Authors: Rod Carstens
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Military, #Space Marine, #Space Opera
This is a work of fiction.
All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright 2015 by Roger C. Huder
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Read other Rod Carstens books:
Blood War Books
Last of the Legion: Rift
Marine Raiders: Strike Back
Free Fire Zone Series
Free Fire Zone
Stand Alone Books
Rigel Kent System
City of Taschen
First Circuit Court
People v. Dieter Fenes
POST-UNIFICATION YEAR 96
“Bring in the next case,” the judge ordered.
“Your Honor, the next case is
People v. Dieter Fenes
. Failure to pay debts.”
Dieter was led into the courtroom by two huge, black-uniformed Von Fleet Corporation security guards. He shuffled in struggling against the electronic chains on his ankles that were linked to the cuffs around his wrists and a chain that wrapped around his waist. Dieter groaned as he received a shock from the cuffs on his ankles when he took too large a step. He was dressed in a black jumpsuit three sizes too big that had “DEBTOR” stenciled across the back.
Dieter was shaking with fear and disbelief. He had been sitting comfortably in his tiny rental container less than twenty-four hours ago, enjoying a binge of his favorite shows. Yes, he was out of work, but Von Fleet had eliminated his job category. His family hadn’t been able to afford an education, but he’d worked at almost any job he could while he waited on the Von Fleet list. When his name came up, he scored well and got hired on by the corporation. Yeah, it was a shit job that anybody could do, but it was his. He worked hard, was always on time, and did as he was told. He was able to rent this tiny container that was only big enough for a bunk, bathroom, and his computer, but he was better off than a lot of people. The Rigel Kent system had the best jobs and opportunities for people with his lack of education and skills. He’d made the Von Fleet list for training for a new position. He had a spotless work record and fully expected to be reclassified for a new job. It was only a matter of time before he was rehired, so he was taking advantage of the time off to binge watch his favorite shows and catch up with some friends. He had worked for Von Fleet for five years.
Then last night, at midnight, a pair of VF security goons had crashed through his door and stunned him into unconsciousness. He woke up in the back of a truck with several other men. They were all hog-tied with gags in their mouths.
The truck stopped. The security guards grabbed each of the men in the back of the truck and carried them one by one into a holding cage. Once they were lined up on the floor side by side, the guard began to turn off their bindings. The first prisoner to have his gag removed and his bindings removed jumped to his feet and said, “What the fuck is going—”
That was as far as he got before the guard hit him across the face with his bludgeon. He dropped like a stone to the floor. The other guard, who had been standing to the side with a stun gun aimed at them, stunned him for good measure. The guards laughed as he bounced on the floor from thousands of volts coursing through his body.
“Anybody else want to get cute? Please, I’m begging you. I want to see someone else do the chicken,” the guard with the stun gun said with a smile on his cruel face.
One of the guards turned off Dieter’s bindings and pulled his gag out of his mouth. The guard motioned for him to move into a cage against the wall. When Dieter tried to stand, his legs gave way, and he stumbled. The big guard grabbed him and threw him into the cage so hard he bounced against the wall. Soon the cage was filled with the rest of the prisoners from the truck. They were photographed, had their DNA taken, were strip-searched, and had their mouths and anuses probed before they were cleaned by a fire hose. Then they were thrown into individual cells. If anyone tried to speak they were beaten and stunned. Dieter kept his mouth shut. In his cold, dark cell he kept thinking that this was some kind of nightmare and he would wake up soon. He had almost convinced himself that it was until the screams from two cells down snapped him back into reality.
“No, no! Please, no,” a prisoner begged.
“I was told we had a pretty one. They weren’t lying,” one of the guards said.
Dieter couldn’t see anything. He could only hear what was going on in the cell. There was the sound of scuffling.
“Don’t fight so hard, boy, we’ll go easier on you.”
“No, no! Don’t, please,” the prisoner begged.
“He’s got a cute little voice. Hold still just long enough, I’ll see if I can make you reach for some high notes.…”
The unseen prisoner screamed.
They both laughed and the young man cried. From the sounds it slowly dawned on Dieter that the guards were taking turns raping him. When they finished, they walked past his cell, smug looks on their faces. Von Fleet guards were a type, almost interchangeable. Uniformly big, with huge, chemically enhanced muscles, hair cropped short, and mean faces. Dieter had heard that Von Fleet engineered them that way. What family would let their son become part of the most hated group in the corporation?
“Serves him right, the little fuck. All he had to do was pay his debts and he wouldn’t be in here,” one said with a smirk.
Dieter crawled into the back of his cell and put his back to the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest, praying he wouldn’t be next. They did not come for him. He eventually fell into an exhausted sleep. He was awakened by his cell door being opened.
“Get up, Fenes.”
“No, no, please,” Dieter begged.
One of the guards reached down and jerked him to his feet with one hand as if he weighed nothing. He slammed Dieter face-first against the wall and held him there while the other guard put the ankle and wrist electronic shackles on him. They led him down a long corridor lined with cells. They reached a large door, and one of the guards slid his ID card through the security scanner. When the door opened they pushed him into a room. A bored, fat old man with white hair sat behind a raised bench with the Confederation and Von Fleet flags on either side of his comfortable chair. The Seal of the Chava hung on the wall between the two flags, and below the seal an ornate sign read Debtors’ Court. A female clerk of the court with a blank look on her face was sitting to the judge’s left at a computer panel recording the video and audio. A display floated in front of the judge. He was touching it, moving information around, when one of the guards spoke.
