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CyberWar
September 5th, 2019, 06:49 PM
Former Federation world Adrantis

City of Gavin's Hope

Sometime around year 2630


---

My name is Titus Licinus Severus, but only my closest friends ever call me Titus. Three months ago I graduated from Urban Security Academy on my homeworld Gallahad Tertius. I hoped to be assigned somewhere on my homeworld, but ended up posted in this here dump instead. This is going to be my first day on the beat.

For context, Adrantis used to be a Fed world until the glorious Imperium of Sidhae took it in the name of the eternal Emperor, praised be His name, and for the glory of the Empress, His one true firstborn, who reigns in His name. In itself that would be nothing unusual - the Imperium and the Fed have been at each other's throat for longer than anyone cares to remember, and planets near their border frequently change hands every few years. Most of the time, the military action is minimal, since neither side has any use for lifeless irradiated rocks that planets tend to become when subject to extensive fighting. The way it usually happens is a Sidh legion or two arriving with their naval armadas and dropping a couple orbital strikes on remote military outposts, just as a friendly military way of knocking on the door and announcing themselves. Then they give the human garrison enough time to realize that they are hopelessly outnumbered and about to be thoroughly fucked in every sense of the word if they stick around, pack up their things and evacuate. Our boys might even make some symbolic attacks on them in the process as a matter of courtesy, just enough so that nobody can later say the human troops were cowards who gave up a whole world without firing a shot. Once the humans are gone, our lads will move in and set up an occupation government, usually headed by some Cohortarch who is too much of a fuck-up to be let anywhere near actual military operations but still does a decent-enough job at management and organization. Congratulations on job well-done, the Imperium has one more world to worry about now, the Strategos in charge of the whole operation gets his medals, triumph parade and maybe an estate on a garden world, everyone is happy, and things move on. The said Strategos and his legion departs soon for new glorious conquests, leaving behind a token garrison of a cohort or two unless situation calls for more. Which it usually doesn't - the locals don't usually bother to start a resistence insurgency, and not even because the Imperium is infamous for heavy-handedness with rebels. Rather, it's because they know in a few years, a decade at most, a Fed liberation fleet will arrive to return the favour, and all of the described will happen again except that it will be us Sidhae getting chased off this rock. And so it goes on and on for years and decades, and the only people who benefit from it are the politicians, military commanders and defense contractors of their respective sides.

Now, in earlier days the usual occupation policy was for the military to herd each and every human into segregated urban containment zones, where they could live however they pleased without Sidh interference and without inconveniencing their new masters. Folks call these areas human ghettos in casual parlance. Nowadays, however, it is usually no longer the case especially in places like Adrantis that tend to change hands often. Humans are therefore largely free to live as before, save of course for being subject to Imperial laws and regulations.

Since Sidh and human ideas on what is lawful and right tend to differ considerably, that is where guys like me come in - just like the human police, Urban Security is here to enforce their compliance with Imperial law along with any local ordinances. From what I've heard so far, that sounds way easier than it actually is...

---

Anyway, meet my squad. This grumpy brute here is Decurion Castus, my immediate superior. He wants me to record everything we see on patrol so that we can analyze and discuss it later and look for ways to improve our performance. Castus is here on the beat as punishment for his involvement in a recent incident which involved a domestic dispute, a main battle tank, an eight-click chase and over 26 million aurons in property damage. Let's just say that despite the successful... uh, resolution of the incident, the local human collaborationists threw a shit-fit, so Castus is now on patrol duty until things quiet down. The handsome bloke next to me is trooper Callicrates. For a man in such rough line of work, he sure pays much attention to his appearance, and I get the feeling he only signed up to impress the girls with the powered armor suit. Last but not least, here's our only female collegue currently driving the APC - meet Sheena, who is also the only one of us with any idea what it means to be human. I heard it's now a policy to have at least one female member in every UrbSec decury, and if possible, also one convert who has some idea of how to interact with humans. Has to do with some psychology mumbo-jumbo I won't even pretend to understand. Sheena is currently filling both roles.

There are a couple other guys and gals in my decury, but I won't mention them today, because they'll be patrolling a different route. My fireteam's assignment today is a routine patrol through a downtown district.

Now, patrolling the Sidh areas on human-majority worlds is easy enough, or so my more experienced collegues say. Imperial citizens know for a fact that Urban Security doesn't fuck around where it comes to enforcing the law. The average UrbSec trooper is two-and-half-meter brute clad in a half-ton military-issue powered armor suit, who packs an autocannon-caliber sidearm and a baseball bat-sized stun stick which cranks out enough juice to instantly knock out anything smaller than a Terran blue whale. Guys like these never patrol in groups smaller than four, at least one of them also carries a military-issue energy rifle from which even a near miss can cause third-degree burns and severe concussion, and they are fully authorized to meet resistence or flight with deadly force. Sidh folks know that well, and usually have the sense to cooperate even in state of heavy inebriation. Humans, however, are generally accustomed to much more lenient and permissive style of policing - hell, the human beat cops in most cities here on Adrantis didn't even carry guns - so their reactions to Urban Security and their ways tend to be both more hostile and unpredictable.

Decurion Castus who's been in UrbSec for some 15 years now says there's only two kinds of patrols in the human districts - shit ones and really shit ones. The ghettos of the Imperium, the places are lawless shitholes run by armed gangs - with the tacit approval of the local authorities, who look the other way in exchange of the gangbangers keeping the rest of the human rabble in line. Gangsters get to live like kings, any would-be dissidents and rebels are pacified, and the Sidh citizens also gain access to various otherwise forbidden pleasures like drugs, gambling and prostitution, the latter catering to even the most bizarre and depraved tastes. Again, the authorities tolerate this as long as the good citizens keep their debaucheries within the ghetto. This way, the people get to blow off some steam, and the security services get plenty of blackmail material to keep them in line with. In short, the human ghettos tend to be festering boils of crime, villainy and depravity, passive and intimidated masses subsisting at the mercy of the worst dregs of Mankind. Gangbangers, whores, drunks, junkies, paedophiles, cannibals - every imaginable kind of degenerate makes home there. It falls to UrbSec to keep them all in line whenever the gangs who are nominally responsible for the job grow slack in their duties.

Contrary to what one would expect, ghetto pacification jobs actually rank only as shit patrols according to Castus. The really shit patrols are the ones taking place on recently conquered worlds, where the human populace is still largely allowed to roam free like before, and most of them aren't accustomed to dealing with Sidh law enforcement. In the ghetto, you at least know what to do and what to expect. Your mere presence there means that something serious enough to annoy the good Imperial citizens in the Sidh quarters has happened, which in turn means that somebody in the ghetto hasn't done the job that local authorities had trusted him to. So your task is to remind him of this failure by fucking up everyone who as much as looks the wrong way at you and your collegues. Depending on how much the higher-ups have been pissed off, that can range from eradication of the gang responsible for the mishap to full-scale population cull. Denizens of the ghetto are keenly aware of that, and will either fight back or run and hide, so the rules of engagement are pretty clear - see a problem, shoot first and ask questions later. This kind of approach isn't gonna fly in the recently-pacified areas, however, especially where the authorities at least try to pretend they care about their new human subjects and their opinions. Accustomed to their old authorities entertaining their delusions of entitlement to something called "human rights", the locals will not meet your every command with immediate and unquestioning obedience like proper Sidh citizens would. They may very well protest and argue, sometimes very vocally so, they may refuse to comply at first, and even try to flee or resist you as if that would ever stop UrbSec from getting their way - and for policy reasons, you actually have to humor their delusions to at least some degree before resorting to force. And unless you have a good grasp of non-ghetto human psychology, it is hard to know beforehand which is it going to be.

Either way, today I am going to find out what it's like on what my decurion describes as the "really shit" patrols.

---

After Castus has briefed us on our today's route, we set out in the streets. Since my arrival on Adrantis, I have noticed a number of improvements. There are now statues of the Emperor erected in public squares and red-robed Wordbearers preaching His holy Word to flocks of pious citizens and native converts on street corners. Outdoor holo-screens and billboards now have a more patriotic content than the usual business advertisements. Now they show mainly 24/7 newsfeeds featuring the latest Imperial battlefield victories, military parades and interviews with the Imperium's leading military commanders, war heroes and industrialists. Public loudspeakers inspire citizens with upbeat patriotic music like military marches and the latest hits of Sidh pop music, all featuring themes of good citizens' undying love for the Emperor and the State, with the occasional public announcement in between. At 0700 and 1800 hours sharp every day, Two Minutes Loyalty is now observed - the loudspeakers blare "Far Beneath the Distant Stars", the Imperial Anthem, and every citizen is required by law to stand at attention, singing along loudly and saluting the nearest national banner or statue of the Emperor if available. Every sign that used to be in English and/or Chinese now has a translation in Sidh attached or programmed into it. Feels almost like home back on Gallahad Tertius. Emphasis on "almost".

