Ruth Ann Minton 
The air in the Infocation arboretum was the freshest in the world.
Ruth Ann was sure of it. Ruth had personally designed the arboretum
and she had arranged it to look exactly like the picture of the Garden
of Eden that she had in her mind. She looked back through the plastiglass
into the conference room to make sure that the new bid for BMI Relations
hadn't come in yet. There was no commotion so she took a deep breath and
tried to relax. She began eating a fig and gave a disdainful look at the
apple tree nearby; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that no one
was allowed to eat from.
Ruth Minton could not have been any more proud of her only son.
Robert had remained the perfect Christian boy, and as reward for his
purity he had become president of the entire planet and his corporation,
Infocation, had become the biggest and most influential corporation
in the world.
Ruth had married Robert's father in the 1990s. She had let the man
defile her once a week for three months until she became pregnant and
then never again. She hated men. HATED them. And hated this vulgar
thing they wanted to do with her. She had to lay still like a stone and
send her mind to a different place while Robert's father grunted, groaned
and sweated on her while he did his business. It only took a few minutes,
but to her, those few minutes must surely be very similar to the eternal
torment of Hell that awaits sinners beneath the Earth. After she became
pregnant the man still tried to touch her. He was insistent and and tried
to use their marriage to guilt her her into touching him. And he would
insist on touching her no matter how she recoiled from his touch and so
one day he just suddenly and mysteriously died and Ruth inherited all of
his money and she didn't have to worry about him touching her any more.
She raised her son in the image of Christ. She sometimes thought that
he was the return of Christ on this Earth. He was delivering humanity
from evil. He was sending the sinners to Hell where they belonged and
delivering the rest back to the churches from which they had strayed.
She stopped to admire herself in the window on the way back into the
conference room. She had a head that was shaped like a squash and
as wrinkled as a prune. She had black horn rimmed glasses rather than
having corrective eye surgery. No one, including her son, enjoyed looking
at her, but she had the kind of vanity that came from pride in who she
was, and in her own mind, being the mother of such a man made her
She sat down next to her son around a conference table and saw that
Infocation had in fact entered another bid while she was in the arboretum.
She controlled her face and tried not to show her chagrin at the fact that
no one deemed it important to go retrieve her for the next bid. She glared
at the other directors on the board of directors and took satisfaction in
her superiority over them. Their function was to sit at the table and
watch their wealth increase with the Infocation stock price and validate
her son with their silent reverence. She, on the other hand, was allowed
$67,500 was a staggering bid. ExxoMo's initial bid of $51,000 per share
was already more than BMI Relations was worth. It was, in fact, intended
to be so much more than the corporation was worth as to scare off other
prospective bidders. Infocation's counter offer of $53,800 shook the
whole world and sent shockwaves through the financial markets. All around
the world Relations class people were suddenly scrambling to figure out
what was so special about BMI Relations.
The Relations industry was one of the very few industries that was not
run by a duopoly or monopoly. In almost every industry there was a
dominant corporation and sometimes there was a competitor. Competing
corporations existed only to lead people to believe that there was a choice
of brands to buy. Pepsi still existed for example, but hardly anyone ever
bought any, its only function was to remind people that they had a choice.
A choice that no one ever exercised because it was seen as suspicious not
to buy Coca-Cola products and people would start watching you to see if you
were miseducated. The people knew better than to even appear miseducated.
The Relations industry was different. There were hundreds of Relations
corporations and dozens of them were dominant. BMI Relations was a very
old, very venerable, well established Relations firm that would add much
to any corporation that could acquire it, but why such a high valuation.
Why were the two biggest corporations vying for this Relations corporation
when they both already had their own impressive Relations subsidiaries.
ExxoMo already owned Omnicom and Infocation already owned Rubicam.
Robert J. Minton 
"How high do you think Hannigan will be willing to go?" Ruth asked of
her son in order to break the tense silence. The bidding war seemed to
break out suddenly and the amount of money being thrown around was
exciting but a bit disconcerting.
"His next bid will be his last. And he will submit it very fast to
try to intimidate us. He's out of ammunition. He'll bid $68,000. That's
all he's got, but he'll bid it quickly to make us think that he's willing
to keep going."
"So you think our next bid will win?"
"Mother, there will be no more bidding from us. I have no need for
BMI Relations and I CERTAINLY don't want to pay $68,000 a share for it."
A new bid came in from ExxoMo. The new bid was $69,000. Robert Minton
smiled and then started laughing.
"Game over," he sneered.
"So, we never wanted BMI?" his mother asked, unembarrassed about her
"It is a great asset, but the shares are not even worth $46,000 properly
His mother continued to look confused.
"There are other acquisitions I WOULD like to make soon and ExxoMo was
the only corporation strong enough to challenge for them. Now ExxoMo
can chew on its overpriced purchase for a while. They're out of my
hair." Minton submitted a formal statement to the financials that stated
he was done bidding. The Infocation stock prise rose a bit, the ExxoMo
stock price dropped sharply and the BMI stock price floated ever so
slightly above $69,000 per share. Mr. Minton was very satisfied with
He got up from the table and ventured out to the arboretum. He
marveled at his own ability to shape the world. The arboretum was a
perfect example. North American soil was too toxic for vegetation to
grow. Most of North America was barren except for indoor farms that
used imported soil. But here in downtown Manhattan he had a vast and
flourishing forest inside of a building.
