By Jim Smith
The Great Man leaned forward in his chair, and turned to look at the two Guardians.
"You are certain, then? There is no doubt?"
"No doubt, Marshall Peter. We are absolutely certain."
"But the beast is quite young...surely it has parents?"
"Yes sir...but we have been observing that sector for quite a while, as it is the only one that showed any signs from the scans. We did locate and release a male around 5 months ago and a female around 4 months ago. We felt that the female had recently had procreated, but we couldn't be absolutely positive.
"We got faint signs on several scans, so we sent a patrol into the sector to do a dwelling by dwelling search. We obtained a very strong signal and attempted to enter the dwelling. The dwelling was sealed against entering, which as you know, is contrary to Constitutional Amendment number 492 which gives Guardians absolute discretion of whether or not to enter a dwelling. The signs were strongest in one of the rear rooms, and there we located the beast, being sheltered by an 8 year old Inethical. She was designated as an Inethical because she refused to relinquish the beast to the Guardian making the search and instead, attacked him.
"Of course, she and her family group were retained." The Guardian finished her report, but still stood rigidly at attention.
Peter Marshall sighed wearily. "Well, at least, it's over. You have performed superbly and your records will show that you are all allowed an extra month. There will be an announcement tomorrow morning. Please attend."
Everywhere, there was the soft whirr of alarms going off. The screens on the bedroom walls glowed a faint blue, then a cheerful voice announced the morning..."Get up sleepyheads! Out of bed and let's do our morning exercises. Then quickly shower and go to breakfast. We have a special treat today...Peter is going to speak to us!"
Everyone jumped from bed...did their 10 jumping jacks and rushed to bathrooms to brush teeth, shave, shower and dress.
When they reached the breakfast rooms, soy cereal, orange juice and coffee awaited. Each family group had a father, a mother, a boy and a girl. On the breakfast room wall in each dwelling was the breakfast room screen, where the morning announcer was patiently waiting. Todd, the Father and Mary the Mother sat first, then Penny the girl and David, her younger brother sat.
"I'm starved," said Penny to the Morning Announcer. "May I please eat?"
"Yes, you may," said the Morning Announcer. "Then, Peter will speak to us."
Needless to say, breakfast was quickly consumed with little of the chatter that usually accompanied it. The screen played some brisk, cheerful music.
Then the screen cleared and the Announcer's voice announced, "Peter has some important things to tell us."
Peter wore a grey-brown suit with a red bar over his pocket to indicate that he was the Marshall. He smiled at Penny as she hurriedly drank the last of her juice and turned towards the screen.
"David," he said softly. David jumped. "You did not complete the assignment that your educational instructor gave you yesterday."
David looked ashen...He couldn't look at the great man, but instead, hung his head.
Peter said, "David, you will not be reprimanded for this, as you are still innocent. However, Todd," (and here he looked at the father) "It is each father's duty to ensure that his son learns respect and duty and performs the tasks that have been assigned to him. This is the second time that you have failed in your duty, so you lose a day."
Now Todd was ashen, also.
Across the land, at the same time, Peter was talking to each family, issuing a bit of praise here, noticing a new dress there and when necessarily, distributing a bit of fair, honest discipline. Todd, however, was the only one who lost a day. Each family heard only what was meant for it to hear.
Then Peter straightened up and said, "Now for a bit of important news. The last Beast was captured yesterday, and will be released later this morning. You will all attend the release. I have allowed for you to be a bit tardy to your positions." Here he smiled slightly. "The Beast was a kitten, quite young. Penny, why do we not keep kittens and dogs?"
Penny looked astonished that anyone would even ask such a question. "Why, because it's WRONG! Kittens need to be Outside, where they can be free and happy and not kept Inside. That's cruel and BAD. Why would anyone ever want to keep one anyhow?"
Peter then looked at Mary, the Mother, and said, ᶥ you taught your children about Inside and Outside?"
"Yes, I have. Inside is for people. We live Inside, our dwellings are Inside. We work Inside, and Inside is safe, warm and is for us. Outside is beautiful also. There are trees and brooks and it's soft and warm, and happy. Outside is for Beasts. They are free and happy Outside. Beasts are Outside, and we are Inside. When a Beast is released, it goes Outside where it can be happy with others of its kind."
"You are a good mother, Mary. Now, David, do you know about the Liberation?"
"Yes, Peter Marshall. Before the Liberation bad people had bad things that made a lot of noise and hurt other people and Beasts. They were bullies and mean and used the bad things to make other people be afraid. Then the Guardians took the bad things away and released the bad people. And then we were free and Liberated and could live Inside."
"That's very good, David." Peter turned to Todd. "Todd, who am I?"
Todd spoke very softly and respectfully. "You are Peter Marshall, the first Guardian. You are very very old, and very very wise. You are our guide and conscience."
