I’m posting all I have of this here in case anybody wants to add chapters, either in conjunction with ideas outlined in Project proposal for Bootrib members or just because you feel so inclined for no particular reason.

I seem to have gotten sort of stuck, and with so many good word writers on hand, it seems like the thing to do.

Haley’s Nose: A GoodJob Day in America, 2009

Haley frowned at the mirror. Her nose was the problem. There was no makeup trick (and Haley knew them all) that could camouflage that nose. No clever earrings, or hat, or artfully designed spectacle frames had any effect. It was impervious to all that, resolutely, steadfastly, even proudly there, right in the middle of her face, jutting out defiantly, bump and all, dominating her profile.

It was the only feature she had not been able to conquer. Haley sighed, and flipped out her blue contact lenses into their night-time bath, checked her honey-colored hair carefully for black roots, and smoothed pearl cream into her skin. Including the nose.

She went over the figures again. No way she could afford surgery, and if she was forced to get a GoodJob, even less chance she would ever be able to.

She had been pretty lucky, really. Only a couple of Security Forces had ever really noticed the nose enough to question it, and they seemed satisfied with her explanation of an Italian grandmother. Roman nose, she smiled at them.

Incredibly, in all this time, it had apparently never occurred to Homeland Security to ask people to remove their contacts. Or maybe it had, but it was just a question of funding, since so many people had them, and black eyes alone added only a few points to the Score. One could always claim an African-American ancestor somewhere, and any Security Force personnel who challenged that would automatically trigger the lengthy and annoying process of Testing Detention, and in yet another HSA convolution, the Hero points would go to the testor, not the officer that sent the suspect in.

Still, Haley worried about the nose. Since the last HSA procedural review, the Hero Points formula had been revised, and there was more pressure on Security Forces to increase their weekly General Detainee Production. As a General Detainee, testing would be recommended, but might not take place for months, even years, or never, since the only requirement for General Detainee was General Suspicion. It was not necessary to document what the suspicion was. The Wackenhut Provision, they called it, and it was expected to double the company’s revenues in the first quarter alone. Acquisition of the behemoth Homeland Depot family of companies insured that streamlined Facility construction would keep up with growing demand.

As an Informally Employed, Haley was not Protected, and was subject to everything from wand search to seizure on sight. Haley preferred to take her chances. She was an unreconstructed Ninetenner. At fifty-five, she simply could not think of GoodJobs as anything but slavery and imprisonment, nose or no nose.

“It’s not so bad,” her niece had told her at last month’s Vacation Hour. “In lots of ways, it’s better than before. I mean I don’t have to worry about rent any more, or food. And as long as I keep up my Conduct Rating, I get to see Josh every Family Hour.”

Haley tried not to look at the remains of the Nutri-Loaf on Kristin’s plate. Food? At least Josh and the other kids in the Family Friend Center got milk, veggies, a regular diet, Until they were 16.

For many mothers, seeing their kids only an hour a month was a small price to pay for the knowledge that they would have food, and could not be Selected, even for a few years. Something will happen before then, they told themselves.

Kristin’s GoodJob was considered a plum. As a Wal-Mart Associate, she received a guaranteed bunk, a shower three times a week, one Nutri-Loaf for every eight hours worked, and treatment of minor injuries and ailments at the Health Center.
Illness or injury that required hospitalization or more than 24 hours off work invalidated the contract, but most GoodJobbers were young and healthy – they had to be to pass the extensive medical workup required for acceptance, and as the company pointed out, the injury clause of the contract did double duty as an incentive for workers to maintain good safety practices.

In return for her compensation of bunk, shower and Nutri-Loaf, Kristin worked “as needed.” It averaged out to around 16-18 hours a day, usually, seven days a week, although occasionally she would be put on 36 on, 12 off for a couple of weeks. As a valued asset and member of the Wal-Mart family, Kristin’s contract would be invalidated if she left the Associate Compound when off work, or left the Store while on duty, but the outside world had become a pretty dangerous place, so all in all, the Wal-Mart GoodJob was considered to be one of the better choices available for young people.

The GoodJob Haley was trying to avoid was with OneBanc. Since the Bank of America-Wachovia Merger, and the resultant WachovAmeribank’s subsumption into CitiGroup, OneBanc had become one of the foremost GoodJob providers to Golden Boomers. Most of the jobs were sedentary, and took advantage of the education most of Haley’s generation had, before the No Child Left Behind Acts and privatization had streamlined the public schools into a sustainable and lean worker-processing machine. In just five years, America’s public schools now produced graduates more than twice as likely as their grandparents to be functionally literate, and with the arithmetical skills necessary to enable them to operate simple calculators and cash registers, but without the massive loads of half-learned and forgotten trivia that they would be unlikely to need in order to be useful and profit-friendly assets to their employers.

It was generally agreed by both Administration and Congress Committee that it was neither fair nor kind to subject most children to years of classes in subjects that would do neither them nor the companies that would one day employ them, as study after study had shown that this archaic practice had produced little but unrealistic hopes on the part of the children, and in many cases, their parents, which in turn led to rejectionism and insurgency that gobbled up HSA resources that could be put to much better use identifying genuine Suspects, and channel a robust stream of workers into GoodJobs.

The quality of Post5 education had also improved remarkably as a result, and it was not at all uncommon for children of the affluent to graduate from college at age twelve, and medical school at 16, and while rumors of bribes and corruption were rife, as they are anywhere, anytime, 80% of medical workers were employed at GoodJob Health Centers, and there were few complaints from patients. (And even fewer from foreign medical centers, where the affluent Americans obtained all but the most rudimentary of their own health care).

Haley put out the battery lamp and nestled in to her bed in the storage unit. Morning would come soon enough, and she would have to be up before dawn to secure a good spot on the street to get some morning sales before the  Security Forces arrived to clean the area for the business lunchers.

Her store was a very simple, but very functional pushcart, containing her wares – rare books. Most of them were on one or another of the No-Read lists, which enabled her to charge a premium for them, which the more adventurous Professionals were happy to pay for the little frisson of rebellion it offered. Few actually read the books, most of them were old enough to have done so before they were removed from market, and had as little interest in reading today as they had then, but they enjoyed having them on the shelves in their homes. “Look at this one! It just screams ‘leftist dissenter!'” exclaimed her excited customer, a trial lawyer who occasionally wore a tiny vintage lapel pin that read “Kucinich.” Most of his clients, and almost all of his worthy opponents arguing for the state thought it referred to a little-known vegetable. The lawyer was also known for his dissenting dietary practices.

“No Dairy!” he would shout to the boy at Starbucks, and he didn’t care who heard him. He was more than ready to invoke the First Amendment if anyone objected.

