The Freedom of Liberty (Liberty’s Freedom Cycle — Book 1)
By John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)
Jon Prescott Johnson shouldered his rifle as he stood up. Kneeling, he peered through the rifle’s scope and surveyed the land all around him, carefully scouting as he reconnoitered.
He had a pair of military grade polyspectrum binocs in on his belt, but he preferred the honesty of the rifle.
While he swept the countryside with body’s eyes, his mind’s eye reflected on how he looked. Tall, six foot four, and built. He was not a vain man, but simple biology dictated that all women liked their men to be built, so built he was. Looking at him, you knew that he lifted. His face was stubbled so you could tell he took care of himself but he wasn’t fussy about it.
He wouldn’t brag about it, but there was definitely something in his face that made ladies swoon. Was it confidence, or was it arrogance? Trick question. It was both. At the same time something in his eyes said, “Gay guys, back off.” just so there wasn’t any confusion.
It was a fair warning, and the only warning they would get.
Jon P. Johnson was not a hateful man. There was no room for hate in heart, not with all the love of freedom crammed in there. But he was a man, all man, and he had the same natural reaction to homosexuals as every other man.
The comforting weight of the rifle in his hands was comforting to his hands. It was a custom made version of the latest model the finest weaponsmiths on Ceanndana could turn out: the Garand Turismo Mark III with the double extended clip and a polycarbonite stock with a gunmetal gray finish expertly covered over in stained walnut.
Not satisfied with the machine results, he had insisted on rifling the barrel by hand himself. He’d been shooting since before he could walk. What machine knew more about rifles than he did? His bold and unconventional and boldly unconventional choice had resulted in a weapon that was accurate to a range of approximately seven meters, but he was quite sure that no other weapon was quite as accurate at that range.
He wasn’t so vainglorious as to feel the need to put that hypothesis to the test, though. He believed results should speak for themselves.
The hills of the Ceanndanan countryside rolled out all around him. It was a harsh landscape. Ceanndana was a harsh planet. Humanity’s sons had touched their feet down on its dirt at the tail end of a deceptively mild period in its natural climate variation: the temperatures had been pleasant, precipitation mild but dependably regular, and the hills and plains covered in vegetation that housed a wide variety of animal life.
It had seemed like a paradise, a new Eden filled with inexhaustible resources. So the first colonists had begin clear-cutting forests to build factories, burning out grasslands to most efficiently provide farmlands for the new world. Rivers were dammed for power. Animals were hunted for sport. This new Eden had been provided for their benefit and no tyrannical pencil-pushing bureaucrats were going to stop them from using its bounty to the fullest degree possible.
But it hadn’t lasted. The greatest climate explainers Ceanndana recognized had theorized that the planet had a complex, long-term global season system. The colonists had touched down at the end of global spring. Now the planet was entering had enter moved into global summer. The atmosphere had grown hot and dry and poisonous, the rain sporadic and acidic. The remaining wildlands had turned barren. Once-plentiful animal life was now in short supply. The polar ice was melting. The seas were turning toxic and barren of life.
Maybe the United Nations had known about the cycle and tried to stick the rebellious upstarts with what they believed would be a deathtrap. If so, they would be disappointed. The Ceanndanans persevered and even took pride in their increasingly inhospitable adopted home. Their planet was untamable, just like them. Just as no man could impede the progress of the seasons, so no government could affect the progress of true men, free men.
Ceanndana. Literally: the Boar’s Head. The last bastion of true freedom in the galaxy.
As Jon thought about this, Jon reflected on the motto he followed. Stand tall. Dream big. Know your 20.
Jon stood tall. Six foot four, broadly muscled with a chiseled jaw and a far-off look in his eyes because he dreamed big. He knew his 20. He knew where he stood. This was what it was to be a man. This was what it was to be a Ceanndanan.
The familiar harsh environment today was tinged with unfamliarity. On the horizon there was a tinge of smoke, tinging upwards with a smoky coil. There were no factories out in that direction yet, he knew, and nothing there to burn. It would be worth checking out.
