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Episode X -- Domed Cities

Premiered 20 March 2009

 

Multiple Choice -- Episode X

Domed Cities

 

David was, for the first time, thoroughly enjoying going with the flow. Breathing was not a problem, and being tossed gently about by the vortexes and swirls of the water flow was somehow unduly comforting, as if he were in the womb of an ecstatic dancer. It was very comforting, safe, and… stimulating! (The latter could have been a major problem in a normal birth, but this was not a normal birth!)

Slowly, however, the tube of water began to be confined to a physical tube, one that was transparent in a fuzzy sort of way. With another three curls in opposite directions, David recognized within the whirling rush of water, a theme park ride of water cascading into a recreational pool.  He was at first momentarily airborne, and then with flailing arms he managed to create a definitive and chaotic splash (the best kind!). He immediately went under the water, only to quickly pop back up, sputtering and trying to catch his breath.  For a moment, he settled down to dog paddling, maintaining his position in the pool.  Abruptly, another person hit the water just behind him.  David glanced at the new arrival, didn’t recognize him, and then swam out of the way.  As he did so, he glanced around at the other people swimming and frolicking in the immediate surroundings. No question; it was a recreational pool with… a large dome over a dark, penetrating black sky and/or space.

This place clearly had possibilities… even without a blue sky and white, fluffy clouds. The air was clean... immaculately so. The water was warm and pleasant, the frolicking a definite plus. Come to think of it, everything seemed exceptionally well designed, well engineered. Of course, as you might expect, the place also had rules... rules often spelled with all caps.

“Time period twenty-two fifty,” announced a stern voice, loud enough to penetrate even the depth of the pool. And then to coin a phrase from long, long ago, it added… authoritatively: “Everyone out of the pool!”

Everybody around David immediately began to obey, and he followed suit, albeit somewhat slower than the others.  Several glanced at him as he paused by the pool’s edge, still lingering in the water.  Then one or two of the other onlookers began to display anxiety and genuine concern as they saw an almost unheard of incident of... gasp... loitering.  Suddenly amidst a loud noise, the water around David began forming a substantial current, as if the pool was quickly being drained (which it was).  It was suddenly clear to the innocent traveler (i.e., David) that summary orders to vacate the pool were being routinely enforced by local custom with substantial motivating actions: Get out of the pool, or literally go down the drain.

David, doing under the great dome what those residents living under the great dome did, quickly leapt out of the pool and onto the green padded, artificial bank, his expression one of considerable surprise.  One woman who had begun moving toward him with her hand extended, quickly smiled in relief.

“Thank the Regents,” she said, in voice full of emotion. “For a moment I feared you might get caught in the undertow.”

"No problem,” David answered. “I just had a bit of a cramp.”

The woman was stunned. “Really? I didn’t know that was possible.”

The woman made a quick assessment of David, decided that the otherwise rather cute man might be in the first stages of what… for unknown reasons… was referred to as ‘cabin fever’. Not only had the woman never experienced the syndrome, but could hardly even imagine how it felt. The source of the terminology had never occupied her mind for more than a nanosecond. Suffice it to say, however, that those who did suffer from the syndrome… however briefly and however dramatically ended it… these were people to be avoided. Psychological conditions were theoretically non-communicable… but in reality insanity was often passed between individuals in any number of ways ranging from words, actions, demonstrations, contact, and during sexual contact.

The woman took on a look of decided disbelief and walked away. Prudence demanded a form of triage, in which fun people you ran with, dying people you gave lip service to (and then ran), and finally those who could survive with concerted help… you immediately intervened by running to find and acquire said help by trained and dedicated professionals. The common feature was in the running, and unconsciously the woman was walking far faster than her routine… and what if the truth were to be told, amounted to as close to running as she was likely ever to do… save escaping a burning building or making her way from the front door to the closest counter offering the fabulous on-sale items at unheard of low prices.

David, having learned to live from the example of others, followed the woman. This action was certainly not her preference... David having already displayed the first signs of that most dreaded disease of anarchy. Accordingly, she momentarily mimicked a versatile running back in dodging into and through the wave of other former swimmers. David thought to catch up with her, but then decided that he could… just for the moment… follow the herd.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with following the herd, especially when one is adrift on the whims of change, any waterhole is always a thing to locate as soon as possible, and when going astray appears to carry with it serious repercussions. It also allows for observing the locals and their habits.

