Max Henderson, a young man in a red uniform, smashed through a first-floor window, escaping from the InterCorp building. Only some of his injuries were from the fragments of shattered glass that chipped into his skin: others were bruises from security officers’ batons that had hit him on the head, back, and arms.
Then, there was one bruise in particular—the one on his forearm, just below his wrist. It was a huge spot of purple and blue, in which tiny dots of flashing orange could be seen.
This bruise was self-inflicted.
Before he’d pounded his arm, a blue dot would sometimes flash. A green one, too. And a yellow one, whenever he was disobedient…he was given electrical shocks when that one flashed.
He ran, staggering down the sidewalk. Five men in black uniforms with yellow stripes ran after him; they all had batons in their hands, ready to beat him again.
Within a minute, they’d caught up with him. One officer grabbed his arm; the slave picked him up and threw him ten feet away, where the officer’s body struck a tree. The other four men started beating the slave, clubbing him on the head, chest, and arms. Many blows hit him in the face, breaking his nose and knocking out a few teeth. Though he was receiving new bruises, the bloody cuts from the chips of broken glass were already healing, and the original purple-blue spots were shrinking in diameter, even the one he gave himself.
Still, this new, concentrated beating he was getting was not one he could heal from quickly enough to survive; his healing app wasn’t that effective. Those batons just kept slamming down on his body. After about twenty hard blows to the head, his skull cracked, and he lost consciousness.
The flashing orange dots were no longer visible on his arm. He lay there, lifeless. No quick healing from his microchip implant would save him now.
His body had been taken offline.
Lineups of Lumps, men and women in red, green, orange, and blue uniforms were waiting to have their microchip implants tested. Nora Lee, teary-eyed, stood in line with the green-uniformed Lumps, behind a man being tested by an officer in the same uniform as those who’d beaten Max to death.
“OK,” the officer said, handing the slave, or Lump, a handful of nails. “Look at that stack of wood to your left. With the nails, use your implant to make the wood into a bookshelf.”
The Lump raised his right arm and pointed his fingers in the direction of the wood. A white dot began to flash just under the skin on his wrist. The wood was raised up in the air by a signal from his implant, then shaped in the form of a bookshelf, the shape being determined by the Lump’s thoughts, which were transferred through his nerves into the implant. It was as if the Lump had the power of telekinesis, hence the name ‘telekinesis app’ put into his implant.
The hand that held the nails now flattened. A pink dot flashed to the right of the white dot. The nails flew out of his hand, like a shot from a gun, and over to exact points where they were to be nailed to the wood, only it was as if invisible hammers were nailing them in place. The officer examined the bookshelf.
“Excellent,” he said. “Your implants are fully functional. You will do carpentry for Amy Millhouse, starting today,…” then the officer checked his computer to type in the date, “…April 5th, 2037. The blue dot will guide you to her home. Go now.”
The Lump stepped out of line and left. Nora, still sobbing, stepped forward.
“Ms. Nora Lee, former journalist,” the officer said as he checked her information on his computer implant, with a few taps on his wrist. “Made a Lump as punishment for writing op-eds critical of InterCorp. Of all the stupid ways to lose your freedom. Well, that explains your tears. Give me your arm.”
She reached over to him. He tapped her wrist where a yellow dot could be seen. “Ah!” she screamed as she felt an electric jolt shoot through her body.
“Good,” the officer said. “The restraining app is functional. Can’t have you crying and running away on the job, eh?”
She stopped sobbing, but lowered her eyes and frowned.
“Now,” he said. “Your job will be to wash dishes, make beds, take out garbage, do laundry…domestic chores in general…for George and Tasha Jonson, who bought you earlier today. OK, look at the pile of plates on my desk, and the dishrags beside them.” She did. “Use the pink-dotted app, and make like you’re cleaning them.”
By thinking of it, she made the pink dot flash, then raised her hands and pointed her fingers at the dishes and rags. Each dish hovered in the air with a rag, which then rubbed in circles on the dish. The officer smiled to see five floating dishes being ‘cleaned’ by five floating rags.
“Good,” he said. She made the dishes and rags come back down gently on the desk. “You will go to the Jonsons immediate…”
A disturbance was heard from three desks away, to Nora’s right. A large black Lump in a red uniform had lifted a car over his head with the help of his ‘strength app’, and was about to throw it at the officer testing him. The yellow dot was made to flash on his arm by the officer; the electrical shock forced the Lump to drop the car. The fender hit his leg, making him shout in pain and fall to the floor.
“Whatever injuries he has will heal quickly enough, thanks to his healing app,” Nora’s officer said, then looked at her. “See what happens when you don’t obey?”
Carl Fredericks was walking down the street when he saw Nora in a green uniform. She avoided his widened eyes in shame, her own teary.
She was his girlfriend.
“Nora!” he said. “They got you, too?”
