it ain't all there and it's got it's problems but this is the start to the novel i have been working on. i'm open to comment and hope some of y'all would want to read the rest. it's cold and it's the holidays. enjoy it.
new dawn of an old dream.
“Please don't run out on me.” Benjamin begged of his truck and the sun. He had switched it over to gasoline and had a tight limit to catch up to the Latin Baja five miles ahead. He was gambling with gas and daylight and was trusting luck or a good guess. He didn't know what was on the little red buggy speeding across firm land but Mr. Fujeta payed him 50,000 down and would give him 150,000 on delivery. It was a new type of neuro-processor but that was all he knew. He was going about 100 across the rough country, any faster would be disastrous and he was already barely escaping bouncing into the marsh land all around. Neither vehicle would make it far in the hideous mud soaking the evil of man's waste in an area inhospitable to all but the most gruesome of life.
It was an American truck from the start of the millennium with added compartments, new circuitry, and a fuel cell but the bored out V10 was unbeatable for power and torque. It rumbled like a muscle car and could navigate the hardest of terrain. He watched the daylight change and the on screen monitor of the Baja. It was a fast little thing but he was gaining.
The old roads though the open country led under once blue skies but they were no longer roads and the air was rarely clear. Many had forgotten what they had looked like. Benjamin had seen grown men cry at the sight of clean skies. The life-breathing color would never last a full day and the astonished men would stand and watch the air above until a new drift of smog and decayed building pushed back the blue with the familiar gray smear. They looked younger and alive until the shackles of reality would bind them to the present once more. The few who had a chance to witness the day-blue shift into the long and deep reds of dusk were entranced by the intrinsic beauty of the world and would invariably start screaming hatred at the populations so bent on destruction.
Benjamin recalled trundling down a gravel road with the Rebels. He had only half-slept, riding on the back of a bike for a week straight. The men were running hard and fast. He never knew why but it was one of the greatest capers of the gang and the one that would lead to its dissolution. He remembered opening his eyes at the first dart of daylight and saw the purest morning of his time. It was one of those sights that struck him as something to remember though he was too young to know how precious it was. He painted a wall of his memory with the living mural and carried it with him until he was chasing down a Latin Baja.
He had gained four miles and could see the red buggy beyond a trail of dust. The sun was starting to set which left him with just enough light, if all went right and it never did. Of course, he was not entirely sure how he was going to get the damn thing to stop without flipping it over, killing the driver and possibly shattering the processors. His best bet was with the hook. He just hopped the Latin driver wasn't too jacked up on speed or heavily armed. Benjamin hated gunfights.
“They're fucking riduclous. Ain't got nothing to do with a fight. No style, no grace, and no balls. They just do what you can't do yourself,” he told Mitch Muggins at a bar in northern Louisiana. A sign outside read “Check your firearms at the door” and every jackass roughneck walking in had something to hand over.
“Either you're gonna whoop my ass or I'm gonna whoop yours. That's the way men fight and I ain't fucking with no punk motherfuckers no more. They don't know what they want and they sure as hell don't know how to get the respect they crave. Ain't nothing but bullshit to me.”
Of course, now was a time when Benjamin might need a proton cannon or an atomic stabilizer because he saw the little head turn back and recognize. They continued the chase another minute before the Baja veered to the right and cut across the marsh fields.
“Dumb son of a bitch.” Benjamin slowed down to the point and watched the buggy race across the dead plane of mud. It had rained for a month and the land was a vat of glue. The Baja had gone a couple of hundred yards before it began to slow down in a gushy depression. The wheels were flailing with a six-inch layer of mud gelling to them as the driver realized his mistake and tried to turn back toward firm land.
Benjamin got out of his truck, lit a cigarette, and changed into a pair of thigh high boots. He sprayed a solvent on the natural rubber to make them too slick for the mud and repel the Vileworms. He then strapped on the wide and spiked mud shoes.Throwing his bag of tricks on his back, the broad shouldered man of 35 set across dead-land to his goal. He could hear the motor whine and squeel through the fetid air as the Baja labored and sank in the mud. A lanky man hopped out with a metal case and tried to run but got no further than twenty feet before falling down. The once-rich soil began to swallow him. Making sure of each step, Benjamin reached the open-framed car in an hour.
“No. No. No.” Benjamin heard the trapped man plead, a quiet prayer in spanish followed the cries.
“Poomph.” The drenched earth muffled the blast, a hail of gooey earth-shit plastered Benjamin, almost knocking him out.
