Recent Statuses

6 mos ago
Current "I HAVE NO BAN AND I MUST CRINGE." Rest in peace to the last of the good men in this world. I will shed a thousand tears and pour a hundred 40s of Olde English.
11 mos ago
I know I said I "change my status every year" but it has been three years. So...
4 yrs ago
I change my status every year.
5 yrs ago
"You went to the Chaplain, who also kicked you out. How do you antagonize a Chaplain?"
1 like
5 yrs ago
Current status: Bumming cigarettes off of a Chilean guy.


I'm Evan and I make poor life decisions.

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Brussels, Belgium

In the situation room, an intelligence watch center located in the OTAN alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, a staff of multinational officers scurried about furiously. Fax machines whirred and printed off pages of documents and reports which were hastily collected to be analyzed by a myriad of different working groups and departments. The buzz of chatter and discussion filled the air as officers talked over plans and new intelligence coming in. The whole office smelled strongly of coffee and the officers, some with five o’clock shadows and bags under their eyes, looked like they hadn’t slept much for days. Televisions played out scenes from across the Atlantic, showing the deteriorating circumstances in Canada as years of pent-up frustration was finally boiling over.

An assassinated prime minister, someone’s lucky hit with a thrown brick, had unleashed total pandemonium across the country. Militias broke out from hiding, riding the wave of resentment to independently conduct raids and attacks against American outposts and patrols in the occupied country. The streets of Canadian cities had been ravaged by car bombs and improvised explosive devices as a wave of revolution swept across the country. Like the OTAN staff had suspected, it was the Quebecois that kicked off the show: now the resistance groups were finally rolling out to press attacks on American forces.

Capitaine Clara Fillion was exhausted, slumped over her desk with her head in her hands as she fought the urge to fall asleep face first into her keyboard. Beside her, a West German colleague reached for a slice of pizza that had been ordered for their cell in lieu of a dinner at the cafeteria downstairs. Too much information was coming in for anyone to leave for longer than a smoke break. She felt her eyes getting heavier as sleep began to overtake her, before the telephone on the desk rattled her awake. Hurriedly grasping for the phone in a startled rush, Capitaine Fillion answered automatically:

“CJ3 CAN CUOPS,” she blurted out, announcing her office using the unwieldy military staff designation for OTAN’s international staff planning division, current operations in the Canadian theater. “Capitaine Fillion speaking.”

The familiar voice of her staff section’s boss answered her from the other end: “Clara, Colonel Dupree here. We just got out of a meeting with the Président du CMO. He’s going up to the Secrétaire Général to brief him on the situation, but it’s highly likely we’re going to mobilize to go into Canada. Get your team and wait for me.”

Clara, now wide awake with surprise, hesitated for a moment. “Yes, sir,” she said simple. Colonel Dupree thanked her and hung up while she spun around in her chair to the West German officer next to her. He stared at her with a raised eye, finishing a bite of his pizza silently.

“Kohl, the colonel is coming down,” she said, barely containing her emotions. “Big fuckin’ news, I think OTAN is actually going to mobilize for this thing.”

Fillion jumped up from her chair and walked out to the floor of cubicles that her group worked in, announcing that they all needed to head to the conference room immediately. Her small staff of junior officers and senior sergeants all obliged, and she found herself sitting in the conference room for ten minutes waiting for the colonel to arrive. Just as the clock struck nine in the evening, the door swung open to reveal the tall, slender frame of Colonel Dupree. She called the room to attention and was quickly told to sit back down.

“Evening, everyone,” the colonel said. He practically collapsed into his chair at the head of the table. “I just spent a good long meeting with the CMO,” he said, referring to the Comité Militaire de l'OTAN that formed the highest military headquarters in the alliance. It was unusual enough that a Colonel, a comparatively low-ranking officer for them, was invited there. “And they recognize that we need to act fast with regards to Canada.”

The staff sat silently. “The Secrétaire Général is going to make a decision later tonight and then publish the order, and I fully expect our own president to make a statement and give the go-ahead in the morning. In the meantime, the Canada operations staff is getting picked to deploy.”

There was silence, then soft murmuring between the officers. OTAN had never deployed a battlegroup outside of Europe before. They didn’t realize that there was even a possibility that their staff section could be sent overseas. Fillion pursed her lips and shook her head. She had a husband and two children living in Brussels, what was going to happen to them if she left?

The colonel frowned, concern washed across his aged face. “I’m aware that this is so sudden, but the situation is worsening by the day and OTAN has decided they need to act to stabilize things before it gets too late. The good news for you is that this is now being picked up as a battlegroup command, which is currently being organized. I’m giving you all a few days off to pack your bags and settle your business here before we deploy. But once you’re back, it’s going to be straight on a plane or a boat or however the hell we’re getting over there.”

Clara Fillion found herself in her car an hour later, uniform top thrown onto her passenger seat along with her beret and a cigarette between her fingers dangled outside the car window. She kept promising her husband that she would stop smoking, but the army made it harder and harder to quit with every development. At the very least she refused to stink up the interior of her 1987 Renault with cigarette smoke, if only because the carseat in the back of her rearview mirror reminded her of the consequences. She started the ignition, a misnomer of a term now that most vehicles since ‘82 had been produced with hyper-efficient electrical drive systems, and waited the few seconds for the system to start up.

Her car’s bulky information display ran through its boot code before displaying a fast-moving screen of maintenance data. All the stats were green, which she assumed meant good: she was an artillerywoman by trade, not a mechanic. The screen skipped to the FM radio embedded in the car console, which picked up the Brussels radio station that she usually tuned to. The soft beat of a hip-hop song played over her muted speakers as she looked into the backup camera display on her mirror and reversed out of the parking spot. She drove on autopilot out the gate of the OTAN compound and turned onto the main throughway that led her skirting around Brussels to her home.

A million possibilities raced through her mind. The threat of combat was all but nonexistent, the pressing issues of her life were all she could think about. Was her will up to date? How about power of attorney? Did she need to open up a shared bank account with her husband? What about childcare? When would she be able to mail home? Her first son’s birthday was coming up in two months, she would definitely be missing that. The pager in her uniform pants pocket buzzed and she withdrew it to check the message on the screen. It was Colonel Dupree publishing some info on the staff group page: I just got 7 days of leave approved for all of you, come back once you’ve got some rest.

Three minutes later, as she turned into the exit lane for her neighborhood, the pager buzzed again. Fillion waited a minute as she merged into her proper lane before checking the pager. FR President will give a message at 0800 tomorrow – strongly advise watching.

Paris, France

François-Jean de Mer knew fully well that the cigarette and coffee breakfast was a joke among the international community about the French. He chuckled softly to himself as he stubbed out the cigarette, smoked down to its filter, and finished the last of his dark black coffee. With a sigh, he stood up from his table on a balcony outside of the governmental offices in central Paris. He had been up all night, conversing with military commanders and the OTAN Secrétaire Général. All of the information had resulted in one conclusion: it was time to head back to Canada.

Through a series of hallways deep within the complex of the office, he was escorted by a member of his press corps. The officer chattered nonstop about optics and tone and how to deliver the script that he, admittedly, had also written all night on short notice. Nobody in the building had slept. Such was life when the world seemed to be buzzing with conflict. Président de Mer nodded along, staring at the sheet of paper in hand and trying to commit the words to memory as best as he could. A teleprompter would be there, of course, but de Mer talked fast and often outran the words scrawling across the prompter. It had been quite the gaffe back in 1988.

He reached the podium, the familiar lights shining onto his stage while members of the French and European journalist community filed into the room in front of him. Behind him, the symbol of the French government eloquently occupied a tasteful background. It looked perfect for the television cameras, of which there were at least a dozen pointed at him. Such was life in the seat of Europe’s most important power. Président de Mer smiled softly, his trademark way of setting the crowd at east, before clearing his throat: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I know it’s a little early. But things are moving fast and we need to get ahead of the situation.”

He confidently shuffled the papers in front of him and sat them down on the lectern. Looking into the teleprompter in front of him, the words of his speech began to flash across the screen:

“If has been an eventful few weeks for the Canadian nation,” he began. He stood up straight, confidently yet softly reciting the words of his statement: “A miscarriage of justice has enraged the long-oppressed people of Canada, and now they are expressing their frustrations. What the Canadians are feeling now is entirely justified – we have grappled with the reign of authoritarian rule ourselves, and have a long history of revolt against unjust governance.”

He paused to look around at the press corps ahead of him. “Yet as it has been demonstrated, the current Canadian government has failed to safeguard the safety and security of its people. Basic services and securities have failed across the nation, and millions of people are in danger of harm because of this tragic lack of governance. The international community has long agreed to a declaration that we owe the world a responsibility to protect from tragedies such as this. We saw the great humanitarian tragedies of the Second World War and the worldwide devastation of The Visitation and we agreed that this would be no more.

It is in concordance with this understanding that France and OTAN are organizing a task force to deploy to Canada as quickly as possible. The world sees the impact of this catastrophe daily on television news and on the Internet. We need to right these wrongs before more of our friends in the Canadian nation suffer. OTAN has pledged to uphold the new standards of international peacekeeping and stabilization. 28 million Canadians need help from the international community, and it is our responsibility to ensure they can live their proper lives.

