SCIENCE FICTION WRITER

 

SCHOOL'S OUT

Slowly Davor rose from his chair, the reminder on his watch had told him that he was due to teach. He examined his console "Level 4 History". Automatically he pressed the print button and obtained the hard copy of his class register and noted the absentees list at the bottom Ė they must surely bring in that Fentor for on-site tuition now he had had two warnings already. He must call up that family's case history, he had told himself this many times but somehow with the pressure of work etc. etc.

He typed "Level 4 History" and examined the state of the art. Looking down the list he noticed the students whose previous work had shown little effort, he made a note that if they asked any questions he would make more of an effort to be helpful. He always felt that his fellow teachers were not informative enough and often this was the reason that many studentsí essays lacked originality - and subsequently why many students never moved up levels. He thought back to his training and remembered the heated arguments about the correlation of level of achievements between parents and children. He knew this was intended but the teachers seemed to actually want to consciously reinforce this even though they professed they didn't. But he couldn't let this avenue of thought progress, although he still believed it the significance of the correlation was well within acceptable limits - there was no "class" procreation through education of any significant pattern nowadays.

He felt a pang of anger which he repressed. He checked the screen, the lesson was prepared and when his watch chimed his professional polish sparkled by the informal yet solid way that he always began his lessons. He looked directly at the vidscreen, at the pre-designed marks which corresponded to eye-level on the students own screen "Good Morning level 4 history". He checked the panel, he noted one light was not lit. He checked his list, read that it was student Temor. He flicked on the monitor and called out on personalvid "Good Morning Temor".

At the same time a chime registered on Temor's watch and she acknowledged receipt of the signal from the toilet. Satisfied Davor continued with the lesson. "I hope you have all studied the news and registered your comments," he began "I noticed that there were events today which are relevent to what we are discussing in history today. I must remind you yet again that any of your essays, which contain valid comparisons with contemporary events, are always awarded highly. In fact," he added a personal tone "from my own experience the real difference between yourselves and higher levels of achievement is simply the lack of integrated comment in your work. It is essential that you do not see history as history, maths as maths and news as news. You must integrate your studies."

He almost felt the yawns coming through the screens and then he felt a pang of guilt, they dissected learning into different disciplines and then complained when the less intelligent failed to integrate the whole. Mind you, historically speaking whole societies failed to integrate their learning and that fragmentation was part and parcel of much of the failures of those societies - it was his thesis, he remembered.

"Now today's topic is money or more importantly finance the way in which finance can affect the social fabric of society. Has anyone any comments?" There was a pause, and he checked all the lights were now on which meant that Temor had returned.

"Only three of you,," he asked, but the prompt led to no further comments. He typed 1 and "The Guardians were started" came on the screen.

He checked the panel "Well done Billor and the date is?" he paused but no response. That was hopeful, deliberation.

"The date was 2047" came from Billor.

Davor typed "2" & "Too much capital"

"Explain that Stefor," there was a pause.

"All the money was in the hands of too few people," was Steforís reply.

"Good Stefor" answered Davor "but why Jonor is that such a bad thing?"

Davor paused and the response came :- "Because if some people have too much then others have too little."

Obviously Jonor was paying more attention after his low grade.

The teacherís comment was "Try and look into the reasons for this situation being accepted, we will consider this in detail tomorrow. Sorry!" as he saw all the lights flashed "Monday". He let them hear the mixed sounds of all their studies so that they got the feeling of communal laughter. He was sure they appreciated that, not all the teachers bothered with such "pettiness" - as they call it.

He typed "3" & "Substitute for barter and trade"

"Good Endor" said Davor "that is exactly the theoretical beginnings of money. In fact our system of buying and selling is a simple development of that. Instead of exchanging a vidscreen for a new housebot, we register the amount on out credit-comp and when we both agree there is a transaction. This cuts out the money stage."

"Why was there a need for money in the first place?" asked Temor.