She could answer only in sobs.
“It was for that last op-ed you wrote, wasn’t it?”
“Oh, I warned you not to publish any more of those! How long must you be a slave?”
“You know,” she sobbed. “For life.”
“I’ve got to free you,” he said.
“You can’t. I have to go. They’ll use the yellow app on me if I take too long getting to the Jonson family.”
“You’re working for George and Tasha?”
She nodded. “We can’t see each other anymore. Goodbye.” She walked away, always sobbing.
Now Carl felt like sobbing. George and Tasha hate each other, he thought; Will handsome George and my pretty Nora like each other? I won’t be able to bear it.
A computer programmer, Carl came up with an idea to free Nora. He tapped on his wrist to connect with the central computer, which had control over all the Lumps around the world…though his interest was solely in freeing her.
He knew how to hack through firewalls, and though he was aware of the danger of being caught, his love for Nora compelled him to take the risk. He found his way to the implant that was controlling her, and he put in a virus to free her of her masters’ control as soon as they dismissed her for the day. He knew that slaves’ masters tap a ‘dismissal’ function on their wrist implants to send their Lumps off to sleep. Once that function had been tapped, she would receive a message from Carl, letting her know she’d been freed, and that she should meet him outside of Toronto, in his aunt’s home in Mississauga.
Though she sneaked out of the Jonsons’ house without being seen by anyone in the family, Carl’s implanting of the virus immediately caught the attention of George Jonson, whose own implant was flashing a green ‘alert’ dot.
George had taken a liking to Nora as soon as she entered his home, not just for her brunette beauty, but for the tears in her eyes. The Jonsons were black, and so the father of the house had an instinctive hatred for slavery, though his wife insisted on buying Nora, as Tasha hated having to do housework. He’d fought with his wife over having a Lump at home, but his wife always won their many fights. Their son wept almost every night from the sound of his parents’ yelling.
Should I let her go, or should I get her back? he thought; I’d rather have her than Tasha, that’s for sure. After ruminating over what to do for an hour or so after her having left his house, he tapped his wrist implant, alerting a squad of officers to find her and Carl.
The next morning, officers took Carl and Nora to George’s house. George removed the virus and, curious about it, stored it in his implant.
“Nora,” he said. “Go make our breakfast.” She immediately went over to the kitchen. He smiled as he watched her walk by.
“Nora is mine!” Carl protested, his eyes squinting at how George had looked at her. He tried to run over and stop her, but he got a shock from the new apps added to his microchip implant.
“Have him fitted with a blue uniform,” George said to the officers. “That was a clever virus you made, Mr. Fredericks. Your intellectual abilities, enhanced with mental apps, will be a great asset to InterCorp. Take him away.”
“No!” Carl shouted as the officers were dragging him out of the house. “Nora! Jonson, don’t you touch my girl! I know what you want to do with her!”
In a blue uniform and with a bluer face, Carl was taken into the office of Brent McDonald, CEO of InterCorp.
“So, this must be Carl Fredericks,” McDonald said, getting up from his desk. “You may go,” he said to the officers who brought Carl in. They left. “I understand that you, originally a software engineer who worked on the fifth floor under Mr. Jonson, attempted to liberate your girlfriend, a Nora Lee, by putting a virus into the programming in her implant. Naughty, but clever. Your obvious aptitudes can be put to good use by doing data analysis and data mining for InterCorp.”
“But I have no experience in those fields,” Carl said.
“The apps we’ve added to your implants will enhance your intelligence to the point that you’ll learn quickly,” Brent said. “And since you’ve been reduced to the status of Lump, as Nora was, for crimes against InterCorp, I can get this normally high-paying work from you for free.”
“I’ve always wondered why slaves are known as ‘Lumps’,” Carl said. “Why, if I may, are…we…called that?”
“You are entitled to know, Carl,” Brent said, smiling. “You’re Lumps because you’re lumps of shit, for daring to challenge the new order established by the Free Market Revolution of 2022! No government will protect your so-called ‘rights,’ because the corporations of the world’s Jurisdictions are the state. L’état, c’est le marché! Now, go to your office and get to work. Your apps will give you all the training you’ll need. Off you go.”
Carl left the office, a blue dot on his wrist guiding him to his new office.
That evening, in George Jonson’s house, Nora hid in the kitchen as she heard the yelling in the living room.
“I see the way you look at that Lump scum!” Tasha shouted at George. “If you think that white girl’s so much prettier and shapelier than I am, go fuck her! I’m going!” She stormed out the front door and slammed it.
George let out a big sigh, then ran his hands over his face. He saw Nora standing by the entrance to the dining room from the kitchen.
“Could you go upstairs and make the bed, please, Nora?” he asked. Timidly, she went up to the bedroom. She could hear his son sobbing in his bedroom as she walked by. She wished she had the freedom to hold him, a fellow sufferer.
