My First Story

propaganda4

SO, because this is my first post, I want to preface by saying hello, welcome, and if you’re reading this I’m a happy man. My name is Nick Steele, let me tell you about myself. I’m a 20 year old student at Virginia Tech,  majoring in political science and minoring in psychology. However, my passion has always been books, and more recently, writing. This past semester I took a creative writing class, and it lit a fire under my ass, and so here I am, trying to integrate this new love into my life. My goal as of today is to find a job doing something writing-related, probably freelance to begin with. Of course, when trying to break into doing something like this, there’s the classic dilemma facing my generation: in order to get this entry level job, please show prior experience.  So I had the idea that I would make a blog which would be a portfolio of my past work, and also be a way to share my stuff with you folks out there. I want people to read my writing, talk to me about it, show me where I need improvement, and, ideally, enjoy it.

My first few posts will be older stories that I wrote either for school or for the hell of it. This first one is my baby. I wrote it for that creative writing class I mentioned earlier, and I’m so happy with it for a few reasons. First, I felt like it was really topical, and integrated other stuff I’m interested in (read – politics). Secondly, it’s the first time that I’ve written something that was more than just a vignette, and even though it was tons of work it was really rewarding to watch it develop and change. Also, I should mention that workshopping in class played a huge role in how this piece came together, and hearing from people makes me execute at a higher level. If you have any comment, thought,  question, or suggestion, please reach out! I’ll write the contact section of this site right after I finish here, and hearing from people is really so important to me. Thank you, I hope you like…

 

A Collection of Post-Republican Documents

 

Forward

 

For the past century, the end of the Republican Era has fascinated people, from school kids to philosophers, from young anthropologists to decrepit enthusiasts like me. Is there a single living person who doesn’t admire the mythic figures from that age of high morality? However, I must warn you that these are not the stories your grandfather told you at bedtime when you were a kid. Rather, I am proud to present a window into a time that has been extremely influential on today’s society, in the words of those who lived through it.

My hope is that this primer can help to shed some light on the human drama that is so ubiquitous in the post-republican era. Often times, holos and histories ignore how fundamental the changes and struggles of this period were for the ordinary person. There are thousands of primary sources from the period, the largest armed conflict since the Second World War. It was the most public war in the early digital age. Consequently, this selection is just the tip of the iceberg that awaits the true enthusiast. I encourage each and every one of my readers; if you enjoy the stories of the individuals I have presented here, do some digging in the large quantities of public information available on the subject.

In this 100-year anniversary edition, I have included some passages from my 2131 bestseller “How the Great Experiment Failed” to provide a little context and color to the documents I have collected. My hope is that this will help the layman envision themselves in the shoes of the men and women of old America without needing to reference another text.

And so, without any further ado, I present a little collection of documents from after the fall of the great republic.

 

– Dr. Qi Tuolumne, University of Greater Beijing, 2136.

 

~-~

 

“What a cruel thing war is… to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors.”

– Robert Lee
~-~

 

Olivia Saleh

Arcadia

Los Angeles

 

[Excerpt from The Saleh Tapes, a series of audio recordings of conversations between Arcadian Deputy War Minister Olivia Saleh and Arcadian Internal Affairs Minister, Dr. Kent Wentworth. March 21, 2036.]

 

Dr. Wentworth: Olivia, so nice to see you. Please, have a seat.

 

Olivia Saleh: Hey. So, mind telling me why I’m here again?

 

Dr. Wentworth: I’m sure you know. The incident with that reporter? The word is that he won’t get out of the hospital for another six weeks. Do you feel like talking about it?

 

Olivia Saleh: Not particularly.

 

Dr. Wentworth: Let me rephrase that. You owe Internal Affairs an explanation, especially after I put my head on the chopping block for you.

 

Olivia Saleh: Look, freedom of the press doesn’t give any asshole with a camera access to my personal office. We’re at war, right? He could have been there to kill me and he got what was coming to him. So, who ratted me out? Or was it security cameras? I know they’re everywhere; Big Brother’s got to keep an eye on people in the land of the free.

 

Dr. Wentworth: It wasn’t surveillance footage that got you sent over here, Olivia. Several people witnessed the altercation, but when I reminded them of your importance to this administration, they decided not to go public. These sources – they said that you were intoxicated.

 

Olivia Saleh: You want to go there? Fine, I’ll bite. For the sake of argument, say I was drinking. So what? I have a responsibility to defend myself if an aggressive trespasser breaks into government property and accosts me. If I happened to have had a drink, that’s just his bad luck.

 

Dr. Wentworth: I thought we agreed about this. You said that you wouldn’t have another drink while you were in public office. I know you haven’t been going to the meetings. Why not?

 

Olivia Saleh: I’ve been too busy trying to make sure the nation survives; once in a while that tends to cut into my free time.

 

Dr. Wentworth: Answer the question, Olivia.

 

Olivia Saleh: If you’re worried about my performance, recommend that I get fired. I’m sure that in six months they’ll find three people who’ll kill themselves trying to do my job as well as I can. You can find me in the war department, doc.

