Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
“You can’t take those,” Basil said.
“You’re not a believer.”
“I want to believe.”
Basil’s face wrinkled in consternation. Padre had never spoken to him about this. Nobody joined the Church. Addicts simply appeared, already lost, looking for a fix. Basil wavered. “I don’t—”
“You have them with you. You said you did.”
Basil began to get nervous. He remembered the locked door behind him.
Mr. Sattari went on. “I have demons I need to see. I have to talk to my demons.”
“I can’t,” Basil said. “I—“
“You must,” Mr. Sattari said sternly.
“I don’t know how. I’m not a Padre.”
“You have them. Just give them to me.”
“Give…them…to…me…” growled Mr. Sattari, standing up again to his full height.
“I can’t!” Basil’s voice was strained and anxious. Clutching his bag, he retreated from Mr. Sattari. The executive glared, but not directly at Basil.
“You don’t understand,” Sattari said gruffly, trying to explain to Basil. “It’s not sane here. You see? I’ve decided to become insane so that I can think clearly.”
Basil regarded Mr. Sattari carefully from the edge of the platform. The Siyo was standing behind his desk looking down at the glass floor, as if reading the words that came out of his mouth on the polished transparent surface.
“I need—” he began. Stopping, he brought his hand to his mouth to consider. “I need absolution…to be released from my responsibility, if only for a minute. I need…absolution,” he said again. The Siyo looked at Basil now, his questioning eyes soft and pliant like a dog’s. “Aren’t you supposed to give that?”
Basil nodded. Then he shook his head. He didn’t know. “To the faithful,” he stammered.
“I want to join,” Mr. Sattari said again.
Basil shook his head.
“I said I want to join!” Mr. Sattari’s palm slammed onto the surface of the desk. The wet ice in the glass collapsed. Virtual documents flew into the air and quickly reorganized themselves in a blinking pattern.
Basil backed up a step, though there was nowhere to run. “You going to hurt me?” he asked.
That stopped the Siyo. But it didn’t shock him. He seemed to be considering, his face taking on the familiar glassy, distantly rational expression. He lowered himself slowly into his chair once more, moving forward a little. Its springs adjusted with a groan to his weight. It was an old-fashioned chair, not resting on a magnet or an air-cushion. “Do you play your history?” Sattari asked.
Basil paused for a moment before answering. “I play a little.”
Mr. Sattari held the boy in his gaze, unblinking. “Have you ever played The Sword of Hendrix?”
Basil did not want to say “no” to the Siyo. He kept still, returning the stare.
Sattari’s eyes lit up. “It’s brilliant!” he said. “If you ever really want to understand CUSA, you must play it. Do you log on to school? Do you know who Hendrix was?”
Basil hesitated. Quickly, Sattari spoke up. “He was the man who created the Corporation in order to rescue the old USA from its waste and dissent.” Sattari looked away and swallowed. “In the game, you become Hendrix. You are trying to end the Correction. You must make the decisions which will defeat your rivals and satisfy the American People, all the while keeping the Sino Conglomerate from buying us. It’s a difficult game. But in facing his demons, you come to recognize his brilliance, the impossible ideas he was able to spin.
“We had to be great again, do you see?” The Siyo gazed intently at Basil, trying to ascertain whether the boy could understand. “By seizing all of this country’s assets, making all of us employees of one great nation, he saved us!”
Mr. Sattari’s eyes looked off to the left. “It’s really stirring,” he said, “to walk the flooded streets of old Washington. To be there for the Kansas Famines, the Armageddon Assembly, the Sterility Incentive.” Mr. Sattari breathed deeply.
He looked back at Basil. “If you’re CUSA, you have to make lots of decisions every day. How much to spend, how much to keep, because lots of people are depending on you to stay alive.
“One of the most difficult decisions Hendrix had to make was how to keep the climate steady. We’re in a delicate, constant negotiation with the Sino Conglomerate, MexIran, all the corporations of the world. This is how we keep enough water for everyone. Only, there isn’t enough water.”
“Can’t you do something?” Basil wanted to know.
“Only so much,” Mr. Sattari said, shaking his head. “Our revenue stream depends on keeping the right amount of people on payroll to keep the economy stable. It’s one of my tasks to make sure that we sustain only as many as the environment can stand.” Mr. Sattari sat back and made a tight mesh with his fingers to support his neck. “Right now, the economy, the environment, is out of balance. Our actuaries predict irreversible collapse in 26 days.”
Basil blinked, unable to conceive of the end of the world. He saw the small pool of water in the glass that had formed around the bottoms of the ice cubes. Then he asked, “What are you going to do?”
“Well!” said Mr. Sattari, releasing his head from his hands with a nod. “We don’t know, do we? We have to find a solution or our society falls apart. Then where are we? What do you think we should do?”
Basil shrugged. “Stop selling water?”
Mr. Sattari shook his head. “Yes, but how? CUSA relies on a certain amount of revenue from sales of our water to keep the economy stable. If we curb that revenue, we risk sending many, many people into poverty.” Mr. Sattari’s eyes seemed to cross as he looked away from Basil. “They might rise up again. Become violent. That’s not good, is it?”
Again, Basil didn’t know how to answer. Shrugging was all he could think of to do.
Sattari ignored the response. “I have to eliminate some of our domestic demand in the right way. Just enough to keep us under the thirst threshold, but not so much that revenues will be disrupted.” Mr. Sattari paused. “One million one-hundred-fifty thousand and nine.” he finally said.
When Basil showed no sign of understanding, the Siyo went on. “We can’t simply ask people to stop consuming. That wouldn’t be fair. We could terminate their employment, make them poorer, but once those people stop working, they would become even more of a burden on the economy.’” He stopped again. “You know what I’m talking about?”
Basil knew, but he was afraid. If he understood correctly, the Siyo was supposed to order a million people to die.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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