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Author Topic: Mounty astray, more of that  (Read 2680 times)


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Mounty astray, more of that
« on: March 16, 2007, 05:22:41 am »

XII. Crash Course

When that had settled, silence seemed to be deafening. Small spurts of smoke were still rising, but no open flames. Nothing moved. The hover had virtually disintegrated. Jack called the hospital where her bill would remain unpaid. The clerk was not exactly amused, but all he could do was shrug.
“I’ll send you an emergency crew anyway, might be someone else’s cutting his fingers while poking in the mess might make it necessary.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Jack broke the connection.
“Let’s inform the owner, it may be a pile of scrap, but it’s still property.”
The owner was not available for a talk, so Jack left him a text message.
A cigar and a coffee later, two heavy hovertrucks arrived at the scene. None of them bore any marks except a company logo of a hauling service. They carried a wrecking crew and an investigator from an insurance company. Jack offered them a coffee, but most of them were ambitious to get the job done and go home, where more work was waiting for them.
The investigator was a coffee junkie, though. He watched the wrecker crew collect the debris, mechanical and otherwise, asked a few questions and started to write a report. He classified it as a single-vehicle accident, cause by a pilot error, no-one else involved.
“Doesn’t make it more pleasant for the owner, though. He’ll have to write it off. He’ll be glad, though, that nobody else was harmed. Do you have any video footage?”
“I should have switched the camera on,” replied Jack, “but I didn’t think of it.”
“No problem. The dust traces are obvious, the old hover has had its weapons removed, yours haven’t been fired. That bitch just screwed up.” He looked at the wrecking crew.
“Seems my guys are ready. Might find some smaller stuff later on, but the worst has been removed. Thanks for the coffee, and have a nice day!”
He joined the wreckers and they took off in the inevitable dust cloud.
“Ian, let us call this a day. You’re working good and I think, you’d be interested in tonight’s visitor – and in Andrea’s cooking, if nothing else.”
Jack gave me a broad grin.
We had barely taken off, when the ‘com beeped again.
“Hi, Jack, Arronax here. Would you both mind to come over to my place? I think it is about time to get rid of this bloody procedure.”
“On our way. Get the coffee warm, we’ll be there in some twenty minutes.”
Jack disconnected.
“I think it is in your interest to get this thing done, or would you rather wait for more agents to kill?”
“No, thanks. What’s done is done, the sooner, the better. Looks like a miracle to me that these officially unofficial procedures take place at all.”
“Don’t bitch about a free society which just works. There is nothing which could be performed in a better way by some clerks with a badge and a regular income financed by stolen money. No personal offense intended. A judge must be good or he will have to look for another source of income. Good means: he must be a fanatically objective and principled person. And stick to it. As soon as he breaks his own principles, he’s out of business. Nobody with a serious problem will bother to a judge you can’t rely on.
If you try some fraud, you will be caught and you will suffer from the consequences of your own action. If you get cheated or suffer something else, you won’t trust a judge who tells you to be mild to someone who raped your daughter or destroyed your car or something like that. Justice means, that any harm done must be compensated by the one who initiated force. Nothing else. Nobody here tries to educate or re-educate or counter-educate anyone. Funny thing: to get caught by the consequences of your own action is an extremely educational thing. Most folks who survive their first misdeed never commit a second. Compare that to a penal system with correctional institutes or prisons or lunatic asylums. On the Celtic worlds, we have neither, and we are proud of not needing them.”
I had to chew a little on this, but I found no way to argue facts.
Our destination was close to the Aer Phort, a large compound of warehouses, most of them refrigerated. Right in front of that complex was a grocery shop of more modest dimensions. A sign read: “Arronax Food and Groceries”.
We entered the shop, an astonishing large hall, where a crowd could get lost without a trace. Jack asked the first shop assistant he could find how to find the judge, and he sent us to an office in the rear. On our way, I was overwhelmed by the rich choice of all kinds of foods.
“Apparently you don’t have to suffer from any restrictions. I see a kosher department as well as assorted specialties I have never heard of before.”
“Yes, isn’t it funny, just let folks be themselves and you’ll get whatever you want. We do have a small Jewish community here, and some of their ways of cooking are really delicious. You should get acquainted with that old tea planter. Not only might he hire you for some work, but he has the best teas in the known universe. Look, here are his products.”
I found an entire stand full with at least twenty different sorts of tea. Highland First Flush, Oolong, green tea, any size, any quality you might desire. Most of the names I had never heard before. In Canada, tea was something to be bought in small tissue bags and tasted either bitter or like nothing at all.
Out of thin air, a slender girl in the mid-twenties materialized. She had brilliant blue eyes and softly-curled long black hair which covered her head like an old-fashioned veil. The gorgeous impression was not diminished by the smock she wore. A button identified her as “Ysabelle – your shopping partner”.

