How it could be.....

Chapter 4
in which Bigelow, More and Thoreau have a small adventure in Charlottetown
Dave Patterson

Copyright Notice

Greenways Home

I disembarked from the GRIS-RT at the Central Athenia station and headed back to the place I had left More the day before with Thoreau - that bench was one of Henry’s favorite sitting and thinking places, and if they were not there enjoying the morning air they would not be far removed, as Henry’s cottage was but a few yards distant. They were not on the bench nor did I see them anywhere nearby, so I made my way to Henry’s front door and knocked on the wooden edge then pulled open the screen door and stuck my head in. The kitchen table, for this was the room the door opened into, still had some breakfast remnants scattered about, but the chairs were empty and the morning newspapers abandoned on the table top.

“Good morning - anybody home here?” I asked. There was no answer, but then I heard voices coming from the far room.

“Hee hee,” I heard a giggle, then joined by a “Ho ho ho!!”

Strange, I thought - in our brief acquaintance, I had never known Henry to be much of a laugher, although he showed a considerable wit at times. I let the door swing shut behind me, and crossed the floor to the opposite doorway, which led to a combination bed-sitting room, the “guest bedroom” in the small cottage, which also had a “master” bedroom and bathroom besides the kitchen - we had a number of such units scattered around the pond and in other areas of the campus for temporary visitors who were more comfortable in such surroundings than in the larger apartment complexes. And there they were, the two of them, sitting at the table staring at the computer screen (all of our rooms were computer and internet equipped), chatting animatedly.

“My heavens, gentlemen, and what are you doing?!” I asked as I walked over to join them - I had not had time to show Henry anything about the computer yet, so was quite surprised to see them using it.

“Ah, Bigelow!” said Henry, turning to me with a smile, “and why have you not shown me this marvelous machine before now, eh? I must say, it is quite the most wond’rous thing I have seen yet, in this world of wonders!”

“Indeed, Bigelow,” chirped in a grinning More, still only half-dressed, a worn purple housecoat half open over suspendered breeches and still sockless, “the wonders of this age are truly marvelous to behold! It has been many a long year since I have been so entranced by a simple machine! Here Henry,” he enthused, pushing excitedly at Henry’s hand and reaching for the computer mouse, “look at this we’ve just found!”

- with which he turned to the screen and busied himself for a moment, clicking away, a frown of concentration on his face, as I moved closer to watch over his shoulder. The screen was redrawing itself as I watched - and soon a stylised 3-D map of modern-day London was on the screen. More clicked a couple of more times, and soon it was enlarged so the Thames River as it flowed by the Houses of Parliament was obviously the center.

“Look at this!” cried More, laughing and turning to me, “London, England, right here on this little window! I hardly believe it, it is so huge and different, but the Parliament is the same, and the Thames - even the Tower still stands, where I spent such miserable time - and that huge wheel thing! But there is so much, so much - look!” he turned back to Henry, “Where is that bookmark thing, Henry? Where is your home?” he turned once again to me - “They even have Henry’s old log cabin he told me all about on here! The one he built himself by the Walden Pond - here now,” and he looked back to the screen where Henry had found what they were after. “Look! Isn’t it simply amazing? I am entranced, truly entranced! I could spend months here, I am sure, just seeing what they have in this huge library! I still don’t entirely understand how they get it all in this little box though!” he finished, looking at me with a small frown and pointing at the standard GRIL (Green Island Linux) box at the edge of the desk.

