“Let there be among you a person who understands. When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!” – The Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi, Codex II
“There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.” – Leonardo da Vinci
It was warm for June and getting warmer as Campaign Formulator Sixth Level Raphael Aronson, half way up the outside wrought-iron stairway to his apartment building, paused to let his breath catch up with him. “Jesus,” he said. “I don’t believe this heat.”
He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his right hand and looked out over the hazy cityscape below from the safety of the ninth floor of the Radisson Building. He lived on the eighteenth floor. His whole body was drenched from the walk home and the climb up the side of the building. With the systematic eradication of the central federal government, beginning in the first few decades of the millennium nearly 75 years ago, most people had moved back to the cities. They didn’t all fit. It was crowded, but the outlying towns were just too “uncontrolled.” This state was one of the ones that had given up and let their police forces go and their infrastructure dissolve. From then on local boards, dominated by those who could make money, now made the laws. For instance, the small Massachusetts town Raphael had come from as a boy was now being run by the company that owned the water. The company was owned by Tod Berga, who was suspected to be the richest man in the country if not the world. Raphael Aronson looked down the side of the granite building. He was happy to be here in New Clovis. Life was good.
“It’s like a mountain,” he thought, “and I live in a cave in its side. But with a TV.”
Below him, Enterprise Boulevard came to a “T” with Republic Avenue just at the entrance to his building. He never entered the building at the downstairs doorway because the climb inside was stifling compared to being outside in the free air. Well, it was sort of free, Raphael thought. His electric bill had recently added a small charge at the bottom called, “Your fair share for clean air.” He thought it ironic that the power companies had done away with all regulations and polluted the air and were now charging their customers to cut down on the filth they had put in there themselves. “Wouldn’t it be nice if they were just better people,” he thought.
Enterprise, a street that long ago was the heart of the financial district, was now a mile-long downhill gauntlet of cracked roadway bordered by crumbling sidewalks. Raphael thought that he could remember when automobiles used to fill the street with blaring horns and screeching tires taking the turn too fast, and drivers shouting out the opened windows at each other. That was before the decimation of the Middle East by the French and Americans in the third decade of the century turned the only oil fields left into a glowing desert, the sand having turned to glass from the bombs. The government explained to everyone after the end of the Middle East war that there was no more oil left for consumers. The Republic had compensated everyone for the gas-powered automobiles they turned in and banned the manufacture of new ones. Within a few decades the population was ready to absorb an all-out ban on driving. The auto manufacturers were soothed with new orders for war vehicles and material. There were new war plants established throughout the country, and it became one’s patriotic duty to live near one and work there, so there were plenty of jobs, and people no longer needed to drive long distances to work. It was like beating the plow shares, 18-wheelers and family cars back into weapons. Now, with all the cars gone, Enterprise was a frighteningly raucous walkway of city people heading to and from work, walking down the center of the road equidistant from the side-dwellers of homeless families in makeshift tents, and black market vendors selling cigarettes, music vids, beer and TV minutes, and the pick pockets and thugs on roller skates or motorized skateboards who, because of the ceaseless boredom, were looking for a chance to change what they did yesterday into something new for today. There were some one-story century-old houses tucked in between three- and four-story buildings, but most of the zone was full of tents tucked between the buildings. Whenever his walk home from work arrived at Enterprise, Raphael would pull back his un-tucked shirt to expose his .38 revolver. It made the walk home feel safer even though pretty much everyone else had a weapon too and the un-policed world lived under the threat of mutually assured individual destruction. The second law of the New Republic guaranteed that everyone could have a gun. It had been a remnant of an earlier time, like so many of the rules. Of course, also like so many of the rules, the second rule was counter-weighted by the sixth rule. “Thou shalt not kill, except in war.”