In Part 5, JAC03325 tries to make sense of his painful memories of his father's arrest and imprisonment. He had thought that he had effectively engaged with his past years ago, but apparently not. Some areas required a more complete resolution, and he soon would be compelled to meet these head on.
There was no denying it. The Great Leader was everywhere. His portrait, showing the back of his head, was hung in every official government building in the city of Elysium, which was called Olympia before undergoing a name change a few years ago under the new constitution. It meant that all electronic signs on streets, landmarks, government offices and official embassies and consulates had to be reprogrammed to reflect the new name, a monumental task that was only recently completed. Now, it would be done within hours.
The capital city was 420 kilometres from the next largest city, Nineveh, a regional capital of one million; and 1,280 kilometres from the largest city of the State, New Metropole, which had a population of three million.
No city was larger than it. Megacities of ten million or more inhabitants were no longer in fashion. Accordingly, the State had policies in place to reorganize the world’s 300,000 cities and shift people around like chess pieces, necessary precaution, as the demographers put it, “ to ensure that no city became too large, too cumbersome to manage.” Apart from New Metropole, no city was larger than two million people, the scientifically calculated optimal size.
Modern aesthetics were at play, too, in each city and location, everywhere except for the Golden Square Mile in Elysium, which retained its historical charm. Everywhere else, it was necessary for developers to demolish old buildings of various construction and periods, many of them crumbling and in poor form, and replace them with glass-and-stainless-steel condos and office towers.
Portraits also adorned the dozens of official government buildings in the hundreds of thousands of other cities that made up the State. And each New Year, like clockwork, nine hours after the Big Ball dropped, on the first day of the year, hundreds of thousands of portraits, taken by the Official Photographer, were digitally deleted, and a new one hung in its place. It had more pixels, more vibrant colors, a better white balance than previous portraits, reflecting the advancing technology of the day.
To the untrained eye, the photos were identical, as if the Great Leader was ageless. The State Photographer’s identity was kept secret, as well, but most people suspected it was the younger brother of the Great Leader. No one dared say that openly, though. There was little point in drawing unwanted attention.
The alarm on his media appliance chimed noon-lunchtime. He had an hour before visiting his father at the Evergreen Residence, officially known as Evergreen Residence at Elysium. He would go over to the cafe nearby and grab a quick lunch. He was hungry, and he headed across the street to his favourite spot, Café Metropole. The coffee was hot. The food was good. And the service was courteous. He couldn't ask for more.
It was also a spot that held many fond memories for JAC03225; his father had often brought him to this locale as a young boy when it was under a different management and had a different name. He always ordered the same thing—an egg sandwich.
At the Café Metropole
JAC03225 enters the brightly lit café, a rectangular-shaped room fitted with four rows of six stainless steel tables, each table fitted with four cushioned high-backed chairs sporting a floral design. The cafe's capacity of 96 is three-quarters full. “At least I’ll get a table this time,” he thinks aloud. The Café Metropole is a popular place for academics, intellectuals, students and anyone looking for a quick lunch and good coffee.
JAC03325 notices that the floor covering has changed since he was last here a few days ago. It is now covered with a luxurious emerald green carpet emitting a wavelength of 550 nanometers, and imprinted with a similar floral design as the chairs. The decor suitably matches the Spathiphyllums, or Peace Lilies, tastefully scattered around the perimeter of the room. Spathiphyllums were a favoured indoor plant, for their ability to clean air of many environmental contaminants like benzene and formaldehyde, whose traces mighty be in the carpet fibres.
He walks over to the long counter, which runs down the middle of the room, and where two androids, a male and a female, wait to serve customers. The Café Metropole is “famous for serving the greatest assortment of coffees in the region and for its quality food and exceptional prices.” At least that’s what is written on a digital banner sign above its name, which also announces the specials of the day.
“Hey, JAC0, we meet again, twice in one day,” MEL03226 says loudly, as he grabs JAC03225’s shoulder and quickly spins him around.
“MEL0, what are you doing here. This is not your kind of joint,” he says while removing his arm from MEL03226’s grip.
“After I picked up my new appliance, I was called for a meeting with Central Command. I’ll tell you about it in a minute, after I order. I’m starving.”
"Me, too, says JAC03225, as MEL03226 leads him to the central order counter. MEL orders an Italian single espresso and a multi-grain American sandwich of GMO-free tomatoes and lettuce and drug-free cold cuts.
The android says, “Would you like to add a side order of Belgian fries with that; it’s on special for another ten dollars.”
