Prince Siguar stood by his castle and surveyed the domain.
He was not a prince; Prince was his first name. It was not his castle; it was the administration building for Egalité Valley, and it was shaped like a castle. Prince was an assistant document validator for the Equal Property Distribution Agency (EPDA). Like every other job, each role was a small part of a vast process, and each person got paid the same as everyone else.
This was fortunate, as there were 144,000 assistant document validators in his department alone. Prince traversed an enormous room which housed the department. Everyone had an equal cubicle: same size, same furniture, same computer, same view. All decisions were made by participation. There were no leaders. When people had an idea, they worked on it. Or didn’t. And yet, to not appear there for work every day would mean a change in status, to welfare recipient. That could cause your friends to be “busy” when you wanted to go out for a drink. No one wanted to be associated with failure, especially since success meant simply showing up.
Big Jake inhabited the cubicle catty-cornered to Prince’s. Big Jake had been there for seventeen of the twenty-five years it required to qualify for retirement, which was like welfare but honorable. You had worked, after all.
Jake had replaced the desk, chair and computer with a large comfortable sofa and television. He was there every day, talking with people, a drink in his hand and one for you in the bar tucked under the screen. Most of the assistant document validators recognized him as knowing some things. Once a day, he would rifle through the document queue for the documents which would obviously be approved, and sign off on those. He could clear seventy-five in a day, which made him the most productive member of the department.
Prince edged over to the sofa. “You look down,” said Big Jake. “Why don’t you go partake of some egalitarian sex on Slutwalk Drive? They can’t say no, you know.”
The egalitarian tradition of Slutwalk had taken over a large boulevard in the Southeast of the city. Any man or woman who went there was offering himself or herself up for egalitarian sex, which meant they could not reject any partner. They had to either put out or leave. Jake was known for heaving his 400 lb bulk down this avenue in the evenings, often several times.
Like most things in the egalitarian society, the word NO could not be said. Each person was as equal as any other, so there was no reason to refuse them anything they wanted. With enough hypnotic suggestion, anyone could learn to be a top-notch surgeon, or award-winning guitarist, or great leader. As it was, awards were handed out in buckets and just about everyone was special, notable and important in some way or another.
“Not today,” said Prince. “Just kind of bored.” Prince, for example, was a top-seeded tennis player. Of course, in Egalité Valley, top-seeded meant that he was closest to the average score of any player. The person who nailed the average score to two decimal places was the winner. Tennis tournaments often took six months to complete.
“Hook up at the neuro-stim clinic,” said Jake. “You put a neurological stimulator on your spine, and it creates every variety of pleasure, constantly at max intensity, for as long as you want. They can emulate any drug or alcohol ever created, or let you have virtual sex with any woman you’ve ever wanted, or any man or other that has ever been a celebrity. Any video game you want, for as long as you want. They can even simulate space travel, free fall and battle. It’s like Heaven on earth.”
Prince sagged. He had spent his time at the neuro-stim clinic playing the new war sim. It had been a post-apocalyptic fantasy, where knights and wizards warred it out amongst the uranium-stained ruins of civilization. He had played with great fervor for an hour, and then noticed that he was responding slower and slower. As he looked around the ruined world, he found it hard to motivate himself to want to win. No matter how many terrorists he killed, the result was a wasteland, and he’d still be in it. He nodded.
Jake shrugged. “You’ve got a great job, a great partner, two kids and a fine car. What more is there to life?”
“No, I’m going for a walk.” Since work was essentially opt-in, Prince was never missed on his two-week absences. Neither was anyone else. He wasn’t even sure anyone read the forms they filed. He left through the side door, then passed through the Egalitarian Mall. Stores thronged with people. “You are the center of the universe,” proclaimed a large sign. “What do you want to do? The world will give it to you.”
Egalité Valley was a pleasant place to live, thanks to the Revolution. After years of discontent and war, the people decided to end it. All would be distributed equally according to the principle of Pareto Equality, which stated that you were only entitled to something if giving it to someone else would not make them better off. No one could be told NO, that they could not have something which another had. It made everyone on the same level, since food, money and products were distributed to those with the least first. There were no rich, and no poor.
Just people, an endless spread of them filling the valley in their city flats, working in large rooms, going to Slutwalk Drive or the neuro-stim clinic. He thought over his life, and realized that his experience was like this too. A series of buildings, of rooms, of things he attended. Nothing stood out, but he was fortunate to have had no misfortunes, either. As he passed Slutwalk Drive, he thought he heard his partner’s voice. It shouldn’t bother him; why should he tell her NO? People have needs. Fulfilling them prevents tension. He walked through ten districts of the city.
Prince kept walking. He walked onto a subway, and got off at the furthest station. Nothing tried to stop him. He kept walking down the long road, passing out of the city. Outside the city were nothing but farms, with automated labor producing food. This was flyover country. No one lived here. But no one told him not to so Prince, as he had most of his life, just kept going. He had a right, and nothing could stop him.
As the day wore on and the sun completed its arc, a new thought hit him. His legs were moving slowly and he had a feeling like boredom in his muscles. He was tired, he realized. Not tired from lack of sleep, but tired from lack of energy. Food, water and rest might be required, he recalled. But now he was surrounded by fenced fields. He walked on, and the fences dropped away. Now it was just wilderness, strewn with human wreckage: prior civilizations, abandoned buildings, crashed planes, trash, burnt-out tanks and bombed bridges.
