A World in Birthing


Novella#4 in the Commissioner Torres series


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The first 3 novellas in this series create the setting for a revolutionary World Congress that is underway in this 4th effort.


Previously, two revolutionary political parties joined forces and rose to power: the Progressive Party had successfully assimilated its old Marxist origins and the fast-moving new developments; the Greens had moved beyond protest toward solutions for our dying planet. The two parties took power as the old system crumbled.


Leo Torres, like everyone, is a product of his times. He was born into total crisis. The economic system fueled on greed that began in the 17th century had finally brought the planet and everybody in it to near-extinction. Air was barely breathable, water was barely drinkable, wars raged like wildfires, economies collapsed, pestilence was unchecked, and people were starving everywhere. Revolution was the only possible alternative.


Leo grew up as an orphaned street urchin. Joining the Progressive Party as a teen gave him his first feelings of belonging and purpose. His young comrades and their successful activities convinced him that a better world was possible and worth fighting for.


Just as victory for the revolution was coming into sight, Leo was involved in a violent incident that brought him a level of fame. Even though he was not and never had been a leader of the revolutionary forces, he became well known to the general public.


Leo was loyal to the Progressives and began to receive assignments of growing responsibility. His reputation as Commissioner Torres continued to grow. When the Progressive and Greens leaders decided that a sustainable system of governance needed to be created, they set up a World Congress to create it. The Progressives put Leo Torres forward as a candidate for delegate. In Novel#3, he campaigned and won.


But what decisions will be made at the World Congress? How will Leo affect them, and how will they affect Leo?


Chapter 1: Commissioner Torres is Becoming Statesman Torres


Commissioner Leo Torres is back in New York. By virtue of having won a seat on the first-ever revolutionary World Council, he has become a statesman. He wasn’t sure he qualified.


A statesman, according to the histories Leo had read, was a tall, white man with silver hair, a top hat, and striped pants. He gave stentorian speeches and delivered quotable aphorisms.


Leo wasn’t tall nor white. He was usually assumed to be of Puerto Rican origin, because he lived in New York. But, because he lived in New York, he could have been from anywhere. Several Caribbean and South American nationalities, and even a few native North American tribes, had claimed him. He was a shade darker than most of the Puerto Ricans he had seen. Observers would have called him a comely, but not striking, young man.


Leo had no top hat nor striped pants. Like most people, he wore clothes sewn from the undyed cotton material used in People Chow sacks. It was the cheapest and most available textile anywhere. The soles of his leather sandals were made from rubber tires. Leo’s simple attire, ordinary habits, and directness apparently helped attract enough votes to make him, now, a statesman.


Statesman Leo Torres is back in New York. Not everyone feels exactly the same way about it.


For Leo himself, there is an overwhelming abundance of reasons to be glad. The revolution seems to be going well. The immense problems from the dark period before the revolution seem to be improving. Most people are getting food, even though it’s mostly only the dry People Chow pellets. Fossil fuels are no longer destroying the atmosphere. They aren’t used at all except for the trains and ships vital for distributing food. Water is getting drinkable, and air is getting breathable.


After touring from coast to coast, Leo has won election to the World Council and will be one of a few hundred delegates gathered to rewire the world as the revolution begins a more formal existence.


Leo doesn’t feel qualified for such an assignment. He wasn’t a leader of the Progressive Party during the overthrow of the old system. He became popular only because of a fluke of time and place. His two attempts at political leadership since then were minor assignments and neither had the best of results.


But the Progressive Party asked him to run for delegate because they were reasonably sure of his loyalty and because they wanted to take advantage of his popularity, however undeserved it might have been. His winning the election came as no surprise. The people who survived the horrors of the final period under the old system supported the revolution and wanted to put their hopes in revolutionaries.


Leo doesn’t feel qualified, but he’s never let that stop him, or even delay him. Leo may have been more fatalistic than brave, but he never shirked an assignment.


But Leo’s abundance of reasons to be glad has a personal side that overwhelms politics: Jane Early is pregnant! Fatherhood, mysterious and omnipotent, dominates his thoughts and guides his joy!


Leo Torres is back in New York, but it doesn’t mean the same thing to all people.


Among the general population, Leo’s return is a good thing. He won the election, didn’t he?


The more political layer of the population is a little more skeptical about Leo’s return. For one thing, they know that the “Final Proposal” incident that made Leo Torres a household name was just a fluke, an accident that wasn’t even in the program of the Progressives. Those who are more “in” know that his first two assignments as a commissioner hardly covered him with glory. They also know that he has no formal training and no tested political ability.


Sure, being the first government official to deal with the Reborns, former mental patients who have experienced a total brain reset, gave him some credibility. The fact that his life partner is Jane Early, the very first example of a successful Reborn, gives him the aura of an expert. But he neither created nor stopped the Reborn program. His other political assignment, trying to solve the problem of antisocial drug addicts, may have been a pioneering social experiment with some good results, but the good results became known only after the removal of Commissioner Leo Torres. Political people have reasons to be skeptical.


Individuals who have dealt directly with Commissioner Torres have their own views about his return. Jane Early, the very first success of the Reborn program and the first to become pregnant, loves Leo Torres. She worries, though, that she doesn’t really understand him either as a political leader nor as a person. She is outrageously happy that he is coming home to her, but she has begun to worry about something Leo doesn’t know, and that she has explain to him, when the time is right.


Dr Anson Johns, the psychologist and scientist who created the Reborn program, tolerates Leo Torres, but disagrees profoundly with the general view, shared by Leo, of how to bring the revolution forward. Jones believes that any system devised by human beings in their present state is flawed and certain of failure. His interpretation of the history of civilization seems to bear him out. Jones wants to continue expanding the Reborn program and to assign more leadership responsibilities to those he has helped to completely start over in their mental and personal development. Only a new kind of human being, one relieved of all former trauma, can be trusted to make a better world, according to Dr Johns.


Political adviser Les Frailey may both love and hate Leo Torres at the same time. He is pleased and proud of Leo’s success in the election just past, but he doesn’t credit Leo for his background, his abilities, nor his political campaigning. The credit for Torres’ success and popularity, Frailey believes, rightfully belongs to Frailey. Frailey thinks of Leo Torres as “the monster I created.” The higher he regards Leo as a political success, the lower he regards Leo as a person and, certainly, as someone fit to lead.


Bishop Gormley hates everything about Leo Torres on his particular brand of religious grounds. If the general public gives Leo too much fame, Gormley gives him too much infamy. Gormley fought against Torres, with some dramatic success, at the drug addicts’ reservation in the Texas Panhandle. Gormley is organizing a host of “Christian Soldiers” to end the revolution and take America back to Ghormley’s Lord.


Commissioner Leo Torres is coming back to New York. The city is in mourning after the assassination of revolutionary leader Paul Kerr, but it is in a recovery mode.


New York is not the same as it was when Leo grew up there as a homeless street urchin. Thanks to the moratorium on burning fossil fuels, the miasma over Manhattan is beginning to release its choke hold over the Earth. A bit of occasional sunlight pierces through the smog in Central Park. A few tiny plants are being coaxed modestly from the bare dirt. It could be a good time for optimism, a good time for homecoming. A good time




Welcome to the delegates of the Revolutionary World Congress. Each of you will have a personal communications device that will provide real-time coverage of all deliberations. All deliberations will also be recorded and streamed to the world’s citizenry. This is a completely open convention with the most important responsibility in history: you are to create the initial guidelines for a better world!


“Now that communications are restored and most basic human needs are being met, it is time for the people to make their decisions about the kind of world that they want.”


An immense amount of thinking, an immense amount of sacrifice, and an immense amount of struggle has brought us to this point. We stand on the shoulders of revolutionary fighters and thinkers through the ages. We are going to mention only one. It is not because of the level of his contribution, but simply because it helps clarify what we are doing here at the congress. We ask you to remember Gene Roddenberry.


Roddenberry was an American television writer of the 20th century. His “Star Trek” series was a great departure from virtually all other American science fiction, because it was not dystopian. It did not predict an ultimate fate of famine, war, pestilence, and death similar to the temporary period that we just went through. It predicted a world in which science served humanity and humans behaved responsibly toward other humans and other beings. It predicted an end to exploitation of people and of our good planet Earth. It predicted the kind of world that we have gathered here to anticipate. In the “Star Trek” world that Roddenberry described, humans had to go to faraway planets to find problems to solve.


But Gene Roddenberry left no blueprint as to how Earth’s wonderful world had come about and how it was managed. That job falls now to you.


[email protected]


Chapter 3: Leo Takes His Place


Homecoming with Jane Early included very little conversation. It was all celebration and love. Leo was aware of being overly solicitous about Jane’s “delicate condition,” and enjoyed it all the more. Jane assured him that she was more than ready for anything. They abandoned all restraints and had a wonderful night together.


Early the next morning, Les Frailey was pounding on their apartment door. Leo answered in his underwear. Although they had worked together on-line through the election, this was the first time he had seen his political advisor in real life. Frailey was taller than Leo had imagined. He towered several inches over Leo. While Leo always wore basic undyed cotton shirts and pants, Frailey seemed strangely overdressed. He had highly polished black shoes, gray pin-striped pants with a matching vest, and a soft-looking azure shirt with a wide open collar. It was topped off with a matching gray fedora rakishly topping, but not covering, the blonde curls over his forehead. Frailey also wore a big smile and a lets-get-down-to-business demeanor.


“Get your pants on brother,” he urged Leo, “You’re supposed to make your debut at the World Congress today!”


“A minute,” Leo said as he politely closed the door. Jane Early was still in bed and the apartment was too small to invite Frailey in. He pulled on his usual tee and short pants, both of the undyed cotton that had been, until recently, the only new clothing being sold. Sandals included, Leo had not kept Frailey waiting more than two minutes when he presented himself outside.


“Are we walking?” he asked.


“No, Mr. Statesman, your days of walking everywhere are over. We’re taking my car.”


Leo didn’t want to gawk, but Frailey’s electric vehicle was as big and beautiful as any he had ever seen. Frailey opened the backseat door for him and jumped in beside. “World Congress,” he said authoritatively to the bareheaded young woman driver, and the car swooped into the street.


“Now we can talk,” Frailey began, but Leo interrupted: “I had no idea that The Party had such transportation available…”


“They don’t,” Frailey said hurriedly, “This is my car, and before you ask, I’ll tell you: my family are original stockholders in the Surina company. Thanks to the deal that the revolutionary council made with the producers of People Chow, we’re very wealthy, and we’ll be far richer if the Progressive Party ever starts paying us all the credits due in our agreement. Now let’s talk about what’s going to happen today, ok?”


Leo settled back in the soft leather seat.


“When you get to the meeting, or the Congress or whatever they’re calling it, you’ll get a special phone. All the time that you’re on site, it will be connected to everything that is going on. You just figure out what you want to watch and punch the buttons.


‘You will have only one committee assignment, but you need to try to keep up with other key committees. You won’t have time for the real-time coverage, so you’ll have to read summaries like everybody else. You might try the ones that July Eason’s company puts out. They’re the shortest.


‘When you take the phone home, you can still use it for your own creations, but it won’t be hooked into the system until you’re back in the building. You’re in the Drug Addict Committee, of course, and you can physically sit in the assigned room. But you could also just participate in it through your phone while you roam the cafeteria, the rooftop, or any other part of the building. That will be the routine for as long as the Congress goes on.


‘But, Leo, don’t get too comfortable. I don’t have any certainties, but I’m pretty sure that the Executive Board has something else for you to do. You may not even be here tomorrow.”


“What’s up?” Leo asked


“Action. I don’t know what kind of action and I don’t know what it has to do with you, but something is cooking. I might know by this afternoon when I grab you.”


“How will you find me?”


“The phone. All of the delegates will be locatable all of the time that they’re in the building. My phone will be able to find yours.”


Leo looked out the window, even though the perpetual haze blurred his view. He felt a little crowded by the fast-developing technology, by the rush, and, especially, by his finely dressed political advisor.


Leo wondered who the car’s driver was, and what was her relationship to Frailey? Frailey had seemed used to giving orders and, apparently, she was used to taking them. He wondered just how many employees Frailey might have. The car was easily the most comfortable vehicle that Leo had ever seen, much less ridden in. In short order, it came to an easy stop by the wide entranceway of the newly named World Conference Building.


Frailey stepped out quickly and led Leo through the metal detectors and other entrance protocols. Leo’s new phone was the smallest he had ever seen. It looked like a soft-cover book, more a phone than a computer. Unfolded, it was easy to read. Most of the delegates he saw were looking at their screens as they made their way around one another in the open first floor. They were a mixed lot.


Many of them dressed the same as Leo. Sandals, shorts and tees for summer wear had been the only new clothes available until recently. In winter, they wore basically the same thing in the long-sleeve and long-pant variety. Winter coats were layers of the same undyed cotton cloth. But some of the delegates wore costumes from their native lands. There were saris and dashikis, turbans and berets here and there. Everyone seemed to be busily engaged, as they scurried around one another, but almost all of them had their phones out.


Frailey showed Leo to the elevators and told him the floor for his committee, then hurried away, presumably back to his car and driver. Leo went up to the 8th floor, where he was pleasantly surprised at fresher, cooler air. The further one went up, he surmised, the better the air! There were, of course, no closed windows.


As he stepped off the elevator without Frailey, Leo was at first a little bit lost. He had no idea which room to go to, but his phone device had a button that said “speak.” Leo confided “Drug Addict Committee” to it, and the screen showed the room number and a blinking arrow pointing the way.


Inside the conference room, 30 or 40 delegates were gathered. Most of them sat as close as they could to the windows. A short woman with round glasses was holding forth from the podium: “..If our revolution is to deliver on its promise of the best possible treatment for everyone, then drug addicts must be considered as worthy as anyone else. It is cruel to exile them to reservations as has been done. They must be allowed the same opportunity to live on the land and enjoy its bounty just as any other human being….”


Leo took a seat near the front without regard to the windows. As different speakers took the podium, Leo realized that he could record his observations verbally, by recording, or by keyboard. But he soon learned that individual recordings were not necessary because all of the official proceedings of the World Congress were being recorded in the central computers to which all delegates had access through their phones. In fact, Leo soon realized, some of the delegates in his committee were actually watching proceedings in other committees at the same time or by recording.