I understand that this is the first deployment of OTAN outside of its borders since the alliance was reformulated in 1984. Rest assured, this is the work of almost a decade of planning and structuring to ensure that OTAN carries out the righteous application of justice in the world. We need to be a global force for good, ensuring the safety and stability of people who cannot otherwise fend for themselves. I give my word that France will use her military forces to maximum effectiveness in ensuring the prosperity of the Canadian people. Thank you.”

He nodded to the camera as the words ended on the teleprompter and the crowd erupted into a sea of raised hands and shouted questions. He was advised, rightly so, to not answer any of them. He waved the press corps goodbye as he left through a stage door on the side of the room and a public affairs officer rushed to the podium to stymie the flow of questions and accusations in the room. Président de Mer vanished into the backstage of the briefing room, heading back to his office where more reports and plans surely awaited. After all, this was only the beginning.
Puebla, Puebla
August, 1955

Captain Lopez felt the all-too-familiar weight of his gear constrict his movement as he awkwardly shuffled forward on the flight line. Loaded down with a large rucksack rigged between his knees, a stiff weapons case on his leg, a bulky parachute on his back and another on his stomach, he walked like a stiff penguin to the open door of the transport aircraft ahead of him. He and 29 other paratroopers each bore a “1” marked in chalk on their parachute bags, which led them to a corresponding aircraft with the same number written on its door. The engines were already roaring, so the jumpmaster physically grabbed everyone’s shoulder and loudly counted off to confirm all personnel were aboard.

Captain Lopez climbed into the fuselage of the plane, turning his head to observe the tarmac as he did so. The other members of his company were loading into four other identical planes, each shuffling orderly in a similar line. Captain Lopez would be the first to jump and First Sergeant Kan, at the end of the fifth chalk, would be the last: a way to ensure accountability of all their soldiers. The officer took his seat as the number-one man by the door, waiting for the rest of his chalk to take their seats. They crammed in on the benches, facing each other in silence as the jumpmaster finished his count and closed the door behind them.

The jumpmaster gave a thumbs up to the man closest to the pilots’ cockpit, who loudly thumped on the cabin door to confirm their presence. Inside the cockpit, the pilots chattered with each other on the radio and then to the Puebla airport traffic control tower. It was time to go. The plane lurched forward as its chock blocks were removed and the engines increased power. It taxied from its loading position onto the long runway, neat and orderly like the paratroopers on the ground. Captain Lopez heard the dull buzz of the propellers get louder and felt the plane rattle and shake: a few seconds later, they had lifted off.

Captain Lopez had thought after the brief that the battalion leadership had given him the prior week. It was going to be Mexico’s biggest and longest ranged airborne operation ever, and perhaps the biggest in history. Puebla was over a thousand kilometers to the drop zones in British Belize: the transport planes would be pushing the endurance of their aircraft with a two-thousand kilometer round trip. The pilots, too, were prepared for a flight of nine hours. Every nonessential component of the aircraft had been removed, from their protective machine guns to armor plating on the wings and fuselage.

The good news was that Britain lacked any sort of air defense capability in Belize. They barely had a regiment in Belize City, underfunded and undermanned and with a poor reputation as a castaway job for mess-ups and incompetent officers. The British maintained a squadron of Great War-era biplanes at the city’s dirt and soil airstrip, rarely utilized for anything more substantial than officers’ leisurely trips to the beach. The Mexican aircraft would have no problems flying through Mexico, then cutting directly across neutral Guatemala undetected. In the meantime, a division of motorized soldiers had staged in Yucatan State to rush down Belize’s main highway as soon as the paratroopers had secured the eastern flank.

He fell asleep to the dull thrum of the propellers, nesting himself within his bulky gear until he felt somewhat comfortable. Four hours without even a bathroom break would pass by better with sleep. Some of his soldiers read, others fiddled with their equipment, and more sat silently as they stared out the window. Lopez thought of his wife as he fell asleep: their goodbye at the gate to Puebla base was short and sweet. Even with the uncertainty of the conflict ahead, they were both sure that he would be back soon enough. The whole campaign was designed to be quick and decisive, to strike before serious resistance could be massed. It was more political than military.

The commander awoke sometime past Villahermosa as his executive officer nudged him. The young lieutenant had been awake the whole time, keeping an eye out for the checkpoints of the flight. Villahermosa was the last major Mexican city with a significant airport for the planes. Any malfunction in flight requiring an emergency landing would require them to turn around and make their way to the town. Otherwise, they had to press forward. The pilots had not reported any issues, so the squadron continued. Thirty minutes later, they had passed the border into Guatemala. Beneath the aircraft, it all looked the same: dense, green jungle.

Guatemala came and went, another quick leg of the trip. As the morning son shone its way through the windows of the cabin, the jumpmaster suddenly hollered from his seat by the door: “Fifteen minutes! Red light!”

The cabin became illuminated by the glow of bright red bulbs with the thud of an electrical circuit completing. All of the paratroopers had it drilled into them to prepare for the jump. They checked their equipment and the equipment of the man across from them, just to make sure that nobody had crossed or twisted straps and loose buckles that could be fatal in a jump. The jumpmaster yelled out the time in increments of five: ten minutes to go, then five minutes. At the three minute mark, he called for the jumpers to stand up.

Lopez was on autopilot, like all of his previous jumps. Stand up, hook up, get checked. The jumpmaster did what he was trained to do, checking all the equipment one last time before returning to the cabin door. He opened it and slid it on its rail to let the wind come rushing through the cabin, knocking Lopez back a step as he braced for its force. The jumpmaster looked down at the drop zone, a large clear farm field that had been cut into the jungle by Belizean plantation owners. He gave one look back and flashed a thumbs up to the soldiers. The red light switched to green, and the paratroopers rushed out of the door.

The commander didn’t think about the fact that he was in the air until the ground came up very fast to meet him. He instinctively braced for the fall, landing onto his legs, hip, and back like he had been trained. It never got easier: it still felt like getting hit with a sack of bricks. As he got up from his landing, he looked up at the sky to see rows of Mexican paratroopers each with parachutes opened heading straight for the ground. Groups of men scrambled to ditch their reserve chutes and open their weapons cases, regrouping in small formations to find their proper squad and platoon leadership.

Lopez found his executive officer nearby, struggling to cut the parachute cords with his knife. They had gotten tangled around his rucksack and were not coming off without a fight. He managed to cut the chute away just as Lopez arrived, rifle in hand, to take a knee. “Lieutenant Muñoz,” he said. “Let’s get oriented. Are we in the right drop zone?”

Lavulo rolled over and jumped up from the ground, reaching for the map case that dangled from a strap around his shoulder. Inside was a map of the drop zone and attack plan with directions of confirmation already written on a piece of paper with it. He took his compass from a pouch on his belt and quickly confirmed where they were. They had already figured out two identifiable mountains that they should have been able to see from the drop zone and gotten the back-azimuths. The numbers on the compass matched what they had calculated during their planning: they were in the right spot.

Lopez’s radioman, a short teenager named Reyes, jogged towards the captain and his lieutenant with the whip of his radio flailing wildly in his step. He took a knee next to the two officers and extended the telephone to his commander. “Sir,” he said breathlessly, “First and second platoons have organized and are ready to go. Third and fourth platoons are still reorganizing.”

“Thanks, Especialista,” Lopez replied. “Let them know we’re in the right drop zone and we’re to move into town when everyone is set. Send reports of injuries to First Sergeant Kan.”

Reyes nodded while Lopez observed the field in front of them. They were a kilometer or two outside of a small town in western Belize by the name of Belmopan. It sat at a critically important intersection between the main highway and a western offshoot and housed a platoon of British troops. Other paratrooper companies were dropping into similar towns to take out their local British units: in keeping with classic military theory, Captain Lopez had four-to-one odds against the defending British. A company was the ideal instrument to use against a platoon in defense. Not that the British appeared to know they were coming; the morning was still.

Eventually, third and fourth platoons reorganized and assessed their statuses. Only a handful of soldiers had been hurt from the jump, mostly broken or sprained legs and ankles. Every jump, especially combat jumps, were predicted to sustain these casualties even before contact with the enemy. They had been collected by the First Sergeant and the company’s detachment of medics, who would treat them at the company command post until they could be evacuated. With their reporting, the company immediately set into motion initiating their attack.

Captain Lopez made his way forward to the first platoon’s position, who were holding a line facing northeast to the city proper. They had seen nobody yet, but their element of surprise was undoubtedly going to be broken by some farmer seeing the planes and paratroopers on his way out to the field. The riflemen and machine gunners had nestled themselves into positions behind dirt mounds and irrigation ditches, awaiting orders to move forward. His other platoons were maneuvering into assault positions to form an “L” shape and flank the town. Once the first and second platoons initiated contact, the third and fourth platoons would sweep through and destroy the British garrison there.