Haley gave him a friendly smile, pocketed the $500, and handed him the dog-eared, paper-back copy of “Chain of Command.”

Not bad, thought Haley. From this sale alone, she could pay another week on the storage shed, buy batteries and two day’s food. No way could she live like this with a GoodJob. All she had to do now was get her cart out of the area before PreLunch Clean and she just might sell another book or two before SafeDown.

It was her lucky day. A liberal security mom in a Hummerado V rolled down her tinted glass window a couple of inches to give Haley $200 for a copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“Sorry it doesn’t have the covers,” Haley stood on tiptoe to pass the book through and take the money.

“No problem, sister,” said her customer, eyes darting around, “I’m a progressive!,” she hissed in a dramatic whisper as the window hummed back up and the massive vehicle sped away.

Haley decided to call it a day. There was just enough time before SafeDown for a treat.

“Yo, Haley!” Rick shouted to his friend. Come on in hang a bit. Even when she had no money, Rick always gave her some tea, a bit of roti and raita, but today she was flush, and ordered a kebab and a large biryani.

“For your sunlamp treatments,” Haley winked mischievously as she slipped an extra $20 into Rick’s pocket. “I had a good day.”

Red-haired, green-eyed Rick, whose mother had named him Rahim over sixty years ago in Lahore had never once seen a sunlamp, but the alibi worked for him and millions of others whose skin Suspicion Level was beyond the power of pearl cream to rectify. “The things people will believe,” he had remarked to Haley once. “Sometimes it works against you, sometimes it works with you.” That was the closest they had ever come to discussing their shared coping strategy. No one had ever questioned Rick’s assertion that his Pakistani accent was Swiss.

“Rick, you’re an artist,” Haley said, her mouth full. Rick smiled and switched on the TV. The perky CNN anchor was recounting the latest details of the latest sensational murder trial, the victim, a pretty blonde affluent newlywed found shot in her Carnival Cruise stateroom. The crawl line at the bottom of the screen informed them that while the US preferred to exhaust all diplomatic channels, the European Union’s continuing strategy of denial and deception was wearing thin..

The Four Notes interrupted both stories, and the Breaking News graphic filled the screen. “CNN has just learned that President for Life Jeb Bush will make an unannounced address to the nation from the Oval Office.”

Rick turned the volume up, and he and Haley watched as Bush repeated after his earpiece the same thing about the EU, denial and deception, and announced that he had just signed an Executive Decree authorizing the Selection of GoodJobbers’ children aged eleven and over.

“In authorizing this unprecedented Selection,” the President for Life went on, “I am conscious of the brave sacrifices the nation now asks of both the young people and their parents, and as evidence of the transparency and honesty of our Democracy, I also acknowledge that there were those in the Cabinet who presented very sound arguments for lowering the Selection age to seven, but America is a nation that loves our children, they are our future, and we owe them a happy normal childhood.”

Haley recalled the blank eyes of her friend Anna’s son, a Selectee returned as Honorably Unusable. His burns and the loss of his legs had earned him Hero points good for three months’ worth of pain relievers. He had taken the last weeks’ worth at once, and cried when it didn’t work. The Motivational Supplements Centcom had given him during his Service had left him with a tolerance for drugs that would have been unusually high in a large adult man. Scotty was a little fellow, only fourteen. He had hung himself the next week. No one knew how he did it, or if he had had help, and no one asked. The nature of the duties assigned to Juvenile Selectees required the Motivational Supplements, even the ones who had been through the full Know the Enemy course. Selectees who survived Service were usually warehoused, permanent custodial care, even if they had all their limbs. “Permanent” in this case meant a year. Studies had shown that it took a year for the family to adjust, the visits to drop off, and the news that the Honorably Unusable had passed away peacefully came as a relief, more often than not.

“…the Highest Form of National Service,” Jeb finished, “in the words of my father’s worthy opponent in America’s second Fair and Free election, and what better gift can we give these young people, our future, than the privilege of that Service in the Liberation of Europe, the continent that gave us our past.”

Haley and Rick looked at each other. Finally Haley spoke.