Standing at the foot of the bed, she pointed her hand at it. The pink dot on her wrist flashed. The messed-up blankets rose up a few feet over the bed, flattened out so the edges would be lined up with the sides, head, and foot of the bed, and then the blankets came down on the bed perfectly.
Knowing what was on George’s mind, she had planned to spin around and leave his and Tasha’s bedroom. But before she could even turn, she felt his hands on her shoulders. “Ah!” she screamed.
“Nora, relax,” he said. She turned to face him, the terror of soon being raped in her eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to…”
The pink dot on her wrist flashed, and a big, hardcover dictionary flew off a bookshelf to his left and hit him on the head. “Oof!” He fell to the floor.
Before she could run out of the room, the yellow dot on her wrist flashed. “Ah!” she felt a shock, and fell to the floor beside him. She looked in his eyes, shaking all over.
“OK, I get it,” he said, rubbing his head. “You don’t like me. You still love Carl. I don’t blame you.” They both got up. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t force myself on you, or use our implants to keep you in my control. I’m not that kind of man. I was just hoping that maybe you’d like me, unlike my wife, who stopped loving me years ago. I understand how you feel about slavery, being a ‘Lump.’ But there’s nothing I can do about it.” He paused and looked at her. “You can go to bed.”
She saw the flash of the brown ‘dismissal’ app on her wrist. She left for her room.
Then, George remembered Carl’s virus, and how he’d saved the program in his implant’s memory.
I wonder if I can improve on it, he thought.
The afternoon of the next day, Carl was in Brent McDonald’s office showing him and Gord Hoskins, CFO of InterCorp, some data mining he’d been doing from the morning until then, assessments of spikes in demand for weapons to be sold for use in wars in the ‘Disputed Areas,’ namely, the developing world.
“Good work, Carl,” Brent said as he looked at Carl’s printouts. “I told you those apps would get your mind working faster. In a mere day, you’ve made huge strides. Go back to your office and get some more for us. We need assessments on the acquisition of fossil fuels in the Disputed Areas.”
“Shouldn’t I be allowed some break time?” Carl asked. “I’ve been at this for ten hours now.”
“You don’t feel tired, do you?” Brent asked, glaring at him.
“No, not at all,” Carl said. “But surely, I should be…”
“Then get back to work,” Brent said in an almost angry tone. “You know full well that the apps implanted in you give you boosts of strength and energy sufficient to work twenty hours a day, seven days a week. A food app gives you nutrients without you even needing to chew on anything. Now, get going.”
Carl left for his office, a permanent frown etched on his face.
“I still can’t help worrying about those performance-enhancing apps in the Lumps’ implants,” Hoskins said. “What if they figure out a way to disable the restraining app permanently, through a virus, like the one that very Carl lost his Petty status for, just to save his girlfriend? We could have strongman, red-uniformed Lumps beating us to death one day, throwing us out of windows to our deaths.”
“Gord, you worry too much,” Brent said, laughing. “We’ve been controlling millions of Lumps globally for over ten years now, with only minor, individual acts of defiance here and there. Remember that we members of the Grande class, as well as those of the Petty class, have apps of our own, secret enhancers to surprise the Lumps should we ever have to fight them.”
“The number of defiant Lumps has been increasing in recent months,” Gord said. “Some in the Petty class have secret sympathies for the Lumps, too. Remember Nora Lee?” Gord gestured with his head in the direction of Carl’s office.
“Yes, but she was caught quickly, her op-ed deleted within hours of publication, before too many people could have read it,” Brent said. “Remember Max Henderson, who bruised his arm to damage his restraining app, a common Lump tactic of rebellion, then broke through our window and tried to run to freedom? Our officers chased him, and managed to beat him to death with their normal strength, and neither Max’s strength app nor his healing app could do enough to save him. We could have killed him by simply activating the death app, but we wanted to let the officers enjoy beating Max to death with their own strength. We also did it to test them—to see if their natural strength alone could kill Max.”
“I hope your confidence is justified,” Gord said.
Carl was finally released from work at 10:00 that night. As he walked down the street to his apartment, he passed by Nora, whose eyes avoided his.
“Nora?” he said. She ignored him and kept walking past, then entered a 24/7 convenience store to buy groceries for Tasha.
“Mr. Jonson’s had her,” Carl whispered. Whether seduced or raped, she let him have her, I’m sure of it.
Back in the Jonsons’ home, husband and wife were having another argument.
“You were hoping to screw pretty Nora, weren’t you?” Tasha said to George with taunting eyes. “I see the guilt in your eyes. She resisted you, though. I see the failure in your eyes.”
George just stared away from her, scowling. “Tasha…”
“She doesn’t like you, because no woman ever would,” Tasha taunted further. “You didn’t use the restraining app on her to rape her, for the same reason you didn’t do her with her consent: you’re not man enough to!”
