The Optimistic American, Book II: Indictment, Conviction, and Sentencing
"If you ask me I’ll tell you that this story is neither a dys- nor u-topia but the product of my own thought experiment: what if everyone got exactly what they say they want? . My hope for this story of people getting what they want might reveal a deeper understanding of themselves depending on which narratives feel like heaven, hell, or nothing at all." K.A. Shott
Vae Belknap rolled over and watched her antique digital clock’s minute by minute countdown for her launching into the day. It was her nature to rise. But just to be safe she religiously she set her alarm every night, though it never was what awakened her, because she held a highly coveted job that she couldn’t afford to lose.
Vae Belknap had worked for the Fortaleezian Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) for twelve years and couldn’t imagine any job better.
FEPA existed as a branch of the national environmental protection agency (EPA) specializing in biosphere health and maintenance.
Vae Belknap looked out her bedroom window of her two-bedroom, six roomed, Fortaleezian accommodation—the standard issue for single occupancy—and considered her most recent income-to-debt ratio statement. Without question, for Fortaleezians there was nothing more important than tracking one’s ratio.
She wished she could remain in her Fortaleezian post indefinitely but, being a devout rationalist and exceedingly good at calculation, she knew her time to Pilgrimage was drawing nearer as it did for everyone.
Eight years, she approximated, based on her job’s remuneration and the maximal amount of debt she could accrue (space being the limiting factor) so even though, in the quiet hours of waking irrationality, she dreamed of a longer stay she denied herself more than a few seconds of such folly; such were the moments she enjoyed while waiting for the alarm clock that she never allowed to ring sound.
Working for the Nation from within a City couldn’t be all bad, she’d reassure herself, especially because former FEPA microbiologists enjoyed one hundred percent job placement with generous pay; hers was a highly coveted position.
Most of her fellow biologists and chemists couldn’t wait to get out of the Fortaleezian system with its cramped and generic bio-domes stuffed to their capacity of five thousand souls but the close knit nature of Fortaleezian living actually appealed to Vae Belknap; though she adored greater her days studying the mutability of the bacteria, mold, and virus strains that were suspected to be responsible for the Sleeping Sickness pandemic and resultant Great Relocation, nothing satisfied her more than the microscopic nature of a Fortlaleez. The scientist in her was, inextricably, drawn to the hands-on aspect of directly contact and influence within the human sphere. Besides, she knew she’d have an extremely hard time surrendering her Petri dishes to the care of another. They were her own little universes, filled with life she’d created as if God, and she worried they’d fall into neglect and, ultimately, destruction.
Water drops spit against the window. She never called it “rain”; though a biospheric equivalency, rain belonged to Nature. What she did appreciate about the droplets was the fact that she’d engineered them to transport all the internal life needed in any biosphere—nutrient—while screening out the specific bacterial, fungal, viral mutation that she’d, personally, discovered as being the culprit behind the Sleeping Sickness epidemic.
What plagued her was that, in spite of knowing its cause and the Government’s aggressive attempt to eradicate it, she knew that every day there’d be new, confirmed cases. Knowledge had slowed it, significantly so, but to Vae Belknap just one case—just one person believing they’d come down with a typical influenza variant only to end up comatose or dead—was unacceptable and the Cities were the worst (though there was no way of evaluating the Free Zone as its only interaction with Government came in the form of aerial supply drops). All of the remaining City administrators were loathe to inconvenience but refusal to gentrify for any other reason than the socioeconomic translated into persistent outbreaks that did not recognize the victim’s status; the Sleeping Sickness proved an equal opportunist.
If, instead of working for a private company in a City for great wages (the wealthy gave generously to find a cure), she chose the low pay from the Government, then she’d at least be able to study the Nation’s many Fortaleez that littered, predominantly, the Midwest and, by the nature of their standardized biospheric engineering it had always intrigued her as to why there still existed statistical and episodic variation between the Fortaleez.
She had options. She’d even considered going into the Free Zone to study the many independent Communes but because just as many who’d joined collectives had opted for Nomadic life scared her. She’d heard the stories. She loved her life and didn’t care to lose it; she was not heroic like the Marines.
As she showered she listened to the Government’s channel; all Fortaleezians were required to login twenty hours per week as part of their civic duty in addition to voting on resolutions that had already passed by the House and Senate; the Benevolent Leader had established the Fourth branch—the People’s branch—with veto power equal to all the others, proclaiming all citizens empowered to determine the laws that govern them. Participation was optional except for the Fortaleezians; participation was the price they paid for working off their debt.
The man’s voice droned measure after measure.
Vae tipped her head back, rinsing shampoo from her hair, and thought, I have to vote tonight. I’m behind.