CHAPTER II, A Back Story
Advances in artificial intelligence and holographic technology spawned new international-state sponsored industries.
Throughout the planet crime levels and the fear it inspired, had increased to the point that the punishment for almost any infraction dictated extended prison sentences. In this new world order, prisoners had to work for their keep. So, in essence, they became slaves of the states in which they were housed. This new economic paradigm was readily accepted as a sop by the frightened populations. The unintended consequence of these new laws was a boon to the world economy.
However, families wanted to keep in touch with their loved ones even if they were incarcerated. But many of the millions of convicts housed were terminated due in part to physical infirmities or for political reasons.
The officials had no way of addressing these extra-legal actions and were straining to rationalize their activities. Bad press like this, especially within a republic, was not something any political entity desired. There were ways the populations could discover this and raise a protest. It was not something that could be completely hushed up.
A group of engineers, scientists and psychologists working within the penal system proposed to physically, and psychologically map each individual incarcerated. The data would be fed into the main computer. This advanced system allowed the state to project a holographic image of the prisoner to who ever wanted to speak to that person. The caller would never know the person they were talking to was only a computer generated representation of that person. Housing data was cheaper and easier than warehousing people.
The program was introduced and was total a success. The prisoners were always accused of additional crimes against the state. The punishment meted out forced them to remain incarcerated for the rest of their natural lives. There was no recidivism. It was a win-win situation. The states made up the costs of incarcerations and then some. The application of this new technology seemed endless.
CHAPTER III, One day at Home
Fred walked down to the kitchen to get some snacks. He saw his parents in front of the screen. A friendly voice, an actor of world wide renown was on the screen, smiling, speaking in soothing tones. “Yes this is a great idea. All of you,” he spread his arms wide in an embracing fashion just like the televangelists his parents adored. He continued his commercial. “We all know caring for elderly parents can create mental anguish. And, the financial burdens can crush your children’s hopes of a good college, not to mention your own financial well being. To help us all in this time of decreasing resources, The World Court and our dear country has authorized the development of retirement cities throughout the planet for our Senior Loved Ones.
All families will still be together linked by direct communication to your Senior Loved Ones. And those that have the resources can always visit their Senior Loved Ones over and above the mandated visits. Yes, and please believe me, this will solve our planets ills. The concentration of people with similar requirements, our Senior Loved Ones, will allow us to concentrate the needed resources in specific locations instead of all of them spread out all over the planet, driving needlessly here and there for care, food, and entertainment.
The actor continued, “Look at my own mother.” He pointed to an older woman fashionable dressed behind him. “She volunteered to be one of the first in
The screen slewed to other very pretty senior citizens waving to the camera
surrounded by friends and contemporaries.
Then it showed a shot of the actor with her sitting poolside in an
animated discussion that couldn’t be heard. Both were always smiling. It was
Fred looked at them with pity and disgust.
“Hollo Grammy,” Peter said in his usual enthusiastic manner. “Hello Peter,” she said back. Peter thought the voice was a bit strange but then adults were always acting strange. He let it pass. “I’ve got some news for you. Fred is joining the service. He said he wanted to do his share for the world.”
Grammy said nothing.
“Grammy did you hear me? Is the connection bad? Peter asked a bit worried. Maybe something was wrong. Maybe she was sick. Grammy turned to face him and was blinking again. He had never seen her blink like that before.
“It’s just my eyes dear, they are itchy and I think I caught a code, or have allergies.”
“Grammy,” he laughed, “it’s a cold, not code, and how can you have allergies there? It’s supposed to be perfect out there.”
“Yes, perfect,” she said. He noticed she had stopped blinking and started again.
“Are you going to call a doctor?” He asked in all seriousness.
“No dearie, I’ll be fine, just fine. Have you read that old Boy Scout book I left for you? Do you remember it? You might find it interesting. I have to get rid of this code.”
“Cold Grammy, it’s a cold. Go to the infirmary, please.” Peter was chuckling at Grammy’s mistakes. She made them every now and then. It made him wonder, maybe she was in a better place.
Peter was about to say that his Dad always says that, “when a woman said everything was Just Fine, you can bet, it sure as hell isn’t.” Peter didn’t say anything and then said, “Grammy, Grammy,…”
She said, “Dearie, I have to go. Call again soon. Good-bye,” and abruptly hung up.
Something is not right, he thought. She never acts like that. Is it old age that Mom and Dad talk about? He was just about to go to his parents when an idea crossed his mind. He went into the library and logged on to the system.
That evening at dinner he told his parents he had spoken to Grammy. “She was just fine,” was all he said. His Dad looked at him a bit strangely but said nothing. No one asked any questions about his conversation. He noticed that they were both very quiet.
When he was sure everyone else was asleep Peter popped some of the old videos into the machine and watched and listened. This one was an audio/visual book by a priest, Abbot Hoffman. He was funny. He had to have been a comedian. What he proposed might have been acceptable so long ago. Today He would have been considered a terrorist. Grammy had a strange sense of humor sometimes.
He replayed his conversation with Grammy. He had saved all of them since she moved out. He felt closer to her than his own parents. She was the one who taught him to read, mathematics and science. He just never told anyone. She had said it was none of their business, and you’d be better off not mentioning it.
The next day he called Grammy again. She picked up right away. “Hello Peter, how are you?”
“Just fine,” he said as looked into the screen. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Oh yes, why wouldn’t I be? How silly of you.”
“I was just wondering,” He said looking intently. “No reason. I have to go to school. I’ll call you soon Grammy.”
“Yes Peter, you do that. Good-bye.”
Peter played that day’s conversation again and again. He had every word and gesture memorized and could mimic it in total. That’s probably why he was left to his own. He had an incredible memory. His recall was perfect. The school said he had a job with the government in a variety of anti terrorist departments. The government could use his skills. Peter wondered what they were talking about. He retrieved all the books Grammy had recommended and read and reread them.