Criticality (4): Lawlessness, the Unwritten Rules
The Second Earth Special Police Force Base
Since taking over the aviation industry, the Space Force had done wonders with regards to convenience without jeopardizing security. Voluntary Declaration was at the root of the legendary turnaround of a previously privatized industry that was oftentimes fraught with confusion, inefficiencies, and late arrivals. Although the privacy advocates were up in arms with the requirement of this newly-imposed regulation, even they had to admit that this cut down on uncomfortable search and seizures that often ended in frustration and passengers having to pour out various different toiletries that were far from cheap.
The gist of Voluntary Declaration was that a passenger could bring anything on a flight as long as it was declared beforehand on a supplied electronic manifest that could be uploaded online to the Space Force’s flight logs where a flight plan could be prepared based upon the inventory demands. Anything meant anything – guns, swords, and baby formula larger than three ounces all counted. Once declared, that was it. If the ‘declaration’ and the ‘actual’ created some sort of a mismatch during scanning, jail time was the rule, not the exception. Because of that, passengers were incented to travel lightly. The extra undershirt could land a person an all expenses paid trip to Planet Exile.
There was no beating the scanners. Explosive materials and combinable substances were detected at a molecular level. There was no possibility of future detonation because two plus two equalled execution on sight. Devices like bombs were laughably impossible to sneak on board because of the due diligence done ahead of time to stop it at the furthest gates of the space ports. Funny business was not even given the opportunity to come onto the property let alone board a shuttle.
From a convenience standpoint, everything was booked online in real time. Flights were never delayed because of vertical take-off capabilities and planet-wide heated road systems that literally eliminated the two biggest problems to ever be associated with aviation: the takeoff and the landing. Simple tweaks like that increased consumer confidence and gave other forms of public transportation a serious run for their money.
All of this still did not stop Julian from trying to find the cheapest flight to Earth he could from his desk’s computer. He and Pete could technically be afforded Air Marshall status and receive a serious discount – a perk of being members of the Police Force. Unfortunately, they wanted to fly incognito rather than overtly announcing their plans to fellow travelers – any one of whom could tip off prospective enemies to their arrival. Strangely enough, nothing was available because of recently imposed travel restrictions putting a temporary freeze on flights too and from the Terran System.
“Anything?” Pete asked as he sat on top of the desk with his left leg pointed to the ground and his trench coat draping off of the side.
“Weirdest thing I ever saw,” Julian answered while shaking his head to visibly illustrate his puzzlement, “so I’m not exactly sure what all is going on with Earth.”
“Pete, Julian,” Commissioner Gyro greeted as he walked past the desk with Murk and Chico following close behind, “can you two please meet me in my office? I’d like to get some introductions out of the way while we all appear to be working a similar shift this morning.”
Pushing down from the desktop, Pete straightened his trench coat and walked inside of the door held open by the Commissioner. Julian needed a brief moment before getting up to save his place in the virtual line of the Space Force’s ‘First In First Out” allocation status system should some sort of flight to Earth become available.
After Julian made his way inside of the office, Commissioner Gyro let the door swing close and commenced formal introductions, “It’s fairly obvious that you know two of my officers from their files, but my people precede the myths. Pete Rogue and Julian Kazar, please meet Space Force operatives Murk Wreosir and Chico O’Reilly. The Second Earth Special Police Force and the Space Force are going to be working more closely together from here on out in preparation of Leader 1: Jerry Stuyvescent’s impending arrival to the planet’s surface.”
Handshakes were exchanged, but there were not enough chairs, so this impromptu meeting was set to be standing room only for everybody except the Commissioner, Murk, and Chico. Pete nor Julian made much out of it conceding the seating to their superior and their honored guests.
Commissioner Gyro made his way behind the desk and sat down to boot up his computer for the morning. He was actually pleased with the respect each side was showing the other in light of the recent ploy irresponsibly perpetrated by the Space Force out at one of the Ennead satellite offices. Dwelling on the past would certainly not benefit anybody there especially since his position on the previous debacle was made clear.
Not many realized that the Commissioner held a lot of power because he so wisely never flaunted it and did his best to share it with those most loyal to him. His sheer amount of connections exacerbating by the size of his network from Earth to Second Earth was unreal but almost assuredly what propelled him into such a high profile position as the head of the Police Force. Even enemies respected his stature as law and played their position out of the vigilance of his steely-eyed resolve.
