Cost/Benefit Equations

The price of the four freedoms is clear.
"Djugashvili Amin Dada"

Vote for my revision of the criminal code, S-l.
Ted "Man O' Steel" K.

There was plenty of time to think about what I was going to do because the New Employment Plan was in the news for almost a Year before the election.

When the fuckhead who favored it got re-elected, I went to a few of my friends, This was where I drew the line.

We were all punks, didn't have anything worth living for. I had a job once for a few months, but some new rationing plan came through, and my boss burned the place down and shot himself. I guess he wasn't making any money. None of us had jobs now except for a little dealing once in a while. I knew they'd throw in with me if the price was right.

"How much is it worth to you to take a bad risk,"
I said.
"What kind of risk?"
they wanted to know.
"Well, I'll make sure as best I can that I take the fall if anything happens, but we're talking jail, definitely B-mod, if they nail you. Chances are good they won't."

"Uh-uh, no way."
"You kidding,"
they said.
"Why, What you got in mind?"

"Just wait on that part. First I need to know what your price is, pick a number."

They were embarrassed. It was strange; we weren't hardcore, but here I was setting something up.

"How about ten million,"
I said. They laughed. We all knew they'd do anything for that much if they'd be able to keep it.

"I can't go that high,"
I said,
"but we're talking maybe two hundred thousand apiece."
"Sounds okay,"
they said.
"Depends on how sure we are about getting paid."

They pretended to take it all real cool, but they wanted me to tell them what was up.

"I'm working on it,"
I said.
"You just keep your trap shut and stay away from me for a while."

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I knew I could get the money easy in just one or two nights, but I wasn't into the idea of robbing honest people. My dad used to run a liquor store till he got killed in a holdup, which soured me on that kind of scam. He hated the ban on guns, but stores got searched every once in a while by the rations people, so he couldn't hide a shotgun or something under the counter.

He used to tell me about it when I was a kid. I asked him what was all the hassle when the ban first went into effect.

"But everybody will be safer,"
I said.
"Maybe. Maybe safer from each other, and that's in doubt. When you need a gun, there ain't no substitute. Safety lobbies don't stand between your wife and a rapist. Besides, they won't be safer from the biggest threat, the ones who still have guns."

He smiled, teasing me.

"Who? No one will have them."
"Oh yes they will. How do you think they make sure their plans for production get implemented? You know, a while back, when you could still get guns with a license, there was a class called black-powder, and you could get them without a license. You could still rob a bank with one, though. it just shows what the whole point of registration was."
"What? I don't get it."
"They're not worried about petty crimes, they're worried about the kind of weapons that would make a difference if there was some kind of resistance."

So I got it then. Freedom is a load of shit when you don't have the means to issue the final veto. Votes are made of lead.

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It only took about two weeks to get all the money I was going to need. I made my fundraising into a game, playing by my own rules as a point of pride. Only people who worked for the government got hit. I followed some guys home when they got off work at the Social Security office and the Community Mental Health Center, and stuff like that.

One guy who worked at the Senator's office had ten thousand on him, enough for a couple months' rent in the rent-control districts.

"I can give you what I said before"
I told the guys,
"for two murders apiece."
They were bowled over.
"You must be crazy."

I had a lot of explaining to do.

"Not murder, really,"
I said.
"It depends on how you look at it. Think like this is a war. We're in the occupied territory."
I read them the note that I wanted them to put on the bodies, the one that was taught to me by one of the underground guys I bought some guns from. He and a whole bunch Of people had committed suicide in jail just a day or so earlier, with help I guess.

Took about an hour to get through, but they came Over. They were already sold but needed to make like they'd never be so low as to kill for money. I explained everything I had set up. I gave them the enemy locations, told them where the guns were. Then I showed them the money, and my own gun so they wouldn't get any ideas.

They had to bring me proof: a finger and a wallet would be best. We were moving tonight so they wouldn't back out. It was a full moon, which was best 'cause it keeps the cops busier.

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I had no trouble with the first one. I had worked up my hate for a long time. The second one had a bridge game going so I had to kill all of them, which gave me more time to see the blood. I started to sweat when I changed the clip; the ones that weren't dead were screaming. I threw up outside.

It bothered me for a minute 'cause they probably didn't all work for the government. Then I figured they all knew what each other did, so if they were there they felt it was okay what the target did for a living. None of them were innocent.

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When I met the first guy with the money, he looked like he'd been throwing up too. I think he hated me for putting him through it, but it was him 'cause he wanted the money. He'd get over it.

"Tell me again,"
he said,
"why we did this."

I looked around the room, an empty former laundromat at a vacant apartment house. It hit me how he felt, no one left to say it wasn't your fault, to say it's all gonna be okay in the end. Don't start that, I told myself.

"Look,"
I said, lighting a cigarette.
"There's no end in sight. It really is a war. You know that. We only know the enemy by what they do. If they take certain jobs they got to be killed. It's like those Skinner boxes at school. Now we're doing the conditioning."

"No other way."
He was looking up into the air. Maybe they'll pick up on it, I thought, then go out and carry on the work.
"We can't play around like they did when Dad was a teenager in the sixties, especially since most people his age went over to the enemy, and they think they have some divine right to run everything. They got us by the balls. We can't get riots organized. Just individuals now, doing it on their own. There's never a lot of people who care, just so long as they get their beer and t.v."
I paid him off, laid the money on the table when he didn't reach for it. He didn't say goodbye.

Pretty much the same with the rest. When they were all on their Way I made sure to call the media so there wouldn't be a cover-up, even though I knew the media always turned everything into a scare story to sell papers. I went into a bar for a beer.

I had spent a lot of time thinking about the next part. What a price, I told myself. But slaves have nothing to spend except their lives. If they want to own themselves they have to quit groveling, and it costs them everything. Might as well do as much damage as you can while you're there. When you have nothing to lose then you can afford the ideals.

Just too bad the other savages don't seem to care about who's responsible. No more underground. I finished my beer.

At the phone I called the cops to report a robbery at the bar. Then I hid outside. When they got there I managed to hit two, but couldn't be sure they were dead. I had the wallets end the fingers. I did say I would take the fall.

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The president was receiving his morning briefing.

"I think we're in for trouble over the N.E.P.," said his aide. "The entire draft board was killed last night in Houston, It looks organized, there was a note. John Locke, prohibited material, sections 16 and 17 of his second treatise on civil government. They got the guy with the evidence, but he shot himself."
"Put the FBI on it. We can give the boards extra security or something..."

"I don't think that's enough, sir. It was all over the front pages, quote and all. I think people are going to get ideas. And the replacement boards in Houston have all announced their resignations."
"Draft them too! Fuck this! What's going on!" The president's temper exploded. "Close the papers then! National security!"
"I think we could get a lot of extra mileage out of rescinding the order, sir."
My son is nearly draft age, the aide thought. Banning Locke was stupid.

"What are we, a nation of pussies!"
"No, sir. I think it's just that they used to have something to lose. Now it's gone. Sir."

With that, the aide drew his service revolver and put a neat hole in the president's forehead.

"The third one,"
he thought.
"I make history."

He heard a roar of applause, and he put the gun to his temple.

Two riders were approaching. And. The. Wind. Began. To Howl.

Gerry Reith