“So,” she said, “Do you suppose they’ll be rounding up people with European appearance for Protective Detention?”
~~~~~~~~~~~

Defense Secretary William Boykin frowned. “Eleven?”
1550749595

“The President for Life, um, misspoke, sir,” Chief of Staff Rick Santorum looked uncomfortable. “The Selection applies to offspring of GuestJobbers, sir.. Not Goodjobbers. The media has already been alerted, and the correction is out now. If I may, sir,” and without waiting for an answer touched a switch on Boykin’s desk.

The screenbank came to life. Every screen had the correction in its crawl line.

Boykin sat back, relieved. “Ah, Mexican kids.”

“And only in support positions sir. Kitchen and whatnot.”

“Well that makes sense,” Boykin grinned. “In their blood, isn’t it?”

“Not that I object on the basis, but the logistics, you know, there are advantages to small troops in operations, but you can go too far in that direction, and what have you got? A C-130’s worth of Honorable Unusables every couple of hours, and DOV will raise a stink unless you bring back actual remains for a Christian burial.”

Although Boykin was a Man of Faith, his relationship with Secretary of Values The Reverend Jerry Falwell was not without friction. Both men attributed it to wartime tension.

Santorum, sensing his audience was over, collected his papers. Neither noticed the man with the cleaning cart outside the open door.

Roger pushed his cart down the hall and into the next office. Unlike Boykin’s, it was empty. In this administration, it was only the bigwigs – and Roger – who were still around at 4 AM.

Roger had avoided GoodJob status by virtue of his long-time Federal employment. He was grandfathered in as a Federal Protected, and even assigned a Preferred card, which carried with it the privilege of living off-compound. It did not, however, carry with it the privilege of an Approval Exemption for MariLuz, and he had had to throw himself on the mercy of his boss and a long chain of higher-ups to get an exemption for Chuchito. “Jesus Rogelio,” MariLuz had whispered to him, when their son was only a few minutes old. It seemed like another lifetime, but it was barely seven years ago. And barely three when they came for MariLuz.

“Approved,” they called it. Approved for the GuestJob program. GuestJobbers did not enjoy the same luxuries as the GoodJobbers. Instead of bunks, they had thin foam mats, 100 to a cell, one communal shower a week, and one Nutri-Loaf for every twelve hours worked. Hours were steady, 24 on, 8 off. There were no Vacation Hours. Phone calls, letters, visits, were forbidden, and no Family Hours. The silver lining was, unlike GoodJobbers, GuestJobbers actually received a small amount of cash for their work, which they could either deposit into a bank account to take care of their final expenses, or opt for General Disposal when that time came, and have the money sent directly to family back home.

GuestJobbers’ children were kept in cells identical to those inhabited by workers, the only difference being smaller mats for the younger children. Infants received formula for one year, then a gradual weaning to pureed, then solid Nutri-Loaf. At age five, they began their year of Intensive 3R, after which they were assigned cleanup and landscape tasks around the facility. Unless they were Selected, or Empowered as Givers. Few GuestJobbers voluntarily brought children with them. Almost all the kids in the facility were the result of Approval Roundups.

Roger’s job required very little thought, so he was able to spend every waking minute trying to figure out some way to get MariLuz out of the Approval Facility to which she had been assigned, and be a father to Chuchito, who still cried for his Mami at night.

He had a ray of hope. A lawyer, an old friend from Back Then, had found some text in a forgotten corner of Patriot IV that could possibly be interpreted as a provision for Compassionate Deportation.

Roger didn’t know much about subsistence farming, and had no illusions about the quality of life he was likely to find in the Mexican Semi-Autonomous region, where things were so bad people were streaming into the US to get jobs as GuestJobbers, but if men and women were not segregated at the Approval Facility, and he didn’t have Chuchito, he would gladly have claimed to be Mexican and Approved himself, just to be with his wife again.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell bowed his grey head. “Thank you, Lord, for blessing the work of this great Task Force, and thank you for the gift of this miracle of technology, thy Blessed Rod of the Latter Days.”

Falwell raised his head and smiled at the men at the conference table. Before him sat the newest revision of the Juvenile Tasering Guidelines prepared by the Task Force for Chastity and Godliness.

“Brethren, I commend you,” the Secretary of Values smiled. The Task Force was one of his favorite projects.

“I don’t mind telling you that I believe it is another Heavenly Sign that within the framework of the Constitution of the United States, remember, Congress has passed no law – that we have been able to bring so many souls to Christ.”

“Sir, you know there’s a new video -” began the man on Falwell’s right.

“Yes, Mr. Reed, I have heard about it, the CIA has not yet confirmed its authenticity, but in any event, it was to be expected. That the enemies of America, the messengers of Satan, attack our every move toward bringing our Homeland to the Path of Righteousness is no surprise.”

They were referring to a video received that morning by Al Jazeera, purportedly from the head of the European branch of Amnesty International. Now in its fourth year on the Pentagon’s list of terrorist organizations, AI did little, at least publicly, besides issue communiques delivered by men in ski masks. This particular videotape excoriated the US for the routine use of Tasers on children and elderly people.

“Nobody takes these thugs seriously. Except the Anti-Terrorism Agency,” Falwell chuckled.

“And our mortality rates in all tests were well within range,” replied Reed.

“Richard, here on earth, our mortality rate is one hundred percent,” Falwell rested his hands on the report. “I prefer to see the forgiveness of a loving God who rewards even these young sinners with Eternal Life. Now I don’t know about you gentlemen, but I’m ready to accept some of God’s bounty in the form of lunch!”

Haley was having a slow day. Buoyed by recent success, she had decided to try her luck on a new street. Apparently the Preferreds in this neighborhood were not interested either in reading or giving the impression that they did. She was just about to flip the tarp and move on when she saw the man and the little boy.

“Hey, is that what I think it is?” the man asked eagerly, pointing to a book whose cover was only partly visible behind some others.

Smiling, Haley took it out. “It’s new,” she said. “As you can see, most of them aren’t.”

“Chuchito, I think we’ve found your birthday present,” the man handed the book down to the little boy. “He had one, well, Back Then,” he said to Haley, his voice low. “It was his favorite.” He shrugged. “Weird kid.”

“DAD!” Chuchito shrieked, “This IS it!” He sat down on the sidewalk and began turning the pages. “There they are!” The blue people!” He looked up at Haley. “They are so cool!”

“Whoa, son,” laughed Roger. “We haven’t bought it yet. How much?” he looked at Haley, hoping he had enough money. No-Read books weren’t cheap, and this one was new, not to mention…

Haley noticed the embroidered nametag on Roger’s shirt. He might be a Preferred, but he was no professional, and if this was the kid’s favorite book, so much so that he remembered it from Back Then…

“Twenty bucks,” said Haley, grinning at Chuchito. “Birthday present.”

“Thanks, but I can’t let you do that,” Roger opened his wallet.

“You just did!” Haley’s hand darted out, grabbed a twenty, flipped down the pushcart’s plastic tarp, and was halfway down the block before Roger was quite sure what had happened.

“Thanks, Dad!,” breathed Chuchito, cross-legged on the sidewalk, happily re-acquainting himself with his Forbidden Book, “The Kid’s Guide to World Religions.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God’s wayward Children of Israel
“Now I won’t be offended if you don’t want to answer, but where do you get them?”

Haley grinned at Rick and dipped her roti in the small bowl of thick, creamy raita.

“You won’t believe it, but I scavenge them. You know, from houses, when people are Priced Out. They leave most of their stuff, it’s not like they can take it with them, whether they go Informal or GoodJob. I wait a few days, let whoever comes first get the other stuff, then I move in and get the books. I guess you could say I’m a bottom feeder.”

“So, these books people pay you hundreds of dollars for, those same people could just get them free if they went to an abandoned house?”

“YES!” Haley dissolved in giggles. “Is that a hoot, or what? And I only get those big sales once in a while, as you know all too well,” she gestured at her complimentary dinner.

“And sometimes you practically give them away.”

“Less often than sometimes. Like practically never. I can’t afford to. Haley helped herself to more roti. “I did today, though. It was, I dunno, this little kid,  there was this book about  different religions, written for children, and he was all, ohh, the blue people! I mean, what can you do?”

“You can eat this biryani,” said Rick. “Otherwise it’ll go to waste.”

Secretary Falwell did not like taking questions from the press. In fact, he abhorred it. So much so that lately he had begun to question the need for a press at all. He prayed about it often, asking God to lay a Word of Wisdom on his heart, that he could in turn lay on the desk of Vice President Emeritus Rove, at whose behest he was here today. Even if an argument could be made that the American public needed any more information than was disseminated by the White House press secretary, Falwell could find no justification at all for continuing to permit the existence of foreign media. As he had told Boykin the other day, allowing these hotbeds of anti-Americanism to have television stations and newspapers was technically speaking, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

“I know we’ve had our differences, Jerry,” Boykin had said. “But I hope you know, I’m with you on this one. It’s a slow process, but we’ll get there.”

The process was too slow for Falwell. It had taken him almost two years to make the No-Read lists a reality. It could have gone a lot faster had Falwell not stood firm on the Books of Faith Whitelist.

The battle had been worth it, though. Now no book pertaining to religion could be printed, published or sold in the US or its Occupied Territories without first passing muster with Falwell himself.

“Congress shall pass no law,” he had begun his remarks at THAT press conference, “and Congress has passed no law. This does not however, give the government of the people license to shirk its duty to protect our Homeland from the Devil.

And as long as we allow our printing presses, our publishing houses, and our bookstores, to corrupt themselves and our blessed children with works of blasphemy, idolatry, and terror, we have shirked our duty.

Today, we ask God for forgiveness, and we ask you, the American people, for forgiveness, and pledge to you a New Leaf, a New Day in the Lord, as we cast this sin from us.”

Falwell’s Whitelist was not a long one, and it did not include the Koran, the Bhagvad-Gita, the Maharabata, the Granth, Bibles except the King James Version (that had caused the Vatican to break off diplomatic relations with the US, which Falwell considered they should never have had in the first place). He prayed hard over the touchy subject of Torah scrolls, until some Words of Wisdom had been laid upon his heart, and some Freewill Gifts had been laid upon his hand, the latter from some shadowy figures in the NSA that Falwell had not realized were interested in religion at all.

So the scrolls stayed, as did the synagogues, but stationed outside the door of each was a team from the Department of Values, who maintained a constant prayer vigil that God’s wayward Children of Israel would accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, interrupted only for the purpose of giving witness to those entering or leaving the temple, and beseeching them to embrace their only path to salvation, be washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Attendance had dropped rapidly and dramatically. Most Jews now worshipped discreetly in private homes, as did all Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Catholics, and everybody else. This was, of course, a privilege reserved for Preferreds. GoodJobbers and GuestJobbers were considered to be doing the Lord’s work of keeping the American economy strong every day without the need for formal worship, and Falwell doubted that Informals had any religion at all, and their precarious existence was punishment for it.

“So,” the lawyer held out both hands, palm up. “Good news and bad news.”

“Good news first,” said Roger, rubbing his own palms on his twill workpants, trying to dry them.

“Well, I was able to pull a few strings to get some info on MariLuz. Turns out her grandmother is an elder of sorts in a clan of the Tarasco tribe in Michoacan. That means, if we can get her out of Approval, and into Mexico, she has a home, and tribal custom says that as her family, so do you and Chuchito. Legally, it should be doable, as Compassionate Deportation, from Patriot IV, or from Native Repatriation, from Reservation Protection II. That’s the one that is typically used to root out Native Americans and transfer them to Reservations, but since Mexico is now only semi-autonomous, meaning it is technically under US jurisdiction, we can also argue that MariLuz has the option to waive Approval status and request Repatriation.”

“Great,” Roger felt a shiver of hope, but kept his emotions in check. “What’s the bad news?”

“The bad news,” replied Ben, “is that you’d be living in a mountain village so remote that almost no one there has ever seen a car. Only a handful of people speak Spanish, and those that do speak it as a distant second language. You’ll have to learn Tarasco. There is no electricity, no running water, no telephone, and you’ll live out your lives there living in a house made of sticks and leaves, maybe a little mud in winter, and you’ll survive on whatever you can scratch out by walking behind an ox and an iron plow.”

“with MariLuz and Chuchito?’

“Yes, all three of you.”

Roger grinned. “I thought you said there was BAD news. How soon can we go?”

