Everything Perfect

by Karen Wu, age 13
Everything Perfect Karen Wu likes tomatoes.

“Meira woke up. It was Saturday, September 29, 2570. She opened the LifeGuide app. In the home page sat her life’s basic information.”

                

Name: Meira O’Kane

Biological parents: Ellen O’Kane and Jared O’Kane

Place of birth: Damariscotta, Maine, USA

Date of birth: August 8, 2555 (6:35 AM)

Date of euthanization: February 3, 2655

Biological sex: Female

Gender: Female

Blood type: A-

Handedness: Right

College: NYU

Profession: Criminal defense lawyer

Soulmate: Anna Vargha

 

Meira woke up. It was Saturday, September 29, 2570. She opened the LifeGuide app. In the home page sat her life’s basic information. Some of it hadn’t happened yet — she hadn’t been euthanized (duh, she wasn’t 100 yet), she hadn’t gone to college and become a criminal defense lawyer (she was only 15), and she hadn’t met Anna Vargha. Whatever. The Algorithm had it all figured out. This was her life.

The app told her she should go to Target at 10:07 AM to buy a gift for Jessa’s birthday. She could rest at home before then. She would meet a new friend there. That was exciting.

She hopped out of bed and went downstairs. Her mother had already taken this morning’s food out of the Murchiest.

“I want candy for breakfast,” Meira’s little sister, Mia, was complaining.

Meira rolled her eyes, sitting down at the table. “Stop whining. You’re such a baby. This parfait tastes great.” Meira shoved some in her mouth.

It was strawberry flavored. Meira liked blueberry better, but this was fine.

Mia stuck out her tongue at Meira. “You’re a baby! I want candy! And play with me after breakfast!”

Meira groaned.

“Now, now, Mia,” Mother chided. “You know this is the way things are. The Algorithm — ”

“I want candy!”

“If you eat candy, things won’t turn out well.”

“But I want it!”

Father poked Mia. “C’mon, my little warrior princess, eat the parfait. Didn’t you pay attention to your teacher?”

“‘The Algorithm knows best,’” Mia grumbled.

“Yep.” Father nodded gravely. “457 years ago, the Algorithm was created so that everyone would be safe and happy.”

Mia and Meira rolled their eyes in unison.

Good going, Mia, Meira thought, Now we’re going to get a lecture.

“The Algorithm has predicted the way to make everything turn out well. All we need to do is follow it. None of those big, scary choices. If you don’t follow the Algorithm, then life will get messed up. Understand?”

“I don’t care!” Mia shrieked. “Ugh, I wish the Murchiest didn’t exist!”

Father opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, the wallpaper rippled with blue light. The soft, warm female voice of the Algorithm’s warning system, which was contained within the wallpaper, began to speak.

Mia O’Kane, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 9:30 AM for reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

“Wow,” Father said, raising his eyebrows. “First time!”

Mother sighed. “Oh, Mia. After you finish your parfait, you can go play with your iPad while you wait for the transport to come.”

She kissed Mia on the forehead. Mia whined, sitting down at the table.

“Children,” Father remarked drily. “Though, I’m surprised that her first time is this late. Meira’s first reprogramming was when she was five. Mine was when I was four.”

Mia, sitting sullen at the table, gave Father side-eye.

“I was such a trouble child,” Father continued. “But I’m better now.”

Mother covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her snort.

“I am!” Father protested. “I haven’t gotten reprogrammed since I was 17. Teenagers are pretty troublesome.” He poked Meira. “You were reprogrammed 13 times. I remember I was reprogrammed 12 times. Almost set a world record.”

Mother rolled her eyes. “Please, David. The world record’s 64.”

“Well, I’m above average.” He winked at Mother.

“You’re one reprogram above average.”

“Still above average.”

Mother laughed, shaking her head.

“Mother, Father, I’m going to Target today at 10:07,” Meira said, finishing up her parfait.

“Okay,” Father said.

There was a knock on the door. The robot had come to fetch Mia. Mother stood up and walked Mia over to the door. Meira finished up the last of her parfait, before walking over to the couch and going on her phone. She opened up Temple Run 10.

“Come and talk to me,” Father said, faking a pout. “I’m lonely.”

Meira rolled her eyes. “The Algorithm said I have free time before I go to Target, not torture.”

“Ouch,” Father muttered. “Gemma! Your daughter’s hurting my feelings!”

Mother laughed as she walked back. “Come on, honey, we’re going shopping.”

