We the People
by Lee Gimenez
Monday, October 16, 2068.
“Mr. President, we have seven days left.”
“Charley, I know damn well how long we have left,” President Adams said, slamming his fist on the table. “If we don’t come up with a plan, none of us are going to have a job by the end of the week.”
The three of them sat around the large table in the Situation Room. President Adams, Vice President Charley Bryce and General Snow, the Secretary of Defense.
“Mr. President, the Switch will take place this Sunday at midnight, unless we stop it,” Charley said. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I may have a solution.”
The President’s face contorted into an ugly smile. “Let’s hear it.”
“As you know, ConComp replaced the Congress five years ago. After the corruption scandals, the voters got sick of Congress and decided an Artificial Intelligence would do a better job of representing them. The Congressional Computer, ConComp, has done a great job. Now that the Referendum of 2068 passed, the voters will replace the Presidency with ConComp also.”
Adams face turned beet red. “I know all that, Charley. Get on with it.”
“Yes, Mr. President. The Switch to ConComp will take place Sunday, unless we can stop it. And I may have figured out how.”
General Snow shook his head. “I hope your idea doesn’t include the military. I won’t be involved in treason.”
“Shut up, General,” President Adams said. “Your head’s in the noose too. If we don’t have a President, we won’t need you either.”
Charley continued. “The American people voted to replace you with ConComp. However, that violates the Constitution. One of the most important parts of it is the separation of power between Congress and the Executive branch.”
President Adams laughed. “Charley, that’s fantastic! I should have thought of that myself.”
“Well, there is one problem with my plan.”
“We still have to sell it to the American people. They’re pretty sick of you, and most of them don’t care about the Constitution anymore.”
“Charley, I don’t care what we have to do. I’m not going to be replaced by a damn machine.”
“Yes, Mr. President. I’ll set up a meeting with ConComp for tomorrow morning. We have to let it know what we’re planning.”
The President slammed his fist on the table again. “God, how I hate dealing with that thing. It’s running half our country already, and now it wants it all. How did we get in this damn mess?”
Tuesday, October 17, 2068.
Meetings between the President and ConComp always took place in the old Capitol Building in Washington. Although there were no more congressmen or senators, the symbolism of the old building was still strong. Tours of the place were popular.
The meeting took place in the Speaker of the House’s old office; ConComp’s hologram sat in the Speaker’s chair. Some people said ConComp’s image looked like the vid actor from a long time ago, Harrison Ford.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” ConComp said. “Please have a seat.”
President Adams and Vice President Bryce sat down. Charley Bryce began. “ConComp, we’ve been researching the Referendum issue that the voters passed. We feel it’s unconstitutional. We’re going to challenge it in the Supreme Court.”
ConComp spread his hands and smiled. “Now, now, gentlemen. Don’t be foolish. The American people have voted; 93% want it. You’ll have a mutiny on your hands. None of us want that. And anyway, you’ll be well taken care of. I’ve prepared a nice severance package for each of you.”
President Adams bolted out of his chair and stabbed his finger at the computer hologram. “You bastard. I don’t need anything from you.” He turned around abruptly and left the room. Charley followed him out.
Wednesday, October 18, 2068.
Charley Bryce presented his case to the Supreme Court and sat down. The Justices withdrew to their chambers to talk among themselves; Charley settled in for a long wait.
Three hours later, the Justices returned. The Chief Justice spoke first. “Mr. Vice President, we’ve reviewed your case, and have decided not to rule on it.”
“Chief Justice,” Charley said, “how can you skip this case? This is the most important issue facing our country today. And clearly, the Referendum violates the Constitution.”
“We’re aware of this. However, the American people have spoken. It would be extremely unpopular for us to overturn it.”
“Your honor, please reconsider.”
“There’s nothing we can do,” the judge said.
Thursday, October 19, 2068.
The President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense were back in the Situation Room, mulling over the crisis.
“I’m sorry, Mr. President,” Charley said. “I don’t know what else we can do. We’ve run out of options.”
“Like hell we have. I’m not giving up that easily.”
“But sir, we have nothing else we can do.”
President Adams grimaced. “We have one final option. And, by God, I’m going to do it.”
