"The very basis of the Judeo-Christian code is
injustice...How can justice possibly be served by loading
your sins on another? Whether it be a lamb having its throat
cut ritually, or a Messiah nailed to a cross and 'dying for
--Robert A. Heinlein, Job: A Comedy of Justice
Before the ethical philosophers left the meeting, one of their
number asked the General just why there had been no religious
authorities present. "After all," he said, "At every meeting to
discuss the ethics of scientific research which I've taken part
in, there have always been speakers from the Christian, Jewish
and Muslim religions."
Another of the philosophers broke in, "Yes - and usually there
have been two or three Christian speakers. To represent different
factions of Christianity," he added.
Yet another interrupted, saying, "You've forgotten about the
Hindus and the Buddhists - they're often present as well,
particularly when the debate is about particle physics."
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," Wye said, gesticulating for them to slow
down. A cough from one side caused him to add, "And lady," rather
hastily, before going on, "I will be meeting with the leaders of
all of the religions followed in this country. But I will not be
meeting with them until tomorrow, and I will most definitely not
be discussing the ethics of scientific research with them.
"In fact," and here Wye's grim smile broke into a glorious grin
which furrowed the philosophers's brows. "I very much doubt if
any of them will be very pleased after our meeting tomorrow."
Some of the ethicists broke into a sweat at these words, while
others made mental notes to contact their priests and rabbis as
soon as they reached home.
"Are you sure that this is a good idea?" asked Deborah over
breakfast the following morning.
"Hmmm?" queried Wye, not even trying to talk around his mouthful
of hot, buttered toast.
"This meeting today, with those," she paused with an expression
of distaste on her face, "Religious leaders. Is it a good idea?"
The Dictator, his toast swallowed, answered, "No. But, frankly,
I can't think of a way to avoid it. If we are to succeed, we have
got to eradicate organised religion. And this, Deborah, is the
only way I can think of to do so."
"It's been tried, General," Graham said, shaking his head, "In
the former Eastern Blok countries, they stamped it out and it
just went underground. There will always be people who will die
before giving up their religion - and their 'martyrdom' will
encourage others in their own beliefs," he added.
"I agree with my husband here, Absolaam. You won't be able to
stamp out religion. Even if it appears to vanish, it will only
come back stronger than ever once we relinquish power."
The Dictator listened to the couple, a benevolent smile on his
face. Calmer than they had ever heard him before, he said, "I'm
not going to stamp out religion.
"I'm going to encourage it." At their puzzled looks, he went on,
"A wise man once said that the surest way to show up a fool is to
agree with him. I'm going to put that to the test and organised
religion is going to be hanged - with itself as the hangman,
while I merely stand by and pass out free rope."
The Dictator grinned his now-famous grin as he surveyed the
worried faces before him. Quelling their objections with a motion
of his hands, he concluded, "Look, when we come to the meeting
just back me up. Agree with me and follow my lead. I'm placing
six billion pounds a year on the line here, and I think that -
with a little luck - it will work.
"Oh, and, Deborah - I'll need to have your three little
programming friends perform a task for me after breakfast. Can
you get hold of them, please?"
"Of course, Absolaam. But what, exactly, do you have planned?"
General Absolaam Wye, absolute ruler and Great Dictator of the
British Isles, just carried on grinning around a mouthful of
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," the General began, once the religious
leaders of the country had assembled, "Perhaps we can begin now?"
As the packed room settled down, Wye surveyed the faces before
him. There were representatives from twelve 'traditional'
Christian churches, three islamic groups, four divisions of
Judaism, two forms of Hinduism, various Buddhist monks - across
the spectrum from taoists to Confucianists - and almost thirty
representatives from other religions; from Scientologists to
Satanists, and Moonies to Mummuites.
Including the Humanist, agnostic and atheist delegates, the
cabinet room was crowded by a swarming mass - slowly seating
itself - of sixty religious leaders from sixty different
religions, most of whom proclaimed that their religion alone had
access to the Divine Truth, and all who claimed otherwise were
About the only ones in the room who were not vehemently arguing
with their neighbours were the Taoist, three of the four jewish
leaders and the non-fundamentalist Hindu leader. Wye noticed that
all of the fundamentalists, whatever religion they were
representing, appeared to be close to striking blows.
