A dystopian tale of wealth and poverty in 21st century America
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The Joad Cycle
Book 4: The Rightness of Things
Fourteen years have passedsince GIL ROSE’s capture. He is now thirty-two and a Morgan Missionary Business Consultant employed by Chairwoman TANYA BRANDT living in a waterfront Executive Community outside Washington D.C. with a loving girlfriend whose love he is unable to return.
Gil is invited to Chairwoman Brandt’s banquet where he is surprised to see his roommate from Profit, BREE. Old feelings of love return and he spends his time with her instead of his girlfriend until, at the Chairwoman’s request, he is escorted to a meeting with TIANRONG ZHANG, Chairwoman of the largest corporation in the world, Global Solar.
Zhang has been negotiating with Tanya for underutilized land in America in order to build a protected corporate haven, an executive paradise far from global chaos, terrorism, climate refugees, and natural resource shortages that are rampant throughout the world. Zhang knows that Gil is the Messiah and before she agrees to a deal she must assess the risk associated with rumors that the Messiah intends to overthrow Tanya’s Government. Zhang interviews Gil but when he responds honestly and humbly, she discounts his ability to affect the deal.
Gil leaves by train for Sacramento where he has been assigned to a project that will destroy the last union in America. He travels with Bree, but they feel too constrained to be open about their past and their affection for each other.
In Sacramento, Gil meets with the clone children of Andrew Crelli, each a Director of a Federal Reserve district. They know of Gil’s involvement in their father’s disappearance and are wary of him, calling him a rebel sympathizer.
Once Gil has been updated, he meets with the Union leader, REY DIAZ, at his home in Holarki, a poor town near Sacramento to convince him to end a strike and disband his union. While with Diaz, Gil meets with people from Bernie and Mark’s past and once again, he is recruited to join the revolution.
After vacillating for most of his life, Gil seems finally committed until Tanya recalls him,
arrests him, and confines him to solitary. Fearing execution, he is told he must endure rigorous religious re-indoctrination at the corporate headquarters of the Morgan Church of the Almighty Dollar on Wall Street in New York City.
At Morgan Church Headquarters, Gil meets the ancient, cadaver-like Chief Spiritual Officer, Saint Thomas Morgan, the founder of the Church. While being subjected to intense trials and tribulations in Virtuoso, he is confronted by GECKO, the evil artificial intelligence now aiding Tanya. Gil suffers through intensely emotional experiences while facing his fears, hopes, desires, doubts, and dreams and as a result of this severe and draining experience; once again, Gil recants the revolution and begs for re-assignment to Sacramento to complete his project.
As Gil returns to Sacramento, Tanya Brandt commands General Ginger Tucker to prepare HomeSec for rebellion. But Gil’s train makes an unscheduled, unreported stop in Indianapolis where he meets ARLENE KLAATU, JOAD’s creator. She explains why he must lead the revolution and in a bizarre twist, she introduces him to the man who can help.
After a cathartic visit, Gil is then escorted to Sherman Park, a pitifully poor neighborhood where he is surprised to find the love of his life. Re-energized, he returns to the train station maybe truly committing for the first time in his life. He must save the Union but he has no idea how!
As the train moves out, Gil is confronted by the God’s themselves who explain the unexplainable. Surprisingly, the train arrives back in Washington D.C, not Sacramento and Gil confronts the Chairwoman. After a many twists, Gil is victorious and must replace the Chairwoman and set up the Republic to do the people’s work.
With Joad and some unexpected allies, Gil begins to rebuild America into a caring society, a communitarian effort to provide fairness and security for everyone, to guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all, not just the greedy and the powerful.
Thus ends Book 4: The Rightness of Things. The Joad Cycle concludes with a new beginning.
Trials and Tribulations, New York City, 2083
Morning sunlight streamed through the picture windows of the corner room where Gil was sleeping, waking him from a brief, troubled sleep. He walked to the window of the apartment high above New York City and his eyes followed the myriad, intricate skyways that weaved skyscrapers into an intricate network. Peering down he stared at the immense levees that held Manhattan Bay at bay and the Financial District dry and functioning. A thought surfaced that he could no longer hold at bay. It begins today. There was no escape.
Looking unkempt and demoralized after the difficult evening, his host, Damian Hegel, escorted Gil down to the lobby and across the street to the mammoth golden gates of the Morgan Church, Stock Exchange, and Seminary. They stood awkwardly under the great green and silver icon of the church, the dollar sign imbedded in the wings of eternity, the almighty or eternal dollar. It was an impressive symbol that, in truth, captured the essence of what Morgan Church stood for.
Gil was desperate for some last bit of advice or insight but he was disappointed as Damian simply shrugged turned and skulked away leaving him to face his future, alone as it had to be. Sad that Damian felt so guilty, Gil stepped forward and the great gold doors seemed to melt away. He entered and then turned but Damian was gone.
