November the 4th.
I should have done my dark web research while I had the chance, but I've been busy and my eyes have been feeling strained recently. Now I've finally got round to it, I find the entries in DarkWiki as well as the usual rumour mills regarding James and Mr Yu have been systematically edited. So we're left with the 'official' biographies of both of them.
Sadly I deleted the background research I'd done on IMS and James as part of my interview preparation long ago, but something is nagging at my brain; some all but forgotten facts. The trouble is they are staying all but forgotten. If I don't think about it for a while perhaps my subconscious mind will keep working on it, and the answers suddenly become apparent. Or maybe not, as they appear to stay unremembered for the moment.
I knew neither of them was spotlessly clean, but such a thorough cleansing implies a fear the Connies might go trawling in the dark world as well (if they haven't gone dredging already) and drag up something embarrassing. Given the rumours I've heard about James' past it would be understandable; but surely his Zone backers would've done some investigation before they threw their weight behind him? So why the sudden action now? Have they discovered something compromising and decided to bury it so deep it could never be uncovered?
I'll have to try some of my more dodgy frazzling contacts and see if they can access the earlier records. No doubt if they are able to then there will be Connie sympathisers who can do so as well. If there is a skeleton poised to fall out of the cupboard, we who are helping to run his campaign ought to know about it if for no other reason than to try to plan an advanced response if the Connies do have some dirt and decide to dish it.
I spend the rest of the day trying, and failing to think of a way of asking James about it in a chary manner without getting fired, or worse.
November the 7th.
Today I spent a fruitless hour in the Portsmouth Central Community Support office trying to renew my cycling licence. It should've been a straightforward process but in the Fed you can't take anything for granted. After waiting for my number to be called I'm told I can't get it renewed here. Apparently I should've gone to my home office in Waterlooville, though it's the first time I've heard of that rule being applied.
November the 8th.
So, today, before I head for Portsea Island, I visit the Waterlooville office, only to find after a thirty minute wait there they can't process my renewal and being told I should go to the Portsmouth Central office
After explaining testily the problem I had yesterday I ask them to put their interpretation of the rules down in writing; this takes another forty-five minutes to obtain. I can see where this is going to lead; I'll be forever ping-ponged back and forth from office to office. So once I reach Media House I outfit myself with some of our covert 'cording gear and head back to the Central office once more.
Community Support Offices were another of the Council's money saving bright ideas and the replacement for the Crown Post Office network and Job Centres, now combined and renamed. They are the first - nay the only - physical point of contact for citizens to access government services. From Reassignment to obtaining the many different cards you must have to get by in the Fed; the CSO is where you have to go. If you're not feeling suicidally depressed when you enter, you will be by the time you leave.
I think there must be a deliberate policy to put people off using them. How else can the dismal, unwelcoming interiors, the overbearing entry checks, the constantly prowling security staff, the armoured glass partitions at the counters, the few uncomfortable seats, and that particular quality of the lighting which seems to stop time in its tracks be explained?
After getting a number I wait for another tedious forty minutes before being seen. This member of staff must be new, or absolutely clueless, or enjoy making her clients' lives a misery; perhaps a combination of all three, because once again she refuses to accept the letter from Waterlooville. She won't even contact them to check when I ask.
This isn't helping me get a renewed licence but it will make a tasty lead tonight. A couple of Pieces To Camera outside the office; a bit of fill-in and some background research which proves that yes, a cycle licence can be renewed at any CSO, subject to the office's discretion; and the story exposing their incompetence is ready to 'cast.
Soon comes the usual flood of indignant blurts from our local monitoring group, and we receive notification of a complaint having been made to the OMS. They don't like the truth being 'cast as it hurts; but why they so vehemently support the indefensible is something I don't think I'll ever understand. Apart from the work involved in fending off this abuse it's water off a duck's back to us; we're that used to it.
Among all the antagonism I'm heartened to get quite a few supportive blurts as well; many of them describing the very same, or similar problems they've experienced with the CSO. I'll look through those more carefully later; there may be more stories to be mined there. The report filters up to James who sends his congratulations on a job well done. Additionally he arranges a way out of my bureaucratic impasse. As a Zone messenger I can take advantage of my status for the Zone to issue me a new licence. It should arrive within 24 hours.
Relieved by that news and bouyed by a successful day - journalistically at least - I decide rather than ride back tonight, as I'm not keen on riding in the dark unless I have to due to my poor night vision, I'll leave the bike in my office overnight and take the bus home.
November the 9th.
This morning I find a reception committee waiting for me. About ten Young Communitarians with a filmscreen banner reading STOP THE LIES! are picketing the entrance to Media House. When they recognise me they start chanting the same slogan in the same shrill robotic sing-song tone of voice which they use against those who disagree with them.
I don't know where that peculiar affectation originated from, but it reminds me of youthful Maoist Red Guards holding public criticism meetings. At least I think that was it; I must have heard it in a documentary about those times shown many, many years ago, or something else learned but then forgotten from my school years resurfaced. What they think they'll achieve with that strange intonation I don't know; they must believe it will unnerve their opponents. It only serves to irritate me further.
