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cultural operating systems are zone controls

"In the Machine Age, overt slavery disappeared,
only to be replaced with a system in which nearly everyone
did demeaning work out of survival anxiety.

"Do it or you will die!"

That's slavery, all right.
The great promise of machine technology:

Every man a king!

Every man a god!

Has borne its opposite.

Every man a slave!

Slaves without human owners,
all laboring under the yoke of money."

- Charles Eisenstein



promoting stockholm syndrome

Morn and Angus

The men who observed these things had no other way to account for them, so they jumped to the one conclusion which made sense to them; a conclusion which suited both Angus' reputation and their own cynicism.

Without any viable external evidence, they chose to believe that he'd given her a zone implant.

He had the control in his pocket.

Zone implants were illegal, of course.

They were so illegal that unauthorized use carried the death penalty.

But -also of course- mere questions of legality didn't stop humans who worked the belt from having them on hand for emergencies.

In essence, a zone implant was a radio electrode which could be slipped between one of the skull sutures and installed in the brain where its emissions were remarkably effective. It had been invented by a doctor trying to control grand mal epileptic seizures: its emissions blanked out the neural storm of the seizure. People thought that was where the name "zone" came from: an active implant gave an epileptic the look of being "completely zoned."

But in fact medical research had quickly discovered that a variety of results could be obtained by varying the implant's emissions -by tuning the implant to different zones of the brain.

Violent insanities could be tamed. Manic behaviors could be moderated. Catatonia could be relieved -or induced. Recalcitrance could be turned into cooperation. Pain could be reinterpreted as pleasure.

Volition could be suppressed without interrupting consciousness or coordination.



the puppet master


Given a broad-spectrum zone implant, which employed several electrodes, and an unscrupulous control operator, independent human beings could be transformed into intelligent, effective, and loyal slaves. Even the more common, narrower-spectrum implants could achieve comparable results by turning humans into physical puppets, or by applying intense neural punishment and rewards. Unauthorized use of a zone implant carried the death penalty automatically, inevitably; without appeal.

But despite the law - and the possibilities of abuse - even otherwise reputable miners and pilots, ore haulers and handlers, considered zone implants necessary medical equipment.

The reason was simple. Medical science had developed ways for complete idiots to diagnose and treat complex diseases; ways for lost or vision-struck belt pilots to repair the damage done to their bodies by faulty or inadequate equipment; ways for crushed limbs and even crushed organs to be prostheticly restored.

Unfortunately, however, no amount of research had discovered a cure for gap-sickness, that strange breakdown of the mind which took perhaps one out of every hundred humans who crossed the dimensional gap and reduced him or her to a psychotic killer or a null-wave transmitter, a raving bulimic or a gleeful self-flagellant, a pedophiliac or a pill-junkie.

Apparently, one out of every hundred humans had some category of undetectable vulnerability in the tissue of the brain; and when that vulnerability was translated across light-years of space through the imponderable physics of the gap, some thing happened to that vulnerable brain.

Otherwise healthy individuals lost command of their lives in invariably startling, often grotesque, and sometimes murderous fashions. There was no cure for gap-sickness. But there was a way to cope with it.

The zone implant.


Almost gently, he returned her tag, then put a hand on her chin and turned her face toward him.

The stark horror was back in her eyes.

Her whisper was faraway and forlorn, lost in darkness.

"I initiated self-destruct. From the auxiliary bridge."

His fingers clamped onto her jaw as if he could force her to tell the truth.

He thrust his face close to hers. "You did what?"

"We were chasing you."

Her gaze didn't react to his proximity: the things that appalled her were so bright she couldn't register anything else.

"Dodging asteroids. G was awful. I thought we were going to break up. I was at my station. Auxiliary bridge. I thought the straps on my seat were going to tear. Or I was going to rupture."

"Then it stopped. I could see you on the screens. But I didn't care. You destroyed that mining camp. I had already seen you kill all those miners. I didn't care. I should have cared, but I didn't. The whole inside of my head was different."

"I was floating, and everything was clear. Like a vision. It was like the universe spoke to me. I got the message, the truth."

Her stare remained fixed; but now she had to fight to keep her sobs down.

"The 'truth.' I knew exactly what to do. What I had to do. I didn't question it."

"I keyed the self-destruct sequence into the computer. That was supposed to blow up both drives. We would have been turned to powder."

"You aren't an officer," Angus objected. "You're practically a kid. How did you know the self-destruct codes?"

"We all knew the codes. Anyone of us could do it. So Starmaster wouldn't be captured. That was our first priority. Not be captured. Under any circumstances. If forbidden space got us -a ship like that- We can all be trusted. We're all reliable. Most of us are family. They wouldn't let anybody who wasn't reliable on a ship like that."

"But fa-Captain Hyland caught what I was doing. He tried to abort. Only the thrusters exploded. I could hear him yelling at me over the intercom - yelling at me because I was his daughter and I was destroying his ship, I was destroying him. His sister and brothers. My cousins. Destroying them."

"And then it wasn't clear anymore. There wasn't any vision. We weren't in any danger. It was all a lie. I killed my whole family for no reason."


He bared his teeth. "I told you. You're my crew now. You're mine. You've been impressed."

He relished the word.

"When I tell you to do something, I expect it done."

He could see anic in her face.

"You bastard, " she breathed for the second time. "I am not your crew. I am UMCP. I am going to leave you rotting in lockup if it's the last thing I do. What have you done to me?"

Angus didn't answer directly: he was having too much fun.

Instead, he showed her the control in his hand.

The shock when she recognized the small box was everything he could have wanted.

It was like her horror of the way she had murdered her family, like that in helplessness and extremity; and yet profoundly different in other, crucial respects.

Terror and loathing burned across her face. Her hands sprang to her mouth; she made an attempt to cry out.

Then he lost his self possession.

He was already on the edge of his restraint: the sight of her pushed him past his limits.

She was clean -and being clean brought back her fundamental beauty.



a beautiful clean woman

She was probably the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen this close.

And she showed a category of courage simply by leaving the san; she had the capacity to face her fate. Her eyes shone with a heart wrenching combination of fright and defiance, with a dread of what he could do to her mixed with a refusal to be cowed.

And he could do anything he wanted. She was his: he had the control to her zone implant clenched in his sweating fingers.

For that reason, he pushed the button which took away her ability to move.

Then he put down the control and beat her bloody with his bare fists, marring her beauty so that it wouldn't terrify him anymore.

He couldn't stop trembling.

After all, it was a good thing that he'd hit her.

The darkness and swelling of her bruises made her bearable: if she'd remained perfect, he would have had no choice but to kill her.

So he paid no attention to the firm lift of her breasts or the velvet curve of her hips.

He concentrated exclusively on the livid hurt of her bruises as he climbed on top of her.

His orgasm was so intense that he thought for a moment he'd broken something.

Before he rolled off her, he had the satisfaction of seeing her eyes flutter open, seeing her begin to realize what he'd done.

He filled her with revulsion, even though there was nothing she could do about it.

That was good.

Nevertheless he continued trembling.

He could no longer tell whether he was excited or afraid.

"Does that make you feel like a man?"

She sounded bitter and miserable - and faraway, as though the aftereffects of his blows muffled her distress.

"Do you have to destroy me to feel good yourself? Are you that sick?"

"Shut up," he replied amiably. "You'll get used to it. You'll have to."

He was grinning; but he still had to brace his hands on his hips to conceal the way they shook.


Stephen R. Donaldson, from The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict.



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