The representative from rabbinical judaism was berating the
follower of Mummu; the Christians were arguing amongst themselves
and were studiously ignoring the Satanist and Luciferan
representatives, while the islamic leaders - with only one
exception - were heatedly debating which of their various
interpretations of the Qu'ran was the legitimate one.
Perhaps 'debating' is too mild a word.
At a word from Wye, the room settled down into a mild murmur,
after various protests from - for example - the Christian leaders
that the Satanists were represented, or from the leaders of
'major world religions' that 'cults' such as Scientology were
permitted to be present.
Once the room had quietened down sufficiently for him to be
heard, the General, spoke.
"I would like everybody who represents a religion with assets in
this country of one hundred million pounds sterling or greater to
move to the left side of the room. Everybody else, move to the
right hand side, please." Wye waited as two men walked over to
his left, and the rest moved to his right before turning to
address the head of the Roman Catholic church in England, Andrew
Clarksen. "I think you've made a small mistake, Monsignor.
According to my records, your church owns or has access to six
hundred and seventeen point one two million pounds through a
variety of business fronts."
The Monsignor coughed nervously before speaking, "I'm afraid
that you must be confusing the Church's assets worldwide with
those in the British Isles, my son."
"Not at all, Monsignor - the assets of the Roman Catholic
church, worldwide, are..." Wye grinned as the Monsignor hastily
moved across to the left side of the room.
The Dictator addressed the three to his left first, "The assets
of your churches, as you will discover when you leave this
meeting, have been entirely confiscated," over their shouted
words of protestation, Wye went on, "Entirely confiscated. That
includes only monetary assets, of course - your property remains
Wye paused a single beat before continuing, "The same applies to
every religious group in this country. All assets, liquid and
material, have, with the exception of real estate, now passed
into the ownership of the government."
On hearing Wye's words, the glee of the rest of the gathering
turned quickly to abhorrence, and their protests rapidly - and
noisily - joined those of their three colleagues. Only the taoist
seemed aloof from both sets of emotions - simply listening,
quietly and without showing emotion, to all of the General's
The racket came to a halt only when they heard the General's
next question, "I take it you all saw my broadcast on Monday
evening?" The silence was deafening, as the General went on, "I
think it is safe for me to assume that you did.
"Now, there's no need to dwell on that broadcast. Not just now,"
he added, grinning again.
"If I can finish, then?" A chorus of nods and other indications
of willingness to listen followed from all those present. All
save the Taoist representative, that is.
"The reason I separated out your three colleagues here," he
gestured towards the three seated to his left, "Was to
demonstrate the winners and losers in the new situation."
To their puzzled expressions - echoing those of Graham and
Deborah only two hours before - Wye explained, "Each religious
body which is represented in this room is to be allowed access to
an account, donated by the government, of one hundred million
pounds per annum."
I've hooked them, thought Wye on seeing their looks of
excitement, Now to reel them in. Aloud, he said, "Those moneys
may be spent in any way which the leaders of the individual
churches see fit - but be warned that the details of each account
will be published at the end of every year.
"At that time, an extra one hundred million pounds will be added
to each account. Note - that amount will be added to the balance
of the account every year, regardless of whether or not the
previous contents have been used up.
"The only losers here are the religious bodies represented by
the three gentlemen on my left. Even they are not really losers,
if they stop to think about it, since their current account
balances would not bring in one hundred million a year. Am I
right?" he asked.
There was a long pause before reluctant nods of assent came from
the gathering. All, again, except for the taoist representative,
who simply sat in deep thought all the while that the Dictator
had been speaking.
Eventually, one voice - the Satanist, Wye thought, though he
couldn't be sure - piped up, "What's the catch?"
Wye grinned his second grin this time - his predatory grin - as
he replied, "Simply that I will expect each of you to provide a
guidebook, within the year, detailing the creed of your
particular religion, with special care taken to explaining in
which ways your beliefs differ from those of all of the other
religions in this room."
"What do you want these guides for?" a voice asked. This time,
Wye thought that the voice belonged to Monsignor Clarksen, but -
again - he could not be certain.
His response was simple, and abrupt, "The reasons, if any, for
my requests are none of your affair. I trust," he added with one
of his patented wicked grins, "That will not be a problem?"
Remarkably, there was a chorus of acquiescence from the room.