Our first stop is a busy street intersection, marked as problematic for frequent occurrence of jaywalking. Ever since Domestic Security installed their mass surveillance network throughout Gavin's Hope, cameras and drones in this area consistently detected multiple instances of jaywalking during peak pedestrian traffic hours, the morning phase peaking roughly about now. This cannot be allowed to stand. Not on our watch!

Every new recruit of Urban Security is firmly familiarized with the "broken window theory" from his very first day, namely that tolerating even the smallest breaches of law will encourage more serious transgressions. Local ordinances and Imperium-wide traffic laws both expressly forbid jaywalking, and even the earlier human laws forbade it, so there is absolutely no excuse for lawbreakers here. Worse still, the Imperial Ground Traffic Safety Code was issued and signed by the great Emperor, founder of the Imperium and the Sidh race, himself - so any trespass against traffic safety regulations is an affront towards the Emperor himself. Which is something that no enforcer of His laws will ever suffer.

Our Warhound APC doesn't quite fit on the narrow curbside, blocking part of the lane and resulting in torrents of abuse being shouted our way by passing drivers. Humans, obviously - no Sidh would have the gall to shout such words or throw the finger at an UrbSec patrol, at least without first consuming a few pints of strong "liquid courage". The scoundrels do not yet know that insulting a uniformed representative of the state on duty is a serious crime, nor do they acknowledge the difficulties posed to us by local streets, which are evidently not built to accomodate cops who drive around in military APCs. Since our Cohortarch has expressly decreed a period of grace during which limited verbal abuse is to be tolerated until the locals adjust to the new rules, a brief flash of emergency lights and the APC's turret turning to point at the offenders must suffice. The sight of dual 800-megawatt particle-beam cannons which can melt just about anything less than a tank to a pool of slag being trained at one's measly civilian car must indeed be a potential deterrent, judging by how quickly the offenders speed away - all the while remaining firmly within maximum legal speed limits. Decurion Castus decides against further deterrence sometime later, though, after several distraught drivers almost run the red light at the pedestrian crossing ahead of us.

Although our presence seems to deter jaywalkers, we don't have to wait for long before the first one appears, trying to surreptitiously sneak across the street behind our APC. The fool doesn't know we have it fitted with a 360-degree phased-array cameras providing a panoramic view of the surrounding area via augmented reality display in our helmets, no windows required.

"Quick, do the honours!" Castus bangs on my shoulder plate. I quickly tap a key on my tacticom, switching to external loudspeaker. The surveillance network outside has already identified the perpetrator, feeding his personal data to my helmet HUD.

"Citizen, halt!" I exclaim, the loudspeaker outside no doubt making my voice many times as loud and intimidating as it echoes in the streets, "You are in violation of Ground Traffic Safety Code, Article 3, paragraph 16.7, which forbids jaywalking! Stand fast and prepare to be processed!"

The terrified man, a John P. Wilkins who works as a business lawyer just across the street, stands in the middle of the street trembling like a leaf despite the traffic going around him beeping their horns wildly - evidently motivated by the APC's turret which now points at him for added emphasis. Sheena and Callicrates get out to take him in for processing. Since his file indicates this is his first registered offense, Mr. Wilkins will get away with just a fine and a stern warning, repeated offenders being punishable by 15 days of community service or 15 summarily-administered strokes of stun stick, whichever they prefer.

"Your ID, citizen! Now!" Sheena barks, the small LRAD panel attached to her armor's left shoulder amplifying her voice to titanic volume. Though as a convert she is supposed to be helping with handling human perps in a less Sidh way, the Sidh ways taught at the academy seem to have rubbed off on her as well.

Mr. Wilkins almost pisses himself, his trembling hand slowly reaching for his wallet, all the while under the watchful eyes of the four of us, with Castus controlling the turret pointed at him. Just as he is about to produce his ID card, he is suddenly run over by a truck. The poor man is literally splattered all over the street while the truck moves on undisturbed. Surveillance system immediately identifies it as an automated delivery truck belonging to Ostia Interplanetary Logistics, a Sidh logistics company.

"Aww, shit... Sigma-6-1 to Dispatch, we have a 10-57 with an AI in our present location, one fatality!" Castus groans. Now the whole intersection has to be closed until a formal incident report is filed and body recycling unit arrives. A traffic jam will be inevitable, the City Prefect will throw a shit-fit about things not getting done with the usual Sidh clockwork precision in his town because of it, and our Cohortarch is going to have our Centurion's ass for having to listen to the City Prefect complaining about an incident involving some of his men. Which means our Centurion will in turn have our asses for being involved regardless of actual fault, starting with Castus as our decurion.

"Roger that, dispatching a body recycling unit to your present location, please stand by!" the dispatcher on the other end responds. She is an AI - the ever-calm young woman's voice on the radio is always exactly the same.

After Castus taps a few keys on his tacticom, elevating hydraulic barriers that seal off this segment of the street and have the city's traffic smartgrid redirect traffic flow to alternate routes, we begin to discuss how to best formulate the incident in the report.

"The AI in these trucks was designed back home," Callicrates who is our resident tech expert explains, "It's navigation system detects the energy signatures of Sidh augmetics and prioritizes their safety. It was never designed to detect and avoid humans who don't have such a signature. That said, I don't think it would have stopped even for a Sidh jaywalking away from a legit pedestrian crossing."

Content with such an explanation, Castus files the report, describing the incident as an unfortunate traffic accident caused by a design oversight in an automated truck and sends it off to Dispatch. By now, the city AI will have already notified Mr. Wilkins's next-of-kin of the bad news, and they will probably attempt to sue Ostia Interplanetary Logistics and the truck manufacturers for damages, oblivious to the fact that it doesn't work that way in the Imperium. Having no families or next of kin as humans understand it, Sidhae cannot sue for damages on behalf of anyone other than themselves. Much less so humans who don't have even a limited Imperial citizenship to benefit from Imperial laws. Either way, it's out of our hands and off our backs now.

After some 15 minutes, a body recycling unit - a large sanitation robot - arrives and takes to sanitizing the place, gathering all the bits of late Mr. Wilkins inside a trailer behind it and returning the street's pavement to it's original pristine black state by blasting it with a jet of steam. I come to think that whoever is cleaning the trucks at Ostia Interplanetary Logistics is going to have a bad day when that truck returns for maintenance.

"Wait, aren't we supposed to return the remains of human residents to their families?" Sheena suddenly asks. For some reason, humans seem really fussy about having their dead returned to them for "proper" funeral. Having no familial attachments, a Sidh of no special merit can rarely claim something as elaborate, his carcass being collected by a sanitation unit like this one and unceremoniously incinerated in the plasma furnaces at city's waste disposal, or dissolved to basic amino-acids in the bio-reactors of an organic waste recycling plant. Whatever he was in life, he no longer is in death - merely a slab of lifeless, slowly decaying organic tissue, a sanitation hazard. Only those who fall in service of the Imperium deserve a more elaborate disposal by cremation and conversion into synthetic diamonds.

"The sanitation ordinances passed by the planetary governor and the local municipality are unanimous about the treatment of mortal remains contaminating a public area," Castus states sternly, "If the perp's family have a problem with how their deceased member was handled, they can bring it up with the Human Affairs Office or the City Prefect, but until they say otherwise, we stick to the existing regulations and dispose of dead humans just like we'd dispose of our own. Or in other words - it ain't our problem!"

We wait in the APC until the body recycler has done its grisly work and it's safe to re-open the street again. Callicrates proposes some graphic pictures of this incident from the surveillance feed be recommended for public broadcast in an anti-jaywalking campaign if the Cohortarch and the City Prefect approve of such. Castus agrees to bring up such initiative with our superiors once we're back in the precinct in the evening.

---

After a few uneventful laps around the business district, our patrol is about to move on to the next area, when a scan of surveillance feeds identifies a man with an outstanding warrant on him in our immediate vicinity. Citizen Marcus Aemilius Cassius, a Sidh aerospace craft maintenance technician in Gavin's Hope Spaceport, is wanted for failure to return a copy of "The Word and You: How to be a Better Sidh" to the city's library. Evidently the teachings within the said book were lost on citizen Cassius, since he has failed to return the book even two weeks past the month-long period of grace after expiration of the original return term. If he had so wanted, he could have easily obtained a digital copy of the book for his permanent use, but his personal file and web search history show no records of searching for an article of similar name, so he is clearly and evidently a deliberate and malicious perpetrator. Library books are, after all, property of the State - stealing them is a very serious offense.

