Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part LXXXIII: Criminal

This page Copyright 2021, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt

Resumed from Parts XIV-XV and XLI of this story
New Israel

Kazuo Nakayama was dead.
He had been cruelly and brutally murdered by his own brother, Takeo, who had also murdered their parents and embezzled much of the family fortune before disappearing. So read the official report from the Investigators' Corps, the only thing approaching a police force allowed to exist in the Jeffersonian Republic. Surviving members of the Nakayama clan had sworn the necessary warrants to enable the investigation.
Kazuo's severed hand had been incinerated in the house fire, but enough remained for Republic forensic science to identify. Where the rest of Kazuo's body had gone could not be determined. Perhaps fed into the household's power plant, or buried in the forest surrounding the home. Perhaps carried away and dumped at sea.
There were doubts. The brothers' aunt Saori asserted that Kazuo was a far more likely suspect for such a crime than his gentler, dutiful brother Takeo. Senior Investigator Lieutenant Commander Dale Hanshaw shared the doubts; why would the criminal, who had obviously taken great pains to plan the crime, leave the hand as evidence? Could Takeo have been so skilled with computer science but so ignorant of forensics?
The house's internal video recordings and entry logs supported the official position. Higher ranks, in both clan and Corps, overruled the doubts, wanting the case closed, the shame forgotten. A capital warrant was issued for Takeo Nakayama on the charges of grand theft and premeditated murder. No one expected it to ever be served. Surely the criminal had made his escape - a new face and name, a different world, a different life purchased with his stolen wealth.

The man once known as Kazuo Nakayama exerted more self-discipline than he had ever allowed his father to see. His Marine Corps training helped him treat his wound and control the pain, to remain clear-headed and functional. With voice commands he ordered the aircar to take him to very particular coordinates, hundreds of kilometers from his burning family mansion.
He had enlisted allies - or at least hired some. The aircar set down in a forest clearing, where his hirelings had set up camp... around their orbit-capable shuttle. An hour later the aircar was on the way to a recycling yard, and he was in a starship's sickbay, being fitted with a prosthetic hand - and a new face - as the ship boosted for the hyperspace limit. His skull was restructured, altering the distance between the eyes, the triangle formed by them with the nose, to defeat facial-recognition software. His legs and arms were likewise extended by two centimeters, so his stride and body language would change. All had been planned, and arranged, in advance.
He had his wealth, in anonymous accounts throughout Known Space. He had wanted both of the family swords... he would have to be content with one. He wondered, idly, if his brother had survived, if he would ever be caught. If he would ever come for vengeance. If the swords would ever be reunited.
He had no fear of his brother. Now that he had the wealth, and soon the power, that was rightfully his, he could meet any threat. He would build his own empire, a secret one, yet larger and more powerful than his father's. He could have... do... be, anything.
The ship's doctor spoke of initiating regeneration for his lost hand. The man who used to be Kazuo Nakayama ordered him to stop, to destroy the tissue samples he had taken. He would keep the prosthetic, as a constant reminder to not grow complacent, to never underestimate an enemy.
Kazuo Nakayama was dead. The man chose a new name for his new life, and more than this, returned to the old ways, surname first. For his new clan name, he chose a lesser-known noble family from ancient Japan: Tamura.
For his own name, using the symbol for "strong": Ken.

Tamura would begin in Old Nippon.
He toured the ancient country, seeing the way things used to be, they way he felt they should be. He visited, and made offering, at Hiroshima's rebuilt Peace Dome; at the restored, and still controversial, Yasukuni Shrine. He saw the recreated Yamato Museum, walked the simulated deck of the mighty battleship, reveled in the power and pride his ancestors once held, and mourned its loss.
While in Kure, he happened across a little arms shop, in which he had a new saya made for his sword. Looking around the shop, he saw a wide variety of weapons openly for sale to anyone who could afford them and did not offend or raise suspicions in the seller. The right to bear arms was functionally universal in the Republic; no one would question him for wearing a sword... but that was a thing he would have changed, were it in his power. Impossible here and now, the right to self-defense, to resist the excesses of government, too deeply ingrained in the people. But as a would-be daimyo, Tamura was resistant to the notion of letting just anybody defend themselves. That, he thought, was a thing which should only be allowed with permission, only to those who had proven themselves trustworthy. That was why, in ancient Nippon, only the samurai class, and some of the highest-ranking yakuza, were allowed to wear swords.
The right to arms was so inconvenient for those who were destined to rule.