The General paused a moment to look over the room, which - while
slightly agitated - was still relatively calm. Here goes, he
thought, saying out loud, "Now, only one thing remains to be
"In one week's time, there will be a change in the laws dealing
with sex, censorship and drugs. These laws will be liberalised.
"All drugs will be made available for sale to anybody over the
age of sixteen, with complete and accurate information as to the
effects of the drugs being supplied with them.
"More pertinent to you gentlemen," here Wye appeared to single
out the Christian and Muslim delegates, "However, is the
liberalisation of the censorship and consensual sex laws. These
are all to be repealed immediately."
The uproar from the representatives of the several sects of
those two religions was incredible. Spluttered shouts of "You
can't do this!" and "What about the children!" came from the
floor, with the various leaders of both of those religions
getting to their feet and waving clenched fists in the air in
shock and horror. One or two of them actually started to move
toward the General, ready to do violence, but a look from Wye
soon removed that possibility.
When the room had calmed down slightly, the General went on,
unperturbed, "I thought that some of you might take that
attitude, and so I prepared a small demonstration for you."
Turning to Deborah, the General asked her to call her three
young programmers in. They entered, pushing before them a wheeled
trolley on which were four piles of computer printout, arranged
as two sets of pairs. In each pair, one pile was hugely thicker
than the other one.
General Wye rose to his feet and walked over to the trolley,
sixty-five pairs of eyes swivelling to follow him. When he
reached the trolley, he indicated one of each pair of piles in
turn, saying, "This, gentlemen, is a computer printout of the
whole of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, and this
is the Qu'ran, in its entirety.
"Earlier today, these three young men," the wave of his arm
indicated the programmers behind the trolley, "Performed a simple
deletion on these two volumes. They deleted all of the references
to sex and violence, but," and here the General had to shout to
make his voice heard, "But they were careful not to delete the
prohibitions against violence.
"In short, they applied rigid rules of censorship - as those
laws now stand - to the two Holy books of the two religions which
are most set on upholding those laws. The printouts beside each
book show its size after these deletions have been made." The
piles beside each of the uncut versions were each roughly one
quarter the size of the originals.
The General, seeing their reservations, and perceiving that
another outburst was in the offing, quickly continued, "Let us
take the Bible - specifically, the Old testament - as an example,
since that is a book revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
"Genesis obviously has to be almost entirely removed - what with
the nakedness of Adam and Eve being on display in Chapter Two,
Noah stripping himself naked in Chapter Nine, the implied incest
of Eve and the explicit incest of Lot and his daughters, spelled
out in graphic detail in Chapter Nineteen - not to mention, in
that same chapter, Lot's offering his two virgin daughters to be
raped in exchange for his own life.
"Adultery is frowned upon so out goes Genesis Chapter sixteen,
verses one to four, and Onan's coitus interruptus in Chapter
thirty-eight, of course, has to go. Elsewhere, the graphic
pornography of - for example -The Song of Solomon, has to be
"Turning now to violence. Genocide, of course, cannot be
condoned, and so the flood gets kicked out, along with the Sodom
and Gomorrah story.
"Incidentally, moving away from Genesis for a moment, the
genocide of the first-born of Egypt, the Amorites of Heshbon, the
followers of Og, the people of Jericho, the Makkedah, Libnah,
Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, and the surrounding areas, the
people of Gaza, Askelon and Ekron, the massacre of ten thousand
Moabites, 'All the hosts of Sisera,' the one hundred and twenty
thousand Midianites, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the
Seeing the pale faces of some of the religious leaders, Wye
paused, then said, "Well, anyway. All of these massacres are
unacceptable in literature which may be read by children, so we
lose most of contents of the books of Exodus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy, Joshua, Leviticus, Judges, the two books of Samuel
and the two books of Kings."
"Just a moment, Dictator," same an eager voice. This time, the
General could see that it was Charles Crowley, the Luciferan, who
was speaking. Crowley, not even trying to keep the sound of
gloating from his words, said, "I realise that the Biblical
scholars amongst us already know of these massacres but, for the
benefit of those who do not, would you care to list the books,
chapters and verses?"
"I would be happy to, Mr Crowley," replied the General, "But -
since you are so eager, perhaps you would prefer..." he added,
with a questioning look.
