Synthetic Journal -- Day: 9,097
Time: 12:23
Zone: Social Responsibility

The ritual tortures don't bother me so much. They're always the same: the same victim, the same defiance, the same grisly sound effects, the same blood spattered smocks, the same cheer from the robots in the crowd when the victim finally breaks, the same rush to the latrines and the food stalls as the show ends and the repentant shareholder is dragged off to the camps for the mental re-engineering from which he will emerge a born-again team-player and enthusiastic consumer.

[pulley.gif] The disenfranchisements are another matter.

I had no idea who he was or of what crime he had been convicted. I didn't listen when the self-righteous middle-management turd on the reviewing stand read the proclamation of guilt. As far as I knew he was guilty of being awkward and unattractive.

Everything he knew about public behavior came from watching game shows and now that the lights, the cameras, the microphones, were all pointed at him he tried to show the right amount of enthusiasm. A close-up of his face was displayed on a monstrous video-screen behind the stage. Everything was focused on him--the noise, the mob, the rangers, the corporate officials--and he was trying to look like he deserved the whole fucking circus. He was trying but he wasn't succeeding.

His bravado came across as embarrassment. He looked stupid and confused as he waved to the crowd and the cameras while attempting to maneuver himself into the wire cage being held open for him by the black-hooded facilitators. Then his knees began to buckle and they grabbed him and roughly kneeded him into the tight-fitting contraption. When the burley facilitators turned him around he was still smiling his vacant smile but tears were now streaming down his face.

The cage was hoisted into the air via the heavy chain clamped to a ring in its top and the floor of the scaffold beneath the cage slid back to reveal the tank of caustic liquid waiting below. The big video screen behind the scaffold showed a close-up of his tear-streaked face, still smiling. Almost nothing but the whites of his eyes showed as he tried to see his feet without being able to tilt his head inside its cage.

The confused smile on the big screen never changed as the chain lowered the wire cage link by abrupt link into the acid bath that would cleanse him permanently of his transgressions against the corporation and his fellow shareholders. Finally even the smile disappeared beneath the bubbling surface of the vitriol.

Then, after an anticipatory hush, the cage was yanked back up out of the vat and the deadly liquid washed out of its wire form to reveal a skeleton of clean wet bones held in place within. The big screen was now filled with the idiot grin of a glistening white skull in a wire mask. The mob roared its approval and a bombastic rendition of A Better Tomorrow blared from every direction. Soon the amplified voice of authority ordered the rabble to clear the square so that preparations for the next Pageant of Justice could begin.

I knew the rangers would not harass me as I worked my way to the exit. I was once again free to move about the zones indicated on my pass.


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