~~~~~~~

Noushin scrubbed her wet clothes on the flat river stone, glancing occasionally at Sholeh and Sharuz, their wet, plump bodies glistening in the sun. Noushin wasn’t worried about the twins, the water was shallow, the sun was warm, and there was no one about to complain about their nakedness. She was a bit concerned, however, about Niki, the goat, who did not seem pleased at being dressed in Sholeh’s best clothes. “Tuck it up higher,” she called to them. “She might trip.”

At sixteen, Noushin had little patience for overbearing busybodies, and her widowed status brought some measure of independence as a compensation for the poverty.

Although she could not say that she had come to love Akbar in the few weeks of their married life, her grief when he was killed in the massive air strikes of ’05 was sincere. He died without knowing the secret she herself scarcely knew or comprehended. The twins were born a month to the day before her fourteenth birthday, and Noushin was not sure if the backbreaking, assiduous struggle to care for them, and keep them alive and healthy, was motivated by true maternal love or the simple desire to have playmates again.

According to the customs in her remote village, technically in Iran, some said, though so close to the Afghan border that the topic was a frequent subject of the kind of lively debate occasioned by a question of local interest whose answer makes absolutely no difference to local life,  she should have stayed with Akbar’s family and raised her children with the help and interference of dozens of in-laws, but Akbar was the only son, his mother had died when he was born, and his sisters had spread out across the globe, married with families of their own.

She could have gone with her father-in-law to live with his youngest daughter in Turkmenistan, but the ravages of war, and the question of whether an aged blind man would count as a valid chaperone for several days’ journey in the company of the sisters’ husband and the half-dozen Turkmen brothers and cousins he had brought with him rendered the invitation lukewarm, and her politely regretful decline of it less of a scandal than her acceptance would have been.

So she stayed in her little mud-walled enclosure, barely more than a cave, and managed to provide enough basic care, and avoid enough social opprobrium, to at last have her longed-for  playmates, though she had little time to play with them, she made a face at the pile of clothes still unwashed. She wanted to dress up the goat, too.

****

Boykin motioned to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Ricardo Sanchez to sit down. Although he admired Sanchez’ steadfastness in the wake of the media frenzy over the souvenir photos that had found their way into the media Back Then, he was not comfortable with the man’s ethnicity. Still, he had to admit that Sanchez had pulled his weight in containing the situation, and privately, had accepted full responsibility for his error in failing to implement a strict camera ban. In fairness, though, Boykin reflected, the real heroes in that incident were the American people, who reaffirmed his faith in them by accepting the photos as what they were: American soldiers just wanting to show the folks back home that they could do their jobs defending freedom and have a little fun at the same time, that life in theatre wasn’t all about sweltering behind shitty buildings and getting your legs blown off by improvised explosive devices. It was generally conceded that overall, the photos had boosted morale at home, as well as on the battlefield. Boykin chuckled to himself. Five years later, and all the new recruits and Selectees alike STILL wanted to work the Ghraib.

“So, tell me how this works, exactly.”

“The Citizen Defenders Program, sir,” is the kind of innovative, outside the box pro-active strategy that the nation needs to win the War on Terror,” Sanchez began.

Boykin waved his hand impatiently. “Don’t recite the press release to me, Rico-Suave. Just tell me how the damn thing works.”

“Yes, sir. A company in Texas has developed a highly sophisticated and adaptable system of remote weapons activation, which the Core of Engineers has reconfigured and customized to dovetail with current  operational needs in critical corridor sectors.”

“Damn it, boy! I said don’t read me the press release. Tell me in English. You were born here, weren’t you. Don’t tell me you don’t speak English.”