Although Leo had headed the initial Drug Addict program, he had never really engaged in the relevant ideology, and he rather enjoyed hearing delegates speak out for and against the kind of program that he, Leo, had run. Some felt that it was overly restrictive, others thought it hadn’t been restrictive enough. Some thought that addicts deserved much better care, other thought they deserved almost nothing.


Suddenly, between speakers, the person acting as emcee asked, “Has Commissioner Torres arrived yet?” Leo raised his hand. “Mr. Torres, you may be the only delegate on this committee with firsthand knowledge. Would you please enlighten us as to how the program is works?”


Leo took the podium and began hesitantly. “I wasn’t prepared to say anything, but I’ll give it a try.” Most of the audience was still looking at their phone screens, but Leo knew that he was being recorded and broadcast to everyone interested; consequently, he needed to give as good an accounting as he could.


“I was told that the basic idea was that far-gone drug addicts were a drain on society. Many of them tended to become criminals. None of them, I was told, were committed to building a better world, or even to being a responsible part of their present world. In the few months that I headed the reservation in Amarillo, I saw nothing to contradict those assumptions.


‘The reservation was mostly just open space. We were building dormitories and clinics, but we didn’t finish them during my time. As we offered free drugs and drug paraphernalia, addicts from all over flocked in quickly. There were new arrivals, many of them, every day. There were always more addicts than we were ready to handle. I don’t think we ever even completely succeeded in identifying everyone who came. If someone died without an ID card, we just had to plant them with whatever insufficient information we knew. Sometimes it was just a physical description.


‘And many of them did die. Even though our dosages were carefully measured, the addicts would find ways to get extra dosages or new ways to mix their medications, or new ways to inject themselves, so that our mortality rate was always high. A lot of them were probably suicides. You may know that the Amarillo reservation has been credited with perfecting the methods of body disposal now in use everywhere. We had portable units that could grind a human body into mostly liquid, dump it into a hole, stick in a tree seed, and leave a metal plaque with identification information, all in less than an hour per body. I suppose it’s not something to be particularly proud of, but I mention it just to let you know that the addicts had little regard for life. They lived dangerously and died often.


‘Anti-social behavior was evident everywhere. The addicts were our wards when they arrived and continued to be our wards for as long as I was at the facility. They never developed self-help. The ones who reformed themselves and broke their drug habits in the clinics were a small percentage, a very small percentage, of the total.


‘Anti-social behavior was also the downfall of the program, I’m embarrassed to say, under my watch. Even though we had deliberately sited our facility some distance from the civilian population of Amarillo, it wasn’t far enough. Addicts from the reservation were nuisances, sometimes more than nuisances, in civilian areas. Vigilantes and religious fanatics organized by a certain local preacher eventually attacked the reservation, destroyed some of our buildings, murdered some of the addicts, drove away many of the addicts, and arrested the staff, including myself.


‘After the militias had restored order and I had been recalled, the reservation was moved further, much further, from the civilian areas, and continued along the same lines as already established. A great many addicts continued to arrive, a very few of them were rehabilitated, and many of them died.


‘How, then, you may probably ask, may the program be assessed? The answer is not to be found at the reservation itself. I am told that procedures there haven’t really changed. The assessment comes from the rest of society where, without as many drug addicts, crime and human suffering were reduced. That was always the goal, and, to a large extent, those aims were met. Or so I’ve been told.”


Leo returned to his seat as a few delegates applauded and several eagerly raised their hands to speak next. A few agreed with Leo and the program as practiced; others were super critical. Most of the criticism was similar to what the young woman had been saying when Leo entered. They thought that addicts deserved softer consideration.


Leo found himself to be a passionate listener. He hoped to hear a better solution that involved fewer deaths and less fatalism. Since the insurrection, Leo had come to believe that that the revolutionary process would continue to refine its programs and processes, and that startling new solutions could emerge. He was quite happy to listen to every speaker as morning wore into afternoon.


But Les Frailey shook his shoulder and said, “Let’s go!” Reluctantly but obediently, he followed Frailey back to the elevators. “You’re up for something big,” the natty advisor told him as they boarded. But he kept the details until they were back in Frailey’s luxury car.


“You knew that your old buddy, Bishop Ghormley, was organizing an uprising against the revolution, right?” Leo nodded. “Ghormley is calling on all ‘Christian soldiers’ to join his army. Today, he established a temporary headquarters in the middle of Oklahoma. The Executive Board wants to hit him there and to hit him quickly before he manages to draw many people. They want you to go down there and lead the charge, ASAP.”


“Why me?”


“Now that, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that you’re a high-profile revolutionary leader and they just don’t have anybody else. They sent you to Oklahoma once before, so maybe that’s why. Maybe it’s because you have some history with Ghormley, since he destroyed your drug addict setup. Maybe they think you can go down there and talk him out of it. I don’t know. But they want you packed and ready to go tonight.”


When the car pulled up at Leo’s apartment, Frailey asked to come in. “Sure,” Leo acquiesced. Inside, Frailey had more requests. First, he wanted to see Leo’s knife. Leo agreed, but he didn’t like displaying his old homemade weapon because it linked him to his popular image as some kind of bloodthirsty warrior. The knife had once been the steel minute hand of a big mechanical clock, but Leo the street-kid had affixed a wooden handle and sharpened both sides of the point. By the time Leo found the weapon that had made him famous in the eyes of many, or infamous in his own opinion, Frailey had a tiny videocam running.


“Now, could you pose with it? Maybe act like you’re getting ready to stab me or something?”


“No thanks.”


“All right then, I just need a little bit of video. What if you just sharpened it?”


Leo found a whetstone in a kitchen drawer and drew the knife edges slowly back and forth a few times while Frailey shot video from different angles. “Good enough,” he said then. “Go get packed and I’ll run you to the train station.”


Chapter 4: Bishop Ghormley Gets His


Leo was fortunate to get one of the fast new electric bullet trains. He spent his time trying to catch up with fast-moving events at the World Convention, including committee summaries by July Eason’s news service:




‘Greens, Progressives and Independents are having lively conversations about what to do with drug addicts in our new society. Oddly, there is little substance in the arguments.


‘This is one committee that isn’t restricted to speculation about untried solutions because, in fact, one “solution” has been underway for over a year. After one spectacular setback, the addict’s reservation in the Texas Panhandle has been humming along as expected. Addicts from across the world are motivated to go there voluntarily because, after all, they give out dangerous addictive substances for free.


‘Addicts continue to show up. Some would say that there is an unending supply of drug addicts, but others say that it’s just a very big problem that will take a long time to solve.


‘The death rate at the reservation has not been published, but it is thought to be far higher than in the general population, especially when age is taken into consideration. On the other hand, there is no evidence that addicts are dying at the reservation at a higher rate than they would have died, anyway, on the streets of our cities.


‘The arguments in the committee mostly have to do with humane treatment and rehabilitation. The attempts to rehabilitate drug addicts at the reservation have not had great results. Addicts who seek rehabilitation are apparently not the same ones who choose to flock to Texas.


‘Proponents of the reservation say that humane treatment is not an issue there. They argue that very little can be done with drug addicts because they lack motivation to be responsible citizens. The main argument for the present “solution” is that crime is ticking downward in major cities since the addicts began to emigrate, but no one has offered solid proof of a causal relationship.


‘Whether delegates like the reservation in Texas or not, it is still the only solution being considered. It is possible that the discussion may be widened when/if revolutionary leader Leo Torres, who has firsthand experience in Texas, has anything important to say.


[email protected]


On the train to Oklahoma, Leo had been given some vague ideas about his assignment. Bishop Ghormley was headquartered in Lexington, Oklahoma. It was a few miles south of Oklahoma City, which was apparently Ghormley’s next military target. Between the City and Lexington, there was a functioning train station at Norman. From there, Leo was expected to lead his military force over undeveloped terrain by horseback. Leo arrived quickly in Norman before noon. There was plenty of time to move on Lexington.


The main thing he would remember about what would later be called his “great military triumph” was dust. He was wearing it as soon as he stepped on the railroad platform. Dust was already caking on his bare arms before he met his “staff.” There were horsemen everywhere, and they seemed to be congregating just 100 feet or so from the platform.


Eight to ten young men and women standing on the platform saluted smartly as he approached. Leo touched his sweating forehead with his sticky fingers, and they finished their salute more or less in unison.


Other than being young and being dressed in wide brimmed hats, long pants with boots and spurs, they were dissimilar. They were male and female, dark skinned and light. Some looked eager for action, others seemed hardened as if they wanted to impress Leo with their indifference to any coming danger.


The man closest to Leo spoke: “We were instructed to embark as soon as you are ready, sir. We don’t want Ghormley to have time to prepare.”


Leo was pleased that action was at hand. He had hoped that there would be no speeches or pleasantries. He said, “I’m ready now. Is there a mount for me?”


“Yes sir!” he was trying so hard to be soldierly that Leo thought, for a passing second, that the young militiaman might click his heels.


A smiling militiaman was leading several horses along the edge of the platform. One of them was the biggest and most flamboyant horse that Leo had ever seen. It was snow white with long silky tail and mane. It snorted and partially reared. Its nostrils were pink, almost red.


Leo almost laughed aloud when he realized that the showy steed had to have been part of Les Frailey’s public relations plan. He thought, “Frailey always thinks of the optics.”


“Mine?” Leo asked, half hoping it wasn’t.


“Yes, sir!” This time, Leo thought he really may have heard heels clicking.


“He is a big one.” Leo remarked tentatively.


“She, sir, it’s a mare. She’s our fastest. She’s won every race we’ve had!”


Leo jumped off the platform and approached his mount. Just as he got his foot in the stirrup, the animal shied away and left Leo hopping on one foot. But this was no time for Leo to appear timid, so he reined the big animal back to him and mounted as swiftly and smartly as he could.


The mare did not buck, but jerked her head suddenly and turned half around. Leo neck reined her decisively and, with a kick, sent her galloping toward the assembly of mounted men. Behind him, Leo’s new lieutenants followed and quickly caught up.


“We’re ready to go, sir. We have six militias assembled. They’re eager to hear something directly from you, sir,” the spokesman shouted


“All right,” Leo said, even though he had no idea what he might say.


The horses quickly lined up side-by-side for a few hundred feet. Leo decided to ride the full distance before them, as though he were reviewing the troops. The new assistant shouted a question, “How do we properly address you, sir? Colonel? General?”


“I answer to ‘Commissioner’ or just ‘Leo’,” he shouted back.


“Yes sir. Thank you, sir!”


As they reached the far end of the assembly, Leo had an inspiration. “Show me your weapons!” he yelled with as much authority as he could muster.


The men raised an assortment of rifles, pistols and knives. There were even a few sabers. A few of them, Leo noticed, raised video cameras.


“Frailey again!”


Leo repeated his demand a few times as they, again, reviewed the troop. Passing them by, he made his final appeal, “Let us hope for minimum bloodshed! Let’s go!” As Leo passed this time, the horsemen, two-by-two, followed him.


“This way, Sir,” shouted Leo’s new aide. And they were off at a gallop.


As soon as they were clear of Norman, they slowed to a walk. Then they walked a mile, trotted a mile, just as the U.S. cavalry did in olden days. “We will engage the enemy before 1600 hours, sir,” said Leo’s aide. Leo wondered what “engage” might mean. As it turned out, though, he would never find out.


As they approached a few houses that were designated by a highway sign saying “Slaughterville,” Leo was alerted that another mounted contingent was approaching from the south. As the handful of horsemen approached, Leo began to make out a familiar figure. He held up a hand to stop everyone.


With flaming hair and riding her sorrel stallion, Otharine Jones was approaching like a hellion on horseback! Leo dismounted and waited


“What ho, Commissioner!” Otharine shouted as she created her own dust storm by pulling up abruptly.


“Hey Jones,” Leo smiled. He had not seen nor heard of Otharine Jones since his first assignment for the Progressive Party had brought him to Oklahoma. Otharine led her own early version of a militia. She called it “The Jones Family.” They had enforced the fossil fuel moratorium long before their first Progressive Party representative, Leo himself, had come to their area. Otharine, Leo remembered happily, had taught him to ride.


Leo’s assumption that the Jones Family was coming to join his small army was soon checked off as false. Without even dismounting, she announced that Bishop Ghormley’s army had already been dispersed and that the bishop himself was dead.


“He kept resisting even after all of his ‘Christian soldiers’ had run for cover. He was waving a sword around in front of an old Baptist church and daring any of us to try to take him, so I just rode up and dispatched him with my saber.”


“Would you mind coming down here and telling me what’s happening?” Leo asked.


“OK, here’s what happened. We were coming up from Konowa to join your group in Norman. As it happens, though, Lexington is on the way. It’s between Konowa and Norman. We were trying to skirt their forces, but they were posted out further than we thought, so we ended up engaging a few riflemen. As soon as they saw us coming, they ran for their automobile. Naturally, we pursued, but they beat us into central Lexington and, apparently, they spooked everybody else, so they were running every whichaway by automobile. We couldn’t catch them, so we left old Ghormley laying where he fell. I left most of the Jones Family there, in case any of them came back, and ran on up here to meet you.”


Leo asked, “If it’s already over, should we disperse our force?”


“That’s up to you, Commissioner,” Otharine said with just a trace, Leo thought, of false humility.


Leo turned to his aide, but spoke in his loudest voice because other horsemen were gathering around to find out what was happening. “I think we’re done here,” Leo shouted, “Should we disperse?”


It took a few minutes for the militia leaders to make a clear decision, but they decided to return together to the train station at Norman, and then to disperse. Leo couldn’t tell if they were disappointed or relieved. He knew his own feeling, though, and it was relief.


“Come back to Norman with me, Otharine, and we’ll ask what to do.” Before they arrived, instructions had already come: Leo was to return to New York and bring Otharine Jones.


On the train ride home, Jones and Leo tried to catch up with the deliberations at the World Congress:




‘In all honesty, I dread trying to summarize the proceedings of the Committee on the Economy because, for one thing, I know so little about it.


