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Free Fire Zone
“That’s what the sign says, Free Fire Zone. You know, the sign at the security gate.”
Jake pulled his hoody tighter against the cold wind. It was a very chilly April.
“So much for global warming.” Jake muttered to himself.
The two people discussing the security gate must have had Selective Hearing Aids, because they stopped their conversation in mid whining complaint. They stared at him slacked jawed. Jake paused when he realized they were looking at him.
The larger one spoke as if to know one in particular. Larger was an understatement. The more morbidly obese of the two would have been more accurate, Jake reminded himself. That time he had the presence of mind to keep his thought to himself. He supposed that his proximity to the Free Fire Zone had made him feel that he could speak more freely.
“That’s a free ticket to the FEMA camp.” Jack could see the stark terror in the sunken eyes. Combine the slack jaw with the puffy face and it gave the man a comical aspect. Jack made himself not laugh.
“Shut the fuck up fat ass.” Jack made the threat in a very calm, almost automaton like tone of voice. “Unless you want a quick trip to the soap factory, dipshit.”
He aimed the second remark at the less huge of the two. It had its desired effect. The chubby hand stopped reaching for a cell phone. Jake noticed three Latinos nearby. Their smiles showed that they understood the whole conversation. They also had Selective Hearing Aids and earbuds. He had no way of knowing if they were attached to smartphones with translating software, but it was an HLS requirement for any non English speaker with a FEMA Work Permit. Perhaps they were bilingual.
“He might have a gun.” The lesser of the two said to the greater.
“Mind your own God damned business!” The voice behind him said. It was his girlfriend, Jenny. She definitely had a gun in her oversized purse. As he turned to smile at her he noticed her hand was in the purse. The two fatties waddled off at what for them was a fast pace.
“Hopeless.” She spoke her words loud enough for them to hear without the aid of advanced technology. “Why the hell are you interacting with those Trolls? The FFZ is just around the corner.”
“I’m glad to see you too.” He answered with a hint of sarcasm. “You know me. I have to psych myself up to pass through that gate. I didn’t notice their FEMA Patrol badges until after I opened my big mouth, but no worries. Those two couldn’t find their own dicks. Their useless.”
“Now that you are finished performing for the Gringos, let’s go.” She, like most FFZ’ers called Latino Staties Gringos. That is what the other Latino immigrants called those who were no longer doing honest work and had sold out to the Gringo system.
As they approached the street corner she spoke to him in hushed tones. “Remember, just look straight ahead. Don’t acknowledge them. The militia is expecting us.”
Jake knew to ignore the TSA gropers, but he needed the reminder. He could feel the butterflies building up in his gut. Gratuitous insults sometimes resulted in totally unnecessary shootouts. They could demand to search them all they pleased, but the militia would not tolerate it.
Good, he thought. The gate was wide open. He felt relief as the butterflies began to vanish. He felt a rush of elation as he passed through the gate, and turned to face the direction he had just come from. He flipped off the two TSA goons, and smiled broadly as he noticed the warning sign on the free side of the gate. “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” and “You are now entering the territory of a violent Idiocracy. Proceed at your own risk.”
“I got your number.” One of the goons said. His tone was threatening. Jake could feel the mindless psychopathic menace in the policeman’s voice.
“So, you can count?” Jake responded. “I’m sure the public feels much safer now.”
“Jake!” Jenny called. Jake could sense her exasperation. “Quit feeding the Trolls!”
Jake did an about face and caught up to her. They entered the small temporary building with “Quarantine” stenciled on the door. The nurse inside scanned him with an ultraviolet scanner searching for any sings of contamination, a precaution against biological warfare from the Staties.
“He’s clean.” She announced.
Jake’s expression told Jenny that he was wondering why they had not wanded her also.
“I was only out there a couple minutes.” She explained.
“I demand to know why I am being held.” The petulant voice emanated from what seemed to be a young woman, but you could have fooled Jake. She took the whole Unisex fashion a little too seriously. The militia woman did not release her grip from the woman’s arm.
“Cool your jets.” The guard responded.
The he-she stomped a foot. Jake found the childish display humorous. The militiaman behind the desk handed the woman her purse.
“What? You didn’t want your cut?” The woman tossed a wad of hundred Trills on the desk. The guard behind the desk brushed it off and let it drop to the floor at her feet.
