The Blurt Of Richard Davies

When What Could Never Happen Here, happens here... It took a civil war and the fracturing of the United Kingdom to force the issue, but finally someone did what needed to be done to sort out the mess we were in once and for all. With the incompetent politicians replaced by the Consensus government, the Federation as we are now called is being led into a green renaissance. We may not be wealthy, but we're getting by, and from here the only way is up... While many people have been browbeaten into believing it, Richard Davies - an executive journalist recently promoted in one of the new media organisations - knows the propaganda to be an empty lie. But as a long-delayed General Election heralds the end of emergency rule and the start of the Democratic Reset he'll find out just how difficult it is to do the right thing in a world gone wrong. The Blurt Of Richard Davies: Today's fiction is a warning of tomorrow's nightmare. Read it while you are still able to.

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29. Chapter Twenty Nine

I was off duty when the Battle of the Boot Sale took place; but I heard all about it.
The Connies had always hated boot sales. They considered them to be merely a means of quickly disposing of stolen goods and laundering undeclared income. With state community shops to which surplus produce could be sold at fixed prices; and Xchanges where household goods and clothes could be bartered or valuables pledged as collateral for short-term microcredit they considered there really was no need for these unregulated, beyond state control, slightly shady enterprises.
As with so many other things they disapproved of, the Council and their army of willing accomplices tried to make life difficult, if not impossible for the booters.
There were many and varied means of doing so. Road checks and shakedowns on the routes leading to known sale sites; ambush inspections of goods and demands for absolutely ironclad proof of ownership by Compies and local authority trading standards officers, with confiscation of any goods which couldn't be validated. Food items were scrupulously examined for suspected 'risks to health' and a blanket ban on the sale of just out of date items rigorously enforced, despite the fact the food was still perfectly good to eat.
Their attempts to strangle the boot sales with a garrotte of red tape were largely successful; forcing much of the trade that used to be done at the sales onto the dark exchanges; but there were a hard core of determined, independent people who would not be cowed into submission. They would arrive at their chosen sites in tuks, or pedalling cargo bikes, or spill, backpacks and bags overloaded with goods, from buses. Even though there were a declining few traders left that was still too many for the local Connies who were affronted by the very existence of the sellers and their openly anti-authoritarian freewheeling attitudes. Why they even publicly displayed; nay proudly flaunted, their disgustingly obese bodies and tattoos!
These final few tough nuts would have to be cracked once and for all; their sales finally curtailed. So mid-way through the foreshortened chill summer booting season the authorities pounced.
NatPol and CityPol tend to concentrate only on issues of serious criminality, so it was the ComPol who planned and undertook the raid. The may have thought they were being clever in arranging for the local infogrid to be shut down in order to prevent news of their operation from spreading, but it was that, or the lack of their usual presence which must've alerted the booters to the fact something wasn't right.
The rumour of a raid spread by word of mouth. Some people turned around before reaching the site, others frantically repacked their goods and were about to leave when the Compies, swiftly and quietly arrived en masse.
People can be forced to put up with a lot before their sullen resentment flashes into righteous anger; this was the moment when their rage erupted beyond containment. From hidden places an assortment of weapons suddenly appeared, while others improvised with whatever they could find. The ComPigs found themselves facing a tooled-up mob intent on resisting them and teaching them a bloody good lesson in the process, no matter what the later consequences.
The Compies were well prepared with body amour, riot shields, wands, tasers, pepper sprays and CS gas. They found they needed them all when they became embroiled in vicious close quarter combat with the booters. It should've been a rout with the Pols steamrollering the booters but the word had got out, and reinforcements had been called in. Even the local gangs wanted a piece of the action. The result was an all-out war.
As with everything these days it was filmed, and later blurted when infogrid connection became possible. There is plenty of material to be found in the dark if you know where to look, and it is these vids which I'm editing into a documentary, and a short election blurt for the NRP.
The Compies thought they had any trouble contained within their contracting cordon, but the arrival of a mass of hastily mobilised boot sale supporters from outside meant that it was they who found themselves surrounded and under attack from all sides. They weren't expecting their tuks and paddy wagons to be hijacked and driven at high speed into their ranks from their rear, running many of their number down, before being set on fire. They were unpleasantly surprised by the blinders, the stun guns, the machetes, or even the occasional gun shots. Nor did they think a shotgun blast could bring down their low-level surveillance drone. Surprised at the scale of the resistance they were swamped by a human wave and given a traditional Pompey shoeing; with at least two of their number being kicked into a permanent vegetative state. After ten minutes they had to concede they were losing the battle and called in  reinforcements from the CityPol.
By the time additional forces arrived it was all but over. The Compies had formed themselves into a tight defensive formation backed up against a clubhouse wall to try to fend off their opponents, while a few bewildered prisoners were held in the middle of the group; but by them the majority of their attackers had fled realising extra police would soon be on their way. The area around the sports club car park was left a shambles of debris, blood stains, and immobile bodies; while Compy tuks still burned fiercely. More police and emergency services arrived, and some sort of order was restored.
The professional CityPol chased the few remaining stragglers down the streets, firing baton rounds at them and getting involved in fast-moving skirmishes; but the squall had blown itself out. The repercussions would last longer. There were many immediate arrests, with more to follow when the video from the body worn cameras was examined. Not all of the cameras which were torn from vehicles, police uniforms or taken along with the helmets were ever recovered; some left behind were too badly burned to be used: People had become wise to those means of evidence gathering.

