Carcer Ridge, 25 September 3124
‘If you want my advice, I’d look to a partnership with Helios or Demeter. They are trouncing you in the polls right now and you could really increase your chances if you had one of those guys on your side.’
‘Helios is a fool,’ said Seren. ‘He’s all teeth and charm. He looks good until he opens his mouth, then it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that he’s not got any brain at all.’
Seren stood up and walked to the window that took up the entire back wall of her office at the top of Petersen Tower, the presidential seat of power in Hildenbede, the central city of Carcer Ridge. The view of the digital city below had taken her breath away when she first saw it, two hundred years before. She had been seventy then, still young and easily impressed by all the delights the world had to show her.
Two hundred years. Where had the time gone?
‘Maybe it’s time to just accept defeat gracefully,’ she said. ‘Bow out before the polls turn against us entirely.’
‘It’s your decision, Madam President,’ said Joseph. ‘But I would recommend against it. How your administration ends will define it as much as everything you accomplished.’
Seren laughed a short laugh and turned back to her old friend. ‘I don’t think we can really talk about accomplishments, can we? In all the time we’ve been here, nothing has happened. I’m President of a world that, despite its fluidity, never actually changes anything important. Who is in charge doesn’t matter, everything continues just as it always has.’
‘Now that’s the voice of someone who has given up.’
Joseph stood up and walked over to Seren, putting his arms around her and hugging her. She returned the gesture and the two old friends stood there for several minutes, saying nothing, comfortable in each other’s company.
‘You know I’ll support you whatever you decide to do,’ said Joseph.
‘I know. Thank you. You’re a good friend.’
Seren pulled away and walked back to her desk. Despite the centuries of acclimatisation to the digital world where information was available in her mind just for the wanting, she had never lost her Earthly roots. She turned on the screen that stood on the huge wooden desk and scanned the latest news reports.
‘What’s this about people disappearing?’ she asked.
Joseph’s expression glazed over for a fraction of a second while he read through the reports in his own mind. ‘I don’t know. There isn’t a lot of information available.’
Seren brought up a barrage of information from the security, defence and immigration departments. None of her ministers had any idea what was going on either. The people the reports mentioned had not left Carcer Ridge, that much was certain. That was all that was certain.
Seren brushed a couple of strands of her short, black hair out of her face and looked over at Joseph.
‘It seems we have one more problem to deal with before this administration is over.’
Seren pulled her vision back from her usual first person perspective, looking out through her own eyes, and looked down on herself from a short distance outside her body. She glided around her digital self, checking her appearance before she headed in to a meeting with the Secretary of State for Immigration, who also dealt with the occasional case of a citizen leaving Carcer Ridge for pastures new.
Seren was shorter than the average citizen, standing a respectable five foot eight inches tall by traditional measurements. Her black hair was shoulder length and pinned behind her head with faux oriental hairpins. Her skin was pale, her features a mixture of Irish and Japanese that had been carefully crafted for her by a team of style gurus when she had first entered politics back in her mid fifties.
Looks had been important back then and she had always been very careful to project exactly the right image to make people believe she was just the right kind of strong, upstanding and trustworthy citizen to lead them through the changes Carcer Ridge had needed to undergo if it was to blossom and achieve its full potential as a new nation.
Now change was something the people looked at with suspicion, if they ever even considered it at all. Sure each citizen talked of the fluidity of the digital world, where nothing was stable and everything was destroyed as easily as it was created. Buildings, artworks, even whole communities grew, shone brightly for a few years, and then disappeared; to be replaced by the next fad. To Seren this was not change, this was fashion. Society was stagnant beneath a veneer of creativity, and she hated herself for creating the kind of world where that could happen.
Now, after two hundred years of being the only real choice for President of this nation of self-delusion there might be someone else who could take up the reins. This Demeter person – did they have a second name, or was that passé amongst the ‘in crowd’ these days? – might just be the breath of fresh air she had been hoping for since she had taken office again, becoming only the second President in Carcer Ridge’s long history to serve twenty-five consecutive terms.
Only James Wyatt Stevenage, the second President, had beaten her and she had no intention of trying to match his thirty term reign. Carcer Ridge had been a very different place at the start and nobody had really believed it would last more than a few experimental years once its founder, Professor George Emelius Burrows-Hodgkinson, stepped down and opened the fledgling city state to a new form of “open parliament” democracy. Stevenage had given Carcer Ridge much needed stability, and for that everyone who now called it home owed him a debt of thanks.
Not that most of the citizenry even knew who Stevenage was, now. History was not one of the country’s strongest points. Seren had wanted to change that, to build on the nation’s heritage, but aside from an annual arts festival celebrating all that digital immortality meant to the participants, nothing she had tried had stuck. People in Carcer Ridge did not care for studying history. With most of the important figures from the country’s past still hanging around somewhere, anyone who was interested did not need to look up information. They could just give the people involved a call and go over for a chat.
Seren pulled her vision back to her preferred first person viewpoint and initiated the transfer sequence that took her from her home to her office in Petersen Tower. From her point of view, the transfer was instantaneous. She requested the transfer and the supercomputer array running Carcer Ridge immediately paused her consciousness while it switched her data from the cluster of processors responsible for her home area to the cluster of processors responsible for running the Tower. When the transfer was complete, she was unpaused in her new location. The entire process took less than a second to complete; which from the point of view of a citizen inside Carcer Ridge could seem like up to an hour, depending on preferred running speeds.