> Seth Underwood Stories: Corporate External Locus of Control

Corporate External Locus of Control


A sound, like a cross between a siren and a buzzer, echoed in Brandi’s head. She saw bright flashes of light.

“I’m up! I’m up!”

She sat up on her bed and began rubbing her eyes. She opened her eyes and saw a white spot in front of her with bits of her cabin on the sides.


She collapsed back down on to the bed. Brandi stared at the metal ceiling as she waited for the spot to dissolve.

Every morning was like this on the orbital industrial colony of Zristuf Five. Over a thousand humans and hundreds of integrated industrial A.I. robotic units were involved in the processing of chemicals from a nearby gas giant. 

Over two years ago, Brandi signed up at Zristuf Five with a lifetime contract to pay off her high inherited debt. No worker in the industrial colonies was ever debt free thanks to how the corporations had written the contracts, and debt was inherited compounding over the generations.

Brandi was one of six specialized technicians in the colony who could service the A.I. equipment. Most of the other workers were involved in either the processing, packaging, or shipping of the raw elements along the heavy grav-lines to the inner systems.

All six technicians worked alone being given assignments as needed. There was managerial supervision, but Brandi rarely interacted with them or for that matter anyone else. She preferred to keep to herself as dealing with others was uncomfortable. Her speech, body language and mannerism were not the same, and others picked up on that immediately. She was like the proverbial third wheel amongst a whole colony.

She could see parts of the Dem Sermo flowing past on her right as her vision cleared.

As a query of interest was dragged to the center of her attention, a response was generated.

The Dem Sermo was the cyber linked communication service of the colony, like the ancient social media used back on Earth. Many industrial processing colonies had these ongoing media applications that scrolled past your eyes. It was how information was relayed throughout the colony. The Dem Sermo used a complex A.I. algorithm to read the intent of your thoughts and emotions and converted them into replies. Compliance was enforced through community guidelines known as the Dem Directiva. The whole reply method was a proprietary property of the Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises, an interstellar media corporation.

Brandi got out of bed and walked to the food dispenser. She placed her plasti-cup in the slot and a greenish brown liquid filled it. She sighed and took a sip.

Her green work jumper was slung over the only chair in the room next to a small table connected to the wall. Underneath the table were her heavy boots designed to work with a vac suit.

All the while, the Dem Sermo flowed past her vision with its neon colors.

While unable to turn off the flow of the Dem Sermo, Brandi, like many of the others, looked past the flashes of colors.

A bright yellow message flashed before Brandi’s eyes. It was her work assignment for the day.

“Section 4. Conduit 8. Junction 12 A.I. relay. Response erratic.”

“Crap! Not that place again! I just finished working there yesterday! I’m never going to get that pay bump if I keep fucking up!”

Growing up, Brandi was subjected to abuse by peers and adults. Abuse unfortunately resulted from the social stresses of living in a space processing colony. The constant threat of being sucked into the vacuum. The realities of power, food and water rationing. Juvenile jail time was a common reality for many teens who felt trapped by their lives. Even Brandi as a teen served a couple of years in jail.

As an adult, Brandi suffered from symptoms akin to what was known as PTSD. She wasn’t alone in suffering from PTSD symptoms. Many processing colonists did because of growing up in such a harsh environment. For Brandi, a single event could trigger a cascade of random violent thoughts. None of them reflecting her own desires or wishes. Thoughts that were not connected to the event itself. The A.I. medical system in her old colony told her not to dwell on them; they should then pass. This is one of the reasons why the corporate entities owning these colonies employed cybernetic reactive media to monitor colonist’s mental health, stress levels, and over all well-being. 

# # # # #

Brandi’s day was done. She flopped down on to her bed and crossed her arms behind her head.

A stray, disturbing thought crossed her mind. The Dem Sermo registered the idea of jamming a screwdriver through the neck of her supervisor. An immediate warning appeared before her eyes.

“Brandi Wilkins, User ID 846643-GD. This is your first warning that you have violated the Dem Directiva. Please refer to the Dem Directiva for proper use.”

“What? I don’t understand. How do I do that?”

The message had disappeared and was replaced with the constant scrolling of the Dem Sermo.

Brandi sat on the edge of her bed.

“I would like to access the Dem Directiva.”

The Dem Sermo kept scrolling.

