I fingered the dark cloth as I waited in the elevator. I was always uncomfortable getting dressed up for the council meetings, but the Planner said it was necessary in order to impress the importance of the consultation on the members. No-one bothered to argue with the Planner any more. It was many years since I had even thought of the Planner as a person. It was simply a part of the net, something that gave us the answers we could not find ourselves. Now she had called me for a personal interview. Fear had a grip around my heart that I couldn't seem to break. I should be immune to the fear, I helped create the mystique, I knew that the Planner was just a girl, who couldn't be more than seventeen years old. She was not a demi-god, a seeress, or a mystic. Why did my chest feel like it was in a vice then?

The doors opened. I was standing in her office. Calculated to intimidate, it seemed to confirm the tension, and strengthen it. The place was dark, except for the window at the opposite end, a huge expanse of tinted glass that seemed to encompass the entire city. I could not see her in the room, my eyes being unaccustomed to the gloom. I advanced on the desk in front of the window, trying to see if there was anyone sitting in the high backed chair. I stood in front of the desk before I knew that there was no occupant. I examined the desk and chair. They were familiar, but like something remembered from a dream. I helped design the tools, and I taught her how to use them. The skull connections were dangling loose now, their occupant having fled to somewhere.

It was strange, I knew that she would have to leave the desk sometimes, for hygiene or other such activities, but I had come to feel, like the rest of the world, that the Planner was always present, always ready to answer our questions and solve our problems. I circled the desk, and looked out the window. Below and to the left was a school yard, in which the council's children played and learned. I could not see my own son, Bobby, from this height, but I could see the patterns of their play.

A hand touched my shoulder, running down my arm. I turned. A slender young woman stood in front of me, her pale white skin contrasting rather dramatically with her jet black hair and the black cloth of her jacket. "Glad you could come, Heran, I've missed you." Her voice was deeper than I remembered, almost a tenor where it had been an alto.

"I am honoured that you should grant a personal audience to me, Planner." I had planned my greeting for some time.

"Don't call me that, why do you think I asked you up here, if I wanted all that formal garbage I would have connected with you on the 'net. Call me by my name, if you remember it." She guessed my thoughts before I completed them. "It's Kim, Heran. You've fallen prey to your own deceptions. I have to admit, I've done it too, sometimes, forgotten who I was and just become the Planner, but then I look out there." She gestured towards the playground. "I'm not much older than them, you know. Not physically anyways."

It was true, the girl was only a year older than my Bobby, although her manner suggested that she was older than myself.

"I am more mature, but not through any fault of my own." She continued "I've worked for nine years now, in that time we've done something wonderful, its a good world, Heran, you know that. I'm proud to have been a part in it all."

"You're too modest Planner, the world is you. You created it." I interjected. She was speaking in past tense, I guess I must have been trying to flatter her into the present and the future.

"How do you manage to so overestimate me and yet at the same time consider me a fool? You cannot flatter me away from what I am thinking. I need a break, Heran, for nine years I have guided this society into a Utopian State. I have given up my life, my family, and my childhood. Did you think about what would happen to me, Heran, when you plucked me out of school and decided to make me the ruler of your world? Don't look at me like that, I know it was necessary, but I just wanted to know if you had thought through the consequences. Actually, I already knew that you hadn't, I just wanted to let you know." She stopped talking, blushing a little, she turned to stare out the window. She talked to the glass. "I didn't mean to attack you, Heran, I know that the council was doing what was best, Hell, I'd probably do the same thing if I was in your position. Its just that there's no-one who seems to understand me. Even you don't remember me, you think of me as the Planner. I can't talk to anyone about how I feel because I would shatter the mystique, I need a friend."

I searched for words.

"I know it's impossible, don't bother trying to figure something out, I just needed to get it off my chest. Thanks Heran." She turned to me, running her hand down my face. "Feels good to touch someone." she murmured, crossing to the chair. She sat, connecting the electrodes with easy familiarity. Her eyes closed.

I left the room, in the elevator I fingered the robes, they felt uncomfortable again.

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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1992