Increasing tensions in Megalopolis have led to several nights of violence and rioting in the destitute neighborhoods of the city nation. While disturbances have occurred throughout the city, most of the violence has been found in Gamma Sector. The poorest of the sectors, Gamma has long been known as a crime-ridden haven for underworld figures and the notorious “Next Step” movement.
In Megalopolis it is possible and often desirable to travel the city without once stepping foot on the streets. Catwalks, elevated hover-trains, and elevated roadways ensure that many never have to reach “street level,” a euphemism that is synonymous with drugs, prostitution, thieves, and derelicts. Indeed, the more wealthy and influential the person, the higher up they live in this city of skyscrapers. It is no wonder then that the worst of the violence happens far below these buildings dizzying heights.
Last Tuesday, it was on the street corner of 13,026th Street and Grendel Road that four demonstrators were killed by government security forces.
“They wasn’t doing nothin’,” said a witness, who goes by the name Jolly Juno. “They was standin’ there singin’ songs and chantin’ when the cops come up on ‘em. They told the kids to go way. They was ‘disturbin’ the peace’ or whatever. Them kids started singin’ louder. Next thing you know, them rifles come up and they start blastin’ ‘em! Shootin’ right into ‘em. They was just kids!”
When the shooting ended, three people lay dead. A fourth person died two hours later when she was taken off of life support. She, like most of the others injured in the event, had no insurance, and with the severity of her wounds, protocol demanded that she be allowed to expire. All four individuals ranged in age from sixteen to twenty-four. There were numerous non-fatal injuries in the crowd, including severed limbs from plasma rifles cutting and cauterizing the struck extremities.
Official reports recite an entirely different scene. When asked about the case, Watch Commander Louis Staal said, “Officers were dispatched to the scene after a call came in about disorderly conduct. When our officers arrived they were confronted by a riot situation. The perpetrators began to throw rocks and bottles. Our officer’s attempts to disperse the crowd peacefully were thwarted by a second group carrying the flag of the terrorist group, ‘the Next Step.’
“Realizing the danger, the police raised their rifles and one of our officers fired a warning shot over the heads of the rioters. One of the hooligans returned fire and so our officers were forced to fire in earnest. Aiming only at the most dangerous members of the rioting group, the officers neutralized several of the targets. Along with the four terrorists, we were also able to make a dozen arrests, ridding the citizens of Megalopolis of these dangerous malcontents.”
When asking the eye witness about this statement, Ms Juno scoffed. “Secon’ group rioters my ass! Them was just some kids comin’ out of June Bug’s Lounge. Weren’t no rioting but what them police did. Weren’t no rioters! Weren’t no Next Steppers neither. Wish they was though. Would have shown them screws what fo’!”
Though the Next Step Movement has been branded as a terrorist organization by the Megalopolis government, it has gained the respect and support of many of the city-nation’s poor. Seen as a “Robin Hood” figure by many, the movement is as secretive as it is organized. The group is best known for its attacks on businesses that form what they consider to be an Oligarchy.
Attacks on such institutions as Gen-e-Tech LLC and Divine Technology Associates, Inc. have garnered the fear of the elite as well as the approval of the dispossessed. Their hour-long take-over of Thornton Media Group was perhaps their best-known coup. During that time they broadcasted numerous clips of high-profile professionals and government officials interacting in illegal, immoral, and unethical activities. While many of these scenes were dismissed as staged, falsified, or taken out of context, many others could not be disregarded so easily. Several arrests of low-level government and business officials did occur over a year ago, but trials are still pending.
Meanwhile, demonstrations and protests have continued to crop up across Megalopolis and have even begun to spread. Many of these disturbances have turned violent as protestors and police have clashed. Each side blames the other and the middle ground is quickly turning into a no-man’s-land. Given the increased rhetoric, it is likely that the violence will worsen in the days and years to come.