Victorville was renowned for its revolutionary technological and medical advances. James and his wife Olivia were the power couple who were the major contributors. The government honoured them with a prestigious award and this year, the people elected James to be their leader. Recently, Victorville was regarded as the happiest and best nation to live in.
News flash: A milky white skin toned lady with blue eyes and golden wavy tresses appeared on a holographic screen, “To the people of Victorville, I am glad to share that President James has passed a new tax bill. He will now address the nation.”
President James, dressed in a black tuxedo, said, “Victorville has been a thriving nation for years. To keep that going, there have been a few reformations based on the member council’s advice. The new tax is called Elysium tax; which will maintain a balance between people’s happiness and sadness. Victorville is not a place where the rich keep growing rich and the poor continues to be poor, and the Elysium tax will benefit everyone. The details will be rolled out shortly. Thank You.”
After a few months-
“Q Barbie, a certain group of people doesn’t seem to be affected by the Elysium tax. Neither they are happy nor are they sad; therefore, they aren’t paying any tax to the government. How do we handle that?” A purple-haired, boy with round spectacles was inquisitive.
“You mean to say that I too am not paying tax!?” Q Barbie spewed with malicious glee.
The boy went chalk-white, “Oh no…not at all! I didn’t mean to offend you, Madam!”
“What’s the quarterly happiness tax showing?”
“The 4th quarter increased 15.1%,” said the boy nervously.
“Hmm…why is it so low? Can someone explain?”
There was pin-drop silence. Everyone in the room swallowed dryly.
“Summon your useless leader. NOW!”
Q Barbie glared at the boy and he ran frantically across the ‘Blue Mansion’ searching for the President.
Finally, he found him. The boy informed him and James said, “Thanks, Jeff. You may leave now.”
As soon as their eyes met, James felt a sharp throbbing pain in his chest. He felt connected to him but didn’t know why!
As James walked through the corridor, he saw Jeff walking happily toward his mother on the other side. He felt something strange in his chest. “This way, Sir,” the guard broke his reverie and he continued to walk towards the President’s office.
“D.I.S.P.E.R.S.E” Q Barbie muttered furiously under her breath and the room turned to an empty nest within seconds.
“James, my darling…oops…my creator, my Godfather!” Q Barbie slid her arms on him. James didn’t respond at all.
“Well, you must obey your Q Barbie aka QUEEN BARBIE!” He frowned but stayed mum.
“Mmm…let’s show you something.” She pressed some key on her wristband and a screen came alive in front of them. She typed in a code that opened a laboratory area where a woman was tied up on a revolving chair; it was the same lad whom he had seen with Jeff.
“Look at her, Olivia…your wife…do you remember?”
James’ eyes widened in alarm and he said in a composed tone, “please…leave her alone”
“Yeah, she is indeed alone there. She is the only human in that trial. Now, DO AS I SAY!”
Flash News: Elysium tax revised! Based on your tax score, you will get additional benefits like traveling to your dream destination, getting deals on electronics, discounts, offers, etc. People who are facing adversity will earn brownie points and bitcoins.
Randomization was the thumb rule. A nanocomputer decided who would receive a lottery prize or a penalty fine. With this scheme, the government was pleased with good returns from the Elysium tax.
People were happy and in turn, their happiness tax score hit the roof. Those people who were sad or depressed gained bitcoins. All this didn’t last long. Soon, there was chaos among people as bank accounts never had stable funds, they either ran high or low. They were clueless about how their emotional state was being traced.
Jeff had noticed the change in the ambiance of Victorville.
“You know last week my sister graduated. We all were so happy and immediately our bank accounts got debited. We lost most of our hard-earned savings due to which my dad suffered an attack. The other moment, there was an influx in our bank accounts as my mom and sis sobbed inconsolably over my dad’s health. What kind of a tax is this?” Jeff’s friend shared his family’s plight.
Jeff thought, at this rate, people would go psychotic or develop mental disorders and decided to raise this issue with the President. Olivia noticed Jeff’s restlessness, “Son, calm down. It is not in your hands.”
“Mom, how can a leader be so cold-blooded? President James must do something.”
Olivia knew it wasn’t James’s fault; after all…
“People are going crazy, Mom. They don’t know whether they should be happy or sad!”