Jeremy DelRio 
Thick black fertile soil; Jeremy DelRio had his hands in plenty
of it as a farm boy in Iowa. After a lifetime of being a soldier he
was now back where he belonged; with his hands in the soil.
September 11, 2001 he had been a little boy when there had been a
major terrorist attack on New York City. He got home from
school that day to find his parents watching television. That was
rare. They were usually working in the fields until dusk. He sat
down with them and watched the planes crash into the buildings over
and over again. He was too young to understand exactly what was
going on but he understood that it made his mother cry. His parents
were Mexican immigrants, and they deeply loved America. There was
so much senseless death that day, and seeing it over again and again
magnified the gravity of it all.
In the weeks that followed his teachers explained it to him in their
own limited way. In the months that followed president George W. Bush
initiated the war on terror. A war without end. Jeremy was too young
to serve, but he wasn't too young to learn to hate the terrorists. As
he grew into a young man he had a reoccurring feeling that someday he
would get his chance to fight the terrorists.
The sun was going to go down soon. Farming was very meditative work.
And while his body dripped sweat into the hand tilled rows he would
normally take care not to let his mind wander too far from the hidden
paradise he had found or the younger ladies whose company he so enjoyed
at the commune village. But today, try as he might, his thoughts kept
wandering back to Holy War I.
World War I was known as the Great War until World War II came along.
Then it got renamed World War I after the fact. Similarly, Holy War I
had been seen as a continuation of the War on Terror until Holy War II
came along. Then it was renamed.
In 2012, a wealthy but virtually unknown businessman, Sean Hannigan,
became the president of the United States running as a "Libertarian
Republican". The rest of the world felt like it had had enough of the
United States' Republican party and its presidents. Violence began to
break out around the world. When Pat Robertson was assassinated in 2013
a full fledged Holy War broke out and Jeremy was just old enough to go
from JROTC to the Army.
The objective of the 1st holy war was simple. Kill Muslims. And
Jeremy had killed a LOT of them. He'd never felt particularly religious,
but as he served in the army, surrounded by Christians, he was swept up
in their unanimity of ideas. It was easy to get swept into. Every man
who wore a turban and every woman who wore a burka, every human who
knelt five times a day to pray to Allah wanted to fly a plane into a
building or bomb families in Israel. Holy War I was not just the
bloodiest conflict in human history, it was more than ten times
bloodier than the next nearest competitor. Jeremy was in the invasion
of both Mecca and Medina. Two unfathomable slaughters. The once
beautiful city of Mecca was turned into a smoldering crater and all of
the inhabitants of the surrounding area were hunted down and terminated
without regard to age or infirmity.
The American mainland remained fairly undamaged in the war. Much of
the open U.S. highway system was bombed beyond usability --which wrecked
havoc on the distribution of goods and staggered the U.S. economy-- but
the cities remained relatively undamaged. A great many Americans died
in Holy War I, but they died overseas and in American prisons. Many of
the large urban cities in America were emptied of their poor and minority
citizens. Many were drafted into the army and thrown onto the pile of
bodies in the Holy War. The Pentagon had been used masterfully to get
rid of threats to Corporatism both foreign and domestic. He knew of no
other person besides himself who had served in the army from the beginning
of the war to the end and through the years of post war operations. He
had no clue how he had managed to survive the whole thing. He had come
to believe that he was trapped in the army until he met death in combat.
The army had promised him numerous times that he could go home and then
reneged on its promise. And then one day, just like that, he was flown
home and released back into the public.
He didn't speak to anyone. He worked a job and kept to himself and
hoped that it was all over for good. He had come to hate war. But it
was far from over. Americans were a changed people. A blood-lusting,
theocratic nightmare. He had thought that president McNeeley might
actually succeed in bringing about peace. Instead he presided over
the beginnings of Holy War II.
When Holy War II broke out he couldn't figure out what side he was on.
He had never had what you would call an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.
Holy War II was as much a civil war as it was a holy war. Much of it
was American vs. American. Holy War I had largely missed the United
States, but Holy War II, the war against atheists, pagans, gays, sexual
deviants, abortionists and all other enemies of God happened house to
house in American communities while it was happening around the globe.
It was called the war that ended all wars. Right after Holy War II,
President Minton presided over the dissolution of national boarders and
brought about the age of the Reorganization. The people were so happy to
have an end to War that they gladly gave up what had been their rights and
embraced the "new ways."
But not Jeremy DelRio. Something about all he had seen had convinced
him that there was no God. And something about having been away from
America for so long during the first Holy War made him more aware of the
changes, and more able to perceive all of the subtle brainwashing that was
going on. People didn't notice it when it happened little by little day
after day, but America was a different place after Holy War I than it had
been before. It was much more filled with hatred and the American people
had a view of the war and the world overseas that did not match the reality
he had seen. The war had been so sanitized and distorted. Claims had been
made that the enemy was doing things that they were, in fact, rarely doing.
And he had shot children, little boys and girls, with his own hands, and
yet the official version of the story flatly denied that anything of the
sort had gone on. The biggest insult to reality were the death tolls.
