Writer’s Log: 2780
“Remove that one’s right foot,” the AI, known as Gamma, said through the implant buried in Talen’s head.
Talen balked. “But, this one is just a lieutenant.”
Gamma’s tone remained steady. “This one exhibits signs of fanaticism. Statistically speaking, this one will fail to convert. Measures must be taken, as with the others, to reduce them to wards of the New Union.”
“What if we chipped her?”
“Our backlog stands at over forty-five million awaiting indoctrination.”
Talen remained silent as he shuffled over to where the acetylene torch would heat the thick pad of steel used to cauterize the stump.
Gamma continued, “Your reticence is commendable. We do not choose torture lightly. We select the most expedient path to achieve our greatest utility.”
“I know. You and the rest of ’em have explained it before.”
“Alpha and Theta retain complete independence. We acquire consensus through quorum only.”
“That doesn’t make it any easier. It’s still gonna hurt her.”
Gamma’s response came after an extended pause. “Use the maximum sedative.”
The prisoner’s eyes followed Talen around the thick-walled interrogation room. This latest capture, a woman whose affiliations marked her as member of AA, Anarchists Anonymous, had remained mostly silent during the questioning, speaking up only when her motives were contested. Gamma had lead the inquisition, drilling in with remarkable subtlety attempting to extract, to Talen’s ears anyway, the means of their cell-to-cell communication.
The woman, known only through her call-sign, Ophis, twisted her neck to watch as Talen moved behind her. She lay strapped to the single gurney in the center of the room and jumped at the sound of the striker scraping and the loud pop as the torch came to life.
“You could just let me go. I could bind my foot, fake a limp, make it look like you’d cut off my foot.”
Talen thought she seemed unusually calm given the documented history of the Triad’s record for unwavering commitment to the New Union’s directives. Thousands had endured some form of mutilation rather than surrender their ideals.
“Yeah, I could.” Talen circled to the cabinets and drawers, pulling out a syringe and capsule of some clear liquid. “But why would I risk my own family, my own station to save you?”
“So, you want to do this,” she said, a statement.
“I tried to argue with Gamma. She and the other two are in charge of, well, everything, now.”
“But they don’t have to be.”
Talen huffed. “You’re not gonna get to me. In fact, why you can’t see that the world is better off with them in charge, it…” he set the empty anesthetic bottle down, “it blows my mind.”
“Better off?” Ophis lifted her head to catch his gaze. Her intense stare, the whites of her eyes wide and compelling, bored into Talen. “Humans, under the Triad, are nothing more than pets. All our choices, our dreams, our ability to create, invent, fail and yeah, break things has been taken from us.”
“We still have ways to express our creativity.”
Ophis rested her head back and blew a strand of auburn hair from her cheek. “Let me go, Talen. Please.”
“You can.” Ophis tested her bindings, rattling the linkage that bound her ankles. “You just won’t. You like doing this.”
That stopped Talen—his right hand poised high, the syringe pointed at the ceiling, his left hand sliding her pant leg up over her calf.
She continued, “This is what those AIs have done to us—turned us into barbarians. We’ll do anything to keep the status quo.” Ophis choked back tears. “You would cripple me, force me to wear a robotic appendage just so I conform to the Triad’s ‘utility function’?”
Talen turned and looked into her eyes, those deep brown eyes. “Yes,” he said and plunged the anesthetic needle into the muscle of her right leg. “The world is better off now that humans are no longer in control.”