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The Block – Chapter I Part 3: Old London, Aingland (End) October 14, 2009

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Quite as important as legislation
is vigilant oversight of administration.

–  Woodrow Wilson

The Block – Chapter I Part 3:  Old London, Aingland (End)

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

Subterfuge

The V-Box on Dorsey Smyth’s desk buzzed twice.

“Smyth.”

“Yes, sir.  Henry Pfister here.  I have a volunteer for our undercover mission to Lexington.”

“Excellent, Henry.  When well he leave?”

“Tomorrow morning, sir.  We’ve gained employment and rented a small village house for him.  We’ve also set up a direct V-Box line in the house so our volunteer can report directly to you without being traced through the Voice System.”

“Good work, Henry.  With that in mind, I’m going to release the Miklin complaint to Collections today.  Mr. Farmer should receive a notice from them in about a week.  Keep your man’s name under wraps, Henry.  Even I don’t want to know who he is.  When he calls, tell him to identify himself by using the number 13176.  Got that?”

“Yes, sir.  13176.  Very good, sir.  You should hear from our contact within two days.”

“Excellent, Henry.  Good work.  Thank you.”

Dorsey reached for an Investigations Office indictment form.  He filled it out in duplicate keeping the copy for his files and placing the original in an envelopment marked “District Court Service Office.”  He buzzed for a runner, who knocked on his office door within five minutes.

“Delivery, sir?”

“Yes, take this envelope over to Collection Services for me please.  Have someone sign for it.  Oh, and take this file jacket to Arnie Leddbetter in Standards, please.  Tell him, ‘Thank you,’ from me.”

“Yes, sir.  Immediately, sir.”

The runner saluted, turned and disappeared down the hallway.

*

“Mr. Cronkcroft, indictment to be served, sir.”

Stanly Cronkcroft looked up at the envelope in the runner’s hand.  He accepted it and zipped it open.  “Thank you.”

After the runner saluted and turned to leave, Stanly took the file from the envelope and read over its contents.  He then looked for the name of the next Summoner on his duty roster.  Based on the case, he skipped down a few names.  The Miklin indictment would be handled by Summoner First Class Russell Jones.  He buzzed once to get SFC Jones on the V-Box.

“Jones”

“Yes, Cronkcroft here.  I have an indictment summons for you to deliver.”

“Thank you, sir.  I’ll be right over to pick it up.”

A few minutes later, Cronkcroft responded to a knock on his office door.

“Come in.”

“Jones, sir.”

Cronkcroft fished a file folder off his desk and handed it to his subordinate.  “You’re in charge of this indictment, Jones.  Run it past me when you have it written up and before you take it to the Farmer residence.”

“Yes, sir.”  Jones took the paperwork.  “Thank you, sir.”  He saluted and left Cronkcroft to his duties.

Russell Jones was 36 years old and had been working as a District Court Summoner for the past 15 years.  His superiors saw him as a man who knew his job well and handled himself professionally.  ‘By the book’ as they say.  He grabbed two pieces of blank paper from a stack and fitted a blue piece of copy paper between them.  Everything he did must be done in duplicate – one copy for District Court files and one for his personal files.  Then he lifted the receiver on his V-Box and buzzed the Switch.

“Switch Box”

“Yes, Russell Jones here.  Connect me to the Postal Master in Lexington, please.”

“Thank you.  One moment.”

A short time passed and then another voice came through the receiver.

“Postal Master Clarke.”

“Yes, Russell Jones here.  Could you give me directions to the farm of Edsil and Remy Farmer, please?  I believe they live somewhere east of Lexington.”

“They do.  From the Central Circle in town, take the Westborough road for about twenty kilometers.  At the Meade/Bishopton crossroad, take a right turn onto Olde Meade Road.  The Farmer homestead will be about another five kilometers on the right.”

“Thank you.  Would you know the names and ages of their children by any chance?”

