The Seventy-Niners. (last update: 6/24)

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The Seventy-Niners. (last update: 6/24)

Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-08 08:01pm

(This is a departure from what I usually write, and it's work that I'm writing here first, and for my own consumption second. If they seem brief, it's because that is my intention. Let me know what you think?)

One

The blast separated Tyrone from his horse, hurtling him through the air. This wasn't entirely accurate, for the blast wasn't all the big. And the only one who'd separated him from his horse . . . was his horse. None of that, though, was on his mind. What was on his mind was What the fuck! Choicer words came to mind an instant later, as he made hard contact with the desert scrub, his horse galloping off.

Already, he was scrambling to his feet, clutching his hat to his head. He half-sprinted, half-stumbled toward a small, steep-sided gully to his left, and away from the outcrop of rock and brush where the pendejo who threw that cherry bomb was likely hiding.

As he leapt into the gully, tumbling into the soft sand, he reflected that he was going to miss that stupid horse. Not because it was a very good horse; the fact that his ass had just been intimately acquainted with the rocky Arizona desert was ample proof of that. It was mainly because the horse was running off with his God-be-damned rifle, leaving him alone with some no-good pendejo.

There was a crackling, echoing chatter and sun-baked clay rained down on him.

"Shit," he snarled, under his breath. He struggled up the gully, to a bend choked with debris. If he stayed down there, the most anybody would ever see of him again would be a few coyote-picked, bleached, bones. There was more cracking, his assailant had a semi-automatic rifle.

Tyrone clawed at the holster at his side, snatching his Glock free. It was his granddad's Glock, seventy-five years old and made back in the days when they didn't cost six months wages, nor were built in France by Pan-Islamic Socialists. He dove behind the brush, squeezing the trigger, and his dusty derelict sent a few shots back in the direction of the rifle-fire, immediately sprinting in the direction of gentler slopes.

He struggled up the embankment, cactus spines ripping at his shirt and skin, sandy soil threatening to pull him down again. He made it to the top, and was off at a dead run for an outcrop of boulders, pausing for only the briefest of moments to consider the irony in that statement.

Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed his assailant. He looked tanned, and the bulk of his upper body fairly screamed I'm wearing body armor!

"Fuck me," Tyrone growled. As if in reply, his assailant opened fire again. There was a moment of sphincter-clenching terror as a near-miss tugged at his hat, followed by a thunderous silence.

He wheeled around, his side slamming into the boulder. He caught sight of his assailant, who was standing out in the open, gazing stupidly at the stovepiped shell in his rifle's breech. His Glock came up at the same time he caught his breath, and he opened fire. His assailant staggered back, dropping his rifle. He dropped his aim, and blood blossomed down the front of his assailant's trousers.

The silence that followed was broken only by his own labored breathing and thundering heart. His Glock's slide was locked back, but his assailant was down, bleeding onto the Arizona desert. He slammed home a fresh magazine, hurrying over to his assailant's side. That damned firefight was could probably be heard all the way down in Mexico and he wasn't going to bet that the pendejo didn't have friends. Cattle rustlers never worked alone.

The barrel of his pistol was aimed squarely at the man's face. His assailant was gasping for breath, already looking pale. He wouldn't have long.

"Where the hell are your friends," Tyrone growled. The tanned man looked up at him, a sneer coming to his face.

"Fuck you, nigger."

"Shit, what are you doing so far west," Tyrone swore, looking at his assailant again. He wasn't Mexican. He was white, just deeply tanned. That made him from the drought-ravaged wreckage of the deep South.

Just then, he recovered from the shock of recognition, but it was too late. His assailant had closed his eyes and only the ravens would open them again.

"Shit, shit, shit," he swore. He pulled open the dead man's vest, frisking him for a wallet, something that'd identify him. All he found was a faded, hand-written letter, which he shoved into his pocket, and a wad of cash . . . near-worthless greenbacks. He definitely wasn't Mexican.

He scooped up the man's rifle, and the spare magazines the man had on his belt. It was a beat-up old Ruger Mini-Thirty . . . just like the one his horse had run off with . . . just like the one his partner on this God-be-damned cattle drive carried.

He took a few unsteady steps back, sitting down on a boulder, his body starting to painfully remind him that he'd been thrown from his horse. His mind was screaming at him to run as fast and as far as possible. A lone cattleman was a dead cattleman, but he was two days from the closest friendly town by horse.

Absentmindedly, he cleared the jam, cradling the dead man's rifle. There were a few birds calling from somewhere nearby and he started to relax. He had time. He grabbed the dead man by the collar, pulling him into the brush. He then made his way over to the large outcrop of rock and brush he'd seen the dead man emerge from. Behind it, a lean-to had been built, and there was enough deadwood for a day or two of campfires.

"Damn," Tyrone said, spying a backpack. This definitely wasn't a random raid. Fucker had been waiting for at least three days, with enough water to last for a week. He whistled softly, he was a California cowboy, and today, he really hated his fucking job.

Two

"So where the fuck is my money?" Felipe shouted. Half to make himself heard over the wheezing and clanking of the apartment's elderly A/C, and half because the mousy-haired man cowering on the couch was really pissing him off.

"It's here, it's here," the man said, thrusting a briefcase across the table, trying not to stare at Felipe's pistol. "It's all here!"

Felipe opened the briefcase, and spat with disgust as he slammed it shut again, throwing it in the man's lap. "Do you think I'm some stupid puta, amigo? The deal was that you pay me in goldbacks, or pesos . . . you know, real money. Not your fucking play-money!"

The man on the couch seemed to shrink even further as he stammered. "I . . . I . . . I couldn't find anyone who'd buy that many greenbacks. I . . . I . . ."

"What do I look like to you, amigo," Felipe said, his voice growing soft as he jabbed his pistol at the man. "That ain't even half the money we agreed on. You meet your quota or we roll you up; a deal's a deal, comprende, amigo?"

