It wasn’t a good way to the start the day.
Every Thursday, Derek started with the feeling of being a quart low. Sunday nights through Wednesday nights were spent working the overnight shift at the bus station. He knew from family members, not just older, but old, family members that such a shift used to be called the “graveyard shift,” but since only the old and poor traveled by bus, that was just too eerie. Too many riders looked like the walking dead.
Unfortunately, the daytime was not much better. Derek was a “Gerontological Blood-flow Assistant” meaning that he spent his days in the gerontology center massaging the extremities of people well over a hundred years old. Medical science (and law) could keep them from dying, but it couldn’t give them any kind of normal life. Unless they had wealth. So, Derek, and millions of young people around the world, lacking anything beyond a high school education spent hours each day twiddling toes and fingers, massaging and legs arms while maintaining a constant stream of chatter. The wages were not quite lowest of the low, but it was the cleanest of the low wage jobs.
Monday through Thursday the routine was harsh. Spend the night working baggage and customer service at the bus station. Back to the four-room house he shared with four other gerontology assistants and three college students. One of these was Sherrie.
Sherrie was whom Derek and the others wanted to be. She had busted her ass for years in the gerontology center and elsewhere (worse places they all suspected) to buy her way to college. Sherrie had made it in, at the age of 27, without indenturing herself, bankrupting her parents, or becoming part of a menagerie. As long as she kept her expenses low and studied continually she would graduate in just two more years and receive her art degree. After two months of competition and testing, she would earn her license as a painter of landscapes and portraits. She would have options then. Unlike Derek, who cannot be an artist until he goes back to school. The Foundation has been so successful in its credential efforts begun decades ago, that now, all the creative class and the useful class (engineers, software designers) must be credentialed and licensed or face stiff penalties.
The New Indenture began in the early part of the 21st century when the policy elites became convinced the higher education bubble was about the burst, such that young people and most families would not ever be able to afford college, particularly as student debt rose and rose. At the same time, nongovernmental entities were pushing a college completion agenda convincing the same policy elites that nation’s economy (and thus the world’s) could only be saved by greater and greater numbers of citizens with college degrees. Clearly a crisis was coming and a response must be made!
As such things often go, all good intentions became little more than paving stones with a strong odors of sulfur and brimstone. Ideas that seemed reasonable and harmless to many were adopted against the warnings of the few who saw the risks (based on lessons of the past). Instead of borrowing for college or paying outright, students committed a share of their future earnings to the government or human-venture capitalists. For awhile, this approach seemed to work well. But as had always happened in the past, colleges and universities lost any sense of constraints in spending and income share to repay a student’s college costs grew from the six percent for tuition plus the four percent for living expenses to 25% and 10% leaving less and less to live. Graduates became increasingly creative in ways to hide income or to duck out of the original agreements. This lead to penalties for noncompliance.
Penalties based on those damn mice.
See, sometime in 2014, researchers had discovered they could extend a mouse’s life with new blood. Fresh blood. It was seemingly right out of Robert A. Heinlein’s novella, “Methusaleh’s Children.” Periodically, one had only replace all the blood in their body with fresh blood and life could be extended another 100 years. With development of a synthetically produced blood, the promise of longer lives was available to everyone.
Except the promise was never realized. Seventy-three years later, we were no closer to synthetic blood. But, the lobbyists of the wealthy (also known as the “elected class”) were successful in passing laws allowing not only blood donations through private entities for life extension, but to contract with groups of donors. A merely wealthy person might have a menagerie of two or three young people in college, or waiting to get into a college. A super wealthy person might be supporting two dozen donors for each member of their family. Typically support was college scholarships, dietary supplements, medical care, and a small stipend while in college. In exchange, each donor would commit to 20 years of bimonthly donations and agree to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Anyhow, once these agreements were legalized, they also became the model for penalties for non-compliance the previously mentioned income-share agreements.Only no stipends and precious little gentleness during collection.
To default resulted in pretty horrific penalties. Mainly in forced organ donation.