Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Law [Short Story]

The Law

Location: Solo Base, planet Williams, the Sigma Draconis system [An Independent system]
Date: July 3214

   Northumberland stood on the concrete space port landing pad facing a pilot, Lang, his right hand man, who was commanding the groups other interstellar craft, a medium sized 300 tonne Lion trading ship.  He was confirming the orders that they and the rest of the Hole in the Wall gang had arranged back at their hideout: secure the Federation Storage Warehouse employees, locate the safety vaults, crack open as many safety deposit boxes as possible, take only high valuable untraceable goods, then 'get the hell out of dodge' and hyperspace back to their hideaway.  The rest of the dozen strong gang were rapidly disembarking from the ships, armed with las-rifles.  One team would head off to the warehouse security room to incapacitate the small guard detail, and the other to round up the employees.

   This was their third major heist in as many months.  Money was getting tight.  Funds were getting low.  They needed the money to pay off a gang of marauders who had were extorting huge sums of money from them. 

   This was one of the downsides, pitfalls, of living where they did: in the 'freehood' solar systems (known to others as 'anarchies').  It was a place where law was actualised/realised by the same people who conceived it.  In such places law was considered a custom, a tradition, that was perpetuated by those who wanted to do so.  That way all laws that were not wanted did not perpetuate, and faded into history.  Law in the freehood was not viewed as an institution in the way that it was in the Federation.  In the Federation, law (the legislature, the judiciary and the police) was viewed as an institution staffed by a select few who devised, decided and imposed the laws on the rest of the population who had no say or choice in the laws.
   In the Federation this view of law as something imposed extended to the natural laws as well: the logical, the physical, and the biological laws.  In the Freehood, they applied their view of laws as something voluntary and self-willed to the natural laws as well.  Though that isn't to say that there were hordes of wizards and magicians doing supernatural tricks and making rocks dance a ballroom waltz or something', simply that the view of the 'law' as something that one was an active member in perpetuating, if one so chose.
   Of course, when living in an environment where all of the people both 'make' and 'enforce' their own laws brings with it inherent risks: there is always the possibility that you will be subject to the laws of another.  However, you can always try to negotiate a mutual accord with the person imposing their law on you.  This is unlike the Federation, where petitioning for the law to be changed is nigh on pointless, due to the elitist nature of the government.
   Northumberland and his men had been subjected to the laws of another, and were unable to reach some middle ground, even when using violence (in the form of las-rifles and rockets) to make their point.  Thus they were forced into a difficult position - finding large sums of cash - and consequently had to become thieves in order to find the money.  This Federation extra-territorial warehouse in the Independent system of Sigma Draconis was their last planned heist.  If all went to plan, then it's wares should be enough to pay off the extorters.  At least for the time being.

   The first team had moved through the corridors of the warehouse complex undetected, and were now outside the central security room, where the only guard detail was.  Diego, one of the gang, leaned against the closed door to the security room and placed a small explosive charge on the door knob.  Then signalled for the other dozen guys to drop back behind one corner of the corridor to take cover.
   The gang raced back around the corner and stormed into the smoke filled room, las-rifles braced against their shoulders.  They were confronted by a group of four overweight blue shirted security guards: inexperienced, barely armed, professionals who wouldn't be able to mentally cope with the level of violence inflicted on them.
   "Get on the fucking floor!  Down!  Down!  Get down!  Get on the fucking floor!  Get down!  Face first mother fucker!  Get down!  Hands on your fucking head!  Down!  Now!"
   The guards, one of them still holding a doughnut in his hand, were wide-eyed and complied with the demands without any retaliation.  The shock of the raid had overwhelmed them.  They were in trauma.  It was the psychological edge that all forceful, violent or combat situations depended on.  The ability to saturate the other person with terror to the extent that they get robbed of the ability to think or act (rather than animalistically react) in a cognisant, sentient manner.  They effectively became rocks: deprived of their human capabilities.
   One of the guards was still in shock, he had the fright in his eyes. Diego went up to him, "Prick!" , and swiped the butt of his rifle across the guards nose, breaking it and sending a splatter of blood across onto the wall. 
   "Get down!"  He shoved the muzzle of the las-rifle in the guys face.
   The guard eventually complied, shaking with terror as he did so.  He was so scared he hadn't even made a noise, a yelp in pain even.
   Diego grinned in sadistic pleasure as the guard lay belly down at his feet, totally compliant.
   Two of the other gang members took out small syrettes from their pockets and injected it into the guards exposed hands.  The syrettes contained fast acting tranquilisers that quickly took effect on the guards and they slumped into a deep sleep.  It was less risky than just tying and leaving them on their own.