"Certainly, Dictator," said Crowley, happily. Several of the
religious leaders pulled out pencil and paper to note the
references for future use as he said, slowly and by rote,
"Deuteronomy chapter two, verse thirty-four, and chapter seven;
Numbers twenty one, verses twenty-five, thirty-four and thirty-
five; Joshua six; Joshua ten, twenty-eight to forty; Judges
chapter one, verse four and verses eighteen to nineteen, and
chapter three, verse twenty-nine, as well as chapter four, verse
sixteen, and chapter eight, verse ten."
Crowley pause for breath, then continued, "One Samuel, chapter
eleven, verse eleven, and chapter fourteen, verses twelve,
thirteen and twenty - also chapter fifteen, verses three to
seven. You'll also find the book of Numbers, chapters twenty-five
and thirty-one, interesting," he added, smiling gleefully, "Oh,
and the polygamy in one Kings eleven and two Chronicles, eleven
and thirteen, is also enlightening, in light of the Christian
insistence on monogamy."
"Thank you, Mr Crowley," Wye broke in, to try to slow down the
flow of the Luciferan.
To no avail, as Crowley continued, "King Saul strips naked
before Samuel, in one Samuel nineteen, verse twenty-four, the
better to receive the Word of the Lord; King David - in two
Samuel eleven - behaves like a Peeping Tom; Saint Paul advocates
castration as the only alternative to celibacy - even within
marriage - in one Corinthians seven, and Jesus advocates self-
mutilation in the fifth chapter of St Matthew's Gospel, adding
with apparent approval - in chapter nineteen, verse twelve - that
'there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven's sake.'"
"I said 'Thank you, Mr Crowley,'" Wye repeated. Crowley finally
- and reluctantly - came to a halt, "Now, to move on, then," the
General said, "Passages such as Psalms one hundred and thirty
seven, which states," Wye quickly looked up the verse in the
uncut printout - it didn't appear in the much slimmer version
beside it, of course, "'Happy shall he be, that taketh and
dasheth thy little ones against the stones.'
"Well, that's just not on - and as for the tale of Elisha in
Chapter two of the second book of Kings, verses twenty three and
four. Well, would any of you here approve of the massacre - by
bears - of forty-two children for the 'crime' of taunting a bald-
headed man?" The Dictator glanced around the room taking in the
shaking of heads with receded hairlines.
"I'm glad to see that you don't," the General went on. "Perhaps,
then, I've made my point, and need not labour it further. I am
offering all of you here a straight choice. I will either enforce
the current censorship laws rigorously, which means that I will
apply them to your own Holy books, or I will liberalise those
"The choice is yours. In the hallway outside you will find sixty
copies each of the censored text of the Bible and the Qu'ran. I
suggest that you study them, and I will expect your answer this
time next week. Oh, and the Christians amongst you will notice
that one of the first casualties of censorship was the
crucifixion in the New Testament," Wye grinned, happily, "It's
far too gory for the consumption of children.
"If you are concerned at this stark choice," Wye grinned,
maliciously, "then consider the words of the book of
Ecclesiastes, chapter three: 'To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven.' Gentlemen," he
concluded, "The time for censorship is over.
"Now," he said, curtly, "Go."
As the religious leaders, some shell-shocked and some elated but
almost all astounded by what they had heard, filed out of the
cabinet room, the General motioned for the taoist monk to remain
for a moment.
When the room contained only the monk, the General, Graham and
Deborah, Wye addressed the taoist, "You did not seem either
enthusiastic or concerned about my plans. Might I ask why this
"You may ask," the monk replied, "But you may not receive an
answer." He paused a short while - which felt like an eternity to
Wye, though he recognised that he should not try to hurry this
small man's speech.
Eventually, however, impatience got the better of him. Striving
to keep that impatience from his words, though, Wye quietly
asked, "You know what this meeting meant, do you not?"
"And you remain unconcerned?"
"Your Way is your own - mine is for myself alone."
The monk turned to leave. As he reached the door, Deborah asked
him, "What did this meeting mean?"
"The Way of your Dictator is that of the Tar Baby," explained
the monk before he departed. From beyond the still-open door, the
three of them heard the monk chuckle softly to himself. Deborah
thought that she heard the word "Ringer" come from that direction
also, but couldn't be certain.
"Now what," Graham, closing the door to the Cabinet Room, asked
Wye, "Was that supposed to mean?"
