Draft day is coming again, the same day every year that all the citizens of the republic fear because they might be chosen for service. Appointed to jobs nobody really likes but have to be done in order to ensure that this form of democracy remains stable for all of time.
When the selections have been made those chosen are sometimes taken from their homes and stationed thousands of miles from their families for terms between two and four years for very little monetary compensation depending on how the draft chose them. Many who are drafted would have rather participated in military service, which is entirely voluntary and gets you out of politics for the duration of your military service. But the moment any military duty has ended, you can be drafted into political office by popular vote and are required to serve as a representative of the voters whether you like it or not – rarely has anyone liked serving. One man was appointed president and immediately committed suicide at the thought of having to run the country forcing an emergency re-draft to find the runner-up who went into hiding in Peru to avoid taking the oath.
This society’s chosen representative government genuinely fears its people, once appointed you are no longer an individual, you are a representative, and if you screw up your term can be extended. Political offices don’t pay well, funded by taxes alone and barred from making investments or accessing private accounts politicians are paid and live off of only what they make per term. Once drafted all accounts and business transactions are suspended and frozen as if the money they posses does not exist, this can be a nightmare for a billionaire who suddenly gets drafted having to adjust to the working class salary of a Congressman or the Presidency.
This involuntary system of representative democracy in its early infancy was a calamity and thus the draft was immediately responsible for necessary sweeping reforms in education. The first of the draftees phased in as the old voluntarily elected phased out were almost completely clueless about how to administer a country. So education was the first necessity for the following generations. The first draftees were pretty stupid, but smart enough to know that if political service was going to be a mandate all citizens from childhood should know how to serve responsibly like it or not just in case they got drafted. The life of a politician was an efficient one, a public one, but a lonely one, always under the watchful eye of the nations citizens as laws were written and argued on before votes to pass or fail were announced. While the citizens could roam freely with reasonable expectations of privacy the offices and temporary homes of these representatives were under direct public surveillance 24/7. There were always citizens watching every politicians move at any time of day as a reality TV show. Societal life had become a reversal of Orwellian prophecy. The cameras were turned against the government instead of the people and those drafted were pitied by most, but this system is considered a necessary burden to minimize government corruption.
Corporate lobbyists were a problem at first but as the businesses backing them began collapsing due to the inaccessibility of the politicians for private meetings which held the government to the highest standard of transparency as these predatory businessmen went extinct. The surviving corporations manged to thrive using honesty and listening to the consumers needs as their underhanded competitors collapsed around them. New competitors also formed eventually in the aftermath as thousands of patents were sold off by brokers liquidating collapsed corporations at pennies on the dollar to former employees and shareholders.
Reluctance towards assuming leadership roles was more common since everyone in society was involved in the political process as a requirement. Each unwilling elected official kept under the watchful eye of an informed public every second of every day.
Now it was my turn. I have received notice this morning that I have been elected to the highest service office of the land.
“Aye crap!”I yelled as I stomped the floor.
“Deus damned it! For the next four years I have to bear the burden of president,” I screamed. For the next four years my leisurely comfortable life would be put on hold. I have a week to get any personal affairs in order before being escorted by secret service directly to Air Force One. Once I step on that jet I assume office and temporarily leave my life behind for the political arena. No one likes the job, but it is any civilian citizens civic duty to carry out as the social contract states.
I guess I better pack my bags, I haven’t got many loose ends to tie up. I’ll be busy all week when the mail arrives tomorrow with all of the forms I have to fill out. Might have enough time for a night at the tavern and maybe a decent prostitute while my private life still remains private. Once my week is up the nations eyes will be upon me-everything I say and do will be a matter of public record. If I screw up bad enough I’ll serve longer, and I really don’t need that. Life of the people outside of office is great, privacy and individual civil liberties are preserved as sacred for the citizen but temporarily surrendered upon election to public service. For the duration of time in office you are no longer a citizen just a politician – not necessarily the lowest form of life mind you, but with it comes the burden of trying to keep as many citizens happy as possible at any given time. You won’t please everyone of course but you learn to remain mindful of all points of view enough to make concessions.
