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by Gordon Houghton

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2011 Gordon Houghton

for Sam, Sophie and Benjamin

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Part One


The morning siren marked the start of another wonderful day. From a thousand mouths its irresistible song echoed through the city: a surge of sound that rolled and crashed through the streets like an angry mob, brutal and blunt and furious. For five minutes every morning every public and private space resounded with its rhythmic wailing, rising and falling, repeating, echoing; and when the siren’s digital howl faded it segued into a million more voices, alarm clocks, radio and internet broadcasts, news, chattering mobiles, automated messages, targeted advertising; each call complementing the next, each one subtly different, different in tone and timing, overlapping and reverberating in multiple layers of sound, rising to a crescendo with a single clear message: Wake up!

Those who could exercised their democratic right, and obeyed. Medication, psychiatry and a punitive legal system ensured that almost all of them rose cheerfully, eager for work or shopping. Their rewards were secure, clean housing, minimal travel restrictions, paid employment, healthcare. Statistically negligible numbers of work-shy, faithless, infirm or sub-normal individuals were tolerated by long-standing and progressive social policies, and in economic terms could be safely ignored. An equally insignificant number who had chosen, voluntarily and without prejudice, to refuse implantation, were not actively discriminated against, but freely understood the financial impact of their decision and the occasional indignities that would follow. The status quo was readily accepted, since the physical measures of happiness — the balance between liberty and security, earnings and expenditure, longevity and fertility — fluctuated within reasonable limits.

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