On our hands and knees, we crawled through a network of tunnels, guided by signs inscribed with numbers. Our candidate numbers, among the few items we were allowed to possess as Low Quality Primates, served as indicators of our eventual destinations. Hovering closely were drones, ready and waiting to painfully discipline anyone that attempted a wrong turning. As we crawled along, a booming Lhoebitta voice spoke to us, giving us details of our plight, and our fate.
“Do not fear, if you fail to understand the signs,” the voice said. “As you are Low Quality, you are not responsible for your lack of intelligence. You will, of course, be disciplined by the friendly drones, who are at your service. Without the invaluable service they provide, that of stinging memory of pain, your base nature would unfortunately lead you astray. Accept their punishment gratefully, and do not resist. Do not push back against the natural order, and contribute in your own little way towards the greater glory of all living things.”
I craned my neck, hoping to see the signs at the next intersection, aware of the tide of fellow Low Quality crawling behind me, desperate to get to their living quarters. Twice, I had missed an intersection, swept ahead by the impatient tide, and twice I had felt the sting of the lash. One would assume I would have gotten used to it by now…. But I hadn’t. Each and every time it stung, and each and every time I cried, knowing my tears would draw pity from no-one. A turning- the final one for my candidate number. I felt a surge of energy and crawled faster, and faster… and then I was there, in front of a person-sized Thur’shiatta, with a sign floating overhead. On it, in clearly visible numerals, was my candidate number.
I crawled through the Gate, and waited for Emergence to complete. It did, and I was in a bare cubicle. There was no Thur’shiatta within the cubicle, and no windows or other openings. I would have felt trapped, if I was not already used to a lack of freedom.
A drone had followed me through the gate, and a voice began to play from within its’ artificially intelligent frame. “As a Low Quality Primate, your ownership rights do not include living quarters, as a result, you do not Own this domicile. You may, however, utilise it as long as permission to do so has been granted by the Factory Authority, as indicated by signage on any Thur’shiatta that may appear within, which shall occur at the pleasure of the Factory. Permission to use the domicile will be revoked when the appropriate Thur’shiatta appears, and you will not be guaranteed to be allocated the same domicile the next time you utilise a Thur’shiatta with signage bearing your candidate number. Any belongings you abandon within a Thur’shiatta you are not allowed to utilise, will be reclaimed by the Factory and destroyed. Any rations beyond sustenance may be forfeited towards payment for additional Clothing. You will however only be permitted to Own a single item of Clothing at any given time. As you are Low Quality, and thus lacking in powers of comprehension, I will now pause, and if you require, I will repeat the address in simpler terms, or if you so desire, I shall continue.”
“Please continue,” I said, surprised at the sound of my own voice. I had not spoken for so long that it sounded like a croak.
“You are Low Quality. This indicates that your existence carries a risk of constituting a resource drain on the Factory and therefore the well-being of all living things. This is not your fault, as it is in the nature of inferior beings such as Primates to lead a useless existence as a consequence of their flawed evolution. The ancient wisdom of the glorious Lhoebitta has however granted you the chance to justify your existence and produce more value than you consume. Your labour shall be quantified each period, and the cost of your upkeep shall be offset in terms of the Energy required to produce Oxygen for your survival, gruel for your intake, and sanitary gel for your cleaning and disinfection. If you are deemed to be a useless presence, you will be grateful to know that the next Thur’Shiatta you are presented with will transport you to the reclamation plant, where your bodily matter will be reclaimed for the culinary pleasure of our most exalted Masters,”
The drone paused. I snapped to my senses and spoke quickly, pre-emptively avoiding the lash.
“My life for their pleasure, forever!”
“Forever may They enjoy us,” completed the drone. It then continued. I noticed the sound of the lash powering down- that had been a close one.
“You are Low Quality, therefore you have poor genetics. This is not your fault, but rather an intrinsic flaw of the way your inferior species evolved. Variation by natural selection ensured you will forever be inferior to the Glorious Lhoebitta, but in their grace, they have provided you with Sanitary Gel. This Gel will cleanse you daily, and will therefore prevent you from developing one of several diseases that would otherwise plague your Primate body, thus reducing your Labour capacity, and ensuring you become a drain on the Factory’s resources. However, due to the low quality of your genetics, there are conditions you may develop or be afflicted with that would constitute a high resource drain to cure or mend. You may be concernd that should such a condition arise, the resource required to cure or mend your failed body would harm the natural order. In such cases, do not fear- you would simply be provided with a clear path to reclamation, and you shall be consumed for the pleasure of the Lhoebitta. As you are Low Quality, and thus lacking in powers of comprehension, I will now pause, and if you require, I will repeat the address in simpler terms, or if you so desire, I shall continue.”