"Yes, yes, yes," the man on the couch babbled, the barrel of Felipe's pistol was uncomfortably close.

"You know what, amigo," Felipe said with a sneer. "I don't think you do. I think you and your boys think we're fucking around." He stood up, taking a step back. "Allow me to teach you a lesson."

"Oh God," the man whimpered. It was the last thing he said. A .380 is a small cartridge, but in the tiny apartment it thundered. Felipe marveled at his handiwork, then holstered his pistol. He pulled a playing card and a marker from his pocket. It was a joker card, and he drew an X through the character, dropping it on the dead man. Hopefully, the message would get across. Otherwise Felipe and his associates would just melt back across the border and spread rumors that the local crime bosses had designs on the railroad.

Felipe picked up the briefcase. Fortunately the dead man had the decency not to bleed on it. Money owed was money owed, even if it was in worthless greenbacks. It would be inconvenient, but laundering money was child's play. Los Familias would get their pesos.

He stepped out of the apartment, smirking at the old women who were falling over themselves to get out of his way. Uncle Sam and Sacramento both were far, far away and the Army and the Border Patrol were more suspicious of Yanquis than they were of Mexicanos. Los Familias were the real power of the desert Southwest.

There was a sudden warm spot on his wrist. Felipe gestured and spoke into the air.

"Talk to me," he said.

"You got it done?" A voice in his ear asked.

"Si, but the shithead thought we were clowning around. Maybe they'll send someone smarter next week."

"Maybe we'll send someone smarter next week too, asshole. Shoot too many gringos, and they're going to forget that extortion comes with protection. Then what?"

Felipe shrugged. "They're Americans," he replied, his tone dismissive. "Always plenty more where they came from." And that was true. Things weren't any better in Mexico, but what work there was paid in pesos . . . real money, and for an American who could never hope to buy himself out of the fields, or the reconstruction gangs, or the coal and shale mines . . . real money was seductive.

"Don't forget that there's plenty more Mexicans too, asshole. Get to the drop-off and fix your attitude, comprende?"

"Yeah, fuck you too," Felipe replied, gesturing again. The microchip in his wrist stopped feeling so warm. Manuel wasn't any higher on the food-chain than Felipe was, and all he was was talk. And Felipe knew, better than anyone else, that talk was cheap; as was life.
Last edited by GrandMasterTerwynn on 2008-06-24 09:12am, edited 5 times in total.

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Post by CaptainChewbacca » 2008-04-08 08:41pm

Okay, I give up; What's going on?

Its clear the civil war happened, and reconstruction is going badly... and France is run by muslims?

What the hell?
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Post by Vehrec » 2008-04-08 09:14pm

Post-peak oil, global warming, fast breeding minorities take over superpowers. Right and left wing propaganda in one story.
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-08 09:14pm

CaptainChewbacca wrote:Okay, I give up; What's going on?
Welcome to the year 2079. Chosen because "The Seventy-Niners" was a better title than "The Eighty . . . ers." I decided, this morning, in fact, to have a go at writing an impromptu hardscrabble dystopia, to explore a segment of future history I don't normally pay a lot of attention to.
Its clear the civil war happened, and reconstruction is going badly...
There was nothing so drastic as a civil war. Just the consequences of a heady combination of Peak Oil, global warming, a wildly unstable and unpredictable global economy and geopolitical scene, various political movements, and getting a late start to dealing adequately with these very large problems. As such, in the United States, there are no longer any elegant solutions for them. The consequences of which will be further illuminated shortly.
and France is run by muslims?
I'm starting the story with a very tight focus . . . choosing to focus on people and what they see of the world. Tyrone is a cowboy, not a political science major. All he knows about modern Glocks is that they're far more expensive than his granddad's gun, and that they're made in France by Muslims. He's also heard something about a movement they're involved in, but he doesn't know much more than that, and he might not care so much. All he cares about is making a living, which means driving cattle, protecting them from thieves, and how he's going to get out of this mess alive.

It's the same with Felipe. Felipe only knows enough about the world to be an enforcer of a Mexican criminal empire. His understanding of the world is broader than Tyrone's, but it's still narrow. I'll be introducing people with wider world views as the story progresses.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-08 09:23pm

Vehrec wrote:Post-peak oil, global warming, fast breeding minorities take over superpowers. Right and left wing propaganda in one story.
And we're going to throw them in the ring and let them fight it out. :wink:

And in the blue corner, weighing in at 205 pounds . . .

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-09 12:02pm

Three

There was a brief hiss and crackle as the radio came to life...

"Everywhere that I go
Ain't the same as before.
People I used to know,
Just don't know me no more.
But everywhere that I go,
I got people I know.
Who got people they know,
So I suggest you lay low.
The Watcher." . . . You're listening to the Classical Urban Experience on California Public Radio. The previous song was released eighty years ago by California urban composer Andre Young at the height of the "rap" movement.

Click.

... For over fifty years, the wealth protection vehicle of choice has been the Canadian Dollar. Buy now, and you too can know the security that Canadian currency can bring to your portfolio. If you act now, we'll also send you our current prospectus on the South American economic power...

Click.

And in economic news today, Governor Hamlin has announced that The Central Bank of California will follow Washington and cut the California Exchange Rate. Analysts expect the rate to be cut to under 220 Ronnies to one gold-backed dollar. This marks the closest the Federal and California rates have been since 2065...

Click.

The Imperial Valley Authority needs you! Expansion of the Salton Canal will begin in July. Volunteers will recieve a 10% increase in their daily stipend and enhanced opportunity for advancement...

Click.

