(Author's note: This little experiment has been going on for a few months now. If interested here is Part One and Part Two.)
Someone back in the twentieth century once said that there were two absolutes in the universe, the first being death and the other taxes. While still relatively ignorant of the strange but technologically super advanced era I find myself now after spending thirty-three hundred years in suspended animation I know enough now to realize those absolutes had changed.
With sentient personalities existing in what I would call cyberspace, tiny memory cubes that can store the experiences and thoughts of an entire human lifetime, and grown on demand custom human bodies those cubes can be downloaded into death isn't the certainty it was back in my time. As far as the concept of taxes goes, I still had no real idea how the Earthers or the Rheans, or the rest of the settled solar system for that matter, fund the working of their civilizations because capitalism, except in a mild form is an extremely bad word.
What actually appeared to be a surprising universal absolute are courtrooms. The one I found myself in after the ship carrying Doa Criss arrived more of less looked just like every other one I had ever seen. It was clad in a sterile looking white but at the front of the room was a raised and extended podium where the seven member tribune was going to hear the case against me. The one visible inconsistency being they were all dressed in white robes. Directly in front of them were the two desks situated beside each other where the defendant, me, and the accuser, this Doa Criss, would sit. The only thing missing was the jury box, but that was where the tribunes came back into play because they were also serving that part as well.
Anni Missor, my only friend and a professor of ancient history at one of Rhea's universities assured me that civics classes were taken quite seriously on her moon and that I was going to get a fair trial. Anni and I had grown rather close since my arrival I was taking her word on the subject but I couldn't help but think back to my won high school years where I literally slept through my half-semester civics course. Even my teacher for that class, a tired man who had long given up on a flawed system, barely seemed awake himself.
Anni informed me, in an offhand manner, that historians had long agreed that sheer ignorance on the workings of government and the duties required by citizens were one of the elements that lead to the downfall of the United States and the establishment of the North American Corporate Authority, which then caused the creation of similar corporate states all across Earth. However, once all the corporate states were overthrown the newly reestablished nations made damn sure every citizen understood the working of government and the concept of the responsible citizen and his or her duty to the common good.
Taking everything into consideration I wasn't that worried, although there was the small matter that I had no legal representation. But Anni told me that on Rhea it was a given that every citizen had the ability to defend themselves or at least access one of the free artificial intelligence legal programs that would act in their behalf. The fact that expert legal consul was now just a routine piece of software and totally free sent me into a fit of hysterical laughter to the point Anni was worried I lost my mind. I had to figure that if there was some form of afterlife, still curiously enough and open question, all the hundreds of millions of attorneys that had ever lived and gotten rich for knowing how to play the legal system like some street prostitute were now writhing in eternal agony.
We were thirty minutes passed the time the hearing was supposed to start when Doa Criss finally showed up. I must admit I really didn't truly appreciate the nature of her war hero status until she walked in the room and the seventy to eighty people sitting in the audience at the rear of the room fell silent.
At first glance she looked familiar, almost like when you see someone and think you know them. I figured the possibility existed that she could have been a descendant of mine or someone else I knew but that was all. The fact that this Doa Criss answered my stare with one of her own back only unnerved be even more. Her appearance was of a normal Caucasian Earther with average height and build, along with long blonde hair, but she walked with a grace in the low gravity of Rhea that betrayed the fact it had probably been a long time since she set foot on the home planet. I did find a small amount of humor in the situation because she was wearing a brightly colored, skin tight one piece garment that looked like something from an early twenty-first century science fiction movie.
The second Doa sat down the chief tribune tapped a silver ball sitting on the podium in front of her with what looked to be a hammer, “This hearing will now come to order,” the chief tribune said, “everyone here is under oath to tell the complete truth and any deviation will be punished accordingly. Citizen Criss, I must admonish you for your tardiness, I am uncertain how things are ran on Triton but on Rhea our justice system does not look kindly on needless delays.”
“I apologize,” Doa replied to the Chief Tribune, “but new information has come to my attention that clears Citizen Thomas Morgan.”
