Lunch break. Plantman attended an open session of The City Legislature, his attention tuned to The Senator, whose office he would tend after his break.
The Senator was worse than sinister, he was suave. Younger than most of his colleagues, forty-five, trim, vigorous, concerned more with the televised discussion of the pros and cons of televised execution than with the actual subject of televised execution. They would have to allocate money for the contract with DDT. Which option package would they select, VOID or VAPER?
The Senator desired to show himself and speak. Be seen and heard, vicarious voice of The People. His job. He was popular. Handsome. He translated well to photographs and screens.
The televised session began. First order of business, procurement: VOID or VAPER?
The Senator walked calmly — confident, without over-stepping the mark into what viewers might perceive as arrogance — to the podium.
“The cosmetic effect,” he said. “Aesthetic termination.”
The Senator had fought for The Nation in the war of his generation. National office was not out of the question. He’d played sports in college. Rugged handsome. Gray hair, stature. Eminence. He wasn’t boring — a plus. Sharp wit, compassion. Spoke directly to belief. Married, two children. Played around with girls his daughter’s age. Nineteen, twenty. Legal. Could have cared less whether VD’s were terminated via spray to the face or blast of anti-quark.
But he was indeed concerned about the cosmetic question. Which would allow him to seem tough but humane, VOID or VAPER? He spoke extemporaneously, directly to the camera and whoever was admiring him at the outer limits of connection. He summoned conviction, spoke to persuade. His was the power to hypnotize, instruct.
Collectively, the Legislature had fiat over life and death. He wanted this power for himself. Such power would be neither neglected nor abused, should it come to him. He was not afraid to confront death, his own or the murderer’s. Deliberate without passion. Decisions would be conclusive.
The Senate elected VOID. A quick, clean blast had sex-appeal. Ejaculate of anti-quark. Send VD to hell. The People wanted it thus.
Having voted VOID, the Legislature’s next conclusion was obvious: terminations on TV. The Citizens would learn by example. Taste the blast. Every capillary in the VD’s system. Bang, you’re dead. Noise of the kill was artificial. Sound effect for the instruction of witnesses. Sure, instant, violent purge. Low margin of error.
The Senate was unanimous for television, a vote of confidence for DDT Inc. This pleased many.
Next on the Senator’s agenda, short interview with the Eye of The City, columnist for The City’s “Free Press” to demonstrate the Senator’s tolerance of alternative opinions, even those, particularly the “alternatives,” he openly despised.
In The Senator’s office, Plantman lingered over his work, listened.
Yes the Senator believed this. No he wouldn’t stand for that. Yes he had a moral obligation to something or other. No he wouldn’t let politics get in the way. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Yes! Always end on an “up” note. What Big Media wanted to hear. Resolution. Strength.
He was one of the few Senators to do his own data searches on Pyramid.
“No unelected official should stand between The People and their data,” he said.
What did this Eye want? Demonstration of a search?
“I don’t do theater,” said the Senator. “Legislation is serious business.”
Yes, he’d performed his own searches even as a young Prosecutor. No, he had nothing against the Research Officials. He merely saw no need for translators when one could easily learn The Search languages himself. It brought him closer to the actual data, so important to his duty as representative of The People. Cost effective and efficient. City government was already bloated with Officials. Lawmakers must get their feet wet, dirty their hands, dive into the sea of information, sink or swim.
No, he had nothing personal against Lawmakers who used Translating Officials. In certain cases it saved time. This was just his way. He was a hands-on Senator. Blah blah blah. Bleh Bleh Bleh.
The Senator did not frighten easily, but this “Eye of The City” spooked him. Slick smile behind the deadpan. I know you, said the smile. You know me not, arched the Senator’s thick brows. But this was only implied. No way to know whether The Eye bought it.
The Senator had thought a profile feature in the Sunday edition would do him good. But he was not relaxed for this interview; not the persona he’d spent years perfecting. Damage control. Perhaps a stellar photograph might offset possible land mines in the prose. Or invite the Newspaper’s Editor — better yet, the Owner — to lunch at the CGC. VIP treatment, etc. Poke The Eye, hard.
“I feel like I’m talking to an undertaker,” said The Senator, then mentally kicked himself in softest region of his tight behind.
Exactly NOT what he wanted to say to this reporter.
Ordinarily, such a comment would have made him seem spontaneous, off the cuff, not afraid to speak his mind. Interpreted by The Eye, the comment revealed The Senator in a way he did not wish to be revealed. No room for humor with this Eye of The City fellow. A light-hearted comment spawned boils, gaffes, big red blisters on the page. Too late. He would have to accept this blunder, eat it. A small mistake, yet one in his position, one with aspirations and potential, could not afford a dent, not a scratch, on the chassis.
Deadpan, The Eye scribbled the Senator’s mistake to glyptic accusations on his digipad from which they were relayed to a server (and posterity) at Free Press Headquarters in real time.
The Eye had not asked a question for several minutes. The trap had been set: let the Senator run on, for running on led to improvisation, increasing the risk of error.
The more words one released, the greater the probability those words would mutate into a sentence best left unheard, unquoted, forgotten. But with this scribe and his digipad, every word might appear on record, in the newspapers and on the network, stored, eventually, on Pyramid to be called up by The Senator’s enemies when the time came to destroy him. It was not the columnist himself, but the record The Senator most feared.
The Eye, whom the Senator had not reached with wit, charm, or charisma, was a cold recorder to which The Senator dictated his own epitaph.
Only after the Eye of The City left did the Senator acknowledge the presence of Plantman. Immediately, the Senator brightened, beamed, became the familiar meta-narrative of himself again.
“Plantman. What an honor to meet you in the illustrious City Government Complex! Can I offer you a cup of coffee, a mint, perhaps a signed photograph?”