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The Joad Cycle
The Joad Cycle
A dystopian tale of wealth and poverty in 21st century America
Book 2: Profit
GIL ROSE is nineteen. Protected by JOAD, the rebel artificial intelligence, he along with his fragile great grandfather, BERNIE ROSENTHAL, are hiding from the U.S. Government in Angel Falls, Maine. Lonely and bored, Gil spends his days in Virtuoso indulging in virtual sex with his construct girlfriend, Andrea
Bernie is trying to reach Gil, to teach him responsibility and leadership so he will lead the revolution to overthrow the autocratic government of the United States but Gil wants no part of it. To avoid instruction, Gil and a local real girl, STACEY GRANT, avoid Bernie’s lessons by hiking the verdant woods around Angel Falls
One day, during their hike, they come across a SurveilEagle, a government drone but they decide not to report it to the town elders. After Bernie dies, at his funeral, HomeSec, Homeland Security forces attack and destroy Angel Falls. Unbeknownst to either, Gil and Stacey escape.
Gil is captured by former terrorists and taken to their headquarters where he meets Christianne, a fourteen year old Muslim girl who takes advantage of Gil’s fears and loneliness and seduces him. When he learns she is pregnant and he is to be executed, with Christianne’s help, he flees once again.
Wandering desolate northern Ohio, Gil meets Bree, a runaway searching for her father. Without money, they agree to feign a marriage partnership so they can be hired into the Production town of Profit where their performance is constantly measured to insure they are producing value. Though Bree is aloof, Gil falls in love with her.
To motivate him to do better, MAYOR DORIS, escorts Gil to the Profit Unassisted Dying facility. After that horrifying experience, Gil meets Laurence Hilliard, a recluse and Profit’s technology expert. Hilliard is a Veek, who lives most of their life in virtual reality. Because of this virtual life, Hilly learns that Gil is the Messiah of legend who will free America from the shackles of free market capitalists. Gil denies Hilliard and flees.
The Mayor accuses Bree of fraud and confronts Gil who must prove his loyalty. Conflicted at first, love triumphs so on Chrisnukkah, the busiest sales week of the fiscal year, Gil and Bree host an economic social event where Bree explains to the townspeople of Profit that a far greater fraud is being perpetrated on the townsfolk by the Mayor and her council.
The Mayor tries to kill them but they flee into a snowstorm. On the road, Gil and Bree profess their love for each other but when they reach Indiana, they face a crossroad in their young lives.
Profit – 2070
Gil wandered into the banquet room where the honored guests and the prospective new partners were celebrating. He didn’t want to be there but as he was about to leave the honored couple walked over to talk to him. It was clear that they expected some gift or at least an option on a gift. After a few minutes, when it was clear that Gil had nothing to offer, Brad broke the silence.
“Hey, Dan, we hoped you’d come.” Gil still found it unsettling answering to Dan but he tried to hide it. “Dan, Bree told us you were tired and might not be here for our celebration. We’re glad you decided to come. Everyone here has been through what you’re going through so don’t get down. You’re a hard worker, so don’t worry, value will come; just keep doing your best. Profit needs all types of skills, you’ll find one.”
He was too depressed to talk but trapped at this party, he had no choice but to make the best of it. “It’s… tough. Bree’s been… I’ve been a burden, I’m afraid.” The couple looked uncomfortable so he tried to make a joke but only succeeded in digging himself in deeper. “Bree audits my balance sheet so to avoid the faces she makes, I work even harder.” In the awkward silence that followed, Gil strained to find the door.
Brad tried to save the moment. “Whatever you do, don’t make it worse by making excuses. You’re new but you don’t have a lot of time. Fix it. Profit needs everyone contributing. We don’t share profits but we sure and hell do share losses.” Everyone around Brad laughed at that. Gil didn’t understand what was so funny.
Mary, Brad’s partner to-be, tried to be supportive. “Dan, don’t let it get you down. Brad struggled early. We all do but eventually we earn our keep, the risks are just too great, not too. Brad struggled early and his avatar got so angry, he took a vow of silence during Brad’s shift. That really scared Brad because that meant he was on his own. He was certain he’d be tossed out of Profit and forced to scavenge in Wasterland.” The nearby the listeners laughed but it wasn’t funny to Gil who had been through something similar.
“Terror works,” Brad added. “Mary was a cash cow, a real work horse, a Dividend Queen, just like Bree and she didn’t need to be frightened to perform. I knew I was a goner but I kept plucking away and started to get the swing of it. When you see the end coming, you don’t sleep well so I started working evenings instead of sleeping. My big break came when I leased a new avatar with funds Mary lent me and as soon as my value began to increase, I worked a transfer to something more in line with work I can enjoy. Almost immediately my world and worth turned around and even with that, it took a long while to pay Mary back. The interest alone kept me working two jobs until she agreed to incorporate. I’ll tell you, the hard work was worth it. I got great advice, the best advice I ever got from anyone.
“Who gave you the advice?” Gil asked, curiously.
“My new Avatar, of course.”
“What did he say?”
“Not a he a she. It was something like the most important thing to do is find work that’s comfortable enough that it absorbs all of your productive juices easily so you don’t get distracted. I used to get distracted and that’s bad when you’re working. It was kind of like work even when you don’t feel like working and find that special job so the minutes, hours and days just go by without all that anxiety. It worked. I’m more valuable. You should take that advice. Think about it, Gil, every morning, wake-up knowing you have to do the same things all over again but you kind of like it because of the money. The important thing is, your worth is increasing and you can participate in all the fun, money-making social activities and make even more money.”