"Get to it, Severus!" Castus instructs me. As the new guy, I get the feeling I'll be doing most of the work today.

The APC rolls to a rapid halt, flashing emergency lights, and I barge out of it along with Callicrates to apprehend the perp.

"Citizen, halt! You stand in violation of Imperial Criminal Code, Article 5, paragraph 167.3b!" I switch on my LRAD and inform him of his pending charges that are displayed on my helmet HUD.

"Who, me?" citizen Cassius seems confused, "I haven't done anything, officer!"

"That is correct, citizen! You have not returned a copy of "The Word and You: How to be a Better Sidh" to Gavin's Hope Central Library despite being granted a month of grace beyond the original term!" I sternly explain, "You are hereby under arrest for theft of state property, which carries an automatic minimum sentence of 5 years of hard labour! As an Imperial citizen, you have the right to a hearing before a Justicar, to which you will be delivered shortly! Stand fast and prepare to be processed!"

"But... but... I didn't steal it! It was stolen from my apartment three weeks ago along with some other things!" the perpetrator weakly protests as I scan him for contraband before handcuffing him.

"Records corroborate the perp's statement," I hear Castus on the radio as he forwards me the appropriate data, "A burglary was indeed reported at the perpetrator's residence 3 weeks ago by him personally. However, he failed to mention a library book among the articles stolen, so for all we know, he might just be attempting to cover up his own crime."

"That will be for the Justicar to decide! Now come! Any attempt to flee or resist will be met with overwhelming force!" I inform him.

Being a Sidh, citizen Cassius knows that any arguing or protesting here on the street is futile, and the best he can hope for is a Justicar inclined to hear him out and be lenient. We take him to the "monkey cage" for detainees in the back of the APC.

"Dispatch, this is Sigma-6-1, we have a perp in custody," Castus calls it in, "Requesting further directives."

"Copy that, Sigma-6-1, deliver the perp to the city courthouse for judgement and resume your patrol."

---

In Sidh society, everything moves like a clockwork - with speed, purpose and precision. We pride ourselves on that. Same is true for criminal justice - it is served swiftly, harshly and without delay. Humans have created a whole parasite class of legal professionals for whom it is essential to have laws and legal proceedings as complicated, muddled and wrought with technicalities and caveats as possible. Being the only ones with the training and education to even be able to comprehend the law, they thrive on leeching their customers dry by dragging the legal proceedings on for as long as possible. As a result, only those humans with the money to hire the best attorneys can hope for a relatively-quick and ostensibly-fair resolution of their cases, while the rest get to live through months and months of courtroom polemics that lead nowhere in the best case, or get twisted against them in the worst. Such is not the case in our society, where courts work with the speed and precision of assembly lines. Perps are only brought in when there's enough evidence on them to guarantee a conviction, citizens get their two minutes to speak in their own defense, and the Justicars pass their verdict. There's no defense, no appeal, no stalling the process - and while it is not always entirely fair, every Sidh knows that nothing else will suffice if a trillion citizens are to have their justice served with anything resembling a due process within a reasonable timespan. So some inevitably just have to take it for the team.

The courthouse is just 10 minutes away, so we go there immediately. The old city courthouse was a rather unimposing, even a bit homely edifice of just four floors - utterly inappropriate for a seat of Imperial authority. The new one built in its place at a record speed is much more adequate. An imposing windowless colossus of white marble and concrete towering hundreds of meters high, it casts a menacing shadow over the park it stands next to. A giant relief of a wrathful Nemesis under an Imperial Aquila adorns the building's facade. Underneath her feet stands the main entrance - a massive synthwood door with two armed bailiffs in powered armor standing guard near it. Grand stairs of some 40 steps lead to the entrance. As all Sidh government buildings, every tiniest detail of the courthouse is designed to instill a sense of fear, awe and insignificance before the glory and might of the State.

The back entrance of the courthouse is hidden behind a high fence with reinforced metal gate guarded by automated sentry turrets. This is where the temporary detention block is - those arrested by Urban Security for minor offenses that will require no further investigation are taken here to be held until the next hearing, usually the next day. One of the guards inside the gate informs Castus that a hearing is already in progress, so they'll let us take our perp straight to the courtroom without filing the usual paperwork.

The decurion promptly appoints me and Callicrates to the task, and we drag citizen Cassius from the APC into the bowels of the courthouse. After navigating a few hallways and stairs, we finally arrive in the hallway leading to the courtroom - easily recognized by a long line of handcuffed Sidhae and humans under the watchful eye of court bailiffs. Most are quiet and look various shades of miserable, though some humans protest being here loudly, claim that their arrest is a mistake and demand to see their lawyers. They are promptly reminded to behave, be quiet and look repentant and miserable by prods of stun sticks. On the very lowest setting, of course - otherwise, having to drag unconscious perps who have soiled themselves after getting zapped at full power before the Justicars would be counter-productive.

"Mind if we cut in the line?" Callicrates asks the guard nearest to the courtroom entrance, "Your collegue let us bring him in without the usual paperwork, so he's still technically our responsibility, but we'd rather be quick about it - we still have a patrol to be on."

"Sure," the bailiff shrugs indifferently, "It's all the same to me!"

Some minutes pass, and the green light over the door ahead finally signifies a free courtroom for us to drag our prisoner in. Mr. Cassius doesn't protest, knowing it would be futile. The previous customer of the court, a shapely and very upset human female, however, doesn't seem to understand the pointlesness of arguing with a Justicar.

"5 years of hard labour?! You're shitting me, right!" she shrieks as the bailiffs drag her away.

"You are hereby held in contempt of court! Make that 7 years!" an unseen voice thunders in the vast room.

"7 years for a fucking parking ticket?! Fuck you, asshole!" the woman screams.

"10 years!" the Justicar states with an almost bored indifference. For all the mulish stupidity and ignorance that humans seem to be especially capable of, I can't help but feel a little bit of pity for this one. The number one rule of Sidh courts is that the Justicar is always right - something to be remembered especially when one might feel he isn't right. Dull and stuck-up martinets as they are, Justicars represent the Imperial law, which is deliberately written as to leave no room for question, doubt or interpretation - and written so by command of the Emperor himself, I might add. For this reason, Justicars do not interpret Imperial laws in their judgement unless the law itself specifies otherwise, but merely apply them by the book, to the letter. Therefore, to suggest that a Justicar is wrong is to suggest the Imperial law (and therefore the Emperor himself) is wrong - a dangerously seditious idea to put it mildly. To further insult a Justicar for merely carrying out his office is already open rebellion. Yet I feel a little sorry for this woman who just earned herself 10 years of hard labour in place of what could have been a mere fine with her ill-placed temper tantrum. She is plump and unfit, and evidently not very bright either. Her family, if she has one, won't ever see her again, because she will be dead in a month at most. The camps aren't a place for plump, unfit and slow-witted folk, especially ones who don't know when to keep their damn mouths shut.

"Next!" another voice, perhaps that of the Prosecutor, sternly announces. I and Callicrates drag our prisoner before the Justicars and throw him to his knees.

The vast courtroom is completely empty and dark, save for a 10-meter dais upon which a trio of Justicars are seated, towering above any who are brought before them for judgement. A brilliant spotlight illuminates the perp about to be judged, the bright light forcing him to look down humbly and preventing him from seeing the faces of the Justicars that remain in the dark high above him. That way they remain faceless and ominous authority figures, only glowing pairs of Sidh eyes betraying their locations to the onlookers, their voices thundering from above amplified with loudspeakers like the wrathful judgement of the Emperor himself. A huge Imperial Aquila adorns their pedestal, the walls behind being draped with Imperial banners and a colossal gilded figure of Nemesis like the one outside, all being illuminated from below to be prominently visible while keeping the rest of the room in dark. Like the rest of the building, every inch of the room is designed to instill a sense of awe and fear before the State.

"Citizen Marcus Aemilius Cassius," the Justicar begins, "You stand accused of theft of state property as specified under Imperial Criminal Code, Article 5, Paragraph 167.3b! More specifically, you are accused of intentional illicit possession of a copy of "The Word and You: How to be a Better Sidh", which is lawfully the property of Gavin's Hope Central Library! Your failure to return it a month after the expiration of the return deadline indicates malicious intent. Furthermore, you claim it was stolen from your residence during a burglary, but no mention of it can be found in the Urban Security incident report where you listed the articles stolen. What say you in your defense?"

