A Swift Look Into the Near Future
Zev Aelony Minneapolis, MN USA Copyright 2005 Draft
SAW A VISION OF THE WORLD, ALL THE WONDER THAT WOULD BE, . .”
From “Locksley Hall” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Guly 22, 2034
In a central control room of a massive prison complex, surrounded by stainless steel and teak, more than a hundred large video screens and associated video, access and alarm controls, two top officials with a well-patinaed buddy relationship sit amid a pile of notes before a set of computer screens.
“What in the name of AllTheGeez is that?”
“GeezDang it, we’ve got work to do! Pay attention! I’ve got to present this friggin’ budget to Hut at the Regional Thursday! Damn bureaucrats! Bean counters! Pile this shit on just to justify their existence!”
“Screw you, Shepherd! I do more in a day than you do in a week! Get off your friggin’ PoliticalCorrectness and look at the screens! What is that?”
“My Lords! That’s ancient! It’s a limousine; a Rolls Royce from about a hundred years back! . . . That has to be our new Commissioner. If Lord Goode is with her, it will save us the trouble of picking them up.”
“He-hay! It will sure be fun to have that thing around to go out for pickups! Let’s go welcome them.
“You know, when the BiParty named her County Commissioner, The Corporation was a sponsor of her inauguration party, and she did say she’d be paying us a visit to thank us for bringing new jobs to the county.”
“I understand she’s quite a spectacle, business aside, Grady – Lord Goode’s latest in a string of beauty queen wives!”
“Fourth ex-beauty queen, I hear. Miss GodsKingdom of 2028. As to beauty, it’s all ‘ex’.. She’s about seven months pregnant and all fat and waddles. . . .”
“Well, let’s get down to the reception circle and start the show . . . .
“Geez, look at that! Uniformed valet and driver! Look a ‘im whip around to get her door and offer a hand to help her out! BytheGeez, white gloves, yet! . . .”
The two walk up to a large traffic circle at the edge of which is parked a dark blue and maroon custom bodied – Mulliner, I think – Rolls Royce limo on the longest wheelbase I’ve ever seen. Ancient as it is, it looks perfect, somehow free of scratches and even dust.
Above the area is an elaborate airfoil shaped roof held up by titanium supports made nearly invisible by the ivy that covers them. Brass historical markers on polished black granite bases commemorate the names of officials of various branches of government and the contractors who are credited with construction of the facility. Across the traffic circle, beyond a large blacktopped parking lot, the black tail of the asphalt entry road meanders out of an evergreen woods so dense that it appears to be the edge of the world.
“Lady Goode, Lord Goode, welcome! May all the Geez bless you for coming to visit our humble ‘Center of Justice, Peace, and Love!’”
“The honor is Lady G’s and mine, Sir! You know that when she sought the BiParty’s nomination for the County Commission, Lady Goode promised to do everything possible to encourage new private enterprise to come to the county! It is enterprises such as yours that power not only our NewProsperity, but our NewFreedom as well! The human spirit is allowed to soar free of the heavy oppression of government -- such as we suffered under the CommunistTyrany enforced that Stalin, Atlee and Roosevelt and the other FalseProphets who used to enslave the people of the FreeWorld through most of the past century. The return of the Geez has liberated us – and I praise the Geez for that. We are again free to be fully human, as the Geez intended us to be at creation!”
“Thank you for saying so, Sir. Would you like the grand tour? Or perhaps just to enjoy our reception hall?”
“Lord Goode and I would be most pleased to take the grand tour! We want to have the fullest possible understanding of your Integrated Correctional Treatment Farm and Factory. We want to be able to tell the world about the wonderful things you’ve accomplished here – and in such a short time! It used to take longer for government to just pass a proposal than it has taken you to design, build and put this entire project into operation!
“It’s hard to believe, looking at all these impressive buildings that only five short years ago this was just a wasteland of impoverished subsistence farms with rotting barns and sheds with their paint peeling. One used to feel like one was in Baghdad or Timbuktu, riding through here on pockmarked roads flanked by those horrid open sewers. Now look at all these clean pre-cast concrete and steel buildings, smooth paved roads and paths! Just look at these lawns and gardens – and how did you ever get rid of that penetrating stench from the pigsties?”
“That is what modern capital-intensive for-profit investment can do, Lady Goode – and Lord Goode. You know it is ironic, but the Losers who had to be removed from here with their runny-nosed half-savage little waifs actually complained that we were ‘damaging the environment’. Can you imagine? They were so backward that they thought their muddy little patches of okra and corn surrounded by pig sh . . . uh, manure – and slimy puddles were preserving something of value! Some of those so-called farmers and landowners even got violent and attacked the officers. MadDogs!
“Those primitives didn’t want to face the facts. It is the first law of the Gee’s nature that the strong should consume the weak. Wasn’t that what the FirstG taught us when he ordered the filthy throng to submit to their master, saying ‘Yield to Caesar what is Caesar’s!’?”
“It most certainly is. I’m pleased to see that you are not only a fine manager, but also a scholar of the sacred word. Praise the Geez! So many of our people these days just can’t be bothered.”
“Thank you for saying so, Ma’am.
“May I suggest that, since there is so much to see, my associate, Lt. Col. Brady, take Lord Goode to see the packaging operations and that you and I start with the industrial assembly facility over there to your right. . . . . You can study the entire operation from this electric cart, if you’d like to have a seat.”
“Why thank you, though I think Lord Goode may be more in need of a cart than I.”
“Colonel Grady will make certain that Lord Goode is well accommodated.”
“Then I have one more favor to ask.”
“Certainly, what is it Lady Goode?
“Can I drive this thing? I’m not allowed to drive the Roller, you know.”
“But of course, Lady . . . “
“Oh, and my name is JoyLee. I’m really only Lady Goode down in England. Up here I’m a DemocraticRepublican, remember.”
“But of course, Lady . . . JoyLee. I am Shepherd. Marion Shepherd, but I’m just called Shepherd.
“We currently employ 3,587 FreeCitizens of the county in highly prized jobs here, as well as providing a good return to our shareholders. Because we are so selective, a starting corrections officer here can earn as much as a tenured professor at the University of the Ozarks. We currently are keeping 17,623 BadGuys from committing more assaults on FreeCitizens – that was the count as of this past midnight. We do process through some 600 on a good day.
“I am proud to say that not one of those BadGuys is from the county. They come from a thousand clicks away: perverts, murderers and terrorists, thieves, sluts, beggars and welfare cheats. They are the filth from the decadent cities of the coasts and the plains. There wouldn’t be so many now if we had only practiced good urban hygiene in the past. Now we’re cleaning them out, ridding the world of these disease-carrying MadDogs to produce the beautiful stainless cities of the 21st Century that our FreeCitizens deserve. What is more, we recycle as much as the new technologies allow. In the old government prisoners, valuable assets were just left to rot.
“Many of us have our entire retirement funds invested here. The Universal Prisons Corporation wisely has separately incorporated each facility so as to allow local people to invest in their own community. It is also the best protection for shareholders in the parent corporation, since it means that every employee jealously looks out to protect every asset. Already we are the sole support of hundreds of elderly, widows and orphans who would otherwise be begging from the County or on the streets – or burglarizing our homes while we are hard at work, as happens in New York and St. Louis! Almost all of these are also members of the BiParty . . . .
“Grady and I were both managers in the Zark Industries factory here that made architectural specialties. They closed the plant here and moved production to the Bloomington plant because The County then was so disgusting they couldn’t keep the engineers they needed here. We moved up there, and, like many others, I jumped at the opportunity to come home when this facility began to be constructed. We built new homes – mine is on my grandparents’ old place. That employed other people and put a lot of money into The County – to say nothing of the exorbitant property tax you get out of me! . . . “
“Now, Mr. Shepherd, you know that I am new and have yet to vote on a budget, but that I have always supported lowering taxes!”
“Ah, and why is it that every time I read that the board has cut taxes, my bill goes up?”
“Could it be because we have made this county so desirable a place to live that the FreeMarket keeps raising the value of your home? And perhaps that the good economy we’ve freed to flourish has allowed you to make great improvements to your home? And how many children do you have in school?”
“My wife has the kids so I pay to keep them in an academy up there – in addition to the taxes! . . . But I’m just ribbing you. You came to see what we’re doing. And I’m just plain Shepherd; no ‘Mr.’ Necessary among friends!”
“What a graceful bridge we’re crossing. It’s almost a work of art.”
“It was designed by a famous sculptor who is here now for consorting with terrorists. You know, you’d think someone so bright would know better, but they let their fame go to their heads, think they know more than the CEO or even the Geez themselves.
