There was once a talented young engineer who lived with her grandmother. When a great recession rolled over the country, the poor engineer decided to seek her fortune across the sea in order to pay for her grandmother’s third set of knees.

When the engineer arrived in Cuba she fell in love with the country at first sight. Harvest took place during the winter months in a country of eternal spring. Since most of Brasil had been turned over to the production of bio-fuel, Cuba was once again the wealthy, thriving, exclusive supplier of the world’s sugar.

Every major chocolate company raced to establish itself in the thickening infrastructure. The last chocolate war ended with a treaty, forming a new company, the largest in the world. The Factory took a sparse and scattered country and formed a unified capital with a loyal workforce.

The engineer was amazed by the immense automated working class maintaining the sugar plantations in Cuba. The world was embroiled in the second Great Terror and workers, essential to the chocolate industry, were in short supply. In Cuba the mechanisation of labour had created a metropolis of leisure. The Factory had developed its devoted robotic workforce using genetic algorithms, creating artificial intelligence that simply loved chocolate. The engineer came across work as a programmer for The Factory.

The Factory was at the heart of the town and its railway extended from the major Western harbour to the sprawling ports in the North. A shining new overseas rail was built to open trade with America. It became known as the Chocolate Highway and it stretched all the way through Florida quays. Tourism flourished and immigration increased sharply. In fact, so dense was the capital that the only lodging for sixty miles east of the Factory was near the coastal service yards. After a day of processing algorithms, she would ride the autonomous freight train out to the docks. She would sit atop her favourite locomotive, who she called BEN on account of his serial number, and together they would watch the boats and weave circular logic late into the afternoon.

One day as she headed out for lunch, a co-worker caught her by the arm and whispered to her. There had been a recent breakthrough in the software and the Factory had begun systematically formatting the A.I.s. The engineer knew that this was regular practice and shook off the colleague’s worried expression. Two weeks passed and she took the daily freight out to the docks. Climbing atop the familiar old locomotive, she was greeted with a crisp message requesting identification.

The next day she frantically trawled the archives looking for a backup but found only a single reference in a long list of deleted A.I.s. Her friend was gone. In a haze of disbelief, she submitted a letter of resignation only to have it promptly rejected. The surveillance around her neighbourhood became increasingly apparent to her and she avoided leaving the house at night. Packing as lightly as she could, she left in the morning when the sky was bright. She snuck aboard a small company yacht and followed the Chocolate Highway to Florida. There she bartered for supplies and set sail to collect her Grandmother.

Thereafter she sailed the seas as an entrepreneur; a slave of opportunity, plundering the trade routes and living off stolen ideals.

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the chocolate highway | 2011 | fables