‘Another reason that it is difficult to summarize these committee proceedings is that their outcomes rely, even more than in other committees, on what happens in other committees. There are separate committees on the Monetary System, on Agriculture, on Manufacturing, on Technology, on Corporations, and so on. Each of them will impact the final report on the economy. I very much doubt that the Committee on the Economy will report its recommendations until well after other committees have presented theirs.


‘This is probably the most momentous committee underway. It may also be the most divisive. Two entirely different world views are emerging: one side is championed by the Greens, the other by the Progressives. The Independents, as might be expected, are caught in the middle.


‘The vision of speakers from the Greens seem to be going in the direction of a world of small farmers or agricultural communes. The Progressives say that there is a definite place for increased manufacturing spurred by advanced technology. There may be an historical precedent from the American War for Independence. The Federalists opposed the Jeffersonian ideal. In that one, the Federalists won, and manufacturing eventually took over, but the Jeffersonians were never entirely forgotten.


‘I am not sure that the two sides can ever be resolved. Today’s revolution has rested securely on the partnership of the Progressives and the Greens. A schism between them could be disastrous!


[email protected]




If you like fire in your discussions, the Committee on Corporations is the one to watch!


At the extremes of the two sides are those who would encourage monopoly corporate power (extreme Progressives) versus those who would outlaw corporations altogether (extreme Greens). The fire comes because they aren’t abstract positions: several powerful enterprises are already operating with the full blessing of the revolutionary parties in power! The most obvious one is the Surina corporation whose tentacles encompass the globe and whose shareholders and employees are the wealthiest people on Earth.


Speakers on one side are arguing that Surina must be demolished and all debts and payments to them suspended. It is only a matter of time, these speakers say, before any government that encourages or even allows Surina to exist will eventually become a captive of its wealth.


Some delegates, and I think they are mostly from the Progressive Party, are saying that the corporation that they helped create and grow has practically ended famine on Earth. It’s hard to argue with one fact that they present: People Chow fed us when we had nothing else, and it remains the only available food for many of the world’s people today. Surina sacks were the only new textiles available for a long time and became the basic item of clothing for much of the world. Many important people, including many of the delegates to this World Congress, continue to wear simple clothing made from Surina sacks.


Somewhere in the middle of the argument are those that say that small corporations should be allowed, but that big corporations like Surina should be divided into smaller, competitive units. This was the kind of thinking at the beginning of the 20th century when “trust busters” reformed Standard Oil and other monopolies.


Surina isn’t the only big organization under fire. The shipping cartel, rail and ocean transport, is gigantic by any measure. As they are controlled, to the extent that they can be controlled, by postal systems, they don’t get the as much hellfire as Surina. The internet cartel was created and continues to be controlled by communications unions; consequently, they get little scrutiny, even from the Greens. Many small enterprises continue to grow, and some of them have incorporated. Collectivized agriculture sometimes chooses the corporate form, but Surina makes it difficult for them.


One well-established world monopoly is not, so far, debated by delegates in the Committee on Corporations. The monopoly on energy trading is undisputed here, even though it probably rages in other committees. It is the only exception to the fiery debate over corporations and their tendency to become monopolies.



The ”small corporations” idea holds the middle ground so it might be expected to win the debate when the extremes are forced to compromise. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.


[email protected]


While Leo thought that he had time for leisurely reading, neither Leo Torres nor Otharine Jones were aware that they were the subjects of discussion at the Progressive Party Executive Council.




Chairman: If the meeting could come to order, I’d like to start on time.


Thank you. Let us begin with a summary of today’s events in Oklahoma. I call on Comrade Karen to explain.


Karen: What happened is not exactly what we’re seeing on the news. The background has to do with a certain evangelical preacher who called himself Bishop Ghormley. We had trouble with him once before when he organized a terrorist group to burn down our drug addict facility in the Texas Panhandle. Ghormley was recently on the news calling for like-minded fundamentalist religionists to join his “Christian Army” to march eastward and overthrow this revolution.


We asked several local militia units to gather at the Norman, Oklahoma, train station because it was the closest to the insurrectionists’ camp. For reasons that will be explained later, we ordered Comrade Leo Torres to go down there and lead the contingent against the so called “Christian Soldiers” under Bishop Ghormley. Consistent with his entire relationship to the Party, Torres accepted the assignment without complaint.


He went to Norman by fast train, then took charge of several militia groups mounted on horseback. They were about halfway to Ghormley’s camp when they were met by the leader of another militia group from the tiny town of Konowa, Oklahoma. The head of that group, one Otharine Jones, was known to us as an early enforcer of the fossil fuel moratorium in her mostly rural area. She had worked with Commissioner Torres in a minor assignment there.


Jones’ militia group had already engaged the Ghormley forces and routed them. They headed off Torres’ larger contingent and told them that there was no longer an insurrection problem and that Jones had personally killed Bishop Ghormley when he resisted arrest. I should add that Otharine Jones and her militia volunteers were already known to us for aggressive, probably over-aggressive, action in defense of the revolution. This was hardly the first time that they took action resulting in violent deaths.


When Torres learned that his forces no longer had a purpose, he returned to Norman and received instructions from us to come home and to bring Otharine Jones. They will arrive in just a few more hours.


Now, with your indulgence, I’d like to have Les Frailey, the public relations specialist assigned to Leo Torres, explain why the news reports deviate slightly from what I have just reported.


Frailey: Thank you Comrade. It is an honor to address this Executive Board. My assignment has been and continues to be to make Leo Torres look good in the eyes of the public. Some would say that his devotion to the revolution makes it an easy job.


On instructions from our Chairman, I created a few minutes of video before Leo Torres left for Norman. I filmed him sharpening his famous homemade knife. I enhanced that video with music and narration to show that Leo Torres would be leading the military effort against Ghormley, and that he certainly meant business. That was the reason for symbolism of the knife sharpening. This short video received a lot of play, including on many news networks. It went viral almost immediately. The video may very well be the reason that the Ghormley forces fled at the first sign of actual battle. Such is the power of mass communications.


When Torres arrived in Oklahoma, I had more videos of Torres mounting a fiery steed and leading a large contingent of horsemen and horsewomen across a dusty field. With music and narration, it’s quite inspiring if I say so myself.


We expected Torres to have an easy military victory that would have made excellent video.


There was no way to anticipate that Otharine Jones and her militia would undercut Leo Torres’ military victory, so my colleagues and I had to create a slightly different narrative. First, we made sure that our narrative was OK with Jones, and she agreed for the overall good of the revolution.


What was released to newspersons was that Jones was acting as part of Leo Torres’ military force when she attacked the Ghormley forces from the rear. Consequently, even though Leo Torres did not “engage the enemy” in fact, the overall victory was still due to his leadership. While this is not exactly and plainly what happened, it is true in the larger sense because Jones only engaged the Ghormley forces because they stood in the way of her orders. Her orders were to join Leo Torres.


I did not consult Leo Torres about the spin on the narrative. For all his good qualities, the man simply has no subtlety. When newspersons ask him what happened, he will tell them the plain facts as he always does. And, as the newspersons always seem to do, they will assume that his modesty prevents him from taking credit for Jones’ military action. Leo Torres’ straightforwardness and personal modesty are part of the reason for his popularity.


The videos of Leo Torres leading a legion of horsemen to military victory are already out. They are playing on news stations and social media all over the world. People are copying them and forwarding them to one another. We have also taken the liberty of making portrait-sized still photos to sell at a modest price. We have a very large backlog of orders.


When all is said and done, my colleagues and I, under the direction of this Board, have embellished Leo Torres’ popularity and made him arguably this revolution’s greatest living folk-hero. I can only hope that we do not regret it someday.


I would like to add that, if this Board should someday decide that they do not want an overrated folk-hero myth, we can undo some of what we have done. We have plenty of videos that can be made to undermine the image we have created. Bear that in mind.


Chairman: Thank you Comrade Frailey. Now everyone who is not a Board member must sign off.


And now, to private Board business. Before discussion begins, let me explain some of the “whys,” the purposes behind the events you just heard described. We must put Commissioner Leo Torres at the head of the Committee on Religion and Superstition!


First of all, Leo Torres has shown himself to be a devoted supporter of this Party and this revolution. There has never been any question about his loyalty, and I don’t think there ever will be. We can count on Comrade Torres to carry out his assignments as well as he can, and he showed during the election for world delegates that his abilities are adequate. I’m not sure why Comrade Frailey offered to discredit Torres, but we should have no such plans.


As for Otharine Jones, we need her to stand by Torres publicly. If she hadn’t taken independent action, action that may be somewhat questionable, then she would have had no further utility in this matter, but she did take independent action. If the public sees her as heroic, that is fine, just as long as they see her as an extension of Leo Torres. That is why we invited her to accompany him here.


Our intelligence had told us that Bishop Ghormley would not be able to raise a serious army. This revolution has already met, and already vanquished, any potentially serious military threats. But Ghormley, in his own unpleasant way, did represent some possible future problems. I refer to the need for separation of church and state in the new government being created. Ghormley represented an extreme, a world dominated by religious fanatics, a theocracy. Leo Torres, in this scenario, represented the polar opposite: reason and revolution.


Past revolutions have largely ignored religion, and they have dearly paid for it. The position of our Progressive Party is and has been for some time against any concessions to superstition and religion. Even as we speak, religious spokespersons are preparing to appeal to the World Council for the kinds of accommodations that they previously enjoyed. They will want tax-free property. They will want free access to information sources. They will expect to be consulted on matters of state and, especially, of foreign relations.


Our Party is determined that they shall have no such concessions. The wall separating church and state must be built finally and completely. That will be our position in the discussions in the World Council, and our position must prevail.


In some ways, this issue may be the most important one to be decided at the World Council. The technical aspects of world government and a world economy are of the highest importance, but democracy will tend to correct any errors we make. Mistakes in other spheres may be self-correcting. But allowing a unstable ideology to influence humanity’s future decisions would be an error not easily reversed!


Victory on this important issue will not be easy. For one thing, our alliance with the Green Party is not solid on this issue. The Greens seem to think that religion and superstition are personal decisions that should be left open to everybody’s personal discretion. They wouldn’t particularly mind, for example, if superstition were preached in our educational programs. Their view of the future, the predominance of small farmers, does not emphasize science and progress. In fact, they see science as a possible impediment to the Elysian Fields they imagine.


So we will not have the advantage of solidarity with the Greens when we argue against superstition. Also, the very nature of the public arguments will be difficult because our opponents will be formidable.


Evangelists of superstition do not rely on facts and figures, but strictly on emotional appeals. You may tend to dismiss them for talking ‘pie in the sky’ against rational arguments, but you would be making a mistake. They may talk ‘pie in the sky,’ but don’t forget that they are very good at it. They’ve been practicing for centuries. For centuries, they have profited from their ability to manipulate people’s emotions. They will be just as clever as always, and perhaps even more clever because they realize the stakes. While they demand concessions from the new order, we are determined that they shall not have them.


What does that have to do with Bishop Ghormley and with Comrade Leo Torres? Just this: in the eyes of the public, a heroic Leo Torres has just vanquished a religious zealot who wanted to overthrow everything good about our revolution. Leo Torres, more popular than ever, is now the perfect spokesperson for total and complete separation of church and state in the World Council. He has to head the committee!


Torres, because of his fidelity, would have been an adequate choice for this assignment anyway, but his interactions with Ghormley, both in the Texas Panhandle and in Oklahoma earlier today, make the assignment a perfect one. If this Board agrees, I intend to message new orders to Torres right away.


Discussion is now open…




News reporters ambushed Leo Torres while he was still greeting Jane Early with passionate hugs outside the new Grand Central Station. “Is the theocracy threat completely over? How hard was it to defeat Ghormley’s religious army? What did Ghormley have to say?”


Reluctantly, Leo disengaged from Jane’s arms and said, “Apparently the threat is over. I’m a lot more interested in my sweetheart and our baby. As for Ghormley himself, I didn’t even see him. You’ll have to ask Comrade Otharine Jones about him. She’s standing right here.”


“Ms Jones, what did Ghormley say?”


Otharine: “He was ranting. I don’t think any of it made any sense. If you’re looking to quote me for something, you can say that I was proud to be a part of Commissioner Torres’ military strategy. It worked great!”


Political consultant Les Frailey interrupted and told the reporters, “You’ll get details from our office. You already have the videos from the military victory.” Then, to Leo, Jane, and Otharine, he urged “That’s my car on the curb. Get in and let’s go!”


Leo turned to comply, but was unexpectedly pushed off his feet. As he rose from the ground, Otharine Jones was pointing a large pistol toward a figure that was vanishing into the crowd of commuters. “Stay down!” she yelled at Leo. Then, she kept the pistol pointed toward the crowd as she scanned for threats.


“Into the car!” yelled Frailey. Leo grabbed Jane and pushed her forward, then Frailey hurried in. Leo tried to wait for Jones, but she backed into him and pushed him until he got into the car. After a last sweep with her pistol, Otharine Jones jumped into the front seat and the car swooped away.


“What happened?” Leo demanded of Otharine.


She gave a short laugh and told Leo knowingly, “Someone took a shot at you! And no, I don’t know who it was, but I would if there hadn’t been so many commuters around. He or she would have been dead!”


Everything was happening at once. Otharine holstered her pistol. Jane grabbed for Leo’s hand. Frailey grabbed his communicator and started calling newsmen to see if he could get video from the shooting.


At Leo’s apartment, Frailey told Otharine to provide cover while Leo and Jane went in. “Don’t go out,” he said, I’ll get you in the morning.” Otharine Jones insisted that Jane and Leo wait while she searched the apartment first, then she returned to Frailey’s car.


“They’re gone,” Leo said. “Do we laugh or cry?” Instead of either, they completed their long-interrupted embrace. There were far too many questions hanging over them for further intimacies.


Jane began, “Do you know why somebody would shoot at you?”


“I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think I can guess in light of what’s happened on the train. I received a new assignment. They want me to speak up for a strong wall of separation between church and state. Apparently, having gone riding in Oklahoma qualifies me to argue theology with world-class religious spokespeople. Whoever it was that shot at me apparently might be someone who thinks so, too. They see me, and I have no idea why, as some kind of anti-religious symbol.”


