The End of the Old Order
My wife stands bare before Equis. She’s exposed in front of armed guards, cameramen, production staff, and countless others. It is Equis’ intention that she stand naked in front of hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people. The only thing I feel is rage.
I stare at Equis. I know he is looking at his monitor. I know he sees how I loathe him. He soaks in my disgust like a thirsty dog lapping at a puddle. As my hate simmers, his confidence swells. I can’t stop myself from feeding his arrogance. He is a man who would flinch at a fist, but who revels in seeing others become unbalanced.
All he says is “Colonel.” His voice, calm and cold like a city clerk taking in a government form, cuts through me. He then closes his eyes slowly and methodically grins for the camera just as he opens them. With that one look, I know what he’s thinking. Colonel … there are thick metal walls between us that protect me from the likes of you. I am safe behind these walls. Your wife is not. He wants me to know that Trina is his puppet and he will pull whatever strings he likes. And more than that, he wants me to know there is nothing I can do about it.
With the rage that courses through my veins, I feel like I could punch straight through those metal walls. But what I feel and know are at odds. I’ve often thought there should be at least one time in any man’s life where because he was right he should be capable of superhuman powers, capable of miracles. But that state of mind is a vestige of the days when I was a believer—the days before the Nation of Yerusalom took my father. My mother used to tease my father and me for going to the basilica each Sunday. She’d laugh at us. She’d shake her head as we marched towards church and say, “The folly of the faithful.” But that was before my father’s body came back to us neatly stacked in twelve sections, vacuum-packed in a plastic bag with the Son Savior’s cross on it.
A small automaton zips onto the ring’s platform and removes Trina and the princess’ robes from Equis’ hands. A voice, deep and scratchy and probably from somewhere like Braxile, comes over the phonics system: “Camera 7, you caught the automaton on frame.” Another voice, a woman likely from Latvon or Rysia, answers back, “It would be smarter to reprogram the automaton than change the camera’s position.” Both voices debate for a while before Equis interrupts them and tells them to work it out in private.
Equis stands in the center of the ring towering over my wife. He is much taller and more athletic-looking than I initially thought. He places his hands on my wife’s bare shoulders. I don’t think that her nakedness or Equis touching her has anything to do with sex, but that doesn’t stop my mind from racing towards a discomforting place. I remember the pleasure Equis took in describing the details of Princess Avir’s affair. I’m hoping my wife and the princess are bare because Equis and whoever he works for simply want to humiliate them.
Equis takes the center of the caged platform, which now feels more like a circus stage than a fighting ring. A bright light shoots down on him. “After the two of you are unrobed, the camera will come in close to me and I will introduce The War Show. I will explain to the audience why we are doing this and why—"
“You want peace,” the prince yells out. It’s uncharacteristic of him to impulsively shout something out. I can’t say I understand his intentions. “You want peace, and you’re going to do it by creating a show that highlights the perversity of our wars.”
“Very good, Prince,” Equis says. “I’m impressed.”
“You must know that you can’t convince the masses that peace is in their best interest by giving them the very violence they crave. They won’t see this as real. They will see it like any other reality network programming. You and your superiors are being naïve. Human minds simply don’t work that way. If you truly wanted peace, you would be better off showing footage of Erabian and Anglican children holding hands and playing together.”
“Who’s being naïve, Prince Hozani? We will give them what they want. Everyone will get exactly what they want. In turn, we will get precisely what we require.”
“I’m not some lower-class hand-to-hardware worker in Liverpool,” the prince says arrogantly. “I doubt you will persuade me using the same theatrics used to persuade some lower-class Anglican worker.”
“Well said, Prince. You are 100% correct. I shouldn’t indulge you, but since life is about to get particularly challenging for you and your wife, I will let you in on a little secret.” Equis motions for someone outside of my view. He points to the desk he was sitting at. “Set the media-board to VK-12,” Equis says. “A young woman, probably an assistant producer, quickly runs over and hits a series of buttons on a media-board that slides out from the underside of Equis’ desk. Equis’ face is no longer pixelated on my monitor. His skin is as brown as the prince’s. He clears his voice and begins talking in ancient Erabian, an official language reserved for royalty. Equis shouts out another setting. The producer hits a few more buttons and Equis is a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman speaking Liverpool Anglican, the type my grandfather used to speak. The producer hits a few more buttons and Equis’ face is once again pixelated and his voice the same as before.
“We are running the most sophisticated technological and psychographic operation in the history of human persuasion. We won’t be feeding the masses some universal slop. We will be feeding millions of micro-demographies highly precise distortions of truth. We are drug dealers selling narrow minds painkillers to numb any discordant information that may come their way. It’s a beautiful thing—the human mind. Capable of so much, but so very defiant in the face of dissonance. We are going to give the xenophobes intolerance. We will give the partisans dogmatism. We will give the tree-huggers utopia. Our team of psychographic data miners is unparalleled—tenured Oxford professors, intelligence officers from Erabia, RNTM hackers, Yerusi ground operatives, elite medical staff from Permos. It’s the best. We know exactly what message to send. If you’re a single, cat-owning, tertiary-educated, middle-aged atheist dwelling in government apartments in the southwest quadrant of Germont, we know precisely how to message you. And this is only a fraction of what we’re capable of.”
Equis returns to his desk overlooking the ring. Three monitors rise out of the center of his raised desk and two producers take seats next to him. The lights in the studio dim and all of the refraction monitors in our consultation room fade to black. Slowly, an out-of-focus logo for The War Show sharpens on each of the monitors. The War Show logo pulses to a powerful e-drum, before Equis’ voice comes over the speakers and says, “Let’s begin.” The War Show logo fades and each of the refraction monitors starts to play different videos and images.
“Here’s a sneak peek of some of the content we will be disseminating during The War Show. Please turn your attention to the refraction monitor closest to your latrine. You will see the latest tweets from Prime Minister Layton.”
“We know exactly who will be consuming these tweets and for what purposes. Perhaps more than any public figure, Layton’s tweets act as the proverbial Rorschach Test. People see what they want in them. We know precisely what cohort group alpha will take away and what cohort group zeta will take away.” Equis’ voice brims with confidence. “Now if you turn your attention to the monitor nearest the hatch you will see a video from the RNTM’s Mother Suri. The old lady is a little trickier to use than Layton. But she is capable of really moving the psycho-emotional meter when necessary. Her echo-chamber is a bit nosier than Layton’s, but with the proper mining and targeting, the results are extraordinary. I despise everything there is about the old bag and her group of know-nothings, but as you will see in this classic RNTM video, she can really weave a tale.”
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