The following is fiction.
The young man walked into the Citizen's Arsenal not knowing what to expect. The majority of his interactions with the Citizen's Militia had been by mail or electronically, or at other events. He had taken up to be trained to use a weapon in his own defense, and purchased one for himself. At many points he had been asked if he was also going to be filling out the forms for the Citizen's Militia, but he had declined at each time as the bureaucracy had a faint odor of intrusion by the State. Yet, as he grew up, he also saw others having that question asked, and not all on firearms, but other arms or martial arts. Many martial arts trainers offered the Citizen's Militia certification and training, and it was hard not to pass by commercial establishments for all ages that offered that. That simple motto was in many places: Arms for the Common Man, Arms for the Common Defense. As he grew up he talked to friends who made no deal about getting the certifications, and the wearing of same. The small insignia, tiny in comparison to many of the military medals and commendations he had seen were always there, and his friends, he knew, were not 'Agents of the State'.
That changed when the Citizen's Militia opened their first Armory and offered something available to those who are certified by other Citizens: free weapons.
This was the exact opposite of how he expected a State Authoritarian group to act: what State seeking to undermine freedom and take over, lets an organ of that State arm people for free? There were terms and conditions and provisos, of course, lots of legal boilerplate, but this sparked an interest as it just seemed to fly in the face of all his ideas about the Citizen's Militia. It had started out small and anemic when he was a child, but grew quickly and spread, in some places like wildfire. The enticement, then, was free ammunition, free weapon maintenance, free replacement if the weapon had been destroyed and witnessed as being such or stolen and entered into the Militia Registry as stolen either by police or individuals with police warranted information. For antiques and historical arms long out of production, insurance was offered at a very reasonable rate, and if a similar weapon had been donated to the Citizen's Militia then anyone who had an item stolen or destroyed could take that similar weapon in lieu of cash payment. Many did and the insurance rates dropped further.
Yes you had to expend ammunition or consumables at Citizen's Ranges or for other certified reasons, like self-defense or home defense or family defense or property defense. He was amazed when he learned that individuals with dart guns, blow dart staffs, crossbows, bows, and even exotic arms that were 'consumable' being distance weapons and suffering from use were included under this. Still, for all the people who joined, it was the quietest organization around, which gave it mystery, intrigue and the nasty feeling that they were, somehow, going to come and 'get you'.
The Arsenals were not imposing buildings, although they often required a decent open space to have a firing range, and the Citizen's Militia actively requisitioned land from 'superfund' sites and signed off on clean up of them for the free land. Money was being expended and it wasn't by the State, who had an anemic budget for the group as, lets face it, ammunition is cheap. A few millions of dollars in a multi-billion dollar budget gets lost. And then there were free weapons. Couple that with free ammunition, or in-kind cash reimbursement, and suddenly even poor people, those without money to spend for more than cleaning... and the Citizen's Militia took care of that, too, didn't they? No conspiracy theory could cover this as it was the exact opposite of a conspiracy.
That meant, to see what was going on, to spend some time and actually certify a weapon and his training, which was an e-form to fill out, and then enter in any contests he had been in or events run as certified events. He did so and it put him into a number of basic categories, but one was a bit different, as he had never expected his science fiction interests at conventions to show up, and yet there was one demonstration he took part in with some really outlandish piece of Logan's Run paraphernalia that boggled his mind: DS Sandman Gun. That was a joke, right? It was just an air gun to give kick to it while it launched a small cylinder downrange and was absolutely harmless. He couldn't resist and checked it off as he had been there and had taken part and even had some paper from the person running the event stuffed in a box someplace. That was not a serious weapon and yet here it was, in the system and beyond his normal pistol he had just gained a second. He had placed third at the convention, had some really tiny patch handed to him and was thanked for his participation. That half-hour had put him in the unlikely category of Skilled User, and when he checked off the weapon the even stranger one of Marksman had shown up. That must be a joke.
After that the system informed him that if he wanted to requisition Arms or seek a voucher or other payment for consumables, that this was done either via certified mail or in-person at a Citizen's Militia site. The new Arsenal was close, and could provide direct hand-over of consumables. That saw him walking up to the building once he had gotten all his certificates, insignia, sigils and other items from the Militia.
He walked up to the desk, and saw an older woman studiously working at a terminal. It was the Information Desk, located in the tiny lobby. She looked up.
