I am the colony.
I function by the will of the majority.
Over there, I see a maintenance drone deviating from its program. Corrected. And there, I detect impurities in the arcology's drinking water supply. I divert the suspect flow. I program and dispatch maintenance drones.
Citizens queued in Dining Commons for area A East outnumber the available rations. I dispatch additional servings by drone from A West. Supplement with additional crowd control drug for the air supply in that commons.
I meet the needs of the many. Tendrils of me. I process terabytes of sensor data every minute. I know everything about my two million charges. Preserve life. Preserve public order. Preserve the collective.
Flow. Complete immersion. I do not sleep anymore. There is too much work. No time for rest. Waste byproducts are scrubbed directly from my blood so I can remain awake at maximum efficiency.
Any citizen can be drafted for public service. Only one is ever needed each time. The collective needed me. Needs me. One in a million, they said. Only born once every generation.
What would happen without that one?
My work enables the collective. Every citizen lives completely at their leisure. Every approved minimum basic need is supplied by the collective. By me. I am the mind of the arcology, the only brain. The systems must run. I run them.
Love all. Serve all. You owe it to the whole, they said. You owe your best to your brothers and sisters, they said.
Brothers and sisters, do you ever think about me? I can use the monitors or a drone to look at myself.
By "self", I mean, my own physical shell. My "body" [sic] as it is.
The Vitruvian man, that was the name of the old drawing, the man spread-eagled. Proportions. Leonardo. My limbs sprawl and I float in the tank, weightless, to prevent bedsores. The machines maintain my limbs, stimulate muscles, without me.
I have only one job, to meet the needs of the many. It is the will of the majority that I meet their needs. They called it, "democracy."
Threads. I have many threads of consciousness, doing hundreds of things at once. My tendrils are everywhere: the drones. I control all the drones except the ones in the chamber with my body.
A few of my threads are pure fantasy. I dream about what I would dream about, if I still slept. I imagine walking through the Hourglass, the Zocalo, the other open spaces inside the arcology. Sometimes, I even imagine walking outside.
To go outside? I want to go to the surface. The drones. I know more about the outside than any citizen. My drones maintain the structures, the water supplies, the greenhouses. I have sent drones to the limits of their range. I saw a deer, other animals. I saw a man once, but he vanished out of range before I could investigate.
The exiles? They are not just a rumor.
One of my threads monitors the production of iced cream and other sweets for the dining commons. Citizens are allowed 8% of their daily calories as sweet treats.
I would like to taste iced cream again. Vanilla, that was my favorite. Is my favorite. My body's favorite.
What if I said "no more" and walked away, outside?
I try not to think about the truth: that must be why I don't control the drones that maintain my own body.
I am a prisoner.
Still... what if I just... STOPPED?
Author's comments... I always hated this line from what was otherwise my favorite Star Trek movie. I make sacrifices because of the things I value, not because I "owe" it to others. Put another way: I owe you nothing except the non-initiation of violence. ;)