 

~-~

 

Maya Cooper

Arcadia

Mile High Airbase, Colorado

 

George Smiley                                                                                             March 9, 2036

Chase Tower, 201 N Central Ave,

Phoenix, AZ 85004

Arcadia

 

Dear Father,

 

I hate to send messages by snail mail, but all other communications have been suspended, alas. Too risky, they say. So, I hope this letter finds you before you get too worried about me. All is well here, more than well, in fact. I write with wonderful news. I got the job on General Farrow’s staff. I’m now his aide and runner. I got shiny new uniform bars and a not so shiny requisition motorcycle, pretty cool, right?

I got to meet Brad Farrow in my last job interview, and he was expansive, a big guy with a waxed mustache and wandering eye syndrome. Even in Arcadia, some people never get with the times, I guess. The word is that he’s the next Eisenhower, but he didn’t command anything bigger than a squad when he was a captain in Saudi Arabia. Either way, we’ll see how good he really is once we move on the Commonwealth’s western border. On that note, Mile High Command has been bustling lately. We got a whole squadron of big semis and TONS of gas from Nevada yesterday, so I guess we’ll be on the offensive before too long.
My new job is mostly menial, keeping high command informed on the supplies arriving in Boulder Station from back west. However, in between counting MREs and spare tents, I’ve gotten to meet some new friends. Yesterday a few of the folks from the General’s staff had the night off and we went out on the town. Most of them are the usual bunch, a little officious but pleasant enough. My favorites, though, are the press embedded in the General’s staff. You should look up Jane Gladwell. She used to be a photographer for National Geographic, but now she’s shooting pics for the AP. I get the feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time together. She’s funny, and smart as a tack, which is a rare combination around here. Best of all, she’s a gossip.

So last night most of the other aides had gone off to some other bar, and I ended up chatting with the lovely Ms. Gladwell for hours. She told me about a time when she had tried to do a portrait for General Farrow.

“He personally requested me,” she said, “and he was really into it. He made us put him in makeup and everything, ”

I grinned. “Gotta look good if you’re going down in history, right?”

“Erm but, Maya – I mean, uh, Major,” She rolled her eyes. “Gah. I’ll just call you Majoya.”

I laughed. People are always so awkward about rank, it’s all totally contrived, but at least she made a joke about it. “Maya’s fine right now.”

“Ok, cool. The portrait thing though – it’s more absurd than I could make up. He dressed up in field uniform, rubbed dirt all over himself, and wanted me to take his picture like he was surveying a battlefield. He said to make sure he looked ‘noble, but approachable’. It was ridiculous.”

I just giggled, and we kept on talking, but don’t you think that’s interesting? Maybe the real Eisenhower cultivated his own image a bit too, but I doubt he was as sensitive about it as Brad Farrow. Fatal flaws, man. Oh well, every CO has their little quirks, a side effect of potentially leading so many people to their deaths, I guess.

In other news, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know I’m dating someone. He’s a Captain, Manning Cox, in charge of supply; I actually met him while he was trying to herd a bunch of terrified cows out of a boxcar. He seems reasonably interesting, and he’s taking me for dinner and dancing at the Boulder convention center on Friday, there’s gonna be some big party for officers there. Don’t expect any grandkids yet though, we’ll see if he can impress me.

Anyway, that’s really all I’ve got time for; in about an hour I’ll be back at the station counting boxes of artillery shells or something. I’ll have more interesting news next time, but you always say to pay attention to first letters, right? Say hey to the other kids for me,

 

Maya

 

~-~

 

Excerpt from “How the Great Experiment Failed”, by Doctor of Historical Anthropology, Qi Tuolumne, of the University of Greater Beijing, 2131.

 

In the year 2036, the country known as the United States of America died. The great experiment had failed. Though the people of that time called themselves Americans, and their struggle the second Civil War, it cannot be so recognized, as America would never reform the shape or regain the influence it had maintained for almost three centuries. The two factions in this conflict, Arcadia and the Atlantic Commonwealth, became bit players on the world stage and a destabilizing force in the region, paving the way for the rise of the Sino-Mandarin Federation as a world superpower.

However, despite the evidence to the contrary, this conflict had far reaching implications on world history, and our culture of today can still feel the resonance of those long past events. For these reasons, a deeper look into the causes and events surrounding the fall of the Great Republic is infinitely valuable to historian and modern politician both.

The root cause of the Arcadia-Commonwealth War can be traced to fossil fuel shortages, like many of the wars of the twenty first century. Due to an over-estimation of oil reserves by eager drilling companies, America came to rely increasingly on imported OPEC oil in the 2010s and 2020s. This set the stage for the foreign policy crisis of 2022, the Green Line Offensive. Over a period of two weeks in February of that year, Palestinian troops supported by Saudi Arabian artillery and air strikes took control of much of the Israeli West bank, and declared themselves an independent state.

This put the international community in an awkward position, the United States most of all, as both Israel and Saudi Arabia had been staunch allies of America for decades. The international governing body of the time, the U.N., was hamstrung from stepping in by flaws in its command structure. Old China and Russia were indifferent to instability in the region due to cooperative drilling treaties in the North Sea, and vetoed the U.S.’ pleas for intervention in the Middle East in the high chamber of U.N. governance, the security council.

Frustrated with the tepid response from the U.N., President Drum, an instrumental figure in the upcoming drama, decided to put American boots on the ground anyway, ostensibly to defuse the situation. However, his hawkish tendencies soon became clear, as he concentrated forces in the Red Sea and launched a land invasion of Saudi Arabia, citing the 2016 Panama Papers as a causus belli to oust what he called “The radical Islamic theocracy that dominates the Saudis.”

