Author (writing & story): Nidawi
PROLOGUE, PART 1
The year was 2157 in the country that was, before the Great Separatist War roughly 50 years prior, known as Sweden. Just like back then, the winters were very cold, and the air was filled with fumes from the heaps of people exhaling manually heated oxygen – trading white blood cells for almost empty cans of foul-smelling “soup”. It was on an ordinary evening in November that a lonely person made their way down a street towards the outskirts of District C-11, located in the North of the country, close to an old, but very much abandoned, border. Country borders had been irrelevant for a long time by this point, and few remembered what the countries used to be called. The person was wearing the white, heavy exoskeleton suit worn by the Regime’s peace keepers, the Arbiters. Shortly after the conception of the new Regime that took hold over the country, county by country, spreading like a disease across the globe, the old justice system was dismantled, and with it, democratic institutions such as the police force, judges, and juries were abolished. To fit their totalitarian beliefs, “justice for the common” was unnecessary. The scum of the earth deserved no “justice”. “Justice” was for the wealthy, by the wealthy. In this regard, Arbiters had the jurisdiction to act as all of the old, dismantled institutions, and deliver justice – often death – as they saw fit. Unless the suspect was wealthy, of course, in which case all charges were immediately dropped.
The Arbiter turned around a corner and entered a side-street known only as “Street 85-22”, which essentially meant that it was the 22nd street constructed in the 85th sub-district. This generally made navigation in the districts very difficult and the fact that the buildings had a tendency of looking almost identical certainly didn’t help. Luckily, Arbiters were equipped with highly sophisticated brain-implants that provided conveniences such as communication, database access to criminal records and surveillance, and real-time updated GPS locations of self and tracked targets, and, if applicable, institution-provided points-of-interest. The data selected by the user would then be displayed in the user’s retina, but could also be hooked up to the suit’s helmet and shown in its visor. The implants had been known to cause severe wear and tear on the user’s eyes and psyche, and therefore, instead of correcting the implant, the higher-ups decided to allow a rudimentary helmet-connection.
As the Arbiter continued down the street, they could see many of the “wretches” of the district. Both sides of the street were covered by the standard cement-based “housing solutions” that had been introduced a few years earlier. They were terribly worn down, despite being rather new. Not that anyone would care, only the wretches lived there anyhow. Due to the lack of snow the filth that was covering the ground was apparent, and the lack of any form of plant life was ever so unsettling. Chill winds roared above the houses, and would occasionally slip downwards and whip up thick clouds of dust and decay which would then ominously roam the area, suffocating those foolish enough to get in their way. The Arbiter eyed its surroundings, spotting a lonely wretch, dressed in dirty rags, sitting with his back towards the outer wall of one of the buildings only a few meters away, 11 to be precise, according to the Arbiter’s on-board rangefinder. As the Arbiter approached him, he lifted his hand to block the light coming from the Arbiter’s visor and shoulder-mounted spotlight. Without any strain, the Arbiter walked up to the wretch and lifted him into the air with one hand.
“Identify.” The Arbiter stated with great authority, magnified by the helmet’s voice modifier. Granted, the Arbiter knew that a simple retinal scan of the subject would allow access to every second of its miserable little life, from creation until this very moment. But where’s the fun in that?
The wretch struggled and tried to scream, but nothing came out of his mouth. The Arbiter asked again, more impatiently this time. The wretch said nothing, and instead continued struggling – doing his best to curse at the Arbiter’s imposing figure.
“Disgusting waste.” The Arbiter proclaimed, and then added, nonchalantly, “I sentence you… to death.” With a swift motion the Arbiter shattered the man’s spine and threw his lifeless body against the wall where he had previously been sitting, before continuing down the road.
Date: 312 of 2157.
Unit: 85718-2 “Edict”
Location for clean-up: 85-22.
Suitability for reuse: 0.
END OF PROLOGUE, PART 1
PROLOGUE, PART 2
The Arbiter known as Edict had reached the end of the road, and thus had also reached its destination: Living Quarters 85-22-15. The building was nothing out of the ordinary, essentially nothing but a block of cement with a large metal door which was controlled by District Control, rather than the actual inhabitants. Noticing no life around the building, Edict walked up to the metal door. Next to the door was an access panel, allowing manual entrance for authorized personnel, such as Arbiters. Edict raised its helmet’s visor and allowed the access panel to perform a retinal scan.
“Access granted. Welcome, Arbiter Edict.” The District Control AI stated.
The door opened and the putrid stench inside hit Edict in the face as if it were a solid object. Edict staggered slightly and coughed violently, quickly lowering the helmet’s visor again for protection, and then walked inside – ending up in a rather large square room, completely made out of worn-down cement. The metal door grated loudly as it shut behind the Arbiter. Inside, prominent cracks were visible in the walls and certain spots had large holes in them, where big chunks of cement had broken loose and with loud bangs crashed on the floor. As Edict began to move, each step caused tiny hurricanes to stir in the thick layer of dust covering the floor. Not particularly far into the complex, Edict noticed a young wretch who had been crushed below a large block of broken cement, giving the floor a much needed, yet faded by this point, paint job. This kind of “housing solution” generally had five to nine levels, each level containing up to 25 tightly-fitted apartments. The levels were connected via rather poorly designed stairs, preventing those with disabilities access to the upper levels. Edict knew that very few in these buildings even remembered what an “elevator” was.