“Fuck.” Apparently, the Latin had a static-time self destruct attached to himself. If he stopped moving too long before he reached the drop-off site he would blow up, which he did. Benjamin wiped his face off and pulled a piece of the unlucky servant's skull out of his permanently mussy hair. He would need another round of shots when he got back to Memphis. Deranged experiments and the rise of ancient rites led to agonizing renditions of bacteria that could transform a healthy adult into a bubbling monstrosity in six-months. For now, he just needed to find the damn case. He trudged over to the crater. Vileworms had crawled up at the hot flash and a few had already set in on the half-carcass clad in mud, jeans, and entrails. The buzzards would come soon and now time was pressing for the night scavengers would leave nothing for Benjamin Patton to be remembered by. He pulled a tungsten flare out and struck it. The area would be lit in brilliant white for an hour but the case could be anywhere. Failure was never an option and recovery must happen soon. He slapped his neck and killed half a dozen mosquitoes. They swarmed and sang in his ears. Sweat stuck to the air and nothing was nice.
He began at the source and set out in a tight spiral. Urgency can lead to impatience which causes mistakes. More worms oozed beneath his feet and tried to gnaw into the thick soled boots. At some point, after a thousand tries, they would make it and life would be agonizing and short. Everything was the same black shade of brown and he knew the case would be buried in the stale reek of mud. His options were running low as time passed and he waded in wider circles of muck and mire and so he traced a line back to the crater and pulled a shiny sphere from his bag. The fusion magnet was his last resort but that is the corner he was pushed into. Benjamin plugged a cable into the grapefruit-sized ball and dropped the magnet in the mud and then sank-step as far away as the cord would allow. He counted to ten and at five shoved the cord into the palm of his right hand.
A few years prior, Mr. Fujeta had sent Benjamin to pick up a transient scientist for his labs. In a fight for the psychic researcher, the Hightower Mob cut off Benjamin's right hand. He had an implant put in after making it back to Memphis. It had its advantages.
The Latin's buckles slapped against the side of the sphere. Benjamin could feel the field growing and his hand began to ache. The pain grew as loose items from the buggy began migrating with increasing acceleration to the ball
Organs vibrated in an ancient pulse as he focused on planting his feet and ignoring the hand trying to rip from his body. He tried to think of pillows, lovers, and distant memories but it was of little help. He heard his wrist crack under the stress. Eyes glanced down, skin was tearing, a glint of metal and then a crumpling at his knees as something smashed him from behind. He ripped the cord free and the drone died.
He stayed on his knees, head bowed, hands sunk in the mud. The flare was starting to flash in its spastic close to brilliant brevity. Benjamin tried regain himself. He stared at the darkness behind closed eyes and trusted in its peace and tried to see the air coming into his lungs with long and even pulls, hear his heart slow to steady lub-dub. It wouldn't calm much, just enough to let him feel the worms biting his wrist.
He opened his eyes, pulled the thumb-shaped red maggots off, each one taking a souvenir of its visit, reached behind his legs and felt the case. The hard metal gave him strength to stand up and move gingerly toward the magnet which he packed up and then made his way out of the muddy ruins. Rain had come once again and he was glad to be washed clean, albeit with the scarred waters of his time.
Benjamin made it to the truck. His hand still worked but the thought of moving it hurt almost as much as not. He could let the computer navigate him back and take some morphine for the short term. First, he had to break the case open. It had a tracker in it and he did not need to be followed. He set the case on the on the tailgate. It was the size of a standard briefcase made of hardened steel. He pulled a chrome tube from his pocket and a laser-blade jetted out of the end about three inches. After a few minute, he had sliced one side off. Rain drops disappeared in a sharp hiss of steam on the cut edge. A thick, organic acrylic envelope slid out when he dumped the box. He put the envelope in a container in the cab and flipped the switch on top. It scanned the frequencies of the envelope and jammed the tracking device.
Pain still hurt and he wanted to collapse. He could no longer use his mechanical hand so resorted to teeth and his woman made hand to pour peroxide in the wound and wrap it. Beer tasted good and water cold.
“A bath would be nice.” he bitched at the black steaming black night. He threw his grip into the truck and climbed in. Climate control had become an art of neccessity and so he grew a step less miserable.
“Send message to Mr. Fujeta. Package received. Arrival in ten hours. Open driving controls. Raise Map 47g,” he commanded as he found the morphine shot in the glove box. A topographic map of his design appeared on the windscreen to which he recited a list of nav points that should take him safely home. It was a long route northwest through the rippled planes and then east and down to home but it should lead over good roads and away from the shitstorm while he slept.
It went the way most figured. Full scale war conflagerated over Oil as disease and famine gnawed. No city was safe from missiles and hellfire. The United States and Canada formed into the North American Federation. In 2066, the Chinese Army landed on the West Coast as the European Union demolished the infrastructure. The North American Federation met the attack with a new draft on all people over thirty. Parents readily agreed to die for their children who were being moved to safer lands. The Rockies made the border for the central battleground. The United Countries of South America leveled the region in a legion of bombs. The draft age was lowered to sixteen and the youth were further secured within the Defense Umbrella covering the Great Lakes. Those between sixteen and twenty were sent to be the human component of the robot plants. Soldiers died off and the automated infantry took the field to face robot forces from the other six. The Seven Powers saw that the Wars could not be won and so they agreed to a new peace. War was good for control and so the Citizens were raised to believe that their country was in a constant battle for survival. The fight did remain but it was a game of metal and lasers in agreed to boundaries. Resources were plenty for the billion survivors and Kings need followers.