“I can tell you part of that answer,” Jane said. “Have you seen your new videos?”


“What new videos?”


“Sit down while I find them. It won’t take a minute because they’re all over everything. Here’s the latest one, but let me find the one before that… here it is.”


Leo was surprised to see his own image on Jane’s communicator screen.  His face was harsh and immobile. In the background was the scraping sound of metal against stone. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, a knife was being sharpened. Sinister music started faintly and then grew louder as Leo’s hands, then his arms and face came into view. He was sharpening a cruel and dangerous knife. A deadly serious narrator was saying, “Bishop Ghormley, look out. Torres is coming for you!” The effect was sinister as, Leo realized, Les Frailey had intended all along.


Leo shook his head. “Frailey did that just from a few seconds of my doing some humdrum sharpening.”


“Ready for the next one?”


In the next video, Leo was astride a snorting steed and yelling, “Let me see your weapons” to legions of armed cavalrymen. Music was furious and romantic, then, Leo could be seen at the head of his charging army. The white horse’s mane and tail waved like military banners, and Leo Torres rode like a determined military leader.


“Oh my gosh!” Leo found himself apologizing to Jane, “It was nothing like that. We just rode a few miles, talked with Otharine Jones for a few minutes, and then rode back to the train. The whole thing wasn’t more than two hours and the only thing that impressed me about it was the dirt flying.”


“You’re a military hero, now,” Jane affirmed, “People think you saved them from a violent crazy man. And, I’m beginning to see why a religious fanatic might want to shoot you!”


“Otharine dealt with Ghormley. I had nothing to do with it.”


“That’s not what millions of people think. You could try to convince them otherwise, but I doubt that you could.”


“Let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about you. How are the education plans coming?”


“Nothing urgent is happening,” Jane said, “We will have a comprehensive plan to lay before the World Council before it closes, but I have some other things to talk about before then. I need to talk to you about the baby.”


Leo moved closer, “Of course, that’s what we should have started with.”


Jane was more serious than Leo. “If you’re going to stick with me and help raise this baby, I want you to pay attention and make sure you’re around for a few years. I want you to get the new lung treatment that’s available.”


“What does it do?”


“It clears out some of the soot and tar you’ve been breathing your entire life. It’s just a few simple trips to a clinic. They make you breath some kind of medicine, then you stay there while you cough up a lot of junk.”


“OK. It’s a deal.”


“And,” Jane continued in her serious tone, “I want you to stop mentioning my baby to reporters. It’s important to me.”




“There are a lot of reasons. One of them is that I get way too much public attention already. As the first of the so-called Reborns, everybody follows my comings and goings far too much. They want to know if I’ve remembered any more of my previous life. They want to know if I recommend the process. They want to know if I advocate this or that. They want to know all sorts of things on which I have formed no real opinions.


‘Newspersons seem to think that everything that happens to me will eventually happen to all of the Reborns, since I was the first. Everything that I do seems, to them, to be some kind of a trend that will be followed by all Reborns. And my baby will be the first one for a Reborn, so they’ll be unnaturally interested in everything about the baby. That’s one reason, but not the main reason I want you to stop talking about the baby.”




“The main reason is that you keep inferring that you’re the biological father, and that’s not necessarily true. This baby doesn’t need to start life with controversy, and controversy is what will happen if this baby turns out to be physically nothing like you.”


Leo was stunned. “I’m not the father? I’m not the father?”


Now, it was Leo’s turn to lower his voice into serious tones: “’MY baby?’ What about ‘OUR baby?’ Do you know something you haven’t told me? Is our baby OK? Is the birth supposed to be normal, I mean, is it, I mean you, are you OK?”


“The baby’s paternity may come into question.”


Leo stared blankly at her during what seemed like a long pause.


“What is the baby’s, your baby’s, paternity?”


“The baby’s paternity has never been established, and never will be.”


“You’re telling me that someone else is the father of this baby?”


No answer


“You’re saying that I’m not the father?”


No answer


“You’re saying that you’ve been sleeping with, making love with, another man? Or maybe other men, plural? You’re saying you don’t know who the father is, or maybe you do know and you just don’t want me to know?”


“The baby’s paternity has never been established, and never will be.”


“You’re saying that you’ve betrayed me with another man, or is it a bunch of other men? ANSWER ME!”




“So you’ve been sleeping around, with one or with a number of other men, and you may not know who the father is, or at least you’re not saying who it is…. But tell me this for God’s sake Jane, even if you had to sleep around with God knows who or how many, why in God’s name did you let yourself get pregnant?”


“You should know that.”


“Why? Jane, did I do something wrong? Is this some kind of punishment? Why should I know anything about this at all?”


“I wanted to be pregnant because I want a baby. I want to experience childbirth and motherhood. The main reason for what you are calling my “carelessness” is that I don’t know how old I am. My memory was wiped out, in case you’ve forgotten. If you could stop thinking about yourself for a moment, you’d have known that.”


Jane spoke to Leo’s bewildered expression: “You may not know exactly how old you are, but I, and all the so-called ‘Reborns’ like me, have no idea. For all I knew, I might have been passed the age of childbirth. Even now, I don’t know if I might be too old to have an uncomplicated natural labor. I was rushing to get pregnant because I didn’t know if it was already too late… and that’s about all the explaining I’m prepared to do. The paternity of my baby has not been established and never will be. That’s all you need to know.”


“You betray me, and you say it’s none of my business!”


“Leo, you’ve already raised your voice against me, for the first time ever, and you’ve provoked me into a defensive response, also for the first time ever. You’re apparently surprised, even shocked, about this paternity business, and I have to say that I’m shocked at your response. Maybe we both need to take some time, instead of yelling at each other, to think this through…. Do you want me to leave for a while or for the night?”


“No,” Leo answered hoarsely. “No, I don’t know where you could safely go. At least you’re safe here.”


As soon as he said it, Leo wondered why he had. Why should he be concerned about this strange woman’s safety? Why should he care? He walked out the apartment door, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.




Leo was standing outside the apartment building when Les Frailey’s luxury automobile pulled up. Otharine Jones jumped out of the car and pulled Leo inside quickly. “What are you doing?” she admonished him, “You’re a sitting target out there!”


Leo didn’t answer, but Les Frailey did: “I guess Leo’s got troubles that are more important than assassins. Leave him alone about that, because I have to brief him before we get to the Convention.


‘First of all, Leo, about your safety. You’re going to have to start listening to Otharine because she’s been assigned to be your security, your bodyguard so to speak. The Exec is going to shuffle around the tenants in your building so that Otharine can move in next door. From now on, she stays where you stay, and she goes where you go.


‘Today, you need to wind up your participation in the Drug Committee and move on up to the Committee on Religion and Superstition. There should be a leadership shuffle there, and you are to take the Chairmanship if you can, or take whatever leadership position you can get. As early as you can, you let them know the Party’s position. Complete separation. No compromise. Then you’ll have to open the floodgates to everybody who wants to argue. Remember that everything that happens in this place is recorded and made public.”


“Why?” Leo asked numbly.


“Because it’s a completely open and transparent process. Everything that happens is available on the net. The whole world gets to watch and comment. Almost constantly, polls are being taken. Bookmakers are laying odds on what will happen next. Just on that, you might want to know that odds were heavily on your side against Ghormley. When word started getting around that you were going onto Religion and Superstition, odds in favor of complete separation started rising. They’re not up to 50 percent yet, but they’re rising, and it’s because of you.”


“People are being polled about everything that happens, or is about to happen, in the Convention?”


“That’s right. It’s not something for you to worry about. You just go on being Leo Torres. So far, you’ve had the magic touch.


Leo wondered out loud: “Has it ever occurred to anybody that they’re putting a lot of burden on me?”


Frailey put an end to conjecture: “Yes!”


Leo wondered aloud again: “If the Party is counting on me, and if this committee is such a big deal, then why hasn’t somebody taught me some arguments? I don’t even know what to say. In any kind of debate, I’d be sure to lose.”


“Other than telling them that you’re for complete separation, you don’t have to argue anything. If you want to talk or ask a question, go ahead, but don’t feel that you have to convince anybody of anything. Just listen. You’re good at listening. The most important arguments will come at the end, almost everything between now and then is just blather and posturing for the public. The best posture for Commissioner Leo Torres, right now, is to stay aloof from the petty arguments.”


Leo sighed, “Les, I appreciate all the confidence you have in me, but I wish I felt it, too.”


“Here we are. Walk in like you owned the place.”


Otharine Jones got out first and scanned the crowd carefully before she signaled Leo to follow. Then the two of them walked through the entranceway. Otharine was relieved of her pistol at the door, while Leo was restored to his special communicator phone.


The open first floor was noisy and chaotic with delegates from around the world, but the noise abated as Otharine led Leo in. Suddenly, almost no one was speaking, and many of them were inexplicably looking directly at Leo Torres! Then, slowly, someone started to slowly applaud, then the noise of clapping hands rattled the open space.


Leo felt himself shrinking inside himself. This is what’s being recorded and made public?


Otharine eyed the delegates suspiciously. Leo could think of nothing to say or do that seemed appropriate. He headed for the elevators. The applause subsided and the delegates returned to their random activities as Otharine and Leo started for the 8th floor.


As soon as Leo arrived in the Drug Committee, he raised his hand to speak. He was surprised to be called on next, before he had thought of anything to say, but he took the podium with as much dignity as he could muster.


“Comrades,” he began, “I am being assigned to another committee, but I did not want to leave this one without at least throwing out an opinion.”


People seem to be listening


“I have only attended one session, but I listened carefully then, and I think I have some idea about the issues pertaining to drug addicts in our new society. Several of the speakers that I heard want to cure addiction. Almost all of the speakers are sympathetic to the two quandaries involved. I refer to the quandary of being a drug addict and being almost completely unable to stop using addictive substances. The other quandary is that of society at large, which suffers directly from addicts’ crime and anti-social behavior.


‘The discussion has been about the addict reservation that was established last year and which I headed for its first few months. It is continuing in a more remote place and under new administration. The questions are these: “Will such a place resolve the problems of the addicts?” and “Will the problems of society be resolved?”


‘In general there have been very few drug addict ‘cures’ at the reservation. For society’s quandary, there has been measurable progress. There are fewer crimes and anti-social outbreaks in areas where drug addicts have voluntarily left in favor of living on the reservation where their habits are indulged without cost or reprimand. But if we want full and complete solutions, we will have to look to other processes.


‘The Public Health Committee at this Convention is the proper place to deal with the current drug addict’s problem. The Education Committee is the place to deal with the future drug addict’s problem. Both of those two committees are the places for long-term solutions, both for individuals and for society.


‘The drug reservation in the Amarillo area is a stopgap. It is a temporary way to lessen problems. There may be minor improvements, but the essential idea of allowing drug addicts to remove themselves from normal society should be continued until, hopefully someday, it is no longer needed.


‘Revolutionaries are impatient people. I know a few revolutionaries, and they are all impatient. Many of them suffered in the struggle for a better world. Some of them did battle, some of them were injured, some died; and all of them are impatient for that better world we envisioned and worked for. I personally don’t want it, but all of us are going to have to learn some patience.


‘Everything changes, to be sure, but hardly anything changes immediately. There is always a twilight before the dark, and always a dawning before the day.


‘My recommendation is to keep the Amarillo Drug Addict Reservation for as long as it is needed, and to replicate it around the world wherever it is needed for as long as the transition lasts. Thank you.”


Scattered applause and increasing noisy conversations accompanied Leo and Otharine out of the committee room.


With a quick look at his phone, Leo found the Committee on Religion and Superstition on the 41st floor. The chairperson spotted them as soon as they entered the committee room. She motioned Leo to the front.


“Comrades,” she announced, “We have the hero of the Battle of Lexington with us. In fact, if I am not mistaken, we have both the hero and the heroine of Lexington. I am interrupting our deliberations on a point of order. Commissioner Torres was assigned to his committee only yesterday and did not have an opportunity to be considered for leadership; consequently, I want a motion to allow me to step down and to make Comrade Leo Torres Chairperson of this committee.”


“So moved!” came from several voices at once.


“Is there discussion on the motion? If not..”


Leo waved his arm to speak even though, once more, he had no thoughts prepared.


“Go ahead Commissioner.”


Leo began slowly. “Thank you for considering me. I suppose that the motion came from members of the Progressive Party, because they got word to me, just this morning, that I should seek to lead this committee. But let’s face it, they don’t know everything.


‘I’ve had a few lessons in public speaking since I ran for the office of delegate to this convention, but the truth is that I have never, not even once, chaired any meeting, let alone one as important as this one. I appreciate your good intentions toward me, and I am honored, but I must decline the chairmanship.”


The Chairperson moved quickly and spoke quietly to Leo, “You were supposed to take it! Will you take co-chair, with no obligation to run the meetings?”


“I suppose so.”


“Comrades,” the Chairperson beamed reassuringly to the delegates, “We are seeing the kind of humility that marks the true leader of our revolution. I have prevailed upon the Commissioner to accept the position of co-chair. Will the maker of the motion amend it to so that it reads ‘co-chair’ instead of ‘chair?’”


“So moved” rang out several voices again.


“Is there further discussion?” The room was now silent and apprehensive.


‘All in favor?”


Leo heard a lot of enthusiastic “Ayes.”




And there were a number, a lesser number, of “Nays.”


“The ‘Ayes’ have it,” smiled the Chairperson. She offered Leo a seat at the front of the room. At first Otharine Jones stood behind him, but sat down when she was offered a chair nearby.


Leo had been made a critical leader of a critical committee of the revolutionary World Council. For almost anyone else, or at almost any other time in another person’s life, it would have been a great day to be happy. But for Leo, it was a long dreary day of trying to listen to important discussion while trying to get the image of Jane Early out of his mind and the smell of her out of his nostrils.


As the session finally closed, Leo made a guilty confession to the Chairperson. “I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t kept up with this committee, or in fact any committee.”


“No one can,” she smiled reassuringly. “We read the news summaries when we can find the time, and that’s the best anybody can do.”