“Your Honor, this is prisoner number 1452, Dieter Fenes. The charges are failure to pay his debts, unemployment, and general poverty,” the biggest guard said, reading off his pad. He was one of the guards who had raped the prisoner last night.
The judge opened a new folder on his display then looked down at Dieter, his face a bored mask, as if this were the hundredth case today.
“How do you plead to these charges, 1452?”
“I’m innocent, Your Honor,” Dieter said.
“Don’t insult me, 1452,” the judge said. Then he nodded to the guards.
The guard who had raped the other prisoner punched Dieter in the stomach so hard he doubled over with pain, and he was shocked by the electronic chains. Before he collapsed from the pain a guard grabbed Dieter by the collar and jerked him upright. He got another shock that jerked him. The guard knew he was getting shocked and only smiled.
“Here is exhibit one, Your Honor,” the clerk of the court said. She put up a display that floated in the middle of the courtroom that showed Dieter’s bank account. Dieter’s debts to Von Fleet were displayed in red. It showed what he owed them for food, housing, medical care, entertainment, and education.
“Are these your debts or are they not?” the judge asked.
“Yes, Your Honor, they are. I live in a Von Fleet town and naturally have those debts, but Von Fleet eliminated my job. I’ve always paid my payments on time. I am not near the debtor limit. So I still have time to repay. I am on the list for—”
The judge nodded and the guard punched Dieter in the stomach again. Dieter arched back as the electronic chains shocked him. This time when the guard jerked him up, he whispered into his ear. “We can play all night if you keep this up.”
The judge no longer looked bored. Instead he looked mad. Being poor in Rigel Kent was the worst thing you could be. It was your own fault, everyone knew that. All you had to do was work hard. The judge frowned and said, “None of that matters. Your debts have exceeded the legal limit. As you know once they exceed that limit you become an illegal debtor under the Chava Federal Statue 2017.”
Dieter saw the limit had been dropped in the display and that he was well past what was considered the new legal amount of debt.
“But, Your Honor, I didn’t know the debt limit had been lowered.”
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It’s up to each citizen to know and understand the laws, especially the debtor laws. The Confederation is at war, in case you haven’t watched the news, and it needs all of its citizens to work hard and contribute. The debt limit has been lowered as an incentive for the lazy of our society to contribute during these dangerous times. It does not matter that you are on some list for retraining or a new job. Your debts are due now. Do you have the means to pay these debts?”
Before he could answer, the blank-faced woman court clerk put up a display of his bank account. It showed he had less than a hundred Von Fleet credits, but he now owed Von Fleet over a thousand according to the ledger. In addition to lowering the debit limit, Von Fleet had raised the rent on his container without telling him. So his debt had shot up almost overnight.
“No, Your Honor. But—”
One more time the judge nodded. The guard hit him so hard he crumpled to the floor gasping for breath, the electronic chains shocking his wrists, ankles and waist.
“Pick him up,” the judge said with disgust.
Each grabbing an arm, the guards stood Dieter up. They had to help him stand. Dieter was coughing and each time he took a breath he felt a stabbing pain in his side. He thought they might have broken a rib.
“A ‘no’ was all I wanted from you, 1452. I hereby sentence you to debtors’ prison until you have paid off your debt to Von Fleet and again become a contributing member to the Confederation and the Von Fleet Corporation.”
Dieter’s stomach tightened with fear. Everyone knew that once you went to debtors’ prison you never worked your debt off. You died in those prisons.
Before he could react to his sentence, the judge said, “But you are very lucky, 1452. A loyal and patriotic member of the Confederation has paid off your debt, and as an additional act of patriotism has paid a sum equal to your yearly salary.”
The Rigel Kent system was raising an army to assist in the defense of the Confederation. There was a draft of sorts, but he knew no one who had been called up. He had seen on the news that some of the rich were showing their patriotism by joining, then paying for someone to take their place. He’d had no idea where those “volunteers” came from until now. A holo of a man suddenly floated in front of him. He had the handsome, soft face of all the rich.
“Yes, 1452. Mr. Berud Ptakos, a vice president for Von Fleet and a true patriot, has paid your debt. The year’s salary he paid for you will cover the cost of your military training.”
Dieter knew him. He was the vice president in charge of Dieter’s section at Von Fleet. He had been the one who had eliminated his job.
“So, Dieter Fenes, I now sentence you to penal battalion 107. Your sentence begins immediately. You will serve for the duration of the war. You can thank Mr. Ptakos for allowing you to serve the Confederation in his stead as opposed to facing a debtors’ prison sentence. Mr. Ptakos is a great patriot to pay so much for someone like yourself. Take him away.”
Penal battalion? Military training? As they dragged Dieter back to his cell, his head swam with his new reality.
City State of New York
General Dasan Sand stared out at the City State of New York from three thousand feet and was astounded. All the way to the horizon, the surface was a carpet of lights. Buildings of all sizes and shapes rose out of them. Some soared thousands of feet into the night sky, towering spirals reaching impossible heights. Others were huge pyramids almost a mile at their bases, looking like luminous mountains in the middle of a city. Here for anyone to see was the power of the Confederation lit up as if for a show. New York was the capital of the Confederation. It represented the billions of humans spread through thousands of planets across the galaxy. As a symbol it did not disappoint.
Dasan had been to many worlds throughout the Confederation in his service in the Legion and now the marines, but nothing he had ever seen could come close to the spectacle of this vast city spread out beneath him. It was the crown jewel of the human race. All of its power and wealth were on display. Despite the effect it had on him, he knew the imminent threat that hung over this city and the Confederation, threatening their very existence.