Yakuza, gangsters, had existed in Old Nippon since centuries before the Escape. Many, he knew, felt as he did - that "civilization" was too tame, that power was too widely spread, too difficult to accumulate, under the sharply-limited government of the Jeffersonian Republic. As such men had always done - the failed alcohol prohibition in the United States; the "war on drugs"; disarmament edicts across Terra across centuries - those who sought power moved themselves into positions to acquire it, within government or without. But under the Star and Bars, a tendency toward power was seen as a threat, an aberration, to be expelled and destroyed - under the Code Duello if necessary. The political path, not least due to term limits, offered no great advancement.
Crime was the other traditional path - but with so few prohibitions, with people not prevented from defending themselves, with even duelling enshrined in the Constitution, this also failed. How can one build a narcotics empire when there is no law against drugs to artificially inflate street prices, when anyone can make what they want on their desktop fabber at home, and when cures for addiction were universally available at a low cost?
The two paths often crossed, in the past, politicians advancing prohibitions which would secretly make them enormous profits, but not anymore. The lessons had been learned and the descendants of those who had Escaped made sure no one ever forgot them. Bribes rarely worked, because those who offered them couldn't begin to accumulate enough to matter... and when inevitably found out, guilty parties were hunted down and executed. Threats and blackmail had little effect either, nor kidnapping to coerce family members - when even a pre-adolescent child might have a dagger and a compact pulse-laser, and the skills to use them.
Well, Tamura could start as the yakuza had: gambling. There were no laws against that either... if the games were honest. The Investigators Corps had a department which made sure they were. Gambling was one of the more heavily-regulated industries in Jeffersonian space. Which was not to say anything was "heavily regulated" in the Republic. That had been the whole point of the Escape.
That also was a thing Tamura Ken would have changed. People could not be trusted to do the right thing - as evidenced by his father's incorrect choice of successor. People needed to be told what to do, by the few who knew what was best.

Tamura did not need long to find the people he required. He had found them before, during his days in the Marine Corps. They did not, could not know him now... but he had learned a secret here, a trick there, a name, a connection. And, he had money. Plenty.
On the island of Hokkaido, the opposite end of the ancient nation of Japan from the little arms shop he had visited on arrival, he bought his way into a gambling den where he had lost money during shore leave years ago. Quickly he took over, promising increased profits to those susceptible to simple greed, threatening violence or ruin where necessary.
There was resistance. The owner of this first establishment did not want to sell. A month after Tamura's arrival, that man died in a tragic accident - an attempt to prepare the poisonous fugu at home. His heir had little interest in the business, and happily sold it to Tamura.
Business partners surfaced to protest, citing not contracts but generations of tradition and cooperation. One made the mistake of challenging Tamura to a duel, further erring in agreeing to record a waiver of criminal or civil liability - as Tamura already had - in case of his death. On the first stroke, Tamura's stolen Mitsuhira katana sliced through the other man's conventional blade and halfway through his torso. The man now known as Tamura Ken had hated, and murdered, his father... but he had learned from him the way of the sword.
Years and light-years away, Stefan the Usurper would be too narcissistic and cowardly to test himself against true opponents, until his last duel with Sir Bogdan Plebanek. Tamura may have been a thief and murderer, but he was no coward. The other man's blood had sprayed everywhere, even onto Tamura's new face. He tasted it, and felt a thrill he had never known before. He discovered that he liked to kill... and that killing up close, by his own hand, face to face with an armed opponent, was the greatest pleasure of all.
Far greater than when he had murdered his sleeping parents.
Most observers of the duel were horrified. Some... had different reactions. Tamura noted one in particular, who called himself simply Inagami. That man, pure Terran nihonjin, was an enforcer, a collector of debts for the man Tamura had just killed - openly contracted debts, within Jeffersonian law, whose limitations Inagami and Tamura both found frustrating. Now, Inagami bowed deeply... to his new daimyo.

With one gambling den to start, Tamura expanded, taking over competitors in whatever way was most efficient. Bribery and blackmail did work sometimes, and a few Investigators and Inspectors were in his pocket too, giving false reports about the honesty of his games.
Tamura sought more duels. Some were with the owners of the establishments he was taking over. Some of these he let live, minus a hand or arm, to spread word of his prowess. A hunger grew within him, a thirst for blood and other people's fear, for proof of his own superiority.
In two Terran years, Tamura had become the gambling oyabun of Old Nippon. Along the way, he had acquired a traditional Japanese wakizashi to accompany his father's katana - unknowingly preceding his brother in making a mismatched daisho. He also acquired the swordsmith who made the weapon, who shared Tamura's thoughts on what should be the proper order of the universe.
Inagami grew to become his most trusted follower and advisor.

