In a future in which the World Community Government (WCG) exists, the world has shifted to a socialistic society like the one in which Star Trek is set. People do what they love to do and what they’re suited to do - generally what they’re naturally good at. As with any society, there are square pegs that are shoved into round holes. Square pegs just don’t fit in, but they do their best to get by.
Some people are only good at drinking, or gossiping, or fighting, or sex. There’s a name for free people who have no ambition, no drive, no determination and no hopes and dreams. Those people are called trailer trash. They take far more than they give to society and they believe the government’s job is to support them.
Many of these square pegs choose not to work at all. There are many stories about how they ‘work’ the system in which they exist instead. On the other hand, some families have an honest income from honest work. Dad has an actual job, even though he doesn’t love it. It gives the family a few extra credits to make their lives more pleasant. Less in number are those stories.
As always, the most vocal trailer trash are those whose disposable income is derived from less than honest means and those are the targets of the WCG, for good reason.
These individuals get angry when their ‘right’ to be underachievers is challenged, yet in this universe, they were given an opportunity to stand up for their rights and didn’t bother - and as a result, the government was given the go ahead to create a new law.
Citizens now have to earn a minimum household community score and if they don’t meet the designated minimum for their area, the government will step in.
The new law prescribes that the member (or members) whose scores have caused the household to fail to meet the prescribed minimum, will be inducted into slavery, thereby raising the remaining average score for the household and removing the member or members who fail to add value to the community.
Slavery is no longer only for terminal criminals. Honest (and not so honest but never before caught) citizens can now lose their rights and freedoms too.
This story focuses not on the many that are dishonest nor the even greater number that don’t care. Neither does it deal with the few that want to rise above their peers, leave the trailer park and follow their dreams, but instead, focuses on a single family that have no lofty dreams and just want to get by.
This family is caught in the WCG’s crosshairs purely by virtue of being underachievers. They’re nice people. They’re honest. They’re not really manipulative or conniving. They’re just good, common folk. Dad and mom are both on the lazy side and neither are out to change the world. Their default method of dealing with problems is to ignore a problem until it goes away, or until someone else fixes it for them.
They’re raising their daughters with their values and encouraging them to be underachievers too. It’s not really the parents fault - they teach the way they themselves learned and don’t know how to help their daughters be better than them - that’s just how common folk do it when there’s no reason not to.
The Brown Household
“What the hell is this, Sarah?” Bill asked, looking at the opened email on the coffee table screen, bearing the seal of the WCG.
“I couldn’t figure it out. That’s why I left it for you,” she shouted from the kitchen.
Bill tilted the screen and began to read. He wasn’t too good at reading but luckily there weren’t any really big words. Despite that, he really didn’t understand why the government wanted him to get tested, or what for. The last test he’d ever chosen to have was an STD test when he’d developed an itch.
“Is your dad home, Sarah?” Bill shouted to the kitchen.
“Hell if I know! Call him and see.” She shouted back.
Bill called his father in law and the grizzled old man’s face appeared on the screen almost instantly.
“Hey Dave, were you on another call?” He asked.
“Not now. Just hung up. Had to schedule my test,” the old man replied.
“Is it one from the WCG?” Bill asked, happy that he wouldn’t have to explain much, if it was.
“Yup. Starting to think I wish I’d voted now. Didn’t know what a kettle of worms they’d opened, I reckon!” Dave said with a head shake.
“So what’s it about? Why do I have to register a score?” Bill asked in confusion. “What happens if I don’t?”
“Well ya got to, son. If ya don’t, your score goes in as a zero. If you and Sarah both don’t, you get a combined score of zero. Then there’s Sheila and Rose too. Everyone over 16 has to now. The WGC knows there’s the 4 of you living in the trailer, so your combined score has to at least be 4, although they’re talking about numbers in the hundreds.”
“But why? So what if our score is 4? Who gives a shit?
“The government, son. They provide the electric you use and the food you eat and even the holos ya watch.” Dave began to explain patiently but Bill cut him off.
“My taxes pays for that stuff! I don’t see shit from my job but a few credits a week! We don’t even get to eat out every day like some folk. So why should we do some damn stupid test? I don’t test good, Dave. You know that.”
“You really should start voting, Bill. I didn’t and they passed that stupid damn law as a result. If me and a bunch of other regular folks had voted, this might not have passed, but it did. So now we’re stuck with it. It’s the law.”
“That’s what I don’t understand, dad!” Bill said, getting agitated. He only ever called Dave, dad when he was worked up and Dave knew it.
“People are sick of layabouts and losers sucking up all the resources so the government did something about it. It’s not a problem, son. Just make sure Sarah and the girls get tested too and everything will be fine. You work and Sarah’s a homemaker so you’re not the ones the government is targeting, okay?”
“What the fuck do you mean, dad? What happens to folk that don’t get tested?”
“You didn’t hear? I figured it would be all over the factory!” Dave exclaimed in surprise.
