Saturday, March 17, 2012

Goldstein Republic Chapter 23

Chapter Twenty Three

They marched through the dense taiga soaking wet, sticky, and covered in swarms of mosquitoes. The sergeant was on point. Behind him, Roth carried his micro-nuke and dead man switch. Devin plodded along in the rear.
Roth was convinced there was a dragonfly stalking them just out of hearing range. For all he knew, there were patrols close by on either side, shadowing them, concealed by their own diode-silk fatigues. NaPol definitely had them dialed in, he decided. The trio trudged on, no longer needing to worry about making noise or staying camouflaged.
Devin’s biggest fear was that a macho Napol commander trying to make a name for himself would decide the prisoner exchange was just not worth the hassle and call in an air strike to end all the shenanigans.

As a precaution and for posterity, Devin streamed their trek onto the net from his multi. Despite all the government filters, firewalls, eaves dropping and censors, NaPol had never been able to completely eradicate the free exchange of information on the web. The internet was a diffused and organic system that did not lend itself easily to central control like newspapers and television. The net was Amerika’s last hope for liberty.
Devin worked through some scenarios as they hiked. NaPol could still easily blame the commander’s death on the anti-patriots despite Devin’s documentary as the gullible herd of Amerikan sheeple that made up the majority still believed everything the authorities told them. NaPol needed to maintain, at least in their own minds, the illusion of control— if obliteration of the enemy is in fact a form of ‘control’.
“No use fretting over it,” Devin realized. An air strike would mean silent, instantaneous death. There would be no tipoff by way of screeching missile or thundering jet. A rocket, traveling three times faster than sound, would fall upon them without any warning. The concussion would instantly render them unconscious and blast their physiology into shreds. The impending fireball would carbonize what was left. “Then,” Devin thought to himself, “I will either meet my maker or existence would cease.”
Devin pondered the infinite as he walked, lagging further behind. “If there is no afterlife then there is nothing to worry about.” He assured himself. “Worry requires by its very nature an existence.” Pondering what death was like in the absence of existence was like asking what lies ten miles north of the North Pole. If the spirit lived on after death then his worry was moot as well. That is, unless his soul was damned to hell. But what hell could possibly await him in immortality? He had indeed been a criminal, a thief as it was. But had he not repaid his debt? Was he still marked for eternal damnation and torture? The zealots would probably say “Yes!”
Maybe some purgatory awaited him. Purgatory was certainly preferable to existential annihilation. Maybe some degree of hell was even preferable to annihilation. Maybe eternity was like some eastern religion and he would come back as some creature commensurate with his goodness in life. “What will I come back as?” He thought. “A bear?” “An eagle?” He envisioned himself returning as a mosquito. How fitting that would be— coming back as a bloodsucking parasite. He decided to stop worrying about it as it was giving him a headache. He hustled to catch up to Roth.
“Do you hear it?” Roth asked.
“Hear what?” Devin asked.
“I hear it,” replied the sergeant. “It’s your pulse field. Looks like you’re home.”
“Hold up here,” Roth ordered. “They’ll come and get us.”
Within five minutes the field came down and the three were greeted by two militia in a pickup truck.
There was no doubt that some number of clandestine nats had slipped past the lowered ray field and into the Goldstein perimeter as well. But it was apparently of no concern to the militia. They seemed almost nonchalant.
“Welcome home, Devin Moore,” exclaimed one of them who hopped into the back of the truck with them. “You’re a free man.”
“Only a psychotic would call someone ‘free’ coming into this prison,” lamented the sergeant. “You people are totally insane.”
“Prisons have walls to keep people in, nat,” explained the Goldsteiner as he cocked his pistol. “Our walls are designed to keep animals like you out.”
“You’re all going to die!” proclaimed the nat.
They truck drove north, reaching the geothermal vents, array towers and eclectic structures of the village in less than an hour, finally stopping in the village plaza. Everyone in the square appeared to be busy getting on with their day, as if nothing at all were about to happen.
The trio was ushered into a grass-roofed structure just off the square. Inside the tall doors was a bright, subterranean space with white walls and vaulted ceilings. Light rained in from several skylights above. There was a fireplace in the middle of the main room with a slender chimney running up through the roof but the hearth was cool and dark.