“News summaries? I’ve read some of those updates from July Eason’s news service.”


“That’s what I mean. News reporters are watching everything we do and interviewing people before and after sessions. Some of them are very good. Some are brazenly biased! A lot of us are beginning to settle on the ones from Ms Eason.”


Leo tried to catch up by reading:




‘The debate in the Committee on Religion and Superstition is a lot more interesting for style than for substance. Some of the best speakers in the world are there to argue that separation of church and state should continue to have the same flexibility as it had in various governments in the world and through history. Watching their performances is absolutely thrilling!


‘The other side, pushed by the Progressive Party, says that separation of church and state should be total, complete, and non-flexible. Their speakers are a lot less glamorous than their opponents and make shorter speeches.


“Looming in the background, but unmentioned in the proceedings, is a threat from one Bishop Ghormley of Texas who apparently wants to establish a theocracy by force of arms.


‘To date, no one has made any progress at all, but it is evident that there are two distinct sides. They are still arguing over the name of the committee. The Progressives are probably responsible for coupling “religion” and “superstition” in the initial program and are arguing to keep it. The theologians adamantly want two entirely separate committees on the basis that “religion” is not related to “superstition.”


‘If the foes ever get beyond arguing on the committee’s title, they may be expected to talk about possible taxation of property belonging to religious organizations, access to media, education, role in governance, and various taboos.


‘The Progressives are adamant and united. Their opponents come from the Greens and Independents, but the great majority of delegates on the committee have not taken a side so far. Neither has the public. All arguers seem to agree, or at least they don’t contest the point, that both the cost and the social value of religion and superstition are intangible and difficult to measure.


‘If audiences value entertainment over substance, I highly recommend monitoring the Committee on Religion and Superstition.  


[email protected]





The news summaries gave Leo an idea. Back when he worked on drug addiction in the Texas Panhandle, July Eason had been the official transcriber for the project. She was good at her job. She was also a very nice looking teenager then, and she seemed most eager to be intimate with Leo. Back then, Leo warned her away, but that was then…


Leo fired off a quick message to July Eason and received a quick reply: “Sure. I’ll meet you at the front gate.” If he could avoid it, Leo had no intention of going home to Jane Early that night.


Eason was standing quietly near the front gate when Leo left the building. She appeared prettier and much more sophisticated than Leo remembered. She wore a yellow dress with a fake bow tie in front. Leo noticed her long, bare legs. The outfit was simple and modest, but did not disguise her dynamic presence. July carried a phone communicator similar to his own, two cameras, and a large handbag.


“Hi,” she gave him the same kind of perfunctory hug that almost anybody could have shared. “Shall we catch a taxi?”’


“I can’t,” Leo responded as he turned to indicate the presence of Otharine Jones. “She won’t let me. This is Otharine Jones, my friend and protector.” As the two women shook hands, Leo went on: “If you’re up for a bite to eat, we three can take her car.”


“Let’s just go to my place,” July said cheerfully. “I don’t like eating out while there’s still hunger in the world. And besides, I don’t want to carry around all this junk if I don’t really have to.”


Leo tried to emit his best smile. This was too easy!


When they arrived, July invited Leo and Otharine in, but Otharine insisted on stationing herself outside the front door. July brought her a straight-backed chair.


July Eason had an apartment that was considerably more spacious than his own. It was more a workplace than living space. Her computer had 3 monitors. There were several file cabinets, several video devices, reams of paper, and a great many books.


Prominent in the entranceway was a framed portrait of himself. It was one of the common ones that the Progressives were pushing all over the world, but this was the first time that Leo had seen one, and it made him understandably self-conscious.


July ignored the picture while she introduced Leo to her living quarters: “I started with a small personal podcast, but the demand for information kept getting greater and greater. I have a dozen newshounds on staff now, nearly all of us covering the World Congress. They boil down the proceedings and conference with each other every day. The result is, in my opinion, the best account of the World Congress that anybody could get.”


“I have read some of them,” Leo volunteered.


“Let’s see if we can find something we can all eat,” July began.


“Can we just visit?” Leo asked. “Otharine and I almost always make do with People Chow.”


“People Chow? It’s ‘what everybody needs but nobody likes,’ isn’t it?”


“I guess so,” Leo admitted, “but it can’t be beat for convenience. We fill a pocket every morning and then just forget about meals for the rest of the day.”


“I’ll bet Surina would pay a pretty penny for an endorsement like that from the famous Leo Torres.”


“They might. I don’t know. I refer all offers and requests to the Progressive Party office. If they wanted me to endorse something, I guess they’d let me know.”


“So you’re still a one-hundred-percent party faithful apparatchik? Maybe that’s why people admire you. It’s an admirable trait. But tell me, how does it feel to be more and more famous?”


Leo looked around, “You’re not recording are you?”


“No, this is personal. I’m just making small talk.”


“I don’t feel any different, except that I expect to have Otharine or some other prison guard, one of her staff, with me all the time. The Party thinks my life is at risk.”


“If it wasn’t, I’d be surprised,” July said airily. Then her tone became more specific: “We worked pretty closely together in Texas, and I’ve followed your life closely, but you haven’t made an effort to keep up our friendship all the way through the delegates’ election and up to now. So, Leo, my handsome celebrity, what brings you to me now?”


“Ah, I guess I need a friend. Jane and I are, ah… I just don’t want to see Jane tonight.”


“Love’s rocky road? You’re not just trying to hurt her by staying away are you?”


“No.” Leo paused. “She’s probably with someone else.”


“It’s all over?”


“No, I mean I don’t know if it’s over. We haven’t said it’s over. I just, I’m just having a hard time accepting her. I think she’s right in the argument, and I want to accept her, but I’m just having a hard time with it.”


July Eason, the younger woman, was suddenly playing the older, wiser person. She leaned forward and put one cool hand over Leo’s. “You want to tell me about it? You don’t have to, but if you want to, you can.”


“I do want to tell you about it, if I’m not being burdensome. But I’m not sure I can explain. I think, maybe, that I’m either furious with her or ashamed of myself… or both.”


July sat back and crossed her long legs. “We live in the strangest of times. No one knows how to act because there aren’t any norms. But if we were being conventional about it, I’d have to ask you if it’s worth it?


‘Leo, people meet at a juncture in their two lives that is also a juncture of the times they live in. This is true in any period of time, revolutionary or not, any time. When they meet at that juncture and they find themselves wanting to be together, they naturally think they are going to want to stay together. But everything is changing. The times are changing, and the moving trajectories of the two lives are changing. Just because it felt right at some time and place doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. So why are you agonizing about Jane Early? Why not just be glad it happened and then move on?”


“There’s the baby, for one thing, even though I’m probably not the father. But it’s more than that. I can’t stop thinking about her. I don’t know if that’s an obsession, a mental disease, or something more important – and I used to think she felt similarly about me – before, but now I don’t know  how she feels about me, and, to tell you the truth, I think I’m afraid to guess.”


“She sees other men and you just found out?”


“Yes. She says she has a right to have sex with anybody she chooses, whenever and wherever she chooses, and that I don’t have any say-so about her choices. And when I’m not around her, when I’m being half rational, I kind of think she’s right. But then that’s just thinking. When it comes to feeling, I’m all over the place.”


“You’ve been out of town a lot, and you’ve been working a lot, Leo. Even in Texas, you never had much of a social life. But I have plenty of social life, so maybe I do have a little bit of insight to offer – I run into a few Reborns here and there, Leo, and, as a newshound, I hear a lot of gossip. What I hear is this, and I hope it helps you: the Reborns tend to be what we used to call promiscuous. No one seems to mind. Their reputation is that they make great lovers, both the males and the females, because they don’t waste time and they’re up for anything. But they go through relationships like tissue paper.”


“You’re saying that Jane is like that?”


“Jane is the prototype of the Reborns. She’s the first success that old Dr Johns ever had. Everybody watches her to see what she will do. Half of them hope she’ll have some kind of relapse and prove that Dr. Johns’ theories are disastrous; half of them think the new Messiah is going to come out of one of those drums that he uses to change hopelessly insane people into Reborns.


‘As far as I know, Jane is the first one, ever, to get pregnant. That’s big news, by the way, but it’s already out there. You asked me awhile ago if I were recording this and I told you it’s personal. But if it weren’t personal, and if I had come across the news that Jane Early is having some kind of relationship crisis, especially if it’s a crisis that she can’t just walk away from, then that would be a big breaking story.


‘But don’t worry about my news business. I’m keeping this personal. I’m just telling you, because you need to know, that the Reborns have developed reputations as casual lovers. It sounds like Jane is running true to that form.”


“Why? Why are they going through all these relationships? Am I just a notch on her pistol?”


“I don’t know what’s going on between you and her. Remember that Jane is the first Reborn. Whatever she’s doing is always a new precedent. That’s why people watch her. As for why the Reborns may have developed their reputation, I can only offer my own speculation and it’s this: as you no doubt know, the Reborns are the most curious people in the world. Nearly all of them go into education or some form of library science. They are driven to try to learn everything, everything! And they want it all immediately!


‘Books and videos are great, but you can learn so much more if you can study another human being intensively. And the fastest way to learn another person inside out is to have an intimate relationship with them. Sex is just the key to the portal, a way to learn as much about another person in the shortest time possible.”


“But Jane didn’t move on. We’ve been together for over a year. Why didn’t she just learn what she could about me and then go to the next guy?”


“Jane’s the prototype. This may be something new. On the other hand, it may be something about Leo Torres. You’re hardly some ordinary guy. Also, you didn’t even know, until now, that she was sleeping around here and there. Or maybe it’s the baby.”


Leo was trying to picture Jane the way that July Eason had explained. He asked, “That’s interesting to know about other Reborns, but I’m not sure it fits Jane at all. And even if it did, I still don’t know what to do?”


“I’m out of ideas, but here’s one from science fiction: there is a famous novella by Jose Philip Farmer called “The Lovers.” In it, an earthling falls in love with an alien on another planet. She’s his perfect dream girl and he loves her madly. Then she breaks his heart completely because she doesn’t really share any of his earthly values. He accidentally kills her, by the way.”


“Is there a point?”


“Don’t you see it? The moral of the story is this: ‘Don’t fall in love with an alien!”


Leo realized that July was trying to lighten up the conversation, but he felt close to tears. He looked downward.


“Well,” July said reassuringly, “At least I can solve part of the problem. You don’t have to see Jane Early tonight. You can stay here with me. You knew, back in Texas, that I had a thing for you.”


“Thank you. I’m grateful, but, ah, I’m not sure I’ll be much good, I mean much company.”


“We’ll take it as it comes. Mighty Leo Torres doesn’t have to solve every problem in one evening. Now let’s get your security guard in here and work out her sleeping arrangements. I’ll warn you, there’s another portrait of you – the one on your horse – in my bedroom.”




July Eason, Leo found, was a comforting sex partner. He didn’t have to try to please her, because she knew what she wanted and was not reticent about telling him: “Touch that, lick this, rub here, harder, softer, pick up the rhythm,” she would say. But even though July had no inhibiting problems, Leo did. During sex, he sometimes worried that he wasn’t being attentive. When he was attentive, he sometimes felt an emotion that was new to him: rage. Worst of all, he worried that July knew what was going on inside him.


But he continued going to July’s place each evening. He didn’t look forward to it, but was averse to seeing Jane. He only visited his own apartment to change clothes or pick up necessities. A few times, he saw Jane. They avoided any serious conversation. He strained to be courteous to her, but her presence brought on a list of unfathomable feelings. When she wasn’t there, Leo guiltily sniffed the sheets and pillows for some sign of what she might have been doing and with whom. Between times, he worried that she may have left.


Leo was surprised to learn that he could still carry out his work assignment. Total misery and confusion on the inside, apparently, doesn’t interfere, much, with the demands on the outside.  During the days that followed, when Leo was otherwise unoccupied, he exited the Congress, then went through the public entrance to the rooftop café, where he sipped iced water, nibbled food pellets, and read Eason’s news summaries:




‘How shall we govern ourselves? How will decisions be made and who will make them? Those are the grave questions that the Governance Committee must deal with.


‘Will someone in this committee prove or demonstrate that people are even capable of self-government? Do the great masses of people behave rationally or are they generally irrational? Would they make decisions based on the common good, on their own selfish good, or on some abstract principle that isn’t good for anyone? Suppose all the cat lovers banded together under some ridiculous cat proposal? People, after all, are usually thought of as making their decisions on emotions, not facts.


‘We are currently governed, more or less, by a coalition consisting of the Greens and the Progressive Party. They took power when the military and police powers dissolved or were forced to dissolve by the popular will. Their pronouncements are enforced, to a degree, by the voluntary militias that sprang up everywhere, but their main power, so far, comes from “consent of the governed.” In other words, people worldwide are rejecting virtually everything about the old systems and are willing to give the new guys a chance.


‘But Party rule was never meant to last. Both the Greens and the Progressives agree that the desired outcome of our revolution is democratic rule of ourselves by ourselves. Up to now, though, nobody has said how.


‘Speakers are saying that it is important that there be no bicameral legislature and no judiciary. There will likely be one World Legislature with the power to create committees to carry out judicial-type decisions. Not everyone agrees because they seem to think that different branches of government, adversarial by nature, will work crudely while trusting people to work out things for themselves will never work at all.


‘In their earliest committee sessions, speakers seemed more intent on saying what they did not want than on what they actually wanted. They obviously don’t want the kinds of governments that we have already suffered through. They don’t want a dictatorship. They don’t want layers of powerful people with hereditary wealth. They don’t want further exploitation of our home planet. They don’t want people bullying or taking advantage of other people, so on and so on.


‘But what, in a positive sense, do they want?


‘The first proposal to come forward was an amended version of the United States constitution of 1787. It was shot down almost immediately because, delegates said, it was largely written for genocidal racists.


‘An obscure idea called “autotelic society” is starting to come up. But what will it mean? The best description I’ve seen said, “Each member of society has a vote commensurate the effect that the legislation being considered would have on him/her!” So if a proposal affects a person to a certain degree, they have the same or similar power to pass, change, or destroy that same proposal.


‘Now, how would that work?