The General laughed, long and loud, before answering, gasping
for breath, "It means," he said, his chest heaving, "That that
taoist monk understood exactly what I did at that meeting, and
exactly why I did it. I don't think, though," he added, warily,
"That any of the others realised what was going on. At least I
hope they didn't."
Deborah took Wye's left arm and Graham took his right as the two
pushed him up against the wall and demanded, "What the fuck is
Wye still couldn't stop laughing. The only intelligible words he
managed to get out were, "Read your," then, after another bout of
hysterical laughing, "Uncle Remus."
The fifth day in power ended with the Dictator unable to take
part in any further meetings, due to his being overcome with
laughter at the thought of the solemn, and extremely grateful,
faces of the religious leaders.
Every time those faces came to mind, he doubled up in hysterics
And when the thought, They were grateful for the donation passed
through his head, he almost pissed his pants in hilarity.
"They sailed away, for a year and a day..."
--Edmund Lear, The Owl and The Pussycat
Before that first week ended, Graham set up a group to make a
start on developing a reliable reusable ground-to-orbit
spacecraft. "The accent," as he put it, "Is to be on the word
'reliable.' We do not want a repeat of the NASA space-shuttle
idiocy, where half the craft needs to be replaced before every
He also started a team of engineers working on the design of a
space hotel: "A hotel, gentlemen. It is to pay for itself,
eventually, as a luxury hotel. Bear in mind, however, that it
will need to be built on Earth and shipped to - and assembled in
- orbit. Also remember that it will also be required to act as a
refuelling waystation for interplanetary ships and probes."
Deborah, meantime, had her hands full with organising her three
programmers as they installed a dozen super-computers - at a cost
of close to one billion pounds - to handle the bank accounts of
the nation. They needed at least a dozen because they wanted
speed, even when the National Network was linked through the
As for the Dictator himself, his major concern was with the
education system. Before being able to tackle that area, however,
he had first to run another, somewhat different, gauntlet.
"What are you going to do about the crime rate?" was a frequent
question - and eventually he agreed to chair a meeting of the
'law and order' lobby.
Wye's answer - to the consternation of the questioner and his
audience - was, "Nothing." When the howls of protest died down a
little, he asked, grinning widely, "Why? What do you think I
Answers were many and varied, running the entire range from
imprisoning more criminals, through birching and the re-
introduction of the stocks, and on to - of course - flogging and
hanging. The words 'prevention' and 'rehabilitation' were
noticeable only by their glaring absence in the overwhelming
number of repetitions of the word 'punishment,' 'punishment,'
Wye also noticed that the language being used by those present
was almost as uniform as the suits or blue rinses worn by all who
were present: 'terrorising the community' was one phrase used
often to describe what criminals were doing - another was
'mugging old ladies.'
Yet a third oft-used phrase was 'it's the only language they
understand,' while the words 'discipline,' 'short, sharp shock'
and 'national service' were also bandied about with depressing
The General waited until somebody mentioned that crime was
'bringing down the house prices' before he waved the crowd into
silence and said, slowly and distinctly, "Nothing you have said
has convinced me either that your views are desirable or that
they work in practice."
There was a minor uproar at these words, but it was quickly
quelled as Wye went on, "For thirty years," he said, getting to
his feet, "For thirty years the legal system has been following
the course you suggest - becoming ever more extreme as time went
by. What has been the result?
"I'll tell you!" he shouted, slamming his fist into the desk
top, "The crime rate has moved upwards and ever upwards. The
problem, people, is that you are addressing only the symptoms of
crime - not their causes."
"I suppose you want us to pamper criminals and send them on
holidays abroad!" came the mocking call of a heckler.
Wye looked in the direction from which the cry had came, "Don't
be ridiculous," he said, witheringly, "I have already said that I
will do nothing specifically to tackle crime. I will make you a
promise here and now, however.
"If, five years from now, it is still not safe to walk anywhere
in the British Isles without fear of being mugged, then I will
step down as Dictator. You can believe that promise or not, as
you choose - but I will abide by it."
"What do you mean by 'mugged?'" the heckler called again, but
this time Wye ignored the cry and merely dismissed the right-
They were seriously boring him by this time - and, besides, Wye
wanted to move on to what he considered to be the important
business of the day: reforming the education system.