Captain Lopez arrived just in time to see a lone light blue police car drive slowly up to the road some hundred-and-fifty meters away. Close enough that the Mexicans could see a pair of policemen emerge from the coupe, bobbin helmets silhouetted against the fields behind them. They appeared to be looking for something but couldn’t yet see anything. Through the scope of his rifle, Lopez could see that one had a pistol on his hip and the other was heading back to the trunk of the car. A sergeant on the Mexican line, receiving a nod from his platoon leader, reached for a megaphone that was strapped to his belt kit.

“Attention, attention,” he blared through the tinny-sounding voice amplifier. “Step away from the car and lay down your weapons. You will not be harmed.”

The policemen jumped in fright, ducking to the ground. One of them reached for his hip as a squad’s worth of Mexican soldiers emerged from the crop field in front of him, rifles drawn and pointed at the pair. They yelled in Spanish for him to surrender and drop the weapon, their voices all shouting over each other. The Belizean policeman changed his mind, yelping and raising his hands high in the air. “Okay! Okay! What the fuck?” he exclaimed as a Mexican corporal rushed forward to take his weapon. His partner similarly placed his hands high above his head, stepping away from the car.

“What the hell? Who are you?” he repeated, eyes wide in fright. The Mexican platoon bounded forward out of their positions to the road and he got a good look at their gear. Everyone’s helmet bore a white stenciled “MX” and the squad leaders wore large brassards with an embroidered Mexican flag on their right shoulders. “Mexico?” he stuttered, turning back to his partner. Before he had time to ask any further questions, a soldier had forced the policeman to the ground and was tying up his hands with a piece of rope. He slipped a blindfold out of his pocket and over the man’s face before forcing him up and rushing him to the prisoner collection point behind the platoon lines.

Lopez lowered his scope and turned to congratulate the sergeant with the megaphone. They were instructed to offer the British an opportunity to surrender first before shooting and try at all costs not to kill the Belizean local police. Knowing the town of Belmopan had only a few policemen, he only had a handful of prisoners that he needed to detain. The platoon reformed into a line past the now-abandoned police car and continued their bound further towards the town.

Belmopan was a squat farming town of only a few buildings, none of them more than two floors tall. Mostly made of wood with tin roofs, the town had everything a rural farmer could ever need: a general store that doubled as a clinic, a bank, a one-room schoolhouse, and a pub. Everything else was an automobile trip away to Belize City sixty kilometers to the east. The British blockhouse was the only thing made from concrete, a barracks building for forty soldiers located at the exact intersection the Mexicans were to take. It was three hundred meters north of their current position, well within visual range. Captain Lopez rushed forward with the platoon to where they took up more fighting positions in the fields outside the town.

In the distance, a man dressed in khaki held a Lee Enfield rifle hesitantly, pushing the brim of his tommy helmet out of his face with a palm. The Mexicans advanced through the crops, staying off the road where they had just taken the policemen prisoner. The British soldier could see the plants rustle as the Mexicans silently bounded to the edge of the fields just another hundred meters shy of him. He had no doubt heard the confusion down the road but didn’t know what to make of it.

He squinted, thinking he saw figures in the fields ahead of him. The Mexican sergeant with the megaphone turned it on again and, this time in English, offered a warning: “Attention, attention. This is the Mexican Army. You are severely outnumbered. Drop your weapon and surrender.”

The Brit, who appeared to be in his late forties, dropped his jaw and fell to a knee in the middle of the road. “To arms! To arms!” he shouted back to the blockhouse behind him. Before he could get the rifle shouldered, someone on the Mexican line fired a single round. The other paratroopers in the line immediately erupted into a volley of rifle fire that cut down the British soldier in the road before he could even shoot back.

Over Reyes’s radio, Captain Lopez heard the platoon leader report that they were firing upon a British position in town. The second platoon acknowledged as their machine guns swept the blockhouse perimeter from a position three hundred meters to Lopez’s west. The roar of automatic gunfire broke through the calm of the morning and the commander watched as bullets impacted across the concrete barrack’s façade. Someone inside pulled an alarm, and an air raid siren broke out in a screeching wail across the town. The Mexicans held their fire to await further commands before a team of four British soldiers came rushing out the front of their barracks armed with rifles.

The Mexicans fired again at the troops, forcing the British to scramble for cover behind crates and barricades in their supply yard. Some of them shot back, the high velocity rounds whizzing overhead of the Mexicans who were still camouflaged behind the lush crops of the town’s farms. Lopez turned around to see Lieutenant Muñoz and Specialist Reyes ducking into a small muddy ditch. Muñoz was white as a ghost, more so than his usual pale complexion, clutching his rifle with one hand and the map case with another while Reyes was rapidly chattering away on the radio’s hand mic. Someone on the firing line shouted “watch right!”

A pair of British soldiers had raced around the corner of a squat single family shack, both in berets. Only one of them appeared to have a rifle; the other held a revolver with a lanyard tied to his pistol belt. They both ducked down, surprised to have run into the enemy, and attempted to fire back. The rifleman squeezed off a trio of shots, clumsily charging the bolt on his rifle between each one, before a burst of machine gun fire raked across him. The soldier died instantly, his corpse jolting with the impact of the .30 caliber rounds into his chest as blood sprayed from his back.

His colleague panicked, jumping up from the ground and dropping his revolver as he sprinted towards the concrete barracks across the road. It was his last mistake, as he was shot down in the road by a volley of fire in the violent chaos. He buckled dramatically under the bullets, falling to the ground with his hand dramatically outstretched in front of him. Three British soldiers lay dead in the road with another seven sprawled out across the barrack’s parade lawn, killed as they rushed out of the door with no chance to fight back. Sporadic fire answered the Mexicans’ attack from the windows of the barracks as the defenders organized into a somewhat coherent defense. The building was already peppered with bullet holes as it sustained a violent attack from both ends.

At Lopez’s position behind the first platoon, he saw the fruits of his training manifest. Sergeants and officers were now racing behind their firing lines shouting at their soldiers to conserve ammunition. In the excitement of first contact, the paratroopers had seemingly forgotten about control and measured firepower. Hundreds of shells littered the muddy ground between the crops as the rate of fire slowed to a manageable rate. The squawking of Reyes’s radio could now be heard as officers and radiomen chattered in the background. The platoons were getting another series of status reports from their sergeants: ammunition, casualties, and equipment status was all sent up to First Sergeant Kan with the company command post.

An awkward silence befell the battlefield, punctuated only by the distant blaring of the air raid siren. The paratroopers reloaded in between British potshots as the sergeants ran amongst themselves and figured out a plan of action. The solution in first platoon was a volley of rifle grenades, which was approved by their platoon leader. “Grenadiers!” bellowed the officer from his position, “shoot two grenades to their bunker!”

Two grenadiers hurried forward from other positions, equipment jostling as they darted and dodged through the crop field. Affixed to the front of their semi-automatic Mondragón rifles were silver-colored grenades with fins. Secured straight to the bayonet lug and fired with the simple insertion of a blank cartridge to their open breech, the rifle grenades could easily fly the hundred meters from the Mexicans’ line to the British position. Lopez much preferred to attack with them, as opposed to sending teams of men dangerously close to bunkers and trenches with hand grenades. The two grenadiers dove into positions in a ditch next to the platoon leader who aggressively pointing out their target.

One after another with heavy thumps, the grenadiers shot off their projectiles and dove back into cover. Sunlight glinted off the rounds as they sailed through the air before slamming into the building. With quick thuds, two explosions rocked the barracks and kicked up clouds of dust and concrete fragments. Lopez looked through his scope to see cracks in the concrete wall, shattered windows, and large chunks missing from the British barricade. It seemed to silence the enemy, however, as a minute passed with no shots fired from either side. In the background, the platoon leaders debated over the radio on if they could see anyone moving.

Another minute passed as Lopez wondered what was happening. The air raid siren that had been blaring the entire time suddenly cut out, sending the small town of Belmopan back into its early morning silence. In the distant jungle, exotic birds chattered again. The smell of gunfire and carbon mixed with the humidity and dew. Through his scope, Lopez saw a rock sail out of the front entrance to the barracks with a white rag cut up and tied to it like a flowing tail. His eyes widened and he turned back to Reyes: “Cease fire!” he hissed to the Specialist.

Reyes echoed it through the radio, which was then repeated by the officer of first platoon to his sergeants. All of the paratroopers laid with their guns pointed towards the British barracks as a man in khaki emerged cautiously, legs shaking, from the entrance with his hands high in the air and a white undershirt. Lopez moved up, slowly and carefully to ensure that he wouldn’t spook either his men or the British into any reaction, and tapped the first platoon’s megaphone carrier on the shoulder. He gestured to the man that he needed the device and the sergeant duly gave it to his commander.

Lopez stood up, still camouflaged behind a mass of vegetation in front of him, and turned on the speaker: “Can you speak Spanish?” he asked calmly, knowing that the answer was probably yes. British forces in Belize usually had to be able to speak to the local population.

“Sí,” came the reply, a shout in a heavy foreign accent. It sounded like the Brit had learned his Spanish from Spain instead of Mexico. He continued to walk onto the parade field, leading a line of British soldiers without weapons and their hands on their wide-brimmed helmets to a loose formation behind him. Over the radio, the fourth platoon’s leader reported that they had moved a machine gunner to have an eye on them in case they tried anything. Lopez doubted that they would. He brought the megaphone to his lips and, after looking to Lieutenant Muñoz behind him, stepped out of the field and into full view of the British just a hundred meters away.