Olivia’s eyes welled up, “James, I mean, the President cannot help you. He is not to be blamed.”
“Mom, why do you have to support him when his actions are clearly wrong?” fumed Jeff.
“Son,” just then the alarm rang and Olivia spun around sharply, “I need to go now, we will talk about this later but remember do not do anything stupid!”
She burst into a frenzied run as it was her shift to serve Queen Barbie. Jeff stared at his taropad*. He started reviewing some articles about Victorville and its history. His eyes went wide when he saw an article on James and Olivia. He tried to press a key but it showed ‘failed attempt’.
“Come on, this is my last chance,” murmured Jeff and tried one last time; “it worked!”
Flashback (FB) 1:
Victorville was hit by the ‘ribovirus’ pandemic. Many suffered from viral infections. It was then 2 leading scientists couple developed an effective vaccine against ribovirus. They had a surplus amount of vaccine production with the help of Q Barbie; which safeguarded not only Victorville but also neighbouring nations.
James and Olivia were happily married and held their newborn son. James loved his baby boy dearly. They were a happy family. Q Barbie too loved playing with the little one.
Jeff was stunned to know that the baby was him and James was … before he could see more, Olivia was back.
“Mom, why do you work so late for Q Barbie?” He hid his taropad hurriedly.
“Son, it is my duty,” Olivia said sadly. Her phone beeped. Her sadness earned her bitcoins.
“Mom, where is Dad?” Olivia was numb, her mind went blank and dived into the past.
“Olivia, QB is fabulous. The combination of human cloning and robotics, recombinant programming, algorithms, everything has worked extremely well so far. The trial algorithm run of human emotions has shown positive results. If this works, we will soon have ‘Fembots’ (human robots).” James was thrilled.
“Be careful honey, this trial run is knotty and your alpha model QB is extremely intelligent of all your creations.”
“Yes, but still, she is nothing but an extraordinary humanized robot. She still will not feel. She doesn’t have a real heart.”
QB overheard their conversation and was hurt. This was not the first time she heard this but she felt that James was just using her for his motives. QB grew jealous and harbored vengeance. She worked hard, programmed and re-programmed herself on developing human emotions. During this process, she also developed hatred towards her creator, James!
Once again, the nation was hit with another ribovirus variant and James reinstated his vaccine production. He had assigned the task of vaccinating people to QB and her team. QB vaccinated everyone and slyly, she injected a radioactive molecule that could be tracked/altered. She gave repeatedly high doses of this molecule to James stealthily. QB was successful in turning him ‘alexithymic’ i.e. emotionless.
Olivia never imagined that QB could do this to them! She confronted her. “Why did you do this”
“Because he loves you, and not me! He thinks I don’t have a heart. Well, I do!”
Olivia wailed and barely contained her scream.
“Now, it’s your turn to be my slave. I am your master! You shall obey me or your little baby will be on my trials.”
Olivia reminisced about her past and tears rolled down incessantly while the phone buzzed. “Mom, Mom…” Jeff’s voice brought her back.
“Listen, Jeff, you do not have to get into all of this. You will leave this nation and go far off to a land where you can live peacefully.”
“I am not going anywhere, not without you and my dad, James!” She was blown away by his confident revelation.
“How…who told you?”
“So, I am right, eh? That heartless leader is my dad!?”
“He is NOT…heartless. HE IS NOT! He loved you a lot. He is the most loving, caring husband and an extraordinary scientist who created a humanized robot for the first time ever. He created robots very similar to humans using his innovative technology (human cloning plus robotics). His successful alpha fembot with high AI is QB, I mean Q Barbie, who overpowered us and ruined our lives. She is the real mastermind, not James. She rules Victorville, not James, he is just her pawn! She was not like this when she was born. She was simple, kind, and cheerful. But, when the algorithms were upgraded, gradually she developed emotions. This was his first research trial on human emotions and fembots. We didn’t know that she would develop such feelings for your father. She desired to become his wife. But when he denied it, she turned our whole world upside down.
Oblivious to James, Q Barbie stole the blueprint of his research, learned the know-how, and altered the programming of other robots as well.” A chill froze Jeff to his spot hearing all of this.