“The corporation built it, of course, like everything else here. The County Road Department didn’t have to pay a single NewGolDollar! It is all PrivateEnterprise! The water below was just a wild stream, running in mud. Our ground crews designed this beautiful concrete bed for it, incorporated it into our landscape design so it looks so nice and made that waterfall over there with the picnic tables where some of the employees are having lunch. The PolyC cover was fabricated here, and not only keeps the streambed clean, but since there is no exposed water, we have little of the problem with rodents that plagued this place before. It also reduces evaporation, which is the last thing we need on a muggy day like this.”
“Oh, it is so nice and it belies what the OldDems and other LowlLifes said about how you’d ruin this place. Instead you’ve turned a blight into a beautiful park. I see you’re employing people to further improve it. All those gardeners planting, trimming the trees and mowing the grass. It’s like a golf course.”
“Actually, those are some of the BadGuys. They do a good job and are delighted to be taught to do honest work, often for the first time in their lives. They love it and fight for those jobs!”
They are driving on a multicolored artificial slate path across a large manicured lawn. Various formal gardens are planted with colorful blooms in elaborate formal patterns. Young men and women in work uniforms, sweating profusely as the temperature is close to 35o G, can be seen planting, weeding and watering. A crew is constructing a mosaic mural portrait of the G Washington on the wall of a building apparently just being completed. Above it a larger building has a matching mural of the Chairman of the Universal Prisons Corporation’s Board, showing him carrying a small child on his shoulders while uplifting a FreeCitizen with his right hand, and restraining BadGuys in prison work uniform with the left. The prisoners on the crew do appear to be happy. A SupervisingTrustee has them singing work songs. Laughter breaks out as one of them inserts a verse teasing the SupervisingTrustee.
“How wonderful! The County required Universal Prisons to put in the 100-meter band of pines around the perimeter to hide the ugliness, but I see that it was unnecessary. You’ve gone way beyond what we required! There’s even windmills!”
“Yes, and those windmills, produced at another UP campus, produce all our own power and more that we sell. We are actually are the only producers of commercial power for sale in The County! All other electricity used here sends NewGolDollars out of The County.
“We had a famous architect to design our campus. Grady and I had met him when we worked for Zark. He told us that this was the job he enjoyed the most and of which he was most proud. We framed his letter and put it in the display up at the receiving area where we met you.
“When a shipment arrives up there, they are met by a prisoner band and children who pass out candies and soft drinks, which we also produce right here. Helps to calm ‘em so they don’t get skittish and run amok. Again, none of that is paid for by taxpayers. UP – UniversalPrisons -- pays it all! The efficiency of private business allows us to pay for things like that, pay higher wages and still make a good profit for our investors!
“The first building we’ll visit is just ahead. This is a facility for Sluts. We have currently 537 underage girls sentenced for getting pregnant while single with no visible means of supporting the child. Can you imagine being that irresponsible? The numbers have more than tripled since condoms and other immoral means were finally outlawed. That shows what they were up to in the Era of Libertinism!
“Since we are a caring and civilized society which does not harm innocents, they are allowed to work here until their babies are born and even until they are weaned.”
THE SMALL PRODUCT ASSEMBLY HALL
“Now don’t be startled by what you’ll see. BadGuys aren’t like you and me. They’re happier and better off here than they’ve ever been in their whole lives! These are Losers, unable to care for themselves. Here they’re kept clean and healthy. The Corporation even invites in church groups who teach them TheTrueChristianReligion. Their babies are born healthy because they are fed a balanced diet with all their necessary nutrients rather than the drugs and crap they get into when left to themselves.
“We’ll go in this door. I’ll point out a few points of interest, but please hold your questions until we leave. They get easily distracted. You know, BadGuys aren’t all that bright.
“In this first room, these are all sluts with new babies. The studs are in separate buildings. Leave ‘em together and you just get more dumb babies. When it does happen it gives us another valuable byproduct: the stem cells that have made possible your husband’s remarkable existence at his age.”
“At exorbitant prices! . . . Oh!”
“Uh, yes, they are naked. It’ so that we can keep them clean, and it’s also harder for them to revert to their old ways and steal or conceal contraband. All the seats and tables are restaurant-grade stainless steel, as are the cribs for the infants. The room is kept at a temperature and humidity level determined by our medical and ergonometric scientists.
“They sleep over there. After each shift, the work areas are hosed down with a strong acid, then rinsed with a skin emolument and antibiotic. The acid is surplus from the fab foundry. The Sluts themselves are also hosed down with a warm soapy spray before a similarly enhanced rinse. They like it, look forward to it. You should see them elbow each other to get into the sprays. We got the idea from the way cows push to be sprayed in our milk houses. These Sluts are just the same kind of herd animals, more like a pack of sheep.
“This is an integrated facility and this inmate crew are hand stuffing boards for specialty orders that can’t be efficiently done on automated lines. This particular run is under contract to the Adorable Toys division of RetailisUs, where we all shop. We do a different version for each brand of store. Aren’t they cute?”
“They ARE! Can I buy one for our baby?” She pats her belly.
“Uh, . . . I’m really VERY sorry, but we can’t. We have very strict controls and while we are doing the assembly, the product belongs to the UniversalRetailer, so it must be bought through them, but look for them in your local store even before the baby is born.
“These BadGirls in this hall have already had their babies, so they are all nursing. The tubes carry the excess milk away. You know the Geez have always had the greatest compassion for working mothers, many of whom have to work two shifts to help their children get ahead. You see the milk goes into that stainless steel tank. Each Slut’s milk is monitored for fat and nutrient content, as well as volume. In another hall the milk is packaged and shipped to the central warehouse of the UniversalRetailer.
“Those who have been genetically modified to produce specialty milks -- with special proteins for instance – are in a different hall we may visit later. All to these same absolute hygienic standards.
“The woman there in the white coat is a TrusteeTech. She couldn’t even read properly when she came here. Everything she has learned to do, she owes to our educational programs! She can move around to supervise, teach newly arrived Sluts their jobs and resolve assembly line snafus. She also sets up and adjusts their rations to maximize output value according to cost/benefit ratios she has studied. She adjusts protein, fats, fiber, and vitamins all according to tests she or the lab performs.
“When milk output declines substantially or the baby is adopted, she asks for instructions. Most often she tells them they’ve been chosen for a special program and gaily walks them over to the packaging plant. She tells them to go in and shower, putting the robe she has put over them in a bin, and that after the shower they should follow the arrows to a hall where they will get Trustee clothes. Those who perform that function are called Judas Goats. The Sluts believe them because they see girls who’ve been taken away return as TrusteeTechs or maintenance or whatever. They think the others are just working elsewhere, but don’t realize that only one in hundred or so are kept. They have no honor among themselves.”
“Still you needn’t worry about her escaping. The little red collar she wears around her neck would shock her senseless if she left her area. Each Trustee class is taken to watch as a young Loser is set free to try to escape, and to hear his screams as he collapses in agonizing spasms. One of the Trustee girls is then chosen to grab hold of his reproductive organs while he is held down by four others, and to cut them off. She is given a dull knife to extend and enhance the experience. Other prisoners, of course, hear the screeching and soon the whole campus knows. There will never be the sympathy that would enable cooperative conspiracies between the Trustees and those they supervise. No Trustee has even tried to escape.
“It may seem a bit harsh to the professionally teary, but only ConfirmedLosers are used. Even then, it is certainly more humane than the old prisons that merely stored them in solitary cells for decades within cold stone walls with gun towers while awaiting the horrors of being bound to a gurney and frozen in pain for the ten-fifteen minutes before death.
“Back then even the few BadGuys sentenced justly sentenced to death generally escaped justice. The Atheistic Jew lawyers and Nuns who got them off were just as evil as those they got off! Today every victim of crime knows the BadGuy will quickly receive justice.
“The efficiency of PrivateEnterprise is the key. One of the Geez, I think in the late 19th Century, that the great packinghouses of Chicago used every part of the pig but the ‘oink’. We do even better. Let me explain.
“While the BadGuys are awaiting their dates, they do productive labor. We pay them 6.22% of what we sell their labor for to buy cigarettes, cosmetics, candy or recreational drugs. Some even send money to their families. The rest provides some atonement for their dissolute lives.”
“So that is what pays for the construction and maintenance of this beautiful, civilized campus?”
“That’s right. Justly the BadGuys pay for it with their labor. That includes paying all our local contractors, FreeCitizens who spend their money in the County, pay taxes and vote for the BiParty.
