The Paxton Gambit

Prelude

Sgt. Mason is drawn up on charges

Peace River Habitat Core, Second Terrace. 6th Court.

A trial is getting underway.

“Present your evidence.” Justice Thorn stated, eyeing the prosecutor over her silver glass frames. Seated high in her red chestnut desk, the dark skinned woman overlooked a small courtroom of no more than twenty. Several peace officers, wearing gray uniforms and silver insignia denoting rank sat on the side of the defendant. One of their number, a striking woman with platinum blonde hair and a metal eye patch sat in the front row, scowling at the proceedings.

“Yes your honor.” Prosecutor Davin Grimory stood. He adjusted his rumpled suit, then casually gestured toward his client, a weasel faced scrub who seldom bathed and bore several new scars on his face, including a broken nose and a puffy eye that was blue and purple. He squinted through it. “Mr. Lance Vizel is a respected tradesman from the third terrace. A humble man of the worker caste, he was beset upon by the Tactical Response Group – Mr. Liam Mason, to be precise, who proceeded to beat him senseless, demanding information about the Badlands Revolutionary Front. Information I might add, that he did not possess.”

“On what basis?” the Justice inquired, her voice measured and stern.

Davin shrugged. “That has yet to be determined. Presumably under the impression that Mr. Vizel is a BRF operative, your honor.”

The Justice directed her gaze at Mr. Vizel, seeming to peel back layers of the man. He squirmed in his chair. “And are you, Mr. Vizel, a BRF operative?”

His voice was high pitched, and oozed false charm. “‘Course not, your grace. I’z just…”

“It’s ‘Your Honor’ – And did I ask you what you were doing?” Justice Thorn barked.

Elizabeth Bain narrowed her one good eye and smiled grimly. Dara Thorn didn’t like suckups. She was noted to be a hard judge, with a strong reformist streak. Liam’s odds didn’t look good, but it did help that Vizel was slime.

Lance was taken aback. “No…”

“Then don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.”

Lance Vizel shifted in his chair, unsure of what to do. His attorney quickly took over for him. “I apologize, your honor. Mr. Vizel is merely trying to be helpful.”

“Do you have witnesses?” Thorn asked.

“We do. Mr. Vizel has several close friends who can vouch for him.” Grimory stated.

“And who are these friends?” the justice inquired.

“Close associates, who he has worked with in the past, as well as two neighboring business owners, Mr. Kuchel and Mr. Diggs.”

“Are these people here?”

“They are, your honor.”

“Have them rise please.”

Grimory waved over to them, and they stood. They looked like thugs in disguise. The bald, meaty pair chafed in their suits, clearly more comfortable in a wife-beater than what they were wearing. One had scars on his fists. Justice Thorn’s eyebrows arched skeptically.

“Objection, your honor.” Mikal Vyran stood. He was young, blonde, and shook his head vigorously. “All of these men are known associates of the BRF.”

“Really?” Justice Stark asked dangerously. “That’s quite the accusation.”

Vyran suddenly didn’t look so sure of himself. “Well… It’s just a well known fact.”

“Well, if it’s so well known, maybe you’ll enlighten me. Where are these facts?” the justice asked.

Vyran looked slightly cowed. “Objection withdrawn… for the moment.”

Justice Thorn nodded, accepting. “Very well.”

Before being seated, Vyran spoke again,“May I remind your honor that both of these individuals have been brought before this court on repeated grounds, and therefore, their testimony is highly suspect.”

The Justice weighed this. “Trust me, Mister Vyran, the thought did occur to me.” She turned back to Grimory. “The prosecution may continue.”

Diggs did the talking. He used a lot of slang and short sentences. He told the story of being hit by a lot of ‘grays’, saying that Mason and the other officers of the TRG thought there was some kind of hostage situation and asked over and over where she was. The truth was, there was no hostage, but they wouldn’t accept that answer.

Justice Thorn cut to the heart of the story with several pointed questions, then addressed the defendant. “Mister Mason. You stand as the accused. What do you have to say to all this? If you didn’t give Mr. Vizel these injuries, then how did he get them?”

GM
You can now respond to Justice Thorn. Do you plead guilty or innocent? Did you beat this man? Did you have a good reason to do so?