I bear no hate against a living thing I just love my freedom all above the King


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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2007, 05:23:28 am »

XIII. Trial, no error

“I think you are Monsieur Kermarec and Monsieur Le Penven?”
“Guilty as charged, I am Jack Le P, that’s my friend Ian.”
“You have an appointment with my father, please follow me.”
She led us to a back room for which the word office would, by standards I was used to, was an insult. The entire furniture was made of well-processed massive wood and polished to mirror finish. A thick carpet covered most of the floor, to display tiles of granite at its rim. The ceiling had wooden cassettes, the entire room was dominated not by an aircraft-carrier-sized desk but a group of leather fauteuils, to which she ushered us.
We were welcomed by a tall man with white hair and beard, dressed in Jeans and a flannel shirt.
“Thank you for following my invitation, Gentlemen. Although, Mr. Kermarec, you might think this could be a subpoena as well. No, Sir, we don’t have that formal crap here, and I think nobody is missing it. We’ll have to wait a few minutes, though, as the hospital’s representative will arrive at any minute. Tea, coffee, any volunteers?”
I opted for tea and Jack asked for a glass of cooled water.
“May I introduce my daughter to you gentlemen, she will be taking over my business soon, and she would like to have some practice. Do you object?”
“No, not in the least.” Jack beat me by a fraction of a wink.
“Do you really contemplate retiring from business?” Jack was curious.
“Not exactly retire. I am going to build a recreational park and that will keep me busy. I got hold of a few hundred containers full of seedlings, quite a forest, and they were cheaper than the dirt I’m going to plant hem in. Some planetary development company has screwed up and the seedlings are perishable goods, so I got them for a song, the most expensive thing is the deposit for the containers.”
A knock at the door announced the hospital representative. A fortyish lady with a narrow face joined us. She introduced herself as Jean Baker, Vice president in charge of accounting of the Hôpital Jean Mermoz, Baile Kemper. She even looked like a manager, wearing a dark blue dress in straight lines, which gave her an air of elegance, and thick glasses.
See one MBA, you’ve seen them all.
“Well, all people involved are present, so let’s get this show on the road. Mr. Kermarec, you bagged the male assailant who apparently shot his own boss, is that right?”
“Well, I shot him into the shoulder in order to incapacitate him and prevent more people from being hurt, especially me.”
“That no-one will dispute. Did you have any special ties to them?”
“No, I don’t think so. When I departed from Earth, they were citizens of a different nation and I have never been working for them. I don’t think I am still employed by anyone on Earth, so I think I have no ties to them at all. Nor to him, neither to the woman.”
“Do you hold any kind of claim against one of them?”
“Not at all.”
“So, Mr. Kermarec, if you don’t hold any claims against any of them, do you object to claims held by the hospital for the treatment of the woman whose life you have – at least temporarily – saved?”
“No objections at all.”
“We will file charge against agent – whatshisname – for attempted murder in loco parentis.”
“What does this mean?” I was curious to figure out how this non-formal justice might work.
“Well,” Ysabelle answered, “the general idea is that every damage must be paid for. The hospital has a bill for treatment of a crime victim. The assailant is dead, but fortunately, they had a standard fare ticket from IST, which includes an insurance police for exactly these circumstances. If you file no claim against the assailant, the hospital can do so and get at least part of the bill paid.
The in loco parentis thing means that nobody can get away with murdering someone who has no relatives here. Any death by violence will be investigated.”
“Is there much left to investigate?”
“No, Mr. Kermarec. Due to the fact of the entire thing having been taped and a few dozen eye witnesses who all agree in their testimony, the case itself is closed. Now we’re negotiating the damage compensation.”
“Oh, I see.”
“As you were so friendly to not file your claims, the hospital will be paid some fifty per cent of the treatment bill. This is more than I dared to expect, thank you, Mr. Kermarec.”
“You’re welcome, I got more than I expected, too. What will happen with the rest of the bill?”
“I am afraid I will have to write it off, maybe we might get some money in our charity auction, which will take place in ten days from now. You are welcome, Mr. Kermarec. This is always a nice garden party and ceilidh. I am not too optimistic about the outcome of the auction, as both assailants have left nothing of value.”
“Do you accept donations?”
“Any time, any amount. What do you have in mind?” Now I got her attention.
“Well, guns seem to proliferate like rabbits here, and I was awarded with both agents’ guns. Standard issue Berettas, which I have never learnt to appreciate. I have a tuned up one with which I am content so far. I have both guns here and if you think you can auction them off, I am glad that I might help you.”
“You can imagine that these guns have a certain value for collectors. Do you wish a commission if the auction yields more than our demand?”
“No, a donation is a donation, and you may do with the money whatever you think is necessary.”
“Thank you!” She accepted both pistols, took them out of the holsters and inspected them like an expert in gun safety. She found them well-cleaned and unloaded, even the magazines were empty. She seemed to be happy with that.
“I think, as long as there are no other issues, we can call it a day and avoid burning daylight. Thank you all for your contributions.” Arronax rose and we followed his example.
On our way to the check-out, we were stopped by Ysabelle.
“Mr. Kermarec, could it be that you have applied for a bank account at the Celtic Allied Bank? Your credit card has arrived.”
“Do you work for them?”
“No, not exactly at least. Arronax is the largest shop in Baile Kemper, so we have some minor companies who have their business in our shop. One of them is The Celtic Allied Bank. They are one of the largest banks here – a staff of some fifteen employees. Nobody loves administration here and so we pool our resources to keep dead costs down. That’s why we do some bank services here.”
“Isn’t that a conflict of interests, having a shop and a bank in the same place?”
“I don’t think so, we only hand out the cards and collect some documents, we can’t care less for what people do with their money.”
“Not your business…”
“Exactly. Same with parcel service. Most parcels have been delivered to our place, mostly because this was one of the first permanent addresses on Kemper. That’s why Arronax has a real post office. I’m proud that we have never ever lost one single parcel since Granddaddy founded this place almost seventy years ago.”
I collected my card and, maybe by sheer reflex, started to browse the shop. I bought some food, wondering how cheap all goods were. Then, I thought of something else.
“Jack, the laundry automat in the Cat is good, but I think I should get some gear before we head back to your farm”.
“Good idea, what style do you prefer? Tux or Jeans?”
“Not necessarily a tux. I am sick of uniforms, so I’ll go for anything informal.”
“Then you might be a case for our best taylor in town.”
“Taylor-made Jeans?”
“Sort of. Hard to explain, so have a look. It’s not far away from here anyway.”