The area beyond the Defense Umbrella was the Growth Region. Crops were maintained and if land around the Central Cities became scarce, they could expand. The Federation was not eager for such growth and worked diligently to restrict it. Researches had decided that the Earth could safely support a billion people and no Citizen should want for anything.
Many bunkered down in the Growth Region during the attacks. Most ran out of supplies, went crazy, and ate themselves but some managed and they built communes on top of the earthbound shelters. They were the freeborns.
Not all Citizens were perfect. The least harmful were sterilized and sent to work in the outposts. The largest of which is approximately where Memphis was before the earthquake. In 2070, the New Madrid fault shifted and toppled the cities along the Mississippi River. It also moved the mouth of the river northwest. The oceans raised further and Memphis was now a hundred and twenty miles from the Gulf Straits. It was safely behind the hundred mile security perimeter, an easy boat, train, or air ship trip to the Central Cities and firmly within the growing region. The expelled Citizens were Newbloods and were a good mark for the cons and dealers.
Memphis was rebuilt around the Port by a population of crooks, vagrants, and survivors. It grew large enough to have real government. The North American Federation did not much care for its growth but it could not start killing its own in a time of peace and prosperity. Not that those in the Growth Region were either peaceful or wealthy. One found whatever way possible to survive. The Port was the best place to go for all things came through there. Such a place is the playground of mobs, smugglers, and drug lords.
“You look like hell.”
I feel like it, Manny. Benjamin handed the cart vendor the cash and left with a tall beer. He cracked it open as he stepped onto the elevator to his floor. It stopped on the third floor as he finished a long drink and felt a step relaxed. Manic danger was past. A tall black woman with red dreadlocks stepped on.
“Yes. Just moved in.”
A painter's dream or a living nightmare, he couldn't decide, she wore knee high shit kickers and a simple white dress that accented her long and strong legs, her luxurious aspects, and her intoxicating movements with each step and smile. He looked at her face and it was delicate with long features and full lips and brown eyes that stared to the back of his skull. Too tired to act, Benjamin leaned against the polished wall and drank his beer. A second look led him to blurt something.
“This place is as awkward as it gets. So close to strangers and all anyone wants to do is get home.”
“What do you have to be ashamed of?” She eyed him and liked what she saw, a faint glint came to her smile.” Her voice was strong but imbued with female rhythm.
“What don't we all have to be ashamed of around here. It ain't nothing but a land of rotguts and sinners.”
The light chimed 18.
“Pleased to meet you...”
“Honored.” They shook hands. “I'm Benjamin Patton. Hopefully, we shall meet again.” He smiled, she smiled, and he started out the door.
“Don't move another step.” He heard a Resonator Canon chamber a round and he froze as the door tried to shut on him. The little tube pointed at his back would fire a little shell. That little shell would stick to his skin and generate a frequency to match that of his own and cause his body to dissolve in a sloppy pop. Mitch Muggins was killed by one. The scream still struck Benjamin's nightmares and came back at that moment. It was an evil way to kill a man and only the most cruel and cold could use one.
“You have a meeting with the Mayor.”
“Can I take a shower first. Maybe a nap and go see the Doctor.”
“The shower I can grant you but that's it. You don't want to be late.”
“I just want to get this shit off of me. It's been a pretty fucked up day.”
“Better get used to it.”
“Can you put that damn thing down. I ain't gonna run. You, Tobacco Brown, smell like the wrong cunt to fuck with.”
“How poetic. Maybe I'll put that on my next card. Why are you standing like an idiot, no time for nothing.”
Benjamin limped down the hall, turned, unlocked door 1808 and went inside with the bounty hunter following. It was an open studio with a small bathroom and large closet, the same layout as all of the new construct block apartments built since the quake. Books and tools were in a disarray of his own doing.
“Make yourself at home. There's vodka in the freezer.”
“Thanks. I'll just be waiting on you.”
The man in the mirror was covered in blood and mud. A two week beard tried to hide his strong jaw. He peeled his clothes off but left the wrap on his wrist. It had swollen and was burning with infection from the worm bites but the bleeding had long since stopped. He took his time enjoying the hot water cascading all around and the few minutes peace.
“Should I wear a suit?” He yelled through the door as he dried off.
“That won't be necessary. Just hurry up, your place bores me.”
“If I had known, I would have a bread and circus act for you.”
Benjamin pulled on clean jeans and shirt and checked himself in the mirror once more. His blue eyes squinted back through a row of sags and his hair was in every direction of too long but he still looked like better than he did.
He went to the freezer and took a big swig from the bottle, put on a red jacket and headed toward the door, “Let's get this done.”