Our top story: Violence erupted in San Diego today as students protested the recent tightening of student vistas. Police Area Denial Beamers were called in to break up the riot after protestors wounded four officers. Several protestors were arrested and treated for minor burns. Earlier this afternoon, Bruce Hermosa, Western Education Secretary; called a press conference to discuss the protests:

"Sacramento and Washington understand your concerns. But the government will stand firm on the issue. The United States have suffered a dramatic increase in students studying abroad overstaying their visas. We are working closely with government representatives from around the world to resolve this issue . . . our best and brightest deserve to, and should avail themselves of the opportunities right here at home."

Click.

Volt Motor Company -- Serving the conscientious elite since 2058. New for the '80 model year is the Volt Falcon, now with all wireless wideband standard. It now achieves over 830 kilometers per charge, and meets Federal and California standards for agro and industrial dual-use. Now redesigned with double the solar film, for even greater range and versatility.

Volt Motor Company has tripled production and will be making 500 Falcons available to Volt Motors of Long Beach for a price of just 1000 dollars, gold-backed. And while you're here, don't forget to see our selection of all-electric farm and industrial equipment for your business needs...

Click. Enough of that, he thought. His work crew was due to start reclaiming another block of old, long-abandoned exurbs in the morning. And besides, he couldn't waste all of his daily electricity ration listening to the radio...

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Post by LadyTevar » 2008-04-09 02:21pm

Great way to give us background!
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Post by Admiral Valdemar » 2008-04-10 11:02am

Someone read Stand on Zanzibar. :)

I shall be keeping an eye on this when not busy.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-26 06:37pm

Sorry about the delay in getting this chapter out. This is the first time I've gotten to really sit down and get comfortable. So, without further ado:

Four

Jeff woke slowly in the hazy pre-dawn light. His husband, Dale, murmured something and shifted, still firmly asleep. Jeff looked down at him, and smiled; he was clearly dreaming of something good.

He reached down, gave him a little squeeze, felt him shift, and heard him murmur. Jeff didn't take it any further than that. He slid out of bed, stretching his lanky, tanned frame. There was a job for him and his crew today, and Sacramento didn't pay if he was late.

Still, there wasn't too much need to rush. It was pleasantly warm, though the electricity had been off all night. Looking out the window, he took a moment to drink in the sight of the sun rising over a sea of green-topped buildings stretching into clear air. Jeff threw on his overalls, stepped out of the apartment, and made his way to the elevators. They always had power, as did the trolley he boarded when he got down to the street.

The trolley was full, despite the early hour. Men and women were hurrying to their jobs. Whether it was reconstruction, reclamation, or farm work, there was no such thing as idle time. Not anymore. Not to anyone who was paid in rations and greenbacks.

"Morning," someone said behind Jeff. He turned around, sighting a beady-eyed, round-faced man.

"Thought you government types got up earlier than this, Phil," Jeff said, narrowing his eyes.

"I ain't at every work site, you know," Phil replied, shrugging. "Pam's gonna be up at the site you're headed for."

Jeff scowled. "That old church busybody?"

"Wouldn't call her that to her face, but that's Pam."

"Shit," Jeff growled. "Thanks for the heads-up."

"You're welcome, but I didn't catch your attention just to tell you that."

"I'm listening," Jeff said. He always listened to what Phil had to say. Phil handed out work, after all.

"How'd you like to do railroad work?"

"How about I tell you to go to hell. Me and my crew aren't rail-rats."

"I know, I know," Phil spread out his palms, an impressive gesture as more people pushed their way aboard the trolley. "Hear me out, though. You heard of the Salton Canal, right?"

"Who hasn't?"

"Well, they're going to be putting in a lot of new rail lines to support it. To San Diego, to Yuma, and to Mexicali. Lotta reclamation to be done too. You catch my drift?"

Jeff nodded. Reclamation was what his crew did. It was work that field-hands and rail-rats aspired to. He frowned again.

"That isn't in the Orange County Authority."

"That's right," Phil said. "I'm gettin' transferred. Lot of opportunity down there for a hard-ass like me. I hear the crews down there don't want to stay on the jobs, and I aim to fix that."

"That's just not right," Jeff whistled. He put up with intolerant jackasses like Pam to get work and put food on the table every day. Hell, he and his crew had gotten shot at by copper bandits while out on jobs too. Getting fed was real important.

"Hell no, it ain't," Phil replied. "You interested?"

"I'm curious, is what I am. You know my situation."

"That's more than fair. I'm gonna be up there by two this afternoon, so if you don't offend Pam's Stone Age morality too bad, come to the super's trailer and we'll talk more."

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Post by Mayabird » 2008-04-26 07:47pm

I just noticed this story. We're getting a lot of dystopian future stories in here, aren't we?

Anyway, it's interesting that you mention the Salton Canal and Imperial Valley reclamation and all, because that's actually the topic of my third planned Global Peak vignette. I've got the background all ready, but I'm having trouble thinking of some actual action for it.
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Post by LadyTevar » 2008-04-27 05:58pm

You keep drawing me in, hon. I'm hooked.
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-12 12:08pm

Delays are fun, yes they are!

Five

Tucson was a city of just under a hundred-thousand brave, foolhardy souls. Some scattered out in the decayed old wilderness of unplanned urban sprawl, most packed tightly in the city center and around Davis-Monthan.

Adele could see the Boneyard from a grimy window. A sea of old relics of Uncle Sam's long-gone glory days. Uncle Sam was welcome to every last one of them too, if the day ever came where he started giving a shit again.

She brushed a hand through her close-cropped, dirty-blonde hair. Adele Arguello was Mayor of Tucson second, and a cattle-woman first. She gazed at the whiteboard beyond her wheezing, elderly desktop. There were 'X's next to two of the names, Vicente and Tyrone. Two cowboys who hadn't checked in yet this week.

That was unusual. Cowboys had radios and ranchers had relay towers. Often with the odd dried-out carcass of some would-be copper bandit hung prominently halfway up.

They also sometimes sported the odd dried-out carcass of the occasional cowboy who thought they'd try their hand at cattle-rustling. The two missing cowboys were reliable, though. One of them was Adele's husband, and that had her worried more than anything else.

