Control

“It’s like Korea, but way cooler.” Andreo had his phone trapped between his right shoulder and his ear as he made an instant coffee. “The streets are spotless and at night everything goes quiet.”

“What, you mean there’s a curfew? What’s cool about that?” Veni was at the other end of the international call. His voice came through clear but sounding thin as if it was being stretched across the thousands of miles to Manchester.

“There’s no curfew.” Andreo dropped the spoon into the cluttered sink. “Eeceec isn’t one of those African police states. I think it’s just that everyone’s so busy on the net. You want to see the kit people carry around.”

Veni was laughing. “What did you just call it?”

“What?”

“You said, esssek.” Veni did a good imitation of his friend, drawing out the s into a hiss and giving the last two letters in the name a hard sound as in neck.

“That’s how they say it over here. Not like you do.”

“Like you used to say it, you mean.”

Andreo slurped his coffee. “Yeah, well, I’ve learnt haven’t I.”

“Okay, Mr International.” There was still the hint of laughter. “So what have you measured the speed of your connection at?”

“Rapid! My phone can’t cope.” Andreo dropped into a chair in the room where he lived, eat and slept. “The moment I got off the plane I was connected, just like you’d expect, but it was when I was accepted as a member of their country that things really got quick.”

“You’ve become a member?” Veni was stifling another burst of laughter.

“Grow up! It’s what they call it over here when you get a job and start paying taxes. I get access to the fastest net speeds in the world – upload and download – the government gives me discount on some awesome phones, and there’s free medical cover, like Europeans used to have.”

He waved a hand at the TV screen hung on the wall. It sprang to life, muting itself as it detected he was on the phone.

“All that must be costing you a bomb in tax.” In the background there was a swooshing of car tyres on wet road.

“Yeah, it’s steep, but the real pain is all the voting.”

“What, like electing a mayor?” Veni had obviously left the shop where he worked and begun dodging through a wet rush hour.

“Worse than that.” Andreo flicked his left hand at the TV to make it skim through the channels as he looked for music videos. “You know how the news always said that people in Eeceec were in control of the country, well that means you have to make every decision.”

Veni swore under his breath at someone. “Then get a lower tax rate.”

“If only. It’s really complicated. Every vote comes with a load of information they expect you to read; documents big enough to fill up my phone memory. And there’s a time limit. There must be six things to decide on each day and usually only a day to make a choice.”

“Ouch! Can’t you abstain or ignore them or something?” Veni asked.

“I tried that after three days of getting confused by some real complicated stuff. Next thing I get a phone call from some government guy telling me that I needed to start voting again, or else.”

“Or else what?”

“I don’t know. Probably a fine or something.” Andreo got annoyed at the TV and waved it off. “I kept up with all the stuff that was happening last week, and a girl at work helped me, but it’s pissing me off.”

“You going to leave then?”

“And give up all the tech?” Andreo gave a short laugh. “I’ve come up with another plan. I’m going to tell them that my crappy old phone has got a corrupt memory and that stops me from voting.”

“Is that going to work?”

“Who knows, but what are they going to do?”

“Yeah, well, I’d be careful.” The noise at the back of Veni’s call died away. “Look, I’ve gotta go. It was good to talk to you. Let me know how you’re getting on.”

Andreo stood up. “Sure. Will do.”

The call cut off and he slipped the phone into his pocket. After rooting through a pile of clothes at the bottom of his bed he pulled out a coat. There was a knock at the door.

“Fuck,” Andreo said as he struggled to get his hand in the arm of the jacket.

A second knock, more forceful than the first, made him rush, his coat hanging half on.

“All right.” He flipped the lock and swung open the door. Three men in uniform gave him stern looks.

“Mr Andreo Velos?” The first of the police officers did not wait for a reply. “You are under arrest for active avoidance of your required voting duties. You will be detained under Eeceec Municipal Union law 273513 until a time can be arranged for your judgement to be put into the national schedule. Anything you say in your defence will be recorded and added to the voting pack.”

Andreo did not have time to protest as the three enforcers stepped forward, pushed him against the wall of his apartment and slipped a barlock around his wrists.

—————

4 November 2011
The Greek Prime Minister announced that he would hold a referendum so that the citizens of the country could decide if the financial bailout package offered by the European Union would be accepted. He later withdrew this plan leaving some Greeks feeling as though the choice had been taken away from them.

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