“Don't forget your bag. You have something for the Mayor in there.”
“I didn't need to hear that.”
“I could kill you, if you rather.”
“I'll keep that in mind Ms. Brown.”
The elevator clanked and hurched its way down. Benjamin damned the smallness of the space. He grew up in open country chasing and running and both instincts were suffocated in the scrap-part box.
“Long time, Mr. Benjamin,” an older fellow with a rough beard and a Hawaiian shirt chirped from his seat in the lobby.
“It has been. How's Kook?”
“Busy being a clown. She found a better corner. The one that the Holograph Man used but he overdosed.”
“Good for her. He was an ass and probably deserved it. I don't know when I'll be back so wish her the best for me.”
“Will do. Be careful, son.” The half-drunk gentleman tipped his hat.
The two continued out the steel doors and onto the street. Endless construction clattered through the air that was thick with drunk piss and the calls of conmen.
“Hey. You smoke. Got what you need? No. Look like a man who needs to kill the pain. Got them pills if you know what I mean. Hey. Spare a cigarette, how about coin. Hoping for a sandwich but would settle for a beer. Know a guy at the Yards, he brought this shit in yesterday and ain't got but this left. You want it. Was two hundred but I'll take a bit off the top and seeing as it's hard to get and such let's call it two-fifty. Hey tall, I know you want a taste of my sweets. A deeper flash of skin. You don't want that trash when I got this. Yellow and crimson splashes on a rotted canvas. But the wares do have their call and many a good young man has been lost in the house of the rising sun. And that is around the back in half-built ruins.
He followed the assassin west, past the fire people gulping flame and spinning among burning whip, past Kook the Clown trying to find a secret door she was sure she left somewhere, then down to the river and onto a replica of an a Civil War iron clad gunship. They went down a ship's ladder into the galley. Tobacco Brown palmed a black box on the wall and a heavy metal door next to it opened. The two stepped through and the door hissed shut behind them. Benjamin looked around the small space and was lost. It was round with a mirror polish and no buttons, handles. Down they went.
“Good thing I'm not on weird drugs.”
“Or maybe a bad thing. What happens if you tell anyone about what you see?”
“I'm hoping you'll just shoot me in the back of the head.”
“I would rather keep yours for a trophy. It's a handsome one and you may put up a fight that would be worth it. Did you ever hear the samurai mantra, 'Make sure your head and face looks its best for the enemy may take it back today.'”
“I always went by the 'watch your neck' line of thinking.”
“Of course you have.”
Benjamin felt castrated.
The shiny can stopped after a ten story descent and the opened to reveal a long hall that looked to the inside of a tree trunk. The tubular hall was as smooth as glass with the drawings of eternity in the red grain.
“Damn. It must have been something incredible. A whole forest of these, how big was this tree? What a fantastic world we have destroyed. ”
“It was out of stupidity. It will get better is we can kill ourselves off.”
“Where's the button?”He wanted to stay and let his dreams awaken in the wood circling about him but Tobacco's boots kept clacking. “If you come back...you might get a longer look.” She said as she continued walking away.
The hall reached its end. To the left, another long hall lined in onyx and marble strained and to the right was a heavy oak door with great iron hinges and a large bronze gargoyle sitting over the top. Tobacco Brown pushed the door open and they stepped into a wide and spectacularly high space. The far wall was a giant window. Past the window, Benjamin could see the depths of the Mississippi flow by and the geometric mechanical motions of the Generator.
Mayor Winterfeld sat a table made from a mangrove? stump and smoked a cigarette with his brandy. Mr. Fujeta sat facing away, drinking from a crystal glass as well. His rampant gray hair chased in all directions.
“Tobacco, darling, whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?” The Mayor asked with a knowing smile.
“Sir, this is Benjamin Patton.”
Benjamin Patton lived his first five years in Maryland. His father had already been shipped to Europe when his mother was called for duty. Something was severely wrong with it all and she decided to send him off before she got on the boat with her State Issue. All of her savings and her female favors bought her son a trip with a conductor of a food train heading out.
Sonja Patton helped her only child a backpack with food, cash, and a few family treasures. She pulled a black ball cap that was embroidered “Please Help” in gold and kissed him goodbye while holding back the sorrow long enough to see him wave from the conductor's window. The conductor kicked the boy out in Iowa where he was picked up by the Darkside Rebel motorcycle gang. They were rough and cruel but human and so they raised him to survive in the dismantled half ruins of the open country. The Darkside Rebels fell to a terrible feud when he was sixteen so he hopped on his bike and rode off to be his own man. He ended up in Memphis and a job at the docks led him to the smuggler's trade that he had grown into.
“I see.” The Mayor stood up and extended his right hand. Mr. Fujeta stood as well but had an uncomfotable shiftiness of smile rather than the exuberant glow Benjamin was accustomed to. Benjamin walked up and shook the Mayor's hand.