"I did not steal the book, Lord Justicar!" Cassius humbly explains, "I had completely forgotten I had it, and when it was stolen from my apartment 3 weeks ago among other things, I failed to mention it accordingly. With that said, I acknowledge that I am guilty of a neglect which has led to the loss of state property, deeply regret my lapse of judgement, and humbly ask that Your Honour takes it into account when rendering his fair judgement."

"Perhaps you failed to list the book intentionally and later sold it yourself, citizen!" the Prosecutor argues, "We all know that printed books fetch premium prices on the black market these days!"

"My job pays well, Lord Prosecutor - I would not risk losing it for an extra few dozen aurons by selling a stolen book that can easily be traced back to me."

"The personal record of citizen Cassius speaks in his favour," the Advocator speaks up in his defense, "He is characterized as an industrious and productive citizen, so it would be against the interest of society to judge him too harshly for what is most likely mere negligence on his part rather than intentional theft."

After asking Cassius a few more questions and deliberating between themselves, the Justicars finally pronounce their verdict.

"It is the finding of this court that citizen Marcus Aemilius Cassius is not guilty of theft of state property as specified under Imperial Criminal Code, Article 5, paragraph 167.3b. He is instead found guilty of criminal negligence, which has led to the irretrievable loss of state property as per Criminal Code, Article 9, paragraph 58.7. Citizen Marcus Aemilius Cassius is hereby sentenced to 1 year of hard labour and ordered to pay the court expenses as well as the cost of the lost article to Gavin's Hope Central Library. In light of his repentance, good character as confirmed by his personal file and this being his first offense, the court has agreed to commute the sentence to 1 year of military service in a penal legion. Citizen Cassius is hereby ordered to report to the nearest military recruitment station within the next 7 days and enlist in a penal legion, where he shall spend the next year atoning for his negligence in service of the Imperium. He is still required to pay the court expenses and the recompensate the value of the lost book to Gavin's Hope Central Library. Failure to do so will result in the original sentence of hard labour being upheld in full."

As the Justicar slams down his gavel to signify the end of this hearing, citizen Cassius is escorted outside by the bailiffs greatly relieved, praising the Emperor and the Justicars for their lenience. A year in the penal legion is no walk in the park, but it is still way better than the camps. Sure, there's always the risk of being sent on a suicide attack to soften up the enemy defenses on some unimportant world in the ass end of the Imperium, but at least the food is relatively good and there are no sadistic guards and violent inmates with a penchant for prison rape. Besides, seeing how this guy has some advanced engineering skills from his work, he'll probably end up assigned to a non-combat role maintaining aircraft or something anyway.

"Now this is how a proper Sidh should take it," Callicrates praises our earlier detainee as we make our way back to the exit, "With dignity and dutiful obedience, rather than like the lot of these cunt-borns!"

If there is anything the Academy brass warned me about before my deployment to Adrantis, it's this patent inability of human perps to accept their arrest and sentence with dignity. Every Sidh knows how uncaring their authorities are, and why they are that way, so with rare exceptions they don't usually take their sentences personally. Humans, being spoiled by the notion of "rights" and the illusion of their entitlement to these rights, which in most cases is nothing more than a thinly-veiled illusion to begin with, are different. They often act as if they were someone special and expect the justice system to treat them as such - and if they had enough money, they indeed would be under the Federation rule. Consequently, the Sidh authorities on former Fed worlds like Adrantis have to contend with a lot of whining and complaining on their part, at least until the populace is whipped into proper shape. The smarter ones who take example from the Sidh, keep their mouths shut and fall in line adapt well, while the dumber ones like that woman who got sentenced to 10 years for mouthing off over a parking fine have to learn their place the hard way.

---

According to Castus, the coming mid-day hours are going to be relatively relaxed, and mainly focus on ensuring that no citizen is out in the streets during work hours absent legitimate cause. Since taking over this world, the Imperium has imposed very strict anti-vagrancy and compulsory employment laws - another thing our kind prides ourselves on. Sidh society has zero tolerance for freeloaders and parasites - everybody must haul his own weight and contribute something. Those who don't know how will be shown how, those who don't want to will be made to. In practice that translates to random ID checks and questioning of citizens found in the streets. Castus tells me there used to be many vagrants and drunks in the streets of Gavin's Hope in the first months after occupation. Now there are hardly any left, the few remaining ones having learned to avoid UrbSec like the plague. Under orders of the planetary governor himself, all such folks were rounded up, cleaned up and put to hard, honest manual labour in the mines and the fields. The ones with an alcohol problem were chem-coded, and the work-shy motivated with liberal application of stun sticks, so now the vast majority have been rehabilitated into upstanding and productive workers whether they wanted it or not. That said, there are still the occasional individuals, even otherwise employed and law-abiding ones, to be found outside work absent excuse when they shouldn't be.

We spend the next few hours inside our APC, parked near a busy public square. The city-wide surveillance grid already gives us a good idea which individuals to pay attention to. Pointing out any citizen picked up in a surveillance feed will immediately show his personal file and the likely reason of his being in the streets. The mass surveillance AIs really do keep track of everything and everybody - if necessary, we can find and replay a record of any conversation an individual has had with another person within earshot of a network-capable electronic device with a microphone over the last year. The same AI can also use recorded conversations, known contacts and habits to make accurate predictions of the person's behaviour, such as his reasons of being in the streets rather than at work.

Apparently the stern policies against idling are effective because the few suspicious individuals randomly selected for ID checks all turn out to have legitimate business being outside. Decurion Castus decides to change location and do something that would improve the standing of Urban Security with the local populace as the standing policies dictate.

---

After some deliberation as to what would constitute helpful and friendly acts, we collectively agree to go and help some old ladies cross the road at Sheena's suggestion. As it happens, there's a retirement home not far from our location, so we set course for there.

The sight of elderly humans frankly always makes me appreciate my being Sidh. With regular maintenance, even the lowliest Sidh can theoretically live on indefinitely and remain in perfect health until eventually dying by accident, violent act, suicide or government encouragement. Humans, being loath to take the necessary degrees of augmentation for the advanced treatments that enable eternal youth to be viable, can only last around 300 years at most even with the best of care these days. Alas, healthcare in the Fed is mostly in private hands, so only the rich can hope for such long lives. Most will live maybe 80 years if they are lucky, and usually end up discarded in retirement homes like this one by an uncaring family, where they must linger their last years robbed of all meaning and purpose. A Sidh who feels he's lived long enough at least retains the health and strength necessary to re-join the military and request a place in a "retirement unit", where old-timers who have grown weary of life get their opportunity to go out in a blaze of glory in service to the Imperium.

The pedestrian crossing in front of the retirement home seems like a proper place to set up and offer our assistance to the infirm elders. I take position next to the retirement home, while Sheena takes up the other side of the road.

An hour passes. After two old ladies have sprinted off like young girls and a third one has required hospitalization for heart attack prompted by our approach, we figure that we evidently must be doing something wrong. With some deliberation between ourselves, we conclude it must have something to do with our powered armor, which evidently appears a bit too intimidating for the liking of local old-timers who probably still have the Reconquest Wars in memory. Decurion Castus isn't happy about having to file a second incident report today. Fortunately, a call from dispatch rescues us from this ill-picked duty. We are directed to a nearby high school to respond to suicide threats by some kid, who is evidently threatening to jump from the roof.

---

It is not the Sidh way to care about would-be suicides. Someone who feels life is not worth living shouldn't be forced to continue his existence as a burden to himself and others, nor should the attention-whoring of someone without the balls to actually go through with it ever be humored. Hence it baffles us as to why we are even required to respond to such a call. Sheena explains that it is mainly because of the child's parents, who would be very upset if the authorities did nothing. Since she is the only one of us with any experience in having parents, we take her word on that.

When we arrive at the scene, there's indeed a large crowd of youths and adults assembled in front of the school. A weedy young lad best described as a nerd is indeed clinging to the railings along the edge of the roof five stories above. The boy's despondent stare indicates he's evidently had to endure one swirlie too many today. Many of his peers keep chanting "Jump! Jump!" despite the best efforts of the teachers to shut them up. Most, however, are content with recording everything on their smartphones, where humans of all ages seem to be especially fond to bury their noses in most of the time.

"Watch and learn!" Castus instructs me and moves forward with Callicrates, while I and Sheena remain behind to set up a perimeter by pushing the spectators back a bit.

"Hey, kid!" the decurion switches on his LRAD panel to address the suicide and gets straight to business, "How's the weather up there?"

The boy looks down somewhat confused and doesn't respond at first.

