|Subject:||Joe Schmuck: Chapter 1 - 03/07|
|Date:||Sun, 14 May 2000 23:58:31 GMT|
Joseph Staples had fallen back into his old routine. He continued in the same
job, scratching a living from selling insurance and settling claims. He worked
in a small office of a big company, one of many agents operating under the
guise of self-employment. Each person was a separate contracted company that
was billed franchise rights, furniture costs, telephone and power by the main
parent. His share of every dollar that the mega-corporate spent was offset
against the revenue he generated before local and federal taxes took their
chunk. On average he came out ahead, but some weeks he'd lose money. Such was
life in the new economy, ever since the law was changed to allow what the
introduction of what was billed as the ultimate employee incentive scheme.
Business had to be cold hard and fast, it was the way they all worked - no time
to get personal. The people that were contracted to the cubicles around him
only knew him by his second name.
It was hard stressful work, but as long as he could keep his head above water
then maybe some time in the future he'd get the opportunity to buy the office
manager contract. Then he'd be successful and prosperous. He wouldn't have to
sweat over every little claim or push for people to buy an extended feature of
dubious value. He could sit back and collect revenues from the office, the
margins he'd make would be predictable and reliable, and the fringe benefits
were wonderful. It was against corporate policy, but the office manager could
influence the agent's revenue, so the smarter operators routinely offered him
bribes. Best of all he wouldn't have to deal with customers - long days
dealing with the fears and greed of clients and claimants left him drained.
Still that was hope for the future. In the harsh reality of now he had to make
He lived alone in a building full of people. The building was old, poorly
maintained, and generally disrespected. The lift didn't work, and the
stairwell smelt of vomit and human filth. It was a bad neighborhood, but it
was cheap, and Joseph had needed to cut costs after his disastrous first year
in the insurance business. Somehow he just hadn't managed to move out again,
finally deciding it was better to stay here and save the extra money for the
managers contract. He tried to avoid the other tenants.
The attention was good to begin with, it was unusual in this day and age to
have someone get involved and save a young girl from a violent knife-wielding
rapist. It helped that the young woman was the niece of some up and coming
supermodel. Since the girl was still recovering, it was her aunt that joined
him on the human-interest segments. It made him feel a bit embarrassed, but it
was good. They even laughed at his answers about how easy it was to kick the
shit out of somebody when their pants were down around their ankles. They
acted surprised when he denied any martial arts skills, and they always talked
up his bravery and courage.
He had done something good, something he could definitely be proud of. Still
he became a novelty, some sort of cartoon figure. It was as if the media was
going out of their way to mock him, make him special and superhuman all at the
same time. They couldn't accept that a normal guy got involved and stopped a
crime. Police were brought on to help recreate the scene and chided his
actions as foolish and rash in the accompanying sound bites. Most of all Joe
got tired of his co-workers calling him the Hero-Guy. The second day was
By the fourth day he was forgotten, only occasionally getting airtime, as the
week's news was re-capped. That's why he was a little surprised when a
gentleman wearing a suit appeared on his doorstep. Clearly this was a
reporter, as he had a little LED on the side of his temple, flashing away
indicating a recording was taking place. It was generally only reporters and
police that had that quality of optics, and this guy wasn't bulked out with
enough body-armor to be a metro-cop. Maybe they'd discovered a new angle or
something to make him newsworthy again.
"Joseph Allan Staples?"
"Look I did what I thought was necessary, like I told the other stations,
anybody else would have done the same."
The man in the suit maintained his neutral expression and repeated, "Are you
Joseph Allan Staples?"
Joe was momentarily confused. "You are a reporter, right?"
"No. Your image is a match for Joseph Allan Staples, Contracted Insurance
Agent, born 12/11/31."
"What's this about?"
The man retrieved a data-pad and a small optical chip-case from his coat
pocket. "Thumb print here please sir. Proof of receipt of these documents."
Joseph followed the instructions and when the data-pad toned that a print had
been recorded took the chip-case.
"If you require an attorney, the ABC Judicial System Incorporated is able to
supply you with a list of qualified attorneys and their career statistics for a
nominal fee. We hope you enjoy your trial."
With that the court bailiff half turned and walked away down the corridor,
leaving Joseph stunned, mouth gaping and eyes bulging. Joseph's reaction then
was nothing compared to his reaction hours later when his video-conferencing
attorney explained to him the charges.
"It's simple," said the lawyer with a smile, "Kara Seng, is suing you for
negligence leading to personal injury. Joseph Staples - that's you - ignored
law enforcement guidelines regarding violent crime and acted in a manner
consistent with vigilantism. During Joseph Staples illegal interference with
Colin H. Baker - the ganger - Mr. Staples' actions led to a knife injury to
Kara Seng's throat region. She wants one and a half million."