The Two Ministers

NOTE: This is an ongoing fictional story that I’m currently writing. I started writing this fiction story back at the beginning of October 2020 and contribute ~500 words to it every day on this blog. I didn’t outline the story at all going into it but it’s slowly evolved into a tale about a data scientist in his mid-thirties from America who finds himself summoned to China where’s he’s been offered a job to work for the Chinese Communist Party on a project monitoring the Uyghurs in the Chinese “autonomous region” of Xinjiang. In China, the story’s protagonist, Dexter Fletcher, meets other professionals who’ve also been brought in from abroad to help consult on the project. My story takes place several decades in the future and explores human rights, privacy in an age of ever-increasing state-surveillance, and differences between competing dichotomies: democracy vs communism, eastern vs western political philosophies, and individual liberties vs collective security. If this sounds interesting and you’d like to read more, my fiction story starts here.

Interstice Two – Passage Two

Fading, evening slowly turned to twilight.  As night descended, shadows from the tall maples behind them loomed long, spreading across the wooded hill.  Nothing escaped.  As the sun sunk lower into the horizon, the shadow spread ever farther.  Johann sat on the cabin’s porch stoop and watched as the darkness slowly lengthened, swallowing everything.

“Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” he asked.  Johann took a long drag on his cigarette.  “If we sign onto this, hundreds of millions will die.  People with lives.  Families, jobs, dreams.  With one decision, we’d be taking all of that away from them.”

“If we don’t do this, billions will die.  You’ve read the data.  You’ve seen the projections.”  Beck sighed and ran his hand through his thick blonde mane.  “We knew this is what we were signing on for when we joined.”

“But what if the data is wrong?  Or if the predictions are inaccurate?”

“They’ve never been so far.  Do you doubt them now?”

Johann flicked his cigarette into the darkness and rose to his feet angrily.  “Don’t you?  This is a monumental decision.  Why are we trusting a computer of all things to decide for us?  A machine?!

“It’s because it’s monumental that we’re trusting a machine,” said Beck calmly.  “Can you imagine a human making a decision like this?  An actual red-blooded, able-bodied person deciding?”

“No… I guess not.”

“If we’d wanted to live easy lives, we would’ve never become politicians, never run for office.  I always wanted to open a small café, did you know that?”

Johann smirked.  “A café? You?”

“Yes.  It would be high in the Swiss Alps.  A lovely little timber café.  One I’d build with my own two hands.”

“Ja, you cannot possibly be serious.”

“Oh, but I am,” said Beck with a completely straight face.  “It’d have a single chimney made of granite.  I’d haul the quarry stone up there myself, on a sled tied down with rope.”

“But instead, you became a politician.”

“Yes,” sighed Beck gloomily.  “I did.  What was I thinking?”

“A thankless and most miserable profession.  You know what’s funny?  No matter what I do, half of my country hates me?”

“Only half?”  Beck laughs.  “No matter what I do, well over 60% hate me.  There is a permanent 45% who hate me.  At least if you believe the polls.  No matter what I do, I never win them over. Every election, it’s always the same.”

“It must be your handsome face. They are just jealous.”

Beck chuckles. “I suppose so.”

The two men stood there for a moment, neither saying anything; they simply stared out into the darkness of night.

Johann lit up another cigarette.  “You know, my mother, bless her heart, held the most dim opinion possible of our parliament.  When I was a child, she was always shaking her about ‘these clueless men’ as she called them.  Talking all day and not knowing a single thing about their people.  She held enormous disdain for the whole lot.”

“Was she wrong?”

 Johann laughed.  “No.  No, she was not.  She was spot on.  If anything, she gave us too much credit.”

Now that the sun had retreated behind the hills, the temperature had dropped precipitously.  And the night had grown cold.

“I’m heading inside,” said Beck.  “You coming?  The vote’s early tomorrow morning, after all.”

“I think I’ll stay out a bit longer.  Tell Hilda I’ll be right in.”

“Very well.  Don’t stay out here too long.  These Swiss nights grow cold in a hurry.”

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