“Please, sit down. Let us get aquainted before we get to business. What's your flavor?”
“Dear stuff, afraid it would be a waste to drink.”
Benjamin tried to look at the Mayor but the man was pale and a touch gruesome and the transparent wall was intoxicating. Prehistoric fish nudged by as the water danced across.
“You like the view. Come, let's move to a better vantage and carry on.”
“It's fantastic, thanks.”
An android with a playboy's face wearing a red tuxedo handed Benjamin a tall whiskey. It smelled true and tasted better.
“That's hundred year old Tennessee whiskey. I hope you enjoy it because I don't know where to get any more. Something about the crude methods of the past made for more refined products.”
“It was about the craftsman.”
“How right you are.”
They had moved a row of plush armchairs facing the window. Mr. Fujeta and Benjamin sat on either side of the Mayor. Benjamin watched the harmonic generator dance up and down in the ever-changing river. A turtle the size of a small bicycle nudged its way up the glass.
“Hate to be rude, but what the hell am I doing here?”
“Crude but not rude. You are a man of action and that is why I sent for you. That and you have something of mine that I believe you just recovered for me.”
Benjamin reached into his bag and pulled out the acryillic envelope and handed it to the Mayor who passed it to Mr.Fujeta.
Mr.Fujeta procured a small chrome tube from his waistcoat pocket. Hot light shot a few inches from it that he used to open the package. It was an arduous task that required several breaks and most of a whiskey. When it was open, the android came over with a small tray. Mr. Fujeta upended the package and out danced half a dozen crystals with red cracks twisting and turning in a pattern somehow orchestrated. The wild eyed fellow touched the frame of his glasses and the lenses blazed. From his view, he could see the genetic coding int the crystals and define what the processors were for. The first three were his standard mood and psyche altering devices, the fourth was the useless tracking device, the fifth crystal captured his focus and held it for some time as he turned the small rock in his fingers.
“This is the work of a deranged master. The others are damaged. It looks like they were passed through a powerful magnetic field. They should be serviceable but this one is immaculate.”
The Mayor smiled and clapped like a schoolboy. “You think it will work?”
“If it doesn't, nothing would. I have never seen such fine work.”
“I wonder if the Mayor sucks cock?” Benjamin asked himself as he watched the android bring a small pouch for the crystal. It was an attractive machine, verging on pretty. “I figured he would have big-tittied hoochie robots running around but whatever floats his roses.” The pretty-boy circuitry handed the pouch to Benjamin.
“Well Mr. Patton,” the Mayor stated, “I have secured you for the most difficult role of a revolutionary play.”
He kept talking as Benjamin watched the weird and powerful river creatures drifting and darting by. Any creation that could stand the human turmoil of the past hundred years was something to behold.
“There is a fantastic ability of life to endure. See that sturgeon. It outlived the dinosaurs and most everything else since then.”
Five-feet of armor and teeth swam easily. An eel was spungeling along near the big fish. Teeth flashed and the eel was gone in one move.
“Run fast, eat or be eaten.” Benjamin muttered.
“Incredible, is it not? Long ago, I had a dream for what you see. I wanted it to be something for the whole city to enjoy and prosper through knowledge and vision but life changed plans on us. You are one of a select few to have seen this. Many know about the Generator but the rest exists by no more than imagination. I hate it. It should be a classroom, museum, wedding hall but it can not. I believed in the American Experiment and this bastard society must end and we must embrace true liberty to succeed. The War is hoakum, a tool of the arm's makers and societal suppressionists dressed as civil servants. Who cares about the Chinese Army when the Federation is already here. You must know this in your travels.”
“It's not my business to worry about and I can't do a damn thing about it.”
“But if you could?”
“Is it gonna stop the fiends from dieing or you bug dicks from owning everything? Will I make everyone happy, good, and free?”
“No one can solve the human condition.”
“So why should I give two shits when I have to struggle to sit on my own crapper?”
“Because I know that you believe in the possibility of a better tomorrow.”
“I thought I believed in nothing but what I got.”
“But now you hold the napalm of revolution and you get to fire it up.”
“I planned the event and it is a beautiful plan but I decided that I should find someone else to push the button, so to speak. I could be wrong and I want a man of exceeding judgement to make the decision.”
“And you think that I, a don't give a fuck no-good son of a bitch is that man? You're nuts.”
“What if the whole course of the Wars was a lie?”
“Doesn't really change anything, most of the world is still dead.”
“If a handful of Executives and Presidents designed the unholy killing spree and they now have control over everything, including us?”
“And you take over the Seven and we will wake to a new dawn.”
“Can I just be content being me?”
“Perhaps, but you will always wonder what happened if you agreed to see the Liberation through.”
“But I will be alive.”
“If you succeed, you will have everything you have ever wanted. You will be free and wealthy, what better can society do for a man?”