The resulting conflict, called the Six Weeks War, was catastrophic for the American forces and American influence worldwide. With Drum micromanaging operations from Washington, American troops made lightning fast progress across the Saudi heartland, captured the capitol, Riyadh, and imprisoned the Saudi royal family and key religious leaders. At home, Drum crowed his victory, little knowing the counterstrike that was gathering its strength.

Saudi generals who had escaped the occupation of Riyadh signed a treaty with Kurdish Peshmurga, promising them the regions of Jwaf and Arar in exchange for military alliance. Kurdish and Palestinian forces from the north and Saudi regulars from Medina in the west fell on the Americans in Riyadh. The slaughter lasted sixteen days before the then Brigadier General Bainbrick, highest ranking American officer left alive, surrendered to the allied Arabian troops on May 1st, 2022. The new leaders of Kurdistan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia allowed the Americans to withdraw, but placed an oil embargo on the United States, which began its financial collapse. However, this is only the background percussion in what was a symphony of domestic unrest in Old America. To better understand the situation, we must turn our attention to the American heartland for the election and presidency of Ted Drum.

 

~-~

 

James Melville

The Commonwealth

Outside Pittsburgh

 

Ms. Asiah Fletcher                                                                                  February 14, 2036

2100, Gated Clover Lane

Savannah, GA, 31401

The Atlantic Commonwealth

 

To the love of my life,

 

I am writing to you today from our barracks outside of Pittsburgh to tell you that the company finally got its orders. We are going north, to help prepare for the push to finally take New York. Tamara is sitting next to me, cleaning her SAW while I write this, and she wants you to know that we are going to break some Bloody Hearts.

Our squad captured two Arcadian deserters this morning, and dear God they were so thin, and just dressed in rags. One of them was a kid, and he cried when Cook brought him some food. They said that the Bloody Hearts are all like that because the rebel government holds their pay in arrears to “support the state”, and it made me realize that no matter what might have happened in Washington, the Commonwealth cause is as righteous as ever. Captain Culver would have let them stay with us, but some Black Coats (I guess I’m supposed to call them Legates, but no one does) came and took them off to HQ. Your sister wasn’t too happy about that, and she tried to argue, but one of the Black Coats was a Lieutenant, and Tamara’s stripes weren’t worth much against him. She’s still muttering about it right now, you know how your sister is.

I miss being warm. I miss you. I dream about that trip we took to St. Catherine’s, the beach, those long summer nights… I wish I could call you and hear your voice, but your sister says that even the General uses paper for his orders, so that the enemy can’t jam or intercept them. Speaking of which, I actually talked to General Bainbrick. Robert Crawford and I were on sentry duty by the gates to our squad’s bivouac, and he was just walking around, with only one aide. He talked about the weather, asked if we were keeping warm, and shook our hands. It was amazing. Even though I’d rather be anywhere than here, with that man in charge, I know I’ll come home safe.

Did you know Davis, as in Davis, is up here too? He’s a volunteer in the brigade’s engineer corps, a corporal now, I think. First thing he did was sneak up behind me and yell “’Shun, conscript-private!”

Asshole.

Anyway we got to talking about home, and when I told him that I’ve been writing you, he asked if you could check on his Nana for him. I know he’d really appreciate it. He said she lives on Carnegie St, in a house with yellow shutters. I guess she doesn’t have anyone around since he’s volunteered.

God, I wish I’d volunteered. The volunteers don’t have the Black Coats crawling all over them, like we do every day. They get their own mess, all the best duties, everything. But I can’t complain, if I think about it too much I only get more homesick. Tell me everything that’s happened since your last letter. My commanding officer, your dear Tamara, says to give your parents her love. How is your class? Are those kids behaving themselves? Are you all getting enough gas, cuz there’s none up here.

 

I miss you. I love you. I think about you every second of every day.

Conscript-Private J.P. Melville.

 

Long Live The Commonwealth

 

~-~

 

Olivia Saleh

Arcadia

Los Angeles

 

 

[Transcript of Deputy War Minister Olivia Saleh’s Speech to the Emergency Council, May 27, 2036.]

 

Honorable Interim President, Members of the Emergency Council, my fellow Arcadians, I stand before you today in awe of what we can do together. Four years ago, I was weeping for the death of freedom, for the death of a nation, and the treacherous victory of tyranny and ignorance. If you had asked me then, I would have said that there was no hope, that good men and women were doomed to be shackled. But here we stand, people of all colors, creeds, and religions, FREE AND PROUD. [Uproarious applause]

My dear, dear friends, we rose out of the darkest time in our nation’s history to build something beautiful, something that will stand the test of years and rise like a phoenix to take its place beside ancient Athens or Revolutionary France as an example of what humanity can do when we come together and work as one. But, as you know, though we have moved mountains together, the dawn is still far away.