“When their dates come, we dispense with all the ghoulish rites and efficiently dispatch them on our disassembly line in the packaging hall. All valuable organs are removed and sold at public auction so that the most deserving patients get them – rather than having some governmental or charity bureaucrat decide. We have some of the finest doctors, scientists and technicians constantly alert to examine and test each item, so that we are able to offer full warranties.
“The carcasses are hand cut by skilled Trustees taught by laid-off meat cutters from when the local pork plant closed. Hams, bacon and sausages are smoked in our own facility using wood cut by the BadGuys. We supply all the RealRedTM for all the UniversalRetailer stores in 19 counties, including house brands custom-packaged for WholesomeFoods, RedEye Foods, Mother Cares and Pearl’sFamilyStores.
“But as I bragged earlier, we do also use the ‘oink’. We’ve organized BadGuy music groups not only to greet new transports, but also to market their output to the GeneralMusicCorporation, Faced with outrageous demands by the old musicians’ and actors’ unions, they came to us. You should see the old Lefties compete at the auditions knowing that losing the role at the cattle call can mean getting packaged along with the other greedy pigs! ‘Solidarity Forever,’ ha!
“Notice the song that just came on the background music. It’s the latest hit song of ‘The Losers,’ the ex-con trio the Corporation paroled three years ago to inspire the hundreds we use daily to hope that if they work hard enough they may have a rich life like ‘The Losers’. You can’t believe how well it works, and UniversalPrisons releases less than one BadGuy in ten thousand!
The TrusteeTech seen previously approaches the two visitors. She is a small, frightened-looking woman probably in her mid-thirties, wearing a white lab coat. She has a pallid, puffy look and the beginning of a belly, some winkles and a few white hairs that she uses her pink technician’s cap to hide.
“Please, Lady Goode, do you remember me? Lorna Jean McGever. Please, I don’t belong here! You know I live in The County. Please look at me! I went on a vacation to the coast with a girlfriend. We went to casinos and she went deep into debt. She charged everything to my room and then I was arrested for non-payment of the debt. I hadn’t any idea even that she was doing that. She got off and even got her ticket home by testifying against me! Please, you know I wouldn’t do anything like that! My family wants to pay the bill, but they wouldn’t let me talk to anyone before the trial and then they said it was too late. I own your grandma’s old house, for Geez sake!
“By AllTheGeez, have mercy! Please!”
Shepherd looked enraged, but Lady Goode looked like she was trying to recall something and put her hand up as if to indicate she wanted to hear more. The TrusteeTech continued: “My mother has the kids, but she says they’re so upset she doesn’t know what to do. They won’t eat RealRedTM and you know kids can’t get all the nutrition they need to grow smart without it! She’s old and tired. She tells them it’s only real BadGuys, so it couldn’t be me. I’m a TrusteeTech! Please, I can pay the bills and the kids need me! I have a good job at the airport. No one’s been able to keep the Cabores weather system consistently stable since I’ve been gone!
“Oh, I want to see the look on Lilac’s face when I testify against her and she gets hers! I only hope I can buy a ham from her good-for-nothing ass when she is packaged, because I know it is gonna taste so GeezDang good!
“Please, Please, you must remember me? I know I look older and they’ve fattened me up in case they decide to package me. Please look at me. You know me!”
“Now, Jeannie, this isn’t the time or the place for this Please return to your post so I won’t have to discipline you!
Shepherd turned to Lady Goode, “JoyLee, they’ve all got these tales. You’d think they were all innocent victims. Of course, it’s all nonsense! Every one of them has had all the massive rights our democratic society gives them. Democracies just don’t imprison innocent people! On the contrary, our bleeding-heart judges will let ten BadGuys go free to prevent even one innocent from being convicted. It is only the victims of these con artists who have no rights these days! Every claim is thoroughly investigated by the UniversalPrisons before they’re even accepted. Not a word of truth in it!
“Look, here’s her TruthTag! See, she’s from New Jersey! She stole over thirty thousand NewGolDollars from people who trusted her, and then resisted arrest and even assaulted an officer and accused him of sexually assaulting her! See the officer’s sworn testimony: ‘In twenty three years of police work, I have never experienced such a violent attack!’ We taxpayers even had to pay for her defense attorney! If she’s so eager to make amends, why didn’t she at least pay for her own scum-sucking mouthpiece? She swore to the court she had no resources. We ought to add fraud to the charges, if it would make any difference!”
“Please, Ma’am, I’ve lived here since I was three years old. Don’t you remember? I bought your Grandma Keil’s place after she died seven years ago. Remember? He doesn’t want you to listen ‘cause his buddy, Grady, likes to ‘breed’ me, but what I say is the Geez truth!
Shepherd steps away to tell the desk captain to have another TrusteeTech brought in and this one packaged before she causes more trouble.
“Shepherd, I do recognize her. She’s the girl who bought my Grandma, Billie Lee Keil’s place.”
“Billie Lee Keil was your Grandmother? JoyLee, are you Belle Marie Keil’s daughter?
“Yes, my maiden name, Harden, was, of course, my Daddy’s name. I never really knew him. “
Lady Goode was confused by Shepherd’s look of horror.
“JoyLee, Aunt Billie Lee was my father’s aunt who pretty much raised him after his mother died, and was my refuge when Daddy came home in a drunken rage. I’ve never admitted this to anyone around here, but before I got married, I would help her out by watching you while your Ma and she were at work. I changed your stinky diapers -- I never told anyone ‘cause it’s unmanly to do that kind of thing!
“By the Geez, you’re my baby cousin Lee-Lee! When your Ma remarried and took you to Waco, we lost track of you both. I had heard that you’d come back to settle Aunt Billie’s estate, but that was when I was up in Bloomington. Aunt Billie told me that the only repayment she wanted from me would be to find you and make sure you’re taken care of!”
“Well, we’re back together, and fortunately I’m pretty well taken care of. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot of you at our home so that we can make up for all these lost years!
“As to your tech, there does seem to have been an error and we should get it corrected. Grandma Keil’s place is on the county tax listed at about four million NewGolDollars because it’s the property that links the airport to the new SuperMall! There should be no problem paying her debts and any outstanding fines.”
The captain pulls himself out of his chair and walks over, with a smart salute to Shepherd. His stiff, sharply pressed white uniform jacket is covered with medals. “Problem’s taken care of, Sir! Officer Anderson is bringing a replacement TrusteeTech with proper training. Been used as a sub here before. Oh, and these papers just arrived, I suspect they are the ones you were waiting for.
Involuntarily Shepherd mutters “Shit!” under his breath. “Thank you, Captain. You may return to your desk and install the new TrusteeTech when she arrives. Make sure you update the file at the end of your shift to reflect the changes. I’ll escort these two; it’ll create less turmoil.” As the captain gives another sharp salute and turns to walk away, showing a small smirk, Shepherd orders sharply: “You two, get into the cart quickly!”
Lorna Jean obeys, fearing to refuse, but expecting to be hideously killed, is in shock, tears silently flowing down her cheeks and dripping from her chin.
When they enter a service tunnel, Shepherd slows at a point where they are out of camera range and air circulation fans cover their conversations – a problem he has been demanding the surveillance contractors overcome. “Okay, I’ll try to get the two of you out of here, but you’d both better be crying in case anyone pays attention to us. Shit! Sheeyit! GeezDang! We’ll probably all end up packaged! I’m an idiot BleedingHeart for doing this, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to take Aunt Billie Lee’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter to be packaged!” Lorna Jean doesn’t trust Shepherd but has no options; JoyLee is totally confused, “What?”
“JoyLee, the papers were orders to seize you and Lord Goode to be packaged. I didn’t know who you were, Cousin, so I was just stalling and showing you around in case the orders didn’t come through.”
“What? How could that be? I have no debts and have paid off almost all of Willie’s old debts. Why would anyone do this?”
“You’re the politician: who’s toes you step on? . . . Well, there’s a common scam. Creditors sometimes wait ‘til a debt in arrears is almost paid off, and then if it’s a ‘751’ item which allows for the creditor to set automatic penalties, they can sell the debt for far more than they stand to collect under the negotiated terms. I suppose it’s just good business. An executive’s clear moral responsibility is to maximize return to his shareholders. By the Geez, you aren’t exactly a hero to all those ex-wives and their children, no matter what.
“But why were you paying off HIS loans? Didn’t you marry the old Geezer because of his enormous wealth? Why else?”
