Ramielle turned off the silent motor of her electro. The two of them were tucked safely in the shadows of a parking garage.
“Don’t lose that jammer. We don’t want them dialing in on us or switching you off,” Ramielle ordered.
A groggy Devin rubbed his eyes with his still handcuffed hands.
“What about the cameras?”
“It’s uncovered pops here. All the feeds are scrambled or dark,” Ramielle explained as she helped Devin from the electro. He shuffled along with her into a dimly lit elevator. She swiped her false-multi and pushed thirteen. The shaky lift ratcheted its way upwards.
The door opened to a dimly lit hallway leading to her room. The words ‘Hotel Amerikano’ were scribbled in marking pen across the wall. She unlocked the door with a swipe and the two disappeared into a sparsely furnished apartment.
“Lay down here. Let me see about getting those cuffs off.” She darted off then returned with bolt cutters and a butcher knife. With two snips, the unwieldy cutters chopped through the surprisingly tough silksteel nylon connectors. She began sawing at the cuffs with the knife.
“Is this your apartment?” Devin asked barely able to stay awake.
“No. It’s a safe house. They said it’ll take them at least twenty four hours to track us down here.”
“Who said th…” Devin fell asleep mid sentence.
Ramielle made sure the jamming device stayed by his head by propping it up on the worn arm of the sofa. It didn’t need to remain too close as the range was ten meters or so, but placing it there made her feel more at ease for him. She didn’t want to take any chances. She continued sawing through the cuffs.
Devin awoke to a black cat licking his hand. “What time is it?” he asked, realizing that his wrists and ankles were free of the bindings.
Ramielle was watching holovision and eating a sandwich. “Ten thirty. You’ve been asleep a long time. I had to keep checking on you to make sure they didn’t log your brain off.”
“I see you got my cuffs off. Thank you.”
“It wasn’t easy. It took a couple hours of sawing. Here, have a sandwich.”
Devin took half of her sandwich. “Did I make the news?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. You don’t even exist. The haz-waz spill made it, though. And the insurrection of course. And the senseless and arbitrary killing of nats by anti-patriot terrorists.”
“Apparently your little transport drove over an explosive device.”
“Who set it?”
“Freemerica says it was Christian zealots or maybe they said it was Muslim fanatics, I forget.”
“So I’m pretty lucky, I guess.”
“…Or maybe it was anarcho-capitalists!” she added sarcastically. “Whatever the case, you were almost blown to bits, nearly shot up, then almost burned alive so I’d say you’re pretty lucky. Good thing I was there to save you, Devin. You’re lucky to have a girl like me around.”
“Thanks again. What were you doing there?”
“Hmm. Let’s say that you have friends looking out for you— Powerful, anarcho-capitalist friends if you know what I mean.”
“Know a guy named Roth Smith?”
“He contacted me a few weeks ago. He said he was worried about you because you hadn’t called and your multi had nat agents poking around in it. Then he said he hacked their database and found out everything.”
“It seems NaPol was disappointed in their interrogation progress.”
“How did Roth find you?”
“You must have told him about me at some point. What did you tell him, Devin? Did you tell him that you’re in love with the badass bitch of your dreams?”
Ramielle went into the kitchen area. “Must have been my hacker’s license,” she revealed, coming clean. “He probably spent a whopping twenty whole seconds tracking me down. He was very interested in your whereabouts, Devin. He paid me a retainer.”
“Paid me a lot, a shitload of Reagans. You know, ten thousand dollar bills. All he asked for was that I agree to do something when he asked. He said you might not come out of the fed center but I had to be ready just in case, ready to drop everything at his command. He’d make me go by there three or four times a day, too. Then yesterday he calls me in the morning and says that they’re gonna move you and that I had to be at such and such intersection at such and such time and this and that and stay in the alley and that you would be in a black transport and when it got blown up I was to drag you into my car and bring you here. So here we are.”
“How could he know where we’d be?”
