LAND OF THE FREE

by Yury Nesterenko

Translated by Nicolas von Schatz, a.k.a Einsamer Krieger

 

                              O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
                             O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

U.S.A anthem

Owner and executive director of Megagames, Inc. Bill Richman weaved his fat fingers, gave a gloomy look upon the leader of development team Max Smart and grumbled:

"Well, what do you have about the new project?"

"We’ve completed the engine," started Smart as cheery as he could, but was interrupted immediately:

"A week later after deadline."

"What can we do, boss" shrugged Max, "Me and Johnny have to work 16 hours per day. If you want work to go on faster, we need more people."

"More? The budget is already overblown beyond any limits. We have more than 30 developers in the team!"

"But only I and Johnny are really working. Well, Alice too, she writes definitely cool music, but she’s not a programmer. I’m not speaking about further team enlargement. Just fire some slackers and take instead of them clever guys… I meant clever persons" Smart corrected himself, before one was able to accuse him with male chauvinism.

"Whom are you offering to fire?" the boss squinted.

"Imbeciles for example!"

"Firstly, they are alternatively skilled – not the imbeciles. I’m tired of teaching you…. Secondly, don’t you understand that human rights and anti-discrimination activists will eat me alive for any attempt to touch them? Their lawyers will prove in a moment that they were fired not for bad work but for imbe… alternative skills"

"But the first is the result of second!"

"Yeah, one more time you demonstrated your racist chauvinist discrimination opinion, which denies equality of everyone, proclaimed by Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Human Rights Declaration. Cause you have retrograde interests and anti-humane beliefs about superiority of wits above stupidity… I meant, over alternative skills you want to deprive some citizens of right to work. I remind you: to become an American citizen, it is enough to be born under U.S. flag, but it does not require any wits."

"They can always work as cleaners, I’m not against it. But why those ones with alternative wits are working in computers corporation?"

"When they were asked by employment office about their skills and desires, answer was: computer games".

"That meant playing, but not the development!"

"Those are particular details which bother no one already. Our inability to organize a work in a way suitable for them. The state gave them favorable conditions, and private business must make a responsible move."

"But they can’t do our work either! If I will be rejected trying to get into basketball team, can I sue them for discrimination?"

Richman looked at his employee reflectively.

"Likely not" was his conclusion. "You have quite common height, and I see no deviances. Were you a midget, you would have got a great chance to win the case. Or at least bald. A good attorney could have proven discrimination over this."

"You’re chauvinist, boss" answered Max vengefully. "You must speak not "bald", but "alternatively haired."

"Anyway, alternatively skilled ones must not be bothered. The Congress lobbed their interests. You could have offered to fire Neg… African Americans as well."

"I will" Smart frowned. "Not because I have something against their skin color. They hadn’t even got school education."

"They had, and even more than you. Tom Crow had spent two years in each grade, and three in the last one. And they have wonderful characteristics from previous place of employment…"

"Where from?" squinted Smart in suspicion.

"A strict regime jail."

"I bet the staff was either afraid of discrimination accusations or wanted to get rid of them. Listen, boss, why in computer corporations releases on parole are not used? I would have written wonderful recommendation for them by myself just to throw them out."

"Try and throw them out! They hadn’t killed or robbed anybody yet, at least at the workplace."

"But of all programming languages they know only criminal slang! Do you know what Leroy who we employed as engine programmer was doing before that? He was forging engine numbers of stolen cars. And Quincy, who was palmed out to us as graphics specialist?"

"Was he painting walls with graffiti?"

"No, actually he was making counterfeit dollars. By the way, he couldn’t do even that right."

"Anyway, to fire someone black is a suicide now. And resisting social rehabilitation of former convicts is masochistic suicide."

"What if we fire…"

"No, no and no!" shouted the boss. "Do not even mention it."

"Can we at least retire Oldfart?"

"You want to mess with Elderly Rights Union?"

"But he has severe dementia! Every morning he tries to feed his computer mouse with milk!"

"He has a right to. We are in free country. If you wanna know, I’m able to fire only two of all development team."

"Do at least this! We would have been able not to grub for 16 hours per day."

"I have no doubt about this, because that would’ve been you and Johnny. You both are white males without physical and mental diseases, you are heterosexuals, who had no problems with law or weren’t members of some religious sects. No one will stand up for you in this country. You should be grateful to me for keeping you at work, despite all clear hints from Political Correctness Committee."

Max fell silent shamefacedly.

"Well," boss showed some mercy. "You have the engine. What’s about scenario?"

