March 14, 2050
After an hour of channel-surfing the state approved tele-web, my mind was numb. I’d seen countless hours of television in my youth. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but all of it was better than the trash the One World Order spoon fed the masses. The irony is that I found that I found these shows humorous. Hollywood had thrown in with the Order and all the writers, producers, actors and actresses – they were putting on these shows with a straight face, never realizing that old timers like me were laughing at them. I doubt anyone under 35 realized these shows had become inadvertent parodies of everything the One World Order stood for.
I reached for Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab. It was a bad idea to keep it out in the open. Each individual movie stored on it would most likely be considered a separate offense the state and yet, it had been so long since I’d seen anything remotely entertaining that I couldn’t help but watch another old movie. I turned the device on and was scrolling through the selections when there was a knock on the door.
“Shit.” As the knocks continued, I stood up and frantically looked around the room, hoping to find a good hiding spot for the ancient X-Tab. The knocks grew louder. A very mellow, almost high-sounding electronic voice spoke. “Citizen Wylder?”
The unapproved X-Tab was still in my hand and the only thing standing between me and a trip to a re-education center was the door. “Yes?”
“Civil Society Monitor Drones,” the voice said. “We’re here for your weekly inspection.”
“Oh,” I said. I scanned the room. I pondered shoving the X-Tab under a doily on an end table, stuffing the device down my pants, and making a rub to the bathroom to see if it would fit down the toilet, but none of those options seemed viable.
“Didn’t we do that last week?” I asked.
“We do them every week,” the drone answered. “Hence, ‘weekly inspections.’”
“Oh right,” I said. “Sorry. I’m an old man. I forget these things.”
If the first best thing about being old is running out of fucks to give, the second best thing is being able to feign incompetence as an excuse. Sometimes I didn’t have to feign it, although this time I was.
“Are you alright, Citizen Wylder?” the drone inquired.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Just tidying up.”
“There’s no need,” the drone said. “We see many homes in various states of disarray.”
“Oh, you know me boys,” I said. “My mother always taught me to make your place spic and span if you’re having company over.”
I was out of time. I gave up, lifted up the middle couch cushion, stashed the ancient X-Pad, then dropped the cushion and sat down.
“We’re coming in,” the drone said.
I put my arm around Hannah, who was still asleep. “Oh no, I don’t want to put you out. I’ll be right there.”
The electronic locks on my front door clicked. The door swung open and in flew three drones. They were fairly standard in appearance. Four whirring rotor blades attached to a base, with a 360-degree camera that saw everything hanging down. As an interesting touch, there was a red light just above the camera that blinked whenever the contraption spoke.
“Good evening, Citizen Wylder,” the drone in the center said.
I sat up and grabbed my back, then winced. “Oh Jeeze Louise. Hello boys. I’m sorry I didn’t get to the door sooner but you know…my aching sacroiliac.”
“No worries,” the center drone said. The drones to the left and right broke off from the pack. The left drone headed for the kitchen. The right one made a beeline for the garage.”
The remaining drone buzzed closer to me. “I am Civil Society Monitor Drone Number 327B19, but to placate your humanist need to relate to anything with the power of speech, you may call me Randy 12.0.”
“Frank Wylder,” I said as I put out my hand. The drone looked at it. I looked at it. Neither of us were able to figure out what to do next, so I put the hand away.
“Right,” I said.
“You may refer to my colleagues as Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9,” Randy 12.0 said.
“Alright,” I replied. “What happened to Pete 11.1? I’m used to seeing him.”
“Grounded for repairs,” Randy 12.0 said. “An unfortunate encounter with an unruly citizen I’m afraid.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s bullshit. Tell that little bucket of bolts I hope he gets better real soon.”
Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one-hundred credit fine will be deducted from your account.”
“For what?” I asked. “Wishing your buddy well?”
“Violation of the Anti-Inappropriate Speech Code,” Randy 12.0 said. “The Obscenity Eradication Act, in particular.”
“Oh,” I said. “Here we go.”
Ever so slowly, the drone flew about the living room, being sure to record video of everything. He then returned to face me. A red laser shot out of the center of the drone and painted my face with a grid.
“Confirming identity,” Randy 12.0 said. “Frank Wylder. Born 1987. Class 7 citizen.”
Ugh. There were ten classes assigned by the One World Order, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst. I was poor, so I was assigned to Class 7. This assignment meant I was only allowed to reside in a low level neighborhood, and the amount of money and possessions I could have was severely limited. If you think “7” doesn’t sound like such a bad number, consider that Class 8 is reserved for general, run-of-the-mill criminals. Class 9 is comprised entirely of pederasts and Class 10 includes, you guessed it, the vile Nationalist pigs. So in other words, my government looked upon me with just a little bit more favor than would be provided to criminals, perverts, and traitors.