“Arbiter Edict to Command. Requesting Lock-Down on Living Quarters 85-22-15.” Edict said aloud, signalling District Control through the communications-implant.
“You’re coming in loud and clear, Arbiter.” The response came a few seconds later. “Request authorized. Stand by.” The connection was terminated. A few seconds later, Edict could hear how the thick blast door emerged from the floor and blocked off the metal gate, and how the few windows present on the complex suffered a similar fate. The further into the complex that Edict reached, the more the filthiness of this place made the filth outside seem like more of an inconvenience than an issue. Edict loathed being on Population Control, as it required attending to dissidents in these disgusting “housing solutions”. Edict much preferred to be on duty around the District Centre, where the filth and sickness hadn’t reached. But, Edict knew, the Regime’s Quota had to be enforced, should they ever hope to contain the wretches.
A few years after the new Regime was formed, shortly after the introduction of the Arbiters, the higher-ups decided to take the battle to the “wretches”, a newly coined term to describe the “inferior” members of society, the poor, weak, or somehow dysfunctional. The Regime also made sure that “dysfunctional” could include pretty much anything and everything. It was believed that only through the extermination of the “wretches” could the human race move forward, and thus the Population Control was founded. However, the Regime, being the epitome of sophistication that it was, deemed direct methods of eradication, such as mass executions, to be “uncivilized methods of a lost era”. Instead, they decided that all citizens who were deemed undesirable were to be forcibly sterilized, causing their bloodlines to slowly die out over time. Forced sterilization was, over time, extended to also include non-wretches – essentially everyone except for the top 1% in the Regime. This was partly done so that the Regime could better control the population, but also because, as they saw, there was money to be had. Through the use of highly advanced gene modification and cloning, children became an almost exclusive creation of Regime-sanctioned labs.
These manufactured children were mentally conditioned to be good citizens, good soldiers, or whatever the Regime wanted that specific “batch” to be. By default, they were born sterile and with no physical augmentation, but this too could be altered by an authority. Interested families could manually place an order for a child, up to a maximum of one per household. To order a child, the members of the family had to undergo excruciating tests to verify their suitability to be the child’s parents, and then a substantial sum of money had to be paid – which increased exponentially if they wanted their child to have any specific “characteristic traits”. Unwanted children, and indeed also suitable dissidents, were liquidated and reused for the creation of new children. Unwanted children could include anything from those with manufacturing errors, such as genetic flaws or mental conditioning failure, unsatisfactory upbringing (the biggest cause), or children who had somehow been conceived naturally, outside of a lab. However, since the Regime was rather young, it was still standard procedure to bring any natural children back to District Control in order to determine whether or not they could be of any use to the Regime, such as used to improve the cloning technique. More often than not, though, this just meant another few hours wait for the child to be liquidated.
The latter was the issue that Edict had been assigned to resolve. Earlier that day, an incoherent report of a “naturally conceived child” had arrived at the Arbiter Headquarters. While it was highly unlikely that the report was correct, the higher-ups decided to check out the rumour. “Better safe than sorry,” they had said. Edict began traversing the stairs to the upper levels of the building. Each visited level brought with it another swarm of wretches running for their miserable little lives at the sight of the imposing Arbiter. They all hoped that it was not there to get them, but to get someone else, anyone else. While an Arbiter’s presence generally sent the vermin fleeing back into their nests, the wretches reacted differently to Edict, as they noticed the black shoulder pad.
The colour of the right shoulder pad of the Arbiter’s otherwise white suit determined which type of Arbiter it was. A “Standard”, fully white, Arbiter suit was operated by normal humans who had not received any special mental conditioning. Those with black shoulder pads, however, were what the Regime called “Super Soldiers”. Those Elite Arbiters had received additional mental conditioning for obedience, effectiveness, and callousness and as a result they had lost most of their humanity. In order to truly make them into the weapon that the Regime craved they were stripped of their human names and instead assigned codenames, such as “Edict”.
It didn’t take long before Edict reached the designated door, on the fifth floor. Edict turned on the voice booster module of the helmet and spoke, with the authority of a true Arbiter:
“Inhabitants of Apartment 85-22-15-5-3. Arbiter Edict requests you to open the door. You have 10 seconds to comply.”
Edict waited, but nothing happened. 10 seconds passed. Edict repeated the command. 20 seconds passed. Edict could hear muzzled whispering from inside the apartment. Edict was unsure why Arbiters, the bringers of justice, were required to politely ask dissidents to open their doors. That was something the extremely ineffective “legal systems” of the past had to do, and everybody knew how that worked out. “Nobody ever opens…” Edict thought, and, by issuing a command through the suit-interaction implant, extended the 15mm multipurpose, fully automatic, rifle from the suit’s right arm. Due to the complex being under Arbiter-induced lockdown, retinal scans were no longer required to issue commands to the District Control AI by a previously verified Arbiter.