They were so egregiously underreported that he began to feel that he had
been duped. He wondered if he had been the victim of propaganda all
along and had arrived at his own hatred through the same carefully crafted
illusions that the rest of his country had been led to believe in. And
if that was the case then how many men, women and children had he
murdered that did not ever intend to fly a plane into anything or bomb
In the final analysis, he knew only that he was now an Atheist, and
America was no place for Atheists; especially not San Fransisco. Irony
of ironies was that the conclusion of Holy War II, the war to end all
wars, was followed closely by the War on Miseducation. But the people
were assured that the War on Miseducation wasn't technically a "war".
People were willing to accept a war where only millions of people died
every day. Compared to the "real" wars that they were used to, where
tens of millions of people died every day, it kind of felt like peace.
Jeremy had found a job as a longshoreman in San Fransisco and it was
rather obvious that something bad was about to happen to San Fransisco,
so he and a coworker faked their own deaths and made their way to New
Zealand. They had heard there was a resistance to 1WG there. New
Zealand had since fallen and been claimed by 1WG, but there were still
rebels fighting to regain its independence. And Jeremy was glad to be
a farmer feeding them rather than a soldier fighting along side of them.
He was too old now to do any more soldiering.
All of the soil in North America had become too toxic to grow anything
and farming was now illegal anyway. He would never have imagined that
planting an assortment of vegetables could become such an act of defiance.
But it had. He wasn't very confident that he and the New Zealand rebels
had much chance of succeeding or even surviving, but while they drew breath
he would see to it that they were well fed and his old longshoreman buddy
Eric Davis would see to it that they were well informed and well
Brenna McKinna 
Brenna had finally started to show. As happy as she was about becoming
a mother, it was nowhere near as happy as her mom was about becoming a
She looked down and rubbed her belly and hoped that it was Jeremy's.
Not that her New Zealand boyfriends weren't perfectly nice, but she liked
the American. He was older and more worldly, serious, but with a wry sense
of humor that she had finally come to be able to interpret. Plus, there
was just something about his accent that sent a charge through her. She
couldn't wait to see him at the alcove at sundown, and nestle in close
between him and Thalia and Nester or whoever else was cuddling in their
In a few more weeks, after her belly stuck out a bit more, the community
would no longer permit her to be a scout. She would have to trade her
machine gun and binoculars for something much more mundane and stick close
to the commune. Brenna was young and didn't fully appreciate what they
were up against. New Zealand, and the resistance in particular, needed to
be repopulated. And she was doing her part. She fully expected that her
baby would grow up to fight for the resistance.
Eric Davis 
Eric Davis was in his element. He loved to entertain. He had been
an entertainer once, ages ago. He loved to talk and he loved to listen.
He had heard much, studied much; so when he spoke, it was with wisdom.
And everyone loved to listen. He was old; real old. And as the sun
was going down and the commune had done what needed doing in the
daylight, all of the various generations gathered around to listen to
him recount history. Eric had a great memory and they trusted his
accounts of the past above any other they had access to.
The islands of New Zealand were vastly different from what had
become of the rest of the world, and their small isolated commune was
especially different. As old and gray Eric Davis readied himself to
speak, he looked out at his audience and there were many young men and
women cuddled together and lovingly touching one another. There were
parents huddled with their children. There was no fire, fire would
draw too much attention. Instead they had a solar battery that collected
energy during the day and gave off light into the evening. In the
evening they would drag it into an alcove to make the light less visible
from above. It didn't give off much heat, but that just meant the
people needed to huddle closer together. In their imaginations the
glowing white light was almost like a fire. And Eric Davis' dark brown
wrinkled face with bright white eyes seemed just like the face of a
grandfather to the entire pale faced clan.
New Zealand's struggle for independence benefited from the fact that
there was no corporation that had a high priority for bringing it fully
back into the fold of 1WG. 1WG was a corporatocracy. No specific
corporation had a financial interest in addressing the New Zealand
problem and so each corporation left it for other corporations to worry
about. So the subjugation of New Zealand was half-hearted and poorly
coordinated. It was administered, for the most part, by local New
Zealanders being paid enormous sums of money to try to bring the
islands under control. On at least two occasions the rebels had
petitioned for corporate money and received money that was intended to
be used against them. That coupled with a proximity to a thriving black
market in Australia had really helped their resistance get off to a
Old Eric Davis pursed his lips to speak and all of the children hushed
hoping to learn something new about North American history. He told them
about the first nations. The Native people who had crossed over into
the Americas from Siberia. He told them about the European explorers
who came to the Americas for riches, and about their arrogance and
intolerance for people who were different. He spoke about the Genocides
that started with the Arawak Indians. He spoke of their wars against
one another and then their wars for independence from the countries they'd
come from. On into the night he spoke passionately about the rise of
the corporate era: The industrial age, the railroad robber barons, the
insensate greed of the rising aristocracy. He spoke of slavery and
indentured servitude and the rise of racism and hypocrisy. He recounted
the World Wars and spoke to the ways in which the corporations used the
cold war and the threat of communism to turn people against the ideas of
sharing, compassionate cooperation and communities based on human needs.