“I’m man enough to apologize for the Ennead situation,” Murk admitted, “but to our credit, we studied umpteen amounts of files and had no doubt that you would pull through the exercise as successfully as you had.”
Pete shrugged, “A little extravagant, but okay.”
“Had to be,” Chico said as he divvied up a set of manila folders between Pete and Julian keeping an additional stack of two more for himself. “It’s not everyday that we bestow upon a civilian the very Space Force clout that we have long since taken for granted.”
That sounded interesting, so Julian probed further about the bottom line, “Meaning what exactly?”
“Yourselves,” Commissioner Gyro explained, “and select other officers have been given the jurisdictional authorization of the Space Force for the purposes of protecting Leader 1. You are no longer bound by Police Force protocols as far as authorizations and justifications are concerned. The others of your comrades were hand-selected by me and given similar powers upon my recommendation so as to not have them be subjected to the same trial of death you both had to endure.”
Murk concurred, “Yes, it wasn’t our intent to incur the ire of the Commissioner any further than we already had – especially this early in the proceedings, so we waved the ensuing trials for the rest of your counterparts upon his endorsement.”
Chico added, “We’ve got to start working together to pull this security effort together successfully, and I believe we made our point as surely as Commissioner Gyro made his.”
Being much more receptive than Pete, Julian was the one to ask the next question, “Would this be why all flights from Second Earth to Earth and vice versa have been canceled at your level?”
“That’s a complicated situation,” Murk explained, “but in so many words, yes. We did not want to further introduce additional uncontrollable variables into the security equation, so it’s best to tackle one challenge at a time.”
Almost on a receptive queue, the Commissioner sat up in his chair with left hand caressing right fist – both in front of his lips as he leaned forward pensively. The complex situation was at the root of this shift in seat position as he began to stare a hole through the heads of Murk and Chico who had not yet noticed his newly captive attention. It would be important to get the rest of the information out of them because severing contact with Earth, although extremely thorough, meant that there was more to this story than the Space Force operatives were willing to or capable of divulging.
“Needless to say,” Chico said, “we’re looking forward to the positive results of this joint operation – hopefully the first of many. Murk and I will be sticking around for a while to get everybody up to speed on what we believe will suit you best in the education department. But we’re not here to do all of the talking. Certainly, we’d like to learn more about your various competencies and see how they can possibly fit to better enhance the strength of this new relationship.”
All Pete had heard was that he no longer needed any sort of warrants and tuned out on all of the rest of this conversation. His mind was already contemplating how he could put the unrestricted powers to use in a practical sense.
A hardman flew into, collided with, and crumpled from the face first impact with the plate glass window that held the lettering of the bar’s logo and hours of operation. His body collapsed to the floor taking out a chair, pulling a table over with him, and dropping his gun somewhere in-between. Covered in previously delectable food, various condiments, and eating utensils, he was not about to get back up of his own accord any time soon.
Pete was simply going down the list of people who wanted him dead. If he could not get to Earth to retrieve the files on who had hired Retsepar to take him out, he would bring it to the culprits he felt could possibly have been most responsible. The first stop on that list was to deal with Lil Tiny Palatine – a mob boss who had been groomed and seasoned from an early age to take over the family business to which he now currently held the reigns. Their beef had caused significant losses in revenue, the result of a series of embarrassments to the family name which had seen untold members and affiliates indicted or killed.
When the guns came out, Pete promptly ducked behind that overturned table to hopefully weather the storm of bullets. The front window, however, did not last this more rapid fire assault on its marketing causing everything from the glass, to the lettering, to the signage to be blasted out in a explosion of shards and a spark of electrical surges.
“Oh shi-!” Julian screamed out as he involuntarily scooched down in his car seat while instinctively liberating his LUNC from its holster. “I guess he wasn’t going in there for lunch. Man, what the fu– are you doing? Come on!”
The trench coat was good for shielding Pete’s unexposed limbs from the desperation forward roll out of the window onto the shattered glass dotting the sidewalk. He sat up with his own LUNC in hand and fired several pulses through the makeshift exit to hold his pursuers at bay. While backing up to the Mustang he leaned himself over the door to allow himself to fall over and inside while still firing – only spinning himself around into a forward-sitting position after Julian had sped off and turned the corner.
