Richard Herr
  Speculative Fiction Writer


Invasion from Fred


Shift, vol. 1

Dog & Pony


Sample Pieces

(published in The Cynic)


The President sat in the Oval Office.  His face beetled into a frown of concentration.  He was disturbed by something.  This was a decided step forward; usually he didn’t notice most things.  But this time he was disturbed, so he turned to his aide and said, “Rajan, I’m disturbed by something.” 

It was safe to call him Rajan.  Most people answered to that name nowadays, even if it wasn’t really theirs. 

“And what might that be, Your Majesty?” asked Rajan, this particular Rajan.

“It’s Mr. President, not Your Majesty,” the President corrected.  
Rajan was having a bit of a language and culture problem.  He was also having trouble staying alert.  It was the middle of the night where he was.  His hookup with the President was through closed-circuit TV.

That had been outsourced a while ago.

“What is it that you would be disturbed about, Your Maj-- Mr. President?”

“I don’t know if things are running as smooth as they should be lately,” the President said.

“Things have been organized a bit differently from the way they used to be, Mr. President.”  This was an understatement. 
“Well, what about Congress?  Have they been--?“  Rajan politely cleared his throat.  “Oh, yeah, that’s right.  We got rid of Congress, didn’t we?”

“That’s right, Mr. President.”

Congress had been an embarrassment.  That is stating the obvious; Congress had always been an embarrassment.  However, the disbanding of Congress had been an even greater embarrassment.  The House and Senate figured they could vote themselves out of office at a great savings to the country.  They had the numbers all laid out so you could see them.  They were laid out so plainly even the President could see them, once they were explained to him.  So their disbandment was approved by an overwhelming majority.  Their golden parachutes were lavish.  A few months later someone noticed that the bookkeeping adjustment to cover the parachutes had bankrupted the Social Security Trust Fund. 

This caused quite a bit of consternation in government circles until someone hit on a dandy little idea: just outsource the elderly.  Requests for bids were put out, and the best (lowest) one came from the Inuit in northern Canada.  So, all of the elderly were shipped off to the communities waiting for them there.  At least they were described as communities by the Inuit sales rep.  The building of these residences had been sub-contracted to a group of construction companies based in Siberia.  They claimed to have years of experience in constructing communal facilities.

Communications with the area were sparse, so there weren’t too many messages sent back.  Nothing was heard from the commission that had been sent to see if senior American cardiovascular systems were suited to a diet consisting of whale blubber and mayonnaise.

“Well, what about the Supreme Court?  We’ve still got the Supreme Court, haven’t we?”  The President asked.

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“What’s the Justice’s name?”

“Which one, Mr. President?”

“The Chief Justice.”

“That would be Chief Justice Li.”

“Okay, let me talk to Chief Justice Li.”

“He’s asleep right now, Mr. President.”

“Asleep?  Then, let me talk with one of them other justices.  What’s their names?”

“Li, Mr. President.”

 “Li?  All nine of them are named Li?”

“Well, yes, Mr. President, but there’s no longer nine of them.  You remember the downsizing we did?  There’s now only three of them.”

“Oh, that’s right.  Well, where are they?”

“They’re all in Beijing.  You remember that we outsourced the Court?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

The President had his problems figuring things out.  One of the reasons he gave was that he did not micro-manage, so he didn’t notice some things outside the broader view.  One of the things he didn’t notice was that, when he took his helicopter to go to Air Force One, he was flying over a bunch of adobe huts, not the rest of the District of Columbia.  The move had been accomplished one night while he slept during a flight from Asia.  Air Force One had detoured to a new location. 

There was now a tiny Latin American country whose gross national product was: White House.  The President was actually pleased about the higher number of Tex-Mex meals now being served at dinner.

“I don’t think things are running as smooth as they should.  I want to have a meeting,” the President said.

“Who do you want to meet with, your Maj-- Mr. President?”

“I want a full Cabinet meeting.  Let’s call all of the folks together.”

Rajan began making entries into the keyboard in front of him.  A number of the monitors arrayed in front of the President flickered on.  Faces were showing in the monitors.

The President looked at a list that was in front of him.  “Okay, let’s check that we’re all here.  Let’s see, Secretary of State?”

“Jawohl,” said one of the people on the monitors.




“Buenos Dias.”



“Homeland Security?”

“You will die in a Holy Jihad, infidel dog!”

The President checked his list.  “Okay, that’s all of you.”  The Cabinet had been downsized.  “I called you together because I been wondering whether or not this here outsourcing thing may have gone a little bit too far.”

“You cannot ‘elp eet.  Eet ees ze way zat sings go,” said the lady from Defense.

“It is Kismet,” said Homeland Security.
“You cannot shtop ze advantz of progress,” said the Secretary of State.

“I ha’ always said jou shoul’ jus’ wait for the workers to sweem to the job,” said Interior.

“What’s not to like?” said Treasury.

“I mean we have outsourced just about everything.  I think the only thing we haven’t outsourced is me.”  The President said that with his winning smile, expecting to get a few chuckles in return.

What he got, instead, was a rather strained silence.  Someone did giggle nervously.  Someone else cleared his throat self-consciously. 

“You know,” said the Secretary of the Treasury, “it’s funny you should ask--”

Rajan Rahawalla, the new President of the United States, prepared to give his Inaugural Address.  He reached forward to switch on the monitors that would show him his audience.  (There were additional duties that this President undertook, and for less money, too.)  The Nielsen people had assured him that he’d have a large audience.  And they were the right kind of audience, the heartland-of-America people who had been the core of the democracy for years, the ones who had watched their favorite shows on TV from The Lawrence Welk Show on through Survivor.  The Nielsen people were convinced the new President would get a warm welcome to his message.

He switched on the first monitor and looked up at his audience.
Then he switched on the second monitor.  Then the third and the fourth. 

He switched them all on.  He then went through multiple sources for all of the monitors, but they still revealed the same thing: there was no one there.  There was no one left.

They were all outsourced.

Richard Herr
"Just outsource the elderly."