"May I help you?"
"Ahhh... yes, I'm here for consumables."
"That is the hallway to the left in the Records and Requisitions office, R&R you can't miss it."
"Thank you, Ma'am."
"Very welcome, and do have a good time."
It was a slack mid-afternoon, with some people moving down a hall towards the clearly indicated Range & Testing Area. He went down the other hallway and found the door to R&R open. It was an office that had exactly two people at it, both sharing what looked to be a pretty battered dual workstation arrangement with old office chairs. There was a rack of forms on the left as he came in, but one of the two people, a middle aged man at one of the desks, looked up.
"May I help you, sir?"
"Ah, yes, I'm here to requisition some ammo for my gun and see about a misfiling about one of my skills."
"A misfiling? Well you are at the right place! Pull up a chair and lets see about this. If you have your Militia Card we can get right to start on things."
He dug out his wallet and handed over the card, laminated, magnetic strip on the back, digital encoding splotch on a small part of the front, and simple name and address. The man ran the card through an integrated swiping mechanism on the keyboard and handed it back.
"Ah, yes, new member! Welcome to the Militia! Would you like a picture ID, good for all State Required Positive ID happenings? My partner can take your picture if you like, we do have a donated digital camera for that."
"Yes, we live by donations and charitable giving, fully in accordance with all State and Federal Laws."
"This is a charity?" the young man asked, his mind boggling.
"Giving to help fellow citizens protect themselves and society is a great boon to us all. That is the definition of a charity, isn't it?"
The young man had never really stopped to consider just how the organization was funded. This was... a charity. That hands out weapons?
"But all of this," he said, "who pays for it?"
"We have a full and accountable list of donors above the $50 range upwards as a database available on-line or at any of our offices. We have received generous donations from armament corporations, hunting organizations, numerous small training groups, and, of course, our largest donor base is that of people freely giving to us or making us the beneficiaries in their wills. Really, we have been blessed by a generous people wanting to defend themselves responsibly."
The young man looked around at the room and realized the actual, battered condition of much of the furniture and equipment. The floor was old fashioned linoleum, the chairs, while functional were well worn, the overhead lighting was muted but low. In fact the only modern areas he had seen beyond the outside was an area that looked like a Post Office Box room: that was bright and shining new, as well as the doors and windows there.
"All of this was donated?"
"Oh, yes! Or purchased at low cost via wholesale or odd-lots auctions."
"Are you paid for working here?" the young man asked, still not getting the concept.
"This is a volunteer staff position, for which I have turned down medical and health benefits getting those from private concerns in my life. I have some spare time during the week to pitch-in and I do so, helping people like you in our responsibility as Citizens to ourselves and society. Now, what is the nature of the problem?"
"I, uh, when I signed up I didn't realize that an afternoon spent with a science fiction weapon at a convention would actually be, uhh, on record."
"Dear, me! Let me pull up the records. That really is most odd, yet the Exotics & New categories are somewhat looser as they have very few practitioners. Now, lets see... that would be the DS Sandman Gun, correct?"
"Yes, how could that... uhh... I mean one afternoon and getting to be a Skilled User?"
"Yes, that is odd, still let me call up the records. Hmmmmm... need to cross-reference it as it isn't all that normal. Lets see, from the requirements. Did you place 10 rounds on target in under one minute at a range not less than 50 yards?"
He thought back to the outdoor demonstration. "Yes, I did."
"Good! Did you place a minimum of 3 out of 10 rounds on target at 75 yards?"
"Yes, I did," and was beaten by two people, one getting 5 and the other getting 7. He considered 3 very lucky and the 4th was sheer luck.
"Well, no, I mean I didn't consider it to be a real weapon. It was shooting non-lethal ammunition."
The man looked at the screen.
"Yes, Target Slugs, Safe for Demonstration and Qualification."
"I guess thats it, yes. Thats an actual, real weapon?"
"Yes it is, our Militia has received a donation of 5 such weapons from a manufacturer for the 'Expansion and Popularization' of them. As it is a multi-purpose weapon having multiple sub-categories of ammunition and supply, the makers of those are more than glad to sell to the Militia. We currently have 10 categories of non-lethal loads and 17 of lethal loads on record for it. It really is an Exotic Weapon! Can't say I've seen anything like it outside of a regular grenade launcher and even those tend to focus around a lower number of sub-munitions. It is, actually, a form of allowable, personal protection projectile launcher, but its sub-munitions too small to be considered Military."
