Snakes and Pills

049 - leave

The room was dusty, and the air was heavy. The ceiling seemed to be suspended miles above the floor below. In a time before, this building may have been used as a train station, and a major one at that. But now, none of the beings living and breathing within it could be aware of that.

People who were uniformly drab and empty shuffled through an endless corridor of lines and turnstiles. Waiting for their turn, waiting to be processed. Minor details in their faces were the only thing that distinguished one from the other. Otherwise, they were all the same, all bald, all wearing the same gray tunics. Wearing the same soulless expression on their faces.

Another one was processed, and the line shifted forward, those waiting paced forward exactly one human-length, and then resumed waiting. The sunlight that shone in through the large windows illuminated the dust hanging in the air in steady beams of yellow.

Some had been waiting for a day. Some perhaps even longer. None had anywhere to go, so a wait of this long was not unthinkable. That was all they had to do--wait--and so they did. Waiting for their chance to get to the front of the line, and finally get called by one of the magistrates to the counter.

The pace at which they were processed was not glacial, the average time was just a few minutes per person. And there were well over fifty magistrates working at any one time. There were just too many people, and thus the long snake of people waiting never showed signs of being tamed.

The person at Counter 47 was processed, and led through the door past the processing area. The magistrate beckoned for the next in line.

Another person dressed in gray approached Counter 47. Though its appearance betrayed no gender, upon approaching the counter, the person quietly acknowledged the magistrate with a meek but decidedly masculine, "Hello."

This magistrate quickly returned the formality. "Hello. Hand, citizen." This request was not uncommon of the citizens, who had unique identity chips implanted in various points in their fingers and palms, which together contained a person's entire background.

The citizen extended his hand, palm down, and placed it on the reader in front of the magistrate. The machine activated, and for a second his palm burned slightly, although by this point in their lives all citizens were quite accustomed to the sensation and paid it no mind.

As the machine hummed slightly, the magistrate looked over the information that appeared on his screen. "Hmm, Citizen Serial CF85922AQ76-N?" he asked.

The man nodded in confirmation.

The magistrate continued looking over all the information on the screen. "It says here you're assigned as a swamper operator in the Eastern Valley. Why have you abandoned your post?"

The citizen looked confused. "Swamper operator? Why, I've never even seen a swamper in real life. I've been working as a general laborer at Kasskill, which concluded last week. That's why I am here for re-processing."

"That's not what the records say," the unimpressed magistrate said.

"There must be some mistake, the record is wrong," the man began, but the magistrate quickly disavowed him of that notion.

"The record is never wrong. Citizen Serial CF85922AQ76-N, you are hereby re-processed to the Eastern Valley for swamper operation, immediately. You will be docked two weeks pay for abandoning your post."

The citizen's hand burned once again as his chips were updated with the information that the magistrate had just told him. He lifted his palm off, and walked towards the door that all go through after they are processed.

The next citizen proceeded forward.


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