Sam was one of many new recruits.  The Martian government had tripled the size of the police force to fight the War on Organized Crime.  Service was still voluntary, but standards had been lowered and offers had become more generous.  So, Sam Truman had signed up.  It was not like he had a job anymore.  American businessmen had established the Martian Republic in a carefully chosen location, mainly to mine iron.  They had succeeded in founding the first permanent outpost on the red planet and hiring miners had turned out to be less costly than doing everything with unmanned robots, so the companies had brought more people to Mars.  Sam remembered the advertisements that had enticed him to leave Earth and make a fresh start at the age of sixteen.  That had been thirty years ago and the invention of plastic alloy had eliminated the demand for Martian iron.  Although the mines and foundries had closed, about two thirds of the population had stayed. When it came to earning a living, people had become creative.  Tourists had come to see Mars ever since the Republic was founded, but the trade had expanded and become lawless.  Also, Martians had begun growing plants that were illegal on Earth, since Earth had few safe hiding places for such operations.  Nobody really knew how many grow rooms were hidden in the Reaches, the maze of unused mining tunnels beneath the Republic.  As the illegal sources of income had grown and legitimate businesses declined, gang membership had skyrocketed.  The extent of the threat had been revealed four years ago, when the Taggers had detonated an entire topside building, in order to attack their rivals, the Luckies.  The Republican Police had found out that the Luckies, who had specialized in gambling, had decided to build their own grow rooms and had refused to accept the protection of the Taggers.  The Taggers had made an example.

            The Demolition Attack, as it was called, had led to the War on Organized Crime. The aftermath had frightened all of Martian society.  The attack itself had killed thousands of citizens, many of whom were prominent, and when the apartment building had fallen, the colony had lost precious air by the cubic foot.  President Harry Schroub had vowed to clean up Mars at all cost.  He had immediately expanded the police and outfitted them with military gear manufactured on Mars.  A portion of the abandoned iron industry had come back to life.  He had also expanded their power, so that they could act with expediency.  Finally, he had banned public use of the power system, in order to cut off power to illegal operations.  This move had divided the Republic.  The Patriot Party, to which Sam belonged, had supported the President.  They urged people to support the police and to accept the new rules.  They also accused their critics of helping the gangs, either out of ignorance or in a deliberate effort to protect illegal income.  The criticism had come from the Liberal Republicans.  They pointed out that the right to build had been written into the Constitution of the Martian Republic, including the right to connect to the power system and computer networks.  They also protested that there was a double standard in Martian society.  Organized crime had long been a problem beneath the surface, where the people who were not fortunate enough to live in the sealed houses and condominiums situated topside had made their homes.  The government had only acted when topside dwellers were affected and did not mind making life more difficult for everyone else.

             Sam had thought about the events that had made him a police officer.  He was still a Patriot, but he had misgivings.  The Martian way of life had been eroded by the changes that the President was making and Sam had joined the police force to protect that way of life.  He remembered his two weeks of basic training.  After having been trained in the use of laser weaponry and a suit of robotic armor, he had taken the oath.  “I (Sam Truman) do swear by all that which I hold sacred to defend the Constitution, enforce the laws of the Republic for which it provides and serve the people’s need for domestic tranquility, at the expense of my life if necessary.”  Before being put on active duty, President Schroub had addressed his class.  The President had explained that the sacrifice of some liberties was necessary to ensure the survival of the Martian Republic and said that he needed police who were strong enough to do anything to keep their oath.

            Active duty meant that Sam moved from his home to the police barracks. Home had been a three-room apartment that he and his roommates had built.  It had been situated Below, in that area between the Reaches and Topside that resembled the inside of a shopping mall back on Earth, except that it consisted of segments which were added as citizens had exercised the right to build.  The layout was unplanned and random.  Being trained miners, Sam and his roommates had not had to hire anyone.  They simply dug into a vacant spot in a corridor someone else had made, bought an apartment from a nearby dealer and installed it on their own. Sam had sold his spot in the apartment and moved to the barracks.  For the first time, he had a bedroom to himself and one with a view no less.  He typically spent the ten hours a day of off-duty time he had in his quarters.

            His duties consisted of patrol and respond.  Every day, he would get into the armor he had been issued.  It was a robotic shell that he had been measured for before it could be assembled, that worked with his own movements and was not unlike the gear he had used as a miner.  It was squat but man-shaped with an unbroken metallic mirror for skin to defeat laser fire, lasers mounted on each arm and cameras for eyes that allowed Sam see in infrared and low-light when he switched modes.  Getting in involved opening the torso like a clamshell and inserting his arms, legs and, finally, his head into the appropriate compartments.  After the suit automatically closed and sealed itself with a hiss, the robot parts moved with him, allowing him to walk, move his arms, or do anything he could do without the armor, except bend at the waist.  It also had its own air supply and temperature control.  Once, on leave, he had used it to take a walk outside the Republic, on the bare surface of Mars.  On duty, he typically patrolled Below, occasionally going up a set of stairs and into a topside building, or taking an elevator into the reaches.  P and R duty simply meant walking the route he was given, a different one every day, which he received during the routine briefing he was given every morning.  That and respond to any call for help.  After month of it, Sam began to feel the grind.  Walking through the crowded corridors Below, standing tall in his armor over everyone else, had felt good at first, but soon it seemed pointless. Every so often, another bomb would go off and Sam and the other police would get there as soon as they could. The gangs loved to plant bombs in each other’s territory and were long gone by the time a device went off.  Sam and the other officers simply guarded the area while the rescue workers assisted the injured.  Catching a gangster was a rare occasion and, as far as Sam could tell, he had never even seen one.  He figured he had probably seen his share, without knowing it.