I want to share my story with you today. My colleagues might call this amateur; what politician shows her true colors on national TV? [Audience laughs] My great-grandfather came to the Old Republic, the great melting pot, seeking freedom, equality, and justice. My Mother, Malia, my father, Karim, and my sister, Fatima, were all Americans, and they loved the old country, warts and all. They did not hide who they were, my mom wore her hijab proudly, and my sister was unafraid to hold hands with her wife in public. Then, four years ago, the rebels took Washington, where we were living and working at the time. You all are familiar with the stories before General Bainbrick and the Civilian Protection Treaty. In the chaos and slaughter, the bombs, and destruction… I was separated from my family. I haven’t seen them since that day. [The room is silent. The Minister’s voice breaks, but she keeps talking in a hoarse croak.]. Fatima and Tanya, her wife, were part of the 77. Goldenbaum’s fanatics murdered them on the steps of the Supreme Court, for the crimes of illegal marriage, Islamic radicalism, and defacing the culture of America. Neither my sister nor her wife were practicing Muslims. My father was marched to a work camp in Louisiana, but never arrived there. My mother, as far as I know, is still alive in a Puerto Rico gulag.

There’s the reason we call the Conservative junta and their mindless followers Ignorants. Those people don’t know the first thing about human dignity, about basic rights, about anything good or right or just. They spit on what this nation once stood for. It is our duty and our privilege to teach those tyrants and their mindless cattle a lesson the world will never forget, with fire and steel and lead. [The tension releases from the room in a rush of cheers and applause.]

Time and time again, since the birth of this country, good people have had to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” Ladies and gentlemen, that time is now, now more than ever. As my family was, so every human being is entitled to the pursuit of happiness, to live a life free from fear, and to have a government that supports and succors them in their times of need. I will defend those rights until my last breath, with the blood in my veins and the fire in my soul. I know that my sister is looking down on me from heaven with joy, knowing that I stand shoulder to shoulder with so many people that feel the same way, people that still believe in the democratic dream, people who still believe in one another. That is why every man, woman, and child must support this war, and endure any hardships that the Emergency Council asks of you, because no matter how arduous they seem, the Emergency edicts are for the good of the people.

Finally, I’d like to say a few words about the bravery and importance of our soldiers, who even now are out there in the field, fighting to secure a better future for our children. In times like these, we look for a leader, a hero, a figure to lead us out from under the shadow of tyranny that threatens to overwhelm us. However, we need no heroes to fight the Commonwealth. The strength to achieve victory is within all of us. We call our brave officers or victorious generals heroes. We put the one who struck a damaging blow on a pedestal, and they reap the lion’s share of glory. What we do not see is the thousands who fight with those brave men and women; ordinary people who stood up to be soldiers for a just cause. They may never be recognized for their achievements; they won’t have wealth or power when this fight is over. They are the heroes. Those who rise up for what they believe in, those are the people who should be recognized as the soul of Old America. They are the true Arcadians!

[cheering]

 

~-~

 

Maya Cooper

Arcadia

Mile High Airbase, Colorado

 

George Smiley                                                                                        June 2, 2036

Chase Tower, 201 N Central Ave,

Phoenix, AZ 85004

Arcadia

 

Dear Father,

 

I’ve finally got a few minutes to myself to sit down and write you another letter. So much has happened. The big news, of course, is the upcoming offensive. The fact that there is going to be an attack on Commonwealth territory is no secret, but high command has been very tight lipped about where the actual attack is going to be, due to rumors that enemy agents have penetrated the army. If there really is a mole, they’d have to be the cleverest, most devious, and most charming agent alive; the MP’s haven’t even arrested anyone yet.

But enough gossip. I’ve been itching to vent about the fat stacks of bullshit I deal with on a daily basis. Top of the pile is doing secretary duty for the General. Sound routine to you? Not so. Whenever I’m around him, I play an absolutely fascinating game that involves carefully watching for wandering hands, as dear General Farrow likes his palms to be full of subordinate. Charming, right? He spends twice as much time in front of the press corps’ cameras than he does with his military advisors. He’s particularly fond of scheduling interviews, which he spends pontificating on how “my good, homegrown lads will show those Commonwealth buggers what’s what”. What an idiot.

Most people around here worship the General, though. Manning Cox, with whom I just celebrated a beatific six-week anniversary, is one of them. I find his Labrador-like reasoning is often representative of the army’s thoughts.

“You’ll see, babe,” he’ll reassure me, leaning against my desk while I go through the requisitions of an incoming shipment of freeze-dried potatoes, “Farrow might seem odd, but he’s in charge for a reason. He’s, like, some kind of genius. Graduated one of those big schools, you know, the military ones. Anyway I bet he was top of his class.”

So I’ll keep smiling and doing my own lapdog impression: “I’m sure you know how all that stuff works, you’ve been doing this soldier thing way longer than me.”

To round out how interesting my new job is, have you ever tried spending six hours debating the merits of the different rail lines between Colorado, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Kansas City? I have. I don’t recommend it. We’ve been doing these meetings twice a week for the past month now; I guess high command is really concerned with the feasibility of supply trains to some big targets.

Anyway that’s what my life has been like these past few weeks, take your pick of what seems most interesting to you. I have to go; Jane Gladwell is banging on my door, says she needs to talk about something important.

 

My best,

 

Maya

 

~-~

 

Excerpt from “How the Great Experiment Failed”, by Doctor of Historical Anthropology, Qi Tuolumne, of the University of Greater Beijing, 2131.

