Epilogue. A year later I'm just checking to make sure the original content of this blurt remains unaltered. It ought to be given the hardlocking I applied to it, but you can never can tell... Even now there are still people who would try to discredit the facts of the story by altering the source documentation.
As you might imagine a lot has changed, yet paradoxically remained the same in the year which has passed. It still seems incredible to me it was I who experienced at first hand those events, and was for a short time at the centre of the controversy which followed. But as much of the contentiousness has subsided for the time being I think it would be a good idea to update what became of me and the other dramatis personae in the narrative.
The next few days were a blur with me being treated and debriefed in a luxurious government guest apartment before being let go. As expected the Irish goverment were publicly noncommittal about my exposé. My arrival in the Republic hadn't gone unnoticed with there being a short-lived media furore surrounding me for a while when I resurfaced into the public domain. For a short time I had the pro bono services of a professional media relations person, and I did the rounds of interviews with anyone who would listen; but eventually the fuss died down as interest in my story waned. News still ages as fast as it ever did and there being no impetus for any change, the story soon withered. Someone tried to identify the man who was run over by the bus, but there were no autopsy or mortuary records to be found; the data appears to have been lost as a result of Black Dragon activity, so we're told. Despite my button cam image of him and the other would-be abductors being run through multiple facial databases nothing came up. To all intents and purposes he and they never existed; sanitised as effectively as the plot itself. My footage was dismissed as a failed robbery attempt.
As expected the Fed sought my extradition on criminal charges but were given short shrift. The cheeky bloody Albans even offered me asylum but there's no way I'd ever go there, I'm not mad or masochistic! In any case it was all rather immaterial by then; the NRP had cemented itself in place as the de-facto adminstration and would remain so for the forseeable future. There was a slight counter-reaction against them when the second round of polling took place in October to fill the seats left unfilled by the Consensus Party whose MPs were by then languishing in Rehabilitation on remand. But who has any confidence in the result of a Fed election now? Quietly setting aside any scruples regarding their legitimacy, the international community recognised the new regime in London. Realpolitik triumphed again as it always does.
So I was alive, free, but broke and wondering what I should do with the rest of my life. As had been suggested I employed a professional writer to ghost my book, and supplemented my meagre income with engagements on the speaking circuit. The expat Fedder community here is split fifty-fifty between those who regard me as a hero or a traitor, but there was still enough interest and goodwill among them to provide me with the moral and material support which I so desperately needed then. I also have a small but vociferous international network of my supporters and they have proved more valuable than I could ever have imagined in defending my reputation and getting the word out. But I didn't want to spend the rest of my life as a failed whistleblower, I needed to move on.
It was during my settling in process I met Àine and moved in with her. So far our relationship is going well but she says I still act like a haunted fugitive; that's probably because I still consider myself to be one. My life isn't at risk; and why should it be as the Fed media have already done an excellent job in assassinating my character? No, killing me now would only lend a posthumous credibility to my story, but I know if I were to return to the Fed my life would be made an utter misery: There are outstanding warrants for my arrest in regard to the Vauxhall incidents, and though it should be technically possible to extract me from the Rehabilitation service within a few months I've no confidence in what passes for the justice system in the Fed. Besides, I've nothing to go back to. My pension and flat were sequestered to pay for the medical costs and compensation of the accident victims; and I was summararily dimissed from IMS. So what life I had there is gone for good. Lisa Burrows has taken over my post. I wish her well, but I think she'll find as I did that the job is a poisoned chalice.
At least she fared better than Bippin Swaroop who paid a high price for his carelessness. A 'preliminary investigation' of his files in response to my allegations found nothing as I predicted; but did reveal he was in posession of paedophile images on his scroll. No, of course he isn't a nonce, but being fitted-up on a charge that serious will keep him incommuncado for a long time.
He shouldn't have collaborated with the plot, but being treated in the way he has been is well out of order; especially as if he ever does get released he may well leave the Rehabilitation system somewhat less of a man than he entered it. Whether or not surgical castration is included as part of the sentence depends on how much of a future risk the tribunal regards each offender to be. There is an appeals proceedure; but once a decision in favour of the unkindest cut has been made the surgery is usually carried out promptly... My scrotum is shrivelling just thinking about it. No one knows as yet whether Bippin has suffered the most extreme punishment for his negligence or if he's being kept on tenterhooks just to prolong his anguish.
Neil Moore is an up and coming junior minister holding the Culture portfolio. It is widely expected he'll be promoted in the next cabinet reshuffle. I've not had any contact from him. I appear to have become a non-person in his eyes.
