فصل 01

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فصل 01

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Chapter one

The Centre

A low grey building, of only 34 floors. Over the main entrance the words CENTRAL LONDON HATCHING AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and below that the motto of the World State, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold in spite of the summer outside, in spite of the high temperature of the room itself, a thin, unfriendly light came in through the windows, falling on the glass and bright metal and coldly shining white surfaces of a laboratory. The feeling of winter was strong there. The clothes which the workers wore were white, and their hands were covered with pale rubber, the colour of a dead man’s face. The light was frozen and dead. Only from the shining equipment on the long work tables did it borrow a certain rich life, lying along the polished surfaces like butter.

‘And this,’ said the Director, opening the door, ‘is the Fertilizing Room.’

Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were working away, as the Director of Hatching and Conditioning entered the room, deep in the silence of people completely occupied by their task, A group of newly arrived students, very young, pink and inexperienced, followed nervously, rather unhappily, at the Director’s heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he wrote desperately. The occasion was an unusual one. Opportunities of hearing from the DHC for Central London about the work of the Centre were rare, but he always insisted on personally conducting his new students round the various departments.

‘Just to give you a general idea,’ he would explain to them.

For of course some general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently - though as little of one as possible, if they were to be good and happy members of society. For details, as everyone knows, lead to virtue and happiness; generalities, though necessary for some purposes, are dangerous. A peaceful and efficient society is based on practical workers, not on thinkers.

‘Tomorrow,’ he would add, with a mixture of friendliness and firmness in his manner, ‘you will be settling down to serious work. You won’t have time for generalities. Meanwhile…’

Meanwhile it was a privilege. Straight from the Director’s mouth into the notebook. The boys wrote their notes as fast as they could.

Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big teeth which were only just covered by his full, curved lips when he was not speaking. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? It was hard to say, and anyhow, in this year of stability AF 632, nobody thought of asking such a question.

‘I shall begin at the beginning,’ said the DHC, and the more eager students wrote in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. ‘This is where the process starts.’ And opening a door specially constructed to prevent heat from escaping he showed them shelf after shelf of numbered test tubes. ‘The week’s supply of eggs. These are kept at blood heat, while the male fertilizing agents,’ and here he opened another door, ‘have to be kept at thirty-five degrees instead of thirty-seven. Blood heat would destroy their fertilizing power.’

While the pencils raced over the pages of the notebooks, he gave them a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of the operation necessary for its beginning - ‘the operation accepted willingly for the good of Society, not to mention that those on whom it is performed are paid six months’ extra salary’; described how the eggs after removal from the body were kept alive and developing; mentioned the liquid in which they were kept; and leading the students to the work tables, showed how this liquid was taken from the test tubes; how, drop by drop, it was carefully examined on specially warmed slides; how the eggs were examined to make sure they were normal and then counted; how they were afterwards transferred to a container which (and he now took them to watch the operation) was placed in a warm solution in which the male fertilizing agents swam freely, at least one hundred thousand of them in every thousandth of a litre of solution; how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the solution; how the fertilized eggs went back on the shelves. There the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled, but the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only 36 hours, to be treated by Bokanovsky’s Process.

‘Bokanovsky’s Process,’ repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks. ‘One egg, one embryo, one adult - that is normal. But a bokanovskified egg will divide into many others - from eight to ninety-six - and every one will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Producing ninety-six human beings instead of one. Progress.’

But one of the students was foolish enough to ask what advantage this method of producing human beings had over the natural way.

‘My good boy!’ The Director turned sharply and stared at him. ‘Can’t you see? Can’t you see? Balanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!’

Social stability. Standard men and women, all exactly the same. The staff for the whole of a small factory from one single bokanovskified egg.

‘If we could Balanovskiy without limit, then for the first time in history, we should truly reach our aim of Community, Identity, Stability. But unfortunately,’ the Director shook his head, ‘there is a limit to how much we can bokanovskify.’

Ninety-six seemed to be the limit, seventy-two a good average.

Noticing a fair-haired and red-faced young man who happened to be passing, the Director called to him.

‘Mr Foster. Come along with us and give these boys the benefit of your knowledge by explaining the processes the embryos go through.’

Mr Foster smiled. ‘With pleasure.’ They went.

The Bottling Room was a scene of ordered activity. Pieces cut from the pigs’ stomachs came up from the Organ Store below in little lifts. The lift doors flew open. The assistant had only to reach out a hand, take a piece, place it in the bottle and smooth it down, and before the bottle had travelled out of reach along the endless belt another piece had come up from below ready to be fitted into yet another bottle, the next in that slow, never-ending procession on the belt.