Meira frowned. “Shouldn’t you be here when Mia gets back? What if you don’t finish shopping in time?”

Father raised his eyebrows.

“Nevermind,” Meira said quickly.

“Reprogramming isn’t that frightening at all,” Father pointed out.

Mother nodded, her eyes flashing for a moment. Then she was all smiles.

“Have fun, my little sugar glider.” Mother said, hugging Meira tightly.

“Mom!” Meira protested. “I’m too old for that! And you made me lose that round!”

“You’re never too old for me to smother you with affection.”

Meira shook her off, but she was unable to resist a smile as she went back to the game. A few seconds later, she heard the sound of the door shutting.

She had beaten her high score in Temple Run 10 when their doorbell rang. Meira ran over to the door. Mia had been escorted back by a robot. Meira waved goodbye to the robot. She nudged Mia.

“Wave goodbye to the robot.”

Mia stared at Meira blankly. “Why?”

Meira frowned. “Mother said it was polite.”

“Okay,” Mia said flatly, walking inside the house.

She got out her iPad and started to placidly play by herself. Meira stared at her.

Who are you and what have you done with my whiny little sister?

“Umm… didn’t you want me to play with you?”

“The Algorithm said I should play by myself.”

Meira swallowed. “Yeah… but… what do you want?”

“The Algorithm said — ”

“Okay, okay, nevermind,” Meira said quickly.

Meira backtracked out of the room and onto the couch. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was 10:03 AM. Meira had four minutes left. Meira played several more rounds of Temple Run 10, before getting up. Time to go buy a gift for Jessa. She should definitely buy Jessa one of those antique Barbies.

After putting on her neon yellow sneakers, she walked out the door. Meira glanced at the garden as she walked outside their fenced peach-colored house. The organic flowers had died. Mother had decided not to get synthetic flowers, claiming that this way it was more “authentic.” It was for the same reason Meira had agreed not to get the date she would meet her soulmate. Father said it added a sense of excitement to life. Meira supposed not knowing was pretty fun.

She hopped onto a transport and sat down next to an old lady. As the transport began to move, the streets blurred slightly. Finally, when they got to Target, Meira got off. A digital clock on the wall said 10:31. She walked inside the Target.

What was Mia’s mind like right now?

Meira had gotten reprogrammed 13 times, and she didn’t remember how reprogramming happened. She’d tried to hold onto the memories, but she just couldn’t. All she could remember was walking into the reprogramming center, its sterile white walls decorated with beautiful pictures.

Every time after any of her friends got reprogrammed, there was always something off about them. And now… something was off about Mia. Which wasn’t okay. Meira felt a sudden jolt of anger at the Algorithm. Let Mia make choices! Let her be Mia! If she messed up, Mother and Father could help her out. Meira wanted her little sister, not some blank doll.

Her mind was still storming over those thoughts when her body collided with something solid.

“OW!”

Meira stumbled backwards, blinking. She grabbed onto a shelf for support. There was a girl in front of her, looking slightly miffed. There were crimson and purple streaks in her long dark hair. The contents of the girl’s shopping basket were on the floor, but a robot was already cleaning them up.

“I’m so sorry,” Meira gushed.

The girl quickly smiled. “Oh, don’t worry about it. See, the robot’s already got it.” She took her basket from the robot.

“Thank you,” Meira muttered to the robot, feeling slightly guilty it cleaned up a mess she helped cause.

“Why are you thanking it?” the girl asked, tilting her head so that her hair fell to the side, like a curtain.

Meira blushed. “My mother always taught me to thank the robots. She said we should be grateful for them, since they weren’t always around.”

“That’s cute,” the girl said softly. She held out her hand. “I’m Nikitha. You can call me Niki.”

“I’m Meira,” Meira said. “You can call me Meira.”

Niki giggled. “The LifeGuide app said I would meet a friend at Target today. I don’t suppose that’s you?

“I guess so,” Meira said. “I hope I’m up to your expectations.”

“Oh, of course you are,” Niki said, swatting Meira’s arm. “Why are you at Target?”

“To buy a gift for my friend Jessa’s birthday. I’m buying one of those antique Barbie sets that they have for the special back-to-school event. Jessa loves collecting antiques like that. She’s almost got the entire Littlest Pet Shop collection.What about you?”

“Buying a gift and some cards for my grand aunt’s euthanization.”

“Oh. Tell her I said congratulations. It must be exciting.”

