[Tuesday, 7 March 2254 | 4 Days Until Retirement]
“Good morning, Citizen 1,498,372,” my Nanny chip greeted me. As it did every day, it did so immediately after its alarm buzzed directly into my brain at the crack of six in the morning. ‘Citizen 1,498,372’ had been my designation for a year by this point, since YutopiCorp’s warriors liberated me. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
If I told the chip what I really thought, I’d have been served with an infraction, which would see me moved to a reeducation centre. That wasn’t how I wanted to spend my birthday; Hell, my parents instilled in me that it isn’t how I want to spend any day.
Of course, back then, I didn’t understand what I do now. I was the one million, four hundred and ninety-eight thousand, three hundred and seventy-second citizen of the old regime rescued by YutopiCorp. The number one influence on a young mind is their parents. When your parents tell you that the warriors weren’t protecting the survivors, but had rounded us up and installed tracking devices in our necks to keep us from escaping, you tend to believe it. When they tell you those in power consider you nothing more than a prisoner of war, you believe you’re just one of the huddled masses being kept in captivity.
They sent us home. Not to a prison, not to an internment camp, but home, where we were as comfortable as could be, given the circumstances. Sure, we were instructed to remain in there, with the tracking chips alerting the authorities if we left, but it was for our safety. And as much as I loved my parents, I know for a fact that had the City’s representatives not implanted the trackers, they would have run. And they’d have taken me with them. As far as my parents were concerned, and as far as they had taught me, political rule was how things should be. It was the natural order. All their lives, my parents had been fed the lie of the ‘democratic society,’ and it’s difficult to break a lifetime of conditioning.
I also hated the Nanny chip the City implanted, constantly having another voice in my head, reiterating the rules, and telling me what I could and could not do. But over the years, I grew to rely on it; a constant source of information that ensured I remained connected to the world around me. When it came time for it to be replaced with my Conscience chip when I turned fifteen, I was more than ready for it, though. It’s amazing what difference a few years can make.
What I’ve realised over the intervening years, though, is what I really hated were my circumstances. Not only was today my twelfth birthday, it also marked the first anniversary of the warriors landing in the city and starting our liberation. Power still hasn’t returned to the grid, meaning my family and I lived in darkness. The holoscreens didn’t work, and any cybernetic enhancements, aside from those YutopiCorp ones they gave us, naturally, were decommissioned.
They had to be decommissioned; XBCorp was not (and still isn’t) a reputable megacorporation. They were an enemy to YutopiCorp, and if it served them to aid the political class, they would do it. But it also meant that we couldn’t communicate with anybody outside the apartment, other than the warriors who delivered our monthly rations. It was a scary time; trapped at home, with no source of power. I remember looking out the window and seeing citizens being executed for attempting to fight YutopiCorp. As much as that terrified me, those executions were necessary, a few lives taken to ensure the freedom of millions.
While I can’t describe my parents’ faces, I still recall their expressions when we sat down for breakfast that morning. After the politicians’ decisions cost them their jobs, they did the best they could for me under the confines of a broken system. But this year, given those circumstances, they weren’t able to do anything. Their shattered expressions continue to haunt me to this day.
“Happy birthday, darling,” Mum said to me as she handed me my nutrition bar.
“It’s… chocolate?” I was confused. “You told me we didn’t get any chocolate-flavoured ones.”
“It was the only one we got in the rations this month,” Dad explained. “Thought we’d save it for a special occasion, you know?”
I leapt from the seat and gave Mum and Dad a hug, determined that I wouldn’t let go of them for the entire day. The hug was short-lived; it was now seven a.m.
“Citizen 1,498,372, it is now time to commence today’s education.”
“Yes, Nanny.” Oh, how I resented that fucking thing.