What's in a Name?
By George Gagliardi
“Hey, Stan ole boy, ready to go? Time to expose all your dirty thoughts.”
Stanbrick Bumble, chief researcher for The Project, looked up, looked annoyed and went back to peering through the scanscopium. Damn, the luck, leave it to his loud mouth pal to interrupt him. And just when he was so close to being closer than he'd been all week to discovering …
“Stan, you can't put it off, you know. Best go and get it over with.”
Bumble heaved a disgusted sigh. “Brunswick, I do wish you …
“Not Brunswick. I've changed it again.”
“Yes, his friend replied, a satisfied smirk on his cherubic face. “I'm now to be called Horseshoe Muck.”
“Very well, I shall call you Horseshoe Muck.” He paused. “And just how long will you keep this one?”
“Oh, I don't know. Until I get tired of it, I guess.”
Bumble removed his regulation Magna-Carbohyde work gloves, placed them carefully on the table, got up from his chair and donned his lime green, company issued lab coat. He hated to wear it while he was actually working, it was two sizes too big.
Fine, he thought. If his dim-witted pal wants to change his name every hour, why should I care? What did it matter? He'd been taught years ago that names were unimportant. That was Lesson #5 in the Great Book of 10 Lessons – the first of many required readings from The Corporation. Lesson #4 was never forget your designated registry code (his was HA!2QBniptu?) and Lesson #5 was names are unimportant. If you had any questions about any of the Lessons you only had to refer to Lesson #1 – “The Corporation makes the rules and the rules are always right.” Very simple, easy to follow. Nothing to get perterbed about or to become unsatisfied with. Bumble liked things simple. Life flowed much better when things were simple – although he did think this weekly trip to the Brain Unit Testing Oxytron, BUTOX for short, seemed to come at the most inconvenient times. Oh, bother, best go and get it over with.
He and Horseshoe walked down the drab, narrow hallway and waited in line. One by one, each man and woman climbed into the skylifter and was transported up to the cold, impersonal room where BUTOX was waiting. At last it was Bumble's turn. He rode up to the top level, entered the room and after stating his name, sat down in front of the mammoth machine. He knew the routine by heart. First you removed your glasses, then you pressed your face into a soft, spongy kind of substance which helped cradle your head. As you did this BUTOX read your thoughts for the past week and examined them to determine if your brain was operating at an appropriate level. In other words, were your thoughts productive or did you spend too much time thinking about those things that The Corporation deemed wasteful.
Different colors indicated different levels, with blue being the lowest and orange being the highest. If you were at level orange you were considered a credit to the system and given what The Corporation insisted on calling “Brown Nose” points – Bumble assumed that was because the spongy substance from the BOTOX left just a tiny smudge on the tip of one's nose, if you pressed too hard.
He was proud to say that he generally tested on the orange level. Moreover he couldn't understand why his pal insisted on bringing up the fact that he earned way too many “brown nose points” – as if it were something he should be ashamed of. No matter. He was pleased that The Corporation was pleased with his record
He was mulling this over, feeling very proud of himself as he and Horseshoe walked back to their respective labs. Horseshoe spoke up.
“Well, I guess you tested in orange again, didn't you mister “Brown Nose” king.”
Bumble smiled. “Yes, I did. And you?” Knowing well his pal would have tested much lower.
“Just barely made the blue level – as if you're surprised.”
Bumble stopped and turned toward his errant pal, a stern look on his face. “I keep telling you not to spend so much time in the Holio-Archives. They are there to be used striclty for research and not entertainment.” They continued walking.
“Oh, but Stan, you should see what I've found out about the Old World. It would curl your hair, that is if you had any. For instance there's a section on how females ...”
Bumble raised his hand. “I don't want to hear it, I don't want to hear it”. He arrived at his lab door.
“If you want to waste your time and continue to stay at the level you are, that's your decision. After all The Corporation made it clear in Lesson #7, 'You are only responsible to yourself and The Corporation, no one else.' I was merely pointing out that I believe your wasting your life – I only say this because we're friends and would like to see you excel while you're here.
Besides, my name changing under achiever, I would think you would want to give due consideration to the fact that The Coporation has been known to make adjustments if needed – people do get sent to other sectors. True, you may be Zero Minus and, yes, I'm well aware that's the highest rating you can have. Even so you'd be wise to watch your extravagant behavior. That's all I'm going to say. He paused before opening the lab door.
“One other thing … if you persist in these mindless explorations – I would advise you not to do anything stupid or reckless”. He cautiously looked both ways and then spoke softly. “Remember what happened to Mackelbait?”
Then he went inside and closed the door, took off his lab and sat down. Now why on earth did I say that.
Outside his friend smiled a small smile, remarking to no one in particular, “Stan, old buddy, if you only knew. If you only knew.” Then he sauntered down the hall whistling some ancient children's song – one he'd discovered while prowling through the Holio-Archives. It had something to do with the Big Bad Wolf.