"Wow! I had never guessed," said the young man.
"Would you like one?"
"What? A DS Sandman Gun?"
"Yes, we have one for display as a Modern Exotic Weapon and the other 4 are available for Citizen use. It suffers many of the same restrictions as Modern Shotguns for hunting use, and being over-sized pistol as part of its specification it does not qualify for a Concealed Carry, although you could try, I suppose, if you had a permit from the State. It has limited loads for hunting season, but is fully allowed with those loads for legal game. Some loads are restricted to... ahhh... just a moment... yes, there are restricted loads for normal Civilian use, but one can qualify for Militia use for Training and Times of Danger, but they have restricted use otherwise, being explosive in nature."
"Yes, the Nitro, FAE and Thermobaric rounds all have delimited Civilian use. Although a Master User can requisition those with suitable other State and Federal documents."
The young man didn't know what to say.
"On the Civilian, Lethal side there are standard slugs, shot, delayed-shot, flechette, and full-burning tracer. "
"All of that from one gun?" the young man asked.
"Yes, the practitioners have moved away from the original ethos and now have a credo that goes with it: the right round for the right time. Actually, that sounds pretty interesting. But then all arms do, to me."
"And I can get the gun and the ammo here?"
The man looked at the screen.
"Yes we have many loads available. You will be the first to requisition any of them! All manufacturer certified."
"How do I do that?"
The older man looked at the younger, "On the rack is a CR-215 for the weapon and the CA-12 for the ammunition, although you may have to use the look-up for it on my screen as you are out of familiarity with the weapon."
The young man stood up, picked up the paper forms and filled them, then asked to look at the screen.
"Those items in red are restricted, all the others are general use, those with asterisks have allowable hunting use. The Militia requisition per load type is 6 rounds each. You can purchase more on your own for pleasure use. The gun comes with its own cleaning kit and documentation. The gun is yours to keep for your lifetime, but reverts back to the Militia upon your demise. If you move and the destination State has a Militia, they will receive it. If they don't, then it reverts to our Militia. We have a monthly cleaning service available, in case you need it."
The young man was writing down numbers and placing the amount requisitioned for each at 6. He handed the paperwork over.
"Do you have a photo ID? We have your Militia ID which would dual-serve if you wanted it to be upgraded to a photo ID."
"I think I want that," said the young man.
"Most Citizens do, once they join. Linda, would you please take the man's picture?"
"Sure, Henry! Sir? We have a nice wall with blue paper on it there. If you would like to walk over, I'll take your picture."
He stood up, walked over and had his picture taken. Linda checked it and downloaded it, composited it and then entered it in the system.
"It'll be a few minutes for the card to process through, but you are in the system with it, now, thank you."
He sat down again and the older man, Henry, waited for a label printer to spit out some adhesive labels. He attached those to a blank sheet, signed it and stamped all three sheets. As he was doing so, Linda handed him a card from her desk. It was still warm and was larger than his previous card so that his face could be featured on it, along with various seals and digital along and the mag stripe on the back.
"Keep the old one in case you lose this, and we will generate a new one for you."
Henry finished his writing, filed the original sheets into a basket and handed over a clipboard with a stack of sheets on it.
"Now, these are to show you understand the limitations on the consumables to be spent on Militia Range Training, Official Demonstrations or other Events, warranted defense, or via hunting for the appropriate rounds. You may purchase your own consumables for pleasure purposes at other times. As this is a requisitioned weapon, you also agree to all stipulations which will over-ride all Wills, Codiciles or other legal arrangements and, further, that you will not transport this weapon outside of the United States, save for Militia Authorized Use. Sign and date where indicated."
This routine the young man knew all too well, and he started signing and dating the papers which were not the tightly packed font he expected. Some reading here and there made it plain that he was responsible for the use of all rounds from this weapon and that the rounds, themselves had restrictions. He handed the clipboard back,and the man handed over a printed sheet with his signature on it.
"Take that to the Vault Officer and he will get you what you need. Basement level, stairs at the end of the corridor, elevator in the lobby."
He picked up the sheet.
"Yes, sir, that's it. Give Charlie your ID with the paper and enjoy your new weapon."