The new Green Island Linux system really was a joy to use, finalised a couple of years ago by some of the minds we had freed from their day-slave-labour jobs required in the old society. Our productivity had risen somewhere between 20-25%, now that significant portions of many days for many workers whose time was spent on computers were not spent recovering data or waiting for reboots and reloads from the old Microsoft systems, which were so unreliable - and it was a large ongoing budgetary item removed from the provincial finances too, dealing with upgrades and maintenance and what required by the much inferior previous system. GRIL was now one of our main “foreign exchange” earners as well, even though Microsoft and the US government were trying to prevent its sale, based on some arcane interpretation of the NAFTA, which they took to mean that they were free to prevent competition or something - typical US interpretation of “trade” treaties anyway - we’re free to do as we like and you’re free to knuckle under or we’ll get you somehow. Whatever, the Green Island government had made it clear that we no longer supported such treaties, and had disengaged ourselves. The question of what right the Canadian government, elected with far less than 50% support of the Canadian people, had to sign such obviously disadvantageous treaties and try to impose them on everyone as if they were a new constitution was in front of the courts, and would be part of the upcoming case.

“Look, More,” Thoreau suddenly spoke up, pulling at More’s shirtsleeve to get his attention, “Will you just look! It’s the whole New England coast!” he had switched sites again, and now there was a full-colour real-time map of northeastern North America; “Look - I swear, there’s Massachusetts, and Maine - and look, over here,” pointing, “why, that’s what that girl told us was Prince Edward Island!” he looked up at me - “Is it so, Bigelow? Is this little place really where we are now?”

“Indeed it is, Thoreau, indeed it is!” I replied, glancing at the familiar screen; “Well done, I must say - although I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised - I understand you were quite a traveller and travel-writer in your day, and are familiar with maps and their use, eh? But about this whole computer system, Thomas, I don’t know where to begin - but how did you find out about this at all?” I asked, “I mean, it wasn’t a secret, but I haven’t had a chance to tell Henry about this yet, and I am quite surprised to see you operating it.. and quite well, I should add!”

“Oh, well, Bigelow,” said Henry, dragging his attention away from the screen, where he had been tracing around the Island with a bit of a critical look on his face about something, “last evening, you see, we were sitting on the bench by the pond having a pipe and wee chat before retiring, and a lovely young lady - quite a lovely young thing indeed - came along and started talking with us - quite forward, really, also, but we humoured her for awhile, and as it turned out she was quite interesting. She was studying, oh, what was it, More?...”

More had been listening with a smile on his face, and joined in, “Henry, I’m surprised you forget! She said she was studying old ideas for Utopian societies, and asked us if we knew anything about such things!” he laughed heartily as he finished.

“Oh, yes, of course,” continued Thoreau, chuckling also, “and then we asked her where she learned about such things, and she told us like most of her fellow students she did most of her research on this thing here,” he gestured at the computer, “something called - oh, what was it? The World Wide Spiderweb or something - oh, yes, the Internet. Neither of us, of course, had ever heard of such a thing, and she volunteered to show us. Very forward, I say! She said she thought most little cottages like ours had this thing called a “computer” (which of course we had also never heard of), and so we looked - and here was this machine that we then learned was called a computer. She showed us how to turn it on and use it, and - well, we’ve hardly slept the whole time since, Bigelow! It seems we’ve travelled all over the world in the last few hours, a world neither of us ever imagined!”

“Bigelow, it’s true!” chimed in More, unable to contain himself in his excitement, “this World Wide Web thing has everything from Heaven to Hell in it, or on it, or whatever you say! Saints and Sinners innumerable; Kings and Popes and laymen and artists and every book you’ve ever heard of and a million more you haven’t! All the countries and world maps! Today’s newspapers from every country and city! It’s like a huge library, with a theatre and a cathedral and a parliament and museums and atlases and a commons all mixed together! Oh, really, words fail me! A GRoogle here and a GRoogle there (the computer people had modified the Google search engine as well, as part of the GRIL, of course), and it seems there is nowhere at all you can’t go!”

With which he turned to Henry, shaking his head and smiling, and shrugging his shoulders quite eloquently.