‘Proposals for legislation could originate at the individual level. Everyone would be notified of the proposal. If it passes, then it goes to some kind of judges who decide who would be affected. The judges would assign weights to the votes of people in other localities or interest groups who are affected. If a locality is not affected at all, then they have no vote. If an interest group is judged to be mightily affected, then their votes would have the most effect. Then a second election would be held with the newly-defined constituency.


‘Interestingly, one argument that could come into play is that Communist Parties from the Russian revolution onward tended to become elitist governors. Their degree of corruption may have differed, but corruption was always a problem.


‘How many people would have to sign on to a proposal before it could be considered by the World Council? 1%? Then, if the judges made their decisions, could it be appealed by that same 1% or would they have to get 2% or some higher number in order to override the decision?


‘How would the “judges” work? Would it help if they served only short sessions, say a few weeks, and were actual members of the World Council?

What are the rules for getting elected to the World Council? In the progressive future, governance will no longer be based on geography. Perhaps geography AND “interest groups?” Again, how to keep the cat lovers from taking over?


‘The crisis that brought on the revolution brought people together based on our common understanding of the need for change. If untried and untested new ideas for governance are implemented, will they be generally accepted? I greatly admire the delegates to the Governance Committee, but I do not envy them.


[email protected]




‘It has been said that getting rid of the police is the greatest accomplishment of the revolution to date. Certainly, the old guard would have never given up power if they could have kept their armed sections.


‘Public safety is currently in the hands of local militias. They sprang up immediately as police departments began to dissolved, and they claim to act in the interests of all – not a ruling elite. Most of them were part of either the Greens or the Progressive Party when they formed. Some were former police with a sincere commitment to law and order.


‘Other militias that formed more spontaneously were at first encouraged, then cajoled, to pledge loyalty to the revolutionary coalition. Those that didn’t were overcome, sooner or later, by those that did. Today, the militias can act individually or they can, when called together by the revolutionary leadership, work together against larger threats to society.


‘So far, it looks like the speakers in the Public Safety Committee want to formalize these relationships. Additionally, they want to form some kind of Bureau of Coordination that can keep records from different localities, provide information, and combine militias for larger operations when necessary.


‘As I understand it, the coordinators would have no independent coercive power, but would only be empowered to work through the militias. Criminal syndicates, nevertheless, would be stopped by the bureau’s ability to gather information and coordinate activities beyond different localities.


‘These are complicated questions that go to the heart of any future society. After all, government has always been understood succinctly as “a body of armed men!”


‘I was looking for something that is already agreed to, and I found this: nobody wants the death penalty anywhere in the world’s future?y


[email protected]




‘If I could only watch the deliberations for only one committee, it would surely be the Committee on Education. They project the boldest of innovations, the most romantic view of the future, and, it seems to me, the most desperate need for success.


‘One could go so far as to say, and several speakers do say, that no other proposal from this World Congress can succeed in the long term unless our educational system succeeds. The reason is simple: if people are ignorant and selfish, then cooperation without aversive control is unlikely.


‘We need what revolutionary icon Che Guevara used to call “The New Man,” meaning “new people,” and only the best possible educational system can create them.


‘Viewers make take interest in a squabble that is building in this committee between those who want our future education program to be purely secular and those who want to insert religious training into it. So far, the secular side has ducked any meaningful discussion by asking “which religion” every time the subject comes up. One of the speakers sang an old sarcastic song from folk idol Pete Seeger in which he seems to claim that several religions fit the definition of “that old time religion,” including Roman Paganism, Zoroastrianism, sun worship, and Druidism.


‘The main battle concerning church and state is probably going to take place over in the Committee on Religion and Superstition, but there are rumbles and minor spats in other committees.


‘The Committee has had a little bit of input from Dr Anson Johns, inventor of the “reborn” process. His opinions take the form of sermons in which the only human salvation is for all leaders to have their entire consciousness extinguished through his mechanical/chemical rebirthing process. Dr Anson Johns is demanding a full committee, or at the very least a subcommittee of the Education Committee, on the value of the reborns as political leaders. So far, he has few supporters.


‘The revolutionary leaders have already taken a direction that would be hard to change. Rather than commandeering schools and universities, they have been taking over libraries. They build learning modules that can be accessed on-line. They conduct polls to see who wants to learn what, when, and where. Their intent is to make all learning available to everyone all the time. In their theory, someone could proceed from ignoramus to genius from any age and any situation. There will be no requirement that children each acquire certain knowledge and skills at any particular age.


‘Clearly, whether education should be open ended and “free” versus compulsory and prescribed by society is also a question of the basic nature of human beings. In all previous human history, the answer has been that people, especially children, are inherently bad and must be forced into goodness. The revolutionaries are betting that people are good and will continue to be good if allowed.


‘The Committee is without question far-reaching and revolutionary. But will it work?


[email protected]




‘Even though the Committee on the Monetary System carries great importance, the delegates seem to be getting along swimmingly. There was almost immediate agreement that the basis of world currency should be energy. Several speakers have averred that energy has been the only reliable currency on Earth since the days of petrodollars.


‘Arguments are minor. The basic unit, according to some, should be the foot/pound. For others it’s the kilowatt/hour, the calorie or the newton-meter. So far, the joule might have the edge. None of the proponents seems to have a hard position, because each proposed currency is convertible into the others.


‘A much more serious idea has yet to get serious debate. The Progressives are going to want the World Government to hold a monopoly on the trading of currencies. Organizations and individuals would be able to produce energy, but it could only be translated into currency and used for trade through the government. We might look forward to that momentous debate, or we might dread it for being too complicated!


[email protected]





‘The Greens dominate the discussion on agriculture, but decisions in other committees may torpedo their desires. They want government to divide the land and sponsor small family agricultural plots doing what used to be called “scratch farming.” More importantly, they want that situation to continue into the indefinite future, whereas the Progressives think high technology and manufacturing will bring a better world. The Independents hold the balance of power as always.


‘When the world was choking on its air and being poisoned by its water, the Greens became our rescuers and saviors. But does our gratitude extend to allowing them to decide our future relations and living conditions?


[email protected]




‘Trade has always been an explosive issue in world relations. How does one area of the world get a fair deal from the others? Is exploitation of one region by another simply the nature of things, or can it be overcome?


‘What is the role of government in trade? Does it monitor all activities and try to intervene to promote fairness, or does it stand aside in hopes that market forces will eventually lead to equity?


‘As this reporter and my staff monitor discussions in various committees, it is apparent that many of the delegates to the World Congress are relying heavily on their vision of a new kind of human being who will be less greedy, less jealous, less desperate, and less prone to dishonesty. If indeed we are dealing with such a population, then these economic issues may be less dangerous. So far, I’m a skeptic with my fingers crossed!


[email protected]





‘If you like gadgets and gismos, then you would surely enjoy following the deliberations of the Committee on Technology.


‘Several of the speakers have gushed with pride because our temporary revolutionary government chose to restore communications early. By restoring communications, they say, we can now move up to full democracy.


‘There are a great many proposals being considered to improve on communications. Nano-technology has already made breakthroughs that await implementation. A few scientists are working on direct mind-to-mind thought transference that may eventually replace the need for language. It uses headbands that electronically detect thought waves, then translate and amplify them. They’re asking for more funding, as are most of the proposals being considered. Speakers enjoy speculating about these things, but don’t seem to be in any hurry to fund them.


‘So far, the biggest improvement in health care did not come from new technology, but simply from reorganizing the way health care is delivered. But reorganizing, speakers say, is a form of technological improvement and needs to be pushed forward.


‘Agriculture is improving by leaps and bounds now that the profit motive is not the only motivator. In many areas, fresh food has replaced People Chow as the main form of nourishment. The Committee has not so far discussed subsidizing agriculture because it seems to be flourishing on its own, but the Greens clearly want major change.


‘The restoration of Earth’s water and air is not so much a matter of applying new technology as it is a matter of not using the old fossil-fuel technologies that brought us to the brink of ruin. However, technical improvements are underway. One notable direction would help with desalinization of ocean waters.


‘There are a number of inventions concerning transportation, but all of them require a lot of energy. Making something battery-operated as opposed to using internal combustion engines, is not hard to do; but electricity is not yet cheap nor abundant.


‘Virtually all future progress, several speakers say, depends on creating usable energy. The previous reliance on fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear fission almost destroyed us, but we have yet to come up with sufficient replacements to do what people want to do. That’s the reason that transportation did not follow communication as a quick success.


‘Scientists say that it is not as difficult to find safe and renewable energy as it is to save and transport it. Schemes abound. One of them that is already being tried is to build wind turbines over old oil wells, of which there are quite a few. The turbines create electricity that is transported by wires and used during peak use times. When electricity can still be created but is not immediately needed, such as in late night hours, it is saved by lifting heavy objects called “drill collars” up through the unused hole below the windmill. When extra energy is needed during peak hours, turbines are driven by the lowering of the heavy objects back down the long hole. Thus, extra electric energy is created by wind, stored as kinetic energy, and then converted again to electricity by gravity when needed. The original experiments with using kinetic energy for storage were done with lofty towers, but the holes were adjudged superior because they are often over a mile deep, and towers that high aren’t feasible. Speakers say it is working!


‘The ubiquitous Dr Anson Johns, who invented and espouses the process used to “reborn” mentally disabled people, or anyone willing to do it, has a spot on the agenda for the Committee. It will interesting to see if he is able to get any resources for his project. Another speaker might be Jane Early, the first lady of the Reborns. Will they each have the same message?


‘Fusion, which showed success in creating new energy in the 21st century, is a sure winner in the technology sweepstakes, even though it has never yet been economically feasible. Fission energy from the old nuclear plants is not being discussed here, but rather in the Environmental Cleanup Committee.


‘Every now and then, a speaker, usually a delegate from the Greens, speaks warmly about our “new” use of old technologies such as sailing vessels and horses. The Progressives are clearly more interested in technology than are the Greens. For some of them, new technology is more an afterthought than a necessity.


[email protected]




‘A surprising number of delegates to the Space Research Committee are willing to dump the whole idea! Even though the convention was begun with a statement that included honors toward a television program about space travel, delegates are saying that it’s too expensive and that the rewards are just not worth it.


‘In the past, say the naysayers, space research was largely a disguise for military preparation. Nations funded space research for the same reason they funded their armies, even though they publicized the effort as a noble cause.


‘In the “Star Trek” series, I suppose, it was definitely a noble cause, but these delegates say that it wasn’t in real life. Further, they say that space research was a fig-leaf cover for allowing life on our home planet to degenerate.


‘As in all the committees, there are different opinions. The Greens seem to be unanimously opposed to spending anything at all for space research. The Progressives are only slightly less in agreement. Hardly anyone wants to continue massive expenditures in this direction.


[email protected]




‘There must be thousands of languages and nationalities in the world. The Committee hasn’t even gotten around to debating what they might do to preserve this or that language, nationality, or tradition; they are too busy just compiling a list.


‘Probably, they will eventually approve a list and then proceed to take steps to preserve all the cultures for posterity, but it looks like it will take quite a chunk of time.


‘Levity was introduced in one day’s deliberations when a delegate spoke in Klingon and insisted that it be archived and preserved as an important language. Klingon, he explained later, was an artificial language created in one of the “Star Trek” television series of the 20th century. The joke was seen as an aside referring to the Roddenberry reference in the Joint Statement of Progressives and Greens that started this convention.


[email protected]



‘The Committee on Old-Age Assistance has been arguing about the treatment of seniors. This is a real culture clash. In many cultures, care for the aged is an almost sacred duty of their offspring. In others, there is almost no program for care of the aged at all. In a few, government subsidies create very nice facilities where people live out their final years with comfort and pleasure.


‘Some delegates, taking a middle road, want to provide the wherewithal to allow the seniors to choose their own solutions. Care for the disabled, especially the mentally disabled, is the issue that makes this committee hold back its final proposals until they can work things out with the Committee on Public Health.


‘The ongoing popularity polls are overwhelmingly in favor of spending on old-age assistance and doing it right away. People expect to live longer, and they probably will!


[email protected]





‘The Committee on Child Assistance is painfully aware that the Committee on Education is absolving itself of all responsibility for what they call “warehousing” children. Hopefully, however, the two committees will find some ways to work together, because, speakers say, it is well documented that younger people can learn much faster than older people.


‘What’s unsaid in this committee is how they plan to pay for everything. Speakers are projecting lavish centers where children can be protected 24 hours of every day. They say that children may not want to stay with their parents all the time, and that parents may not want them at home all the time. They intend to develop “Children’s Palaces” that are fantastically attractive alternatives to staying at home.


‘Speakers say that it will not be hard to develop facilities that are attractive to children because, they assert, one of the main things children want, if not their absolute central obsession, is being around other children.


‘So far, nobody has raised the idea that the children may not want to come to their idealized “Palaces,” nor that parents may not permit them to come.


‘Critics may project that children who are not forced to become productive social beings will revert to savagery. Anyway, these fantasy ideas may be too expensive to ever even get a trial run!


[email protected]




‘I was puzzled when I first saw the title of the Committee on Work and Leisure, because I assumed that committees on Arts and Recreation and on Unions would cover that territory, but I begin to see that this committee has more to do with mindset than on any pending legislation.


‘One can really see how forward-thinking this committee is from a long quote that someone hung on the wall before all the delegates:


"We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be going back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living."  ~ Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)”


‘Work and leisure are opposites. The more one works, the less leisure one has, at least in theory – unless one’s idea of “work” and of “leisure” are very similar. But let me give you some examples of what delegates are saying.


‘Virtually all of the speakers want to maximize leisure and minimize work in our future society. They say that increasing productivity should result in shorter hours rather than in more profits as it did in the old system. Some of them add that more leisure will give people time to be more inventive and result in (shazam!) even more productivity and even shorter hours! But how could all this be accomplished? More to the point, how could it be accomplished fairly?


‘The easy answer was thrown out early in the proceedings: when productivity rises, just cut everybody’s required working hours. When productivity rises further, cut them again!


