Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

Table of Contents

Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 37: The Guillotine Drops


While Jiri sat in his tiny room, depressed and unsure how to escape, the Revolutionary Council of the United Enclaves continued its meeting. General Wilhouse insisted that the riots be the next order of business.

“We’ve got to send our troops in now. This is barbaric, uncivilized. It accomplishes nothing good.”

Kendrick Drake shook his head. He spoke slowly in his deep voice saying, “General, you are a military man, so I can see your point of view. But, politically, these riots accomplish a lot. Hayek tells us that the privileged class must be destroyed. That the clavies are doing it for us is just an added bonus.”

“To hell with Hayek,” shouted Wilhouse. “He wrote that stuff two centuries ago. This is now! People’s lives are being destroyed now!”

There was a long silence. Never had someone showed such disrespect for Hayek. The eighteen members of the Council looked at each other. Seraphin rose and said, “General, thank you for your input. We will discuss the matter in closed session now. You are dismissed.”

When the door had closed, they waited for the General’s footsteps to fade down the corridor. Then Seraphin turned to Kendrick and said, “We can’t have this kind of talk. We gotta be united. You’re with us or against us. Shoot him today.”

Seraphin looked each Councilor in the eye, one by one. “Any objections?”

“Maybe I can talk to him, explain the need for unity,” said Mira.

“And then could you trust him?” asked Seraphin. “He’s an outsider, not one of us. You, Mira, lived in the streets, got abused by the wealthies. But Wilhouse? He was one of their lackeys. He sucked up to them. Mark my words, a month from now he’ll be plotting our assassination.”

“He helped us, and we promised him his safety,” said Mira.

“And he just trashed our guiding principles!” shouted Kendrick. “Without Hayek, how can we know what to do now? Hayek is bigger than one life.”

Mira sighed, looked at the other Councilors, saw their agreement with Kendrick. She realized that she had to back down. “OK, I see your point. Do what you have to do.”

“Good,” said Seraphin. “Now on to the issue of the other collaborators. We have about twenty of them here in Joliet at the moment.”

“Collaborators?” asked Mira. “Just what do you mean?”

“Wealthies that helped us, you know, like Jiri Lee. They aren’t causing any trouble, but I don’t trust them. I want to put them under twenty-four by seven surveillance while we decide what to do with them. And, by the way, some of them have rocket planes out on that launching pad outside the enclave. We need to have our Air Force take those over.”

“Gonna be a few days for that,” said Kendrick. “They’re busy with some mop-up operations down in old Mexico. There’s a revolt down in Chiapas.”

“Yeah, I know about that,” said Seraphin. “OK, guard those rocket planes, don’t let anyone use them.

“Why waste so many people keeping an eye on the collaborators?” asked Kendrick. “We don’t have the personnel. I see no way we can do it.”

Seraphin sighed. “All right. We’ll work something out later. They’re hardly a high priority.

“Now, about our prisoners,” Seraphin continued, “I want to have a public execution broadcast on the Clavenet. We’ll execute all the military leaders that didn’t back us, President Soto, his cabinet, and some others too. Bain will be the main event, so he goes last. Any discussion?”

There was none. The meeting went on to more mundane matters. An hour after it had ended, Mira walked slowly along the winding lanes she’d once walked with Marco, the strongman she’d killed with his own rifle. She thought about how far she’d come, how the revolution she’d been instrumental in making happen had succeeded, and how her success was feeling more and more like failure.

Finding the rotting shell of the building where Jiri was staying was a challenge, but she finally succeeded. She had to ask three times before she found his room.

Mira set down a large cloth bag. She embraced Jiri, stepped back and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“How would you feel after that? I’m scared, and I don’t know how to get out of here.”

She nodded. “There’s more. That UES Council meeting went on for a while. Seraphin ordered General Wilhouse shot. They’re planning a big public execution with Bain as the main event - just like the Middle Ages.”

Jiri shook his head. “It’s just like John Chester taught me: the bloodbath always follows the victory.”

Mira nodded. “You’ve got to get out, and soon. Your life depends on it.”

“How much time do I have?”

“They plan to take Bain’s rocket plane in a day or two. Tonight might be your best chance to grab it and go. You may have to dodge some guards to do that.”

“Do you want to join me?”

She sighed. “No, I want to try to make it work. I’m having my doubts right now, Jiri, but I’ve beaten one strong man, and maybe I can do it again.”

He nodded. “What are my chances? Can I get out of here alive?”

“Security in the enclave itself is very shoddy. You’d be amazed. I’d say you’ve got a decent chance.”

She paused then added, “By the way, can you fly Bain’s rocket plane?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe, they’re pretty automated.”

“You might want to have a chat with him.”

“Seriously?”

“You two have a common interest. I’ll say no more.”

She turned to leave. He grabbed her hand, pulled her to him, and hugged her. “Come visit me if you can. You’re always welcome.”

A tear ran down her cheek, she held on to him for a long time, then let go, spun, and walked away.

Jiri looked down and noticed Mira’s bag. He shouted, “Wait, Mira, you left something.” But she was gone.

He picked up the bag by its straps. It was very heavy. He wondered what could be inside. When he pulled it open, he was shocked to see two semi-automatic laser rifles, military issue.

She thinks I might have to shoot my way out!


Proceed to Chapter 38...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

Home Page