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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2007, 05:24:11 am »

XIV. At Pinpoint

We had but a short trip to another one-storey building which covered more acreage than a soccer coliseum. It turned out to be a giant mall, where lots of shops were competing for the clients’ attention – and their money, of course.
One of the booths showed the sign: “Tired of nudity? Becky’s clothes – sexier than nude!”
I was not exactly convinced that this might be serious, but Jack unerringly entered the shop as if he had done so a thousand times before.
Becky turned out to be a brunette girl of my age, with a smile that seemed to come right out of her heart.
“Hi, Jack, you really recommend my service? You must hate this guy!”
“Well, he asked for it.” It seemed to be sort of a running joke between them.
“I once made a mistake and stitched a coat for him inside out, and he’ll never forgive me the result. Not that he remembers much of his wedding, but it must have been funny enough, to see him running amuck for a new tux when he discovered the mistake.
“Funniest thing was that quite a few friends of him crowded my place afterwards and ordered tuxes like his, inside out, because they liked the way the fabric looked like.
So what can I do to you?”
“Well, I need some clothes, mostly Jeans and flannel shirts.”
“Okiedokie, honey, get into that cabin over there and strip. The more you’ll put off, the better the scanner can do its job.”
“No more measuring?”
“What do you think, should I ever again take a needle in my hand?”
With a theatrical shudder, Jack made me understand that a machine’s job can be superior to a human’s.
I entered the booth, undressed and heard Becky’s voice: “Hey, stranger, now you’ll touch the handles just above your head with both hands at the same time.”
I did, and got a reward in shape of a bright flash.
“Relax, now you’re measured and you can put on your clothes again. You’d better, because you’ll have to talk to me in person.”
When I returned to the counter, she had already a few views of my humble body clad in the finest fashion Kemper could offer.
“How do you like it? From old-fashioned Jeans 1849er style to the latest chic, you can fulfill your dreams with a mouse click.”
I chose a few designs and asked for a price.
Becky hacked a few data into her computer and came up with a sum of 25 SC for five pairs of trousers.
“What sort of fabric might be that cheap? Is that price for the fabric alone?”
“No, that’s for five complete pairs of trousers and the measuring, for which I charge ten for every new client. The sewing will be done by robots and some parts will be custom-weaved. Most folks don’t like thick seams where they rub on private parts. And, by the way, I still have to pay for the machinery. The next clothes you’ll buy here – if you might feel inclined to do so – will be much cheaper.”
“Funny, everything is much better and by far much cheaper than on earth. How in heaven do you earn your living. Nobody seems to be poor here.”
“Look at it this way: When nobody steals half your income, you only pay for what you shop. Part of the cotton I am using here has been cultivated on Tara. Nobody there to tax the planters, the pluckers and none of the other workers who have to refine, spin and weave the fabric. Steal everyone more than half of his income and you’ll have to pay twice as much for labor. Tax foods and anything else what you have to buy because you can’t grow or produce yourself, and you’ll have to pay four or five times for what you shop. Consider that you’ll have to pay taxes on your income, and you’ll have to create ten times the value you’d have to if you were living in a free society.
“This commission here will yield money enough to buy me food and other necessities for a month, and I don’t live on a low standard. I love fine food and some people say I’m a better cook than a taylor. I don’t care, because I do all my cooking for the fun of it and the taylor job to be able to afford it. One or two commissions like this a week, and can’t help getting richer.
“On the other hand, I don’t spend all my time waiting for clients or cooking. Not even love-making is an occupation which keeps me busy for the entire time left. So I can muse on more creative things as writing poetry or music or build up my own little flax plantation. Which, of course, will be profitable one day and help me get richer.
“This happens, of course only when there’s nobody to steal your income. Another thing I spend much time on is shooting. Last year’s war was the eye-opener for me. I had no real shooting experience, so I was almost at a loss, when the Terrans invaded Kemper. Well, we got rid of the bastards, but I realized that freedom is never a given thing but must be maintained and exercised all day long, each and every day anew. Now I can hit a beer can at 500 yards with my new rifle and flying targets with my pistol.
“Another funny thing: I discovered that to train my shooting skills is just pure fun.”
“Did you fight in the war?”
“Of course I did. I don’t think I am a hero, but at least I shot some of the invaders to pieces – not with a rifle I couldn’t handle then, but with missiles I fired at some tanks. The went up in blazes, just like they deserved.”
“Nobody seems to have any pity for those poor wretches.”
“Why? They were the aggressors and that’s how they were treated. Most were conscripts who were stupid enough to fight for a government, some were mercenaries who risk their lives for money. Both got what they paid for.”
I found some shiorts in the display I liked. She seemed to guess what I was looking for.
“Good choice. Cotton from a free world, one SC a piece. Taylor-made, of course.”
“Don’t you sell anything from stock?”
“Why should I? Costs nothing but money. You’ll have to wait a few hours for your things, but I guarantee that they’ll fit like a second skin. Your entire commission will be ready within five hours from now, the first of your trousers are already in the sewing machine. Next time, you’ll call me via ‘com and you’ll find whatever you want ready as son as you’re here. What’s bad with that?”
“Well, it sounds convenient for everyone.”
“Did you ever buy something prefabricated what really fit you?”
“At least I was content, but as an afterthought, there were more often than not wishes left unfulfilled.”
“Wait till you try your new clothes.”

I bear no hate against a living thing I just love my freedom all above the King


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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2007, 06:58:45 am »

Yay!!!   I've been wanting to read more from this.  Great work Rick!
If I had known that these days would have changed my life - I would have dressed better.   ~ me

No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.  ~ Judge Gideon J. Tucker

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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2007, 07:37:05 am »

I still owe you some proof reads on the last batch... and I'm still working on a way to get the suggestions on the pages to e-mail (so much easier to just write in the margins and send them back, I had that done the first day) Really need to get my but in gear on that... Glad to see more from you on the Mounty!
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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2007, 06:10:12 pm »

Yeehaw, more Mounty!


