“The booze is gone,” Eliza said as we were making the cake mix. “An’ you aren’t getting it back.”
“Ok,” I said.
“You’re taking this very well,” Eliza said suspiciously.
“That’s because now you have to decide an alternative,” I said. Eliza stared at me blankly. “You took away the booze so you have to think of something to do today.”
“Well,” Eliza said, “is the internet still on?”
“In a manner of speaking,” I said. “We have internet but the vast majority of sites are down. That includes all social media, Netflix, and YouTube. Even PirateBay is down, and the sites that are up have no one on them.”
“There’s some Dragon’s Teeth propaganda for about two hours a day. It’s static the rest of the time.”
“What about playing cards or board games?”
“Apparently, most of them got burned for warmth. The books as well.”
“How the fuck were you able to find all this booze, then?” Eliza asked.
“That’s the fun part,” I said. “It’s dangerous, but, judging from my little escapade last night, I think that may have been more of a feature than a bug.”
Eliza shook her head. “Bloody ‘ell, I’m gonna go crazy ‘ere instead of in Isolation.” She stood up. “At the very least, we’re gonna see if somethin’s on the telly. D’you reckon we’ll ‘ave to pay a license fee to the bastards?”
“At this point,” I said, “I think they’re trying to get everyone to watch TV at the set times. Some people seem to be protesting by refusing to watch.”
We stopped talking for a while. Suddenly, I heard something fain from outside the factory. Eliza did too. “Sounds like someone’s talkin’ over a microphone,” she said.
“Makes sense,” I said. “They’re probably trying to get people to watch TV.”
“Well,” Eliza said, “that’s what we’re going to do.”
I walked down to a ruined meeting room that hadn’t been used until the last battle, Eliza following. The door lock had been fused shut by a defender who had gotten a welder or some acid, so we walked through a hole the Teeth had so courteously blown in the wall with shaped charges. The TV had been right next to the hole and apart from a couple stray bullets to the screen, it was pretty much intact. The rest of the room, however, was a complete mess. The conference table and chairs were gone except for some splinters and scraps of fiber I’d missed, and the opposite wall had been turned from a calming blue canvas into Swiss cheese and stained a disturbing brown in places. Luckily, the smell of the massacre that had abated, instead leaving
“Well,” Eliza said, “Under normal circumstances this’d be sarcastic, but you’ve cleaned it up nicely.”
“Thanks,” I said. “That’s been one of the few things I can do here. And there’s a lot of work to do. A lot I can’t because, well, I saw it through the security system and I just keep reliving it.” I stared at the wall. “I have no way of cleaning blood and… other liquids. The Deets took all the cleaning supplies, so there’s a lot of stains. Luckily, the ground in this room was carpet and I could just rip it out.” After that task, I had almost been too mentally and emotionally exhausted to continue. Then, when I had left the blood and piss-soaked carpets and the wood boards that had held them in place just beyond the factory walls, I noticed that they had disappeared. Hoping it was because they had gone to a good cause, I did the same with all the ruined wood and carpet I could find.
We turned on the TV and sat down on the cold concrete. A Legionnaire spoke to us, his helmet off to reveal a rather Mediterranean complexion. “Civilians in the US-NE Precinct, welcome to the daily briefing. We now have the resources for daily broadcasting. Please tune in every day.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like that’ll work.” From what I could tell, for all our talk of being a proud nation, we US citizens hadn’t really taken up arms after being taken over. We’d been completely exhausted by the massive death and destruction. Instead, most had been relatively compliant with a growing amount of civil disobedience.
The announcer continued on. “In other news, multiple refugee convoys are making their way to this Precinct. We would prefer all convoys move East past the Appalachin Mountains. We have also increased automation thirty-three percent. Now all raw materials gathering positions have been automated. All other jobs except in the medical, law enforcement and instructional fields are being reduced to fifteen hours a week.”
“So what’s everyone else going to do?” Eliza asked. “From what it looked like, labor was the only thing most people were doing.”
“More importantly,” the announcer said, “this Precinct will be home to the first UN-Dragon’s Teeth Summit. In several week’s time, there will be an influx of UN humanitarian and security personnel. For those of you who are originally from a foreign country not under our control this will be your opportunity to leave.”
“Bet that got some attention,” I muttered.
“As you may have noted,” the announcer continued, “the docks in Boston have been under guard for several weeks now. This is where the security zone shall be located. Security will be split between Dragon’s Teeth warriors and UN Peacekeepers. Unarmed humanitarians and journalists and armed Peacekeepers will venture out with Dragon’s Teeth guards. They arrive in two weeks.” That was sooner than I expected and not something I’d heard about. News was traveling a lot slower, because I’d heard nothing about Boston docks having higher security. Of course, due to the fighting, the subsequent migrations, the Deet’s insistence no one live to close to the coast, and possible deliberate genocide, Boston had gone from a bustling city to a ghost town.
The announcer continued, “Commander Brosnan of the UN Security Force asks that you not make any contact with the UN unless asked.”
“Wait, Brosnan?” I asked. “One of the two people who sent me to die in NIU so a fucking Klansman could steal tech for them to sit on?”
“If it’s him,” Eliza said, “‘Ere’s ‘oping that Takashi died. Painfully.” Takashi and Craig were the two people who had recruited me to go to NIU for UNIX. One time in my second year at the college, almost two semesters after I was supposed to have died, Takashi had threatened me in front of Eliza and I (much to my regret) had to stop her from disemboweling him in the middle of a fancy restaurant.
As the announcer continued talking about the UN, I said, “Fuck, isn’t… wasn’t? UNIX based in France? Hell, does it still have enough members to exist at this point?”
“They’re fucking rats in UNIX,” Eliza said, “and the higher up they are, the better they are at getting off a sinking ship. I’m surprised Carter-Howell thought he could trust them.”
I thought about President Anthony Newton Carter-Howell of NIU. He seemed to have a problem with people stabbing him in the back. I wondered how much of that was his fault, and if the core founders of UNIX who’d graduated NIU had been as slippery before learning from him. Of course, before I’d been to NIU, I had never even touched a gun or even been in a real fight.
The announcer suddenly got my attention again. “And now for the list of public enemies. These people are dangerous and are clear and present threats to the peace we are working so hard to build.”
He seemed to be listing from least to most threatening. I saw several cops, soldiers, politicians, and activists from before the war. I noticed very few super heroes and villains were mentioned.
“Oh hey,” I said, “they didn’t list Jen. Have you heard anything about her?” Jennifer Kagemoto was a Jumper like Mayu. Before the war, she’d been high up in organized and costumed crime in New York and a fellow NIU student. She then fought with us in the last battle before we convinced her to teleport away.
“No,” Eliza said. “But they’re just about to tell us enemy number two, so there’s time yet.”
Instead, we saw a grainy picture of Mayu Nakashima shooting an elderly man in the head with a pink and black VP70 machine pistol. “Enemy number two is Mayu Nakashima,” the announcer said. “Before the war, she had killed multiple FBI and CIA agents. Now she is torturing former US intelligence and law enforcement agents and kidnapping and interrogating members of the Muslim and Latino population. She is also wanted in the deaths of multiple Dragon’s Teeth Warriors.”
“Wait,” Eliza said, “how the ‘ell’s she number two?”
“Took the words right out my-” I began. Then they showed the next picture.
“And number one,” the announcer said, “wanted for violations to disrupt the peace process, trafficking arms, and providing aid and comfort to Canadian and Mexican Special Forces, is former FBI Agent Connor George Hicks.”
“Well,” I said, looking at the craggy face of the man who had investigated me, “someone’s been busy.”