The Cutting Edge Prologue

Prologue 1 Draft (12/26/07)
New Chicago Space Port. January 18, 2880

It was once warehouse space but now was the holding pen for the Caliphate’s Large Transport “Kofi Annan”. There were some 2900 people crowded on the floor. About 2000 men, and 700 women, a couple of hundred children. On an improvised walkway circling the building. about halfway to the ceiling, were 30 armed guards. All in all it was an improvement over the Gary Indiana Reeducation Center where most had spent the last several weeks.

“Rise and shine boys and girl,” came the bellow from the guard as he clanged his shock stick on the bars of the cell block door. “4 AM. and off you go.” Except for the children they were all dressed in orange prison overalls, on the arm a patch emblazoned with the Star of David. To hold personal belongings they each had a canvas sack the size of a pillowcase.

Fifteen minutes after wakeup, without breakfast, they were herded into transport vans. Two hours after that, still in darkness, the vans pulled one at a time, inside the unheated warehouse, and we were off loaded at the New Chicago Cargo Terminal. Inside the building was set up with a few tables holding large urns of tepid ‘near coffee’ and plastic cups. Everyone, even the children took advantage, thankful for that minimal bit of warmth.

A prerecorded announcement played itself over and over in holovids projected on three of the building’s walls.
“Welcome to Marais, your new home. Like the thousands before you a life of industry and fulfillment awaits as you make that first step towards a dream. . .”

After seeing the same program repeated six times in an hour and a half, it was interrupted by a voice from the buildings loudspeaker system.

“Attention all transportees. You are indeed fortunate to be about ready to board the Transport Kofi Annan. Along with those who have in the past made the journey on her sister ship the Palestine, you will be the thirteenth such group to be taken from our poor over crowded Earth, to the paradise of Marais.”

Dean Messmer, standing with his sack at his feet thought to himself, “And exactly what was it I had done to get me here?”

It was really quite simple. His crime was inheriting and then operating: Messmer & Associates – Estate Auctions and Appraisals. Dean’s mother and father started the business 35 years ago; eight years before he was born. They made out pretty well from the start, but Dean’s father, Cletus Messmer, made his greatest contribution to the firm’s initial success by hiring two young brothers, Moshe and Leo Radom.

This was 600 years after the air burst over Tel Aviv completed the final solution to the Israeli problem; but the Jewish problem had never gone away. In the upper Midwest and most of the Mountain states it was still legal for Jews to work in mixed employment firms in what used to be the United States.

The addition of “Uncle Moshe and Uncle Leo” enabled Cletus to take on several jobs at once and expanded the firms access to, and knowledge of, Jewish Estate Valuation at a time when the last of them were coming on the market. He knew it seemed callous but what else should he have done? He was doing his best in an imperfect world.

The young Dean started helping out from the time he was able to walk by himself and stay out of trouble. His mother home schooled so that wasn’t a problem. The public system was happy enough to keep those who scored highly on the yearly exams off of their books. It kept the diversity mandated group averages from looking quite so lopsided—at least until they declared education success and stopped publishing any kind of results at all.

The Messmer’s dealt in small and mid-sized estates and auctions. Population decline in the “White/Caucasian/Infidel” demographic in the former United States had taken that percentage of the population down to less than 20 percent. Many auctions were held under contract tor distant relatives of the deceased as whole families died off.

The partnership employed around 20 full time workers and if they needed more labor, for setups or preliminary inspections on larger jobs one of the Radoms always knew where to get more temporary help.

Quite typically the way it worked was like this: A relative would contact the firm and the firm would set up an appointment to view the property with the potentioal client. Often it was a small farm site or a home in one of the declining rural communities. Cletus or one of the Radoms would estimate the total and if a contract was agreed upon assist in setting the various item’s original bid prices. A few days before the auction date a couple of people would go in and do the sorting labeling and set up for the sale. That was what Dean started working at about the same time Moshe Radom‘s daughter Leah joined the firm.

When Dean was 14 his dad told him that each of his “Uncles” owned 15% of partnership and had Dean sit in on the meeting where Cletus and Dean’s mother offered the Radoms each another 10%. That would have made the business an equal 4 way partnership.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart Cletus and Sandy, but thank you no,” Leo said, “The offer is more than fair, and does us great honor, but with the political winds blowing as they are it is far better that things continue as they do now. If the worst should happen, and we both fear it will, you are both much too exposed as it is.”

In the days spent preparing for the auction, when all the boxes and closets and drawers were gone through in great detail, it was not uncommon to find items that were of considerable value, things which had been overlooked in the original estimate. My parents instilled into me from my earliest days that everything got labeled and reported to the owner—Everything! We worked on a percentage type commission that was better than most small auctioneers because of our reputation for honesty. But more than that it was the right thing to do. It came as a shock the first time I found out that for one type of item that principal was violated.