More than a hundred people were injured to various degrees; sixteen of them seriously, five with life-threatening stab wounds and head injuries. Four Compies were so badly injured they would never be able to resume their duties, while others suffered severed fingers and deep machete cuts.
The reprisals soon followed. There's no love lost between the CityPol and the Compies but such a violation of public order could not go unpunished, even if it was prompted by the ComPigs' insensitivity. Widespread follow-up raids and shakedowns took place, all of those arrested and convicted (these days the conviction invariably follows the arrest, whatever the circumstances of the case) were sentenced to lengthy Rehabilitation terms, and for weeks afterward the area was blanketed with a heavy-handed police presence just to make absolutely sure the lesson had been learned.
But the retaliation can't erase the fact that once again a community had stood up against the overbearing regulation of their lives; and even after order has been restored those jobsworths inspecting even the smallest charitable jumble sales for the slightest infractions of the law are still inhibited by their nervousness of sparking another outbreak of disorder. The local ComPigs still patrol in pairs or groups, ever fearful of being ambushed and 'spazzed' - attacked with the intent of inflicting a permanent disability.
Beneath the facade of calm the resentment still simmers. Anonymous dark blurts promise the old scores aren't forgotten; notes have been made about informers and Street Wardens; and come the time the accounts will be settled.
Of course little of this was reported at the time. Even we at IMS were served with an immediate Section 38 directive by the OMS severely curtailing how we could report the events. A week later when the courts began to pass sentence we were only allowed to mention the offences were 'anti-social activities' without giving any details of the specific charges or context of the cases. For all intents and purposes, the riot never happened; such is the Connies' dread of an example of resistance inspiring others to do likewise.
Yet the riot did occur; and the smouldering resentment remains. When the electoral process officially starts, and we're able to 'cast with fewer restrictions as part of the campaign, we hope to capitalise on these undercurrents of discontent.
I make a final check of the edit, making sure the script reads smoothly for the narrator to voice. Then I run some of the more sensitive sections of the documentary through a facial pixilation wurdle; and just to make absolutely sure the faces can't be identified I use a one-time algorithm which should render the vid useless to anyone trying to use it as evidence in a further persecution. It's best to err on the side of caution in case anyone who darkblurted had been careless in disguising themselves. I do the same to any non-voiced over clips with a voice changing wurdle. I owe them that much at least. The short blurt is far easier to create, and soon I have both of them ready to send via our secure link for James and the rest of the campaign group to look at.
Maybe I'm getting older, or my eyes are beginning to go; or perhaps it's both of those things plus added stress, overwork, and tiredness, but after a session like that I notice quite a diminution in my sight. If it goes on I'll have to see a doctor about it. I hope  after the campaign is over my efforts are appreciated.

The feedback is good. A prime-time slot will be set aside for national 'casting across the IMS network once the campaign is underway. It will be an ambush last-minute change to the scheduled programme with follow-up repeats for those who miss it. I doubt the Connies, the OMS or the Election Commission will be best pleased, but that's just too bad.

