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Chapter Two: The Committee Meets

At 8 this morning, we convened in the conference room, if you can call it that. It’s not even really a room, because the glass that is probably supposed to complete the inner wall isn’t even there. The “conference table” looked more like a ping-pong table. It was a big piece of plywood without any legs at the corners. I peeked underneath and, sure enough, carpenters’ saw horses were holding it up! Talk about makeshift! The chairs were not the plush chairs of important government executives. They were metal folding chairs.

They were uncomfortable for me, and I’m seventeen, so I can imagine that they must have been a lot more painful for the older and overweight men on the committee.

The boss man, one would think, would come in last and make some kind of drama for his entrance, but Commissioner Torres was the first one there, even before me. He didn’t even speak, but just nodded at me. In a way, I was pleased that he seemed to take it for granted that I knew exactly what to do. This is my first job ever.

But I set up my recorders, one at each end of the table, and waited for the committee. The first one in seemed already tired and impatient, even at 8 AM. The second was all-business. He seemed commanding, that’s the word for it, but I wondered if he wasn’t just trying to project that. After all, what was there to command in that little half-done room? I would have thought I’d have felt some warmth, or at least some relief when I saw that the next participant to arrive was a woman. But she didn’t seem all that warm as she took her cold little wretched chair. She greeted all of us but didn’t seem to notice that I was the only one in the room that shared her gender.

Torres had barely responded to the greetings. Just on time, precisely at 8AM, he began.

“Just to save time, we’ll each introduce ourselves as we make our reports. To save more time, we’ll make the discussion after all of you have reported.
‘My name is Leo Torres. My assignment is to work with you to create a solution to the drug addict problem in Revolutionary America. I’ll give you the general background as I understand it.

The revolutionary takeover is more or less complete. At least the violent resistance seems to be over. Every other kind of resistance, of course, is still going on. Just making a political transition, it’s been explained to me, doesn’t solve all the problems that brought us to the brink of extinction before. The air in urban areas is still barely breathable. Most coastal cities, worldwide, are still flooded. We’re short of just about everything that people need, especially energy.

‘Communications over the internet are pretty much restored, because that doesn’t take much energy. Rail transportation is getting a little bit more common, but we aren’t likely to see air travel for some time, and cars and trucks, of course, never.

‘People seem to be really disappointed that everybody else isn’t just being sweet and kind and cooperative the way they imagined. As long as we don’t have enough of everything, people are not going to be satisfied, which means they probably never will, at least not in our time and for our purposes.

‘One of the social problems, I suppose you could say it’s one of the smaller ones, is what to do about drug addicts. That’s what brings us here. I don’t think we care, collectively, if they poison themselves, but they create a big burden on everybody else. The biggest problem, I guess, is that they won’t work, they won’t cooperate, and they steal. You can’t build a new society with people like that. It may sound too simple to work, but the leaders in the central government came up with the idea of putting them out here with all the drugs they might want.

‘We’re learning what we probably should have known all along, that nothing works right for everybody. This project wasn’t even off the design table before protests began. Some of the old medical establishment oppose us. All of the old drug trade, both the legal and illegal aspects, including law enforcement, are totally against this project. I probably don’t even have to tell you about the religious leaders. So far, the revolutionary government has stuck to the idea, but if the opposition ever unites, who knows what will happen?

‘Hopefully, some of the addicts will get rehabilitated and go back into society. If that happens, it will take some of the pressure off. The rest of them, though, will be encouraged to stay here for the rest of their lives, however short that may be. The assumption is that they won’t want to leave as long as they’re addicted, because their particular poisons will be available for free and no hassle here. People are cooperating on finding and exposing the old drug trade. Addicts will have a hard time finding anything anywhere else.

‘We’re stockpiling a really big inventory of every kind of previously illegal drugs and a lot of the legal ones. They estimate that thousands of drug addicts will relocate here, either because they want free drugs and no hassle or because they were sent here instead of to prison. We don’t plan to stop anybody from taking whatever drugs they want as long as supplies last.

‘That’s it. Who’s next?”

Mr Lohgren spoke up almost immediately:

“I’m Charley Lohgren. My area is logistics. We have addicts coming in already, so we’re having to build fast. The good news came as kind of a surprise to us, but it’s a welcome one. Since the government takeover, people are moving, mostly from the cities into rural areas. In addition, they are particularly moving out of Amarillo. As the word about us spread through the city, people started moving away. We’re able to get cheap housing that we can move over to the colony or we can tear down for building supplies. Nobody wants to live anywhere near the colony, so I expect a lot less of a problem on getting building supplies than we anticipated.

Labor is the biggest problem. We’ve hired every addict that has applied so far as apprentices, but they are just about the worst construction workers I’ve ever experienced. Our regular construction crews have to do everything and they complain that the addicts are more trouble than they’re worth. Even when they do something, we have to do it over, and they’re always whining and asking for help. Our guys didn’t hire on to be nursemaids, but it’s too early to make a change in policies so we’ll tough that out.

‘The drugs are arriving a lot faster than we wanted. We don’t have a safe, dry repository for them. I guess that’s priority one.”

I’m not sure that Mr Lohgren was even finished, but Mr McKay took over:

“The sooner you get something suitable built, the better we’re going to like it. Security – I’m Anthony B McKay, Security – security has nearly all of our people guarding those rail cars full of dope. We haven’t had time to process all the information on all of the colony’s staff, let alone the addicts. We have badges and the machine to inscribe them, but we may end up issuing them before we finish background checks.

