“Defense of self is one of the primary goals of all organisms. Defense of the State is defense of territory, family unit, livelihood, and the freedoms of the individual guaranteed by that State. Defense of the State even unto death is therefore defense of self, and a good death.”-Perfected Crèche Teachings, as reported by Imperial News Networks.
The demonstration was a non-event for the officers assigned to it until the mob decided to move on Government Square. Chanting, flag-waving, red-faced demonstrators flowed down the street toward the line of officers thrown up to stop such a move.
As they drew closer to the thin blue line thrown up to prevent them gaining the square and disrupting the processes of government with their disorder, the chanting resolved into repeated calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Imperial armed forces from the planet and claims of a popular mandate for immediate handover of government to The New Geneva People’s Party.
Officer Venkman hadn’t heard of such a party, and certainly hadn’t given them or anyone else a mandate to misbehave on his behalf. And it was clear that misbehavior was on their minds, as some wore scarves wound around the lower halves of their faces, a sure sign of intent to do mischief.
The officer, by dint of being taller than the rest of the squad his district station had sent for the demo, was the first officer to the left of the sergeant, who was standing on the building line on their right. The crowd control shield was an unfamiliar drag to his left arm, and triggered uncomfortable memories for the big off-worlder.
Sergeant Trudeau, looking past Venkman, called a command over the net, “Squad, visors down!”
Venkman already had his down, but he checked on his partner, two officers left of him in the line. Baptiste was ready, but three of the more junior members of the squad hurried to snap theirs into place at the command.
Sergeant Trudeau continued as the mob advanced within twenty meters of their position, “Keep the shields unpowered until Event Command authorizes use or we are in danger of being overrun.”
‘The latter being far more likely,’ Venkman reflected, rolling his shoulders to loosen tense muscles. There were only ten officers to cover the two lanes of traffic and sidewalks of the boulevard.
“We just have to hold for a bit, the rest of the platoon will be here shortly,” Trudeau finished.
Trudeau turned off her mic, but Venkman heard her mutter under her breath, “Should have been covering the avenue in platoon strength in the first place, damn it. Shouldn’t have ordered my fucking squad into the mix without proper support.”
The crowd kept shouting, now just ten meters away.
The sergeant flicked on the public address net, activiating the small but very powerful speakers built into the riot gear of every member of the squad. A blast of sound assaulted the ears of the crowd, quickly followed by the pre-recorded announcement, “This is an unlawful assembly, and you are required to disperse per section 101 of the Nouvelle Genève Penal Code and Title Eight of the Civilian Rights and Regulations of Imperial Law. You have five minutes to comply.”
A snarl Venkman didn’t like but wasn’t surprised to hear erupted from the mass of humanity, louder than the artificial noise generated by the public address system. Mention of Title Eight often provoked such a response. A harsh law enacted by the Imperial legislature to ‘prevent insurrection and preserve the public peace for the duration of the war’, it had been used as legal justification for suppressing any dissent over the last seventeen years.
When the Lord Governor announced the imminent withdrawal of Imperial government from the system, the people of Nouvelle Genève rejoiced for a day or two and immediately started pressing for more, faster. Nouvelle Genevoise felt they had a lot of catching up to do.
The police department was, as usual, stuck in the thick of it, trying to maintain order in the midst of glaring uncertainty about the future of governance, economy, and even culture of the planet.
The front of the crowd growled, bunched, stalled a few steps from the line of officers. Most respected the authority of the officers under other circumstances, the mob mentality not yet robbing them of sense. Venkman saw several people in scarves exhorting the crowd to take further action, while remaining well inside the mob and out of reach.
A bottle sailed over the heads of those in the front of the crowd, landing short of the line and shattering.
“Hold!” Trudeau barked on the net when the officers closest to being struck looked like they might charge forward.
Several of the masked rabble-rousers broke from the edges of the crowd and ran at either end of the line. A thin reed of a man made a run for the gap between Trudeau and Venkman. Holding the stick at high ready, Venkman dropped his right foot back and raised the shield.
The man tried to barge through, swinging a flimsy datapaper sign in the officer’s direction. The sign itself isn’t a threat, the memory chips tiny and the display surface tissue-thin, but the wooden staff the datapaper was attached to would certainly leave a mark.
Watching the blow descend toward him with the calm bred into him for such moments, Venkman determined the threat sufficient to go active with his baton. He triggered the electronics buried in the polymer stick even as he slapped the other man’s attack aside in a fast parry.
His counterattack landed on the man’s right shoulder with the distinctive sizzle-crack of discharging electrons. The would-be rioter went rigid and had already begun to topple backward when Sergeant Trudeau clipped him in the left hip with her shield.
The contact of the sergeant’s shield triggered another sizzle-crack, surprising Venkman. ‘Sounds like Sarge thinks we’re going to get overrun,’ Venkman thought, watching the man shudder and twitch.
Trudeau flashed Venkman a tight grin from beneath her visor as she backed into line with her subordinates.
He flicked his gaze to the left. The agitators on the far end of the line hadn’t done any better than the one on his, a pair of unconscious bodies marking their attempt.
A snarling growl from the crowd raised the hairs on Venkman’s neck, ‘Someone doesn’t like how easily we dealt with their shit-disturbers.’
Another barrage of thrown trash and more deadly missiles impacted around and on the shields of the squad.
The mob milled and chanted, amping themselves up. Venkman watched as, over the next few moments, the dangerous mob-mentality of the crowd compounded and intensified to a gestalt of anger and heedless aggression.
The intensity coming off the crowd triggered responses in Venkman’s own biochemistry he would prefer not to air. Things might get broken. He resorted to mantra for control.
Calmed after a few moments of mental exercise, Venkman analyzed the crowd’s behavior more clearly. While it hadn’t been his specialty, he’d participated in enough insurrection and agitation actions to feel the moment approaching.
‘But being on the other side is a bit novel,’ he thought, raising his shield and bouncing on the balls of his feet, stick at the high ready.
The crowd snarled again, starting toward the squad, all angry faces, raised fists, and waving sticks. They gathered momentum in only the few steps it took them rush the line. The front of the mob met the line in a flurry of blows, most going down in a heap even as those behind them pressed forward.
Holding to mantra in the thick of things, Venkman and the officers sent from Starfall Station set to with a will, laying about them with stick and shield.
The mob would not pass this way, not today.