Inagami, too, had a trusted subordinate, known as Sakami. This man was another pure nihonjin, and shared Inagami's and Tamura's prejudices against uchuujin and gaijin.
Sakami and Inagami had both been orphaned young. A private charity had taken them in, raised and educated them... but some people were simply born incapable of joining civilized society. A gang of like-twisted children had formed in the orphanage, preying on their fellows. Inagami quickly rose to leadership of the gang, Sakami as his second.
Their crimes, of property and violence both, did not go long undiscovered or unaddressed. There was no coddling in the Jeffersonian justice system: they were sent to a penal labor camp for juveniles. Some such inmates found rehabilitation, not least through the Exploration and Colonization Service, which was mostly the same as the Marine Corps Reserve. Others... didn't. More than half served their sentence, were released, committed another crime, and more often than not were killed in self-defense by their intended victims - the Jeffersonian way.
The gang had been split up, to separate institutions, to prevent them reorganizing - but for criminal minds, for people who always thought of cheating and stealing and harming others, corruption was a powerful tool. Before being separated, even before being caught, Inagami and Sakami had arranged ways to contact each other - anonymous Net accounts, alternate names, codes. Each in their own ways and places found weaknesses in their keepers, exploited them to regain Net access, to reestablish communication. Most of their fellow gangsters were likewise reunited and plotted a simultaneous escape.
There were no police in the Jeffersonian Republic, and the ancient islands of Japan were a part of that Republic. Alerts were issued, wanted posters; but there was little real pursuit. It was expected that the Jeffersonian way would solve the problem.
And so it did, for most of the gang. Robbery, rape, murder, usually failed in the attempt. Burglary too - under the Jeffersonian version of "castle doctrine", automatic defenses were allowed, sometimes including lethal force. One by one or sometimes more, the Orphanage Gang dissolved, ended by those they sought to victimize. After less than two Terran years, only Inagami and Sakami, the two most intelligent, survived.
As always, Inagami led and Sakami followed. They worked their way into what little organized crime remained on Terra, as couriers, then enforcers. Both had, nearly, "gone straight" as licensed debt collectors, under Republic law, for a gambling establishment in Hokkaido.
Both were in the room when Tamura Ken nearly bisected one of the business partners of the casino's previous owner. Inagami, quick on the uptake, bowed to his new lord. Sakami, overcoming shock and feeling it transform to delight, followed.

As historical yakuza had done, Tamura diversified. There was still poverty on Terra, especially in what had been called the Third World, and not least in various parts of Asia. Young women - and some men - were lured from their homes with promises of work and opportunity, then forced into prostitution. Prostitution was not illegal in the Republic, any more than gambling, but fraud and slavery were... and there were always people who would pay whatever was asked to do whatever they wanted. Many of the girls, and boys, were never seen again.
He also branched into shipping. Smuggling could be profitable, if done right. Since there were so few prohibitions in the Republic, drugrunning or gunrunning were not crimes - again, most people could build their own automatic plasma rifles, or Juice ampules, on the Class One fabbers to be found at any flea market or second-hand store, while cures for addiction could be had for a day's wages at any local clinic, except for a handful of genetic anomalies. But other nations had other laws, and things openly available in Republic space were highly illegal - and highly profitable - elsewhere.
Tamura bought ships, and shipping companies. Small companies, single or handfuls of ships. Shell corporations, false documents, untraceable transactions. Drugs and weapons, 'bots and 'puters and fabbers, and slaves, acquired through multiple cutouts in Republic space and beyond, were sold for enormous, prohibitionist, profits under other flags. Some of his customers were Nikar aristocrats. Some were Flike imperialists. Some were in the Glautak Consolidation. Some were Human.
Looking ahead, Tamura began moving his operations off Terra, though many of his victims still came from there. Hundreds signed up for "colony" expeditions, discovering their new masters, owners, users, when they awoke from suspension. Some actually did reach new colonies... finding themselves in insurmountable debt for the "charges" and "fees" they had "accrued" during the voyage.

