chapter 72: Mike and Mark Soldner casino issue (2 of 2)

As of today I’m 50.64% done with draft 4. Still on target to finish this draft around 11 October 2013.

Background for this chapter: the Earth hostilities are ramping up. Mike is starting to build his Boardroom group to coordinate lunar resistance, and he needs every hand he can get. At the same time, he’s trying to fund the militia he’s building by using them to service some security contracts. Specifically one for Leon’s Poker House. A problem arises: Mark Soldner, a Mormon businessman, believer in community, and fan of Good Government, has decided that Leon’s Poker House is not wanted in his community. So he and a citizen group that he leads decided to bust up the place to show Leon that he’s not wanted.

The conflict, of course, is that Mike is providing security for Leon. Mike needs to defend Leon’s right to be in business – but he can’t afford to alienate Mark Soldner either.

== 2064 Soldner Apartments office, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Mike walked into Mark soldner’s office. Mark looked up, saw Mike and smiled. “Give me just one second?”

Mike nodded and looked around as Mark went back to signing a stack of paperwork. The place was nice – nicer than his own office, at least. Carpeting underfoot, a large walnut desk, three flags on the wall behind it. Mike recognized the American flag, but the other two were new to him. The first was a white flag with blue stripes and a sunburst in the middle, and other one looked like like an American flag rendered in just blue and white. Maybe some Revolutionary War flag?

Mark was still signing. OK, look on the bright side. This meeting was going to be good practice. Be warm, be sincere, try to reach common –

Mark signed the last sheet, then stood up and extended a hand. “Sorry about that, Mike. Thanks for coming in.”

Mike shook his hand. “Always a pleasure, Mark.”

Mark smiled. ” Especially when we’re outside of the Boardroom and the politics there. Have a seat, Mike.”

Mike sat. “I’ll get to the point – ”

“The casino issue.”

Mike nodded. “Exactly. We’re insuring them, and the damage you folks caused -”

“Mike, let me cut to the chase. We agree that initiating violence isn’t the right way to settle disputes, right?”

Mike blinked. Was Mark going to apologize and pay up? That’d be nice. “Right. So about Leon’s Poker House -”

Mark held up a finger. “We protested. Several times. This wasn’t our first protest, did you know that? But even after weekly protests, they stayed in business. In our neighborhood.”

God damn it; Mike’s hope that Mark was going to make this easy disappeared. “That’s irrelevant.”

“It’s very relevant.”

“Mark, what matters is that you destroyed someone else’s property.”

“We did some damage, but it was mostly symbolic. The important thing, though, is that we did it only AFTER the casino started things.”

Mike narrowed his eyes. ‘Started things’? Was there more to this than Wam had told him? “My understanding is that the first damage was done by your protest.”

“The first physical damage. High Deseret was a decent neighborhood before the casino moved in, and -”

“High Deseret? Do you mean Little Salt Lake?”

Mark smiled tightly. “We don’t call it that – we find it a touch patronizing. But, yes, we’re referring to the same portion of levels 3 and 4.”

Mike was about to roll his eyes at the prissy insistence on the name, but remembered Javier’s lectures. “OK, I’ll try to remember that term. But let’s get the facts straight. The casino said said you initiated the trouble, and as far as I can tell the video backs them up 100 percent. Do you claim they did something first?”

“Absolutely – they ran a casino in an area where they weren’t wanted. That disrupted an entire neighborhood. It’s not physical damage, but the damage to the integrity of a community -”

Mike closed his eyes for a moment then opened them. “Damn it, Mark -” He realized that Soldner was giving him a harsh look. Ah, crap. Mark liked swearing even less than Darcy. OK. Charm school. “Excuse me. I apologize. But you know that’s not the way it works. If your people don’t want to patronize the casino, fine. But if the casino is paying the rent on their space, then they’ve got a right to exist. Organize a boycott if you want, but you can’t go smashing up their space.”