“It’s like an online computer game, sir. The Citizen Defender, stateside, clicks his mouse, and destroys whatever target we assign him, wherever on earth it is, sir.”

“And how much will this cost us to set up?”

“A lot, sir. But the Citizen Defenders pay to play. The program will pay for itself and then some, within the year. We have already have paid applications from almost every Professional and Preferred adult in the country, and about 80% of the minors.”

Boykin threw back his head and laughed. “God bless the Resolve and Patriotism of the American people, Sanchez. Put your faith in them and you can’t go wrong. How soon can we have this thing up and running?”

~~~~~`

Without the Jews, we have no Rapture

“Haley, why do you do this to yourself?”

The OutReach worker shook her head.

“Just look at yourself. Do you know you’re old enough to be my mom? And what do you have to show for it? You weren’t even a Professional Back Then, were you? You were a hippie. You know that’s enough to get you Detained, right there. You don’t even wear a yellow ribbon. Or a flag. I don’t see how you have managed to keep out of Detention as long as you have.”

Haley looked the young woman up and down.

“I’m sure you have TIPS on your speed dial,” she said. “Why don’t you call them?”

MaryBeth sat down on the crate that served Haley as occasional chair.

“Don’t think that’s not a question I haven’t asked myself. I guess it’s just that I hate to see you just let your whole life go by without having it mean anything at all. If you got a GoodJob, you could be making a contribution, helping the economy, you could be part of the War on Terror. Don’t you ever think about that? The things everybody wants and you just let the opportunity go.”

“I would help the economy more as a Detainee.” Haley poured tea from a thermos into a paper cup for her guest. “The per capita cost of Detention is about twice the net profit from GoodJob labor.”

“Huh?” MaryBeth wrinkled her nose, both at the tea and Haley’s annoying habit of saying things that made no sense. “per capital? Is that English? I can’t believe you would just sit here in an American storage shed, with an American Outreach Worker, and just thumb your nose at the English for America Act. Please tell me you didn’t just do that”

“I think certain Latin phrases were grandfathered in.”

“So you WERE speaking a foreign language!”

Haley stifled a yawn. It had been a rough day. SafetyCleans all over the place, apparently there was some big event tomorrow.

“Listen, MaryBeth. I appreciate your concern. I really do, and I will look at the new brochures, and think it over, and I promise, cross my heart, that if I decide to work for OneBanc, it will be you I will call first, and you who will get whatever Hero points can be gotten.”

“Really?” MaryBeth’s face was wreathed in smiles. “I would really appreciate that, Haley. You know if I get just 30 more points I’ll be up for a Gold Yellow Ribbon! Well, you can choose between that and an Internet Access pass, but nobody does. How would THAT look? And right after you just got Hero Points, too.”

MaryBeth laid out the OneBanc brochures carefully on Haley’s bed.

“Thanks for the tea. I know you will make the right decision, Haley. I just know it. You don’t really hate America.”

**

“It’s really simple, Reverend Secretary.” Ralph Reed brushed an imaginary speck off his Armani sleeve. “Without the Jews, we have no Rapture. I would think you, of all people, would understand that.”

Falwell pursed his lips. Rove had just told him essentially the same thing, although the Vice President Emeritus had used a lot more words to do it.

“Ralph, believe me, I am not suggesting  that we not HAVE the Jews, at least not in the same way that we no longer have the Muslims, Praise God. But I do not agree, and I have been very frank about this to Mr. Rove and now to you, I do not see why we have to have them so visible.”

“And I am sure that Mr. Rove explained to you, Reverend Secretary. Morale. Incentive. Motivation. People need to SEE the Signs. Jews are a Sign.”

“No, they are not a Sign!” Falwell was losing patience. “They are nothing but Unsaved, Ungodly, HEATHENS who walk openly on the streets, even appear on TELEVISION, for crying out loud, and set  a bad example for Christian Youth.”

“The people see them as a Sign, sir. They need to see them, just like they need to see the Insurgents on TV. They need to see the Enemy at home and Abroad. It is a constant reminder to them, not only to be Vigilant, but of WHY they are being Vigilant. They need them to Witness to.”

“They could be Witnessed to, and seen, in a Protective Facility, Richard. We have teams in all of them. There are Christians whose every waking moment is spent in intensive Witness to Muslims and Hindus in those things. But it’s a moot point. Rove agrees with you, and he is the boss. At least here on earth.” Falwell allowed himself a small chuckle.

At least he had won out on the public display of Hanukah parephenalia, even if he had had to get a little apoplectic to do it. “We CANNOT allow GRAVEN IMAGES on the streets of Christian America!” he had shouted. He thought it had frightened Rove a little. Good. Sometimes Rove needed a little reminder of the high standards that a Man of Faith should maintain.

“One more thing, sir.” Reed handed Falwell a manila folder. “Some suggested talking points for tomorrow. Boykin  wants you to make a few remarks on the Faith-Based Nature of the Citizen Defenders Program.”

“Good, good,” Falwell peered into the folder. “Tell him to get that Marine Band. Have them rehearse “Onward Christian Soldiers” and let’s see if we can’t get the lyrics on a big screen. Have a sing-along going on during the actual launch.”

~~~~~~~~~
Welcome America’s very first Citizen Defender

“Ms. Hughes, this is, um,” The nervous aide checked his notes. “Matthew.”

“Hi, Matthew! My name’s Karen. This is a pretty big day for you, huh? I bet you’re excited about being on TV!”

“I’m going to be on TV!” Matthew yelled, spinning in his swivel chair.

“Matthew!” admonished his mother. “That’s not how we behave!”

“Kids are kids,” Hughes smiled. “He’ll do great. He’s just perfect!”

“They’re almost ready for him, ma’am,” the aide’s Adam’s apple twitched.

“Secretary Reverend Fallwell is finishing up.”

*******

To say that Daniel Pipes felt constrained would be an understatement. Since his appointment as Homeland Security Secretary, he had found himself hemmed in at every turn.

His Protocols for a New America had gotten rave reviews at the Pentagon. Rove called it one of the most compelling post-911 documents to date, but getting it implemented was like pulling teeth.

“We have to pace ourselves, Dan,” the Vice President Emeritus had told him. “Look how far we’ve come in less than a decade. Besides, I have some ideas about one of your Protocols. I like the savings figures you projected on the Transition to General Disposal for the High Risk Detainee population. It’s a labor-intensive, high-cost operation. I’m thinking that we can go beyond savings, actually make it a source of revenue.”

Pipes frowned. “Private sponsorship? But who would – “

“Nope,” smiled Rove. “Empower them as Givers.”

Pipes tried to suppress an involuntary shudder.