Then he began dissecting the 1WG account of history. He gave them his
opinion of the much revered president Ronald W. Reagan and the rise in
self-interested and deregulated corporatism and unchecked militarism
that accompanied his administration. He described the two-party electoral
process that was used to trick the people into believing they had a
"democracy" with a freedom of choice. Ultimately the corporations managed
to successfully buy off almost all of the politicians, Democrat and
Republican, and used the resulting confusion to systematically and steadily
rewrite all of the laws in their favor.
He spoke about the September 11th tragedy and the way it was used to
start a War on Terror and cede more power to the government and
corporations. He spoke about the genocide in Africa with the coordinated
disease, starvation and tribal warfare campaigns. And then he promised
to tell them about the holy wars the next evening. They had heard many
of his histories before, but with each hearing they were better able to
remember, and they always paid particularly close attention when he spoke
of the Holy Wars and all of the death and destruction from man's
inhumanity to man.
Assata Lee 
"Are you David Cohen?" asked FSPCA officer Assata Lee.
"Yes I am. What can I do for you."
"Assata Lee. I'm with the Food Supply PCA. We've received
information about illegal farming on Ray Ban land under your management
here in Gemilut Chasadim."
"Someone farming? Here? Who?"
"Rafiq Ayyubi. Ghost Status for 33 days. Sign this search order
"No problem. Good hunting."
About the only thing that Assata Lee liked was flying. Her bright
yellow Ford Fly with custom Smith & Wesson machine guns was the only
thing in this world that she truly loved. She hated people. Including
herself. And she had a special hatred for ghosts. Ghosts were people
who had gone for more than 24 hours without making a purchase or
financial transaction. It was now mandatory that all citizens had to
buy something or give their thumb print on a monetary transaction of
some sort once every 24 hours so that the whereabouts of every citizen
could always be known.
Whoever Rafiq Ayyubi was, he had not made such a transaction in
33 days. He was clearly miseducated and deserved a painful death.
What's more, he was purportedly farming and had grown his own food to
eat and so his painful death, necessarily, should happen slowly.
With the Reorganization, private land ownership by individuals was
outlawed. David Cohen no longer directly owned the land that Ms. Lee flew
over. He was allowed to keep it by working out an arrangement with Ray
Ban sunglasses that effectively made him the manager of the area of land
he formerly owned in Gemilut Chasadim. The Ray Ban factory took up a tiny
amount of land area compared to the expanse that was demarcated as their
property. There would be a lot of searching to do. Normally the idea of
a challenging hunt through unknown terrain would thrill her, but she hated
the desert. The sand was punishing to her shiny, meticulously-maintained,
bright yellow Ford Fly. Harsh winds would blow sand into the engines and
into her face forcing her to go maddeningly slow.
She just hated being here in Zone 8. As she roared some 30 feet above
the desert floor it was easier than usual to psych herself up for the
Normally, she was assigned to Zone 7, Africa. She worked for ConAgra in
the FSPCA (Food Supply Private Corporate Army). Her function was to hunt
down people farming on ConAgra land and kill them. And all of eastern
Africa was ConAgra land. It disgusted her that people would try to subvert
the system by growing their own food rather than eating the food that the
corporations supplied to them. Every time she hunted down a filthy,
primitive tribal farmer she hoped they were the last one on Earth. But
there always seemed to be more. But then again she was being assigned to
Zone 7 more and more so maybe the FSPCA really did have the illegal
farming problem almost solved.
Flying above the treetops in Africa was the closest thing to joy that
she would allow herself to know. Northern Africa had been converted from
mostly desert into mostly concrete. Now that there was officially no
such thing as France, Spain or Italy, all tourism had been moved to
northern Africa. Cairo was the new Paris. It was convenient because it
also allowed the Relations class to delude themselves into believing that
there was still a place in the world for black people. Many Ethiopian
Christians had been imported after all of the Muslims were killed in the
holy wars. Relations class tourists expected to see black people and they
were happy to see the smiling, happy faces of dark black Christians when
they vacationed in Africa. It allowed them to believe their own lies.
The truth was more grim than anyone wanted to be bothered with. The
truth: billions who had been killed by the HIV virus and the AIDS
pandemic. The truth: hundreds of millions more who had been killed in
the Holy Wars. The truth: Hundreds of millions who had starved to death
over the decades unable to find a way out of the trap of debt servicing
that had been devised for them by the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund. The truth: indigenous Africans had been in the way of the
resources that the corporations wanted to get their hands on for more
than a century and before that they had been one of the resources. And
now, wayward sons and daughters of Africa, centuries removed, like Assata
Lee, were grateful for the opportunity to exterminate the last of their
ancestors on behalf of their corporate sponsors.
Assata loved ConAgra. She loved the Ford Fly that they provided for
her, she loved the petty privileges she was entitled to (any fruit she
flew by she was permitted to pick and eat), she loved the ConAgra church
that was delivering her from sin, and she loved making more than laboring
wage. Assata hated everything else. She hated black people, including
herself, and especially the tribals. She had never known her mother, but
she knew that she hated the woman. She blamed her mother for being black,
and according to rumor she was unashamedly black. She wasn't sure how
well she could trust the memory but she thought she had even heard it
suggested by whispering adults that her mother had been a Muslim. True
or not, her mother was clearly a sinner, and a miseducated sinner at
that. The name Assata was given to her in order to honor one of the most
miseducated women in history. An unchristian, insubordinate, miseducated,
blasphemous heretic. She was glad not to have ever met any woman who
could be so wicked as to curse their daughter with a name like Assata.
