Short Story: Quarantine

June 2nd, 42 After Fall
Some­where in the Colorado Mountains

They first caught sight of the man walk­ing a few miles from the com­pound. At least it looked like a man. Faded jeans, white t-shirt, light jacket, ruck­sack. White skin, light brown hair. No ob­vi­ous dis­abil­ities. No lo­gos.

They kept him un­der surveillance as he ap­proached. In other times they might have shot him on sight, but not now. They were painfully aware of the bounds of sus­tain­able ge­netic di­ver­sity, so in­stead they drove over in a bat­tered van, rifles loaded, in­dus­trial ear­muffs in place. Once he was on his knees, they sent Javid the Un­hear­ing over to bind and gag him, then bun­dled him into the van. No rea­son to risk ex­po­sure.

Javid had not always been deaf, but it was an honor. Some must sac­ri­fice for the good of the oth­ers, and he was proud to defend the Sanc­tum at Rogers Ford.

Once back at the com­plex, they moved the man to a sound-proofed hold­ing room and un­bound him. An an­cient PC sat on the desk, marked “Imp As­so­ci­a­tion”. The peo­ple did not know who the Imp As­so­ci­a­tion were, but they were grate­ful for it. Per­haps it was a gift from Ol­son. Praise be to Ol­son.

With lit­tle else to do, the man sat down and read the in­struc­tions on the screen. A se­ries of words showed, and he was com­manded to se­lect left or right based on var­i­ous differ­ent crite­ria. It was very con­fus­ing.

In a differ­ent room, watch­ers hud­dled around a tiny screen, look­ing at a se­ries of num­bers.

REP/​DEM 0.0012 0.39 0.003

Good. That was a very good start.

FEM/​MRA −0.0082 0.28 −0.029

SJW/​NRX 0.0065 0.54 0.012

Even­tu­ally they passed the lines the cat­e­chism de­noted “purge with fire and never speak thereof”, on to those merely marked as “highly dan­ger­ous”.

KO/​PEP 0.1781 0.6 0.297

Not as good, but still within the pro­scribed tol­er­ances. They would run the sup­ple­men­tal.

T_JCB/​T_EWD −0.0008 1.2 −0.001

The test con­tinued for some time, un­til even­tu­ally the cleric in­toned, “The Trial by Fish is com­plete. He has passed the Snedecor Fish.” The peo­ple nod­ded as if they un­der­stood, then pro­ceeded to the next stage.

This was more dan­ger­ous. This re­quired a sac­ri­fice.

She was young – just 15 years old. Fresh faced with long blond hair tied back, Sophia had a cute smile: she was perfect for the duty. Her fam­ily were told it was an honor to have their daugh­ter se­lected.

Sophia en­tered the room, trep­i­da­tion in her head, a smile on her face. Ca­su­ally, she offered him a drink, “Hey, sorry you have to go through all this testin’. You must be hot! Would you like a co cuh?” Her re­laxed in­to­na­tion dis­guised the fact that these words were the pro­scribed words, passed down through gen­er­a­tions, mem­o­rized and cher­ished as a ward against evil. He ac­cepted the bot­tle of dark liquid and drank, be­fore toss­ing the re­cy­clable con­tainer in the bin.

In the other room, a box marked ‘ECO’ was ticked off.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I made a mis­take – that’s pep-see. I’m so sorry!” she gushed in apol­ogy. He as­sured her it was fine.

In the other room, the cleric satis­fied him­self that the loy­alty brand was burn­ing at zero.

She moved on to the next pro­scribed ques­tion, with the or­dained level of ca­su­al­ness, “Say, I know this is a silly ques­tion, but do you ever get a song stuck in your head?”

“Errr, what?”

“You know, like you just can’t stop singing it to your­self? Yeah?” Of course, she had no idea what this was like. She was al­ive.

“Ummm, sorry, no.”

She turned and left the room, re­lief filling her eyes.

After three more days of test­ing, the man was al­lowed into the com­pound. De­spite the rav­ages of an evolu­tion with a gen­er­a­tional fre­quency a hun­dred times that of hu­man­ity, he had some­how pre­served him­self. He was clean of viral memetic pay­load. He was al­ive.


Cross-posted on my blog