“Mr. Vice President, do you think the market – “

“Would want Arab organs?” Rove chuckled. “Not if they are presented as such, of course not. But clients don’t ask things like that.”

Individuals selected as living organ banks were officially called “Givers.” Though neither they nor their survivors received any compensation, recipients paid a hefty fee to Schering-Bayer-Pfizer, as well as to both surgeons.

The Givers program was, according to the White House, compassionate conservatism at its best. “No longer will any individual be obliged to be a burden to the State,” the statement read. “Every American, no matter what his circumstances, can make a significant and unique contribution to our great economy, and help his fellow man at the same time. America is still and always will be the Land of Opportunity.”

“With all respect, Mr. Vice President Emeritus,” Pipes chose his words carefully. “To be a Chosen as a Giver is a privilege…”

Rove smiled. “Indeed it is, Dan. And America does not withhold privileges on the basis of religion or ethnicity.”

******

Roger didn’t get too many days off, and he didn’t want to waste a minute of this one. Whatever Big Event was going on, they didn’t want cleaning people around, they were emptying out every building. Security, they said. Roger could care less. “Wake up, you lazy penguin,” he tickled his son awake.

“Are we going on an adventure?” Chuchito rubbed his eyes and reached for his sneakers. “Not with dirty teeth,” Roger pushed his son toward the bathroom.

An adventure meant getting on a bus and going somewhere in the city they knew nothing about, just to see what and who was there. Most Preferreds would consider this both dangerous and foolish, but Roger was not a Suit. He did not come from Suit stock, and Chuchito made friends wherever he went. Roger had never met an ethnic or economic group that did not have something good to eat or an interesting story to offer him and his little boy, and if they got lucky, both.

Today Roger decided they would check out the street the book lady had told them about, with the little food stand. He needed distraction more than Chuchito, just so he wouldn’t call his lawyer every five minutes.

******

“And so, my American brothers and sisters, thanks to this wondrous gift, and to your Blessed Resolve, the hard work of the War on Terror is about to get a little easier – and to give you an idea of just how easy, I’d like to introduce you to a young friend of mine who is taking his place in history today – Brothers and sisters, please welcome America’s very first Citizen Defender – Matthew Connor!”

Falwell stepped away from the podium, microphone in hand.

“Your parents gave you a good name, Matthew. That’s a name from the Bible. How old are you, Matthew?”

“Eight”

“And you like to play the computer games, you must be pretty good.”

“Matthew stared at the mike, nodding vigorously. Falwell chuckled.

“Well, Matthew, you know you don’t have to be a long-winded preacher like me to play computer games or to help America win the War on Terror. Now you just sit down here. You’re the expert, not me, I never have understood the computers much, just too old, I guess.” Falwell paused to allow the audience to applaud politely at what tomorrow’s papers would call a quip.

“Now General Graner taught you how to play, didn’t he? What was that like, learning a new game from a real live Abu Ghraib hero?”

Matthew shrugged. “It’s not a very hard game.”

“Well, folks, you hear that. Out of the mouths of babes. All right, Matthew, let’s show America what you and General Graner have been working on. Why don’t you tell all the boys and girls watching at home how to play.”

“Um, well, you click start, see? and in a minute a little red dot – there it is – ok, it’s going to get bigger, wait till it’s as big as a dime, and then you put your mouse on it and click  – and see, the little red thing blows up.”

Matthew grinned and reached for the microphone.

“I just killed a bad guy! I just killed a terr’ist!”

The audience rose to its feet, applauding. “Matthew! Matthew!”

Matthew jumped up and down. “Yeah!”

Falwell beamed, let the applause continue for a minute, then closed his eyes, held up his hand. His other hand dropped to Matthew’s head.

“Brothers and Sisters, let us pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you today for Matthew, our little Citizen Defender, we thank you for the gift of this technology. In the Bible we read that a little child shall lead them, and we thank you for….”

******

“Sholeh, Niki can’t carry you and pull the clothes too,” Noushin tied one more knot in the bundle and wedged it into the rickety cart. Niki shot her a baleful look, twitched her tail. “Lazy thing, it’s just clothes,” Noushin laughed, rubbed the goat’s ears, and scooping up Sholeh, ran back to the bank for one last splash before heading home.

Sharuz placed a baby turtle carefully on his sister’s head. “Turtle hat!” he shrieked. Sholeh lay down in the shallow water and watched the bewildered turtle paddle away. “Turtle hat wants to swim!” she announced. “And so do I.”

“Next time,” Noushin gathered up the wriggling twins. “Time to go home now. “Turtle hat will still be here.”

The road home was really more of a path. The “good” road, though not paved, was wider and smoother, and had served the little village for more centuries than anyone could count, but it was full of landmines now, and such a frequent recipient of US bombing raids that there was not one family in the village who did not have at least one grave to tend.

Although they had been told to walk, the twins’ preferred method of locomotion, when Niki was otherwise engaged, consisted of a few hops followed by falling to the ground and rolling over and over while tickling each other mercilessly.

Noushin shook her head. Half the day at the river, they were so clean, and here she would bring them home for all the neighbors to see, literally rolled in dirt. At least it won’t be a shock, she thought. This happened every time she did the family wash.

Now they came running up to her, tugging at her skirts. “We want bread and honey when we get home!” Noushin smiled at them, “Bath first.”

The flash, the blast, came without warning, but her mother’s instinct extended her arms to her children before she could even think. And arms, twins, clothes and goat exploded into a red mist, her scream still hanging in the air.

****

“It was a very successful launch. Our target  was a known terrorist command and control center in the north of Iran. An area where Americans have taken some return fire more than once. I guess you could call it a rat’s nest. But today, thanks to little Matthew, it’s insurgent-free. It’s safe for Americans. Little Matthew saved some American lives today, and now as Citizen Defenders, every American can do the same. We are very excited about this program, and thank you, Larry, for having me here tonight”

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have you here, Sir. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chief, General Chief. How should we address you General Sanchez?”

“Larry, you can call me Rick. And I just want to say, before we go on, that in just the few hours that the Citizen Defender Program has been operational, we now have over 7 million homes online, that participated in our advance enrollment, and almost 40 million in the pipeline.”

“40 million?” King sat up. “Now that is – well, that is simply amazing. That is – well, that is like effectively increasing our armed forces by 40 million, is it not, General?”

“It certainly is, Larry. And I think another reason the program is so popular, it’s something that families can do together. A lot of times nowadays parents don’t have as much time as they’d like to spend with their kids, and here is a way to spend quality family time, and also protect our American way of life.”

“And I believe we have an 800 number, and a website? Where people who haven’t signed up yet can be a part of this, can become Citizen Defenders? Producers, can we get that number up on the screen?”

