Narrated by talk show host, Brian Wilson, “Down With Power” a Libertarian
Manifesto, by L. Neil Smith now downloadable as an audiobook!
Number 1,050, December 8, 2019

We live in nonsensical times

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Interlude, With Authority
by Jim Davidson

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

"Whether the authorities be invaders or merely local tyrants, the effect of such [victim disarmament] laws is to place the individual at the mercy of the state, unable to resist."
— Robert Heinlein

[Continued from Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four]

It was a bad day. Susan Nolan looked out the front windshield at the line of cars trapped on the Interstate. Her sixteen-year-old daughter Amy, sitting in the driver seat was close to tears. Little Bob and Kathy in the back seats were somber and quiet.

When Susan’s husband Bob had sent her an encoded message using the laser target atop their home, late the previous night, he had been frantic. Information had been received that their family and dozens of others in Silver Spring, Maryland, were targeted for raids. So, instead of being there at 2 a.m. on Tuesday when the raids were scheduled, the family was going up into the Smoky Mountains to Bob’s secure laboratory. Although time was short, travel had to be by local roads and not the Interstate, due to the presence of a capture team.

Getting everyone prepared, getting the kids to sleep some, and getting very little rest herself, Susan had the car ready to go. Feeling muzzy headed, it seemed good to let Amy get some experience driving. She had handed Amy a set of instructions to follow, and they headed out, closing the garage door behind them with the automatic device.

Then Little Bob, age 9, and Kathy, age 12, had gotten into a fight over their video game in the back seat.

"If the software lets me make the move, it is a valid move, Kathy!" Little Bob was indignant that his tactic was being questioned. He’d been a fighter all along, of course, taking after his dad. Far from seeing his nickname as a slur, Little Bob loved the comparison to his tall, highly intelligent, and very wise dad. He knew that one day he’d be just as tall, and knowing some of the hard things his dad had been called on to do, didn’t feel any hurry at all.

By the time Susan had gotten Kathy to stop shrieking about fairness, and everyone settled back in their seats, Amy had gotten them onto the I-495 Beltway headed toward Interstate 66. Turning forward to see the situation, Susan was nearly panicked.

"Amy!" She had said, trying not to shout. "You take the next exit. Dad doesn’t want us on the Interstates. There’s a capture team in the area."

"Mom! I know how to get to Dad’s lab. You know I do. He always goes this way," complained Amy, from the driver’s seat, carefully avoiding a slowdown on the right and accelerating toward their destiny.

"Please, Amy. Your dad has been monitoring the owner communications, and there’s going to be trouble if we don’t exit. Please." Susan’s voice conveyed her abject fear.

It had been three years since the crazy election of 2020, and no one on the coasts felt safe. Wherever people were not free to keep and bear arms, such as Maryland, DC, New Jersey, New York, and similar parts, there had been roaming armies of door-to-door bandits searching in all the homes for guns, paper maps, and other "contraband." Especially contraband radios. That was one of Bob’s motivations for installing the laser target on the roof and cooperating with his old friend Walt Anderson in setting up secure encrypted laser communications.

They were using quantum encryption algorithms plus shifting seed-word encryption pads, and so far the system had been working well. Their laser signal went up to a communications platform in the tropopause, an unmanned dirigible that used the low-wind conditions to keep station with high altitude propellors and a skin covered in solar cells. The system even scavenged water vapour to split into hydrogen and oxygen, using the hydrogen to extend their helium gas lift. These communication platforms had been pioneered by Avealto a few years earlier. Anderson was sympathetic about freedom groups, but basically motivated by the financial opportunity of supplementing geostationary satellite communications. Transponder lease agreements were very profitable.

In 2023, capture teams were openly acknowledged, where previously they had been operating in Baltimore and other major cities somewhat more covertly. Owners such as Pamela Harris, Nancy Callosi, the Clintons, and others were grabbing people off the streets and highways, anywhere they could shut down traffic and scoop up victims. Some who disappeared were released, sharing tales of torture, rape, brutal slave camps, starvation diets, and mutilations. Most who were kidnapped were never heard from again.

The reason for the slow-down in the right hand lane was the availability of an exit. As Amy was finally persuaded to move back toward the right, they had already passed that exit. Up ahead were flashing blue and red lights from a police cruiser blocking the next exit.

Knowing from the rumours and the reports from those deliberately released to sow fear and terror, Susan was sure that all the subsequent exits would be blocked. Somewhere up ahead, traffic would slow, line up, and every car, every truck, every bus, would be looted. A line of semi-rigs were far ahead, to be loaded with anything of value, and another line of schoolbus and passenger vehicles would be used to move all the people collected. Other lanes ahead were filled with tow trucks large and small to gather the vehicles. Within less than two hours, there would be no evidence left on the road. Everyone and every thing would be on its way to a warehouse or a forced labour camp.

"Amy, you need to pull to the side for a few minutes. I need to take care of a few things," said Susan.