Tamura had a weakness - an addiction. He now needed to kill.
He began attending underground death matches, with astronomical admission fees to handfuls of spectators who wagered more in an evening than most men earned in a year. Under Article VIII, Section 14 of the Republic's Constitution, these were not technically illegal, if all parties involved were consenting adults... but that was not always the case. Some were yakuza forced to participate to atone for errors, promised forgiveness if they won. Others were simply slaves, gladiators in ancient tradition but modern form.
In these contests Tamura wore a mask, and a stage name, Kuro-To - Black Sword. To further conceal his identity, he wore gloves on both hands to hide his prosthetic, contact lenses to change the shade of his eyes, coming and going from the secret arenas unobserved. He also used a different fighting style, and changed the mountings of his Mitsuhira blade as he moved between his secret worlds.
Without the knowledge of his vassals, using the same technologies Aurora would employ years later, Tamura commissioned a robotic duplicate of himself, not least as a decoy for those who wished to assassinate him. He - or his carefully programmed robot - was also known to invest in the secret death-match operation, and even to wager on the fighters... some of whom Tamura would select on one day, and Kuro-To would kill on the next. From his pet swordmaker, he commissioned a fake Mitsuhira katana, its profile matching the second such blade the Heretic ever created. The robot would wear the faux blade, to maintain the illusion of Tamura and Kuro-To being separate people, while Kuro-To would wield the genuine weapon - and with each kill, would heap dishonor on the father, and the name, Kazuo Nakayama hated.
These death matches were an indulgence, and a risk. Not of injury or death; even a lost limb could be replaced, by cloning or machines, and unlike Stefan, Tamura was confident in his skill - he was undoubtedly one of the best swordsmen on Terra. What he risked in these matches was discovery - Tamura's face was known to a select few, and if he were injured, DNA might reveal him as Kazuo Nakayama. Yet he persisted in the matches, without the knowledge of even his closest followers, who would have been horrified at his actions, and the risk to their criminal enterprises and profits.
Kuro-To's identity was never discovered. He always took precautions, using devices to deactivate surveillance when possible, simply avoiding it when necessary... but he did not know, and for many years would not discover, what a terrible mistake he had made when he first reached Terra, by revealing his personal symbol and family blade to someone who understood what he saw.
Only Inagami knew that Kuro-To was Tamura. None living could connect either name to Kazuo Nakayama.

Tamura now controlled a criminal empire employing thousands, stretching across light-years to a hundred worlds and more. He and his vassals trafficked drugs, weapons, technology and slaves throughout the explored galaxy. Tamura's personal fortune doubled, then tripled, over what he had stolen. Through multiple layers, most of which were not aware of the others, he began to dabble in politics, entertainment, news, to shape the opinions of society, to steer the Republic away from wasteful liberty and back toward efficient control.
Then, members of the Investigators Corps, with elements of the Forty-Third Legion, the Provincial Militia of Old Nippon, raided very nearly all his establishments in Japan at once.
They had spent most of a year gathering evidence and testimony, building a case sufficient to convince an Arbitrator to issue the search warrants. Republic judges were not like those in the former United States of America, who issued rubber-stamp or even blank warrants on nothing more than the word of a costumed government thug, hoping to find - or plant - evidence after the fact. As often as not those fishing expeditions were based on personal grudges, or political discrimination, but judges in the Jeffersonian system were held accountable to the Constitution. In the early days, particularly on New Texas, some had hung from the same scaffolds as their victims. Jeffersonian Arbitrators made sure a case was solid before issuing warrants or indictments, or the next one might name them.
Therefore, the case against Tamura's organization was, in legal terms, a "slam dunk". Most of Tamura's lieutenants were convicted of fraud and theft. Most of those were sentenced to penal indenture. Some, who could be proven guilty of murder, and of slavery, sexual or otherwise, were publicly hung or beheaded.
Tamura Ken escaped, as he had from his parents' home, in an untraceable vehicle, leaving flames behind. He'd had the foresight to conduct most of the operations at second- or third-hand, and to keep most of his accounts offworld, even under other flags. The Investigators Corps had his name, but not his face.
The setback was disappointing... but not unanticipated. Corrupt members of the Corps and the militia, in his employ, had given warning before making their own disappearances, as purges swept after them. Those of Tamura's organization who were captured or killed had served his purpose and were of no further use - especially if they were not intelligent enough to escape. The man known as Tamura managed to bring some of his most loyal, and capable, subordinates with him.
The highest of these was named Inagami.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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