The rest of the room was furnished in minimalist d├ęcor. Several chairs, wrapped in dark leathers, were arranged around the hearth, angled slightly towards a single, oversized chair upon which sat Brooks. He was reading an old hardcover book with his virtual eyes and drawing on his pipe. He looked up, affixing his artificial eyes on Devin, Roth, the sergeant and the two militia men.
“Come in, yes, come in!” He ordered enthusiastically as he stood up and stepped forward to greet them. “Welcome back, Devin.”
“I’m glad to be home, Brooks,” Devin answered. “Thank you for bringing me back.”
“Very glad you made it back and you too, Roth. Here, I have this for you.” Brooks handed Roth an envelope. “Please inform me of any additional expenses you might have incurred. You’ll be reimbursed without delay.”
“Thanks, Brooks. It’s been a pleasure working with you as always.” Roth took the envelope and left the room without saying goodbye.
Brooks turned to the nat who was still holding his rifle. “And who’s this with you?”
The sergeant’s mind had been busy scheming. He deduced that Brooks was some high-ranking Goldsteiner of some sort. “Perhaps he is the cult’s leader,” he thought.
“You’re probably thinking about whether or not you should be a hero and take me out,” Brooks continued. “You know that you would be killed, of course.” Brooks approached the commander while puffing away on his pipe. He stood face to face with him, human eyeball to virtual eye circuit— Brook’s black lenses staring into the sergeant’s black soul with the sergeant’s pupils tightly constricting as he stared back. The nat clicked the safety off his rifle but in response the militia with the pistol placed the barrel into the back of the sergeant’s head.
Devin suddenly felt a clutching terror come over him. He was afraid for Ramielle.
“Killing me will have no impact on the Liberation Event,” Brooks explained. “The plans are already in motion.” He reached out towards the militia, gesturing for him to holster his weapon. “You probably think I’m the leader or something,” Brooks continued as he returned to his seat. “Well, I’m not the head of this serpent. There is, in fact, no head at all. That is probably hard for a statist like you to understand. You are probably asking yourself ‘How can a cult be leaderless?’ Well, the answer is that Goldstein is a voluntary society, not a coercive tyranny. The order here has arisen through cooperation rather than hierarchy. While it’s true that I have influence— I do employ several hundred people after all— I can no more direct or control their lives than you can. They’re all free men (and women). They stay here to face the Liberation Event not because they are falling for some charismatic nonsense but rather because they would rather die than exist as slaves.”
“You’ll all be killed,” decried the nat. “They are coming. Ten thousand men. Dragonflies. Missiles. Cluster bombs. They’ll kill every last man woman and child if necessary. They’ll burn your buildings to the ground.”
“So be it, then. Better that then be a slave. You are the one who takes orders, not us. We’ve tasted freedom and we will not return to serfdom.”
“Do you know what else?” the sergeant continued, talking past Brooks. “They’ll say that you did it to yourself. They’ll say you booby trapped this place and killed yourselves in a mass suicide. You won’t even leave a legacy. You’ll be forgotten as nothing more than a bunch of suicidal kooks. You should really stop this madness before you’re all killed.”
“A new Masada! How grand!” Brooks chuckled as he puffed on his pipe. “But we have no intention of just killing ourselves if that is, in fact, what really happened there— I’ve always been suspicious of the official Roman account of things. No, suicide is for death worshipers and we don’t worship death here in Goldstein. We worship life and we choose to fight. We’re fighting for our lives just by remaining here. Merely existing in your tyranny is not really life. A brain dead patient on a respirator and fed by I.V. is not living.
Now, before you leave, I must give you one final warning to take back to your commanders. Do not attack us. Leave us in peace. If you attack us, you will be utterly and completely destroyed.” The sergeant scoffed. “Your chopper awaits. You’re free to go.”
The sergeant shouldered his rifle, turned and stormed out of the house. Devin watched through the window as he jogged across the square to the rumbling NaPol helicopter that had just touched down in the plaza. The squad leader hopped in and the chopper lifted off, wind-whipping the birch trees about and kicking up a vortex of gray dust.
Devin frantically searched the faces scurrying about in the plaza. Terror welled up inside of him. Then Ramielle appeared in the doorway clutching her cat. Devin exhaled in relief. He knew at that moment that he loved her.

Last Chapter will be available Sunday!

For those who missed the beginning of Devin's journey, click here for Chapter 1

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