“This is Captain Dominic Lopez of the Mexican Army,” announced the commander. “We accept your surrender.”
Like New York medical faction. I'd be happy to collab some time on that with Maine.

Yeah, the implication on that is they're an NPC for everyone to use (that's why they're a faction, not like a component of government.) Figured I'd just write up the actual sheet. But they would definitely be in Maine.

Obviously you'd write them like, say, the Followers of the Apocalypse... probably not going to have doctors kicking down doors and shooting people in the face.
The Wasteland Aid Society

Red Hook, Brooklyn

A row of battery-like objects protruded from a steel shelf. Each of them were slotted into hundreds of ports along dozens of rows of these shelves, each of them flashing blinking green lights to nobody in particular. They all made a low humming noise and radiated warmth into the room around them. Upon closer inspection, these batteries were hundreds of energy cells and electron charge packs sitting in gigantic charging banks. A man in a black suit with a gaggle of technicians wearing mismatched jumpsuits inspected one of the charging shelves.

The man in the suit ran his hand over the energy cells until he picked one at random to yank out from the socket. The flashing green light turned yellow as it waited for the battery to be reinserted to finish its charge. The energy cell was still warm to the touch and carried a noticeable heft in his hand, like a loaded magazine. Its metal was dented and scratched. The labeling and letting from the original manufacturer had long since worn off. But prewar technology was robust, with these energy cells capable of being recharged dozens of times over before it was time to totally throw them away.

“How long does it take to charge these?” asked the man. While he had managed the company’s up and coming energy weapons department, he was never inclined towards the specifics of the technology.

“Well, about two days for a full charge. We’re working on another set of charging banks in the back specifically for overcharged cells, which should take four days,” explained a technician in a red jumpsuit tied around his waist. He wore a faded undershirt bearing the logo of an old world baseball team in Brooklyn. The manager nodded and stuck the energy cell back into its slot. The light turned back to a flashing green.

The manager’s name was Mario Leonetti and he had just overseen the opening of this particular assembly line for Brooklyn AA&E. Famed in the region for its weapons production, Brooklyn AA&E’s iconic stamp could be found on its signature goods: arms, ammunition, and explosives. Usually consigned to restore and produce a sizeable selection of conventional firearms and ammunition, Leonetti spearheaded the development of an energy weapons refurbishment branch. The rows of charging banks, themselves found in the basement of a RobCo facility in the industrial hellscape of Jersey, had been fixed up and put to work recharging spent energy packs. It was the first tangible success of the project.

“May we continue?” he asked the technicians. They all nodded and shuffled out the door, following another lower manager in a white short-sleeved shirt out the door. Only a pair of employees remained in the charging room to monitor the status of the energy cells on a desk with a computer terminal placed nearby.

Across the hall of the old brick building was their open-floor workshop. Lined up in neat rows were workbenches and workstations cluttered with tools, parts, gadgets, and components. Mechanics, highly talented and gifted technicians from across the city, had been hired to work on energy weapons in this bay. Across their desks was a wide assortment of laser weapons, plasma guns, and a fair share of more exotic armament. Most of these were gutted and disassembled with technicians working determinedly to fix them. From the corner, Leonetti heard a slam and turned his head to see a mechanic loudly thumping the stock of a laser rifle against the desk. He grinned and walked over.

“What’re you working on?” asked Leonetti, a measured air of genuine curiosity in his voice. The mechanic looked up from the chamber of the laser rifle, clutching a flashlight between his teeth. He quickly removed it and put it down on the desk.

“Sorry about that, heh,” he said, looking back to the chamber of the gun. “This sonofabitch right here,” he motioned towards some vague internal piece of the rifle, “is supposed to reciprocate. It’s stuck, so I figure if I can give it an ‘ole slam then it should come unstuck.”

Leonetti squinted but couldn’t make heads or tails of the part that the mechanic was referring to. Instead he just nodded his head: “Well I’m sure if you keep smacking it like that you’ll get it out of there in no time. Good work from you, son.”

He returned to his entourage of technicians and surveyed the room again. A rack of weapons laid against the opposite wall, each of them in various states of disrepair. Rusted, broken, or missing components. Leonetti had asked specifically for a cut of AA&E’s revenue for this branch. To front the operation, he had paid dozens of contracted scavengers to loot for energy weapons that others may have missed or thrown away. It now looked like his big bet was paying off. AA&E had asked the City Council for The Economist’s input on laser weaponry and other high technology sites, and a mercenary crew was dispatched to the RobCo facility in Jersey that yielded the energy cell chargers. Right on the money, as per usual.

Leonetti returned to the hallway where the floor manager was standing, idly chatting with one of the technicians about something. All Leonetti could understand was some technobabble about the overcharge banks having electrical issues. He figured it was a problem, like usual, with the old technology. He had confidence that they would figure it out eventually. The floor manager noticed Leonetti’s return: “How’s it looking, boss?” he asked.

“Pretty good in there,” Leonetti replied authoritatively. “You guys are really putting in the work I like to see. We’ll have those laser guns out of there in no time, right?”

The floor manager nodded vigorously. “Oh, of course. Two or three weeks tops and we should have a whole bunch of guns to sell off,” he casually assessed. He looked at a clipboard that he had been holding tucked under his arm and nodded again. He repeated his timeline of three weeks.

“Good, good,” Leonetti said, crossing his arms. He checked his watch in a feigned display of hurry. He always had work to do, and often used that as an excuse to cut social engagements and tours short regardless of the specifics. “Well thanks for showing me around today gents,” he announced as he clapped his hands together. “I’ve got to run… sales is going to love this news. Keep this up and you boys might be getting a nice bonus for your troubles.”

Almont, Upstate Wastes

“I’m getting tired of hearing that fuckin’ kook on the radio,” grumbled Charlie from his bunk.

The half-crazed mayor of Almont had just wrapped up his rambling “newscast” of the afternoon, talking about… something. Charlie tuned out the insanity and tried to get back to the music instead. Unfortunately for him, there wasn’t much this far north. New York’s comparatively more civilized DJs had long since turned to static as they rounded the bend of the Hudson south of Newburgh. Local settlements sometimes had their own radio stations, of course, but those were more for communication and less for entertainment. After a certain way up the river, Hathaway’s madness was the only sound they had.

Sanjay shrugged in his chair as he set down another card. He had gotten used to playing solitaire in his spare time. Another sailor was up on the deck, keeping watch for the dangers of the wasteland. Luckily for them, this trip had so far been uneventful. Maybe the dreary weather was keeping people away. After all, nobody liked to be stalking around the mountains in soaking wet clothes and boots. The weather was still forecasted to be like this for another few days; it was good enough of a cover to get them to Almont and mostly back to New York before it let up. Charlie was just glad that Sanjay had been right about it being an “easy job” for once.

They were a few hours from docking at Almont. The rain pattered at the boat as most of the crew took cover beneath the structure of its bridge. The dull thrum of the engine propelled it further up the river, unceasingly beating against the mild current and light winds of the Hudson. Charlie dozed back to sleep after checking his watch, realizing that morning was yet to come. Their ships had gotten awfully good at scheduling their docking at Almont.

Charlie was awoken from his sleep with a light push. He opened his eyes to see Sanjay standing above him, clad in combat armor. The plated vest, a relic of the old NYPD riot teams, was painted dark grey to match the rest of his uniform. He clutched a carbine in his hands. “Charlie, man, we just docked!” he said as he jostled the sailor from his sleep.

The sailor grumbled again, swinging his legs out of his bunk. He shooed Sanjay away, urging him to head topside while he changed. Charlie wore a pair of underpants and a plain white shirt as he stumbled to his personal locker. Inside were his work clothes: he much preferred a blue jumpsuit with nothing underneath. Anything besides the jumpsuit was too much of a chore in the steamy humidity of New York’s summer. The weather was changing to become much cooler, however, as fall fast approached. He had heard that once upon a time the trees would change colors to shades of orange and red before the leaves fell for winter: not anymore. The land was still too scarred from the war.

Charlie went to work on the boat mooring it to the dock. Almont was nothing like New York. It looked and felt like an active warzone in a carnival. Neon signs lit up all sorts of establishments of sin in town: bars, casinos, brothels, and everything in between. A loudspeaker played the same deranged rantings of the mayor that permeated the airwaves from his radio station. All across the dock was a flurry of activity as the shipment began to be unloaded. A team of local mercenaries had been hired, under Sanjay’s supervision, to guard the pier where the sailors were offloading their wooden boxes. They stood in a tight line, clutching bats and blunt instruments.

Out of the corner of Charlie’s eye he saw a trio of kids, no older than their early teens, try to make a break for a crate that had been set down close to the line of mercenaries. They scrambled out of the shadows, one with a bright red flare gun that he waved wildly in the air. The kid hopped over a crumbled concrete barrier and, to his own surprise, discharged the flare gun straight into the ground next to the foot of a guard. His friends realized that they had blown their cover and rushed away, leaving the teen to his fate. Sitting down on his rear, staring up at the mercenary and clutching the flare gun, his eyes widened. The merc spared no words, strategically lining up the teen’s hand with his bat and smacking the gun away from him.

