Bewildering Stories



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The Ultimate Corporation

Alan Zachwieja
(posting as outrider on the Internet forums)

"As for production figures, just look at what is going in and what is going out. Fact is, it cost businesses less to do business at the end of the decade than it did in the beginning. People called it downsizing, but it was just technology allowing us to make more with fewer workers, and manpower is the biggest cost in business. Cut your labour force without decreasing production means big profits."

And so they made more and more, with less and less workers, until they made everything with no workers at all. Cutting their labour costs to 0%, gave 100% profits... less costs for raw materials and energy.

But since Ultimate Corps owned all the raw materials, having shoved the natives off their promising lands--as well as owning all the sources of energy production--and automated transportation also delivered unit products to markets without any labour costs, the percentage of profits grew greater and greater.

But who would buy the products, if they had no money, since they had no work? Once robots serviced and repaired and refurbished the factories and transportation devices, there was no longer any need for workers at all. In the various purges of workers, the question, of who would receive the largesse of productivity, was solved by creating wars of attrition between populations, thus decreasing "burdensome" lower classes, and making more unimaginable wealth available to the elite, and those who cozied up to them. Sycophants made out "good"; though, had a high death rate due to the stresses and tensions of insecurity, not knowing when their redundancies and uselessness might be revealed.

In the Transition Time, the killers were glad to be able to kill. Those who anguished over injustices, felt satisfaction with anguishing over the injustices; and devised righteous systems with logical systems that were sure to solve the problems of the world: poverty, hunger, pollution, a liveable sustainable personal space... if ever they could be implemented.

But Progress marched on, imperceptible to the little man, but transferred in the subtle nuances during the education of the children of the privileged.

The escapees, the freemen of the Dispersion, were gradually and unprovably rounded up, with unseen nets and very subtle devises; and the land was cleansed of their fallible simplistic ideas.

Lastly, having driven all the natives off the land, with ownership and burdensome taxation schemes, and concentrating them into the burgeoning sickening cities; and having induced them to absorb all the toxins, which they would eventually carry with them in their fats of obesity, into their hermetically sealed coffins, thus isolating the problems into controllable factors more easily solved by later generations when more was known, the cities were ultimately cauterized and catastrophized.

The land, becoming largely empty, gradually healed itself by the cycles and forces of Nature. The few remaining super-wealthy cruised their pastoral idyllic parklands, and had cocktail parties every evening, congratulating themselves on their ingenuity and foresight, and thanking God that they had been the Chosen Ones.

No more need to share the abundance and the beauty of this Earth with the unworthy. No more endless, tedious, arguments about how to justly divide or share the bounties of what had been produced by all the builders of the civilization and the contributors to its means of production. The more deserving were finally reaping what was their due, and not subject to qualms for the unworthy rabble.

Still, Junior every once in a while had these sneaking suspicions that not all was perfect in "Heaven on Earth." When something was fumbled; when some slight contradiction was not acknowledged as imperfection; when an answer to questions about the past, that had created and led to the here-and-now, could not be found in any of the remaining books--Junior wondered if he was the only one with some slight somethings creeping out of the darkness at the edges, to gnaw at the unconscious borders of his perfect confidence. If he was the only one with less than perfection, might he be in danger of being cast out? into what? outer darkness? but where? and what was Death anyway? where everyone seemed to live forever. His only security might be if others were less perfect than himself, fit in even less. He grabbed furtive glimpses of others in the massive confusion of large parties, to see if he could espy anyone spazzing in the least bit. Then the fear of elimination might be shunted off onto another, who would be like some South Sea island's tribal sacrifice, on the altar of perfect conformity.

Science? or fiction? Future? or the past revisited?... in hinduistic cycles of unsuppressible wisps of nightmares, rising up imperceptible, like unavoidable vapors. Utopia formed, only to have a small volcanic rift issue forth the unseen and hidden carbon dioxide vortices of death, into a green and verdant landscape. The perfect pasture, seemingly within grasp, with the visual promises of perpetual forage, yet unattainable. The plants flourished in the hollow. But the animal corpses rotting, and the skeletons both ancient and new, gave subtle warning. Should he enter in, to reap the fruits of this seemingly perfect paradise? He knew not of the invisible carbon dioxide, which hung in the low spots, and would smother the living breath out of all animals. He had no concept of eventual prices that must be paid for actions taken. Nor of consequences reaped by the whirlpool. Nor yet of any feelings of injustice, that he might have to pay the karma formed by the beginnings of the cycles, set in motion long, long ago, by the choices of his ancestors... long before he had ever been born.

He looked back, as the darkness of night gradually grew, up the hill to where the villa held the revelers in the circles of light; and turned again to look at the still silhouettes of the lush plants. A lone bird sang a plaintive song, as if to call him elsewhere. But he only knew of two worlds, and could only comprehend two choices. And he already felt that he no longer fit into the one he had been born into. He turned and took a step toward his chosen direction....

At the foundations of the infrastructures, and where the braces of man's world met uncontrolled Nature, unforeseen plants and microbes and mosses and bacteria ate at the concrete feet of the Perfect Civilization, with tiny secretions of acids. They also attacked the tiniest of junctions between units, undetectable by the repairing robots. The innovating robots threw out new and better systems into the landscape... but sometimes ran into the incompletely dissolved remnants of earlier structures, and sometimes foundered. After a few centuries, the partying elites had no idea of how their systems worked, or how to fix them....

When the last of the servant classes rose up, to claim "their due"....

--outrider, (c)July 27, 2002

Copyright 2002 by Alan Zachwieja.