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Compensation for Damages
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
"If the defendant is found to be at fault,
compensation is owed to the victim for the damage caused. Somalis view
humiliating or punishing a wrongdoer as a waste of time and resources,
except that an additional fine may be awarded to the victim if the
violation was intentional. The task of deterrence or rehabilitation is
left to the clan of the wrongdoer, because they are ultimately liable for
― Davi Barker, The Law According to the Somalis
"Immobiliser Twenty, what's your twenty?" Ben Stone smiled while he said it.
"Bedrock incident commander, this is Immobiliser Twenty. Heading West toward Mojave Airport. Did our care package arrive safely, over?" the pilot of the Stratolaunch replied.
"It's here safe and sound. Thanks for the slime drop and the care pack. We're getting the Red Rangers rounded up for trial now. If you don't mind a moment of chatter, I do have a question, though, over" Ben paused.
"Go ahead Bedrock. We're not busy on autopilot here. The fun comes when we set this beast down," the giant plane's pilot said.
"Gotcha. So, isn't the Montrose county airport runway a bit short for getting your plane off the ground? I read just now that Stratolaunch needs 12,000 feet, and Montrose airport is only 10,000 feet. How'd you manage? Over," said Ben.
"Rocket assisted take-off. Four strap-on rocket engines. We've been meaning to get that system flight tested and after we had the emergency landing last month there in Montrose, it seemed like the best way to get our plane back, over." The pilot smiled as he thought about those events. Sometimes being in aviation was the best life.
Ben thought a moment. "Well, thanks for the help with those reds. It's good to be able to get a few of them to sit still and shut up long enough to speak some sense near them. We owe you, and we'll coordinate your bill on the dark net. Bedrock incident over and out. "
Jane Harris was standing by to talk to Ben. "What would the bill be for that kind of service, I wonder?" she asked.
Ben smiled again. It was a good day. Still plenty of Summer sunshine and at this altitude the temperatures weren't too high.
"That's been on my mind, but, we have forty-eight captives, five-pickups, a station wagon, and some of a bus, along with weapons, personal belongings, and a very nice looking recoilless tube. There's not a lot of question about what went on. We have it all on video. Multiple news agencies provided coverage, so the whole world can see. The survivors of Scott Hitchens have the earlier claim for compensation, and we'll file with the court for reimbursement of our costs, damages, use of ammunition, and the slime drops. The survivors are going to be paying compensation for a long, long time," Ben smiled again.
Jane was thoughtful. "You know I killed one of them. They're saying his name was Billy Ranger."
Ben looked at Jane, saw her staring off toward the wreckage of the bus. He could tell from her voice that something was profoundly troubling to her. He understood what it was.
He asked, "Was that the one who came charging out of the bus and stopped to shoot?"
Jane grimaced, looked at Ben's face for a moment, dropped her eyes. "No," she said, "They say that one's name is Johnny. He's alive and Doc Perino thinks he'll recover. He's in some sort of coma though. No, it was before that. When the bus started to move around, I could guess where it would be stopping to avoid getting hung up on the shoulder drop off. So I figured the places its engine would have to be, and sent five shots up that way. Only it happened that one of them went through the last window and hit that Billy. Tore him to shreds."
Jane felt the bile rise in her throat and turned her head. Ben reached out a hand and laid it on her shoulder.
"This part sucks, Jane. There's no point me pretending it's okay, or that you won't be reliving that moment many times. But you saved a lot of lives. If they'd gotten that recoilless sending rounds our way, you and your whole team could have been wiped out. " Ben paused, took his hand away.
Jane looked over with a puzzled expression. "Yeah, didn't they stop using those for avalanche prevention? I thought that was old school."
Ben nodded. "True, they did, back before the collapse. Ran out of ammo and switched to howitzers for a time. Several were in private armouries. But then the 3D printing and computer controlled machining people got going, and started making new rounds for them. There's an outfit up in Wyoming that's making ammo and tubes now, using old blueprints they found."
Jane shook her head, trying to clear it of distractions. "What am I gonna owe his family? Or his tribe if what they say about the Red Rangers is true? Sure it was a battle, and no, it wasn't my plan to hit him or anything. But he's just as dead."
"Jane, we're insured. Didn't you know? Our whole operation here today was in response to an official call up of the militia by sheriff Green. You heard what Sarah read in the court room. Paradox Valley militia have a very comprehensive insurance policy. Litigation, liability, personal injury, damages to property. Even your fuel and ammo are covered. Claims adjuster is already going over the videos. Financially we're all going to be fine. We get great rates because so many of us have body armour, night vision gear, up to date weapons, and top notch training. But that's not what's bothering you."
Jane shook her head, staring at the ground. She looked up, her eyes going back to the bus. There was a big tow-truck hooking up to it now to clear it off the road. In her mind's eye, she could see the rounds going into the engine and that last one just past. She hadn't known then what had happened inside the bus, but she knew now.
