Friday 22nd April
But all too quickly my time (though time itself becomes meaningless in this weightless state) in the g- pod is up, and it is back to the gruelling regime of exercise. What a contrast, one minute every muscle is crying out in pain, and the next you feel nothing – even the pain leaves your brain. Then there are the mental tests. I am wired up like some Frankenstein monster, and my brain function is measured, mapped, studied, analysed and correlated. I am fired questions, puzzles, visual and verbal, spoken and screened. And then flashes and mini-explosions occur just outside my field of vision, or even behind me, and my reactions are measured. Sometimes I deliberately give a wrong answer, and I receive a computer-equivalent to a ‘tut-tut’ as a small spark of pain is inflicted directly into my brain. A short sharp stab, not too painful, but enough to make me notice, and again my reaction to this stimulus is measured. Like a naughty schoolboy, I am encouraged by pain of corporal punishment to give the correct answers every time. And eventually I give up this last sliver of rebellion and give what I think is the correct answer. Right or wrong, the machine accepts it as my best and honest attempt. No more stabs of pain at least.
I am sure the machine knows I am doing it on purpose. My excuse is that I am the human being here, at least for now, and I will do what I want to do. My tiny misdemeanours, my silly wrong answers, are my way of saying ‘fuck you, enough is enough’. But forgiven or simply registered, the machines are actually in charge and in the end I comply. And by machines I mean the guys running the show, not the computers asking the questions. And they are mostly Americans (or have adopted American accents, as so many of our youngsters are doing); short cropped hair and bland faces, they all look the same, even the boys. And they wear these stupid pinky-red fatigues, and all have metallic dog-tags on green plastic thread around their necks. I have some difficulty in recognising one from another. It doesn’t matter as they are all as interchangeable as is everything else, your clothes, your screen; your whole identity is swallowed up in a blank uniformity that dulls whatever scrap might be left of your senses. I have no idea how many they are either. At least twenty slightly different ones are monitoring me I would say, but I could be wrong. The older I get the more young people look the same to me.
They don’t speak much. In fact the only communication I really have is with this screen. And so far it hasn’t spoken to me either, though now I have mentioned it, it might at any moment. No, don’t want to chat? Just as well screen, I don’t have much to say. I wish I hadn’t been so rude to William, my interrogator; maybe we could have continued chatting. I miss that simple human contact. Or was his job solely to get me to ‘volunteer’ for ‘select’. Was I simply another problem to be solved? Where are you now William? Are you chasing some other ‘reb’, or questioning someone else, or silently, secretly, monitoring me? I think we both know the answer.
-[For the purposes of understanding the nature of this element of the ‘select’ programme my text is being shown indented as before. I am, of course, as Janek suspected, following closely his progress. Others are more closely monitoring his brain receptivity, and such scientific requirement as his imminent ‘conjoining’ will entail. My role is more of a general interest nature. Janek once worked for me, and actually we do miss his contribution. I have had to recruit six extra bright graduates to replace him, and even now they are only sixty percent as efficient as he was. Mind you, six times less trouble too.
Janek is actually progressing remarkably well. I too can remember those feelings of ennui, a general questioning of my whole purpose, during my pre-conjoining regime. Of course, I was a far from unwilling volunteer, and was immensely proud of being chosen in the third batch of conjoinees. Janek has been chosen, not for his willingness to participate, but for that still not completely understood ability he has. Those behind the ‘select’ programme tell us that his peculiar combination of ‘seeing’ patterns in numbers and his very independent streak make him the perfect candidate and they have high hopes for his conjoining. He is doing very well; easily as well as the other one hundred and forty three ‘genuine’ volunteers in this, the fifth batch of potential conjoinees.
I am fortunate in that I have been given access to his progress, and am allowed to occasionally add my thoughts to his record.]-