Liam
Not guilty your honor. When we entered the building Mr. Vizel resisted arrest. He attempted to assault me and the members of my team. We restrained him using the minimal amount of force necessary. The members of my team are willing to testify to the same.

ME: of course he did resist a little bit…but not for long. And of course I beat the hell out of him. There is a missing girl at stake.

Mason stood and addressed the judge. “With all due respect your honor, the Tactical Response Group is only called in when things have gotten out of hand. We received a phone call about a woman being held by the BRF. She had supposedly broken away from her captors long enough to call for help. She gave… an accurate description of known BRF collaborators just before we lost contact with her.”

“Upon entering the premises of Mr. Vizel’s establishment, we proceeded to use the force necessary in order to locate the captured woman. While this did result in injury to Mr. Vizel, this is only because he resisted arrest and we needed to act immediately. My team members can attest to these facts.”

Justice Thorn listened patiently. “… And what of the woman? Did you locate her?”

Liam’s eyes shifted in annoyance. “…No your honor.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“The whole thing turned out to be a prank call in order to tie up our resources so the BRF could detonate an explosive near the Peace River Council Chamber on the first terrace. The Criminal Investigations Bureau is trying to locate the person who placed the call. They believe that there may be a connection…”

“That’s good enough, Sergeant Mason. You can be seated.” As Liam resumed his seat, she addressed Mikal Vyran. “I’ll need to review your headcam to reach a verdict. Can you make the footage available to me?”

Mikal stood tenuously, “I’m afraid not your honor.”

Justice Thorn’s eyebrows arched dangerously. “Come again?”

“Sergeant Mason’s helmet was… damaged in the incident, and as such, only partial footage could be recovered.”

The justice did not look pleased. “I’ll review what you have then, Mr. Vyran.” she hissed.

Several minutes later they watched as TRG Team 2 expertly assaulted a dilapidated looking business front, going room to room, searching for hostages. It showed the encounter with Vizel, but did not show any resistance or weapons. Valeri McCormick, the team leader was clearly frustrated with the situation and cast the camera a meaningful glance, at which, the footage immediately went to static.

After a moments review, Justice Thorn addressed the court. "

Mister Vizel, I do believe what Mister Vyran has said today and I believe that you are a thoroughly disreputable man. Be that as it may, this court does not base its findings on rumor alone. Should I find you in my courtroom again, be assured that it will not go well.

“Sergeant Mason, I find your actions reprehensible in light of President Simosa’s new reforms and mandate that we work with the worker caste and seek to bridge ties, not further break them. Additionally, this is not the first time you’ve been here on similar charges of over-zealousness in pursuit of your duties. I also find the fact that your headcam has been damaged or tampered with highly suspect.”

“Therefore, I find in favor of the prosecution. Sergeant Mason is fined $2500 dollars in damages, to be paid to Mr. Vizel immediately following this hearing. He shall also be responsible for all medical bills incurred by Mr Vizel as a result of this incident. Additionally, I don’t think this kind of behavior is acceptable for members of the TRG. While I understand that they are under a lot of pressure in their various duties, we expect them to act as professionals – especially on duty.”

“Therefore, I am suspending him from his duties from the Tactical Response Group, for a period of no less than one cycle, starting immediately. I will notify Marshal Chen so that she might reassign you to Patrol Division. There, mister Mason, I hope that you learn to restrain yourself a little more than you have in the past.”

Liam’s gut clenched like he was falling from a great height.

Thorn continued, “Commander Bain, Captain McCormick,” She said, addressing the one-eyed commander of the TRG and Liam’s raven haired captain, “I hope that this sentence will serve as an example and a warning to those who seek justice using force alone. I encourage you to instruct your officers that this will not be tolerated.”

She banged her gavel. “Court adjourned.”


Valeri McCormick, Liam’s commanding officer, drew close to Mason after the proceedings, his other teammates trailing her. “Patrol Division? That sucks.” She shook her head in dismay. “You’ll be missed.”

Liam wasn’t used to seeing her so obviously upset. She was usually so gung-ho about everything. Even though her five foot eleven frame didn’t give her the look of a seasoned vet, she was a perfect captain: tough and firm. Focused on duty and training, but fair and easy going when things were more laid back. Commander Bain had chosen her well.

