Gray Area

Author: David C. Nutt

“Whoa! I can’t believe I am actually sitting with Carter John, famous author, inventor, rock guitar god, and former vice-president of the USA!”
Carter John shifted in his chair uneasily. “Umm… yeah that’s me.” Carter John read the woman’s ID. “Vonni” was the name he saw.
All dreamy smiles Vonni put her head in her hands and leaned forward “What can we do for you today Mr. John?” By her tone alone he knew his cause was lost.
Carter cleared his throat. “Well, I know this might seem crazy… but I want a job.”
Vonni leaned back. She knitted her eyebrows together but still kept the voice used for pets and small children. “Now Mr. John, you know that can’t happen. You are permanently retired. In fact, by your IRS record I see you’ve worked well past your retirement age and are currently drawing no less than five, no six, pensions. You have no need to work.”
Carter became agitated “That’s just it, I do have a need to work. I want to work. Physically in my twenties, mentally acute and all I have to look forward to is nostalgia?”
Vonni shook her head “Now, now, you know the rules! All of you who have worked and contributed must make way for those just starting out. What chance would a fresh-out-of-school child of 22 have if they came up against Carter John for a job, hm? Even if it was menial labor they wouldn’t stand a chance. That’s why the nanite adjustment act of 2130 was passed- so it could give the up-and-coming generation a chance to compete-”
Carter interrupted, ”-but that’s just it! I am not allowed to compete at all! Hell, I’m not even allowed to donate my time or talent to charity.”
Vonni nodded her head. Carter supposed it was meant to be a gesture of sympathy, but it came off as condescending. “I wish I could sympathize, but I’m sure you’re set financially. Why don’t you spend time visiting your descendants… I’m sure you must have hundreds by now.”
Carter clenched his teeth “You can only spend so much time with your family.”
Vonni sighed “OK, let me be frank. No one is going to sympathize with your plight.”
“What about getting a slot on the work brigades for Mars?”
Vonni nodded. “You know it’s a one-way ticket right?”
Carter nodded. “I do.”
Vonni leaned in “And you know you have to divest all of your wealth and property, right?”
Carter nodded “I do.”
Vonni reached into a drawer and pulled out a sheath of papers. “Take these home, talk it over with whomever you have to, and be back here next Tuesday for in-processing.”
Carter eagerly accepted the packet. As he took the packet from the employment counselor he smiled. “You were waiting for me to suggest the Mars option.”
Vonni nodded. “We are prohibited by federal law to actively ‘recruit, influence, or suggest’ the Mars option to any citizen, especially citizens in your demographic. All you over 300’s get to it eventually, some quicker than others.”
Carter John chuckled. “Let me guess, the Mars option is almost all my so-called demographic.”
Vonni smiled “Almost exclusively.”
Carter John sighed “For the first time in nearly 200 years I won’t have to explain any references.”
Vonni smiled as Carter stood. They shook hands. “If it’s not too premature for me to say so, ‘Bon Voyage’.”
Carter John smiled and nodded and feeling younger than he had in centuries, said to no one in particular “Out with the old, in with the new.”

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