Automated

Caleb Perreard

It had been a long day and Alex was glad to go home. As he began to make his way through the crowded halls, he realised he had forgotten to retrieve his instrument from the Band Room. He began to backtrack his way through the halls, but had no luck pushing through the large mass of middle schoolers fighting to leave the school building. He quickly ducked around a corner to an empty hallway and waited until the school halls were empty. When the time came, he began to make his way to room 304, the band room. because of a new rule for the 2065-2066 school year, all doors must be locked three minutes after school closes. After that the only people who can access the locked rooms are people of the education career track. In this era, the world is separated into many separate career tracks. You are placed in one when you turn 16. At 16, you begin schooling for your specific career track. When you turn 17, you begin work. The way they determine your career track is that their peers are consulted and asked which career track they believe would be best for them. You are also given determined checkpoints in your career. If you don't meet these annual check points then you go to the district for the careerless. Here there are houses that are small but usable. It is not a luxurious life, but people without the ability to make money themselves are at least given some food and a roof over their head.      The use of these career tracks had ensured that all people were very good at their profession. Some people were beginning to protest these career tracks, but most were fine with it. Many people loved it, actually. Most of those people made the most money though. The highest paying job was a city chief advisor. This person had all power over the entire city, and they could have power over any career group they wanted to, but most kept a level head.

 

      Alex continued to the band room. Past the main bathrooms, by the old antique lockers no one used, hang a left at Mr. Grapps room, and stop at the end of the hall. He knew the way well. Whenever he needed a chance to relax, he would write a fake hall pass and make his way to the band room to talk with the teacher. He was good friends with the band teacher, Mrs. Scriber. She was always there for him if he was feeling down. He loved his band period and hated when he had to leave to go to his next class, Automation Information. The school required him to learn about all of the city's required automations which included but was not limited to Bacteria Cleanse, where the room was injected with piping hot chemical steam to kill bacteria and archaea. Then there was the extermination process. This included a sweep of the room with deadly toxins. After that to get rid of the toxins another steam cleanse was required. Then all of the audio devices were tested, like speakers, the PA's, earpieces, which were required at school so a teacher could contact you whenever. Many of these seemed excessive, but the city cabinet considered it vital to the survival of the common population. As he opened the door to the band room he heard a small, "click" sound in the door. Then others, almost in unison. Alex had no idea what it could be, so he walked in to get his saxophone to practice over the weekend. As soon as the door shut, the lights went off and Alex could see nothing. He began to panic, realising what had happened. The school had began it's automation procedure.

     As his face began to get red hot with nervousness, beads of warm sweat began to form on his face. He knew that he needed to get the light's on, or he wouldn't be able to get out of the band room. He began to fumble in the darkness looking for the lighting override button, which was to only be used in emergencies, but Alex thought this qualified. He finally found it

and gave it a good whack with his fist. He suddenly felt tiny pricks of pain in his  hand from the shattered glass box encasing the override. It seemed silly to have such protective measures for a light switch, and Alex wished that there was no glass box. He quickly pressed the large red button, and immediately the lights flickered to life. Alex let out a sigh of relief, but it was short lived, as he remembered the automation protocol. He was forced to memorise it in his second class. Every hour on the hour one procedure would commence, in the following order; Extermination, Bacteria Cleanse, Detox, Wall & Surface Cleanse, Electronic Test, Air Filtration, Air Scenting Process, Door Lock Test, Floor Mopping, Damage Assessment, and Floor Waxing. All of them seemed very extensive, but the city insisted that every procedure be enforced. It was almost 3:00, when the extermination process began. Alex began to get very nervous. He felt those familiar beads of sweat dripping from his forehead. He heard the unfamiliar alarm that signaled the start of the test. He heard a fizzing sound, obviously the smoke that is released to exterminate the bugs. Alex ran to the door with his ruler in hand. He tried to break the door lock by pounding it with his ruler and a fake rock he found in his teachers desk with a key in it. He laughed at the thought of the silly hiding spot. He backed away from the door and wound up his arm. His eyes were now stinging with pain as if a million tiny bees were landing on his eyes and stinging him. He could smell the overwhelming smell of smoke. Alex pulled back his arm, ready to chuck the rock at the small window. He hit it dead on and shattered the glass. All that remained now was the mesh that used to be embedded in the glass. Alex easily pushed through it and unlocked the door from the outside. He grabbed the fake rock, some snack bars, and a crystal chime mallet and started for, well, anywhere. Because