The would-be thief yelped in pain and evacuated himself into the shadows, clutching his hand. Charlie just shook his head. Vagrant kids were a constant annoyance. He was sure he’d find them begging for caps in an alley later that night. Sanjay turned to Charlie, shrugging with his carbine in hand. He was under orders not to fire inside the city limits unless absolutely necessary: the former Gunners were trigger happy about that sort of thing. Charlie kept unloading the wooden boxes, stacking them neatly next to a weathered wooden shack marked “DELIVERY.”

The captain, satisfied that the cargo was completely offloaded after an hour’s work, hobbled himself off the barge. A stiff leg that never quite healed from a break crippled his movement. Tucked under his arm was a clipboard with paperwork and forms that TraDiv needed from the registered merchants: another cause for griping from the old man. He met with a merchant on the pier who appeared equally as apathetic as the sea captain, merely scribbling a curved line on the form to act as his signature. Another, far more traditional exchange happened as well when the merchant passed the captain a clinking bag full of caps.

The captain hobbled his way back to the ship and motioned for the sailors to cut out and go about their business. He had briefed over the intercom when to expect a muster the following morning: seven AM sharp. Failure to show up used to be punished with a beating, back in the old days. Now, it was more than sufficient to just sever the contract right then and there and leave the tardy sailor stranded alone in Almont. Most of the crew would prefer a beating. Charlie lit a cigarette as he went back down belowdecks for his things. Sanjay followed: he had to trade in his carbine for a sidearm before going out on the town. Company policy dictated that they couldn’t have anything bigger than a handgun out in Almont.

Sanjay ditched his armor and opted for the simple blue uniform shirt, like usual. Charlie couldn’t have been bothered to change out of his jumpsuit. They both filled their pockets full of caps, strapped on their holsters, and went out on the town. Almont was rough and grimy, dangerous and shady. Like a pack of migrating animals, the sailors all headed in one direction to the neon-lit entertainment neighborhood. They would be safer in their massive group, and they all knew the bars and clubs of Almont had little tolerance for allowing violence. Armed guards patrolled the streets, breaking up fights and fending off potential troublemakers. After all, it was far more lucrative to have a drunk New Yorker spending caps at the bar instead of going home empty-handed after getting robbed.

Charlie and Sanjay peeled off from the group once they hit the strip of bars. They had one objective, and that was to get absolutely blackout drunk at their favorite establishment: Stella Supreme’s. Jubilantly, Sanjay practically kicked in the door to the dive bar. He always made a point to come to this place when they were in Almont, if only to see the one special girl that he always liked to spend a night with. Without fail, she always frequented the bar at Stella’s, and she was there again that night. A tall brunette with a cigarette in her mouth, she smiled when she saw the pair: “Back again, huh? I thought you’d miss me.”

Sanjay sidled up to her and flipped some caps on the table while Charlie ordered some liquor. His goal that night was to get as drunk as possible on the cheap, and with cash to spare to bring some bottles back home with him. Almont was half the price of New York for almost everything, especially luxury goods like alcohol and chems. As Sanjay tried to pay for more attention from his friend, Charlie fed himself shot after shot. Minutes passed that turned into hours as Stella’s got more and more packed. Charlie dropped deeper into his state of intoxication as he kept drinking. He danced with the girls, argued with the guys, and in the middle of things lost sight of Sanjay.

It was close to midnight when Charlie said, or rather slurred, something to the wrong guy. He didn’t quite remember what he did wrong, only that he took a haymaker of a punch to the face in response. With all the coordination that his drunk self could muster, he swung back. He didn’t quite remember if he connected or not. A gang of four people rushed him and before he knew it, he had taken a swing of something heavy to the back of his head. He blacked out before he hit the ground and woke up sometime later still drunk in an alley with a figure towering over him.

“Come on, man,” said the figure. Charlie groaned and covered his eyes as the rays of the sun peeked through the scrap-metal awning that provided him shade. The blurriness resolved as he got his bearings: he was curled up next to a dumpster with empty pockets, no gun, and blood staining the front of his jumpsuit. He rolled over, putting his hands on his head, struggling to get a good look at whoever was standing next to him. It was two people: one in a white lab coat of some sort, while the other dressed in a black turtleneck. The man in the coat kneeled down and laid a bottle of water on the ground.

“Who are you?” he grumbled. The man in the lab coat was not actually a scientist, and in fact looked more like a doctor. He was stern behind a pair of thick glasses, entirely unamused with the scene.

“I’m the guy who found you kicking around in this alley,” deadpanned the doctor. He motioned to the water: “Drink this. You got your ass kicked.”

“Fuck,” mumbled Charlie as he sat up. The doctor stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked around. Charlie noticed a silver watch on the man’s wrist and asked what the time was. Nine in the morning. Way past manifest. Charlie swore again, cursing the company policy. He was out of this contract’s pay and had to figure out how to get out of Almont. He took a swig of the water and looked back up at the doctor: “You seen my buddy around?”

“You had a friend? Would have been helpful in that fight.”

“Yeah, well, the kid ran off chasing a broad,” Charlie said. He spat blood onto the concrete before chugging some more water.

“You sailors are all the same,” the doctor sighed. He extended his hand out and offered to help Charlie up. The sailor steadied himself to his feet and got a better look at the man. The doctor wasn’t an average physician: he wore the distinct armband of the Wasteland Aid Society. Charlie had seen them around and figured they were some sort of charity and volunteer group but had never talked to them beyond that. He figured they gave food and medicine to the needy or, in his case, picked up drunks off the street.

“Trust me, you’re fucked. Missing your friend and you missed your boat,” the doctor explained. The man in the turtleneck next to him clutched a rifle in his palms, staring down the alley to make sure they weren’t suddenly attacked. The Aid Society always seemed to travel with bodyguards, seeing as they were as close to pacifists as one could get in the wasteland. “I’m the best friend you’ve got. We’ll go looking for your buddy and hopefully get you out of here in one piece.”

Sanjay was just as drunk as Charlie was and probably was still in Almont as well. The pair desperately needed to regroup and figure out a way to get back to the city. He cursed himself again, wondering how he could be so stupid as to get his ass beat at a bar in Almont. Out of options, he nodded and finished off the water.

“Yeah, good idea,” he told the doctor.
New York's "foreign" policy on slavery is probably just as compromised as its ability to reach. Like, obviously no slavery where it can be enforced. But New York isn't going to be picking fights with slavers to liberate things if they don't have to.

A key thing to note is probably its relatively healthy Railroad network. Synths moved between DC and Boston probably often settle there, and I can imagine the New York government giving refuge and shelter for the Railroad while also rooting out Institute covert operations. This would probably extend to "regular" slaves too.

I see New York less as an official body going around freeing slaves but more like a permissive environment for folks like the Railroad or a Followers of the Apocalypse type group to grow and base out of.
Adding some updates of the various departments in the city while I keep writing a post.

In the meantime, I haven't thought too much about which guys would be elite. On a broader sense, Security Division is roughly split into two services (unofficially): city and wasteland.

City guys generally handle stuff that you'd usually associate with guard duty or policing, their most dangerous focus probably gangs and tribes still in the city. Definitely not kick down the door in power armor type folks.

Wasteland fighters are more akin to soldiers, although not organized or deployed in substantial formations or operating with a lot of defined doctrine and combined arms capability. A lot of these guys are more focused on seeking out and securing resources or assets and keeping trade routes clear.

I'll have to do some more work on how they get around (mostly sea-based, I don't see vehicles being of much use on the shitty and ruined roads.) I'll also have to figure out stuff like power armor.

Of the two, wasteland units are much more capable and tough. It often leads to a lot of interservice rivalry and jurisdiction issues when specific departments or precincts try to take on missions. Or are forced to, since the City kind of tosses SecDiv at problems that they don't know how to solve.

Overall the vibe will probably draw much more from the NYPD than leftovers of the US Military. As a result, I think that New York will simply have more troubles adjusting to things outside of managing a very dense post apocalyptic city. But, that's the inherent thing about a city state... Probably not going to be rolling around with tanks and special forces and shit.
Paris, France

Doctor Delacroix still had his reservations about the neon-lit skyscrapers towering over the rustic quarters of Paris. Although kept at bay in La Défense, technically a district outside of Paris’s official city limits, he thought the massive towers were eyesores. Built by high-tech architects and cutting-edge designers, the towers housed multinational corporate headquarters dealing with trillions of francs worth of business and technology. To Doctor Delacroix, it looked the same as any other city: Tokyo, New York, or Rio de Janeiro. It lacked the French charm that he knew and love about his country, and he couldn’t help but tut-tut their merits away. Maybe he was getting old.

The lights were distant, though, and the warm glow of Paris’s classic architecture was much closer. Delacroix, Verne, and Roxanna Masson all sat at a conference table with several other cabinet members. Antoine Renault was the Bercy minister; so named after the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s neighborhood in Paris. He sat quietly, eyes fixated ahead of him while he held one hand on the table. The other patted the white plastic hide of a shepherd-sized robotic dog. The friendly, almost cartoon caricature model dogs were marketed as a replacement to seeing-eye dogs of the past. Renault, blind since birth, enjoyed the robotic companion’s ability to verbally warn him of obstacles in his path.