Mark templed his fingers and leaned back. After a moment “Mike, you’re against overarching government, and I respect that. I’m on the same page with you…but your definition of liberty is too narrow.” He looked Mike in the eye. “You know, I read copies of your interviews in Forbes, back before they were redacted, and I know where you’re coming from. But it’s not just individuals who have rights. Communities have rights too -”

“Mark -”

Mark raised a hand. “Let me finish. What about a child’s right to walk down the sidewalk with out being confronted with a half-naked prostitute? What about a parent’s right to raise his or her children in an atmosphere where sex is something sacred between married people, and not a commodity advertised in a window? What about a wife’s right to have her husband come home with his paycheck instead of losing it to the predatory advertising of a gambling hall?”

“Mark, we don’t have time for a theoretical conversation.”

“This isn’t theory.” He tapped his desk for emphasis. “This is real. You came to my office to discuss EXACTLY this situation. You hard-core libertarians reduce freedom to just property rights and lack of political oppression – but there’s more to the human morality and freedom than that. There’s – wait, no, listen – this is science. Neurology. Mike, you care about individual liberty, property rights, and so on, and that’s great, but there are more types of morality than that. A color blind person might not be able to see the color green, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And just because there are some types of morality and freedom that don’t mean much to you – things like care for others, respect for authority, keeping sacred things -”

Mike held up one hand. “Mark, forgive my bluntness, but I don’t care about your theory of human morality. Let’s talk about the issue at hand: Leon’s Poker House. I’m not here arguing in favor of gambling and prostitution.”

“Aren’t you?”

Mike started to roll his eyes but immediately caught himself and repeated his mantra. Charm school, charm school. “No, I’m not. I don’t have to approve of either one to say that the casino operator has as much right to run his business as you have to run yours.”

“Whoring and gambling destroy families. Building houses and renting apartments helps build them. You’re not honestly comparing the two, are you?”

“I’m not saying anything about MORAL equivalence.”

“But you are. You’re saying that providing homes -”

Mike leaned forward. “Mark, no. Listen to me. I’m saying one thing, and one thing only – the casino has a right to exist. It pays its rent, it pays its legal service provider bills, it’s not breaking any laws-

“It might not be violating the laws the REGULATIONS that come from Trusted Security, but it’s certainly violating God’s laws, and the laws of community.”

Mike clenched his jaw. “This isn’t the topic, Mark. And you know that Aristillus doesn’t have government. You knew that when you came here – and now you’re trying to to say that your people can form a government and force others to obey them! Aristillus is free of government whether you like it or not – and if you don’t like it, you can go buy a TBM and dig your own tunnels. The moon is empty; pack up and leave.”

Mike realized that he’d been almost yelling, but Mark didn’t take offense. Instead he smiled and lowered his voice. “Mike, we’re not founding a government. Just a neighborhood committee. And, with all due respect for your accomplishments founding Aristillus, you’re not king, you-”

“Your damned right I’m not! No one is! That’s my point.”

“Then why do you think you can say dictate what other people can and can not do? If 95% of the people in this tunnel vote to have a neighborhood -”

“Voting? What the hell? Mob rule is the OPPOSITE of freedom! What if 95% of people voted to outlaw Mormonism?” He shook his head. “Voting is the exact opposite of the idea behind Aristillus.”

“Aristillus is young – just ten years old. The people haven’t yet decided what Aristillus is or isn’t, what ideas it stands for.”

“Damn it, Mark!” Mark was offended by his language again. Well fuck him; he’d speak like he wanted to speak. “Mark, you read the FAQs before you booked passage here. You knew that this was an anarchy. When did you get here? Four years ago? Five? Peter already had the newbs contract in place by the time you stepped off the boat at Lai Docks. You signed it, just like everyone else. I bet I can dig up a copy.”

Mark dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “Things change. Situations change; people change. I’ll bet when you were in school you recited the Pledge of Allegiance. You went to public schools? Yes. So not only did you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you also said the One Environment Pledge, and the World Unity Promise. Every day, before attendance. And now you and the Boardroom Group are declaring independence and -”

“I said those pledges when I was a kid. I HAD to, just like you did. What was the alternative? Refuse, and get taken away from my parents by DHS ?”

Mark was infuriatingly calm. “Yes, you had to. You had no other alternative, because you were under duress. Well, Mike, refugees from Earth are under duress; they’ll sign anything when they get here, just to get away from the unconstitutional Godless governments back on Earth. And now, people in my community are trying to lay down some reasonable ethical norms in our own neighborhoods. We have the right to establish governance -”

“Not if you start pushing that government on others! And when you’re smashing windows and overturning tables, you’re doing exactly that.”