Elizabeth Cohen 
"CRAIG VENATRE DEAD AT 57"
As the cover of the Wall Street Journal morphed into view Liz Cohen
gasped. The subheading said that he died in a plane crash. That seemed
like such a senseless thing to have happen.
Liz had ordered a copy of the Wall Street Journal just to read about how
wealthy she had become in the last 24 hours. The new share price of BMI
Relations would give her more money than she could come up with ideas for.
Even among the upper echelon of Relations class employees, people rarely
switched corporations. It was no longer in the corporations' best
interests to hire away one another's personnel. But sometimes, as in the
case of Liz Cohen, the personnel was talented enough to warrant an
exception. Rubicam had hired Ms. Cohen away from Omnicom and they payed
her handsomely to make the switch. She had no living expenses. She
lived in a building --the entire building-- owned by Rubicam Relations
and they charged her no rent. Making money had become somewhat
meaningless for Liz Cohen, but she still liked to check her wealth for
score keeping purposes. But what really kept her coming to work every
day was the opportunity to shape the world. She felt certain that she
lived for a higher purpose. That one day she would be entrusted with
even greater power to keep the world functioning as it should.
She worked for the president of the world. She was employed by a
subsidiary of the corporation, Infocation, that bought and sold knowledge.
To a large extent, they determined reality; what it was and what it wasn't.
She was a part of the elite few who needed to do the thinking for the
masses to keep them from the chaos that would ensue if they were ever
left to do their own thinking for themselves.
Still, Craig Venatre had been wealthier than she. He had been powerful
and had been shaping reality. He was the CEO of Oncologix Inc. He was a
brilliant scientific mind that had created and licensed most of Pfizer's
cancer drugs. Just like that, he was now dead. Seemed such a wasteful
shame that Establishment class people ever had to die at all.
Sean J. Hannigan 
"Accidental plane crash my ASS!," he mumbled under his breath as he
rocked back and forth in an isolated leather chair near the front of his
private jet. He held in his hand a paper copy of the Wall Street Journal
and he felt like he recognized the work of his former mentor, Dale
His best guess was that it was just a coincidence that Craig Venatre
had been taken out on this day, but it didn't help ease his anxiety any.
Sean Hannigan had learned to deal with his fear of flying long ago, but
today it was threatening to overwhelm him again. When he arrived in
New York City he had thought there were only two ways his trip could go:
he would acquire BMI Relations and it would be a good trip or he would fail
to and it would be a lousy trip. Instead he had succeeded in acquiring BMI
and it had been an absolutely awful trip.
He had paid too much for BMI; much too much. Sharon was going to be
furious. He was afraid to face her. The closer his plane got to George
W. Bush airport outside of Dallas, the more he wished his plane actually
It was impossible to know who was or wasn't in DarqueOps, but two people
that he knew for sure were DarqueOps agents were his wife, Sharon, and his
former boss, Dale Berger. Mr. Hannigan had lived to be quite old by the
standards of the day, but Mr. Berger was positively ancient. Almost nobody
lived into their eighties anymore. But Mr. Berger was still alive, still
the CEO of the General Broadcasting Corporation --formerly the broadcasting
division of General Electric-- and, apparently, still killing people in
Mr. Berger had always liked to brag and there were so few people that he
could brag to. Back when Sean had been a vice president at General
Electric, Mr. Berger used to invite him and Sharon over to his house for
dinner and allude to several mysterious plane crashes in a way that came
just shy of explicitly taking credit for them. John F. Kennedy Jr., Mel
Carnahan, Paul Wellstone, Michael Moore and Cynthia McKinney had all been
killed in unfortunate plane accidents immediately before they were about
to do something that threatened corporate interests. And those were just
the plane crashes that happened BEFORE the establishment of DarqueOps.
Mr. Berger had been a part of a self-appointed oligarchy that was already
doing DarqueOps type work well before DarqueOps was established.
The Hannigan private plane shook violently again from more turbulence.
It jarred him back out of his deep thoughts and made him aware of the
newspaper once more. On the front page there was a prayer square with
an inspirational prayer from Robert J. Minton. He hated the man. He was
now convinced that the turbulence was his doing. The fog could have been
coincidence, but there had been too much bad weather. It seemed to be
following him. Minton was using the weather net to unsettle him.
Apparently, manipulating him into overpaying for BMI wasn't enough for
the sadistic bastard. The prayer square, the plane crash, the BMI stock
price, everything on the front cover of the paper seemed to be there just
to upset him. He threw it on the floor of the plane in disgust and
immediately Karen Krystol had an ESPCA officer retrieve it and fold it
neatly. Her insufficient attempt to restrain her look of disapproval and
the underlying disrespect he perceived in her was bringing him to the
brink. His face contorted involuntarily as he daydreamed about choking
her and throwing her off the plane.