“I imagine the haz-waz spill, the insurgency, the explosives, all of it was part of their plan. They know everything about NaPol. They can send false radio signals to scare the nats off of certain roads and such. I bet your Goldstein friends practically drove your damn transport right into the ambush themselves. I even think that the Muslims were paid to provide cover, or maybe it was the Christians, I don’t know. Funny thing is those wackos sure do like taking out nats. They may hate each other, but that is nothing compared to their hatred of NaPol.
So I parked out on and alley off FDR Boulevard and waited. And sure enough, I see your truck rolling down the street real slow. Then kaboom! Roth called and said you were inside and to go get you out. I didn’t want to do it because I was scared but he said they wouldn’t shoot me and that all I had to do was make sure you got out and bring you here.”
“So what now?”
“We gotta go.”
“To Alaska. NaPol’s connected me to you so I can’t stay here. We’ve got to go soon because they’ll track us down here in a few hours. Here, Roth sent this for you.” She handed Devin a small case.
Devin opened it. Inside there were two new multis. One had his name written on it on a sticky note. The other was Ramielle’s. After the multi scanned his thumbprint and booted up, Roth’s face appeared.
“Hello, Devin. Long time no see,” greeted Roth’s chubby face. “I’m very happy that you made it out of that fed center. We are all very glad to hear it. Your escape would not have been possible if not for your friend. She is very brave and did a great job. We were hoping that we wouldn’t need to send in a professional extraction team. Gangbangers can be very unreliable.
If you are listening to this then Ramielle has activated a small device that I sent down along with these multis. Please keep it on you at all times. It jams your brain chip transmissions to NaPol and overrides the termination sequence. You should be safe. If it didn’t work then you wouldn’t be listening to me right now.”
Your friend Brooks has pulled your interrogation down from their servers. The Council knows that you’ve made The Delivery and they are very pleased. Kudos on standing up to those thugs as well. I couldn’t have imagined it being delivered any better. We are streaming it to the internet worldwide. NaPol keeps trying to take it down but it’s metastasized on the net. You are a celebrity, Devin, just not in the mainstream media sort of way. Everyone just loves how you blew smoke in that old nat’s face at the end.
Here’s the deal, you’ve been pardoned by the Council but you must get back home without delay. Goldstein thinks the Liberation Event is a go any day now. You can bet NaPol will be putting a lot of resources onto you. They want you neutralized before they attack.
We’ve made arrangements to smuggle you back to the Colony. There are instructions included in this multi. There is a truck driver who will bring you two to Fairbanks. You have to meet him at the Appian Truck Stop at 2:00PM today. This is what he looks like. He’ll go by the name ‘Bear’. All the arrangements have been made at Brook’s expense. Good luck!” Roth’s face disappeared.
“We should go,” said Ramielle clutching two duffel bags and a small animal carrier.
“What is that?”
“I can’t leave Mercurius.”
“My cat,” she explained lifting up the carrier.
“I hear sirens,” Devin remarked.
Ramielle lugged the bags and carrier over to the lone window and peered out. Her multi began to buzz.
“We’ve got to go,” She ordered as she read the text on her multi. “They’re at my brother’s house.”
Ramielle pulled Devin up off the sofa, shoved him into the hallway and onto the elevator. She pressed the ‘G’ button fifteen times before the doors finally closed and the elevator descended. When they stopped, the door did not immediately open.
“Are they out there waiting?” Devin asked.
“I wish I had a gun.”
“Shut up!” Ramielle extolled. “If they even so much as think you’re armed they will kill the three of us dead.”
The door remained fixed.
“Are they scanning us? Maybe we can fit up through the ceiling and climb out while they wait?” Devin asked pointing upwards.
The floor indicator flashed again. Then the doors slid partway open. Ramielle pushed Devin back from the door. She peeked through the crack but could see nothing. She listened. There was nothing but the sound of the normal street traffic and distant sirens.