Mark sat back in his chair. “Mike, I give up. Tell me: was your plan was to march in here, tell me that our demonstration at the casino and – excuse my indelicacy – whorehouse – was in violation of your libertarian principles, and that I’d apologize for offending you, and then we’d be done?”

Mike seethed. “Yes.”

“Then -”

“That was plan A.”

Mark’s eyes narrowed for a second; he’d caught the implication of a plan B. “Mike, you’re a business guy. You’ve read the standard negotiation books – ‘Getting to Yes’, ‘Bargaining for Advantage’ – that sort of thing?”

“What’s your point?”

“The key in negotiations is figuring out what each side REALLY wants.”

“Mark, it’s pretty clear. What I REALLY WANT-” Mike didn’t care that his sarcastic mocking tone was clear “- is for you to stop busting up casinos.”

Mark held up one finger. “No. What you want is for us to stop busting up casinos that you provide security arrangements for. Which is simple – stop protecting the people who are trying to destroy our community. But let’s put that aside. That’s just a small thing you want. The thing you REALLY want -” Mark drew out the pause.

Despite himself Mike went for the bait. “Yes?”

“The thing you REALLY want is for your revolution to succeed.”

Mike stared at him. What sort of black mail was coming?

“You’re disgusted with the false authority and socialism that’s been rising on Earth for the past few decades, and you want to start a new society, and a new country. I’m in agreement with that. I think we’re allies here, Mike…with just a few tactical disagreements. And like all good allies, we can work out those disagreements.”

Mike wanted to stand and yell at Mark, berate him for his arrogance, his refusal to live up to the contract he’d signed, his god-damned insistence on sneaking government in through the backdoor.

He pictured Javier’s reaction if he did any of those things.

Mike breathed out heavily through his nose. “What are you saying?”

“We’ve had PKs seize our ships and take our people hostage. The war is coming. We all agree on that. We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately. Do you know that quote?”

Mike nodded. “So what’s your point?”

“My point is that if you and I are in alliance, we can fight a Revolution, and maybe win it. I’ve got a lot more resources and people than you realize. But if we’re fighting each other over petty stuff like poker halls corrupting our neighborhoods…then you and I are not in alliance.” Mark paused and looked Mike straight in the eye. “Let’s be brutally honest here. I actively believe in the rule of law, and the institution of government. This means that I can try to cut a deal with the Earth governments. And to continue the brutal honesty: you can’t. You need me more than I need you, Mike.” Mark paused then continued. “But I’d rather that we’re on the same team.”

Mark stood and stuck out his hand.

Mike rose as well and looked at the proffered hand. “And the cost of you helping out the Revolution is that I let you drive Leon’s Poker House out of business?”

Mark kept his hand out. “They don’t have to go out of business. They just have to move somewhere else.”

Mike stared at Mark’s extended hand. The revolution was probably doomed without Mark’s help. It was probably doomed even with Mark. But if he compromised his principles and sold out a small business, then what was he standing for? Freedom…as long as some rich powerful person didn’t want the infringe on it? Mike hated himself for it, but he started to raise his own hand.

What was he compromising? Not his own freedom. No. Someone else’s. Is this that how he was going to do business? Selling out people, giving special privileges to political allies? He felt his hand falter.

If he didn’t take this deal, he’d probably lose Mark from the Boardroom Group – and he might even have him defect entirely. But if he took the deal, then what sort of society was he establishing? What signal was he sending to others? If Mark had free reign to smash up any bar he didn’t like in his quest to build what he saw as a decent society, where did it end?

Mike let his hand drop to his side. Mark noticed it and said “Mike, I’m not asking for much, just -”

Mike stared at Mark and pulled out his phone and dialed. Wam answered on the second ring. “Wam, station some men outside Leon’s casino. No, not guards – I want a full fire team. Yeah, and cut a check to Leon for the damages; we’ll eat this one.” He hung up.

Mark looked taken aback. “Mike, let me ask you to reconsider – the Revolution needs us.”

“Yeah, Mark, it does. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to sell out someone else’s freedom.”


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