"A lot of people have been in combat, Jane." Ben lifted a hand, but decided it wasn't time to break the bubble Jane was in right now. He let his hand drop back to his side. "I know that isn't much help right now, but some of the people who have been in combat are here in this valley. It isn't easy to talk about combat with people who haven't been in it. I don't say 'been through it' because you never really get through with it. It stays with you. I know."
Now it was Ben's turn to stare off into the distance. The two of them stood there for several minutes.
That's how Dori Pinero found them as she road up on her dirt bike. Like two statues. Not part of one work of art, somehow separate. Standing near one another, looking away in completely different directions. She'd read about this look, the thousand yard stare. She stopped nearby, killed the engine.
It was the evening Sun that made the tableau so interesting. That low, golden light coming in. Two people she'd known about and met before. Heroes of the day's events, who had defended their homes, and hers, from people who were coming to work mischief and mayhem. That's how Dori's foster mom would have described it. Mischief and mayhem.
"Jane, Ben, mom sent me over to let you know," said Dori, quietly, not really sure she should break the mood. " Court's on for tomorrow morning at 10. Just the Jones trial, none of these folks here. Not yet anyway."
Ben nodded, looked at Dori, smiled. "Thanks, Dori, " he said, also quietly. "I'll be there no problem. Jane and I were just talking about what happened here today. Jane?"
Jane turned toward Ben, and saw Dori standing there. Good kid. No need to say anything about the day's events. More than enough video footage would be seen before long anyway. Part of Jane's mind reviewed the recent conversation. She had not really been listening, but the ideas registered somewhat.
"I'm glad you're here, Dori," Jane said, smiling. "What time did you say for tomorrow?"
Dori smiled back. Her friend was going to be okay. " Ten a.m. Mom says we all need to sleep in and have a good breakfast before court."
Ira's Story Ends
At the top of the stairs, Ira, Jake, and Eleanor exited onto a long hallway. With Ira in the lead, they took a look in each room. Where they found any remaining slaves, they urged speed and immediate evacuation.
"An owner's whip is in the bunker of the admin building. Get out now. Go to the South fence, look for the orange paint, follow the crowd. Go downhill, get through Double Trouble state park, go to the inland waterway. Rescue boats are there to take you to safer places. " Ira said this half a dozen times as they made their way down the hall.
Each floor of each of the twenty buildings in Gaunt's Brook Camp held 250 people against their will. At the far end from the stair they came up was another stair, and immediately adjacent to it was a guard room which would have interior rooms including a cramp hold, and a detention block of five other small cells.
Approaching the guard room, Ira could see the door was open. It opened into the room, so the room could be barricaded from inside in the event of rioting. Inside was overturned furniture and no sign of anyone. So Ira went in and turned to the left to get to the detention rooms to make sure they were clear.
That's when he heard the sound behind him of the door moving. Ira had erred in not clearing corners, not checking behind the door. It was his last error.
Before he could turn, two bullets took him in the back of the neck, just below his helmet, just above the collar of his body armour. His spine was severed and there was massive damage to his throat and left jugular. His eyes rolled up, his life on Earth ended, and everything went white.
Eleanor was in the room next door, and Jake was in the hallway near the door to the barracks room which Eleanor was in. They heard two shots fired. Jake looked at her and motioned with his eyes and head. Eleanor nodded, agreeing that she had heard a sound from the direction they had seen Ira go.
Jake motioned for Eleanor to wait and began heading down the hall toward the guard room. Eleanor decided she didn't want to be too far behind so she let Jake move ahead five paces, then leaned just her head into the hall.
Eleanor saw Jake still moving toward that guard room door, and turned her head to look back down the hall the way they had come. There at the end of the hall were two slaves. They were looking back at her, with "deer in the headlights" eyes.
Eleanor raised a finger to her lips to gesture for silence. Then she raised her gun into view, pointed at the ceiling, and looked again at Jake's progress. He was flat against the wall next to the door. Eleanor looked back to motion at the paralysed slaves only to see them bolting toward the stairs.
Realising that their pounding footsteps would attract the attention of the stay-behind guard, Eleanor dove onto the floor of the hallway, sliding on her ass until her legs went into the room across the hall. From this ground-hugging position, she stopped her slide with her lower right hand on the door jamb while her upper hand raised her gun toward the end of the hall.
Sure enough, the sound of pounding feet on the far stairs brought the hidden guard out into the hall, directly past Jake's point of aim. Jake was flat against the right hand wall, gun at chest level. He had just seen Ira's body on the floor inside the room when the guard stepped into the hall. Jake fired twice in quick succession, point blank range. Both bullets took the guard in his chest, hurtling him back into the door jamb.
Jake raised his point of aim and put a third round in the guard's head. The guard's body slumped to the floor. Jake kicked the guard's gun away from the body. Then he looked into the room, slapped the door so it flew open against the adjacent wall. No one in sight.