She closed her eyes, scrubbing her cheeks with her hands. She hadn't slept more than five hours in the last three days, and it didn't look like she would get much more than that. She glanced at her phone, which remained stubbornly silent.

Her desktop, though, chimed and a reminder popped up on her its dusty screen. She scowled, picking up her glasses off her desk, perching them on the end of her nose. She pretended interest in the papers sitting on the desk in front of her, all the time, thinking of her husband.

There was a sharp buzz from her phone, she glanced, it was only her secretary.

"Yeah, Paul?" She said, tapping the phone's screen.

"Governor Valenzuela's here to see you, ma'am."

"Send him in," Adele replied. Asshole's only ten minutes late too, she thought. The door popped open and the corpulent figure of Cristobal Valenzuela, Governor of Sonora, Mexico, stepped in, followed by a tanned man with wary eyes.

"Mayor Arguello," Governor Valenzuela said, in Spanish, of course. "It's good to see you again."

"Likewise," Adele replied. "Won't you have a seat?"

"I'd be delighted," Valenzuela said, sinking into the offered chair. "Please, ignore Felipe. He is my bodyguard and I'm sure I don't need to tell you how things are these days."

Adele nodded warily, suddenly mindful of the Ruger LCP riding just inside her boot. She eyed Felipe, whose dismissive look told her all she wanted to know.

"I know that too well," she replied. "What can I do for you, Governor?"

"Always so business-like," Valenzuela scoffed. "You know I so dislike discussing business on an empty stomach. I, of course, mean to complain about the incessant border incursions from your side of the border."

Adele pushed her glasses up her nose, peering at Valenzuela. The fat Mexican governor returned her gaze.

"People, cattle, vaqueros. The people, I don't care so much about. People have ignored our mutual border since there was such a thing. The cattle and their vaqueros, on the other hand, I have to say I take . . . issue with."

Adele continued to watch Valenzuela. He wasn't done yet, and he never failed to disappoint.

"We graciously allow Yanqui cattle to cross over the border, where the old fences have fallen apart, and for your vaqueros to come and bring them back. But any Mexican cattle that cross . . . we never see them again. Tell me, what must it take for you Yanquis to extend to us the same courtesies we extend to you?"

Adele snorted, mentally, of course. Mexican bandits accounted for just over a third of her losses. She wanted to tell Governor Valenzuela that he was full of shit, but his connections with Los Familias were well-known. So were those of her predecessor, until the Border Patrol decided to make an example of him. Footage of his very public execution had circulated the 'net for weeks afterward.

"I'm sorry," she said. "But this is an issue for the CBP. As far as I know, we've sent all the right paperwork to Nogales every time a Mexican-tagged cow appears in the round-ups. I'll push your concerns up the chain, but I can't do any more than that."

Valenzuela snorted and made a show of checking his watch.

"I will appreciate all you can do for me," he finally replied. "Times are hard on both sides of the border. My own businesses don't do as well as they used to, and I hear that . . . business is . . . difficult for you lately," he said, his eyes boring into hers.

Adele fought to keep her composure.

"Will that be all?"

"Yes," Valenzuela replied, standing up. "I believe so. Thank you, Mayor Arguello, for hearing my concerns. I shall be in touch. Felipe, if you would?"

Valenzuela's bodyguard nodded, opening the door. Both men stepped out, leaving Adele alone. For several, long, moments, she stared at the door. After which, she closed her eyes, burying her face in her hands.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-13 07:15pm

Six

"Shit, man, what took you so long?"

"Gimme a break, my train got in late, I hustled over as soon as I heard the word," Tommy replied, unaware of the irony in his statement.

"Yeah, whatever . . . shit is that your duffel bag?"

"Yeah, yeah. Doesn't matter if we don't get caught, though."

The other young man looked at Tommy and wrinkled his brow. "Right. As long as you brought your shit with you so we make schedule."

Tommy opened his bag, flashing a set of detonators. "Yeah, I've got it, all right."

"Something goin' right, at least. Matt says the night watchmen won't be by this section of track again for another twenty minutes," the other man said, motioning to the inky blackness silhouetted in blazing starlight. Both slipped through the hole cut in the chain-link fence, crawling towards the track. No cameras, no robotic remotes spied their progress. It was desolate this far outside Mulberry. Just trees, and old farmland.

Good place to stop a train, Tommy thought with a smirk. Especially one carrying grain and goldbacks. They made it to the tracks, and the other man dropped his rucksack, pulling out bricks of Semtex with one hand, and a trenching tool in the other. There was the sound of gravel being shoveled aside.

"Detonators."

"Yeah," Tommy replied, unzipping his duffel bag once more, pulling out the bag of detonators and coils of wire. He glanced at the faintly-glowing dial of his watch. Three minutes gone, twelve minutes to get the charges set and wired, and five to get back to the woods.

He fumbled with wiring, plugging one end into the detonators, and the other to the radio-control box, passing the armed detonators to the other man, as he jabbed them into the bricks of explosive, covering them with gravel. Another glance at his watch, seven minutes gone, eight minutes to go.

"Man, check your shit. This one ain't wired!"

"Fuck," Tommy hissed, grabbing the detonator. He fumbled around for the wire, gave up, and reached for a fresh coil. He risked a flash from his little flashlight, and saw the problem; the socket was bent.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he hissed, hunching over, trying to force the end of the wire into the malformed socket.

"Hell with that one, just gimme a fresh one," his partner snapped behind him. Tommy reached into his bag, just as he felt something wet splattering the back of his neck, followed by a crack of thunder.

Subconsciously he looked up and started to frown at the lack of clouds in the night sky...


A .338 Federal case rang as it bounced off the trunk of a nearby tree. Leon smirked with satisfaction, watching the second bandit pitch forward into the gravel by the tracks.