This not only caused a stir with all seven tribunes but myself as well. In fact I figured my translator earpiece had begun to malfunction.”What do you mean clears Citizen Morgan?” The Chief Tribune asked. “It was your esteemed reputation as a war hero and insistence that the Earth Collective had in fact missed incriminating information about Thomas Morgan that lead us to confine him.”
Doa Criss casually took several seconds to think before answering by running her fingers through her blonde hair in manner that once again seemed weirdly familiar to me. “I'll have to blame the deficiencies and limitations of radio communication Tribune. I didn't receive all the information I asked for from the archives on Europa until a few hours ago. The fact remains, that Thomas Morgan was already in deep suspension when the North American Corporate Authority was formed. I have downloaded all relevant files clearing Citizen Morgan into the central Tribunal database.”
The Tribunes, clearly disturbed, all began accessing the new information through their preferred means of interfacing with the Rhean version of what I grew up to call the internet. It only took a few seconds when the Chief Tribune began to raise the small silver hammer with a clear intention of striking the metal ball in front of him.
Doa Criss, seeing this as well, jumped up from her chair. “Before the Tribunes dismiss these proceedings I beg that I have a private meeting with Citizen Morgan after the closing. I do have some information he will find quite astonishing.” She said looking over in my direction with a smile that actually frightened me to the core of my soul.
The Chief Tribune, who clearly had a similar look to countless judges from my time wanting nothing more than to get the hell out of the tiresome courtroom on onto a golf course or bar looked over in my direction. “Does Citizen Morgan object to meeting with Citizen Criss in the conference room?”
“No Tribune,” I answered back actually wondering what the equivalent here on Rhea was to the golf courses or bars were back on Earth in my time.
“Well now,” the Chief Tribune said while smiling, “I'm actually happy we can end this hearing on such good terms.” He then struck the metal ball on the table in front of him with the hammer and was out of the room in just a few seconds.
It was then that I looked over at Anni, who had been sitting beside me the entire time. Standing there in the courtroom, it was the weirdest time to come to an epiphany concerning the nature of being human. But during our long conversations back in the prison complex I learned from her that the normal yellow skin complexion and ultra bright blue eyes of Rheans came from direct genetic manipulation by the early colonists to adapt to living so far away from the sun. She explained that it took several centuries to construct the elaborate domes that now provided ample light for all living things on Rhea and that by the time they had her people had come to regard the adaption as part of their growing culture.
It made sense even though I was just a flawed American lost in time carrying with me all the ingrained baggage and stupid assumptions of my nationality when it came to matters of skin pigmentation. Back in the twenty-first century as much as Americans liked to delude themselves that they had moved beyond something as ignorant as judging the character of a person because of their skin color we all still played by some unspoken but yet insane rule of living our lives and dealing with each other based on it. Yes, I admit back before I went into suspended animation I based many of my business and personal decisions on appearance with skin color being one of the primary factors.
But as I stood there looking at Anni, I was somehow finally able to see beyond all that. Here I was now living in an era where my unrestrained capitalist history made me no better than a World War Two Nazi but yet this woman was able to see beyond that. What I saw in her alien but completely human face with concern and maybe a little fear.
“What's wrong?” I asked Anni.
She tried to smile but I knew it was just a brave effort. “Doa is from your time Thomas Morgan,” she said, “while considered a hero for her efforts at ending the corporate tyranny on Earth. I fear for you at what news she might bring from the past.”
The conference room was as unremarkable and ordinary as the courtroom with the one exception being the large window facing the surface of Rhea. Given our location all I could see from the window was a small portion of Saturn's rings but the sight was breathtaking. The conference table was large but there was enough space left in the room for a several large and comfortable chairs in one section.
Anni and I were sitting together when Doa Criss finally entered the room. She approached us with a confidence that seemed to radiate from her body like heat. “Well,” she said, “mystics use to talk about how the universe had a sense of humor and I now have to agree.”