The next morning, during the council meeting, Jeff’s eyes were glued to James and QB, her team, and their reactions. He admired Q Barbie for the first time; she looked angelic. He wondered how his father might have created such a gorgeous female robot. He pinched himself to regain his senses. Although he had always found them weird, he did chat and work with QB’s team every day. He decided to find out a way to save his father and the people from her devilish acts.
“People are going berserk. Wing A, D, and G are happier while Wing B, C, E, and H are quite depressed. Here are the reports.” He informed QB.
“Hmm…nice. So, this means we can see an exponential rise in the next quarter.”
“Definitely,” replied the secretary. James heard everything but did not respond to any of it. He was devoid of any emotions and now Jeff understood why.
“Keep this going in all the wings. If necessary, ask them to pop this pill.” Q Barbie threw a blister pack containing pink capsules to the secretary.
“What is that?” Jeff gawked in disbelief.
Q Barbie stared at him as if awaiting an explanation but replied, “nothing but a vitamin supplement.”
“Oh okay; can I have one?”
“Sure.” Jeff took a few and decided to analyze them in dark.
All his friends regularly updated the quandary of society due to the Elysium tax. Some people enjoyed trips to distant lands while some started suffering from mental health disorders. A few simply forgot how to behave normally – they laughed a minute and the next, they started crying!
The government was the least impacted. Q Barbie was growing powerful and invincible now. She was proud that humans were now controlled by a robot. Her dream was to make robots “the rulers of this planet”, not just Victorville!
She was almost successful in taking her revenge on humans, for she made them sitting ducks. Most of the common people didn’t know this fact.
Olivia knew everything but she couldn’t help. That night, Jeff took the pills and went to the lab for testing. In the middle of his analysis, he heard footsteps approaching and hid under the desk. Beep, beep, ‘power low’ came a feeble voice. He peeped out and saw Q Barbie and her whole team inside the lab. Q Barbie pressed the green button and the area was swapped with powered recliners. She sat on the throne-like red recliner and others took the black ones. Thankfully, his desk was not swapped. Her team members started unzipping their blouses. Jeff shut his eyes tight. He heard a buzzer and saw that all of them were plugged into the power cord in the recliner and a holographic screen popped up. Q Barbie fed something in it. She then unwinded herself first, recharged herself, and was scrolling through her taropad.
“If this pill works, all the humans will be alexithymia. Or else they will lose their mental balance.” Q Barbie said in a low voice to her assistant Zara.
“I think our first target should be that boy with round spectacles.”
“Yeah. I saw him taking multiple packets of the pill from the storeroom today.”
“Hmmm. I See!”
“Are you feeling upset?”
“How dare you? Why will I feel upset?”
“Sorry. You…you seem to have earned bitcoins.”
“L E A V E!” Q Barbie hissed at Zara.
Q Barbie murmured as she walked near the desk where Jeff was hiding, “I don’t know why but I do feel for you, Jeff. I don’t wish to cause any harm to you.” She took some files and left the lab.
Jeff heaved a sigh of relief and stood up. He started scrutinizing all of their networks. His eyes blinked slowly, taking it in; he got hold of something and sprang into action.
The next morning-
Q Barbie and her team felt a change in their power and also in their blue nanochip system. The wireless tuning also was different.
Q Barbie suspected some foul play and racked her AI.
She bellowed ferociously, “JAMES! What have you done to me, to all of us?”
“I have not done anything.”
“You are a liar. You played with my blue nanochip.”
“Not him, me! It was ME!” Said Jeff coldly from the holographic screen, watching everything.
“You silly boy! What have you done?”
“Saving lives. Saving Victorville from your evil clutches.” Jeff corrupted the blue nanochip and the entire network which led to the deactivation of all fembots.
Jeff successfully saved Victorville not only from Elysium tax but also from Q Barbie. Q Barbie rested in Victorville’s robotics museum.
Dan, James’s best friend, developed ‘DJO12 pill’ to treat alexithymia. Although this pill was still under trial; it had shown promising results. Dan suggested treating James with this pill. James’s condition started improving within a few months and he recognized his son and wife but there was a long way to go.
Fembot – Feminine humanoid robot
Taropad – a fictitious name given in this story for “I-Pad”
Nanochip – a miniature of integrated circuit/electronic or computer component