“Not to mention things a gentleman normally wouldn’t talk about, eh More?” added Thoreau, with a snarky sort of little grin, something I imagined had rarely decorated that long face, which was answered by no more than a somewhat embarrassed “Oh, well...” from More - I didn’t pursue it, coming, I supposed, from a somewhat more enlightened age, or less oppressive, at least about certain things. At least here in Green Island, generally - there were still a lot of pretty backwards places on the old planet yet, in terms of sex and other things.

“Well,” I continued, as they both paused for a breath at the same time, allowing me to speak, “it certainly is one of the wonders of the modern age. It has allowed communication to become the property of the common man, rather than the property of the elite as it has been for so long, and we have been using it to great effect to help us in our struggles to put some regulations and rules on the elites in our society. But I am sure you will find out quite a bit more about this over the next few days, since everyone you meet, I think, will be using this tool quite a lot. But now, if you gentlemen please, and I can persuade you to leave this new toy, we do have an appointment in town!”

“Excellent!” replied More, “if you’ll just give me a moment to get a shirt on, I shall be right with you!” And so he was, a minute or two later, shirt and socks and shoes, and reaching for his cane and tricorner - for all the time he stayed with us, he would never lose his habit of formal dress, although it must have been a tad uncomfortable at times. Henry had been dressed, more or less, when I arrived, and just pulled his long black coat on, which he never ventured outside without - he always seemed to have anything he needed in one of the many pockets it contained, although what he used most frequently was, I suppose naturally enough all things considered, a well-thumbed leather covered notebook. Looking back as we rose to leave, he remarked “The computer machine is wonderful, but yet more wonderful is meeting people and going places on your own!”

And he pulled open the screen door of the cottage, politely ushering More and I out ahead of him, into the beautiful fresh air of the Green Island Athenia morning. Noone thought to lock the door - in the new civility of Green Island, in a society much less rushed, with more time for people meeting and knowing people, with government and business leaders encouraging good behaviour by example, as a few years ago the same people had encouraged quite poor behaviour by their example, stealing was becoming quite unacceptable. It was the way decent people lived, and above all, most of us simply wanted a decent society where decent people could live decent lives.

More, Thoreau and I had a short but lively trip into town, as they questioned me relentlessly about the internet and modern communications and some of the things they had seen, still awed and somewhat unbelieving of the marvel of it (as was I, I had to admit, at times, when I thought about it - like all of the great libraries at your fingertips and more). The few minutes flew, and it seemed like no time at all before we were disembarking from the GRIS-RT at Charlottetown Central, a quite lovely station only recently opened (many, many things on Green Island had been "recently” done, as we no longer faced the great but completely artificial and unnecessary money problems of previous governments - for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, a policy philosophy that pervaded the previous governments but one that we no longer followed), very near the historic center of the city at the refurbished and redecorated old Dominion Building, which now flew the Green Island Flag, a green heart in a blue sphere on a white background, replacing the previous colonial flag of PEI - one thing we did not consider ourselves as was someone else’s colony. We exited the station to a scattering of raindrops, rain showers being a not uncommon occurrence in this small island province surrounded by the ocean, where the warm (or cold, depending on the season) offshore breezes meet and quarrelled with the cooler (or milder, depending on the season) onshore ocean breezes coming from some part of the North Atlantic Ocean. As an old Island saying has it, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes and something new will come along!” And a minute later the raindrops ceased, although the sky was still threatening, and a freshening breeze from the harbour promised more.

We stopped for a moment, looking westwards down the five blocks or so of Queen Street sloping gently down to the harbour, now mostly hidden behind the large Colonial Hotel. It was a typical sort of small town main street, all along its length small shops and offices, no buildings other than the Dominion Building and Colonial Hotel more than four or five stories tall, most with apartments in their upper levels, red brick and fire escapes and plate glass windows and an array of signs telling what was available. There were a few cars passing along, but now with the new streetcar section of GRIS-RT along Queen St running all the way, melding almost seamlessly into the larger Island grid through the GRIS-HQ at the refurbished train station further along the waterfront area, most people used public transport of one type or another when coming to town. Kitty-corner across Queen St. the large Confederation Center of the Arts, which housed the city library and the Festival Theatre, dominated the view - Anne of Green Gables, a favorite of audiences for decades, had taken on a whole new meaning with the Green Island government. Our destination today was down Rochfort street which ran alongside the Confederation Center, and I guided my charges across the street.