In the vast lobby, red security beams probed everywhere. He followed their trail up to the lobby ceiling where hundreds of feet above, suspended in midair, a large artificial cumulus cloud seemed to float. Unsure where to go, he noticed that the floor was a vast matrix of lights, the green making a path through the red so he followed the green light path to an information kiosk staffed by well-armed acolytes wearing translucent green business suits with the church icon hanging from thick chain around their necks. Gil was expected and wordlessly the acolyte bestowed on him a thoroughly embarrassing public probing before permitting him to move on. Another, similarly dressed acolyte escorted him through another set of opulent golden doors to a dark, plush inner sanctum. At an elevator, the acolyte motioned for Gil to wait.
When the elevator door opened, he entered, alone, and sat beside a woman wearing a long shimmering gold cape over a green and silver uniform. A smaller icon of the church hung from a thin cord around her neck, dangling at her ample cleavage. She closed the door and the elevator rocketed skyward with jarring acceleration. Tense and nervous about what was to come; Gil tried to take his mind off it by staring at the elevator walls painted with displays of important moments in American financial and theological history, the stock market in action, various great marketing and technology breakthroughs, and holy relics from the dawn of Morgan.
The elevator stopped, abruptly and the door opened to another acolyte who greeted him with a nod. She wore a lacy, sleeveless green and silver dress with the Church icon formed in gold thread at the décolletage. He couldn’t help but stare.
“Mr. Rose,” she smiled, “up here.” Embarrassed, he looked into her eyes.
“Excuse me. I… I’ve never been here before. The uniforms are incredible.”
“Mr. Rose, our Eternal Father and Chief Financial Officer has a truly unique fashion sense, I’m afraid.” Her smile was lost on him. “He has designed collections no one would dare copy or try to profit from. Legend has it the idea came from remarkably successful professional sports corporations in the days of the Republic. The mark-up the Church receives on its garments helps fund our small business outreach programs which also nets us a tidy sum. When your business here is done, Mr. Rose, if you want to order any garments, you can pick up a catalog on the way out or order over the Mesh at our convenient Church kiosks.”
“I don’t think I’ll be in a position to order but thanks. Maybe some other time.”
“You’ll find that the men’s wardrobe is more conservative, Mr. Rose. Except in the Chapel, we wear next year’s fashion line. Can we talk business?” He nodded. “You will be received by our Financial Father and it is imperative there is no deviation from protocol.” Gil nodded again. “Our Father has bequeathed you ten minutes of his eternal time. To make effective use of it, you will respond immediately and forthrightly. You may volunteer pertinent information but be aware, though you’re free to discuss anything, we monitor his vital signs and any topic that causes undo strain will immediately terminate your visit or worse. Is that clear?” Gil nodded again and the acolyte smiled. She motioned for him to stand and then led him into a room that had deep, lush carpet and was elaborately decorated in shades of green, accented with iridescent silver and gold. In the center of the room on a raised circular platform was a single chair positioned inside a circle of bluish light emanating from the floor and the ceiling. The acolyte buckled him into the chair and, before leaving, cautioned him to remain inside the lights for the entire interview. As soon as the acolyte left, the room darkened and was bathed in indirect purple light. Gil sat, his legs moving rapidly in and out while, anxious and alone, he awaited his fate. He felt like he had to pee.
After a long wait, he was startled by a loud, commanding voice. “You are about to commune with true Greatness. You will discover that His Holiness meditates profoundly, yet he is present and will bless you with his most hallowed opinion. Though he has all eternity, there is yet much for him to do so his time is precious and you are a trifle.” The air stirred and he smelled a fragrance so cloying that he labored not to heave.
Sweating and disoriented, Gil stared through the harsh lights that encircled him and then through the blue light to the walls which were adorned with enlarged covers of Tom Morgan’s great books including, “The Origins of Economic God” and “The Hallelujah Dividend”. Suddenly, he was startled by a loud hydraulic noise and then an elaborate wheel chair decorated in Church colors appeared. Hovering above the chair was a large, glowing church icon. Tom Morgan, the Financial Father sat, unmoving, as the chair stopped just outside the circle of lights.
Morgan was not what Gil expected, not that he knew what to expect. Deathly emaciated and severely hunchbacked, Morgan wore an ill-fitting old-fashioned business suit with a small, gold church icon necklace imbedded with emeralds and diamonds. It was difficult to tell in the blue light but the ancient man seemed to have a grotesque, unreal, waxen look. Gil bent closer enough to breathe in the old man’s fetid breath before an intense vibration jolted him and forced him back into his chair. The vibration was so strong, it rippled Morgan’s shirt which flapped over his sunken chest. Shaken, Gil stared into unblinking, rheumy, almost pupil-less, unseeing eyes, detecting no discernable recognition. The only indication of life was a thin plastic tube that protruded from his mouth. Gil wondered whether there was a similar tube for waste removal. He shivered at that thought.
“How can I help you, my son?” The words were spoken but Morgan’s lips didn’t move. The voice was ancient but without weariness. It sounded unreal but not synthetic.
