The Ballot

Dean Wallace, the Prime Minister of Australia ratified The Ballot. It was difficult to tell from his countenance at the time how he felt about it. He was a master of sham. Chelsea was the only one who could see the truth in him. She watched her father, like she’d done for the 35 years of her life and knew that he was secretly pleased. The heavy scent of his cologne cloyed up her nose as if the very air was made of particles of him.

“What now then Dad?” she asked him with an edge to her voice. “Going to rub out all the um… what did you call them? Ah yes, that’s right, the filth? Going to send them off to where they belong then are you?” Her father didn’t respond, so she paused a moment, the index finger of her right hand tapping a point on her face just below her mouth. “Did you ever wonder who is going to shine your fucking shoes?” she said.

“Chelsea,” The PM sighed. “You know I don’t like it when you swear like that. Besides, I shine my own shoes, you know that.”

“God, Dad! I didn’t mean that literally, you stupid man. I mean who is going to do the everyday things like grow the food, drive the trucks, build the roads and serve your coffee? These are people you’re talking about.”

Wallace waved a hand about dismissively. “The ballot won’t be selective, well, not really. People like you and I will be spared, but everyone else, will be entered. Not everyone who does the things you’re so concerned about will be removed. We’ll retain a large portion of different sections of the global community just by applying the system’s capacity for random selection,” The PM said.

Chelsea’s mouth fell open at his statement. “Gah!” she said. It was a visceral response. Her father was about to kill sixty-five percent of the people on the face of the earth.

The earth was overpopulated, everyone knew that. Policies had come and gone to address the issue, but nothing really worked. No one was prepared to make the changes necessary to secure the future. It was always seen as ‘someone else’s problem’.

“Goodbye Dad. I can’t be around you,” Chelsea said, the heel of her shoe catching in the carpet as she pivoted. She could feel it embedded deep in the pile.

“Oh, come on love, don’t be like that.” Wallace tried to reason with her as she struggled with her shoe.

“I always hated these bloody shoes!” she screamed as she yanked it and several cords of carpet free. She let the shoe fly at her father, but the throw was wild and the fine leather shoe hit the book case off to his left. She reached the door and holding the remaining shoe she looked back and said, “I don’t even know who you are.”

The ballot system was developed by epidemiologist Belinda Haesp as a tool for global diagnostics. Originally called FreePan It was meant to track and monitor disease outbreaks on a global scale so health care could be provided when and where it was most needed. Fundamentally it was about preventing pandemics, about providing treatment, cures and relief from illness. It was about stopping diseases like HIV and COVID in their tracks. It was about making the world a better place, not about marking people for destruction.

Cancer claimed Haesp just after the launch of her invention and the program was cancelled. Haesp’s boss, Chad Smith, himself an investor, not a scientist took control of FreePan, seeing it as a mechanism for global control. Through underworld connections and collaboration with Dean Wallace, the Ballot System was born. The collaborators knew little about the medical technology behind the system, caring only that they could hijack its original purpose for their own: to socially reconstruct the global community through a randomised cull.

FreePan consisted of 24 satellites that were launched into orbit from a location in the Australian desert. Half of the satellites were trackers and half were inoculators. The trackers went into high orbit and the inoculators fell back to earth not long after separation from the rest of the mechanism.  During the fall they spread a formulation based on human DNA into the atmosphere, where it mutated and became bio-active, homing in on its earth-based targets: every single human on earth. The bioactive components migrated down to earth and bonded with human DNA, altering certain atomic orbits within the human DNA structure. It provided real time tracking signals to the tracking satellites. For the first time in the earth’s history, every single human was accounted for and it only took around 24 hours.

Haesp had envisaged that FreePan would deliver cures from a central location by remotely altering the structure of endogenous retroviruses, present in all human DNA, liberating active anti-viral agents, capable of eliminating all disease causing viral agents on earth. Smallpox had been eradicated, why not HIV?  Haesp was truly visionary and she embedded within FreePan the capability for randomly selecting DNA, a provision for medical research. It was an effective way to recruit geographically and genetically isolated participants in trials and studies. It was this capability that the collaborators wished to exploit.

Chelsea knew there was nothing she could do about the inoculation. That had already occurred, but as she stomped down the hallway a plan began forming in her mind.  If she couldn’t stop her father from pulling the plug on humanity, she had to find out who was on the Safe List and feed their details back into The Ballot. “Bite me,” Chelsea said to herself as she pushed open the door to the data room. The faint smell of ozone rushed out to meet her and determination gripped her bones as she locked the door and set about accessing The Ballot’s databases.

Back in his office, the PM contacted Smith. “Time to proceed my friend,” he said.

“Are you sure the Safe List is secure?” Smith asked.

“It’s water tight,” Wallace responded. “I’m looking forward to… what was it they called that book? Ah yes, I’m looking forward to A Brave New World,” he said and hung up the phone.

Chelsea punched away at the keyboard. She had no trouble gaining access to the main database, but it took some deciphering to locate the genetic information for each country. Strings of meaningless looking code ran down page after page and she didn’t know how much time she had to find what she was looking for. Sweat was starting to stand out on her forehead. “Come on! She shouted. It had to be there somewhere. Tears of frustration stung her eyes, until the code became a smear of green. It was then she saw it.  A few lines of code contained a red letter instead of being entirely green. She didn’t know what program they had used to identify individuals, but one of these lines represented her own existence. She worked quickly to change all the red letters in each country’s database back to green, and then prepared a reboot to apply the changes.

Just as the system had started to close down the PM hit the enter key on his own computer to execute The Ballot. Everything scrambled and the screen he was watching became a blur of green. “What happened?” he asked the empty room. He pushed back from the desk he was sitting at and marched out into the hall. As he strode towards the dataroom he saw Chelsea’s discarded shoe sitting at the door. “Chelsea!” he yelled and began to run. In his haste he failed to notice the silence that weighted the air.

The door was locked of course, but he shoved against it wildly until the lock sprang free. It was gloomy in the dataroom, but he could see a screen illuminated in the far corner. It too was a jumble of green. “Chelsea, are you in here?’ he asked, taking a few small steps towards the green glow. He could smell her perfume: L’air Du Temps.

He arrived at the desk and saw his daughter. She had tumbled off the chair in a pose that made her look wooden. He bent to shake her, but as his hand touched the skin of her upper arm he jerked it back in shock. She was smooth and solid, like plastic, like steel. Even though dead for less than a minute her body had turned hard. She had become a sculpture of the very recent past.

He jumped up shaking his head. “No, no, no, no!” he repeated as he ran from the room, down the stairs and out onto the street. The still air enveloped him and solid bodies were everywhere. “Anyone!” He yelled it over and over again until something tore in the back of his throat and he tasted his own blood.

He was the only one left.