"Thank you, Todd. You may have your day back." Todd beamed. Peter continued. "This is the final ceremony, as this is the last Beast. It will be released, and then we will talk to the family group that hid it."
Peter turned in his chair, and the view widened to show a family group, a Father, a Mother, a Girl and a Boy. The girl was the same age as Penny, and she was holding a kitten and a sadly battered teddy bear. Peter spoke gently, but firmly. "Sister, you are holding a kitten. Are you a bad girl?"
"NO!" she said "NO, I'm not!"
"Do you wish to cause him anguish? Don't you think he would like to be with his mother and father, just as you wish to be with yours?
Sissy didn't answer.
"Sissy," Peter said more firmly, "We each have a place. Your place is with your mother, and your father. Do you wish to be removed from them?"
"Oh, No, No. I love my mommy and my daddy. I belong with them!" She grabbed her mother's skirt for comfort, and her mother gently cradled her head with her hand and forearm.
"Do you hate the kitten? Why do you keep him from his mother and father?"
Sissy was crying freely..."Momma, I love him, I really love him!" She held the kitten to her face, against her cheek. "Do I have to let him go?"
Mother looked sadly at Sissy. "You are eight. You are Innocent. But, some day you will be Responsible, and you must learn to make the right decisions. You make little decisions today, and when you are 20 you will no longer be Innocent, but Responsible, and you will be given your own mate and your own children, and you will have to teach them to be Responsible.
The father knelt in front of Sissy. "I haven't told you this, but you have 20 years to learn, 20 years to serve, and then, if you have been exceptional, you are granted the right to live outside in a little cottage by a brook and all the animals can come and visit you. That is, they can if they want to, because Outside, they are free. Outside, you will be free also. But, now, you have a Duty."
Sissy turned to Peter. "Peter, I love this kitten. I love him dearly. But I know it was wrong to keep him, and I will release him to the outside."
She held up the kitten.
Visibly moved, Peter said, "Sissy, open the little door, and put him Outside."
Sissy turned and noticed a small door. She gave the kitten a final kiss, and opened the door. A soft breeze ruffled her hair when she opened the door, and far away for just an instant, she thought she heard other kittens. She put the kitten thru the door, and gently closed it.
Then Peter turned to the family as a whole. "Sometimes I have to make a very very difficult decision. You have done something very wrong here. Something very, very wrong. I must decide what discipline I must apply, and that is never easy. It's not just what is best for you, but what is best for all of us. It would be appropriate if I took all of the rest of your days. That is so harsh, that others would never be tempted to do what you have done."
Everywhere, listeners turned very pale. Never had such a harsh discipline been suggested...sometimes a day here...some even remembered a week. Instead of 40 years, they would be released at 39 years and 51 weeks. But to take ALL the remaining years!...
Peter looked at the screen that only he could see, the one below the surface of his desk.
Slowly, he looked up. "I have been given guidance. This was the last Beast. There will never be another. I cannot allow you to return to your dwelling and positions, that would not be right. My guidance says that you may go Outside, if you so desire."
The father looked at his loving wife, and the two darling children. His heart beat wildly at this chance for reprieve. "You mean we can go Outside, like the Elders?"
"And I can be with the Kitty?" asked Sissy.
Peter smiled gently. "I never question Guidance. They are never wrong and yes, yes to all your questions." He pointed to a door on the wall.
The father opened the door and as the family walked through, the vast audience thought it heard the faint sound of laughter in the distance. Then the door closed.
Peter turned to the vast audience behind the screens in the Breakfast Rooms around the land. "We must live according to the Tenets. What is Freedom?"
Across the land, the whole audience chanted, "When we are equal, we are free."
"And what is Duty?"
"Duty is doing the tasks to which we have been assigned."
"And what is Responsibility?"
"Responsibility is performing our duties admirably, performing the tasks of our Positions well so that we all can share equally and be happy.
"And what is Happiness?
"Happiness is obedience."
"Thank you all for attending"
"We love you, Peter Marshall." Each voice in the land said this last, each one satisfied that the last beast was now free and happy, and that while this place was a wonderful place, there was yet a better place for those who earned it.
As the sad, wise eyes of Peter looked at each of them, the screen slowly dimmed, fading to the Crest of the Land...A circle formed by the four words...Power, Ethics, Trustworthiness and Action...Only a few knew that was where Peter got his name....
On the other side of the wall....
A small red light lit up.
Two attendants dressed in crisp white walked up to a small door.
One turned to the other, and said, "I heard that this is the last one."
"Yes," said the other, older and wiser. "The very last. You may now open the door."
Slowly, the first attendant opened the door, and removed the small still body. He carried it over to a large incinerator and opened the door, placed it on the tray, slid the tray in, and closed the door.
"Well, That's that," he said.
"Not quite," said the other...A small red light lit up by the larger door...
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