When I first published the Solar Wind 3 (“Freedom Fighter”) in 2008, it was around the time of the election of Obama. Sentiments ran high in America and the rest of the world watched with bated breath. I published this little prologue for Solar Wind 3 as part of the promo for the series, and within a few days it had over 1000 views on Scribd and the same on several other places, despite my being a nonentity.
The funny thing about “Freedom Fighter” is that (maybe because of its name) it seems to cause all sorts of political ears to perk. When I was bringing a copy to the National Library, the doorman asked me if this is about the EFF and Julius Malema’s calling himself “Economic Freedom Fighter”. No: It’s not. It’s simply the third in a science fiction pirate series and the Freedom Fighter is a feisty little red-headed monster of 16 years with stars in her sparkly blue activist eyes. To say she has no idea what she’s doing is putting it mildly.
We’ve come full circle, it is 2016, Obama’s term is over and America is once again in pre-election turmoil, and the other thing that’s special about this year (for us at least) is that it’s now exactly 100 years before the story of the Solar Wind begins.
So here is Radomir Lascek and his wonderfully manipulative ways, calling a meeting to discuss with his pirates how they will reshape the world’s politics.
Captain Radomir Lascek paced before his gathered few, studying their faces. His inner circle; his most trusted officers were gathered here before him, in the secret lounge of the more secret Southern Deep Base, in the glow of a synthetic fire that kept away the chill of the Antarctic night.
His assassins had reported back half an hour ago; Marsden, Ailyss, Federi and little Paean. His gypsy had looked ill at ease throughout the report-back, his black eyes flitting from Marsden to Ailyss, and his forehead creased in worry. There were significant gaps in his report too; however, these probably had less to do with the mission. Radomir Lascek was not going to grill him on these. Wild birds!
Ailyss and Paean had been sent off to prepare food – or keep themselves busy in any other way; and the Inner Circle had been called in. Here they were gathered: Federi, Jon Marsden, Doc Judith, Sherman Dougherty, Rushka – Donegal, he had to remind himself acridly, and Ronan. The young man was an officer-in-training; and he was married to Lascek’s daughter, so he might as well learn of his Captain’s plans. He had shown himself capable of keeping confidences before.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced Radomir Lascek, studying his most trusted few with satisfaction, “phase one is achieved. Thanks to Jon and Federi, twenty-one Unicate leaders have been removed. The organization will need leadership! We instate Admiral Drake as military leader. As for the Rebellion, they have received enough of a blow to understand that if they try any resistance, they shall be totally, utterly, completely annihilated!”
His officers stared at him in shock. Their Captain turning into a warlord! He grinned. He rather liked the effect.
“Quinlan,” said Federi from his corner, where he sat cross-legged on his chair carving at something.
Ah, of course. Gypsies had never been properly impressed by warlords.
“Valid point,” said Lascek. “The Samoa Group hasn’t received any blow. But we hold Quinlan’s children. And Ailyss, take note, has come over to our side completely. A trump, my friends.”
Federi nodded. She was a trump. She had brought Jon back home in one piece.
“So the balance of power is established,” said Lascek. “We set up peace negotiations between all these warring parties. Bring them under a single banner. As for the Unicate: We place the entire machinery into the hands of the Admiral.”
Federi shook his head.
“Brilliant,” commented Marsden.
“The people,” prompted Federi. “They’ll want democracy. You’ll set off a revolution.”
“Thank you, my Tzigan. The people will respond to whatever is touted through the media. And Federi, take note: We OWN the media.”
This statement caused some stir. “How?” asked Doc Judith.
“Jon, over to you!”
“Essentially,” said Marsden, “Wolf and Dr Jake, and Vincent on Prime, have been working on an override mechanism for the various ways in which media are broadcast across the world. We are now capable of overriding all channels, as well as audio casts. It’s already tested.”
“Free speech,” mentioned Federi idly.
“Rhine Gold is in charge of Free Speech,” said Radomir Lascek. “He revises all that goes through our hands and uses his – may I add, very sharp – judgement to allow or refuse items to be aired.”
“Censorship,” said Doc Judith with distaste. “Captain, there shall be an outcry.”
“Free Speech is an illusion in the first place,” replied Lascek with a smile. “Free speech is a self-limiting process. Sooner or later, the free speakers turn out to be the same people who are trying to grab the power for themselves. Once they are in power, as you see, free speech is once again a mythological creature.”
“Captain,” said Federi with an ironic smile. Somehow, a little pencil caricature of Lascek as military dictator had happened next to him on the fake-pine coffee table. He rubbed it off with his sleeve. “Did I hear you say that we should control the media because free speech is self-limiting as the free speakers so often turn out to be those who want to grab the power?”
Amusement hummed through the room.
“My dear Tzigan,” grinned Lascek. “You need to examine the motives of the person wanting to grab the power. Is he grabbing it only to enrich and empower himself? Or is he working towards the good of all?”
“They all say that,” said Federi sagely.
“Point taken, Federi,” the Captain laughed. “I can see you’ll hold me to my word. We are working towards a safer planet. I’m hoping, in time, to have countless descendants all over the world; it must be a safe place. Anything less is not enough. If I defect from this course, I expect all of you to bring me back on track! Is that understood?”