 

It was the year of the Cherry Blossom Transition here in China when Old America took it’s first steps towards chaos. In 2016 C.E., President Teddy Drum was elected for his first term in office by a landslide. His campaign was a marked change from how Old American politics had been historically conducted. Drum brought a dynamism and polarization to the political stage that had not been seen in that country for many years. His charisma was only matched by his boundless personal fortune, with which he funded his own campaign. His opinions were considered abrasive by many, but the majority (particularly the conservative, Caucasian one) of Old Americans saw him as an innovator who could end the deadlock that had been common in the bicameral lawmaking body of the time, Congress.

During his campaign, Drum developed a close friendship with two of his subordinates. The young, intense Rudy Goldenbaum was one of Drum’s speechwriters, and the brash Baptist, Johanna Ascario, was his campaign lawyer. Though Drum’s stump speeches showed little of their influence, the candidate came to rely more and more on Goldenbaum’s carefully constructed arguments and Ascario’s searing rhetoric. In turn, Goldenbaum and Ascario formed the core of a group of young businessmen, Wall Street speculators, and heirs to old southern money that were Drum’s fiercest supporters. In secret ritualized meetings, this clandestine group aspired to reshape Old America into a Commonwealth run by the rich and powerful.

In November 2016, Drum won the presidency on a Republican ticket by a narrow margin against an older senator from the north of the country. Almost immediately his approval ratings skyrocketed to record levels. His business connections and aggressive foreign policies led the Old American economy into a boom, and the country prospered. By the time of his second term, Drum was wholly convinced that he could do no wrong. This led to his appointment of his two protégés into high office. Johanna Ascario was appointed to a Supreme Court seat, and Rudy Goldenbaum became the head of the newly formed Division of Morality. The Division of Morality, in particular, quickly gained a dark reputation. Rumors of the atrocities committed by federal agents against immigrants and minorities began to circulate throughout the country, and the embers of discontent began to smolder.

 

 

~-~

 

James Melville

The Commonwealth

Trenches Outside New York City

 

 

Ms. Asiah Fletcher                                                                                            June 7, 2036

2100, Gated Clover Lane

Savannah, GA, 31401

The Atlantic Commonwealth

 

Dearest Asiah,

 

I am so sorry I haven’t been able to send you a note for so long. I know that news about last week’s engagement outside New York has probably reached home by now, and I want to start off by saying that I’m fine, and so is your sister. Not a scratch on us, but I do have a pretty rough concussion. I want to tell you about New York, or what I remember about it anyway.

The night after we arrived at the New York FOB, the artillery opened up. I was asleep like a rock in my bivvy when your sister shook me awake.

“Come on,” she said, “you don’t want to miss this.”

We ended up walking towards the top of the rise where Bainbrick’s main camp was, me cussing and stumbling and tripping on rocks, your sister shushing me every time. I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when I heard the first howitzer go off, somewhere to our right. I could feel it in my chest and stomach, a deep, juddering lurch. Tamara and me were walking through a copse of trees, when a light blossomed from somewhere in front of us and painted the world in eerie, clawing patterns of white and indigo. A moment later I heard the sound of the exploding shell, a dozen bolts of lightning going off at once.

There was a moment of pure silence, like the whole world was holding its breath. Then, a shell from the Arcadian lines arched across the field in front of us and exploded far to our left, spraying glowing shrapnel into the air like a Fourth of July firework.

That whole night we sat in the long, wet grass at the top of a hill and watched flashes of light throw death back and forth, like a demented Ping-Pong game or something. Near dawn, I was dozing when an ear-shattering howl overhead made me jump up and look around. As I watched, a whole section of the rebel lines erupted into smoke and fire. A moment later the explosion’s huge, crackling thud rolled past us.

“Those must have been our fighters,” Tamara said when we could hear ourselves speak again.

“I thought we didn’t have fuel for them anymore,” I said, my eyes on the huge gouts of fire and smoke spouting from the shattered section of mud wall the jets had struck. How many lives had just been snuffed out?

“Guess Bainbrick’s been saving some for today,” she said, nestling her head back into the crook of her arm.

I wonder what they’re saving for us over there, I thought.

 

I don’t remember a lot about the battle itself. I don’t want to. What I can picture best is the morning before, when the conscript company was in reserve and we had nothing to do but wait. We were playing a distracted game of poker for cashews, all of us half scalding because we were too close to the campfire, half freezing from the flecks of snow that spat down from the sky.

“Jacks full of threes,” Robert said. From somewhere behind him, one of our howitzers fired, then another. You could feel the reports rumbling through the ground better than you could actually hear them, even though it sounded like God was popping off caps from a magnum right next to your head. Everyone in our half-circle flinched a little bit, and then tried to avoid each other’s eyes.

“Ante up,” said Arthur Nguyen, his voice trembling a little. We waited there, drinking too much coffee and trying to distract each other from what we all knew was about to happen. I don’t think I’ll ever eat cashews again. I still can’t get the taste of the damn things out of my mouth.

Eventually, Captain Culver strolled into the middle of camp and stood on a truck bed with a megaphone.

“Listen up. Just to reiterate, Squads A through O are with Lt. Harding and me. Staff Sargent Fletcher has P through S, and they’ll be screening our right flank and forming skirmish lines there when the main body engages. T will now be helping take casualties to the field hospital, which is in Brigadier General Hughes’ encampment. Let’s give `em hell, we’re Oscar Mike in five.”