Life sucked. Not even the trees could bring her joy any more. She was
tired of seeing the same trees over and over again. She was no longer
happy to live in this vast mansion with its pretentiously landscaped
arboretum. She wished the real trees could grow in real dirt outside in
the real air. But that was impossible now. Here in the heart of Texas,
deep in the middle of Zone 3, no vegetation grew outside. The soil was
Hotcha was in her thirties now. She had grown up in east L.A. in a
concrete jungle, but even that had had grass and trees. And her father's
sprawling estate had spoiled her. She had gotten in the habit of running
away from home and camping out on his property. As long as she remained
out on the edge of the estate, her father Roger Kinney, a marketer of
Hollywood movies, didn't seem to mind. And as long as her father sent her
mother, his former housekeeper, money to keep their illegitimate child a
secret her mother didn't much care what she did either.
As soon as she had reached the age where she could figure out how to
get to her father's house, she fell into a routine of stealing a bunch
of books from the library and skipping school for weeks at a time while
she traveled the woods on her father's land. She would stick her nose in
a book and dip her toes in the stream and lose herself. She could feed
herself by living off the land. One of her favorite books had been Clan
of the Cave Bear and she was trying to become as self-sufficient as the
main character, Ayla, had been.
Sometimes her father would wander out and look for her. If she felt
like being found, which was more often than not, he would find her. Her
father was a nice man; for an adulterer. Hotcha, who's real name was
Giselle, always wished she had been one of her father's "real" children.
Sometimes she wandered near the house and observed them even though she
wasn't supposed to. Her father was great with them just like he was
great with her. The difference was they could be with him all the time
and she would share a campfire singalong or a meal from the house a
couple times a month.
She missed him terribly. Everything she was, was because of him. He
had financed her singing career in the beginning. He had taught her to
play the guitar and how to "cut loose" when she sang. He was her
audience when she would pretend to be a big star up on a stage.
She should have been more careful what she wished for. She was probably
the biggest star in the world now. What good had it done her? For all
her fame she was still an ex-president's whore trapped in a diaramma with
46 overly familiar trees and one fake stream with no fish in it. She had
Sean Hannigan's immense library at her disposal but it had become too
tedious looking through the hodge podge of books to find a good one. Her
constant, habitual C9 use made reading very difficult anyway. She
couldn't even figure out why she came into the arboretum anymore anyway.
To torture herself? She had sat in every nook of every tree and every
spot along the stream. The stream seemed like it had been designed by
someone that didn't really know what the vegetation around a stream was
supposed to look like.
She didn't want to think about memories of trees and stream beds any
more. She took a C9 and the world became more vivid and less painful.
Silly thoughts and sensations forced their way into her brain and she
There was a soft tone which rang through the air that signaled that
either Sean Hannigan or Sharon Shafer had just gotten home. She was
pretty sure that Sharon had gotten home a long while ago so it was
probably the former president. She hoped that the two of them would keep
one another occupied and that neither would come looking to entertain
themselves with her.
Xiang Xu 
It takes a very large boat to house almost 700 Chinese expatriots.
An even bigger boat to house 120 Phillipeano Muslims in addition to
700 Chinese expatriots. fortunately for Xiang Xu, he had just such
He hadn't been planning to house the 120 Muslims. The men, women and
children from the mainland he had been planning to house for so long that
he could barely remember a time when he wasn't. And now they had been at
sea for nearly three years. A completely self-sufficient community that
seemed huge from the top deck, but very tiny compared to the vast Pacific
Xu was on the top deck with the laundry detail. He was the leader in
most respects but in many ways he was a follower of leaders more than a
leader of followers. Xu encouraged everyone to participate in decision
making and lend their various expertises. And menial tasks like laundry
were performed by all, even the owner of the enormous vessel.
He enjoyed the work. It was nice meditative work. He became lost in
thought and didn't realize that he had an audience. His wife, Mi Mei, was
enjoying an opportunity to watch his shirtless form sweating over laundry
on the hot upper deck. As a member of the Taiwanese traditional upper
class she and Xu should have been enemies. But they were too like minded
for that. They had met overseas when they were both completing their
education in France. They fell in love just before the world fell apart.
Holy War I had been fought against the Muslims and most of it had taken
place in the Middle East. It had been a war for oil resources and a war
to satisfy the bloodthirsty and vengeance-minded among the Christians.
But after Holy War I people were tired of war. It took a long time for
them to get over their war weariness. And Holy War I had not achieved
its objective. The United States economy was still weak. It's foreign
debt --Treasury Bonds and such-- was still increasingly owned by China
and the eastern pacific countries. In short, America had been maxing out
its credit card for decades and there was a real concern that China was
going to come and attempt to collect at some point.
The United States attacked China with all of her most subtle weapons.
It began to addict the Chinese to all of the trappings of capitalism. It
lobbied on the international stage against China's religious repression
and when the Chinese government finally relented and allowed religious
freedom, the U.S. missionaries swarmed in and started converting all of
the impoverished Chinese to Christendom. China became a nation pulled in
many different directions all at once. If Holy War II had been a war
against an external enemy China would have faired well in it. But the
Holy War II that China found itself in was China vs. China. It's armies
split into Christian and atheist factions and the Buddhists fought them
both. The government was still largely comprised of traditional atheists
but the Christian Chinese Armies assassinated much of government when it
attacked Beijing in the beginning of the war. The war was... messy.
