Chapter 2-2 (AVAILABLE NOW!)

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Cover illustrations created exclusively for Tunnel Vision by Paul Naylor, https://paulnaylor.wordpress.com (Inside Illustrations created exclusively for Tunnel Vision by E. Styffe)

I hope you enjoy getting to know Slink’s world a little better. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Forum pages. Thanks for supporting the Eyes to See trilogy! -Darrell

(The story begins with the Introduction, followed by Chapter 1-1, Chapter 1-2, and Chapter 2-1 before proceeding with the text of Chapter of 2-2 which you will find below. You will want to read the preceding chapters before continuing the story here.)

Neoko looked down at the display of the handheld and started reading. At first she read to herself and gave Slink a loose interpretation of the text. Before long, she simply read to Slink.

“Your great-grandparents, the Lansings, founded this colony, Slink. They were both great scientists and great people. They had a vision of Garsow serving the people of our Solar System as a jumping-off point for interstellar missions when we finally managed near light-speed travel. They were hailed as heroes and their statues were erected in front of the SASA embassy while they were still young.”

“While they supplied the initial vision for our society, that vision had little in common with the vision of the Earthsider who developed the commlink technology. When the commlinks were first introduced on Garsow, they were a novelty, and they were used only by government officials , SASA representatives, and other technicians, and the visors were only worn at work. Little by little, they were introduced in most workplaces, and a few people started to wear their visors all the time. Before long, no one felt comfortable being visorless around other people.”

“Jonathan and Adela Lansing were outspoken about their opposition to the commlink’s integration into Garson society. Still, within a couple years of its development, the commlinks were introduced into all work places, but they weren’t forced on anyone. It didn’t take long, of course, before anyone with ambition underwent the procedure to have the commlink implanted. The rejection rate of implants was kept strictly confidential, although as the commlink grew in popularity almost everyone knew someone who could not tolerate the implant. Many of these “unfortunates,” as they were called, returned to productive lives after the failure. Still, a sizable number never returned after going in for the procedure.”

“When Garsow Council announced that every Garson would be required to have a commlink, your great-grandparents weren’t the only ones who protested. They were just the most famous protesters. They didn’t have much access to the public, though, and their opposition hardly slowed the ‘March to a Model Society,’ as the Council called it. Before long, the early adopters easily out-produced their coworkers. It wasn’t long before most people were clamoring for a commlink; those who received the implant quickly became dependent upon it. Those who couldn’t tolerate it included a sizable percentage of adults and all children up to the age of eight or so. To be safe, the Council set the age of ten as the minimum age when children could receive their implant.”

“The commlink gives its wearer access to far more information than he or she could gather through the five senses alone. A crystal in the ear gives verbal information–translated from files in the data base of the Supernet. Anything that would occupy the eyes too long if read is instead transmitted as a voice file. The visor is used to transmit short text messages and visual cues. For example, if you are conversing with someone and the sensors embedded in her body indicate changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration consistent with lying, you know instantly because the view through your visor tints red. If you’re walking, the path to your destination is highlighted. If you’re cooking, you see measurements for ingredients and prompts for timely actions. If you’re watching the vid, you control what you’re watching with a glance at a menu. Everything you do is supplemented with information to guide your decisions and actions.”

“The commlink also monitors your bodily functions continuously. It translates those readings into interpretations broadcast to others when you interact. They know when you’re uneasy, frightened, excited, confused, or tense. The Supernet mainframes keep profiles of every person with a commlink and fine-tune interpretation of the biofeedback from the commlink continuously.”

“The Council promoted the commlink as the path to a more open, honest family and neighborhood as well as a more productive workplace. They presented the commlink as the means for our society to progress beyond misunderstandings and conflicts. They spoke of a society without room for deception–everyone would learn to be honest or be ostracized.”

“Of course, the commlink brought some unexpected side effects, the most significant of which led to the formation of the nurseries. Because people quickly attuned to and relied upon their commlink, they were less aware, and eventually, virtually oblivious to the subtle visual and verbal cues they’d once picked up without conscious awareness. Consequently, they couldn’t interact with confidence with anyone who didn’t have a commlink including their own children. Interacting with others in their “linked” world, they were almost never misunderstood and just as seldom confronted with someone who suggested they didn’t understand. At home, with their children, the frustration level was intolerable for children and adults alike.”

“The formation of the nurseries served two purposes. It provided a means of raising children with the patience and understanding they deserved. It also gave Garsow the means to deal with those adults who couldn’t tolerate the commlink implant. Instead of having a small, but significant group of unvisored adults mingling in a society that found their presence discomforting at best and downright disturbing at worst, they could be confined to the nurseries. Publicly, they were honored for their contribution to the “Model Society.” Privately, they were regarded as outcasts and second-class citizens.”

“Your great-grandparents and others of their generation outspoken in their opposition to biotechnology were few in number by this time. Most of the original settlers returned to earth as heroes. There might have been twenty ‘old-timers’ who remained on Garsow, so they were allowed to live out their days without submitting to the commlink implant. They were, however, required to move into a ‘retirement villa’ built especially for their occupancy. When they arrived there, your great-grandfather’s suspicions were confirmed. Their new home functioned more like a prison than a residence.”