Now Jake took a look back, having heard Eleanor's slide across the hall. She was pointing her gun past him to his left. Her right hand was still gripping the door jamb of the barracks room she was half out of. Her left hand was holding the blue goo revolver. Seeing his look, she shifted her point of aim further left still. Jake just cocked his head a little and said, "I didn't think you were left handed."
Eleanor smiled sheepishly and said, "I'm not. But I wasn't gonna slide facing away from you and I wasn't gonna slide with my gun on the ground, was I?"
Jake smiled back. Then he returned his attention to the detention block that Ira had been heading toward when the guard killed him. All six doors were closed. Three on the left side and three on the right. At the far end of the hall was an open room Jake had seen before which held a fridge, table, and chairs for the guards to relax when they weren't busy hurting slaves.
As a medic for the jump team, Ira was not carrying a rifle. He had been holding a 9 mm Glock, which now lay next to his body. Reflecting that his 5-shot revolver now only had two rounds in it, Jake set it down next to Ira's body and picked up the Glock.
From the back of Ira's neck and the amount of blood on the floor, it was clear without even seeing the exit wounds that the two bullets had ended Ira's life. Nevertheless, Jake took a moment to put his hand on Ira's neck. No pulse.
Jake looked up to see Eleanor standing in the hall, looking down at the guard. She had known this one to be a sadist. She was grimly satisfied he was dead. Jake turned Ira's head and looked at his headset - earbud and a microphone, attached to a helmet mounted radio. Easiest to grab the whole helmet.
"Eleanor," Jake said. Her attention shifted to him. "I'm going to check those rooms back there. Wait here at this door, please. Pick up the guard's gun, it has more bullets than your revolver. I won't be long. And if shooting starts, run away. Take this helmet with you. It's got Ira's radio. See if you can get anyone to respond, bring up reinforcements. Okay?"
Eleanor nodded. Jake stood up and handed the helmet to her. He waited until she had retrieved the guard's gun from the floor.
Jake went down to the first door. He was pretty sure that any remaining guard would have come out of hiding when the first guard killed Ira. But there was only one way to be sure. He opened the door suddenly and stepped aside. The door swung open, slammed into the wall, revealing an empty room. Jake checked the corners and stepped to the next door.
Looking back, he could see Eleanor retrieving a full magazine from the guard's belt. He watched her swap the full mag for the one which had two rounds missing, the bullets that had been shot into Ira. She'd done this before, Jake could tell. She dropped the mag from the pistol, racked the slide to remove the chambered round, slapped the new mag in, and chambered a round. Picking up the dropped mag and the loose round, she thumbed the round into the mag. Then she looked up. Jake nodded at her.
With Eleanor crouched at the door to the hall, Jake slapped the second door open. Empty. The third room was also empty. The guard break room at the end was empty. The fridge was a temptation for later. Probably some cold beverages in there. Maybe some food.
The fourth and fifth detention rooms also proved empty. Which left the cramp hold. That door opened outward because the interior of the hold was filled with obstacles meant to force the slave into a contorted position. Guards would stand and laugh while the slave they were punishing tried to get into the room. If the slave took too long to figure out how to get in, a guard would slam the door onto whatever remained outside the cramp hold. It was a malicious torture.
Jake pulled the door open, keeping it between himself and the interior of the room. What he saw inside was terrible. No longer a living person. The body had been hacked to pieces and left to hang on the internal pipes. The floor was covered in blood which began spreading out as soon as Jake opened the door.
Above the cramp hold and behind the door was a linen closet. Towels were still neatly stacked in the top three feet of the door. The lower four feet was the cramp hold, and its ghastly contents.
Jake grabbed a stack of towels, then let the door slide shut. He looked back at Eleanor, dropped his head and shook it. She turned her head away. She could see the blood seeping out. She felt no urge to share the horror. She'd spent her share of nights in the cramp hold.
Jake came back to Ira's body. "Eleanor, we need to get this equipment off Ira. I'm going to push this button on his forearm bracelet, I think that activates his radio. Let's see if we can get some help up here. Otherwise, if you take his gear, I'll haul his body downstairs."
Eleanor looked a question.
Jake smiled, grimly. "Leave no one behind. Not even a body to be desecrated and videos posted to upset his family."
Eleanor nodded her understanding.
Together the two of them cleared the rest of the building. No one else was inside. Ira's body waited at the landing on each floor. Finally, Jake carried the body out to rucksack central.
As they approached the remaining rucksacks and John Kell, the injured jumper, two pickups and a bus came from the north. Bill Samuels and the vehicles had arrived.
[End part fourteen, continues in part fifteen]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim. He appreciates any support you can provide as times are very difficult. See the Paypal link on this page, or Flote.app for crypto options. Or email your humble author to offer other choices.
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