Benjamin thought of himself free like the catfish shuffling through the mud. Away from the stupid madness of greed and strife. He was tired and ready for a month of nothing. Maybe two. He could retire from the business after Mr. Fujeta squared up with him. But what does the Mayor want me to do? The edge is where I breathe. If I wanted to be a nothing I would have been strung out long ago. It will be a fool's errand but let me at least hear of it.
“Enough of the hibber jabber, what do you want me to do?”
“There is to be a meeting of the Seven on November 21st. Few know of this and I only do because that's what I do. You are to take over the Capitol, with the help of Mr. Fujeta, and inject the Seven with this mind control receptor. In that way, you will start a bloodless and painless coup.”
“How does this get dumber and why are the Seven meeting?”
“The only hitch is with the control receptor because they are worthless unless you can get that control.”
“How praytell would I do that?”
“Have you heard of the Centaurians?”
“They have the controler. It's a relic, really, a piece of the Appalachians from a distant past that has grown in power in the hands of the Centaurians.”
“And how do you plan on getting it?”
“You will steal it.”
“No one comes back from the hills. Never. You might as well shoot me and make it easier.”
“I'm counting on you to be different. You have proved yourself many times and if you fail, we'll just continue as above.”
“And what comes of this, if you succeed? You control the world? If that's the case what ever you were saying about America and freedom is a bunch of hoo-haa to get you the pie.”
“The problem with past revolutions is that people tried to take over and create a new system and always failed because people are people. What I aim to do is leave everything intact except for the motives of the leaders. They will be empathetic with our plight while working to free the Citizens from the trap that the Seven have created. Memphis stands to gain a great deal and rise with the tide but control will not be in my hands.”
“Self government requires citizens to be individual leaders. This nation has a splendid history of thinkers of the subject and they are the cars to follow. When is the last time you read the original Constitution or Adams, Hamilton, Payne, King Jr., or Lincoln.”
“I read to forget.”
“Men write to remember. They and the combined knowledge of history will lead. Dead men and women who left a legacy that can be fulfilled. I once believed in them but this shit hole suffocated my childish ideas.”
“Okay. I got the basics of it. What if I think it's dumb and refuse?”
“I will release you at the front of the Generator for knowing too much.”
“I feel like a two-bit whore at an inmate party.”
“Be proud and be honored and know that you will be in the volume of greats when you succeed. Mr. Fujeta is an old acquaintance and a superior judge of men. He says that you are the best and so it must be.”
The ice had melted with the whiskey. Benjamin took several good sips. “So...why do I have this rock and what am I supposed to do with it?” He drank to the bottom and the android refilled the glass.
“Mr. Fujeta will fill you in on all of the details. How great it is to be on the lookout of the ship Liberty and ready with a double round to fire at those...”
And on the Mayor went speaking of a new world of proud and free individuals working for the fulfillment of all. Throbbing, burning, and shooting agony caused Benjamin to tune the pandering out. He groaned.
“I can't leave for a few days. I have got to see the Doctor, this shit hurts and I can't do a damn thing one handed.”
The Mayor looked at Benjamin with small eyes and disgust. “Don't ever interrupt me again or I'll feed your balls to the turtle.”
“Look, I'll listen to everything that concerns me but you ain't getting the services of a robot and I'm sure as hell not gonna let you talk to me like a boy. I wouldn't be here if you didn't send the crazy bitch to jam a gun to my back. Don't take it as disrespect, you've got a dream that's crazy as fuck and I can dig that. I just don't have time for these broad and useless statements. As far as we're concerned, I'm only here about a job and that's all there is to that.”
Mr. Fujeta bowed his head, fearing the end of his friend. He had seen the Mayor kill over less and percieved disrespect infuriates the confused ego of power.
“Bring us a round of Mr. Patton's choice. I must have a proper drink with this man for he is that and that is a rarity.”
The servant brought out three more tumblers filled to the brim.
“As to your concerns, Mr. Patton, we have a few more details to work out and so I will send for you in three days. It was a pleasure but I have a city to run, good day and good luck. The Mayor stood up, shook Benjamin's hand and walked off.
“Let's get you to the Doctor.” Mr. Fujeta led Benjamin out and up to the street where his car was waiting. It was a short drive that Benjamin used to close his eyes.
“Here we are.” They got out and walked into the Doctor's shop.
“Hey y'all.” An older fellow with a gravely face clattering around on a three-wheeled chair greeted them.
“Greetings to you Doctor Jeb.” Mr. Fujeta responded and then he led the Doctor to the storeroom where he could go over the details with him. Benjamin sat and closed his eyes for another wisp of rest before the torment that would be coming came. The Doctor and Mr. Fujeta ca,e back and the redneck surgeon went to work.
“Damn boy. What the hell you been doing? This gonna suck in the unfun kind of way.” Doctor Jeb was grabbing and pulling at Ben's hand and watching the patient swear and yell at every turn while Mr. Fujeta readied a long needle with viscous green fluid. Jeb made his assessment and then removed the bandage.
