Deborah crossed the square hurriedly. She was required at a meeting, a gathering of the beautiful people of this Zone, a time to share pride. Her outfit was, again, perfect for the occasion. She smiled inside; she had just the right balance of youth and respectability, alluring yet professional, to raise just the right reaction. And allow her to advance to just the right position. Naturally.
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Above her the giant screen placed in the square crackled into life. Throughout the Inner Zones other screens did likewise, projecting the message of the Elect, relayed through one of their servants, to all.
The screen showed a man walking through a street at night. Without warning, hands grabbed him, took him away. A voiceover began. “We live in dangerous times. The Elect and those who serve them seek to protect us from chaos, to justly reward those who obey their holy dictates, to protect the City as a whole.”
The image faded, to be replaced by images from the inside of one of the City's grandest Temples. Located at the inmost parts of the Inner Zones, such places were filled with precious things, lavishly decorated, used for worship by only the best, the most advanced, the most godly. Deborah felt a warmth grow in her stomach as she thought of it. To see and be seen in such a place had been her dream from childhood. The voiceover continued. “The Elect offer progress to all, from the lowest to the greatest, asking only that we obey their will without question. For they, at the peak of the mountain, may see better than we which route is most suited to lead us onwards and upwards.
“When, so many years ago, the City had fallen to disorder and strife, they stepped forth and guided us into the light. They have brought us peace, stability, security. In their godhood they have saved us all. Who, then, should oppose them? Who should disobey them?”
The image changed, flames taking over the Temple. Through the smoke a few figures could be seen, their faces in shadow, hunched towards one another in a conspiratorial gathering. “There exist, as there always shall, those who seek to suppress our achievements, to keep man in a state of mental and spiritual slavery. Such people are few, perhaps two or three out of every hundred good men brought forth in this City by the will of the Elect. Yet by their deeds they lead many astray, bringing chaos, disorder, crime, blasphemy and destruction wherever they go.
“These people conspire in secret, with their hateful signs and unholy rituals, coming together to plot the leading astray of those who live in the City, those who are faithful to the Elect. For they will not rest until all that is godly has been struck down and their own perversions are allowed to reign.
The flames fades, the figures disappearing into shadow. The voice continued. “Such people could be anyone, anywhere. A friend, a loved one, a family member, a neighbour. Do not be taken in by their lies, for lying is their only habit. You may recognise them by their words, by their actions, by their attempts – subtle and open – to lead us astray, to promote disbelief and doubt. They will come with their seductive words and beautiful ideas to lead you into apostasy. Stand firm and hand such people to the servants of the Elect, lest you be tainted by their depravity. The Elect shall look favourably upon those who aid them in ridding the City of those who would harm it.”
The screen snapped off. Around the Inner Zones, people returned to their daily business. At a glance it was as though nothing had happened; only a closer examination, the note of fear in the eye of every stranger, the nervous, shambling pace, bore witness to what had been said and what had been seen.