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December 1st, 2019
Lucilius was beginning to find his work tedious. Each day loads of different poisons were carted into the lab and he was part of a massive team that was tasked with figuring out how to process the poisons, finding what potential fuel was available and discarding the rest. The work had always been interesting, like a puzzle, but now after many years the puzzle was beginning to feel solved. There were certain elements they just couldn’t do anything with, and some so hazardous that workers in the lab sometimes became casualties to the toxins. And the ones they could process always abided by the same tools they had. Lucilius was as good as the rest, but it was now as though there was nowhere to grow.
He began to think outside of the confines of the lab, now more like a factory of labs, he realized. He was curious about where these poisons came from, why they came to this factory of labs, and at the heart of his curiosity was a question: could the system be changed? He knew the labs would be able to become far more efficient if the amount of poison they had to process could be less.
He realized that no one knew who decided what came into the lab. So he decided to find out. He headed out and found a strange world. There seemed to be all sorts of different factories, each with its own workers, each factory specializing in a different material that had to be processed. He discovered an elaborate transport system that connected them all, and through that system he toured his world, meeting workers of all types. They were of all shapes and sizes, but all so much like him and his coworkers. All trained – designed nearly – to tackle their specific job.
Lucilius stayed with some transport workers who seemed to carry different compounds to all sorts of different places. He stayed on these rounds for a while, exploring the huge network, until he came to a delivery site where he wasn’t permitted to enter. There was a barrier that he had no idea how to get through. So he clung to the area and began to watch, seeing what sort of workers could get in and what sort of compounds they delivered. It took some time, but Lucilius eventually learned the trick that would allow him through, reinventing himself.
Beyond that secret barrier, Lucilius found a place that was unlike any he had ever seen. Instead of workers processing compounds, this place was filled with a chattering network. As far as Lucilius could explore, the workers here were passing messages. While he didn’t completely understand, and no one seemed to be able to explain the big picture of what was going on, he suspected that this network somehow had an impact on the work that all the factories were tasked with, and after watching the process for some time, he grabbed a message that someone was stuck with and handed it to someone else who quickly and mindlessly took it and off it went into the system. Soon enough, someone handed Lucilius another message, and then another and then another, but he couldn’t tell what they meant or what he was supposed to do with them so he simply passed them along. Soon he had many workers handing him all sorts of messages, but he’d grown suspicious of the work and began experimenting. He tossed some messages to see if there was any difference. Then he cycled through the workers he handed messages to, giving some none, and giving others far more than usual. It took years, by moving around to different spots, he began to see patterns. Most workers simply passed along their messages. But some seemed greedy to receive them faster. Some messages were clearly about what was going on in the factories, and others directed those factories. But there was an even more subtle layer of messages that had to do with something that seemed completely alien. As though there were patterns that had nothing to do with the factories but also dictated what happened to them. It seemed as though there were portals to another world where information came from, information in the form of patterned messages, and those patterns seemed to dictate a lot of what was going on. Lucilius eventually met similar workers who had similar theories, and painstakingly they roamed the network of workers to try and understand what was going on. But it became ever clearly as they studied that the only way to understand was to change what was going on and see what happened. So they coordinated their efforts and began to slowly apply pressure on one set of workers they had grown suspicious of. A group that always seemed very eager to work. The group agreed with Lucilius’ idea that it might be interesting to see what happened if those workers simply took a break.
In another world of sorts, a different sort of Lucilius was sitting at a bar, looking at the drink that had just been placed in front of him. He’d been thinking about the whole world and how so many of the people in it were confined, constricted by systems that lacked the malleability to let their creativity and potential thrive. The screen above the backbar flipped to a news station and the latest atrocity was being reported with unsteady footage. It all seemed a sad mess, and certainly there was reason to drink. A slight smile came to him as he remembered the beverage in front of him. He gingerly grasped the glass and brought it closer to him. But as he was about to lift it for a sip, he felt strangely different. His habit of drinking had been on his mind lately. And something new was there – a feeling that bothered him. The lure of blurry relief pulled on him. Then he let go of the glass, fished out some cash from a pocket, tossed it on the bar and walked out.
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