"The first thing I want you to do is provide a pleasant working
environment for both teachers and students," Wye said. He was
addressing a gathering of organisers of pre-school schemes. "You
should, by now, be aware that the term 'pre-school' is no longer
appropriate - all children will start their education at the age
of three, and will continue until at least the age of twelve."
"Twelve, Dictator?" asked a stout man in the second row.
"Yes: twelve," Absolaam said, "Though that particular age limit
does not apply as yet - the requirement is for a minimum of nine
years of education under the new system.
"Strictly speaking, this means that those who are currently
fifteen years old will remain in education until they are twenty-
four. Since that is impractical, the upper limit for compulsory
education is twenty years of age. Beyond that age, people can
continue their education or not, as they decide.
"I suspect that most will decide to continue their education,"
"Any particular reason, Dictator?" asked the same stout man,
after noisily blowing his nose into a crumpled white
Wye grinned a while longer, then added, "Yes - By the time the
extra five years have passed, the advantages of their education
should have become apparent to those students.
"Incidentally," the Dictator continued, "You will notice that I
do not use either the word 'children' or 'pupil,' but instead use
'student.' I wish that this word be used in common practice from
now on, since it carries with it connotations of studiousness,
studying, and so on - associations which the other words do not
The meeting continued in a similar vein for a while, and was
followed by a number of other gatherings, each addressing what
were essentially the same points, with head teachers of primary
and secondary schools, sixth form colleges and technical colleges
- then there were, subsequently, meetings of the vice chancellors
of various polytechnics and universities.
In every such meeting, the importance of philosophy, psychology,
science and technology and ancient and modern languages was
stressed. In each gathering, particular emphasis was placed on
the environment in which the students were to work.
And at every turn, money was provided to pay for renovating - in
some cases, rebuilding - school buildings, buying in new
textbooks and apparatus and paying the wages of the new influx of
The eventual total, which was close to one hundred and fifty
billion pounds, allowed for more than ten thousand pounds to be
spent for each student in the system - with ages ranging from
three years upwards.
The school environment itself underwent a drastic change,
particularly at the junior and secondary school levels. Walls
were repainted - if necessary, being rebuilt first - and wood was
replaced where necessary. When it became apparent that plastics,
metals and composite materials were more appropriate than wood in
many situations, wood was unceremoniously yanked out and replaced
with the new materials.
Graffiti was not permitted to remain on walls, but - in a
deliberate imitation of an American experiment from the early
nineteen nineties - was to be removed within one hour of its
being seen. As in the US experiment, after a few months graffiti
virtually stopped appearing in the walls when students saw that
it was no longer a permanent fixture.
Under the US experiment, the new regime had been dropped as
'educationally elitist' when - after a little under a year - the
more highly-motivated students at the schools participating in
the experiment began to dramatically outperform their peers at
In Wye's educational system, the 'experiment' continued.
As time went by, students began to take more pride in their
schools. Not the narrow, bigoted pride of a flag-waving quasi-
patriot, singing Land of Hope and Glory in the Albert Hall and
bemoaning the loss of the British Empire. Rather, the pride of a
builder looking at a new bridge, spanning a deep chasm, and
saying to himself: I helped make that.
In the newly-renamed pre-primary schools, students were taught
to read and write and perform simple arithmetic. They were also
introduced to philosophical and scientific techniques, whole
areas which had previously been thought too advanced - too
complex - for such young children.
Despite the expectations of almost everybody - except the
Dictator and the majority of child and developmental
psychologists - those three year olds took to these 'advanced'
disciplines as though born to them, which in a sense they had
It is a common enough trait in young children that they ask vast
numbers of eventually-irritating questions about the world around
them - Why is the sky blue? and What is 'atmosphere'? and the
like. In the ordinary course of events, these questions will -
after a while - receive snapping non-answers, and the child is
discouraged from asking further questions.
Now, however, each child had access to a teacher - or several
teachers - whose job was to either provide an answer or - more
usually - to guide the child in reasoning out then checking
possible answers to their questions.
Why is the sky blue? no longer received the sharp retort:
Because it is! Instead, the question led through a maze of topics
covering water droplets, white light, prisms, the atmosphere, the
weather and on and on until the question multiplied tenfold, a
hundredfold - even a thousandfold.
Most children quickly caught on that reading was the key to
finding their own answers - their key to a small measure of
independence - and thus made their first, hesitant steps along
the road of knowledge. By the time the National Network was
completed - and all human knowledge made available at the touch
of a button - the entire process became even simpler than child's
But that came later.
