bind him like all the rest.”

“Isn’t Asher Tan one of the old ones? Why hasn’t he been put down yet? You know how much the old ones pose a threat to our society.” The lady’s head dipped, her fingers pushing up her glasses.

“We thought he’d be an asset to society, with his intelligence and experience with robotics and technology. He also had a natural talent in leadership.” The man frowned.

“Look how well that turned out.” He scoffed, rising from his seat. “Put him down ,will you?” The lady immediately nodded in compliance.

“Send Number Zero for euthanization. Age Twenty oh one.” She releases the button on the operation centre panel. “With all due respect sir, what are you going to do with the anomaly?” The man turned.

“Pierre Ganon Wong?” He stopped for a moment before scoffing through his teeth. “Well. Put my son down.” He ordered. The lady presses the button yet again as the door swung close behind her.

Pierre alighted the traveller, stretching his feet and clutching his satchel. The traveller had gone towards the detention centre right after the magnetic course ran out. He heaved a sigh. What would they make him do this time? Manual Labour?

“Hey! Half Robot boy!” Pierre whipped around at the sound of Asher’s voice. “What are you doing here? I didn’t expect you see you siah!” The lanky adult slapped Pierre on his back, successfully winding him for a moment.

“I should be asking you that question. Why are you here?” Asher shrugged.

“Ordered to, lah.” He said smoothly, swinging and arm across the younger boy’s shoulder. “You’ve got detention is it? Aiyo. Bad Half Robot Boy.” He chided half-heartedly. Pierre laughed stonily.

“I need to report to my station now. I’ll see you later?” He pushed away Asher’s arm. He was prepared to stride away from his friend when the speakers blared.

“Pierre Ganon Wong, Number 325, Aged ten oh sixteen, please report to the relaxation room. Now.” Pierre looked up in surprise as Asher cheered.

“Yo man, you are going to the same place as me? Cool. Come on.” Pierre felt goosebumps rise on his skin, a foreboding feeling entering his veins icily. Something felt off and wrong.

“No. Hold on. They can’t possibly call me for relaxation. I’m on detention duty.” He said hurriedly as Asher dragged him to the Relaxation station. “They must have got something wrong.”

“Pierre Ganon Wong.” A crisp fresh voice said suddenly behind him. “There is nothing wrong in our system, neither have we calculated or assigned anything wrongly.” The lady behind him was bespectacled, and had a sharp angular look to her. “Enter the relaxation room.” He did so, reluctantly, feeling sharp alarm as all strength left him as soon as the lady tapped her electronic pad. He opened his mouth to cry out as he crumpled to the floor. Strong buff arms caught him, cuffing his hands together. He had lost the sound of his voice too. The microchip. It must be. His eyes whirled around frantically. What was happening? “You have been deemed a threat to society. Commence the relaxation injection.” A dark blindfold was wrapped tightly around his eyes. He was pushed, and he stumbled his way through the corridors, led only by hands that were tight and unforgiving on his arms. He felt himself being pushed into a chair.

“Relaxation injection, commencing.” He struggled futilely, gasping teary breaths as he understood what he had seen the other times he was in the detention centre. The struggling men and women. This wasn’t relaxation. This was blatant murder. His mind screamed with all its might, his physical struggles already futile in lieu of the microchip sapping away his strength in spades. He sagged. He felt the first prick of the needles entering his skin. Slowly. Painfully. Agonisingly.

Then, blissful darkness.




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