This is not my first tour in public service either, a couple decades back I was elected mayor in Kalispell Montana for two years, then three, then four. I guess I should have paid more attention in high school civics class otherwise I wouldn’t have kept screwing up so much. Never Again did I want to experience extended public service. They made me stay in public office until I fixed every bad decision I ever made – there was no way out of it. Thankfully I didn’t get re-elected, that can be worse than hell.
Some have done their duty so efficiently that second and even third terms were assigned much to their disappointment-a politician had no choice but to continue service if requested by the people in perpetuity at first, but most lucked out and managed to make it through just a single term before a new politician was chosen. Fortunately Congress decided it would be practical to enact term limits to political service totaling no more than ten years per a citizens lifetime. This had the advantages of bringing new blood into the political process and preventing accidental career politicians. I had two years credited to my public record-the time spent correcting my errors as mayor didn’t count because penalty service time is never credited toward the term limits. A politician might possibly serve twice the total term limit time with penalty time which was penalized in time amounting day per day (meaning for every bad day in office including missed days without proper documentation or authorization you were penalized one day to fix it) and could be in office as much as 20 years if they were so unfortunate. At least screw ups didn’t count as deficit against the term limit law, otherwise I could still be obligated to serve another ten years. Thankfully I only had eight left even though it took me four to work off two to the public’s satisfaction the last time.
I surely will praise the deity if I manage to make it only four years with reasonable efficiency and manage to be voted out and replaced by the next unfortunate human being chosen by our great people. But I would also be relieved if re-elected (though disappointed at the thought of serving the second term while my private life remains in limbo) knowing I could finally max out my total term limit time and never have to hold another damned office again.
I could always run from office, I still have time to split the country, but I would be in exile never to return after denouncing my citizenship. I had many thoughts going through my head all night, about staying and getting it out of the way or making for the Canadian border and trying my luck starting from the bottom rung of another country’s society. I didn’t get much sleep as I thought of the possibilities of screwing up again versus leaving and going through the processes of seeking political asylum elsewhere.
Daybreak came and there was a chime at my front door. It was the parcel messenger with the package full of forms. Still tired and in unrest I roll out of bed to greet the carrier.
It was my cousin James who ran the parcel building across town making a special delivery a box marked,”priority handling” which meant only a department boss could deliver it. On the box was the Presidential seal, on my cousins face was a look as if he was attending a funeral. I must have looked like hell to him, I had gone the whole night without sleep.
“I heard about the election results Larry, you have my sympathies.”James said. I grunted back at him, “I’m not dieing old buddy, just got to serve for another four damned years that’s all!”
James returned,”I hope that’s all you get cuz, everyone around here still remembers how the mayor job went for you.”
“I managed to clean up most of the messes I made there James it took me a while but I think I got the idea this time, but if you keep ragging me on that and I swear I’ll appoint you to my cabinet then you’ll serve in hell with me,” I replied as a waved my cousin in to sit for a morning cup of coffee.
James smiled and responded laughing, “Sorry man, won’t bring it up again, but I can’t stay for a cup either.” James paused, “It’s a busy day at the office post election day and I have a dozen other packages to deliver to the rest of the unfortunate ones around here.”
“Maybe later then James, how’s tomorrow?” I asked
“I’ll come back tomorrow morning to pick up your forms and when I have gathered all the other unluckies paperwork and sent it back off maybe we can have dinner at moms house tomorrow night. Sound good?” He answered.
“Sure, it’s a date.” I said as I closed the door.
I was going to be at the kitchen table all day filling out forms. Twenty pages just for tax code forms including paperwork necessary to suspend and protect any of my assets while in public service to fill out. Forms for disclosing my current work income and suspending my employment status to be protected and frozen for the duration of my service, all part of protections put in place in 2035 after fourteen senators finished service only to find themselves in total poverty the victims of electronic theft without any property or jobs to return to. The system is still not great but it has gotten better-at least with some safeguards in place those elected can expect to resume life where they left off or close enough to it.
Once finished with the tax section of the forms I had to select my cabinet on the ten forms underneath, luckily I didn’t require a Veep (vice president), the runner up in the draft earned that distinction and didn’t have to do a darn thing unless I was unable to serve they could go on with life as normal. Unless say I was to get killed or should decide to run for the border before weeks end. The ten forms listed 100 candidates that were pre-drafted by the public from across the nation on election day but needed my final approval for 12 of them from that list, and the rest were given a reprieve.