“I do.  They have a fourteen year old son called Thomas and a ten year old daughter who’s name is Elisabeth.  They’re not in any trouble are they?”

“Oh no, I have a package to deliver to them.  Thank you for your time and trouble, sir.”

“You’re welcome.  Have a nice day.”

Next, Jones rebuzzed the Switcher and had the girl connect him to Court Scheduling.

“Scheduling, Mosley Demeter.”

“Yes, Mosley.  Russell Jones here.  I need an open Debt Court date to schedule an indebtedness trial.”

“Russell Jones, of course.  Good to hear from you again, Russell.  Let me check the DC kalendae.  How much time do you think you’ll need?”

“Thank you Mosley.  About one month out should do fine.”

“Okay, let’s see.  We’re in Junonius, how does the sixteenth of Quintilis sound to you?  That’s a Monandaeg.  Give you plenty of time to get a decision by the end of the week, no?

“Sounds good Mosley.  I don’t foresee any problems at the moment.  I’ll send over the paperwork requesting that date and that should be that.  Any problems, let me know.  Hey, Mosley?”

“Of course Russell.  I’ve marked you in tentatively for the sixteenth and I’ll await your confirming paperwork.”

“Good show.”

“Ta.”

Now Russell had everything he needed to write up the official Indictment Summons, which he set to work on immediately.  He also wrote out a copy of the original complaint along with notes concerning the debt receipts.  He filled out, in duplicate, an official request for a Debt Court date noting the sixteenth of Quintilis.  He put all the originals, including his notes, in an envelope marked “Debt Court Action” and picked up the copies he’d made for his files.   He whistled a little tune as he headed for his superior’s office.

“Come In.”

“Jones, sir.”

“Ah, yes.  Jones.  Did you finish up that Farmer matter I gave you?”

“Yes, sir.  I have it with me, sir.”

“Excellent.  Sit down, Jones and let me have a look at it.  Any trouble getting service information?”

Jones sat down in a strong wood chair in front of Cronkcroft’s huge desk.  “No, sir.  The Lexington Postal Master was quite helpful, sir.”

“Good government training, that.  You can always tell who was trained in Uppsala and who was trained locally.”  He leaned forward.  “Let me see your work.”

Jones handed his superior the file.  After a few minutes looking it over, Cronkcroft gazed up at Jones again.

“I want you to serve this summons yourself, Jones.  You did notice the amount of debt incurred, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.  I did.”

Cronkcroft nodded.  “The family will be in a delicate situation.  I expect you to keep the peace between them.  Lay out all their options and try to get them to reach a decision on the direction they want to take this.  Be as helpful as you can, Jones.  This won’t be easy for these folks.  I don’t know how they got into this situation, but I know dealing with it will be very difficult.”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll do my best, sir.”

“I know you will, Jones.  That’s why I selected you for this job.  When will you be heading out to Lexington?”

“Day after tomorrow, sir.  It’s at least a six hour trip so I’ll leave in the morning.  I know there’s a hotel in Lexington so I’ll spend the night and return the next day.

Both men stood up and Jones saluted.

“Come see me when you get back, Jones.  I’d like an account of what transpires.”

“Yes, sir.”

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The Block – Chapter I Part 2 October 10, 2009

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Let no guilty man escape if it can be avoided
Be specially vigilant
No personal consideration should stand in the way
of performing a public duty

–  Ulysses S. Grant

The Block – Chapter I Part 2:  Old London, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

Vbox

Two days later, the Miklin complaint arrived at the District Court in New London, Angland.  It took another day for it to be routed from the mail room to the Complaint Investigation Offices on the third floor.  From here it was routed to Senior Complaint Investigator Dorsey Smyth who decided to consider the case himself rather than delegate it to someone on his staff.  His reading of the complaint led to a V-Box call to Jack Ayles.

“Ayles”

“Jack, this is Dorsey Smyth over at District.”