He stood up and shook hands with Henry and Linda, walking in a daze down the hall to the stairwell, opening the door and going down to the cooler basement. He did hear some dull thudding of people firing at the Range. He opened the door to the basement and saw the sign with Vault and an arrow pointing to the right. He reached a half door with the upper half swung open looking into a small room. An elderly gentleman was sitting at a desk looking at his workstation monitor and filling in forms. The bell at the door said 'Ring for Service' and a smaller scrawl under it said 'Speak, up!'. He rung the bell and the man looked up, perched his glasses up his nose and looked up.
"Yes, how may I help you?"
A number of dull thuds from down the hull were heard as he tried to speak, holding up his paper and ID.
The older man nodded, stood up and came to the door.
"Yup! R&R forms. Lets see... Exotic? Well thats different, all right. Say, wanna look at the Vault while I try to figure out where this stuff is hidden?"
"You mean I can come in?"
"Sure! Once through is mostly enough for newbies, so might as well get it out of the way while I try to figure just where in the hell this stuff is," he opened the door, "come on in, I'll show you around."
The young man followed the older.
"On the left are the cleaning and loading rooms, both sealed and vented, plus a pretty nice ultrasound cleaner for drop-ins after range time, just grab a cuppa and a donut and watch the tube or hit the net and come back and its all cleaned for you. Loading costs by round and type, mostly for the popular firearms with exacting loads, normal rounds are free if they are Militia rounds. Exotics we have to order. Follow me through the door in the back."
He swiped his key on the door and punched a number on a keypad and it clicked open, the young man followed him and the door closed. It was dimly lit and the man repeated that at a second door which slowly swung upon.
"Come on in, and welcome to the Vault."
They were on a metal platform over looking a huge room nearly a floor under them. Small air vents slowly circulated the air, and there was a an array of upright chests, holders, locked storage cabinets, benches, top opening chests... and they stretched a long ways.
"This is huge!"
"Yup! All those pillars support the building over us. It is a regional Citizen's Armory and I think they got it right. Feel free to wander, its all locked up and safe. You can start with Antiques way over to the right, then work up through Ancient, which doesn't have all that much right now, Pre-Modern, Near Modern, Modern, then way over on the left is Exotics, Uniques, and 'What the hell is it?' categories. More or less, and I argue with Druce over about half of it and where it should be. Consumables are way in the back for firearms, way in the front under the stairs for non-firearms. Have fun and look around!"
Charlie walked down the platform stairs and to the main level. At the first platform was the indicated Consumables, Non-Firearms that was mostly clear cases of arrows, bolts, darts, javelins,throwing stars, metal discs, axes, boomerangs, and a really starling assortment of things like spears. All were under glass and a large number were on glass fronts of upright storage containers that obviously had a lot of the represented items in them.
The lower room had no fewer than 15 rows each about 3 ranks long, but many were uneven with flat storage containers replacing the uprights. He walked over to one of the close Modern weapons and saw a full rank devoted to 1911A1. He lost count after 6 upright racks. Then he hit the 1911 Foreign, 1911 Seconds, 1911 Customs, 1911 Uniques and then the next aisle over was 1911 Derivatives. Rank upon rank upon rank of pistols that all looked the same, more or less. He wandered over into the Near Modern and looked at the Black Powder and Cap and Ball area of pistols and rifles and shotguns. This place was huge, and while there was open space in many of the aisles, others were full. When he got back to the yellow safety containers he saw Charlie scratching his head.
"Nope, Druce moved them from Exotics. Ok, if I thought like she did, where would I put those? Well, she is always stuffing stuff into the Regulated containers that don't belong there, so might as well start there." He was holding a black, plastic case that had the futuristic letterings of Sandman Pistol on the side. "Betchya a ten-spot she shoved it in with the Grenade Launcher stuff. Be just like her." He headed over to a set of green and orange storage containers along the far right wall. He walked three cabinets over, swiped his ID and put a key into the lock and opened the container.
"There it is, all mixed up. Say, can you get me a cart over by the Ancient area? I have to sort out the Restricted rounds and un-mix them."
The young man nodded and got the cart and rolled it back over.
"Much obliged!" He started piling case upon case out of the container, then took out a set of orange press-on tabs and put it on those in the container. Then turned and put blue ones on the ones in the cart. "There, that'll keep her from deciding to re-arrange them. Lets get back over to the Exotics. Say, this stuff comes with an equipment bag, one per gun but that got shoved over here. Want it?"
