by John Wyatt
copyright 2000

"Where do I come from?"  The man faced the computer screen, awaiting the reply.

The screen flashed: [What?].

"I said, where do I come from?"

[Are you lost?] appeared in green.

"No.  I just want to know where I came from.  Where I originated.  This is the Information office?"

[I am not certain what information you wish.]
[Do you wish to know where you are billeted?]

"No.  I want to know where I originated.  Where my life started."

 [I cannot give out that information.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]

"But, if you can't..."  he pressed the Sys Req key again.  "If you can't tell me where I came from, then who can?"

[Is this a special request?]

"I...I guess so."

[You must fill out a form 1910A Special Request form.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]

"But..." he pressed Sys Req again.  "Where can I get a 1910A special request form?"

[Is that a request?]

"Well...I...I suppose so..."

[You must fill out a form 1910A Special Request form.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]



The terminal looked just like the one in the Information Office.  He pressed Sys Req.

"Excuse me."


"Is this the Special Affairs Office?"

[It is.]
[Sit down and wait.]

"Oh.  Alright."  He sat.

Fifteen minutes passed...

"Excuse me..."


"All I want is to..."

[You will have to wait your turn.]


Another fifteen minutes passed.  The screen then flashed:

[What can I do for you?]

"Well..." he got up and moved closer to the microphone.  "I would like to know where I can pick up a 1910A Special Request form."

[What is the nature of your request?]

"I would like to know where my life originated."

[I see.]
[Is there any particular reason you would like to know this?]

"Well, I've been rather curious lately, and a little insecure."

[Define "Insecure".]

"Well, it's sort of a feeling, like, of not quite belonging.  Not feeling a part of the group."

[I see.]
[Cataloging "Insecure".......Completed.]

"You see, I'd like to have a feeling of having, uh, 'roots'.  You know, like those 'trees' used to have."

[I see.]
[Reference "trees"..........Completed.]
[Trees:  Stayed in one place all the time.]
[Is that what you want, to stay in one place all the time?]

"Well, no.  Not physically, I mean."

[Employment Office 16A can arrange a permanent billet for you.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]

He frantically pushed Sys Req again.

[Do you wish to log off?]

"No.  I mean, I just want to have an emotional feeling of 'roots'.  Like I was a permanent part of society."

[I see.]

"And I thought that knowing where I started life would help.  Provide a sort of starting place for everything."

[I see.]
[We do not handle Special Requests.]
[You need to fill out a form 1910A.]

"Do you know where I can get one?"


"I mean...where can I get one?"

[Try Department 210.]

"How do I get there?"

[Take the 5AX tube, second exit, fourth door from the left.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]

"Thank you...."




He pressed the Sys Req key.

"Is this Department 210?"

[Thank you.  Goodbye.]

He pressed Sys Req again.

[Do you wish to log off?]

"No.  I mean...I want a form 1910.. I mean a form 1910A."

[One moment please......]

A slot in the wall opened and a form was ejected onto the table.

[Fill this out.]

"Is this a 1910A?"


"What is it?"

[It is form BJ49B.]
[It’s a request for form 1910A.]


[Fill out the top section, the one in blue.]
[Use a number 3 stylus.]

He worked diligently on the form.

[Be certain to press hard, so all copies will be scanable.]

Twenty minutes later he had finished.

"Where do I put the form?"

A slot opened and a pneumatic tube dropped out.  He inserted the form into the tube and placed it back in the slot.  The slot closed with a sound of compressed air.

[Now if you will fill out form 19R we can process your BJ49B.]

"Huh?   What is form 19R?"

[It's an authorization to process form BJ49B.]

"oh.  Will you give me one to fill out?"

[We cannot give out form 19R.]

"Where can I get one?"

[Have you tried Information?]

"Yes, but they said they could not give out the information I wanted."

[Then try Office 16.]

"Where is Office 16."

[Ask Information.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]



He pressed Sys Req.


[Back again I see.]


[We cannot give out the information you requested unless you submit form 1910A.]

"I..I know.  I just want to know where Office 16 is."

[You do not know?]

"NO!  That is why I'm asking you!"

[If Office 16 does not tell people where they are they must have a good reason.]

" are Information, aren't you?"


"Then why can't you tell me where Office 16 is!"

[The information you request is classified.]

"Why should the location of Office 16 be CLASSIFIED!"

[I detect voice stress symptoms.]
[Do you desire a sedative?]

"Huh?  Oh...No...I don't.  I guess I'm just tired."

[Are you normally tired?]

"No.  I...I just want a form 19R so my BJ49B can be processed."

[Data type conflict.]
[You requested Office 16.]

"I KNOW!  I mean...I was told that Office 16 has 19R's."

[If you desire a 19R you can submit a request for one on form 1910A.]

"But, I need Office 16 so I can get a 19R to authorize processing my BJ49B which is a request for form 1910A!"

