Stirring up a Commotion

Jerry's hands were numb and shaking as he drove the last bolt of his shift through the bottom of a grain hopper and into a bracket on the floor of the starship. He just needed to grease his impact wrench and his time would be his own. As he strode up to the workbench, an announcement boomed out over the intercom: "Starting from tomorrow, securing of cargo will be automated. Staff involved in said task are now surplus to requirements and must report for conscription at the Federation office before noon tomorrow."

How am I going to tell mum?

He walked out of the hangar without bothering to clock out and passed the security guard without uttering a word. Scowling with rage, he made his way down the muddy street to the cracked and moldy tenement in which he and his mother Roslin resided. He stormed through the front door and down the corridor and into their unlocked apartment.

"What happened?" asked Roslin, upon seeing his expression.

"Those Federation bastards conscripted me!" he replied, kicking a stool across the living room.

"That's me done," she responded dejectedly.

"I.. won't…" mumbled Jerry.

"No use, don't make them kick the door in. We've got enough money trouble."

"It won't get to that."

Jerry, feeling a wave of spiteful determination wash over him, turned tail and stepped back out into the muddy street and made his way to the re-purposed pre-cast concrete colliery known as the Packer's Bar. He knew that the other men from his shift would be drowning their sorrows there following their conscription. He sauntered in and, ignoring the displeasure of the barkeeper, vaulted onto the counter and screamed "How many of ya lost your jobs today?", seething with rage, not insubstantially heightened by the stream of red-tinted water dripping onto him from some exposed re-bar in the ceiling.

The crowd didn't appear to share Jerry's passion or rage and appeared to share Roslin's apathy.

"So you're just goin' to let those bastards conscript ya? Go without a fight?"

The crowd started to grumble.

"None of them that go out with the Federation come back, are ya really going to die for them bastards that starve us?"

The grumble increased in volume.

"Will ya come out with me tomorrow and fight them Federation bastards?"

The grumble turned to a cheer.

"Come down here tomorrow, bring whatever you can fight with. I'm going to torch that place at noon with or without ya, but hopefully with ya."

What have we got to lose, anyway?

Despite his exhaustion from his long shift, he returned home with a spring in his step. He turned in early and dreamt of a well stocked cupboard. He felt a modicum of apprehension when he awoke the following morning, but quelled it by reassuring himself the he did not, in fact, have anything to lose. He departed his house wielding his wardrobe pole as an improvised quarter-staff.

He arrived at the Packer's Bar to find a larger congregation than he had anticipated, coming to a total of two hundred people at least. He deduced that word of his little coup had spread between the shifts overnight and gained a momentum of its own. He mounted a lamp post in order to address the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, what we'll do is, we'll march in there, we won't let anyone stop us, then once we're in, we'll decide what to do next," he announced, dropping down from the lamp post and beckoning the crowd.

The unruly crowd made their way to the Federation hangar from which they had been laid off the day before. The gate had been lowered when the attendant saw the mob on the horizon, but his plexiglass booth offered little resistance to the hatchets and sledgehammers of Jerry's congregation. The attendant drew his SF9000 but was greeted by a pitchfork through the throat before he could disengage the safety. //Nothing to feel guilty about, he'd have killed us if we'd let him.

Jerry climbed onto the booth and bellowed "Noon shift lads, block the gate, don't let a single Federation bastard in, midnight lads follow me," before hopping down and marching to the hangar.

One of his men had taken the attendant's gun and, once inside the cavernous hanger, Jerry commandeered it and fired a shot into the roof. It reverberated for what felt like a lifetime. Jerry, addressing the staff, screamed "Those of you who want to stick with the Federation, get out before we kill you. Those of you who stand with us, join in with us."

Now addressing his own congregation, Jerry shouted "Don't do any damage yet, we'll threaten to burn it all down unless we get our fuckin' jobs back!"

The crowd cheered in agreement and Jerry soon began to organise them, sending one group to the rail depot in the basement to cover the tunnels and one to cover the locked hangar doors. Jerry occupied the supervisor's box nestled in the ceiling.

The mob, though ready and waiting for it, experienced no opposition from the Federation regiments posted around the city. Jerry decided to catch up on some sleep at midnight, only to be awoken at one in the morning by a knock at the door.

"Wake up Jerry," shouted Roslin.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" asked Jerry as he unlatched the door.

"My office is on strike in solidarity."

"Brilliant, the Federation probably don't even know what's going on!" said Jerry ecstatically.

"It's not just the phone workers, all of the Federation people are out, even one of the army regiments."

Jerry, incapable of forming a coherent response, began laughing maniacally in delight.

"Look, they told me to be back to picket in half an hour, I'll be off now," said Roslin.

"Do you want anything from the supervisor's fridge?" said Jerry, still laughing.

"No thanks."

Jerry dozed off again only to be awoken again by a deafening crash, followed by a collection of shrill, primal screams.

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