After the jitters of the first week, the world stock markets
settled down somewhat.
Initially, of course, share prices fell and the notional value
of the pound sterling dropped dramatically. Once it became clear
just how wealthy Wye's government was, however, both shares and
the pound began to move upwards. Stockbrokers, it has been noted
elsewhere, have no national loyalties - the pledge they swear is
to Mammon, not Britannia or Lady Liberty.
Slowly at first, then accelerating. By the end of 2004, the FT-
SE index exceeded - for the first time - a value of twenty
thousand. At the same time, the pound sterling was - briefly -
possessed of a notional value just short of fifteen US dollars:
six point three seven Deutschmarks.
But that, too, was to come later.
The censorship, drugs and consensual sex laws were repealed on
Saturday, the fourth of December, 1999 - exactly one week after
the meeting with the religious leaders.
To everybody's surprise bar the Dictator's, the organised
religions - almost without exception - raised no fuss and caused
no uproar. The sermons preached on that day and during the
following weeks urged restraint in the face of temptation, but
did not protest the change of the laws themselves.
The three exceptions were a muslim fundamentalist group and two
of the christian churches, the Scottish Presbyterians and the
Methodists. Their protests were heard, but - aside from a couple
of Sunday supplement articles - hardly listened to beyond their
own limited congregations.
The new drug laws specified that all substances which may be
taken into the human body - such as alcohol, tobacco, heroin,
opium, cocaine, LSD, and other mind-affecting pharmaceuticals -
had to devote fully two thirds of each advertisement to a
detailed account of all figures relating to potential and actual
harmful and beneficial effects of the product.
This information was to include notes on the addiction and death
rates, if any, of users and abusers, as well as details such as
the percentage of the population which had proven to be allergic
to the substance and other information about scientific trials of
the product - with the trials having to be carried out under
Alongside this information, manufacturers were compelled to
display prominent notices of the percentage purity of the
product, and lists of all additives, with their effects and side-
effects listed also.
As a result of these strictly-enforced regulations, it took a
full month for the drug laws to show their initial effects, with
Acapulco Gold cigarettes going on sale alongside British American
Tobacco's other products.
A slick advertising campaign followed and, by the end of the
first month, existing heroin addicts were buying their fix from
the local off-licences at prices far below those they were paying
before. The number of burglaries, muggings and violent crimes in
the country dropped appreciably.
A little over one year later, the new laws on the sale of
'controlled' substances were extended to cover all food, drink,
their ingredients and additives, as well as all domestic,
commercial and agricultural chemicals and emissions. There were
several protests from the industries concerned, but these were
Decades later, historians were to argue vehemently about whether
the calming of the multinationals involved had more to do with
the fact that the extension had been requested by consumers - or
with the meetings which the 'Captains of Industry' concerned had
with the Dictator. Meetings from which most were observed to
emerge with corpse-pale complexions. That particular controversy
was never satisfactorily settled.
The new censorship and consensual sex laws were rather more
rapid in producing an effect.
The brothels - which quickly appeared in a great many towns -
did incredible amounts of business in the first weeks, and the
new 'hard core' pornography television shows initially sent
viewing figures through the roof. In the first twelve months,
soft-porn magazine sales declined massively.
Once the novelty had worn off, however, the television shows
found their audience tailing off significantly as the populous
grew accustomed to their content.
The market, it was found, could sustain only three 'just for
men' programmes, a single 'just for women' channel, two hard core
shows designed for couples and one 'speciality' channel, which
devoted shows to the minority activities - from homo-erotic
striptrease to spanking, foot-fetishism and sub-dom activities.
Perhaps surprisingly, the 'women-only' channel proved by far the
most popular of all these - consistently generating the most
After five years had passed, most towns in the country supported
one brothel - but it was difficult to find a town which had more
than one. And almost impossible to locate street-walking
prostitutes in any town.
Just as April the twelfth had become Gagarin Day, a national day
of rest and celebration in honour of the first manned space
flight, so July the twenty first, as the anniversary of the first
moon landing, had also been renamed and proclaimed as a new
British summers had been becoming hotter and ever hotter each
year for over a decade. Armstrong Day was hot in the year two
thousand - and not a dry heat, but a heat of such clothes-soaking
humidity that people stripped down to shorts and T-shirts even
more readily than in earlier years.