“Sure, that’s a good deal, and then says to JAC03225, with a bit of a mischievous grin and a pat on JAC0’s shoulder: “I should do my civic duty. Any time I can help. I’m there to do it. Oh, by the way, order what you want, it's on me. I know you're a starving grad student, and you could use some more meat on your bones."
"Thanks, MEL0." JAC03325 orders just a coffee and an egg sandwich on plain bread.
“Would you like to add a side order of Belgian fries with that; it’s on special for another ten dollars,”the android says.
“No, just my order, please. I’m not really hungry.”
“Are you sure; it’s really a good deal.”
“Yes, I’m sure. I’m not really that hungry for fries.”
MEL03226 has his retina scanned. The android warmly says, "Oh, you're a high-ranking security officer. You get a twenty percent discount. That will be forty dollars."
"I love my job," MEL03226 says, turning to JAC03225. "You should think about joining the Security Services. I could put in a good word for you."
"No thanks, I am fine in academia. Besides, I am close to graduation, and I think that I have a good chance at getting a posting at AIM U."
The android interrupts their conversation: “OK—Mr. MEL03226, your order will be ready in one minute, and you, Mr. JAC03225, your order will be ready in three minutes.”
MEL03226 walks over to the end of the counter, picks up his order, and sits down at a table nearby. JAC03225 does the same a couple of minutes later. From a short distance, he spies MEL03226 at the table, who is sitting with an attractive dark-haired woman, her long curls cascading on her shoulders. She is wearing the traditional form-fitting dark suit of a lawyer, which accentuates her figure.
She is slender in build with long legs to match. JAC03225 notices that her fingers, which are holding her media appliance, are long and thin, similar in shape to a concert pianist. The two are engaged in animated conversation, looking at their media appliances and shaking their head, and then smiling. “It’s good,” she says.
They stop talking when JAC03225 approaches the table. MEL03226 introduces her as the chief prosecuting attorney in Elysium, the youngest in the capitals’ history, but does not name her.
“Yeah, JAC03225 is all right. He’s a straight shooter. There is no one more honest than JAC0. Clean record, even in elementary school. The perennial boy scout. You can always count on JAC0.”
JAC03225 sits down with his tray, and takes a bite of his sandwich and a sip of coffee. The two then explain briefly about a recent case they have been working on, the arrest of dissident for distributing outlawed music on the InterNetworks, or IN. Two hundred terabytes of music that was not on the official Index was freely broadcast for almost two hours before he was shut down.
They show him a copy of the press release that would soon be broadcast on BS:
Chief Justice GAL03227 of Elysium sentenced GAR040111’s to ten years of red-education at the Burlington Mall for his illegal and immoral activities, in contravention to Article 2 of the State Constitution (Peace is the Answer)JAC03225 takes a gulp of his coffee, and says, “What can you say. Such people are breaking the law, and deserve what they get, I guess.” His eyes look down at his plate, and he takes a small bite from his sandwich.
By his actions, GAR04011 has shown "a complete disregard for the State’s laws," Chief Justice GAL03227 said this morning.
His charges are as follows. Besides the serious felony of distributing music not on the official Index of Permissible Music, GAR04011 failed to appear for remediation courses outlined by the Court two days ago, disobeyed conditions of his conditional release when he moved last week, and failed to report a change of address in June.
MEL03226 and the chief prosecuting attorney nod their heads in agreement. “If everyone starts breaking the law, what we would have—anarchy,” she says, and flashes a quick smiles at JAC03225.
Oh, more important piece good news, MEL03226 says. “You’re looking at the new commander of the north-eastern quadrant of Elysium. That’s why I was over at Central Command. You will be seeing a lot more of me now. You can congratulate me, JACO.”
The commander of the north-eastern quadrant was considered the natural stepping-stone to the head of security services for Elysium. All the previous security chiefs came out of the north-eastern quadrant command. It was said that the chief was hand-picked by the Great Leader himself. It was a huge honour.
He gave his good friend a hug, and said quietly in his ear. “You deserve it, with what you’ve been through.”
MEL03226 gulped and for a brief moment looked like he was about to shed a tear, but quickly composed himself and reminded JAC03225, quietly, whispering in his ear, to log on to BS by the end of the day. It was important that he did.
His media appliance chimes low. JAC03225 ignores it at first, but its persistent tone in emergency mode informs him that it’s important. It’s a call from Evergreen Residence.
“I got to run, and thanks for lunch,” he says, before taking a final sip of his coffee. “It must be something important about my father.”
JAC03225 had to get over to Evergreen Crescent, only a few streets away. If he walks quickly, he would be there in five minutes. His half-eaten egg sandwich lay on the plate.
To be continued next week (Part 7):
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.