Members of the Palatine Triad scurried outside via the window and the front door busting off shots futilely after the speedy car but soon realized the waste of ammunition. Lil Tiny could not have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old, but he was old enough to see that first domino had been tipped over and vindictive enough to allow a chain reaction of wartime proportions until the final domino was to have fallen. That was how things worked retributively until someone became the bigger person – mature enough to pull out a connecting domino, midstream, in an attempt to stop the ensuing carnage. As he stood beaming a fuming eye contact out of the window at Pete and Julian’s escape path, his calm demeanor put forth the opposite portrayal of his furious emotions.
No, Lil Tiny was not a better person to put aside differences or prevent what was about to come and decided to just silently apologize for it now. He expressed audibly, “Get the word out to everybody. Start killing cops.”
The first of which was a Police Force officer posted on the shoulder of a highway perched halfway out of his vehicle with a radar gun. He did not even have a chance to absorb the full-on impact of an SUV veering onto the shoulder and rear-ending his vehicle mercilessly. Thrown into and spiderwebbing the windshield, he also sustained a broken leg, among other injuries, as it got caught between a slamming car door as the two vehicles collided. But that was not sufficient, and the Palatine Triad members jumped out wearing all black and sprayed the car with automatic gunfire before getting back in and speeding away.
The Lenorox Household
Off duty officers got the treatment too.
After an eventful night, Billy was taking a much needed cold shower in order to calm his sensibilities. He had not expected the end result of his date, and that was probably why it happened. As such, he was not in the mood for the silenced bullets which had whizzed through the shower curtain perforating the warm tile wall with an uneasy sound like that of dishes breaking.
Having sensed the attack, Billy was already nimbly perched on the back rim of the shower’s tub where one foot took hold in the soap holder on the back wall and the other traced its way up onto the frosted glass window’s ledge allowing him the chance to propel himself up and over the curtain rod as the bullets showered his position in a horizontal direction. He grabbed hold of the rod pulling the shower curtain over and draping his attackers as they unknowingly continued to pepper the shower with bullets – caught in the moment as well as his disorienting vinyl web.
Billy ripped the curtain rod from its hooks and snapped it over his knee in one fluent motion before twirling the halved rods in his hands, spinning back around, and going to town on his attackers like a drum solo. They were out cold with some unseen yet probably unsightly lumps, so he decided to lay them out in the bottom of the tub with the gentle touch of his roundhouse kick.
Enough of this, Billy had to get to Sylvia and hurried out of the bathroom in a full sprint for her bedroom. There, she sat up with a bedsheet, that had multiple char wounds, covering her forward-facing features. In ascertaining the threat level of the situation, he noticed three bodies laid out from the doorway all the way to her bed.
“The towels are over the toilet or in the closet across the hall,” Sylvia announced in observance of Billy’s lack of decency.
“You sleep with that thing?” Billy questioned in response to Sylvia clutching her LUNC.
Sylvia reached over to pull her phone off of the nighttable before replying, “Are you upset he was my first or jealous because he still shares my bed? Da–it.”
Hearing that from across the hall, Billy asked, “What’s wrong? Other than the obvious, of course.”
“No answer at my partner’s place,” Sylvia answered. It was protocol for partners to keep in touch to keep each other up on events such as these should the other be unfortunate enough to have said events befall upon them. But she was part of a team, and replacing her Ear-To-Mouth Com put her immediately back into the game with all of the real-time information she could handle. Fingering the preset, she contacted the Second Earth Special Police Force Base, “Sec?”
“We know Sylvia,” Sec responded back over in her ear. “It’s like a warzone out there. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Echoing the sentiment, Sylvia replied, “You’ve never seen anything like this?”
By now, Billy had returned to the room with a towel wrapped around his lower extremities. He stepped over bodies quietly and sat on the edge of Sylvia’s bed so as to not disturb her very serious conversation.
“I’m extremely concerned about Vim,” Sylvia stated. “Is there any unit in the area of his home?”
Sec took what seemed to be all of a screen toggle’s worth of time to get the data that Sylvia sought and to not further prolong her agony any more than the milliseconds he had held her interest at bay, he said, “Pete and Julian are closest.”
The Mustang pulled to a stop at the curve outside of Vim’s house. Julian stayed behind surveying the area for snipers. Pete hopped out of the car without the help of the car door which remained closed and he approached with his trench coat concealing his LUNC as frantic innocents were gathering in an attempt to try and piece together what all had just happened.
Vim sat cradling his mom, who he lived with, as she had dropped to her knees screaming hysterically at the sight of her bullet-riddled front of the house. His LUNC was beside them, but barring the aesthetics of the house, they were no more worse for wear.