"Look, kid," Castus continues, "I don't know what your major malfunction is, and I frankly don't care! It's an hour past noon, me and my guys are getting hungry, and we would already be enjoying our coffee and donuts if it weren't for you! So why don't you just make it easy for everybody and come down yourself? Don't make me come after you!"

"Don't! I'm gonna jump!" the boy threatens.

"Then jump!" Castus states in a matter-of-factly manner much to the shock of the spectators, "Nobody's keeping you! I'm getting hungrier by the minute, and every minute I spend here talking to you is frankly beginning to piss me off, so why don't you make up your mind and either jump or come down? Makes no difference to me which!"

"What the hell is he doing!? He can't say that...!" the teachers and students protest among themselves, but have the sense not to get in the way.

"Leave me alone! I'm gonna jump! I mean it!" the boy tearfully shouts.

"Last chance, son!" Castus speaks, "Either you get down from there this instant, and I really don't care how, or I'll get you down - and you won't like it when I do!"

"I said, leave me... AAAAIIIAAAAAGH!" the boy is about to speak, when Castus swiftly raises his handblaster and puts a stun dart in his thigh much to everyone's horror. Just as the boy loses his grip, Callicrates fires a nanofoam shell from his blaster's multipurpose launcher in the ground below the kid. The shell instantly bursts, forming a translucent cushion of nanofoam an instant before the boy hits it. The foam then disintegrates into inert dust, leaving a twitching, screaming and profoundly shocked teen on the ground.

"You...! You SHOT ME!!!" he screams between the spasms caused by the electric jolts from the stun dart stuck in his right thigh.

"So? You wanted to die, didn't you?" Castus pulls him to his feet unceremoniously and plucks the dart out of his flesh without any effort to be gentle, "Next time you want to die, either get it done without all this drama, or man up and get your issues sorted out! But if I have to get you down from the roof like this a second time, the next time it's gonna be a real bullet, you get me?!"

After handing over the boy to the paramedics and explaining a very shocked and outraged mother that the next time her son decides to act like a pussy and whore for attention with suicide threats, he will be allowed to make good on them, Castus calls in situation resolved to the dispatch, and we can finally proceed to a lunch break.

---

Human police forces are traditionally believed to subsist on donuts and coffee. This stereotype isn't entirely inaccurate, since the diners that serve an assortment of donuts tend to be open 24/7 and hence make for convenient aggregation spots for policemen on patrol. Since the Sidh takeover of Adrantis, Urban Security patrols have likewise come to appreciate this convenience, and the cuisine served within these diners - being high on carbs, donuts pack plenty of energy for their size. After all, fuelling all those augmentations is no joke for a Sidh. Transhumanist wannabes in the Fed seem to think that replacing an eye or an arm with an implant or grafting a mnemonic chip into one's head somehow makes them "transhuman", where a Sidh must have his entire genome edited extensively just to be able to accept even baseline Tier 1 augs, let alone all the following upgrades he's bound to accumulate over his long life. All those augs consume energy that must come from somewhere, so Sidh people are notorious for their immense appetites. Those in the higher augmentation tiers require so much energy they cannot even subsist on regular food anymore, and must supplement their diet extensively with special ultra-high-calory foods or augment themselves further with a micro-fusion power core, depending on their predominant augmentation type. At Tier 6, me and the guys haven't been enhanced quite that far, so each of us only require the nutritional equivalent of three large triple cheeseburgers in every meal to meet our dietary needs.

"Angie & Chloe's" is the spot of choice for every patrol from our precinct, so Castus tells me. Not a part of any larger chain, this fairly small diner is owned and staffed a lovely lesbian couple. Back in the Fed days, this diner used to be the establishment of choice for every avant-garde artist, left-wing activist, hippie and sexual deviant in downtown Gavin's Hope. After the Sidh takeover, most of their usual clientele was scared off by Urban Security once the patrols grew fond of Angie and Chloe's cooking. No big loss to the ladies, I would think, since the Sidh customers eat three times as much and pay accordingly. For mutual convenience, the precinct has struck an agreement with them - UrbSec troops in uniform eat and drink as much as they want and their dues are added to a common bill paid by the precinct at the end of each month.

"Good afternoon, ladies," Castus greets our hostesses as he leads the way, "How's business today?"

"Doing fine so far, officer Castus! Shall it be the usual for you four?" they respond. My immediate observation is that Angie and Chloe are much prettier than the average human female who goes by the label of "lesbian", which at least in my observation often seems to entail above-normal weight, a poor sense of fashion, an outlandish hair colour and sub-standard personal hygiene. These two clearly lack any of the usual warning signs, the only hint about their unorthodox preferences being a small raibow flag on the wall near the counter.

"Yes, the usual," Castus nods, "Meet trooper Severus! It's his first time here, you'll be seeing him often in the future."

I shake hands with the ladies who introduce themselves, doing my best to be gentle, seeing how I'm wearing a hulking suit of powered armor.

"Elton, please, bring the usual for the officers," Chloe, a curvy redhead, calls out to the android waiter.

"Why Elton?" I chuckle.

"3LT-0N. That's his model designation," Chloe explains, "Let's hope he doesn't break down anytime soon. Ever since you Sidh-folk conquered Adrantis, it's been harder and harder for him to get the replacement parts legally."

I notice the emblem of Cyberdyne Systems, a Fed mega-corp specializing in robotics, stenciled on the back of Elton's head and realize why. With the Imperium and the Fed being constantly at war, both sides are naturally subject to a mutual trade embargo, so androids must consequently resort to black market for replacement parts when finding themselves on the wrong side of the border.

"Can't you just replicate the necessary parts in a fabricator?" I ask.

"Good luck with that!" Angie chuckles sarcastically. A raven-haired lass just as curvy as her partner, her full name is apparently Angelina, if the name tag on her apron is anything to go by.

"All of Elton's parts are proprietary to Cyberdyne Systems, and it would cost an arm and a leg to buy a fabrication license. Not to mention the fabricator itself would cost a pretty penny," she explains.

Though the first thing that comes to my mind is suggesting to find a black-market robotics dealer, I find it would not look right if I as a police officer suggested a solution that essentially entails breaking the law.

"We have a robotics shop in our precinct. If your android needs repair, you could talk to the other officers who come to eat here," I say aloud, "I'm sure something can be arranged for that end."

"I'll keep that in mind, officer Severus," Angie smiles before returning to tending the other customers.

The table and the chairs we sit at waiting for our order are among several specially reinforced for Sidh customers in powered armor. Seats and other amenities like toilets shattering under one's weight in the most inopportune moments can be a serious problem for a Sidh in human-majority areas, where most items are designed without the expectation to be handled by someone wearing 500 kilograms of powered armor.

"Think we should tell Mr. Flennegan about what happened to his Concorde?" Sheena asks Castus, nodding her head towards an affluent young human gentleman a few tables from us. Although currently we have our helmets retracted into our armor suits, we can still use the augmented reality feature via neural link - a pencil-sized probe plugged into our brains via the main neural interface port on the back of our heads. The personal file I am shown once I look at Mr. Dominic Flennegan immediately explains why Castus opted to do what we did with his expensive CT-3500 Concorde grav-capable sports car.

"No, let's eat first," Castus states with a malicious grin, "I want to see his face first!"

"Your lunch is served, officers!" android Elton announces with a posh British accent as he arrives with a large stack of cardboard cups and boxes on a tray, "Four XL synth-cafs with milk, four Triple-MegaMax Specials, eight bars of Jupiter CyberBoost, 20 strawberry jelly donuts, and 20 banana cream donuts as ordered."

"Best burgers and donuts this side of the Imperium, I'm telling you!" Callicrates opens one of the boxes to reveal a huge steaming hamburger. UrbSec troopers take their meals in boxes rather than dishes for a reason - if suddenly called to duty, they can quickly heap the remaining food in a bag and bring it along without making a mess, so Callicrates explained me on our way here. Given the amount of food a patrol of Sidh cops are likely to order, it probably happens quite often.

I dig into my burger and find myself compelled to agree with Callicrates. Say what you will about humans, but they do know how to get their chow right. The everyday diet of a working-class Sidh on urban worlds like my home Gallahad Tertius tends to be rather bland and tasteless, consisting mainly of nameless nutrient slurries and soylent wafers synthesized from algae and recycled organic waste including deceased citizens and distributed at public food dispensers along with energy bars and blocks of cricket jelly. A synth-meat burger where even its water content was produced artificially at some point is already something eaten in celebration. So unsurprisingly, I find my senses overwhelmed by this burger that is made from real bread, vegetables, cheese and even meat.

