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Escape from Utopia

By Joseph G. Edrich

Life in "Utopia" was beautiful, perfectly regulated to satisfy everyone's needs and desiresexcept one.

DAVE STOOD AT ATTENTION before the judge's raised desk and waited as the judge punched his serial number on the keys of the recordmach. A few seconds later a small green light came on, and Dave knew his record plate at the Central Record Bureau was in position for interrogation.

Dave had seen his record once. On his eighth birthday, when he had graduated from the City Nursery, he had been taken to the Central Record Bureau and shown the thin brass plate perforated even then with an uncountable number of almost microscopic holes. In the complex coded arrangement of the holes had been and would be recorded every detail of his life; details remembered and forgotten, important and trivial, details which he himself would never know because they were classified as City secrets.

The judge pressed a series of interrogation buttons on the recordmach, and the machine hummed and whirred almost below hearing level. After about a minute a typed page dropped into a tray on the desk.

The judge read aloud from the page: "Citizen Dave Allen, Power Plant Technician: Subject of Appeal—Renewal of Mate." He paused and examined the paper silently for a moment, then went on:

"First free choice mating, 10 June 2012 to 9 June 2013—mate, Lura Sims—result, no issue. Second free choice mating, 10 June 2013 to 9 June 2014—mate, Lura Sims, renewed. Result, no issue." He looked significantly at Dave's white armband, the color of a non-producer, then continued: "Both allowable free-choice matings utilized. Number of points required for special renewal, three-thousand. Number of points in reserve of Citizen Dave Allen, seven hundred and thirty-four. Number of points in reserve of Citizen Lura Sims, five hundred and ten; combined total, eleven hundred and forty-four—less than half the required amount."

The judge put the paper down and clasped his hands over it. "You are aware of these facts. On what basis are you requesting renewal?"

Dave swallowed hard. It was difficult to think of words that could stand up against the cold authoritative figures. "My mate was very ill this past winter," he began. "She almost died."

"What about the first year?"

Dave remained silent. It was going badly. The right thoughts, the right words, wouldn't come.

The judge's voice was severe. "Citizen Allen," he said, "it appears that the motivations of your appeal—I must speak strongly—are entirely personal preferences at divergence with City interest. Is this correct?"

Dave's eyes met the judge's stare for a moment and were forced down. The accusation was a serious one. As a first-order citizen and a member of the City Guard Reserve, his personal preferences and the City's interest must be synonymous. And yet?

"The conclusion is correct, Your Honor," he admitted stiffly.

The judge waited, hands clasped, giving him a chance, Dave realized, to withdraw his appeal. But the words wouldn't come.

Finally, the judge picked up his gavel and rapped twice on the block. "Citizen Allen," he said, "your appeal is hereby denied. On Monday, 10 June at 8:00 a.m. you will report as previously directed to the Bureau of Procreation for reassignment to a mate of City choice. In addition, for your disregard of City interest in making this appeal, you are fined two hundred points."

Dave heard the judge's voice as though it came through a poor teleset, distorted and far off. Two days. . . . That was all he had left with Lura.

"Your Honor," he heard himself say, "I should like to petiti...

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