The town was alive with people on such a fine morning, threat of rain notwithstanding, and More and Thoreau were taking everything in, walking slowly and observing, offering comments to one another on things that struck their fancy - the shops in the area across from the Confed Center we were now passing had been largely redone in their original style, circa 1900, and the carved woodwork, painted in various colors, large plate glass windows with old style lettering, and other period decor, in combination with the several trees and planter boxes of flowers and herbs in many of the windows, made for a pleasant stroll. As we passed one of the sidewalk cafes, More stopped and took my arm, saying, “Say Bigelow, would it be possible to get a cup of coffee here as tasty as the one we had yesterday when we first arrived at Athenia? I think I’d like to just sit for a few minutes, and take things in, you see? This is such a - a - well, a nice spot! - and interesting!”

“Yes, Bigelow, I concur!” added Thoreau, “it does seem like a fine and inviting place for a sit, you see, our first excursion into the capital city of your Island - surely nothing is so important that it cannot wait another few minutes!”

I glanced at my watch - we were, actually, a few minutes ahead of schedule. I then looked at the sky, and considered the raindrops. I judged the rain would hold off for at least a few minutes - not that I was any great judge of such things, but one has to practice.

“Well, Thomas, I certainly don’t want to deny you any opportunity to observe things,” I replied, “as that is what we are here for, after all, and it looks as if the rain probably isn’t going to get serious for a few minutes at least, so I think we might well enjoy a coffee here - I will say, all of these little cafes do do a very nice job with fresh coffee and pastries - as you can see, they are popular. And for that matter, I am no great fan of rushing myself. So let us sit, gentlemen, indeed!”

There were probably 20 or so tables scattered along the street in front of the several cafes here, most of them occupied, with people old and young and in between, chatting animatedly among themselves - altogether a pleasant summer morning in Charlottetown, the buzz of conversation and traffic, some birdsong in the background, mostly Robins and sparrows, a few squawking starlings, peace and contentment in the air - life, in other words, as it really ought to be. We were doing ok here, I reflected briefly.

I swung my arm in a short arc as a waiter might do, saying “Pick your table, Sir!”

More looked around, and pointed to an open table in front of a cafe with a large sign on the front, “Zelda’s Zesty Zings”. We strolled over and sat, and within a few seconds a young man appeared with a menu and a greeting.

“Good morning, all!” he said, cheerily, “I’m not Zelda hahahah, but you can call me Zam if you like. And what can I get you fine folk today? I can tell you, the Frenzz baguettes just came out of the oven, and are heavenly!”, touching his thumb and forefinger to his lips and making a smacking sound, eyes half-closed in feigned bliss.

Thoreau laughed in enjoyment at, I think, the young waiter’s enthusiasm and general joie de vivre.

“I don’t believe I’ve seen you folks here before - why don’t I leave you a menu, and come back in a couple of minutes to take your order?”

“Thanks,” I said, smiling back at him, “but we are in just a bit of a hurry, so if we could have three regular coffees, with a plate of cream and sweeteners, and perhaps a small sample tray of your pastries, that should do us for now.”

I looked inquiringly at More and Thoreau, and they both nodded their heads in agreement.

“Excellent!” said Zam, retrieving the menu, “I’ll be back in a ziffy hahahaha!”

And so saying he turned with a flourish, to appreciative chuckles from all three of us, and disappeared through Zelda’s door.

