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A failing company brainwashes its employees and their families into thinking that the company is well known and blossoming. Only two employees have avoided the brainwashing, and must survive in a company full of misguided employees who, through a brainwashing error, will react aggressively to anyone who tells them the company is falling apart... [ENTRY TO THE VORTEX COMPETITION]

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7. Chapter 5: Clarity

One Week Later

Jacob stood outside Technofirm Central and gazed up at the dark structure, the glass, through some amazing feat, reflecting the shadows, coating the building in darkness.

‘I can’t believe they made me forget what it looked like,’ he muttered. Taking a deep breath he headed for the building, ready to pass through the doors.

‘Good morning,’ said the robot in its heavy, monotonous voice, which grated on Jacob’s ears.

‘Good morning,’ Jacob replied, trying to act like he was still part of the illusion. It was very difficult when the things the other employees saw looked clean and pristine and everything he saw was dirty and old.

He knew he couldn’t take it much longer.

He got to his desk and sat on the old, worn chair. ‘Morning, Hans,’ he said.

‘Morning, Jacob,’ Hans replied.

They had disposed of the “good” four days previous when the illusion had fallen away entirely.

There was nothing good about the building. It was in a worse state than before, as the employees only saw cleanliness, and not the dirt that was building up.

It looked like a derelict building occupied by ghosts just going about their business.

To Jacob and Hans, all of the employees were just ghosts of their former selves anyway.

‘I think we need to destroy the machine to fix this,’ Hans muttered.

‘What do you mean?’ Jacob asked.

Hans rolled closer. ‘Well, if the company used the machine to brainwash everyone, destroying it is sure to reverse it, right?’

‘I suppose.’

‘Then we need to destroy it.’

Jacob nodded. ‘Okay. But give me a few days to get ready. It’s not going to be an easy feat.’

Hans nodded. ‘Don’t take too long about it.’

***

The next day, Jacob walked into work with William between his hands.

‘Okay, William. This is your new home,’ Jacob said, putting the plant on his desk. ‘There’s no sunlight, but we’re both going to die here.’

Hans overheard him and panicked. ‘What?’ he cried.

A few nearby employees looked over and laughed.

‘Last night I was drinking,’ Jacob started.

‘No, no. You’re thinking of blowing this place up, aren’t you?’ Hans asked.

‘No. I’m going to blow up the machine, which will cause the building to buckle. I’ll die with it, and finally be reunited with my family,’ Jacob replied.

Hans looked at him, and realised he was still drunk. ‘Oh, for crying out loud. Listen to me. We can just set it to overload without anyone getting hurt, or something.’

Jacob grinned and shook his head. ‘No. We blow it up. It’s already unstable. Remember when it broke? That’s why we weren’t completely brainwashed. The boss…’ He pointed up. ‘He’s made everyone into slaves. They’re suffering and they don’t even know it.’

Hans sighed. ‘What’s your genius plan, then?’

‘We’re both going to die, Hans,’ Jacob said unexpectedly. ‘I’m blowing up with the machine. You’ll die fighting the employees.’

‘Fighting?’ Hans exclaimed, trying to keep his voice low. ‘Are you insane?’

‘If destroying the machine doesn’t work, they’ll be a danger to society!’ Jacob hissed. ‘If someone mentions the collapse of Technofirm, they’ll lose it!’

Hans sighed and placed his head in his hands. ‘This is madness, Jacob.’

‘That’s why it’s going to work,’ Jacob whispered. He removed a handgun from his coat and discreetly handed it to Hans. ‘You’ll have to use this.’

Hans sighed. ‘Only if they attack me.’

Jacob forced a smile. ‘They will.’

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