After the great nuclear war a devastating plague decimated most of mankind. In the few remaining spheres only nursing mothers and babies protected by diathelic immunity survived. After years of struggling, the remaining women began communicating with new purpose. As male babies grew up they were kept from decision-making processes because it was thought that men were naturally aggressive and therefore dangerous. As a group, women decided hostility and aggression was a disease that needed to be eradicated.
There was a time of peace. During this time women found ways to network and exchange information. Out of necessity women recreated society’s infrastructure and developed their government. They were positive they could govern more logically and fairly than men ever had or ever could. Without wars to slow or stop progress, science and technology also grew at a rapid pace. Women decided they would not take a chance on men ever gaining control and destroying the world again.
There was little tolerance for hostility. Young males who weren’t able to work peacefully were confined. If their attitudes remained unchanged, they were brought outside the spheres and left to die. They could live only if they could survive on their own. The few obedient males were kept alive for procreation as long as they were useful. Then they, too, were left outside. But as the need for certain minerals developed, men became useful again in mining those minerals.
The rules were strict and males were expected to be totally compliant. As a precaution, absolute obedience had to be learned at an early age. Microchips were installed in each child’s brain, whether male or female, and each mother had the power and the responsibility of keeping her child “in line”. At the age of responsibility females were released from mind control but males were always to be dominated. Laws had been made for the benefit of society and there was no reason to change them.
Men were allowed minimal educations and were assigned their life tasks and jobs. Any assignments or changes had to be approved by the Council of Elders. As a group the Elders maintained strict rules and regulations, insuring that men were kept at their designated status.
As the son of a high-ranking mother and because he was obedient, Kenar was allowed to receive a more advanced education. Although most men were sent to work in mines far under the sphere, Kenar was an exception. He was being groomed for a different life, a special life that would keep him physically fit yet pampered. All he had to do was obey and perform on command.
Kenar slid out of bed and started running at a steady rhythmic pace, his statistics displayed on the wall before him. Drowsily he glanced at the mirrors and slowed to admire his trim, muscular frame. He thought he was in good shape.
“Kenar, you’re three ounces over the limit,” a voice said harshly. “You’ll have to increase your distance and time.” Startled, he pushed two buttons on the treadmill and picked up his pace. The treadmill monitored his progress and beeped after he had burned enough calories to make up for the three ounces. He slowed but a voice said, “Fifteen more minutes. You have to be sure.”
Beads of perspiration were already forming on his forehead but he obeyed the voice. For fifteen minutes he ran until his mind and body were fully alert and functional. He checked his pulse. Satisfied that his workout had been strenuous enough he stepped off the machine and put it away. The extra fifteen minute requirement was satisfied but there was no time to relax. Kenar showered and dressed quickly. His day was already planned. He could not be late.
Far above him the sphere’s skin dispersed the morning light. Only one tenth of the sphere, like a huge shining iceberg, curved out into the dark amber air that dominated the atmosphere. Yet even with the sun’s brilliance only the half-awake gardeners and herdswomen up on ground level, or the Ruling Mother and the influential Elders with their rooms opened with skylights knew when the sunlight reached the sphere.
Kenar’s room, many levels down into the earth, was almost dark except for the green lights that displayed time, distance and statistics. Like all rooms and compartments of the great silver sphere, his room was kept at a constant sixty-seven degrees. Today it seemed warmer.
“That extra fifteen minutes upset my internal thermostat,” he thought.
“Don’t even go there,” came back a reply. “I know best.” Again he felt his mother’s familiar thoughts piercing his brain. “Hurry up, sweetheart. It’s time to start a new week. My smart planner set your digital chef. It shouldn’t be long before your soybean cakes and hot barley drink are ready. Hurry, hurry! You have to save enough time for your teeth to be brushed properly. Remember, the Express won’t wait.”
“Leave me alone, Mother. Can’t you let me do things by myself? I have to start managing my own life.”
“But son, it’s been three days since I’ve communicated with you. I worry about you. Are you taking care of yourself properly the way I taught you? Did you take your vitamins and thymus injections? You know you have to keep your immunizations up. I don’t want you getting sick.”
“Go away, Mother. I’m thirty-four years old. I have a responsible job with the communications center. I’m old enough to be on my own.”
“But Kenny, what if the Elders heard you say that? You know the rules. Children, especially males, cannot do without their mothers until they’re at least fifty. Even then responsible mothers must still provide a little guidance.”
“Ok, ok! You’re right! I do know the rules. But those injections…I won’t need them until I‘m at least sixty. I’m not beginning to show any deterioration yet. You know that.”
“You can never be too sure, son. Remember that girl four levels down who got a cold a few years ago? You saw how she started to age. There’s no reason for you to get wrinkles under your eyes or a few gray hairs. You won’t be allowed to live as long as women do, but if you keep up those thymus shots you might at least reach one hundred and fifty. I’m only trying to help you for your own good.”
“Listen to your mother’s words of wisdom.” On every screen and on the sides of walls everywhere he went, the message was always the same. There was no point in arguing with Mother. It was a losing battle. With Mother on the same brain wave he couldn’t avoid her. Besides, it had always been that way.
Kenar couldn’t remember when the chip, a micro-miniaturized computer, had been inserted into his head. He was used to Mother zooming in and out of his thoughts at random times. Sometimes she had messages to give him and at other times she only wanted to dominate.
Just once he wanted to argue with her and win. That aspect didn’t seem possible in the foreseeable future. If he ever just once got the upper hand it was unlikely she would be a good loser.
Kenar didn’t really know if she would turn him in for thinking heretical thoughts. There were stories of mothers who had turned their children over to the authorities. Mother would do whatever was best for society. The consequences of disobedience were terrible. He could be sent to the mines. Some males who dared question authority were sent there to work for the rest of their lives. Mother probably wouldn’t have him sent there. But the infraction would not be ignored. Something would happen and the other punishments were even more frightening.
It was hard enough to listen to Mother espouse the rules of society. It was even worse to be locked up and………..Kenar froze as he thought of the confines. Mother had brought him there once after one of his outbursts.
He remembered seeing the inmates behind the walls of their transparent cubicles writhing in torment. He didn’t have to be told they were being tortured within their heads.
Control by Mother was bad enough but the thought of multi-channel implants made him shiver. With several women in charge of his thoughts it would be pure hell. There was no way to please all of them. They would harass him constantly.
Yet Kenar knew the ultimate punishment could be even worse. If the Elders became unhappy with his thoughts, his implant would be simply overloaded on the carrier frequency and his mind would be gradually or quickly destroyed, depending on the whims of those in charge. He could imagine his brain exploding under all the pressure.
The punishments were real. He had seen too many men staring blankly at walls, their minds gone, standing and waiting for something to happen. He would follow the rules because he could not risk pushing Mother too far.