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Worldbuilding – Last Thoughts On The Block November 1, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Worldbuilding.
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History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstance.

– Donald Creighton

Last Thoughts On

The Block

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

indenture

And so the story of young Tom and Elizabeth Farmer begins.  Swallowed up by the administrative marvel that is the Indenture Service Office of the Empire of Uppsala, their father, Edsil, will be tried by the District Court of New London, Aingland, be found guilty and his children will be sentenced to serve ten years as indentured servants to work off his debt.

Tom and Elizabeth will be transferred to Uppsala where they will be in the custody of the ISO in the infamous Block.  There they will be trained and sold to a wealthy family as servants for the duration of their sentence.

The Block differs in many ways from The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp.  The happenings of the military and their war with the Vigroth natives are hardly a second thought to the ISO and their indentured community.  The inner workings of an Empire the size of Uppsala allows for little contact between differing agencies.  As for the citizens of the Empire, it is doubtful if any have ever heard of Thelra or even the river port of Selga.

Hopefully you can see the differences that these two stories sustain.    One is very much NOT like the other, yet both are set in the same Empire albeit at different times.  This is the advantage of extensive worldbuilding.

Next week we shall enter into a world much closer to home.  A romantic story between two graduating teenagers in the small town of Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania, circa 1966.  You will see how difficult settling characters in a fictitious town created inside an actual state can be.

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The Block – Chapter II Part 4 (END): Lexington, Aingland October 28, 2009

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Parents are the last people on earth that ought to have children.

–  Samuel Butler

The Block – Chapter II Part 4 (END):  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

children

In Lexington, a steathful hand lifted a V-Box receiver.

“Call, please?”

A low, undistinguishable voice answered almost in a whisper, “District Court Investigations, please.”

“One moment.”

“DC Switch. How can I help you?”

“Captain Dorsey Smyth, please.”

“Whom shall I say is calling?”

“Just tell him it’s 13176.”

“Thank you.  One moment, please.”

“Smyth.”

“13176, sir.  I’m in place.”

“When will you make your first visit to the Pub and Play?”

“Next week, sir.”

“Fine.  Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.”

***

Russell Jones reached the Farmer place at about ten in the morning.  He tied up his horse and retrieved his envelope from his saddlebags.  He crossed the wood porch and knocked on the kitchen door.  It opened to the round faces of the two Farmer children.

“’Lo Mr. Jones.  Ya kin come in.  Ma and Pa will be out inna moment.”

“Thank you Elizabeth.”

“Set down thar at the table.  I’ll gettcha a cuppa.”

“I shall, Tom.  Thank you very much.”

The large cup offered by the children contained the hottest coffee Russell had tasted in a week.  He enjoyed the aroma before taking a sip of the hot liquid.  Tom ran off to get his parents.

“Who made the coffee?”

“Ah did,” said Elizabeth.

“You’ll make someone a fine wife someday,” Russell told her.

She smiled.  “Thank yah.”

In a few minutes Edsil, Remy, and Tom came and sat down at the table.  They parents looked haggard, as if they’d just spent a sleepless night.  Elizabeth set cups in front of her parents and poured coffee for them.  She also placed the creamer in front of her mother.  That done, she got a glass of juice for Tom and herself then sat down at the table with the others.  Russell waited to speak until everyone was seated.

“You two look as if you had a fruitful night.”

“Aye, we ‘ave, Russell.  Almost got meself kilt, but we worked things out.”

Russell looked over at Remy and smiled.  “Glad to hear no blood was spilt.”

“It were a bit close at times,” Remy said.

“Did you talk things out completely?”

“We did,” Edsil replied.

“So who’s making the trip to Uppsala?”

Edsil looked at his wife.  “Tom and Elizabeth.”

Russell nodded and gazed at the two kids.  “Is that okay with you two?”

Both answered in chorus, “Yessir.”

“You must understand, kids.  If you’re assigned to go, you can’t run away.  If you do, they’ll put your parents in jail and they’ll have to give up the farm.  Do you understand that?”

“Yessir.”

Russell switched his gaze to Edsil.  “And Edsil, don’t get any ideas about running with the family.  The Empire will find you – there’s no place to hide from them.  They’ll put a price on you and your wife’s head.  When captured, you’ll both be incarcerated and the children will be taken from you forever.”

