Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XV: A Family Divided
Continued from the previous excerpt
Yamato, Lesser Judea
New Israel, Jeffersonian Republic
Every society has its underworld, its criminal class. Even the Jeffersonian Republic, with (proportionally) the smallest and least-powerful Human government since government's invention, had its share of liars, thieves, and ne'er-do-wells – but very few of them, for there were very few things which were illegal. Laws have always been the greatest cause of crime.
The wise Founders recognized that there were only a few true crimes, such as murder, rape, and robbery; they also recognized that many of these crimes were perpetrated by those claiming a government's authority. They designed a Constitution, based on the American document most had revered, drastically limiting the power and scope of government, building mighty defenses around the rights of the individual. There was no law enforcement community because there were very few laws to enforce – and the Founders remembered their past, where rapacious gangs destroyed citizens' lives for amusement, hiding from punishment behind their badges.
The days of daring daylight bank robberies were gone; the lowliest teller was usually armed and trained through the Space Patrol or Exploration and Colonization Service, as was nearly every customer. The policies of disarmament and prohibition had been tried and had failed, their folly painted in centuries of blood. The likes of Dillinger would be burned down from every side a moment after declaring their intentions. With Citizens not simply allowed but encouraged to arm and defend themselves, no such gang would survive its first job. For more petty or individual crimes, a cry of “Stop, thief!” on any Republic city sidewalk would conjure everything from sword-canes to plasma pistols, every one in skilled and educated hands. Purse-snatchings or carjackings just didn't happen; rapes and muggings, even in darkness and solitude, were an energetic form of suicide.
The greatest robberies were committed from deep inside, using computers to silently transfer electronic funds between stars. An expert could cover his tracks, laundering loot through dozens of transactions, converting invisible ones and zeroes on one planet to cold hard metal on another. Such crimes were rare. Modern bankers were computer experts by necessity, and the battle between thief and protector had silently, invisibly raged for generations. Years would pass between robberies or embezzlements of any significance; decades between those committed by outsiders. Bank robbers of the post-Terran era were themselves bankers, dissatisfied with their lot, seeking personal revenge for insults imagined or real, or simply desiring the thrill and challenge.
There was no law enforcement gang, strutting about with an inflated sense of worth and a condescending view of the productive class whose money and property they stole, and yet with no legal obligation to 'protect and serve'; that lesson also had been written in blood, too often of the innocent. Private firms, under real contracts, competed in an open market. Those who couldn't deliver protection, physical or intangible, went out of business. Those who forgot their place were put back in it by a citizenry as well-armed as any police force in history, and far more skilled with those arms than most. These private security firms had no extraordinary powers; if they attempted to violate a Jeffersonian Citizen's or Subject's rights, as pre-Escape police had routinely done, they would be rightly executed in the attempt. Instead of trumped-up warrants, hearsay “evidence” and vicious attack squads, private security used their brains to hunt down the few criminals not eliminated by their intended victims, and used the Code Duello Nuevo, referenced in the Republic's very Constitution, to bring them to justice. On the rare occasions when force was necessary, the companies stood ready to provide restitution for any excess or collateral property damage or violations of bystanders. In the Republic, government, the greatest evil ever devised by the mind of Man, was securely chained; and the Jeffersonian people lived without fear.
This is not to say that, once in a very great while, someone couldn't “get away with it.”
Kazuo and Takeo Nakayama had both become upper-level managers of the family bank; one because it was expected, the other because he had earned his position. Their father Hideo had for years steered the elder brother into positions of little real influence, while Takeo was given greater responsibilities as he proved himself worthy of them. Now Hideo's retirement approached, and with it the question of succession.
Hideo had married late in life, and his then-young bride had not borne their children until many years later. The elder Nakayama had worked for over eighty Republic years, half a Terran century, to preserve and expand the fortune his ancestors had left him, and while he could expect another hundred Terran years of life and health, he wearied of his work. Already he had postponed his longed-for retirement; he had long since admitted to himself that Kazuo, though the traditional heir as the oldest offspring, was not worthy of the wealth and influence which was the Nakayama financial empire. Hideo continued to steer that mighty ship until Takeo came of age; the father had answered the question of succession years ago, at least in his own heart. The news would be difficult to deliver – Hideo was not unaware of Kazuo's growing resentment of his younger brother.
Unfortunately, he had underestimated it.
Kazuo realized he was being passed over in favor of his younger brother, and had laid plans for his own future. His time in the ECS had brought him into contact with many kinds of people on many worlds. He had forged relationships, acquired skills, which would have alarmed his family.