With practiced, easy gait, Jon stalked across the barren wilderness towards the hill from behind which the smoke emanated. Cresting the hill—he always kept the high ground when approaching unknown situations—he saw the wreckage of a small shuttlecraft. It was definitely not local, but he recognized the design. He stood tall, shouldering his rifle.
The United Nations had come to Ceanndana.
CHAPTER 1: THE LIBERTY OF FREEDOM
Logistics Support Officer Wilhelmina “Hel” A. Mikkelsen stared up through the ragged hole in the fuselage of the light scout ship at the bright sky of Ceanndana and wondered where the hell she was.
The erratically orbiting satellite she had clipped while doing an orbital pass of Ceanndana had not appeared in the latest official registry she had for this system, nor had it been broadcasting any nav info that her ship’s computers could recognize.
As a veteran of the United Nations pilot rating program she of course could not fly a vessel with her own two hands and the eyes God gave her so she had ran right into it.
As she wondered where she was, she puzzled over the fact that the program, that she knew was the best in any world, had not prepared her for this simple situation.
Suddenly there was the figure of a man stood silhouetted by the bright sunlight in front of the hole in the fuselage, looking down at her. Stubbled, he stood tall, about six foot four. She was suddenly glad to be strapped down and lying on her back, because there was something about his face that made her swoon.
“Hello,” Jon introduced himself, reaching out a hand down to her. “My name is Jon P. Johnson, ma’am. Can I give you a hand out of her?”
This gave her pause. She hadn’t considered moving from the wreckage herself.
“I think I should better wait for an official search and rescue or medevac team,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to step on any toes.”
He laughed at this, shouldering his rifle.
“Ha ha,” he said. He stood tall. “Little lady, you must come from somewhere a lot more crowded than Ceanndana. Around these parts, you have to walk all day just to find any toes to step on.”
“I’m on Ceanndana?” she reeled. “That’s impossible.”
“Lots of things around here are impossible, according to your bosses at the United Nations,” he said. “Now, I don’t mean to be impolite, especially towards a lady, but I can’t stand around all day, and if you want to wait for search and rescue you’ll be waiting a long time. They don’t have coverage in this area.”
“Coverage? Oh, right,” she said. “Our intelligence agents have suggested that Ceanndana would be too backwards and regressive to maintain vital infrastructure for much of the planet.”
“And that’s another thing they’ve got wrong,” he said. “We have the best, most efficient infrastructure of any inhabited system. If you had just crashed in one of the busier areas of the major inhabited centers during normal business hours and your subscription was paid up, you probably would have been rescued by now, and at no cost to the public. If you spend enough time here, miss, you’ll learn that the free market provides better solutions than any government could hope to.”
“If they’re so great, why can’t they come out and help me here?”
“If there was enough need to justify service out here, the market would have provided it,” he said. “I guess I can’t blame you for not understanding how free markets work. Do you want help or not?”
“Sorry, I do,” she said. Taking his hand, she stood up, unbuckling herself from her seat as she did so. With such easy effortless ease that it was impressive even though she didn’t weigh much, he effortlessly lifted her petitely trim weight out of the ragged hole, and together they retreated from the shuttle just before the roaring inferno sparked by the crash consumed it in a fiery explosion of sparks.
“Yikes,” she said. “I guess I owe you my life! Can I buy you a drink?”
“Miss, this is Ceanndana,” he said, shouldering his rifle. “If you’ve got the money, you can buy anything.”
While they walked back towards town Jon filled the naive newcomer’s head in with the details about how things worked in a free society.
“See, our privatized search-and-rescue system gives us the best service for the least money because if one outfit skimps on their product or gouges its customers, we’re all free to take our money elsewhere. The competition keeps them honest.”
“That’s amazing! They never taught us that in the official UN economics classes!” she said. “But, can it possibly work?”