of the motion sensed, the procedures would come as fast as possible, because the computer was under the impression that someone was in need of the building. This enforced new procedures. All the interior doors were unlocked, but the exterior doors remained locked. Alex made his way down the hall, stopping to duck into an open locker during the bacteria killing process and detox. He went up the stairs during the wall and surface clease and fumbled to what he believed to be the office. He wasn’t sure exactly where he was because the air wouldn’t be clear of the steam until the air scenting process began. Right as he remembered that, the air began to clear, and the smell of eucalyptus began to become apparent. Alex realised that he wasn’t at the office, he was next to the swimming pool. He knew that by the time that the floor waxing began, he would be out of options. The hot wax would most likely kill him. He went into the pool and jumped from the viewing podium to the balcony. His hands began to slip off the cold metal bar which was wet with slightly sticky condensation from the steam. He tried to regain his grip but slipped and started to fall down. Right away a hand grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him up. “You almost fell there,” Said a girl, thirteen maybe. She was blonde and had sparkling green eyes with blue spiraling towards the center.

“What are you doing here?” She said.

“I got stuck while I was trying to get my instrument. What about you?”

“I was planning to practice laps and swim all night. I thought I had shut off the system in the office, but now i’m not so sure…”

“You can stop the automation protocol?” Alex asked with a hint of excitement in his voice.

 

“Yeah, you didn’t know that? I thought everyone did.” She said.

“What’s your name?”

“Alex.”

“That’s my name too!” Alex said.

“My real name is Alexis, but you can call me Alex. We should probably start making our way to the computer room. There’s an underground tunnel I know here that could take us straight there.”

“Ok, let’s go. Where’s the tunnel entrance?” Alex said.

“The nearest entrance is in the locker room. The far left shower had a trap door down to it. That’s why it newer works.” Alexis responded.

As they walked to the locker room, they heard the familiar chime to signal the next hour. They ducked into the locker room, where no automation was allowed, and got into the tunnel. The ground was rough sand littered with broken lightbulbs and mold spores.

“Let’s breath through our shirts to keep from breathing mold spores.” Said Alexis.

“Ok, sounds good to me.”

They continued to make their way through the tunnel. They passed many exit’s, or at least that’s what alex asumed they were, because they had bright light coming from the edge of the trap doors.

“How do we know when to get out?” Alex asked.

“When we hear beeping and electronic stuff. You know the old sound of 20th centry internet acess?”

Alex knew what she was talking about from electronic history, it was called dial-up, or so he thought.

“Yeah, why?”

 

“Because that’s the sound the servers make. The school board apparently has a sense of humor. Wait, shh…”

They both sat silently and listened to the eerie sound with its beeps and clicks.

“Let’s go!”

They erupted through the trap door, eager to shut off the systems. Alex logged on to the computer with his mom’s administrator password. She worked for the school district and gave him the login in case of emergency. He searched the computer screen for anything to end all of this, but he couldn’t find anything.

“How do you do this?” Alex asked.

“I got it.” Alexis said. She grabbed the mouse and keyboard and began typing into the command bar. She typed 2 words. System off. Alex saw what she did and felt stupid for not knowing a solution so simple.

“There. Let’s get out of here!”

They ran for the exit and through open the door. Alex felt the warmth of the suns rays, like a warm hug on his skin.