“Yeah… ” Niki bit her lip. “Part of me wishes she didn’t have to go, though. She can make the cutest crochet animals. It’s silly, I know. Euthanizations are supposed to be happy.”

Meira shrugged. She walked over to the event stand, Niki trailing behind her.

“Which one should I get?” Meira asked.

“Maybe the Christmas one.” Niki giggled. “Christmas sounds like such a weird thing, huh?”

“Yeah,” Meira agreed. “I mean, isn’t it so much more convenient to have one holiday for the entire world?”

Niki nodded. “Right? My parents came from India, and the transition was totally easy for them. Imagine if Christmas was still around! Then they would have had to adjust to the new holiday customs.”

“It’s insane,” Meira said. She picked up the Christmas Barbie doll box and gave it to a nearby robot to scan, before paying with her credit card. “Life before the Algorithm in general must have been insane.”

“You might have procrastinated on getting Jessa her weird Barbie,” Niki offered.

Meira nodded gravely. “And then we might have never met.”

Niki grinned. “That would be awful. Anyways, where are you going after this? I’m supposed to go to my grandma’s house after resting at home.

“Hey, me too!”

“Looks like we were meant to meet. Do you want to go somewhere else instead of staying at home, though? I’m sure it would be fine by the Algorithm.”

Meira didn’t know if it was such a good idea, going against the Algorithm. Then she thought of Mia, who was off now. She felt another jolt of anger at the Algorithm. Screw it.

“Sure. Where to?”

“I dunno. Do you have any suggestions?”

Meira barely had to think before a location popped up in her head. “The forest.”

“The forest?” Niki asked, scrunching up her nose. It looked kinda cute. “No one I know goes to the forest. Except for you, of course.”

Meira shrugged, turning away and flushing. “I… yeah. I’m kinda weird. I don’t even know when I’m going to meet my soulmate. See, my parents… we talked and decided that it would be more… exciting, I guess?”

Niki smiled gently, tilting her head and looking at Meira, as if to examine her from a new perspective. “It’s interesting. You’re interesting.”

“There are probably other people like me. Umm, you know. Who thank robots and stuff.”

“Yeah… but… ” Niki shrugged. “Nevermind. Let’s go.”

“Okay,” Meira said. “You want to walk over or take a transport?”

“Walk.” Niki’s soft cocoa powder eyes sparkled. “Today’s a day for trying new things.”

The two left the store. Meira moved to drop her bag onto a floating pod so that it could be delivered home. Niki nudged her.

“Why don’t we do this the old-fashioned way and carry them?” Niki suggested, her eyes glinting.

“Wow, we’re really getting rebellious today, huh?” Meira teased.

Niki grinned. The two began to walk towards the forest. When they got there, Meira felt a familiar grin creep across her face. This was her safe place. She led Niki through the woods, until they got to Meira’s kinda-secret grove. Before Niki, the only person other than Meira to come here (that she knew of) was Mother.

Niki glanced around, her eyebrows raised. “The walls in my room can change to look like a more perfect version of this.”

Meira sat down on a thick tree root. Niki dusted off a spot next to Meira, before sitting down next to her.

“Yeah… but… ” Meira shrugged. “It’s kinda like… well, you see, Mother doesn’t use synthetic flowers because she says organic flowers are… alive. She can actually nurture them. It’s authentic. Slightly unpredictable. They… I dunno how to explain it. It’s the same concept with the trees.” Meira blushed, waving her hand. “Oh, nevermind. It doesn’t make sense.”

“No… ” Niki frowned. “It kinda does.” She grinned, looking directly at Meira. “Hey, have you ever been kissed before?”

Meira blushed. “Doesn’t everyone wait for their soulmate?”

Niki shrugged. “Today seems to be a day for going over the boundaries. Besides, I do like-like you. I dunno if I love you, but you’re cute and interesting, so yeah, I like-like you.”

Blushing even redder, Meira leaned back against the tree.

“That’s… wow… ” Meira muttered.

“Am I coming on too strong?”

“No… ” Meira swallowed, unable to say that it was part of what made Niki so charming.

Did she like-like Niki? Niki was… she was vivacious. Alive. She glanced over at the other girl. Despite the confidence, Meira could see a hint of hesitation in her bambi eyes. Meira didn’t know either, but what if they tried? Why not? Besides, it might be better than falling in line with the Algorithm. More real. The Algorithm took the realness out of things. Mia had been annoying before the reprogramming, but she had been Meira’s little ball of annoying.

“Yeah,” Meira muttered, leaning forwards. “I think… that might be nice.”