“That’s tabloid stuff. When his last wife left him for that swashbuckling young Bhutanese prince, he was just a pathetic old thing He had wasted everything, his estates had all gone to ex-wives, children, girlfriends. The last wife took him for everything he had left, though her new love had more money than AllTheGeez! He was already over 100, and they were all over him like buzzards. The Roller was really the only thing he brought debt-free into our marriage. That was probably because no one would accept it as collateral,
“As the immediate past reigning Miss GodsKingdom I had been invited, I suppose as a sort of ornament, to what turned out to be his last big affairs at his London townhouse. When I ran into him up in St. Louis where he’d agreed to do a University commencement speech to pay a bit on his debts, I learned from friends that he was penniless. I took him in as a relic of our history, only to find a beloved real man with whom I wanted to share my life. He was a polite and stimulating houseguest. Then over dinner one evening about three years ago, he said ‘If I weren’t a hundred years older than you, I’d ask you to marry me!’ I just told him that if that were a proposal, the answer was ‘Yes!’ Ever since we got married, we’ve been trying to get pregnant, so this may be the most wanted baby in history.
“ Did you know that he was one of the major architects of our FreeWorld? Did you know he worked with – and when necessary against – the leaders of the Century of Transition? Do you remember all those old names we had to memorize in history class? He knew them all! He was a friend and advisor to the Churchills; was sent to confer with Hoover, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Chang and Mao, TrueMan, General Gandhi. He walked with the Geez and can still tell you personal experiences with them you’d have to be a real brain to know about! He knew Queen Elizabeth the Second, and was sent to work things out with Gandhi the Elder, Kenyatta, DeGaulle and Mendela!
“He stood up to Adolph Hitler at a diplomatic reception and told him to deal with his Jews as the English do: keep them in their place, use the ones who are useful and make things uncomfortable enough for the rest that they want to go elsewhere – while tut-tutting the very hoodlums used to discourage their staying. You know if the German regime had accepted the advice, history might have taken a different tack. Later, Winnie sent Willie to offer them Edward as their king, with a guarantee that it would end all hostilities between the two powers, but instead they sent an idiot who literally just dropped in! Willie had stood up in the House of Lords and read from the Swedish and Swiss presses descriptions of Churchill’s terror bombing of the housing districts in Mannheim in Germany, apparently selected primarily because it was close enough to be a convenient target. He accurately predicted that it would lead Hitler to order bombing of British cities, which were more vulnerable. The Tory press called him ‘The Red Lord’. The Red press called him a German agent. He told them all, ‘I was born a subject of His Majesty, the King of England and a Tory, and I will live and die British subject and a Tory!’ He was sorry he was proven correct. He piloted a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain and still refused area raid missions.
“Later, when Eisenhower ordered one of his generals, a swaggering fool named Patton, to visit Jews in liberated concentration camps, the general obeyed the order but returned to tell Winnie, Windsor and others how he almost vomited from the Jewish stench, the besotted leaders of the Empire nodded knowingly and grinned. Willie told them to their faces that they were behaving as drunken fools, and that the general smelled like a pig, so that it was a wonder the Jews let him in! Apparently they had bigger hearts and greater intelligence! They glowered at him, but he stood his ground. The Churchill’s have never forgiven him.
“I didn’t marry some wilted old relic, but the most beautiful man I ever met! I only hope that this child will somehow grow to know him and to preserve and pass on his elegant humanity!”
THE DISASSEMBLY HALL
“There’s not much chance of that, but we’ll try. Grady will have gotten the same orders I did unless Sissy in the office expected me to carry the originals to him. That’s our only hope.” They were out of the tunnels and headed for the side sally port of the Packaging Plant less than a klick away.
“What are you saying? That they may have murdered my husband?”
“Packaged! Legally and in accordance with the legislation you and he helped pass! No one’s ever been murdered here! We have absolute security to make that impossible!”
“By all the Geez that is against all that we intended with the ProtectionOfIndividualLibertyAct!”
Lorna Jean glumly asks, ”What were you thinking? That it wouldn’t apply to you?”
Ignoring her, JoyLee responds to Shepherd, “Don’t sound so superior, cousin! You’re the one who just explained to me how things like this can’t possibly happen here! We’re not BadGuys!”
“Of course not! . . . Well, they all claim that!”
“You’re not even licensed to accept local prisoners! You said yourself, people can only be sent here after a thorough investigation and a fair trial that protects all their rights!”
“But you aren’t truly from here. Lord Goode kept his official residence at his ancestral home in Yorkshire, and you two did have a full trial. Look at these documents! You just didn’t know about it. The agreements to pay off your husband’s debts included a clause which includes Paragraph 307, which allows the debtor to appoint counsel to represent you if you do not make yourselves available for service in the Yorkshire Court District. You agreed to it!”
“What are you talking about? I never heard of any ‘Paragraph 307’.
“It’s part of the Simplified Business Act of 2013. Your agreement was to operate the payment schedule through the UniversalServiceBankCorp. Part of all their agreements states that in accepting their service you accept their rules and bylaws. They appointed a prominent law firm to represent your interests at trial, and you can see there that they billed you at their normal rates. The judge granted the bank’s request that the trial be secret because you were out of its jurisdiction and thus a flight risk. It’s a variant of an old procedure going back at least to the 20th Century. So is the game of requiring that any questioning of their actions by yourselves be adjudicated by the UniversalMediationCorporation, which is owned by the bank and other major corporations. You probably didn’t realize that its rules, which you would have had to request separately, require that you would have to post 20,000 NewGolDollars to bring a complaint, but any award you win must be limited to 5,000 – and payment of even that is unenforceable!”
‘But we carefully had the agreements examined by a lawyer at that same firm! He told us the agreements were standard!”
“I think that that is true. We’ve processed hundreds of Losers who signed these repayment agreements. I always wondered why anyone would. . . .
“Do you have enough guts to stay calm and not display any concern if we go into the disassembly plant to try to rescue Lord Goode? If you don’t each play your roles right none of us will leave here whole!”
The door had a large sign: “NO ENTRY”. Under that, “Don’t Even Think of Entering Here!” Shepherd spoke loudly to no one there: “Shepherd! Open!” The door opened just as they appeared likely to crash into it, and they sped in. The door closed just behind them.
In another part of this facility prisoners were brought in to an attractive lobby labeled “TRAINING CENTER ENROLLMENT”. They were directed to a colorfully tiled room with cubbies to put their robes, and told to shower and then to proceed down a hall and through a revolving door to a room where they would be issued Trustee credentials and clothes. However, as they entered the revolving door, steel fingers closed around their feet and, unheard by those behind, pulled them upside down to hang from an overhead conveyor. The sudden upset rendered them momentarily dazed. They would involuntarily empty their bowels, pass through a sterilizing foam and come out screaming in terror as the disassembly team began its work on them.
The two women failed to suppress looks of shock and horror as a school-age child flailed about crying out for his Mommy in the moments before the team’s cutting out his organs silenced him. For each victim the team had an exact set of instructions and very professionally extracted precisely what was required without even being aware of the Loser’s hysterical thrashing. One TrusteeTech under the careful eyes of a supervisor was dropping each of the boy’s kidneys into a pre-labeled bag of chilled saline solution; another was cutting his liver in two for two small orders.
“I don’t know what’s wrong; Grady should be here. . . . “ They stop by the security desk, “Captain have you seen Colonel Grady?”
“Yes, Sir! He and a guest he was showing through were here. They left suddenly left after a Trustee I didn’t recognize spoke in his ear and then joined them in the cart. It must have been some kind of emergency because they sped out that emergency exit. With all the racket in here, I couldn’t make out a thing they said even with the Buzzard Snoop Decoder. I think I caught the Colonel’s words ‘storage cave’. Anything wrong?”
“Not really, Captain. We just have to get our tour back together. Good work!” The captain saluted and Shepherd sped off as fast as the little cart could go in the direction of the same emergency exit door that the captain had indicated Grady had used.
“A few days ago we discovered an old cave the primitives had used for curing their cheeses. We were going to explore it. That has to be the cave Grady mentioned. I’ve no idea what Grady intends to do to Lord Goode there! We have to hurry! He may try to force Goode to sign over the great wealth we all thought he had. . . . I had been wondering about Grady lately. I wondered if he might be in some way related to our severe shrinkage problems, but thorough investigations including recording his every move appeared to clear him. No evidence, either, of his living beyond his means. Seemed meticulously honest; a dumb prude. Most of his money went to his little fundamentalist church. He’d often spend whole nights and weekends here. Maybe I underestimated him. Could he be smarter than I thought? Could he have a Trustee stashing things in that cave for him?
“See that embankment over there? Behind that grove of trees. Can you see the cave opening there?”