“Well it might be but, ah, I’ve been off for the last couple of days. Public health days, ya know?” Bill replied.
“You mean you got drunk, got hungover and couldn’t deal with work again. Shit, son. You’re gonna lose that job if you don’t get serious. You got a family to look after!” Dave lectured.
Bill had heard that same lecture a number of times. This time, Dave sounded a little angry for once.
Bill watched Dave take a deep breath to calm himself before explaining that a large part of the test was to determine how serious each citizen was about providing input in each community and how important it was to at least work the job Bill had every day, reliably.
“Okay, I can see how my score won’t be so great. There ain’t nothing I can do about history, but so what? I get a low score? Big whoop. I don’t even care what the government thinks of me. I do my best for my family. You know that, Dave.”
“They’re adding to the damn slave class, dumbass!” Dave said in frustration. “If you don’t test or you test too low, then you have to either do one of their plans or turn yourself in for induction to the fucking slave class! You understand that? MAKE SURE YOU ALL GET TESTED!”
Dave made his point by disconnecting the call, leaving Bill looking at an empty screen.
“Hey, Sarah? Where’s the kids at?” Bill urgently shouted towards the kitchen, suddenly a little nervous.
“You clear about your score, Mr Brown?” The tech asked as he put away the tablet.
“Yeah. I got a hundred. Better than I ever did on a test at school. I must have gotten smarter since then, I guess!” Bill said with a grin. He was feeling pretty good about himself.
“The test is not about intelligence, sir. It’s just used as a family benchmark. Your wife and daughters’ scores will be added to yours then divided by 4 to get an average. Let’s see if they’re done, shall we?” The tech asked, then proceeded to open a window on his tablet and hit a few buttons with his fingertip.
“Yep, they’re all done. Your wife got a 110 and Rose got 65. Sheila got a 60. That means your combined score is... 335,” the tech said.
“You just done that in your head?” Bill asked incredulously. “I’d need my tablet for that, for sure!”
The tech gave him a small smile but let the matter drop. His job was not to make others feel stupid.
“Anyway, since there are 4 of you in the household, that’s 335 divided by 4, which is,” he paused and brought up a calculator on his tablet to do the math so Bill could watch, even though he had the number in his head already.
“The magic number for your household is 83.75 but that gets rounded up to 84.”
“Is that good?” Bill wanted to know.
This was not the technicians area of expertise and he didn’t want to tell the guy it was one of the lowest he’d yet seen. Instead, he just told Bill that the minimum number varied by location.
The tech wanted to tell Bill that his personal score was higher than Bill’s whole family, but kept that to himself too. The tech well knew that bragging was not community spirited.
“By the time you get home, you should have an automated email telling you if there are any additional steps that need to be taken. Otherwise we’re all done here. In 6 months, you can retest if you want and of course if there’s a change in living arrangements, you’ll have to retest. Have a good day, sir,” the tech said.
“Hey dad, I think there’s been a mistake or something!” Bill was on the screen with his father in law just minutes after the family returned to their trailer.
As the tech had promised, there was an email waiting but all Bill understood from it was that the minimum average household score was 90 for the trailer park in which they lived. The tech had told him their household score was 80-something.
“To do with the test? How’d it go?” Dave asked, concerned by Bill’s expression.
“I thought I did good, but this email says we didn’t meet the minimum and now we got to go see a counselor. You told me I needed to do the damn test! This is your fault, dad!”
Bill was working himself up more and more, just thinking about what failing the minimum could mean. Was he going to be arrested and made a slave? Would they all?
“Look son,” Dave tried to stay calm. “It’s not the end of the world. You’ll see the counselor and they’ll explain what the options are. I hear there’s a few. Hold on, let me pull up a calculator. You know what each individual score was?” He asked.
Bill had them and he gave them to Dave. In a moment, Dave came back on the screen. “You want me to tell you what I know or would you rather meet with the counselor and get the scoop from them?”
“You can damn well tell me. What!?”
“Okay, but don’t kill the messenger. Sometimes a household score can be raised if a person splits with their spouse. You can’t even if you wanted to, so that’s good, right?”
“Of course I don’t want to! But why wouldn’t I be ALLOWED to?” Bill asked, at least comforted a little at the news they wouldn’t be split up.
“The minimum in the trailer park is 90, you said. If I leave out your score of 100 and get an average of the others’ combined score, it comes to less than that. So you can’t leave your family. If you did, you’d be breaking the law.”
“Well I ain’t leaving Sarah anyways. So what is the counselor gonna say?” Bill asked in a pleading voice.
“I ran the numbers and it looks like there are two options. Maybe three, depending on how you look at it.” Dave admitted then pushed forward, hating to leave his upset son hanging longer than necessary.
“You either have to get someone else into your house that can raise your score or you have to give up one of the girls.”
“You mean like send one of my own daughters off to be a slave? Hell no! I’ll just get a border in. Rose and Sheila can take share the couch and we’ll give the guy their room.”