“Dorsey!  I haven’t heard from you in a long time.  How’s the wife and kids?”

“Doing well, Jack.  Listen, I have this Ernst Miklin complaint you wrote up.  It seems rather cut and dry.  Are you sure an investigation is in order?”

“Yes.  Miklin runs a shady gambling joint in Lexington as mentioned in my notes.  He’s been reported to be a cheat numerous times, but although Standards has combed the place on more than one occasion, they can’t nail anything on the man.”

“The Olde Ainglich Pub N Play, eh?”

“That’s the one.”

“Any undercover work ever done there?”

“Not sure, Dorsey.  You’d have to check with Standards.”

“Okay.  I wanted to let you know who’s playing the game on this side, Jack.  If I uncover anything, I’ll let you know.  I’m going to get hold of Standards and see what they have on this Miklin fellow.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Dorsey.”

“My pleasure, Jack.  Talk to you soon.”

Dorsey Smyth had jotted down a few notes during his conversation with Jack Ayles.  Now he sat back in his chair with his feet propped up on his desk top, rereading his notes.  Finishing, he closed his eyes and gave thought to the situation.  He concluded he needed more information before unleashing the court investigators.  He reached for his V-box receiver and dialed up Standards.

“Standards, Lynn Fellows.”

“Lynn, Dorsey Smyth from District Court.  Could you patch me through to Grievances, please?”

“Certainly, sir.”

The box buzzed a few times and then… “Leddbetter.”

“This is Dorsey Smyth over in District Court Investigations.  I need your files on Ernst Miklin and/or The Olde Ainglich Pub N Play.”

“Ah.  That would be a huge file, Smyth.  Lots of grievances concerning that bunch.”

“I’ve been told there would be.  Can you have a runner bring me their file by tomorrow?”

“Of course.  What’s in the works, Smyth?”

“Miklin filed a Debt Complaint on a man named Farmer, who happens to be a farmer from Lexington.  Seems the guy owes Miklin over a hundred GT.  It’s a large debt for a small farmer and considering this is Miklin making complaint, it smells a bit fishy.  Did your boys ever do any undercover work on the Pub N Play?”

“Not to my knowledge.  Most of our inquests were of the shake and cleanse variety.  Never found any physical evidence of corruption, but that’s not saying there’s not something worth looking into over there.”

“My thoughts exactly, Leddbetter.  I’ll look forward to reading your files.”

“I’ll try to have a runner drop them off this afternoon.”

“Thank you.”

Smyth hung up the receiver and picked it up again.

“Switch Box.”

“Get me Henry Pfister, please.”

“Thank you.”

“Pfister.”

“Henry, Dorsey Smyth here.  Could you drop over to my office, I’ve got a job for you.”

“Of course, sir.  I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Oh and check and see if we’ve got anything on an Ernst Miklin or The Olde Ainglich Pub N Play over in Lexington.”

“Will do, sir.  See you as soon as I can get away here.”

A little over an hour later, a knock on his office door interrupted Dorsey Smyth.

“Henry?  Come in.”

The door opened to a small, thin man dressed in the same dark green Investigator fatigues as his superior.  The two men traded a handshake.  “Any luck with Miklin, Henry?  Sit down, man!”

“Thank you, sir.  No, nothing in our records.  Apparently whatever the man’s been up to, it hasn’t reached District Court.”

Smyth seated himself also.  “Hmm.  I was afraid that would be the case.  It seems there’s been a lot of cheating going on at the Pub N Play.  Standards has gone over the place top to bottom but there’s nothing physically wrong that they can find.  I was thinking it might be worth sending in an undercover man to check out the gaming, what’s your opinion?

“Of course, sir.  Glad to help.  What’s Standards got to say about their operation?”

“I haven’t received their files yet – they should be here this afternoon.  But I’m told Standards has received many grievances concerning Miklin but hasn’t been able to substantiate anything.  Now Miklin’s got a small farm owner hooked up for over a hundred GT.”