“We have no use for your ass wipes.” He then spoke to the female guard. His voice had a tone of amusement. “Escort this psycho back where she came from, please.”
All the time keeping a firm grip on the young woman’s arm she led the pouting young woman away.
“What was that all about?” Jake asked. “Is economic ignorance now a crime here? I wasn’t out there that long.”
“He has always been really out there.” Jenny’s sarcasm was somehow comforting to Jake.
The militia woman answered Jakes question. He noticed her nametag, the one glued to her stylish suburban camouflage colored flowery blouse, said, “Hello, my name is June”.
“The ID search flagged her as a Statie spy.” June answered.
“So? What is there to spy on? Do we care about spies now?” Jake asked.
The guard behind the desk, whose nametag identified him as Stan answered. “She is not your run of the mill Statie. She’s listed in their NSA database as a trained assassin. She has a hit on a moneychanger in the Agora. The IRS pretends the changer owes them an astronomical wad of funny money.”
“Really?” Jake asked.
“Yes.” Stan answered. “He used to be a banker or something.”
“So, we’re in the business of protecting absconded Banksters now?” Jake asked. He was well aware that the Free Fire Zone was the ultimate land of the second chance, but the whole incident still intrigued him. He was only a runner. He never met a client. He liked it better that way, but the thought of helping a banker, after all those fools had done to ruin the world, did not sit well with him.
“He paid his dues, Jake.” Jenny said. “You’ll like this. Stan gave the psycho girl a present. She’s in deep cover so the TSA goons have no clue who she is. Stan planted a couple of heroine pills in the bottom of her purse. I’m sure they’ve grabbed her by now. She will be lucky to make it out of the precinct station alive. She will be gang raped for certain. It is all part of Safety Committee’s new policy. Use the statist system against the Staties.”
Jake felt an involuntary pang of remorse. They had said the young woman was a trained assassin, so why the feeling? They had not hurt her. It was her own vile system. She would learn first hand what it means to have no recognized individual rights. It was not his fault. She intended to murder someone, but sill, he felt uneasy about the horrible prank. Jack frowned involuntarily. Jenny noticed and punched his arm playfully. He knew it bothered her too, but she had more reason to hate the Staties. June chose that moment to pick up the fiat cash and put it in the trashcan. That reminded Jake that he had a little Chavez Regal bag with a hundred one Trill coins in his backpack. The trillion dollar brass coins were the same size as numerous other older, obsolete, denominations in circulation in the Zone. It was their small change, mostly just Presidentials and Susan B’s. They were all the same size and alloy and worth the same, a piece of brass.
“If she had come in lugging a big bag of these she might have had a chance.” Jake plunked his bag of change on the counter. The two guards laughed at the joke. Imagine, bribing someone who is paid in specie with brass change. It was ludicrous.
“Is that all you have to show for yourself?” Jenny asked.
Stan checked something on his computer.
“He e-mailed the Bitcoin with a burn phone just before he got on the public bus to escape back to the Zone.” Stan spoke of Jake.
It irritated Jake whenever people spoke about him as if he were not present.
“I hate to sound like a wussy, but this is the last time I pull a stupid stunt like this. I don’t care how big the commission is. It’s just crazy. I can make money some other way. I feel like I’ve been shot at and missed but shit at and hit. I mean it. This is it. I quit.” Jake was serious. He had been terrified the whole time he was in the States. It reminded him of when he was very young, before the Big Break Up. Everyday in the FEMA camp had been a nightmare.
The militia occasionally smuggled Bitcoin for new escapees. It was their only public service, besides protecting the Zone’s border with the States. Anyone with anything wanted out as things became progressively more dire, more intrusive, more oppressive, and more corrupt. As a society consumes its capital, it consumes itself. Only the lucky few could escape. The Zone would be packed with starving refugees if it weren’t for the TSA policy of shooting all traitors who tried to escape without a permit. Jake wondered for the thousandth time why they didn’t just let them leave. Wouldn’t that be the easiest way to overwhelm the Zone? Did they think they were avoiding total collapse by keeping the slaves penned? Perhaps it was so.
