The End of the Old Order
“Bravo Colonel Wyles, Prince Hozani.” Equis walks back towards us. “Masterfully played.” He points to two cameras at each end of the room and motions for them to start filming. “Colonel, Prince, I want you to know that your story will be the world’s story. You will be part of the narrative that ushers in a golden era of peace. Two decorated commanders—sworn enemies—joining forces to save their families. Two enemies working together to save the world. You have demonstrated what we all intuitively understand–we are one people. We share the same basic desires. We all want to protect our families. We all want to prosper. We all want harmony and stability. Erabian, Anglican, Yerusi—we are all one people. We are all one race.” He can’t contain a small chuckle, presumably because of the triteness of what he’s about to say. “The human race.”
Trina runs towards Equis and slaps him across the face. I have never before seen the slightest hint of violence in Trina. Equis doesn’t flinch—he simply instructs the cameras to keep filming. He is tougher than I thought. Trina hit him hard, so hard that a bright red welt swells on his face. Yet he didn’t so much as wince. Trina tries to contain her rage: “You took my children. You locked up my husband and me. You’ve said and done terrible things to the prince and princess. You cut off my thumb for fuck’s sake.” Unlike me, Trina rarely tries to hide her working class roots.
With no hesitation, Equis snaps his finger and a man in a white coat runs out. He takes out a syringe and is about to inject Trina. I jump forward and grab his hand. I twist his arm and force him to take a knee. I remove the syringe from his hand. He stays kneeling on the ground even though I’ve let go of his hand.
Equis tilts his head to the side and smiles. It’s either indignation or concern, but I’m not sure which. This is the first time I’m able to get a good look at Equis’ features. His face was always scrambled on the monitor and things have been moving so fast I haven’t had the time to study him. He is clearly Anglican and not my kind of Anglican. Quite tall—even taller than the prince. His shoulders are broad, perhaps twice as broad as my own. His jawline is square and he has a thick shadow of beard on his face. Even though he wears an all-black suit that suggests a corporation man, his face and body look every bit the part of a soldier. This surprises me.
“The syringe is to ease her pain,” Equis says. “We are going to repair her thumb. It was just theater. She never experienced any real pain and it was always our intention to reattach it. My sincerest apologies for the grief we’ve caused. But it was for the greater good.”
I ignore what Equis says and hold up the syringe. “You have another one of these?” I ask the medic on the ground. He nods yes. I take the syringe and quickly bury it into Equis’ arms.
“That was unnecessary,” Equis says matter-of-factly. His arm dangles at his side. “But as you can see, other than the fact that I have now lost complete feeling in the arm you so rudely stabbed, I am in no danger.” I look at Trina to make sure she agrees to be injected. She nods yes. I tell the medic to go ahead. The medic takes off his latex gloves and puts on new ones. He applies an alcohol swab to the palm of Trina’s hand and pokes the syringe into it. He switches gloves again and opens a small silver container. He uses mechanized forceps that look like a child’s construction toy and removes Trina’s thumb from a viscous solution in the silver container. The mechanized forceps hold the thumb in place while the medic places a thin rubberized band around the spot where Trina’s thumb was severed. The medic pulls a thin cord on the band and the band disintegrates into Trina’s skin. Hundreds of small nanobots, which the medic calls nano-sutures, start repairing the bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin. These millimeter-sized robots have her thumb reattached in a matter of minutes.
Trina wiggles her thumb. A tear trickles down her face. It’s neither pain nor happiness nor relief. I know my wife. It’s sadness. Just sadness.
I walk up to Equis. He is expecting a thank you. Equis’ self-righteousness and sense of entitlement seep from his every pore. He’s an aristocrat—through and through. I look up at him and I can tell he prizes looking down on me and my kind. I close my right hand into a tight fist. Everything that I am as a fighter is condensed into the palm of my hand. I unleash a swing that feels as though it could topple a mighty oak. My fist slams straight into his nose. His eyes roll to the back of his head. His legs stay strong for a split second, but then crumble. He falls backwards like that tree I imagined. He’s out cold.
“Anyone who tries to stop me will be treated the same,” I announce to the twenty or so production staff and armed guard actors in the room. I throw Equis over my shoulder and tell the prince, princess, and Trina that we need to get out of here. They follow me through the doors. I get them on the other side. It’s hot and arid outside and the soil is cracked dirt. We are in a desert, one that looks an awful lot like it could be in Erabia. I have one more thing to do. I walk back into the studio and find the producer named Mio. Based on the way she spoke, it seems she held a senior position in this operation. I grab her and pull her to a quiet corner of the studio.
“Equis is dead,” I tell her. She has no reason not to believe me. “I just strangled the life out of him. I do not want to kill a woman, especially in as brutal a way as I killed Equis. But to be clear, I will kill you as I killed him if you don’t answer my questions.” I wrap my hands around Mio’s throat. “Who is in charge of this operation?”
“I don’t know,” she says. She’s absolutely terrified. “Truly, I just don’t know.” I tighten my grip and fear overtakes Mio’s bladder. The smell of ammonia creeps up to my nose. “I don’t know any names,” Mio says. “Other than the staff, the only person I ever saw Equis talk to was the Project Manager from Prescient Labs. Their workers were all over the place. They built and serviced all the technology in the studio. That’s all I know. I swear on my children’s lives. Please, Colonel. I’m being honest.”
“How did you meet Equis?”
“I was a producer for Track Layton’s The Evening News, before he became prime minister. When he decided to run, he got me this job.”
“And the others?”
“I honestly don’t know. We were instructed not to talk about these things and not to ask any questions. All we were told was that we were doing something good for the world.”
I let go of Mio’s neck. “Next time someone tells you that you’re doing something good for the world … run the other fucking way.”
I reach into Mio’s pockets and find her land transport’s starter and her Roamer. I briefly thought about traveling on foot to avoid being traced, but given the temperature outside, the physical state of our wives, and about 100 kilograms of deadweight in Equis, I would rather be followed.
I run out of the studio. The prince has Equis draped over his shoulders. Mio’s starter quickly finds her transport and we all climb in. I have the prince drive while I geo-position ourselves on Mio’s Roamer. I know they are monitoring this device and tracking our every move. But there is not much I can do about it. I quickly find out where we are. My instincts were right. We’re in Erabia, less than 100 kilometers southeast of Yerusalom.
I should have known. Yerusalom. Things have a way of starting and ending there.
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