As she approached, I instinctively stood and offered out my hand in greetings. “I sorry Citizen Criss,” I said, “but you've got me at a huge disadvantage.”
“Come now Tommy,” she said in American English with a coy smile enjoying my utter surprise, “little things like three millenniums and me inhabiting a new body shouldn't make us strangers, we were after all married once upon a time.”
Maybe it was the tone of her voice combined with the familiar body language but her suddenly identity hit me like a nuclear bomb. “Olivia!, “ I said realizing that somehow I was standing in front of the being that was once my second wife.
Back in the twenty-first century Americans of all social classes jealously clung to the accepted national myth that anyone in the land of the free and the home of the brave could be a success. While there were degrees of success, along with different visions of what it actually was, in truth unless a person was born into a family with certain advantages like money or influence most people would be condemned to spend out their lives at about the same place they were born or worse.
Oh there were exceptions, and luck had a lot to do with it along with above average intelligence or at least the possession of a certain feral guile to do what had to be done, no matter the moral or ethical cost. In truth, the latter was how I made my money, I was born into a working class family whose only readily available avenue to escape the illusion of the lower middle class lifestyle financed by revolving credit was by enlisting in the military. So I joined the army and on a whim signed up for all the college assistance offered.
Somehow I excelled in my business courses once I finished my enlistment but that in itself wouldn't have gotten much beyond being a department store manager. No, what shot me into the upper realms of success and power was a chance encounter at a small cafe just off campus with an investment manager who had given a recent guest lecture in one of my classes.
I introduced myself and told him I enjoyed his lecture, from then on took kind of bizarre interest in me and became my mentor. This was no example of human compassion, he made it clear that he was strictly conducting an experiment seeing as to whether anyone in the lower classes could be raised up, In fact after graduation I began working for him as his assistant and he did everything possible to make my life hell.
I learned a lot from the old bastard before I got tired of his shit and sold him out to the feds for his creative bookkeeping. The first being that the financial investment racket was one of the greatest scams in human history. In hindsight it was now clear to me that the entire investment management and banking industry had convinced most everyone that if you put a couple of dollars in a dark room they would begin to multiple like rabbits. In truth real capitalism had died sometime in the last years of the twentieth century and was replaced with a sick scheme that was both an elaborate shell game of deception and outright gambling.
The lady who become my second wife, Olivia Carter, entered my life around the time I had earned my first hundred million. She was a geneticist who wanted to start a company to capitalize on her breakthrough in gene therapy. At that time, we were a match made in heaven. We were both incredibly ambitious and recognized that together we could achieve our respective goals. After dumping both of our respective mates at that time we married and began working on making her company a major player. A few short years later we were billionaires and had grown tired of each other. We actually parted ways as the best of friends, not because of some residual affection, no nothing as simple as that, its just when sums of money equal to the worth of small countries are involved no on ever really burns a possible useful bridge. All that flashed through my head in the space of a couple of seconds as I looked at this Doa Criss/Olivia Carter resulting in me asking a most obvious question.
“Wait a damn minute Olivia,” I said, “you were just as much a leech on the rest of humanity as I, how in the hell did you become a hero to these people.?”
Doa/Olivia seemed to enjoy my confusion, “Poor Tommy, you never could truly grasp the big picture could you, but then of course you went into suspension before the world went to total shit. See, some of us capitalists actually understood the nature of how our societies were collapsing under the weight of the new privileged aristocracy. The trouble was that the vast majority of the poor somehow bought the idea some among our affluent group was selling that we had their best interests at heart and that if the rich had no restrictions and oversight our bubbling wealth would flow down to them.”
Doa/Olivia went on to explain that she and a very small band capitalists like her did their best to oppose the encroachment of corporate fascism. But the mixture of a tiny few with hundreds of billions to spend on propaganda and a vast and nearly illiterate underclass caught up in a combination of religious and societal fervor was just too powerful in the end. When the corporate elites finally just swept away the empty and decayed husks of the United States and Canada and formed the North American Corporate Authority she went underground and helped organize the resistance.
