Professional Integrity (Daniel)
The halls of Byblos Corporation’s living quarters at night hummed softly, the latent energy of the machines still coursing through the terminals and walls while her human population slept. The only figures moving about were the android and robotic workforce, who did not need sleep to function. Heavily programmed with stringent protocols for their prescribed duties, not one of them registered any sense of alarm when Chad King, corporate president, screamed.
He flailed in the large bed, tossing pillows and blankets in the throes of a fearsome nightmare. The sleep quality monitor embedded in the frame detected elevated stress levels, triggering the sedative measures into active mode. As an extra safety precaution, a digital signal maneuvered the mechanoid “sleep aide” out of the bed. The restraining blankets spread tightly over the terrified sleeper, holding his body firmly against the mattress. This only increased his unconscious shouting, as the terror that made him thrash prompted him to yell for help when his brain sensed that his body had ceased to move freely.
“Help! Somebody! Help me! They’re going… Get away! No!” Abruptly, the automated frenzy of his bed’s programmed countermeasures ceased and Chad rocketed upright, wide awake and panting heavily after his ordeal.
“Lights!” He shrieked, and dim illuminators lining the perimeter of the room slowly flicked on. A small tray slid out of a hatch in the wall and extended on a telescoping arm to within the man’s reach. Chad tossed back the mild sedative and gulped the water offered by the tray. The medication took effect as he felt his heart slow to a gentler cadence--but in the deserted stillness of the room, the memory of the horror brought on by the dream he had only just escaped still haunted him. Resolutely, Chad reached over the side of his bed and flipped the panic switch.
Daniel and his three friends hunched around their small table, deep in study, when the alarm sounded. The lights in the room started to flash red, and the video screen began streaming a rapidly-scrolling line of text.
“What does it say?” asked Hank.
Daniel forced his eyes to match the speed of the message. He read the words as they appeared.
>PLEASE REMAIN CALM. ANNIHILATION PROTOCOL HAS BEEN INITIATED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER. EXECUTIVE ORDER DICTATES THAT ALL BYBLOS TECHNICIANS AND CONSULTING PERSONNEL MUST BE ELIMINATED FROM THE PREMISES. PLEASE STAND BY FOR A MESSAGE FROM YOUR PRESIDENT.<
The screen switched to a video. President King sat at his desk, bleary-eyed and dressed in nothing but a silk dressing gown. He stared blankly at the camera for several moments before speaking.
“You!” He slurred, “You are all a bunch of [bleep] losers! You bloodsucking morons! I give you a place to live, clothes to wear, food to eat, and every kind of entertainment you could want--all I ask in return is that you do whatever I need you to do! Is it really so difficult? Now I see what a mistake that was! Well guess what?” He leaned in close to the camera, so close that Daniel could see the engorged blood vessels in his glassy eyes. “Jokes on you, [bleeep]! I don’t have time or money to waste on worthless [bleep] [bleeep] like you lot! You’re all [bleeep] FIRED! Your company privileges and authorizations have just been instantaneously revoked! See you around, [bleeeeep]!” The video cut out to the sound of his maniacal laughter.
The silence that followed was so severe, all four of them could hear the ominous thunk of the security frequency on the holoplast door disengaging. A flood of noise reached them as they began to realize that the hallway outside was full of running, frantic people.
“I don’t know about you all,” Aaron remarked, “but getting fired sure doesn’t strike me as an annihilation protocol.”
A young woman with frizzy red hair stopped by the door and poked her head inside.
“What are you doing?” she shrieked. “They’re coming!”
Daniel, Harry, Aaron, and Mike all caught the warning in her voice and gravitated toward the door.
“Who’s coming?” Daniel asked.
“Security bots!” The press of the crowd nearly swept her away, and she clung to the doorframe to keep from losing her footing. “They’re sweeping the halls and blasting any person they find!” Somebody’s arms wrapped around her body, and she madly clawed at their grasp till they let go.
Daniel turned. Mike and Aaron were already grabbing bags of their more important things--things they didn’t want to leave behind. He saw their Bibles, some papers and envelopes, and a fresh set of clothes each go into several backpacks. Harry grabbed two and handed one to Daniel.
“Let’s go,” Harry nodded.
Daniel strode alongside the girl, twisting his body back and forth and using his shoulders to get around slower people. Everybody was screaming, some were crying--chaos ruled the halls of Byblos Corp.
“What happened?” Daniel asked the girl.
“Don’t know,” she said. “This way!” She pointed down a side hallway, that was still pretty crowded, but the people were a lot more spread out, so it was easier for them to stay together. “I just woke up when the video started playing, same as you.” She glanced over at them. “You do have video screens back here, don’t you?”
Daniel nodded. “Just the one,” he said mildly.
They emerged into the open hallway that functioned more like a mezzanine, as it lined the perimeter of the main courtyard, down on the ground floor. From this vantage, Daniel heard the gunshots and the screams, punctuated by an indistinct digital voice.
“What is it saying?” he wondered.
“Who the Dag cares?” their impromptu guide grumbled. “They have a recorded message, but they’re also shooting people.”
“Byblos is killing off the workforce?” Harry muttered. “But why?”
The girl shrugged as they scooted down another hallway. “Must have something to do with the video.”
“That’s what puzzles me,” Daniel mused. “We all have gotten fairly high marks on any performance reviews--so why would Mr. King say we were all useless? Did somebody turn him down?”
“One person screws up, so the whole department literally gets the axe?” she scoffed. “I don’t think so!”
Aaron stood at the balcony, leaning against the railing and looking upwards, to where the sentry bots were executing their systematic massacre. “How many people do you think messed up, to get us all blacklisted like this?”
Mike already had his tablet out and he was scanning through a bank of reports. “Apparently, the entire Specialist division, that’s how many,” he answered, flicking up the holographic projection.
Glowing in midair was an interoffice missive, from the Staff Psychiatric department to President King.
“Dear Mr. President--We are sorry to inform you that we were unable to complete your request. We have compiled all the data we were able to collect, including the hypnosis transcripts and the cranial scans [see attachment] but without any firsthand knowledge of the contents of your dream, we are unable to extrapolate the meaning, or form any kind of workable hypothesis upon which to act. Perhaps we might interest you in submitting to a DreamScan tonight, in the event the dream occurs again, so we can capture the images in real-time and assess them the following day. Outside of this method, we, regretfully, have no other means to comply with your query.”