I don’t want to talk about the fighting much. The noise was the biggest thing about it – a constant crackle of small arms and the leonine booms of large ordinance. I got my concussion when a JDAM the Arcadians had rigged as a mine exploded 500 yards away from me. Your sister probably saved my life right after that. She dragged me into a foxhole while I was lying there on the frozen mud, bleeding from my ears. I saw – I saw people in Captain Culver’s company blown down like they were empty plastic bottles in a hurricane. Robert Crawford is dead. So are Arthur Nguyen, Lt. Harding, Jen Torvald, Cookie, Captain Culver, and most of the conscripts in Bainbrick’s army. We were sent in first, to soak up enemy ammunition. And someone in the field hospital told me that the assault is continuing tomorrow.

Asiah, I want to come home. I can’t do this anymore. I want to go home.

 

Conscript-Private J.P. Melville.

 

~-~

 

Olivia Saleh

Arcadia

Los Angeles

 

[Excerpt from The Saleh Tapes, a series of audio recordings of conversations between Arcadian Deputy War Minister Olivia Saleh and Arcadian Internal Affairs Minister, Dr. Kent Wentworth.. July 17, 2036.]

 

Dr. Wentworth: Sorry about the wait, Olivia, please come in.

 

Olivia Saleh: What’s going on? You look like you were up all night.

 

Dr. Wentworth: I got a call at four this morning. Apparently there was a fire in the Boulder command center late last night, and my people are crying arson. One of my agents up there, Charles Mackey, was just found stabbed to death and stuffed into a locker.

 

Olivia Saleh: Ugh. I’m sorry to hear that, doc. We’ve been dealing with that particular headache this morning too. You know the gas stockpiles were all destroyed? It had to have been Commonwealth agents. Bastards.

 

Dr. Wentworth: I know the War Department does mail screenings – has there been anything odd there, any red flags?

 

Olivia Saleh: I’ll let IA know if anything comes up. They’re overworked and understaffed, so it could be a while.

 

Dr. Wentworth: Well, on a happier note, your career has really been in the spotlight recently. My people tell me you’ve been going to the AA meetings, and I had a chance to catch your speech the other night. My wife and I thought it was really good stuff, really inspiring.

 

Olivia Saleh: My speechwriters really cooked up a killer. The members of the Emergency Council got to clap each other on the back, the public got it’s dose of nationalism, and I even got to shake the Interim President’s hand after the speech was over. It was fucking fantastic.

 

Dr. Wentworth: You sound bitter.

 

Olivia Saleh: Hah. Did you know that the Council spent a quarter of a million dollars on the reception we had after that speech? There are thousands of people starving to death in the refugee camps outside LA right now. How’s that for hypocritical, huh?

 

Dr. Wentworth: That sounds an awful lot like anti-government sentiment, you know.

 

Olivia Saleh: You know, Kent, I really don’t understand you at all. One minute you seem almost human, and the next it’s back to the mind games. What do you want from me, my life story? Is this your twisted idea of work flirting? What’s wrong with you?

 

Dr. Wentworth: It’s my job, Olivia. Maybe if there had been someone playing some “mind games” with the staff at Boulder, we could have caught this Commonwealth cur before they could do any damage. I just want to make sure that you’re truly loyal to the Emergency Cou-

 

Olivia Saleh: The Council can shove –

 

Dr. Wentworth: Loyal to Arcadia, I mean.

 

Olivia Saleh: As long as there’s a Commonwealth soldier still alive, I’ll rip him apart with my bare fucking hands. That work for you, doc?

 

~-~

 

Maya Cooper

Arcadia

Mile High Airbase, Colorado

 

George Smiley                                                                                     July 16, 2036

Chase Tower, 201 N Central Ave,

Phoenix, AZ 85004

Arcadia

 

Father,

 

Alpha and Omega, that’s the passage you quoted at your brother’s funeral, right? I’ve been thinking about that a lot today. I know I’ve mentioned Jane Gladwell in my other letters. She’s dead. The official report is that she committed suicide, but there are some crazy rumors flying around the camp that a Commonwealth agent murdered her. Even though I don’t really believe it, I have to ask myself how someone like Jane could possibly kill herself? She seemed so vivacious, so happy and energetic. I guess people like that always have a dark side. Alpha and Omega, yin and yang, right?

Tangoing with Captain Cox seems inappropriate after a tragedy like this. I broke up with him last night, tried to let him down gently. His sloppy attempts at consoling me were just too much for me to stomach. Honestly he was a conquest of convenience; I guess I needed something (someone?) to do between all that vitally important Quartermastery.

Oscar Galbraith, an MP, came to interview me about Ms. Gladwell’s death. I told him everything I could, but when I asked he said that the investigation was ongoing and that I should wait for news like everyone else. Apparently he’s been going through her personal data – emails, the cache on her computer, that sort of thing – to see if that can help them turn up information on her death. God. I’ve thought about Jane too much for one day.

Kilos of gasoline – I’ve spent so much time the past few days making sure that the precious few gallons of the stuff that the Arcadian Emergency Council could scrape together are well guarded. I feel like throwing myself into menial tasks is how I’ll drag my hindbrain away from thinking about what’s been going on around here. Even though our final destination is still a tightly guarded secret, we will finally moving out on the 22nd. I can’t wait to leave; I’ve spent too much time stuck in stuffy rooms with too many people too few windows.