At this point, I was so full of horror and despair that I wondered who would remain in this hell of their own volition. “Please continue,” I said.
“You are Low Quality, therefore you have poor intelligence and a bad memory. Subjectively, you may feel you have a good memory, and may believe you recall certain events and occurences, but this is a symptom of the doelig-kru’garr effect, which means your incorrect or inaccurate memories give you a false sense that it is better than it is. The memories you have are certainly false, and the ideas you have are wrong, and stupid. Therefore you are to refrain from attempting to second guess any instructions you are given. As your low intelligence guarantees occasional disobedience, friendly Drones such as myself shall be present at all times to provide you with Stinging Memories of Pain to assist you in maintaining discipline. Note that continued infractions will constitute penalties to the value of Your labour, and may result in your removal to reclamation at the next assessment period. We would like to stress that it would be counterproductive to intentionally downgrade ones’ labour value in order to self-remove to reclamation. This is because you have the option, at any time, to request from any Friendly Drone an immediate pathway to reclamation, and this request is very often granted, as a low quality that no longer is motivated to survive is a drain on resources and shall be allowed to voluntarily offer their body to the pleasure of our most exalted masters,”
“My life for their pleasure, forever!”, I said, feeling sick to my stomach.
“Forever may They enjoy us,” the drone responded. “As you are Low Quality, and thus lacking in powers of comprehension, I will now pause, and if you require, I will repeat the address in simpler terms, or if you so desire, I shall continue.”
“Please continue,” I said.
“You are Low Quality, therefore you will be sterilised and thus unable to reproduce. This means you need not fear passing your Low Quality genes to others. In order to ensure that you provide adequate recreational services to Top Tiers who may desire them, your sexual function will be left intact. As you are Low Quality, and thus lacking in powers of comprehension, I will now pause, and if you require, I will repeat the address in simpler terms, or if you so desire, I have come to the conclusion of the address, and will grant you a single query, with no guarantee of a response. If you do not respond within five seconds, this address will be over, and you will be required to lie your body upon the floor and thus recuperate in preparation for your first set of tasks.”
“Does reclamation hurt?” I blurted out. From my memorised Ee’wae A’yae studies, I knew the answer, but my desire to live had been so damaged that I needed to be made even more certain of it.
“Yes,” said the drone. “Reclamation chambers are fitted with audio sensors and every sample of processed Syy’lanth is accompanied by an audio profile generated by the measured texture of the subject’s screams during the process. This is cross referenced with a control set and thus correlated with the intensity and nature of the pain experienced by the subject. It has not been confirmed, but there is a sense that increased pain, fear, hurt, and despair cause a specific cocktail of hormones and associated fluids to be released into the body in a pattern that creates an even more exquisite flavour. Great care is taken to maximise the duration, variety, and intensity of the pain experienced by the subject as their bodies are ground into Syy’lanth. If you desire to better please our Masters,”
“My life for their pleasure, forever”, I interrupted,
“Forever may They enjoy us, you may perhaps attempt to ensure that sensitive parts of your body, such as your eyeballs, throat or genitals, are rendered early so as to maximise your pain and the nature of your screams. Your single question has now been answered, do not waste any more air by speaking, permission to access this drone is now revoked.” and with that, the lights were immediately killed, and I heard the drone disassemble into its’ component nano-particles, presumably to exit the room via tiny air vents in the corners.
I sat in a corner and drew my legs to myself, wondering what terrible evil my race had committed in the past, that meant we deserved to be punished so. As I lay my head upon my knees and sobbed, I was aware that I was wasting precious Oxygen, and increasing my chances of a painful death at the next “assessment cycle,”, whenever that was. I wanted to whisper to myself, to tell myself I was not Low Quality, I was not 4327, but Ebuwa, and I was going to end this slavery, but I couldn’t.
Mercifully, exhaustion soon won over despair, and I fell into a dreamless sleep.