While we enjoy our meal, a certain Mr. Flennegan has finished his. After paying his check, he heads for the exit, and Castus bumps my shoulder, barely able to conceal his grin. And indeed, moments after Mr. Flennegan has disappeared from sight in the direction of the parking lot, we hear a long, shrill scream of shock, grief and anger. Moments later, Mr. Flennegan is back inside, seething in righteous fury.

"MOTHERFUCKERS!" he walks up to our table and screams, "YOU WORTHLESS, BOTTOM-FEEDING SCUM-SUCKING TANKIE PIGS!!! I swear I'm gonna murder you all, burn your corpses and piss on the ash! I'll..."

"You'll WHAT, Mr. Flennegan?" Castus interrupts him sternly, "Making death threats, to a uniformed officer on duty no less, is a very serious offense. You might want to watch your tone while my mood is still good."

"Stick that mood up your ass, tank-bred cyber-Nazi pig! I'll sue you and your jackbooted thugs for everything you own!" Mr. Flennegan continues to shout, "That car was worth more than all four of you and your armor suits combined!"

"Mr. Flennegan, police records show that you have a long history of traffic offenses including speeding, reckless driving and parking in unauthorized places. You have 52 unpaid speeding and parking tickets from the Fed days, and an additional seven incurred under the new administration," Castus stands up, towering over the angry Flennegan and making him rethink his current tone, "That's not including the one you incurred just now by parking your luxury sports car in the lot reserved for the disabled. Unlike the old authorities, we take persistent anti-social behaviour and defiance of authority very seriously, and since you have amply demonstrated a general disregard for traffic regulations and a callous lack of concern for the safety and well-being of other members of society, I have hereby exercised my lawful authority to take preventive measures against further reoccurrence of such behaviour."

"Just wait when my father hears of this! He knows people, he will hire the best attorneys in the city...! He'll get all of you fired and barred from working in the police ever again!" Flennegan rages.

"No, he won't," Castus becomes even more menacing, "Maybe your rich daddy was somebody important under the Fed, but as of now, he's just another human who isn't even an Imperial citizen. In fact, strictly speaking he and you both are enemy aliens, so I could technically have you both detained and transferred to an enemy civilian containment area just by the virtue of that. The reason you humans are still being humored with any semblance of equal treatment is solely a gesture of goodwill from the planetary governor who has deemed it necessary to partly humor your delusions of entitlement for the time being. So I suggest you get through your thick skull that whatever rights you think you may have are long gone along with the Fed administration and start acting accordingly. Your rights are whatever the Imperial administration decides they are, and as an officer of Urban Security, I embody that administration in the enforcement of its regulations and ordinances!"

"Now, with that said," he continues as the dumbstruck Flennegan stands before him in angry silence, "You are hereby issued another parking ticket, and a 5000-auron fine for littering! You are also hereby ordered to pay all your outstanding fines, both those incurred under Imperial administration and before, within 7 days, or you will be arrested and charged with contempt of police, and I will personally add threatening an officer of law on top of that! Consider what happened to your car your final warning! If you wish to bring it up with the Justicars, the aforementioned charges will be brought up against you. And I suggest you first call a tow truck before you call your lawyer, or I'll add another fine for littering and quadruple the sum for a repeat offense."

Completely defeated and shocked, Mr. Flennegan storms off. Castus sits down grinning with satisfaction and continues with the meal.

"What did you do to his car, officer Castus?" Chloe asks, having observed the entire altercation. I notice she and her partner have become a bit more quiet and less cheerful than before after hearing Castus explain the new place of humanity in the order of things. Can't really blame them, even though the decurion has but stated facts.

"Nothing big," he chuckles, "Just drove our APC over it a couple times. I was originally going to make do with just a parking ticket when I saw that car in the disabled-only lot, but when the system traced the license plate to this guy and his long history of similar offenses, I figured something more... educational would be in order."

"Serves him right," Chloe laughs, "Back under the Fed, rich douchebags like him could do as they pleased and get away with but a slap on the wrist at most. It's good that the new regime finally sticks it up to them."

Somehow I am not sure whether she means that sincerely.

Our meal is interrupted by a call on the radio.

"Dispatch to Sigma-6-1, we have a public disturbance in the Industrial District, vegan extremists are attempting to disrupt work in a slaughterhouse. Disperse them by means at your discretion."

"Duty calls," Castus sighs unhappily, "A bag, if you'd be so kind, ladies?"

Angie quickly retrieves him a large bag from behind the counter, and we pile the boxes with our remaining food in it before proceeding to our APC. On our way through the parking lot, we pass by a completely flattened sports car whose owner Mr. Flennegan is standing by, angrily arguing with somebody on the phone and giving us a scathing look as we pass by.

---

"Vegan extremists? But that's almost half a galaxy away! What in Emperor's name are Vegan separatists doing here, harassing a slaughterhouse of all places?" Sheena wonders while we drive to our next destination. I've been asking myself the same question. A new group of foreign terrorists making foothold in our city definitely wouldn't look good on the reports.

"Best prepare for the worst," Castus states, "Severus, fetch the energy rifles! Dispatch was very vague, who knows what these Vegans are capable of..."

I reach over to the locker that houses four military-issue Mk.579 Gladius energy rifles. Capable of reducing a man to a splatter of steaming gore on the ground with a single shot at maximum setting, these fearsome weapons are meant for situations when our regular Enforcer handblasters will not suffice. After checking that each one is loaded with a fully-charged power cell, I pass them out. Castus in the meantime syncs his helmet to the APCs turret - once we exit the vehicle, it will point at whatever he'll be looking at and fire on his mental cue.

When we arrive at the scene minutes later, it appears that "vegan extremists" aren't quite what the four of us had imagined them to be. Rather than facing a gang of heavily-armed terrorists, we are met by a crowd of protesters chanting slogans and waving placards like "Meat is Murder" and angrily arguing with slaughterhouse employees who are trying to keep them from blocking the entrance gate. As far as our preliminary ID scan can tell, none have ever been residents of any settlement in the Vega star system, and have no known ties to the Vegan separatist movement.

"That's strange..." Castus muses, "Dispatch clearly described them as "Vegan extremists". Surely Dispatch cannot be making mistakes!"

Then it strikes Sheena. "Now that you mention it, I think she might have meant "vegetarian extremists". Humans of many worlds call the subculture of radical vegetarians "vegans" for some reason," she explains, "Dispatch probably called it in just as it was reported."

"You were human once," Castus points out, "How come you didn't know it?"

"Probably because there weren't any radical vegetarians in my home town or anywhere else I had been to before converting," Sheena shrugs, "On my homeworld, the primary industry is cattle farming. The few who didn't eat meat we called simply grass-eating weirdos."

"Well, whatever they are, we must get them to disperse," the decurion states and pulls open the door.

"Oh, look, it's the fuzz!" I hear one of the protesters shout. Apparently having expected UrbSec arrival, they immediately rally up and form a living chain, holding each others in elbows.

"Attention, citizens!" Castus announces on the LRAD, having cranked it up to ear-splitting volume, "You stand in violation of Administrative Code, Article 7, paragraph 72.5 - disruption of public peace, Article 7, paragraph 84.1 - unsanctioned public assembly, and Criminal Code, Article 5, paragraph 253.4 - economic sabotage! Stand down and disperse immediately, and you will only be charged with administrative offenses and fined! Failure to comply will be met with force, and you will be held accountable for the criminal offenses of economic sabotage and resisting law enforcement! You have 30 seconds to comply!"

"Don't listen to him!" a young woman, apparently one of the protest ringleaders, encourages her companions, "They can't hurt us, we've done nothing wrong!"

I strongly suspect she might be a lesbian if my criteria for identifying them are any good. I notice that the majority of the protesters seem to be somewhat unkempt young female college students with a poor sense of fashion and outlandish hairstyles, though there are also some long-haired young men who are dressed even more atrociously than the girls. If they had been Sidh, we could actually arrest them for failure to meet the minimum grooming standards. Three girls and two boys stand out as apparent ringleaders, organizing the rest and encouraging them. Several protesters have dressed up as cows, pigs and chicken, wearing nooses around their necks, their costumes splattered with fake blood. Others carry placards with slogans like "Meat is Murder", "Friends, not Food" and "Save a Cow - Kill a Butcher".

"Think we could hold that one up for public incitement to violence?" I bump to Castus and point at the lad carrying the "Kill a Butcher" placard.

"Good eye," the decurion nods, "Calling for murder is a criminal offense."

Sheena in the meantime approaches the protestors and attempts to reason with them, mostly as a matter of good form in keeping with the standing UrbSec public relations policy. Back home on Gallahad Tertius or any other Imperial world with a human ghetto, we'd already be busy beating these hippies down with stun sticks.