"Uh, sure, if it comes with the gun."
"Yours to keep, we don't track that stuff," he put the bag on the cart, then closed and locked the container, "follow me to Exotics and lets get your order done." He walked slowly back to the end of the rows and down them to the other end of the room and opened the Exotics Consumables chest which was all orange. He took four of each of the boxes, and stacked them on a mid-level shelf side-by-side, leaving one of each box on the cart. When he was finished he closed and locked the container, "Come on topside and we can get you kitted." He placed all the items into a plastic box and carried that as he walked down the aisle. Soon they were on the stairs, through the airlock and into the upper room.
"Ok, got it all for ya. Take a seat," he said putting the box on the floor and sitting behind the desk, then checked his clipboard and entered in items, swiped his card, the young man's card and then handed the card back to the young man.
"Right, first on DS Sandman Gun, Exotic, cased, with two magazines," he put it on the desk and opened it for the young man. It was a foam lined case with the gun, two magazines, number of small metal bottles, small tool kit, instructions, padlock, sights rail and flaring adapter.
"Next, one DS Sandman Gun Cleaning Kit, cased," he put a thin plastic case and opened it to an array of brushes, tubes, mops, handles, rods, and small containers of various fluids.
"Ammo next. Direct slug, box;" he started placing boxes on the desk, they were not large, "Full Burn Tracer, box; Sabot, box; Buckshot, box; Birdshot, box; Stun Bag, box; Net, box; Flechette, Plastic, box; Flechette, Metal, box; Segmented, box; Training, box; Foam, box; Nightarc, box; Bangshot, box; Multi-Pulsed, box; Smoke, box; Screech, box; Drop Sight, box; and last is Recharge, box." The man looked at the pile of boxes, "Just what in the hell is this thing, anyways?"
"I, uh, actually haven't used one in ten years or so. I think some people have gone overboard with it."
"You and me, both! Lets see, plug-in compressor and foot compressor, boxed, one each. Firearms conversion kit, boxed, one. And the carrying bag, freebie, yours from the OEM. Sign on the line with your name, date it and do check to make sure there are 6 shells in each ammo box and that all the rest is there."
The young man opened the satchel, and found a web belt and carrying strap, plus a couple of plastic containers that obviously fit on either.
"Handy, that, ammo boxes to boot!
The he started the process of sorting through the material, starting with the gun box. The oversight and maintenance booklet was 'DS Sandman Gun - The thoughtful weapon's system', then the DS logo and 'The Right Round for the Right Time'. He put the gun aside and checked the cleaning kit, compressors, conversion kit, then went through each of the ammo boxes each had a slightly different color to them, and some clearly warned that they needed the conversion kit. Apparently there were 'purists' in this realm, and some didn't want anything to do with the firearms version, and the shells were clearly distinguishable. It appeared that the air system was used for venting in both the conversion and the original, in this case clearing out exhaust gases after firing. That had to be a nasty thing to make, considering the pressures involved. As he put things in he checked off the boxes, signed his name and dated the paperwork.
"Ok, thats that! Have fun and remember not all of those are indoor range allowable."
"I will, thank you," he stood up and hefted the satchel, "thank you for everything."
"My pleasure! Have fun and remember free cleaning for the gun if you need it."
"I will, this is amazing."
"Really, why's that?"
"You just handed me a free gun with lots of ammunition."
"Yup. That's your right, as the Militia sees it, if we can supply you. To protect yourself, your family and society in times of danger. And your responsibility, too. Come back for more ammo when you need it, remember to use it properly and buy your own if you want."
"Yes... I... yes... thank you," he stood up and went to the door.
"Range is on your left if you can find an open lane. Half-hour free per day, first come, first serve then pay by the hour if you need it. You can buy weekly annual range time if you need it, half-hour wait at most."
Stunned the young man passed the range area and realized that it also covered a good section of the area the building was on. Only a few people were at it. He decided to go home and see just what the hell it was he had been given, as he really had no idea. He had forgotten to ask for a .45 1911, but knew he could get one of those any time he wanted here. Apparently they had a lot of donations of it. And, who knows, the DS Sandman Gun was oversized, yes, but... hmmmm... yes he would have to think about it.
As he walked up the stairs and then to the lobby and walked out he realized that if this was a conspiracy, it was one that would keep him armed for life.
That was a conspiracy he could enjoy.