Charlie Mackey, some guy from the Internal Affairs office in LA, is here to see me. I’d better wrap this up.

 

-.-. — …- . .-. / -… .-.. — .– -. .-.-.- / .— .- -. . / –. .-.-.- / .-. . … .–. — -. … .. -… .-.. . –..– / . .-.. .. — .. -. .- – . -.. .-.-.- / -… .- -. –.. .- .. / .–. .-. — – — -.-. — .-.. / .. -. .. – .. .- – . -.. .-.-.- / ..-. ..- .-.. .-.. / .-. . .–. — .-. – / .-.. . ..-. – / .- – / -.. . .- -.. / -.. .-. — .–. .-.-.- / …. .- .. .-.. / – …. . / .-.. . –. .- – . … .-.-.-

 

Forever devoted,

 

Maya

 

P.S.- please excuse the scribbling. I’m just in a terrible mood, and this letter was my latest victim.

 

 

[Editor’s note: Something seemed off about the end of the above letter. Upon long hours of research, the doodle was revealed to be a pre-digital cryptogram. It reads:

 

cover blown. jane g. responsible, eliminated. banzai protocol initiated. full report left at dead drop. hail the legates.]

 

~-~

 

Excerpt from “How the Great Experiment Failed”, by Doctor of Historical Anthropology, Qi Tuolumne, of the University of Greater Beijing, 2131.

 

The real deterioration began when Drum was elected to his second term as President, this time with a congress that was susceptible to his particular blend of threats, bribery, and cajoling. In 2021, Drum announced the rollout of his new homeland security plan, called the normalization edicts. This series of laws passed the legitimate lawmaking procedures of the time, but they became grounds to stamp out religious and racial minorities.

Then came the Green Line Crisis and the Six-Weeks War in Saudi Arabia. Drum was fanatic about the military campaign and poured tax dollars into the project without congress’ consent. The American people began to doubt Drum, and as it became clear that the Six-Weeks War was a complete failure, a coalition of citizens and politicians formed the Arcadian Party. This group was dedicated to the elimination of Drum’s policies and those who approved of them, and many of these oppositionists would later form the core of the Arcadian government in California.

However, as Drum’s detractors grew in numbers, his grip tightened on the reins of power. The Division of Morality began requiring official inspectors in every media outlet across the nation. Rumors grew of a huge new prison complex in Puerto Rico that housed those convicted of crimes against the state and Drum’s detractors, who disappeared with predictable regularity. Laws were passed eliminating salaries for public office, meaning only those who benefitted from Drum’s reign could be elected. As Drum’s second term neared its end, the nation held its breath.

In 2024, President Drum overtly seized power and ruled for four more years, ignoring the fact that his dwindling detractors in Congress tried constantly to impeach him. When Drum announced that he would take power permanently, ten people, including members of his secret service and the minority leader of the Senate, assassinated Drum in 2028. They were arrested, and while their judicial proceedings dragged on the Vice President, a reformer, took power.

Then, in 2030, there was the Goldenbaum revolution. In the two years since Drum’s assassination, Goldenbaum and Ascario had been transforming Ascario’s Morality Division into the Legates, pseudo-religious fanatics who were absolutely loyal to the duo. In May 2030, Goldenbaum and Ascario, the former in his hometown of Montgomery and the latter in Washington D.C., seceded from the union, backed by their newborn Legates, who at this point included many conservative governors and high-ranking military officers. They claimed that radicals had assassinated President Drum and were now controlling Washington.

This was the final straw. The nation was now divided, and chaos set in. On one side were the opposition, who at first called themselves Loyalists and later Arcadians. They believed that Drum and his supporters were intolerant, power-hungry opportunists, bent on exploiting the lower and middle classes for their own gain. On the other side was the conservative Commonwealth, who asserted that they were bringing propriety, morality, family values, and prosperity back to the Old Republic. Both sides called themselves Americans.

Open war broke out on the east coast, with the Arcadian army attacking the Goldenbaum rebels, but stemming from various factors, the newly formed Commonwealth won victory after victory with General Bainbrick, the hero of Riyadh, and General Stokes as their commanders. For two years, they steadily advanced up the east coast before becoming entrenched outside of Baltimore, Maryland. In Montgomery, the temporary conservative capitol, Goldenbaum gathered a volunteer army, marched it up the coast, and took Washington D.C., aided from within by Ascario’s Loyalists. During the volunteer army’s advance, Ascario ordered the use of napalm to clear the streets for Goldenbaum’s troops. The loss of life during the capitol’s fall is incalculable to this day.

Once the city was taken, Goldenbaum and Ascario held a canary court that tried and convicted 67 people of ‘morally aiding’ Drum’s ten assassins, who had still been imprisoned in the city. Their Legates executed all 77 people on the Supreme Court steps on July 4th, 2032. As news of the fall of Washington spread, a faction of Arcadian supporters aboard the Fourth Fleet in the Gulf of Mexico launched an ICBM at the city of Montgomery. Though the missile had only a single warhead, the death toll was well over 200,000.