“We won’t be runnin’.”

“And if you don’t show up for your court hearing, the same thing will happen.”

“Ah unnerstand.”

“Okay.  I want to give you two guarantees from the Empire.  First, the children will not be sold into sexual indenture.  They’re too young.  You have to be sixteen to go that route.  It works off the time twice as fast, but I doubt you’d be happy with that.”

“No, we wouldn’t,” Remy stated.

“Second, the children will remain together during their indenture.”

Mrs. Farmer let out a deep sigh.  “We’re ‘appy ta ‘ear such.”  Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Now, you have the paper that tells you the month, day, time, and place of your court appearance, right?”

“Aye, Russell,” Mr. Farmer said.

“Good.”  He reached into his envelope and brought out more paperwork.  “This is a map that will get you from Lexington to the Court House in New London.”  He slid it to Edsil who picked it up and looked at it.

“And this is a list of things you’ll need for the children to carry on their trip to Uppsala.”

This he slid over to Remy.  While they looked at it, he filled out a necessary form for the court.  When completed, he slid it and along with his pen over to Edsil.

“Edsil, this form states you will be interning your children, Tom and Elizabeth, to the Empire for auction at The Block in Uppsala to cover your debt to Mr. Miklin.  You and your wife will need to sign it as indicated on the bottom.”

Edsil picked up the pen, looked over the paper and put his signature at the bottom above his name.  He passed the paper and pen to Remy.

“Must Ah sign this?  Ain’t Edsil’s name good enuff?”

“No, Remy, you have to sign as well.  It’s the law.”

Tears welled in her eyes again as she picked up the pen.  She hesitated, but finally signed her name to the document and slid the pen and paper back to Russell.

“Thank you all for being so cooperative.”  Russell tore the top page from the form and slipped it back into his envelope.  The second copy he gave to Mr. Farmer.  “Do you folks have any other questions?”

“What if’n sumpthin’ ‘appens twixt now and when what changes things?”

“My V-Box extension is on that first page I gave you.  Put through a buzz to me at the court house and let me know what happened.  Okay?”

“Thank yah, Russell.  Ah do ‘preciate yer ‘elp in all this matter.  Ah truly do.  Yer been civil.”

“The only thing I can suggest is look at this as an adventure.  Especially you, Tom and Elizabeth. And when it’s over, All of this will be purged from your records.”

With that, Russell stood up.  He shook Edsil’s hand and Remy’s as well.

“Time for me to head back to New London.  I’ll look forward to seeing you all at District Court then.”

“We’ll be thar,” said Edsil.

“Thanks again.”

Russell turned and exited the kitchen door.  He untied and mounted his horse and started back down the road to Lexington.  He had to check out from his hotel before starting back to New London.

The Block – Chapter II Part 3: Lexington, Aingland October 25, 2009

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Only the man who has enough good in him to feel the justice of the penalty can be punished; the others can only be hurt.

–  William Ernest Hocking

The Block – Chapter II Part 3:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

Reme

Mrs. Farmer stood and walked to the door.  In a moment or two her husband stepped into the kitchen.  He looked over at Russell and then back at his wife.

“’E been waitin’ long, Remy?”

“No, Edsil, not so much as one cuppa.”

Russell stood up as Edsil walked over to him and extended a hand.  Russell took it thinking, ‘this could have been so much more difficult.’

“Edsil Farmer.  Me daughter ‘ere says ya come ta discuss my problem?”  His son and daughter came in behind him and took seats at the far end of the table, Elizabeth sat beside her mother.

“Oh, thet thar’s me son, Tom and me daughter, Elizabeth.”

“Russell Jones, Summoner First Class from New London.  I’ve met Elizabeth.  Yes Mr. Farmer.  I’m here to discuss your options with you and your family.”

Mr. Farmer took a deep breath and motioned Russell to sit down again.  He took the chair at the end of the table between Russell and his wife.

“Call me Edsil, Russell.  No need ta be so damned official, is thar?”

“No, Edsil, there isn’t.”

“All right, what of ah dug meself inta?”

Russell brought up the large envelope that he had set beside his chair.

“Do you read, Edsil?”

He nodded.  “Yessir.  Learnt early on.  Me kids can read too.”

Russell pulled a page from his envelope and handed it to Edsil who took it and looked it over.

“Pretty fanciful language, not?”

