Message in a Bottle

It had been a long day in the factory for worker number 463b/2. It continued to be a long day. The company had issued a factory-wide announcement declaring an increase of hours and the restraining clamps had not released come the scheduled relaxation period. Instead, 463b/2 found themselves pumped with another intravenous dose of nutrient gruel and patented Stimulant™ and scheduled to work for another 72 hours.

The head restraint that usually kept them focused on the task at hand had come loose a few days, perhaps as much as a week ago - it was hard to tell, time seemed different in the sterile white environment of the factory - and with the extra workload the maintenance drones had not been despatched to repair it, affording 463b/2 a level of freedom in their movement they were entirely unaccustomed to.

Somewhere between 12 and 24 hours into their extended shift, 463b/2 overcame their fear of reprisals and moved their head further than the prescribed 1 inch of movement deemed necessary for efficient operations. Using their new freedom of movement they looked around them. To the left sat an empty employee harness, to the right 463b/2 could make out another harness but their colleague wasn’t moving. In fact, straining to see with their peripheral vision, 463b/2 noticed the flesh on the limp hand was a pallid grey, unhealthier even than their own skin, as it was made to seem under endless fluorescent lights.

Feeling possessed by a strange confidence, 463b/2 tried to speak in violation of their employee contract. They forced a choking question “Are you okay?” past their feeding tube but there was no response. Whether they were being ignored or the colleague was unable to respond 463b/2 didn’t know.

While they had been distracted, the work area had become jammed as work had gone uncomplete. A blinking light in 463b/2’s HUD revealed they had been automatically fined for failing to met the per-minute quotas and additional shift time had been scheduled. It wasn’t the warning light that concerned them though, it was the concern itself. Clearly, the pacification drugs were no longer flowing. Something was wrong, 463b/2 just knew it. Looking down at the workstation, now jammed with excess products, 463b/2 knew what they had to do. The factory’s automated systems had failed, they were trapped and they needed to send a message.

Unfortunately 463b/2 had no way to send a message but then an idea formed. Perhaps they could deliberately trigger an inspection by quality control and save themselves and their colleagues from dying here, unattended to by the now malfunctioning employee harness systems. As long as quality control wasn’t also affected, the bad product would never reach the consumers, instead being quarantined by the QA department and they’d soon get rescue, even if it would mean additional indentured labour due to abuse of company policies. It was better than starving to death in an employee harness.

463b/2 put the white bottle sweet in the bag, sealed it and pushed it back onto the conveyor, knowing that they were a hero and help would be coming soon.