Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dateline 2032: The Life of JAC03225: Part 4

FICTION SUNDAY

In Part 3, JAC03225 meets his childhood friend, MEL03226, a State Security officer, while waiting for the shuttle bus to take him to the library, where he plans to work on his doctoral thesis. They part amiably, yet JAC03325 is bothered by thoughts that he has not done his civic duty, as he always dutifully has done.

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JAC03225 walked to the very back of the bus, and sat on a seat by the window, the thoughts of the conversation with his good friend still fresh in his mind. He began second-guessing himself. He pulled out his media appliance and took a look at it. “It’s tired-looking, worn out, and possibly outdated.” Should I line up now and get the newest appliance? he thought to himself.

After all, that’s precisely what he had been doing every six months: line up, wait patiently for his turn at the counter, and get his retina scanned, which would securely identify him and remove the funds from his bank account. And then he would be handed a brand-new appliance, one that suitably matched his DNA profile.

It wasn’t that the service was bad. It wasn’t, at least that was the case lately. It had improved exponentially since all the service androids had their programs rewritten with an improved brand from a competing vendor. In the past, some androids were, say, lacking the courtesies expected in a society that outwardly valued politeness, courtesy and doing the right thing. Now, all the androids were programmed to be courteous and friendly. It was written in to their programs.

He had a few hours to kill before visiting his father at the Evergreen Residence, which was conveniently located on Evergreen Crescent, a few blocks from the library where he was now headed. But before he visited his father, he had to stop by the State Museum’s Official Archives & Records section, on Patriot’s Boulevard, to do some research on his thesis. JAC03325 was trying to quickly complete his dissertation for his doctorate in Ancient History.

The shuttle bus’ driver announced that Patriot’s Boulevard was the next stop. “Patriot’s Boulevard is the next stop,” the announcement said. Announcements were made in a perfunctorily manner every three minutes.

Patriot’s Boulevard was lined on both sides with similar rectangular-shaped massive stone structures, consisting of government buildings, museums and, most impressive of all, the official residence of the Great Leader and his wife. Although no one could be sure. Many parks dotted the boulevard. It was also where the State Museum was located.

He exited the bus at the stop and rode the people mover that transported him to the front desk, manned faithfully by Andrea the Android, an attractive enough young woman of recent vintage.

He handed her his media appliance, and he went through the routine biometric voice, hand and retina scan, both for ID purposes and to examine his borrowing record, privileges and level. It took 30 seconds to establish that he was a U4, the fourth-highest rank. Professors were graded as U-3, political leaders and high-ranking officials as U-2, and the top business and political elites as U-1. The Great Leader had no rank. “I wish there was better, faster technology,” he thought to himself. “It needs improvement, an update.”

“You are free to enter,” Andrea said. You can enter level 2. He entered the speed elevator, and in a few seconds he was at level 2. It was row upon row of screens, thousands of them, sectioned off by category and field of study. He knew where to go, to screen AF228: History of the Ancient World. He entered his biometric and DNA information, and he was cleared, once again.

He took out his hand-held media device and downloaded the information that he was seeking. While he was waiting, he looked around. Dozens of others were doing the same, downloading information on to their media devices. Some were red, some were blue, and some were green. But they were all the same shape and brand: three-by five rectangles of hard plastic, chrome and lithium. For some reason, he he studied their faces, taking note the differences among them.

A butterfly entered his line of sight, which he could see through the plate-glass window. It stopped briefly on the window ledge, near to where JAC03225 was reading, and then fluttered off, gracefully yet with purpose:
STAY near me--do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!

Yes, people were not all the same, yet each shared similar needs. But why think about that now? he thought. Admittedly, he was tired, yet he did not wish four years of hard work for his doctorate, 35-hour weeks of research and writing, to go to waste. When he was born, the biometric staff had taken his DNA analysis. This was done at ages three, five and nine to ensure statistical congruity. By age ten, he, like all his peers, knew with a high degree of statistical confidence what his profession would be.

Further scientific personality tests and profiles later confirmed the empirical analysis. He was destined, programmed by his genetic code, to become a professor of Ancient History. That’s what his DNA analysis, and later on his personality profile, had suggested he was best suited for. It took years of wars and scientific and academic studies and research to come to the consensus that people who were happy were the best citizens. That the pursuit of happiness was a right due all citizens, all peoples of the world. It made everyone peaceful and happy.

A few cynics said it made people complacent, but the majority of citizens considered such people troublemakers, freethinkers, and destined for an unhappy existence, if not something far worse. A few of them lived on hand-outs, begged and played forbidden music on the streets, and did not go to school or have any jobs. But they were eventually caught and set straight. It was for their own good.

A good well-paying job at the Abraham Isaac Moses University for the Advancement of Historical Thought awaited him upon completion of his doctorate. The elites just called it AIM University. There was an old ditty, a silly limerick of unknown attribution, which made the rounds, an inside joke among academics. It went like this, a resonance of academic snobbery:

I teach at Aim U.
And am proud I do
What About You?
If You’re Not at Aim U
You might as well
Throw in the Shoe
Such silliness, but it was a necessary release from the stress of work and study. But it was worth it all. There was the added prestige of being part of the Intelligentsia of an Ivy-League university, one of the top 10 universities in the State. And the perks were equally important: real wood-panelled office with leather chairs and couches and a wooden credenza. A professor was more equal than others, and did not have to suffer the same choices as everyone. It was written into the Constitution, Article 5: Respect the Elites.

AIM University, as it was known worldwide, was the place to advance your career, notably in ancient history. Its slogan was catchy, too: “My AIM is true.” And it had a song, whose words went something like this:

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.
My aim is true.

No one could explain the words origins, or who Alison was, although many scholars tried to come up with the origins of the song. It seemed to have always existed. Scholars offered various explanations on who Alison was and what its internal message was, whether it had a hidden cryptic meaning. As to what was meant by “I know the world is killing you,” well, there were various schools of thought that held opposing views. The consensus was, however, that the meaning in these words were significant, deep and worthy of fuller scholarship. An interdisciplinary approach was needed. That meant more funding. Hip, hip hooray!

Perhaps JAC03225 could eventually cash in on such scholarship. To break the code would be a coup,a great accomplishment and a feather in his young cap.

To be sure, great scholarship was being carried out at Aim U. Small wonder that it placed seventh among all the Universities worldwide, a scientific ranking established by Real Rankings Report, or R-cubed, a well-regarded and well-read journal published daily on BS. The ranking was scientifically accurate to one percentage point, 19 times out of 20.

This was hard data, and not something that could easily be ignored. What a future awaited JAC03225. It now was all within his grasp. A well-paying secure and prestigious job. A marriage to a perfectly matched mate. A family with beautiful kids. It was all written in to his DNA code and personality profile. All he had to do was follow his scientifically predicted destiny. And, of course, there was one little requirement on his part: JAC03225 had to make sure that he did the right thing.

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To be continued next week (Part 5):

Copyright (c) Perry J. Greenbaum, 2010. All rights reserved.

Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. While the author might have been inspired by some true-life events, names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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