Once I was able to make contact with Dad and arrange the delivery of his diplomatic travel credentiatials he was safely able to take the ferry across and join me here. He landed on his feet and soon after his arrival put together the Shorehaven Park documentary. It won a couple of minor awards and made him enough money to set himself up in a warden protected flat on the outskirts of Tala. Yes I know; Tala of all places! But it's relatively affordable by Irish standards, and since the last Garda push into the area cleared the worst of the gang elements out it's a lot safer than it used to be. He's found a niche for himself teaching journalism and media on a part-time basis.
The Park itself was less fortunate. The day after Dad left the NatPol came crashing through the gates looking for him. Finding nothing they shook the other residents up a bit, but learning nothing more set his 'van on fire and left.
His departure was the final straw. Without his leadership and drive to hold it together the community fragmented. Some residents left of their own accord; the remainder were forced out when the sea finally prevailed the next autumn. Some of them may have scattered to the drier parts of Pagham, or else they're clinging on to a miserable existence somewhere in the as yet unreformed community care system.
After a scarcely decent few months' interval the show trials of Lois Merck and the other Council members began. It is a source of vengeful satisfaction to many - myself included - that they found themselves suffering the abrupt processes of the system they themselves set in place. What little evidence the closed tribunal chose to release about the hitherto undisclosed abuses of the Assignment system - especially the shocking images of conditions in one of the workhouse colonies for disabled people - was incontravertible; the defendents' sentences inevitable. All of the leading Council members will spend the next few decades of their lives subject to the inflexible travails of Rehabilitation with precious little chance of parole. They will live under ceaseless intimate scrutiny and be kept always busy just for the sake of it: Cudgelled between the narrow, non-negotiable goalposts of nearly impossible to achieve targets of compliance in order to complete their stressful 're-education': Constantly working or exercising to exhaustion and subject to the ever present threat of sanctions such as having their rations cut or losing what few privileges they have for even minor infractions of the rules: Living the same harsh disipline they were only too eager to impose upon the rest of us for so long.
No, their trial can hardly be described as fair, but the outcome is a retributary justice of a sort, and few people feel sorry for them.
In a saner world that should've been the last we heard of the Consensus apart from our bewildered reminiscences and incredulous histories wondering how it was we let them pervert the values of communitarianism to such an extent with so little resistance on our part; or why we allowed ourselves to become our own worst enemies, putting up with their misrule for so long. But we don't live in a sane world. For even here, where the scandals of the Magdalene Laundries and the Tuam Home have such a raw resonance after so many years have passed, there are still some politicians who fall willing prey to the seductive idea that the solution to the problems of persistant un- or underemployment would be to emulate some of the 'less severe' Consensus policies. They obdurately ignore the hard learned warnings of the living example just across the water, preferring instead to stoke the fires of judgemental prejudice for their own ends. I need to be careful not to make too much of a nuisance of myself while I'm still officially a guest rather than a citizen here, but I do what I can to support the No Workfare State Here! campaign against these siren calls.
But it isn't just here in the Republic or other european states where the toxic ideology of Consensism has had a malign influence on mainstream political thought; it remains well ingrained in the mindset of the people of the Fed; many of whom ought to know better by now. Those years of brainwashing won't be so easily reversed because despite everything which has happened and the glaring failures of the system openly displayed to anyone who casts aside their mental blinkers to see the facts, people just refuse to stop believing the nonsense.
The DeConsensising Commission have held panels all over the Fed, and in the spirit of these new same old times people have been only too ready to rush forward in public dennouncation. Unsurprisingly the majority of the Connies have vanished deep into the woodwork, though some aspects of their ideology will persist as an indelible legacy. Few people now openly admit to having been a supporter of the movement, or having voted for them; yet many people were members; somebody must have lent them their support. The cleansing process, unpleasant though it is to watch from afar, is fraught with inherrent contradictions: You can't get rid of or jail every last one of them; they were too many and there aren't enough places to hold them all, even now. It may rankle with the victims but society just couldn't function with so many of the people it depends on incarcerated. A compromise had to be struck; it was the decapitation of the higher level leadership and the leaving the mass membership largely untouched, making examples of only their worst offenders. So for now the furtive Connies remain, largely untuched though leaderless and disorganised. Waiting impatiently for the NRP's promised free market miracle to stutter and their time to come again.
