Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bloody Red Tape

I've always been a big history buff, and one of the time periods I've been most interested in is the post-Stalin Soviet Union. After watching this series, and reading this book on the political machinations that brought Mikhail Gorbachev into power, I got to thinking that it might make for an interesting sci-fi story.

I was going to call it "Red Tape" and it was going to be about a group of bloody bureaucrats in this space empire who were scheming to get their faction into power after the death of the empire's most recent dictator. I took it as a bit of a challenge to try to make pencil-pushing a tense spectator sport, and I think it would have been a pretty engaging story too.

But, the further along I got in writing it, the more I just got disgusted with these...bastards I was describing. I ended up just not having the stomach to finish it, and put it aside. Maybe one of these days I'll finish it up, but for now I thought I'd stick up the introductory scene of the story (warning: it has some graphic depictions of violence). The goal was to convey the flavor of the world as well as set up what was at stake if the main character's faction lost out. So, without further ado...Red Tape.


Red Tape
Gelo R. Fleisher

The scented breeze emitting from the ventilation fan drifted rather pleasantly across my face as the soldiers trussed up my colleagues for their public execution. They all looked in pretty bad shape. Their eyes were glazed over and their shaved heads were interspersed with purple welts where the ISG thugs had hooked up the brain scorchers to rip their confessions out of them. They should have just confessed at the start and saved themselves the trouble. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I would tell the Intelligence Services Group absolutely anything they wanted if I was ever unfortunate enough to find myself brought down here for interrogation.

There were forty or so of us observers in the audience, decked out in our gray suits and datapads, and sitting in rather uncomfortable stools bolted to the floor. We were in one of the public auditoriums that abutted the main ISG prison complex, and smell of gloom and misery seemed almost palpable in the air. The whole damn place was clunky and cold, a far cry from my normal surroundings higher up on the Pinnacle Station. The walls were made up of thick slabs of interlocking black metal, scrubbed to a scratchy shine and reeking of thickly applied antiseptic. Harsh white lighting blared out from large flood lights hooked up at random intervals and illuminating the slick pit of the execution chamber.

The motley group of twenty or so condemned were close to me, if I had stood up and stretched out my hand I could have touched the nearest one. They were all dressed in the same drab gray suit that I had on, the outfit standard to the legions of bureaucratic functionaries of the Trans-Union Federacy. The only splash of color on them (besides the muddy purple of bruised skin) was a pair of epaulets on their slouching shoulders. Their epaulets were red, indicating that they were part of the Ministry of Defense. Mine were green - Ministry of Culture. In front of us, teenage soldiers were tying each of our erstwhile compatriots to metal poles, their arms stretched and clamped into place above their heads. They’d already been pumped with the nano-reagent that would cause the cell walls of their neurons to burst on command.

Flick of a switch and their brains would disintegrate into pink jelly.

As the Vice-Functionary to the Progressive Artists Trade Association, I was afforded a front row seat in the spartan auditorium, with a gaggle of my underlings arrayed behind me. I hoped that none of the debris of execution would splatter on my suit; I had an important meeting to go to after this.

As the soldiers finished their work and moved to the side of the arena, a lieutenant with a face like a fist stamped out onto the field and glared at the victims. “You, the convicted, had the responsibility to arrange for the protection of our glorious Premiere and failed. You stand guilty of gross negligence in the execution of your duties, of failing your nation, your Party, truth and reason, and the peoples of the Federacy. You will now face the only punishment fitting for such wretches and traitors. Redeem some shred of dignity for your posterity and die like patriots.”

The lieutenant pulled a small baton from his waist, put his thumb against a black button on its crown and raised it skywards. The coup de grace was about to be delivered and I put on my best scornful stare, staring at the space above the victim’s heads. There were rumors that the ISG kept tabs on anybody who looked away and I’d rather not be on their radar anymore than I had to be.

The lieutenant pressed the button. The fallen functionaries writhed in unison, struggling against their bonds, shouting incoherent gibberish and horrid screams as their minds were liquefied in front of us. I did my best to remain contemptuous in the face of their death throes, but it was hard not to display some reaction to the morbid scene. I felt my stomach churn as one of the prisoners vomited, blood streaming from his eyes.

It was over in a few mortifyingly long seconds, and the condemned all lay dangling against the poles, lines of blood dripping out of their noses and ears. One of the executioners, a gangly kid whose uniform was too large for him, ran up to the prisoners and started jabbing each body with a sensor-tipped bayonet, making sure nobody still had heart function.

The lieutenant turned to face us, stamped his foot down and raised a closed fist. “The Federacy is Strong! The most cultured! The most rational! The vanguard of the future!” I clapped as politely as I could and began to shuffle out. This was the dirty aspect to the preservation of power, but the better parts were beckoning for me up ahead. As I turned and filed away from the field a shot rang out; the kid must have found a survivor.

No comments:

Post a Comment