Shorts smartworld

The Retirement Plan

Where a Hunter for the City, Kex Atto, approaches her retirement. But in the City, circa 2254, retirement means death: you don't work to live, you live to work. After this, the City has no further use for you.

[Friday, 11 March 2253 | 365 Days Until Retirement]

In the year 2171, the average lifespan was one hundred and twenty-four years. However, the following year, this dropped to ninety years of age. This was at least the case within the City and the Heart, and all those other territories under YutopiCorp control. So, you know, pretty much everywhere. Everywhere except the Slums, where the forgotten, the disenfranchised go about their lives outside the purview of the authorities. Living outside the controls of Conscience Chips is technically illegal, but as long as those denizens don’t cause any trouble, it is cheaper for the City to leave them be. As they live outside of society, there are no studies about their average lifespans. However, the City Feed tells us that because of their poor living conditions, this is well under ninety.

That’s propaganda, for all I know. But in this place, propaganda is everything.

An ancient proverb once posed the question, ‘Do you live to work, or do you work to live?’ In those times gone by, the theory was that the populace worked to live, using their employment to increase their quality of life, to build a balance between their professional and private lives. But on 1 January 2172, when I was seven years of age, the City and the Heart answered this question on behalf of its population: We live to work. We live to serve the City, to serve YutopiCorp.

On that day, YutopiCorp passed the Retirement Act, legislation that dictates that once we reach our ninetieth birthdays, we are to be forced into retirement. Not just retirement from our jobs, mind you; retirement from life. The argument made—and nobody argues against the powers that be and live to tell the tale—is that once we stop working and contributing to society, we are a burden. We are no longer contributors to YutopiCorp’s bottom line outside of the purchases we make. We are a blight. By this point, most of our enhancements are obsolete, and keeping our firmware up to date is a costly exercise.

My name is Kex Atto, and today is my eighty-ninth birthday. I have one year to live.

The Conscience Chip buzzes in my brain: it’s time to wake up and get ready for work. Groggily, I climb out of the bed I shared with my partner, Rikard, until his eighty-ninth birthday a little more than two months ago. I feel sluggish; there’s no bounce in my step; my arms are as weak as noodles. On top of that, I’m blind in my left eye, and pins dropping in other rooms were suddenly inaudible. Great. Depth perception and advanced hearing are two things I rely on. I rely on them at work, and I rely on them at home, for what little time I spend here.

With one year left until retirement, YutopiCorp has deactivated all my enhancements. We might pay good money for our cybernetics, but we don’t own them. Just like everything else in the City, they remain the property of YutopiCorp; theirs to shut down at their discretion. As YutopiCorp giveth and YutopiCorp taketh away, they use this discretion to deactivate cybernetic enhancements when we’re a year out from retirement. They did it to Rikard, and now they’ve done it to me. It’s safest to remove any advantage we could use in a misguided attempt to ‌escape our fate, you know. This particularly sucks when you have replaced any of your body parts with a cybernetic version. Like an eye, for instance.

As I said, I rely on certain enhancements. And by ‘certain enhancements,’ I mean all of them. Sure, in those few hours I’m not working or sleeping, they come in handy. But as a Hunter for the Force, a career that was chosen for me—thanks to an athletic ability and a lack of squeamishness at the sight of blood—I chase down those who attempt to escape their fates. I had come to rely on my enhancements. Hell, they’ve helped keep me alive for close to nine decades. This is going to be a long year… if I survive it. And if I don’t, well, that’s one less bullet YutopiCorp will be shelling out for in twelve months.

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