The bottles advanced, and the next group of assistants made a small cut in each piece of stomach as it moved past them in its container, dropped into the cut an egg taken from one of the test tubes, smoothed the edges of the cut over it, poured in the salt solution in which it was to grow… and already the bottle had passed into the next room. Here the date of bottling and all necessary details about its contents were marked on it.

They passed through a room where details of all the bottles were stored on cards. These details were used by the officials who had to calculate the numbers in each group needed for Society at any time. From here they sent their figures to the Fertilizing Room, which must provide the embryos that they asked for.

Opening a door, Mr Foster now led the way down a stairway into a room below ground level, still very hot and with all daylight carefully shut out. The only light was artificial light, red and faint.

‘Embryos are like photograph film,’ said Mr Foster, smiling at his own joke. ‘They can only stand red light.’

This was where the s@x and social grade of each future human being was determined. He pointed out three long rows of shelves, one above the other. Along them the bottles moved very slowly during the treatment given to them before they came out into the daylight and the contents changed from the condition of embryos into that of living people. Two hundred and sixty-seven days was the time required for the whole process to be completed. On the two hundred and sixty-seventh morning, daylight and independent existence - so-called.

‘But in that time we’ve managed to do a lot to them,’ said Mr Foster with an air of satisfaction. ‘Oh, a very great deal.’

As they walked round, he described the various methods of treatment according to the s@x an embryo was to possess and the place which it was to fill in the Community. He told the students how the babies emerged from these processes already graded as Alphas or Epsilons, as future factory workers or future… ‘future World Controllers’, he was going to say, but corrected himself and said ‘future Directors of Production’ instead.

The Director smiled.

Mr Foster now became very technical in his explanations. He described how the embryos were developed in a rich solution which took the place of blood. He showed how the supply of oxygen to each grade of embryo was controlled in order to produce the correct degree of development of brain or body at each stage in its growth. He paused by a shelf of embryos who were to work in hot countries or in factories such as steel works. They passed through a chamber in which the embryos were exposed first to heat and then to an extremely unpleasant degree of cold, time after time, so that when they were ready to leave the bottles and become babies they would love heat and fear cold. Later on their minds would be trained to think what their bodies already felt. ‘Down here we condition them to need heat for their physical development,’ ended Mr Foster. ‘The nurses upstairs will teach them to enjoy it.’

‘And that,’ added the Director, ‘that is the secret of happiness and virtue - liking what you’ve got to do. All our conditioning aims at that: making people like their unavoidable place in Society.’

In a space between two chambers a nurse was carrying out a very delicate operation with a needle on the contents of a passing bottle. The students and their guides stood watching her for a few moments in silence.

‘Well, Lenina,’ said Mr Foster, when at last she took the needle from the bottle and straightened herself up.

The girl turned towards them. In spite of the faint red light, one could see that she was very pretty.

‘Henry!’ She smiled at him, showing a row of shining white teeth.

‘What are you giving them?’ asked Mr Foster, making the tone of his voice very professional.

‘Oh, the usual tropical fever and sleeping sickness.’

‘Tropical workers start being treated at this point to resist tropical diseases,’ Mr Foster explained to the students. Then, turning back to Lenina, ‘Ten to five on the roof this afternoon,’ he said to her, ‘as usual.’

‘Wonderful,’ the Director smiled at Lenina, touching her bottom lightly with one hand.

He led the students to a shelf where rows of the next generations chemical workers were being trained to survive exposure to great quantities of lead and other dangerous substances. On another shelf the first of a group of 250 future rocket engineers had just reached a point on the moving belt at which a special machine began to spin their bottles at a regular speed. ‘To improve their sense of balance,’ Mr Foster explained. ‘Doing repairs on the outside of a rocket in flight is not an easy job. We reduce the supply of artificial blood when they’re the right way up, so that they’re hungry, and double it when they’re upside down. They learn to like being turned over and over like this. In fact, they’re only truly happy when they’re standing on their heads.’

‘And now,’ Mr Foster went on, ‘I’d like to show you some very interesting conditioning for Alpha-Plus Intellectuals. We have a big group of them on Shelf 5, Middle Level.’

But the Director had looked at his watch. ‘Ten to three,’ he said. ‘No time for the intellectual embryos, I’m afraid. We must go up to the Nurseries before the children have finished their afternoon sleep.’

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