Jake resigned his revolutionary Public Safety Committee commission as an officer in the Free Militia Coalition, but he stayed on as a noncom. He felt obligated to serve out his term of enlistment. The cold war with the States was beginning to heat up. It was not that it bothered him too much having the label of deserter posted on his public Militia Facebook profile. He was more concerned that the Staties would overrun the area and wipe out his new home. He was assigned to the very same Quarantine station at the border of the States where the young woman would be assassin had been returned to an unknown horrific fate at the hands of her own corrupt forces. Jake had reconciled himself with the idea of fighting fire with fire, but he did not have to like it. It was a slow day until one of the guards entered the building. The young man was in a state of panic.
“Come on! You gatta see this!” Joe’s voice was more excited then panicked. He was a little slow-witted and not big on military courtesy. Not that the militia was obsessed with such things.
“What is it?” Jake asked. “Are we under attack?”
Jack asked the question because his standing orders were to remain at his post unless the guard position came under attack. There was supposed to be a platoon stationed in and around the border crossing but at any given time they were lucky to have a full squad on duty. Many of the troopers seemed to believe that the laws of war allowed them to come and go as they pleased. When confronted with the charge of being absent without leave the trooper often responded something like this. “This is the Free Militia? So fire me. I’m sick of this shit anyway.”
“No! The Staties have bugged out! They’re pulling out the barriers!” Joe was gone as suddenly as he had arrived. The duty nurse was already going to look for herself.
Jack deserted his post to see what was going on. The HLS station was indeed deserted. A crew of city employees, mostly Mexicans, was busy dismantling the whole thing. A truck was already pulling away the Mobile Office where the guards slept and “interrogated” prisoners. A forklift was loading the concrete highway barriers blocking the street and fortifying the station from incoming fire. He noticed something very odd. One worker was up a ladder doing something to the CCTV camera on the street light pole. He sprayed the lens with black paint and climbed down. The city crew’s supervisor walked calmly across the former Free Fire Zone to the militia border guard post. Jake could see that the Free Fire Zone signs had already been removed. He trotted to the guard post. He wanted to hear the conversation. The man had a thick Spanish accent, but spoke passable English.
“Officer, I have a question please.” He addressed the first guard he came to.
The guard answered. “I’m not an officer, just a common trooper. What’s your question?”
Jack could tell by the trooper’s tone of voice that he was mildly insulted at being called an officer. That was they way “civilians” in the States addressed the police.
“Excuse me, soldier.” The supervisor continued with his question. “Have two Gordos, uh fatties, come by here this morning?”
“Sure.” The trooper answered. “He might know where they went.”
The soldier pointed at Jake. He remembered the two. They were the same two who almost reported him as a Denier. He knew they had recognized him in the Quarantine office, but they pretended not to. They complained loudly about their EBT cards not working, and wanted to know where they could find a job. One even blurted the he had converted all his assets that he could to Bitcoin and had no cash to declare. Jake and the nurse had laughed at that remark, and the nurse assured him that no one cared about fiat cash anyway. It wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on in the Zone. Years ago, DHS had ranged through the neighborhood with scanners that detected the magnetic strip in paper bills. They had seized all they could find, accusing anyone with any savings of smuggling. That was before they put up the Free Fire Zone signs. That kind of action tended to destroy the whole notion of fiat money being valuable. It had become more of a liability then an asset.
“I remember those two. Why do you care where they went?” Jake asked the supervisor.
“The Gordos took my whole crew’s lunch. They put them in their backpacks. The one who saw them do it was afraid to say anything at first because they had FEMA Patrol badges.” The supervisor answered.
Jake remembered that the two had made a big show of stomping on the badges. They were made of cheap plastic and shattered easily under to mass of those heels. The badges were like toy sheriff’s badges a kid might get in serial box when Jake was a boy. Every good Statie had one. The two jerks also expressed concern for their personal safety. Jack gave them directions to a nearby gun store.
“I don’t know if you want to catch up with those two now. They’re probably armed and dangerous by now, like everyone else in the Zone. If you want to you can post a complaint on the Community Alert Site. I could get you a good picture from the security cams.” Jake offered. The supervisor declined, but Jake made a mental note to post the complaint himself, so grocery store owners would be on the alert for the two thieves.
“I have other things to do, no pay for a week.” That was serious, considering the rate of inflation, the workers families would likely be running out of food, as hoarders were shot on sight and their food confiscated by DHS.
“What’s going on?” Jake asked.