As the door slammed, a burst of laughter and cheers erupted from a couple of tables pushed together at the cafe next door, where a group of mostly younger people sat around a table with an older man at the end, evidently, to judge from the various attitudes, holding court. The older man was dressed in a somewhat threadbare grey suit which matched his greyish, scraggly beard, with an old brown fedora perched on his head and a pair of worn sneakers on his feet, one of which was visible as a crossed leg was swinging a lazy arc through the air as he spoke. His pale blue eyes were somewhat rheumy, but at the moment full of laughter.

“Ha ha ha ha!” we heard his laughter and then words, his voice somewhat hoarse as the other voices quieted while listening to him, “Never, never, never let them tell you you can’t do it, son! hahahaha! That’s exactly what I mean when I tell you about “in the box” thinking! - YOU must make the decisions that guide your life! - sure, you will make mistakes, many mistakes - but when you do, you learn the lessons you need to grow and become a better person! If you take orders all your life, you never learn how to make your own decisions, and accept responsibility for them, and for your life! - and then you find too, as you get older, you can’t make any decisions harder than which tv show to watch because you don’t know how!”

The old man’s voice dropped in volume, his words became indistinguishable from the background babble, as some of the younger voices joined in with questions challenging the old man, and we returned our attention to our own table.

“I must say,” More said, looking around, “it certainly looks like a prosperous enough place you have here, and free enough and happy enough! Who’s the older gentleman, some local man of wisdom or something?”

I couldn’t help myself, an involuntary peal of laughter overtook me.

“Sorry, Thomas,” I said when I recovered, “but you’d have to know the history here! Old Mac, as he is known, was for years and years known mainly as the last holdout of the Charlottetown alkies, as they referred to homeless alcoholics. He was normally to be found shuffling along Queen St there where we just came from, or sitting in front of the liquor store just around the corner, begging for nickels and quarters for his daily quart of wine.”

“Really?” said Thoreau, “so what happened?”

“Well,” I said, “in Green Island we believe in looking after everyone and respecting all of our people, and now old Mac has a room just a couple of blocks away, and a bit of pocket money every day - and we also don’t believe in fostering a societal underclass of any sort, so by and large he is accepted for who he is now - oh, there are still people around who like to feel superior and scorn people like Mac because they have to look down on someone, but as you can see, younger people, more open than many older people to new things, have started to talk to him, and he is saying some things they like to hear, it appears, now that he has a chance.”

“And as for prosperous looking in general, I know what you mean, and quite agree. It is quite a bit different from a few years ago, when the whole Island seemed to be ready to crumble, on the edge of financial disaster at all times - most of these shops were closed then, except for some being open a couple of months in the summer to take advantage of the tourist trade that many Island governments tried to make the basis of our economy, a losing idea in all respects, in our opinion - but more to the point, there just wasn’t enough money around for people to spend - lots of willing workers, but a seasonal economy based on farming, fishing and tourism just doesn’t have the diverse, dependable year-in, year-out base needed to prosper.”

“Hahaha - always a problem, that money!” said Thoreau, with More nodding in agreement. “I recall, we tried an experiment once during the Civil War, called Greenback Dollars - seemed to be working ok, I don’t know what happened...”

“Exactly!” I said, “We have studied the history of money here - the Greenback Dollars were issued by Lincoln to pay for the Civil War - but after the war, the banks persuaded Congress to withdraw them from circulation, and adopt the debt-based money supply, which is what we have always used here as well - rather than using the government bank, the Bank of Canada here, to create the necessary money, the governments borrowed the same amount of money from private banks, and then were stuck paying interest on that money forever, in effect. And if there were any unexpected problems, the debt could suddenly grow very large, as it did in Canada and most of the provinces. During the last 20 years or so of the 20th century, in Canada the situation got so bad that all governments were turning over 20 or 30%, or sometimes more!, of all the tax money they collected straight to the banks, to “service” the debt they had accumulated - meaning, of course, there was much less money to undertake the maintenance of the social systems they were supposed to be using that money for, for taking care of the people who paid that money in taxes, actually.”