[I cannot help you if you cannot straighten out your affairs.]
[Perhaps Department 49 can assist you.]

"where is...department 49."

[Down the hall.  Eleventh door on the right.]
[Thank you.  Goodbye.]




He looked at the man behind the desk and ventured "Is this Department 49?"

"I'm just the repairman, you want the Terminal.  I'll be done in a minute."

"Oh."  He sat down to wait.  The repairman reinstalled the brushed aluminum panel and bolted the keyboard into place.

"All yours,"  and the repairman walked out.

He walked up to the console cautiously and pressed the Sys Req key.  The screen lit up.

[How may I help you?]

"Well, I have been trying to..."

[Parity Error.]
[Speak louder.]

He moved closer to the microphone.  "I have been trying to get a form 19R."

[Have you acquired one?]

"No.  That is why I came here.  I was told you could give me one."

[One moment.....]

A slot opened and a large sheaf of bound papers fell out.

[Fill this out.]

He spent the next two hours filling in the form. 

"Where do I put it?"

Three slots opened in the wall.

[Place the green and yellow copies in slot 1.]
[The blue and brown copies in slot 2.]
[The pink, red and white copies in slot 3.]

He did as instructed and waited.

[Now take the original to Department 210.]



(Sys Req)

[You are back.]

"Yes.  Department 49 told me to bring this to you."  He placed the form in a slot.

[Now I can give you form 19R.]

"What were all those papers for?"

[Just a formality.]
[Sit down, take out a number 3 stylus, and we will get to work on your 19R.]



Two days later he received a notice to report to Office 93, sub-level 7. He examined the notice thoroughly but could find no directions.  He went to Information.

[How may I help you?]

"I was ordered to report to Office 93, sub-level 7, but I don't know where it is."

[Did you try dialing them?]

"But you have to know their address to call someone!"

[Then get their address.]


[I detect strong voice stress symptoms.]
[Would you like a sedative?]

"NO!   I..I'm sorry.  It's just that I've been so frustrated these past few days."

[Reference "sorry".................unable to find "sorry".]

"I just need to feel like I belong.  Like I have 'roots'."

[Define "roots".]

"They held the trees to the ground, firm and immovable.  Without them the tree would fall over and die."

[Cataloging "roots".........Completed.]
[Why do you want to know about tree roots?]


[I detect strong voice stress symptoms.]

A yellow pill dropped out of a slot.

[Take this.]

"Huh?  Oh, alright."  He put the pill in his mouth and swallowed. "All I want is to know where Office 93, sub-level 7 is."

A slot opened and disgorged a form.

[Fill this out.]

"What is it?

[A receipt.]
[It is for the database, to certify that you received information and why you wanted it.]  

 "Oh.  I see.  Of course."



He stood in front of the terminal in Office 93, sub-level 7, and pressed Sys Req.   He logged in and was instructed to report to cubicle 5 for human interfacing.   He went down the hall, entered cubicle 5, and sat down. He waited.

"Sit down."

"Who's there?  Uh..I am sitting."

"Thank you.  We are on the other side of the partition.  We do not wish to disturb your responses with our physical presence.  Just sit down and relax."

“I am sitting.”

A small circlet with countless wires descended onto his head.

"Don't be alarmed." said the Voice.

"I'm not."

"Good.  Then we can proceed.  Why did you submit a form BJ49B?"

"I wanted a form 1910A, and had to put in a BJ49B to get one."

"Why do you want a 1910A?" queried the Voice.

"I have a special request for some information."

"What information."

"I wish to know where I originated."


"I feel insecure, and ...lost...sometimes.  As if I don't really belong in society.  I need roots."

"'Roots'.  What are those?   Supply requisitions are handled by Department 710."  the Voice responded.

"I...I was speaking figuratively.  A root was part of a tree that held it firmly to the ground, so it wouldn't get lost and die.  I need emotional roots."

"I see."  the Voice replied.  "'Roots'  Why not go to Information?"

"I did.  It said it couldn't give me that information and that I needed a Special Request."

"If you want a Special Request form you need to submit form BJ49B."

"I DID!"

"You're shouting.  Why did you shout?"

"I DIDN'T SHOUT!  I mean...I...I DID submit a BJ49B."

"Was it approved?"

"I...don't know."

"Then why did you come to us?"     

"Why...Why did I...I was TOLD TO COME HERE!"

"You're shouting again."


"Stop shouting."




"Sedate the patient."

"INFORMATION IS ALL I want!  Origins!  My origins!  I...i...need roots...roots.  feel...lost...lost..."

"Take the patient to Neural Lab Three.  They will determine what caused the violent reaction."

[Fill out report on form 1690S.]
[What was the subject's reason for coming here?]

"Something about wanting to know the origins of 'tree roots'."

[Thank You.  Goodbye.]