   With the security detail taken care of the second group could move on to the other employees, round them up and keep them secure whilst the rest of the gang searched through the safety deposit boxes.
   Lang headed up the second team, and took a different approach to dealing with the warehouse staff: calmly walking into the only office room that was staffed, with his gun clearly displayed but not threateningly pointed at anyone, waited for the rest of his team to walk in the room, and then told everyone matter-of-factly.
   "We're here to rob the security deposit boxes.  If you do as we tell you, no one will be hurt.  The security team have been sedated, so don't try to contact them, or anyone else for that matter, as we've disabled the main communication network.  My men here will escort you down to the central warehouse building where you will be held under guard until we get what we came for.  If any of you try to escape we will shoot you.  Now, on my mark, I want you stand up, slowly, and form a single column against the far wall over there.  Once you have done that we will then escort you to the warehouse.  Okay.  One my mark.  One, two, three, stand."
   The office workers were slightly jittery, but wilfully compliant.  Lang and his team marched them through a long corridor and into the warehouse complex which was full of half sorted crates containers and such like.

* * * * *

   Propped against the door frame to the 2,500 square metre warehouse, Diego observed one of the Federation captives who was sat at a desk, looking rather too cocky for his own good.  He was in his late twenties, with moisturised skin, coiffured hair, wearing a thick woollen black overcoat, and a large over sized scarf wrapped conspicuously around his neck.  Judging by his appearance he was a typical Fed MC (middles-classer).  He'd probably acquired his physical possessions from the same MC high street as he had acquired his mental possessions (that is to say his behaviour and beliefs), so to speak.  Possibly even the same shopping centre.  He was sat in a chair, leaning back on its back two legs, whilst the sole of right foot was placed on the edge of the desk.  He was also sporting a smug smirk on his face, and had his hands clasped together behind his head.  A model of confidence.  But, balanced on only two chair legs, he was a totally unstable object.  A small knock would destabilise him and send him falling backwards and crashing on the ground. 
   There is a saying that 'the outer mirrors the inner': the external mirrors the internal, the body is a mirror of the mind.  A man walking upright with his head aloft is more confident inside than one who is leaning over with his head downcast.  So, as this Fed MC was unjustifiably confident in his outer, his body, that meant that he was unjustifiably confident in his inner, his mind.  It was this over confidence, cockiness, that Diego saw; and he decided that he was going to have some afternoon fun knocking him down to size.
   "I know what's going through your mind now pal."
   The man laughed an anxious laugh. "Oh yeah?  What's that then, 'mate'?"
   "You're thinking that some great power out of the sky is going to come and save you."
   "What are you talking about?!" The man scoffed.
   "The great quasi-deity that you call 'The Law'."
   "Okay." he said, tittering uncertainly.
   "'The Law', as you view it, rules over the galaxy and imposes, imposes, its will upon all aspects of your life.  And you have no choice but to obey it.  You are subordinate to it.  From the physical laws that rule the rocks under your feet, to the biological laws that rule your body, to the civil laws that rule your society.  'The Law' supposedly rules them all."
   "Really?  Okay, you're not making any sense at all.  What does a quasi-deity called 'Law' have to do with physical laws like gravity, biological laws like Mendelian inheritance, and civil laws like 'locking-up-thieving-bastards-like-you', have to do with me?"
   "It means that you view yourself as one who is subjected to the law, rather than one who makes and enforces the law."
   "Uh huh."
   "And that includes the civil law as enforced by the police."
   "So you reckon the police or army or navy are gonna bust the door down and come and save you like some fairy-tale knight in shining armour."
   "Oh puh-leaze.  First Gods and now fairy tales.  What's next?  Little red men with horns from the Betelgeuse system?!"
   "And if it's some fairy tale story, in which the brave knight rescues the poor damsel in distress, then I guess that makes you the damsel in distress, don't it?"
   "Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Pweeze, somebwody helwp me!  Sa-aaave me!"  The MC replied in mock imitation of a damsel in distress.
   "Or perhaps instead of 'The Law' saving you now, then you expect that 'The Law' will avenge you in the future."
   "You're making even less sense now than you were a minute ago."