"Got him, by God!"

Paul watched through his night-vision binoculars, scanning along the track. Bravo Team had already bagged the bandit who was hiding in an old farmhouse, but some of the more sophisticated outfits had spoilers with machine-guns. Several long minutes passed without any renewed activity from the woods. He motioned to the rest of Alpha Team.

"Alpha to Bravo, we're going to see what we've got."

"Roger that. Pete's watching your backs."

Paul gestured again, looking back. Leon had already changed the mag for his Taurus as Stefan and Andrea appeared from behind the trees. The team made its way across the clearing to the tracks. There was good reason the fence stretched back into the woods the way it did.

In moments, they were at the tracks. Paul looked over the bodies of the bandits, his Colt Bicentennial clearing its holster. One had the top of his head blown off, the other looked as though he'd taken the hit just below his shoulder. He frowned, and sure enough, the bandit moaned, starting to move.

There were four clicks and the revolver thundered, the .357 slug finishing the bandit off. Paul was a peace officer from a different time. Five rounds was all he ever needed, and there'd be a fifth groove carved in the Colt's walnut hog-leg grip come morning.

Andrea stepped around the bodies, kneeling down by the half-buried explosives. Paul knelt down by the second bandit, opening his duffel bag. Ronald Reagan's grinning face leered back at him, flanked by holographic eagles. He picked up the bundle of greenbacks, leafing through them. The serial numbers were definitely Californian. He set them aside, lifting another bundle.

"What the hell were you doing so far east, Cali boy?" Paul whistled. The boy's ID card were in the second bundle . . . along with a number of Mexican pesos. "Hey Stefan, run this card up," he said.

"Sure thing, Chief," the other man replied, taking the ID card. He waved a reader wand over it and watched the scrolling lights just inside his goggles.

"Definitely Californian," he finally said. "He's got endorsements from Mexico and Canada. Especially Canada. Not a lot of work endorsements, though."

Paul frowned, looking at the two bandits. Something was wrong here. Both of them looked wrong. Too well-fed, too clean-cut to be the run-of-the-mill train robber. Too many emaciated desperadoes fancied themselves 21st century Robin Hoods. Eventually enough of them would run foul of the USCAN Joint Rail Authority's shoot-to-kill orders that they'd join the reconstruction gangs and the Army like they were supposed to.

"Think these are Freecers, Chief," Stefan piped up again.

Paul ignored him for the moment, frisking the other bandit. There was nothing in his satchel, except a few well-worn greenbacks. All of them having Uncle Sam's serial numbers on them.

"Got 'em disarmed, sir," Andrea said. "Enough 'boom' here to put the railway out for a month, even with a rush-job using conscripts."

Paul heard Leon whistle. He passed the satchel to Stefan, who'd already hefted the first duffel over his shoulder. His mind was turning, even as he jammed the Colt Bicentennial home. He didn't have answers, and he hated that. He did, though, have friends. It was time to put them to use.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-13 08:27pm

Seven

The Arizona desert could get really fucking cold at night, Tyrone thought. He huddled next to a large boulder, surrounded by sagebrush. A campfire flickered invitingly, no more than a few tens of yards away.

He didn't dare sleep by it, though. He was getting to the bottom of the water supply carried by his would-be murderer. He figured that meant his friends ought to be by to pick him up.

He'd given the man a proper Arizona send-off. A shallow grave in the bottom of the God-be-damned gully . . . as far away as he could drag the bloated carcass. Now, he waited, huddled against a too-cold boulder, Glock clutched in his hand. The rifle was slung over his shoulder, its weight comforting.

A faint buzz caught his ear, growing louder. He frowned, memories bubbling up. What idiot used motorbikes in this day and age? Sure enough, he saw blue-white LED lights bouncing in the distance, following the cattle trail.

"Shit," Tyrone swore, counting the headlights. There were four sets. At least four pendejos versus Mrs. Roberts' second-favorite son. And they were closing fast. He eyed the stuffed sleeping bag by the dying campfire and hoped the dead man's buddies would do the smart thing and stop a ways out.

They did, the droning of motors sputtering into stark silence. Tyrone waited, still as death, for them to come into the firelight. One . . . two . . . and he bit back the urge to swear again. These pendejos were playing it too smart.

"Yo' Jeremy," one of them shouted. "You awake!"

He'd better not be, Tyrone thought. He glimpsed the third man, circling toward the edge of the gully.

"Wake up! Your ride's here!"

Tyrone heard brush rustle. Pendejo numero quatro was somewhere behind him. He started to, very slowly, turn away from the campfire.

The sound of a zipper being ripped open echoed off the boulders.

"Shit! We've been suckered! Find the nigger!"

The thrash of brush and the thunder of Tyrone's Glock going off were simultaneous.

"Fuuuuuuck," the fat man trying to sneak up on Tyrone screamed. "He got me!" Tyrone fired twice more at the flickering apparition, sending him stumbling back. He exploded from his hiding hole, shooting wildly at the two men near the campfire, feeling really stupid for not having the rifle out.

One of them dropped to his knees, the other opening fire. His rifle chattered, a full-auto burst spraying lead in an arc reaching high above Tyrone's head. He threw himself into the brush, just as the third man opened fire, rifle rounds smashing into the brush. Tac-lights came on, bright white beams jumping and swinging.

Tyrone slid down the shallow sand embankment into the darkness of the gully. Three days had given him a lot of time to plan. All of which, of course, were now out the window. For the second time in a week, Tyrone would count himself lucky if he just got out alive.

He crouched, pressing against the embankment, listening to boots beating the rocky sand at the top. Light flashed through gaps in the brush, and Tyrone opened fire, scrambling backward into the blackness. Return-fire gouged pits in the sand, slashing at sagebrush.

