Sunday February 17, 2013
Book 14: Broken Wind — Part I: Breath and Business

Note: Readers may be wondering about the "first estate" comment in panel five. 31st-century UNS political scientists use a revised and expanded form of the estate model as a shorthand for describing where power lies.

  • The First Estate is the executive branch, including all military arms and the massive bureaucracy that administers government.
  • The Second Estate is the legislatures and lawmakers who create the laws (the instruction sets, if you will) that set the bounds of activity for the First Estate.
  • The Third Estate is the Judiciary, which interprets and (at risk of circular definition) adjudicates disputes with regard to the laws created by the Second Estate.
  • The Fourth Estate is the media, including not just reporting arms, but also entertainment, organized religion, and independent media personalities like actors, directors, and other famous folk. They interpret, opine upon, and pre-adjudicate all activities and events, swaying the influence and opinions of the other Estates.
  • The Fifth Estate is Private Enterprise. They own things, including vast tracts of land, cities, and positions in the first four Estates. 
  • The Sixth and final Estate is the voters. Theoretically they wield great power. In practice, they never actually pick it up and do anything with it unless one of the other Estates tells them to.

The model is, imperfect, obviously, and is a source of significant contention. Is the Plutorliament, a legislative body comprised of purchased seats, part of Estate Five, or Estate Two? Is the "Judges Punch & Judy" show part of Estate Four, or Estate Three? And finally, is the Office of the President truly at the top of the First Estate, or is it just an appendage to the media in Estate Four?


NARRATOR: U.N.S. Internal Affairs Intelligence, commonly referred to as Int-Aff-Int...

Int-Aff-Int Agent: Agent Usar has been eliminated.

Int-Aff-Int Gav: I doubt that.  The Fleetmind is scary-smart.

There is no way any sort of concealed kill-switch escaped Petey's attention.

Especially not after the Toughs outed Usar and popped all of her custom dental work.

Int-Aff-Int Agent: Fine. Assuming she's still alive, how do we contain this?

Int-Aff-Int Gav: I don't think it's up to us to contain it any longer.

Int-Aff-Int Agent: We have to do something!  Her involvement in the Morokweng incident could send the better-armed half of the First Estate into a violent tizzy.

Int-Aff-Int Gav: Petey now possesses that information.  The moment he wants to see our internal tensions erupt into a U.N.S. civil war, he will leak it.

Int-Aff-Int Agent: Are we being blackmailed by the Fleetmind?

Int-Aff-Int Gav: Almost certainly.  But I suspect the only payment Petey is attempting to extract from us is a measure of trust.

Int-Aff-Int Agent: We're an intelligence agency.  That particular currency is in rather short supply.

Int-Aff-Int Gav: Wouldn't it be nice if we could pay him off in understatement?