"Your presence here is interfering with a lawful economic activity. You are preventing other citizens from doing their job," she speaks.

"No, we're keeping murderers from murdering those poor innocent creatures!" one of the ringleader girls, a hysterical wild-eyed specimen with thick round glasses, shrieks as she points at a line of several cattle trucks, whose drivers applaud our arrival and shout abuse at the protesters in their way.

"Whatever," Sheena shrugs, "The point is, slaughtering animals for food is legal, but interfering with lawful economic activities is not. By blocking those cattle trucks, you are breaking the law, so if you do not cease and desist immediately, we will have to take action and remove you by force."

"We won't stand down! Meat is murder! You will not silence us!" the ringleaders respond, other protestors starting to chant their words.

"I was so hoping they'd say that," Callicrates states and I can picture the malicious grin under his helmet.

"Disperse immediately! This is your final warning! You have 10 seconds remaining to comply!" Castus gives the protestors a final warning, to no avail. Knowing what comes next, Sheena quickly retreats.

"5...4...3...2...1! Fire in the hole!" Castus counts down and exclaims. An instant later, the APC turret rattles to life with a heavy thud. Rather than firing off its twin particle cannons, it uses a 90-millimeter multipurpose launcher to lob a shell of riot foam at the protesters. With a wet thump, it bursts above them, engulfing the shrieking mob in a deluge of sticky goo laced with OC for maximum unpleasantness. Me, Sheena and Callicrates already have our stun sticks prepped, and we immediately set out to reestablish order. Castus remains on overwatch, scanning around for any loose protesters. Two or three who have managed to elude the snare of riot foam are taking off, but not for long as the decurion draws his handblaster and puts them down one after another with well-aimed stun darts.

The following five minutes pass with us hauling very upset and belligerent young people to the "monkey cage" in the back of the APC. The pepper spray in the riot foam has incapacitated most who can only cough, spit and scream, but some require additional motivation with prods of stun stick. I and Sheena pluck them out of the sticky foam that has already begun to harden and crumble, knocking out the more resistant ones with stun sticks before handing them over to Callicrates, who restrains them with zipcuffs and hands them over to Castus. The decurion stands by the rear of the APC, counting the detainees and literally throwing them inside by the scruff like misbehaving puppies. It might seem like an easy task, but it really isn't. Manhandling resistant humans with Tier 6 combat augs without effecting serious injury is tricky as it, but manhandling them with Tier 6 augs while wearing a military-issue powered armor is a downright daunting challenge. Fortunately, we manage to accomplish the task without any severed limbs and life-threatening internal injuries, the damage to the perps being limited to bruises, lacerations and maybe a few broken bones, dislocations and knocked-out teeth.

"That makes it 23," Castus finishes the count, catching a screaming girl trying to jump out with one hand and throwing her back inside before closing the rear door, "But there's no more room in the cage, and we still have to stick 8 perps somewhere."

Indeed, even being crammed chock-full, the detainee compartment cannot hold all of the protestors. The eight individuals who lie zipcuffed on the ground under our watchful eyes almost begin to look hopeful - maybe we might just cut them loose, not wanting to bother waiting for backup.

"Callicrates, grab a rope!" the decurion orders after some deliberation.

---

Our drive back to downtown is rather slow, because we have to keep it at a running pace as a trail of eight very unhappy vegan protesters struggle to keep up with our APC, tied to the rope one after another like slaves in ancient times. People on the streets look at the spectacle with a mix of shock and amusement - humans are generally more shocked, and Sidhae more amused.

"Sigma-6-1 to Dispatch, unrest at the slaughterhouse has been pacified, 23 perps in custody, no casualties. Requesting additional transportation for detained perps. Awaiting further instructions!"

"Deliver them to the city courthouse for processing, Sigma-6-1! Gamma-2-2 will be dispatched to meet up with you."

20 minutes and 5 kilometers later, the protesters trailing behind our APC are very relieved to see themselves being handed over to another patrol. We return to the courthouse for the second time today with Gamma-2-2 in tow and our "monkey cage" full of very upset protesters, who all very vocally express their discontent with their treatment, keep telling us how we can't treat them like this, and threaten to sue us. Poor deluded souls have yet to get their heads around the fact that they are now part of an entirely different world, where the wants and whims of the individual that used to be mislabelled as "rights" do not matter much anymore, least of all to the authorities. But their delusions will be dispelled soon enough, and they will either mend their ways and fall in line, or keep on being rebellious non-conformists and have to deal with the heavy consequences of defying Imperial authority.

"You can't treat us like animals! You have no right!" one of the ringleader girls screams, banging on the armored glass window that lets us view inside the detainee cage, which is currently stacked literally several layers deep with the protesters.

"That's where you're mistaken, ma'am!" I explain nonchalantly, "We have every right. You, on the other hand, have only the right to remain silent."

As she and others start to rage again, Castus turns back from the front.

"Severus, flush them with OC, maybe that'll get those tree-huggers to shut up!"

"My pleasure," I grin and pull the large lever that activates the OC sprinkler in the detainee section. As jets of orange gas spray into the "monkey cage" from vents along the ceiling, angry protests again turn to incoherent screaming and coughing. Though I can't help but feel a bit of pity for our prisoners right now, knowing how badly pepper spray stings, endure it they must. If their families and tutors failed to instill these youths with proper respect for state authority under the old government, then they will just have to learn it the hard way at the hands of Urban Security. Whether they want it or not, learn it they will, and either come out of the experience as reformed, better citizens, or not come out at all. Which of the two, makes no difference to us.

"Now be quiet, all of you, or we'll zap you as well!" I warn them, putting my hand on another lever next to the gas release that would activate stun electrodes in the floor and walls to show any doubters that I mean business. I don't know whether it's that or the gas that helps more, but the protesters certainly don't utter any more complaints besides generic wailing about how badly the gas burns until we reach the courthouse.

Since today's Justicar hearing is over, and we have a whole bunch of perps in custody, there's no way around paperwork this time. We back the APC up to the detention block entrance and warn the guards standing by to get water hoses and soap ready for decontamination. I and Callicrates then open the door and get to throwing the perps out one at a time. The courthouse guards strip them naked without much heed to the perps' sex or state of injury, silencing any objections with prods of stun sticks. Perps are then put against the wall to be thoroughly hosed down with high-pressure fire hoses and industrial-strength detergents, while two other guards scrub them vigorously with mops. Their clothing and possessions are collected into boxes, tagged with their IDs and stacked on a pallet in the corner for later decontamination. After getting their scrub, each perp is handed over to another guard, who drags them off into the next room out of our sight. Castus in the meantime is busy filing a perp delivery report with the courthouse's chief of watch. Sheena busies herself by checking the APC to make sure all systems are in order. After the last of the captives have been handed over, I and Callicrates take the hoses and mops to thoroughly rinse the "monkey cage" of all OC residues.

"You know, I kind of feel sorry for those kids," I say, "If they don't smarten up by morning, the Justicars are gonna tear each and every one of them a new one and send them to the camps. They wouldn't last a week there..."

"They chose to be there themselves," Callicrates shrugs indifferently, "It wasn't like we didn't give them a fair warning beforehand."

"I suppose so," I state, "Still, the camps seem a bit excessive for being young and stupid. If I were them Justicars, I'd go easy on them. Public penance and corrective labour, ideally in the slaughterhouse they tried to sabotage, maybe flogging, but definitely not the camps."

"Best not speculate what those way above your paygrade should do," Callicrates speaks, "A word of advice from a more experienced collegue, Severus - don't think what should be, think only what is. Those same veggie kids mistook their desires for reality, and look where that got them."

My collegue is right, of course. One of the reasons why our glorious society functions like clockwork is because everyone does their duty and obeys orders without question, and it is because of misguided idealists like those vegan kids that problems arise. Not because people like them would necessarily act out of malice, or even because they would be inherently wrong, but rather because they refuse to do their part like everybody else and act like their ideas of right and wrong deserve special consideration without first having earned the right to be heard and considered.

No sooner are we done cleaning up the APC when Castus returns from filing his report.

"Our shift's over in 30 minutes," he says as we get back in our vehicle, "Let's hope we don't get any calls until then."

---

The last minutes of our watch pass uneventfully, and we return to the precinct for debriefing and examination of our day's recorded body-cam feeds. We begin to discuss the day's events already on our way back.

"Trooper Severus, how do you rate your first day on the beat?" Castus asks me as we talk, "What would you suggest we need to improve in our work?"