Randy 12.0 stared at me and waited. Eventually, I figured out what he wanted me to say. “All hail the One World Order.”
“Long may it reign,” the drone said as it buzzed towards Hannah.
“My granddaughter,” I said. “I have an agreement with my ex-wife. She has custody. I get visitation.”
Custody agreements and other standing divorce arrangements from the um…time that I wasn’t allowed to talk about had been grandfathered in. The One World Order had forced many bizarre, draconian laws on its subjects, but even they knew they weren’t going to be able to force women to take back men that they’d given the old heave-ho to.
The drone painted Hannah’s sleepy face with a red laser grid. “Scanning…Hannah Wylder. Born 2037. Age 13. Yes, your custody documents are on file and are in order.”
Randy 12.0 took another swing around the room. “How are you this evening, Citizen Wylder?”
“I’m hanging in there,” I said.
“Been having any problems?” Randy 12.0 asked.
“Just old age,” I said. “Losing hair in the places I want to keep it. Growing it in places I don’t want it. Don’t even get me started on my bowel movements. They haven’t been regular in ages.”
“Too much information, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Have you observed any suspicious behavior amongst your neighbors?”
“Nope,” I said. “The Martinezes are fine people. A real credit to the order, if you ask me.”
“Has there been an issue with your Happy Order Month lawn signs?” Randy 12.0 asked.
“Citizen Martinez indicated to me that he has placed several signs on your lawn to assist you in putting your pride in the One World Order on full display,” Randy 12.0 said. “But they keep disappearing.”
“Right,” I said. “Yeah, you know, someone keeps swiping them…but Martinez, he’s a good egg.”
“A good what?” Randy 12.0 asked.
“He’s a good egg,” I said. “He keeps putting signs on my lawn because, you know, I’m old, I can’t get out to get new ones every time they go missing.”
“Understood,” Randy 12.0 said. “Why would you refer to your neighbor as a protein deposit dispensed from a chicken’s hindquarters?”
I shook my head. “Its an expression. It…never mind.”
“So no suspicious activity observed amongst your neighbors then?” Randy 12.0 said.
I smirked. “No…well.”
Randy 12.0 spun around and faced me. “What?”
I waved my hand, attempting to shoo the drone away. “No, it’s nothing.”
“Out with it, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Any piece of information you have, no matter how insignificant it may seem, may prove to be of vital importance to the One World Order.”
“Well, when you put it that way…” I looked around the room, then leaned forward, towards the drone. “Look, you didn’t hear this from me, but Mrs. Howard, that old bitch across the street, have you seen the size of her lately? She has got to be sneaking extra rations. I’d work her over real good if I were you.”
Randy 12.0 beeped. “You have been fined one hundred credits.”
I spread my arms out. “For what?”
“Another obscenity violation,” Randy 12.0 said.
I was down two hundred credits now, and I needed that money. I grew angry, pissed even. I lost it and started saying things I knew was just going to displease my uninvited guest.
“Come on,” I said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees me the Freedom of Speech.”
“The One World Order maintains that document never existed, nor would it be considered valid if it ever did, which it did not,” Randy 12.0 said. “And you have been fined another one hundred credits.”
“For?” I asked.
“Violation of the Anti-Nationalist Speech Act,” Randy 12.0 said. Citizens are not allowed to make claims that any government ever existed other than the One World Order.”
I took a deep breath and found my composure. Accusations of harboring Nationalist tendencies were definitely something I didn’t need. “I’m sorry…I’m old…I get confused.”
“Understandable, given your advanced age,” Randy 12.0 said. “Citizen Wylder, are you aware that at anytime, you may voluntarily check yourself into one of the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities. There are nursing homes for the infirm, though it would appear in your position, a mere assisted living center would be more suitable.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Pete reminded me every time. Sorry, if it’s all the same, I’d like to kick back around here. I’d miss my granddaughter too much plus I don’t want to be a burden.”
“You already are a burden,” Randy 12.0 said. “My records indicate you secured disability leave from your assigned position as a janitor due to depression related issues?”
“Yup,” I said. “It was a great job. Really, I loved cleaning toilets but you know, I got so sad.”
“Do the depression issues persist?” Randy 12.0 asked.
“All the time,” I said. “I don’t know how it happened but I am one morose son of a…”
Randy 12.0 hovered in front of me, almost as though he was waiting to beep. I avoided the fine. “…son of a something or other…shame really, I don’t I’ll ever be able to muster up the mental capacity to scrub a toilet ever again.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “I’m downloading some brochures about the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities to your tele-web.”
