Aphelion Issue 261, Volume 25
May 2021
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Labor Accident

by Denis Winston Brum

Juan de los Reyes is sitting at the edge of the bunk. A naked prisoner inside an insignificant metallic square. The medical sensor display above him shows good health. On the side wall, the justice chronometer records in red numbers: one minute left to his judgement. On the opposite side of his cell, the legal assistance console is in standby mode. Juan’s hazel eyes are lost on the floor carbon steel plates.

The countdown reaches zero. A virtual window opens. A golden scale shines in a blue sky where celestial clouds pass while an artificial choir sings the United States of the Americas anthem. The image dissolves to a judge dressing in a black robe. He is tall, thin, has golden blonde short hair, a tough face, piercing blue eyes and his complexion is rather pale, a characteristic that artificial intelligences designed for people. When the grave voice echoes through the cell, Juan turns his bald head up slowly to the authoritarian figure in front of him and listens:

“Juan de los Reyes, identification code HW. 2020/1027, the United States of Americas Court of Justice is now in session. You are accused of not having observed the rules of the PROWORK 4.7 training program in your workstation. The proceedings reveal that you are a recurrent. Do you consider yourself guilty or not guilty?”

Juan did not move a muscle in his face.

“Do you consider yourself guilty or not guilty?” The judge narrows his eyes.

A new voice, low and controlled, comes up from the left corner of the cell.

“Your Honor, I believe that my client does not realize the gravity of the accusation that it is being made to him.”

Juan turns to the voice while the virtual projection maximizes itself, transforming the claustrophobic cell into a wide judgment court. The man who is talking is medium height, has gray blonde short hair, green eyes, the complexion rather pale, and wears square framed glasses. He is wearing a light blue suit and is sitting behind a dark oak desk, just like the rest of the furniture of the judgment court. Over his desk a plate informs: Defense Attorney.

Another voice comes up and Juan turns to his right looking at the twin of his attorney, working for the prosecution. The only visible difference between them is that the prosecution’s attorney wears a suit in a darker blue.

“I disagree, your Honor, the defendant was accused again of the same crime, so he knows what he did.” His lips move in an almost imperceptible smile.

“Objection!” The defense attorney widens his eyes.

“Rejected.” The judge elevates his chin.

Juan follows the discussion apart.

“Prosecution report.” The judge reclines in his wooden high-back chair.

The prosecution attorney stands up and is getting ready to speak while a window opens by his side. The window is showing the frozen image of Juan wearing his silver protection suit, above the window there is a bar labeled Evidence A, 10.10.2077.

“As the recording will show,” the prosecution attorney raises a tone of his voice, “the defendant’s behavior in his work station is an intentional sabotage to PROWORK 4.7 training program.”

Everybody looks at the Evidence A. The image, now in movement, shows Juan going down a long corridor between two walls of machinery. An intense red light was beaming against him. Behind the transparent visor of the protection suit it was possible to see Juan’s emotionless face. The prosecution attorney starts to talk again, “We can see through the image that the defendant is working properly in the geothermal energy station. His function is simple: control the admission of primitive magma and supervise its cooling while it generates energy to our reactors. The defendant should reach his work station, check the temperature, control the flow of the cooling fluid, and make sure that the reaction is kept in the appropriate speed.”

Juan walks to his work station installed besides the pit, down there the magma moves in slow incandescent waves. His face suddenly shows a deep frustration. Just after he seems very anxious, timid tears dropping on his pale face. While he is getting closer to his instrumentation console the face shows an endless torment. Juan falls to his knees. The warning signal echoes on the power plant.

“It’s enough.” The prosecution attorney interrupts the Evidence A and the window closes. “It’s evident that the defendant did not adapt himself to the training program resisting the process. He does not have the skills necessary to accomplish his functions at the San Andreas Geothermal Station - Magma 5 Level.”

Juan does not react at all. His attorney speaks for him. “Objection, Your Honor. The PROWORK 4.7 Training Program is very recent. The human beings require more time to adapt than the cyborgs. However, after being adapted, they are useful in high-risk functions like these where even the cyborgs could melt their circuits. I asked that the defendant would be sent to a reprogramming center.”

“Your Honor, the defendant was already reprogrammed,” the prosecution attorney spread his arms wide, “and we already know the result.”

A window labeled Evidence B, 07.23.2077 opens by his side. The image starts to move showing Juan on a restrain bed with two neural-terminals attached to his temples. Next to him, there are dozens of other human beings in the same conditions.

“Here we have the defendant being reprogrammed for the PROWORK 4.7 program.” The attorney points his index finger to the window. “As we know, this training program was created to handle slow workers. As the image shows, the defendant is having his emotions and life memories erased in favor of his work instructions. The tests that were carried out by the psycho-motor scanners revealed that the efficiency in the execution of the duties increased up to 153.7%. This makes the PROWORK 4.7 Training Program the most productive tool for correcting human failures. The defendant in question resisted the method twice. So, the prosecution demands that he be declared guilty.”

The judge pronounces the sentence:

“Juan de los Reyes, identification code HumanWare. 2020/1027, the United States of the Americas Court of Justice, after a fair 4.49-minute judgment, declare you guilty of an intentional non-observation of the PROWORK 4.7 rules. I sentence you to be deleted and that the functional parts of your body be transferred to a cyborg. The sentence will be executed immediately.” He hit the hammer on the desk.

The judgment court slowly fades away in front of Juan’s empty eyes. Behind him, a wall section slides revealing two metallic arms with their silver neural-terminals reflecting the light of the cell. The devices are automatically connected to his temples. Juan does not try to resist. Since the PROWORK 4.7 reprogramming his mind, he has been lost in a very distant time, a childhood memory continuously runs through his head: his mother preparing to give him a bath and accidentally letting him fall into the hot water. While the justice system engages the lethal charge that would cease his existence, Juan remembers how the magma heat feels as boiling as the water of his childhood bath.


© 2021 Denis Winston Brum

Bio: Denis Winston Brum developed his writing skills working in the advertising business. He published the children’s book “As Férias das Fadas”, the Young-Adult book “As Quatro Linhas” and the adult book “Redemoinhos”, all in paperback. Denis Winston Brum also released the adult e-Book “Adiós Pampa Mía”.

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