A few discussions on some of the Anti-Scientology message boards got me thinking again about the cult I created for the fictional world portrayed in my novels and short stories in the “Luninatia Orchid” series.
In this excerpt, my protagonist finds herself captured on Earth, where the Earth Company keeps its Associates on a tight rein indeed. This is a flashback to her first week of Company “Orientation.”
Just go along with it, Kat tells herself for the twentieth time. Just nod and smile, don’t laugh, don’t protest …
It would be easier if it weren’t all so hilariously awful. Two dozen huge-breasted, bouncy creatures with two dozen smiles that could cut glastic flash their teeth at Kat from the two dozen holoscreens surrounding her, babbling on and on about how happy they are to see everyone and how excited they are that everyone is going to be challenged to change.
Kat’s crew isn’t here, of course, and her mothers have warned her not to ask. The Company doesn’t respond well to questions it doesn’t want to answer. They also don’t respond well when called “Compo” instead of “Comper.” Kat learned not to make that mistake after they didn’t let her eat for a day (“withdrawal of nutrition creds for politeness enhancement,” they called it). After two weeks in solitary confinement with no one to talk to and nothing to do except her own calisthenics, she has been deemed “safe” enough to start her orientation, and so she’s been ushered to this room in among these strangers who stare at her with mingled fear and disgust.
Like the walls of her cell, these walls have no hydropods. Kat hasn’t seen a single living green plant since she’s got here.
Sweet Gaia, she thinks. How do they breathe here?
Unlike the barren cell, however, these walls are a blaze of colors and words. She’s been deprived of any reading material, but these walls only offer sickening slogans and stilted doggerel: “Clean, safe and happy! Happy, safe and clean! Everyone is helpful, cheerful, never, ever mean!” reads one holo-poster in fluorescent yellows and magentas. A whirling vortex in lime green, neon pink and fluorescent teal draws Kat’s eyes for a while, and she watches with shocked disgust as small, sparkling yellow spheres dart out from its center, grow annoying smiley faces, and dissipate into the room. The vortex spits out a blinking headline: “Fairness!,” followed by another: “Understanding!!,” and “kNowledge!!!,” and, then, a final: “FUN! FUN!! FUN!!!” Another holo-poster simply reads: “Feel free!” (That is, if the word “simply” can be used to describe flashing red lights with green outlines and sparkling blue lights whirling around a bright yellow happy face.) Taken with the two dozen tweakers surrounding her on the holoscreens, the whole effect leaves Kat’s head spinning.
She looks around at her fellow victims. Most of them are already Company associates, here because they need a “new direction in their careers.” A few, like her, are hapless offworlders who somehow managed to transgress Company rules while on Earth or in Earth orbit. Some of the people look frightened, most, however, wear glazed expressions and seem resigned to the experience. Both types are easier for Kat to take, however, than the few people who actually seem to be enjoying the experience.
“Now, I have a fun, get-to-know-us exercise that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy!” the creatures burble, dancing around the group, leaping from vidscreen to vidscreen. Two dozen brightly red arrows point to two dozen babbling women, and two dozen captions flash underneath two dozen toothy grins: “Chloe, Chair of the Earth Company Board. This smile brought to you by White-Bright™!”
Two dozen Chloes laugh merrily, shaking their blonde curls. “Who here would like to sing the HappySong™?”
“We do!” the five enthusiastic ones call out cheerily. The glazed-eyed ones make a pathetic showing of mumbling along. Kat’s not sure, but she’s beginning to suspect that the associates who are here for remedial training have been heavily drugged.
I’m not sure they’re able to remember their names, Kat thinks bitterly. Let alone whatever this HappySong™ is …
Two dozen Chloes cock two dozen heads. “Now, I know that not everyone answered,” they all say.
Not a bad prediction for a recording. Or are there different response algorithms linked to the mikes that absolutely aren’t hidden around the room?
Two dozen Chloes clap their hands together cheerfully. “Now, I’m going to ask again: who wants to sing the HappySong™?”
Once again, only a couple of the people shout: “We do!”
Now I know they’re smecked out, Kat realizes. They’ve done this before, they know the correct response. I’ve only been on this twizzdome for a week and I know the correct response.
A chill of recognition creeps down Kat’s spine as she looks around at the five people who have been doing it the Company Way all along. She can’t help but notice how they’ve been strategically scattered throughout the room. Holy kreck. They’re there to show us the correct response … and to make sure we comply.
“So who wants to sing the HappySong™?” Underneath the two dozen Chloes, two dozen captions light up: “Feel free to say: ‘we do!’”
Thank you, Chloe, I think we figured that one out already.
“We do,” Kat dutifully repeats with the rest of the crowd. Even the drugged associates seem to be coming around, drawn into the action by sheer force of conditioned response.
Two dozen Chloes stick out two dozen petulant lower lips. “Now, that’s not a very friendly response. Really, I think you should have another try.” Two dozen White-Bright™ smiles flash on and off again. “Who wants to sing the HappySong™?”
“We do!” The crowd is showing something almost approaching enthusiasm.
The Chloes smile. “You’re getting better, but I still can’t hear you,” they tease in a singsong voice. “Who wants to sing the HappySong™?”
The caption “Feel free to say: ‘we do!’” flashes even larger, this time in bright neon green.
“We do!” they all shout.
“That’s getting the spirit. Now let’s hear it again, so everyone has a chance to answer loud and clear. Who wants to sing the HappySong™?”
Kat puts every bit of her acting skills into the part. “We do!”
Two dozen Chloes jump up and down joyfully. “Oh, I’m so happy!”
Two dozen captions read: “HappySong™ lyrics brought to you by Happy Associate Movers! Wherever you’re going, take it on the HAM™!”
Suddenly, disgustingly twinkly music is pouring in from all directions, and two dozen bright yellow smiley faces appear around them, bobbing up and down in rhythm.
“Now, I know we have some new associates in the group, so you veteran Compers help our new friends! And you new associates: the words are easy and fun! Just follow the bouncing happy face, and sing along: we love our jobs, we love our jobs, tra la la la la la la, we love our jobs …”