            Things were getting steadily worse.  The people Below and in the Reaches almost never called the police for any reason, gang related or otherwise.  Every day on patrol, Sam could see the people he had sworn to protect through his cameras, looking at him with hate and fear.  He had heard the rumors on the network, as, he assumed, had anyone with a computer.  Rumors that the police took people into custody and they were never heard from again, that policemen fired their lasers at unarmed civilians and, even, that the police were not people at all and that the robot suits were actually fully automated. Sam knew that police armor always had a live person inside, but he wondered about the other rumors.  He did arrest violators as part of his job, but, after that, it was up to the courts.  Also, he knew policemen did fire on civilians.  Gangsters were civilians.  At his rank, Sam was not being sent on the missions into the reaches, so, like everyone else, he was expected to take it on faith that the war was going well, even though bombings were becoming more frequent and more of them were targeted at police officers, not rival gangs.  Liberal protests became more frequent as well, as the Liberal Republicans expressed their outrage at the loss of rights and the perceived lack of success.  Some were even calling for President Schroub’s impeachment.

            Sam was relieved to have a change of pace on the days he was transferred to protest duty.  He and other officers would form a line in their armor between the site of a protest, typically an open area Below, and a place that was off limits, normally a stairway leading to a topside municipal building.  The right to hold public demonstrations was in the constitution and it was Sam’s job to protect the protesters, as well as to insure that they did not harm people or damage property.  He typically stood in his mirrored armor, that a crowd of protesters could look into and read their own signs, and watched them with his cameras, using infrared mode.  He was looking for anything hotter than the people in the crowd, which might be a laser or explosive device.

            When the Liberal Republicans decided to stage daily protests, Sam received a promotion and transfer to permanent guard duty.  No more P and R.  By then, he had received three commendations, each one given to him in a brief ceremony after each of the three bomb attacks he had survived.  The first bomb had been hidden in a remote control car, a child’s toy that had rolled up to him with apparent innocence before going off.  The blast had knocked him down and blackened his armor, but it was the people around him who had been injured.  He waited there on his back, lasers at the ready, wondering if the perpetrator would come to finish him off before another officer in armor could lift him back onto his feet.  The second had been an incendiary device planted in a storefront.  Sam had spotted the device while using his cameras in infrared mode to look through the walls and started running.  He crashed through the wall of the store and belly-flopped onto the device, preventing it from doing more harm than a small fire.  The result had been a first-degree burn on his abdomen where the flames had heated an area of his armor enough to defeat the temperature control.  He had received a few days of observation in a government hospital and, of course, his second commendation.  The third bomb had been a mine disguised as refuse on the sidewalk.  It had been set to go off when stepped on by someone in robotic armor or work gear and any number of people had walked over it.  The hidden device went off when Sam had stepped on it, scattering the metallic debris that its creator had carefully placed inside it for shrapnel.  Sam had stumbled forward, with debris imbedded in his armor’s legs.  Again, he was only shaken up, but the people around him were the real casualties.

            After his promotion, Sam’s duties were simple.  The protests took the form of a noisy, daily sit-in at Government Plaza. Government Plaza was an open underground courtyard Below, near the entrance to the topside buildings where the Martian Congress met and the President and his cabinet lived and worked. President Schroub, in an effort to curtail illegal use of the Republic’s power system, had begun cutting power to unauthorized users.  Several private apartments and stores Below went dark and their owners were furious over the violation of the Right to Build.  The Liberal Republicans were happy to support them and had organized continuous demonstrations in the area where all public announcements were made. Journalists were there with cameras, recording everything for their network pages, and rumors arose that the President was going to shut off air to parts of the reaches, as his next move. The protests were large and angry enough to prevent the President and the Congress from making any public announcements, so only Sam and a handful of other officers, faceless and vigilant in their armor, represented the Republic’s government. 