“You're a lucky son of a gun. I've seen a lot of cats bleed to death from less.” He set to scrubbing the woods and it felt no better.
“Jesus. Fuck. Can't you get a sweet nurse for that shit.”
“If I want it done right, I only trust one person outside of myself and that's just for the easy shit. I'm gonna get you fixed and it's gonna bet better'n it was but I'll tell you it'll be a first for me to do this. Done shit like it but usually with time in my pocket. Can't by buy months when all you got is hours. It's only given to you by the Fates.” He had stopped scrubbing to take a drink of soda. The caterwaul of angry nerves calmed down within Ben. He could breathe.
As Ben could think of something beyond the loudly lit room Mr. Fujeta sunk the needle between the vertebrae behind his heart and the green goo disappeared. He removed the needle and Ben was paralyzed.
Benjamin Patton was partially slumped forward on the stool. He could see and smell the diabolical place. “Am I in hell? I must be. I probably died back in the swamp and this must be my afterlife. I never thought I was that bad. I only did what I had to survive. Sure, killing ain't right but that was just a few times when it had to be that way. I guess I did help some hell-bound punks but that was just work. Maybe it's like a crime-by-proxy type thing. Is that really fair? Who on Earth would be clean enough to not be thrown into this fire then?”
“I ain't gonna apologize about that Ben but I can't knock you out for this shit and I can't have you flinching. Mr. Fujeta says its gonna work and that's all we need to know, right. Don'y worry man, you ain't dead.” Doctor Jeb said as he brought a skeleton vice over and began arranging Ben's right arm in the armature so that he could set to work. He scooted to his table on his motor chair and put all the tools to start on a tray attached to the cart. “You can leave now, Mr. Fujeta. I'll let you know how it goes.”
“Okay. You take care of him.”
“Like he was my brother.”
Mr. Fujeta left the Doctor and patient alone. Doctor Jeb put his goggles covered in organic circuitry and plugged them into a jack on his chair. The light changed to a dull green and Benjamin tried to let the syrup in his spine diffuse. The pain was severe but he felt like he could take more, now it was the clattering Doctor that drove him mad.
Doctor Jeb came to his patient. “It looks like you still got one small worm in there. I think it's dead from the morphine. They have a real low tolerance to the stuff. Let's just hope you don't have any eggs drifting around your blood stream.” He was reaching for the worm with a long needle.
“I would rather replace this hand but we don't have time to re-splice nerves for the connection. It seems you have work to do soon and that'll cause hell on this wrist so what I aim to do is rebuild the interface with additional reinforcement so the next time you do something so dumb it won't rip apart on you. It's a shame cause you would get a kick out of the new devices.”
Doctor Jeb was brilliant and capable but he muttered and zipped about in such a disarray as to un-inspire confidence. A powerful headache glazed Ben's skull while he tried to close his eyes from the sick room. A mythological smell seared his stomach to his throat.
“This might hurt.” Jeb said as he inserted a thin metal tube into his wrist, at the interface. He pressed a button on the tube and a tiny sonic charge made brought a great flash of anger and left Ben's hand hanging by only the central line and some skin.
“That was the worst part. I hope.”
After three hours of work, both Benjamin and Doctor Jeb were drenched in sweat and the job was done. The skeleton vise was released and the physician admired his work for a minute.
“Let's see if this works.” Jeb clattered around and came up to Ben's back which he touched with two electrodes. His patient convulsed for a few seconds and then slumped forward from the stool and lay on the floor, curled in a ball.
Benjamin opened and closed his hand as he moaned. Movement reinvigorated him and he opened his eyes to see the world at tile-floor level and decided he would be better off in his own bed.
“Sorry bud, but he wanted you to walk home. He said that you must move for the medicine to take effect.”
“Fantastic.” He began to sit up and was tired and sore but glad to be moving. He looked at his mended appendage. On the back of his hand was the circle mark of a Citizen
“What the fuck is this, a Federation Chip?”
“It was ordered. I guess you need it for whatever fool errand they have you running. Grab the vise frame, it'll help you up.”
Benjamin followed the Jeb's advice and was on his feet. The headache was subsiding and he enjoyed the cold water Jeb handed to him.
“Now, you really need longer in the bed but you will heal faster than ever with the shot Mr. Fujeta gave you.”
“What is it? I can feel it trying to jam through my spine.”
“I ain't sure what it is but he did say that it uses spirit energy to heal the body. It don't sound real fun and I have a feeling you're gonna feel fucked up for awhile. I mean, your flesh and bone should be in top-shape in a few days but weird shit happens when you screw with that other part of you. Anyway, get your ass home, get to bed, and know that it's just the medicine making you see the world all cockeyed.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
Benjamin walked the five blocks through the Center City. Few cars used the streets but a number of trucks came through, on their way to and from the Yards. A couple capsule cars sat idling and another of the two person transport eggs was gliding along. The Mayor had hoped to put in a complete network of them, all powered from the river but he ran out of money and too few used them to make the project worth completing. They were clever things, used throughout the Federation where populations and energy budgets required them. One could go wherever the track went by hopping into a capsule on standby and telling it a destination.