"Good question," answered Davor "anybody know?" He paused. He noted there were 13 responses. "I am not going to discuss this, it is not the central point of the lesson," he began "I am going to put the comments on the screen and I want you to store them for reference later." He pressed the "Display" button and waited for them to dump.

"Now here is the title of the essay "Choosing one particular time in history consider the effects of misuse of money on the contemporaneous society and describe how we combat this in our society today.""

"I would remind you that this is your last essay before the spot assessment with me, and you must revise your work to check that you have understood your errors. I must still point out that spot tests are not a test of memory, I am not concerned that you remember either my comments or the facts of the particular essay, all that is stored in your computer. I only test your understanding of the patterns of history and their relevence to today, do you understand?"

He noticed the panel was completely lit but he knew they hadn't understood. "Good, then carry on with your assignment and don't forget that if you have any questions please ask me."

Temor knew she was in trouble. Although she had had a legitimate reason for being late for the console she also knew that tutor Davor was watching her. But she knew herself that she was not performing properly in her learning, she just completely lacked interest. What was all this money business for? They didn't even use money now. And although she knew all the arguments about the difference between people and computers being intelligence, and that the way to develop that intelligence was through artistic or spiritual activity, really what she was continually stuck with was the idea of leaving it all to the computer. This damn essay, what was the point of that? Money didn't exist any more so forget it!

She began typing:- "Money is the root of all evil". It was a catchphrase used by many people, some time ago - in the twentieth century and perhaps time before that. But although people used the phrase they didn't practise its philosophy, and the evils of their society were all based on their greed and need for acquiring money at whatever cost in lives and social conditions. However in 2047 the Guardians, or is it the computer, was set up as a government agency to limit personal wealth and control the assets of large companies. For us now there is no problem as a result of this type of money control except our lives are run by computers. She then typed the "destroy" button, and her frustration was evaporated as she buckled down to the task at hand.

Unknown to her Davor had been looking "over her shoulder", he had had her angry jottings displayed on his master console. This was a trick he often used, it sometimes gave him an insight into what his students really think and for him that was what really mattered. What Temor had written really touched a nerve. For a long time he had been trying to face the question, who were the Guardians? From his own learning he had discovered their origin, much as Temor had, but as he had grown older he had begun to ask questions about them. And there was a great air of mystery that surrrounded them.

The only contact with these Guardians came through the computer. There was the case in the news today of a firm which had overstepped the mark. There was a current consumer fad for a special type of chocolate. Now the government had set the usual quotas for each of the firms who produced the product. Fortuitously the firm's monitor had broken down, and while it was being mended the manager of this firm had gained access to the firm which exported the raw cocoa. He had increased the quota that they had to send to him. In Kamerun where they produced this cocoa the growers found that the target was very hard to reach, but because of years and years of reliance they didn't think to question the quota. When the order arrived in Lowtoft they got their computer to check with the Kamex computer and the order was accepted. When the order arrived at the factory the order was checked with Lowtoft Imports and was accepted. The firm Hanserns then produced more of the chocolate.

Hansern reduced his prices slightly so people bought from him so he increased his profit. He worked out how much he should have earned, and transferred the rest of the credits as a charitable gift to an invalid relative. He got away with it so after a reasonable period of time he decided to try again. However this time he tampered with the monitor. He didn't know it but there are various safety procedures that the Guardians operate which prevent tampering. As a result an automatic check on all Hansern's dealings were carried out, and he was caught. Immediately all his personal credit was revoked, and he was imprisoned so he had to start again.

Of course this was accredited to the Guardians and everyone was happy. Davor remembered in his studies that this type of trick had become acceptable in the twentieth century as a way of beating the system. He took pride here in his position as tutor, now the system wanted to demonstrate the truth. Nowadays no-one saw these dealings as anything other than crime because people like Hansern had been stealing the time and labour of the people of Kamerun without rewarding them - as well of course as the damage that the excess farming had caused to the ecologically balanced harvest. He remembered back to the cashcrop farming that had nearly completely destroyed the African continent, and it had taken many years of planned agreconomy to return the Sahara to its natural boundaries. It was when he thought of the ignorance of these twentieth century money men that it gave him heart to continue teaching whatever he thought of the omnipresent computer.

