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January 2036...

Paul Mathew was calling up to his wife, Susan.  She was still looking out of the bedroom window, looking down at the pavement that lined her small Northcroft suburban street in Ruislip in a dark late February evening.  There were the usual stragglers, drifting home late from Ruislip Manor station, which was less than a mile down the road.  Nothing unusual to see, but she was always disturbed, a bit subdued, always on guard these days.

“Are you coming down dear”, it’s getting a bit late for dinner…”

A few moments after his cajoling, there was a load whirring followed by a large dull thud and more distant thuds like a large padded sledge hammer hitting walls…Paul was vaguely aware of a strange odour and then stinging in his eyes.   He turned, tripped and then fell headlong to the floor.  He was conscious, aware of more noise and banging, and then of being moved about, turned to and fro, he was unable to see or move himself, he thought of his Susan, hoping she was alright and he knew it was them.

Two shrill whistles meant that the car keys had been located, a minute later, three more whistles and the Marauders were departing through the shattered remains of the large front window from which they came.  Four dark clothed shapes carrying large bags stuffed with valuables, Paul’s wallet, Susan’s purse, her jewellery, canned and frozen food plus anything small, useful and valuable.  They took both vehicles, one a nice newish Range Rover, Paul had been a well established accountant in his day.

The cars streamed from almost fifty other houses, each filing into the road with military precision.  The first  were exactly abandoned at road junctions, completely blocking the arrival of other vehicles, the cars were disabled simply by having their tyres quickly cut by the powerful cordless angle grinders, the stock-in-trade tool of the Marauders.

Just as quickly as they came through the windows, the Marauders fled using their pre-planned routes.  Google maps providing a constant view of any congestion, their constantly updated ‘plod’ app telling them exactly where the Police vehicles were coming from.  Adjusting their routes adding a few more abandoned vehicles, blocking the way of the police cars to their chosen escape roads.

They dispersed on time, most of the cars being dumped unceremoniously, a few stopping to change registration plates, plant the tracker jammers before being driven to metal lined garages for the network of ‘dealers’ who would later export them or break them for spares.

This was almost achieved by the time Paul had regained his senses.  He knew what had happened.  He was almost relived that it had not been worse and they would not be targeted for quite a while again.  Then he found Susan, her neck at a jarred angle, her left leg lying up the first steps of the stairs.  She was quite still and very dead.

The first Marauding event occurred in Birmingham.  At the time it was not that alarming, just a local group, many thought it was almost certainly ‘travellers’ that had arrived on mass and attacked houses in a well off suburban district near Old Trafford.  The police were much more alarmed.  Not a single lead, no arrests, little to no forensics at any of the break-ins.  No-one was unduly harmed, some brave householders disabled with stingers, but little damage was done apart from the front windows or doors that had all being taken out in seconds using angle grinders.  The main struts cut top and bottom and the whole lot pushed in.  Tests had shown that this could be done in under 10 seconds with two grinders.  The really interesting device was a home made bake-bean canister containing remnants of a narcotic mixed with some sort of tear gas mixture along with some low level firework explosive.

And the Marauders had just disappeared into the night. The stolen vehicles were more than obvious, a few also disappeared without trace.  Not to be seen or heard of again until the next identical raid on another Manchester up-market estate.  The police were alarmed, they knew that this was a well worked attack, they knew that it was not travellers but a group using the available mobile technology to better effect than they could achieve.  They were miles ahead of the police network and the police knew it.  They kept schtum. 

The online media were not at all slow in picking up the pieces.  Soon the western world knew that it had a new problem to add to the low wage ‘uba’ economy, the many overloaded on to the streets sleeping rough and the many who had no work at all.  The last few years had seen a rush to automate, kicked onwards by the Labour government’s lauded twenty pound minimum wage. Everything from driverless vehicles, apps that could provide nearly all legal advice and automated accounting.   Automated shopping and automated fast food replaced the last of the high street shops.  The driverless revolution was the final nail in the coffin for the supermarkets, they simple could not compete with the Lidl’s of the world investing in massive automatic warehouses and driverless delivery into the householder secure RoboBox that stood century at the end of the driveway awaiting patiently for the next free delivery.   For those less fortunate, not able to afford their own RoboBox, there was the communal drop-off point funded by Lidl with a much lower delivery charge than the very expensive door to door personal delivery.

The RoboBox was soon re-named the ‘pension box’.  And the targets of the Marauders were often directly in line with those streets having large numbers of pen boxes.  They stood out like a sore thumb.   Like every good idea that found a way to improve the lot of the have-not’s the Marauders gained ground quickly.  The look alike groups sprang up in every major city in the UK, targeting the pen box areas and making off with their ill gotten gains.  Fuelled directly by the millennium’s who were both lost and underpaid but app savvy.  They shared the knowledge via their encrypted apps, creating a new form of the history old ways where the few preyed on the many settlers.  But unlike in Alfred-the-Great’s time, there was no Uhtred to build the palisades (that defended against the Vikings) - there was no way to defend the many estates that were prey to the Marauders.

The police were at a loss.  The Marauders arrived by public transport, often several hundred drifting in, dressed to meld into the local environment, carrying hand bags and briefcases, they looked like all the other commuters coming home.  Always at night, by the time the police had been notified, the Marauders were on their way home, to the lesser areas of the cities, with their food and money to lift their families often from the depths of despair.

The police were caught in a trap, they could not arrest the many potential Marauders as they lived in ‘normal’ households and they had very little group evidence.  They tried to infiltrate the groups but found each group was distinct and used the well worn defence of small cells, linking anonymously through private apps to co-ordinate every part of the Marauding process. The Marauders simply melted away into there local communities and were just a little better off than before.  It was seen almost as fair game, the lot who had trashed the planet and who still had their wealth were ripe for the picking.  The Marauders wished the pens no harm, they took little in comparison to the pens overall wealth.

The few arrests were no deterrent.  The police advice was to keep the car keys on a hook and not to challenge the Marauders, wait for the police to arrive and provide as much evidence as possible.  The many local defence groups that sprang up tried to do something, but their attempts were always overwhelmed by the numbers of Marauders, the Marauder spies often knew exactly where the defence group members lived and disabled their homes before they could get out on to the streets on mass.  The frequency of attack was low, the ability to mount a large defence group day after day was discouraging and often failed.  Occasionally, the Marauders found that there was a defence group in force on the ground, the Marauders just slunk away the way that had arrived, no-one knew they had even been there.

The insurance companies soon all stated that these co-ordinated attacks were 'acts of rebellion' and therefore outside the scope of any claim.

The political backlash was profound.  The pens voiced their political outrage.  They demanded defence or change, they demanded whatever was necessary to rid themselves of the Marauders.  And they got it.  The Labour government ushered in the life share statutory wage.  The country breathed again, the families of the forgotten millennium middle classes had at least a living statutory wage whether working or not. 

Happily, this change created a massive increase in the UK’s overall wealth as the additional money in circulation (created initially by Quantative Easing), founded new structures in local communities. The newly built comradeship and common ground from the Marauders created the desire to create community based projects, everything from local education groups to new creative ventures making, building and mending.

The world turned, the UK had shown a new way forward.




The Marauders...

When CST started this ‘Black Mirror’ concept, we thought it was a playful consideration of an unlikely dark future.  Now, we are not so sure, perhaps the future darkness will reveal itself as something we all learn to fear?

...Just last year, the Mathew's were becoming vaguely aware of a movement that was to become a threat to the very basics of their society.   

Everyone was waiting, and waiting…