“Get ready to meet your maker,” she remarked as she jammed her fingers into the space between the doors. With flexing, bare arms, she yanked the doors open revealing…revealing an empty parking garage.
They scrambled to her electro and piled her bags and Mercurius into the back hatch and themselves into the front seats and made their way out of the garage.
They whizzed down the highway steering clear of the vortices induced by the roaring steel diesels that blew past them at 150km/hour. It was hot and clear except for the NaPol dragonflies that buzzed in the sky above. Devin counted fifty of them spread across the heavens in all directions like a swarm of black locusts in the air.
The cooling mechanism of the plastic car was useless, blowing only warm air into their faces. They couldn’t roll down the windows either because the flimsy car would pulsate as the rushing air swirled through the passenger compartment. They drove in sweaty misery.
“I can’t believe Indians can’t make an electro with a working AC,” Ramielle complained.
They arrived at the Appian Truck stop a little after noon. The complex was a sprawling pasture of asphalt and diesels. The two hundred or so tractor/trailers there were tightly packed into diagonal lots. Most were filthy and badly rusted relics. Some were rolling out onto the highway carrying mystery loads to unknown destinations. Almost as soon as those trucks left, new ones rolled in to claim their spaces in the bustling sea of asphalt.
“There’s the lot for electros,” observed Devin.
Ramielle made a hard right which squealed the thirty centimeter rubber tires. They pulled into a space a mere quarter mile from the restaurant/diner/convenience store/motel/casino.
Ramielle set Mercurius in the shade and they walked towards the diner. Devin’s strength was returning as he inhaled the sweetly tainted diesel air. It felt good to be unshackled and out of doors and in the sun.
Ramielle pulled open the glass door and they went in. Inside, several fans spun away churning up the hot dry air. There was seating inside for a hundred or so but the restaurant was only half full. They took a booth in the corner.
“Can I get you something to drink?” came the raspy voice of their waitress.
“I’ll have a soda,” answered Ramielle.
“I’ll have coffee. Nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a ninety degree day,” answered Devin sarcastically. The waitress sneered.
They sat nursing their drinks and watching the wall-mounted holovisions for half an hour. Then they ordered. Ramielle ordered soycakes and a synthefruit cup. Devin got a tofu burger without tomatos which were still in shortage and extra, un-hydrogenated, freedom fries. They finished and paid their $3,000 with tip.
To kill time, they went back to the car where Ramielle checked on and fed Mercurius. They walked him as well, if you could call it that, down into an adjacent drainage ditch that flanked the perimeter of the parking lot. Mercurius eventually did his business, was returned to his cage and placed him back in the shade.
After heading back to the diner, they checked out the attached trinket and convenience store. There was a collection of Elvis plates that captured Ramielle’s attention. The black leather Elvis was her favorite.
“Dang he was a good looking man,” she remarked.
Devin spied a collection of miniature, vintage gascars. There was a Mustang and a Camaro, a Chevelle and a Firebird, a Nova and an El Camino.
“Splendid,” Devin thought.
He examined the tiny cars closely, being reminded of them on vintage holovision programs, rogues and antiheros recklessly driving their magnificent machines down lonely country roads at obnoxious rates of speed with hapless cops in pursuit. He compared these tiny replicas of petrol gurgling, steel machines to the plastic, bubble-shaped electros of the present day.
The muscle cars were the apex of the automobile, he thought. They were an art form— icons of an era unencumbered by politically imposed resource constraints, social engineering agendas, or ecological hysteria. The muscle car represented the triumph of liberty in mechanical form. They were uninhibited, guiltless forms of self-expression and individualism from the pre-egalitarian era.
Perhaps it was fitting that one of America’s only art forms was a mechanical one. They were a physical testament to the supremacy of capitalism over the choking, stifling poison of the busybody nanny-police-state. The car was inextricably interlinked with liberty. Its death was the barometer for liberties’ demise.