Every modern banker was by necessity expert in the use of computers, to seek advantage for trading or investment, to defend against outside manipulation or theft. For years Kazuo had honed these skills, concealing his ability even – especially – from his family. The Nakayama software had by his hand been given backdoors several versions ago, allowing him to trickle funds away between stars, silently converting electrons to precious metals, and preparing for the day when he would make his final move.
Other hidden programs monitored internal communications. Kazuo had even hacked into his own father's system, achieving full access. When Hideo drafted the announcement of his own retirement and the selection of his successor, Kazuo's electronic spies notified him at once.
It was as he had expected. Oh, he would be provided for, a comfortable life... of idleness. No influence, no control, no power.
That evening, Kazuo put the plans of years in motion.
Kazuo, with as much access to his father's funds and documents as Hideo himself, now made his boldest strokes. He was the rightful heir. He would have what he deserved, one way or another.
The announcement of retirement and succession was altered... and sent.
Funds were transferred.
Access codes were changed.
Records and logs fabricated or destroyed.
All these things would be discovered when Hideo next accessed his system. Kazuo could not allow them to be discovered; therefore Hideo could not be allowed access again.
And this was the beauty, the symmetry of his plan. All his opponents would be eliminated, and no suspicion would be directed toward him. The number of bodies would be correct.
The house – nearly a castle, by Old Nippon's standards – was old, built in ancient traditional style of wood and paper by the first Nakayamas to reach New Israel. Key points had been remodeled and brought up to modern standards of durability and safety – the vaults, holding some metal currency and many family treasures, could withstand artillery.
Security around the house was as good as was expected for a wealthy and prominent family, but within the house, within their home, there was little but sliding panels and the courtesy of tradition.
Darkness take courtesy now, Kazuo mused as he went about his work. First to the dojo, selecting a wakizashi known to be one of Takeo's favorites for sparring with the training robots. Then, to their parents' bedroom.
For a moment he hesitated, for his mother had always been kind – but Takeo was her favorite too, and she could not be trusted to go along.
The alterations to the retirement announcement were simple: exchanging Kazuo's name with his brother's. This would provide motive. Means were all around; opportunity was constant.
Kazuo Nakayama plunged the blade into his sleeping father's heart. The old man died quietly, but still his wife awoke.
It was not as difficult as he had expected, to pierce his mother's heart as well. She had no time to scream; in the darkness of night, he could not see the question in her eyes before they closed forever.
He left his brother's blade there, still in his mother's chest, as evidence.
Now Kazuo moved to the house's library. This was the room where Hideo or his sons entertained visitors, business or personal. To make good impressions, the room was decorated with photographs, holographs, clippings from newsfaxes, awards received by the family or the bank or both; and some other family heirlooms: ancestor Mei's Dardell 17 crossed with the Imperial F961 she took from one of the enemy soldiers she killed with her bayonet; a sword taken from another ancestor's opponent in a duel; the head of a Gnoppan raptor, flanked by lesser trophies from the same safari. Kazuo reflected that he would have to collect new trophies for his own new home, to replace these about to be lost.
He lit a traditional oil lamp, not solely for light. Using the house intercom, he summoned his brother.
At the moment Kazuo pressed the button, Takeo entered the room. “Kazuo!” he said. “I heard something-”
“Ah,” Kazuo uttered. The older brother's timing was faulty, he should have been better prepared, but this would have to do. Casually, he began edging toward the family daisho, their father's Mitsuhira swords, kept here for display when not being worn at some public function. “Dear brother.”
“Kazuo, I think we should check on our parents. Something may have happened-”
“That will not be necessary.” Another step. Another. The swords, too, were his birthright, and he would have them.
Takeo stared at his brother. “What do you mean?”
“I assure you there is nothing they need.” Step. “But there is something I want you to know.” Step. “My dear brother.”
“What are you talking about?” Takeo had known since childhood of his brother's jealousy, but Kazuo had kept the depths of his hatred concealed as he plotted vengeance.
“I know our father plans to leave everything to you upon his retirement.” Step. The swords were far away, Takeo the smallest bit closer. Step. “I cannot allow this.”
“Kazuo-” Takeo's concern grew, and he also began slowly moving toward the swords. “I understand your frustration-”
“You understand?” Kazuo snarled. In a softer voice he went on, “Perhaps you think you do. Dear brother, always so accommodating, so eager to please, so willing to do your duty.”
“Kazuo, what is happening? What are you doing here so late?”
“I am taking what is mine.”
Takeo began to understand. “That is not your decision to make.”
Anger flared again. “It is mine! I am the eldest! I was first!”
“I assure you, you will be very well provided for-”
“Oh yes,” Kazuo hissed. “I know I will. That is what our father said, in his announcement.”