            When the government did speak, it was second hand, through an interview show hosted by a Patriot, who had always helped the party with campaigns.  The President condemned the actions of the protesters, accusing them of helping the gangsters by hampering the government’s efforts.  Reportedly, Schroub had also claimed that the gangs were attempting to fragment the Republic and that the protesters and Liberal Republican congressmen were allowing it to happen. An increasing number of Congress members from the Patriot party were criticizing the President and joining with their Liberal Republican colleagues, so the Liberal Republicans decided it was a good time to act.  Congress passed a resolution demanding that power be restored to the areas the President had cut off.  The President refused and released a statement on the network explaining that his administration would not support gangsters with public power and asking, in language that made him sound hurt and confused, why congress would ask him to do so.  On the network, Patriot commentators fueled the conflict by claiming that the gangsters were behind the protests and demanding that President Schroub act to resolve the crisis. The protests at Government Plaza grew as more people turned out. 

            Noisy as they were, the protests were mostly harmless and Sam began to relax. It seemed that all he had to do was be there, while the Government decided how to respond.  Being a Patriot, he had confidence that a solution would be reached.  As he listened to the briefings he was given at the start of his shift, he found out that the gangs were becoming more active, using the distraction provided by the protests to move more openly.  The police struggled to recruit more volunteers, but the government just did not have enough support to motivate citizens to serve.  As attacks increased, more videos of public bombings appeared on the network and the protesters Sam saw every day chanted about President Schroub’s failed policies.  The Patriot party demanded action and word came down that the President was going to address the crowd in the plaza.  As the appointed time grew near, Sam and the other officers lumbered to the bottom of the wide stairway that led to the President’s building and formed a semicircle, chattering officially with each other using the communication equipment in their armor.  The President’s bodyguards arrived with bulky laser guns over their shoulders, set up a podium decorated with the seal of the Republic and prepared the speakers in the plaza’s ceiling to receive the President’s voice from his headset.  The protesters, who normally stayed away from the armored police, closed in and waited.  They were quiet and expectant.

            The President hurried down the stairs to the podium and began his speech. He started by describing the crisis, commenting that the Republic had to act to solve the problem of the gangs and their allies.  The crowd of protesters grumbled.  As President Schroub continued, he explained that a state of martial law was necessary and announced that a few provisions of the constitution would be suspended. The protesters drowned out what he said next as they declared that the President has no authority to suspend the constitution.  In spite of the noise, Sam could still hear the President as he attempted to inform the crowd that executive orders would override congressional resolutions during the temporary state of martial law.  The President paused and waited until he could be heard again.

            “As President,” he continued, “I am ordering this plaza cleared and any of you who do not go home will be arrested.”  Most of the protesters sat down.  A few of the more determined ones came forward and began beating their signs against the metal skins of the armored police around the podium.  The President’s bodyguards leveled their laser rifles at the crowd, ready to fire. 

            “Do your duty,” President Schroub ordered from the podium.  The armored figures around Sam stepped forward, reaching to take hold of protesters using the robotic gloves of their armor.  Sam turned around, determined to do his duty.  He stepped up the stairs to the edge of the podium and pushed past the bodyguard blocking his way.  The muscleman turned and fired his laser.  As the beam touched the shoulder of Sam’s armor, the mirrored skin dispersed it into a soft, red flash.  The struggle in the plaza halted as all eyes turned back to the Podium.  Sam maneuvered behind the podium and reached out with both hands to grab the President by the arms, feeling the armor’s extended mechanical fingers lock into place.  The eight bodyguards turned while aiming their weapons at him, their faces hard and tight.

            “Hold your fire!”  The President’s panicked voice sounded throughout the plaza as Sam held him in place. The gray-haired politician who had seemed so strong and resolute a moment before trembled under Sam’s robotic grasp.  

            Sam moved his head, causing the communication equipment inside his helmet to switch to public address mode.  His voice came out of his armor’s speaker and was picked up by the President’s headset.  “The oath I swore was to defend the Constitution.  President Schroub once told us personally that he wanted men who are willing to do anything to keep that oath.”  He moved his head again, switching back to police communication.

            “...of his ever-lovin’ mind!” another officer was shouting.

            “We all took the same oath,” Sam reminded them.  He hoped it would work, but he did not even know who the other officers in the plaza were, since they all looked the same in their Armor.  Police communication went silent and the bodyguards and protesters waited to see what the armored figures would do next.  An officer directly in front of Sam moved first.  Through his cameras, Sam could see his own armor and the President’s frightened face as a misshapen and shifting reflection as the officer turned, letting go of the protester he had been securing.  The suit of armor faced Sam and stood at attention.  Slowly, the other officers followed suit.  The protesters stood and cheered.

            One armored figure stepped forward and reached out to take a gun from a bodyguard who did not bother to struggle.  A single voice came over police communication.  “Truman, keep him secure and wait here.  Carter, help Phoi disarm the guards.  The rest of you, secure the podium.  No access, until I get back with Speaker Gillian.”  Sam recognized the voice as that of Commander Hernandez, second in command of the Republic’s police.  He sounded as cool and official as always.  The officers followed his orders and as he passed Sam on his way up the stairs to get Congressional Speaker Ann Gillian, Hernandez’s armored hand gave him a clumsy pat on the back.



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