Guns: After the last of the general bans there were many thousands, hundreds of thousands even, who refused to turn their weapons in but instead hid them away from sight. There were even a few small scale local insurrections, a handful of local people saying No! at the end. But the other changes had been so great, and the once proud American right had already been so steadily chipped away at, that when the final laws were passed there just weren’t enough who were willing and to make a stand on the principal of the thing.

Dean was at the spaceport now but Cletus Messmer had been killed six years earlier. The progression from then till now was inexorable.
The company was involved with an estate sale in suburban Seattle. That was outside of our normal area but it was for a friend of a previous client. The last words I heard from him were what Mom had recorded as he sent a hurried call.

“A flash mob Sandy, we got big troubles here.” Dean heard the crowd noises in the background. The client wasn’t even Jewish, but all it took was a rumor to set these things off.

“Call the police Clete hurry!”

“ They’re here already dear. Just standing and looking from the outskirts.” Then there was a thump and the sound like the com unit dropping. After that an angry, noisy confused babble with only “Dirty Jews, Kill the Dirty Jews” breaking in clearly one time before the connection went dead.
The Kofi Annan was an ancient generation-two transport, designed to carry fourteen to fifteen hundred in minimal comfort. To say she was overcrowded was an understatement; with the others who had joined in orbit there were more than 7000 prisoners, a crew of 60, and 200 guards. Some few managed an upper bunk by virtue of getting there first but most had to be content with pads on the floor. They gave out a marker to label the bag of personal items but no place in which to store them. People knew instinctively, or soon learned, not to let them out of their sight.

The Annan was slow, so slow that trip time totaled 15 weeks. But a very strange 15 weeks indeed. About 80 percent of the time they spent drugged and lying on pads in a near comma. Much of the other 20 percent was spent exercising to overcome the effects of the drugs. The reason for all of this was that it took far less food and oxygen to keep someone alive when in a drugged state. Had the transportees been up and active all the time, the Annan’s life support couldn’t have coped. The men and women were originally posted to different compartments but no particular effort was made to keep them apart. The drugs took care of that. And one couldn’t avoid the drugs as they were in the food, and the less said about the food the better.

You got used to the smell, too much humanity, too little water. I have no idea of what went on with the crew. Except for occasional announcements we had no contacted at all and for that mater seldom saw a guard as well.

Neither the Captain nor the crew made any attempt to tell us when we transited the into normal space. We were all either drugged or there was no outward sensation so no one knew when it happened.

The landing site, Parson’s Bay, was named after the planets discoverer, Henry Stempelton Parson. Parson led the UNWG’s first expedition that headed into the region of space where the star and planet were located. That had happened in 2154 and much was made of it at the time. The mere fact that another habital planet had been found was special enough, but against all odds that made it two in a row for Parson as an explorer. He should have died a rich man but instead lost his life trying to draw three of a kind.

There were many calls for immediate mass colonization. In retrospect, and since no colonization was immediately authorized, it seems the Caliphate must have figured that potential Colonists personality type was like the once widely held belief concerning politicians; anyone who wished to be one was totally unsuitable for the task. The names of the volunteers were put on a list for later use.

The bay, on one side and in the center, opened up on a vast lowland plain. On the other, the southern side, was a butte that ranged from 300 to over 500 feet. It started from the bays edge and formed a corner with the coast. It went directly inland away from the shore in the landward direction and followed the sea up the coast for 50 or more miles in the other; rugged steep and unscalable. On the plateau on top of the bluff was the Caliphate compound, at the bottom the town.

The butte was totally off limits to anyone but Calp personal. There was only one land route up, a road carved into the solid rock, and that was both gated and heavily guarded. The Calps had two landers they used to bring the prisoners to the surface. Each one could carry about 100 people at a time. After being herded inside up in orbit they were landed on the plateau, never anyplace where there might be a possibility of the prisoners taking the vessels over. This de-embarkation was supposed to be the last time any of them would see of the land on top the cliffs.

Parson’s Bay, situated on a continent in Marais’, that word was French for Swamp’s Southern Hemisphere was much too close to the equator. Eighties and nineties during the day with very high humidity. Usually a cooler breeze blew in from the ocean after night fall.

Why was it done that way? This was terraforming on the cheap and over time. Only as much machinery as could not be dispensed with would be employed. If the goal had been to make a rapidly expanding economic base as efficiently as possible the strategy would have been all wrong. But that wasn’t the goal. The plan was to get as many malcontents and unreliable off of Earth at the lowest possible cost short of out right murder. In that respect the plan was a complete success.