 

Over the years we as a people have had to toughen up. We've been impoverished and half-starved; having to adapt to a life without many of the comforts we once took for granted. We've been irradiated and suffered the debilitating effects of the epidemics of biological weapons liberated in the aftermath of the Korean War (though fortunately the Doomsday Virus fears proved groundless.) On top of that we've had to cope with regular extremes of appalling weather. But even so I draw the line at cycling to work through squalls of sleeting rain. Instead I decide to take the bus through the early November morning gloom, only to find there's been a minor Grid-Down, as Black Dragon attacks have euphemistically become known.
We've been promised again and again the former DPRK's final weapon was on the point of being contained or defeated for good; yet still it pounces from out of nowhere to inflict yet more inconvenience upon us. This time it appears to have targeted transport, with buses and taxis reporting interruption with their ticket card systems thanks to the Dragon infiltrating via the real-time links between vehicles and their control centres. What it will do from there is anyone's guess. It may harvest account details so the unfortunate cardholders may find themselves bankrupted or sudden temporary billionaires. It's always best to pay in cash if you can to avoid those sorts of risks. Or the Dragon may fool the tracking systems into thinking a vehicle is off its route.
At least PortsBus are used to this by now. This attack seems to have been going on long enough for them to  post extra staff on their buses with card readers and ticket machines which are independent of the grid and so isolated from this particular attack. The transactions can be reconcilled with their integrated system once this particular dragon hatchling has been slain, or more likely decided to vanish of its own accord as quickly as it arrived.
There is a national task force dedicated to countering Dragon attacks, and they have plenty of work to do. The Dragon is notoriously difficult to counter or kill due to its constantly evolving nature. It attacks with sophistication in many different ways; varying its tactics and degrees of severity, seeming able to nonchalantly brush aside the levels of cybersecurity put in place to stop it. Some experts believe it may have swapped digital DNA with the venerable Sword of Jihad virus; while others class it as a sentient form of malignant artificial intelligence; warning it has become so deeply entrenched within the nodes of the infogrid that it may never be possible to erase it.
There's a growing fear those gloomy experts may be right. Some of the most pessimistic caution attacking the Dragon too aggressively would risk it retaliating by permanently shutting down the entire interconnected structures on which modern life depends, with all the apocalyptic disruption that pushing society suddenly back into the pre-digital age would entail.
So it seems we'll have to live with North Korea's legacy for the time being. But it is an ill wind that blows no good.
Many people dreaded the future that was predicted before the Crises: One ever more automated and integrated, where technology was advancing faster than people could adapt or understand it; a world in which people were being rendered increasingly redundant. It seemed at the time that everything would soon disappear up its own backside in a singularity of incomprehension. Thanks to the effects of the Dragon, at least for the moment there is an increasing need for human minders to continually monitor automated systems for the first signs of an attack; though sometimes the attacks aren't so easy to notice.
The Dragon has learned subtlety. It will make undectably tiny updates to automatic programmes; altering dimensions or thread pitches in a way that won't become apparent until hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of useless components have been manufactured. Sometimes it will lurk invisibly in operating systems changing just one line of code at a time; but that one line can make all the difference.
We've learned to be more resilient in the face of it. We've had to relearn to do by hand or brain those processes which we used to unthinkingly trust to computers; just in case... Though it may have ruined our productivity, and absorb an estimated four percent of our annual GDP to combat it, the money isn't wasted we're told; as it is recirculated back and around the economy. So says Hazel Dunn, one of the more la-la Connie leaders; the same dinny bint who publicly rejoices that the Albans appear to suffer as much as we do from the brainchild of their former mentor.
There have been plenty of cost-benefit analyses done about the Second Korean War, most of them concluding in retrospect it was a really bad idea. You don't say... It's a shame no one was able to point that out to Mad Dog Farrell before he went off his rocker. They also say in relative terms of damage done the North actually won in the long run. I'm sure the dead of Pyongyang, Chongjing, Hamhung and Kaesong; those slowly dying in the 'treatment centres' of the effects of radiation poisoning, or the wretched people in one of the relatively unpolluted 'Resettlement Areas' will draw scant comfort from that.
The bus reaches the city centre, and it's obvious the attack has spread further than the bus network. There are CityPols on manual traffic duty instead of the traffic llights; with many street lights and buildings darkened. Reaching my stop I hunch further within my poncho and walk to Media House without getting too badly pelted raw. After a quick cup of hot tea I'm eager to find out how bad this attack has been: Fortunately it doesn't seem to have been too widespread if you can believe the official reports.
Speculation about what the Dragon will do next is officially discouraged. That's understandable, given how unpredictable it is. No-one knows if it is hiding, licking its wounds from the latest battle against the Global Counter-Dragon Task Force, or just lying low before doing something spectacular. The unspoken fear is that one day it will attack a nuclear power station and bypass the failsafes. Many believe the only reason it hasn't as yet is because it understands its continuing existance depends on electricity; but if it felt itself in mortal danger then who knows what it might do? I wonder if it isn't a question of when, rather than if it happens.

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