Well, I won't bore you with all the details of what happened next. Trochanter was right. I came back, was "reborn," and had a relatively normal childhood. Normal that is except for the fact that I can remember every goddamn detail of the last forty years! I didn't tell anyone, not even the couple who raised me. Heck, they didn't need to know; they wouldn't believe me anyway. The hard part was that I really did need to learn to read and write all over again. I knew instinctively how to think in words, but my hands and eyes just wouldn't cooperate.
As soon as I could read, I spent all my time working on my education: my CD4ROM5 (modified, of course, to my own INFOHIP specifications). It enabled me to access all the great speeches since the Greek era. I listened to them over and over until I could recite them along with the speaker. My new parents thought I was obsessed. Luckily, they encouraged me. They were quite nice to me in general. I grew to become even fonder of them than the original couple who raised me last time around. I still trip when I say that to myself, 'last time around.'"
By age ten I was able to start sorting out what was going on in the world around me. Things really hadn't changed much. Macrohard was as oppressive as ever, people were working at home even harder: my parents started working at their terminals from six in the morning until eight at night. One thing has changed-- the growth of the Union of Information Workers. It was still underground and definitely illegal, but it had a mythological status. Trochanter and I were martyrs. My mother kept a photograph of Trochanter and Lane Cooper hidden underneath her terminal. One thing was certain: the world is anxious for change.
At age fourteen, I decided to go underground. I told my folks that I was going off to fight the good fight. They understood. Everyone knew that a civil war was brewing. The entire population was coming out of a forty-year sleep; they were starting to realize they had no future unless they took action. It didn't take me long to discover where the underground was hiding. I could remember all the old passwords; I still had all the road maps in my mind. I discovered @welcome had been running the entire organization since my death. Our first meeting was matter of fact: I told her who I was and of course she didn't believe me. It took me one hour to persuade her. Under her tutelage, the UIW had grown enormously: its membership was now in the millions. We had spies everywhere. A civil war was brewing. Our spies discovered an interesting piece of information about Will: He did indeed have the CDR4000 and was completely dependent upon it for all his speeches, which were becoming increasingly frequent with all the social unrest.
I remember how to use it. How could I forget? If I could smuggle myself into the mansion perhaps I could intercept it. He was to give a speech tonight from his mansion. He would be giving a live telecast in front of a small audience of his top officers. The whole world would be watching their terminals tonight. We made a plan. @welcome was to drive me to the mansion. I would sneak in and give it my best shot.
The car ride to the mansion was grim: Will had tripled the number of guillotines in the city. All along the road were billboards of a giant mouth with its tongue being chopped off by a guillotine. "VOX NOT!" they said as a warning to all who drove by.
I was dressed up as a cook and had no trouble marching straight into the kitchen. Dinner was over and Will was beginning his speech in the main ballroom. All of the kitchen help left the kitchen to see the speech leaving me with complete privacy. I could see Will fifty feet away. If only I could figure out where the CDR4000 is located. I plugged into a wall socket and entered the network. I know I can remember the serial number. Trochanter told me what it was. What the hell was it? . I remember! I will ping the network for a device named: 8767896BCE7007. Voila! That was it! Okay, now let's map this device to the mansion's network drivers. Let's see. There it is! It's in the 3rd floor bathroom. Thank God for his plug and play operating system! I ran up the stairs. Luckily no one was nearby. Everybody was fixed to their monitors watching the speech. The CDR4000 was there all right. He must have composed all his speeches from in here. What would Trochanter think if he knew Will programmed the most important speeches of the 21st century while sitting on the John. Oh well. I locked the door, sat down, and placed the headset over my ears and adjusted the video receiver. There he is, the bugger, right in my sights. I watched him let loose a volcanic eruption of perennial, polemic potato skins of unsubstantiated, undercooked, rubbish.
The gibberish this guy is spewing out is incredible. Doesn't anyone get tired of the same tirades about info piracy? I drew in a deep breath. Let's have you freeze, right...now! I pushed the alternate, control, and delete keys on my keyboard at the same time. Will's face froze...I burst into laughter. The CDR4000 was in my control now. I started typing feverishly. Okay Willy, this is what you're gonna say. First of all let's have you clear your throat. I immediately typed in the biofile commands initializing physical movement on his part. Now, let's see the response on the monitor. Yes! There he goes--he's clearing his throat just like I told him. I didn't knew you could be so obedient, William. Okay. Let's try some vocals.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," I started to write. "It's time we had an honest talk about working conditions here at Macrohard. For some time now I have been plagued with a sense of guilt, plagued with a sense of obligation to all of you who have contributed so much to the growth of this marvelous company." While he spoke, Will's blood pressure was pounding away on my screen. There, there Willy boy, mustn't get yourself too worked up. I adjusted the controls to lower his blood pressure ever so lightly and continued writing.