Niki smiled, cupping Meira’s neck with her hand and going forwards to meet Meira.

Her lips were soft and tasted like strawberry lip gloss. She smelled like the November Rain candles Father would burn when he ran out of Vanilla Cupcake candles. The angle was awkward. Meira shifted, trying to make it better, but the angle was even more awkward. But it could be worse. At least braces didn’t exist anymore — they sounded absolutely horrible. How did people back then who needed braces even kiss people? Then Niki let out a little giggle against Meira’s lips, and Meira melted a little.

The two broke apart, falling against the tree.

“Hey,” Niki said softly.

“Hey,” Meira said back, grinning.

“You wanna come here later?” Niki asked, her eyebrows lifted, a fox-like grin decorating her lips.

Meira suddenly jerked upwards, a horrible realization occuring to her. “W-what about the Algorithm?”

Her heart began to race. People were supposed to be with their soulmates. That was just how things were. The Algorithm had predicted things so that everything would be perfect. Things with her and Niki would get messed up eventually. The kiss wasn’t even that good. Niki’s lips were soft, and she smelled good, but the angle was kind of awkward. It was imperfect, which meant it wasn’t okay. Kissing Anna, who Meira was actually supposed to be with, probably would be better. Yeah.

Niki turned pale. “Oh, gosh… ” She grabbed her hair with her hands.

“Wait!” Something came over Meira, bring along with it a wave of relief. “I remember that Mother said the Algorithm’s warning system is only in the wallpaper because of budget or whatever.”

“Oh, thank God.” Niki let out a nervous laugh. “That’s — yeah.”

“People barely ever come to the forest anyways,” Meira commented.

Niki snorted. “Yeah. Lazy weaklings.”

Meira snorted. She lay back against the tree root, glancing at Niki. Her sleek hair was ruffled.

“Maybe we can even bring my grand aunt here,” Niki remarked.

Meira frowned. “Yeah… but… everyone gets euthanized at 100.”

Niki sighed. “I know. Anyways… ” She paused, glancing at Meira mischievously.

“I… ” Meira chewed her lip anxiously. She could still taste traces of Niki. “Yeah.”

“This was fun, eh?”

“Mhmm. Umm… ”

Meira felt her stomach twist. The kiss was starting to feel like a huge mistake. But she couldn’t just say that, right? That would be totally rude.

“Is… something wrong?” Niki asked, starting to look concerned.

“Huh?” Meira couldn’t help but feel bad.

“Well, your brow was all wrinkled, so… ”

“Oh… umm… it’s just that this Anna Vargha is supposed to be my soulmate.”

“And Dave Greenblum’s supposed to be mine.” Niki’s voice was growing tense.

“Also… we’re supposed to listen to the Algorithm because it knows best.”

Niki narrowed her eyes. “What are you saying?”

Meira stayed silent, looking away. She clenched her fists. Meira swallowed, squeezed her eyes shut, and quickly blurted it out.

“We shouldn’t do this again!”

“What?” Niki’s voice grew harsher, like a vulture. “But… that… ugh, Meira! You make no sense!”

“Wha — why?”

Why?” Niki snorted, her voice wavering. “Are you screwing with me right now? You were the one who was all like… like… ”

“Like what?”

“You wanted to come to the forest! You thanked the robot! You and your organic flowers and… ” Niki swallowed. There was a wetness in her pretty eyes. “You just felt… refreshing. But looks like you’re just like everyone else!”

“Isn’t that supposed to be good?” Meira demanded, the words of her kindergarten and preschool teachers washing over her.

Maybe not, Mother whispered in her head.

“I don’t know!” Niki shrieked, roughly wiping off her tears. “You were the one who gave me the tiny feeling that this could work out! Everyone else was just going along with the Algorithm and I was too! Why are you being so dull now, huh?”

“Because this is too much!” Meira wrung her hands, frustrated. “Those are small things!”

“But… don’t you want big things to be authentic too?” Niki was starting to look betrayed, which made Meira feel like a bad person.

“I — ”

“Just — fine! Whatever!” Niki jumped up. “You’re terrible at kissing anyways!”

Meira looked away, feeling tears creep into her own eyes. Niki marched off, her spine straight and stiff. Sighing, Meira tried to relax. She realized that her nails had dug crescents into her palms. Everything was going to be okay now. Meira just needed to get up, go to her grandma’s, and then go home, where she could go to Mother.