“Yes it is.  Do you want me to go over it with you?

“Ah’d ‘preciate it, Russell.”

Edsil passed the complaint back to the Summoner and pushed his chair closer so both of them could view the document at the same time.  Russell pointed to the writing at the top of the summons.

“Okay.  This part is legal gobbledygook stating that you are the person the complaint is accusing of refusing or being unable to pay an authentic debt.  Authentic meaning they have proof the debt is actual and that you incurred it.”

Edsil nodded his head.

“This second part is more legalese that names Ernst Miklin as the man who registered the complaint with the Indenture Service Office and that he’s the man to whom you owe the debt.  Got that?”

“Yessir.”

“The next paragraph lists the debt – a sum of one hundred twenty gold tankers.  Is that correct?”

Edsil hung his head.  His wife collapsed her face into her hands on the table top.

“Then the court estimates its costs at another 80 gold tankers to bring you to trial and send one or more members of your family to The Block in Uppsala to be auctioned into indenture until the complete debt is paid.  A debt total of two hundred gold tankers.”

Edsil sat speechless.  Remy cried uncontrollably.  The kids sat with blank expressions on their faces, not understanding what was being said or how it could affect them.  Elizabeth took her mother’s left arm and tried to console her.

“The next paragraph sets your court appearance as Monandaeg, the sixteenth of Quintilis in the District Court of Angland, Debt Division.  You have to be in courtroom two-twelve at eight in the morning.  You should have plenty of time to get your whole family there.  They all must accompany your.  You’ll meet your lawyer at that time.”

Edsil made no reply.  He sat and stared straight ahead with a blank look on his face.

“The last bit is just the signature of my boss and the state seal of the Empire of Uppsala.”

Finally, Edsil spoke.  “A court trial.  So they might find me not-guilty, no?”

“I’m afraid not, Edsil.  These things are prearranged. They only way you could get off the hook on this is if they investigate and find that Miklin cheated you somehow.”

“’E did.”

“But can you prove it?”

Edsil hung his head again, wringing his hands.  “No.  Ah can’t.”

“I’m sorry.  You do have options, Edsil.  Let’s go over them now.  We’ll see if we can limit the damage to your family somehow.”

Edsil nodded and looked over at his wife.  “Let’s ‘ear ‘em.”

“Okay.  First option – sell or mortgage the farm.”

Edsil shook his head.  “Can’t do neither.  Ah already got a mortgage on it and if’n ah was ta sell it, it wouldn’t bring enough ta cover both the debt and the mortgage.”

“I understand.  I’m sure then that borrowing from family or friends is also out of the question?”

Tears started to well up in Edsil’s eyes.  “Who would trust me for a amount like thet?  No.  Not possible.”

“Well, Edsil, the only other way to cover the debt is through indenture service.  Do you know what that is?”

“Not really.  Work it off?”

“Yes.  In a situation like this, your whole family is held responsible for the debt.  So you, your wife, one or both your children, or any combination of family members would have to agree to travel to Uppsala to be auctioned off on the block to cover your debt.”

Russell looked up at Edsil then made sure Remy was listening.

“It works like this, Edsil.  Your debt total to the Empire will be two hundred GT.  One year of indenture will gain you ten GT.  That means one person would have to be indentured for twenty years to pay off the debt.  Two could work off the debt in ten years.  Three, six years and nine months.  And if all four of you are indentured, it would take five years to overcome your debt.”

Remy stood up and gathered her children to her.  She cried in earnest now.  She looked at her husband and said, “Edsil, what ‘ave ya done?”

Tears ran down Edsil’s face.  “Ah know, Remy.  Ah’ll never touch another deck of cards in me life.”

His wife screwed up her face and wailed, “It’s too late, Edsil.  It’s already too late.”

Edsil looked over at Russell and spoke through his sobs. “Remy and Ah can’t go.  Who would run the farm?  They’d tyke it ta cover the mortgage.  It’s all we got in the world.  It’s a future for our kids.”

“I understand.”

“Ah need ta talk this out with me family, Russell.  Can ya come back tomorrow?”

“I’ll be glad to.”  He stood up and slid the summons in front of Edsil.  He took his envelope and looked over at Remy and the children.