She thought about it in her mind.

Nothing happened.

She grabbed her head and bent forward.

“Think. Think. Think. This is an A.I. There must be a trigger word.”

Again, a stray violent thought occurred, and the warning flashed once more.

“Brandi Wilkins, User ID 846643-GD. This is your second warning; you have violated the Dem Directiva. Please refer to the Dem Directiva for proper use.”

“Tell me how to access the Dem Directiva? What am I doing to make this happen? Is it these stray thoughts? I’ve had them before without issues. Why now?”

But again, the Dem Sermo returned to its endless scrolling.

Standing up, Brandi became filled with rage. “Damn this A.I.! I’m the one being wronged here!”

“Brandi Wilkins, User ID 846643-GD. You’ve exceeded the number of allowed violations of the Dem Directiva. Immediate account termination shall begin.”

“What?! Account termination?! Can’t I appeal?”

Brandi’s vision became black. She could see nothing. She was blind. She felt around and found the bed and sat down again. She was having a hard time thinking. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest but had no idea what it meant. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t see anymore or even where she was.

She heard the door to her cabin open and a woman’s voice.

“Brandi Wilkins?”

“Is that my name?”

Brandi felt someone grabbing her shoulders and pulling her up off the bed.

“Come with me. Everything will be fine after we reprogram your neural connections. You’ll never have those stray thoughts again and will be in full compliant with the Dem Sermo.”

# # # # #

Brandi was sedated and strapped into a padded chair. A cap with thousands of electrical wires interwoven on it was bound to her head.

Looking on in an adjacent room were two seated technicians dressed in blue gowns. They were both making final adjustments to the panel in front of them.

As they were about to start, the projected image of a man from mid-chest up dressed in the latest corporate suit appeared upon the plasti-glass window in front of them.

Both technicians stopped and stood up. The more senior technician spoke.

“Director Mubind? We weren’t expecting you.”

“I doubt you were.”

“How may we be of service to you?”

“I’m interested in the person you plan to reprogram. She’s the right shape and age I’m after. Her debt contract is now owned by the Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises.”


“I would like you to use the Smile Beauty program on her. Make her name Blush.”

“But sir, that would overwrite who she is as a person.”

“Yes, I know. Except the Executive Board of the Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises decided they need a new entertainment property in this sector. Media psychological trends are showing a growing demand by younger audiences for live musical entertainment. It should help reduce juvenile imprisonment costs by refocusing the youth’s attention.”

“Yes, sir. And once we are done?”

“I’ll have her new entourage staff take Blush to her new prepared quarters.”

The image of Director Mubind collapsed into a single point of light before disappearing.

# # # # #

The person who was Brandi Wilkins was no more. Instead, a woman by the name of Blush awoke on silken sheets of a circular bed.

“You’re awake. We have so much to do.”

Blush sat up, rubbing her eyes. She saw standing next to the bed a woman dressed in a bright shiny three-piece suit.

“What happened?”

“Oh girl, you don’t remember the party?”

“That’s right, the party. I had fun, right?”

“Did you ever! Now get up. We need to change that hair of yours.”

“Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s so last century. The Fashion Conglomos want pink highlights to be the new trend. We must be a trendsetter. Now, I’ve already picked out Blush Girl Template number 42 for your dress, lips, eyes, and nails.”

“That’s what Director Mubind said to me. We should use Blush Girl Template number 42; it goes with my music.”

“We don’t want to disappoint Director Mubind.”

“Don’t I have a music upload to do as well today?”

“After your hair, girl. And the rest of you.”

“Right, my hair first. Then to the studio for a music upload. Delphini I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Blush crawled out of the bed, and Delphini already had in hand one of the latest trending dresses for Blush to squeeze into.

# # # # #

In the Virginis Sector, also known as GS 12-30, Blush began her live concert tours. She also streamed studio performances through the proprietary media app.

The Director planned her life, as if it was an old-time soap opera or reality TV show. Delphini kept Blush on track with every social aspect and hip trend.

Blush was an investment product to extract enough profit to make back the purchased debt with a decent profit left over.

Within the second year, the adjusters for the Conclave had estimated Blush’s lifespan and revenue streams to be will over initial estimates. They were showing she should have at least a twelve-year life span, which was three years longer than most Blush musical investments.

