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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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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 38: Jiri Decides

DeShaun and his family lived in the same building as Jiri, just a floor down. He wandered onto DeShaun’s floor and saw him walking down the hall wearing paint-splattered overalls.

“Off to do some more rehabbing, DeShaun?”

DeShaun grabbed Jiri’s hand and pumped it vigorously. “You know it, my man. Busy, busy.”

“You seem really happy.”

“I am, we all are. We fit in well here. Everyone treats us with respect. And I’m doing something important. It’s all good. What about you, Jiri? What you up to?”

Jiri looked up and down the hall but saw no one. “DeShaun, you can’t tell anyone you saw me today, OK?”

“Of course! I always gonna be loyal to you, Jiri.”

“I’m leaving tonight. I just wanted to say goodbye and to tell you that you’re always welcome to visit us in New Zealand.”

DeShaun nodded. “I understand. Not everybody knows where you come from, where your roots are. But I know. You’re the same as all the rest of us here; you’re a clavie.”

“I am, and I always will be. Good luck to you, DeShaun. Now get going. There are a lot of buildings that need rehabbing here in Joliet!”

They shook hands again, and Jiri walked back to his room. He pulled out his comm and told it to call John Chester.

“Hey, Jiri! Been a while.”

“Hi, John. I can’t talk long, but I wanted to check on you, what with all this rioting.”

“Yes, thanks for thinking of me, Jiri. We’re fine. That’s all happening at least twenty miles away. Here in Rogers Park it’s like nothing has happened at all. Well, except I did notice someone down the street unloading a lot of nice furniture from a truck this morning.”

“Looting,” said Jiri. “My house is burned to the ground.”

“My god!” said John. “I’m so sorry. What are you going to do?”

“Lea and my parents are in New Zealand. I’m planning to join them. As for my house, it’s just a lot of objects that I’ve lost. I moved most of my investments offshore last year. Bain warned me to do that.”

“Bain,” said John. “I saw them arrest him on the Clavenet. What have they done with him?”

“He’s living in a cage right here in Joliet. Gonna go visit him very soon.” Jiri paused then added, “John, are you okay financially? Do you need any help?”

“The revolutionaries took over the Clavenet and have kept most of us on, so I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“John, one way or the other, I’ll be gone after today. I’ll let you know if I make it safely to New Zealand but, if I don’t, take care of yourself.”

“Jiri, don’t talk like that! You’ll make it. And New Zealand is definitely where you want to be. Half of the wealthies have fled there during these riots. We get all that data at the Clavenet. We’re airing a story tomorrow that says China has guaranteed New Zealand military protection in case GNA gets any goofy ideas about trying to attack and capture the exiled wealthies. And New Zealand has an open amnesty program. Any GNA citizen with provable wealth above one million dollars gets automatic refugee status. They’d even let Bain in!”

“Interesting,” said Jiri. “Even someone like him.”

“Yeah, the Kiwi government has condemned the revolution. They’re aiding its enemies.”

“John, you’ve been very helpful as ever. Thanks.”

“Sure thing, Jiri. But listen, you took history lessons from me, so you know that you’ve got to get out. The next phase is always the bloodbath. You once were a clavie, but they won’t see you that way. Get out now!”

“Planning on it, John. Thanks.”

Later that day, Jiri considered John Chester’s words as he watched continuing coverage of what the Clavenet was now calling the Retribution Riots. This was where the human instinct for revenge led. It was a horrible thing, vengeance. And it never ended. The surviving wealthies in New Zealand were undoubtedly making plans to avenge the revenge visited on them and their property.

And he wasn’t immune to this need for vengeance either. He thought about how much he’d wanted to hurt Bain, but now, with Bain cowering in a cage, Jiri’s feelings seemed petty, small, even evil. Bain had helped Jiri in so many ways. He’d given Jiri a beautiful house, an excellent job, and access to the upper echelons of power.

Unlike so many of the other men who’d visited the Gates studios, he’d never really injured Jiri or the other boys he’d used, had always been gentle and considerate. And Jiri had not resisted the sex, though he’d never liked it, never wanted it. He’d done it as a means to an end, and he’d accomplished his goals.

It seemed terribly unfair to leave Bain in his cage to await certain execution while Jiri stole his rocket plane and flew to safety in New Zealand. On top of that, he wasn’t at all sure he could even fly the plane. Bain had let him have the controls a few times, but he’d never landed it.

But no, it was crazy! Bain surely was guarded every second, and if Jiri did succeed in getting him on the rocket, UES would have every incentive to try to shoot it down. It wasn’t worth the risk. Still...

Jiri decided to reconnoiter. He first walked the route from the entrance of the secured area where they were keeping Bain to the rocket pad. It took twelve minutes but, when he arrived at the rocket pad, he saw that there were four armed guards there, one at each corner. Thus the semi-automatics, he thought. Mira had known that he’d have to take out the guards.

With Bain helping me, we could take out the guards faster. It would actually improve my odds. But how could he get Bain out of the cage, and all the way to the rocket pad twelve minutes away? He decided it was time to talk to his former boss.

Proceed to Chapter 39...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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