“That’s great advice, Brad, thanks.” Gil changed the subject. “So what is it you do?”
“I’m third shift foreman in Receiving.” Brad said, proudly. “I got promoted last month.”
It was what Gil was doing. “And you like it?”
“I was born to it. It’s my dream job. I was a bookkeeper before and I didn’t love that. This, I truly love and I find it so easy to work even harder that I’m supposed to. The neat thing about work is that there’s continual substantiation because my worth goes up. And with my worth up, Mary agreed to become my partner. How great is that? We’ve already been approved to start a corporation, you know, have a family, as long as we keep our worth high. We will too because we’ll need more wealth if we’re going to afford little liabilities. Dan, just you wait. When you find that one special job that defines you, that drives you to work even though you’d prefer to do any one of a million other things, your future will be assured.”
“Everyone,” Mary gushed, “speaking of that, I have an announcement. we were tested at the Surgery Center. Brad, tell them the good news.”
Brad slapped her hand and waited until he had everyone’s attention. “The tests certified that our offspring will eventually be assets with a high likelihood of productivity. That means once Mary gets pregnant, we’ll be able to borrow against them and any reasonable debt we incur raising them will be assigned long term to our offspring for repayment.” There was applause throughout the crowd. Not understanding, Gil felt awkward but clapped so as to not draw any more attention to him.
Mary added excitedly, “Profit management gave us permission to expand and qualified us for subsidies from a well-respected, regional private education company, too. As soon as our precious little liability passes some early tests, we can ship it off to a school of Profit’s choice, at no cost to us. Isn’t that great?”
The guests applauded again and some offered toasts to the proud partners-to-be.
“How do they know your children will be productive?” Gil asked.
Mary explained, happily. “It’s technical but they drew fluids from us and sent them to Westlake where a battery of expensive tests identified that we had the right mix of certain emotional or intellectual proteins or something, attributes or profiles, I don’t know exactly but whatever, we’re considered likely to pass on good stuff to our subsidiaries. Of course, it’s not exact and if the results are unsatisfactory but within tolerances, it can be modified with some very expensive procedures but Brad and I have acquired Potential Insurance just in case. Everything is tightly regulated by a consortium of educational and training companies headed by the ANGS Organics Corporation but the score places us on par with the results children are getting in India and China. Positive genetic projections like ours means our little liabilities are likely to be little assets without the predilections doctors describe as, Brad, help me, I…always get this wrong,” She thought for a minute. “Brad.”
Brad explained. “What Mary’s saying is that negative results mean we’d pass on a counter-productive cocktail of tendencies and or maladies similar to what were once called Attention Deficit Disorder, Down syndrome, autism, and other similar unproductive abnormalities that would be more likely to generate longer term liabilities. That and a dash of neuroses means a liability projected to have a propensity for low self-esteem that would yield a cost prohibitive, unproductive worker; a waster with no future, someone Profit would not support or want in their inventory of resources. The tests are extremely reliable, thank the Marketplace.”
As the guests congratulated the couple, Gil thought back on his childhood, when he thought he was a clone. “They actually predict that a child will be productive?” He asked.
“It’s relatively new science but it’s amazingly accurate and essential since the availability of productive workers is down. These tests save time and reduce stress because you know your potential risk up front and can mitigate it. Why put yourself and your partner through a disappointing, and possibly even a debilitating corporate experience burdened with unnecessary liabilities. With this, there’s nothing left to chance.”
Brad added. “Everything is extrapolated from sophisticated algorithms and a database of previous test results and individual economic histories. There’s enough information to guarantee a high correlation for success. That’s why the tests are legally binding.”
“How does that matter?”
“I’m sure Bree knows.” Mary said, smiling, knowingly. Gil wasn’t so sure that Mary was right about Bree. “This is information you’ll need when you and Bree decide to expand. You want assets, not liabilities.” The guests roared with laughter. “Once the tests are certified, you’re clear to procreate and if the results are unproductive during the years you have financial responsibility for them, the town takes on the financial responsibility to pay for the mistake – Potential Insurance. How cool is that? Of course, the town fully controls the liability and they can right it off any way they want.”
“Of course.” Gil was certain he didn’t want to know how those right-offs went.
“Life is risk mitigation but Mary and I believe life is also precious. We don’t believe in divesture except in cases of total economic dependency because flawed subsidiaries can sometimes be positioned in indentured programs where they’re provided with a low cost lifestyle and a job consistent with their success coefficient. Sometimes partners can even make back their investment if the indenture works out. Anyway, the important thing is we’re not responsible for the economic burden of a mistake and our Net Worth can’t be dragged down by an unproductive subsidiary. These tests are an insurance policy essential to a happy, productive life.
“You remember the Carters?” Mary asked. Gil nodded. “If they had taken the test, the insurance might have helped them remain in Profit. Their subsidiary cost much more than any normal one should. It bankrupted them. Proper testing would have protected it.”
Gil pictured the sad couple being forced to leave the day he and Bree arrived at Profit. Finally, he offered lame congratulations to the partners and left in search of Bree. She was easy to spot even in the crowded banquet room because she was the most attractive woman in the room. He saw her surrounded by men looking to expand their portfolio. He tried to get her attention but couldn’t so he put on his jacket and left.