I felt bad about it sealing their fate but I made the best choices I could for the sake of society. They would serve for as long as I would each receiving credit towards their term limits so I had to select the ones who were the most seemingly competent for the job and the ones who would be least resentful towards my decision to appoint them. The next set of forms were Supreme Court appointees, of course I could fill out this form later on since the list was currently blank and none were needed for another two years. The process for selection of Judges is slightly different than the rest. First Congress would select from runners up in public elections across the country building up to a 400 candidate pool and the population would vote for the top fifteen. From that I would have to select 9 of them to sit on the bench for 3 years.
It is an efficient system but nobody likes to play a role-the compulsory nature of it completely destroyed any sort of partisan bickering that existed generations ago. There are really no groups left trying to screw each other like the old days.
Society had only one fear in this whole system, that of the purposeful leader–which means any citizen who would actively pursue public office to their own gain and benefit was usually the least qualified to lead the people. This is the most reviled kind of all the nations citizens, Philosophically speaking the country had adopted Nicianism – an extreme system of selecting political representation based on the reluctance to lead. Nician was an ancient Athenian leader considered one of the most reluctant rulers to gain political influence of his time. Nician went out of his way however possible to avoid public service but his popularity thrust him into the task of leadership again and again. Nician didn’t want the responsibility but when there was no way out of doing his duty he begrudgingly accepted the authority. Nician feared his deities and the people, he had no desire to be worshiped or revered, nor did he want to lead but when put into the role he led effectively–this philosophy is the basis for the society. No free citizen would willingly elect any who would actively pursue a public office for fear of corruption, but also no free citizen would willingly serve either for fear of the responsibility. Many of Nician’s principles dictated the political process – society has become a phobic democratic republic, a system of representation of the people that the government feared because if a representative committed an error the people gave the final word. The fear was positively focused, it was a useful tool in extended checks and balances which kept the government small and protected citizens individual liberties.
Larry was a fearful sort, just days away from putting his life on hold to assume the role of the nations top administrator and its representative to the rest of the world. But it all wasn’t necessarily based on fear alone – Larry is actually the right guy for the job, what he lacked in education he made up for in diplomatic skill, charm, and efficiency. There was some hope that despite his past public service(given he was a lot younger) he would get four years and be finished, because odds are quite slim getting elected three times with a half of a billion electable candidates – getting elected twice alone was around a 10% chance.
My cousin returned for the forms and informed me of the evening dinner plans,”Your aunt will be making Buffalo Parmesan and spinach linguine tonight cuz.”
“Sounds good James. So, I’ll be there at 5 then?” I asked.
James could see the tired look on my face, I was still not happy about being selected and he spoke,”It’s not all bad cuz, nobody likes it but a duty is a duty.” James Paused,”I’m sure you can do four years standing on your head, and put it behind you.”
“I could try to screw myself out of the job, by saying I wanted to be elected – maybe throw a huge party advertising my opulence and joy.”I said.
James responded,”Well yeah you could do that and convince a few people that you really want to be, but the polygraphs they hook you up to would see through the B.S.–sorry cuz I think you are stuck.”
I returned, “Maybe, I can make a run for it! I hear Canada is nice this time of year, I can get a beach front sod hut near Noscot.”
“I know you man, you won’t split, but I’ll see you off at the end of the week. Everything will be okay I’m sure.” James reassured me calmly as he strolled down the walkway with the package of paperwork.
I called back to him, “Well hell, I’ll see you tonight at your mom’s house.”
I guess there was no way out of this, couldn’t even fake acting a fool if I wanted to. I could still bug out of here before the secret service detail whisked me away aboard the big plane, but I wasn’t going to do that either. I suppose I deserve it. I have a few hours before I need to go over to my aunts house, maybe I can tinker in my workshop.
I feel at home here among my machines, robotics is still a young science, but at least it is no longer exclusive to the large corporations. After many of the monopolies collapsed much of the robot industry went open source freeing creators to create there is little regulation on how a robot can be built other than the restrictions of Issac’s law which governed even hobbyists enforcing the use of built in fail safes into the AI brains. It is a law based on the writings of a 20th century biologist and fiction writer Dr. Asimov and was dubbed “Issac’s Law” in the year 2057 in his honor.
