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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Chapter 11: Mira Reconnects

part 2

Had he heard her right? Had she said ‘rule’? “Uh, you rule fifteen enclaves? I don’t...”

She laughed. “Yes, I rule them. I am their dictator. Everyone obeys me. I’m a little queen.”

“But fifteen enclaves! How do you do that? The Clavenet doesn’t allow for inter-enclave communication.”

“Oh, Jiri, do you think we’re all idiots? It’s a big mistake when you wealthies partially educate us and then dump us back into the enclaves. There’s lots of us who are very, very clever. I’ll say no more.”

“OK, I’ll bite. How did this happen? What does it mean? Are you still expanding your empire?”

She briefly told him the whole story, from the moment she’d been pushed out of the taxi, through the first contacts among the enclaves, up to the moment where they were now sitting and facing each other.

“I really want to hear more about how you wrestled control from those enclave strongmen!” he said with evident admiration.

“If we start working together, I’ll tell you the detailed story some evening over a couple of good bottles of wine in our compound in Joliet.”

He nodded, silently, expectantly.

She paused, took a deep breath. “OK, why am I here today? We want to organize the enclaves on a much broader scale, there must be hundreds of them in greater North America...”

“Nine hundred and forty-seven,” Jiri shot at her in a flat voice.

“Really! You know that.”

“Of course. We provide programming to each and every North American enclave, some of it tailored to their specific needs. We’ve got tons of data about them.”

“And tell me something: are there any enclaves where people are really content with their lot?”

“No, they all seethe with hatred and frustration. The Supreme Council feels that the only way to control them is to keep them working so hard they have no time or energy to revolt. But, as you may know, demand has cratered. They’re not buying stuff like they used to. We’ve raised wages some, but they’re still not buying. Now unemployment is creeping up. The Supreme Council is divided and confused about how to fix that.”

“You say ‘we’...”

“Yeah, I sometimes sit in on their meetings with Bain because they’re trying to fine-tune their message to contain any revolt. They want me to be totally up on their thinking.”

“I’m confused. I thought the President and Congress created the laws, ran the country. Who is this Supreme Council?”

Jiri chuckled softly. “Even in the early twenty-first century, the real power lay with the wealthies. In those days, they employed agents called lobbyists to tell Congress how to vote. Around 2030 they formalized their power structure in the Supreme Council.

“It’s never mentioned in clavie news reports; clavies don’t know it exists or only hear rumors about it, but it is the real power. Congress just rubber-stamps their decisions. The President says and does what they tell him to say and do.”

“And you actually sit in on some of their meetings? Do they ever talk about security issues?”

“No, I sit in on a very specific agenda item: Clavenet messaging. After that, they cut the link. It’s a teleconference; the attendees are scattered all over.”

She nodded, took another deep breath and continued, “So back to organizing those nine hundred and whatever enclaves. We’ve been sending missionaries out with copies of the Hayek Manifesto.”

“Excuse me,” Jiri interrupted. “What is this manifesto?”

“It’s a book that explains why the wealthy must be destroyed and everything they have distributed to the people. It describes a perfect world where everyone has enough to be comfortable and there are no wealthy people to lord over them.”

Jiri shook his head. “Communism.”

“No! It’s something much better. Communism just created a new elite. Hayek shows us how to avoid that.”

“OK, maybe you could get me a copy of this book,” Jiri said.

She reached into her purse, really a colorful cloth bag, and pulled out a Gideon-bible sized leather-clad book. “You’ll find it all in here, what we plan to do, how we plan to change the world.”

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?!” he said in wonderment.

“Yes, and you’d better get on board, or you’ll be lumped in with the other wealthies we’re going to eliminate.” She leaned in closer to him. “Jiri, I don’t want anything to happen to you. Help us out and I’ll protect you. If you fight us, I won’t be able to save you.”

Her eyes shone with concern, but also with something else: the light of fanaticism. It scared him but, at the same time, he understood her need to get even with the people who’d thrown her away. He wanted to help her, and telling her she was crazy would just push her away.

“What do you want from me, Mira? How could I help?”

“We plan to broadcast orders to all the enclaves via the Clavenet using coded messages, words that seem innocuous but mean something very different to the leaders of each enclave.

“For example, an advertisement for chocolate milk at five-thirty in the afternoon might mean that all enclaves will conduct a coordinated action of some kind. If the ad says ‘drink it when you’re hot’, it could mean one thing; if the ad says ‘drink it for your health’, it would mean a different action.