David quickly found himself last in a long line of people leaving the pool area, stepping through the same overhead blower arrangement which was blowing everyone dry, just before it shut off.  He continued to follow the crowd – the name of the group being changed from the “herd” to the “crowd” for politically conscious reasons. The crowd quickly led him to a junction area where a variety of small mobile cars were being taken by groups of one to four people.  David watched the woman step into one, and with the door automatically closing, sit down, place her hand on a console, and say something.  Her unit then sped away.  David stepped into the last available unit, and sitting down, put his hand on a stylized hand print on an otherwise barren console.

“Take me to my residence,” David ordered, with all the bravado of the recently defrocked. Strange to tell, it worked. David was becoming routinely capable to ordering robotic elements to meet his every whim. As the unit quietly accelerated, David smiled and leaned back in his surprisingly comfortable seat.

************

The trip was uneventful… save for the observation that everything in the city was domed, distinct domes meshing in clever and unique ways. There were mobile units running in every direction in a three dimensional maze, some careening straight up while still keeping their occupants on the level. The maze was laid out among towers and massive structures jutting into view with a variety of three-dimensional configurations, all haphazardly arranged in something approaching a Salvador Dali painting. Indirect lighting seemed to derive from every imaginable source other than the sky. Finally there was an absolute dearth of pedestrians or anyone not encased in transparent and/or translucent plastic bubbles.

Other than that, there was not much for David to observe or comment on. And quite frankly, whom could he tell? 

************

David entered what he assumed was his residence. It was not exactly the castle he might have imagined, inasmuch as it consisted of a set of three joined cubicles for the ostensible purposes of living/eating, sleeping, and taking care of bodily hygiene. Stepping into the first of the cubicles – the doors being already tuned and opening to his mere presence – David found Katy lounging on a couch arrangement, reading from a console that appeared to be levitating are her desired angle, height and orientation.

“Katy,” David exclaimed!

The object of his sudden enthusiasm was apparently unimpressed with his spontaneous outburst of emotion. Her “Hi" came out as a low, albeit demur growl. Then she lightened slightly. "Have a nice swim?”

“You’re here,” David noted with unaccountable delight.

As Katy turned back to her console -- ignoring David’s statement of the obvious – David walked up to her, his smiling eyes never wavering from her figure. Katy did in fact look pretty good. A severely controlled society can in fact demand a level of fitness for all its residents… particularly in light of the research that conclusively proved that fit workers make for much more efficient and productive workers. The producers cannot be allowed a life of sloth... the latter is for the directors.

Katy was meanwhile forced to look up at David’s towering figure as he stood over her and fairly glowed and with his best ‘let’s do it’ smile. Katy was well accustomed to close quarters, but this was a bit disconcerting. Time for a distraction.

“Where did you expect me to be?” Then with just a whiff of the condition known as miffed, she added, “I’m alone… as opposed to your frolicking in the pool.”

David was taken aback (but not really). “Frolicking?” His smile gave him away.

Katy made no other comment, her initial foray into manifesting guilt feelings having only had a marginally desired effect. David then bent over from behind the couch to touch her hair… lovingly. Katy reacted only slightly, tilting her head away from his touch – but without jerking away enough to cause hurt feelings. She did frown slightly.

When David only looked perplexed, she explained, “You don’t have to make it sound so ho hum. I’m no longer jealous. Well… maybe a little. But you did deserve the honor, and I’ll have my chance. Of course, the Cities don’t honor nurses nearly as much as they do their technologists.”

David’s smile waned. “You don’t remember?”

“Remember what?” Then she looked at his serious, quizzical look. “You know,” she began, “Sometimes, you and all the crazy things you do really make me wonder.”

David frowned, shrugged his shoulders, and let out a heavy sigh.

“There’s a lot of that going on right now.”

Katy decided on a tactical retreat. “If you say so.”

David took another long look at Katy as she turned back to her mobile console. His smile was a loving, thoughtful one.

“I really missed you,” he declared.

Okay… that’s a hard one to ignore, even for a jilted jealous jezebel. Katy looked up from her reading, turning her full attention to David, trying to gauge his intentions. A patient, condescending smile crossed her face.

“That’s nice, dear. But you really don’t have to feel guilty about the swim. I totally understand. I was just a little lonely. But I’m very glad you had a good time on your little… adventure.”

For just a moment, David thought about his various choices of adventures. Some involved Katy, while others did not. Was there a pattern here?