“Eminence,” Gil stammered, “Sir, I’m… I’m not sure… I don’t think...”
Morgan seized on that. “Doubt. There is nothing wrong with doubt for if it doesn’t defeat you, it will make you strong. Overcome doubt, my son, and in achieving that you will live forever. Defeat doubt for nothing contributes more to increasing a man’s worth, value and life. That does not mean you should not doubt, doubt everything, but defeat doubt for failing that, you will live a short, miserable life of sin and die worthless and forgotten. Never doubt our cause, our way, for it is righteous.
“I… create value, Sir, lots of value. I just doubt the value of my efforts.”
“There has never been a more objective measurement of worth than value.”
“Then I should feel better, creating value but…”
“You have succumbed to lazy thinking which is worse than not thinking at all. Work through your doubts. Overcome them and you will map your soul and find the true way to your own perfect paradise. With each victory over doubt you will feel exhilarated by a defining moment for from each promulgates the succeeding phase of your life.”
Gil listened, transfixed by the one thing in the room that moved, the liquid in Morgan’s plastic tube. “I… I try, Your Eminence, I try hard but it doesn’t take.”
“Even the ethics of the most perverse can be overcome by the unrelenting desire for wealth and to live forever. You are here to re-experience the meaning of forever because you lack an indelible driver, a clear picture of the moment of your death.”
“Picture that now.” The voice demanded. “Think hard. Remember others who’ve died and reflect on their terror at facing death, the infinite abyss and the void beyond. Feel their panic, wallow in it and experience their inestimable grief and terminal disappointment of paradise forever lost. Think on their end and how quickly all who knew them forgot their essence. Even those who strived and caused great monuments to be erected in everlasting honor, they too are forgotten as the world moved on. Picture it. Pull it from your righteous mind and dissect it until you know the horror and it becomes so visceral you vomit in its presence.”
Briefly, Gil remembered his experience at Profit’s Merry Manor death warehouse and shuddered. “I want to believe.” He did feel like puking.
“My son, gone is truly gone. Regardless what you have come to believe, lives are singular and unaided. Regardless how it may seem, or what some may say or pray, we are alone, truly and totally alone. You can try to ignore that fact, in life, but death and the fear of dying makes it unavoidable. Once, life bent around the absolute truth of death, but no longer. So picture it. Picture your final moment of sentience, your brain hysterical at the moment your body abandons it. Picture your mindless body ignored, a specimen on some unattended surface. Feel the great intensity and grieve unrelenting at the failure, all the unlived moments until the end of time. Luxuriate in your grief and pain because, in that final moment, it is all you have. And for all that, you lack the strength or courage to give up and die because you would rather live one more breath in that excruciating hell because the hell you are experiencing is far better than the nothing beyond. Think on it, Gil Rose, lying there as one thought courses through you, expanding your threshold for pain. At that moment, you will know that as a true Morgan, you would never fee that wretchedness, NEVER. See yourself as that failed, nonbeliever with well-earned self loathing because every lazy, unfocused moment of your life, every wasted financial opportunity, each moment you lived for that moment only, chipped away at you bond with infinite life, defined limits that damned your soul to oblivion. At the moment of your death, curse yourself for your faithlessness and failure, your inability to defeat doubt and build worth beyond measure at whatever the cost because it is your actions and yours alone that have doomed you to this end. There will be no pain so excruciating that it will chase these dying thoughts. They will refuse to be stifled or relieved. That is your future.
Gil absorbed this harangue, mesmerized, staring into Morgan’s lifeless blue eyes
“Wake up! Death is not a gentle passing into an exaggerated fantasy in some alternate universe. By its nature, death must be a ripping out, a tearing of your mortal coil. It can only be the shrieking of one’s soul in absolute despair as its bids farewell to the known and vanishes unremembered. Picture it, Gil Rose, picture it now and forever. ”
As repellent as this was to hear, somehow, Gil felt relieved. If this is the worst, he would survive. “Be terrified.” The voice of Morgan continued. “Fear death with all the fiber in your being because that is how doubt is defeated. There can be no doubting of forever, the technology exists. Believe wealth will provide eternal happiness because this is the only way to heaven on earth, God’s one and true way to eternal glory.”
“I try. I do I…”
Of course you try, it would be irrational not to. But trying is just a rationalization when failure is not an option. If you hope for heaven, you must know that there is nothing beyond death, no hope of a supreme being to reward you for the nothing you achieved in your life. How can there be a reward that someone else will provide beyond what your worthless soul deserves? The only reward is the one you give yourself. You were born with all the tools you will ever need so it is for you to find the passion to make forever the unrelenting goal. We gave you free enterprise to make the world yours. Passion and free enterprise are your building blocks to forever. Don’t doubt them in this life for there is no other. It is time, Gil Rose, for you to construct your true vision of life everlasting. You came late to Morgan and your training was deficient. It is time to be remade into who you must always be.”
Gil was scared. He tried to stand but the chair pulsed and his muscles froze.