What would Mother say to all of this? Meira wondered if she had been rude to Niki. But the Algorithm was the most important thing, right? That’s what everyone said. It was just… common sense. Or was it?

Sighing, Meira got up and dusted off her pants. She began to walk towards the road. The forest was calming, but the calm made her feel uneasy. She wasn’t supposed to like the organic forest so much, but she still did. Would it be the same thing with Niki? Meira finally reached a small road in the forest that rarely had transports. Meira began to move towards the mini skywalk to cross the road. Suddenly, she noticed a familiar dark head with crimson and purple streaks sitting down next to the skywalk.

Meira ducked her head as she walked, praying that Niki wouldn’t notice her. It would be so freaking awkward. Risking a glance at the other girl, Meira saw that Niki was still wiping tears off her eyes. A feeling of guilt crept over her. She began to walk onto the skywalk.

Niki turned over to her with a grin, probably thinking Meira was a stranger and intending to say hi. Then she saw Meira’s face.

“Ni — ” Meira began, but Niki turned and ran.

“Wait!” Meira yelled, stepping forwards.

She had no clue why she wanted to go after Niki. It was a stupid impulse, gained from watching those rare permitted pre-Algorithm movies too many times. Niki glanced around, giving Meira a pained look, before turning and going onto the road.

Meira stopped, stunned. What was she doing? The skywalk existed for a reason! Niki was running across the road, and then everything happened in a horrible flash.

As she ran, a motorcycle sped up behind Niki. Time stiffened for a moment, and then it felt like everything collided. Niki screamed as she was thrown back from the force of the collision, her voice raw, an unfamiliar voice scream, and Meira screamed, because something was definitely wrong. She had no idea what had just happened, but it was something horrible and dreadful that never would have happened if they’d listen to the Algorithm.

Meira ran over to her, too, collapsing on her knees in front of Niki.

“It hurts… ” Niki whimpered, her eyes glazed.

Meira stared at gasping girl, unsure of what to do. What could she possibly do?

“I’m sorry,” Meira pleaded.

A robot that was probably stored a bit down the road came over and injected something in Niki’s arm. Immediately, Niki’s pained gasps stopped, and her eyes grew soft. He then went off to tend to the motorcycle rider. Meira hadn’t even noticed him in her panic.

“It’s alright,” Niki whispered.

Meira hesitantly reached out to touch Niki’s hair. The robot beeped.

Meira O’Kane, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 12:15 PM for reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

Nikitha Tamboli, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 12:15 PM for healing reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

“What does reprogramming mean, anyways?” Niki wondered.

Meira shrugged. “I think it changes you somehow. I never remember what happens during reprogramming.”

“Me neither,” Niki said. She frowned. “Does that mean you’re going to forget this?”

“I hope not,” Meira blurted out.

Niki giggled, her joking voice growing weak. “Well… I hope not. Let’s run away.”

Meira cracked a forced smile. She thought about the tales of how people would die before the Algorithm. Was that going to happen to Niki? She felt fear grow in her stomach. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Meira would never see Niki again. It… it was almost like euthanization, except euthanization was… good? Everything was so horribly confusing now… Meira’s head hurt…

“This never would have happened if we’d never kissed,” Meira said shakily.

Niki looked away. “Meh. But choosing to do that… it was interesting. Y’know, I lied when I said the kiss wasn’t good. The kiss felt… real. The angle was awkward, but… that doesn’t mean it wasn’t… ”

“Yeah,” Meira said, smiling. “It was nice.”

“If we had more time… ” Niki said wistfully.

“We might have messed up eventually,” Meira said. She hesitated. “But… trying… I liked choosing. It felt… authentic. Like the organic flowers.”

Niki grinned. The two sat in silence. Meira could see the transport coming closer.

“I don’t want to get reprogrammed,” Meira blurted out. “I’m scared.”

“Nothing bad ever happens.”

“But what if I come back a different person?” Meira asked. “My little sister — Mia — she came back from the reprogramming and she was… she wasn’t annoying.”

Niki laughed. “Isn’t that good?”

Meira shrugged. “But the annoying… that was part of Mia. She always wanted something before — candy, for me to play with her… the reprogramming made her not do that anymore and I — ” Meira swallowed. “I want to be able to want things. To make choices.

“Then… ” Niki squeezed her eyes shut, looking pained. “Then you should go.”

“Huh?” Meira’s eyes widened. “I… but — what about you?”

“Just go. Don’t… don’t give me time to worry and overanalyze and be scared.”