“Are you kidding? It works great!” he said. “I told you we have the best search-and-rescue facilities here on Ceanndana, didn’t I? Consolidated Recovery Services is so good at what they do they were able to buy out their competitors, and now they have the clout to stop anyone else from even stepping up to the plate. Why, just last fall some new outfit was starting up with the idea of servicing the areas that CRS doesn’t, but the board made them an offer and when they refused, CRS bought the only company that makes the ambulance ships instead.”
“But I don’t understand how that makes them the best at helping people in trouble!”
“Being good is what makes them the best. Being at the top of the market just proves they are so,” Jon said. “See, the free market isn’t a lily-livered government functionary or a committee of bloodless diplomats. It’s impartial, predictable, and guided by inexorable forces towards the kind of efficiency that benefits everyone. It doesn’t make mistakes!”
“Can you explain this efficiency thing to me? They don’t tell us much about efficiency in the public schools. It’s kind of, well—”
“A dirty word?”
“Well, just think about it this way: what do you think uses up more resources, answering rescue calls in the city center, where the vehicles are based and the hospitals are close by, or answering them way out here, where everything is clicks away?”
“I was never taught how to think about this kind of thing, but I guess the second one uses more.”
“Right,” Jon said. “So, if you have an outfit that covers all areas equally, it’s going to use more resources per operation on average than one that only operates in the city. Right?”
She did the math, then slowly, nodded.
“Right,” she said. “My goodness, that’s right.”
“And so you can have two outfits that are doing the exact same job, but one is using far fewer resources. And doing it better! Would it surprise you if I told you that it also results in a much faster average response time, quicker arrival at the hospital, and fewer deaths occurring en route?”
“I would have to see the data before I believed you, but if it’s true, this knowledge could revolutionize, well, everything.”
“This is why the United Nations will never allow it to be heard,” he said. “And I’m very sorry, but now that you know it, they will never let you leave Ceanndana alive.”
“Is knowledge really so dangerous?”
“It is toxic to their agenda,” he said. “You serve a master of lies, who lives in a house made out of lies. The ‘environmentally-friendly’ hovercar he drives to work is powered by lies, and he drives it on hyperstreets paved with lies to an office in a building built not of brick and mortar but more lies. There he manufactures untruths and falsehoods for one reason and one purpose only.”
“What’s that?” she asked breathlessly.
“To keep you from realizing the truth,” he revealed.
She gasped with shock at the realization he made her have.
“Somehow I know this is the truth,” she said. “It is like eating a real strawberry after years of only having synthetic substitutes. I’ve never had a real strawberry but if I tasted it I would know it was different, and that it’s real. But if I can’t go home or anywhere else, what can I do?”
“You can stay here,” he said, standing tall. “Learn to live as we do, free and without restriction. Learn to fight as we do, and one day, liberate the rest of the galaxy as we will.”
“Live free?” she said. “That sounds scary. But thrilling, like a thrill ride that is also scary. But I want to ride it, Jon! I want to ride it more than I have wanted to ride anything else!”
“Then it ride it you must.” He shouldered his rifle. “That’s, you see, the liberty of freedom. It is the thing you must ride because you can ride nothing else.”
Something about the way he said it made her feel things that she was not sure she would have been authorized to feel. Relationships between males and females in United Nations space were tightly controlled, with the males in particular watched to be sure they were not overstepping their bounds and the females in particular watched to be sure they were not promoting internalized misogyny.
But she had never met any man like Jon Prescott Johnson. In fact, she realized, before him, she had never met a real man. It was like she had never tasted a real strawberry before, the effete state-approved gamma males she had been allowed to interact with being like the synthetic strawberry substitutes in her analogy, and Jon being like a real strawberry, only there was nothing fruity about him so the comparison was bad.
She would have compared him to a rare steak, bloody and raw, if she knew about steak. But she would learn. She would learn about steak, she knew, and so many other things she couldn’t have even ever imagined.