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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2007, 04:11:57 pm »

XV. Home Is Where My Coat Hangs

“Will your shop still be open in five hours or so?” Jack seemed to have an idea.
“Not really. When you folks came, I was about to call it a day. Arlette is giving a dinner tonight, I think I’d better not miss.”
“So we’ll be back tomorrow, we’re going to have guests tonight as well.”
“Give me a call that his things will be ready. Have a good time, folks!”
A brief greeting and we set off in Jack’s hover.
“I think you got a good start here, Ian. The way you’re working, you’re going to be well-established before a standard year has gone by.”
“You think it’s time to find a place to hang up my coat.”
“Sort of. I think you might want some place of your own. Tonight, some folks will be with us where you might find an opportunity or two. The way you’re working, your ploughboy days are numbered, you’ve done almost more than I will be able to handle in the foreseeable future. Now get it tilled and the grass sown, all that must happen is that the grass starts growing. Nothing left for you to do till my first cattle will be imported.
“And, by the way, some of the people you’re going to meet tonight are quite interesting considering the original purpose of your mission here.”
“I think I got laid off really dramatically...”
“Sure, but aren’t you curious about what happened?”
“Guilty as charged.” I gave him a broad grin.
“So whom will I be introduced to?”
“Sean Corrigan, who deals with everything, Máiréad NiDugain, who actually did some good work in the war and Lois Pendred, her best friend. Might give you a mouthful, the ladies…”
“Anyway, I’m as hungry as if I had actually been working all day…”
“The only right answer to give. Andrea has no sympathies for folks who refuse her food.”
“She’s a good cook, how come she’s not yet married?”
“You’d better not ask her. One reason for her returning to daddy’s farm was that she seems to have had some bad experience with a guy. Won’t take too long, I hope, but I’m going to miss her way of cooking.”
   It did not take long till we arrived at the farm, just in time to watch nightfall.
Dusk was something to write home about. The small sun was a tiny speck of incandescence just above the horizon, but the entire western sky was dyed in red, purple and blue, although no cloud obscured the sky. Far away, a tiny, rapidly evaporating contrail showed that this planet was inhabited by an air-faring civilization.
“See that stripe, Ian? I think we’re getting a delivery tonight.”
“Delivery of what?”
“About two cubic miles of water, collected in our Oorth Cloud, packed into a few dozen 500-feet plastic bags and hauled down by some clever guy who has realized that water is a scarce good on Kemper. Tara got off much better, but we’re keeping up. Every other year or so, some of these deliveries fill up our thirsty deserts. Fun to watch, and some day it might rain every once in a while.”
“Wow! Who’s paying for it?”
“You’re getting used to our way of thinking, Ian, congratulations! A couple of farmers and planters who think that they might use some more water are basically financing the project from their own pockets – and lots of folks are donating money, because they think, self-sufficiency might be a good thing.
“That’s the reason why we’re going to see a nice show tonight. The plane above is clearing the sky to make sure no-one gets hurt.”
“When will they enter the atmosphere?”
“Let’s check,” he hacked some keys, “About two hours thirty-nine minutes from now. We’ll be entertained just after dinner. How convenient!”
He entered the descent to his farm and made another smooth landing right in front of the barn.
We brushed the dust off and walked around the house, where a table, already laid, was waiting for us. Andrea stood there, vividly talking with two girls who did not seem to be much older than she was.
“Hi Jack! Punctual for a change, Hi Ian!” She must have eyes in the back of her head, I thought, then I saw our mirror images in the large window panes of the great living room.
She turned to us, gave us a bright smile and started to introduce me to the two girls. One, I found, was holding an apparently new-born baby in her arms.
“Ian, This ravishing young lady is Máiréad, with her little bugger called Rory, and the handsome handmaiden here is Lois. They’re here to enjoy some good food and your company. Corrigan is late but still alive, he’s on some urgent business – as usual.”
Máiréad was a 5’2” hazel–eyed brunette with a charming smile and a slender figure, clad in Jeans and tee-shirt, like everybody else here with the exception of Lois. She was somewhat more sinuous, had coal black hair and bright blue eyes, wearing a long gown made of an almost transparent fabric.
   Both greeted me with a friendly smile, and then Andrea invited us to take our seats around the table.
“Native praties from Kemper, the beef is from Tara, so I think it is ok to call this home grown dope. Even the beer is from Tara, so I hope you’ll all feel at home!”