“Well, yes,” said More, “but that is the way things have always worked, isn’t it? We have had the same thing happening - when King John wanted to go to war in France, he had to borrow gold from the Banker’s Guild and private nobles to finance it - and then, when payback time came, he was forced to make all kinds of concessions to them. It’s caused no end of trouble, this money stuff, I must say.”

“Exactly!” I said, “Letting a small group of people control the money supply of a country is, in our opinion, insane - it institutionalises a master-slave relationship in society as a basic principle! with the master-bankers and the citizens literally begging for the money to use for their daily business - and for a people who are fighting for some kind of true egalitarian democracy, as we were doing here, well, we understood that control of the money - of, by and for the people, as that same great President of yours said, Henry, in a very related context - is absolutely the first requirement.”

“Hear, hear!” said More.

“But,” I continued, smiling somewhat grimly, I fear, “such a thing is a GREAT deal easier to talk about than to achieve! Those with the money have been in control for a long, long time, and have used their money to take control of the political system through a series of all-too-readily-bribed politicians, with their levers of control reaching into every area of our lives, most importantly, outside of the provision of the money supply, the branches of government which enforce the laws of the land - the police and courts, and the media which reports on those things, or not as the case may be - at the time of which I speak, the government, the police and the courts, and the media were all quite firmly under the thumb of the bankers and the elite, the wealthy class in the society - although, of course, the illusion was carefully maintained that all were controlled by the people in a modern democratic society!”

“Yes, but what.....?” More never got to finish his question, as a loud, angry-sounding voice interrupted him.

“Jesus fucking christ, Bigelow, will you people never give up on that absolute bullshit?!”

The speaker was a large burly man, middle-aged, dressed in blue jeans and safari shirt, long brown hair somewhat disarrayed and pudgy face with reddened cheeks and somewhat sunken bloodshot eyes even at this time of the morning. He had risen from a chair at a table by the street, where he had been sitting with a couple of other men with his back to me or I might have recognised him - Jack MacIrving, whose family had been one of the wealthiest of the Island families for generations, with their fingers in pretty much every significant enterprise here, including the government and legal system, prior to our election victory. The MacIrvings were one of the main actors in the upcoming trial that was going to try to sort out the many legal ramifications and issues between the elite, who felt as young MacIrving here did, that they owned everything they wanted and did what they wanted, and the rest of us, who believed in a somewhat more democratic sort of government. Most of the family were resigned to the legal route, but not all. Young Jack, as he had always been called, was known for taking things a bit more directly.

As he was now. He approached the table where More, Thoreau and I sat, still waiting for our coffee, fists clenched, angry red patches showing through his day-old beard.

“Everything was going great here on PEI, had been for years!, until your band of commies or hippies or assholes or whatever the fuck you call yourselves stole that election! And ever since then you’ve been stealing property from those it rightfully belongs to and causing grief to good citizens! And you call yourselves a democracy! HA! Nothing but a pack of damned thieves, I say, and you all ought to be horsewhipped and sent back to Russia or wherever you came from!”

And as he finished speaking, or ranting it might be called, he reached out and gave me a strong push on the shoulder, violent enough to knock me out of my chair onto the pavement, as I had not seen it coming and was not prepared. A heard a couple of screams behind me, and saw from the corner of my eye people rising from chairs, and More and Thoreau pushing back their chairs and quickly getting to their feet. A few cries could be heard as well - “Stop that!” “Hey!” “Someone get a GRIPP!” - but none of them stopped MacIrving, who had pushed my chair aside and was drawing back his work-booted foot apparently for a kick at me, somewhat wild-eyed.