The international community was horrified. The economic sanctions that many countries around the world imposed on both sides of the conflict were crippling, and the industrial capability of both sides was severely limited. The EU, The Baltic States, and Japan entirely broke off diplomatic contact with the Old Republic and the warring factions within it. The situation looked increasingly dire, as both the Liberals and Conservatives began preparing to launch more nuclear strikes.

As mutually assured destruction loomed, General Bainbrick approached the ragged Arcadian forces under General Hood in Pittsburgh. While not making peace, for Bainbrick believed in a more moderate view of Goldenbaum’s dream, the Civilian Protection Treaty did establish a new standard for war; weapons of mass destruction, total war, and urban combat were agreed to be unnecessarily destructive. Future battles were to be conducted only between armies and soldiers on ground that had been thoroughly vetted beforehand. General Stokes, Bainbrick’s second in command, marched to Washington and massacred the Goldenbaum volunteer army in a single, bloody melee on the National Mall. While he tried and executed several high-ranking members of the Goldenbaum conspiracy, both Goldenbaum himself and Johanna Ascario vanished into thin air. Stokes then reestablished Congress and elections. Bainbrick, despite enormous public pressure, declined to be nominated for the Commonwealth presidency, though he continued to have enormous influence in new single chamber of Congress.

However, the legates survived their leaders, and idolized them, Goldenbaum in particular. They continued to operate under the new law in the name of preserving morality. Meanwhile, the Arcadians, or bloody hearts, while still fighting a defensive war outside of New York City in the north, gathered their forces in a line of forts in the Rockies, especially in Colorado. As Bainbrick pushed General Hood back towards New York, the Arcadians, led by Generals Cole and Farrow, planned a counterattack from Mile High Airbase in Boulder, to strike the Commonwealth in the rear. Both sides denounced the atrocities committed in the chaos of 2030 as unethical and horrible, yet the fight slogged on.

 

 

~-~

 

James Melville

The Commonwealth

Trenches Outside New York City

 

 

Ms. Asiah Fletcher                                                                                         July 24, 2036

2100, Gated Clover Lane

Savannah, GA, 31401

The Atlantic Commonwealth

 

Asiah,

 

I don’t think you’ll ever see this letter, I doubt Legate screeners will ever let it through. I don’t think I’ll ever see you again. Do you know, I can barely remember your face? You feel so far away, like something below the western horizon. My life is different now. I’m different.

The Black Coats executed Gunnery Sgt. Tamara Fletcher this morning for moral crimes against the state. Your sister is dead. I doubt that you’ll find out this way, but I have to tell you the truth about her death, and what she died for. Bainbrick has captured eighty some Arcadian soldiers since the beginning of the battle for New York. There were whispers that the Black Coats were – well there were rumors, but I didn’t know anything for sure until they brought one of them into the field hospital where I had been moved.

I was sitting up in bed, doing a crossword and using the pencil to lever the bandage around my head out of my eyes. Your sister was visiting me, covered in sweat and grime, and she was telling me about her promotion to Gunnery Sergeant when a commotion started coming down the ward towards us. Two doctors were jogging a gurney down the hall, surrounded by a cloud of nurses carrying IV bags and bloody towels. This group stopped next to my bed, and before one of the doctors pulled a privacy curtain around the bed, I got a glimpse of the figure on the stretcher, which was dressed in the tattered remains of an Arcadian uniform.

It was – disfigured.

Tamara and I glanced at each other, horror in our eyes. We’d both seen a lot of shit in the past few weeks, but that… thing…

The doctors were speaking.

“Get me 40ccs of cyclobenzaprine and two more bags of O positive.”

“Some more Celox on this abrasion, it’s not clotting. We have to stop the bleeding.”

“Doctor, I can ring for a surgeon, we can get in there and try to save –“

“No, I’ve got orders from that shark Prelate Gordon. We’re to stabilize the patient and release him back into Legate custody, nothing more.”

“No, we can’t let them keep doing this!”

“I have orders. Nurse, leave now if you can’t handle this.”

Tamara’s face was getting redder and redder. She stood up, sat down. My mouth was hanging open. Prelate Gordon was the leader of the Legates embedded in Bainbrick’s army. Had the legates done this? What were they doing to captured Arcadians? Tamara stood up again, and unbuckled her sidearm. Without a word, she walked behind the curtain where the doctors had taken the Arcadian prisoner.

“Who the hell-“ someone said.

“Everyone, get the fuck out of here.” Tamara’s voice was calm, almost placid.

Doctors and nurses scurried every which way, calling for MPs. In the heartbeat of silence that followed, I could hear a rasping, sibilant whisper. Then a report banged off the whitewashed walls of the ward. A shocked patient screamed. A moment later Tamara walked out from between the curtains, shaking, her pistol dropping from limp fingers to land on the linoleum with a dry clatter.

“They were going to keep him alive,” She said, “keep him alive, like that.”

“Did he – “ I asked, my voice shaking as much as hers.

“He asked me to,” She said. “I’ve got to go tell someone what the Legates are doing to those prisoners.”

She stalked out of the ward, fists shaking at her sides. That was the last time I saw her. Later, I heard that she reported to General Bainbrick himself, who turned her over to the court martial that sentenced her to execution this morning. I’m deserting the army. I’ve already gathered all my things, and found a route west. Maybe I’ll go to Canada. There’s no war up there.

 

I’m sorry.

 

James

 

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