All three reporters quoted Mayor Brewins on his affection for the system and how it had increased his moral intuition. One of the three seemed unconvinced that the invention was real. The other two, though they seemed to believe in its existence, felt unsure about its implications.
Upon reading these reviews, several of the mayor’s constituents decided the contraption, if it existed at all, amounted to a form of mind control. At a town council meeting, they lobbied for a cessation of use by any member of the town council during meetings or while discussing town processes.
Jeremiah stood up and said, “Council members are the ones who need my invention most.” He turned and appealed to the white-haired men who made up the town council. “As you make changes to laws and ordinances, the automatic conscience will help you make decisions that hurt no one.”
“Particularly not Jeremiah Brown,” one resident retorted from the crowd.
“It’s not like that,” Jeremiah said.
“I doubt that Ferris wheel met zoning laws…” someone else muttered from the crowd.
“No…” Jeremiah said.
“And who’s going to clean it up?” another citizen asked. “The fair was months ago, and it’s still there!”
“We shouldn’t foot the bill for this!” an angry woman shouted from the front row.
Jeremiah tried to tell them that his automatic conscience would help. That it would make things better for everyone. This quieted the crowd some, but shortly thereafter the council opened discussion on Jeremiah’s ordinance request. It would require the town council and judges in the area to wear an automatic conscience during working hours. The meeting then devolved into shouting, curses, and pandemonium.
The townsfolk, the squeakiest wheels at least, had made up their minds. They shouted him down at subsequent meetings and turned the council members away from him. It got so bad that council members, and Mayor Brewins in particular, began to take bribes and make decisions that benefitted themselves as opposed to the town. They did all this just to prove to everyone that they weren’t under the influence of the automatic conscience. The townsfolk praised the independent thinking of their elected officials. They even elected Mayor Brewins to another four-year term despite rising unemployment, soaring debt, and rather low job performance ratings.
Jeremiah would not give up, though. He began to advertise the benefits of his automatic conscience. He told how he designed it to help people. He demonstrated the way that it would prevent the oppression of the poor and jobless, and how it made life easier for anyone who used it. He took out ads in both town newspapers. He put up a billboard on Second Street proclaiming how he’d used it personally and the benefits it brought to him. At one point, he started giving them out free to anyone who wanted one, just to prove he wasn’t in it for the money.
Amelia, meanwhile, felt stuck between the frying pan and the fire. She supported Jeremiah and what his invention intended, but she wasn’t sure she approved of the method. Somehow, forcing morality seemed wrong. She tried to encourage him but couldn’t muster anything beyond a lukewarm, “You’re a great inventor.” When he asked her to don an automatic conscience at the town’s annual Groundhog Day Dance, she declined. She then found herself without a date (though not without a cadre of suitors).
Everything came to a head the night Jeremiah debated Mayor Brewins in the auditorium of Samuel Clemens Elementary School. Jeremiah had proposed the debate as a last-ditch effort to prove the existence and benefits of his invention. He picked Mayor Brewins as a sparring partner because he hoped the Mayor would still feel an obligation to him. That he might be sympathetic to Jeremiah’s cause. Jeremiah was wrong.
To Be Continued…