Thursday, October 2nd, 2130, New York

The Assembly building was a bit like a ghost-town. Bureaucrats were in their offices working as usual, but the public spaces, debating chambers and members' offices were all deserted.

William McPherson still sat behind his desk in the office of the Chairperson of the Assembly. "They're letting me use it until the end of the week," he said half apologetically. Around the long English oak conference table that projected forward from his desk sat Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee Vadim Adamovsky and Chairperson of the Sporting Advisory Committee Rowena Silva da Costa. And Ferdinand.

"It's lucky for you," said William, "that Wolfgang lasted as long as he did, or you'd find yourself in the same boat as us." Wolfgang was the Austrian Assembly member, nearly ga-ga at 135, and always surprising the entire assembly by turning up for the next session when you thought he could scarcely find his way to the toilet without a nurse at each elbow.

"What will you do?" asked Ferdinand of all of them. "Presumably you can stay involved as experts, advisers, whatever. If you want to be."

"It's all too sudden to be sure," said Vadim. "Moscow wants me to be their Ambassador to the UN. But I'm tired. I'd rather write my memoirs, spend time with the family. It's not as if there's some sort of burning statesmanlike mission I'm pursuing. It was all just like putting one foot in front of another. There's are no real national interests any more in the Assembly, however it's constituted. I suppose if we achieved anything, that's worth pointing to. The death of nationalism. And we achieved it by doing nothing."

"But why the resistance to change?" Ferdinand wanted to know.

"Every entrenched administration resists change," said William. "It's their nature. A group characteristic." He smiled. "I can see that you would think we were against the groups project, but that wouldn't be right. We were just against change. It could only make our lives uncomfortable. Many of us probably did have issues with expanding the scope of RCCs for youngsters, but it was a mistake to keep the lid so tightly pressed down all that time. I can see that now. I should have talked to Leonardo about it years ago. What's happened this past few weeks is healthy, even I can admit that. But don't underestimate the problems you're going to have.

"Oh, sorry, you must be puzzled. We're going to support you for leader. Should have told you! That much we can do for you. But then you're on your own with whatever new set of Luddites gets slotted into the Chairperson roles. I mean, we'll always be here to help you as far as we can, but I don't over-estimate our influence once the new structure is off and running. They're all going to come from the same general mind-set that we did, just maybe a few years onwards. It's inevitable. They're going to form alliances, try to protect themselves, their friends. You've got a year, maximum, to try to set up some really new initiatives that might have permanent effect. Michael's foundations are good news, for certain, but they're only a drop in the ocean. You need to do much more. Well, I'm sure you know that."

"I can reassure you on one point," said Ferdinand. "I'm fully in favour of what the youngsters want to try, to explore, but don't imagine I've got a view as to what the outcome should be. I'm 50 years closer to you guys than to them, so I'm only just a cyber-babe, in fact, not really. Like you, I'm really more comfortable down here in fizz, in my own skin. It'll be another fifty years before we can see how the next stage of evolution will go, and I'm not jumping to conclusions. But I do think it will be right to prepare a generation with the facts so that they can get the answers right when the time comes."

No-one spoke for a minute, all perhaps surprised that there wasn't anything to disagree about.

"What about your own children?" asked Ferdinand. 'They must be halfway between? In terms of attitude?"

"Closer to you and us than to your kids," said Rowena. "They're in their sixties and seventies, so they still remember the old regime, brought up in fizz and so on. It was later that people put off having children, like you, when everyone was stabilized at 25 and the 10% rules came in. The cyber-babes are all much younger. You'll probably meet our children, anyway. Quite a few of that generation are standing this week. They tend to be heads of research institutes, CEOs of provider companies, regional administrators, that sort of thing. But what matters is that they've done well out of the current regime, in every way you can think of. They'll be just as scared of change as we are. It'll be a very conservative assembly, I fear."

"One thing bothering me," said William, "is the St Regis enquiry. Did you see the results? Absolutely zilch in terms of fixing blame anywhere. Of course we can blame Robert Pearse, and Leonardo, that's convenient, isn't it. But it took dozens of people with very high level access to bring off that explosion. How come that a full enquiry completely fails to find them? Gas explosion, indeed! It's a cover up, somehow, which means that there is a whole apparatus out there operating outside the normal administration. Or inside, which is worse."

"I didn't really follow it," admitted Ferdinand. "Was it robotic, the enquiry, or human?"

"Human," said William, "and that's what's probably wrong with it. The administration never allowed robotic enquiry into its internal procedures, so they can get away with just about anything and it's next to impossible to find out the real truth. At the moment though this private army is like a dragon without a head: it'll be looking to hook up with sponsors in the assembly, so it can go on behaving in the same way. The Executive Management Groups are one obvious place to look; but there are others. Any major budget holder is interesting. I mean, they're not killing people for fun, or on principle; they're doing it for money, or sex, or power. All the old-fashioned reasons. So I'd keep a close watch on all the main spending sub-Committees and the administration departments they sponsor. Mind you, I've been doing that for the last twenty years and I never found them. You've got certain advantages, you'll find. But it's a bit premature to tell you about them right now!"

"It's bothersome that something so dangerous and uncontrolled could exist inside this organization," said Ferdinand. "All that deception was supposed to have been gotten rid of."

The three others laughed.

"The clever brain engineers decided not to get rid of deception in the e-clone," said Vadim. "So we've still got it. I'm not saying they were right or wrong, but it's for sure that they left it in place. We're a bit better at knowing when we deceive ourselves, perhaps, but the basic mechanism is still there, and it doesn't extend to telling us what it's doing.


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