Máiréad stuck to tea, but we others enjoyed the strong taste of stout beer. Her junior was sleeping in her arms.
“Máiréad, I think you should tell your story to Ian, he is really interested to learn about the war and those who participated at the front.”
“Andrea, I am no such thing as a front veteran, but well, if you insist on me telling the story, well:
“The very morning when the attack took place, my husband Rory and I went to the morning sermon in the cathedral. We both were thinking, then, that some prayer might help.
“When those idiots ignited their blasted nukes, the EMP was caught by the long cables which held the candelabra high under the chathedral’s ceiling. The cables started to glow and burned off, and the big candelabra came down on the crowd. Couple of people were killed, among them my husband Rory, just besides me. No mistaking, he was killed on the spot. I only remember that I held him in my arms when the rescue teams arrived. Nothing left to rescue, for me. I was utterly unhurt, he was dead, merely a few inches away from me.
“I don’t know how I spent the next few days, seems, some friends took care of me with the help of some doctor, who sent me into some sort of hypnotic coma. When I came back to my senses, a few days had passed and I was still not quite able to grasp what had happened. Some folks had taken care of the dead, the rest hat taken to the forests and to underground facilities.
“After almost a week, I could act on my own again, and I was mad as hell when I realized that Rory was dead and gone forever. He was only twenty-one standard years old, as I am now. I was that mad, that I was willing to run the invaders down with nothing but bare hands. It was Lois here, who talked me into joining a machine gun squad for the final assault. I shot, she provided me with ammo belts. When we stormed the wall crown, we found a good place and I only remember that at some time we no longer had ammo and Lois would not give me more.”
“Hell, no.” Lois shuddered. “You were too mad to realize that we had the Browning Malfunction #2: no more targets to shoot at. You had fired five complete belts of ammo into the crowd of hapless invaders, killing as many as 250, as some wiseguy has calculated afterwards.
“You wouldn’t notice, though. You were absolutely absent-minded with a look in your face I never had thought possible in a human face. I hope, I’ll never see that sort of a look again in my life. You plowed through the soldiers like a sickle through weeds. Whatever you looked at fell, what fell, never rose again.
“Luckily, we had to get a new belt when the signal for a cease-fire came. When I looked at the former Army camp, I could see no-one standing, most wouldn’t move ever again, a few lay groaning on the ground and two or three were sitting in the dirt, hands up, shit out. They were done. Where our range was, nobody was left alive. Mostly due to our motivated markswoman here. It took her quite a time to accept that there was still ammo, but no-one left to shoot at.”
“No, really, I can’t remember much of that. I only had the urge to kill as many of these murderers as possible and I still see no reason not to do this.
“I don’t believe in revenge or vendetta, but I think, when the dearest being I had in my life is murdered by some foreign thugs, I have the right to retaliate and prevent them from killing more of my friends and neighbors.
“Not until two weeks later I discovered that Rory, in the very last night of his life, has given life to his only son, his son, he will never see and who will never know his daddy and who will never know his daddy’s pride and love.
“He was born exactly nine months after the war.”
“Why did so many women fight in this war? Where were the men?”
“Well, Ian” Jack replied, “We were fighting as well. We just couldn’t keep the ladies from joining. I was part of an assault team. We rounded up the invaders and shoved them into their camp where we could easily shoot them to pieces. Before that, I helped to trash a couple of armored cars with RPGs. We gave them no rest, no space to run to and no time to reorganize. Once their garrison was destroyed, they ran amuck like beheaded chicken.
“What those folks would never realize is that we don’t need much leadership or organization to defend our homes and lives. Pissed as we were, we didn’t need any external motivation, too.
“Nobody had to issue orders, only ask for assistance. We all had been piling up weapons for quite a time, after we got word of some foul play on Earth some five years ago. Everyone for himself, some sponsoring greater ventures, but nothing was centralized. Nobody cared for what his neighbors were doing, so intelligence was not able to infiltrate our organizations – there weren’t any.”
“Now, between two war stories, folks, why don’t you try some of my steaks, I didn’t cook them for show!” Andrea was not really eager to let the steaks get cold.
I tried, they were perfect. Too good to let them be spoiled.

