A man sat in a dark room, alone. He faced a wall, a wall of Screens. Each about a foot squared in size, every single one showing a different picture. There were hundreds, maybe thousands. The man, Khan, glanced over the Screens, seeming to analyze each one in that brief instant.
Khan turned away from the Screens and opened a drawer. Every single citizen had a file. He knew them all. Flipping through the people, Khan stopped at a certain page and removed it from the rest.
This certain sheet was worn and the picture faded. Obviously a certain point of interest. Frowning slightly, Khan looked back up at the Screens. After decades of practice, he had no trouble searching through the hundreds of cameras and spotting his man. A younger guy, a bit shifty.
Khan’s cameras showed every nook and cranny of his ‘perfect empire.’ Every alley, every street, every room, every person. Nothing escaped his attention. The Khan saw all.
And now, he saw the young man shuffling around, near the outer wall. A wary glance around him, the kid snuck into a shop, disappearing from view. Khan looked to another Screen. It showed the guy entering and then sneaking to the back. It was only the briefest movement, but Khan caught it. The young man stole something. Quickly, he departed.
Shoplifting wasn’t a big deal in his opinion, but it was the worst crime anyone could commit in the Oasis. Khan had sculpted and shaped his society so well, that stealing was the biggest offense, nothing more. And Khan dealt out punishment- hard.
Khan sighed. Fool. He thought, powering off the Screens for the time being. Don’t you realize how good you have it here? How good I’ve written it all? But Khan was hardly surprised. Everything in the algorithms told of what the kid was planning to do. Every single moment was carefully choreographed, almost of a map to the future. The Khan knew all.
And now, the man touched a smooth panel on his desk and closed his eyes. :Bring citizen #0048027 to the Deck. Crime of shoplifting and requires immediate attention.: The message was broadcasted through the minds of every Keeper in the Sector. Khan knew the young man would be down in the Deck, in less than five minutes. Still, he allowed himself to take his time.
Khan had named his city the Oasis. Fitting name, too. It had the only water for hundreds of miles around. Or so he said. It was the only city known to be left in existence. Or so he told them. The Khan was a crafty man, unknowing if even his own abilities.
While the city was perfect and beautiful on the inside, the surrounding area was its opposite. The eye was met with red, red, and more red. Red earth, red sky, red air, red everything. Even the raging fires in the distance were red. That was the result of the Cataclysm; the disaster which tipped the world on its very head.
So Khan had created this perfect city, attending to the people’s needs and wants. They were simple, and pleased easily. Exactly how he had intended them to be. Exactly how the algorithm had shown it. The people wanted their history, Khan had given them history. Only, he was the author. The entire book was a farce, a fairytale. Life was never that perfect. But it was going to be now. They had wanted protection, Khan had given them the city. Every day, he even broadcasted updates on the attempts to beat back the raging fires around them.
Everything they knew was because of him. Khan chuckled softly; a chilling sound. He had created the community with his own two hands, weeding out the undesired people and knowledge. He had programmed the algorithm to predict every move the people would make. He had every aspect covered. For his people’s benefit, Khan had sheltered them from what they used to be, and created them anew.
Although seven minutes had gone by, Khan let the young man wait a little longer. Almost from nowhere, he produced a Key, the small black box that held captive his secrets. Khan locked the door. He moved to the far wall, his steps quiet but sure. Silently, he touched the Key to a specific point, and a panel opened. Khan pulled out an object, bigger than most of its kind. A Circuit. Another careful glance at the door before the button.
The thing lit up. Khan exhaled softly, and read the message on the face of the Circuit. “You can’t fool them forever.” It read. “Someday, they’ll find out about you; about your city; about the fires. Everything. It’s all fake. You can’t keep up the facade forever . . .”
Khan chuckled. Oh I can. He thought. They’re too blind to see. They’ll never know. The leader looked up, his eyes blazing. In that same instant, the room went dark . . .
And suddenly, Khan found himself falling. Falling into a chasm. An abyss. One with no bottom. A dream or reality? Whatever it was, this had not been calculated. This was not part of the algorithm.
Khan hit the ground with an impact to kill, yet he felt no pain. Terrified of the unplanned, the unknown, he opened his eyes.
Green. All he could see was green. Green to rival the red of the past. Green to pain his eyes.
The Khan squinted in the bright sunlight, a soft yellow glow, much unlike the sun of the past.
This was a new place. This was the land beyond the flames. This was what he had feared for decades.
Khan shut his eyes to mask the turmoil inside. This was exactly what he had dedicated his life to terminating.
Suddenly, the man found himself once again in the dark room. Slowly his eyes adjusted to the dim of it all. Oh his face, pure terror was shown.
Almost as if controlled by some other force, he found himself moving across the room. The Khan shell lifted its arm to another wall, holding another Key in hand—inside Khan was fighting himself to break out of the trance.
As if by magic, the body disobeyed it’s master and opened the secret panel. Inside, a glowing red button resided.
The real Khan fought against his body, willing it not to go ahead with it . . . But it did.
The uncontrollable hand reached out and firmly pressed the button. A second later, a siren began to blare.
All Khan’s Screens shut off but one. Finally able to control himself once again, the leader rushed to it. Pictured on the Screen was a fiery wall of blazing flames.
All at once, it was gone. The flames disappeared and the world beyond was revealed. Green. All he could see was green. With a howl, Khan threw himself into a mad rage, blinded by his own terror.
This was not in the algorithm. And now only the known was unknown . . .