"Many of you have been working a schedule that is truly unrealistic. You can't slave over a terminal all day long and then expect to be a good wife or husband. Come on. Let's get real here. From now on your working day is over at five o'clock. No, let's say four o'clock. And forget about working on Fridays. Hell, you've been great workers all of you and it's about time I gave you a reward."
I paused and turned the microcamera onto the audience. They were squirming and buzzing like flies on a carcass. They didn't know how to react to these strange words coming out of their fearless leader's mouth. I continued to type.
"From this day forth I am changing the way we do business. These machines...all this software we've been so busy programming, I never meant for them to be anything but tools. Tools were meant to help people work; they weren't supposed to become an end in themselves. We've become a nation of tool worshipers. We're sacrificing ourselves to the God of High Tech glitter.
Do you realize what's happened? I'll tell you where we've gone wrong. We tried to make a business out of information. We made knowledge a commodity; then we gave everybody a key. Afterwards we went crazy trying to figure out why all the merchandise was missing! It was utter foolishness when you think about it. Of course we had to turn the country into a police state. How else could we try to protect private property? How did we...how did I ever buy into this myth of the `information age'? It sounded good. It sounded real good. What I never realized was that information is only economically valuable when you know something that no one else knows! Good old supply and demand comes back to haunt us again. If information is, as Gregory Bateson once said `a difference that makes a difference,' then if everybody knows the information what difference does it make? Yesterday's news is no news, so to speak.
What we didn't realize was that we were dismantling the economy by trying to do what seemed like a noble thing: to make information more accessible. Remember that software we came up with to handle legal problems? What happened to the legal profession afterwards? It disappeared, of course. Who would pay a lawyer upwards of 500 credits an hour when they could use our software and get better results. We did the same thing for accountants; we did the same thing for doctors, engineers, teachers, administrators, the list goes on and on. Sure we made things more efficient--in the short term--but, look what happened to our society. The whole fabric, the woof and warp of working people disappeared. Hell, I had to hire everybody to save the world from utter anarchy. I took away all your high paying jobs and gave you slave wages. I had to. It was the only way we could `compete' in the global economy. You bought that too, if I recall.
Maybe more than anything else I owe you an apology. What I didn't realize until now is that efficiency is good in small doses. What I didn't understand is that too much efficiency will eventually destroy a human undertaking. Efficiency is a fictional concept unknown to the natural world. We invented efficiency. The glue that keeps groups together is not efficiency, it is rather mutual respect and tolerance that keep human relations alive. We need to acknowledge the frail thread of interdependence that keeps us human. I alone tore that thread from the fabric of humanity. I tricked you and succeeded all too well, and for that I can only say I'm sorry. With these final words I must hereby resign from my position as Chief Executive Officer of Macrohard."
I leaned back in my chair. Finally I've spoken my mind. He has at last said the truth. As I leaned forward to watch the audience's response I was jolted out of my chair by a loud roar. The doors of the chateau were being smashed by battering rams. The outside crowd was mobbing the chateau. Will was still frozen at his podium. I pressed the disconnect button, unleashing him from its controls as the crowd climbed up onto the stage. I rushed into the room only to see Will yanked into the air by the crowd. His face carried a look of utter astonishment. The poor devil was trying to take back my words. I ran back into the kitchen and quickly dismantled the CDR4000. The last thing I need is to be caught with this sucker in my hands. I folded it up and placed it in my knapsack while running out to join the crowd. As I stepped outside I was engulfed by the serpentine movement of mob. I could see Will's body bouncing up in the air above the crowd as they wound their way toward the center of the grounds. They were heading toward the guillotine, that much was sure. Shit, this is not what I was expecting. I felt a sense that justice was being done while at the same time I wanted to confess that it was I who said those things, not he. What could I do? I couldn't even control my movement inside the crowd much less tell the crowd what to do. The missile had already been launched. It was a little too late for more diplomacy.
From the distance I could see the mob strapping Will into the guillotine. I saw the blade glimmer in the sunlight and then fall. The downward flight of the blade lasted two seconds. A gripping two seconds in which the last twenty-five years seemed to rush out of my head like a pressurized fire extinguisher with its head popped off. The crowd thundered a roar of approval and the deed was done.
Its will accomplished, the crowd quickly dissipated. I wandered among strangers as I tried to escape the utter randomness of it all. Who knows what this leaderless mass of disinfected citizenry will come up with next. I climbed up onto the biggest statue I could find: the giant fist. The fist that said so much to the world about what Will stood for. A fist that I, a fourteen year old boy, was now resting on, purveying the leftovers of this decrepit kingdom of efficiency worshipers. I've the body of a boy and the soul of an old man. These eyes have seen too much to go back to a normal life. I know now what it's like to be a part of something greater or finer than what I left behind. Trochanter ought to be along pretty soon now. I think I'll just hang out and wait. His time is just about up.