“Good. We’ll take care of Grady, then hide out there until I can figure out a way to get us out of here. We need complete silence, now!”
A RUSE TO DISTRACT PURSUERS
Shepherd drives several hundred meters up a swift, rock-bottomed stream about half-a-meter deep. He stops alongside some foliage and pushes out a cart that appears identical to his, even to the white roof with a red ‘S’ on top. He inflates three plastic figures, seats them in the cart, programs its computer and sends it on its way through the dense grove of trees.
The three watch for several minutes as the decoy cart turns up a remote tramway leading from a township road, speeds up a belt that brings coked coal to the top of the blast furnace of the prison’s steel foundry. The cart topples in and Shepherd grunts approvingly as they can see that the vinyl arms of one of the dummies rise up as if in fear as the cart disappears forever. “That will cause some confusion, but not for long. We’re going to have to figure something out fast! We can’t contact anyone any of us knows. Those names are all in our files. I‘ve activated a program to erase all those programs and to repeatedly write garbage over the erased hard drives, but we can’t be sure some authority hasn’t copied them to investigate me or someone else. I‘ve stored some viruses in files in the program to prevent that, but I can’t be sure it will work. . . .
“What are you smiling at? Look, I’m as loyal as the next man, but I’m smart enough to preserve an escape route just in case they aren’t as loyal to me as I am to them!”
TERROR IN THE DARK
Shepherd terrifies his passengers by speeding into what appears to be a solid rock wall behind some brambles. They find themselves in a natural cave. Shepherd turns on the headlights and drives into the cave as far as he can, a good two hundred meters bouncing along a stinky litter-strewn corkscrew descent. Rotted straw and some broken cases of mildewed cheese cartons are all the headlights reveal. The stench indicates not all the cheese has been removed. There is no sign that anyone has been there in ages. Shepherd douses the light and gives the two women each a penlight so they can see where they are about to step, but not bright enough to be seen by anyone who might have seen them enter the cave. “We’ll wait ‘til our eyes have adjusted and then search for Grady and Goode. I don’t think they’re here, though; there don’t seem to be any tracks from their cart. Did either of you see any sign of anyone coming in here?”
They turn off their lights to let their eyes adjust and listen carefully, hearing nothing. It is darker than any of the three had imagined. After five minutes they realized that there was not light there to adjust to; just a deep, eerie pall.
Suddenly Lord Goode appeared alongside JoyLee and Grady has dragged Shepherd from the cart with a garrote tight around his neck. JoyLee embraces Lord Goode, ”Willie, you’re safe!” She turns to introduce him to their rescuer and newfound kinsman, shining the pencil beam in that direction and sees his purple face and Grady’s evil grin! “Oh, Lord Gee, don’t hurt him!”
Grady’s look says he knows better. “Lady Goode, he was getting ready to kill you and your husband. I don’t know why he came here, but the woman with you is a Judas Goat, a prisoner who pretends to befriend other prisoners and gets them to follow her to slaughter!”
“No, no! He’s my cousin. He risked everything to bring Lorna Jean and I here so they couldn’t package us! Please let him breathe! Please!” She is crying. Grady loosens the garrote, but keeps hold of Shepherd.
“Thank you, JoyLee! Grady, what the FUCK did you think you were doing!!?? What’s going on here?”
“Colonel Shepherd, you are under arrest by the Free Republic of Comsta Ussac! You will now address me as Redd Foxx. Out of respect for your having aided in the rescue of Lady Goode and Lorna Jean, I will release you as long as you swear you will cooperate and obey directions. You understand that you may never leave here. Our Republic has no arms; we are protected only by the secret of our existence.”
“That’s fine by me! You have to have figured out by now that if I do leave and get captured, I will be packaged after J. Ed and his boys have had their fun extracting everything they want from my memory banks! If you’ve got a safe hiding place for JoyLee and Lord Goode and Lorna Jean and I, that’s where I want to be. I’m hardly a ‘flight risk.’
“What’s this Redd Foxx bit? Is it some Indian thing?”
“Shepherd, I need to know if you’re with us. If you are, we’re all in danger and I got no time for your smart mouth!”
“Grady, of course I’m with you! I’ve got no choice. I swear to God that I’m with you. I’ll do it on the old bible, if you want! We either make it all together or end up in slices on some RealRedTM counter. I just want to know what’s with the alias and this republic of whatever business. ‘Cause if you’re crazy, things are really messed up.”
“You’ve got my files, so you know that six generations back I had one Irish ancestor, Patrick O’Grady, who arrived in New York in 1861, just in time to be sold into Lincoln’s army to pay off his passage. He was 16 and used as cannon fodder, but survived, full of hatred for the country he’d helped to keep together and came down here, was given some land seized from rebels and raised a family. Four other ancestors of that time were former slave owners; two had been slaves, and five were Native Americans. Kiowa and Mandan, mostly. I’m proud of them all, but having grown up partly ‘on the res,’ in a sovereign First Nation, having first spoken Lakota and learned history from my great grandmother in our own tongue, I am proudly native.
“The Free Republic of Comsta Ussac is real. It has been here since before the Corporation built the prison. It is where we will seek refuge. It’s been my home for nearly a decade. The church hides one entrance to it; that’s why your spies thought I spent so much time at services.
“When you and I lost our jobs at Zark, after a brief stay in Quad Cities, I was given a private choice of either being fired or retiring for attending a banned meeting. I took early retirement and came down here to try to help fix things. My three children and their families were still here, trying to keep the farm growing. The bit of retirement money actually made things easier. I taught my grandchildren our language when they came home from school, and told them the stories my Lakota great grandmother had told me. I helped them learn to make things out of what nature provides – things I should have taught their parents but failed tol
“Then we were told we were to be ‘freed of the tyranny of the tribe’. The res was to be incorporated into The County. Then we learned that meant that our land rights would not be recognized, but that we could buy this ‘government land’ from the Corporation, which had acquired it by paying the year of taxes which were ruled to have been in default. My son-in-law and some others resisted, refused to leave their homes and were served arrest warrants and held in detention pending being moved to a prison up in Idaho. We were all known by our native names, so the Grady name wasn’t in HomelandSecurity records anywhere.
“Some Radicals told us the prisoners were to be killed when they finished their terms. We thought they were crazy until the High Sheriff told us the wives and children had to accompany the prisoners, which the Radicals had predicted. Then we learned that others who’d been sent there never returned. The Radicals had said that they could take us to a safe place to hide, so we snuck up to the corral the night before they were all to be shipped and cut them loose and all fled here. You’ll see it soon. The place was already called Comsta Ussac. Maybe it was a native name of the original natural cave, or of a nation who lived here.
Lord Goode laughed and interrupted. “Actually, it was not. I am probably the only man left alive in all GodsKingdom who knows the origin of that name. I should have remembered this place but you’ve changed it so much it’s unrecognizable. If I’m right, we’re a bit safer. It’s not as important now as what you’re telling us, so please continue and I’ll be happy to tell what I know once we’ve passed the stone doors. Your name interests me.”
“I was given the name Redd Foxx in the Republic to ensure that the Grady name would not be accidentally leaked. Please refer to me only as Redd from now on. The elder who gave me the name said it was the name of a great comedian of the last century. Some of the Republicans feel my funny stories of the stupidity of the BiParty and the Corporation Board relieve the fear we all feel.
“When we found that one of the Corporation’s prisons was to be built here, we wanted to save as many people as possible. At the same time, we wanted to protect the secret of our existence. When we heard that you, Shepherd, would be Warden, and that you were looking for me under the Grady name, it was decided it was decided that we should arrange for you to find me so that I could be the Republic’s eyes and ears.
“Uh, . . . there is a favor I need to ask of all of you. A promise, . . . uh, Lorna Jean and I have an, uh, relationship. My wife died seven years ago, and, . . . Jeanie, I owe you an apology! I ask your forgiveness and from all of you a vow never to speak negatively of it in the Republic. There is a strict rule that anyone who abuses another or misuses a position of authority is to be cast out! For me that would be a death sentence and also deny an elder to my family. I don’t know what each of you may have heard of this, but I beg of you to promise to not speak of it to anyone. . . .”
Lorna Jean interrupted his confusion, “Gra . . . Redd, you didn’t, . . . I didn’t know what was going on with you. When you asked me if I wanted to, it’s true I was afraid to say no, but it’s also true that I so had wanted you to ask. Don’t you want to stay with me? Is this your way of saying ‘you are on your own?”