The ruined forms and great spectral trees dwarfed him. Prince was not subject to sentiment however. It like other different measurements of the same thing had been outlawed, in an attempt to make sure that all things were the same from face-value to inner essence. This way, none were left out. All no matter how hasty got exactly what they wanted, and no one could create a back-door NO by hiding a better option away. Thus Prince’s face was impassive as he walked through history and future alike, a wasteland straight out of his neuro-stim game but buried under time.
His walk became unsteady. The wilderness gave way to two hills, and fields. Still no one had told him he could not go on. Prince Siguar collapsed in a heap.
When his eyes opened again, people were surrounding him. Strange people, an unsightly yellowish color of hair and bluish skin. They offered him water from simple wooden cups and gruel from simple wooden bowls. They had no personal style, no witty comments, and clearly were not egalitarian. Their leader came out and spoke in simple terms, rough-hewn like their utensils. Their leader said he was a prince, too, but he seemed to take it seriously. Prince tensed at the lack of irony in his voice.
“Have an orange,” said one of the women. She handed it to him.
“It’s very good,” said Prince Siguar.
“It’s just an orange,” she said.
“No, I mean it’s better type of orange,” said Prince Siguar. “We don’t have this kind of orange in Egalité Valley.”
The Prince told Prince Siguar that he was welcome as a guest, but it was right for him to return home soon as he would not fit in there.
“Are you telling me that I can’t be here?” said Prince Siguar.
“No,” said the Prince. “We will mutually dislike it because you are of the city, and we are of here, and what we like is in the order here, and what you like must be in the order of the city.”
But all Prince Siguar heard was NO. It was against his beliefs, his laws, and his training. An impossibility that enraged him. Flushed with life, he rose and left the golden valley quickly.
He ran back down the long road, through the wilderness, through the countryside, to the last subway station and swung on a train. When he got back to the Castle, Big Jake was waddling between cubicles, handing out cupcakes marked with Marianne, the symbol of the French Revolution.
“I encountered some people who do not believe as we do, that each is entitled to as much as anyone else is. They insist that in order for me to be happy, I cannot live in their society,” Prince Siguar told Jake.
Big Jake chewed tobacco and listened. “Would you want to live there?”
“No,” said Prince. “But that’s it: I can do anything, except this. I’m bored and miserable here, and I’d be bored and miserable there, but I want it because I want it.”
The events of the next few weeks passed in a blur for Prince Siguar. First, he told the others in the assistant document validation bay about what he’d seen. Word spread like wildfire, to Slutwalk Drive and the drug colonies and especially to the transgender and differently abled neighborhoods. When he began speaking with one of the sluts on the street about it, Prince became aware of a crowd gathering. “I’ll be back next week,” he said.
When he came back the following week, the crowd was already there. They carried weapons. After he told his story, they said, “Let’s roll.” Joined by elements of the peacekeeper army and the peacekeeper police, the vast force of egalitarians rolled out of the city and charged into the golden valley. Prince wasn’t even sure it was real until he found himself on a battlefield, explosions rocking his vision as the dead and dying fell around him.
“We’re losing,” screamed Big Jake from a machine gun turret. “You need to rally the troops!”
Time zoomed back into the present for Prince Siguar. He stood on a burnt tank and addressed his legions. “Why are we fighting? We are fighting because we stand for YES and they told us NO. We stand for everyone having whatever anyone else has, so we can have peace, where they are arrogant hoarders who keep their goods for themselves. While they have less than us, they won’t share, and this makes them the enemy. They are stupid, ignorant and cruel. We can crush them. We are BETTER than they are! Conquest is ours!”
The crowd rallied, the Army regrouped, and soon the final battle was joined. Prince called up his engineers and technical experts, and they found the best way to blast every point of the golden valley into paste. Then he consulted his advanced technology team who helped him cloak his troops and make his weapons more powerful. As the forces of the Golden Valley rose in response, Prince’s larger horde swept over the hill and charged upon them.
Time zoomed again and now, it was dusk. The battle was over; tattered flags hung over broken weapons and shattered bodies. Blood bound the dust into muck and a stench of death seized the field like a fog. “We won,” he said to Big Jake. However, Big Jake said nothing, and then Siguar noticed the single reddish hole on the side of Big Jake’s head. Inspecting himself, he found a similar hole in his gut area, and noticed how cold the afternoon had become.
Prince Siguar climbed a small hill. At the top was a wrecked house. He saw something on the table wrapped in cloth. It was an orange. He cut it in half and gave the other half to his corporal at arms. “Aren’t these oranges great?” said Prince Siguar.
“It’s just an ordinary orange, same as at home,” said the corporal. “Tastes better however. What sorcery is this?”
Prince Siguar turned away. Looking across his forces, he saw that he had lost almost as many as he had come with. The people of the golden valley were entirely destroyed, either dead in battle or wounded and dying, or having fled to the woods being chased down by the eager hunters. And now what? “Go back to the assistant document validation pit,” muttered Prince, slumping on a charred cannon. “There is nothing left.”
His whole life Prince had waited for the moment when someone said NO. He had wanted his own revolution, to reclaim justice for himself, and a sense of being alive in that confrontation with all that was bad in life. NO was what death said, what failure said, or what inequality said. Until now, all of those things had been denied him. A clouding of his vision told him that life was about to give him an ultimate NO. The orange was sour in his mouth, which felt numb.
“Yes,” said Prince Siguar, and died among his wasted army.