There was a sudden, white-hot pain in Tyrone's thigh and his legs gave out from under him. He slammed into the ground, his head missing a rock by mere inches. Suddenly, he was gut-punched, repeatedly, bullets smashing into the body-armor that'd recently belonged to "Jeremy."

He was still, and that seemed to satisfy his assailant.

"Go down there and finish him off," the other man hissed.

"Fuck you, if he ain't dead now, the 'yotes'll eat well tomorrow. Let's get the fuck out of here. I hear Border Patrol's lurking out there somewhere."

"Shit, you're right." More shuffling, more silence. There was some muffled swearing that Tyrone could barely hear. More silence, shattered by the crackle of gunfire and the sound of motors revving to life, receding into the distance.

And then, all was finally, truly, silent, and Tyrone finally realized just how cold he was. And how much colder he was getting.

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Post by Battlehymn Republic » 2008-05-13 08:43pm

Hm. Global warming and peak oil on one hand, Muslims outbreeding on the other. Throw in another right-wing trope: how about some La Raza Aztlaners?

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-14 01:05pm

Battlehymn Republic wrote:Hm. Global warming and peak oil on one hand,
As far as I know, the consensus regarding global warming is that we're in for a significant episode of warming, even if we ceased all CO2 emissions tomorrow. Which is rather unlikely. If anything CO2 emissions are only going to get significantly worse, before they start to improve.

As for peak oil: Combine the world's excessive and rapidly growing petroleum habit, with flat production and impending decline, and a global reaction that amounts to an alarming amount of navel gazing, and the only question left to answer about peak oil is just how nasty is it going to be.
Muslims outbreeding on the other.
The end of Western cash, food, and guns for oil (and the possible transformation of the region into the battleground for a resource-motivated war-by-proxy) is going to have some interesting consequences for a region of the world where everybody hates each others' guts, and there is now not enough for everybody to eat. Among which is a significant Arab and north African diaspora.
Throw in another right-wing trope: how about some La Raza Aztlaners?
Would that be the one where the Hispanics will break away from the United States and seek to return part of it to Mexico?

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Post by Battlehymn Republic » 2008-05-14 01:54pm

Yep. It scares the Righties very much. Aztlan, and the North American Union conspiracy theory, are this decade's equivalent to Black Helicopters and the U.N. taking over the world.
Vehrec wrote:Post-peak oil, global warming, fast breeding minorities take over superpowers. Right and left wing propaganda in one story.
I wouldn't call it "propaganda", though I would say that those are certainly fears expressed by certain wings (or as I said, "hands"). Maybe there are other fears and possible future calamities (bird flu? global dimming? flash mobs?) that can be added in somewhere.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-15 07:08pm

Eight

"California Public Multimedia is proud to present The World Minute: The News You Need, in the Time You Can Afford.

In space news: Sources say a deal is close at-hand regarding the long-idle Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. While the two presumptive transnational suitors: Unasur and GFMA have declined to comment for CPM, Governor Hamlin's office had the following to say:

"We are not at liberty to discuss all details of the Spaceport America negotiations. However, Californians should know that we will play a vital role in the revitalization of space at the close of the Twenty-First, and into the dawn of the Twenty-Second century."

In other news: The Yeni Ufuklar Corporation, a joint Russian-Turkish aerospace venture, announced plans today to construct a third satellite launch facility in Yemen.

In international news: U.N. Secretary-General Xiao Hsu Buhari condemned reports of renewed religious cleansing in the former territories of Bangladesh . . .


"Hey Gran," Jeff said, knocking on the apartment doorway. His grandmother, Ashley, looked up with a start, green eyes focusing on his.

"Jeff, hey," she said, starting to sit up.

"Oh no, you relax, Gran, I'll come to you," Jeff said, his eye catching the flicker and flash of his grandmother's flat-screen. He tried not to frown; he caught her dozing at the NP . . . "TV," she called it, more and more. She'd been vibrant, up till recently; anyone who could make it to 91 in this day and age had to be.

"No, no, I need to stretch my legs," she replied. She clutched her walker, shakily rising to her feet. She was tall, even stooped-over with infirmity.

Jeff met her halfway, anyway. He walked her the rest of the way to her kitchen table. Wizened fingers clutched at thick glasses, and Ashley peered at the clock on her wall. A frown furrowed her face.

"Shouldn't you be working . . . my God, did you lose a bid?"

"No, Gran, calm down," Jeff replied. "The crew and I are going to be getting together later on to talk over a job offer from Sacramento."

Ashley nodded slightly. "Sounds big."

"Yeah. My super's being transferred to the Imperial Valley Authority, and he's offering to pay goldbacks to get crews to work the Salton Canal with him."

"That is big . . . can't get down there and back like you could in the old days," Ashley said, trailing off. A quick shake of the head, and the light returned to her eyes. "What's your husband think?"

Jeff pressed his lips together. "He's got no beef with it. It'd be good to have some hard assets, he says."

"Good head on that boy. If I were a lot younger and he weren't gay..."

"Gran!"

"Shh. He just reminds me so much of Larry, that's all," Ashley said, patting Jeff's hand. "And I did live through the Terror, you know."

"I know, Gran, I know," Jeff replied, almost shuddering.

More unfocused silence. "I remember the good days. Real money, my own car, Jack in the Box . . . "

"Gran?"

Cool, dry hands squeezed his again, and she shook her head.

"I miss those days . . . " The light came on again. "Are you okay with this job?"

Jeff looked down at the table for several long moments. "Well," he frowned. "I don't feel good about leaving you alone, Gran. I'd be down there for months."

"No, no. Look at me, Jeff," Ashley said. "I'll be fine. I know you'll have Dale here constantly . . . and he's right." Another squeeze. "You should make some real money."

Jeff's eyes caught hers, and she slowly smiled.

"I'd like to be able to go up to San Francisco one more time," she said. "Can't do that if all you bring home are greenbacks."

"Gran!"