“I’ll help in any way I can.  I know you’ll have questions about this tomorrow and that’s okay.  I’ll answer them truthfully.  Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It can be both a learning experience and who ever is chosen to go could very well come out ahead of the game.  Keep that in mind.”

Edsil said, “Thank ya Mr. Jones.  We truly ‘preciate yer ‘elp.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.”

Russell turned and paused in front of the door.  He opened it and stepped up on to the porch, closing the door behind him.  As he did so, he heard Remy say, “Children go ta yer rooms.”  Today was difficult, he knew.  Tomorrow would be even thornier.  He took a deep breath, put the envelope in his saddlebag, mounted his horse and headed back to Lexington.

Inside, Remy stood at the table while an uneasy Edsil kept an eye on her.

“Ya bloody idiot!  Now what are we gonna do?”

“Calm yerself, Remy.  No sense losin’ it ‘ere.”

“Losin’ it!”  Remy bent over and with a single thrust, swept everything on the table onto the floor.  The children trembled in their room on hearing the noise.

“Cor, Remy.  Wha’d ya go and do thet for?  Gittin’ angry with me ain’t gonna solve nuthin’”

Remy stood up straight and walked calmly over to the kitchen counter, opening a drawer an pulling out a long knife.

“I should cut yer bloody ‘ead off, Edsil, n be done with ya.”

With that she dropped the knife and melted into a crying mass on the floor.  Edsil got up, walked over and sat next to her, putting his arms around her.

“We’ll git through this, Remy.  We’ve got through worse.”

“But who’s gonna do the time?”

“Only ones thet can.  The kids.”

“The kids!”  She started bringing her fists down on Edsil’s shoulders.  “Why the kids?  They’ve done naught ta deserve such.”

“Ah know, Remy.  But they’ll do the shortest time.  Heck, it’ll be a bit of education for ‘em.  They’ll learn things we can’t provide.”

Remy didn’t answer.  The two kept holding each other, rocking back and forth on the floor.

The Block – Chapter II Part 2: Lexington, Aingland October 21, 2009

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A married man with a family
will do anything for money.

–  Charles de Talleyrand

The Block – Chapter II Part 2:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

debt

Edsil and Remy Farmer owned a twenty acre farm that provided for the family and livestock.  It supported their two children, Tom and Elizabeth and, to a degree, Edsil’s card playing.  On the homestead sat a two story frame house, a good size barn and three outbuildings.  The Farmers owned two cows, four horses, two goats, and about fifty chickens that were given the run of the property.  Also included in their domestic animals were two proper boxer dogs and fourteen or so barn cats of dubious parentage.

Their residence was set only slightly back from the main road; with the barn about ten meters back from the house and to the right.  There was a plank porch on the right side of the home, covered by the roof.  The main entrance sat just to the right of center under the porch roof.  Russell Jones pulled up his horse at the porch.  He dismounted, tying his horse to the hitch post in front.  When he rode up, he scattered some of the chickens who made enough noise in objection to being disturbed that anyone inside the house would have known that a visitor had arrived.  Then came the loud barking of the two boxers that sniffed at his heels between yapping.  Remy Farmer stepped outside the door, her daughter Elizabeth just behind her.  She eyed the stranger with some suspicion before speaking.

“Slope, Burns, down!  Thet’s enough from both a ya!”  She looked at Russell and said, “May Ah be ‘elpin’ ya?”

Russell had been reaching into his right saddlebag, pulling out an envelope and keeping an eye on the dogs when Mrs. Farmer appeared.  He walked up to the porch step but did not advance farther.  The dogs stayed to his left and right, but did not cause any more commotion.

“Yes, my name is Russell Jones.  Is your husband Edsil about?  I have some business we must discuss.”

Mrs. Farmer looked to be a plain woman, certainly older than her thirty years would suggest.  She sported brown hair, tied up in a bun in the back.  Her eyes were slits, looking into the morning sunshine.  Her skin appeared very pale, even in the shade of the porch.  She didn’t answer Russell at first, only staring at him with a pained expression on her face.

“Yer from the Empire, ain’t cha?” she finally asked, speaking in a low, slow voice.

“Yes, I am,” Russell said.

She nodded.  “Yer ‘ere ta tyke ‘im ‘way?”

“No, Mam.  I’m here to sit down with you and your husband and go over your options.  He’s involved in a sticky problem that will require some decisions concerning you and your household.”