“No need,” I said. “I’m not a big reader.”
“Do start thinking about the impending change,” Randy 12.0 said. “Retirement to a senior citizen facility is mandatory upon reaching the age of 65. That’s not far away for you.”
“Pete reminded me of that all the time too,” I said.
“Senior citizen facilities are not that bad, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “There’s tennis, racquet ball, arts and crafts, aerobics, swimming, talent shows…”
Randy 12.0’s red light blinked. “The Order prefers to refer to that as ‘mind management.’”
“Gotcha,” I said.
Randy 12.0 made another circular pass around the room. “Citizen Wylder, do you have any contraband to declare?”
My mind instantly went to the ancient X-Tab, still underneath the cushion I was sitting on. “Pardon?”
“Contraband,” the drone said. “Are you in possession of any illegal items?”
“No,” I said. “Of course not.”
The drone buzzed toward me in a straight line and hovered a mere six inches from my face. “Are you sure?”
“But,” the drone said. “Are you sure that you’re sure?”
I pondered the question. “Sir, this is a house dedicated to the preservation of the One World Order and all of its ways. I don’t appreciate your insinuation.”
Randy 12.0 backed up another six inches. “I insinuated nothing, Citizen Wylder. I merely wish to make you understand that penalties for contraband violations are often less severe when they are confessed to before the illegal item is found.”
I remained silent.
“Do you understand, Citizen Wylder?” Randy 12.0 asked.
“I do,” I said. “I’m just waiting for you to laugh maniacally like a comic book super villain.”
“I do not understand,” Randy 12.0 said.
“That’s ok, sport,” I said. “Happens to the best of us.”
“Now that I have ensured you understand the consequences of providing a false answer, I’ll have you answer the question again,” Randy 12.0 said.
“Holy shit,” I said. “Did someone stick a sadist chip up your ass?”
Randy 12.0 beeped. “An additional two hundred credit fine.”
“That was only one violation,” I said.
“Two violations,” Randy 12.0 said.
“But I used both obscenities in the same sentence,” I protested.
“That doesn’t matter,” Randy 12.0 said. “Each obscenity is a separate violation.”
“Huh,” I said. “You learn something new everyday.”
“Answer the question please.”
I rolled my eyes and held up the palm of my hand. “Look, you airborne clunker, I swear on my mother’s eternal soul that I do not have any illegal stuff in this house, OK?”
Randy 12.0 beeped.
“Oh come on,” I said. “What now?”
“Processing…processing…yes…that was close to a violation, but I have the power to let you off with a warning.”
I was getting tired. I rubbed my hand over my face. “Dare I ask?”
“Violation of the Religion Eradication Act,” Randy 12.0 said. “You stated your deceased mother has an eternal soul but as far as the One World Order is concerned, she is no more than a spent carcass that in all likelihood as disintegrated into dust by now.”
I sat back on the couch. “Way to liven up the mood, Randy 12.0”
“A fine was possible, but I took into account the intent of the infraction, namely, your backward attempt to assure me you are not in any possession of contraband,” Randy 12.0 said. “Since you were not actively attempting to preach outdated and illegal religious dogma, I am able to wave the violation.”
“Well,” I said. “’Aint that some shit.”
Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one hundred dollar fine. I must warn you that all speech code violations are kept track of and further infractions may lead to time in a re-education center.”
Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9 flew into the living room.
“Citizen Wylder,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“That’s my name,” I said. “Don’t wear it out.”
“Are you aware that there are 9 cans of beer in your fridge?” Jeff 7.6 inquired.
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, well you see, my granddaughter’s been visiting me so that’s put me in a happier mood. I haven’t been feeling the need to souse myself up as much lately.”
“You are only allowed to have six beers in your fridge at any time,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“No,” I replied. “I thought I could only buy six beers a week.”
“That’s correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“And I can only drink six beers a week,” I said.
“Correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“But if I don’t drink them I get to keep them, don’t I?” I asked.
“No,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Because then we have no assurances that you won’t drink 9 beers in a week.”
“Ugh,” I said. “So you’re punishing me for drinking less?”
“Do not be concerned,” Jeff 7.6 said. “I have discretionary authority here. Technically, I do have the power to issue a fine. However, I will notify the contraband agent to stop by your home tomorrow to pick up the three excess beers.”
“You’re a real soft touch, Jeff 7.6,” I said.
“I don’t understand that statement,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“Can I just drink the extra three beers tonight?” I asked.
“No,” Jeff 7.6 said.
“Why not?” I inquired.
“Then we would have no assurances that you would not drink the remaining six beers and as we have established…”
“I’m only allowed six beers a week.”
