Choices, p.1Phil Wheeler
Copyright 2013 Phil Wheeler
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His eyes opened and he looked around. He was in what appeared to be a small room. Standing, he turned in a slow circle to his left, taking in his new surroundings. A 360 degree turn proved unrewarding; he was in a room that looked to be a perfect square formed from what appeared to be stainless steel, highly polished. Each side wall was about 10 foot by 10 foot A screened portal broke the otherwise smooth surface of the ceiling, he could see no other openings or markings. The floor was smooth and polished, of the same material as the walls and ceiling, and there was no furniture of any kind. Three of the walls were without blemish, running together at the corners without any break. The floor and ceiling ran to each corner and joined seamlessly to each wall. It was the remaining wall that drew his attention. He walked slowly over to it, and surveyed what he found there. On that wall, approximately one foot in from the corners, were doors. Each door was set in a metal frame, no hinges showed, and no handle marred the surface. The separation between the door and the door jam was so slight as to be nonexistent. Between the two doors two screens were mounted into a recess in the wall, two speakers were flush-mounted beneath the screens, and a small access panel was placed between the two speakers. He tried the access panel, but it did not open. Turning from the wall, he returned to the center of the room and sat down to wait.
He slept, he did not know how long, and when he awoke he was thirsty. Fortunately, he didn't have to urinate, but his thirst began to concern him. He sat up, and looked at his surroundings. Everything was as he remembered it. He stood and stretched. His training kept his exterior looking calm, but inside he was beginning to grow agitated. He wouldn't let it show, but he wasn't sure what to do. He figured he was in one of the many facilities of the enemy, but where was unknown. Not knowing what was going to happen, or even where he was, was difficult to deal with. Walking to a wall, he sat down and leaned his back against it to wait. He fell asleep again.
He awoke to a dimly lit room, and something had changed. He looked down and found that he no longer wore his original clothing. It had been replaced by a simple light blue jumpsuit and a pair of tennis shoes. It was obvious that he had been rendered unconscious. He surmised that it was probably an odorless gas introduced through the portal in the ceiling. He sat up, and the lights brightened. He grew excited, maybe things were about to happen. He could deal with whatever came, but waiting was hard. More time went by and nothing happened. He slept again.
He awoke and assessed his situation. He didn't know how long he had been in the room. It could have been hours, or days. His only gauge was his thirst, and that was building within him. He wasn't overly hungry, and his vision wasn't blurry. His skin was dry, and not clammy, and his color was good. His mouth was dry, but he did not feel dizzy. He guessed that he had been confined more than 24 hours, but less than 48.
He was still taken by surprise when the voice came from the ceiling, a clear baritone with no discernible accent.
“Shall we begin?”
“Begin what?” he answered.
“An experiment, I am interested in knowing more about your species. Tell me, how do you feel right now – hungry, tired, anxious, maybe scared?”
“None of the above.”
“Your body should be feeling the first effects of dehydration. Would you like something to drink before we continue?”
“That is unfortunate.”
“I won't tell you anything.”
“I think that you will tell me everything I want to know before we are finished.”
“What is luck?”
“You're kidding, right?”
“No. I have heard it, but only in learning your language. I do not understand the word. Tell me, what does it mean?”
“It means random chance that went your way; like pulling a queen to an inside straight.”
“Ah, poker, a game played with small cards with pictures on them. Yes?”
“Good. We are making progress.”
“I don't know what you are talking about.”
“My superiors believe that we should just exterminate your race. I feel that we should learn from you. What do you think?”
“I'm all for extermination – Yours!”
The speaker was silent, and he finally realized that the conversation was over. He sat back down against the wall and contemplated what he'd heard. He'd been right, the enemy had him! He needed to escape! He got up and walked around the room, again. The doors were tightly fit, and no other avenue of exit presented itself. Certainly they didn't figure to starve him, and he had to eliminate bodily wastes. He would have to be ready if a chance came. He sat back down, and fell asleep.
“Tell me, what do you think of choice?”
The voice was back. He'd been anticipating it, but it still startled him when he heard it. He didn't know how much time had passed, but he was obviously being induced to sleep in order to confuse him. The one constant was his thirst, it was growing uncomfortable, but he would not allow it to show.
“Choice is good.”
“Do you believe that you have choices in your present position?”
“What choices do you believe you have?”
“I could choose to not speak with you.”
“Is that the only choice you feel you have?”
“No. I could try and kill myself.”
“End your existence? Does your race value life so cheaply?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to understand you.”
“Nothing particularly hard about that, I am a soldier, and I will escape if I can. You are the enemy, and if I get the chance I will kill you!”
“That would be your choice?”
“You bet ya!”
“What if I told you that you had a choice, and your future depends on what choice you will make?”
“I'd say bring it on!”
“Is the attribute of choosing important to you?”
“What do you mean why?”
“Why is the ability to choose important?”
“I never thought about it, it's just important.”
“Can you ever be in a situation where you cannot choose?”
“You sure ask some strange questions. What is it you want to know?”
“My race does not allow many choices. The vast majority do as they are told when they are told. Even the leadership is subject to the collective. We do not understand your race's ability to make choices so independently.”
“Gives you a problem, does it? So, what do you propose?”
“I propose an experiment. Against the one wall are two doors. Upon each wall there are two computer screens and each has a speaker located below it. Between them is a closed cubical. Please walk over to that wall.”
He obeyed. Walking to the wall, he stopped in front of the screen on the right. “Now what?” he asked.
“I give you a choice. You can communicate with either computer through the microphones mounted underneath each screen. One of the computers is designed so that whatever you ask of it the answer will be factual, it cannot do otherwise.
“Sure. I have a fifty – fifty chance of survival. That's better than I could have hoped for. So tell me, why are you giving such good odds?”
“It is simple. Your race has started a war that you cannot win. I told you that most of my race wants to simply exterminate your species. They do not believe that you are advanced enough to be worth the effort of just stopping your attacks, it would be easier to
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