We fight under the banner of truth,
a close cousin of reality. And reality
is that which doesn’t go away no matter
how much you ignore it.
Another Sneak Peek
by L. Neil Smith
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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Here is a little glimpse at a future chapter of my new novel Rosalie’s World, the fourth installment of the “Ngu Family Saga” which so far is comprised of Pallas, Ceres, and the forthcoming Ares. I don’t even know yet where it belongs. Wainsie Axmert is one of the villains of the piece and may bear a purely coincidental resemblance to a certain U.S. Representative from southern Los Angeles who has been called ”the most corrupt politician in Congress”.
I trust you will enjoy ...
Chapter ??: PELICAN SHADOWS
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San
Wainsie Axmert awoke abruptly, sitting up, stifling a scream, trembling and cold as the salt air which was only a memory. It was the old, familiar dream again. The nightmare. She endured it at least once a week.
The entire historical name for the island was “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translated accurately as “The Island of the Gannets”, another seagoing, fish-catching bird, but was commonly understood to mean “The Island of the Pelicans” from the archaic Spanish word “alcatraz”, meaning “pelican”. Neither gannets nor pelicans had nested on the island for centuries.
The Black Tower stood an impossible-looking one hundred twenty-three stories above its foundations in the deep chill of San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz West American Federal Penitentiary occupied every square foot of the rocky island, which measured 1,675 feet by 590 feet, or 22 acres. The earthquake-proof structure appeared to be made of characterless, unadorned black glass. There was sufficient room within, she had been informed when she arrived, for five hundred prisoners, housed in perpetual twilight, on each of the hundred twenty-three levels. The actual current population of the prison was a deeply-kept secret.
The old United States’ most ruthless criminal personalities, the likes of Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), “Machine Gun” Kelly, Mickey Cohen, “Doc” Barker, Whitey Bulger, and Alvin Karpis had spent significant parts of their lives in the original Alcatraz prison.The Black Tower was reserved exclusively for politicians, bureaucrats, and police officers convicted of corruption and of violations of the fundamental laws under which West America was governed. At long last the Bill of Rights had proper teeth, which the original Founding Fathers had enigmatically neglected to provide. It was one of history’s deepest mysteries, generally blamed on Alexander Hamilton and his cronies.
Wainsie herself had been convicted twice, for attempting to take advantage of her elected position of trust to make herself unspeakably rich, and for advocating, writing, introducing, sponsoring, and voting for legislation, in violation of her oath of office, that would have forever altered the character of the West American Republic and the guarantees it had made its citizens.
As the powerful fusion-powered transport hovercraft rumbled and roared across the bay, taking her and a dozen other convicted miscreants—a couple were her former colleagues, accomplices convicted with her—to meet their fate, Wainsie watched a couple of little commercial excursion boats motoring around the island, their passengers—mostly Asian tourists, it would appear—having paid handsomely to chum the shark-filled waters with meat that was past its expiration date.
On the island, somewhere within the vast prison building, she was duly registered. Her hair was cropped. She was roughly showered, and required to exchange the everyday clothing she’d arrived in for striped fluorescent lime green and safety orange prison garb, equipped with built-in coin-sized electronic “spots” that contained a convict’s identity and her entire record, remotely readable by wand. Wainsie would never again be called by her name while in prison, but by a number she had been assigned, an old Alcatraz tradition.
She was placed in a featureless cell, equipped with a built-in cot, and electronically-operated toilet and sink. It measured twenty-five by fifteen feet, more than twice as large as the original accommodations in the old prison, but she then learned that she would never know which floor she was on. There were no windows. The glass was impervious, opaque, and at least a foot thick. Confinement was, for all practical purposes, solitary—every cell here was “The Hole”. And elevator speeds were governed so that the daily journey to the roof for half an hour’s exercise, could not be timed. The object was not to prevent escape, she learned, but to remove the convicts from the universe of the civilization they had betrayed.
The roof itself was the stuff of legends among the criminal class, wide, flat, as irregular in outline as the island itself, and made of the same black glass as the rest of the building. It was nearly as slick as ice, there were no “attendants” or guard-rails of any kind, and whenever the frigid wind blew, as it nearly always did across the bay at this altitude, inmates had discovered that the only way to avoid being blown off was to hunker down in a low squat, or lie down altogether around the elevator entrance near the center of the building.
Those who found prison life unbearable and wished to terminate their sentences by voluntarily taking the more than thousand-foot plunge off the building were more than welcome to. Conflicts, too, could be settled that way, as long as both participants perished. The floating electronic tags found afterward would tell the authorities who they were—rather, who they had been—and the sharks would take care of cleaning up.
Back inside, the food was plentiful and ultra-nutritious, if a bit bland, served on push-button demand from pneumatic “Bellamy tubes” at any hour of the day on plastic dishes and with utensils that consumed themselves. In the perpetual darkness, no inmate ever knew what time it was. A prisoner’s weight was monitored, somehow, and could affect the composition and frequency of what was sent to the cell.
It was warm inside, which was good because there were no blankets. The only illumination was from the tiny red monitor lights on security cameras, at least six to a cell, and the well-armored screens in each cell which played nothing but educational and moral programming, their emphasis being on the old United States Constitution, its history and supporting law, the many implications of the Zero Aggression Principle (which scholars agreed were a life-study), the Stein Covenant, which West America had adopted in 2100, and the infamous Alcatraz “Articles of Confinement” which no inmate was asked to sign or swear to, but to which they were all subject nevertheless. Communication between inmates, anywhere but on the roof, was strictly forbidden.
During the exercise period every day, cells were automatically cleaned and decontamiunated—sterilized—with live steam and flushed out.
It was said that the guards preferred being called “attendants”. She had never heard them say so. In fact, during her twenty-five years in the Black Tower, aside from her initial registration, she had never heard them speak more than a hundred words. They were issued soft-textured black uniforms and special shoes so that their passage through the prison was nearly silent and invisible. Each wore a pair of flat, efficient dark-vision spectacles. Whether they were armed or not, and with what kind of weapon, nobody knew. The punishment for attacking them, for fighting, and for most other physical disturbances was death, on the spot. unceremonious and immediate.
On the other hand, healthcare in Alcatraz West American Federal Penitentiary was excellent and advanced: if you had been sentenced to fifty years, they were grimly determined that you would serve fifty years. Ironically, she had left Alcatraz in better health than she had entered it.
At last, after a quarter century—there was no time off for “good behavior”—she’d been released and applied immediately for passage aboard humanity’s first starship the Fifth Force, to her species’ first extrasolar colony on Rosalie’s World, even willingly putting her signature to the hated Stein Covenant, determined to leave the planet—and the Solar System—that had treated her so cruelly.
Award-winning writer L. Neil Smith is Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise and author of over thirty books. Look him up on Google, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com. He is available at professional rates, to write for your organization, event, or publication, fiercely defending your rights, as he has done since the mid-60s. His writings (and e-mail address) may be found at L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise, at JPFO.org or at Patreon. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. If you like what you’ve seen and want to see more, he says. ”Don’t applaud, throw money.“
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