Of course, there was pattern here! There were always patterns. Get serious! Hello? Are you listening, David?

David ignored the assertiveness of the italicized thoughts, made the decision not to pursue the matter, and retreated to another item on one his future agendas.

“That’s not what I was feeling… guilt, I mean. It’s just that… wouldn’t it be nice to be able to be doing things like that together? All sorts of… adventures?”

“I suppose it would,” Katy offered generously. “But right now, we seem to have different agendas; don’t you think?”

David frowned. “Apparently.” Then turning away – and obliquely wondering what else... besides turning away... he could do in the tiny cubicle – he asked, “So… how was your day?”

It was such a standard, routine question. Surely one could simply answer it with a nondescript statement of ‘same old, same old’. Katy, however, took the question literally… as if David really wanted a report from the front lines where a form of war was being waged by the medical establishment. She had turned back to her console, the momentary, limited intimacy at an end for her. In an off-hand manner, she reported.

“Couple of break-ins… but the automatics pretty much took care of them… all but one. That was a bad situation. We had to send two Intervention Teams to deal with it. Then a clean up squad before anyone could re-enter the facility. Everything was a total mess. Those guys always err on the side of eliminating anything slightly suspect.”

David cautiously asked, “Intervention teams? Any problems?”

“No,” Katy answered, still multitasking with her console. “Nobody was hurt.” As an afterthought she added, “Except, of course, for the intruders. They pretty well took it on the chin. They just don’t have a chance against our superior technology.”

Abruptly, Katy stood up, leaving her console hanging, so to speak. She walked away, thinking out loud. “Which is too bad in a way. I mean… I can’t say I blame them… living in the bowels of disease and filth. But there’s just not enough room in the Cities. Perhaps after the next Grand Plan’s implementation… or in a hundred years, when the surface becomes habitable again.”

David frowned, as he slouched onto the couch at the opposite end of where Katy had been sitting… and where her mobile console dangled threateningly in the air. “That could be a long time to wait.”

“I know,” Katy answered. “But there’s always the possibility of a technological fix. And then we could leave the Domes… at least for short periods.”

“I think I’d like that,” David replied.

Katy actually smiled. “I know, dear. You really love getting wet and running barefoot through the park. But most of us sane folks are not so eager to leave our nice surroundings, our controlled environment. Frankly, my dear, I for one don’t enjoy being windblown and wet. Not exactly my idea of fun.”

David heard Katy clearly… perhaps for the first time. He was about to consider the sudden revelation… when suddenly; a piercing alarm went off, followed hard on its heels with a blast in a portion of the floor from beneath.

Katy screamed, “Oh, shit! Not here!”

David reacted as well, jumping from the couch in the direction of the blast hole… ready to do battle.

Then Katy screamed a warning. “Look out!”

A section of the ceiling collapsed down onto the blast hole, covering it. Katy stood looking at David with stunned amazement.

“Are you insane? You almost got in the way!”

Before David could answer, the ceiling cover was blown up and to one side.  Katy grabbed for another device that she turned and aimed in the direction of the hole.  A transparent shield was suddenly projected between her and the hole, just as a reincarnation of Ugly Dude came crawling partially out of the hole.  Behind him in the totally different guise of an Underworlder (and similar to Ugly Dude’s wretched traveling duds), another version of Michael started working his way out of the hole as well. 

Ugly Dude, with a quick movement, threw a electronic sling at Katy’s shield and abruptly defused it.  Suddenly defenseless, Katy started to panic for real.  David turned and grabbed an oversized chair, and began shoving it in the direction of the hole.  Ugly Dude saw the attempt, but too late.  The chair, with David pushing it, slammed into Ugly Dude, knocking him back into the hole and against Michael.  Both lost their footing and disappeared, with the chair momentarily plugging the hole.

Three uniformed individuals, with Intervention Team insignia, rushed into the room.  Two were men and one was Evyr.  They looked very surprised -- their mouths open -- as they surveyed the scene.  The first man, identified only a "Francis", looked at David with something between awe for a god like being and the bewilderment of observing insanity in action.

About all Francis managed was, “You used a… chair?”

The second man, somewhat more schooled in the practical, asked, “What happened to the automatics?”

“What can I tell you? Sometimes the best of technologies just don’t work.”

