Hah! So I’ve now squared my debts with August. Two stories in the bag. Rest assured, my dear reader, a great two many more short stories are in store for you. Whenever these past two stories become somewhat reasonable. I will give them their own pages in my great short story vault.
by Yours Truly
“Who can tell me about the downfall of the nation model?” Mrs. Traveras’s boot heels clicked against the classroom linoleum. No one spoke. Someone–probably Daniel Ozaga–rolled a pencil against a desk, the steady drum pacing the silent students. Mrs. Traveras glared in the direction of the pencil and it ceased. Definitely Daniel. She nodded perfunctorily.
David scratched right above his ear then toyed with his curly hair. He had no idea what Traveras was talking about. He’d been daydreaming about something, about what he couldn’t quite remember any more.
Traveras patrolled the aisles. “I will wait until someone speaks.”
David sighed and looked at Lindsay. Now he remembered his daydream. She glanced at him and shrugged, her face drawn up in mock confusion. He slapped his palm to his mouth and stifled a giggle. Traveras’s heels struck the floor. She stopped behind David.
“You have the answer for the class, David? I believe everyone else is ready to hear it.”
“I don’t know the answer, ma’am.”
“Give us your best guess.”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
Traveras stepped in front of David’s desk and stared at him. “Mr. Ramirez, your father works for Gascon Interstellar. I believe you have a healthy understanding of how we have arrived at our current governance system. We’d all love to hear what you think.”
“Everyone knows the answer, ma’am.”
“Then enlighten us, David. I am interested in what you have to say. Your classmates will listen attentively.”
David sucked in a breath. He scratched at his ear again and peeked at Lindsay. She was smiling at him. He breathed out calmly.
“The nation model didn’t work kind of like… kind of like the religion model before it, I think. Mostly, it created divisions among people. Religion failed because these divisions existed even when people lived close together. Nations failed because even on the same planet people couldn’t be unified, much less once interstellar life became a thing. A norm, right? The company model has been successful because all the interstellar companies have an incentive to keep turmoil to a minimum. It also helps that everyone is, in some way, paid by the companies.”
“And what created the opportunity for the companies to take over?” Traveras’s voice was quiet but every student was listening. The pencil rolled somewhere, but a vigilant student hushed it. Traveras flashed a smile.
“Mostly, national governments sucked,” David said. “Their ability to rule effectively was hampered by the ideological divisions among each other. Competition with each other adversely affected their constituents, whereas in the company era, each giga-manufacturer has minimized those fallout events. At least, that’s what I think.”
“Very good, David, maybe you have been paying attention in class.”
“But, Mrs. Traveras?”
“There’s something I never really understood.”
“About the company era.
“And what is that?”
David paused. He enjoyed the moment when everyone looked at him.
“If the company era is so much more effective than the religion and nation eras, then, ma’am, why are people still so fucking unhappy?”
The classroom erupted. The students thumped their desks and jumped from their chairs. They hooted and hollered. Someone–probably Ozaga–was whistling. David hadn’t been planning on swearing, but it came out of him like an ocean swell.
“David Ramirez! Language!” Mrs. Traveras looked at her suddenly untamed class.
She went to the front of the class, picked up her favorite stick, and tapped out a steady rhythm on the drawing board. Slowly and one at a time, the students hushed. Ozaga–that boisterous, inciting fool–was the last one to calm. Traveras approached him, and he saw her. He knew the gravity of the situation, out of habit and the gravity of Traveras’ face, and steeled himself. He laid his palms upright on his desktop.
“Thank you, Mr. Ozaga.” Traveras whipped her stick down and it snapped against his palms. His knuckles made a hideous rapping against his desk. He whimpered and was silent.
Traveras turned back to David.
“Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about you, Mr. Ramirez. So you think you know everything now, do you? Well, then let’s hear what you’ve got to say.” She hoisted her stick onto her shoulder and leaned it there, building energy.
“Don’t ma’am me. Get to the point.”
“Er, okay. It just seems to me that we’re learning that the company era is best because the companies are in charge of the schools. Everything I said was just what we’re taught to say. But it’s not the truth. I don’t know if people know it. I’m not sure if my folks know it, or even you, Mrs. Traveras. We’re just being taught what we’re supposed to know. I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s always gone, even way back to the other eras.
“The company era isn’t a solution to any of the old problems. You might think so. The people on newsscreens might think so. I’m pretty sure every adult thinks so. But it’s all the same as before, I think. I don’t know what else to say. That’s just how our galaxy has turned out.”