“When they were tucked safely out of the way, their son, Garrett Lansing, was quietly given an ultimatum: he and his wife could receive commlinks or return to earth. All four of his siblings had undergone the procedure over time. Garrett was the oldest son and was extremely loyal to his parents, whether he thought their views were a bit antiquated or not. With his parents under a sort of “house arrest,” he knew his priorities. He decided to undergo the implant, since it was the only way he could remain on Garsow with his parents. He didn’t want to disrupt their lives or the lives of his wife and two daughters. He’d taken over your great-grandmother’s work, inheriting her love and her aptitude for biochemistry. He’d recognized early on how the commlink could speed his research.”

“He thought he’d be able to complete his mother’s research before she died. He hoped his parents would see their son fulfill their vision.”

“Two days later, in a most unusual move, his death was announced on the evening vid report. He was honored as a great scientist and his death was mourned as a great loss to all of Garsow. The cause of death was even reported as a cerebral hemorrhage, though there was no mention of a failed commlink implant.”

“His wife. Lela, and their two teenage daughters, Denae and Renae, announced their intentions to return to earth. The Council then scheduled a ceremony to honor the contributions of the entire Lansing family. Jonathan and Adela would be the first recipients of the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award,’ and the whole thing would be shown on the evening vid report.”

“On the appointed night, the entire Council gathered to present the awards. Jonathan Lansing was said to be too ill to offer an acceptance speech. When the award was presented, Adela pushed Jonathan before her in his wheel chair. Everyone was smiling so graciously, each of the Council members rising and processing by the Lansings to shake both Adela’s and Jonathan’s hands. As the applause died down and Adela turned Jonathan’s chair around to return to the front row where they had been seated, Jonathan sprang out of his wheel chair. Before anyone could react, he was at the podium, before the live microphone, his image and words being broadcast to every household on Garsow and a good many on Earth, the Moon, and Mars.”

“‘Garsons, let me start by saying thank you,’ he began. ‘We must never forget the many good men and women who gave their lives to make this settlement, this society possible. Many others dedicated their lives to making everything we enjoy possible. Adela and I receive this award on behalf of all those who worked beside us over the years. Let me also take this moment to thank the members of the Garson Council for arranging for this award ceremony.’”

“He turned and bowed to all the Council members who, much to their consternation, were caught in the camera’s eye still standing around, waving furiously to unseen people just off stage and gesticulating wildly to each other. They immediately began making their way back to their seats with their best politician’s smiles glued to their faces. Still, it would have taken a lot more than their visors and artificial expressions to hide their discomfort.”

“They had little choice but to resume their charade of honoring this great man, woman, and family. They had only enough time to take a deep breath and hope Jonathan didn’t do too much damage. They’d returned to their seats at the places of honor behind the head table, a couple of meters behind the podium where Jonathan now stood. A few had to be quietly encouraged to sit down and face the studio audience. There was no point in whispering commands to staff people or each other. After all, they couldn’t very well have security come in and hustle off Dr. Lansing on this auspicious occasion, now could they? And, of course, what politicians want an expression of consternation and powerlessness broadcast to the people they serve? Jonathan had them right where he wanted them. They knew it; he knew it; and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do to alter the course Jonathan steered.”

“‘Even with your visors on and your senses deadened, I’m sure most of you can see how uncomfortable our gracious leaders are. If you didn’t notice it, let me assure you, the other guests in this room could cut the tension with a knife. You might wonder why your great leaders would be uncomfortable at a moment like this. I think I can help you. They are afraid, and politicians do not ever want their fears broadcast. They are afraid of a 62-year-old man whose face you can read like a book–if you can still read faces. They are afraid you will see in my face and in their empty visored visages the reality of the life you’ve chosen. They’d be even more afraid if they realized my family members gathered for this great event have now taken up the company of those charged with bringing this broadcast to you. Unlike your illustrious Council members, you, my fellow Garsons, can relax; no one will interrupt our little chat.'”

“‘You are blind and deaf, my dear friends. If you’ve not gone completely blind yet, see what I show you. If you’ve not grown completely deaf, hear me. Do you remember when you were a child the horror you felt at the sound of the word, ‘cyborg?’ It’s always chilled people to think of a man or woman reduced to a biological shell for a robot, controlled by the programming written by another. You’ve been told no one controls you, no one programs you. You’ve been told you are simply given more information, more accurate information, more instantaneous information to make your own decisions. You’ve been assured you are more productive, less combative, more cooperative, and less conflicted. Your life has been made easier, or so…you’ve…been…told.’”