The two men and Katy looked at David with the sudden horror of witnessing a heresy in a medieval Pope’s cathedral.  The men turned their heads slightly and glanced at each other.  Evyr looked at David with a surprised, approving look, while Katy’s attitude abruptly changed to a nervous laugh. For her it was clearly time to dodge the inquisitional bullet.

“Oh, David,” she managed to croak out, “You’re such a kidder!”

David shrugged. “Yeah… I guess I am.”

Evyr smiled. “We may have to keep our eyes on you.”

David looked at Evyr for a long moment, the first hint of recognition between him and someone else, the first he had experienced for… well a very long time if you go chronologically – but less time if one limited themselves to personally experienced time.

Obviously, Katy also noticed the split second of eye contact between David and Evyr, but had the good sense not to mention it… particularly with an Intervention Team on the premises. The men were apparently relieved at the display of exotic humor (the very idea of technology not being omniscience, omnipotent, and omnipresent being pretty strange stuff, even for a hard up, stand up comic). They instead set about sealing the hole with their mobile equipment.

David, with a quick parting glance at Evyr, headed into the food preparation area, with an unhappy Katy following him.

“Sometimes, David,” Katy said, “you scare the hell out of me.”

David could only answer, “Sorry.”

Katy threw up her hands. “Oh… forget it!”

“It’s just that I would have liked to…” David began, initiating a new and dangerous thread.

Katy in an appropriately worried mode. “Liked to have what?”

“Take responsibility, I suppose.”

Katy shook her head, bewildered. “What do you mean?”

David hesitated, marshaling his thoughts. “Before, I’ve always gone along with whoever or whatever was in charge. I never bucked the system.”

'And never ignored gravity, violated the Pauli Exclusion Principle, or put in a bid to become Pope,’ Katy thought, stunned that David could even think in such a strange and dangerous manner. 'What in the world was happening with this man?'

"What’s wrong with that?” Katy shook her head to emphasize her point. “There’s a reason for having authorities, people in charge."

“Yes,” David partially agreed. “But almost never a good reason. Usually, it’s just to maintain the status quo, to keep one group or another in power.”

“What’s the alternative, David? Allow the Underworlders… with all of their disease and chaos… to rise up and overthrow us? There’s not enough food in all of the Cities to feed even a portion of them. We’d be dooming ourselves to their fate.”

David looked at Katy, trying to judge her receptivity. “Maybe,” he finally said. “But if we weren’t living on a toxic Earth, or hidden away in cities totally dependent upon technology just to survive…”

Katy could not tolerate the suspense. “What…?”

“It’s just that I thought,” David began, “That I was on my way to some place where I could help change things… take responsibility for my actions. But somehow, I seem to have been waylaid.”

"You’re not doing exactly, precisely what you want?” Katy was trying to grasp David’s meeting… and failing utterly. “You’re not here for others? For me?”

David’s expression suddenly brightened, his eyes wide and his lips pursed.

"You may be right. That may be precisely the point.”

“Look, Husband,” Katy gallantly offered. “You really do make a difference! You always have and you always will. Never forget that.” When David smiled his ready acceptance of her charge, Katy added, “Now… why don’t you take a nice bath? We can afford it, and you… apparently… need the relaxation.”

David laughed, recognizing the invitation in all its glory… engraved and hand delivered. “Good idea!” Then his voice turned mischievous… not to mention carrying a bit of extra baggage. “Maybe we could take a shower together.”

Katy was simply stunned at the suggestion, which would later be recorded in the annals of the Domed Cities Directorate as either being inexplicable or simply code for subversive activities. Katy did manage to answer, albeit without even a hint of true understanding of what David was suggesting. “Do what…?”

David smiled. The dye had been cast. “Never mind,” he replied.

He then leaned toward Katy and gave her perhaps the most gentle and loving kiss he had ever bestowed upon her. This naturally caused an even greater degree of acute bewilderment on the part of Katy. David took an appreciative look at her, and then exited into the bathroom.

Katy stared at the closed door for several moments. Then her face brightened, as if suddenly realizing something important. Her eyebrows rose, and she turned her head, searching for a shy and subtle memory. Something David had said...

David entered the bathroom to find a small, three-foot square tub.  There were no shower connections.  With his clothes still on, he stepped into the tub and looked up.

“By the way… if you have some means other an a water cannon blast…”

Abruptly, a wall of sand hit him, and the scene phased.

 

Episode IX -- Iapetus

Forward to:

Episode XI -- Sand

               

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