Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Coop picked up his duffle bag and threw it over his shoulder. It was ten-thirty and a good time to head off to the Civil Administration building. That would give him a solid hour and a half before the court activated the nanites in his head. A lot could happen in the few blocks between his tower and the court, and he didn’t want to take any chances.
Hailey was crying for real now; fat, wet tears leaked out of her eyes, down her cheeks, and splashed onto the polyplast floors. She’d wouldn’t be able to come with him to the building like she had last time, and he didn’t want her to.
“I’ve got a gift for you.” It was the last thing Coop planned to do before starting his new life, and he hoped she appreciated it.
Coop walked back into his room and grabbed the only thing still remaining. The nanites had already scrubbed the room clean. It was like Coop never even lived here. <Eighteen years gone in a few minutes.> Coop pushed the thought out of his head as he returned to the living room.
“Take it,” Coop held out his old pistol to Hailey.
“Are you serious?” Despite the redness around her eyes, Coop saw a spark in her amber irises.
“Someone needs to protect Jimmy.” That got a laugh out of her.
She accepted the revolver with trembling hands. Six shooters like this were prized in the PHA because they didn’t jam. Newer weapons might be cooler looking, but that didn’t mean shit when it didn’t fire when you needed it to. She opened it up and checked the ammunition chambers. There were only three rounds loaded, and all three were homemade. The tower had its own ammunition manufacturing plant, but all those rounds went to the militia.
Coop had picked up some useful skills along the way; ammunition manufacturing being one of them. It put a little extra cash in his pocket. He didn’t care if the ammo he made was going to a mom of four to protect her kids or a gang member who was looking to mug that mom of four. Food was food, and Coop didn’t care where it came from.
“Am I ever going to see you again?”
The question wasn’t a surprise. Coop had been with Hailey for years, and the time had been good. He might have been rough with her at times, but it was a hell of a lot better than some old drunk or a pimp smacking her around. That still didn’t change the answer to her question.
“No.” His answer caused a few more tears, but it was necessary that he made a clean break here.
The odds were that Coop would die in some colony shithole. If he was lucky enough, and magically made it through his mandatory service obligation, he’d have enough money so that he’d never have to come back to this shithole. Either way, this was goodbye to the PHA and all the shit that happened here; Even if Hailey was the best part of that shit.
“Ok.” Coop knew she’d been looking for a different answer, and didn’t know what to say.
“Take care of yourself.” He couldn’t resist planting one last kiss on the lips that had been his since he’d gotten his first boner.
He broke it off quickly and headed straight for the door. “Remember, Jimmy’s on eighteen.”
They were anticlimactic final words, just like he wanted them to be. The door to his apartment hissed shut behind him, and he headed straight to the elevator. A new guy was on duty, and he took Coop where he needed to go; where Walter was waiting for him.
“Looks like you made the right choice.” His father’s eyes swept over the duffle bag. “You won’t regret it.”
“Thanks for nothing.” Coop glared at his old man, and ignored the hand he extended. “Make sure Hailey and Jimmy are looked after.” Coop called over his shoulder as he left the tower. “If I hear something bad happened to them I’ll take everything I learn fighting assholes in space, come back here, and cut off your balls.”
The echoes of his father’s laughter followed him as he walked out of the tower and into the PHA’s streets. Coop only had a few blocks to go, but his heart was pounding the entire way. Carrying his duffle bag made him a target, and he saw a few aspiring gangbangers eyeing him up as he passed. He walked confidently and made eye contact with them.
<I fucking dare you to try anything.> He communicated with his eyes. They eventually shrugged their shoulders and set their eyes on easier prey.
He made it to the Civil Administration building by eleven. Just like the previous day, he passed through the scanners at the edge of the building. They remained silent as he passed through, but a uniformed cop still stopped him and checked his bag at the entrance. Coop might have an appointment with the court, but he was still a Rat. No one wanted him sneaking anything in that could go BOOM.
He started to get a little antsy when the search took twenty minutes. He thought they were going to give him a rectal exam they were being so thorough. With forty minutes left he made it into the building and headed straight to the appointment machine. Just like yesterday he let the technology scan his barcode, and it popped out another polymer slip.