Mason’s other team members, Konner, Jyan, and Leon all nodded their agreement. Jyan was a giant of a man. A muscled hulk who could probably intimidate a GREL. His fists were gripped so tight, Liam thought he might hit something.

Commander Bain came up to them. Her eyes searched for the right thing to say. Liam hadn’t spoken to her often, but knew that she broke the rules often enough that he liked her. She wasn’t a ‘by the book’ kind of woman. Although in approaching her mid-forties, she looked lean and sinewy. Liam knew she could take any of them. She was that good.

She sighed, “Tough break, Mason. I don’t think what you did to that rat was wrong – I would have done the same thing – Vizel had it coming. But times are changing. With the reforms President Simosa has been pushing through, it looks like we won’t be able to bust down doors like we have been. Not everyone can be PaxSec.”

At that, everyone chuckled. PaxSec was the private security for Paxton Arms, the corporation that ran Peace River. They operated as a secret police force and their authority knew no bounds.

It was silent for a moment before she spoke again. “You’ve been a good officer, Mason. I expect to see you back on active duty in one cycle. I’ll pull what strings I can.”

Liam nodded encouragement he didn’t feel, and Valeri mock-punched him in the arm. “Well, sounds like someone needs a going-away party. How ’bout you let me buy you a beer?”


They found their way to a popular TRG hangout, a bar on the second terrace called Second Sky. It had glass flooring and hung out over the third terrace. It was a long way down. It had decent food and a local band playing classic Induwave Rock, using rusted metal and wind sounds. It sounded like the danger and excitement of the desert.

Liam drank with friends that he probably wouldn’t run into again for a long time. He saw the looks on their faces. He could tell they felt sorry for him. Patrol Division was a doom he hadn’t seen coming. Although the largest of the divisions of the Peace Officer Corps, it was a thankless task, and often a boring one. He’d worked hard to get out of the Prospects of the fourth terrace. Now, it looked like he was being dragged back down. Everyone knew that at least half of the POC’s time was spent down there. As a disgraced officer, there wasn’t much chance he would see the loftier terraces for a while.

Liam had one last night with his friends, then went home, fearing what dawn would bring.

GM
Tell me about your last night of partying, how drunk you got and about Liam’s apartment. It’s probably on the second terrace, but you live alone. It would be your bachelor pad. What’s there? What’s on display? What style does it have? Why did you choose this apartment? What is your landlord like, or do you own it? Does Liam own a car? A motorcycle? Does he transit to work (as in subway?)

Liam
Liam got wasted at that party, everyone else had to buy drinks so it was free.he lives in an apartment he owns on second terrace with his dog max named after one of his favorite duelists. the style is classy. nothing modern(like todays modern art ugh that stuff is gross). he has a pic of him and his squad at the bar hanging on the wall. along with some pieces of art that he likes. he picked this apartment because its a quite neighbor hood where everyone respects each others privacy. Liam owns a motorcycle and drives it to work every day. and he is not happy to be back working patrol.

Liam walked his bike up to the storage area of his apartment unit – a mostly quiet neighborhood where he found a perfect apartment tucked away just above the municipal level of the second terrace. and pawed through his pockets for his datacomm. He fumbled it out and keyed the entry open. He noticed he had several messages, but he didn’t want to go through them right now. He just wanted to collapse and sleep through the weekend.

After parking the bike, he walked inside. The low lighting came on automatically, reacting to his presence. The apartment was lit with soft lamps, which illuminated the space, which was arrayed in classical black and white tones. Photos, a reminder of better days hung in black frames throughout the living area.

His dawg, Max, trundled over excitedly, anxious for him to be home. He licked his hand between his three fangs, but Liam wasn’t in the mood. Max whined inquiringly, wondering what was wrong, but found his way back to the soft black mat just outside of the kitchen, where he plopped back down again, looking morosely at a gnawed bone he’d been working at.

Liam felt like he was going to fall down on the glossy black kitchen tile. He took a glass out of a cabinet and held it to his water dispenser, which promptly filled it with ice cool water. He drank it slowly, a measure of solidity coming back to him. He put the empty glass on the counter next to the sink. He then made his way to the couch, couch, collapsing into it’s soft, creamy plush. He promised himself he would get up and go to bed. It never happened.

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