“Tasha!” he shouted, raising his hand to slap her, but stopping.
“See?” she said with a grin. “You’re not man enough to fight back.” She laughed and walked out of the bedroom. “Go to bed, Ryan!” she shouted at their frowning son, who’d been listening to the arguing in the hall.
I’m man enough to set her free, George thought, remembering Carl’s virus, saved on George’s implant. He left the bedroom and entered his study.
He sat at his desk and went through some notes he’d written about modifications he was about to make to the virus.
Stuck in a shitty marriage, he thought while modifying the malware in his implant. He logged into the central computer, connecting the virus with all Lumps, Petties, and Grandes worldwide. I have to protect Ryan from Tasha. Like Carl and Nora, I’m in a trap. They love each other, but being Lumps means they can’t be together. We’re all slaves to the Free Market Revolution, in one form or another. If I can free them, Carl can love Nora for me. She cares for Ryan; I’ve seen her smile at him. Maybe she’ll kill me and Tasha, who’s the one who wanted to buy her, then take Ryan to safety when the Lumps kill everyone else.
He sent the virus into the central computer. It was 2:00 AM. The virus woke every Lump up. They read a message on their forearms: NOT YET. WAIT.
Carl checked the functioning of his apps, suspecting correctly that the message hinted that the Lumps’ electronic shackles, as it were, had been broken.
All the other Lumps came to the same conclusion, but many assumed ‘NOT YET. WAIT.’ to mean, ‘Get what little sleep you’re allowed (four hours, thanks to their energy-enhancing apps); revolt the next morning.’ And indeed, many Lumps did.
Brent looked through his office window and saw, in the building across the street, a man thrown out of a ninth floor window, shattering the glass in an explosion, him screaming all the way down till his skull’s bloody cracking on the pavement silenced him. “What the hell?” Brent shouted.
Gord watched video on Brent’s computer monitor showing one of the InterCorp manufactories having been set afire, the whole structure burning to the ground. “I foresaw this years ago, Brent,” he said.
“Security will handle it, don’t worry,” Brent said. He checked his computer for video of the rebellion: he frowned as he saw Lumps assaulting Petties and Grandes, even killing some with knives that flew spinning in the air telekinetically. Then he switched to video of another area, where officers were beating and shooting Lumps, killing scores of them. Now he was smiling.
Carl and Nora were among the smarter Lumps. They never let on that they were free. In fact, amid the chaos and confusion around noon, Carl slipped away and tapped his wrist, making further modifications to the new programming, and stopped all the rioting Lumps’ violence immediately.
Grandes and Petties used their restraining apps on the now-still Lumps, and grinned as they saw the men and women in red, green, orange, and blue shaking from their electric shocks.
Back in Brent’s office that afternoon, Gord had been tracing the setup of the virus. “Carl set it up!” he told Brent. “His digital footprint is all over the virus. I told you these enhanced Lumps were dangerous, Brent! He should be executed at once.”
“Wait, no,” Brent said as he scrutinized the digital footprints. “Carl originally used this virus to free Nora, but he also used it to regain control over the Lumps. Look carefully.”
Gord looked again, then said, “OK, but why would he want to help us?”
“I don’t know,” Brent said, “but if you look here, in the middle of the programming, you’ll see the digital footprint of George Jonson, assistant manager of sales, and Nora’s owner.”
“Why would George, one of our managers, want to help Lumps?” Gord asked. “Perhaps he prefers that pretty girl to his overweight wife?”
“We’ll find out the reason,” Brent said. “Then, we’ll kill him.”
Back in the Jonsons’ home…
“Now that the Lumps are all under control again, the officers are going to catch me, and kill me, since they’ll know I spread the virus,” George told Nora. “All I ask of you is to protect Ryan in any way you can. Protect him from Tasha. You’ve seen her hit him. I’d hoped the Lumps would plan a more careful revolution…”
They heard a knock on the door.
“Maybe Carl can find a way to modify the…”
The door was kicked open. Three armed officers walked in the house.
“Mr. Jonson, come with us,” one of them said.
As George left his house with them, he looked back at her and said, “Protect Ryan. Please.”
“So, that was your reason?” Brent McDonald asked George after a mere five minutes of interrogation in the CEO’s office. George nodded. “A black man, who bought a slave, sympathizes with slaves now? Of course!”
“My wife bought Nora,” George said. “I didn’t want her.”
“But you wanted her back, after Carl here tried to free her,” Gord said. “I hear that Nora’s a pretty one, and that your wife is insufferable.”
Carl, showing Brent more data printouts, those of profits made from InterCorp’s dealings in the Disputed Areas, tried to pretend he wasn’t listening to the conversation. George remained impassive.
“Nora means nothing to me,” George said. Carl saw an actor’s eyes in George. “I just can’t tolerate slavery. My wife insisted that I get Nora back, that’s all.”
