Prose Header

Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

Table of Contents

Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 31: Bain Betrayed

It hadn’t been clear to Chief Councilor Bain just who was left to plan and conduct offensive actions against UES but, after some days, he found a core of remaining loyalists who he felt reasonably sure were not just feeding every detail of their discussion back to the clavies.

Their plan for a surprise attack on Clavenet HQ in Lake Forest depended on an approach across Lake Michigan, dropping quickly at night from high altitude to avoid the numerous surveillance drones surrounding the former capitol of the Bain commercial empire. It also depended on the clavies’ not knowing when the attack would occur or even that the plan existed. That last advantage was, unknown to Bain, already lost.

After the Civil Protection Forces secured the bunker under Bain Communications’ wounded tower, Bain himself intended to drop in and use the equipment already there to broadcast to all of GNA that he was in control and that the turncoat Jiri Lee was in custody. That, in turn, would rally more elements of the military back to Bain’s side and turn the tide.

At least he hoped it would.

But just two days before the planned raid, President Soto, who had become Bain’s aide-de-camp, rushed into the Oval Office shortly after Bain had arrived.

“Mr. Chief Councilor, have you seen what they’ve put on the Clavenet?”

“Not interested in their nonsense,” said Bain, waving his hand.

“You want to see this,” said Soto as an assistant wheeled a television into the Oval Office, spent a minute attaching it to the White House network, and then turned it on.

“I’ve got a recording of the whole thing here,” said Soto, fumbling with a remote. “Ah, here it is.”

The screen sprang to life, showing a long conference table at which sat Alex Lifeson, Mira, Jiri, and Carlo. Bain knew immediately what he was going to hear, but couldn’t stop himself from listening to the entire hour and half during which first Carlo, then Jiri, described Bain’s abuse.

Mira chimed in at times to verify what she saw and to tell more about the Gates’ operation. Carlo then went on to tell about how he’d been drugged and abused by Councilor Walters, kept a virtual prisoner in her home, and how he’d witnessed Walters’ murder by what he assumed were Bain’s agents.

The final scene featured a long shot of Walters’ bullet-riddled body, with the camera slowly coming closer and closer, focusing on her lifeless, open eyes.

“They’re running it nonstop, twenty-four hours a day,” said Soto.

Soto’s black eyes met Bain’s. “Is all this really true?”

Bain looked away, took a deep breath and said, “What’s the reaction?”

“We’ve got reports of at least twelve more garrisons defecting just since they started showing this yesterday. I’d strongly advise that you call a meeting of the Civil Protection Forces team that’s planning to insert you in there. They may not—”

“I don’t need you to do my thinking for me, Soto,” said Bain. “You can go.”

Once Soto closed the door, Bain pressed a button on his private comm. “General Naylor, we need to move up the operation.”

* * *

Naylor made sure the line had disconnected. Then he pressed the speed-dial number for General Wilhouse. “Jeff, operation is moved to tomorrow. Out.”

General Wilhouse walked down the hall to Seraphin’s office and stuck his head through the doorway. “Time to run those ads as planned.”

Seraphin nodded and smiled. His teeth gleamed in the bright sunlight streaming through the windows that ran along the wall just below the ceiling. Wilhouse wasn’t sure whether he was seeing the glow of his savior or the fires of hell.

Proceed to Chapter 32...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

Home Page