"We need to discuss just that," cheered up Smart. "We used to work on engine for WW2 game…"

"It won’t go" wrinkled Richman. "Propaganda of Nazism. Anti-defamation League will eat us alive."

"What propaganda?" surprised Max. "The game is about victory upon Nazism!"

"Don’t you have a campaign for Germany there?"

"Well, that was planned" admitted Smart. "Users like when there is a possibility to play for both of sides. But everything follows historical realism, whatever side will be chosen, Germany will end up in defeat anyway."

"How does that matter? There is an option offered, to feel oneself a Nazi and shoot American soldiers. You seriously think that we’ll be allowed to publish that?"

"Well. We will throw second campaign away as well as multiplayer mode… though this will definitely have an impact on rating. We’ll left only Allies campaign option."

"Anyway, you’ll stuff the game with swastikas, that’s a Nazi propaganda."

"Player will be shooting ships and planes with those swastikas! Where the Nazi propaganda is?"

"Any swastika image is insult of Holocaust victims’ memory. Don’t look at me as I am alternatively skilled. Thiose are not my words. Attorneys of Anti-defamation League and most of European lawyers will say the same to you."

"What do you mean, "Any image?" Speaking about that, swastikas appeared six thousand years before the Nazism. They had been even at ancient Jewish crypts. Even at WW2 time, not every swastika was a Nazi one. Finnish blue swastikas had no relations to Nazism. They appeared in 1918, when Swedish Earl Erik von Rosen made a gift to Finns – an aircraft which become the first fighter of Finland. Earl’s family coat of arms blue swastika, which was on the plane, became a sign of Finnish Air Force…"

"Max, don’t bother me with your high education. No one cares about historical realism when political correctness is celebrating triumph."

"Well,"  sighed Max despairingly. "Let we change swastikas with crosses, how this was already done for European game market."

"Already not" snapped Richman. "Christian Churches Association protested against usage of cross image in negative context. So we can’t create something even about WW I."

"Hmm… What about Civil War?" offered Max timidly. "It seems to be a popular thread…"

"Are you nuts? Do you want to make a game where Americans shoot each other? Without mentioning, how painful this would have been for black population…"

"But the war ended up with their liberation!"

"Reminding them of liberation, you remind them of slavery."

"Boss, reminds can be done only to those who suffered themselves. All this was 150 years ago…"

"Try to explain this to activists of racial anti-discrimination."

"Phew… Is it permitted to fight against Taliban or Hussein army?"

"Yes. Only if you’re soldier of American army. But if you’re creator of computer game, this is provoking of anti-Islam attitudes."

"But I said about Taliban, not just Muslims!"

"Who do you think Taliban soldiers are, Buddhists?"

"Well, is it legal to shoot mafia at least?"

"What do you think yourself?" gave a wry laugh Richman.

"There will be no blacks" said Smart with haste. "And Haitians. And Cubans. And Asians…"

Richman kept gloomy silence, and Max stared at him with begging and confusion.

"What’s about Italians?"  deigned to explain boss. "Did you forget about Italian diaspora?"

"There will be no Italians too!" cried Smart hastily.

"That won’t help" snapped Richman. "The word "mafia" is Italian, and they can be insulted if there will be none of them. Likely "ignoring of Italian culture features…"

"Well, you convinced me" sighed Max. "I didn’t wanted to use this banal clich?, but we likely have to save the Earth from aliens again. We still have no extraterrestrial diaspora, are we?"

"We don’t" confirmed the boss. "But you know what, that’s even worse. It’s better to mess with one enraged diaspora, that with several of them. If our extraterrestrials will have only a slightest resemblance with humans, several nations will find a resemblance with themselves. Like long nose or narrow eyes… Remember how many problems Lucas had. Again, if aliens are hostile, who than will they be? Villains who came from space, that means from sky, and murdering people.

„Well, yes. So?"

"Max, you’re using to be not too bright. You want us to be sued for refreshing moral trauma of September 11 victims?"

"Hmmm… Let it be not the Earth. Not our world. Damn, we’d made such a realistic engine, but let it be in fantasy genre. Protagonist will be fighting undead, monsters, beasts…"

"No beasts. You wanna trouble with pet-erasts?"

"With… male homosexual-oriented Americans?"

"No, I meant PETA – Pets Ethical Treatment Association. What’s about undead ones… that’s propaganda of vandalism, desecration of deceased, their bodies and memories."

"Well, only monsters will be there, and they won’t have a resemblance with either people or animals. Will that go?"

