Conrad, (excerpt 1)


“From hills to seas to jagged mountain steeps, no truer truth exists than the company you keep.” Anonymous, c. Early 21st Century

“It is better to be useful and to work than to be free. For work serves mankind while freedom serves only man.” The Company Manual, page 16

Conrad sits at a gray corner workstation in a factory filled with gray workstations. From where he sits, rows of them stretch away on diagonals into the expanse of the factory. Massive incandescent bulbs glow high overhead, tainting the factory air yellow. Conrad gazes over his work lenses and the straight lines of the workstation rows seem to bend and shimmer like a mirage in the distance. Men sit at the workstations, each dressed like Conrad in gray coveralls, shirt, cap, and brown boots. Aside from their faces — and the markings on their caps denoting their work groups and hierarchy — there is nothing to distinguish one man from the next.

Power stanchions stretch up from each workstation like thin, black arms and disappear into the tangle of cables, beams, and blackness in the factory’s tall ceiling. At regular intervals among the stanchions, glowing signs mark sectors of the factory floor in a coded pattern of diagonal marks and hashes. At every workstation, the Company logo — a black shield with a plain white triangle like an inverted A — glows in the corner of a liquid crystal display panel. Surveyors in black coveralls patrol each sector, peering over the shoulder of each worker, tapping magnetic pens against electronic clipboards, completing checklists.