12 Days of Fiction 2018, Day Two
An Interview With Primus, Part II
Primus stares at me. Is that sadness I see in his eyes? He is the most difficult person to read I have ever met, and that is saying much. I wonder how much is due to his nature. Let’s find out.
“We also don’t like the connotations,” he says.
“But they’re there. Would you rather prefer the old term?”
“Cyborgs? Not really. The word has been abused so much. At first, people tended to define a cyborg, rather simply, as a human with robot parts. That’s of course ridiculous, but the entertainment industry back then made that popular. A more correct approach is that of a human with artificial organs, and in the beginning it was always due to medical reasons. Calling those artificial organs ‘cybernetic’ wasn’t always correct, either. In its broader sense, someone with, say, a pacemaker was a cyborg.”
“You’re playing with semantics, Primus.”
“Am I? Let’s see, aren’t you connected right now, checking the truth behind my answers?”
“Right. And you’re doing it using your assistant implant.”
“An implant that everybody has, and which is grafted into the body as soon as possible. It becomes a part of you, so much so that nobody who isn’t yourself could use yours, Ms Vonn, supposing it was taken away and transplanted.”
I confess I shudder at the thought. Who would want to do that?
“But we are born without them, Primus,” I protest.
“Yes, certainly. Yet, again broadly speaking, today all members of the human race are cyborgs. Or ahumans. We don’t like to draw differences.”
“Let me put it this way, then. You choose to live here.”
“We do. But we are free. Anyone can leave.”
“Yet nobody does. Why is it that?”
“You should have to ask them.”
“All of them, Primus? That’s absurd.”
“I could set up a poll right now for you if you want.”
“Of course. I’m as connected as you are. More, I’d have to say.”
“More… I’ll come back to that in a moment, but please, let’s forget about that poll, since I’m more interested in your opinion: why do ahu… your people choose not to leave?”
Primus gazes at me. His perfect skin shows no crease, no sign of uneasiness now. He answers slowly.
“I’d have to say… purpose. They find purpose. We work in all manners of projects to help advance humanity, as you well know. It’s hard work, and highly rewarding.”
Why does it sound to me like a rehearsed speech. I tell Primus so.
And he surprises me.
“I’m sorry, Ms Vonn. It is. I have thought of it myself many times, and the truth is, I really don’t know! If I wanted to find out, I’d really have to set up that poll. But somehow I feel like that’s… intruding, if you understand what I mean. People have the right to remain for their own reasons. I respect those.”
I am not sure I like that answer, but I take a mental note, file it with my assistant for later, and take a different approach.
“And you, Primus? Why are you here? Why do you remain? You said you’re not the leader of your people, yet you have been the… let’s say most visible figure since… well, forever. First among equals. Has it ever been another Primus? Another First among equals?”
“The first part of that question is easy. This is my home. That is why I’m here.”
I catch him stealing a glimpse towards the windows, and the sky beyond.
“I’ll tell you more about that later, Ms Vonn. But about the second part of the question, well, apparently there’s been no need to change.”
“In… three hundred years?”
“Yes. We hold… it’s not exactly an election, but that’s the closest term. And to put it mildly, I keep being elected.”
“You’re the benevolent dictator, then.”
“You don’t pull any punches, Ms Vonn. No, I’m merely the director. Decisions are reached by consensus. Or a majority vote if it comes to that, and before you ask, my vote is not decisive. I’ve always respected the results.”
“Have they ever voted against you?”
“Yet you insist you are not a dictator.”
“I am not. If a vote went against me, I’d respect it.”
The human race has advanced a lot, but we still have undesirable elements amongst us. I have been lied to by some of those, as you well know, and I noticed they were doing it. Either Primus is the best liar in the universe, or he is telling me the truth.
“Would you… step down as speaker, or director, in that case?”
“That’s not how it works, Ms Vonn. But it’s even easier: I don’t need a contrary vote. If at any time I was requested to leave my position, I would. As simple as that.”
“Yet that doesn’t happen,” I cannot refrain myself.
“No. It does not.”