Takeo paused. “What announcement?” Suspicion grew. “What have you done?”
“I have set things right,” Kazuo stated with vindication. “I have taken what is mine.”
“No,” Takeo stated. “You can't. Father and I will-”
“You will do nothing. He will do nothing. Ever again.”
Takeo felt cold all over as horror dawned. “No! Mother-”
“Regrettable, but she would not have agreed.”
“You!” Takeo screamed in grief and rage.
“And everyone will think it was you,” Kazuo sneered. “Dear brother.”
“NO!” Takeo lunged for the family daisho, and Kazuo rushed to reach it first. The older brother grabbed the katana, the younger the wakizashi. Both drew their blades, Kazuo flinging the scabbard at Takeo before charging his younger brother, raising the long sword for a killing stroke.
Kazuo had reason to be jealous of his brother. Takeo really was better at almost everything. Just as their father had taught him, Takeo stepped smoothly aside and brought his blade down.
In the centuries since Mitsuhira's breakthrough, many had approached the quality of his work, but none had surpassed it. There was little resistance as the blade passed through Kazuo's right forearm.
The older brother screamed, in pain and fury. Left hand still clutching the katana, he flailed both arms, overturning the lamp he had lit earlier; not exactly as he had planned. Flame erupted from the spilled fluid, splashing the tatami, bookshelves, and walls. Instantly the fire was beyond control, the old house doomed.
A wall of flame rose between the brothers. Kazuo disappeared through one doorway, while Takeo made his escape through another.
Kazuo was better than his brother at just one thing. The computer records were nigh flawless, even security holos had been altered or fabricated. The older brother would be presumed dead, the younger responsible and at large, the house security system already sending alerts. Kazuo had already arranged an untraceable vehicle and supplies, waiting just outside; in moments he was away. His Marine training and equipment dealt with his wound; purchased associates helped him on his path. With dozens of worlds to choose from, Kazuo would change his name, his face, his life; would repair his arm (he had intended Takeo's corpse to be taken for his own, but likely some trace of his hand would survive the fire, and as his aircar carried him away, Kazuo was thinking clearly enough to remotely update the falsified security recordings to further incriminate his brother), buy whatever he needed or desired with his stolen fortune. The best computer scientists in the Republic would spend weeks sifting through what little evidence Kazuo had not created or destroyed, by which time more paid associates would have transferred hard cash, by anonymous hand, through more cutouts than could be followed.
Takeo was less fortunate, but not without resources of his own. Running before the fire, he found his parents murdered, his own preferred weapon obscenely in place; Kazuo's plan was plain. Somehow thinking clearly despite the destruction of his world, he retreated to his own room, flames pursuing. A quick query from his 'puter showed a contract on him for embezzlement and murder, all seven major planetary security companies putting out alerts, family vehicles tagged in traffic-control AIs, his personal accounts frozen, access denied to all others. He hurled the device into the advancing flames, grabbed food and water and traveling clothes, and fled as the house, and his life, collapsed behind him.
Another of the many things his father had taught him was preparedness. Its existence expected but its location unknown to anyone, the younger son had followed another family tradition and built a cache of cash, weapons, clothing, supplies, an untraceable spare 'puter, hidden in deep forest on the family's land. The Nakayama clan had learned centuries before to never trust any government, and the Occupation had reinforced the lesson; that generation's “spookers” had been used.
It was a long hike in darkness, but all was as he'd left it since his last yearly check. The Jeffersonian Republic was the least-unfree society yet devised; even on a Central World, until proven otherwise, a man was who and what he said he was, and could buy nearly anything with cash and without identification. Two days after the horror, he emerged from the far side of the forest and rented a flitter with cash at an automated kiosk, its autopilot taking him straight to the contracted destination with neither diversion nor question. Five more such hops, crossing his own trail twice, carried him halfway across the planet in another two days, stopping to eat and rest and clean himself at likewise automated, incurious hotels. At last he arrived at a spacer's bar much smaller and quieter than The Hungry Kraken, one which he had never visited, one which asked few questions and gave fewer answers – one with its own shuttle pads, outside the cities' control networks. He took his first berth as an able spacer on an unclean tramp with a closed-mouthed crew. Four berths, and ships, later, he reached the Frontier.
Takeo had made his own contacts during his years with the Patrol, as Kazuo had done in his time in the Corps, though less deliberately than his older brother. Frontier worlds had less-stringent standards for identification, and a cash or barter economy indifferent to centralized record-keeping if they were even capable of it. He bought a new face and name, and began a new life.
The only thing he kept from the old was his father's wakizashi.
Continued in the next excerpt....