“We’re producing commercials and short entertainment videos. We want to place them on the Clavenet, but they have to be placed exactly when we want them. All we want you to do is take the content and put it on the air. Nobody can accuse you of collaborating; they’re just commercials and little entertainment bits, but we’ll know what they really mean. It’s not risky for you, yet you’ll be helping. Can you do it?”

“Come on, Mira, how can you really keep something like that secret? Surely the Council has spies in the enclaves, surely they are...”

“Yes, I thought the same way. But the Council is much weaker than you think it is. I played dumb to see how much you knew, but I know all about the Supreme Council: every member, every weakness. We plan to expose them one by one, especially Bain, the child molestor.”

“Wait a minute, I get Bain for myself. I’m still using him, working for him. But I want to be the one who ruins him.”

“Then help us, and we’ll help you destroy Bain.”

He sat silently for several minutes, thinking, considering her plans. She waited, not rushing him, not forcing him into a quick decision.

“OK, why a revolution? Why not just a reform movement? Why don’t you let me pass that by Bain, try to get him to sponsor something like that first? We could ask for much higher wages, a late twentieth-century style social safety net, things like that. It would avoid bloodshed, and it would actually have a better chance of creating a better life for everyone.”

Mira laughed derisively. “Hah, we already did that, a century ago, and it led to what we’re living in now. It didn’t work. I’ll repeat that: it didn’t work. The wealthy must be destroyed. Only then will the wealth of the nation be available for equitable distribution.”

“Oh, Mira, all you do is quote a book. You don’t understand what wealth is at all. Believe me, I’m with you, at least as far as making a better world for the clavies. But destroying the wealthy? That’s just going to create chaos. Give me a little time to work on Bain to get some reforms, and yes, have your people propose the ads and videos to us. I’ll try to place them.”

“That’s all we ask. The revolution will take time. Go ahead, try your reforms. There’ll be time to see if you can make that happen. But I’m betting the Council won’t even consider them. They think that keeping the boot on our neck is the only way to keep us from turning on them. And you know, they may have been right but, now, even that isn’t going to work.”

As she stood the defiance and anger fell from her face, replaced by the sassy, challenging sneer he’d seen so many times in the Gates residence. “So, beautiful, when are you going to come and visit with me?”

“You know I’m married to Lea now, don’t you?”

“Sure, you can bring her if you’d like.” Her ever-changing face dropped the sneer and adopted a faraway, almost fearful look. “You’re even more beautiful now that you’re a man, you know.”

He smiled, accustomed to such compliments but surprised to hear them from Mira. “You’re pretty damned beautiful yourself.”

“Not what the Gates thought, or their degenerate customers.”

“Some people come across better on screen than others, Mira. But, in person, well, you’re pretty spectacular.”

She smiled, wrapped her free arm around him, and gave him another deep kiss before whispering in his ear, “Surely a handsome young media executive has a private place in his offices to entertain special guests?”

He pulled away gently. “I’d really love to. But I’m committed to Lea now. I’m very, very tempted, but I have to say no.”

She shrugged. “Not that I don’t have my pick of the guys in the enclaves. You’ve got my number, call any time you want to visit.”

“But my phone won’t be able to contact yours when you’re in the enclave.”

She painted the taunting look on her face again. “Oh yes it will. Just try it.”

* * *

Jiri realized he hadn’t had anything to eat as he watched her disappear into the crowd on the sidewalk. Downtown Lake Forest seemed to be busier than ever, and so was he, with a meeting only twenty minutes away. The line at the counter had dissipated by now, and he was able to order something immediately to take back to the office.

As he walked back, he considered what she’d told him. Legally he’d heard a plot against the government, a plot he had to report or face severe consequences. But she had bet that he would never do that, and she was right. He hated the government as much as she did, hated every single member of the Supreme Council, hated the programming he put on the Clavenet, hated Bain, his employer, the man who supported his lavish lifestyle, most of all.

Living as he did wasn’t sustainable. He had to change something or else he’d either go mad or become one of them, and becoming one of them was not an option. But one thing he didn’t hate was his lifestyle. He’d be willing to give up some of his wealth, but a revolution could well have him back in poverty.

His mind moved to the issue of a reform movement. He had to try; it was the best chance to keep most of what he had. But, if it failed, he could join the revolutionaries with a clear conscience. Could they really overthrow the Supreme Council? He gave them even chances.

Proceed to Chapter 12...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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