I saw More waving his cane in the air, then - I saw this in a glance around, as I tried to size up the situation quickly while MacIrving approached, as if time had slowed down somehow, although it all took place in a couple of seconds, I have noticed before that there are times in one’s life when this sort of time-enhancement, or slowing, occurs - Thoreau made eye contact with More, then glanced down to where he had stuck out his long leg behind MacIrving’s leg, bracing himself on the back of a chair, then looked back to More’s cane. More understood immediately, and reached across the table, placed the cane in MacIrving’s chest, and gave a strong, two-handed push. Caught off balance, MacIrving took a little hop backwards, and tripped over Thoreau’s foot, crashing to the ground with a “Crack!” as his head hit the edge of a table on his way down, and letting out a loud "Whoof" as he landed on his back.

Then the sound of a whistle pierced the air, wavering in sound, and I heard footsteps running, and a second later a deep voice, calm and authoritative, only slightly out of breath, was speaking.

“All right then! What’s going on here, then, on such a fine morning, eh?”

And thankfully I saw a deep forest green shirt, pushing through the crowd, covering the sturdy frame of a GRIPP - an officer of the Green Island People’s Police. As the GRIPP (we didn’t refer to them as “police” usually, that name having rather too many bad connotations with the old capitalistic societies, where such people were more often used as “legalised” corporate enforcers than the citizen’s police they were supposed to be in theory) pushed his way through and reached the front of the small crowd, still somewhat excited at the recent violence, he quickly sized up the situation, saw that things were not immediately volatile, and set about clearing things up.

“Right, then, folks,” said the GRIPP, looking around with a small smile, serious at the same time, “what’s been happening, then?”

MacIrving was sitting up by now, rubbing the back of his head, evidently the fall had not done any serious damage, and immediately jumped in, “I’ll tell you want happened, Officer,” he stormed, “those three sons a bitches attacked me, is what happened! I’d advise you to arrest em all and toss em in jail for a few days, until my uncle at MacIrving, MacMacIrving, and Mac-4-Irving get a chance to have the appropriate charges laid, which I can assure you they will - I...”

“Alright then, young fella,” said the GRIPP, “that’ll be about enough for now. I’ll take your statement in due time. But now - “

MacIrving by now was on his feet, and did not seem to care to be interrupted.

“No!” he shouted, “don’t you interrupt ME when I’m speaking to you! Don’t you know who I am, you idiot? My uncle’ll ....”

Which was as far as he got, as the GRIPP simply reached out and pinched shut his nose with two fingers, evidently quite forcefully as tears appeared in MacIrving’s eyes. There were a couple of squeaked words until MacIrving stopped in silence, his eyes opening wide in rage as he tried to reach up and remove the offending fingers, but found his wrist caught in the strong grip of the GRIPP; he received his wish, though, as the fingers pinching the nose released that relieved appendage, and in one fluid motion reached to his belt, removed a pair of handcuffs, reached back up snapping one bracelet around the wrist his other hand was gripping, then stepping forward, forcing MacIrving to take a step backwards, and with a quick motion pushed then pulled MacIrving’s hand around a convenient light pole and fastened the second bracelet around his other wrist. It was about as smooth as you could imagine. We were quite proud of our GRIPPs - their training in martial arts and least-violence restraint of troublemakers was another way in which we differed from the old ways, the “modern” ways governments dealt with either criminals or protesters, of darthvader costumes and guns and batons and pepper spray - we were trying to encourage non-violence in our society, and that meant that we set an example in the ways we used to keep our streets safe from the occasional criminal behaviour we still faced.

“Now, young fella,” said the GRIPP, “I said when I want your side of the story I’ll ask for it - which I will, soon enough - but for now keep it shut, ok? I also have a small roll of duct tape about my person here somewhere, which we have found is quite handy for keeping mouths shut that don’t want to stay shut of their own accord, if you catch my meaning?”

“I....” began MacIrving in protest, but then as he saw the GRIPP immediately reaching into another of the small leather pouches attached to his waist belt with a grim look on his face which MacIrving now understood was not to be trifled with, quickly did as told. The GRIPP stared at him for another few seconds, then turned back to the crowd.

“Now, then, as I was saying - who wants to tell me what happened?”

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