With millions dead following the outbreak of a plague caused by plastics pollution, young politico Fred McVelly masterminds the creation of an ecofascist nanny state as an elaborate practical joke.
Chapter One… we meet the mastermind…
FRED HAD SPENT the late afternoon and early evening electronically thumbing through Citizens’ Accounts. He was looking for a loner, someone who drank a lot, someone at the fringes of society who would embrace this rare opportunity. He was certain any number of people in Hellevue would be grateful for it, but he needed someone with a bit of personality, someone whose apparently new and radical approach to life would truly inspire.
He had got as far as Life Administration Group Four and still only had a handful of possibilities, none of whom had really whet the proverbial. He scrolled down the page, hoping for inspiration.
Payne, Kevin – Priest. Recently branded Disruptive Dogmatic. Required to take courses to escape trappings of fantasy and whimsy. Three Social Behavioural Points. Threat to have rations cut.
Definitely more like it, thought Fred. Could play well as a reformed character.
Peacock, Anthony – Unable to verify Citizen’s whereabouts 19:54-22:37, June 6th and 07:30-09:02, June 8th. Incomplete Environmental Footprint. Two Social Behavioural Points. Required to attend interview to explain actions.
Probably the Scanners not working properly in Hellevue. Pass.
Peel, Joseph – Failed to attend Community Athletics event on Life Admin Group Designated Activity Day. Two Social Behavioural Points. Rations cut for one week.
Not exactly the arch maverick I’m looking for.
Pierce, Michael – Arrested for smoking within half a mile of a Primary School. Three Social Behavioural Points.
Fred was just starting to lose a bit of heart, which was rare for him. His ideas always worked and this one was arguably among his best. But he needed to find his man. Pausing to finish the last mouthful of beer from his bottle, Fred thought he might go home for the evening. Get back on it in the morning. Maybe ring Denise tonight and unwind.
Just ten more minutes he told himself.
Pope, Robert – Divorced. Financial problems. Misaligned. Current Abode: LifeManagement4Life. Maxed out on Social Behavioural Points. Crimes include…
As Fred took in the Citizens’ data his brain experienced a sensation akin to watching fruit line up in a slot machine. My God, he thought, I’ve found him! This man, this Robert Pope, seemed to be something of an outsider, from the northern nation no less. Had been in London only six months. He was unemployed, lived in social housing, received rations and spent all his benefits on tobacco and alcohol. And he was currently enjoying a bit of modern medicine at a LifeManagement4Life Institute. A Misaligned. Though he frequented pubs he did not seem to entertain guests at his abode. Of course, with the SwipeScanners in Hellevue not functioning (had they ever?) a full map of this particular Citizen’s movements was hard to acquire. However, Fred felt he knew enough. This was a man who ticked all the boxes. This was a man whose charge sheet read like the calling card of a deviant, a man either unable or unwilling to participate in the new society.
In his head office at the Citizens’ Announcements Unit Fred dialled the personal number of Dr Zini. He always enjoyed talking to the doctor, the flirty old thing. Never consummated that particular relationship but he certainly relished coming up with Health Policy with her. She was wild!
“Good evening, Doctor. And how are you?”
“Oh very well, thank you Frederick darling. It’s been a while since we chatted.”
“You know how it is, Doc. But you are always on my mind, naturally.”
“You are too kind. So to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I’m calling about one of your patients. A Robert Pope.”
“Yes. I need him. For a little project.”
“I see. Well, he needs to complete a few more realignment modules before he’s ready to be released. Are you thinking of a temporary loan or would he be out indefinitely? He’s quite an angry man.”
“Well Doctor, it would be a permanent assignment. With your blessing, naturally. Regarding his anger, that’s the point really. Though I’m sure you’ve done some sterling work already.”
“Will he like what you’ve got in store for him?”
“Has he liked everything so far?”
Silence from Zini’s end.
“I think that’s your answer. But there are rewards in my little scheme. And I need someone with a bit of fire in his belly. It’ll make the whole thing work that much better.”
“Well I’ll need a week or so but after that-”
“Perfect. Thank you Doctor. Speak soon.”
The timespan was exactly what Fred needed. He had a few other things to sort too, not least the arrangements for Republic Day. But he was more interested in what would be happening in the celebration’s immediate aftermath. Quite a few people’s worlds were going to be turned upside down. No change there then, thought Fred, as he poured himself a little whisky.
As he washed the fine Scotch round his mouth – a fitting drink given the land of Pope’s birth – Fred toasted the ease with which his latest ruse was coming together. He smiled. He lived for pleasure and his life pleased him greatly. He was one of the lucky ones who knew what he wanted and, more importantly, how to get it. Never from his mouth, if I knew then what I know now. He was delighted with everything he had achieved so far. Undoubtedly he was ahead of events. He was shaping them, after all.