Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Flip

Yesterday was sort of anticlimactic. I got put off the day before by Rich and the other people who now act as our court, instead being told to come in yesterday morning to talk to them.

This is one of the small changes I've missed out on in the time we've been gone. Whereas before the team and I left we had a simple and flexible set of basic laws for offenses and punishment, now we don't. There are still guidelines and rules for people to live by, but Rich, Treesong, and a few others have been experimenting with the idea of a much more flexible system.

The basic concept seems to be effective for a population as small and unified as ours. The basic rules are the same: no killing or rape, no stealing or infringing on anyone else's rights. The problem we had before was that too many people were afraid of the sole deciding power of judgment and sentencing residing in one person. So with this new system, the same laws exist but those who break them get a different experience. Now instead of just Rich playing the part of judge, there are five people acting as a court. Five citizen judges who are part of a pool of eleven people that are always on call to act.

The really different part of it is that while the laws pertaining to daily life for citizens are the same, the rules for punishments have been totally revamped. Gone is the meticulously detailed chart describing specific punishments and duration times for offenses. Instead the court itself takes in all factors in an offense and sets whatever punishment is most fitting for the person.

Seems dangerous to put that kind of power in the hands of a few people, and potentially at least, it is. But the intent here isn't a grab for power--it's to individualize punishments to maximize their effectiveness on the individual while maintaining security for the group. So if a mother of two is found guilty of stealing, she won't be sent away from her kids and her normal duties, which would weaken the group. Instead she might be forced to work double shifts, making amends to the wronged party with her work, but still able to care for her family. I'm fuzzy on a lot of the details, but from what I hear crime is virtually nonexistent at the moment. Even in our best times, New Haven had its fair share of rowdy hotheads and disagreements gone too far.

Not anymore.

The general lack of zombie attacks here in the recent months led to this decision. As it turns out, people used to spending their days worrying about the next wave of undead have a hard time adjusting back to relative peace. Energy can't be created or destroyed, and it has to go somewhere. Sometimes that means into drunken fistfights. The problem wasn't overwhelming but it was escalating slowly over a period of weeks, thus the change in how the judiciary works. Effective to say the least. And the whole thing runs with careful oversight by the council.

I learned all that the day before yesterday, after I'd been told to come back in the morning. I was worried that I'd have to really fight to get Will's sentence revoked, or that Rich and the other judges had become a bit enamored with power. Months of constant vigilance for the slightest threat have made my natural caution kick it up a step into paranoia, as I've mentioned before.

So imagine my surprise when, after giving the five people in charge of Will's fate my opening statement, they unanimously agreed to return him to full citizenship. It was easy, far too easy. There was a lot of bad blood between Will and many citizens of New Haven, and I didn't understand at first why my request had been immediately granted.

Being paranoid, I dug into the background quite a bit. Turns out that Dodger, who you may remember is in charge of New Haven's defenses, is too important to be allowed out on long or dangerous trips. There is growing concern with the shadowy group that appears to be taunting our citizens, however, and something needs to be done. Whoever these strangers are that move around the area mostly unseen, they're dangerous and something needs to be done about them. So far they haven't done any major damage to us, but the council thinks it's only a matter of time. A few bridges out in the county, ones that lead to places where we hunt or gather food in the warm months, have been collapsed. Three large houses where we've set up caches of spare supplies have been ransacked.

Which means they've been watching for a long time. Unseen, but over our shoulders. Will has been tasked with the job of finding them and figuring out exactly what needs to be done. Dodger is important to New Haven's defenses, even though Will designed most of them. Will is a full citizen again, but the politics of the move are clear--knowing he'd accept the job, he was asked to do something necessary yet incredibly dangerous. He's going to have to spend days at a time out there, dealing with hungry zombies, whoever these people are attacking our supply chain, and probably the odd marauder or two. Worse, he's got to start as soon as possible which will be very hard on him. His leg is healing but won't be of much use to him out there.

Fortunately much of Will's value is in his brilliance rather than his strong arm. He'll have help, and as long as he doesn't have to move from the passenger seat of a vehicle, Evans thinks he'll be able to go out in a week or so. He sure as hell won't enjoy the experience, and the trips will have to be short at first, but he's going to do it.

I, for one, am not happy about this. Will has done more than almost anyone here to safeguard New Haven, and for longer than most of them as well. Yeah, he's made mistakes, but I don't see that as good enough reason to send an injured man out there where, if he meets with an unfortunate end, the people back home who detest him won't be very upset. It reeks of political maneuvering, and it makes me sick.

Bet your ass I'm going out with Will on every trip.

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