"Maybe, it will… But wait. Is protagonist a man?"

"Yes. Is there something bad? He is on the good side. But at a pinch, we can make an elf instead of man."

"Nay, I meant not that. Is he male? Some kind of cool guy?"

"Well, yes…" – Max stopped in confusion.

"Exactly. Feminists will tear us apart. That’s another tough macho to save the world, while women get only passive and humiliating role like being a kidnapped princess."

"No problem, protagonist can be a perfect woman warrior."

"What do we have in that case? Men who cool themselves off aside, tossing all the responsibility for world on women’ shoulders. Will feminists tolerate that?"

"We can make an option to choose protagonist’s gender… and skin color" added Smart just in case.

"That won’t help. For example, player will choose a female character. And she’ll be beautiful, won’t she?"

"Well, usually players prefer that kind of…" mumbled Max timidly.

"Sexual exploitation of women’ image," snapped the boss. "Adding to this, creation of virtual image of ideal woman, which is intended to cause inferiority complex of real women. Those feminists…"

"Well," gasped Smart.  "Let it be an ugly one. At least this is original…"

"No," interrupted Richman.

"Now, because of whom?" breathed out Max in despair.

"The same feminists. Displaying of woman in designedly humiliated, caricatured shape."

"So that is all the same: politically incorrect with woman as well as without her?"

"You know what…" said Freeman pensively. "Let the protagonist will be non-humanoid too, a genderless creature, with no resemblance to anyone. Though I doubt that we can sell this… But why we need those stereotypes, heroes and stuff like that? Let it be some kind of abstract game, like Tetris. But with shooting, cause users like action anyway…"

"An abstract game?!" shouted Max. "We were working on the realistic engine so long, and all this is about to go in vain?"

"But this is very politically correct" replied the boss adamantly.  "Though… abstract items need color also. Black and yellow won’t go undoubtedly… White too, just in case… And red…"

"That’s because of commies?" asked Max, completely stunned. "We still don’t like them, aren’t we? Recently we gave a 3000th strict warning to North Korea…"

"No, not because of commies. The Indians, I meant native Americans are reason" cleared Richman angrily. "Blue is the you-know-what reference, with green color we can expect Greenpeace lawsuits, and brown is propaganda of Nazism…"

"Orange" offered Max weakly.

"That’s the color of free Ukraine. Do you know what Ukrainian diaspora we have?"

"Than violet"  tried Smart once more.

"Violet is a mix of blue and red," said Richman thoughtfully. "An insult of sexual and national minorities simultaneously. And word "violet" is very like "violence". That’s violence propaganda…"

"What color do we have now, gray? But what will be the game in grayscale?"

"That doesn’t matter. The problem is that gray means old, and Elderly Rights Alliance…"

"What do we have to do now, boss?" asked Max in despair.

"I don’t know" Richman sighed. "You’re the smart one who must think. I’m going to listen the news meanwhile."

Richman gripped the mouse and clicked Internet radio icon. Voice from speaker started the broadcast.

"Political Correctness Commission chairman filed a lawsuit against U.S.A. national anthem. The motivation of lawsuit is that U.S.A. called here "land of the free and home of the brave". So, rights of convicts and cowa… sorry, alternatively brave ones are evidently violated."

"Is he a full idiot?!" Smart cried.

"Of course" confirmed Richman calmly. "Didn’t you know that according to recently legislated law, Political Correctness Commission must have alternatively skilled chairman?"

"You know what," said Smart firmly, getting up. "I am out of this work and this country too."

"Where to?" shrugged Richman hopelessly. "Europe has all the same, even worse."

"To Paraguay."

"Where is that?"

"In South America."

"And what political system they have?"

"Dictatorship" said Smart dreamily. "After last revolution, the country has not a single human right activist left. No leagues, associations or committees, no defamation lawsuits."

"But they must have their own limits – this is dictatorship anyway…"

"That’s just fun. I made a research. There is forbidden to insult the President, his regime members and their families. But not others."

"They aren’t speaking English, I suppose."

"You say like we are. Is this politically correct "newlang" an English language? But I know Hispanic from university studies."

"Max, wait! If you’ll go now, what will happen to the project? Johnny won’t be able to handle it alone!"

"What project? Colorless, abstract one? No, Mr.Richman. Good luck."

When Max left, for some time Richman stared at his monitor, resting cheek on the fist. Then he opened his organizer and wrote down tasks for tomorrow:

"1) Sell Megagames corporation.

2) Buy Hispanic language teach-yourself book."

 

(C) YuN, 2005