“Very well,” Brent said, then tapped on his wrist. “If you really don’t love Nora, who Tasha brought here, by the way, and if all the Lumps are as well under control as they seem to be, we’ll put it to a test.”
Nora, frowning, entered the office. She was holding a large meat cleaver. Her arms were trembling with it in her grasp.
“Nora,” Brent said. “Send that cleaver flying so it cuts off George’s head. Tasha won’t miss him, and he knows it. In fact, he’ll recognize the cleaver from his own kitchen, since his not-so-devoted wife gave it to you to use on him. Indeed, Tasha got a few bruises from the Lump rebellion, and she was furious to know her husband was behind it. Go on, Nora: you know how to make the telekinesis app work.”
Nora was shaking all over now. Tears were forming in her eyes. The app, connected to her nerve endings as all the implants were, sent a signal into the cleaver, raising it in the air a few feet in front of her face. It rotated there, like a horizontal propeller, level with George’s neck.
“Do it, Nora,” Gord commanded, “or do you need a shock?”
Tears ran down her cheeks.
“Remember,” Gord added, “if you’re thinking of using it on yourself, we can shock you so quickly, you won’t be able to kill yourself with it.”
“It’s OK, Nora,” George said. “I don’t want to live anymore, anyway. I can’t face Tasha after what happened. Remember Ryan.”
She made eye contact with Carl, whose blank face made it impossible for her to intuit his thoughts.
“Nora!” Brent shouted.
The knife spun at George. His head tumbled into a corner of the room, and blood sprayed from the stump of a neck all over the floor. The others in the room dodged the red.
“Good work, Nora,” Gord said. “Now, clean up the mess.”
Worldwide, TV screens showed George Jonson’s headless body hanging from the top of InterCorp headquarters, with his head on a spike beside the body. A universal shudder was felt, the Lumps shaking the most.
That evening, Carl and Gord were in Brent’s office.
“I must convey my appreciation to you, Carl, for stopping the Lump rebellion,” Brent said. “In fact, as a token of my gratitude, I’m considering restoring you to the Petty class, or maybe even raising you up to our Grande class.”
Gord’s eyes widened. “You can’t be…”
“I’m considering it,” Brent said, “provided Carl…passes certain tests…in order to prove his loyalty to InterCorp. I wonder, though, what motivated you, Carl, to put the online restraints back on the Lumps. Were you anticipating a promotion of the sort that I just described?”
“The thought crossed my mind, I must confess,” Carl said.
“Was there any other motive?” Gord asked.
“Yes,” Carl said. “I wanted George Jonson dead.”
“Why?” Gord asked. “Was it because he had your pretty Nora?”
“Yes,” Carl said with a sigh. “I saw the way he looked at my love—my former love. She’s shown me no affection since she became the Jonsons’ servant. When I’d escaped with her, she resisted; she claimed she didn’t want me to get in danger, but it was already too late to worry about that—she liked her handsome master. Didn’t you see how she wept when she was made to kill him? All proof that not only had he had her, but she’d fallen for him. I gave up my freedom for that disloyal bitch. I don’t care about Lumps; and my life—free or not—has lost all of its happiness. Let the Lumps suffer, even if I stay one of them.”
“And ending the rebellion would facilitate our execution of Jonson,” Gord said.
“Yes,” Carl said. “That’s happiness enough for me, regardless of whether you keep me a Lump, or free me.”
“Interesting,” Brent said. “Still, I’d like to see if you’re worthy of a promotion to Grande. Gord, let’s take Carl and Nora down to Basement Two.”
“Yes, Mr. McDonald,” Gord said. He tapped his wrist to summon Nora.
Outside of Basement Two, no one would see or hear what Brent and Gord were doing with Carl and Nora.
“The program modification Carl made to tame the Lumps isn’t exactly the same as that of the original restraints, but it seems close enough,” Brent said. “We just have to test it, as we have to test the death of his love for Nora…which will be a test, also, of his loyalty.”
“What do you want me to do?” Carl asked.
“Use the electrocution app on her,” Brent said. “The one we use in brief zaps to discipline the Lumps. But,…set it to maximum.”
“You mean, you want me to kill her?” Carl asked, and saw a nod from Brent.
Nora, slouching and hanging her head low, as if she were already dying, seemed acquiescent. “In killing George,” she said, “I’d killed myself right then. Killing me now would just be a formality.”
I knew she loved him, Carl thought, then looked deep into her eyes for a few seconds, as if his eyes were talking mouths.
“Well?” Gord said. “Do it!”
Carl tapped his wrist. She did nothing at first, surprised at not feeling anything.
Then…her whole body alternated between shaking and stiffness. She let out staccato screams. She fell to the floor, still shaking and screaming. Finally, she lay still.