Next to him sat the Minister of the Overseas, Jacques Perrier. The outre-mer filled a critically important component of the Langium resourcing in France, seeing as all zone rouges were outside the territory of France proper. Young, ambitious, and aggressive, Minister Perrier had inserted himself into the government’s conversation on Langium purely by association with the supply. He had no technical or scientific background and was yet another lawyer from a rich family who knew exactly which buttons to press to get him through a political career. Delacroix didn’t like politicians like him either: he knew Charles de Gaulle was rolling over in his grave.

All the usual suspects besides them were present. Laurent Fortin, Minister of Defense, sat next to Simone Mooradian: the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both were stone-faced in their own ways, sitting almost identically cross-legged in their chairs. Mooradian tapped her notebook with a pen impatiently. They had served as military officers and it showed. Fortin retired as an Army colonel after commanding a mechanized brigade, while Mooradian held dual records as the Air Force’s first female and first French-Armenian general before she retired as a général de brigade aérienne.

Curiously missing was the Ecology Minister. Frank Chirac was scheduled to attend but was pulled away for an urgent situation developing somewhere. A bored-looking intern sat in the corner with a notepad and instructions to take detailed notes for Minister Chirac’s office later.

The clock ticked past seven in the evening and the cabinet continued to wait. Five minutes later, the oak doors burst open to reveal the Prime Minister flanked by an aide with a briefcase of documents. The Prime Minister ran the French government in conjunction with the actual President who held the role of head of state. He had brought them together to finalize their plan for cooperation in the UN space travel project, which he would present to Parliament the next day. The Prime Minister, a portly and jovial man by the name of Richard de Normandie, worked his party to the bone on policies he wanted to see passed. De Normandie was often compared to a slavedriver in the tabloids for his tendency to keep parliamentarians at work over weekends and recesses.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” de Normandie apologized, wiping sweat from his brow. “Myself and President de Mer were both occupied with a developing situation.”

“Is everything alright?” Renault asked, his eyes fixated ahead of him. It was uncanny to the Prime Minister, but he got used to it. “One of my aides mentioned an… explosion in Nantes?”

“Yes,” the Prime Minister stammered. He looked back at his aide, who was furiously tapping out an email on a PDA in his hands. “Well, one of our big projects has been heavily damaged. We don’t know the full details. I’ll have to make it quick here so I can get back to my office.”

“Uh, Edward,” he said, turning his head towards his aide while he settled into his chair. “Can you set up the board? I’m sure that email can wait.”

The aide acknowledged the order and put down his PDA onto the table. Doctor Delacroix was able to see the title of the email on the screen from his seat: re: [CLASSIFICATION: SECRET] Army Decontamination Team Request. He squinted, trying to make sense of it. What would have the government panicking like that? Nothing had happened at CERN, he would have known.

“Okay,” the Prime Minister said, pointing to the presentation behind him. “Everyone is aware of that UN presentation that has been making waves. Faster than light travel, I’m sure Doctor Delacroix in the back there knows more about it than I do. But that’s for you guys to figure out, I wouldn’t be able to understand the specifics.”

Delacroix and Masson looked at each other. The Research Minister shrugged her shoulders and mouthed to the scientist: “Let me do the talking.”

“We got a communique from the Brazilians last week, more information about the project and what exactly they’re trying to accomplish,” de Normandie revealed. “That paper published laid out the math and science behind it, but what this UN project is trying to do is get enough of the NLC components in one area. NLC components that we have.”

The aide moved to the next slide in the presentation, a map of French Guyana. “Monsieur Perrier, you can probably explain this a bit better. What the Brazilians are looking for is mostly in this red zone, correct?”

Perrier stood up and squinted at the presentation before flipping his eyeglasses down from their perch atop his head. He looked at the map and the labels pointing to zone rouge 10. “Yes, monsieur le premier ministre,” he said. “That is zone rouge 10, the largest in South America. It lies just a few dozen kilometers south of our largest spaceport. It’s the zone with the gravitational anomalies, and we have been able to extract raw ore and refine them into alloys with absolutely incredible anti-gravity capabilities.”

“Right, yes,” de Normandie said as he nodded along. “This zone has been, eh, a pain for us ever since some Legionnaires got lost and almost got themselves killed down there. But the Brazilians have luckily been very understanding about it. Simone, good job on that one.”

Mooradian smiled softly and nodded. “I got to know the Brazilian ambassador very well over that one,” she commented. The repatriation of the rescued French soldiers went so well that it never even broke the papers.

“Anyways, the current plan of action involves us joining the UN program,” de Normandie explained, going back to the topic at hand. “We play along well with everyone else… the American and the Soviets, to name a few. But we don’t play our entire hand. Instead, we have very graciously been extended some back channels with the Brazilians. They hate the Americans more than we do, and are very interested in us having their back as we oppose them across the world.”

“What does this mean for us tangibly?” Mooradian asked. Masson raised an eyebrow at her.

“If I may, Simone,” interjected Masson. She was intense even if she didn’t mean it: even her bright red and frizzled mess of curly hair painted her as something of a mad scientist. “I’ve seen the specifics on the NLC research they’re offering to us and it is… well, years ahead of anything we can do. All theoretically ‘proven’, of course, but the Brazilians are experimenting with things we can only make mathematical equations about!”

Masson turned to Fortin: “You are still working on those hovercars for the Army, correct?”

The aide in the corner instantly cocked his head, looking confusedly back at Prime Minister de Normandie. Fortin pointed at him. “Should you really bring it up in this environment? That’s highly classified!” he barked.

“Relax, relax,” de Normandie replied as he shook his head. “The boy has a clearance, of course. And he knows not to repeat anything outside of this room. Or at least I hope he does.”

The aide nodded, placing his hands behind his back. “I can leave if you like,” he suggested. De Normandie shrugged and told him there was no need.

“Well anyways, Minister Fortin, I recall this being a high priority for Army research,” Masson continued. “Lots of government firms involved.”

“Of course,” Fortin responded. “A truck that can fly right over mines or improvised explosive devices or a tank that can carry heavy armor over terrain a normal vehicle gets bogged down in. Who wouldn’t want one?”

“And what were the big problems with it?” Masson asked. She knew the answer, of course.

“We can’t control the gravity field. It’s a lot like magnets… the antigravity ‘thrust’ is related to the amount of refined NLC antigrav alloy. We can’t tune the field or turn it off. It is unable to be controlled.”

“Right,” Masson said. “And what Doctor Kawaguchi presented to the UN was, in essence, a way to control that. While it can be used for faster than light spaceships, it has a practical application in nearly everything we do. The problem the Brazilians have is they can research really well but they don’t have the industry down. They’re simply not developed enough, nor can they access the critical quantities of NLC compounds that they need. We have both of those.”

The Prime Minister nodded again from his seat. “Roxana is completely correct. The benefits to France will propel us further along than we can imagine. Not just internationally, but domestically as well. Were you aware that they’re offering us medical NLC research? The Brazilians are able to control NLC enough that they can cause all sorts of medical fixes and improvements without the downsides of mutation that we are so used to seeing. If we could offer these treatments in hospitals, the health of a French citizen would see its biggest increase in quality in years.”

Masson sat down, looking back to Delacroix. She winked before returning to the meeting. Prime Minister de Normandie surveyed the cabinet ahead of him. “Does anyone have any concerns about this plan before I pitch it to parliament? Once the vote passes and it gets signed off by President de Mer, we will officially be joining this UN project. And, unofficially, in a pact with the Brazilians. It is of the utmost importance that we handle this appropriately.”

The Prime Minister turned to Delacroix. “This is why I brought you here. You will be chairing the French contribution to this project, which might take you away from your day-to-day activities at CERN. I trust you have a deputy to run the place in your absence?”

“Uh, of course,” Doctor Delacroix said. He was a little shocked: he was a scientist, not a politician, and this job seemed to require more political work than research. He had never wanted to be part of something so nationally sensitive but thought of what his old soldier of a father would say. That man lived and breathed liberté, égalité, fraternité. Everything he did was for God and country. Maybe his decades of scientific research instead of military service would make the old man proud in Heaven.

“Well I trust you’ll make your preparations. I assume it will require some use of email!” de Normandie joked. Delacroix’s quirks were an open secret in the government community and the source of no end to jokes. “We have a computer provided to help you out.”

Delacroix rolled his eyes. “Of course, monsieur le premier ministre.”

De Normandie went back to the meeting, surveying the cabinet. He asked again if anyone had any concerns. Nobody did. The cabinet seemed to understand the scale of the project and what France had to gain from participation. With that, de Normandie clapped his hands together: “Alright, well the vote is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon right after lunch. If my party has been working the right way, this shall sail through to be signed shortly thereafter. More instructions shall be coming down soon. For now, I need to get back to work. I hope you all have a better evening than I am having.”