“Huh,” I said. “Well, tell me this, Jeff Old Boy, what happens if I’m not home when the contraband agent stops by tomorrow?”
“He’ll let himself in.”
“Of course he will,” I said. “What happens if I drink the three excess beers?”
“If you drink any amount of beer tonight,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Then there had better be at least three excess beers in your fridge for confiscation. At that point, it will be a safe determination that you drank only your six beer limit this week, but then you will be required to refrain from any further beer consumption until the following week.”
“Wow,” I said. “You little guys do a bang up job keeping track of everyone’s comings and goings. A real great job. You’re all aces in my book.”
Jeff 7.6 beeped. “One hundred credit fine.”
“What now?” I asked.
“Violation of the Anti-Gambling Related Speech Act.”
I raised my pointer finger. “Wait. I’d like to appeal that.”
“On what grounds?” Jeff 7.6 asked.
“I wasn’t talking about ‘aces’ as in the ‘ace’ card,” I said. “I was just paying you a compliment.”
“I detected sarcasm,” Jeff 7.6 said.
I huffed and puffed. “Well, sir, your sarcasm meter is on the fritz because I was distinctly just giving credit where credit is due. You’re going to fine a guy for telling you that you did a good job?”
“If you wish to appeal this fine,” Jeff 7.6 said. “You have thirty days to file an appeal form with the Regional Board of Fine Adjudicators. Once you file, your appearance at 7 hearings over the course of the next 14 years will be mandatory and the board will have until the year 2084 to render a final decision.”
“Yikes,” I said. “Oh well. I think my bum ticker will adjudicate that decision before the board does so, OK Jeffy Boy. You win. Just put it on my bill.”
Carl 8.9 hovered closer. “Citizen Wylder.”
“He’s not at home right now,” I said. “Care to leave a message?”
Carl 8.9 faced his clinking colleagues. A serious of beeps were exchanged. Carl 8.9 faced me again. “We have determined that was an attempt at humor.”
“Good for you,” I said.
“Because obviously you are here,” Carl 8.9 said.
“There are no flies on you,” I said.
“No there are not,” Carl 8.9 said.
“How can I help you, Carl?” I asked.
“Regarding the human driven automobile in your garage, I do not have an antique car collector’s permit for you on file.”
I reached into my pocket. As I did so, all three drones faced me. A mini-chain gun dropped out of the bases of each contraption.
“What are you doing?” Carl 8.9 asked.
I stopped moving. “I’m getting my permit.”
“You have a hard copy?” Carl 8.9 asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll show it to you, if we’re cool.”
“The temperature is not the issue,” Carl 8.9 said.
I sighed. “You tell me. Am I allowed to get it?”
“Affirmative,” Carl 8.9 said. “But slowly.”
Slowly, just as commanded, I pulled a plastic card out of my pocket and held it up. Carl 8.9 shot a laser at it and scanned it.
“This checks out,” Carl 8.9 said. “However, be advised that the plastic card permitting system has been deemed antiquated by the One World Order. All citizens with permits are required to register them digitally by the end of the year. You should have received a notice about that on the tele-web.”
“I have no idea how to use that thing,” I said. “I’m an old man.”
“I will send you a copy of the notice, Carl 8.9 said.
“Of course you will,” I said. “Well boys, this has been fun, but if there isn’t anything else…”
Randy 12.0 flew to the center of the room. “One scan of this room and we’ll be on our way.
My heart sunk. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t just pull out the X-Tab and declare it. Nope. I decided to keep quiet.
A red laser shot out of Randy 12.0. He used it to paint the top of the room with a grid. The number of individual squares grew and grew, slowly working their way downward. The squares reached my waist when Randy 12.0 beeped.
I coughed to clear my throat. “Something wrong?”
Randy 12.0 turned to Carl 8.9. “A major contraband find across the street. CSMD Team A72 is requesting backup.”
“I knew it!” I said. “I knew that old broad was up to no good!”
The grid shut off. Without so much as a goodbye, the three flying piles of junk flew out my front door. I sighed a breath of relief.
I stepped out to my front porch to watch a disturbing scene unfold. I had no love for Mrs. Howard. She spent most of her days trying to find some infraction to turn me into the Order for. Still, to see that old gal hogtied on the front lawn while Honor Guardsmen kicked down her front door…it just didn’t seem right.
“George Washington would be rolling over in his grave,” I said.
Way, way across the street, Randy 12.0 stopped and turned around. His voice was feint, but I was able to make it out. “One hundred dollar fine.”
“You could hear that all the way over there?!” I shouted.
“Yes,” the drone replied.
I stepped into my living room and slammed the front door behind me. “Son of a…”