The Second Earth Special Police Force Base
Pete and Julian were not about to be able to say the same thing as they sat in Commissioner Gyro’s office for what seemed to be almost an hour’s worth of time in not being attended to. This was going to be bad – a big blemish on the record which was already badly smeared because of the rugged cop’s previous antics and unnerving inability to straighten up and fly right. And the good cop must have always (sarcastically) loved it when the partnership was consistently brought down together as a result of the sole actions of the bad cop partner.
In fact, Julian was loving it so much that he had not even said a word to Pete the entire time they were left sitting there. He had not even made so much as any eye contact with the rugged cop as his facial features retained the pursing lips of a frown that was not about to be turned upside down any time soon. His only contentment came from sitting there stewing.
On the other hand, Pete continued to peer over his shoulder through the blinds that covered the windows of the Commissioner’s office to try to gather some sort of visual as to what the hold up was. What he managed to see was best described as a massive meeting of the minds coming out of the large conference room across from this area. Murk and Chico were present. Lil Tiny was there among other various gang and underworld leaders that he happened to recognize. And so was his boss….
After the final pleasantries of the meeting were exchanged and the criminal minds departed, Commissioner Gyro went back in the conference room to speak with Murk and Chico. It was not another fifteen to twenty minutes before they reemerged, and after some additional five minutes of standing around discussing, the Space Force operatives went about the rest of their daily business.
At the moment when the Commissioner finally decided to approach his office, Pete never felt more scared in his life of the ramifications of his actions. Quickly he turned back around in his chair and removed both his badge and LUNC.
Upon entering the room, Commissioner Gyro suggested, “I don’t want your gun or shield.” He closed the door calmly and took a seat behind his desk – in front of the two Police Force officers.
Cautiously, Pete took his items back and sat with some horribly slumping posture up against whatever it was that the Commissioner had to say. His ability to keep his position put his nerves at ease, but his ever calm boss was really starting to freak him out. In any other department, this would mean suspension, expulsion, or incarceration, so if it was to be none of those, the rugged cop had no idea what it could possibly be. A quick peer over at Julian showed that his partner had not budged from the crossed arms and poked out mug staring forward into a heated space with the continued purposes of ignoring him.
“Law enforcement exists at the behest of crime,” Commissioner Gyro began, “and the sooner people admit that, the longer their lifespan tends to become. All we really are is mediators. Sure, we could go against the criminal elements and simply shut things down, but what happens when one of those elements happens to be larger than us? Actually, that question is not all that different than where the crime collective stands today as far as numbers are concerned.
We are badly outnumbered, and those criminal elements put together a mini truce in order to remind us of that fact. I don’t think I need to remind you of how bad this could have gotten. Crime keeps us honest, and we keep crime organized so that there is not mass anarchy. Due process really doesn’t enter into this when you consider the ramifications of not treating a ruthless adversary such as what we face on the daily with their due respect. It allows them the ability to sort out matters amongst themselves in the court of the streets, but when they cross the line, we have our chance to intervene and bring them back into our world. If we cross the line, they no longer have a reason to hold theirs.
You’ve both been given an incredible gift from the Space Force that supersedes most of what I just espoused, but I need my best cops in this with heads level, so this can never happen again. I can’t possibly know what you are going through, but you know I’ve given you the leeway with which to deal with it. Don’t allow your actions to spray out in so many directions causing others to have to suffer the loss you’re feeling. You’re more responsible than that, but I’m disappointed nonetheless.”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Julian could not believe how many of these lectures he had been forced to sit through because of Pete. The Commissioner was disappointed? Well, he was beyond pissed off with the rugged cop’s attitude thus far and really began to wonder whether any of this would ever be applied by his friend to help save their partnership.
Yes, Pete’s loss was devastating, but he was officially bringing everybody down with him, so that selfishness only served to cheapen whatever it was that he had felt for his wife. The rugged cop sat and watched Commissioner Gyro pull open a file cabinet where yet another manila folder was retrieved.
The Commissioner dropped the folder on the desk, stood up, and walked out saying, “I have always had your back. You owe me, Mister Rogue.”
Julian showed another flicker of movement by sitting up to collect the manila folder. He opened it and briefly thumbed through the contents causing the formerly frozen pucker of a facial expression to turn into the dropping of his jaw through his lap and bulging eyes as he was mesmerized into reading the papers more carefully. A left hand of astonishment gripped his forehead as he sat back to relieve the apparent stress of taking in the files’ juicy contents.
“Well, what is it?” Pete inquired.