When I'm not busy trying to cram a Federation Studies degree into two years, or doing one of my increasingly infrequent media spots I'm sometimes consulted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or private interests who'll pay for my insights on Prime Minister Purvis and the Fed generally. My views often shock them but they did ask...
As far as the Fed is concerned I see only dark times ahead. Yes there will be an initial boom as the Zone ethos spreads throughout the Fed, but then what? The same factors which so hampered the Council's economic reconstruction efforts - expensive, unreliable energy supplies, the reliance on imported raw materials and food, along with the lasting effects of the workforce being Busy Doing Nothing for so long - will hamstring the NRP government as well. If James doesn't realise so yet, he'll soon find the limits of his ambitious plans for growth. I think though he already knows the truth, and that's why he's not been making so many exuberant promises recently. His legislative programme has been scaled back as well; the chances are he'll get his elected but pliant second chamber through; and the european referendum will go as he would wish by voting to continue the status quo, but that will mark the extent of his reforms. The majority of the Consensus' legislation will remain as it is with only the worst excesses amended; it suits the interests of the NRP's corporate backers to release the state's constricting noose around the necks of the populace, but not by too much.
The King still clings to life - if that's what it can be described as - but everyone knows His passing can't be long delayed. The Regent hasn't spoken about His long term plans for the Monarchy, but I suspect He'll go through with the plan to abdicate in favour of an elected Executive President and then go on an extended holiday abroad. Few would begrudge Him His release after spending so long in the netherworld of not-quite power.
The presidential election is still on track to be held in two years. As yet though it's way too early for potential candidates to declare themselves but it's a given that James will stand, calculating that he can vacate the prime ministerial hot seat, surf his temporary wave of popularity, and install himself in a superior position of power just in time to avoid the backlash when things inevitably turn sour. If all else fails he can always wurdle the votes again. But for now eveyone is awaiting the inevitable news expected soon from Buckingham Palace and the outbreak of mass grieving.
Meanwhile I predict the Albans will watch this all happening from across the Wall with amusement as the euphoria fades and those people who can still think for themselves realise they've just been taken in by the latest thinly disguised corporate takeover. History is bound to repeat itself with a restive people taking out their frustrations not on the goverment responsible for their miserable state, but against each other. Give it five or so years and the combustibly toxic social legacy of the noughties and teens will ignite again.
Yes, my predictions startle people; especially when I suggest in the longer term it will be Alba which will be the more stable nation. Not better off, not a nicer or more liberal place to live in; but their authoritarian, militarised, centrally planned economy should prove the more durable over time, there being no false hopes of a brighter tomorrow to be dashed.
I've had all sorts of reactions to my opinion: Disbelief; even being asked to refund my fee in one case, but I stand by what I say. That's probably why I don't get too much in the way of repeat business from either private clients or the increasingly rare summons from the government. As time passes my insights are seen to be more irrelevant. Not that I'm too bothered; consultancy is only a short-term way of tiding me through my studies.
Once I get my degree I'm sure I'll be able to find a post somewhere. If nothing else I'll be able to teach - adult students, not kids - I want a quiet life! I know I've had my fill of the media and won't be working within it again. It's taken me this long and my utter lack of success when I had my one big chance to realise I was never really cut out for it.
Though my exposé was nominated for a number of international prizes, I failed to win any of then; the indifference of my peers being the most telling epitaph for my failed career. I realised too late how I'd come to despise the job, and what it had made me; I now understand I did it only because there was little else available, and I lacked the self-confidence needed to make the bold leap across to a new career. Looking back the best than can be said for it was that it kept me fed and occupied; and the jaded drudgery was preferable to the alternative... Compared to most Fedders I had it good, but you don't fully realise your situation until you can look at it from a different perspective.
My future plans assume my eyesight dosen't deteriorate any further. Being better nourished has helped to an extent, and I'm on a six-monthly cycle of examinations; but as yet I've not needed specialist drugs or surgery. The new glasses have certainly helped but as someone new to sight loss I find it's a pain having to wear them. With each surgical proceedure comes an increased risk of postoperative complications, so I'll avoid having anything done unless I really need to. Like many other visually impaired people I'll just have to live with what I've got and hope things don't get any worse. My life here is no bed of roses, but at least it's tolerable.
Sorry; I was distracted by the clattering of a really strong flurry of hail sleet lashing against the window. Yes, it's been bad recently. We'd all hoped that once we were into May the belated spring might have begun, but no; not yet.