“No, no! Lorna Jean, if you will have me of your own free will, I beg you to marry me in the Republic! I have taken steps to have the baby brought to the Republic. That is where the Trustee – actually a Republican Rescuer – who warned us to flee in the Hall of Screams, went. Lord Goode and I were waiting, hiding here, for them to return when, to our amazement you three appeared. Another rescuer is looking for you, Lorna Jean, but should also return soon.”
“Redd, I will speak only of my wish for us to marry and to raise our children together.”
“If we survive, Redd, there will be another little Foxx in about six months!”
Shepherd, surprised but relieved as he had known of his lieutenant’s dalliance, “Redd and Jeanie, since that is the wish of you both, I will do likewise. I certainly have no standing to criticize either of you.”
“Willie, we should agree to their request, also.”
Lorna Jean’s face tensed, “Redd, I need to beg you, please! Can your rescuers get to my mother and the kids – oh, God, from what you say the Corporation’s torturers may go after my sisters and brother and their families? Oh, Geez, how far will they go? My Mom had seven sisters and brothers and most of my Dad’s family still lives in The County. Are they all in danger?”
“Rescuers have confirmed that they have your mother and kids, but I don’t know about the others. We’ll have to go over precisely who may be in danger and their locations. We also need to know if it is likely that we can quickly convince them to come. By tomorrow’s news, many will have heard terrible things about you and that you killed your family and committed suicide or some such story. I tried to rescue members of my own family. Some accepted, some didn’t. One had heard terrible stories about me because of my position at the prison, and spat in my face. He was picked up and sent to Idaho where I learned recently that he’s been packaged. Shepherd, you’re such an intelligent man, but I know somehow you never saw past the shadows. I think you were so wrapped up in budgets and systems that the reality never got through. I can’t sleep without feeling the agony of the Hall of Screams!
“Quick! Someone’s coming! Help me pile these cartons and bird dung over Shepherd’s cart. It’ll have to do! Back into here! Shh.”
A rescuer drives in with an older woman and girls of eleven and six, and a boy of eight. The woman is angry, the children in tears. “What do you think you are doing, Lorna Jean, getting involved with these BadGuys!? Couldn’t you wait just a little longer? You never had any patience! No sense at all! I know Attorney Francis would have gotten you out soon! We would all have been free and RESPECTED again in our own homes. Now what will happen to all of us? We will be running until we’re caught! How could you do this to your own children; to your own mother?!”
“Mother, this is Lord Goode and Lady Goode. Lady Goode is JoyLee, the granddaughter of Billie Lee Keil, from whom I bought the house. She’s a County Commissioner!
“Mother, these people saved us from being packaged this afternoon. The Goodes were to be packaged, too. This is Redd Foxx. I couldn’t tell you about him before. He’s the Deputy Warden. We have a beautiful daughter and will soon have another child. We couldn’t get officially married, but we will now. You will have two more beautiful grandchildren and you guys have a sister you’ll soon meet and soon will have another brother or sister!”
The boy sniffed, “I hope it’ll be a boy. I’ve already got too many sisters.”
“By AllTheGeez! First you marry a kid who off and abandons you at the first sign of trouble, and now you’ve had a child with a wrinkled gangster who looks older than I am! And what of you two? You call yourselves Lord and Lady? You should be ashamed! You’re supposed to be our County Commissioner? What crimes have you committed to get yourselves in this mess? Have you no sense of responsibility?”
“Mother, they haven’t committed any crimes. They’re like me. Oh, Geez, let’s face it, probably half the people in here shouldn’t be! We’ve tried to believe that the people in here are different, but I don’t know. Mother Shepherd here was The Warden here until he rescued us; as I said, Redd is – was – his deputy.”
Two more carts appear. One carries the single rescuer who had sought Lorna Jean and is amazed to see her. He had heard and believed that she and another BadGuy had kidnapped Shepherd in a horrific murder-suicide. The other rescuer brings the toddler daughter of Redd and Lorna Jean, who runs to her mother, then clings to her Dad’s leg. Redd addresses Lorna Jean’s mother and asks, “May I call you ‘Mother’ even if I am older? Mother, this is your granddaughter Sagita.”
“Mother, I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you before, but it would have been dangerous for all of us. I hope we will be safer in The Republic, which is where we are going. I know we will all get to know and love each other. I know it’s a shock, but to survive we must all stick together as a family. I hope you will come to give us your blessing and love, Mother.”
A crew somehow appears out of the darkness and all the carts disappear. The trash is rearranged so as to hide the tracks. “ We are a big group. The bioreaders or the IR detectors may find us if we don’t get to a more protected place quickly. Please hold hands. I have Sagita. Lorna Jean, will your other kids be able to walk on their own a few hundred meters? Good. Try to be as quiet as you can and don’t let go of the hand of the person ahead or behind you.”
With only a penlight up front, they climb a twisting path strewn with damp rubbish. A door opens and they see a broad cold stone ramp leading upward with an escalator moving along the side.
WELCOME TO THE REPUBLIC OF COMSTA USSAC!
Redd led the parade up seven flights of escalators to another apparently solid stone wall. The wall, rough and natural looking on the out side, rose into the ceiling. I was about three meters thick of what appeared to be basalt rock, with a meter-thick steel inside. A zigzag hallway led to another such door, inside of which was a surprising sight: a large high-ceilinged room, brightly lit and looking like a 20th-Century version of the lavish public lobby entrance to the headquarters building of The Corporation. Redd and the Rescuers led the refugees to a brass-topped stainless steel counter, partly painted blue. Several clerks stood behind it. The floor had a thick blue carpet with a white circle in the middle surrounding a five-pointed red star. Above them a large banner in several languages proclaimed “Welcome to the Free Republic of Comsta Ussac!” Redd introduced them and they were asked to sit at consoles and fill out forms entitled: “Application for Political Asylum” under the large heading “Free Republic of Comsta Ussac”.
Redd then again approached the group, “The semi-monthly Town Meeting is about to end in Alliance Square. You are all invited to be introduced. You look bemused, Lord Goode.”
“”Please call me Willie now, Redd. I was just intrigued to see that you haven’t changed the old names and kept the old symbols.”
“Have you been here before, then? Oh, as we pass through this door be prepared that you’ll be on stage in front of the meeting. If you look up, you’ll see some weird, stretched out maps of the world.”
As they entered onto the stage there were “Wows!” and “Geez” as the new arrivals looked around. “How many people are there here?”
“The square has room for about 42,000. It looks full to me. As you can see, some of us need to move elsewhere to reduce the crush. We call ourselves a republic, but actually we govern our selves more as a democracy. We have some committees and agents like myself and other Republican Rescuers who have to make instant decisions to carry out very specific work, but all our basic guidelines are set here. The meeting is also our Supreme Court, but that is theoretical because we’ve yet to have a judicial appeal to the meeting – I guess things are just too fluid here, moving too fast. In theory there aren’t supposed to be parties, but we have lots of disagreements and people have moved to other republics not only to alleviate crowding here, but also because they didn’t like things here. As Shepherd could tell you, there is a growing armed resistance to the Geez. We are opposed to resort to violence. Our founders included many Quakers and Anabaptists and other traditional pacifists. We could not turn down anyone who needed aid, however, and so we have several hundred members of the guerilla groups who were brought to us wounded as well as fourteen storm troopers, mostly from a local unit called the President’s Black Berets who were brought to us because otherwise they would have died. We have agreed to take in anyone in danger of loss of life or limb, provided only that it is agreed that they may never leave – since the secrecy or our location is our only military defense – and that they will abide by our rules and traditions and never again engage in violence. Of course, if the war ends everyone will be welcome to leave any time they wish. They are, however, free to debate and no one denies their right to promote their views.
“The old radicals and their friends pretty much form a party, although they deny it, and we of the First Nations and other ethnic, religious professional and common-interest groups – like parents or people with asthma – similarly coalesce when decisions affect them. Some Republics have tended to have concentrations of one group or another. The thirteen current Freedom Zones that are in communication have a congress that meets four times a year, each time in a different zone. Since each is diverse, they try to each send 20 delegates to represent all the interests. It’s unwieldy and dangerous for us to travel, but as we grow and attempt to coordinate to save more people, and as the empire’s oppression becomes more brutal, it is increasingly important.
“At this point as we establish new zones, we try to include people who, however different, can at least work together and help comfortably resettle people who were in serious conflict in their current zones. Still, we recognize that if the terror of the Geez collapses, we do have to find ways to ALL live together as a loving community. Some means will have to be found to freely reconcile the irreconcilable. That’s never been done before, but the world never was entirely in communication with 11 billion people every one of whom has the potential ability to destroy it all; and also the ability to invent the beloved community!”
