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         Two nights later, Chess was walking through the city again, toward the game. He was moving faster than usual, having already ducked past two patrols. Security was heavier than he had ever seen it, especially as he got close to the area of the city gate.
         His mind was not totally on his travels, though. He just could not stop thinking about his mother. Over and over, his brain covered the same territory: was she really as ill as she seemed? The memory loss was bad enough, he thought, but she was also acting strangely now, and she seemed to be making stuff up. What would happen to her, he wondered fearfully – what would happen to all of them when the money ran out? Would they all have to go to Shelter? He shook his head. That was the worst thing he could imagine. People who went to government shelter… most were never heard from again.
         The sound of footsteps told him another patrol was near. He hugged his backpack closer and peered around. Even the streetlights seemed brighter than usual or maybe that was just his imagination. To be safe, he edged further into the shadows and tried to act more like a master thief.

         At the game, a while later, Chess turned to Pete. As usual, the kid was seated next to him.
         “Hey,” Chess ventured, “you know about stuff like this: you ever heard of a guy named Isaac Dale? Um, a… politician named Isaac Dale?” he amended hopefully.
         “That crazy guy?” Pete sputtered, spraying the table in front of him with potato chip debris.
         Chess winced and swiped at the table surface. “Gee, is your avatar this suave?” he asked sarcastically. “No wonder my sister likes you.”
         “His avatar has purple hair and piercings all over his face,” someone across the table put in.
         Pete snorted. “How else was I gonna spend that piddly standard allowance they give you? It’s not like I could buy cool clothes. Your sister thinks I’m… interesting,” he added haughtily, chin raised.
         Chess ignored the comment. “So you’ve heard of Dale? Is he a, uh, comedian… or what?”
         “No idea. But I know he broadcasts from outside,” Pete muttered, crumpling the chip bag.
         “Outside,” Chess mused. “Well, that would explain the poor quality --”
         “You going outside, are you, Charlie?” one of the players laughed. “Tell my brother I said hi. He’s out there somewhere with Home Defense, tracking dissidents.”
         Before Chess could reply, the Game Administrator broke in good-naturedly. “Outside, huh? Well, if you get outside, see if you can find Lodestar. I have a few questions for them,” he laughed.
         “Lodestar?” Chess asked, surprised. “The guys who make the game? Are they outside?”
         “Of course,” the G. A. answered, rolling his eyes. “They wouldn’t be broadcasting this stuff for long if they were inside civ. And this ‘samiz’ method of transmission they use makes two-way communication impossible.” He sighed heavily. “I can never even ask them a question.”
         “Do you have any idea where they actually are?” one of the other players asked.
         “Kind of.” The G. A. grimaced. “Well… some people have theories… that’s about it.”
         “Samiz…?” Chess echoed, surprised. And he was suddenly aware of a silence in the room. The usual side chatter had stopped and everyone seemed focused on this subject. The funny thing was, they had never really discussed the mechanics of where – or how – the game was transmitted, before.
         The G. A. tapped some keys on his interface and then pointed at the map that popped up on the wide screen monitor. “I think they are about in this area. But you’re not serious about going outside?”
         Chess shrugged, waving the question away in frustration. “I never even said that,” he protested.
         “Those Lodestar guys are so cool,” Pete exclaimed wistfully. “Naw, Charlie’s gonna go out and join the dissidents, I bet.”
         Chess sighed again as laughter rose around the table. “I just asked about…” he stammered, his face reddening. “Anyway, the only way I would get outside is with the army,” he finished, giving up.
         The G. A. waved the map away and then glared meaningfully at Chess. “You wouldn’t last a week out there.” He meant it as a warning, but Chess wondered if he should consider it as a plan.

Continued next page...

"What if a Comedian Ran for President?..........What if He Won?"
tagline for Man of the Year (2006)

         In 2013, a new Italian political party called the “Five Stars Movement” won a significant number of seats in Parliament. The party was started and spurred on by Beppe Grillo, a comedian and political satirist whose stated agenda is mainly to root out corruption.
         In 2012, Stephen Colbert, a comedian and political satirist, ran for president of the United States (of South Carolina) for the second time. His objective appeared to be to make the country more aware of the potential for corruption within campaign finance laws.
         Throughout history, it seems, the use of humor has been amazingly successfully in pointing out the failings of otherwise revered leaders. From Bassem Youssef all the way back to Shakespeare’s various fools, the plays of Aristophanes, and beyond to the distant reaches of time, the most important first step in convincing people of something is to get them to listen. Humor has a great potential to achieve this, but so does any genre that successfully entertains.



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