****

The shy-looking man and his irrepressible little boy reminded Rick of another time, another place, another chatty little boy out for a treat with his dad.

“I can read!” Chuchito called out to him. “See my book?”

Against his better judgment, Roger had let Chuchito bring the Kids Guide to World Religions along so he wouldn’t be bored on the long subway ride to the bus stop. It had not occurred to him that Chuchito would call attention to the illegal book in a public place. He looked around nervously. Luckily, it was still early. They were the only customers.

Rick did not seem alarmed. “Good for you!” he said. “That’s a very nice book.” To demonstrate his prowess, Chuchito read a few sentences from his favorite section – Hinduism. “It doesn’t say why the people are blue, though”

“The people who live there aren’t really blue.” Rick laughed. “But you are a very good reader!”

Chuchito looked disappointed. “The gods and goddesses are blue,” Rick added quickly. “They are blue to represent how God is so big he is not only the earth, but the sky and the ocean.”

“Can you tell me about Krishna? The book doesn’t really have it all.”

Rick smiled. Who better than a good Muslim from Lahore who claimed to be Swiss to tell a little Mexican boy about Krishna? Some things about America not even Washington could change.  He poured some tea and sat down next to Chuchito.

“Once upon a time, in a far-away land called Mathura, there was a bad, evil king named Kamsa…”

******

Time to move, Haley thought, completing her morning ritual of brushing her teeth and bemoaning her nose. She didn’t feel comfortable having MaryBeth know where she lived any more, and she’d been here six months. That was a pretty long time for an Informal to stay in one place anyway. And the murmurs of an impending crackdown on Informals showed signs of eclipsing the nose question.

“Those who choose to live outside the norms of society, those who reject our American way of life, at the same time that they benefit from the use of our streets, they don’t reject our dollars when they have something to sell you, now do they?” Homeland Intelligence Czar Zell Miller had a three point plan: Round em up, and bring em to General Detention. The third point of his plan involved phasing out the term “Informal.”

“It’s deceptive,” he said. “It’s an innocent sounding name for people who are anything but innocent. They are a threat to everything that as Americans, we hold dear. Calling them Informals gives loyal, hard-working Americans a false sense of security. That’s a raw deal.”