“By the Empire!  That’s a tidy sum, sir.”

“Indeed.  If this goes through and they find Mr. Farmer guilty of the debt, someone’s going to The Block for a long indenture service.  Are you up for a bit of field work, Henry?”

“Yes sir!  Let me know when you get the files.  We’ll work out our investigation from there.”

“My thoughts exactly.  I’ll buzz you when the file comes in and I’ve had a chance to go over the lot.”

Pfister stood and saluted, placing his right fist near his left shoulder.  “Thank you, sir.”  He turned and exited the office.

Four hours later, the Pub N Play files arrived from Standards and were handed over to Dorsey Smyth.  There had been 172 accusations of cheating in the past ten years, abnormal by any estimation.  According to Standards investigators, they did not do any undercover work because Miklin proved to be extremely wary of anyone gaming in his pub who he’d never seen before.  Miklin ran the card room himself and if an unknown player sat to play, the game proved to be on the level every time.  Most of the players were locals, who came in every week.  Although the locals won just enough to keep them coming in, most of their money ended up in Miklin’s till.  The complaint amounts did not justify the cost of putting an undercover agent in Lexington for the time it would take to prove allegations against Miklin.

Dorsey buzzed up Pfister immediately after going over the file.

“In your opinion, Henry, is there anything more that can be done that hasn’t been accomplished already?”

“I doubt it, sir.  It sounds as if he’d have an eye on me the minute I entered the card room.  Even if I kept coming for months, it would take time for me to build his trust.  He’d know I don’t live in the area.  He might even have me followed to find out where I’m from.”

“Yes, unfortunately I’m of the same mind.  Is there anyone in your department that could move into the area?

“That’s a possibility.  But think of the time it would take.”

“I’m aware of that, Henry.  Obviously we have to carry on with Miklin’s complaint.  But that doesn’t mean that if, in the future, we could prove Mr. Farmer was bilked out of his money, it would overturn any debt owed by him and free whoever ends up in indenture based on his liability to Miklin.”

“Aye, sir.  I’ll ask for a volunteer to move to Lexington.  How soon would you need him in place?”

“Within a fortnight, if possible.  Would the District be willing to cover the costs?”

“Yes, I believe so.  From what you’ve shared with me, this character, Miklin, has been swindling his neighbors for some time.  The District enjoys putting a stop to operations like his.  I’ll be back to you, sir, within two days.”

“Excellent, Henry.  Thank you.”

The Block – Chapter 1 Part 1 October 7, 2009

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Always pay;
for first or last
you must pay
your entire debt.

–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Block – Chapter I Part 1:  Old London, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

cards

Bells clanged, buzzers went off and voices were raised to incredible heights.  It was a typical day in the Indenture Service Office, New London in the Rejoinder of Aingland.  Twenty officious looking men sat behind an equal number of polished wood desks.  Some spoke on their Voice Transmission Box, some scribbled intensely, others engaged with quarrelsome clients seated beside their desks.

Jack Ayles rested his head in his weary hands, elbows on his cluttered desk.  Looking up at the regulator he thought, ‘One hour left.  I’ll be so glad when this day is…’ Before he could finish his thought, the V-Box on his desk buzzed.

“Ayles”

“Jack.  William up front.  Client coming back for you.”

“Aye, William.”  He sighed.  “Hope it’s an easy one.”

As Jack shuffled some paperwork, a tall portly man approached the busy ISO Administrator.  The man wore flashy green and white stripped pants, and a chartreuse open collared shirt topped off with a brown bowler hat.  Tan spats covered his black leather shoes and he carried a black brolly in his right hand.  Jack’s heart sank for he knew this man and, as always, he would take up a considerable amount of time.  The man whacked his brolly on Jack’s desk to get his attention.

“I say, Ayles, I have some work for you.”

“Don’t your losers ever pay up, Miklin?”