I bear no hate against a living thing I just love my freedom all above the King


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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2007, 05:05:19 pm »

Soon the group fell silent. Funny, good food kills any discussion.
Finally, when the discussion just started to become more lively, Sean Corrigan arrived. He introduced himself as Kemper’s busiest second hander, a man of medium stature with a friendly smile and crew cut hair.
“Mr. Kermarec, as I have heard, you are a policeman, sort of…”
“Sort of, on sort of a leave of absence, as far as I understand it.”
“Well, I think you might be the one to ask, I have found a dead body in one of the houses I have the honor to sell, might be worth investigating.”
“Which house?” Jack asked.
“The old barn at Monadnock valley, where the German hermit was living.”
“What happened to him?”
“I have no idea, but when I looked at the house today, I found the doors and windows open, and a body in the kitchen.”
“Any idea who might have been that? And – are you sure it’s a corpse?”
“Well, the remainders are rather decomposed, just clothes and bones, and not much left to recognize…
“To be honest, I didn’t dare to touch anything, but I am sure that person needs no medical help and has not needed for quite a while.”
“Well, are you still hungry? I have some steaks who’d better not decompose.” Andrea was not the impatient type, with the exception of cooking, I thought.
“Not really, after what I saw there. Mr. Kermarec, would you help me and do whatever you can to find out what happened there?”
“I am not exactly an expert in forensics, but I will do my best.”
“Thank you. Let us depart before it is night.”
He led me to a small helicopter-plane hybrid, which looked frail and not too trustworthy to me.