“Open door 85-22-15-5-3.” Edict ordered. Moments later, the door was slowly retracted back into the wall and Edict entered the room, weapon ready. The room that Edict entered was surprisingly well kept, almost as if it wouldn’t have been infested by wretches. Edict scanned the apartment, which consisted of one windowless room with a slight dent which housed the kitchen, or whatever it is wretches use to prepare their disgusting soup. A lonely light in the ceiling in the middle of the room provided rather gloomy illumination. There was a bed in one end of the room which seemed to have been recently used, and a heat-signature scan showed that it was still warm. On the other side of the room, a table with three chairs, all covered by a large, dirty piece of cloth, could be found. The heat-scan showed an unusual amount of heat located below the cloth. Without hesitation, Edict walked over and ripped off the cloth. As expected, two wretches were hiding under the table, one male, and one female. While physical sex had indeed been made redundant by the removal of human reproduction, it remained, after many heated discussions between the higher-ups, as a convenient way of identifying citizens.
“Step out.” Edict boomed, causing fragments and dust to erupt from the worn-down cement walls.
The wretches obeyed and emerged from under the table. They were both wearing blue jumpsuits, typical of the war factory workers. A small piece of textile on the right side of their chests designated their names as “W11-M5827” and “W11-F0481”, respectively. Edict noticed that the female was holding something, something that gave off a strong heat signal. It appeared to be covered in a dirty blanket, and judging by the female’s protective posture Edict could only assume that it was the reported child.
“Hand the child over,” Edict commanded, apathetically. Clearly not concerned with the devastated looks on the wretches’ faces.
“It’s not a chi…” the male begun, but was interrupted by Edict threateningly raising the suit’s weapon. Neither of the wretches moved, and Edict spotted a strong sense of defiance in the female’s eyes. In a way, Edict admired the female’s resilience.
“I am not going to ask again,” Edict proclaimed, and added, surprisingly tenderly, “Nobody has to get hurt.” This was obviously a lie.
The male grabbed the female’s arms and tried to motion them forward to hand the child over to Edict, but she shook him off and pushed him aside. She took a defiant step forward, towards Edict, and looked straight into the imposing visor, and stated, with a slight stutter:
“I am not afraid of you, and I am not giving you my baby. He is pure… unlike you.” She spat on the ground in front of Edict, who almost took a step back – shocked by her zeal.
The male, who had curled up in a corner of the room, looked at the female in shock, and perhaps a little awe. Edict sighed, and said, rather dejectedly:
“You have given me no choice. The punishment for disobeying a direct order from an Arbiter is… death.”
Usually, upon hearing their death sentence, subjects would scream, cry, beg, try to run away, or even try to fight back. This female did none of this. Instead she simply stood there, baby in her arms, staring with infinite defiance at Edict. The female’s reaction caused Edict tremendous doubt. Here she stood, facing imminent execution, and she didn’t flinch, didn’t move a muscle. Edict had never experienced this before, and the apparent hesitation seemed to reinforce the female’s determination. Suddenly, there was an incoming connection from the Arbiter Headquarters.
“Kill them,” the voice of Grand Arbiter Jacqueline boomed throughout Edict’s mind. They had been monitoring Edict through the visual transmission-implant, and had noticed the hesitation. Edict looked at the female and sighed again, still in awe of her strength.
“KILL THEM ALL!” the voice of Jacqueline bellowed.
Edict took a step forward and grabbed the baby out of the female’s arms. She struggled against Edict’s force, but it mattered not. Edict pulled the baby from the female, and with a mighty blow rammed the suit’s hardened glove into the female’s skull, sending her flying into the wall on the other side of the room. An audible crack could be heard as she hit the wall and collapsed on the ground, assuming a rather unnatural posture.
Having secured the baby, Edict turned towards the male, still with the baby in hand. The male was whimpering pathetically. Tears were flooding from his melancholic eyes as his gaze twitched back and forth between the baby and his dead mate. Edict was disgusted by his weakness, his frailty. Pushing the blanket that was covering it aside, Edict contemptuously eyed the baby. It looked back, eyes filled with the type of innocence that only a child possessed – completely unaware of what was about to happen.
Edict callously snapped the baby’s neck, easy as a twig, and then apathetically dropped it on the ground like waste. The male let out shrill shriek and rushed towards the baby’s lifeless body. Edict scoffed and grabbed the male by the throat before he reached his child. Nonchalantly, Edict lifted the male into the air and slammed him, head first, into the dirty cement floor – turning his skull into a red mush. Edict got up and left the room, showing no signs of remorse, heading for the exit. As Edict left the building, the connection was terminated and the lockdown was lifted.
Date: 312 of 2157.
Unit: 85718-2 “Edict”
Offense: Unlawful possession.
Location for clean-up: 85-22-15-5-3.
Suitability for reuse: F10, M0.
END OF PROLOGUE, PART 2
More to come at some point in time. Maybe. Idk if it’s worth the time investment.