“I’m going to get rid of that damn computer, once and for all. The people elected me President and I’m not going to let them kick me out.”
Charley played nervously with his eyeglasses. “What do you plan to do?”
“I’m going to blow up ConComp. General Snow, I want you to send in a Special Forces unit; I want to get rid of it permanently.”
The General’s face drained of color. “But, sir, that’s illegal. We can’t do that.”
“We can and we will.”
Charley put his glasses back on and stood up. “Mr. President, we can’t do this. The people won’t stand for it. We’ll have rioting.”
“Sit down and shut up,” Adams said. “I’ve made up my mind. And if you guys don’t go along, I have enough dirt on each of you to get you arrested. And don’t think I won’t do it. I didn’t get to be President by being a nice guy.”
The two men knew it was true. Adams was a ruthless man, not afraid to use his power.
Charley cleared his throat. “How do you want to do this...?”
“I’ve prepared Presidential Directive 13482,” he said, pushing a piece of paper over to General Snow. “Send in the units tomorrow morning. I want all of ConComp’s software and hardware destroyed. And I want you to destroy both locations, the main frame at the Capitol Building and the backup in Colorado.”
“Mr. President,” Charley asked, “what do we tell the American people?”
“I’ve created a cover story. We’ll blame terrorists.”
Charley shook his head. “Sir, it won’t work. We haven’t had a terrorist attack in over twenty-five years...I don’t think people will buy it.”
“Trust me, it’ll work.”
Friday, October 20, 2068.
The assault on the Capitol Building started at 3:15 a.m. The Special Forces unit blew up the concrete barricade at the main gate of the building, shot the security guards, and broke down the massive front door. The hundred men secured the building and then went to the basement, where ConComp’s mainframe was kept. They cut all the wiring and demolished the equipment with their weapons. They then set plastic explosives for a five-minute delay. The soldiers left the building, got in their armored trucks and sped away.
The explosion at the Capitol was massive, shaking windows over a mile away. It caused the main floor to collapse, along with part of the rotunda and the central dome. Sirens blared all across the city.
Saturday, October 21, 2068.
News reports of a terrorist attack on Washington had circulated all of the previous day, but by Saturday, the news media started reporting something different. It now appeared that the bombing of the Capitol building and the destruction of ConComp had been ordered by President Adams.
As the news spread, there was outrage across the country. Spontaneous demonstrations broke out all over the U.S. Calls for Adams to resign came from state and local leaders. By the end of the day, riots broke out in countless cities.
Sunday, October 22, 2068.
The angry mob of ordinary citizens carried signs, shotguns, bats and rocks. By noon they were over a hundred thousand strong, and they headed toward the White House. The White House security detail, sensing the outrage and maybe agreeing with it, decided not to fight. They put down their guns and walked away.
Rushing the building from Pennsylvania Avenue, the huge crowd stormed over the fence and barricades. They crashed through the front door, desperate to find Adams and mete out justice.
Later accounts of this event are sketchy because of the confusion and violence of the day. However, several facts are clear. The White House was burned down. Its once white façade became a blackened, crumpled hulk of the original. President Adams’s bloodied body was found beaten to death. Many in the crowd wanted to arrest him, but the mob’s violence was unstoppable.
Monday, October 23, 2068
Vice President Bryce sat in General Snow’s office in the Pentagon, and looked out the window. Beads of perspiration glistened on his forehead.
The General stared at him, his voice low. “Last Friday, the Special Forces unit that was sent to destroy ConComp’s backup in Colorado refused to carry out their orders. They also leaked word to the media on who ordered the attack.”
Charley Bryce swiveled his gaze back to Snow. “I thought something like that would happen.”
“The Switch will take place as planned. ConComp will take over the Presidency.”
Bryce wiped his brow, his voice quivering. “What happens to us?”
“If we’re lucky, we’ll just be arrested.”
Just then, they heard a loud knock on the door, and four MPs with automatic weapons came in.
The officer in charge of the MPs addressed the two men. “Mr. Vice President; General Snow. You’re both under arrest.”
“On what charge?” Snow asked.
Copyright © 2008 by Lee Gimenez