Still he returned his thoughts to Temor and the Guardians. Here she was showing a seed which if fertilised might well lead to real knowledge - wisdom. He checked her age, she was young for level 4, but not that young. Although having advanced quite quickly she was still sleeping intellectually, he thought; obviously she had always been half-hearted about her work - and yet she had still progressed. This thought really appealed to him, what potential, what could she really do? He knew he would have no choice but to go and visit her personally - so the computer couldn't monitor. At the entrance to her building he stood in front of the doorvid. He pressed the button marked "knock". The screen displayed "Who's there?" Davor typed his name and ID number. The screen displayed verification and then the message "Who do you wish to visit?"

He typed Temor's name and apartment number. When the computer chimed a visitor, she was shocked, her family rarely visited and even less had visitors. Her family were content simply to converse on the phone or particpate in the vid. None of the mere physical hedonism of the lower levels but neither the more intellectual pursuits of higher levels. But if a visitor had been a shock the identity of the visitor really freaked her out. Feelings of guilt abounded it was unheard of - a tutor visiting a student? Of course they visited each other quite frequently by computer, and they even spoke of it as if it were some kind of evangelical mind-awakening as to greater pleasures in life. However she detested the patronising attitudes of tutors, but on reflection Davor was not like that. Out of politeness and deference she agreed to see him but not out of desire. Time passed slowly as the lift came up to the apartment. When it arrived at her floor she keyed in her name and number and the lift door opened. She shook his proffered hand and led him to the apartment.

Opening the door she mumbled apologies about the tidiness. Their housebot was only allocated twice a week and she couldn't do it herself because she hadn't had enough warning. He cast aside her proprieties he was disinterested but he took careful note of the mildly-veiled criticism of his unexpected visit. "Have you finished your essay?" he asked to break the ice. She nodded, of course she had but it was the last thing she wanted to talk about, it so disinterested her. He took

the hint and now began to regret his coming. Feeling very much an intruder he hadn't really thought of the other consequences of his visit - the invasion of privacy, the breaking down of barriers which were time-honoured between tutor and student.

Strangely enough his own embarrassment began to put the girl at ease, and she asked "Would you like a drink?"

He agreed willingly feeling the need for both the stimulation and the relief - from his tension and her presence. As Temor returned with the stimulant she remarked "It's unusual for a tutor to visit a student, isn't it?" She asked with apparent innocence, both of them knowing her facade was a gambit.

"Yes, although it is not the first time I have done so," he replied "I get so tired of thinking of students as numbers, grades or images on screens." She smiled at that, then a more nefarious thought crossed her mind and she shuffled awkwardly. "I'm afraid my parents are in the middle of a vid-part and they always leave strict instructions never to be disturbed. Mind you," she thought on reflection, "those instructions were not meant for someone like yourself."

"No," he held her back, almost shouting at her and quickly let go realising just how forward a gesture that was and just how it might be interpreted. "Oh I'm very sorry to do that and," he paused "I think now I shouldn't have come." He got up to leave but she halted him before he reached the exit. "Don't worry," she said comfortingly,.

"Please just sit down and," she said earnestly " for Guardian's sake tell me why you came round."

He began to tell her. "Remember just before you started your assignment this morning" she nodded cautiously "Well I saw what you wrote .... your jottings you might say." She looked at him sheepishly then her coyness turned to anger. "What right do you have to look at my personal writings?"

"None," he said, "but then they weren't diary."

"Whether they were or not they were my own thoughts and then you come round here as if you have the right to discuss them. I'm sorry but whether you're tutor or not I think you're well out of line."

