(Inspired from an idea by Michael-John Davis)
By Dwayne MacInnes
T.J. Murdock sat at the head of a long desk in the conference room on the Lone Star Skyways airship Zephyr. Half a dozen men sat around the table watching the projected presentation on the screen at the other end of the room. Murdock hated traveling on these airships, but his old man the founder and CEO of Texicorp Oil, George Murdock insisted on doing business this way.
When most of the major airlines collapsed twenty years before entrepreneurs again looked towards the airship to transport people across the globe. They were not as fast as a jet; however, the emerging industry billed them as the cruise ships of the skies. With modern lightweight materials, the use of helium, and larger gondolas than those their ancestors used over a hundred years ago, the airships proved to be quite cost effective and popular
Murdock looked out the tinted window of the conference room. Once the presentation was over the windows would lose its tinting to allow the sunlight to flood the room. However, for now T.J. would have to endure another boring meeting that he knew by heart.
The airship gently banked high in the air. The hybrid diesel-electric motors located in six pods situated around the semi-rigid gasbag hummed quietly as they propelled the ship through the bright blue sky. Solar panels located on the top of the gasbag helped keep the batteries charged thus making the operations of the airship more economical. The gasbag was comprised of helium-filled cells that helped contain leaks and therefore reduce the cost of refilling the helium at each stop.
However, if T.J. had his way he would still travel by jet. Of course, the well-to-do could only afford the cost of flying this way, and the Murdock family was very well-to-do. T.J. was happy in the fact that the major oil industries of the world were still considered an "old boy's club". His preferred way of conducting business was to take his clients out to an exclusive Gentlemen's club outside Texicorp's corporate headquarters in Houston called the Texas Hold 'Em.
The club had a private boardroom that could be rented for a premium that ensured plenty of privacy, liquor, and beautiful young hostesses. T.J. found that most of the time the clients were so inebriated with alcohol and distracted by the sight of nude women working the room that he could easily cut deals that heavily favored Texicorp.
Unfortunately, George Murdock did not approve of T.J's business practices. So lately, the old man started to dictate where and how business meetings would be held. This galled the younger Murdock to no end.
Of course, there were many things these days that galled the younger Murdock. The current recession looked to change radically the direction the country ran. After the recession in the first decade of the 21st century, many people felt that plans for recovery allowed too much government intervention. Even though the plans succeeded in pulling the U.S. out of the recession, it was not long before resurgence in the conservative movement took over the country. Their rise to power was fueled by the fears of too much government in business, work, and people's lives.
Over the years, Congress repealed the government regulations over Wall Street, business, and labor practices to the point where there was virtually no oversight. A truly laisez-faire economy came into existence. During the first twenty years, many people made a lot of money. As their successes became public, more people jumped on board hoping for their share of the wealth.
With the collapse of Social Security facing the country, the conservatives were able to privatize the government-run benefit program. Now, the private citizen could invest in one or more of the many booming companies out there. Many people felt that they had secured their future.
However, by 2038 the house of cards began to collapse. First, the stock market crashed as multiple ponzi schemes emerged. Without any regulations, the frauds went unnoticed for decades. The economic bubble burst, retirement plans under the privatization plan instantly dried-up. Businesses started to go under as capital dwindled and banks closed.
With unemployment at 13.5% and rising, the country was nearing another great depression. President Roberts, a man who balked at instituting any government intervention plans, kept cutting taxes on the wealthy in the hopes the well-to-do would help spend their way out of the recession. It failed miserably. The wealthy hoarded their capital. They squirreled it away in overseas accounts.
Now, the country's infrastructure was starting to fail. With the loss of tax dollars, many of the remaining federal and state government programs were bankrupt. Charities too were feeling the pinch as the hard-pressed American worker could no longer afford to give to worthy causes. The situation was spiraling out of control.
2040 brought new hope as the election arrived. The Republican Party's choice was Senator Victor Newland of Louisiana, a man who claimed to be a moderate Republican and claimed to march to his own drummer. The Democrats fielded California Senator Ramón Ramirez, the first Hispanic to make it through the primaries.
Like many white Texans, Murdock feared having a Hispanic in the Whitehouse. Even now, the population of Texas was about half Hispanic. However, the rest of the county looked to electing Ramirez in a landslide election based on the promise of taking the country in a new direction. A direction Ramirez based on new regulations to forestall corporate corruption, raising taxes on the wealthy to cover the expenses of the previous decades, and the creation of multiple government programs to promote job creation and economic growth.
These sounded great to the average American; however, it meant a loss in revenue to large companies like Texicorp through new taxes and regulations. The old man did not seem overly concerned but it bothered T.J. a lot. The younger Murdock feared a slippery slope towards a government takeover of his father’s company before T.J could inherit it.
Murdock returned his attention to the meeting. The presentation was nearly over and that meant Murdock could return to his cabin and relax before the airship docked in Houston.