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-17 02:28pm

Nine

The door exploded inward, followed by a squad of five officers. All of them, heavily armed.

"Everybody get your hands where we can see them!"

Chairs toppled over as the four people in the apartment's living room stumbled out of their seats. Another five officers forced their way though the already-ruined door, flashlights shining in gaunt, terrified faces. A single hand-cranked electric lantern sat at the center of the table.

Doors connecting to the apartment's two bedrooms and sole bathroom were flung open, and three more people were dragged out, to join the first four, already being restrained with zip-ties.

"On your feet. Move!"

The seven were dragged to their feet, pushed outside as yet another group of officers donned purple gloves and forced their way inside. Several other doors had been kicked in, but every apartment door was open.

The skies outside were gray, threatening all-too-rare rain. Every occupant of the complex was outside now, standing behind bright-yellow police tape, save eighteen. The seven brought out made it a full twenty-five.

There were no buses, only police and National Guard vehicles. People started to cry; the lack of buses could only mean one thing.

A van pulled up, disgorging a camera crew. Dour-faced men and women in body armor, unpacking cameras wrapped in protective plastic.

Someone in a gray, pinstriped suit climbed atop one of the National Guard trucks, clutching a microphone. The truck had loudspeakers.

"Citizens, I represent the Tennessee State Morality Board, and this is a community reeducation effort. Collectively, if we learn from the mistakes of our fellow citizens, society as a whole shall be improved, and we shall be a better reflection of our Creator."

The man on the truck ignored the stares of cold hatred from the gathered crowd.

"Those who stand accused, I address you today. Some of your crimes are minor. Some are heinous, affronts to the Christian character of our great state. Rest assured though, you will be treated fairly . . . Officer, if you would, please, bring me a list of the charges?"

A tall police officer strode up to the truck, passing up a single sheet of faintly glowing paper.

Abigail McSweeney, 36 years old; Melissa el-Zahir, 29 years old: Harboring and aiding homosexuals! Aggravated sodomy!"

There was a collective gasp in the gathered crowd. Some people stared straight ahead. It'd been suspected, and now it was known. There was, at least, one Morality Board informant among them.

"God damn the fags!" A man screeched. There was an explosive tightening of faces, and even a few nods. Some agreeing, some pitying.

The man on the truck ignored the crowd reaction, rattling off names, ages. Ten of those on the list were hoarding food or Ronnies. More glances, at least two or three informants.

"Jacob Farnsworth, 41 years old; Christina Farnsworth, 16 years old: Belonging to a terrorist organization! Reading and distributing seditious materials!"

"Goddamned Darwinists!" Snarled the same man who'd heckled Abby and Mel. Cautious glances were exchanged. He just earned himself an untimely death. Morality Boards were less apt to shoot people in job lots these days, especially after what happened in California. But they were overbearing enough as it was.

The stentorian voice rolled on. Three hadn't shown up for work details, and five had been called out for "General disturbance of the peace." A euphemism for failing to properly kowtow to some Morality Board or ANCC member.

"Carl Zimmerman, 38 years old; LaShonda Williams, 42 years old; Gerald Howard, 87 years old: Illegal possession of weapons! Suspicion of seditious activities against the state!" The man on the truck paused to take a breath. A cool, damp breeze started to pick up.

"Our greatest asset in these dark times is solidarity. Solidarity in community, solidarity with God! Solidarity against those elements who would destroy our community. A house divided, cannot stand. No threats to our solidarity will be permitted," the man said. Little of his attention was focused on the crowd now. "These citizens," a sweeping gesture, "have threatened our solidarity. However, we are a fair, balanced, and just nation. They are entitled to a trial by their peers."

With the slightest shift of his eyes, it seemed his full attention was directed at the crowd.

"Are there any among you who wish to speak in defense of the accused?"

Pleading looks met stony gazes and downturned faces. Searching eyes found looks of pity, of hatred, and of fear.

Another shift of his eyes brought his withering gaze on the twenty-five handcuffed men and women. The Morality Board man was well-practiced.

"Your peers have spoken, citizens." The emotion left his voice, as he nodded once. "It is my solemn duty, by power vested in me by the Tennessee State Morality Board, to declare your guilt."

There was a rumbling, and around the corner, painted in flat olive drab, was a State of Tennessee Department of Reeducation bus, the glass in its windows long-ago replaced by steel wire.

"As our Creator extends his mercy to those who turn away from sin, we extend our mercy to those who sincerely wish to do penance for their crimes."

The door to the bus swung open at that moment. Seven of the twenty-five suddenly found the muzzles of rifles jammed into the small of their backs. They weren't called "Morality Boards" for show.

As if shaking off a trance, the others started to step forward, in twos and threes. Nobody met their eyes. There wasn't an adult in the apartments who hadn't done a stint in the camps. There wasn't a single person in the entire crowd who hadn't lost someone to them, either. In one way, or another, the strained resources of the State of Tennessee would have twenty-five fewer mouths to feed.

"There are crimes that are unforgivable in the eyes of our Creator, and thus, in the eyes of the state! Bring forth the sodomites! Bring forth the evolutionists! Bring forth the terrorists!"

The seven remaining men and women were forced up against the concrete dividing wall. It was remarkably clean, it would be so again come the end of the week. The police and National Guard stepped back, and there was a bright flash.

"For the unforgivable crimes, there can be but one punishment," the man on the truck said. He was looking at the cameras again, standing as straight as he could.

"May God have mercy on their souls." A glance. "Gentlemen, carry out your duty."

The camera crew didn't stay long after that. Neither did the National Guard, nor the police, nor the man from the Morality Board. Tears were shed over cooling corpses. Suspicious glances and hushed whispers were exchanged.

Looters, relatives, and friends alike pushed their way into vacant apartments with ruined doors. What little the police didn't carry off with them would be gone by nightfall. Come the end of the week, the next batch of weary transient workers, or refugees, or immigrants, or even the odd person released from "reeducation" would find vacant, sterile apartments, and suspicious, hateful glances.