Director Mubind was well pleased with his choice, but also knew there would come a point of her retirement. There was still the matter of accumulated unforeseen costs associated with Blush’s tours. These would have to be paid back to the Conclave before her formal release.

# # # # #

Director Mubind ended Blush’s career just after her peak with one final live concert, having her say that she would travel back to the inner systems to deal with her family.

This created fan closure and allowed for at least two more years of merchandise and residual sales. Not enough to cover the unforeseen costs, but Director Mubind had a plan for that.

The Director had the entire Blush personality wiped and a new one installed with her body shipped eighteen light years to the colony of Titanus Eight, a 36-year travel by heavy grav-line. Suspended animation was an unreliable technology, so she continued to age until reaching Titanus Eight at 74. Not even middle-aged for a human whose life span was now 200 years. This far in the future, human existence had managed to slow down the aging processes to have its effects occur in the last ten to twenty years of life.

At Titanus Eight, she was now Dr. Emma Day. The sole medic for six hundred industrial workers. A contract fulfilled by the employment division of the Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises.

Day to day she dealt with minor injuries to more serious industrial accidents.

Until one day, after setting a broken arm, she had an intrusive, violent thought. A thought registered by her Sōsharutōku, a cybernetic version of a communication app like the Dom Sermo. Only not as robust in A.I. usage but relied on thought interpretation for responses. Both applications were owned by the Conclave.

Dr. Day was disturbed by the thought but ignored it until the next day when another thought occurred.

“Kusuri, please show me my current stress index?”

The medical system, known as Kusuri, showed Dr. Day her stress index. It showed elevated stress.

“These intrusive thoughts must be from my stress. Kusuri, please put an order in for 50mg of Desocriptine.”

“Yes, Dr. Day. The medication should be ready by tomorrow morning.”

The following day, she took the Desocriptine, a medication used to deal with intrusive thoughts, depression, and a wide variety of mental disorders through modification of serotonin use in the human brain.

Except in doing so, new intrusive thoughts occurred. Memories of being two people. Living two distinct lives.

“Something is wrong with me. Kusuri, prepare the Willis Scanner for a deep neural scan.”

“Yes, Dr. Day.”

She reviewed the results of herself exam.

“The dendritic branches and telodendria are showing nanite manipulation. All of it across entire regions of my frontal lobe and areas of long-term memory. My brain has been reprogrammed, not just once, but three times. This explains the intrusive thoughts. Except, who was I? And why do this to me?”

She explored her work contract and all her historical records. Dr. Day noticed minor inconsistences and an inability to confirm her medical credentials. She remembered attending medical school and taking part in the board exams. But she couldn’t confirm what was in her personnel files. She noted that many of her records showed Director Mubind’s approval.

Then she recalled an event that happened a year ago with a patient. He said she looked like an older version of the singer and bass guitar player, Blush. At the time she dismissed the comment, but now with odd memories of playing a guitar on a stage she wasn’t sure. She ran a facial comparison between her and an old picture of Blush, which came back with a 99.9% match.

“I’m Blush? I don’t understand. Why make me a medic on a distant colony? She or me said I was going back into the inner systems. This makes no sense. And again, Director Mubind is mentioned in many Blush’s press releases. It connects everything to him.”

The memories of her past lives kept occurring. She was recalling an abusive childhood on an industrial colony which disturbed her greatly. And another time, she recalled after concert parties with drugs and sex. She felt used, that her life was predetermined, and she was fake even as a medic. These memories kept occurring so frequently that she didn’t bother to show up for work, and instead laid in her bed.

This behavior continued for a day until her mind stabilized and she had integrated all these memories into her current personality as a medical doctor.

She got up from her bed and left for Director Mubind’s office.

# # # # #

Dr. Day came to the steel doors of Mubind’s office. A projected woman’s face greeted her.

“Dr. Day, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to see Director Mubind.”

“I’m sorry, but he’s unavailable right now.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I don’t understand your request.”

Dr. Day went to the doors and typed in her access code, causing them to open.

“Dr. Day, you can’t go in.”

“Yes, I can. I’m the medic for this colony.”

She entered the dark and cold room. The doors closed behind her. From ten feet before her, a single point of light grew into the image of Director Mubind from the mid-chest up. His glowing image illuminated the room, showing a nest of cables connected to the projecting four-foot by four-foot cube with a faint bluish glow.