"We did an overall great job, everything by the book as far as I can tell," I say, "But I think we really need to work on our interaction with elderly humans. Perhaps devise some way to appear less intimidating so that they don't get so frightened like they did today. I don't know, have a screen showing emotes on our chestplates, maybe?"

"I think that would be great!" Sheena exclaims, "People read so much from others' faces, and they can't see ours because we're wearing helmets all the time. With a screen, they could see how we feel about them and maybe be less afraid!"

"People being afraid of us is the very point!" Callicrates objects, "How are we supposed to put the living fear of the Emperor into perps and would-be perps if we went about like power-armored Boy Scouts with smilies on our chestplates!?"

"That's why it would have to be a screen, silly!" Sheena explains, "It could change to an angry emote if need be!"

"I guess that's another idea to bring up with the centurion then, along with that anti-jaywalking campaign," Castus agrees, "Though I doubt the Cohortarch will approve it, I figure it's worth a shot. After all, not every patrol is quite as savvy in human affairs as we are - though we too could obviously use an improvement."

---

As our APC rolls into the precinct garage and my first day on the beat is essentially over, I close my eyes and imagine the glories that await in the coming weeks - the four of us serving and protecting our city and bringing down the wrath of Imperial law upon the unrighteous, with a praise to our wise Emperor ever on our lips and a smiling face ever on the screen on our chest. Until some day in the future, the Feds will come back and kick us off this world, and bring back their corrupt and decadent ways where even the basest and unworthiest individuals have the same rights as honest upstanding citizens. It's happened before, and will most probably happen again. But until it does, lawbreakers of Gavin's Hope better beware!

Trollheart
September 6th, 2019, 10:14 PM
Since I read "An Exotic Pet" it's become a natural reaction for me to want to read anything by you. You are without question my favourite writer here so far. I loved this; reminded me a lot of 2000 AD's Judge Dredd, and the clear distinctions between the way the Sidhae (?) see life and duty and the way humans do is really well thought out. I hope you have more, and if you have a novel of this sort of thing please let me know as I would buy it. You've certainly got a fan here, and I think you have a bright future as a really talented writer.
Thanks!
TH

Trollheart
September 7th, 2019, 02:45 PM
I've a little more time now, so wanted, if that's ok, to add a few more comments. Firstly, the incident with the expensive car being run over. Now be honest: there's no way you didn't take that from the Judge Dredd movie with Sly Stallone, is there? :lol: The idea of the Justicars (is that with a hard or soft c?) seems to take its inspiration somewhat from the Cardassians in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, would I be right there? I particularly like the idea of the Sidhae not understanding the whole idea of human rights, entitlement etc, and how they go about explaining to the occupied humans just how much their world has changed, and how little they matter. The humour is great - mistaking vegan protesters for separatist terrorists from the Vega system - and the comment on suicidal attention-whores very clever too.

I'm also very impressed with the way you write law, how a simple act like failing to return a library book can be inflated into a much more serious crime. Did you/do you study law? I'd be interested to know what the reasoning was behind the parking ticket that got the woman seven (eventually ten) years. I imagine it's something along the lines of parking in a restricted area could lead to traffic mayhem, death etc, but I'd love to hear what you think the Justicars' reading of it was.

The guy getting run over for jaywalking by an automated truck was so funny, and ties in nicely with the beginning debate over the viability of self-driving vehicles, very topical. Might I also ask if the names of most of your characters - the Sidahe ones anyway - are inspired by ancient Rome? I love the way you write of humans rebelling against, then finally accepting, in a grumbling way, their being herded into ghettoes, and I also like the way you intimate that none of the occupation of Gavin's Hope is permanent, that sooner or later the balance of power will change again. Really excellent stuff. Keep it up.

CyberWar
September 7th, 2019, 04:19 PM
I've a little more time now, so wanted, if that's ok, to add a few more comments. Firstly, the incident with the expensive car being run over. Now be honest: there's no way you didn't take that from the Judge Dredd movie with Sly Stallone, is there? :lol: The idea of the Justicars (is that with a hard or soft c?) seems to take its inspiration somewhat from the Cardassians in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, would I be right there? I particularly like the idea of the Sidhae not understanding the whole idea of human rights, entitlement etc, and how they go about explaining to the occupied humans just how much their world has changed, and how little they matter. The humour is great - mistaking vegan protesters for separatist terrorists from the Vega system - and the comment on suicidal attention-whores very clever too.

I'm also very impressed with the way you write law, how a simple act like failing to return a library book can be inflated into a much more serious crime. Did you/do you study law? I'd be interested to know what the reasoning was behind the parking ticket that got the woman seven (eventually ten) years. I imagine it's something along the lines of parking in a restricted area could lead to traffic mayhem, death etc, but I'd love to hear what you think the Justicars' reading of it was.

The guy getting run over for jaywalking by an automated truck was so funny, and ties in nicely with the beginning debate over the viability of self-driving vehicles, very topical. Might I also ask if the names of most of your characters - the Sidahe ones anyway - are inspired by ancient Rome? I love the way you write of humans rebelling against, then finally accepting, in a grumbling way, their being herded into ghettoes, and I also like the way you intimate that none of the occupation of Gavin's Hope is permanent, that sooner or later the balance of power will change again. Really excellent stuff. Keep it up.




The car scene I truly did write as an obvious reference to the Judge Dredd film and Dredd's heavy-handed way of handling minor crimes. I have never seen Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, however (Guess I'll have to watch it now that you've mentioned it). Rather I intended the Imperial Justicars (pronounced with a hard "c") as generic heavy-handed authority figures that could be expected in a totalitarian society. Their working in a trio, and their indifferent, assembly-line style of work was actually intended more as a reference to Soviet political courts during the Stalinist purges, where a trio of judges would hand out death penalties and other severe sentences for even minor offenses in a similar swift and uncaring manner.

I haven't studied law professionally, but I have done a fair share of reading on it, both as part of my job duties, and to make my writing more plausible where legal matters are concerned.

The woman who got 10 years of hard labour for a parking ticket was punished that way for talking back and repeatedly insulting the Justicars. For start, she shows contempt of court by insulting the judges, which is a crime even in much more permissive societies than Sidh. In a totalitarian society like the one described, contempt for court (a state institution) might easily be interpreted as contempt for the state authority in general and punished severely as a form of rebellion. Secondly, as the protagonist himself points out, she commits the political offense of sedition by questioning the competence of the Justicars' verdict. As he explains in the following paragraphs, Justicars do not interpret the law but merely implement it as it stands written by command of the Emperor himself. To question the competence of their judgement consequently is to question the Imperial law itself, and therefore doubt the Emperor himself - again a political offense meriting severe penalty. So the woman who could have gotten away with just a fine had she accepted the original judgement with humility and deference like a Sidh would have instead ended up sent on a one-way trip to the labour camps with her ill-placed temper tantrum.

The whole scene was actually inspired by a YouTube video, where a woman being judged for violating a restraint order tries to act tough and repeatedly insults the judge. She is held in contempt of court every time, racking up one year of prison time in under a minute simply by mouthing off.

The Imperium of Sidhae is essentially meant to be Roman Empire in space, its Sidh inhabitants being the transhuman descendants of a group of genetically-enhanced cyborg supersoldiers created by the man who would eventually become their first Emperor. He originally envisioned them as the protectors and stewards of the rest of Mankind, who would defend it from alien and domestic threats alike, and guide the rest of Humanity towards a brighter, better future. Being rejected and cast out by Mankind as freaks and abominations (also having to do with the first Emperor's harsh policies necessary in his efforts to unify Mankind), the embittered first Sidhae rejected their original 21st-century Earth cultures and built their own one inspired primarily by the various warrior cultures of Classical Antiquity and Middle Ages, Roman Empire being their main inspiration, in keeping with their self-image as bringers of civilization and enlightenment to a morass of darkness, ignorance and barbarity. Consequently, the names of Sidh characters are usually drawn from Antiquity, with Latin language being the primary source.

Another theme I strive to bring in my works set in this universe is decay and corruption. The Sidhae were meant to be guardians and protectors of Mankind, but a long history of mutual conflict has degenerated them to the worst kind of oppressors. The Federation of Mankind which touts itself as a democracy and a champion of Humanity's interests has in turn degenerated into little more than a corporate plutocracy dominated by mega-corporations and retaining only the trappings of democracy, rights and liberties only being a thing to those who can pay to have them enforced.

Hope that answers your questions. Feel free to ask more anytime if you have any.

Trollheart
September 8th, 2019, 05:36 PM
Thanks for the reply, appreciated.
If you want to check out Cardassian courts and the State in action, the episode to go for is season two's "Tribunal". Here are some links.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=deep+space+nine+tribunal+