The recent run of bad weather should've put our economic woes into perspective, but if anything it just encourages more geopolitical speculation. How will the Fed react to the Republic keeping back more food for itself? Are the growls of our big neighbour merely bluster or will they actually try to coerce us? Don't they realise how our relative positions have changed for good? And how will the Albans react if the preoccupation of the enfeebled Fed armed forces switches from the north to the west? Can they be trusted to stay their side of the Wall and not attempt an impertinent grab of the warmer lands to the south?
All these questions are as unanswerable as the uncertainty regarding our changing climate. We know something has gone badly wrong with the weather, but we can't tell exactly what, or over what timescale the effects will be felt. There are still a minority who believe this is a but a temporary phase of global cooling caused by quiet solar cycle, enhanced by the aerosols of volcanic eruptions and the Gulf Crisis smoke cloud. They predict; or rather hope, the worst effects may pass within a decade and then a benign warming trend will resume.
Other more realistic experts contend we may be seeing the early stages of a new ice age. Opinions vary with the noticeable onset of glaciation being estimated from mere decades away to it being postponed by several centuries. Some mavericks even contend we're seeing the Sixth Winter theory - that six consecutive winters' worth of unmelted snow at high lattitudes would be enough to trigger a rapid reglaciation - being proved correct. Whoever is right it appears the old global warming doom stories are out of fashion. Now articles speculate with the same boundless optimism which pervaded the space travel futurology of the 1960s that within a few decades we'll all be living in nuclear powered domed cities rising bouyantly above the compacting snow or floating amid the icebergs on frigid seas; but those bullish articles don't explain what we'll be eating though.
Perhaps some of us will be fortunate enough to live in self-contained warm worlds and play with our children in glazed over parks, gilded in the golden light of a winter sunset. But for the majority of us the reality of a fimbulvinter will be very different from a smug isolation against the raw arctic chill. Instead there will be famine, slow deaths from cold weather maladies, and desperate mass migrations to the temperate climes of the equator. The unwillingly displaced people will face a hostile reception from the militarised North African coasts, deadly shots fired at their refugee boats, and minefields laid across land routes.
Assuming by some miracle the world can contract it's population and agriculture into the equatorial belt without prompting another nuclear conflict, or several; and if our civilisation can survive in the short term then our own toxic legacy will return to haunt us. Those unimaginably slow but remorselessly powerful glaciers will abrade their way through the very bedrock we think so permanent; bulldozing nuclear reactor sites out of their way and scouring up those supposedly out of sight and out of mind, safe for the forseeable future intensely radioactive waste dumps in deadly moraines before them. We may have thought we'd looked into the mouth of nuclear hell and seen all of the terrors it held, but we'll not see the true folly of our atomic hubris until the contaminants which should never see the light of day again have been liberated from their containment.
With such possible ramifications there's an urgent global effort to learn as much as possible about the destabilised climate, but observation isn't as easy as it used to be before the Korean dénouement went orbital. The hastily abandoned ISS was one of the first casualties of the newly created cascading scatter of space junk; the pieces of one destroyed satellite hitting another and in killing that creating more wreckage which in turn creates yet more fragments until the earth became encased within a deadly sphere of orbital litter... Ardous efforts were made to try to keep it out of the line of fire but there was only so much fuel on board which could be used to move it to a less dangerous orbit, and the constant evasive manoeuvres soon consumed it. The station was just too big a target, it suffered too many strikes from the debris to remain viable. I watched almost with a sense of grief the shaky images of the swarm of fireball debris plunging into the Pacific when it was finally deorbited; it was as if humanity had stretched this far, but our reach had exceeded our grasp and now we were being literally brought back down to earth by our failings. I wondered at the time if we would ever again reach as a united species for the stars or remain forever earthbound; mired in our conflicts.
But years on it would seem necessity has forced our hand. With low earth orbital space polluted by the detrius of the Crises, launching satellites is now a risky business. Sometimes it is possible to sneak one through if the orbital vectors allow a window of relative safety, but those opportunities are few and far between. Now we must rely on the fleet of ageing satellites in different, higher orbits for our earth observation, communication, and navigation needs. As they begin to fail we notice their loss only too well, just when we are in the greatest need of their data.
Still we need to know what is really happening, and that imperative outweighs the increased costs and risks of spaceflight in the orbital shooting gallery. We have to accept we're going to lose satellites and occasionally people out there as a result. The various space agencies are considering all manner of schemes to try and clear up the mess; launching 'cleaner' satellites which can extend large, strong parasols to catch the lighter, slower pieces is one idea mooted. Laser sats could zap the larger chunks, or the beam used to drive them off further into space; but that idea is harder to get support for in this war-weary world. But even if all of the various ideas actually came to fruition they would only be able to deal with some of the problem, by no means all of it; so as a consequence future spacecraft will all resemble the Chinese Phoenix being launched this evening.