‘The entire history of the workers’ movement might be called nothing more complicated than a struggle for shorter hours. The big fight in 1886 was for the ‘8-hour day’ (we lost). In 1938, Americans had a partial victory when the federal government decreed that most hourly workers were entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they worked over 40 hours in a week. Soon after that, the movement, and the discussion, for shorter hours froze.


‘One hour of work is not necessarily equal to another hour of work. An hour of gardening, for example, might be downright pleasant compared to an hour of grueling and repetitive work on a factory assembly line. In order to be fair about it, work that people consider distasteful should have shorter hours (and higher remuneration) than work that people consider interesting or pleasant. Interestingly, such an approach would often lead to conclusions that are the opposites of what existed under the old system when misery, long hours, and low pay always went together!


‘But who decides what work is pleasant or interesting and what work is burdensome? A few speakers have ventured to say that the labor market can answer that question automatically for us. They make sure to point out that the old capitalist system that venerated “the market” never, not once, allowed the labor market to function. If the labor market were allowed to function, people would compete for the levels of remuneration and working hours that suited them best. Or, at least, that’s the theory.


‘Others say that market forces can never be trusted for anything, and that government should set maximum working hours and minimum remuneration, then let the administrators and unions fight it out.


‘Unfortunately, the entire argument may be moot until, some happy day, all of humanity’s basic needs are met. 


[email protected]




‘The Beautiful People are in the Arts and Recreation Committee, and they want to spend a lot of resources that way. They are bumping up against many of the delegates from the Progressive Party, who say that we have far too many practical problems to solve before we can afford to subsidize art and recreation.


“But,” said one of the more Beautiful People, “What is the point of solving practical problems unless it leads to a world of great beauty and personal fulfillment?”


‘I guess the answer depends on what one thinks we are doing here.


[email protected]



‘Green delegates in the Committee on Unions see little use for having them. They argue that unions may have had some importance in the old days when virtually everything was adversarial, but that unions would only confuse work relationships in the wonderful world we are building.


‘The Progressives, in general, and a few Independents, seem to be saying that adversarial relations can’t be ended simply by declaring them gone. Their speakers say that unions are the basic unit of organization for working families and that they will be needed to counter the influence of bosses and administrators for some time.


‘The argument about whether or not to support unions is not a new one, said one speaker from the Progressives. From way back in the early twentieth century, he quoted revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin: “We can (and must) begin to build socialism, not with abstract human material, or with human material specially prepared by us, but with the human material bequeathed to us by capitalism. True, that is no easy matter, but no other approach to this task is serious enough to warrant discussion.” In other words, we may be trying to build a perfect world, but we would be foolhardy to assume that we are starting with perfect people and perfect social relations. 


‘Surina, the giant food corporation that the Progressives defend and the Greens want to demolish, has a Board of Directors divided three ways: the stockholders elect 1/3, the revolutionary coalition elects 1/3, and the union elects the other third. When extra profits are tallied, the stockholders get half while the union members demand and get bonuses for the other half. The revolutionary leaders avoid the possibility of corruption by taking none.


‘But if corporations are not going to play a role in our coming new society, as the Greens seem to want, unions will be superfluous. This seems to be one of the arguments that goes to the heart of one’s vision of the future.


[email protected]




‘Productivity, as it used to be measured by the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, was the value produced by a single worker in a single unit of time. Under laissez faire capitalism, it was the main prize sought by all of the owning class. What should be its importance in the new world presently birthing?


‘The Committee on Productivity, so far, doesn’t seem to know. The Greens seem to be focusing on a future world made up almost entirely of subsistence farmers who enjoy their work and have no need to produce more surplus products. The Progressives aren’t arguing much, and I’m not sure if that is because they don’t want to offend their allies in the Green Party or if they are content to let the current statistics speak for themselves. When they do speak, it’s usually to say that increasing productivity will continue to be necessary until all human needs are met, everywhere.


‘Productivity skyrockets more or less because of better technology, more cooperation between leaders and basic workers, less need for superintendence, and a proliferation of good ideas. That’s already happening, say the speakers from the Progressive Party, and needs to continue.


‘They say that production of foodstuffs, especially from the Surina monopoly aided by the extended postal delivery system, has created a miraculous situation in which, for the first time in history, famine is almost overcome in all parts of the world. They say that the almost-total restoration of communications on Earth in such a short time is another miracle, and that transportation will soon follow.


‘So far, no one has pointed out that the Surina corporation is gobbling up the food-producing areas that the Greens will want for small farms. A contradiction is developing.


‘The historical view that some are presenting is worth evaluating. They say that productivity earned and deserved a bad name in the past because most of its benefits went to a small class of “owners.” In a new and better world, more productivity would mean good things for those who are doing the enhanced producing, especially in terms of their leisure time. If someone can produce twice as much, why shouldn’t they halve their working hours?


[email protected]


While Leo was reading summaries, Otharine Jones was never far behind, but kept up a vigilant silence. Les Frailey used these break times to deliver political guidance. Those who observed Leo may have thought that he often paused or broke off conversation in order to enjoy the view or contemplate what he had been reading, but they were mistaken. Leo stared into blank space every time he thought about Jane Early.


Frailey seemed very concerned about Leo’s rift with Jane. He said that it might make a significant difference if newspersons wanted to make it so. He wanted details about the problems and checked, often, to see if Leo knew what Jane might be doing and with whom. Leo shared as little as possible with Frailey, mostly because he knew nothing for certain, but also because he was trying to be loyal to his former lover where the rest of the world was concerned.


The idea of failure gnawed at Leo. When he ran for delegate to the World Congress, he expected to give it his full attention and best performance. When he committed to liyving with Jane, he expected to give her his best. But these days, he knew he was letting everybody down. Everybody included himself and Jane.


Leo tried to pay attention to the hot proceedings of the Religion and Superstition Committee. The battle lines had been drawn clearly and early: Progressives insisted adamantly on complete and total separation of church and state while an unending list of religious leaders and religious supporters, including the best orators in the world, argued for aspects of special treatment. Greens and Independents were vacillating. Daily statistics generated from internet responses showed no decisive trend.


While Leo’s committee seemed frozen in time, the rest of the World Congress seemed to be charging ahead.


Chapter 10: Leo’s Committee




‘Our news observers are beginning to show frustration with the Committee on Religion and Superstition. The Pro side and the Con side seem to be talking past each other on completely separate tracks. The Progressives want everything to be about the tangible costs and benefits of religion in society while top orators from the other side mount beautiful arguments about complete intangibles.


‘One side will talk about the great works of certain religious historical figures such as St Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa; the other side brings up Catholics such as Nazi Adolf Hitler and Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition. One side argues that Christians smashed great pagan artworkers while the other side extols the works of Michelangelo.


‘Sometimes, they argue with quotes. The religious side is particularly good at quotes, especially from the Bible. Here’s a sample: “The fool saith: There is no God.”


“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3).”


“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”


“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).”


“If one member suffers, all suffer.” (Romans 12:26).”


‘Their antagonists have a barrage of their own quotes such as: “All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.” (Marie Henri Beyle)


"When has one religion triumphed over another by debate, experiment and observation?" (Isaac Asimov)


"The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning." (Voltaire)


"The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress. (Bertrand Russell)


“On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind." (Thomas Jefferson)


“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful." (Seneca the Younger)


“The Christian army chaplain prays to his Christian God to bless and prosper the killing business on his side of the line, and to have no mercy on his Christian brothers on the other side, whose Christian army chaplain is praying to the same Christian god at the same time to bless and prosper them in the same infernal business.” (Eugene V Debs)


"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." (Denis Diderot)


‘One side argues that religion aids civilization while the other, it seems quite often, brings up Galileo, Copernicus, Bruno, and the Library of Alexandria. One side talks about venerating women and motherhood while the other side wants to talk about women being stoned to death. One side says that our new revolutionary world is all about science and cold reality; the other side points out that a majority of the committees at the World Congress start with a prayer!


‘What does everybody else think? Statistics show that the Committee on Religion and Superstition has more on-line viewers than any other committee, even though other committees have higher consequences. It is possible that the abilities of the orators outweigh the substance of the orations. While individual delegates to the Committee and different segments of the population at large change back and forth, there is no clear trend showing how the question of separation of church and state will be settled.


‘Earlier, news observers thought that the tide of public opinion and delegate opinion might shift toward the Progressives’ hard line view on separation when Leo Torres, fresh from a military victory over an outspoken advocate of theocracy, came into leadership of the Committee. But Torres has not pushed the advantage and remains one of the quietest delegates.


‘Let’s hope something breaks the logjam before the other committees finish their deliberations and a final report is due.


[email protected]


Chapter 11: Prayer as a Political Tool


The religious consortium came up with their own way to “break the logjam” in Leo’s committee. He found out about it from Les Frailey.


“They have a flanking operation underway. They caught us flatfooted this morning by announcing an international “Day of Prayer” for a better world.”


Leo, lost in his personal problems, was almost grateful to be alarmed about a real situation. “What does it mean? Does it take some kind of form other than just a pronouncement?”


“Leo, your naivete continuously amazes me! Of course it will take all kinds of forms! These people are experts at media campaigns, mass rallies, extravagant processions, and symbolic gestures. They will be throwing everything they have at this ‘day of prayer’ business, and I can’t imagine any outcome other than that they will sway the public their way.”


Leo responded, “You don’t have to explain to me that they are good at what they do. I listen to them every day, and it’s hard to keep from imagining that they can move mountains from one place to another with their rhetoric alone. But I think I may have a suggestion.”


Frailey: “You have a suggestion?”


“Did you notice that the Committee on Productivity recently announced that famine is practically a thing of the past? When I saw that, I started wondering why we never hold celebrations of the revolution’s accomplishments. We always just move on to the next thing urgently, but some things call for, even demand, a celebration.


‘Here’s my idea: Let’s call for a big celebration of the fact that the world has enough to eat for the first time in recorded history! Let’s make our day of celebration the same as their day of prayer! We don’t have to make it a point of division. We can start out by expressing our gratitude for the day of prayer and then say that we’re just adding another point for gratitude, we don’t have to say gratitude to some deity, just gratitude because people aren’t hungry anymore.”


“But you just said that famine was ALMOST conquered, it’s not complete and we shouldn’t be celebrating until it is.”


Leo had an answer, “We can make our celebratory day also a target day for a final worldwide effort to get People Chow to the most remote peoples. It will work!”


“People hate that stuff.”


“Maybe you hate it, Les, because you have lots of choices, but not everybody does. And nobody denies that People Chow is curing the curse of famine. That’s something that is well worth celebrating and, at the same time, the superstitious folks can’t deny it nor take credit for it. It’s our victory, and it’s a gigantic one. Go along with me on this. You take this suggestion to the Exec, and meantime I’ll check with July Eason about the best way to present our special day to the world.”


“I’ll carry your message, but I don’t think it will impress them. It doesn’t impress me.”


Leo went on, “We can call it “Day of Care.” It rhymes with “prayer” and shows that everybody appreciates real progress in the real world – at least as much and probably more than a bunch of rituals. Here’s another thought: we can mobilize the militias to lead public events and ensure public safety. That’s something that the opposition couldn’t do!” For the first time since Jane Early dropped her bomb on Leo, he was pleased to be excited about something!


That afternoon, before Leo even had a chance to talk to July Eason about news coverage, the Progressive Party Executive Board announced a “Day of Care” to augment the “Day of Prayer” already announced. Militias were asked to start planning parades!


Chapter 12: A Day of Care


The next day might have been like any other except for the way Leo felt. July Eason loved the idea of “Day of Care” as part of “Day of Care” and saw endless possibilities for news coverage. She wanted a quote from Leo, who was at first cautious because, he pointed out, he was not elected to speak for the Progressive Party. Jane said that he was a public figure and, as a delegate, an important world leader, thus his statement was not only important, it was almost mandatory. She also offered to help him with his statement. Here is her news account:




‘Commissioner Leo Torres says he is “overjoyed” to see the coming end of world hunger, and that he will enthusiastically participate in celebrations. Torres told this reporter, “The revolution has brought us back from dark times. Ending hunger throughout the world marks our biggest success so far. I am delighted that our celebrations will be combined with the Day of Prayer for future successes, and I call on everyone to make it the biggest and happiest day of this period. This great victory belongs to everyone, and everyone deserves to celebrate. I promise I’ll be there with you!”


‘The Commissioner has hardly been seen in public since his victory over an advocate of theocracy earlier this year. Observers speculate that an attempt on his life may have contributed to keeping him out of the public eye. Since that attempt, Torres is always accompanied by a security guard and has made no public appearances.


‘The Commissioner’s leadership in the World Congress Committee on Religion and Superstition and his outspoken position in favor of a total separation between church and state makes him a target. Although there are no official statistics to show just how much danger Torres faces, threats can often be seen on social media.


‘The Day of Prayer and the Day of Care, combined, promises to be the biggest and brightest day of this revolutionary process.


[email protected]


From Leo’s point of view, responses were positive. July Eason, always interested in newsworthy events, urged Leo to be as prominent as possible. Otharine Jones sternly forbade Leo to have anything to do with it. The Progressive Party leadership asked him to ride horseback in a Manhattan parade. Les Frailey, master of media manipulation, scoffed at the idea and called it a “cheap stunt.” The public, according to the polls, loved everything about the idea. Best of all, Leo thought he might have detected a slight frown crossing Jane Early’s face.


Leo felt certain that the “Day of Prayer” was being neutralized by the “Day of Care.” July assured him it was so. In fact, orators in favor of complete separation between church and state may have been given an advantage. But before the advantages and disadvantages could be counted, the big day had to take place.




Otharine Jones demanded and received a lot of special consideration before she agreed to allow Leo in the parade. Bulletproof kevlar was only the first and simplest demand. She also demanded and received a fleet of drones to fly at several heights ahead of Leo. Their video would be closely monitored for any sign of intervention. A posse of armed militiamen would precede Leo and another posse would be passing through the crowd. Her final demand, made Leo laugh out loud. She said that everybody in Leo’s group would have to look as much like Leo as possible in order to make it hard for any assassin to identify him. In other words, they would have to dress in simple undyed cotton and sandals, like Leo. Many of them would have to wear black wigs and wear makeup to copy his complexion.