Xiang Xu had seen the writing on the wall long ago. He had taken his
wealth and invested it all into the creation of an isolated community.
And when the community started running out of places to hide on the
mainland, they brainstormed the idea to retreat into the sea. It took
a long time to design and build their floating city but eventually it
was built. And so here they were.
Me Mei crept up behind Xu and squeezed him. She pulled him away from
his laundry work and over to the rail and they looked out at the lower
decks. They saw children running, playing and learning in impromptu
classes. They saw engineers working to maintain the solar energy
collectors on the main deck. They saw Muslims praying in two large
groups. They saw the fishers collecting food from the sea, and cooks
desalinizing water for meal preparation. They saw lovers relaxing and
enjoying easy conversation. In short, they saw life as they felt it
should be. They shared a kiss and took a break from doing laundry.
There was a commotion coming from the master bedroom. Hotcha pulled out
her i2 and looked up the ident info for the house. She had troubles
working the i2 controls when she was high but after several attempts
she figured it out. There were only the three of them in the house.
Her Relations team and all of the other house staff were in separate
houses situated around the mansion so she felt safe to travel. She slipped
into the enormous library right next to the master bedroom. The library
was a gigantic room that housed all kinds of books alphabetized
strictly by author and completely uncategorized. The Hannigan-Shafer
household had little idea of what they had in their library, they had
such a library simply because they could.
After the reorganization one needed a license to own a book. Too many
books contained miseducation. Most people feared books and were glad
to be rid of them. If one wasn't in the relations class, they stood
little chance of obtaining a license to own a book or even learning to
read. Those laborers who knew how to read were getting old and beginning
to die or forgetting how due to the wash of chemicals in their brains.
Hotcha's C9 habit made it very difficult to read, but not nearly so
difficult as the C5 that many laborers were on. In another generation
or two reading would truly be the exclusive privilege of the Relations
Hotcha tip-toed over to the wall next to the master bedroom. Sean
Hannigan had just arrived home and Sharon was screaming at him. Hotcha
was one of the few upper Relations class people that hadn't heard about
BMI Relations having been bought by ExxoMo, but she was learning all
about it now by pressing her ear against the library wall.
Mr. Hannigan was being hit; maybe even whipped. Not that that was
anything new. And then as he begged for mercy the exchange became
carnal. Mr. Hannigan was demeaned, humiliated and raped. And that
wasn't anything new either. But there was a severity to it that Hotcha
had never heard before. Usually when they got like this Hotcha couldn't
tell if the ex-president liked it or not. This time he was clearly in
pain and there was a distinct edge of fear to his plaintive appeals.
And it got worse. It sounded brutal, hateful. Hotcha never liked
Sharon Shafer much. She was cold, cruel and unpredictable. She looked
at people with absolute apathy, and Hotcha suspected that she had killed
a great many people without caring the least little bit. It almost sounded
like Sharon was about to kill Mr. Hannigan. Not that that would have been
so bad. Life at the mansion had its comforts, but she was ready for a
At long last the violence seemed to stop. Hotcha heard Sharon leave.
She remained in the library listening at the wall wondering what state
Sean Hannigan was in but knowing better than to go and check. Finally
she heard him stirring. She started to tip-toe out of the room and
wished it was possible to move through the library more quietly. Then
she heard footsteps in the corridor. They were headed toward the library.
There weren't many other places to go in this direction besides the
library and the arboretum. Hannigan rarely ever bothered with the
arboretum. She held her breath and tried to remain perfectly silent
Jonas Clark 
Madison, Wisconsin was burning. Jonas Clark was burning it. That was
his job. He was good at it. He liked to pretend that he was a robot as
he marched toward the center of the city in his flame gear. He took
mechanical strides and swiveled his neck and inclined his head to take
in the view of the wall of flame from the ring of fire that was working
its way inward toward the heart of Madison.
The men and women under his command in the Incendiary Unit of the ISPCA
performed their duties as though they were of one mind. Their destruction
of San Fransisco was nearly flawless, but now they'd had four more years to
train. Most were conscripts from the Infocation or Microsoft PCAs, but
Jonas Clark had been an unlikely recruit who had come over from the U.S.
Army without ever having served in a Private Corporate Army. He had been
second in command for the burning of San Fransisco but shortly after that
operation Commander Franks died of lung cancer. Now Jonas was in charge
of sending the irredeemably miseducated cities back to Hell with hellfire.
He burned cities like he was born to it. And he was. He was not
entirely aware of it, but he had come from a long line of fire starters
in the U.S. Armed forces. He knew that he came from a family with a long
line of military service. He knew his father had been a part of an
Incendiary Squadron that burned much of northern Africa in Holy War I.
But he was unaware that his grandfather had burned the homes of the
Panamanian people in El Chorillo in 1989 or that his great grandfather
had burned people in Vietnamese villages in 1971 and 1972.