Some aren’t sure he really existed, some debate that he was a work of fiction himself. The further back one digs into the past the more obscure the data gets on just about anything written of the past contemporary accounts of events are almost never seen from all angles, eyewitnesses views skew slightly from one witnesses account to the next even on present events. Historians view every piece of data available to them to reach consensus and try to keep their personal feelings apart from it. There is never 100 percent certainty of past events only a reasonable amount with which to outline the past and make educated guesses based on the artifacts and archives. Where contradictions happen such things are set aside for separate study, but not dismissed because there can be found some grain of truth even in a tall tale. The beginnings of robotics for that matter is slightly obscure but it is agreed throughout historian circles that Dr. Asimov whether a fictional character or a real man was associated with its birth in all accounts given.
So here I sit on my workshop stool, before me an old fashioned medical slab, and a metal body lay upon it. In my hand a meter and a welding pencil no longer distracted by my coming duties to this nation. Here I was happy creating an artificial being. I had labored over this mechanical creature for over 7 years, adjusting every servo and neural pathway If I was lucky I would be finished with it soon. I didn’t want to leave my project unfinished while I dealt with the nation. Working with my hands was a freeing act – this was something I wanted to do rather than something I had to do.
I closed the shed around 3 locking it securely because I had to visit the bank to make a few small transactions before the account freezes, to get myself a little walking around money until I depart – maybe even get that prostitute I was thinking about. Around half past four I made it to my Aunts house for dinner.
The TV was on when I walked in her house the election results were still running along the bottom ticker. It was a big election year this year, that ticker would take another week to finish the list of judges, mayors, senators, and what have you. I would be on the plane to D.C. before the counter ran down everyone conscripted to political service.
There was a trial being televised today, some anonymous woman and her defense attorney blurred out on the screen sat in the court room while a likewise anonymous blurred out jury stepped away to deliberate there was no audience in the courtroom just cameras patching live feeds to television and the web the only two not anonymous were the judge and the prosecutor all witnesses and other participants in the case were kept private including the accused, her lawyer, even the bailiff and the court clerk remained unknown. None of these folks were chosen to be here, but the judge and the prosecutor were. All eyes on them they had to do their roles efficiently, The prosecutors burden being to prove the guilt of the defendant and convince the jury of it in accordance with the law, no making deals with the defense unless they were a matter of public record and never without the defendants express consent. The judge had to continue to demonstrate clear reasonable impartiality while on the bench and during daily activities.
Both court officers were monitored during court and after court hours in every aspect of their lives everyone else got the option of anonymity. It was the ultimate reality show, over 100,000+ channels of political programming at the touch of a remote button with millions of viewers. Even the conversations when mentioning the defendants name were censored to ensure upon possible acquittal that a relative degree of privacy for the citizen was preserved. However if guilt was determined beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury the defendants name becomes a matter of public record within 3 months or remains anonymous while under appeal within that three month grace period based on the severity of the offense, and the judges sentencing decision would be carried out in accordance with the legal codes. There was still some wiggle room of course as to lengths of sentences but no judge could nullify the juries decision on whether a suspect was proven guilty or innocent and had to remain within the guidelines. The jury still out the camera on the judge sitting in his chambers, the friendly cameraman who was himself anonymous as well struck up a conversation with an obviously tired haggard look on his face. This impromptu interview went on for close to 15 minutes while the jury deliberated the fate of the anonymous woman at the defense table.
“What do you think will happen to her?” The cameraman inquired as the judge pulled a pack of cigarettes from his desk and started packing the tips in the box marked, “Cancer Risk” in bold, bright red lettering.
The judge responded, “I don’t rightly know, I really cannot read this jury that well.” He paused and asked, “Care to step out for a smoke?”
Even the cameraman which the judge apparently knew on a first name basis was afforded the same anonymity on TV as everyone else, “Sure Carl, let’s go outside a bit.”