“Ya ‘ere ta tyke ‘way the ‘ouse and the farm?”

Russell tried to smile.  “No again, Mam.  I won’t be taking anything away from you.  I’m here to help you reach a decision that would be most beneficial to you and your family.”

Again, she nodded her head.  “Edsil ain’t ‘ome at the moment.  ‘E and Tom took one of the ‘orses over ta Jeremy Myers farm ta git it shod.”

“How long ago did he leave.”

“Two ‘ours or thar ‘bouts.”

“Do you mind if I wait for him here on the porch?”

“Ah don’t mind.  Ya can come inside if’n ya like.  Ah can send Elizabeth ta fetch ‘em.  Otherwise it might be a spell ‘fore they return.”

“That’s okay, Mam.  I can wait.”

“’E won’t run, if’n that’s what yer thinkin’.  We been expectin’ ya fer days on end.  We just wanna git it over with, ya know?”

“Then Elizabeth can fetch them if she’d like.”

Her mother turned and cuffed Elizabeth on the back of the head.  She reacted by running around the side of her and jumping off the porch.  She raced to the barn and came out moments later riding bareback on what looked to be an older saddle horse.  They disappeared together down the road to the right of the house.

Russell followed Mrs. Farmer into the house at her bidding.  Crossing the threshold, he stepped down onto a wood floor.  He saw a large room set out as both kitchen and commons.  The kitchen was to the right with an old cook stove, ice chest, sink and cabinets.  In front of him stood a large oak dining room table with six wood chares around it.  Mrs. Farmer pulled one of the chairs out and motioned him to have a seat.

“Wouldya like coffee or juice?”

Russell sat down.  “Coffee would be fine, thank you.”

She nodded once and set a metal pot onto the cook stove.  A cabinet door was opened and two cups were brought to the dining table.  She placed one before Mr. Jones and set one in front of a chair where she sat down.

Looking into her cloudy eyes, Russell could see both pain and inquiry.  “You know, I really can’t discuss much about this until your husband arrives.”

“Ah know.  ‘E’s a good man, really.  Just gits tied up with easy ways ta try and make more cash.  ‘E sez he don’t want ‘is kids ta ‘afta work as ‘ard as ‘e ‘as ta.”

“Do you know anything about the place where he plays cards?”

A slight nod of her head.  “Yeah.  Thet man, Miklin’s a lyin’ cheat.  Ah tell Edsil not ta go, plead with ‘im, really.  But it’s like ‘E’s pulled thar by somethin’ ah can’t explain.”

Russell felt bad for the woman.  He’d heard stories like this so many times in the past.  Households ruined by the husband’s compulsion to gamble at any cost to the family.

Mrs. Farmer pushed herself away from the table.  She went to the stove and retrieved the coffee pot.  It had a wood handle so she didn’t need a cook glove to pick it up.  Walking carefully to the table, she poured the contents into both cups.  Finished, she returned the pot to the stove, placing it away from the heated surface.

“Do ya need anythin’ wit yer cuppa?”

“No, Mam.  This will do fine.”

She went to the ice box taking out a small pitcher.  Back at the table, she poured some cream into her drink and sat down again.

“Nice and hot,” Russell said.

“Ya speak such good Anglich.  Makes a body a bit embarrassed.”

“Don’t be.  Government training is all it is.”

“Wish there was jobs like yer’s what Edsil could do.  Might turn ‘im ‘round.”

“Might be something to look into some day.  But you’d all have to move to New London.”

“Yeah, don’t know if’n ‘e’d like movin’ ‘way from the farm.  Suppose it’s in ‘is blood.”

With that I heard hoof beats outside and dogs barking.

“Edsil and Tom’s ‘ome.”

The Block – Chapter II Part 1: Lexington, Aingland October 17, 2009

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Oh, what a blamed uncertain thing
this pesky weather is!

–  Philander Johnson

The Block – Chapter II Part 1:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

hotel

Summoner First Class Russell Jones slowly sauntered his horse around the central square of the small town of Lexington in the Rejoinder of Angland.  Rain kept pouring down.  The sun had set a long time before his arrival and Russell was wet to his britches.  He’d made a wrong turn on his trip to Lexington, ending up in the town of New Hampton.  Apparently some road signs had been dismantled and he’d made a couple of terrible guesses.  With the steady rain, he passed no other riders or homes where he could ask directions.  He would be unable to ride to the Farmer residence until the morning.  Now it would suffice if he could locate the Hotel.