Americans were eventually emasculated, dumbed-down, and beaten into state-worshiping drones; prodded and corralled and tagged until they morphed into sheeple. The muscle cars were the last death spasm of individualism before Americans became Amerikans and cashed in their souls for mind-numbing, electronic gadgets and the illusion of security.
Cars were mechanized freedom and the State had to rein them in for how could the State expand the reach of its power while simultaneously tolerating machines that enabled people to escape its grasp? The car had to be destroyed or at the least gelded.
“Look at how much gasoline costs.” “Look at how much pollution you create.” “Look at those enlightened Europeans and New Yorkers.” “Don’t you want to be like them?” “Don’t you want to ride public transit and be freed from the shackles of your cars?” “Look at the ugly roads and parking lots and sprawling suburbs we must build for you.” “Look at how you rape mother earth!” “You are selfish.” “You are wasteful.” “You are evil.” “Cars are evil.”
The campaign was far more effective than any Maoist re-education camp. Americans, being by their nature guilt-afflicted and Calvinistic, accepted it with nary a whimper. They handed over their keys and traded freedom and personal expression for the herd-like regimentation of public transport. They traded in their internal combustion engines that could carry them nonstop across six hundred kilometers of highway for flimsy electric bubbles that could go no further than down to the local organic market and back without the need of a three hour recharge.
Americans celebrated and held hands and sung joyful songs as their glorious symbols of liberty were crushed into cubes of steel and melted down into girders for some State-aggrandizing edifice.
Americans had become Amerikans. In less than a generation, the delicate Republic devolved into a Democracy and then the Democracy devolved into a pandering mob of welfare statists. Then, as the economy disintegrated, the mob devolved into a tyranny as it tried to hold the crumbling racket together. Consensus replaced principle and ideology and opinion polls defined the morality. Finally, in the interest of efficiency, consensus too was ditched in favor of rule by the enlightened elite.
In the interest of saving America, “tired ideas” were tossed aside and the old system of checks and balances was scuttled. The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches were replaced with a new, cooperative structure: the Governmental, the Corporate and the Financial. It was a symbiotic triumvirate with government enforcing the laws, corporations writing them, and the bankers printing the money necessary to fund the entire scheme.
“I understand, now. I really must get home,” Devin remarked to himself in a moment of total clarity.
“What? Who are you talking too?” Ramielle asked. “Hey, I think The Bear is here.”
“I think his name is ‘Bear’, not ‘The Bear’,” Devin remarked as he set down the toy mustang. “Where’d you see him?”
Ramielle led Devin to the threshold of the trinket store and carefully pointed out a heavy set man with a balding head and a frizzy white beard that had the texture of steel wool.
“Look at his shirt,” Ramielle pointed. Devin looked at the back of the man’s black t-shirt. It read “Sons of Anarchy” which was what the Bear was pictured to be wearing on the multi Roth sent. “It’s got to be him, doesn’t it? It looks like him…same shirt.”
“I’ll go check it out. Wait here.”
Devin strolled over to the diner and took the stool two over from the burly fellow. He grabbed a menu and surreptitiously glanced over at him. The man paid him no heed. He scrolled through the menu and found the burger that he had just ordered and finished a few minutes earlier. He carefully glanced at the man again over the side edge of the menu. A waitress appeared and took the big man’s order and left. Devin glanced over to Ramielle and gave a faint shrug of his shoulders.
“Can I take your order?” Came a startling voice in his left ear.
“I’m still looking, thanks.” He quickly glanced again at the big man. The man paid no attention. He looked back over at Ramielle. This time she shrugged her shoulders. Devin leaned towards him.
“Excuse me are…”
“Yes.” He interrupted.
“How did you know what I was going to…”
“I know who you are and your Oriental friend over there.”
“Okay, then. That’s great. What should we do?”
“Just sit there and try not to look suspicious.” Bear mumbled. “Try to blend in a little more. It’s bad enough that you’re mulling around here looking out of place but you’re black, too, and there ain’t no other black folk in here. Know what I mean?”
