June 3rd 2014
I find myself at a loss. In my thirty-two years as a journalist, I’ve worked all sorts of environments: the abandoned squatter camps in Ferron, embedded on the front in Charon for two years, even QuarterDeck for an ultimately unused story about parole policies. I’ve tried to find the situations where the Human spirit is challenged, because those feel like the moments that can really define us as a species in both positive and negative ways.
Last week, I saw something that left me speechless. It’s taken all this time to try to wrap my head around the stunning inhumanity of what I witnessed.
I was returning home from my cousin’s wedding in Kilian. The flight had been pretty routine for most of the trip except for the fact that I had eaten a bit too much at the reception and was fighting off a food coma. Shortly after entering Terra system, I noticed a cluster of ships chasing another far off the traffic lanes, past the orbital path of Gen. Curious to a fault and no real reason to rush home, I went to take a look.
As I got closer, I saw it was local police chasing a transport ship that was proving to be a lot more nimble than it looked. The suspect ship had a large external cargo container. It evaded the sporadic weapon-fire from the police, twisting until it found the ideal moment to kick its burners and make a dash away. It seemed like they were making a break out of system.
The move caught the police totally off-guard and for a second it seemed like the offender was sure to escape. That was until the police backup showed up. I hadn’t even noticed them. They had kept their signature low enough to get close.
The fleeing transport realized at the last moment too. Now their options were running pretty low. I had almost dismissed the entire situation, figuring they would be in custody soon, when they ejected their cargo container and did another push for the jump point.
The container was rapidly bleeding some kind of gas or something, causing the police to pause momentarily.
Two of the police ships quickly established a perimeter around the container, which was still tumbling erratically due to the stream of gas, while the rest continued after the suspect. After a few minutes, the cargo box ran out of gas and slowly spun on the last trajectory of propellant. Shortly after, the group of police ships that had pursued the suspect, came back empty-handed.
I could see the police run all sorts of scans on the box. Finally, they just waited for a towship to arrive and tug the container back to a platform for examination. Fortunately, thanks to a previous assignment on the local crime beat, I had a handful of good contacts within the Terra System Police and Advocacy. I made a couple quick comms and was down on the platform by the time they finished sweeping it for explosives.
In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t been. They cracked the lock and opened the cargo container. Inside, there were rows of stacked crates. Each one had a person inside it, kept in some kind of induced coma, but they were all dead now. Then I realized that the gas escaping once the suspect ejected the pod was the oxygen. The slaver was giving the police a choice: catch me or save sixteen lives.
I felt sick. One of the cops gave me a cup of water. She said it’s called a Dump’n’Jump. It’s a fairly common tactic with a certain breed of slaver.
It didn’t help. The knowledge that this room of police regarded the incident as ‘something that happens’ made it worse. I get that most law enforcement need to have an emotional detachment to handle the things they deal with, but this … the fact that there’s a trick to escape by capitalizing off of basic human decency is appalling.
I watched as the corpses were extracted from the container. Some had identities — a runaway from Prime, a thief from Corel — but some didn’t. A group of children won’t get to be buried with a name.
Trafficking will always be a vile source of revenue as long as people are willing to pay to own another sentient. Many have just accepted this, but I think we are wrong.
We should never accept this. It’s time to take a stand and stop this insanity: our government, law enforcement and military need to get angry and act on it. We need better scanning techs, and heavier penalties for traffickers and the corrupt officials who facilitate them. We need to do better. Just because the children in those coffins died without an identity doesn’t mean they don’t deserve justice. They deserve it more.
Otherwise, how can we call ourselves civilized?