Start with the Czar d'Oz Announcement
Synopsis: In the year 2112, the characters retreated to a basement shelter to weather a monster tornado. Making an early trip to the local seat of government, they uncovered information pertaining to an experimental time machine located in Seattle. Making good their escape in the experimental TOTO vehicle, they have made it to the territory of the Southwest Czar. They've survived an encounter with two surreal characters en route Las Vegas. In Vegas they form an alliance with Jefe, the Southwest Czar, to take a short cut to the Emerald City. The trip lands them in Vancouver, Washington, slightly South of the destination. Driving North, they are greeted at the edge of Seattle with a large explosion. Saving the life of Czar d'Oz, they are given the keys to the kingdom, which they turn to their advantage.
"...you're more resourceful..."
[A lab scene. A control console with lots of panels at stage left, a raised dias with four pointy gadgets at stage right. Big power panel at stage rear.]
Peter: This lab looks really clean.
Julius: I should hope so. The last experiment was just a few weeks back. It's the new quarter, and, as you might know, there is always a thumb-wrestling match getting all the funds to trickle down from the Treasury to fund the next go-round.
Martin: Is there a lightoff procedure?
Zeda: That would appear to be this. [Pulls out a fat binder from between the display panels at stage left.] Shall we?
Zeda: Ok. Energize all power panels.
Martin: Ok. [He begins energizing breakers. A hum arizes.]
Zeda: Boot control software server.
Julius: That would be this box here. [Reaches under the panel to turn on a CPU box.]
Peter: Ah, Windows XXXVII. Some parasites manage to keep the host alive. We're fully booted, Zeda.
Zeda: Indeed. Run the calibration routine.
Zeda: Now, we're agreed that we're escaping to Spring 2008, where we can warn the people that electing a Marxist-in-Centrist clothing is suicide?
Julius: It's already too late at that point. You're only popping a zit, not tackling the acne. We could also consider 1908, and warn the people that the Progressive movement threatens the complexion of American politics, and sets the stage for authoritarian pimples.
Martin: But that's before the electric guitar. Can we make multiple trips?
Peter: Absolutely no idea, but probably not. Ok, the calibration is complete. Everyone has their toothbrushes and valuables? We should assemble on the dias.
Peter: Right. We have a three minute timer, starting…NOW. [He walks from the control panel, across the stage, to join the rest. The timer on the big screen rolls ahead to the final ten seconds.]
Peter: Oh, for crying out loud. I followed the procuedure.
"…than I thought,"
[Enter Czar d'Oz, stage left.]
Czar d'Oz: Yes, Peter, the system worked exactly according to design.
Martin: Nothing happened.
Czar d'Oz: Oh, much has happened in the decades this project has run. Look at this equipment. Look at these buildings. Look at the budget, man. From a bureaucratic perspective, this project is a smashing success.
Julius: But that is a pure fraud!
Czar d'Oz: Fraud, shmaud. All the regional Czars have these pet projects, from warp drive to genetic editing, to artificial intelligence. They're the prime conduit for R&D earmark cash. None of them work, or will work. But we play our game, we do our dance, we take our cash, and then we spend it on more traditional prostitutes.
Peter: The dishonesty shown to the citizens is astonishing.
Czar d'Oz: Look, if everyone is a liar, then no one is. The only problem with the patronage system arises when somebody fails to understand the dichotomy between the written Constitution of the United States and the reality that there hasn't been a legitimate election in decades. This triggers outbursts of whining among youthful idealists.
Zeda: This country has been turned into a third-world hell.
Czar d'Oz: It's the triumph of capitalism. Everything is for sale, including the government. The question is not "should there be business". Rather, it is "should there be more than one real business." The answer, for the last century, has been "NO". Appearances are maintained, celebrated even. The election this November promises to be an outpouring of patriotic fervor unmatched by any previous one. The fact that none of the candidates or the legislation actually matter isn't something that will trouble the Brutals, who shall go on being fed, and receiving medical management until their utility to the Vortex expires.
"…to have escaped that trap."
[Enter a man on crutches, stage right. Barry Cuda, a.k.a. Captain Jacob Kleindrubble, a.k.a Raina Petkoff]
Cuda: I've found you, you bastard.
Czar d'Oz: Well, you're more resourceful than I thought, to have escaped that trap.
Cuda: Your other sons are foppish nitwits. Why don't you just recognize me?
Czar d'Oz: You're an incompetent gambler and a double agent for my foe, Czar Jefe. Admittedly, these are as much features as bugs, but I don't trust you.
Cuda: You've brought in four people from absolutely nowhere and given them massive responsibility!
Czar d'Oz: Oh, come on. These people have no real clout. The easiest way to figure out what they were doing was to appear to give them free reign. It turned out all they wanted was to see the time machine hoax.
I'll tell you what: come back tomorrow with a fresh attitude, and we'll see if you can find some means of regaining my good graces. Come up with a plan. Have it involve guiding the course of the elections this November. Let's increase the family power, shall we? That's the only thing we live for, you know: the power.
[Addressing the four]
So, there's the rub. This country has opted for increasingly centralized control for the last two centuries. It didn't happen over night. Creating the Vortex was a slow project, brought in incrementally for a sleeping, Brutal populace. They could have paid attention, and did not. Blame the victim? Damn right I do.
Your quest, like elections for the last century in this country, was a sham. But at least I got that TOTO car out of it.
Copyright 2009, Christopher L. Smith