"Okay, mom." Amy was afraid she had completely failed her parents and siblings, and was nearly beside herself with worry. Having clear instructions and her mom’s confident tone helped her remain calm. She pulled onto the shoulder and stopped, but left the engine running. She also kept her eyes on the mirrors and the road in front of and beside her, in case one of the capture team overseers was alerted to her stopping. Some people had tried escaping up freeway embankments, and it did work. But clearly that was a risk Amy’s mom wanted to avoid, because the family would likely get separated or killed.

Susan opened the glove compartment. Inside was a complete laser communications station. She typed in her password and saw Bob’s smiling face on the welcome screen. She typed his address, then sent a short but clear message explaining their circumstances. The computer encoded the message and a laser rig in their SUV’s roof rack hunted the thermopause for one of the dirigibles. Finding and focusing were automatic, as was the sending of the signal.

"Children, your dad prepared for this situation. He’ll be on his way in a few minutes, and I’m sure he’ll call in backup resources. Meanwhile you need to take these small pills and swallow them. Finding you in case we get separated will be enormously easier with these little beacons in you. They are only triggered by a radio signal Dad knows how to send. You won’t feel a thing. They are very low power, but strong enough that Dad can find each of us," Susan said, calmly, to allay the fears of the children. She took the lead by swallowing her own capsule.

Then she watched as Amy, Little Bob, and Kathy each took theirs. She knew that if they were captives long enough to pass the transponders into the sewer system, they were unlikely to be rescued, anyway. She also knew that any bracelet or anklet or pocketed device would be seized, so there was no alternative to the swallowed beacons. But she kept these thoughts to herself.

"Dad’s gonna come in and kick ass!" asserted Little Bob. Susan smiled at him and nodded.

"Alright Amy, we won’t be happier if an overseer thinks we’re trying to escape. Go ahead and put your left turn signal on and merge into traffic when it is safe."

Amy did as directed, and they were soon back on the main lanes. And, five minutes later, they saw the sea of red lights as everyone ahead of them began to slow for the traffic jam. It was 08:17 and outbound traffic jams were unusual for a Monday morning. But Beltway traffic jams were unsurprising, and all the drivers were slowing down.

A mile ahead of their car, armed teams were taking drivers and passengers out of the cars, trucks, and busses that had fully stopped. Anyone resisting was beaten and anyone producing an effective weapon such as a gun or knife was shot. Those beaten unconscious or killed were hauled to a bus or van and thrown in with the living. Everyone reaching the transport vehicles had their wrists zip tied in front of them. Those who had resisted were zip tied at their ankles, as well, in case they should wake up and try to flee. Feigning death was made more difficult by the brutal practice of an overseer pushing a hand into any gunshot wound. Few could resist an involuntary flinch in the presence of such pain. Even so, dead bodies were also zip tied hand and foot.

Tow trucks were hooking up to the front row of vehicles. Wallets, watches, and jewellery were grabbed and bagged. Preliminary searches were finding "contraband" in many of the cars. Although GPS apps were widely used, it was only in the last year that possession of a paper map or atlas of maps had been prohibited in Maryland, New Jersey, Hawai’i, California, and New York City. The Connecticut and Massachusetts state legislatures were expected to follow suit.

Every once in a while, gold or silver coins or bullion would be found. Susan knew there was a case with survival gear, a locked gun box, and other contraband, hidden under the spare tire in the trunk of their SUV. She only hoped that her call for help would be answered before too long.

Like everyone else who took survivor stories seriously, Susan knew that she and the children would be separated. Little Bob would not be a favoured captive, given his gender and youth. He was too young to be an effective labourer, and all male children over the age of two were killed for their organs and blood products. Of course, owner’s representatives had a reputation for sadism, and were not above both psychological and physical torture. They were also known for rape of both male and female captives, of all ages.

Nor was it exactly a new set of things. People had been disappearing off the streets for decades. Runaway teens were often turned into sex slaves and trafficked. Capture vans had been in major cities for many years before the 2020 election. But in the last few years those in positions of power were convinced that they no longer gained anything by pretending the system was just, compassionate, or decent. They were openly rampaging, grabbing people, grabbing loot, hiding in the underground bunkers and personal palatial estates they had carefully built, using their private guards and the armies of socialist bandits they had encouraged.

Away from the cities, much of the country was still safe. And many of the cities in "fly over" country weren’t bad places. Chicago, Denver, Albuquerque, Houston, and Dallas had seen open fire fights between Red Rangers pursuing a communist revolution and freedom enthusiasts willing to fight to contain the madness.

But the more coastal communities of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Bay Area cities, Portland, Seattle, Boston, New York, all of New Jersey, most of Maryland, Washington, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando had been flooded with Red Ranger brigades, battalions, and bandit teams. By some estimates, three or four million Americans were involved in actively attacking their neighbours, looting homes, beating anyone who resisted, reporting contraband under the new rules, and some of law enforcement was involved. Prison camps had been put up everywhere, and in some cases law enforcement leadership who opposed the new ways had been replaced or summarily executed by Red Rangers.

Fear gripped the country.

[End part five, continued in part six]


Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of and the vision director of You can find him on as well as and also as planetaryjim.

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