The Prime Minister sat up, pushing the chair away with the force of his large body. His aide collected his things in the leather briefcase and followed de Normandie out the doors. The Ministers filtered out in their own ways, making quiet conversations with each other before leaving the conference room. Only Delacroix and Masson remained, sitting quietly in their seats after a few minutes of contemplation.

“What’s on your mind, Arthur?” asked Masson, turning to the old scientist. She could sense his confliction.

“It’s a lot,” Delacroix admitted. He shook his head. “I’m so used to things being deliberate. The slow, enduring march of progress. Experiment after experiment, reams of data to process and analyze. Years and years of peer review and refinement. Now, humans are about to reach other worlds faster than my grandson learned how to walk and talk.”

“It is a lot, but it’s a good thing,” Masson replied. She frowned. “We haven’t had an opportunity for progress like this since The Visitation.”

“Was that such a good thing?”

“You’ve made your career out of this, Arthur.”

“Some days I wonder what the world would be like if the Visitors never came and spilt their trash all over this planet,” said the scientist. “Maybe things would be less complicated.”

The Research Minister shrugged and crossed her arms. “I feel like it would be the same. Maybe we would all be sending troops to the Persian Gulf to fight over Iraqi oil instead. I don’t think we can blame the Visitors on something humans always have and always will be doing.”

Doctor Delacroix sighed and stood up from his chair. He looked at Masson, and then to the door: “I just hope this will yield more progress than the trouble it brings.”
East Village, Manhattan

Centuries ago, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Parkway had been a triple-tiered artery in New York’s massive system of roads. Powered by the demand for the automobile, roads were built on top of existing roads, which fed off into additional junctions and outlets. The War had changed that, with the blasts of atomic weapons bringing down sections of the elevated expressway. In the absence of life, these sections of highway sat vacant until settlers began forming camps above the city around them. What once was seen as a high ground for key settlements, separated from the streets, quickly turned into a continuous network of shanty towns.

The FDR Parkway still sat, partially collapsed. It never could be fully repaired, nor did anyone want to take up the job. The organically apocalyptic spread of shacks turned to buildings constructed of brick, wood, and rusting steel plating had covered the entirety of the expressway. Supports were reinforced with a patchwork of uneven repairs of many different materials, matching the buildings behind. Like most of the city, the rubble had been cleared where it could: streets were blocked where buildings had totally collapsed, of course, but the throughfares and detours around them were clear. The rubble of destroyed buildings formed a patchwork of reconstruction in others.

By the shore of the East River, at the foot of New York’s mottled cityscape, the spread of elevated shack structures had produced almost an undercity. Tarps and wires draped unevenly from the highway to the buildings besides hung low, swinging in the wind. Neon signs lit the darkness, advertising anything from stores to bars to more general businesses. Rusted hulks of old boats still lay tied up beside rotted docks, covered in graffiti. These, too, were too low priority to be moved or disassembled for scrap but served a use in allowing old fishermen to sometimes catch fish off their bows.

Rain blew in from the south, gently sweeping underneath the highway’s cover despite its best efforts to protect the people from overhead. A man in a hooded raincoat, scavenged from many years ago, ducked his way into a dark alley where a sign advertised a drinking establishment: its name was the Old New York Pub. An immediate rush of warm air greeted the man and a feeling of comfort washed over him. The brick-walled establishment was lit by soft red light. He let down his hood, taking in the smells of liquor and hearing the piano tune of a swing number played over a gently crackling radio.

“Hey, Charlie!” called out the bartender. Behind the counter, wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves covered by a vest, a redheaded man waved. Charlie grinned, throwing up a wave of his own before sidling over to the counter.

The bartender didn’t hesitate to initiate the ritual. He poured a beer from the tap in front of him, some avant-garde bitter pale ale flavored with a spicy kick from a radscorpion’s venom gland. It came, naturally, out of Brooklyn. Charlie slid a few bottlecaps across the counter and accepted the pint glass, taking a drink out of the chilled glass. The Old New York Pub’s refrigerator had been out for a while until the owner had paid some mechanic to fix it. Learning how to fix prewar consumer goods and figuring out how to fabricate parts was a lucrative business for the smarter New Yorkers who weren’t picked up by the Engineering Division to work on bigger projects.

“What’s been happening lately?” asked the bartender, who went by the name of Phil.

“Not much, my boat just got back into port,” Charlie admitted. “Took the coastal route up Long Island Sound to go deliver some cargo to New Haven.”

Small trading communities had popped up in some of the old Connecticut cities, initially from the brahmin routes that traders would use along I-95 going to the Commonwealth. As more boats, controlled and regulated by the Trade Division, came into service New York was able to ship greater amounts of cargo much faster to and from these settlements. Most of the city’s food was grown in farms directly around these cities, often owned by feudal lords and squabbling strongmen.

“Nothing exciting?” Phil asked, leaning back against the brick wall of the bar. Charlie shook his head and smirked.

“I saw a mirelurk. Shot it. I’ve been getting good with that hunting rifle I bought from your brother. The one with the scope, remember?”

“Are you able to get a good shot off those boats for yours?” Phil asked. He had always been into guns but could never join the Security Division. As a kid, he had slipped and fallen off a pile of rubble near his native home in the Bronx: he had to deal with a bum leg for the rest of his life. New York’s doctors were not as good back then as they are now. “My brother used it as a sniper for a little bit. Used to say he picked off raiders in Jersey like it was nothing.”

“You know, the boat isn’t that bad,” Charlie replied. “They’re like big barges, they sit very low to the water. Wouldn’t go on the open sea with them, fuck no. But they’re good enough for a nice calm trip up the sound or the river.”

He lifted his hands up and mimed holding a rifle: “I just saw the guy on the shore, just laying there.” He emulated recoil and made a gunshot noise with his mouth. “Super easy, just balanced my barrel on the gunwale and popped him one. It went right through the shell. I love that thing.”

Phil shrugged. “I shot some dinner plates with it once,” he chuckled.

“What a waste of a perfectly good dinner plate,” lamented Charlie as he took another sip. The spice jolted through him as it went down his throat, giving him goosebumps. He was pretty sure the drink was still radioactive on some level, too.

He sat in silence for a bit, listening to the music. The jazzy, upbeat rhythm of the song seemed awfully inappropriate. It seemed more like a dance club’s music: there were about five people inside the bar, none of whom were dancing. The door opened again, another figure entering and taking off his raincoat. He wore the dark blue shirt of a SecDiv man. “Charlie Park?” he called out. “I knew I could find you here!”

“Goddamn, is it a fuckin’ reunion in here?” Charlie said before he turned around. He recognized that voice: Sanjay Knight. Sanjay’s main job had him accompany the boats up the Hudson from time to time, since city policy required that a SecDiv agent be a part of any armed TraDiv expedition. Like many things that got wound up in the city government’s bureaucracy, Sanjay’s presence was often redundant when most of the sailors were armed themselves. He merely served as an official rubber stamp to give “jurisdiction” for use of force in the wasteland. Still, he was a good guy, and Charlie liked having him around.

Sanjay smiled and came to sit next to him. He was tall, striding across the floor with a cheerful bounce to his step. He slapped Charlie on the shoulder: “I heard you got back yesterday, right? Had a job for you.”

“Man, another contract?” Charlie asked incredulously. It made him good money, he just never felt that he had any time to rest. He finished the beer with a loud tap as the empty glass hit the table. Phil wordlessly refilled it for another exchange of caps.

“Gonna have to get a few more of these in me before you convince me,” Charlie told Sanjay. The SecDiv man grinned, reached into a pocket on his grey cargo pants, and put a handful of caps down on the table.

“Shots’ll do it quicker.”

Chelsea, Manhattan

Charlie found himself quite hungover on a pier in Chelsea the next morning, untying a line from the weathered wooden dock. The previous night’s rain had turned into a ghostly grey fog, obscuring the high-rises of the city and casting a dreary mood on the quiet docks. Other boats and barges were preparing for the day’s trip, which typically brought the slow watercraft only to Poughkeepsie. Sanjay helped a sailor dragging a wooden box onboard, making an audible rustling clink when it slammed on top of another one. Sanjay’s contract had them traveling to Almont and the cargo was unmistakable: Charlie knew the sound of ammunition rattling in a box.

The Trade Division never specified any restrictions on who the various companies of New York sold what to, and arms merchants were among the Wasteland’s traditionally most profitable companies. Bullets made in Brooklyn often found themselves in Almont sold to bandits and raiders. The infamous Gunners, who often ambushed settlers and caravans in the wilder regions around White Plains, were big fans of New York ammunition. Security Division officials found themselves confiscating caches of ammunition that were sent back to the city and, curiously, repackaged to sell again. The caps just stamped themselves.

SecDiv officials in the City Council were often at odds with the TraDiv representatives for the back and forth. The Council, meanwhile, tolerated the ordeal so long as it didn’t get out of hand. They were no position to legislate commercial activity like that and didn’t mind the additional revenue being brought in for other projects. Charlie didn’t care much if his cut was healthy enough to do as he pleased.

“How are you feeling?” asked Sanjay, slapping Charlie on the back. The sailor grumbled, shaking his head.

“This is the last time you convince me to do anything,” muttered Charlie. His head was throbbing.

