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Question // Stephenson Muret

ANSWER: Every attempt is being made to keep families together. As demonstrated by the regrettable anecdote you cite this is not feasible in every case. Due to varying requirements in different Districts, and the viability of remaining facilities in different Districts, we cannot reposition three or four citizens when we have only resources and space and need for one. With gratitude we acknowledge those families called upon to weather this temporary sacrifice. But it will only be temporary. These few families will be reunited, eventually.

ANSWER: The number of families experiencing separation is minimal at this time. Due to the situation's changeability, the number fluctuates from day to day. I cannot provide a fixed count.

ANSWER: The number you quote is exaggerated. Not so many families have been divided.

ANSWER: We are aware of the confusion surrounding the application process. Citizens are instructed to complete their profiles as well as they understand and direct them to the appropriate sub-agency. Once we pair their knowledge base with a pending need, preparations for transit and repositioning will commence, if necessary.

ANSWER: No. Metadata from before the crisis do not factor into our placement criteria. Former political persuasions or demonstrations of allegiance do not influence our decisions.

ANSWER: The information in those databanks is available to us again, yes. Surveillance metadata from the past two decades are at our disposal. But we do not scrutinize them for purposes of repositioning.

ANSWER: As I stated: Former political views have no bearing upon who is sent where.

ANSWER: At this time only those working in Vital Services have been given preferential status. Initially, of course, we must prioritize these citizens so they can produce at full capacity and contribute as widely as possible. But if we have learned anything over these past months, it is that every talent and ability holds equal importance. A vast web of interlocking knowledge bound us together and kept us nourished and progressing. We do not value one person over another, nor one profession over another. But we must approach the re-civilization process in an orderly manner. We must proceed methodically. We have given preferential status to those carrying out Vital Services because it is a necessary aspect of our method.

ANSWER: As I have said repeatedly: Vital Services are those services deemed most necessary to bring back a state of equilibrium to society.

ANSWER: Yes, the term has indeed undergone some revision through the past months. I think though to characterize our definition as vague is inaccurate. When we reached a threshold of stability in certain sectors our understanding of the re-civilization process changed, and so did our approach to addressing it through Vital Services. Therefore, the definition of Vital Services had to evolve in kind. The definition may, in fact, be reevaluated again. This may prove needful if we are to regain a sustained stability and return to some semblance of normalcy.

ANSWER: Again, citizens are instructed to list their area of widest knowledge and to rate their degree of proficiency on a five point scale, with five being expert and one being novice. They are instructed to attach this list to their profile and submit these electronically to the appropriate sub-agency. Where connectivity has not yet been re-established, submit by post.

ANSWER: At this time it is not yet safe to move about freely.

ANSWER: Please, ladies and gentlemen. Please, one by one. I recognize the wait has been protracted and citizens feel restless. But those who leave their residential blocks without a Vital Services pass put their lives in jeopardy. The Vital Services corridors are limited only to those aiding in re-civilization. And outside these corridors the environment remains extremely virulent. I would draw your attention to video footage recently published of citizens straying from their residential blocks without the protection of the corridors. These images are disturbing indeed. We counsel patience. The pandemic continues. At this time prevention is the sole safeguard. Only a natural immunity or non-exposure confers protection. And since immunity cannot be tested except by exposure, at this time it is not safe to move about freely.

ANSWER: No, above all, it is not yet safe to congregate. Do not assemble into groups. For the good of our future we have begun enforcing this dictate of the Emergency Act very strictly. And we shall continue in our vigilance. Vigorously. That is, after all, how the pandemic took root.

ANSWER: Yes, as has been reported, those databanks came back online some weeks ago. Surveillance profiles from past decades are now available to us.

ANSWER: No, the distribution of resources has not shifted since then.

ANSWER: Those reports are flawed. There have been no changes in apportionment. The resources we have had the opportunity to requisition are being distributed equitably based upon the predicted populations of any given District. The situation remains fluid, however, with demographics still in flux as unexpected spikes in attrition arise spontaneously across the terrain. Some speculation is involved in deciding which resources will be necessary in what District, and when. Our distribution system, unfortunately, reflects this unpredictability. But let me emphasize here, and categorically, that political motivations do not influence the apportioning of resources.

ANSWER: The algorithms guiding distribution are the best we can devise at this time, given our inability to solidify all variables.

ANSWER: As I said, those reports are false. Politics do not drive the distribution of resources. Our surveillance profiles have not influenced who receives food.

ANSWER: Absolutely not. There have been no succession disputes. It is unambiguously clear to whom power devolves from the original president down through twenty echelons. This hierarchy, provided for by the Emergency Act, pools leaders from all three branches of government and includes, at this time, representatives from all parties. It is true the Emergency Act stipulates that I and my potential successors gather as a Grand Council, but this is a temporary aberration which will be corrected as soon as stability resumes. All of those in line to succeed me acknowledge this arrangement as temporary. Each of us are eager for its necessity to pass.

ANSWER: No, I would not say our Grand Council meetings concentrate power from the three branches of government into a single entity. That is a mischaracterization, an irresponsible mischaracterization.

ANSWER: We have defined stability as a return to normal rates of attrition, a re-establishment of basic services and public safety to all Districts, and a resumption by the citizenry of lifestyles resembling those of former days.

ANSWER: We decide when that has happened.

ANSWER: Citizens can expect a transition period of indeterminate length as we ease back toward a system of representative elections. This should not surprise anyone. It is only natural.

ANSWER: I have that authority. The Emergency Act grants the sitting president the power to initiate the process of reassembly. New elections will be called at some appropriate date in the future. At that point we will begin reconstituting the system of former days.

ANSWER: Yes, attrition continues unabated.

ANSWER: Those figures you quote are mistaken. Deaths continue, as I said. Attrition continues unabated, as I said.

ANSWER: According to our numbers.

ANSWER: The chain of succession continues in effect. I maintain daily contact with those in line to succeed me just as I did with those whom I succeeded. All of these men participate in Grand Council meetings and each understands the rationale and intentions governing my executive decisions. The principles of former days will be upheld in good time.

ANSWER: At this time those identities should not be made public.

ANSWER: At this time those names shall remain out of the public sphere. Rest assured, the persons waiting to assume power are attuned to the situation's evolving demands.

ANSWER: Please, ladies and gentlemen. This shock is unprecedented. We navigate uncharted waters here. If civilization is to rebound from this setback we must react with vigor, and on a global scale. The more systematically we restructure based upon our remaining resources, the fewer who will perish. The fewer who perish, the more expertise we will preserve. And the more expertise we preserve, the more rapidly we can return to normalcy. At that point we will indulge the freedoms we all miss so dearly, the freedoms of the former days. If civilization is to endure, however, we must first ensure its preservation for the next generation.

ANSWER: Those are rumors, alarmist rumors that do not warrant repetition in a briefing of this importance. There have been no incursions by our military into foreign sovereign states.

ANSWER: That is absolutely false.

ANSWER: No! Citizens are instructed to remain within their residential blocks until contacted by a repositioning official. All military branches have been completely replenished in their ranks. The armed forces are functioning again at full strength. You are secure inside your residential blocks. Once it becomes safe to move beyond them we will announce this fact. Public utilities are being reestablished piecemeal. Electrical power has been returned to over 42 percent of previously serviced areas. We will inform the citizenry further as events demand. At this time we are recruiting most heavily for those with expertise in plant husbandry and nuclear physics. The allotted number of questions for this press conference has been expended. This press conference is now over.


Stephenson Muret lives and writes in southern California. His plays, stories, essays and poems have appeared in scores of publications, touching virtually all genres.

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