She began to explode, talking about police or deans or at the least getting her parents. All his agreements that it was an invasion of privacy, and that invasion compounded by his visit, did little to assuage her. Looking at her anger he knew he had been very wrong. All his altruism, and all that that implied in his own self-interest, had hidden from him the implications - and the possible reactions of the girl. All he thought of was potentials and higher levels, and without belittling her in any sense they weren't meaningful to her life. Again he got up to leave.

"What's the matter with you?" she asked "you come round, you bother me at home, you read my diary without permission and when I talk about it or make it a bit difficult for you all you want to do is run away. You're very spineless."

Guad, she thought, did she really say that to her tutor she'd get in trouble for this definitely. Then she looked at him and she could see purpose rising in him.

"That's enough, Temor!" he said authoritatively. "You have chastised me quite rightly but I don't think you should say much more." His voice carried heavy threat but it was an occupational threat which grew out of his frequent use of personal authority and power; in his own mind there was no intent. But he also knew she didn't know that. "I have no intention of discussing with you, here, what was in your diary as you call it."

He emphasised the word "diary", then looked at her harshly. Gradually he allowed a smile to grow from the corner of his mouth. Slowly as her ruckus dawned on her she saw the humour, and though trying to suppress it her juvenile free expression forced its way through. They both laughed openly but with mild restraint. "I really want to talk to you about this but not here. Have you ever been to the park?" he asked.

"No, what is it?" she asked cautiously.

"It's a place free of...." but he stopped and said "It is just a free place."

They left the apartment. Having checked them out the door-vid closed behind. Davor led them off to the park and began talking to Temor. "There are several reasons I called on you but I'm afraid you're going to think I'm being very "tutor". I think you find the work meaningless," he noticed her sharply look at him then qucikly avert her gaze "and that is why you only do the bare minimum. I

want to explain to you just why what we do is important. What I'm going to do is to use the faculty computer to actually show you what happened and to show you why we talk about money. History is for teaching us about life now, learn your lessons from history and mistakes won't be made now."

She looked at him, she could see he believed what he said but she was still not convinced. "Yes, I know you're not sure but we can leave that till later. Now I want to ask you what made you write that about the Guardians."

"Have you ever seen one?" she asked. She saw his nod. "Who Guards our lives, who controls our every move, who checks us in and out of doors, in and out of lessons, in and out of the toilet?" He laughed but he knew the seriousness of what she was saying.

It was simple, no involved constructs and no devious rationalisations. You haven't seen a Guardian therefore they don't exist. You have to prove they exist or else they don't. It was the old lesson, repeat something often enough and people will believe it - the power of education as social control! But then it doesn't matter anyway.

"Whether it's Guardians or computers our lives are controlled from start to finish," she said resignedly.

"They only put consideration as a priority, they don't withdraw your freedom unless there are consequences." he answered defensively, he believed things were better now than they ever had been.

"You have a vested interest in believing that," she said, and he began looking at her with an apprehensive look bordering on fear. He begin to see who was the tutor. Luckily they were at the park. As they began to walk around the park he saw the new experience shine in her eyes. Once the newness disappeared, she developed a different glow that came from a suffusion with Nature. Soon he felt an intruder again as she continued her exploration. All he could see was her irridescence as her gaze lighted on tree, flower or insect - all which had been either vid or school to her. He began to feel fidgety and angry and he fought back the selfishness which said leave. After a while he found a seat and without further ado dozed off.

It was not long, it seemed, when he heard a voice calling at him. From out of his dream the voice repeated his name again and again. Davor, Davor, it called and it seemed to get louder and louder, nearer and nearer and suddenly the voice took the shape of an arm and grabbed his shoulder. He woke with a start and found Temor calling to him. As his eyes slowly opened she slowly asked "Are you ready to go to the faculty?" He could do little more than get up to follow her, dazed, still tired but whisked off by her vibrant energy.