“Poor Rushka,” muttered Federi. Rushka blushed crimson.
Radomir Lascek laughed along with the others. “Hoy, Tzigan! Enough of the cabaret! Let’s get focused,” he added sternly. “Most of all I want to prevent that war. Therefore -” He stopped himself. Federi was smiling satirically to himself and shaking his head.
“Objections, Tzigan?” asked Lascek.
“Military dictatorship,” said Federi. “It’ll never fly, Captain.”
Radomir Lascek studied his Tzigan critically. This was the plan as discussed at Prime Base, in the secret meeting down in the Seafloor station. The first part had already been carried out! To change the rest now?
“You want us to retake the concepts, Federi? What would you suggest?”
“The people can govern themselves,” said Federi. “They are self-sufficient.”
“So, anarchy,” concluded Lascek scathingly.
The Free Gypsy nodded.
“Anarchy,” announced Radomir Lascek, “is not a stable system. Here’s why.”
“’s working in Southern Free,” commented the gypsy.
“Southern Free!” snorted the Pirate Captain. “Right. If there were only the people, as you refer to them, my good Tzigan, then anarchy would be the most logical state of governance. But essentially humankind throws up four types.”
“This I’d like to hear,” muttered Federi with a small smile.
“There are those who are born to lead,” said Lascek. “A people do better under the care of a natural leader than left to their own devices. This is why such natural leaders tend to bubble to the top. Secondly there are those in need of leadership.”
“Gypsies, highwaymen, petty thieves,” replied Lascek with a smile. “Those with a slight criminal bent, those whose ethics are in need of revision.” He watched his gypsy gulp air.
“Captain,” objected Jon Marsden. Radomir Lascek held up a hand.
“Hear me out. Thirdly, you get the large criminals. Big-picture people who lead nations to their demise for personal profit. I count the twenty you deleted, amongst them.”
The Tzigan wasn’t looking at him.
“And fourthly, my good Federi, there are what you term the ‘people’,” completed Lascek. “If it weren’t for types two and three, they would indeed be self-sufficient: They are basically honest, small-minded and a bit boring. It’s that third type, the great predators, from which we need to protect your people.” He paused, studying his officers.
Gypsies and highwaymen, thought Federi angrily. Gypsies had better ethics than any gadjo nation on Earth! They had the romipen!
But it didn’t help. He’d had countless pointless arguments with Captain about gypsies in the past, and they always reached a point beyond which neither would budge. Loggerheads. It wasn’t the purpose of the meeting.
“So what happens when the Admiral eventually retires?” he challenged. “Who governs then? We know Admiral is a good guy, and we know the rest of the Unicate is a bunch of crooks. Making peace between the Unicate and the Rebellion, Captain, and then leaving them to sort it out? The Unicate is stronger. You can predict who’s going to call the shots. You’ll simply have deleted the Free Pacific.”
“We’ve discussed that before, Federi,” Lascek reminded him.
“Yes. Pointless!” Federi snapped his mouth shut. Before he knew what went on in the deeper levels of the Unicate, he couldn’t tackle the problem anyway. But telling Captain now… it would delay things, and give the Unicate a gap. “You’re right about anarchy anyways, Captain,” he relented with a sigh. “’s not going to work – not with the Unicate lurking in the background. Need someone in charge. But…” Gypsies, thieves…
“I knew you’d see the light,” said Lascek smugly. “So seeing that humankind isn’t capable of governing itself without such predators rearing up, we’ll put an external system in place.”
Marsden looked up, electrified. “Captain, did I hear you say, an extraterrestrial agency?”
“But Jon,” replied Radomir Lascek patiently, “have you ever heard of an extraterrestrial agency?”
Marsden disintegrated under his Captain’s satirically raised eyebrows into an amiable smile.
“I said, a system governing the people,” re-stated Lascek.
“Orwellian,” muttered Doc Judith.
“Not at all,” replied the Captain. “Listen me out! Seeing that there is no such extraterrestrial agency known to man, that we can employ to patronize everyone, I was thinking of giving every person on this planet more responsibility. Seeing that most of Federi’s ‘people’ are basically adult children, not really in the picture and not naturally capable of leading more than their own simple lives, we’ll have to begin by educating them, and installing a strong system of mentorship.”
“Mentorship,” elaborated Lascek. “Each young person, even every older person on this planet ought to have a mentor to look up to.”
“Works for me, Captain,” said Federi loyally. “But wouldn’t it rather overload you? There’s a lot of adult children…”
Captain Lascek laughed.
“I can’t be everybody’s mentor, Federi! Let’s try to stay serious about this! There are over four billion people on this planet!”
“Books,” said Jonathan Marsden. “Courses. Gurus. Idols and role models. Radio. Rock concerts. Teachers. Television.”
“That’s right, Jon. In alphabetic order, too! That’s what I had in mind,” said the Captain. He hesitated. “Rock concerts, Marsden -? Oh well. The media have been abused over centuries to broadcast skew values and a culture of self-serving violence. Most entertainment is mediocre. Instead, what an opportunity! Do you all believe with me that Rhine Gold will be good at screening and censoring the media?”