“O-okay,” Meira stammered, a part of her feeling slightly bad for leaving Niki so easily.

She got up and stumbled backwards, before turning and running into the forest. A part of her was yelling at her to stop, that this was rash and useless, but she wanted to escape the Algorithm. She didn’t want to become off-Meira, like Mia who used to smile more and be more annoying.

A terrified tear slid down her cheek. Meira ran and ran. The tree branches smacked her in the face like some sort of punishment. Her lungs started to burn but she went on. And then she hit a road. Meira backed away into the trees, swallowing. A transport passed by, but she went unnoticed.

“Oh gosh.” Meira tried to bit down a sob, her lungs aching as she gulped in air. “I don’t wanna get reprogrammed.”

Turning back to the forest, she ran back into the safety of the trees. She had to run faster. She had to get away from the road. As she bumbled through the forest, she started to feel like Mia, wailing that she didn’t want to be reprogrammed. She ran blindly, her mind swimming with panic. Everything was such a mess. How was Mia? Would there be any differences after reprogramming? What had the Algorithm done to her little sister’s mind? What had the done to Meira’s mind, all those 13 times before? And what would they do if they caught her?

Her foot connected with a tree root, and she fell to the ground. Meira caught herself with the palms of her hands, hissing at the pricking sting. She sat against a tree. Her face was wet. Meira reached up and wiped away the tears. Looking around, Meira realized she was near the grove. She pushed herself up, instinctively going to the place that had always been safe.

Someone was standing in the grove.

“Mother?” Meira asked.

Mother beamed, opening her arms. Meira immediately darted towards Mother, embracing her tightly. She felt solid and warm and safe, her scent like Meira’s favorite banana bread. The two pulled apart. Meira realized she had gotten Niki’s blood on Mother, but Mother didn’t seem to mind.

“Mother,” Meira gasping, shaking. Mother’s hands stayed on Meira’s arms, steadying her. “Mother… oh gosh, Mother… I’m… I’m scared. A-and… something happened — ”

“I know about Niki,” Mother said, delicately brushing Meira’s face.

Meira let out a feeble laugh. “Wow, mothers really do know everyth — ” Meira broke off, frowning. “Wait, how do you know?”

Mother’s hand reached out to grab Meira. Meira stumbled backwards, but Mother pulled Meira close to her chest, holding Meira tightly to her.

“The transport is coming shortly,” Mother said, not looking at Meira.

“Huh?” Meira choked out. Suddenly, Mother’s arms felt restraining. They had never felt this way before. “Mother! No, don’t — ”

“Please, sweetie. The Algorithm told me they were serving shrimp gumbo tonight. You like that, right? I checked the LifeGuide app. We’re going to the mall tomorrow.”

“But… what if… what if they mess up my mind and I forget about the grove and Niki? And I stop smelling the organic flowers like you told me to? I don’t want to! ? Mother! Just listen! I don’t want… Niki… it was authentic! Weren’t you always talking about how things were best when they were authentic?”

Mother looked at Meira, tears glinting in her soft olive eyes. “They are, darling, they are.”

“Then why — ” Meira broke off.

A transport had settled down outside the grove, pushing aside a few small trees. Two robots got out of the transport and moved towards Meira.

“Because I want to keep safe, darling,” Mother said. “If we listen to the Algorithm, we’ll be safe. It’s got everything all planned out so that you’ll have a nice, perfect life. I heard from the Algorithm that Niki got hurt. If you two had listened to the Algorithm, this never would have happened.”

“But — but — ” Meira floundered as the robots took her away from Mother. “But… ”

“I want to keep you safe, my little sugar glider.”

Meira let out a dry sob. “But what about being happy?”

“You are happy. The Algorithm ensures it.”

“Am I, though?”

“Yes.”

“See? This is the thing!” Meira’s voice was getting more frantic as she was hauled into the transport. “Y’know, maybe I wanna have blueberry parfait instead of strawberry, okay!”

Mother looked at Meira sadly as she rampaged on.

“We’re being told how we’re supposed to be happy, but never once, absolutely never, do we get to choose how to be happy! And that just takes so much out of lif — ”

The robot, its mind controlled by the Algorithm, injected her with its slim, silver needle.

Meira fell silent.

***

Major Glitch #79

Directly involved: Meira O’Kane; Nikitha Tamboli

Indirectly involved: Gemma O’Kane; Alex Burman

All four reprogrammed

Motorcycles and forests to be banned to avoid further incident

Everything perfect.

 

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