Miller recommended using the term “Persons of Interest.”
~~~~~~~~

The Department of Chastity and Doctrine

General Boykin was not a happy man. Despite its overwhelming popularity, the Citizen Defender program was not living up to expectations in the field.

“I want some answers, men.” The General held up a spiral-bound report. “According to this, we’ve got almost 100% participation among Preferred households with Internet Access cards, including those who requested, and received, cards just so they could be part of CD. That’s over 50 million households, that’s I don’t know how many million targets – it says somewhere in here –  fired on every day for 90 days. Now you tell me how come we don’t have a depopulated and secured region.”

Rick Sanchez took a deep breath. “Well, sir, there are several factors. One, the one we believe is responsible for the majority of failed hits, is insurgent sabotage of the remote sensors. And jamming of the GPS signals.”

“How the hell are they able to do that?” Boykin demanded.

“Sir, our intelligence indicates that the enemy is employing a number of strategies,” General Graner opened a folder. “One that we didn’t anticipate is the use of decoys specifically designed to foil the heat-sensitive sensors.”

“What kind of decoys?”

“Heated scrap metal sir, bricks, also heated. On some occasions it appears the enemy has used bread.”

“Bread? BREAD?” Boykin’s face was almost purple.

“Are you telling me that we have spent billions of dollars, and given the American people to believe that they are eliminating terrorists, so that the US armed forces can blow up loaves of bread?”

“Well, not exclusively bread, sir. Sometimes bricks…”

The problem lay, at least partly, with the technology itself. The sensors could not be completely hidden from view, or they would not be able to receive or transmit signals. Within a few days of the launch, over 80% of the sensors had been damaged or destroyed. Repair teams could not keep up. It took one person only a few seconds to render a sensor useless, and it took two men at least half a day to repair or replace and test one.

“And how the hell do they get the bread or the bricks or whatever the hell they put in there without triggering the sensor?”

Sanchez squirmed in his chair. “Um, catapults, sir.”

“Catapults? What the hell, catapults? They think this is the Dark Ages?”

“Um, well, they’re a primitive people, sir.”

“And foreign fighters, sir.” Graner was worried that Boykin would have a cardiovascular incident. Maybe if he could change the focus from bread and catapults…

“The information we’re getting from the theatre is that in recent weeks, over 95% of Indonesian support personnel have deserted their posts within 24 hours of arrival, and there are credible reports that they have joined the insurgency.”

“Or been kidnapped by insurgents and forced to fight, ” he added, noticing that this information did not seem to be calming his commanding officer down.

“And just how many Indonesian support personnel are we talking about, General?”

“We think no more than 14 million, sir. Over a period of 12 or more weeks.”

******

President for Life Jeb Bush did not enjoy cabinet meetings. Though not a brilliant man, he had no illusions about the nature of his position, and was acutely aware that his cabinet had none. Their false deference to him was embarrassing. Everybody knew that he was window dressing, with about as much real political influence as senile old Queen Liz. He just wanted to get the damn thing over with and get back to his yacht, where, his personal assistant had informed him, some very nice merchandise awaited him. General Detention had some good product. Fresh, clean, new in box, the way Jeb liked it.

“Secretary Miller, while I completely agree with you that the problem of Informals must be addressed, surely you must be aware that at this time we simply  do not have the resources to apprehend over a hundred million individuals, even for a direct transfer to General Disposal.”

“Mr. vice President, I do not feel it is a problem we can afford to ignore any longer.”

“Then let me see a plan, Mr. Secretary. Show me how you intend to fund it, and staff it, and get back to me. Meanwhile, what I will do is instruct the news media to refer to them as Persons of Interest. That’s a sound idea, doable, and will help us out a lot down the road when we do have the wherewithal to move.”

Miller sat back, silent, the tips of his ears a bright pink.

Secretary of Values Reverend Jerry Falwell cleared his throat to break the awkward silence. “Mr. Vice President Emeritus, I see you have a copy of my proposal – “

Rove nodded. “Oh yes, the Department of Chastity and Doctrine. You were thinking of this as a new cabinet post?”

“Sub-cabinet, sir. Such a department would fall under the broader umbrella of Values, thereby maintaining the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state. Congress shall pass no law…”

“Yes, yes, I know,” Rove waved his hand impatiently. “Do you have a candidate in mind?”

“Why yes, Mr. Vice President Emeritus, I do. An old colleague of mine, extremely well qualified. In fact, I have taken the liberty of sounding him out on the idea, very indirectly and discreetly of course, and I believe I can say that he will be proud to serve, his life has been one of service, to the Lord, to his country – “

“Name?” Rove sneaked a glance at his watch. It had been a long week, and he was looking forward to a little downtime with Jeb, on the yacht.

“I was thinking of my good friend Dr. Pat Robertson,” Falwell smiled round the table. I believe he is already well known to all of you.”

******

Ben Silverman looked at the wrinkled little snapshot. She was not what Ben would call a babe. Plain, really, but to his client, this was the most beautiful woman on earth. Ben put the photo back into his inside pocket and ordered his coffee.

“No dairy, right?” the teenaged boy smirked at him.

“No dairy!” declared Ben. Funny how a few weeks ago that had felt like an Act of Resistance somehow. Working on Roger’s case was working on his head. For the first time in his privileged, Preferred life, he felt like he was doing something worthwhile. A couple of times he had been surprised to find himself wondering what it would be like, to love someone, someone with zero babe points, so much that you would spend your last dime for the chance to spend the rest of your life walking behind an ox and living in a grass hut, just so you could be with her.

Ben punched Roger’s number into his cell phone. “We’re getting closer. Got some papers for you to sign.”

********

The Restoration of Democracy Act of 2005, said the official press release on the subject, “protects America two ways: One, by eliminating needless spending. Americans do not want to spend their money on politicians, they want to spend their money keeping America safe. And it gives our legislative branch a long-overdue update, bringing it in line with the nations post-911 needs.”

There was no doubt that streamlining the 535-member bicameral body into the ten-member Congress Committee had saved billions of dollars annually, or if it had not technically saved them, it had definitely redirected them to the war effort.

The identities of the Committee’s members, like most of the laws they passed, were secret, for reasons of national security, but it was widely believed, and correctly so, that the Committee consisted of the Cabinet.

Pat Robertson was both proud and humbled to be allowed the privilege to serve in both capacities, and on the day the Committee voted unanimously to ratify the Chastity Amendment to the Constitution, Robertson felt that if God called him home in that moment, he could go serene in the knowledge that he had served his nation and served it well, without regrets of anything left undone.

Falwell shared his joy. Smiling at the little group at the round table, his eyes twinkled. “You know I’m gonna say it,” he began. “Congress has passed no law…”

He lowered his voice, his expression serious again.”And I do not believe that there are any who will suggest that our Founding Fathers, the framers of our blessed constitution, carried in their hearts the intention that our sisters, our wives and daughters, should be UN-chaste.”

Technically, the Chastity Amendment applied to both males and females, but only unmarried females would be subject to mandatory virginity tests, while males would merely be required to sign an affidavit. When questioned about this discrepancy by a free-lance journalist from Denmark, Falwell answered with a stony look that “it was thus that the Lord hath ordained.” Later that day, the Danish ambassador was summoned to Washington to receive a formal demand that the journalist be voluntarily waived over the US jurisdiction for indefinite detention. Failure to do so, the ambassador was informed, would leave the United States no other choice but to assume that it was the official policy of the Danish government to challenge the sovereignty of the United States, and appropriate steps would be taken, with military action not ruled out. Before night fell in the nation’s capital, the journalist was hooded, shackled, and bolted to the floor in Special Detention Camp Six, whose location was officially undisclosed but unofficially known to be about an hour from Pittsburgh.

The initial reconnaissance flights over Paris as Operation European Freedom grew nearer had made the campaign very real to Denmark. Nor could Denmark deny US intelligence reports that indicated the reporter had links to the International Red Cross, listed as a terrorist organization since 2006. She had sat on the board of directors of the Copenhagen chapter.

******

Education Secretary Bob Jones III re-read the letter, trying to decide whether and how to respond. It was from an old friend, even more significantly, a wealthy and generous alumnus of the institution his grandfather had founded, and to which he was still connected, both emotionally and officially, despite his having had to resign from the Presidency in order to serve in the Cabinet.

Edwin Ivey’s daughter Melissa had failed the virginity test that since the passage of the Chastity Act, was now mandatory in all schools.

Ivey cited a history of medical findings from a variety of standard reference works that agreed that hymeneal tissue could be compromised as the result of using internal sanitary protection, as well as participation in certain sports, including gymnastics and equestrian activities, among others, even if the young woman had not been sexually active.

“Melissa,” the letter went on, “turned eleven last month, and has scarcely been out of the sight of either her mother or me since the day she was born. The idea that she has been involved in sexual activity is preposterous, and to subject an innocent child of Preferred status to brutal Taser torture is not only barbaric, it is un- American.”

There was, in fact, quite a flurry of activity going on in his office, in cooperation with the Departments of Values and Chastity and Doctrine, on this very subject. Not Melissa specifically, but the idea of subjecting Preferreds to Tasering was controversial. By unwritten agreement, even before the Chastity Amendment, Preferreds who stepped outside the law were fined, or occasionally given community service sentences, the old fashioned kind that involved picking up trash or mopping emergency room floors. This had the strength of tradition, those who contributed more to the economy had always been allowed a little leeway when they needed it, and it went a long way toward maintaining support for rigorous measures as needed against non-Preferreds, thus keeping Taser sales strong.

Calling the law barbaric and un-American, however, was a violation Patriot IV. That, decided Jones, bumped the whole thing above his pay grade. He pushed a button on his phone. “Get me Secretary Reverend Falwell.”

******

Haley was relieved that the plan to round up Persons of Interest (previously known as Informals) had apparently been scrapped. “How would they do it?” asked Rick. “with what army that’s not already off occupying one country or another?”

“Still,” insisted Haley. “It’s time for me to move.” MaryBeth had been back again, this time trying to persuade Haley that if she was really so dead-set against a GoodJob, to consider applying for a Personal Sponsorship. MaryBeth knew some people who might be interested, even though Haley was older than most applicants.

Personal Sponsorship meant that any Preferred with a certain income level could pay a fixed fee to the Office of Homeland Security, and receive any General Detainee, GuestJobber, or Person of Interest as Special Category Taxable Property. The individual would them become the private property of the sponsor, with no use or disposal restrictions, however the sponsor would be held financially and legally liable for any act committed by the Special Category Taxable, or “scat” as they were commonly called.

General principle aside, Haley had no desire to become a scat. She was quite aware of what happened to them, more often than not, although CNN and its fellow networks frequently ran heartwarming feature stories about down on their luck people who had been lucky enough to get Sponsors and now worked only eight hours a day in luxurious homes, ate good food every day, had their own private rooms and baths, and had become born-again Christians into the bargain.

“How about those apartments over by the river?” Rick suggested. “They’ve been vacant for a few months, but construction won’t start for almost a year.” The crew chief of the company that got the contract was a customer of Rick’s, but wouldn’t be

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