A tear ran down Carl’s cheek, beside which was the bitterest of scowls, as he stared at her motionless body. He tapped something on his wrist—‘Juliet’—as Gord approached the body.
After several seconds of checking, he said, “She’s dead.”
“Good work, Carl,” Brent said. “I’d say you’re a Grande already.”
Two Lumps were recruited to pick up Nora’s body and take it away to be buried. Brent, Gord, and Carl got in the elevator to go back up to the executives’ floor.
“Let me take you to your new office, Carl,” Brent said, tapping his app to free the new Grande from his servitude.
“Thank you, Mr. McDonald, but not right now,” Carl said. “I’m exhausted, both physically and emotionally, after all that’s happened today.” He pressed the first floor button. “I’d just like to get off here, on the first floor, and go home to sleep. I can see my new office tomorrow, if that’s alright with you.” The elevator stopped at the ground floor, and he got off.
“Very well, Mr. Fredericks,” Brent said. “I understand how you feel. In fact, we’ll let you enjoy an extra-long sleep—at least ten hours. Hell, you’ve earned it.”
“Thank you, but seven or eight hours should suffice,” Carl said, then walked off. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”
“Goodnight,” Brent and Gord said.
“Extraordinary man,” Gord said as the elevator continued up. “Killed his own girl for InterCorp. She must have really broken his heart.”
“What matters for our purposes is that he’s firmly in our trust,” Brent said as the elevator stopped at their floor. “Who cares what his personal reasons were for doing our…”
A red light started flashing on Brent’s and Gord’s wrists. The men rushed out of the elevator and into Brent’s office, where he switched on his computer. The monitor showed a mob of red-uniformed Lumps running through the streets, a few with knives and a baseball bat or two. They were attacking Petties and Grandes!
“What the hell?” Brent said. “Was Carl’s program deficient?”
“Was it deliberately set up to fail?” Gord asked.
“He killed his own girlfriend for us, didn’t he?” Brent said. “You’re too distrustful, Gord.”
“I’m distrustful because things like this keep happening!”
“Calm down. The officers are already on them—see? The Lumps are getting cut down by machine gun fire.”
“A few of the green-uniformed Lumps are also using the telekinesis apps to throw knives at the officers—see?” Gord pointed at a corner of the monitor.
“A few knives and baseball bats are no match for guns,” Brent said. “I’m gonna contact Carl and…wait a minute.”
“What is it? Carl’s with the rebellion, isn’t he?”
“No. According to the messenger app on my implant, Carl’s life readings are blank. He’s dead, offline. Somebody must’ve killed him.”
“Was it the Lumps? No, he’s still in a blue uniform. He’s still a Lump, as far as they know; why would they kill one of their own?”
“I don’t know,” Brent said. “Maybe he removed the outer blue vest on the way home, and the Lumps saw him in only black, and thought—correctly—that he’s one of us. Maybe they checked his digital blueprint, and saw I’d freed him.”
“That’s a stretch, Brent.”
“Maybe he got hit by a car! Maybe an officer confused him with one of the rebelling Lumps amid the rioting and shot him? Who knows?”
“Wait, yeah, an officer must have shot him by mistake.”
“Anyway, forget about Carl, and let’s focus on finding out what went wrong with their restraints. Let’s analyze the modified program.”
The two men looked through the coding of the program: virtually nothing looked different from before.
“I don’t understand!” Brent said. “The Lumps should be as secure as always.”
“It must be a virus so subtle, our eyes have missed the differences,” Gord said. “Let’s look again.”
A group of red-uniformed Lumps broke into a weapons storage area. After breaking down the doors and fighting off the guards with their enhanced strength, they rushed at the officers inside. The officers weren’t fast enough with their guns to stop the rush of Lumps, who practically flew at them.
Though a few Lumps were shot, most of them got on the officers, beating them to death with their bare fists, choking them and crushing their windpipes, or picking them up and throwing them across the room, their backbones breaking against the walls.
The Lumps that didn’t take the guns from the dead officers broke through the glass coverings of racks of rifles. They took those and small boxes of ammo, loaded the rifles, then ran out of the building, shooting anyone who got in their way.
A group of green-uniformed Lumps—racing through the streets under cover of night, the dull green of their uniforms being difficult for the officers to spot in the shadows—were headed for the InterCorp headquarters.
Brent looked out the window and down onto the street. He saw the fighting of the officers, the killing of many unarmed, red-uniformed Lumps. He smiled.
“Good,” he said. “It looks as though we’re winning.”
“I’ve been analyzing this code,” Gord said. “I’m starting to notice the modifications. There’s source code, too. Messages like, ‘NOT YET. WAIT.’ Then, next to a modification, ‘TOGETHER. STOP.’ Then, ‘TOGETHER. GO.’ But Carl was killed before the time of this change, wasn’t he? If you check the times given.”