As the heat went on, men discarded T-shirts and, outside the
City, there were no shirts or long trousers to be found. Even in
the City, jackets became very much optional.
On Armstrong Day, after two months of this heat, a twenty three
year old woman decided that she, also, wanted to discard her
halter top. If the men can do it, she reasoned, then so can I. It
helped, of course, that she was a policewoman - and thus had
received the new government instructions.
Those instructions consisted of a very clear reminder that the
old 'decency' dress codes had been repealed. 'Indecent exposure'
was no longer an offence, nor was walking down the street stark
naked. The new instructions made it plain that anybody was
entitled to wear anything they like - or nothing at all, if they
At first, a topless young woman attracted a great many stares -
some of admiration, some of envy, some of pure lust. Even, from
several rather sick and twisted individuals, stares of disgust or
- in extreme cases - hatred. After a couple of days, though, it
became obvious that - despite protestations to the police by
those same sick and twisted individuals - no action was being
taken against this young woman.
It was then that other women began to strip off. At first, only
young women - teenagers and those in their early twenties - and
only those who wanted to show off their bodies. Within a week,
however, most people were down to wearing brief swimming costumes
around the town, and about half of the women were topless.
When full nudity started to appear on the streets, it actually
made less of an impact than had the first topless policewoman.
For obvious reasons of mechanics, however, many more women than
men went totally nudist - the country's menfolk were not yet
prepared, en masse, to walk around a supermarket with an exposed
Even that self-imposed restriction disappeared before too long,
however, as men began to grow ever more accustomed to the sight
of naked female flesh - whether on their television screens, in
the streets or walking around in their local branch of
Towards the end of August, on a sweltering summer evening, the
policewoman and her boyfriend-of-the-moment were browsing through
the sexual devices section of their local supermarket.
"What about this?" she asked, holding a foot-long dildo. It was
a fluorescent green colour, and a large switch at the base
betrayed it as being a vibrator. The boyfriend shook his head
solemnly, so she put it down and reached across for a pair of
padded electric lips.
The policewoman never completed the movement because that was
the moment that the world exploded.
Not the entire planet - merely that portion of it which made up
the supermarket. The world of everybody in that supermarket
followed a uniform pattern at that instant of time:
Heat. Light. Sharp. Stab. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.
The fire bomb was not the first to explode - and 'credit' for
the sixty eight human deaths it caused was claimed by the same
group which had set the two previous fire bombs.
The same group which would go on to set more.
As the first year of power drew to a close, in November of the
year 2000, the plans for the space hotel were close to
completion, the National Network was all but finished and work
had started on building a prototype of the Phaelon reusable
Professor Colin Simoney's particle accelerator was not quite
completed on time. But, then, nobody had really expected it to
Sharon Kelly and Graeme Skildon had managed to come up with a
reasonable way of utilising the Network to produce computer-
controlled vehicles, though levitation appeared - for the moment
- to be beyond them. They asked for, and were given, fifty
million pounds to produce a prototype vehicle - which they
expected to be ready within one to two years.
The crime rate, for the first time in three decades, was
Whether that was due to fear of the Dictator, or to the cheaper
availability of the more addictive drugs, was widely debated and
hotly contested - and was a frequent topic of late-night current
affairs programmes. The latter was usually the factor decided
upon as the cause, particularly when - as the years went by - the
fear of Wye declined.
More surprising to some, the rate of usage of the harder drugs -
in particular, the opiates - increased only marginally, and then
began to fall. When ten years had gone by, the only range of
opiates to be found in the country, outside of hospitals and
hospices, was a government-subsidised product, sold under the
brand-name "Slow Death."
A year after it started, the literacy program ended, as
promised, and the teachers - who had been re-trained during the
year - were ready to be re-assigned for the second phase of the
Thanks to the number of highly-paid and highly-motivated
teachers made available - enough to allow special coaching of
those with such difficulties as dyslexia - all people over the
age of five, bar a hard-core of less than one thousand, were
functionally literate. Those so severely mentally handicapped
that they were not capable of learning to read, write or type
were not counted in that thousand, of course.
At the time, Wye said, of those able but unwilling to learn to
read, "Fuck 'em."
By the end of their first year in power, Wye, Graham and Deborah
were ready to move on to phase two.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.