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Post by Mayabird » 2008-05-18 12:27am

Ch. 8: Very nice. Even in the midst of everything falling apart, there's still room for a few gentle scenes and some human interaction. Well done.

Ch. 9: Ouch. Scary. It'd totally fit into Marina's story as well.
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-19 12:22pm

Mayabird wrote:Ch. 8: Very nice. Even in the midst of everything falling apart, there's still room for a few gentle scenes and some human interaction. Well done.
The sad thing is, the world's actually in slightly better shape in this story than it was in the years leading up to it. Originally, Chapter 8 was going to be a continuation of Chapter 7. And then I decided to write this scene instead. My original idea for Chapter 8 will go in later.
Ch. 9: Ouch. Scary. It'd totally fit into Marina's story as well.
I wrote it out after looking back through some of my timeline notes for my other stories. But I was somewhat reluctant to post it, at first. I wasn't sure that conditions would be such that the Morality Boards would rise here when le merde frappe le ventilateur. And it's still too close to call, but what the hey, I decided to run with it anyway . . . on the theory that come 2079, I won't be alive for anyone to tell me that I got it wrong. :P

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-21 06:10pm

Ten

"Chairman of the National Committee of Fairness and Morality," Stanley Rossbach said, gazing in the mirror.

"Has quite the ring, doesn't it?" Committeeman Charles Pierson said, standing behind him.

Stanley scowled, the lines in his weathered face deepening.

"We're not there yet," he said. "I have to survive swearing-in first."

"The ANCC doesn't have any dirt on you," Chuck replied. "At least, I hope they don't. You're not screwing any young boys I don't know about, are you?"

Stanley snorted. "If they want to get rid of me, nothing'll stop them from digging up some starving young rail-rat and paying him to accuse me of sodomizing him seven ways from Sunday. Possibly while beating him with a genuine signed copy of The God Delusion."

"Point," Chuck said.

"I'm not even sure I want to keep this Goddamned job any longer than it'd take to see Anderson off," Stanley said.

Chuck nodded. ex-Chairman Jerome Anderson was a first-class asshole. A righteous, God-fearing friend of the ANCC, to be sure. One possessed of near-legendary quantities of avarice.

"I'm going to enjoy signing the warrant for his execution," Stanley continued.

"Try not to enjoy it too much," Chuck said. "We don't want to start the ANCC digging up that rail-rat too soon."

Stanley harrumphed, looking in the mirror again. He gave a quick tug to his tie, and then turned around. "Let's get this done."

Both men stepped out into the Rose Garden, the sweltering midsummer D.C. sun immediately beating down on them. At the back were the ever-present cameras of the state news organ. In front, the entirety of the National Committee of Fairness and Morality were seated. Stanley eyed them as he made his way to the podium. How many of them would still be alive, and in Washington, come year's end? How many of them would he have to maneuver off the Committee?

"Presenting Citizen Committeemen Stanley Winston Rossbach and Charles Pierson," the Marine at the edge of the stage said. There was polite applause. More than a few in the Committee were giving Stanley the same calculating look he'd given them. How long would he last? How many of them would go down with him, when the time came?

"Presenting The Honorable Citizen Chairman of the American National Committee of Churches, Pastor Joseph Gregory."

The dour, heavyset leader of the ANCC took the podium, hard eyes casting a withering gaze over the gathered committee-persons.

"We are gathered here today to swear in the new Citizen Chairman of the NCFM, in the eyes of God and country," he said, his voice deep and rich. "Regretfully, the previous holder of that office could not join us this day. Let his example be a lesson to us all. Even in these lean times, there are those who would engage in corruption, graft, and selfish materialism. Who would betray the principles of this great nation and the trust of the citizens the are sworn to defend. It is our duty to remain ever-vigilant against temptation."

There were a chorus of murmured "Amens" among the seated men and women. Stanley decided that not more than one in three were genuine. Pastor Gregory harangued the gathered politicals for another half-hour, before the afternoon heat wilted his enthusiasm. Stanley smiled grimly.

"Citizen Committeeman Stanley Winston Rossbach, do you stand prepared to take the oath of office?"

"Yes," Stanley replied, standing up. Pastor Gregory stepped out from behind the podium, extending his Bible. Stanley placed his hand upon it, and the pastor's eyes met his.

"Very well. Raise your right hand and repeat after me:"

Stanley heard the words, echoing them strongly. "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of Chairman of the National Committee of Fairness and Morality, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God."

He lowered his hand, and Pastor Gregory withdrew his Bible, offering his hand. The two men shook hands, politely, but firmly.

"Congratulations, Citizen Chairman," Pastor Gregory said, turning to face the seated members of the committee.

"I present to you, Citizen Committeemen and Committewomen, the Honorable Citizen Chairman of the National Committee of Fairness and Morality: Stanley Winston Rossbach."

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Post by LadyTevar » 2008-05-21 06:30pm

WTF? We dont' have a President anymore??!
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-21 07:02pm

LadyTevar wrote:WTF? We dont' have a President anymore??!
The Citizen Chairman is effectively the President and the National Committee of Fairness and Morality the Cabinet. Changes which arose as a result of a President and Congress struggling to deal with the fallout of the very dire emergency the nation found itself in. The original President deciding the best way to cope with the emergency was, after declaration of martial law, a huge (and none too constitutional) expansion of the Executive. The other two branches of government were, for various reasons, all too happy to go along.

Things sortof snowballed from that point. When Citizen Chairman Rossbach swears to uphold the Constitution, he actually does mean it. At some point, they'll decide the Long Emergency is over and restore the original rule of law. Someday. Maybe. But only if the American people are really good.

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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-05-24 11:03pm

Oops, hit submit too soon. Chapter will be up later.

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