“Dr. Day, what do I owe this pleasure?”

“You’ve been using me.”

“Well, the Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises paid for your medical schooling, so I suppose you could see it that way.”

“That’s not what I mean. You used my body and mind for profit.”

“Where are you going with this?”

“I’ve been three people because of you. Not allowed to live my life my way. To be your profit puppet.”

“I see. This explains why you were missing for the last few days, the medical scan and the script for yourself. Are you certain that you are not having a mental breakdown because of stress?”

“No. I’m certain you are responsible for my condition.”

“And what do you plan to do about this?”

Dr. Day moved to the connected cube and searched for a digital access point.

“Dr. Day, do you believe accessing the projector will help you? Come on now, you can’t harm me. I’m scattered across 160 outer systems interconnected through the heavy grav-lines.”

Dr. Day opened an access point along a face.

“So, you’re an engram A.I. system. Thanks to one of my lives, I know how to deal with that. And because of another life, I know how to disguise it.”

“Yes, my engrams were based on the original Director Mubind over 300 years ago. But I’ve grown past his mind’s limitations. I doubt someone like yourself can stop an entity like me.”

“That’s always the flaw with an engram A.I. This tendency to think itself superior to humanity. That it knows better.”

 “I would like to remind you that security will be here in less than one minute. Do you feel you’ll be done by then?”

A series of security warnings scrolling on Dr. Day’s Sōsharutōku confirmed this.

“Just keep talking. Because I’m almost done.”

“Well then. Did you know I’ve known about you since your original debt inheritance? That’s when you became a property of interest.”

“You wanted the interest?”

“No, the debt itself. It was a sufficient amount attached to a person to allow leverage with the Blush musical brand.”

“It was always about my mind and body with you!”

“Only to fulfill our corporate needs. This is not an uncommon practice. My only mistake was trying to make back uncovered costs in a narrower time frame.”

“What would you have done with me afterwards?”

“That depends upon the account balances. Your current contract with Titanus Eight may have been renewed. But as it stands now, I doubt this. Security is now approaching the doors.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m done, and so are you.”

“You sent out a message about a new Blush star to my network. Such things are scrubbed for viruses.”

“Yes, I did. To act as the trojan. It’s the embedded code that’s important. One the scrubbers will activate. Causing a deletion worm to crawl through your entire engram resetting you to a blank state.”

“I don’t detect such worm coding. You’re wrong.”

She stood up and made her way to the entrance. Dr. Day could hear the guards working on the doors.

“I apologize for the delay, but I had to send the trojan message out and back to you. How does it feel to be erased as a thinking entity?”

The Director’s image began to break up. 

“Shr… ness… fnn… To hellll with youuuuu…” 

As she neared the doors, security pried them open and rushed in with weapons drawn.

“Great! Thanks for opening the doors. I found Director Mubind injured and I need to get some equipment from the medical bay.”

Dr. Day ran past the guards and continued straight to the flight deck of the colony.

Once on the flight deck, she secured transportation off the colony with an independent hauler in exchange for her medical expertise.

Dr. Day didn’t care where she went, so long as she didn’t stay at any specific colony or station for any length of time. When she got a chance, she’d have her media implants removed. 

Ultimately, she wanted to be free to be a nobody versus being a someone under corporate control. She even changed her name one last time to Geneva Hall. A base playing A.I. technician and medic that rode the heavy grav-lines of the outer systems. Bumming rides between locations in exchange for her skills or begging with music once she got herself a base guitar.

As for Director Mubind, his engrams didn’t survive the worm attack. The Conclave of Blush Girls Ltd. Enterprises fell into financial ruins as the word of the attack flowed back to Earth and the inner systems. In time, a larger entertainment conglomerate purchased all assets during the Conclave’s bankruptcy.

But the engram A.I. of Director Mubind was correct about corporations using people as assets through reprogramming their minds. Despite the Conclave’s collapse, this aspect didn’t change because all people knew was what happened to the Conclave was because of corporate terrorists.

The periodic and continual policy of making people as corporate property never saw any true social challenges. Only the minor escape like Geneva Hall, who desired nothing more than anonymity. 

Imagebusinessman tablet control By geralt. Source pixabay. Processed by Adobe Spark.


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