Name: Mark Cooper
Genetic Identification Code: TBCD0425241412631
Physical Health: Good
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Criminal History: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Citizen Status: Pending
“Huh,” Coop stared at the change on his slip. It had updated his occupation to “Pending”.
He wondered what it would say when he finally told the judge his decision. He also wondered if the “mental health” and “criminal history” portions would remain locked. Where he was going was notorious for its lack of privacy.
Coop only let the slip distract him for a moment. He’d had to wait another fifteen minutes for everyone in line in front of him to receive their slips. He took off at a quick walk to his final destination. He was almost out of time.
Coop didn’t make the same mistake as last time. He kept a quick pace but didn’t run. He had no idea what a violent electrical shock to his system would do to the bail capsule, but he bet it wouldn’t be good.
“I’m here.” Coop scurried up to the armored guard at the courtroom’s doors. “Turn off the bail capsule.”
The guard read the slip, and deposited it into a slot. “Cutting it a little close, Mark Cooper.” Coop didn’t like the grin on the guard’s face.
He looked at the clock on the wall behind him and saw he only had two minutes. “Come on man, I’m here on time. Turn off the bail capsule.”
The guard sneered, and his eyes watched the clock as it ticked to 11:59. “Ok.” His hand went to his hip, but came back with nothing. “Oh jeez, it looks like I forgot the deactivation wand.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Coop snapped. He wanted to punch the guy in the face, but all that would do was break his hand. The riot gear was designed to take on armed Rats.
“HA!” the guard’s barking laugh brought Coop out of his daydream of beating the man unconscious. “Take it easy kid.” The guard brought a thin stick of metal out from behind his back and ran it over Coop’s head.
A stabbing pain dropped Coop to his knees, but it was short-lived. “You’re good to go.” The guard grabbed him under an armpit and hoisted him back up. “Now get your ass in there.”
Coop stumbled through the door as the guard half-pushed half-tossed him into the courtroom. Unlike last time there were only half as many people present. The attorneys and the judge were the same, and all three were looking at him.
“The court is back in session in the matter of The United Commonwealth of Colonies vs. Mark Cooper.” The judge beckoned Coop forward with a finger.
Coop caught the protected copy of the Commonwealth Constitution and swore the oath just like yesterday. He was then given a few moments to confer with his lawyer. He told him what his decision was.
“Your Honor,” Coop’s lawyer took it from there, “my client has taken into consideration your generosity, and accepts the alternative sentence of four years mandatory service in the Armed Forces of the United Commonwealth of Colonies.”
“Very well.” The judge hit several buttons on his PAD. “Bailiff, the paperwork please.”
The armored man approached the judge with a separate PAD. The judge briefly scanned the information and offered his barcode to be scanned. Then the bailiff brought the PAD to Coop.
“What the hell is this?” Coop looked at the PAD full of tiny script. He had to squint to make out what was said, and even then it was legalese.
“It’s your enlistment contract.” The lawyer informed, scrolling down to the bottom. “It’s a standard form. I reviewed it and everything checks out.”
Coop was doubtful that the underpaid public defender had thoroughly reviewed what looked like pages of carefully worded bureaucratic bullshit, but it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. Coop took the PAD back, clicked on the signature field marked “Enlistee Signature” and offered his wrist to be scanned.
The device beeped softly, and the bailiff snatched it back. “Everything looks to be in order, Your Honor.”
“Then this case is closed,” the judge banged his gavel on his desk. “A copy of the contract has been sent to the recruitment office. Mark Cooper, you will report there immediately. An officer of the court will accompany you. Once you reach the recruitment office, you will be remanded into the custody of the Commonwealth’s Armed Forces for your four year obligation. Do you understand?”
All the eyes on Coop made his distinctly uncomfortable. “Yeah, I understand.”
“Serve our nation with honor and distinction, Mark Cooper. If you serve it well it will serve you in return. Next!” The sharp yell was accompanied by the defense lawyer practically pushing Coop toward a side door. Another man in the blue smartcloth uniform of the PHA was waiting for him.
“That’s it?” Coop asked when the man took him by the arm and led him away from the courtroom.
“Were you expecting a parade?” The man grumbled back. “You’re a criminal who’s getting off on charges because you got a deal. You’re fucking lucky. You’re not a hero or anything.”
Coop agreed with the man one hundred percent. He wasn’t a hero, and he had no intention of becoming one.