“It doesn’t quite work like that, son. If you get someone to move in, it’d be their job to run the family. See, the problem is that your scores weren’t good enough. That means you were deemed to be a substandard family in the community. The person that comes in has to have a good enough score to make your household average higher. That means they would be legally the head of the household and you’d have to answer to them, like you do to Sarah.” Dave carefully said.
“Sarah answers to me, dammit.” Bill took exception to his father in law splitting hairs like that.
“Whatever,” Dave waved his hand dismissively. “Just like Sarah answers to you, you’d both have to answer to the new person. If they told you to, I don’t know, take out the trash for example, you’d have to take out the trash. Taken to the extreme, they could have you arrested for refusing and that would mean you would head off to induction, leaving Sarah and the kids with them.”
“I ain’t having a guy tell me what to do neither! This is my house!” Bill stormed.
“So go looking for a female, then. But they’d still be in charge. Or see if one of the girls wants to submit to slavery and save all that hassle. One of my buddies said goodbye to his son this morning. It was his son’s idea.”
When Bill put down the phone, he drew Sarah to him. She’d been listening to his call, off screen. “What are we gonna do, baby?” He asked.
How to choose to lose
“You told dad that I answer to you, remember? That means you tell ME what we’re gonna do. I think you’d best make that appointment with the counselor though, while I make us all something to eat.” Sarah suggested.
“I need a beer or three before I get any damn counselor on the screen,” Bill grunted. “Tell the girls to be home for dinner. They helped us fail that damned test so they’re old enough to help us figure this out,” Bill decreed.
As usual, the family sat in the living room, plates of food balanced on thighs as they ate. Rose and Sheila were not happy at being home on a Friday evening but both of them knew something was up. The big screen wasn’t showing the usual sitcom that ALWAYS played at this time of day even if no one was watching it. In fact, for the first time in either girl’s memory, the big screen was blank.
“What’s going on, dad,” Sheila asked.
She knew it had to be something to do with the tests they’d just taken but nothing more. Kids at school had been talking about nothing else since the day before yesterday and there were even a couple of kids who Sheila knew personally, that had not turned up at school today.
She’d wanted to go to their trailers and find out why they hadn’t been in school but the ‘rents had been all psycho about not letting either her or Rose go out. She planned on eating quickly and just doing it, then face the music later. But now she wasn’t so sure.
“We done failed the test today, punkin.” Bill was on his sixth beer already and it combined with the three shots of wild turkey was beginning to show in his voice. “You shoulda tried harder. What the hell punkin? A 60? You shoulda done better than that! You’re Rose’s fucking twin for God’s sake. You should of at least gotten 65 like her.”
Bill was looking for someone to blame for their low combined score and Sheila HAD scored the lowest, even though it wasn’t all her fault. Her sister had won an award for best Halloween costume at school in 6th grade and that had added an extra 5 points.
“Tina next door took the test yesterday. That brown-noser got 205. What was your score daddy?” Sheila asked with a bit of a smirk. She already knew her dad’s score.
“Don’t sass me girl! One of our options is to deliver one of you two to the induction center,” he threatened, trying to sound stern.
Then his voice cracked and his true emotion showed, the beer he’d already had, not enough to get him drunk, but enough to make him think.
“I ain’t ready to give up my babies,” he said quietly. “Not even one of ‘em. Your grandpa said we should ask you what you think. Does one of you wanna volunteer for induction? It’d get you out of here,” he added.
“Harley and Josh down the road are having a competition,” Rose put in helpfully. “They failed too so they’re competing to see which of them goes to induction.”
“Well that isn’t the only option, Rose,” Sarah said while still chewing on her corn cob. “We could try to get someone in here instead of giving either of you up. We have almost a week,” she shrugged.
“But that sure would be a hassle,” she added to herself.
“On Monday I gotta go see some counselor. They will tell me what we’re gonna do unless I go in there already knowing so I can tell THEM what we’re gonna do.” Bill reported.
“So why don’t we just have a party and forget about it till Monday?” Sheila suggested, preferring to let someone else decide for her. “We could invite all the neighbors. Except Tina and hers. You know, get a bunch of booze and have a big old shindig?”
“You’re not old enough to get drunk young lady,” Sarah scolded her daughter even though the idea sounded good to her too.
“Hey if I gotta get inducted as a slave next week I want to be shitfaced when they do!” Sheila argued back with a grin.
Sarah wondered just how scared of induction her daughter really was. It didn’t seem like she much cared either way and it was just an excuse to tie one on again. Sheila had been ‘borrowing’ alcohol and weed since she was 14. She just didn’t think Sarah knew about it.
“The email said we have till mid next week. So if we don’t figure this out before Monday, I might just be told to pick one of y’all to be inducted. How do you feel about getting someone else in here instead? Your grandpa said we would ALL have to make them in charge of us.”
“We could get my boyfriend in!” Rose said excitedly. He could share my room with me!”