The sliding glass doors of the office opened automatically and the acoustics of the metallically insulated room created an echo of the man’s knee-high, leather military-style boots as he strode into the dim, blue-lit space. He carried under his arm a simple manila folder and his cap, emblazoned with four stars across the crest. Sitting in front of him was another impeccably dressed officer, who ignored his guest and continued typing on a keyboard attached to a flat monitor exuding more blue light. There was a flag on the wall with an emblem of a green globe against a blue square. This same symbol was found on the uniforms of the two men.
Next to the flag was a map of the world. There were no clearly marked national, political borders; only dotted lines indicating continental provinces.
Neither officer had a name-tag on his uniform, only tags with a string of numbers that indicated their rank, number, and current base of operations. The one who had entered the room now clapped his heels together, intending the sharp snap to get the other man’s attention.
The typist ceased his work, turned his swivel chair and placed his long, white spindly fingers on the empty surface of his glass desk. It was hard to tell who was of a higher rank. They both carried blank expressions.
“Yesss…?” The typist was clearly irritated by the interruption.
Without saying a word, the standing officer placed the manila folder on the table. It was stamped with the same globe-insignia that adorned the flag and their uniforms. He opened the folder, retrieved a document and placed it before the other man.
“I am sure, commander, that you are aware of the audit currently underway at global headquarters.”
The other man’s eyes switched from the paper to his guest’s face, “News of it reached my office.” The commander replied cautiously.
“Good. Then you have undoubtedly been expecting this visit.” The man with the manila folder now flashed a badge that indicated that he was an audit officer and that his task was to “economize” the Department of Human Services.
The commander looked from the paper to the badge and then to the paper again, his face contorting as if a sour lemon wedge were being forced through his very pale lips. “In fact, I was not. It was last my understanding that HQ had a special place for this office. Our work has been continuous for the last decade and has provided some valuable insight into both waste management as well as our understanding of the fundamentals of human society.”
The auditor had an uncaringly, even bored air about him, as if he had already been on a dozen assignments exactly similar to this one, shutting down department after department in clockwork fashion. “The priorities of headquarters are none of your concern…commander”, he seemed to throw this title in as an almost condescending afterthought. It was clear that the auditor had high authority here. The papers indicated that he was a direct representative of the Global Council. That gave him supreme authority over almost all other officers. “You are to receive your orders and be grateful for them. My superiors are well aware of the time that this office has been operational. But time is no immunity to the inevitability of balancing the books and that time for restoring fiscal order has come. HQ has made the budget its priority and has said that a careful analysis of each and every program, department, office, branch, and division is to be undertaken. Strengths and weaknesses were analyzed. Your office, commander, I’m sorry to say, has fallen under the category of B-1 program.”
“And what does that mean exactly?”
“It means that depending on the information I am to receive in the next 10 minutes, your office will either continue to exist after my audit is complete or it will be shut down completely and its resources be salvaged for the public good.”
“And what information is that?” Each man seemed to be attempting to outdo the other in maintaining a more stoic demeanor.
“I am to discern what your office has learned after ten years.”
“Well I must simply say that I object to this analysis”, the commander said, sounding genuinely insulted.
“You do not have a right to object to an edict from HQ.”
“Yes, but, if HQ wants a report, then I can provide a full report and have it delivered to them by the end of the day. Reducing the work of this office to a 10-second sound bite will not convey accurate information regarding our progress.”
“Or failures, I presume…”
The commander narrowed his eyes and said nothing.
The auditor continued, “Well, in any event, my orders were clear and specific. If HQ had wanted a full report they would have asked for one. Clearly they felt that my discretion regarding this matter would suffice.”
The commander loosened his collar and took a deep breath. The auditor pressed a button on the empty desk and a metallic cylinder emerged from the floor. He sat on this pillar and clicked open a pen. “Now. Let us proceed.” He was clearly a man who relished in the unrelenting finality of his job. “Briefly explain the history and current standing of this project.”
Taking a deep breath before beginning, the commander spoke clearly and carefully, “This is the office of social research, island division, a branch of the department of human service. This project began ten years ago when fifteen islands, all approximately 25 miles by 25 miles in area, were constructed in the Pacific quadrant out of landfill material that had been reverse-engineered.”
“And what is the current status and quality of the land itself?”
“Quite good. The research implemented was able to turn a multitude of plastics into a compostable soil, fertile for plantings.”
“Go on…” The auditor was now writing continuously and hadn’t looked at the commander since he began. He was also recording the commander’s monologue with a recorder.
“It was decided that this new land would be an ideal place to test human social interaction in an untainted environment. Each island was assigned a slightly different system of law in an effort to determine the strengths and weaknesses of various systems of governance throughout the history of the world……as it is the policy of our global government to determine practical value from the entirety of past human experience.” Aware of the tape recorder, and the listening ears of the party higher-ups, the commander seemed to sneak in the last clause. He desperately wanted to show he was on board with their teachings. “These forms ranged from a theocratic island to a communist island, an island ruled by republican plebiscite, a pure democracy, a monarchy. And so on.”