People of had grown accustomed to walking after the quake. Some cities had tunnels for foot and bike traffic that would help keep people's exposure to bad air to a minimum but the Mayor's Science Council gave him the belief that it was best to keep the people topside and exposed so that they could develop immunities. As a result, the city had a high rate of cancer but it also had the highest percentage of immune freeborns.
The first half of his walk took Ben past the two Dome-iciles. Odd structures of clever design, the base was a thirty story dome. Layers of gardens were cantilevered from it. Neither earthquake nor conventional arsenal could bring them down. Terraces were braced in a spiral climbing the dome. Flower gardens grew in many of them and fuel crops filled the rest not dead. It was a special calm to go one of the open levels on the top and be in arranged nature.
The interior was not nearly so aesthetic since they were designed to accommodate as many people as possible and they performed admirably. In the event of an attack or disaster, each building could shelter 5000 people for as long as the city's food store lasted. The first two levels were full of commerce and agencies, offices were on the third, residential space roamed always the way to the top four floors, which housed churches and schools. Original plans called for twenty of them but it was a silly dream. The reality is that two was enough.
Refuse of the past and scraps of the present combined in all ways to form the rest of the city. Benjamin lived in one of the nicer ones, a reinforced steel tower decorated with remnants of the glorious twentieth century, when America was the most powerful nation in history. An outfit in the city dealt entirely in artifacts from that era commissioned Benjamin several times to find and recover some tangible piece of the old country's hope, power, and style. Beaker Brothers prized musical pieces with particular zeal and so it was more than willing to pay Benjamin to hunt down a Hendrix guitar drifting around Canada. Tom Beaker was almost in tears when he had to hand the guitar to Tobacco Brown as taxes to the mayor.
History was inconsequential to Benjamin, he only wanted to put the present on pause. He made it home and fell asleep face first and fully dressed. Sleep came fast and hard, calm was slow and insidious.
He was laying in bed, Dalana Sanders was kissing his stomach while he studied the mural she had painted on her ceiling.
“Someone should write a book about you.” She said.
“Do people read anymore?”
“But you know my story, the good parts at least.”
“But I'm just one person. Maybe, in a hundred or a thousand years, someone will find your book and he will be thankful to have a record of a real man of his time.”
“I ain't nobody.”
“It's the nobodies that make shit happen, paint the ceiling, and play the songs. The somebodies are mostly lies that they like to tell.”
His eyes danced in the spiraling and twisting floral motif. Her touch was gentle and his frame was clear.
“Who writes anymore?”
“Lots of people must. They think, don't they?”
“What does that mean?”
“Words are the language of thought. They are the best at what they do despite their intrepid failures.”
The dream continued as a short film of his love's downfall. It was more like a new rendition of the past but the details were there. Her small home built by her nimble hands and artist's eye. The colors were bright and her kitchen was warm with baking. A row of cakes sat on the counter, ready to be decorated and delivered. Then he was gone, on the road and she was falling when he came back.
“I can't deal with this dead world anymore.” She said as she rested next to the toilet. “I tried but it is no place for humanity.”
“And a while bunch of Funk will make it all better, right?”
“If you didn't run off, I would be getting high.”
“It's my job. I can take a while off and we can get you off this horse 'cause it will fuck you up.”
“That's what I want it to do. I need to not give a fuck and stop feeling the pain.”
The next time he saw her, she was drooling on the sidewalk with a blank stare. She was wearing plastic chaps and a whore's stench.
He was playing on the beach in Maryland. His mother was sitting on a towel, watching her only son run into the waves. The sky was diamond clear and his nappy hair jostled with the breeze. He dove into a the tallest wave and came up. A ship was sailing by. The spinnaker was full and the skipper barked. Endless blue stretched beyond the boat and Benjamin could see the tail of his dreams. He ran back to show his mother, turning and pointing at the bright red sailboat with a brighter blue and yellow sun sail pulling it forward. As she smiled and he waved and the skipper waved the sea erupted in man's hellfire and the sky swirled with the thick smoke.
Benjamin screamed as the boat burst and sank, the men scrambling to douse their fire in the water angry with a new rage. He turned to grab his mother but she was gone. Her cries carried in the foul smoke but he only found ghosts as he followed them. He ran and chased and he ran until his legs could carry him no more, he ran past that with fear at the wheelhouse. Out of Maryland and beyond all that he had ever known he ran until he reached an endless field and collapsed. He could see smoke and hear the chaos in the distance and he could faintly hear his mother. “Benjamin.”
“Wake up!” A kick in the arm shook Benjamin to. Tobacco Brown was standing above him.