Always Greener by Richard Dickson

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"My shift supervisor is one of them?"

KP-9643 lowered his head for a moment, regrouping. "Are you free to go wherever you want? Are you free to choose the career you want? Are you free to even pick what you want to wear?"

"It is sort of nice not to have to worry about what I'm going to wear in the morning," said a voice in the back.

"Yeah, and these things are durable as all get out."

"Stains come out real easy too."

"Well, yes, that's fine, if you choose to wear them! But they –"

"We still really haven't cleared up this whole ‘they' thing yet," the analyst said.

KP-9643 gripped the sides of the podium so tightly RL-1472 could see his knuckles whitening. "Don't you yearn for a life outside?"

There was a gasp. "You mean out there?" the mechanic said.

"Yes! Outside this maze, where a man can live off the land, and reap the fruits of his own labor!"

"If I want fruit, I just need to send a requisition to Horticulture and wait a week or two."

A female voice chirped in. "That's true! I've processed plenty of those reqs."

"So you're saying I have to work my ten-hour shift AND grow fruit too?" the mechanic bellowed. "The hell with that!" He stood up and ambled towards the door.

"No!" KP-9643 cried out. "Listen to me! We have to fight for a better life!"

"There's thing out there that'll eat you, you know," said one of the medics.

"Oh, great, so I can either starve or be eaten? That's just swell!" The mechanic stomped out the door. Others rose from their seats.

"My friends!" KP-9643 shouted, one last gasp to hold their attention. "All I ask is that you consider a future of your own making!" He trembled as he continued. "Not one based on a routine handed to you by th – by some unseen force! Long ago, a wise man spoke of our inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! Shall we rise up and reclaim this right? Or shall we forever crouch in the darkness, however comfortable it may be? Shall we not strive for something more?"

A hush fell over the crowd. KP-9643 stood, panting, eyes brimming with the tears of his zeal. No one could look at him and think he doubted his words. Slowly, a man in the front row stood. He was a small man, his jumpsuit ill-fitting, and his shoulders slumped with the weight of many a burden too great to bear. But before KP-9643 he rose to his full height, standing tall and unbowed. His lips trembling, he looked the other man in the eye and spoke.

"Is this going to take much longer? My shift starts in twenty minutes."

As he left the room with others, RL-1472 began to wonder what the woman who announced the times for the night cycle looked like.