The fragile insect shapes of satellites are a thing of the past. Now most spacecraft more resemble button mushrooms or shuttlecocks; the bulbous lightweight armour at the head hopefully protecting the ship and crew from chance collisions with those deadly fragments, as well as shielding the tail of solar panels.
In a world which has grown seemingly indifferent to suffering having seen so much of it, I - and those few others who care enough to nervously watch the various blurt feeds - feel as if we are somehow eccenctric in worrying about the two brave astronaut-scientists preparing to risk their lives in the cause of garnering more knowledge.
I hope their flight goes safely and after jinking their way through the flak cloud and steering their craft to where it is needed - the Flexible Human Response of the new jargon - they can return to earth safely in the esacpe capsule; leaving the Phoenix running autonomously for as long as it can last. If something does go wrong I hope the Chinese don't revert to abruptly cutting the feeds as they did before; the days of national pride should be far behind us now, we must work together to understand as much as possible about what is happening. No; that's not naiveté talking, but the cold reality humanity as a species is facing.
While this real-life drama is taking place, in the other room Àine will be watching the latest thrilling installment of the Éireann version of Dance Together! That dreadful Fed export has gone international, there always being a receptive audience eager to divert their attention away from the cares of the real world and immerse themselves in the bubble of falsity surrounding the competition. I've told her what goes on behind the scenes; how it really is fixed and it's a waste of time watching that dross but she refuses to believe me; preferring instead to ignore the truth in favour of fiction. She even cried when her home town of Athlone was knocked out last week. Women!...
I shouldn't be too hard on her; she's not alone in trying to turn a blind eye to the ugliness in plain view. Almost everyone is desperate for some escapism these days, but I can't bear to watch it; it's too redolant of all I want to put behind me. She understands, and doesn't push for me to join her for a cuddle on the couch while it's on. Maybe I'll join her once the excruciating results update is over, but for now I think I'll just do some online housekeeping and await the launch of the Phoenix.
I may as well finish here; the blurt appears to be unaltered and remains my perspective on what happened. I've not exaggerated anything and described the events which took place truthfully.
I doubt if this account will ever convince the skeptics, many of whom have a vested interest in defaming me. Nor do I care about their opinions; both they and I know the truth of the matter, whatever they say about me in public.
I've often been asked if I regret what I did; and if I were able to turn back time would I do anything differently? My answer is as it has always been: No. Not that I really had any choice in the matter once I'd discovered the secret. My only regret is that my disclosure didn't prompt a re-run of the election; and looking back perhaps I might have done some things slightly differently had I known then what I know now. Of course I wasn't to know; and I neither had the luxury of time, nor was I in a fit state to consider other choices. But those details would be just minor deviations to a course which already had been set for me. I take my consolation from the fact I succeded in making the facts public, and if the world chose to shrug off the truth, well that was beyond my control.
Should I have just kept quiet and allowed the result to stand? The method of achieving it may have been wrong but the outcome - the removal of the Consensus from power - being an end that justified the means? Again I say No. I know politics can be a dirty business - especially now - but some things are just wrong whatever the intent. Whoever turns out to be behind the plot, I doubt very much the best interests of the Feddish people were the uppermost concern of those who corrupted the democratic process.
I did what I thought to be right at the time and still consider to be the correct thing to have done now. So rather then justifying my actions I turn the question around and ask why am I alone expected to account for myself?
The current mess we are in didn't 'just' happen; it was the deliberate outcome of decisions taken by people we allowed to get away with it. Equally our apathy and innaction in not holding them to account can also be blamed, for we were also the authors of our own misfortune. The lead up to the Crises and the Consensus was decades in the making; and during all of that time there were countless numbers of people who could have - should have - seen where we were heading and done whatever they could to prevent their future nightmare from becoming today's fact. I would pose this question to them: You must have seen what was happening; where it was leading to, or at the very least had an inkling of what the future would be if things continued as they were: What did you do to stop it?
I often wonder if it were possible to send this blurt back through time and have it widely publicised, would the concrete knowledge of our certain future make those unknowing masses living in the past act any differently? I'd like to think it would, but in my more depressive moments I fear nothing would change.
So to finish; it is my hope you are reading this in far better times than those we are living through; and if that is not the case then I wish you the best of Irish luck. You're going to need it.