The unusually dressed man helped himself to a chair to the right of Jack’s desk.  “You know the story, Ayles.  They’re all going to be rich someday.  That day seems never within reach for some strange reason.”

“That reason couldn’t be the rigged games in your gambling den, could it?”

“Why, Ayles!  I’m chuffed!  My house has been scratched, spoiled and broken apart but the Standards people have never found one reason to issue me a citation.”

“And if they ever do find one, Miklin, they’ll shut you down faster than the business end on a mouse trap.  Let’s get this over with.  Name?”

“Farmer, Edsil Farmer.”

“You know his whereabouts?”

“Him and his wife, Remy, own a farm to the east of Lexington.”

“Family?”

“Two kids, at least to my knowledge.  I’ve heard him speak of them but I don’t know their names.  One girl, one boy.  I think they’re both under fifteen.”

“How much?”

“One hundred twenty gold tankers.”

Jack raised an eyebrow and looked up from his three-part form.  “That’s a lot of money, Miklin.  How does a farmer come to lose an amount that steep?

“He was down sixty GT, got what he thought was an unbeatable hand and bet double.  The hand wasn’t unbeatable.”

“Even still.  Sixty GT is an immense amount of money for a small farmer.”

“It was a sum built up over an unlucky summer.  He came in every time with the assumption he’d win back what he lost.  You know the tune to that song.”

“Indeed I do, but the Empire looks upon a debt this huge as a felony.  Someone’s going to have to work over twenty years off The Block to turn this over.  Are you sure you want to do that to this Farmer fellow and his family?”

“Dumb question of the month, Ayles.  Does my heart look like a bloody bleeder?  I just want the debt covered.  What happens to him is not my concern.”

“Harrumph.  You have validated and signed debt receipts, I’m sure.”

“Of course I do.  And I have copies in case you accidentally lose them.”

Miklin handed a small stack of papers to Ayles, who accepted them with a disdainful look.

“Sign and date the complaint, Miklin.  Don’t forget your business address and V-Box contact.  I’ll forward this to the courts for action.  You should hear from them in about a month.”

“How soon will I get my money?”

Jack rolled his eyes.  “Well, there’s notification and a trial.  Then whoever’s going to serve out the debt will travel halfway across Erde to Uppsala where they’ll be auctioned off on The Block.  That’ll take a good amount of time.  Once the auctioning is completed, they’ll wire us and we’ll send you a letter to come pick up your funds.  Whole thing might take a half year.”

Miklin let out a deep sigh as he stood up.  “Damn.  Nothing I can do about it.  I’ll get my money faster this way than waiting for Farmer to come up with it.  Thanks for your time, Ayles.”

Jack didn’t look up at his client, who turned and left abruptly, whacking his left leg with his brolly as he walked.  The interview went quicker than Jack had assumed.  Miklin always took up a considerable amount of his time with his complaints.  Consultations went longer when the sums were low and could be worked out right here in the ISO.  Jack would add a note for the Inquisitor when he sent this complaint to the courthouse.  He’d ask them to do a full investigation before making an arrest.  He did not trust Miklin, owner of a known dishonest house of gambling.  Still, a debt was a debt and he had no right to pass judgment on the complaint’s viability.  He’d leave that to the court.

Jack separated the complaint into three piles, removing the thin blue copy paper from between the pages.  He put one in an envelope marked “Uppsala – The Block” one in an envelope marked “District Court – Indenture,” along with the debt receipts.  He then put the last copy of the complaint in a basket on his desk marked, “File.”  The paperwork being sent to the court would generate action on the complaint.  The Uppsala copy would notify The Block that indenture would be necessary for this complaint.  The Block Administrator would keep in direct contact with the District Court of Aingland concerning who was coming for auction and when.

The regulator bonged the hour.  Jack Ayles picked up all his envelops to be posted, grabbed his hat and jacket from his peg on the front wall and headed out the door.