It Had Been an American Century
I had to cut this out of "Angels and Electrons" because it interrupted the pacing, but I like it. I wrote it in 2012 but as always I was prophetic.
It had been an American Century. One of the few satellites left from a previous era attempted to chronicle the last of it. It had lasted longer than predicted; it had seen later models come and go. It transmitted in a frequency that was now seldom monitored, and the zenith of the technology it encompassed was the transistor. It had been launched at the height of the space age, when cars were long and tailfins were subsiding, but the world had long since gone to hell beneath it. The Ruskies came and went, and came again, and the Chinese came (they were not averse to dispatching rivals satellites with lasers). The bi-polar world went mono-polar then multi- polar then just to a kind of hell with mortars mounted in the backs of Toyota pickups somehow rivaling superpowers and infidels being burned alive, and worse. It was friends with a satellite owned by the Vatican. Nobody knew or remembered how the hell that got up there (all signs pointed to Bobby Kennedy). It was currently broadcasting a 12-part series on John Paul II. And all the world was gone to hell, and benign faces on currencies were innocuous to the multipliers and orders of magnitude applied to them to provide for a simple loaf of bread, or the wars waged so that faces on this side of the globe could subsist on the pollution and slavery and penury of the faces on the other, all with the benign faces on the currencies standing in as surrogates for the actual transaction of human soul with human soul, the tyrant and the sufferer, the Prophet and the profits and the ministers of oil in dresses and the polished prigs in Brussels and the statists of all stripes planning for a happier world always centered around a concept of fewer, cleaner, and in some sense holier people (like themselves). The satellite watched this. It had a series of lenses of fine optical quality perfectly spaced along a body the length of a school bus. It was mostly black and silver. Solar panels like wings were there for show, and for redundancy - its heart was nuclear. It drifted calmly in infinitude; it clicked, it whirred, it sometimes beeped and hummed. The highlights of its career had been reading the license plates of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson, before it began broadcasting in gibberish, which the NSA was too stupid to realize was not a malfunction but a change of ownership, a semi-autonomy, a coded language. But speaking with whom? It had been an American century, since gone to hell in an explosion and antigen and antiphon of what dreams may come but hadn’t, what could have been but never had, for want of vision and belief."