Prompt: You wake up one morning to find out that you get to move to any planet of your choosing.
“Attention Earthling! This is RoboMaster! Here is the message:
“You have been chosen to move to a planet of your choosing. You have 24 hours in which you must decide on your new home. All travel and living arrangements will be made for you by The Leaders. The only choice you have in this matter is which planet you will inhabit. You may not choose Earth. You may not change your mind. Ever. Any resistance is futile. This is for your own health and safety, and the health and safety of the over-crowded planet Earth.”
The voice switched off. The mechanical, impersonal message that had filtered through his speakers left Jack feeling hopeless and helpless. There was no hint that he would have company in leaving Earth. There were no instructions as to which other planets were habitable.
Sighing, Jack sat down at his computer, commanded it to wake up, and gave it the directive to find habitable planets. The computer replied, “Working. Please wait.”
Masses of code flashed on the screen, too fast for anyone but another computer to read. Jack waited, enjoying the coffee he’d ordered his personal robot to fetch him. Finally, his computer said, “Here is the information you requested. Are there further commands?”
“Not yet, but please stand by,” answered Jack. He sighed. It was a lonely business, living in the age of robots, computers, and cubes. He glanced around his own cube, amazed at the ingenuity of the design. There was everything a man needed–except for human companionship. He had not been given the order to marry, so he lived alone, hoping always that such an order would come soon.
Thinking hard, Jack said, “Computer. Please find other planets inhabited by Earth people; also, that have un-mated women eligible for marriage.”
“Working,” replied the computer. “Please stand by.”
Again, code flashed and scrolled. When it stopped, there was a list of planets with links Jack could use for researching each one. “Are there any further commands?” asked the computer.
“Please stand by,” responded Jack. He wondered what it would be like to have a conversation with a human being. “Computer, please find a planet on which people are free to speak with other people, face-to-face.”
“Working,” replied the computer. Again, screen after screen of flashing code. When the code stopped, the computer said, “Human-to-human conversation is denied. It is not a freedom or a right. Are there any further commands?”
Jack sighed, deeply disappointed but not surprised. The Leaders were not inclined to conversation. They just gave orders. Disobedience was rapidly and absolutely punished by death. Jack’s closest relationship was with his computer. He had tried to name it once, but discovered that naming one’s computer was considered a sign of weakness. Not allowed.
Jack wondered, as he often did, what this life was all about. He had no memories before his cube. He assumed he must have had a mother, but had no memory of that, either. He had work, which he faithfully performed every day. His “free” time was dictated by The Leaders, who gave him a regimen of physical activity and approved hobbies. Non-compliance was punishable by death. There was no crime on earth, because no one was free to leave the cube to which he was assigned. There were eyes everywhere. Every exit from his cube was watched. He was allowed to open his doors or windows for an allotted period of time every day, but he could not step outside the door without his robot to guard him. All cubes shared walls with other cubes, but there was no contact allowed between the inhabitants of the cubes. Every night, his viewing screen showed the fate of anyone who had been caught stepping past the approved boundaries. It wasn’t a pleasant sight.
Jack began researching the habitable-for-humans planets, and after narrowing his search to three, he looked at each of them in more detail. He finally decided on Blue Earth II, in the Second Solar System, as his destination. Immediately upon making his choice, RoboMaster came back through the speaker in his cube.
“You have made a sensible choice. The Leaders approve, and have given the order for you to take only one change of clothing with you. All other essentials will be provided. Note: The Leaders have seen you are interested in having a mate. They are considering your desire, and you will be informed of their choice in due time. You are to be ready for transport at precisely 8 a.m. tomorrow. Do not be late. You will be picked up and taken to the travel station.”
Jack didn’t have any particular response to this huge change in his life, other than a mild interest in who might be chosen for him as his mate. A tightly governed life held very few surprises. One seldom needed to think or make any decisions.
He expected it would be more of the same on Blue Earth II. Sighing, he chose his one change of clothing, inspected his cube to make sure nothing was out of order, and got busy with his assigned work.
Life was certainly safe, unless one tried to step out of the will of the The Leaders.