“You don’t know?” The supervisor explained. “The policia have retreated to DHS headquarters and City Hall. Only they are being paid. The State Troopers and National Guard are deserting in mass. They ordered us to bring these barriers to them, but we have different plans. Would you like to join us?”
The sergeant of the guard overheard the entire conversation. He called headquarters for new orders.
“We are going in there and taking our food back.” The man had nothing else to say. He was determined and angry. He walked away from the conversation without another word.
Jake, the nurse and the rest of the squad sized platoon stood there watching the workers at their task. Joe was the first to notice the armed crowd gathering behind them.
“Look!” He shouted and pointed. Jake could taste the young man’s fear. The armed mob approached slowly. They carried all manner of weapons. A man who was obviously the leader held up his free hand motioning the crowd to stop. His other hand cradled a hunting rifle with a scope. He took Jake for the leader of the guards and approached. He was calm and very reassured.
“We are going to pass through this check point.” The man stated as a matter of fact.
“Sure.” Jake answered. “We’re standing by waiting for orders.”
“While you hurry up and wait, we are acting.” The expression “hurry up and wait” betrayed the man as a military veteran. “Don’t expect any orders anytime soon. Your commanders were caught with their pants down again. The Revolutionary Cadres have been expecting this for a week while the Committee argues with itself about the time of day. You’re welcome to come with us if you like. Didn’t they train you people to take the initiative?”
“The cold war just got hot.” The sergeant of the guard said. “We’re with you. Let’s go!”
Jake knew the order did not include him and the nurse because they were under a different chain of command, but he joined the squad anyhow.
At that moment a small drone buzzed toward them above the street and the level of the power lines. Several people fired at once. The drone crashed into a storefront. One of its rocket propelled grenades detonated in the building.
“We’re much too crowded.” Jake commented. “An inviting target.”
“Yah think?” The revolutionary leader said, ordering his followers. “Split up into five groups, each one up a different street! They can’t get us all.”
Jake thought about the possibility of a major air strike. He looked back to see several pickup trucks loaded with militia speeding toward them up the road. Jenny stood in the back of the first one. She waived at him. The driver beeped the horn and came to a stop, blocked by the crowd around the open gate. One of the troopers helped the squad into the trucks and they sped away as soon as the crowd cleared the way.
They stopped within a quarter of a mile of DHS head quarters. They could hear the small arms fire. The streets along the way were deserted, curtains drawn, and doors locked. The troops disembarked and spread out. Jake and Jenny sheltered under a store awning. Several troopers scrambled to disable any local CCTV.
“It will all be over soon.” Jake said. “What will you do then?”
“I’ll find the bastards.” Jenny answered. Jake knew she was talking about the TSA goons who had murdered her family. She had recognized all five of them. She had gone to high school with them.
“Hey! Look!” It was Joe again. “The power is still on and CNN is covering the battle!”
Jake knew the significance of that. Censorship was no longer effective. A group of the troopers gathered at the storefront of the TV repair shop to watch the news.
“…Most of the firing is coming from within the DHS compound. The armed gang surrounding the compound seems to be a mixed group of armed militia and street gangs.” By street gangs she meant the Latino city workers who had broken into a city police armory. Each Latino group displayed a certain color combination of bandannas and armbands. The ignorant reporter got it wrong again, Jake was thinking. She couldn’t even report on the revolution accurately when it was right in her face. Then it happened. A rocket propelled grenade was clearly fired from the DHS building. It detonated near the reporter. She was dead. The film crew continued to film for a moment and then the screen went blank.
“Saddle up!” The platoon commander ordered.
Before they could finish climbing in the trucks they all heard the jet fighter-bomber roaring over head. Then there was a great explosion in the direction of DHS headquarters.
“Come on, load up!” The commander shouted again. “The fun will be over before we get there.”
By the time they arrived the battle was over. Jake had seen the insignia on the aircraft, USAF. There was no mistaking it. DHS headquarters was a smoldering pile of ruins. Some of the military must be switching sides instead of deserting. Jake thought. It was only a matter of time.
The States had been reduced to occupied sectors in major cities supplied by corporate mega-farms protected by DHS. Most of the country’s territory was classified as a Free Fire Zone under martial law, but not much shooting happened most of the time. Most of the population coward and starved in the occupied cities. DHS had already blown most of its high powered hollow point ammo on target practice. The zone of state control shrank as markets re-emerged in the countryside and suburbia. At first the Cadres focused on liberating FEMA camps, then they focused on subverting the military reservations. If Jake had time to converse with the leader of the revolutionary mob that was just now arriving at the battle he could have explained the strategy.