XVI. Riders In The Sky

“You don’t think too much of this contraption?” Me must have noticed my skeptical look.
“Looks as frail as an elf wing, but is made of carbon fiber and special polymer fabrics which can take more stress than most metals – and weighs next to nothing. Before I bought this thing, I had exactly the same look in my face. After the dealer doing some aerobatic with this plane, which I would have considered impossible until I saw them, I bought the thing without asking for the price – which was, by the way, quite reasonable.”
He opened the cockpit and let me take the co-pilot’s seat. The thing was called a “Rotodyne”. The rotor was propelled by small jets at the tips during takeoff and would run idle during level flight, when the main engine would take over. Short wings would provide uplift. The entire thing did not give me much confidence. VTOL properties made it practical in urban areas, though.
“I think, this device will never win a beauty contest, nor will I. So what.” He pushed the throttle to open and the thing took off. A fair distance above ground the main engine coughed itself into life. A real antique rotary engine, apparently thoroughly modernized.
“Guzzles pure hydrogen, as the rotor jets do. That entire engine is made mostly of carbon and assorted ceramics, it’s lighter than the bloody crankshaft of a conventional engine. Only funny thing is that I have to trim it to port, thanks to the clockwise running rotor. But I got used to that.”
“Where do you get the hydrogen from?”
“Mostly homebrew, I have photovoltaic elements all over house and garden, even on the wings here. Could use my fusion reactor as well, but I would have to buy a larger one. Water’s free.”
“Even that which is going to be delivered tonight?”
“Even that. They don’t explore the Oorth Cloud just for water. That’s sort of windfall. What’s done there is mining for heavy metals, and that’s the real business there. The boys up there just don’t like to throw things away once they have ‘em. So they collect what they don’t use and send their excess water down here. TANSTAAFL is still valid here. Without the mining we would not get any additional water. By the way, nobody asked them to send it, they thought it might be a good way to advertise their business – and it was.
“Lookitthis, I was pretty sure your female company would not sit at home and wait for the dishwasher to do the cleanup. There they are!”
He pointed town to two dust clouds which were speeding in the same general direction as we were.
The ‘com beeped.
“Lois here. You guys think you’ll get all the fun for free?”
“We’ll leave enough for you. You’ll see, it’s plenty space left to decorate with your meals…”
“I think you’ll get the surprise you deserve. To make sure, we called for a doc, maybe some scientific assistance could be handy.”
“Whom did you call?”
“Emanzadeh. He has retired from practice, but with patients who can’t defend themselves any more he is quite good. At least he found the reasons for the bloody disease three years ago.”
“He is a good physician,” Sean turned to me. “Some seventy-odd years old, but still in good shape. He gave up his practice in order to write a couple of books about medical things on freshly colonized planets. Makes more money with the books than with his business, as far as I have heard. He was not much of a businessman, treating people for free, when they came to him with some exotic diseases. His treatment was good, though, and he never helped any assailant.
“It wasn’t until he closed his office, that I learned that he had been doing much research before and he was regarded an authority among scientists long before he came to Kemper.”
“Might be the man to call…”
“I think so.”
Sean pointed to the left: “See these tiny lights above, we’re getting water.”
Two incandescent specks of light were rapidly growing larger and brighter in the distance. A wink before the light got too bright to look into, both exploded in a white cloud. Several seconds later, the plane was gently rocked by the shockwave.
“WOW! I’d never thought you could feel the bang.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Don’t think so. The mining company has security personnel in the air, they’re scanning the entire volume of the landing vector before they let this happen. A gentle bump only increases the excitement. Most of the water will vaporize anyway before it touches the ground. Takes a while to get rid of the heat. We’ll see a few clouds more during the next few days and sometimes we’ll find a little more dew on our fields.” Sean was quite enthusiastic. “One day we’ll have as much water as Earth has.”
“Another reason to take Kemper away from you…”