As they move to the center of the stage, they see that the hall is somewhat strange with antique projectors poking through upper walls in some places, raised areas and balconies in other areas. People on the stage rush to welcome them, some hugging them. A small group, apparently youths from The Res, wearing red headbands, are calling out to Redd in another language. It sounds somewhat like “Migwitch.”
“What are they shouting, Redd?”
“It’s a greeting. It’s good to be wanted. I’d better begin introducing you. I’m told this emergency meeting has gone on for seven hours. They’re probably most anxious to get home!
Redd raises his voice to a level he was not previously suspected of being capable of. People munching on snacks or talking in small groups hushed to hear. “Friends, as you know, some completely unexpected events have occurred today. We are faced with major crises and decisions to make. What is more, today’s events have presented the Geez with a frightening challenge, which means that every effort will be made to target our little republics. We have to do serious studies of how we can respond, survive, and rescue as many people as possible. That will occur over the next few days and I’m sure you’ve exhausted yourselves beginning that process.
“In the mean time, I want to introduce you to newly arrived refugees from the Universal Prison. They are people I love and hope that over time you will learn to love them, too. They are also people whom you will want to take whatever chances you will have to talk with to learn much that we haven’t known about just what we are facing. If we don’t understand the feelings and beliefs of those we fear, all our labors to replace the Universal Prison with the beloved community will likely be in vain.
“First let me introduce my bride to be, Lorna Jean McGever, her children, Hilly, Ulysses, and Bibi; her mother, Hilary and our daughter Sagita. Friends, fellow citizens, Lorna Jean and I ask you to accept us as a family within the republic!”
A white-haired older man steps forward and asks, also in a full voice, “Lorna Jean, is this also your wish?”
“Do you each understand that this will mean that you are each responsible for all the special needs of each other, of your children, your elders and all members of each of what were until now your separate families. In our enclosed bubble here, there is no room to sidestep such obligations.”
“Yes! I don’t yet know many of you, but with what Redd and I have gone through these past years, having to keep our love secret, hidden as if it were something else, unable to talk freely except when we could on rare occasion whisper in each other’s ear, we have long since committed our lives to each other and to our families! It is such a joy to be able finally to express it to our loved ones!”
“Does anyone know of any reason that The Republic should not honor and welcome this union?” There is a moment of silence as thousands of necks crane around to see if anyone will speak. Hilary looks at them in confusion, but bites her tongue and her tears are taken to be those expected from the mother of the bride. Then there is thunderous applause accompanied by shouts of good wishes.
“I wish also to introduce a long-time colleague whose defection from The Empire and from The Corporation, and whose very necessary request of asylum is one of the major reasons that we will have to make major decisions. Some may initially be unwilling to accept him among us. There is, in fact no real choice in that, but I ask those among you least inclined, to take many deep breaths over the coming days until you can welcome my former boss, Warden Marion Shepherd.” There are gasps and cries. Apparently word had just begun to spread. This man had been known to few, but has epitomized the essence of evil to many. He had issued orders for many of them to be murdered and their organs sold, their bodies packaged as meat! There are isolated calls of “What?” and “You’re kidding!?” There is a moment of silence. It is as if one of the Geez had defected. Then someone calls out “Welcome!” One person begins to clap, then there is a wave of somewhat tenuous applause. Some of the younger people express elation at the defection, but most look somber as the serious expectation of reprisals sinks in.
“And finally, perhaps equally a surprise to all but the Republican Rescuers who had begun early this morning to prepare to save them, JoyLee and Willie!” There is a polite round of applause. Redd continues, “They were previously know to us as Lord Goode and County Commissioner Lady Goode. I understand that the BiParty has already declared her a victim of a vicious murder suicide, and replaced her.” There are more expressions of amazement, tens of thousands of heads nodding.
The man with the ponytail returns to Redd’s side, “Is there a desire to set a special meeting?”
“Let’s convened W’sday. That gives us two full days to discuss informally and to try to get a feel of the Geez response to all this. Can the Geez Watch, Prison, Foreign Affairs, Interzone Communications and Rescue committees meet in the mean time.” The speaker was a gray-haired woman with a powerful, clear voice who appeared used to being listened to. She stood on one of the raised areas, a toddler sleeping on her shoulder.
“Is there discussion?”
Someone calls out, “Noon?”
“Teachers won’t be able to come or we’ll have all the pre-teens here.’
“That’s what the conferencing system is for.”
“”Teachers and others who will be tied down at that time, is it okay if you have to participate remotely?”
There is an unenthusiastic chorus of “No.” “Any “Yeses?’” Silence.
“Is it agreed?”
There is another wave of unenthusiastic agreement, no ‘noes’.
“Committees? Any who can’t have their work done in time to report to the meeting?” More silence. ‘Pony tail’ again steps forward and addresses another elder, “Alejandro, before you ask for adjournment, let me ask if the Republicans have something to say to our newcomers?”
There is a thunderous “Welcome!” mixed with other greetings.
Redd asked for the meeting’s forbearance and turned to Willie, “You indicated that you had been here before and knew something of its origins. Willie, some opponents of the rise of the Geez a couple of decades ago fled into the cave to hide and found a way into this complex. We’ve had all kinds of theories as to who built it and the meaning of the names. Can you enlighten us?”
“I can. Upon his return to the office of Prime minister in 1951, Winston Churchill asked me to undertake a mission so secret it has never appeared in print, nor in any preserved records. The U.S. President of the time, Harry S Truman, the man you know as ‘The G TrueMan’ had begun to build a huge bunker in which he would install all the equipment he would need to control the government and military in case of nuclear war with the old Soviet Union, which was the last major military challenger to the empire. They had tested nuclear weapons years before he expected, upsetting his expectation that he could cow them into submission, and that scared him. Among other things, he realized that the highly urban United states and its densely populated Western European allies were far more vulnerable to such an attack than the Red Menace, spread thinly over fifteen thousand kilometers from Stockholm to Jakarta.
“A natural cave had been recently discovered here and was massively enlarged. It was done with a minimum number of workers who were told that they were mining a secret ore critical to national security, and that they mustn’t tell even their families since there were Communists everywhere seeking to brutally murder anyone connected to the project; that they might even kidnap their families if a child let something slip. A few were picked off as part of an ongoing program of your then-new Central Intelligence Agency to train hunter-killer teams to pursue critical Cold War black operations. In a few cases it became necessary to silence those whose loose lips to their families threatened the secrecy of the project. Enormous expenditures were made, but hidden in other items, so nothing related to it appeared in any budget or reports to any agency.’
“I was told that outside of Truman, Churchill and myself, only my aide, General Smith, and some 350 laborers and technicians which did the final installations, specially retrained prisoners of war who were a former TodtKopf SS unit, knew enough of the nature of the place to have possibly guessed its purpose. Though by then your government was sponsoring the reestablishment of the Nazi Gehlen espionage and enforcement organization, infiltrators from that organization were carefully weeded out and eliminated. All materials and equipment was contracted for under false pretenses, and much was listed as stolen, including the massive supplies of food, water and air intended to provide for up to 100,000 troops and their support staffs to be kept in fighting trim for 25 years if necessary.
When no longer needed the Germans were dispensed with to reduce risks of disclosure.
“TrueMan was afraid that his successor, the G Ike, would use knowledge of the project as a brush to smear him with, and took actions to eliminate any chance that its existence might be leaked. Winnie told me that he agreed and also didn’t trust his successor, a man named Anthony Eden who succeeded him in 1955 according to the old calendar. Eden was a lightweight, a fool. I wouldn’t have told him anything, either. I believe that the deaths of Churchill and TrueMan were natural, as was that of General Smith. They have been dead for some three quarters of a century and I have seen no evidence that anyone else has even the remotest hint of the existence of this place. I have many things on my conscience and so many useless deaths in the construction of this place were a burden on me I never wished to share with anyone.
“Oh, we did have to ‘arrange an exit’ for one of Her Majesty’s retired agents when, in his old age, he became talkative. Fortunately he was vacationing in your island paradise of Hawaii at the time, and his drowning was easily arranged and no questions ever asked. I hope there were no other leaks, as that reduces the chances of our being attacked.
“Is that enough for now? I think more people are starting to drift off. It is, after all very old news.”
A young woman near the front called up, “Was the name here already before your ‘project’?”
“Oh, Comsta Ussac was just an acronym for Command Station, United States Strategic Air Command. That was the military unit that then delivered nuclear weapons. Alliance Square was so named because the intent was that British military command could also operate from here in the event that all British and Continental bases were destroyed. Whenever I was here, there was a British flag, the Union Jack, above the reception area next to the old US Stars and Stripes of the time. It doesn’t surprise me that only the latter remains. I suppose they’d have put up the flag of any visitor, but I am quite sure that I was the only one.” He turned to the man who had been called Alejandro.