They carried on their conversation down the hall concerning what the judges possible actions would be depending on the outcome as he glanced over at the prosecutor pacing the other direction with his own cameraman in tow while the jury deliberated behind the closed doors in total privacy. He headed toward the exit and sat on the courthouse stoop, lighting a smoke. His term would be up soon, a flawless 3 year run on the bench and then he could go back to his private life with hope that at most only one more carefully weighed decision was all that might stand between him and the end of his service. The prosecutor was not so lucky his service was scheduled to come to an end officially around the same time as the judge but he botched things up on three minor cases costing the justice system weeks to repair and would remain in service an equivalent amount of time for it. The usual TV trial was always more about the judge and the prosecutors potential fates than any of the defendants. TV was not strictly designated to the tens upon tens of thousands of political monitoring channels available though. There was still over a million channels streaming in every second offering all sorts of entertainment if one wished.
This system of penalties does not always offset election times when a politician screws things up. New elected officials are still picked if the old officials didn’t screw up too badly around the same designated times every year. They just start later and end later unless it’s a major amount of time but elections are never rescheduled only canceled and moved to the next designated date. The combined errors for the last five presidents amount to less than a week the guy before me in fact was responsible for three days of that total, but the nice thing is still we are given the time to put our affairs in order whether a politician serves flawlessly or not. The country runs itself pretty good without a president for short periods of time–there is always a congressman to step in to maintain the office until the next guys turn starts if needed. Elections are usually held at the end of any 90 day quarter on the yearly calendar that the majority of the politicians service terms have come or will come to an end closest to this designated election day 4 times a year this helps prevent any public service slot from remaining open for anything longer than 45 days. There can be vacancies lasting that long if a politician has served just into the 45 day window before the next election it has happened before but the rest of the government usually picks up the slack for the few missing members until seats get filled.
“I didn’t hear you come in dear!” my aunt chimed, turning my attention from the TV trial. I know she was my cousins mother but when she walked in a room no man (and some women) could keep their eyes off her including me – hey it’s fine, nothing really creepy going on either. She married my uncle who is my father’s brother so at least there is no direct blood ties. She does look damn good for a woman in her sixties though too. I felt a smack across the back of my head – it was my cousin James.
“Cut it out you damn hillbilly pervert, that’s my mom!” he said with a giggle as he passed me a cold beer.
At least the knock to the head was gentle enough while remaining stern – I should probably never have confessed to him that his mom was so hot when we were teenagers. Then again what young dumb sack of explosive hetero boy hormones doesn’t lust for an attractive older woman from time to time. I put it out of my head after I had my fill of it though we laughed it off and sat down while Auntie finished cooking. Discussing my troubles here and there and the thought of making a break for Canada came up again but just as quickly vanished from the conversation. Then the subject of robots came up my cousin asked me about my hobby project.
“Oh I may not have the time to finish it James, it’s not something I can put on hold either for four years. You cannot leave a fragile metal brain sitting out without it mated to an active body frame for too long or it just decays”I paused sipping my beer and continued,”the brain would just be a worthless piece of iridium scrap once my term is up and got back to my shed.”
James responded,”That’s a shame cuz, and robots are still somewhat of a rarity too. So I guess you’re going to have to scrap the whole project?”
“Looks as if I will have to.”I returned with a disappointed look.
The smell of the buffalo fillets filled the air as my aunt carried the breaded cheese covered slices of prairie beef covered in red sauce to the table followed by a bowl of pasta washed in olive oil, and a cutting board stacked with garlic and butter laced french bread. The whole meal was fit for a king, we sat, we ate, we laughed. By dinners end I almost forgot about what I had coming to me. About four beers and a third helping I was ready to walk home and sleep for the night, saying my goodbyes to my Aunt one last time, and confirming with my cousin about sending me off the last day.
I did sleep well that night. I woke up that morning feeling quite refreshed as I headed to my shop donning my jump suit over my street clothes. I put off the notion I had about buying a hooker earlier in the week – sure it would bring me some temporary joy, but here in my shop I was truly happy. I had lots of small projects besides the robot which was now in the machine being processed. Sadly I would never have to bother with it again once the machine did its job, I would miss tinkering with it though. I wasted the hours away in my little corner of the world for two days non stop, then came the plane trip.
Just hours away I removed my jump suit, everything in the shop was locked up.
Inside the house Larry waited for James arrival to ferry him to the airport. Air Force One had arrived on schedule to pick up the president to assume the duties of office, no longer a citizen but a servant, no longer a man but a politician. No longer human?