"Well, give us a couple days and we’ll be back in Almont. The pay here is pretty good, just gotta be on the lookout for those Gunner guys.”

The one good thing about Almont is they provided some semblance of mafia-like protection to the New Yorkers. Smaller independent traders were often harassed by the Gunners who didn’t belong to the splinter faction in charge there. New York City, meanwhile, provided good quality products enough to convince the two groups to maintain a status quo. Roving bands of Gunners knew better not to attack the New Yorkers, lest they draw the specific ire of mayor. Potshots and ambushes still happened, but not like they used to. It was the less-organized bands of raiders that they needed to worry about.

The crew of the ship had brought aboard the last of the cargo and signed off on the courier’s order. While the ammunition came from the factory in Brooklyn, it traveled on a specially cleared subway car for intracity cargo. This stopped at the station in Chelsea, one of the “cargo stops”, where a team of workers unloaded the boxes with dollies. The whole process was much faster than the Brahmin carts of old. The boat’s captain, a veteran seaman, climbed to the wheelhouse that sat elevated over the barge’s wide cargo deck. Jad Hemsworth had proven himself for over thirty years on the Hudson and had the scars to prove it.

Charlie and Sanjay both heard the foghorn go off from the wheelhouse once the preparations for departure were complete. Sanjay helped as Charlie pulled the lines connecting the boat to the dock loose and onto the deck. Beneath them, the hull reverberated with the thrumming of the barge’s atomic-powered propeller. A small powerplant no bigger than a common nuclear train’s reactor drove two propellers. In the cool morning air, the boat moved away from the pier and turned due north.

The sun, barely rising above the city ahead, peeked over the fog with its golden rays. Charlie found himself a seat on the deck, an old poolside lounge chair that leaned back next to a table, and made himself comfortable. The trip north would take a while.

The view from the 107th floor never ceased to amaze her. Atop the massive steel-framed skyscraper was a prewar restaurant framed by floor-to-ceiling windows. Repaired over the years since the war, the 107th floor was where the North Tower’s residents came to eat, drink, socialize, or simply look out over the city. With a steaming cup of coffee in front of her, Sandra Napolini looked out across the city of New York. The city, roughshod and ramshackle, bore the scars of the old world’s violent conflagration. Buildings, many damaged and some toppled completely, were repaired across the cityscape with scrap or locally fabricated materials.

Even the towers that Sandra hailed from, the World Trade Center complex functioning as the beating heart of the old American economic system, had been repaired piecemeal over the centuries that passed. The war, the harsh environment, the radiation, and time’s unceasing march caused countless problems. Sandra’s mother, Helen, were among the engineers tasked with keeping the Twin Towers alive. Academically gifted with a knack for improvisation and creative thinking, these engineers were the backbone of the Towers’ settlement. Doctors served the people inside, while the engineers healed their home.

Sandra smiled pensively, thinking about how her mother taught the newest generation of engineers and maintainers: they had gone beyond the vertical fiefdom that had been carved out of the old city. Sandra, midway into her forties, had not yet been born when her mother had found the machine intelligence that lay beneath the complex. With its guidance, New York City was reborn in 2234. The last warring tribe, the stubbornly independent and holier-than-thou Staten Islanders, was conquered or bribed into submission by 2249. A community was born, with The Economist serving as its guide. It was all ancient history to her and many of her peers, who often had to endure their grandparents’ tales of scavenging and survival.

Sandra felt a familiar presence behind her: she turned to look and see an old friend standing by a window with a glass of beer. Samuel Powell, a technologist who worked with the Administration Division. In the vein of the old world, New York had come up with untold numbers of divisions and departments to neatly organize the jobs required to run a city. The Twin Towers and its surrounding buildings served as the headquarters for all of these, with branches and offices running into each of the territories that New York controlled.

“Mind if I sit here?” Samuel asked politely, motioning to a seat next to Sandra. She agreed, taking a sip of her coffee. He a facsimile of prewar office clothes, a luxury for tower residents but not one out of touch with the wasteland’s new fashion. His shirt was a dark green and his slacks black: muted colors that avoided the stains and filth that tended to accumulate on such clothes.

Sandra continued to look out the window where a storm cloud was slowly approaching from the shore. The water and the rain, while no longer wholly radioactive, had a slight greenish tint to them. She had heard of the Exploration Division’s scouts reporting similar phenomena in the Commonwealth and the Capital Wasteland. Another reminder that, no matter how hard they tried, there could be no going back to how things were before. She had never been behind the barrel of a gun pointed at a mutant, unless one counted smacking a radroach with a broomstick, but the reminders of the apocalypse were ever present.

“What’s on your mind?” Samuel asked, sensing that his old friend was deep in thought.

“The City Council has a meeting tomorrow, and they want The Economist’s input on a new plan of theirs,” Sandra said. “I’ll have to talk to him… it…”

“It’s okay,” chuckled Samuel, catching her slip. “I suppose we can call it a ‘him.’ After all, we name our boats after women. And The Economist is far more talkative than a boat. More personality, too.”

Sandra rolled her eyes, clutching her coffee in her hand. “Did people really talk like that in the old world?” she asked. The Economist, programmed to convey information like a suave fast-talking stockbroker on Wall Street, often irritated her. It didn’t help that people were already starting to imitate the accent and style, especially as the city developed its wealth and a corresponding population of affluent downtowners.

“I suppose they did. ’Nyah! See?’” he exclaimed, gesticulating wildly with his impression. He mimed picking up a telephone: “’Robco dropped their fourth quarter earnings and boy ain’t they shitty! Sell, baby, sell!’”

Sandra stifled a laugh. Samuel had been a goof since he was a kid. “I could never make it. Took a real wolf to survive back then. I’ll take the radstorms any day of the week.”

“So cavalier,” agreed Samuel, settled down from his act. “No wonder they blew themselves up.”

The crack of lightning dully rattled the glass in front of them. Raindrops started to fall on the windows. It reminded Sandra of her childhood when, on some floors, the windows were still broken or not fully sealed. The cold winter breeze cut through her when she made repairs to the tower’s structure. That had since been solved by the judicial application of epoxy. Good small tasks for the apprentice engineers.

“This meeting won’t be about another block rehabilitation or the subway,” Sandra said after a moment. Samuel cocked his head.

“The Council is doing something? We’ve been rebuilding for years, and they want to do more?”

“Well, not by choice,” Sandra said. She sighed. “Maybe it’s not the best thing to say,” she turned her head to make sure they were alone. Nobody else occupied the 107th floor at this hour, “but it’s a power issue. They want to investigate the old nuclear reactor at Indian Point.”

Indian Point, some thirty miles north of them, was the Hudson Valley’s largest atomic reactor before the war. By some coincidence, it had been spared the bombs. New York could easily have been another Glowing Sea if Indian Point was targeted like the many reactors in Western Massachusetts. It lay dormant and, more importantly, disconnected from the city. But as New York grew, material concerns manifested. Its first and foremost concern was, like the old world, electricity. Indian Point powered the old New York and was eyed as a solution for the postwar. Sandra needed to get The Economist’s input on the operation.

The AI, using millions of data points from before the war and fed into it by people like Samuel afterwards, would generate a suggestion. Predictions on the reactor’s operating capacity, chances of survivability, how expensive it would be to repair, and how easy it would be to hold were all floating around in The Economist’s data banks. Sandra, as its custodian, needed to get the answers from it.

It wasn’t that Sandra had a special relationship with The Economist. She did, or at least as close a relationship as one could have with an AI. She had been trained quite literally since birth to interpret its results and translate the oracle’s sometimes arcane knowledge into reality for the City Council. It meant many nights with The Economist, often hashing out and making sense of its outputs. A lonely life, often devoid of friends. It was never overtly stated, but Sandra often felt like people attached a certain religious quality to her. Was she a priestess? A prophet and a messenger for a god? She didn’t feel like one. Yet there were similarities she couldn’t ignore.

Samuel finished his drink in silence, mulling over Sandra’s new mission. He clinked the empty bottle down on the table as the rain continued to fall. Sandra’s coffee was still half-full. “Are you going to be here a while longer?” he asked.

She nodded. Samuel uncrossed his legs and leaned over to look out the window some more, trying to see where she was focusing on. The raindrops streaked down the glass, obscuring the view. Fog rolled into the harbor and wind started to whip at the boats moored in downtown Manhattan’s piers. “I suppose I’ll leave you to it,” he said. “The wife has made some dinner. You’re welcome over sometime this week if you have the time,” he offered. “I know you’ll be busy though.”

Sandra looked back to him and smiled softly again. “Thanks, Samuel. I appreciate it. I won’t keep you. Have a good night.”

Samuel stood up, grabbing his beer bottle by the neck. A lone Protectron stomped its away around the corner, holding a tray on its bulky metal hands. Samuel walked up the robot and placed his glass down, to which the Protectron’s monotone robotic voice thanked him for not littering. He exited, off into a corridor that led to the stairs down to his floor of the building. Despite the bureaucracy that had taken root in the Twin Towers, people still lived in the building full time. Sandra was one of them, too. She took another sip of her coffee as the storm picked up.

Indian Point. The words repeated in her head. She wondered what The Economist would say about it.
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