“Yes,” Brent said. “The modification of his life readings switching off –at 9:23—are definitely before the time of that ‘TOGETHER. GO’ modification, which was at 9:29.”
“It couldn’t have been Carl who started this rebellion,” Gord said. “Now we just have to focus on…”
Suddenly, they heard a storm of gunfire and broken glass.
“What the hell?” Brent growled. Both men ran to the window and looked down onto the street. “The Lumps don’t have guns, do they?”
They went back to the computer monitor to get close-up visuals of the fighting, the monitor being linked to video cameras on the streets.
They saw red-uniformed Lumps gunning down officers.
“What?” Brent said. “They’re armed! How did the Lumps get their hands on guns?”
“They’re organized, too,” Gord said. “I was afraid this would happen. I knew that implanted tech would be used against us one day. Giving Lumps superhuman strength, telekinetic powers, enhanced intelligence—it was a stupid idea!”
“It saves money,” Brent said. “Unpaid slave labour to build things, lift things, move things about instead of paying for the building and maintenance of machines. We just need to fix the programming, to get the Lumps under control again.”
“Until the next virus?” Gord said.
“The restraints were working well for years, Gord!”
“Who is their leader? It’s too dark to see their faces.”
The fighting in the streets raged on. The bloodied bodies of men and women in uniforms of red, green, orange, blue, and black and yellow were sprawled about the roads and sidewalks.
Their leader wore a green uniform, racing out in front with an automatic firearm set to burst mode and filling officers’ chests and bellies with bullets. Still, the darkness of night made the faces of all the Lumps difficult, if not impossible, to identify.
Some green-uniformed Lumps held pairs of knives, one in each hand, and used their telepathy apps to make them fly in the air like propellers at the officers’ chests or faces; as soon as the blades dug into the skin, they were made to fly back, the handles coming back into their throwers’ hands. As soon as they were caught, the knives spun in the air to stab into officers’ guts once again.
Red-uniformed Lumps used their enhanced strength to jump as high as ten feet into the air, dodging officers’ bullets and landing with their feet on officers’ heads or chests. Then they took the officers’ rifles and shot at those behind the ones they’d jumped on.
When the Lumps had beaten back most of the officers, and were standing in a mob in front of the InterCorp building, two red-uniformed Lumps each picked up an officer and hurled him, screaming, through the glass. The army of Lumps stormed the building.
“The Lumps are inside!” Gord said.
“Haven’t you made any progress in finding out what’s wrong with the restraints?” Brent shouted.
“No. Whoever set up this virus did a clever job of keeping it untreatable.”
“For God sakes! They’re going to kill us!”
“That’s why I’m opposed to this tech we gave them.”
“We’ll have to use our own,” Brent said, tapping his wrist and getting ready. “Get away from that computer, Gord, and get ready to fight! We’re running out of security officers.”
Gord tapped his wrist implant to get ready.
“Attention: everyone in the building,” Brent said into an intercom. “Weaponize your microchip implants. The Lump rebels are inside the building. Our officers have not been able to fend them off. Kill every Lump in sight.”
Gunshots and fighting could be heard on the lower floors. Screams were also heard, screams that suggested Brent’s employees, unaccustomed to fighting, were losing.
“I can’t believe this!” Brent shouted.
“I can,” Gord said, scowling at Brent. “I saw it coming.”
The men could hear the trampling of feet on their floor, stomping growing louder, approaching their office.
“Are you ready?” Brent asked, then gulped.
“Let’s take as many of them with us as we can,” Gord said.
The windows to Brent’s office shattered into pieces as tiny as the microchips in everyone’s forearms, as red-uniformed Lumps jumped in. Brent and Gord tapped black dots on their wrists.
A swarm of tiny, invisible projectiles flew from Brent’s hand, causing the chests of the first row of Lumps to burst with blood. Then the next row of red-uniformed Lumps entered the office through the huge holes where the windows had been.
Gord’s hand sprayed out a toxic, invisible mist. The Lumps clasped their throats, squinted, coughed, and fell dead on the floor. The next row of Lumps was in green uniforms. Brent and Gord were about to fire on them, but two knives flew in the air, spinning at their upraised hands. The tips of the blades stabbed into the men’s forearms, disabling their implants. They screamed in pain, clutched their bloody arms, and fell to the floor. The crowd of Lumps approached, knives held up high and ready to come down in stabs on the two men.
“No!” a female voice called out from behind the mob. “Don’t kill them. Bring them outside, for all to see our victory.”
Brent and Gord were dragged to the elevator; dripping blood in two red paths, and taken down to the ground floor, then dragged outside. The Lump who’d just spoken approached them and showed her face.
“Nora!” the wounded men gasped together. “But…we watched…you die!” Brent said.
“Just an acting job,” she said. “As was our return to submission. The solidarity app just made us act under one will, and the Juliet app helped me play dead by keeping me still, as well as making my heartbeat, pulse, and breathing undetectable.”