It was a brilliant plan nobody got wise to. Larry served in Larry’s place, Larry 2.0 his mechanical doppelganger boarded the jet–even fooled his cousin. Larry 1.0 (the meat bag edition) quietly remained in the locked shed for 3 weeks remotely monitoring and adjusting his creations progress making sure no signs of inhumanity accidentally surfaced giving away his ruse. The bank transfers were small amounts separately untraceable allowing Larry to convert funds set up new identification and accounts across the border lasting him for the duration of the Larry 2.0’s time in office and then some just in case. He loved his country but was tired of servicing it.
Apparently Larry kept things back from people, the liberty shared by all of Americas citizens to keep a private life sacred allowed him this and he used it to its clearest advantage. He never again wished to serve the public and planned for years for the eventuality that he would be thrust into the role again he did not want to run away for good either. Larry managed to put his life on hold under his own terms as his body and mind double ran the country efficiently for the next four years undetected as an artificial. Doing just a good enough job at protecting the peoples rights, but not so much to expect to get re-elected and taking time away from Larry’s mandatory term limit time. 2.0 was a breakthrough in humanic robots – more than humanoid which is general shape this was extremely flawless in likeness. The machine Larry was processing him though wasn’t created to dismantle things as you the reader may or may not have been led into thinking. It was a molding machine applying the finishing touches to Larry 2.0 making him indistinguishable from the original. Designed to serve efficiently, modestly and without detection.
While closing up the shop Larry removed his jump suit as I said. He also removed his underclothing dressing the mechanical double in it imprinting it with his DNA from the body fluids which it would need to produce its own for any potential testing. It carried 500 year batteries and the hairs on its head were tiny grow-able solar collecting filaments to charge as a main power source but also it ingested food as a backup charging source and material for replicating Larry 1.0 DNA and blood as needed for any required tests taken. It could even fool an ultrasound by creating a false sonic image of human organs and tissues on the screen, X rays were an issue but nobody had used a cathode ray tube in over 100 years and luckily MRI scans were not standard in verification because that metal body would have gone haywire. There was no real significant weight discrepancy as any metal bone structure was essentially carbon nanotube coated titanium foam–lighter weight than standard tubing and still highly impact resistant. Nothing at all human about the inside of this thing, but for all outward appearances everyone was fooled. It was so good just to be sure since it carried his personality and memories Larry 1.0 got an MRI every year while hiding in Canada just to be sure he was himself and not the robot. Under his new I.D. no one was the wiser there either.
Once the dust settled and political life was over 2.0 was put into retirement reconfigured and remodeled looking less like Larry so no one could connect the dots. The supposed former president claiming that upon his return he came up with a design for a humanic robot some three years after he returned to his hobby and life, all others before Larry 2.0 had shiny metal or greasy plastic skins. His design was an innovation in hobby botting shared with the world far later than his true creation, because if it ever got out Larry would get the full four years, punitive this time. Luckily it never did and Larry never told another living soul. The memories of the presidency were downloaded from 2.0 for his reference in text on paper and cleared from its brain.
The years have slowly passed for me I keep thinking back on how I fooled everyone and don’t regret a single bit of it, chances are razor slim of me ever getting elected a third time. I sit at my kitchen table 20 years later eating a bowl of oat mush – it’s good for me in my vital and active 60’s to start the day – it would be more awesome with a few strips of bacon chopped up in it, but the damn doctor says,”No” if I want to live to see 90 like normal folks I need to keep the bad cholesterol down. My grown son comes walking in with a letter from the morning mail for me. The letter looked sort of important so I opened it.
“Aye crap!”I screamed in anger.
My son whipped his head over from watching the iron skillet full of scrambled eggs looking surprised and asked,”What is it pop? Are you Feeling okay?”
I sat, sighed, and returned,”I just got elected to congress. Screw it! Fry me up a pound of bacon son! Maybe I won’t make it into office, maybe death can help cheat me out of office twice!”
My son responded,”Twice?”
“What? Just cook the damn bacon boy!” I snapped back.
This secret has to go with me to my grave, if it were found out they might try to dig me up and force my corpse to serve that four years.
Maybe he’ll forget I said that.