On that muggy spring morning, as teeming masses of people filed into the convention center, few could deny the importance of the meeting. There were men from the future, here! Here in Tampa, home of a museum, some pro sports teams, and now the greatest event since the wheel was invented. These men, although rumor had it one was a robot - honestly, who would believe that sort of thing anyway? Robots were for making cars, and being put together by bright eyed boys in ties at MIT or programmers in their flip-flops in Mountain View.
But as Ryan shook his imaginings loose and returned to the present, the idea of this meeting seemed more and more impossible. These men were supposed to sit and discuss the future, and the steps necessary to take towards the greatest good for mankind. How on earth did they even return here, and why now? The election had just passed, the troops were finally coming home, and things were starting to stabilize at home and abroad. He continued his musings as he wound his way through the lines of people, sweat beginning to form on their foreheads as they made their way inside. However it was that they returned, they were tight-lipped on the mechanics of their journey, allowing no one to see them before or after the discussion, eating their own food, breathing their own air through oddly shaped breathing apparatuses.
Ryan supposed it was for the best, he had read the Bradbury stories on time travel and his books at home had a good number of H.G. Wells stories within his voluminous collection. A cool blast of air distracted him from his thoughts, returning him to the present where he stepped through the door, emptied his pockets and walked through the full body scanner. Cleared, he made his way into the hall, where a table was set up on a low dais. There were three chairs, with three striking figures set down within them. One was not so striking in his appearance as much as strikingly normal. The small sign in front of his seat said "Stephen Byerly," although Ryan could only make it out on the projector screen looming large behind the table. The other two seats were taken by a bull of a man, broad and evidently quite strong at his age - "O'Brien", leaving the other seat to a dark, hooked nose man with terrible eyes, frightening in their darkness. "Mustafa Mond," his sign read and as Ryan found his row, the auditorium was plunged into darkness. As his eyes adjusted, climbing over the bags and feet of those surrounding him, he found his seat, although in his scramble for seating he missed the opening remarks.
Byerly, in his even toned voice, began by describing the future he came from: a united world, travel to the stars, cooperation between people groups in the name of the greater good. He didn't know it then, but that phrase would be repeated over and over through the evening - for the greater good. It was all for the greater good, wasn't it? If Byerly, in his pacifists platitudes could come here and encourage them to all get along, to let those with more understanding make the decisions for them, surely the others wouldn't follow the same track? He had heard rumors of Byerly's supposed composition - a clever fake, a robot meant to lull us into quietude, into submission to those who knew better. Byerly's words seemed to infuse the air with calm. He spoke of the end of capital punishment, of the rehabilitation of criminals through peaceful methods, the end of crime. He made multiple mentions of a group known as the Machine, who, through their care of humanity would guide them to a brighter future, who would end suffering and set up a golden age. Ryan at first assumed it meant a group of individuals, dedicated to working behind the scenes, ensuring the fair treatment and peaceful solution to the world's problems, but as Byerly continued in that calm, unwavering voice he possessed, Ryan came to the startling understanding that what was at stake was not the peace of mankind. It was their very self determination.
The Machine was just that: a machine, working to control the world's markets, the agriculture, the government, the actions of every individual. Could Byerly be trusted, in his calm words, his peaceful solutions, his seeming acceptance of the end of human agency? Ryan supposed not, but the talk was not through. Jumping in on Byerly's speech on the happiness of mankind, the necessity for happiness, Mond smiled a rictus of a grin and began. His speech was no less terrifying, though more convincingly given. Mond was a skilled orator, his voice echoing in the chambers of the hall with the reverberation of history seeming to join him. This was a speech to put in the history books, all light and glory, and hope. And yet.
And yet, as Mond worked his way into his main points, Ryan heard the eugenics, the removal of choice, the absolute control over those who subjugated themselves to the controllers. Mond spoke of every person having their place, a place for every person to live, work and enjoy their life. The removal of moral strictures that had felt uncomfortable at best, and destructive at worst. That the future government could be trusted to keep him happy, through things like feelies (what was a feelie anyway?) and the beauty of the individuals every one present would surely be surrounded in. It appeared that his happiness could be assured through the removal of every difficulty in his life, and the infusion of all the things he ever desired - sex, beauty, health, no worries or doubts to plague him as he fulfilled his drone-like job within the hive of his new society.
The words tumbled out, like water across a dry field, and Ryan could see people around him falling sway to the words, hypnotically painting a picture of a perfect world. Ryan wondered where the artists lived, where were the writers, and did he mention family at all? It seemed as though the speech was only aimed at the individual, and the perfect world they would inhabit. Born a skeptic, Ryan knew a thing was too good when he heard it, though Mond painted an arresting picture of future happiness.
O'Brien, the broad man, stood up at last and began. The world he described was not too different in fact from the one Ryan currently inhabited. Wars occurred, but the government was there to pick up the pieces, and make sure it stopped before anyone was really hurt. Factories operated at full capacity, the televisions and media were finally in accord without the horrible infighting and ridiculousness you saw in the political arena these days. Terrorist groups were being eradicated, and as far as O'Brien could tell, they had all been "gotten by the government." This world seemed more plausible, but still more frightening than the last.
Where was the right to dissent? Would one too many Occupy protestors bring about this world O'Brien described? It seemed as though people no longer trusted each other, because the government was the only thing that could be trusted. And oh, how curious was his speech! He spoke as a man unfamiliar with the language, with strange compounds that didn't seem to fit what Ryan heard from Mond and Byerly. What was this place he described? Government control, slow and insidious making people happy because they no longer had to worry about their decisions.
The speeches came to an end, and the press began their questions, but Ryan had had enough. He slipped out the back, taking a moment to be violently sick in one of the potted plants by the entrance. By the time he made it outside, dusk had fallen, and he felt his world spinning on its axis. This was his future? These worlds of control, of loss, of thoughtcrime and prole and feelie and machines? How do you respond to a world that thinks they know you better than you know yourself? He had joked with friends when the Patriot Act came into being, when SOPA, CISPA and all the rest had been fought, defeated, and then triumphed, when it seemed that his freedoms were being slowly eroded, that his future resembled something like this. And yet.
Hearing it from the lips of others, from other times, places, made it all the more real. Whatever it took, he would ensure this never occurred. Not in his lifetime, not if he could help it. And yet. What could he do? Making his way shakily to his car, opening the door to his Ford sedan and settling heavily in his seat, Ryan called his mother, his sisters, and finally his father. He wasn't sure if he would make it home that night, the weight of the future pressing on his chest like a strongman's weight. He wasn't sure if he wanted to, if all the things he saw in his society were leading towards these. And yet. Starting the car, he drove home, and started calling his friends. They would do something. Start something. The Brotherhood, maybe. or the Savages. They'd figure it out. Something had to be done.