“Oh Tommy,” Doa/Olivia said a few hours later as Anni and I listened to her recounting the worst years of the Corporate War. “That last bimbo you married and her husband were especially good at leading those Texas fanatics. The corporate elites had always liked Michael Wilson and made sure when Texas broke up into four different states that he won one of the senate seats in the newly formed State of Panhandle. When the Authority was established and Texas was reformed, the Corporate Board in Washington liked how he lead the ground forces that squashed all the riots and ethnically cleansed southern Texas . They eventually made Michael a general in the Corporate Authority Army and had him lead the invasion of Mexico to stop all that nasty terrorism from crossing the border. That forth wife of yours, Debbie, flushed with power, played the loving and supportive spouse of General Wilson all the way down to Lima, Peru. The resistance eventually killed the two in their mansion outside of Bogota but not before close to three million Central and South Americans had died. It would have been more if the Brazilians hadn't been able to stop them from going any further south.”
Doa/Olivia explained that despite all the efforts of the Resistance, corporate states came into existence all over Earth. The governments of Russia, China, Korea, Argentina all fell in the space of two years with several others like Australia, Indonesia, and England soon following. All told, at the height of Corporate fascism fifty-six nation was under its control. What turned the tide was in part the finally realization by the poor that they would never receive any of the benefits from what the Elites called unrestricted capitalism and libertarian freedoms.
After the war Doa/Olivia played a major part in the reestablishing of the United States. As the years went on she seemed to have a hand in everything from pursuing war criminals to helping establish the planetary government. When the technology was perfected, she was one of the first to have her memories incorporated into a crystal archive because of her age. It was fascinating to hear her describe the feeling when her memory crystal was activated and she became a sentient personality living in an ethereal cyberspace wonderland viewing the real world much the same way people in the twentieth and twenty-first century watched television.
Doa/Olivia didn't dwell on why she had a new body created and her personality downloaded into it. She only explained that for physiological reasons it was considered best for those newly returned to the living that they assume a new identity.
“So Olivia,” I said using her original name, “what was the purpose of accusing me of being a war criminal, even after the Earth Collective had cleared me of any association with the Corporate Authority?”
Doa/Olivia at first seemed not to have an answer for my question. That lead me to think for a few seconds that maybe she harbored some sort of animosity towards me. “Sweetie,” she said in her original Georgia accent, “You've got to understand what it was like for me to hear that none other than one of my ex-husbands from the twenty-first century was pulled out of one of those primitive suspended animation chambers. One of the unforeseen issues with people like me is that no matter how well we are integrated with civilization and our new identities, we all long for some connection with our past lives.”
Her explanation made about as much sense as everything else I had encountered in this era. We continued to talk for a few more hours but it was clear our reunion was soon to end. Doa had family back on Triton and her ship was scheduled depart for Titan before heading back out to the farthest parts of the solar system.
Anni had never left my side during my unexpected and unlikely encounter with my past but had been almost totally quiet the entire time. So I was surprised in a different way when Doa looked over at her and asked, “Professor Missor, excuse my rudest but am I wrong to assume that your synod has pledged you to Tommy?”
“Yes,” she said rather sheepishly while gripping my left arm tightly, “but I hadn't as of yet explained anything of the ceremony to him.”
A look of shock and dismay appeared on Doa's face. “I am so sorry, for everything,” she said to Anni. “I hope I haven't disturbed the time table.”
“No,” Anni replied, “the starship that will take Thomas Morgan away will not be here for at least three years. I had hoped to spend much of that time getting him use to what will be required of him.”
Doa looked over at me and suddenly reached out for a hug, “Goodbye Tommy, I doubt we will ever see each other again so let me give you one vital piece of advice before I go, whatever you do don't screw this up. The Rheans are depending on you to fulfill a role I honestly don't think you will understand, just know it is the only reason you are alive now and not still deep underground on Earth stuck in amber.” With that she turned and walked out of the conference room leaving me with a lot of questions.