“‘In reality, your every emotion is monitored and displayed. You’re conditioned to express only those emotions that will benefit the organization you serve. Your every bodily function is monitored and interpreted by a computer. You have no control over who sees this information, how they interpret it or where it is stored. If one of you displays instability threatening your effectiveness, you’re quietly replaced with someone who more closely meets the expectations of the Council. Of course, this isn’t terribly disturbing to you, because those of you hearing my voice have, for the most part, been found worthy of this ‘model society.’ You’ve noticed neighbors have left without a word, purportedly returning to earth. You’ve witnessed new employees replacing colleagues who never even said ‘goodbye.’ You’ve tolerated each loss, even learned to welcome it. The ones who were replaced were always the ones who were too outspoken anyway–the ones who might make a scene at work, or be heard arguing with a spouse late in the evening. Your life has grown more comfortable as Garsow has been filled with people just like you.'”

“‘Oh, you can argue that our population is diverse. We come from every quadrant of earth, moon settlements, even Mars. Our skin’s pigmentation is widely varied. We are women and men, young and old…well, at least we are older. People who are really old would never fit into a ‘model society.’ Even at 88, I live in a guarded compound euphemistically called a ‘retirement villa.’ Nonetheless, Garsow is diverse…if you only scratch skin deep.'”

“‘But there is no one here who does not toe the Council line. Everyone here has been chosen for his or her predisposition to cooperate with a life whose path has been predetermined. You may think you chose to come here, but you had no choice in the matter. If you came with the original colonists, you came because you had the skills needed to build this colony. After it was built, if you fit the profile, you stayed. If you did not fit the profile of a citizen of the ‘model society,’ unless your skills were extraordinary, (he gestured with a flourish towards himself), you were sent back to Earth or one of the other colonies.'”

“‘If you immigrated here, you saw a nice vid about our ‘model society,’ submitted to a battery of physical, emotional, and cognitive tests, and waited to get the good news that you were one in ten thousand invited to be part of this ‘model society.'”

“‘Even with all these grand schemes to screen out the fly before he lands in the ointment, a few more independent types still made it to Garsow. Some were extraordinary minds, whose expertise was needed more than their compliance. Some were less than forthcoming on their tests and in their interviews. Most of these have been dispatched from whence they came. A few, though, have gone underground and formed the resistance known as the technoids. We are told to fear them above all others and to be vigilant, lest they destroy our ‘model society.'”

“‘I have done everything I can to live in this model society, make my contribution, and stand against those aspects I could not support. I have sought to engage in meaningful debate those with whom I disagree. They have given me no meaningful way of expressing my views, let alone discussing them with any of our leaders. I have not been arrested or deported because I am famous. I have simply been shut away. So this is my last hurrah.'”

“‘I stand before you tonight to challenge you to remember what you were. Some of you have had a commlink since you came of age, but most of you had the commlink implanted as adults. Do you remember the thrill of wondering how someone to whom you were attracted felt about you? Do you remember working through painful conflict with your spouse, and the way it spiced up your love life afterward? Do you remember when the best ideas came from gatherings of people who didn’t agree–who often didn’t even like each other? Do you remember what a joy it was to see your baby go from crying hysterically to giggling uncontrollably because of the way you clowned with her? How long has it been since you heard someone tell you they love you? They miss you? They need you?'”

“’We’re not building a model society, we’re building a ‘zombie society.’ And before long, if we continue on this path, we’ll be the very thing we fear most: cyborgs!'”

“At that point, Jonathan Lansing stepped back from the microphone. There was no applause, no chorus of ‘boos’, no scattered catcalls. The room was completely silent. Quietly, ever so steadily, the stage upon which he stood was filled with people. They came from both sides of the stage, walking solemnly from the audience up the steps on each side of the stage to stand at Jonathan’s and Adela’s sides. When all who were coming forward had taken their places, they numbered over twenty. Jonathan stepped forward to the microphone again.”

“‘You must decide where you will stand. As for me and my family, we will stand with each other.'”

“Having received their cue, each of the people standing on the stage reached up and withdrew his or her visor. They carefully disconnected the lead wires and gently placed the visor on the ground in front of them. Then each family member raised a foot and brought it down on his or her visor.”

“‘We will not be anyone’s cyborg!’ shouted your great-grandfather.”

Neoko looked up from the handheld.

“We still don’t really know what happened next. We know the broadcast ended without a word from any of the Council. We later heard the Lansings had all been arrested. As time went by, rumors flew that some family members had been executed. Little by little, it became clear many of the Lansing family had been placed in the nurseries as caregivers. These were reported to have been subjected to various procedures designed to assure their compliance. One or two, we know for a fact, came to live with the technoids, but that is a story for another time.”

“Slink, what you need to know is you’re more than an extraordinarily bright kid who had the misfortune of being born to an outcast family. You are Jonathan and Adela Lansing’s great-grandson, Garrett and Lela Lansing’s grandson, and Renae Lansing’s son, born to her in the nurseries, and taken from her upon your birth. I was sent to retrieve you from the nurseries and bring you here. You and I are waiting here to meet your Great Aunt Dorothea, daughter of Adela and Jonathan Lansing, sister to your late grandfather, Garrett. She is known as Dot to everyone down here and is universally respected. She is the leader of the technoids, and she is late.”

 

(The story continues with Chapter 3 which you can find here. Add your comments on this chapter by clicking the “Comment” button and join the discussions in our Forums while you wait for the next chapter to be released. Thanks again for supporting the Eyes To See trilogy!)