“Any objections to going home?”
“Scarlet Dawn, Red Foxx’s daughter calls out, “Wait!
I’ve an announcement! In honor of Dad and Lorna Jean’s marriage, the Foxx family invites all who wish to greet the new couple to come to the President’s Reception Room. Family, you are all expected for a reception line. We didn’t know either, so the cake will have to come later.”
Someone called from the back, “We’ve got some cakes and cookies that would have been dessert if this meeting hadn’t gone on forever!”
THE WEDDING RECEPTION
“Dad, please stand here, and Lorna Jean beside you to form the head of the line, Lorna Jean, you look pale . . . . “
“I’ll be all right. I’m just a bit dizzy from all that’s happened so fast. Would anyone mind if I sit? Oh, and please call me Jeanie! I’m so embarrassed, I don’t even know your name. Redd asked that we not talk about our families in case it got picked up and gave someone a chance to hurt them. I don’t know anybody’s name and so many have been so nice.”
“Of course. Everybody calls be Dawn, but when he’s stern, Dad calls me by my full name, Scarlet Dawn. Some people think that’s political because I’m a loud activist, but Mother told me she named me because the minute I was born, the most beautiful sunrise she ever saw began right outside her window.
“Baby! . . . Jeanie, this is my oldest daughter, your new granddaughter! We all still call her Baby, though it’s clearly long since ceased to describe her. You can be very proud of this daughter! She works so hard and learns so much in our school, works as an apprentice civil engineer, and writes songs she sings with her friends on our clandestine transmissions. Baby, please bring a chair and some fruit juice – whatever you can find – for your new grandmother. Jeanie, I know that I am older, but it doesn’t feel right to call you by your name: may I call you Mother and may Baby call you Grandma? Our tradition has always been that we call elders by their title, though most of the others here call each other by their first names or nicknames, I think because of the social chaos.”
“I don’t know what to say. Of course, I will be honored. Baby, may I give you a grandmotherly hug, even though you are taller than I am?”
“Sure, Grandma. I’ll get you a chair.” She pushes through the crowd and returns in just a few seconds with a collapsible chair. “Mom, I’ll have to go to the kitchen to get the juice. I looked. There’s nothing in the chiller here.”
“Then ask your Daddy to run to the kitchen for a pitcher of juice and a few glasses.
“Hilary, please be next in line. Baby, we need another chair! May I call you Grandma? May I hug you to thank you for coming to us?”
“Well, . . . yes, but I don’t think I had any choice in the matter.” Hilary accepts a hug, but still looks cold and out of place.
“I had better get everybody in place in the reception line, Grandma, but can I invite you to our rooms later so that we can get to know each other and so that I can make sure you have all your needs here taken care of. As your eldest granddaughter that is my responsibility and my honor.”
“I guess so. I don’t really know where we are and have no ideal where we’ll stay.”
“Then after your daughter’s wedding reception, please let me escort you first to my rooms, and then to a guest room. In the morning we’ll find you a new apartment and shop for linens and everything to make it homey. I don’t imagine that you were able to bring much, so we’ll find everything you’ll need”
“I don’t think I have that much money.”
“That’s okay. Most of us arrived here that way. Anyway, we don’t use money here. It really wouldn’t work, would it? I’ll show you how we manage things when we go shopping. Shall we do that the first thing tomorrow morning while Mom – Jeanie – gets the kids settled in their schools?
“Hilly, can you stand next to your grandma? Ulysses and Bibi, please stand by Hilly, and help her if your grandma needs anything? Marion, . . .”
“Everybody just calls me Shepherd. Thank you. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met when you were a girl about the age Bibi is now, I think. Redd made excuses every time I asked about his family, though he had told me about the death of your mother. After her death he was such a mess for a couple of years, I thought we would lose him, too. I thought he was just too sad to talk about his family and that that was why he was so deeply involved in your church.”
“It was a hard time for all of us, but I feel that in some way Mom still guides our lives. I’d still be a much littler girl if I hadn’t married one of our star bakers.”
“Oh and would you be next in line? You asked to be called JoyLee and Willie?”
“That’s what we call each other.”
“Well, not always. I won’t tell you what I sometimes call Willie when the baby kicks all night long.
“Dawn, thank you so much for receiving us so beautifully. I was afraid you’d hate us. You have every reason to!”
“We all have reasons to hate and to be hated. If we surrender to it we are lost! We have stronger reasons to focus on our love. Some of us haven’t gotten over the rage over what has been done to them. Some never will. Most of us have wounds from which we will never recover, but we consider it our first obligation to not pass those on our children.
“There has never been an adult human being who has not done something inexcusable, whether they admit it or not. There also has never been a human being who has not done something incredibly wonderful. It’s only that the Geez always taught us to look at the one side or the other, not both. When I was a little girl my Ma had some old records and a player that had belonged to her grandma. One song had a chorus that went something like ‘there ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.’ I thought about that because at that time the President, as the Gee was then called, and our teachers, were saying that the way to make the world better was to kill off the bad guys or at least lock them up and make them suffer. Even as a little child, I recognized that the words of that song were wiser than all those addled ‘leaders’. I know that as we get to know each other I will learn of the beautiful JoyLee whom I haven’t seen before. We’re family now. Shall we work loyally and lovingly together to fix this troubled world for our babies to enjoy?”
JoyLee, hugging Dawn warmly, “Thank you so much! I do want this baby to grow up knowing of some good things her mother and daddy did to make the world better. They’ll have to know of our mistakes, also, of course.
“I’ve had a bad feeling about some things, but I always thought I was doing the best thing that could be done. Now it’s clear some things were horribly wrong. Can you understand, it is as if in a show, the scene suddenly changed! It’s as if where I thought I was looking at the world, it melted like a mist and now I see the real world behind it.”
“You know, you could help yourself and us to understand by talking with one of our study circles both about how you came to do the things you did as an agent of the Geez and what brought you to suddenly change the way you understood the world. No one has to, but some of us find it helpful. Most of us saw things differently before seeking to come here, so we can’t judge anyone else. We can only judge actions so as to do better today and tomorrow. Willie is very old, but surely you and your child will see some good results of this work.”
“What is it, JoyLee? Is it the baby? Baby! Another chair.”
“I would like to sit, but it’s not that. The bands that meet the prisoners then guide them to the packaging plants; the Judas Goats: this isn’t just some show to keep us calm before you kill us for what we’ve done -- is it? If it is, I’d rather know.”
“JoyLee, NO! Please! Know that from this moment on you are my sister, my daughter! I promise that I will always stand to protect you and Willie and your baby as I do all my family!
“Look, tomorrow we will walk through the entire Republic. It’s less than a thousand hectares, so we can do it in a morning. I understand your fear, so we will make sure we look into every nook and cranny – except people’s homes, of course – so that you can be absolutely certain that there is no place here where people are abused or killed. There’s so much to see and discuss, but you’ll see a lot of people working hard, building, studying, agreeing and arguing while taking care of each other and loving each other. JoyLee, if you and Willie ever are afraid, come to me! Now I’ve got to save Willie from Ulf!”
“What? Willie’s right behind you, talking with some one.”
“Dawn turns around to face Willie and a bushy-haired old man who is lecturing him on his past misdeeds, and his ignorance, “treating the origins of this facility in his description to the Meeting as just something that happened, when if fact it was part of a great scam by a self-appointed elite that considered itself entitled to more than the rest of humanity. The great Tory Conspiracy got us all into this mess and murdered more people and slaughtered more species than all those living on earth and the satellites today! I told people that it went back hundreds of years, but they all said I was paranoid. Now you’ve confirmed much of it.”
“Ulf, Willie is in line to be introduced to all of us. Willie has confirmed that you were right about many things, and I’m sure you must have thanked him for that, Ulf? Hopefully you two will be able to have thorough discussions and studies to help us all understand. For now, hadn’t we better let more of those waiting in line meet our new refugees?”
“”Cute, Dawn! You think you can just charm everyone. Manipulating people that way and treating me as some irrelevant old fart is a form of violence, too!
“Willie, we’d better let others shake your hand for now, but if you would like to work out these issues seriously, we have a study group that meets in N-08 tomorrow evening at 18:30. We always have a good group of older people who remember things from before the books were locked up and replaced with edited versions on the net. We work to recover as much history as we can and disperse it. Dawn, you’d be better informed if you took part, too!”