A Decent Country

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Stella couldn't wait to be told who she would vote for.

She was the youngest in her family, the last to come of age. Her older brother Jon had scraped over the line four years ago, his birthday two weeks before election day, but it was wasted on him. He wasn't even that excited about getting his votification. Stella had desperately wanted to ask him who he'd been told to vote for, but of course that was crimillegal. Nobody knew, and nobody was allowed to ask, who anyone else had been told to vote for. That was the point of a secret ballot.

Stella had been waiting since she turned twenty-five last year, and finally became a decent person. The moment she woke up that day, she'd unfolded her phone to check for a message from Syster System. She wouldn't get an actual votification until the day before the election, but maybe the system would send her an acknowledgement that she was now old enough to receive one? A link to guidelines on what to expect?

Nothing. Just the usual birthday wishes from her friends. Disappointed, she'd hauled herself into the bathroom, but while brushing her teeth remembered the other thing she could do now she was old enough. So instead of going straight downstairs for breakfast with her family, she opened BritTube on her phone.

And there it had been, waiting on her homepage. New: Hear From Brighton's Election Candidates! She couldn't tap it fast enough.

Like all modern constituencies, Brighton had two candidates competing for election; an incumbent, and a challenger. Both were decent people, carefully selected by Syster System, who would also decide the result in the national interest. But that was no reason not to know who you were voting for. That's what her citizenship teacher at school had always said.

Charlie Green, the incumbent, was a sixty-year-old local man who'd represented Brighton for the past twelve years. Stella had never actually seen him, but politicians had a busy life, and it wasn't as if she walked around town looking for him. Green pledged to maintain Britain's greatness, keep them out of the war, and increase health spending. He would also petition Syster System for money to repair the Brighton Barrier. This struck Stella as very common sense; the Barrier was starting to show signs of age and needed maintenance.

She didn't recognise the challenger, David Brown, but the video said he was also a local man, forty years old. Stella thought that seemed quite young to be a politician. In contrast to Green, he pledged to make Britain even greater, to increase defence spending, and maintain the health system. He would also ask for more Barrier funds, of course. Despite his youth, Brown seemed almost as common sense as Green. Stella felt reassured that no matter who she voted for, she'd be represented by a decent person who would take care of the national interest. As it should always be.

#

The votification still hadn't come through when she began her walk to work. Outside, Mrs Chakravarthi was pinning washing to the line in her front garden.

'Good morning, Stella,' she said. 'It's a lovely day.'

'Yes it is, Mrs Chakravarthi. It'll be even better when I get my votification.'

The grey-haired woman dropped a clothes peg, and bent to pick it up with a sigh. 'I'm sure you're right. Have a good day.'

Stella's cheeks flushed with embarrassment. She was so filled with anticipation and frustration, she'd forgotten the neighbours weren't decent people. It wasn't their fault, of course, that was just the way it was.

Her father had told her how their eldest son Dilip once tried to forge an ID so he could vote — but Syster System had seen through it right away. Trying to vote when you weren't allowed was crimillegal, and Dilip was lucky the Polling Police didn't shoot him. Instead they questioned him for weeks before he was allowed to return home. Nobody talked about it, least of all Dilip, who had difficulty talking about anything these days. Mrs Chakravarthi was just glad Syster System hadn't done the whole family for sedition and repatriated them. She didn't want to be sent through the Barrier. Nobody did, whether they were decent people or not.

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