   "It means that if you don't get justice from 'The Law' now, by means of the police, then you'll expect it later in the form of a trial and retribution."
   He looked at Diego but didn't reply.
   Diego knew he had him.  "So that's it then?  You expect that the me and my partners in crime will be arrested at a later date and punished by 'The Law', because that's what you believe: that 'The Law' rules over all."
   The man eyed Diego uncertainly.
   Northumberland walked over to the two men, stopping a couple of feet just behind Diego, who hadn't heard him.
   "Oh yeah, I know it.  You think the heavens are gonna open up and send down legions of big-dick, gun-toting armed saviours gonna arrest me and my mates next week when we're back at our hideout.  You're still counting on 'The Law' to come and save ya.  Well guess what sunshine?  There ain't no 'Law' out here."
   The mans eyes fell to the floor, then began to dart around rapidly, anxiously, trying to stop his world from being torn out from underneath him.
   "There ain't no law out here, Fed' man.  There ain't no law to protect you now.  You're all alone out here Fed' man."
   "There ain't no law in the Federation either Diego."
   "There ain't no one gonna save you out here boy."
   "There was never anyone to save him in the Federation either Diego."
   "There ain't no law gonna avenge you in the future."
   "There was never any law going to avenge him anyway."
   "Northumberland, why do you.."
   "Why do I what Diego?"
   "Why do you have to go and spoil my fun?"
   "Because it gains nothing.  You're just trying to scare him to get your rocks off.  Leave him be.
   "Yeah, but he thinks 'The Law' might come and save him.  Like they're some fuckin' super power or something."
   "You're a freeman Diego, a free man.  You know there's no Law anywhere.  The thing people think of as law is not 'the law', it's just tradition; our inheritance from those who have come before us.  They're mistaking it for authority, something superior or above them, for a deity who imposes its will on them.  They're free men but they don't know it.  They're living under the despotism of a non-existant external law.  A phantom, an apparition, an illusion.  You know it doesn't exist.  You know that the things people call Law is just inheritance.  So quit toying with him over it."
   "Delusion in his case."
   "Whatever.  You're stripping anyway at his delusions, his clothes, mental ones, that have given him comfort.  He gets comfort in thinking that 'the Law' is always gonna be there."
   "Fuckin' comfort blanket more like.  Fuckin' babies."
   "That don't make you any 'fuckin' better then, does it, Diego?  Sadistically taking pleasure in stripping away his securities, delusional though they be, and making him squirm in discomfort."
   "Ah fuck you Northumberland.  What d'ya come over here for anyway?  You wanna piece of me?"
   "Shut up and go help Lang search the container room Diego.  You're making a tit of yourself." he replied disdainfully.
   Diego walked up close to Northumberland, and spoke quietly. "One of these days man, I'm gonna knock your fuckin' head in."
   Northumberland turned his head back to stare the man straight in the eyes.  "Yeah, and I might just be there to see it." knowing that Diego was more bark than bite, and rarely followed through on his threats.
Diego walked past Northumberland, crashing into his shoulder as a cowards method of getting even - avoiding face-to-face confrontation.
   Northumberland looked at the MC who was sat slumped in his chair, his arms and legs and shoulders and head curled in slightly; in a demi-foetal position.  The one you take when you don't want your senses, nerve endings on the soft fleshy parts of the body, exposed to the world.  There was nothing Northumberland could do for the man.  His world had been torn from under him and he was destabilised, falling down some dark hole.  To provide reassurance would do nothing to help him.  It would only perpetuate the mental state he had whilst he was in the Federation: that someone will come to take care of you, provide you with a ground of security to stand on and a ceiling of authority to bang your head on. 
   Freehood was not like that.  It was the opposite of that: there were no limits in free hood, no floor of security, nor ceiling of authority, you were, are, unconstrained.  The only constant was you, standing in the middle with nothing above, nor nothing below.  That was what freedom was like.  And it was something that you had to experience first hand, for yourself, personally.  Which was why Northumberland couldn't, wouldn't offer any words of support to the guy.  He just had to leave him be and hope that he would find his own centre: himself.

   The raid went according to plan.  The gang found enough cash and valuable in the security boxes and departed the system and headed back to their own base, back in the free-hood.