“He’ll be brilliant,” said Marsden. “His values are so straight, nothing will get past him!”
“Would you agree that studying law would mess him up?” asked Lascek.
Marsden, Federi and Sherman all nodded gravely.
“And peeling potatoes will stifle him, over time,” sighed Federi.
“A world-wide system of mentorship,” Lascek added, “where the head of each family, or better, the most suited person in each group, leads the family. But it cannot legally be forced. It can only be coaxed forth. We need to create a situation where people want to grow and be altruistic.”
“Right,” came Sherman Dougherty’s cynical comment. “Radomir, mankind will never change. We’re a selfish species. It’s biologically determined.”
“And yet,” said Lascek, “research has found that if principles are taught within families, they are adhered to. See the Donegals and their family rules. We need to internalise the law and constitution into the family hierarchy. We need families to be led by the most suitable, the natural leader within each group.”
“Captain,” said Federi, smiling triumphantly, “may I suggest that you look at the leadership set-up of the Tzigany?”
“Why? Do they need help with it?”
“Help!” snorted Federi. “We’ve been using that exact system for centuries!”
“Are you saying it would lead to poverty and decay, and a general deterioration of values?” asked Lascek, amused.
Federi’s spine straightened as he bit back a snap answer.
“Mass hypnosis,” intervened Marsden. “Subliminal messages on TV.”
“Operant conditioning,” added Doc Judith.
Lascek shot another suspicious glance at Federi. “The Tzigany have kings and dukes and so on,” he said. “I’ve never yet figured out how their hierarchy works! Voydas and so on.”
“That’s right, Captain,” replied Federi with a glinting smile. “That’s exactly right. We have a monarchy. We even have a president! Don’t need gadje interference.” He was never going to tell Captain about the real systems now.
“Monarchy! Thought so,” muttered Lascek.
“How would you instate that system you had in mind, Captain?” asked Marsden, mainly to deflect Lascek’s attention from his friend.
“Tax benefits,” said Lascek.
“Tax benefits?” echoed Federi, puzzled.
“Tax,” said Marsden with a smile. “Giving a portion of your honest earnings to the people who govern you, so that they can keep up the infrastructure.”
“My honest earnings?” asked Federi quizzically. “And… Jon, what infrastructure?”
“We’ll have to make a study of tax law,” said Lascek thoughtfully. “We’ll be running that system.”
“A brilliant system,” agreed Federi enthusiastically. “May I volunteer for the tax laws?”
“Federi, won’t you make us all some coffee?” asked Lascek with a smile.
“Shukar, Captain!” He understood when he was being thrown out of a strategic meeting.
“So now,” said Lascek as the door closed behind the Tzigan, “with the spanner removed, let’s look at the plans.”
Both Irish girls, the dark and the red, looked up at Federi as he entered the galley at a pace and headed for the coffee station, unpacking seven mugs, his expression like a blizzard.
“What’s cooking, Federi?” asked Paean with a slight smile.
“Taxation,” he growled. “Way I see it, Annie Donegal works in a factory. And at night, as a waitress. She gets her honest salaries, and those get taxed. Then she pays her licenses, and those get taxed. She pays her rent, and it’s taxed; she buys food and it’s taxed. But it doesn’t stop there! She pays Paean’s school fees, and those are taxed. Then Mrs Flanagan gets paid her honest salary, from those fees, and that gets taxed. And essentially the profit the school makes goes to a large part into ground taxes. Damn!”
Paean stared at him blankly. He emphatically flicked on the kettle’s switch. “Every time money moves in any way, part of it flows to the Unicate! Annabottle! How can one get taxed on a licence? A licence is a tax!”
“He’s on a track,” said Ailyss quietly to Paean. Federi swivelled around.
“You,” he said, pointing a loaded finger at Ailyss.
“Thank you for looking after her for me. Thanks for being such a good team player with Jon. It’s great to have you on the team, Ailyss!”
Ailyss stared at him, taken aback.
“I thought you were about to shoot me!”
“I was about to leave Paean in your care, if the Captain hadn’t chosen to send both you girls on death missions with us.”
“Oh!” She was speechless.
The gypsy’s dark eyebrows converged and his stare pierced her. “Ailyss, what have you and Jon seen?”
Ailyss stared back, rattled. After a loaded pause, she replied: “Bloodshed, Federi. Just like you.”
He nodded. She knew that he’d be cornering her at some point for yet another interrogation.
“I ought to have an income system like that,” growled Federi, getting back onto his previous track. “Every time money moves in any way, I get some! Darned!” He grinned. “Should set it up that way!”
Freedom Fighter (Solar Wind 3)
“Keep an eye on them, Federi!”
Captain Rushka Donegal on the bridge! But the young girl doesn’t feel up to running a ship full of unruly young crew. And then they come across disaster…
So it falls to Federi to pick up the pieces while his Captain is not aboard. And while he rolls his dramatic eyes and gets things done, Paean Donegal arms up and signs on for the Fight for Freedom.