Unity [Flash Fiction]
• Words: 797 • Themes: Speculative fiction, Sci-fi •
“Excuse me, Madam President, but it’s time.”
At Naomi’s whispered prompt, the world’s first female president tucked the well-creased piece of paper bearing her own handwriting into her breast pocket and squared her shoulders. Out there, behind the purple curtain, Earth was waiting. A crowd so large that SolSec had needed to pay for a thousand guards to work overtime.
“How do I look?” Charlotte asked her most trusted aide.
The back-stage lights dazzled off Naomi’s pearly white smile. “Perfect. Try not to be nervous.”
“Why would she be nervous?” Sir Reginald asked, continuing his penchant for unsolicited opinion. “Our President is simply delivering a speech to the eleven billion inhabitants of Earth, plus the fifteen million on the Luna and Mars colonies. Every pair of eyes in the whole home system will be turned towards their netweb screens; every listening post amplifying the President’s words into deep space, so that the brave men and women forging new paths on untamed worlds might be inspired by what is said here today. Nothing at all to be nervous about.”
“Maybe you should write my future speeches,” Charlotte suggested. There were still days when she woke up and reeled at the thought of governing Earth. Sometimes, the mere idea of being responsible for so many lives made her stomach gurgle uneasily. Ten years ago, she’d been a law student. Now, she wasn’t just the Earth’s first first female president, but also its youngest.
The mantle of responsibility was a heavy weight to bear, but at least she didn’t bear it alone.
Naomi squeezed her arm in a gesture of solidarity. Sir Reginald gave her the most imperceptible of nods. Further behind, her entire campaign team and cabinet of minsters was prepared to stand with her in a near-unprecedented show of solidarity. And all Charlotte could think was, I hope I don’t fluff my lines.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the compère announced over the sound-system, “I give you the President of Earth!”
Some almighty monster roared, a clamorous applause the news-ships in low orbit of the planet surely heard. Charlotte smiled through the pain, and stepped out onto the stage.
The curtain rose. The beast grew louder and louder, people clapping their hands, stamping their feet, honking those blasted horns—until she lifted her hand, and slowly, the cacophony died down, the only remaining sound a pair of songbirds trilling in the nearby trees.
Countless pairs of eyes watched her. Young eyes, old eyes, blue and brown and green eyes, the faces a diverse sea of tones and colours, some lined with age and others plump with youth. They clung to the silence, waiting for her words.
“Three hundred years ago, my ancestor, standing on this exact spot, delivered a speech so powerfully moving that it stayed in the hearts and minds of a nation long after his death. He spoke of freedom and persistence, and a testing of that nation’s founding principles: namely, that all men are created equal.
“Years later, an attempt was made on his life. It was an attempt perpetrated by cowards, by men so afraid of progress and equality that they clung to a past of brutality and subjugation. Happily, that attempted assassination-by-knife was unsuccessful, and under my ancestor’s wisdom and guidance, the nation of the United States of America flourished, becoming a beacon of equality and justice that cast a blazing light of hope upon the rest of the world.
“I stand before you today at the dawn of a new era. From the moment we tiptoed hesitantly beyond the confines of our own solar system, we became aware that we were not alone in this universe. For decades, we have been at peace with the Galactic Alliance, a peace augmented by lucrative trade, and built upon the foundations that, long ago, the United States of America was also built upon.
“We are all equal, and we are not alone. The time has come to formalise our relationship with our alien neighbours. An offer has been made, and accepted, granting Earth and its sister-planets full citizenship within the Galactic Alliance. The friendships we have forged will be strengthened, and we—and our children’s children—will enjoy all the freedoms and privileges that come with being Galactic Citizens.
“I like to think that if my ancestor could look forward through the centuries, and see all that we have accomplished, he would be filled with great and everlasting pride. His hope was that his ideals of freedom and equality would endure, and with this new alliance, they will.”
The beast roared again as the news cameras broadcast live to humanity. Charlotte glanced down at her wrist-communicator and tapped out a simple message to her aides.
How did that sound?
A reply came swiftly.
It was perfect, President Lincoln.
Today’s Terribleminds Friday Flash Fiction Challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig is to write A World Without Guns. Not easy, because guns aren’t a thing where I’m from. I’m probably more likely to walk down the street and be struck by lightning or hit by a meteorite than I am to be shot. I’m more likely to meet a screwdriver with my name on it than I am a bullet.
Plus, “imagine a world without guns” is kind of a knotty knot to unknot, at least for my brain. When I imagine a world without guns, I simply imagine humans replacing guns with something similarly destructive, such as sulphuric-acid-sprayers, or psychic pain-lances, or genetically engineered dogs shooting genetically engineered bees from their mouths. Because that is, unfortunately, what humans do. They find better ways of killing each other, and devote entire economies to making it so.
To avoid the knotty problem of how mankind might’ve progressed had gunpowder never been invented, and the equally unattractive option of writing a completely wacky and unrealistic science-fantasy world in which humans care more about peace and altruism than they do about making money and killing other humans, I decided to focus on one gun-related incident and erase it entirely: the assassination of Lincoln. No gun, no quick assassination, potentially different outcome for this little ol’ world. In this story, the year is 2163, 300 years after the Gettysburg address, and 298 years after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.