Alyce thought she noticed the doctor smile, but perhaps it was only a spasm or twitch in the corner of his mouth. You could never tell what Mods were thinking, and even if they told you, it was only the shadow of emotion and glimmer of something present a long time ago, upgraded away to clear out the inconvenience of stimulation and response. Programming made everything easier, an almost janitorial cleaning of the brain that made room for more practical knowledge, knowledge for a successful career. Feelings just got in the way. Feelings were trouble.
The doctor’s goggles glinted under the examination light as he turned toward the television screens and touched his armband to switch to the right channel. The middle screen blinked for a moment, then displayed the government’s blue logo, a mechanized hand raised in a clenched fist. The familiar voice of The Machine boomed from the monitor, and Alyce finally relaxed. She had seen this all before, in Academy assemblies and on special government holidays. Alyce used to love hearing the history of her ancestors, and most knew the stories by heart even as young children. She listened to the playback and, from habit, raised her still-fleshy fist clenched in salute:
“We, the people of our great nation, pledge to live by design, to honor and sacrifice for the advancement of technology; for peace, prosperity, and happiness, forever moving forward.”
Alyce watched the story of her nation unfold, as it always did: how the Standards of the past struggled settling their New World, not having the knowledge to program themselves or become better; how disease and famine almost wiped them out entirely. Groups of people, called The Light, had this one “book,” shaped like a tablet but without a screen, but it only created war and strife. The world fought over the ideas that came from these horrible objects These groups decimated populations for centuries until at last the Pioneers rebelled and moved west in search of a peaceful life without The Light or their “books.” They built The Machine to govern the people of their new nation, and developed technology to rid society of disease. “Books” were destroyed at last, for they finally had a leader who had the answer to any question, a mediator and bringer of peace, an eternal leader to make the best decisions for its people. The nation prospered.
“Congratulations, Alyce Walker, on the advent of your fifteenth birthday. Rejoice in the accomplishments of your forefathers.” The Machine closed the program, and the screen blinked off.