‘I’ll say this about my staff, they’re good at this. Thank goodness nobody required us to hire any of the addicts.”

Dr Willamette let a long pause pass before she took over:

“Dr Susan Willamette, in charge of treatment. Right now, I’m the only one on site. There are counselors assigned and supplies ordered, but I’m not bringing anyone or anything here until we have some decent accommodations. That’s final.

‘I should point out that we don’t have any guidelines. No one has told us what to expect or what to do about it. I assume that we’re going to get the very dregs of the addict world so our input isn’t so hard to grasp. It’s the output. Are we expected to return a certain percentage of hard-core addicts to sobriety and responsibility? If so, what percentage? And what guidelines are there for saying who’s sober and who’s responsible? We’re not getting any help here.

‘I can’t imagine how the project designers could be so cavalier about what is going to be done with all the clients, and I have to ask, do they just not care?”

Torres addressed the doctor:

“As I understand it, you’re going to have a lot of discretion on deciding who gets cured, if anybody. As to whether or not anybody cares, I don’t actually know. We’re supposed to be the answer to a social problem and that is only an answer for everybody else. What happens to the addicts, our “clients” as you call them, is not the problem we’re trying to solve.

‘As for your bringing in your staff and equipment, please do it as soon as you can see your way clear. This isn’t supposed to be a resort, for staff or for anybody. People everywhere are adjusting their expectations downward and we’re no exception. It might help if you tell your prospective staffers that we can still breath and see the sun out here.

‘The fact that addicts are already starting to arrive and that they’re doing so voluntarily puts pressure on all our plans, but it shouldn’t make us get in such a hurry as to make mistakes. After all, we didn’t invite them to come early. They just heard about the free dope. We’re going to have to set something temporary up to make sure that they get it, otherwise they’ll go back where they came from and discredit the project. Let’s make sure they get their dope, but the rest of it, the living spaces, the food dispensaries, we’ll get to in our own time.

‘Also, I don’t care, at this point, if we’re giving out dope in medicinally approved ways. We don’t need qualified counselors to hand out dope, let’s let security take that over until the treatment counselors get here. They have to be there to guard the stuff, they may as well give some of it out. I know, I know it’s not their job, but you can see why it’s needed until Dr Willamette comes through.

‘These reports were pretty good. It sounds like whoever designed this project is going to be satisfied. I didn’t hear any timelines or deadlines mentioned, but I guess we need them. I want each of you to make some guesses, some approximations, before you leave this room. Everybody should give them to you, Brother Lohgren, so you can get one of your engineers to make a flow chart with some educated guesses on times. That way we’ll have a better idea of what to expect and when to expect it. Try to have something that we can share by tomorrow morning, even if nothing else gets done.

‘I don’t want those early arrivals to go away. Let’s do all we can go keep them here. If they’re uncomfortable, or even if some of them die, that’s not as big a problem as it would be if they left and put out bad information about our project before it even gets off the ground.


“If we’re giving out dope, we need something besides railroad cars as dispensaries. How long until you’ve built a safe repository?”


“Give me a week and I’ll try to do it quicker. We’ll stop all other construction projects until its done. Meantime, we can move the railcars in close together and keep just one of them open as a dispensary. Can we just deal out heroin to everybody, instead of catering to their every whim and desire? Would heroin keep them around?”

Dr Willamette

“They might take heroin and keep quiet, but heroin is probably worse than what some of them are addicted to. For them, we’ll be making their situations worse. What we really need is a chance to prescribe the minimum amount of the appropriate drug that each of them needs, case by case.”


“You already said you don’t have any counselors. That door is closed.”

Dr Willamette glanced at Leo Torres as if she expected some kind of help from him, but he kept his gaze forward. In frustration, she finally said, “Heroin will do what you men want.”

Torres waited a little longer before he summed up:

“Things are not bad. The only problem we have so far is early arrivals, and the project people would say that’s a good problem to have. Everybody knows what to do and you can talk to me individually as soon as we see Mr Lohgren’s flow chart.

‘You may have wondered what Miss Eason is doing here. She’s an intern and she is recording everything. I suppose she can make the transcriptions available to you if you want them, but they’re actually for national. If you want to make sure that something is on the record, you can talk directly to her, you don’t have to go through me. She actually is the record. That’s her only job, she’s not my assistant and she doesn’t carry any orders or messages from me. She just writes down what we say and sends it on. I’ll look at what she sends after she sends it. I won’t be monitoring it or making any edits. I have no say-so over her, and she has no say-so over you, just to be clear.”

So that clears that up. The Commissioner knew exactly what I had been hired to do and he knew that he had no authority over it. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess I’m just a spy for the national leadership. I’m their fly on the wall.

I transcribed it just as they said it, except I removed hesitations like “uh” and “er,” but there were hardly any of them. They are people who say what they mean and mean what they say. I was really tempted to show it to Leo Torres before I sent it, but after all, he said he wouldn’t look at it until after it was sent, so why not send it? Feels kind of good to have some say-so about something, even if it’s just my little part.

My initial evaluation of the first meeting of the committee was that it was pretty good. They all seem professional, they all seem to know the boundaries of their work, and they all seem to be willing to work together. Couldn’t be better than that I suppose. Still, it seemed like something was there that wasn’t being said. It had something to do with Dr Willamette’s question, “Do they just not care?”

Another question I would have asked if anybody had allowed me to speak, “If this isn’t a major part of the revolutionary process, why bring in Leo Torres?”

--July Eason, Project Archivist


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