Emotionlessly he shot high pressure liquid flame at people running
through the streets looking for a way to escape. They were as wounded
livestock to him. Needing to be put out of their misery as quickly as
possible. It had not escaped him that in a city this size there would
undoubtedly be many properly educated good Christian citizens who would
have to die needlessly. It could not be avoided. All known Relations
class people and unquestionable Christian laborers had been spirited away
at dusk before the burning began. Any who were attempting to leave the
city on flying vehicles were permitted to leave the city limits, but
gathered for debriefing and confirmation. It was assumed that anyone
who could afford a flying vehicle was Relations class and mistakenly
left behind. Everyone else was burned or shot where they stood.
Every now and then an explosion could be heard as a missile would be
fired into any structure that appeared to house a large number of people.
Jonas did not take joy in the death and destruction; but nor did he feel
sorrow. This city had been so fiercely miseducated that it was impossible
to tell who was who. The miseducated here had become hardened. They were
too good at impersonating good Christians and upstanding laborers.
Interrogations were finding miseducation networks that were still teaching
reading and writing and trafficking in contraband literature. Very
dangerous ideas were floating around in the underbelly of this city and
its complete demolition was an unavoidable last resort.
After 12 hours, Madison was a smoldering crater in the Earth. Unlike
San Fransisco, it would not be rebuilt. It would be written out of
history and entertainment and it would soon be considered miseducation
for anyone anywhere to speak of it. People who had had relatives there
would simply forget about them and hope --to themselves-- that theirs
had not been the miseducated ones so that they might meet again in the
kingdom of Heaven. There were similar incinerations in the planning
stages for the cities of Ithica, New York; portions of Portland, Oregon;
Cambridge, Massachusetts; Calgary, Alberta; Burlington, Vermont and
Austin, Texas. The world needed to be made safe from the evil that hid
within these cities just as it had been made safe from the city that had
"You like to listen to people having sex?" Hannigan screamed as he burst
through the door to the library. He looked battered, bruised and not of
his right mind. His thin wisps of hair atop his head flew wildly about
and the flames of madness burned deep in his eyes.
"So you like to people having sex, eh?," he repeated furiously as he
strode across the expansive room. As he got closer Hotcha was able to
see that his shirt and upper body were wet and as he got even closer she
realized that he had been urinated on.
There was an awful smell to him. Magnified by her drug induced haze.
Mr. Hannigan seemed to be at the center of a swarm of flies which were
now crawling all over her. It didn't make sense that they could be real
but as far as she could tell they were real. She couldn't make them go
"You like to listen to people having sex?!?," he demanded of her,
ripping at her clothes.
"Yes daddy," she replied. She tried to help him by disrobing herself.
Her only thought was that she hoped this would be over quickly.
Until he punched her in the face.
That had never happened before. He had slapped her and choked her
during sex, and she hated it, but now, for the first time, she felt
like her life was endangered. And even though she had mixed feelings
about whether she wanted to live or die, she was quite certain that she
did not want to be killed by Sean Hannigan. She stood there in stunned
disbelief. Her hesitation cost her. Harder and faster than a man his
age ought to be able, he had punched her in the stomach. She doubled
over in pain and he grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and shoved
her to the ground.
"GET NAKED! GET NAKED!" he kept shouting.
"Yes daddy," came her reply. Women had called their lovers papi in
the East L.A. neighborhood where she was born. But something about the
way Mr. Hannigan liked to be called 'daddy' was very, very different.
She had always found it disturbing, and now she found it frightening.
Through the pain she attempted to disrobe but it wasn't fast enough
to satisfy him. That's when the kicking began. She found herself in
the fetal position trying to defend herself from the footfalls landing
on her ribs and back. There were two red demons with horse feet helping
him to kick her and they were engulfed in flames. She kept expecting
the rest of the library to catch fire but the fire appeared to adhere
to the bodies of the demons.
She felt her clothes being torn away. The ex-president was still
yelling but his words seemed like a foreign language. A Devil language.
She closed her eyes tightly but she could hear the ex-president
manipulating himself. And then the raping began. The brutal, hateful
and surreal taking of her body by Mr. Hannigan and his demons as they
continued to punch at her seemed to go on and on for an eternity.
Through the litany of unintelligible words of hostility she recognized a
few. It was a question. "Does daddy make you cry?" It was at that point
that she became aware of the fact that she had been crying and tried
Then former president strained in release and his muscles tensed
as he held himself perfectly still on top of her. She tried to
remain perfectly silent and still. The demons had returned to Hell
as had the flies. All that was left was Mr. Hannigan and his
disgusting smell and his sweaty body hovering over her in the quiet
of the immense library. And then he spit on her.
He rose to his feet and stood over her drooling. As she glanced
upward through her good eye the flames roared and danced around Mr.
Hannigan's head and she tried to prepare herself for whatever was
going to happen next. Every rib that had been kicked was still making
itself aware to her. Every place Mr. Hannigan had touched still felt
coated with slime. She could not make his face out clearly through
the blurred vision and flames but she felt like she was in grave danger
still. If she could have moved she would have run.
Then Mr. Hannigan began crying. He lowered himself on the floor
next to her and started stroking her hair gently. "Awww, look what
daddy did," he sobbed to himself absently. "Daddy is sorry. He's
so sorry," he repeated, rocking back and forth and stroking her hair
with his fingers. He laid down in the fetal position next to her and
they both cried quietly to themselves unable to move.
They both laid there for hours wishing for death.
[next: The Boob Tube]
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