“They’ll all be clowns in blackface!” Leo laughed. But Jones was adamant, and the parade sponsors from the Progressive Party listened to Jones. In fact, the entire group with one notable exception, listened to Jones. Les Frailey started complaining as soon as he heard about the disguises, and kept complaining right up to the outset of the parade. 


Leo was delighted with weather conditions on the day of the parade. Visibility in New York had improved to 21st century standards and partial sunshine was in the forecast. He had a good laugh when Otharine Jones picked him up. She was barely recognizable beneath her black wig and swarthy dark makeup. She was humorless and apprehensive about the entire idea. Leo’s ebullience did not cheer her.


While she drove to the stables in Central Park to rendezvous with his contingent, Jones reviewed her instructions again. Leo learned that he would have no picturesque white horse this time; every horse in the group would be similar and that meant that they would all be brown. Leo would be near the front, but not in its center nor ahead of the contingent. Otharine, as head of security, would ride immediately behind him. Leo was to listen for her voice all the way through the parade, “every minute!”


At the stables, almost everyone appreciated the humor of being dressed up like clowns in blackface as much as Leo did. But Les Frailey snarled at Leo, “I don’t see what’s so funny. This is humiliating for everybody but you!”


The political consultant’s discomfort seemed even more humorous to Leo and he couldn’t keep from smiling. The dapper Les Frailey was extremely uncomfortable in commoner’s clothes, and his black wig hid his trademark shining blonde curls. Frailey’s animosity increased as he continued sarcastically. “You are the only person who could dress like this and still look good. Have you ever thought about that? If you had consulted with a suit designer and color consultant, they would have picked exactly what you wear. It’s not only the height of fashion for you, but it’s also the best possible political statement: ‘Leo Torres -- the common man of the people!’”


Otharine intervened, “Knock it off Frailey!”


But he didn’t: “This whole stupid parade with you in front tops off your entire miserable existence as the recipient of what you never deserved. From your high government post to that slut you live with, everything has been handed to you! And now, you lead a New York parade and the world pays another installment to Prince Leo Torres!”


Before Leo could reply, Otharine growled, “Get on your goddamned horse and try to look like Leo all the way through this parade. You do anything else and I’ll shoot you on the spot!” Speaking to everyone around, she added, “And that goes for the rest of you, too.” Everybody grinned except Leo and Les Frailey as the contingent rode out of the stables and to the front of the celebratory parade.


A roaring cheer went up as soon as the horses led off, and it continued with every step. Leo’s good mood returned immediately, because the crowd’s approval was exactly what he had hoped to see. It was even better than he had imagined! He had always tried to do a good job at whatever the revolution needed, but having conceived of this “Day of Care,” and being able to participate in it openly was better than any accolades.


The sidewalks were full from curbs to buildings. People were leaning out the windows of the tall buildings. Cameras were being held up everywhere because, Leo mused, they were as aware that something marvelous was taking place as Leo was.


The drones passed ahead, then doubled back and made multiple passes over the crowds, but no one took notice. They were looking directly at Leo’s group. People were holding their children and pointing to this or the other of Leo’s contingent, sure that they had spotted the correct Leo.


Leo was thinking, “This is something I can be proud of. This is something we can all be proud of,” as the parade went on and on. He almost forgot that he was supposed to be listening for Otharine Jones.


“Heads up! Heads up everybody,” Otharine shouted as she tried to spur her horse ahead of Leo’s. Leo saw the danger. Just ahead, a man had stepped out of the crowd and was looking directly at Leo. His fingers opened his long coat to reveal a machine gun inside. Leo spurred his horse hard and directly at him. Then everything went red, then black!




Leo was aware of the hospital smell before he woke up. When things and people came into focus, he could see what he wanted so desperately to see. Jane Early sat closest to him, and was holding his hand. Behind her, July Eason was writing on a notepad and Otharine Jones was busily issuing orders to the other figures in the room.


“Was anybody hurt?” Leo rasped.


Jane was pursing her lips to say “no” softly but Otharine yelled over her, “YOU were, dumbass!”


“How are you Jane, are you OK?”


She smiled reassuringly, “You can see how I am. I’m swollen like a tick. Everyone is fine. You can rest. You can go back to sleep for as long as you want.”


“How long have I been out?”


“Just a few hours,” Jane assured him, “Nothing to worry about.”


“I can’t feel my left side. I took a bullet, didn’t I?”


Otharine Jones leaned against the bed and answered him directly, “Yes you took a bullet right over your heart, but the armor stopped it. The armor and the horse stopped it. This guy was packing powerful artillery, and he’d have punched through your chest if the bullet hadn’t gone through the horse’s head first. What really hurt you was being fallen on by a dead horse.”


“How bad?”


“They’re getting the xrays now. Worst it could be is a few broken bones, maybe not even that. I’ve had a horse fall on me before, and it didn’t break anything. Are you up for a full report?”




“Well, my good sense and your stupidity saved you. As soon as I yelled the alert, you headed straight for the shooter. If you had turned to run or get out of the way, he’d have probably killed you and several of the rest of us. But with you heading straight for him, all he had time to do was shoot directly at you, and your horse paid the price. He had to jump out of the way of your falling horse, and I was able to shoot the legs out from under him before he got off another round.”


“I remember now. I was trying to ride him down before he could fire.”


July Eason joined the bedside conversation. “I’m going to use that in my podcast, and don’t try to talk me out of it. ‘Torres Action Saves Entourage’ sounds pretty good. I’d use ‘Leo is a hero’ but the rhyming would distract,” she giggled.


“Did they finish the parade?” Leo asked.


Jones responded again, “No, dumbass, they didn’t finish the parade. The crowd pushed into the street and blocked any hope of getting an ambulance through. I had to load you on my horse and ride back through most of the parade route before I could get you to safety.”


July added, “Don’t worry about your precious parade and your “Day of Care.” You brought a more sympathetic response to your cause by getting shot than you ever could have by finishing any parade.”


Leo relaxed, but he squeezed Jane’s hand before he closed his eyes. He thought she may have squeezed it back.




When Leo opened his eyes again, only Jane Early and July Eason were with him. He smiled at Jane when he realized that she was still holding his hand. But he wanted to know more about how the “Day of Care” had gone.


“What are the news reports saying about everything?” he asked. “Where’s Frailey anyway?”


July answered him: “It’s not like you’re going to be seeing Lester Frailey any time soon. Can you handle some bad news?”


“Shoot. I want to know everything I’ve missed.”


Your security guard thinks that Frailey tipped off the shooter. Had you wondered why she yelled out the alert before anything happened? It was Frailey. He took off his wig and shook his big blonde curls around. Otharine thinks he knew the assassination attempt was coming, and he was scared of getting shot along with the other Leo Lookalikes, so that may be why he did it. Of course he’s going to deny it, but that’s what Otharine thinks. Thank goodness she went on the alert just as soon as anything outside of her plan happened. When that wig came off, she went into emergency alert mode. Smart woman!


‘But there’s more bad news now. Frailey has launched a full scale ‘get Leo’ smear job. He’s accusing you of everything from murder -- that would be your little incident from a long time ago -- to lascivious living -- that would involve the promiscuous Ms Early here -- to child molesting, and that, of course, would be me. He’s claiming that you had nothing but a string of failures in political life and that he, Les Frailey, is responsible for making you look so good when you were really so terrible. ‘I created a monster,” I think, is the name of his video. It shows you looking sinister, looking stupid, and nearly falling when you tried to get on a white horse. It’s pretty popular, but I don’t think it will come anywhere close to eclipsing the sympathy you got yesterday with a bullet and a dead horse.


‘As we speak, Otharine is in the other hospital room waiting to finish interrogating your would-be assassin. She’s already established that he was motivated by strong religious feelings, but she’s hoping to find a tie to Les Frailey. I don’t think that last part is very likely. Frailey may be devious and unprincipled, but he’s not dumb.”


“I don’t get it. Les was my friend. He’s been guiding me politically ever since I started campaigning for delegate.”


July began, “That doesn’t mean he liked you…”


But Jane was speaking, “I can supply part of that answer. Les wanted me. He’s hassles me every time that Leo isn’t around, and that’s been a lot lately when I barely saw Leo.”


Leo’s mood sank and he hoped he hadn’t groaned aloud.


Jane hesitated briefly, then went on: “Yes, Leo, I’m sorry if it hurts you, but Les claims to have supplied the sperm for my baby. July didn’t mention that part of his video, but you’ll hear about it sooner or later. Les Frailey is one of the men in what you’re calling my long list of affairs. I stopped seeing him some time ago for the same reason that I’ve given up other men: he wanted me exclusively. I know you want me exclusively, too, Leo, but you’re not as bad about it as Les Frailey or any of the other men I’ve known. At least you’ve been trying to see my side of it. Others just make their demands, and then turn their demands into ultimatums then out they go!”


July spoke next, “And this is why I stayed here in this hospital room until the wee hours when nobody else would be around. I’ve made up my mind to mediate between you two. I’ll start with you Jane, since Leo gets the sympathy credit for being hospitalized. You’ve been arrogant. All of the Reborns are arrogant. The Reborns think that just because they have been cleansed of childhood trauma and worldly problems that they are perfect. They think their sins are washed away so that everything is clear to them. But ‘clear’ means black and white with no shades of gray, while everything in the real world is a subtle shade. You underwent an artificial process that made your mind clear, but that doesn’t make you perfect, it just makes you artificial.


‘And now for you, my stricken friend and sometimes lover. You’ve known all along that Jane was right. Who she sees and what she does with them when you aren’t around isn’t any of your damned business, and you know it. If you love her, you want her to be just the way she is because that’s the greatest happiness for her and you want her to be happy. The problem is that you were raised in a chauvinist world, and you just haven’t been able to get over it.


‘I’ll admit that I wanted, at first, to take advantage of the situation. I wanted you, Leo, and I thought you’d be willing to give up on Jane, but you haven’t. You just waste my time, and you waste yours mooning over her. Now, I realize that I care a lot for both of you and I’m determined to work this out.


‘So Leo is confused and still a bit chauvinistic. Jane is too arrogant to help him, but she’s hanging on because she cares and Leo’s the best man she’s found. That’s the whole problem in a nutshell. Any questions so far?”


“No,” they muttered together.


July went on: “I’m not through. The key to finding an answer is to reflect on the nature of the world. Everything is changing. Nothing stays the same. The only constant is change. This isn’t a physics lesson, it’s about relations. You can’t blame change for being change, you just have to live with it. Both of you are trying to change the world. Jane wants to change it through educating generations to come. Leo wants to change it through politics. But have you ever thought that, while you are trying to change the world, that the world is also changing you?


‘You care for each other, and you both care for the world. That, I would say, is a pretty good start.” She paused. “And with that I’ll say goodnight.”


Jane kept holding Leo’s hand. Leo smiled and closed his eyes. He had some good thoughts about what he would do next, and he slept better than before.




Leo stood on crutches at the front of a packed auditorium for a special meeting of the Committee on Religion and Superstition. Special guest Jane Early had been given a front-row seat by a polite delegate. Otharine Jones glowered at the crowd from just behind Leo. He began:


Yesterday, I was shot during the Day of Care parade. Thanks to this woman behind me, I am not seriously injured. Thanks to this woman in front of me, I feel pretty good!




I have been told that I am the subject of a major smear job from one Les Frailey. I don’t want to take up your time answering each of his charges; my activities and statements are well documented and speak for themselves. I will say that I am and have been for a long time completely devoted to the success of this revolution. I think it’s humanity’s best hope.


The smear also tries to besmirch the best person I know, who sits here on the front row. Jane Early is also devoted to the success of this revolution and doesn’t deserve such a nasty attack.


If you saw her come in, you know that she’s very pregnant. The paternity of that baby-to-be is not anybody’s business. I have pledged to love that baby because it is part of its mother, and I love everything about its mother. That’s all that needs to be said on that.


//hesitant, then stronger applause//


We have important business to conduct. Most of the committees in this historic World Congress have turned in their recommendations while this one is still debating the first motion that was made – that the separation of church and state should be absolute and uncompromised.


In the last few days, and especially since yesterday, public opinion has lined up strongly in favor of the motion. I think that the long hours you have spent in debate have also convinced you, the delegates assigned to this committee, that the motion should pass.


It is possible that I should have spoken sooner, but I wanted to hear the arguments fully.


Those against the motion were mighty orators, and they held us spellbound. They argued that religion, over the ages, has brought peace, freedom, education, equity, and food and clothing for the needy.


Speakers favoring the motion were less eloquent, but more persuasive. As for religion and peace on Earth, the delegate who sang the old song “With God on Our Side” should have been enough to convince us that religion has been a major contributor to war, not to peace. The examples of the crusades and the military chaplains were convincing, but not even needed.


If anyone need to know more on the subject, let me add that the man who shot me yesterday thought he was doing God’s work. He expected to be killed. He wasn’t, but he expected to be. It would be impossible to get anyone to take on a suicide mission unless they were first deluded by religion. Face it, religion sponsors terrorism!


How could religion claim to promote freedom when, as many speakers have shown, it has condoned physical imprisonment, death penalties and tremendous restrictions on our very right to think and analyze the world around us? I was amazed that anyone could claim that religion stood for advancement in our thinking after the examples of Bruno, Copernicus, and Galileo were cited.


It is true that religious institutions took responsibility for educating many children, but it wasn’t for their betterment. It was for the betterment of those very religious institutions.


As for improving the status of the poor, there can be no denying that religious institutions have distributed basic food, shelter, and clothing to some of the needy. But it was never enough was it? Churchmen seemed content with the old saw “The poor have always been with us,” and did almost nothing to end poverty in all their thousands of years. When did they end hunger as we did, as you did, as this revolution did and celebrated yesterday?


//strong applause//


Now I want to add one more important thing that I have learned of late. I have learned that our revolution is not perfect. More importantly, I have learned that we, as individuals and as groups, are not perfect. We never were and we are not likely to be perfect before we die, but let us say here, today, that we will strive to improve ourselves and that, together, we will strive to make a better world!


Leo sat down to roaring applause. As it finally began to quieten, a delegate rose to make a procedural motion to end debate. It was sure to pass.