“But you two wanted me to kill her!” a familiar male voice called out from the mob of Lumps, then showed himself, in a blue uniform, to Brent and Gord.
“Carl!” Brent groaned.
“Just as I suspected,” Gord panted. “The message of your death was faked.”
“We were going…to bring you…into the Grande caste,” Brent said. “You two still love each other?”
“The love between Nora and me is no more,” Carl said as he scowled at her. “And I blame our coming apart on you, on your slave system. But this is not the worst thing. I learned, through all that data mining and data analysis, that InterCorp’s plan was to invade more and more land in the Disputed Areas—Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia—to profit off their lands, just as the competing multinationals, who’ve replaced all nation states as Jurisdictions and promised a peace they never delivered, but kept their wars a secret from the public. The tyranny of the Free Market Revolution is about to come to an end…with worldwide revolutions going on as we speak, and with the deaths of these two murderers, right now!” He stared at them with murderous malice pouring out of his eyes.
“No!” Nora screamed. “I want no part in any more of this bloodshed. If even a fragment of you still loves me, Carl, turn off the solidarity app, so we no longer act on your will alone. Those Lumps who still want revenge may do so freely, but I promised George’s son I’d protect him.”
“Very well,” Carl said with a sneer as he tapped his wrist to free all the Lumps. “Do your will, you whore. You slept with George, you loved him; go be a mother to his son after we kill his wife.”
“I never slept with George! He made a move on me, but I resisted, and he respected my wishes!” she protested.
“You expect me to believe that? Pfft. Who cares, either way? Go. You can leave.”
She ran away, sobbing. What happened to you, Carl? she wondered; I’m wishing I had let George have his way with me. I’ve got to find Ryan before those maniacs kill him along with Tasha.
“Now, as for the rest of you,” Carl said to all the red- and green-uniformed Lumps who were surrounding Brent and Gord, their knives and rifle butts raised up high and ready to beat and stab their two oppressors to death. “Are you ready to do this thing we have to do? Are any of you as soft-hearted as Nora? If so, you may leave.”
A handful of Lumps walked away, mostly those in orange and blue uniforms; but the rest, scores of furious Lumps, ready to carry on the revolution, stayed, though some had hesitation in their eyes as for further killing.
Brent looked up at Carl. “The heads of the Jurisdictions will stop you, Carl.”
Carl sneered at him. “What’s happening here is being repeated all over the world,” he said. “All the heads of the Jurisdictions will die!”
Carl looked at the continued hesitation in the eyes of the Lumps.
“Need I remind you of the suffering you all were subjected to?” Carl said. “Working ceaselessly, without pay, with a mere four hours of sleep every night, kept awake by the energy enhancements in our implants, enhancements that would have lead us all to early deaths from accumulated sleep deprivation, had we not revolted!
“Of course the Grande class can always replace us by breeding new Lumps, by raping women in the Disputed Areas, and conditioning the resulting offspring, from the beginning of their lives, to accept their lot as slaves, for they’ll have no knowledge of even the notion of life as free people.
“But we are free now, thanks to this Lump Revolution. And to ensure no return of the Grandes, we’ll slay them all, them and their families. We’ll do the same to those of the Petty class if they resist us. For by violence did they acquire power, and by violence is how we shall achieve our new society, our freedom, our destiny!”
Carl looked out on the crowd of rapt Lumps, who all stared back at their godlike leader and liberator, ready for their next command.
“So,” he said, “how shall we dispose of Mr. McDonald and Mr. Hoskins here? Shall I reset the electrocution app and fry them to death, as they’d have had me kill Nora? Or shall you kill them the way they had Max Henderson killed, beaten to death by these men’s security officers? Shall McDonald and Hoskins die Henderson’s death? I leave that up to you, my red- and green-uniformed brothers and sisters.”
Still, the Lumps held their rifle butts and knives up high, ready to strike. Brent and Gord, lying on the ground with bloody hands, looked up at the men and women in red and green surrounding them. The two men looked up in the eyes of the rebels with defiant frowns, wanting them all to see the eyes of the men they were about to murder.
Carl looked on the scene with a smirk. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Nora sneaking off with Ryan. He huffed at the perceived treason of his one-time lover. Then he looked back at the hesitant, but loyal rebels.
A few of them looked over at Carl, their eyes asking his for permission to kill Brent and Gord. The scowl Carl had given Nora seemed to be an answer.
As soon as one Lump brought his rifle crashing down on Gord’s head, cracking his skull and splashing blood in his killer’s face; all the other rifle butts, and all the knives, swung down on his and Brent’s bodies, spraying blood everywhere, spotting them all over with bruises, breaking their bones, and squeezing screams out of them to compete with the joyous yells of their killers.
Carl looked down on the bloodbath, and smiled.