Not wanting to waste my breath getting into a pointless argument I ignore them and walk on past. A cycle Compie rides by every now and then but I suspect that he's there as much to protect the demonstrators from us as to prevent any disorder on their part. Not that we're at all bothered about them: If any of them tried breaking their way in Gavin would soon sort them out. An hour later they are gone; bored probably. It's been a while since we last had a demonstration outside our door. Is this resumption of their low-level, pathetically ineffective attempts at intimidation is a sign we're getting under their skin and they don't like it? I hope so!
By all accounts our report last night has caused quite a stink. The Connie supporters are still deluging our inboxes in the hope of overloading the system, but Bippin anticipated this sort of thing when he designed Maggie, so we're able to cope. The ripples from this stone we tossed into the pond have also spread so far and wide that the local Community Support Office Administration have issued a 'clarification', not an apology; in their statement they explain the staff in the Portsmouth Central office will be given 'new guidance' in the application of the rules.
It remains to be seen if they will follow through on their pledge. No doubt someone will find out when the time comes to update their Food Points card, or ComCred card, or TransCred card, or Clothing Credit card, or any of the portfolio of documentation you can't seem to do without these days.
The Council have made no secret of their intention to replace them all with an all-encompassing OneCard, but they have several significant obstacles in their way. The first hurdle is the landmark judgement of Chakarabati v Rex.
Shortly after the Dissolution and the creation of the Council, a human rights group took a case to the Supreme Court. They argued that while the King may be empowered by right and custom to suspend the political system, His Royal Prerogative did not extend to the existing body of the law of the land and the legal system, which should remain unaffected by any decree. This was held to include the Fed's adherence to the existing European and international legal conventions. Surprisingly, the judges largely agreed with them.
Thanks to that ruling the Council's powers were circumscribed and they were forced to abide by the legislative process set down by the court in order for them to be deemed as compliant with the verdict. To complicate the issue still further, by the time the judgement was issued the King was incapacitated, and so unable to issue any decrees amending the law.
In any case a proposal to reintroduce a National Identity Register had been vetoed by the King a month before His stroke. He was mindful how in the past the Royal Assent had been given to many repressive laws which should never have obtained it, and didn't want His legacy to be so tainted. The fact He as a Monarch remained alive, but unable to carry out His duties; and His son and Regent didn't want to be seen to be usurping his father's power to any greater extent than necessary also muddied the legal waters, with there being no precise delineation of the powers and responsibilities of the Monarch and their Regent. This situation was unprecedented, and as with so much in the new Fed, coping mechanisms were improvised on the fly.
Another objection came from the EU. Despite the agreed distancing of the Fed for the time being they weren't keen on that temporary state of affairs acquiring a degree of permanence. The EU negotiators were far more wiley than the naïve Council delegation, even when advised by the diplomatic service; and so were able to word the small print of the Treaty of Ravenna to include a ten year prohibition on the introduction of an independent Fed identity database with different technical standards from that proposed as part of the EU Joint Citizenship Register. There was a hope such a ban would ensure a smooth reassimilation of the Fed back into the fold given a Yes vote when the first referendum as to the Fed's status vis-à-vis the Union took place.
A more practical problem in selling the OneCard is seeing how the Albans were abusing the idea in practice. Despite the new obedience to authority which the Council wanted to inculcate in the population, the practical example across the border of how an identity register could be misused by the state as another tool of power over the individual, and a residual dislike of the abortive scheme that messers Blair and Brown once tried to impose made any prospect of a reintroduction unpalatable. It is all just a bit too 'Scottish' to carry off for now.
But by far the greatest challenge that any system would face would be the Black Dragon. For as long as the virus exists and is able to create or delete identities at its whim, or subtly render the system unworkable in a myriad of ways a multifunctional national identity database will remain impractical: There is just too much at risk. So for the meantime the multiple databases which exist - with their time and labour consuming files of resilient but cumbersome paper backups - will have to do. There are rumours that if, or rather when the Connies win the election they'll use the result as their mandate to push through the OneCard, no matter the difficulties it may cause or the expense involved.
But there is no overwhelming need to have OneCards: In fact it would be far easier to relax the bureaucratic stranglehold on our lives and remove the need for any of these pointless bloody cards; but with the Connies in charge that won't happen. In the meantime, all that prevents our partial ownership by the state becoming total are a hastily negotiated, badly drafted treaty; the garbled wishes of a slowly dying king; and an artificial form of cyber life which is still trenchantly fighting a long finished war. Such are the times we are living through.
November the 16th.
The paperwork has finally come through formally declaring Media House to be a part of the Zone. As such we're now largely exempt from most local police powers of entry and search, and entitled to require Compies to leave our premises on demand, with the power to remove them - using 'reasonable' force if necessary - should they fail to comply. I bet Gavin or Terry - our other guard - would be only too eager to enforce that provision.
So another small piece of former Federation territory becomes largely free again. I wonder if it isn't a surreptitious plot by the Zoners to annex the Fed one piece at a time? The thought of the diehard Connies being squeezed into ever decreasing parcels of land is one which pleases me.