“And how were subjects provided?” The auditor sounded unenthused, as if this was all information he already knew.
“As is customary for such experiments, they came from the general clone pool. Each island began with a fresh batch of diverse clones, 1,000 in total, all at the age of 20, half female and half male. The islands all had, and still have, commanders whose responsibility it was to create the system that had been assigned for each island. These officials served as the creators of government for the subjects. It was found that after instituted in the first generation, the officials generally didn’t need to reinforce the governmental style. It became habitual.”
“And what were the results? Ten years on?”
The commander hesitantly glanced around the room and said, “Mixed.”
“In what way?”
“We had little trouble preserving social order on any island, but it was difficult finding the right balance of control. It was, um, difficult to get them to the level we wanted, to make the people…productive.” The commander had difficulty finding this last word. “As with most clones, they were raised only with stone-age technology.”
“Well, which island had the most quantifiable success?”
Again the commander hesitated before answering, “We tried to measure success in several ways including population growth, resource management, enlargement of wealth, economic activity, the ability to mobilize and undertake large projects…”
“And none of the active test subjects came anywhere close to the island that was clearly the most successful.”
“Which was?” The auditor now looked up for the first time since he began the questioning and seemed genuinely interested for the first time.
“An island that wasn’t really a part of the original experiment.”
The auditor now stared at the commander angrily, perhaps thinking that the commander was leading him on with this fairy tale in a meek attempt to drag out the interview. Coldly, he said, “Commander. I believe you need to explain yourself.”
Nervously clearing his throat, the commander said, “It is common practice to include a placebo in most experiment. It was no different in this experiment. One island was set aside and given no direction whatsoever. No officials were assigned to it. The 1,000 subjects on it were allowed to roam the island freely. They weren’t given any instruction on how to farm, or care for themselves, or govern in any particular style. Nothing.”
The auditor furrowed his brow, seemingly unable to come to terms with the logic of letting 1,000 very expensive artificially grown human test subjects to run wild in the forests of a newly formed piece of experimental land.
The commander, sensing the loss of patience on the part of the auditor quickly added, “It was expected that this island would descend into anarchy, or would destroy itself in tribal feuding. And that is actually what happened for the first year or two. But then, almost remarkably, this island somehow pulled itself together, with no provided leadership and was able to self-organize. The subjects there created a unique council-form of government with a heavy emphasis on individual property rights. And this island – island thirteen – has succeeded in sustaining a larger population that is faster-growing than any of the others. It creates more wealth than any of the others combined and seems to have less local feuding and violence than any of the others.”
“What is your measure of wealth?”
“They are mostly agrarian societies that have developed, so that is our main standard. The islands have proven to be quite fruitful.”
“Well, that’s good news at least. More land to feed the many hungry of the world.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Commander, your report has clearly indicated a lapse in judgment in allowing this program to continue for as long as it did. This misguided attempt to learn some greater truth about human nature has only cost the International Government time and money and has directed precious resources from those in dire need toward skewed social tinkering.”
The commander stood in protest, “But, I demand to know what you find incredible about our methods. We followed orders…religiously.”
“Your methods may have been true, but the results speak for themselves. You have 15 primitive societies that have achieved nothing –as one would expect since they are cut off from civilization – and your only grain of achievement was an outlier with an inexplicable success story? No, commander, this is a question that was better left unaddressed.”
“What if island thirteen wasn’t a fluke?”
This bold question stopped the auditor cold. He straightened up, leaned close to the commander and said only, “Believe me. It was. Headquarters will not accept the…heresy that that island implies.”
The auditor grinned at the sly remark, “Why don’t you tell me, commander? You’re the expert.”
Publicly stating to a high official that an experiment he had conducted indicated that humans operate best when not under the control of an imposed government would not only kill his career but would possibly threaten his life. This idea was the very antithesis of their global government. The commander wisely held his tongue and said nothing.
The auditor’s face was grim as he shuffled together his papers and then turned to face the commander, “I’m sure you know that this office will be shut down tomorrow. The official paperwork will arrive in several hours. You are to forward all data regarding this experiment to the office of information. The papers you will receive will have your new assignment.” The auditor turned and began walking back toward the automatic door.
After taking two steps toward the door, he stopped and turned his head so his profile, outlined by the blue light, was facing the commander, “that is, assuming you have another assignment after this abomination.”
The commander once again appeared icy and emotionless. He watched the auditor leave and then sat and stared at his computer monitor for a long time. Finally, he typed up orders to shut down the project, which would involve eradicating the islands, disposing of the people, and seizing the resources they had collected. Switching off his monitor, he stood, put on his cap, and took one last look at the politically homogenous map of the Earth hanging from the adjacent wall before leaving the iridescent blue office for the last time.