In no time they were in front of his console; he could still feel her intense excitement. What had he unleashed, did he have the right to and could he sustain her? He typed Guardians. The Guardians were founded in DATE as a result of the thirty years Grand Civil War. This war had started in Africa and spread throughout what was then known as the Third World. Although the Grand Civil War was only credited officially with thirty years duration, its roots had existed for five hundred years. It had started simply enough. Ships leaving Europe and through superior weaponry and seamanship forcing trade deals that only benefited one side. But soon these traders were not satisfied with unbalanced deals. They invaded new territories where there was no trading. Making use of new natural resources they decided to create a trade economy not previously available. But they needed people to cultivate the lands so they began the slave trade where over a period of two hundred years, millions of Africans were transported across the Atlantic, many to die on the way.

But soon they found this was not enough; they wanted still more profits. Rather than transport people miles across the world why not make them slaves in their own lands so Europe invaded Africa, South and Central America and Asia and the Far East. So for a hundred years the world was divided up into different European empires.

Davor stopped the machine, he could see the anger in Temor's eyes but she said resolutely "No carry on, I want to find out."

"And you will," he said "but first think about this. This type of invasion trading etc. had gone on since time began but what is important to recognise is the trend towards hugeness. With the development of the communications the size of the exploitation became vast and these were the first signs."

She looked at him and took note. He pressed the continue button. "Soon even these vast empires were not enough. The longer the empires existed the harder they were to manage. Anyway these empires began fighting each other for the lands. And after one of their major wars they had destroyed each other. This left the field open for a newcomer, America. After the war America bought off all the Europeans and made them appendages to her own empire. But America was smart, she knew that she couldn't afford to pay for all the vast empires and she realised what she needed from these countries. Outside America she created a two-tier slave economy. She gave the old Europeans vast aid loans so that they were able to rebuild - but not enough, and then she went about creating dictatorships in the other countries. But this time she didn't run her own dictatorships she paid Africans, South Americans and Asians. So gradually she began to control the whole of world trade and all countries became embroiled in her trade network.

So now America had control of world trade but how did she control her own people? She created a bogeyman. During the war America had prospered by developing a war economy and trading with these European countries. America had became wealthy only through the war; and she knew that to maintain her wealth she had to find an enemy and she did in USSR - the communist menace! Here was this country which had been decimated by the war but it was big and it had a so-called different political ideology. And that was the excuse. America focussed on the size and the ideology.

But how did she con everyone? Two ways. Firstly she had control of the media and she made films which built up fears about the "Reds". And then there were the schools, and they were taught that the American way was right and the Reds' way was evil. As a result all the Americans accepted the war economy and began working as slaves to build enough weapons to protect themselves from the bogeymen. So even in America the people became slaves. But they were richer."

"But why did everyone believe it?" asked Temor.

"Because of the two-tier slavery. In the richer countries they had enough money that they didn't mind working for the Americans. mainly because they were frightened of ending up like the Third world dying of starvation. Effectively these countries simply worked to keep America rich. Of course America had an assimilation policy. Let's look at it."

He typed assimilation. "Assimilation - USA. By the late 60's the European countries were getting richer and the people were beginning to realise what was happening in the world. So the Americans began to allow the Europeans to live in America. By this time the conglomerates were coming into existence. As nascent companies they employed the better people and moved them to America with rich jobs and houses. This was an incentive to all the Europeans to work harder so they might also be assimilated."

He typed "Continue Guardians". "Initially America and some of the European countries had been the home of the companies and they had maintained some control over their activities. But during the 1980's these conglomerates really began to control the governments. They used the governments to maintain the control of education so that no-one really knew including the educators - in fact especially the educators who, unlike now, rarely ever left the education system to get jobs and find out about the real situation. But most importantly they used governments to alter economic policies. through various enslavements like monetarism Under the guise of misguided nationalism and the communist bogeyman, they forced more and more work out of the people and then conned them into placing the money under conglomerate control."

"You talked about the computers running us, it was at this time it really began to happen. Have a look!" Davor interrupted pointedly, he hoped.

