F@rm

Robert wanted a lie-in this morning but his body wouldn’t let him. There was buzzing in his organs and all over his skin. This repeated after five minutes, then after four minutes, then three minutes, two minutes, one minute, then continuously. There was definitely a design flaw. Had they not realized that a generalized buzzing would affect his concentration? He knew that it was an Area One alarm, but which crop was hard to say. He couldn’t focus.

He hoped it was Manola, the easiest crop to manage. It didn’t need much tending, just checking  WaterTM and fertilizer levels. It could also be Pootato, spuds whose growth was accelerated by modified manure addition. The third possibility was Aqua, his most complex crop. He hoped it wasn’t that. Aqua’s eco-systematic, multi-level farming required a careful balancing of salts, algae, larvae, and so many other things. Get one wrong and the whole thing falls apart. He’d messed up last year and the consequences had been dire for him. The F@rm had implanted a second chip, meaning that he was now only 80% free-willed.

The buzzing stopped when he got out of bed. His head cleared quickly and an auto-analysis showed that the alarm was for Manola. Robert pulled the USB from his side socket as quietly as possible, but his movements awoke Roberta who said, “What time is it, love? Isn’t it still early?”

“Sorry baby, an Area One alarm was buzzing. It’s Manola. I’d better take a look.”

She flopped her arms towards him, but he was out of reach. “Do you have to go now? Can’t you ignore it? It’s only Manola. Even a MonkeyTM could grow it.”

Robert smirked. “My semi-simian sweetheart, that’s why we grow it.” They’d been told that if they didn’t consume ten-a-day, stem-identical materials, their human genes may deteriorate back to apes. “Would you feel differently if it was called Womanola?”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I just meant that it grows perfectly well by itself. We don’t need to do anything.” She waved him off and flopped her arms back under the covers.

He checked the Area One / Crop Control Panel and realized that Roberta was right. Nothing was the matter at all. It was a false alarm. He’d had no choice though, the buzzing wouldn’t let him sleep. Damn that second chip!

He returned home to bed. There was no need to re-plug himself as his electric components were fully charged already. Staying on wireless would be enough. Plugging in caused a light buzzing which was generally pleasurable but sometimes annoyed him. It felt like fine sugar in your blood – making life sweeter, but also causing decay. His electric components were 100% safe officially, but who knew really? All he knew was that he’d never heard of anyone having chips removed, only chips added. Some people said that the old ones disintegrated, and new ones were required to maintain functionality.

Robert slept for an hour before he was awoken by another buzzing. This time it was an Area Two alarm. “I hate this job,” said Robert. “It’s worse than being a peasant in the Middle Ages. At least they got a good night’s sleep.”

“What’s it this time?” she said. “The Beefs?”

“Probably. It usually is.” Robert hoped it was Temp, which like Manola was easy to grow. This valuable crop grew just about everywhere, and since climate change, even Antarctica. Temp could be eaten, juiced, woven into clothing, compressed into bricks, distilled into fuel, made into furniture, used as currency, its stalks formed into small boats and light planes, and – taking you even higher than that – its essence was an aphrodisiac, and hallucinatory. It had initially been banned by The Authority, but mass civil disobedience had caused them to relent, and it was now grown legally.

It wasn’t the Temp though. When his head cleared, he said, “You’re right again. It’s the Beefs. I’ll be back when I’m done with them. Don’t wait for me for breakfast.”

He entered the Meat Shed. Something had spooked the Beefs and there was a chorus of groaning. He patted the most shaky meat blocks and they settled quickly. That’s all they’d needed – some loving. He waited awhile to check all was well.

Robert was about to head home when an alarm buzzed in The Wilds. This was really annoying, as there was no Crop Control Panel for him to check there – it could be anything. Something must have damaged the fencing. He hoped he wouldn’t have to go in there physically. He’d never entered this self regulating part of the F@rm before. Regulations required 10% of farmland to be set aside for Wilding. People who lived there were not disturbed on condition that they produced a weekly supply of potent, natural food. They used no fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides; no irrigation, electronic management, or additives of any kind. Their pure food was sent to labs for cloning – though everybody knew that a good proportion was sold illegally to traditional doctors.

“Oh my god!” said Robert. Standing near a hole in the fence was one of the unchipped, unplugged people. She was barefoot, naked, and dreadlocked. Apart from, yet part of, this world. Robert was scared, but gulped and waved at her. He said, “Hello, I’m Robert.”

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2 Responses to “F@rm”

  1. First Class! Can’t wait for tomorrow’s continuation of the encounter.

    • javedbabar Says:

      Glad you liked the story! Sorry, it is an open-ended encounter which will continue sometime in the future…

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