Excerpt from Chapter 6
Since I arrived on Ceres2, every time I enjoyed something, the guilt of my loved ones not being near me―or alive, for that matter―to enjoy it as well, ate at my core. At first, when I disembarked three weeks ago, I would break down and cry while looking at the TV screen. Once that deep depression subsided, I found myself spending a lot of time in my unit. Some days I would just catatonically stare at the TV wall. Then apathy settled in. I wondered if that was the way life was, not only for me but everyone else. After all, the transport I took from Mars was filled with grown adults who, at times, broke down and cried. Everyone tightly held their big manilla envelopes. I knew what that meant―we all went through a lot of trouble to get all those documents together. We all intentionally left everything behind. Yet, the heartache was evident.
As if I was on autopilot, I got up, made a coffee, and turned on the TV wall. My living quarters took on the typical blue hue while the screen showed the usual feed I requested: the commercial district. I knew the time on my communicator said it was around noon, but the dome looked no different than any other time of the day.
“Mister Nett, your volunteering services are required. Please report to Bay Three for further instructions,” my communicator announced.
Though Randy explained to me in length how it worked, volunteering, or rather paid volunteering, as they called it, confused me initially. The System’s concept adapted in Ceres2 was pragmatic; anyone could be called to do any job at any time. It was a departure from how things ran on Earth and Mars, where jobs were assigned and fixed. And because of the nature of the assignments, scheduling wasn’t really a thing. Mainly because when a job was to be done, and a human factor was needed, the System would select the next person available from a rotating roster. Randy explained that the selection process prioritized those with a formal education in the specific job the services requested. Still, the System would embed an android with the human team without a human expert. It usually had detailed instructions regarding the given assignment.
Conversely, the only humans who knew their schedules ahead of time were doctors, System’s engineers, and managers. While generally, the System would fix most mechanical and complicated issues that would occur to androids, they also needed human robotics experts. Because of my general experience in robotics, I thought the System would dispatch me more frequently in assignments of that nature. So far, that didn’t seem to be the case.
I headed for the shower. But before I could even turn it on, the communicator vibrated again. Someone was at the front door. I grunted. I knew it was Randy, the only person who would visit me at random times.
“Mister Nett!” Randy exclaimed, entering my unit, “what a great day in utopia!” he did the usual hand rubbing as he looked around. “Wouldn’t you say?”
“Hi, Randy,” I rolled my eyes as I turned my back to him and walked to the coffee machine. “Yes, it’s awesome being here.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” he said and paused for a moment. “Making some coffee, I see.” He followed up.
These types of awkward moments accented all our meetings. I knew Randy was forcing a friendship between us, most likely because he knew I was so isolated.
“Yeah,” I took a sip from the mug I prepared. “The System notified me of a job today.”
“A job!” I felt his hand touch my shoulder, “look at you!” Randy exclaimed once again, “finally joining the utopia efforts!”
“Utopia,” I cleared my voice and swept his hand away from me. “Yep. That’s what I’m here to do.”
“Look.” Randy continued, “it’s not that much different than what you experienced on Mars. Both Mars and Ceres2 were built similarly, see?” He took a deep sigh. “The buildings and structures are enclosed by retractable mega domes…”
“I know, Randy,” annoyed, I interrupted him, hoping he would take the hint, shut up, and hopefully leave. “I have seen the holographic exhibition of the entire Mars colony in the Museum of Human History.”
But, of course, Randy lacked any form of social cue understanding. “I love how they showed how the System created the domes by using the existing materials on Mars. It’s like it was recycling Mars. You know.”
“Yes, Randy.” I pulled some clothes from my drawer. As he continued to talk about how the System had built the domes. “It built them,” he said, referring to the domes, “so elegantly, yet in such a practical way. Am I right?”
“We are living in cages, Randy,” I huffed, placing my coffee cup on the counter, “what’s so elegant about it?”
“Boy, they told me you would be a little difficult on the uptake.” Randy followed. “But I think you will be one of our star members. I can feel it!” Swept under his own enthusiasm, he clapped his hands twice. “Anyway.” He smirked, “what kind of assignment are you going to?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Something to do with Bay Three.”
“Ah, the fire.” Randy looked at me. His smile faded. “Well, someone has to clean that up.”
“There was a fire?” I picked up my coffee cup and took another sip.
“Yeah, last night.” He rubbed his nose and cleared his throat. I didn’t say anything on purpose, waiting for him to get his usual verbal diarrhea and tell me what happened. But he didn’t.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it.” Randy finally blurted after the brief awkward pause. “Carry on.” He smiled, “for utopia!” He ended his sentence and headed for the door.