Mole Rats Of Mars, The Complete Collection http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Collection-World-Revolution-ebook/dp/B00C8CQCA0/ref=la_B005IZV344_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367701794&sr=1-1
The CFR Collusion is an original Science Fiction novel published in serial form. The author envisions a futuristic dystopian world a century from the present. This vision is based on popular conceptions of current events projected into a future that goes horribly wrong. Huge mega corporations monopolize industry, manipulated by The Agency, the sinister shadow power behind the Council on Foreign Relation’s global system, The Fusion. It is a world, which has achieved the ideal of the CFR’s early twentieth century founders, a world free of war and contending nations, but things begin to go horribly wrong with the establishment of a global Eugenics Commission. That, and the introduction of direct brain to computer interface threaten universal enslavement. A revolutionary underground is formed to oppose the corporatist establishment, but there is a new threat from beyond Earth…
In the CFR Collusion I take a look into a future where humanity has recovered from a disastrous economic calamity, wars, and plagues resulting in the depopulation of the planet by 90%. A world government has taken charge, manipulating a vast system of mega-corporations and nominally autonomous city-states. The controlling ideology is that population growth must be restricted at all costs and that the best way to improve the human condition in the long term is though selective breeding imposed by the World Health Organization under the agency of the Eugenics Commission resulting in almost unimaginable corruption creating a new slave trade in un-authorized people, who officially have no right to exist.
Under the rule of the Fusion the CFR has assumed the mantle of the defunct United Nations, which disbanded as the nation states disintegrated. The Fusion is an imperial system with the CFR as the equivalent of the Roman Senate. There is no traditional effort to impose a system of law and taxation. Instead the nominally independent city-states of Earth exist as hosts for mega-corporations or playgrounds for the super rich. Political policy derives from Mandates imposed by the CFR. The Peace Keeper forces are the official enforcement mechanism supplemented by private contractors all under the clandestine control of the Agency with its own “assets”. Headquartered in Manhattan Free State after the fall of the District of Columbia, the former CIA exits independently of the CFR. Overlapping membership in the Agency and the CFR make it impossible to know who is really in power. The only competition to the Agency is the Home Office headquartered in the City of London Free State. The Home Office controls the Eugenics Commission. The mission of the Agency is to maintain political control. The mission of the Eugenics Commision is to maintain control of the population. The nominally independent mega corporations control the “commanding heights” of the political economy. Only independently wealthy individuals can exist in any condition of personal independence but most are creatures of the establishment oligarchy.
The story begins with the rebellion of one of the super rich, the Estate Holder in the insignificant state, South Carolina, and his free employees, his forest Rangers. Those who refuse to participate or fail to qualify under the regime of the Eugenics Commission are known as Naturals. They have organized a Natural Rights Movement with the Estate Holder as their defacto revolutionary leader. This is the story of the struggle of the key leaders and their friends against an almost unimaginably corrupt system.
This is the culmination of Bill Fargo’s life story. The threads of his life are brought together with an exciting surprise ending. Bill Fargo’s saga combines science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, with space opera romance.
Part of a group of related stories following The CFR Collusion featuring the same cast of characters, previously in Don’t Mind Me, Bridget, Bill Fargo’s life partner and partner in adventure, accidentally establishes a psychic bond with a young Galaxian. The situation must be set right for him to reach his full potential as a super being. Bill Fargo’s saga combines science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, with space opera romance.
Part of a group of related short stories. Another of the continuing adventures of the familiar characters from the CFR Collusion. Bill Fargo and his intrepid crew are sent on a rescue mission to a strange world, but is it too late? Bill Fargo’s saga combines science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, with space opera romance.
The third story in a group of related short stories, following the CFR Collusion featuring the same cast of characters. Don’t mind Me is a story about a utopian city of mind readers in deep space and how they interact with us mere mortals. Bill Fargo’s saga combines science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, with space opera romance.
This story was inspired by a book writen in 1881, The Great Romance, an early science fiction story writen by an unknown author in New Zealand. Thanks to a living author, Roger Venk, from that same land for bringing it to my attention.