“Funny that you might mention this. I am afraid they’ll come back, one day or another…”
“Might be, but as far as I see it, you are now much better prepared than you were last year, and the next attempt to steal your property might be more suicidal as the first.”
“I have bought half a ton of explosives and a few machine guns since the invasion. My shooting skills have improved and I think, that has been happening all over Tara and Kemper. Even IST has learnt a few things – they no longer transport armed military vessels.”
“That will make it much more expensive to attack another world – but it makes it less public at the same time.”
“Sure as hell, but these assholes could not pay their bills without the loot we denied them. After eight days, they were not only defeated but bankrupt as well. They have played va banque and lost. I don’t think that’s an example others might follow easily.”
“Well, all those petty dictators think of themselves as the only real man, they can’t imagine that they’ll screw up as all the others before them. Neither Napoleon nor Hitler nor, what was the name of that bitch, Hillary Klingon, would. They made the same mistake as their predecessors. They thought they were some ghod or so. Can’t happen here.”
“All superhumans here?”
“Nope, all armed. I can’t believe that a dictator would live long enough to collect his first tax penny.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Well, basically, these folks here have enough bad experience to know that government is a disease like plague or smallpox, only deadlier. The second thing is, these folks here have created their own little world. Literally. It’s still in process, and you can watch it. It’s happening all around you. They take an uninhabited and useless world and give it a purpose. They conquer no-man’s land and make it their own, after thousands of years of slavery, they build their own, free lives. What do you think, can anyone estimate what it takes to build a farm from scratch? To cultivate a desert planet?
“I think, you’re going to find out the hard way. That’s why I wanted to contact you in the first place. This guy, we’re going to pay a post-mortem – visit, had placed an ad about two years ago, that he was interested in selling his property. He would not tell me why, and I would not ask, but I think he was feeling that his days were numbered. I would not be too surprised if he had committed suicide.
“I liked him, sure, but no-one could really get through to him. He was nice, friendly, and everyone who came to his farm would be received with a warm welcome, but I never got to be his friend. And I think, I was the person who had the most intense contact to him. He once told me that I was his most frequent visitor. That was after we had not seen each other for almost two years.”
“Funny guy…”
“As sure as hell he was somewhat peculiar. But he never disturbed anyone else’s peace. In point of fact, most folks who knew him liked him. He just wasn’t the man for Bierzelt speeches.”
As we were speaking, Sean pushed the nose of his vessel down into a landing descent. Soon, we were hovering over a barnyard and came to a halt before we touched the ground. All in all, this contraption was not too bad altogether.
When the dust had been repelled, we left the plane and approached the house. It seemed undisturbed.
Sean led me to the kitchen door, and from its window, I could see a crumpled body, stretched out on the kitchen floor. Apparently, he had fallen down unexpectedly. The door showed no trace of forced entry, neither did any window. The front door was locked, as usual here on Kemper, where front doors were never used for invited guests. The lock was corroded and had apparently not been used for a long time. No scratches, no signs of use at all.
I looked at the window frames, all in pristine condition.
I asked Sean if we might examine the other buildings, before we would take care of the body and he agreed. There were two barns, one entirely empty, one with the usual assembly of farming equipment and a giant pile of stones.

I bear no hate against a living thing I just love my freedom all above the King


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Re: Mounty astray, more of that
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2007, 09:07:07 pm »

More good stuff  :)  Love this line: 
know that government is a disease like plague or smallpox, only deadlier
If I had known that these days would have changed my life - I would have dressed better.   ~ me

No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.  ~ Judge Gideon J. Tucker
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