Devin became suddenly aware of his blackness.
“This is the twenty first century, you know.”
“Just try not to look so black.”
“How do you suggest I do that?”
“Don’t be lookin’ these rednecks in the eye. Keep your head down and don’t walk so straight up tall either. It draws attention. The first thing these rednecks think of when they see a black fella struttin’ around is, ‘there goes another one of them welfare coons’. Then they go get on their multis and start taking pictures and doin’ searches to see if you’re wanted for anything. Hell, they’re already profilin’ ya now.”
“Profiling me? Why? Why do they hate black people?”
“Don’t know. Lot’s uh reasons I guess. I imagine some think you’re probably on the welfare and they definitely don’t like handin’ over seventy percent of their pay to keep your people livin’ in free housing that’s probably nicer than the dumps they pay for.”
“You asked me a question and I’m just answering it. It’s that whole Balkan thing.”
“You know, one ethnic group hatin’ the other. The only thing keepin’ whites and blacks and Mexicans from killing each other is their combined hatred of those damn Hajis.”
“What do you think, then?” Devin asked, not sure if he wanted to ride five thousand kilometers with a bigot.
“About what? Blacks?”
“The only color I see is green. And the farther off the grid the job is, the greener it looks to me, if you know what I mean.” Bear glanced over to Devin’s left. “See that asshole over there with the white ball cap?”
“Don’t look. He’s dialin’ you in right now with his multi. Keep that menu up over your face.”
“What should I do?”
“Don’t look suspicious. Here, take this card.” Bear nonchalantly slid him a card which Devin promptly put in his shirt pocket. “Walk out of here with your girlfriend and yer head down, go get your stuff, and find my rig. The description’s on the card. The passenger door’s unlocked. Hop in and wait for me and don’t touch nothin’. I’m gonna grab a supper and I’ll be out in a half hour. Then we’ll go.”
“How do I know you’re…”
“Because if I was a nat I would’a pulsed you by now. Now, get your black ass on out a here before they dial you in.”
Devin set his menu down and slid out of the diner with Ramielle. They strolled back to her car by a circuitous route just to be safe. She grabbed her two duffel bags and her cat while Devin read the business card. It read simply ‘Old Glory’.
“I’m ready,” Ramielle exclaimed. Devin scanned the ocean of big rigs. Their vantage point from the parking lot fringe was poor. They started walking down a row of trucks but reached the end of the row before spotting Bear’s rig. They turned and started back down the second row.
“What are we looking for?”
“All it says is ‘Old Glory’,” Devin explained.
They walked halfway down the row when Ramielle pointed excitedly. “Is that it?” she asked, gesturing towards a diesel with the stars and stripes painted in streaks emanating from the front grill and back along the sides of the cab.
“Let’s check it out.”
They went up to the truck’s passenger side. Devin tried the door and it opened. Ramielle put her duffelbags and Mercurius inside and she and Devin got in and closed the door.
It was quiet inside. The interior was finished in brown faux leather and wood accents. There were two captain’s chairs in the cockpit. The dash was covered with instrumentation panels and various compartments. Behind the cockpit was a cabin containing a bunkbed, a small seating area, and a refrigerator.
“This is pretty nice,” observed Devin.
“Where’s the bathroom?” Ramielle asked.
They waited quietly for twenty minutes or so until they heard heavy footfalls of someone approaching. They waited. The door locks clicked and the driver side door opened. For a moment, Devin wondered if he was in the right truck. He was relieved to see Bear’s Santa-like face appear from over the driver’s seat as he crawled in.
“How you folks doin’?”
“Good. Make yourself at home. Let’s fire this thing up and get the hell out of here.” Bear tapped some numbers into a keypad on the dashboard. Lights glowed on the windshield and the diesel engine roared to life.
Chapter 16 Chapter 18 will be available Sunday
For those who missed the beginning of Devin's journey, click here for Chapter 1
Goldstein Republic can be purchased here at Amazon