Finally he noticed a sign for the Lexington Inn halfway down one of the main streets that spun off the central circle like spokes on a wheel.  He hitched his horse on the rail in front, removed his saddlebags and climbed the three steps to the hotel entrance.  He stood at the door for a few minutes, allowing the rain water to run off his knee length, dark green travel coat.  He stretched his long frame to ease his muscles from the lengthy ride and yawned.  The tall summoner removed his hat and shook the water from it before entering the door in front of him.

Russell found the main floor of the Inn to be a place that radiated comfort and cleanliness.  There was a huge hearth off to his right which contained an intense fire.  To his left was a long counter top that ended where the stairway to the second floor reversed over it.  He decided to walk over and stand for a few moments in front of the fire before announcing his presence.  The heat warmed his body and began to dry off his clothing.  He sighed in relief.  He was still standing face to the fire when an old man walked out of a room under the stairwell and stood behind the counter.

He was a short, stocky fellow with an honest looking face.  He had a clean shaven chin and an ample brown cookie duster that emphasized his high, dark cheeks and bushy white eyebrows. His white hair completed the picture.  The old man was dressed in butternut homespun pants and a checkered flannel shirt.

“Excuse me.  Didn’t know anyone was about.”

Russell turned.  “I’m sorry.  Just got in and thought I’d warm up a bit.”

“That’s fine.  Percy Armstrong, at your service.  I’m here when you’re ready.  Ring the bell if I disappear.”

“Thanks.”

Russell removed his travel ware and found a hook on a rail next to the door where he hung up his hat and coat.  The old man was still behind the counter so Russell went over to him, laying his saddlebags on a chair that sat against the wall to its left.

“Do you have a comfortable room for two nights?”

“That’s our job here,” the old man said, a neighborly smile on his face.

Russell nodded, returning the smile.  “How much?”

“Ten hackles.”

“Reasonable.  Russell dipped into his pouch and withdrew ten coins, setting them on the counter.  The old man turned, took a key off a nail on the wall and laid it beside Russell’s copper pieces.

“What brings you to Lexington?”

“Oh just some business to transact outside of town.”

The old man nodded.  “Wet weather for business.”

“Happens this time of year.”

“Room 211, second floor on the right. Would you sign for the key sir?”

The Inn keep reached to his left and slid an open registry book in front of Russell.  Having also been handed a quill, Russell signed the book with a bit of a flourish.

“Russell Jones then, eh?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Armstrong.  Do you have someone available to take my horse over to the livery?”

“Aye.  I’ll get my son right on it, sir.”

“Thanks.  Have them brush and feed him tonight, if you will.  Tell the livery men I’ll pick him up around ten in the morning.”

“Will do.  Breakfast is served at eight.  Would you like a knock on the door at seven?”

“Yes, please, Mr. Armstrong.  Thank you.”

“Good night to you, then.”

“Ta.”  Russell picked up his saddlebags along with his hat and coat and headed upstairs to his room.

Accommodations at the Lexington Inn were simple but clean.  Russell found a bed, nightstand, chest of drawers and a table.  A medium sized picture of water sat on the table along with a night basin and a cup.  There was a strip of wood along the wall with six pegs in it.  Russell hung up his hat and jacket.  There was a wood backed chair near the table upon which he tossed his saddlebags.  There were two windows on the wall facing the door, both covered with brown common draperies.  By the door, a small gas lamp with a reflector provided the only light in the room.

Russell took off his light green shirt and dark green pants, hanging them on two of the hooks.  These were what the Service called his fatigue issue uniform.  They bore no insignias, neither of service nor rank.  Off to the far left on his belt, however, was a bronze clip that bore his badges of service and rank on the inside.  A Summons Officer had to look somewhat indistinguishable so he could fit in with the local population without generating too much suspicion.  There were those who tried to flee in order to resist being served.

His long underwear was still damp from the driving rain, but not bad enough that he had to remove them.  He took off his boots, setting them by the legs of the chair, turned off the gas lamp and slid between covers of the bedstead.  With the thick quilt spread over him, he felt quite warm.  Exhausted from the days ride, he drifted off to sleep almost immediately.

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.”

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.”