The computer continued, "Through the vast conglomerates had they dominated all trading. Through their own dealings on the stock markets more and more of the money began to be owned by fewer and fewer companies. Soon they were not able to trade fast enough and they introduced the computer. With the computers they made deals so fast that people made millions and millions each day. It became a great big game for these conglomerates. They now controlled the world, they told governments what to do or they wouldn't invest their money. And the governments did it.

"But eventually they couldn't make any more profits. The world had been reduced to five conglomerates and they began to take money from each other. But in the game that soon balanced each other out. So they needed a new sport. They created wars. Always wars had been fought over money but not on this scale. It had always been the case that the deals on the stock markets had led to famine and death, although never tangibly so, but now these conglomerates didn't care at all. They had become complete megalomaniacs.

"Instead of paying their money to the usual dictator they began to pay it to a slave leader. Soon that leader would become powerful enough to take over and there would be a new leader. That would then destabilise neighbouring countries who with funds from the other conglomerates would then start a civil war there.

"Soon there were civil wars breaking out throughout the world and as result the assets of the conglomerates were changing. This became their new game. Many people knew this was happening of course but no-one could do anything about it. If it was only one person broadcasting the truth they simply assasinated him if he became at all powerful. If there were organisations all saying the truth they labelled them terrorists, and there were enough people around who simply shot terrorists because of the label - they were shooting anyone at that time. If there were a bloc of countries who banded together and were beginning to realise the truth they simply stopped their money and gave it to the enemy, or even sent in mercenaries. But overall they maintained complete control and this lasted for thirty years.

"This is when the Guardians stepped in. To this day no-one knows where they came from but throughout history there are intimations of their existence - The Great White Brotherhood, The Masters and many other religious orders. Throughout history there has always been different deities, mythologies and religious beliefs but fundamentally they all had a basic pattern to them, and in that pattern there existed these benign non-earthly beings who supervised life on the planet. These beings were The Guardians.

"Although it was not their policy to interfere in terrestrial affairs, they realised that there was no progress only war and this war was stalemated. These conglomerates couldnít change, their existence now meant war and the people couldn't liberate themselves because the conglomerates controlled all the factors. So they intervened.

"Firstly they imprisoned the people who were then running the conglomerates and then they made sure that the liberation peoples ran their own countries. They set the economic realities of the trade and organised all this through the world computer which had for more than sixty years been used as a tool of evil by the conglomerates. They then set the limits on assets and capital control so there was no incentive for this massive competitive urge to be misused for amounting vast capital. With the computer guarding the economic life of the world, people were free to develop themselves. With the main reason for crime being destroyed a person's competitiveness could be used for what it was intended, competing for betterment of oneself.

"This self-competitiveness turned into a drive for self-realisation and soon with initial supervision of the Guardians to control the habitual killing and excesses of soldiery life settled down to its original spiritual enquiry. Gradually the old scrolls and tomes of wisdom were dragged out of their hiding-places and humanity returned to peacable evolution of earlier times.

"End of file - type next entry or return to close."

Temor reached forward and pressed the return button. "That's enough," she said, looking and feeling totally drained. She sat down to recuperate, tears running down her skin. It seemed that a great sorrow had overtaken her and then he remembered. He looked at her black skin and felt nothing but shame as her racial memory flowed out through her eyes. The silence was poignant as their emotions filled the room.

Emptied she took control of herself. "I understand what you were saying to me," she said unnecessarily "but I have one question. Why wasn't this information available on my console?"

"Because you are level 4," he said " and I am level 3."

She looked at him puzzled. "Haven't you ever thought what else there is to find out.......on level 2 or 1?"

His face went bright red, why hadn't he? Apprehensively he looked at her, who was she really? There was no more to do tonight and he went home.

The computer recorded the entries in its data banks - level 3's were not supposed to access for level 4's. The next morning Davor was not teaching, Temor was receiving the coding for beginning Level 6 again.

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