Battle Fortress America
By Jo Vasquez
There was a day that the sun was too hot, the ground too dry, but there wasn’t enough time left to make it right. We had almost made it. We had colonies across the stars, science like magic, and our bodies were glimpsing immortality. One day, one riot, one trigger happy fool. One day is all it took, and the world ended.
The December World Protest: a third of the population linked in the Cloud. It was supposed to be beautiful— the ultimate zeitgeist moment of emotional evolution. Through the power of digital empathy, 4 billion people would share one feeling, one need, one goal. Finally, the powerful and the weak would all, for one moment, feel the same.
But that’s not what happened.
One-shot, one death, one well-planned hack, and like a maze of carefully placed dominoes it toppled. All 4 billion minds forced to experience utter despair instead of joy.
Madness took over the world and all of humanity watched itself end in livestream. Faces locked onto little screens and HUDs until they all went dark or were covered in their own blood. Trampled by their peers, blinded by their distractions, killed like cattle driven from a cliff.
No one knew who planned it. There were no claims of victory, no flags planted. The entirety of the cloud had collapsed, and it was never coming back.
By the time the governments had gained some semblance of control, it was too little, too late. Skills were lost, millions were dead and entire branches of technology and culture deleted. The world was broken, and there was no one left to fix it.
Where one world ends, another begins. This is the story of the world after the cloud collapse, of a people that lost everything, but would rise higher than any that had come before. This is the story of America, her future, and what she means for us all.
MGySg; Kilday, Grant, GMP/MBF-001: NC 38.07.22
Kendrick stumbled in the dark, the waning crescent Moon watching him apathetically. He fell to his knees. The Palo Verde desert bit through his pants and into his skin. His clouded mind focused on one thought– ‘Do not throw up’. A sour swell, the precursor of regurgitation, rolled in his mouth. He tried to shout defiantly but was abruptly interrupted with a drawn-out grunt, a spraying flow of bitter bile, and half-digested food.
He fell face-first on the sharp desert floor and sat there with dirt and vomit smearing into his hair. He then shoved himself away each movement a victory. The rot-gut gin he had spent all his bank trade on had been barely drinkable and he would be lucky if he didn’t go blind.
He had to get back to town, back to his bike. Soon the sun would rise, and his caravan would leave. His bike, Celerus, was the fastest scout vehicle. Without it he would be stuck as a roadie forever, shooting, and looting, survive or die; kill or be killed. He couldn’t take it anymore. He just had to get enough fuel and he could ride off on his own.
Dry heaves took him, washing across his body in waves of regret. Maybe he’d bake out here in the morning sun or get eaten by mega scorpions and be too drunk to feel it. The numbness was exactly what he wanted; to be so fucked up that he disconnected from reality.
Kendrick looked to the village that he had wandered from. It was a small riverside drive port between Phoenix and Loma Linda called Blythe. It was the center of the Resurrection Run, an important stop for a caravan roadie like himself. A celebration was going strong for the end of one run and the start of a new one tomorrow. People danced to ancient music that echoed across the cold wasteland.
‘They earned it,’ he thought to himself.
With gin-breath and increasing dizziness, he made another try to get back. Clumsily rising, he took small zombie steps forward. He didn’t know why he was trying to get back other than to run away. Why not just stay out here and die? Did Jim still need him, did Grey? They were the family that he fought for.
Flashes of horror slapped him sober. Screaming anxiety exploded in his head and chest, dropping him again into the sharp desert floor. He had killed for them.
He closed his eyes against the spinning night sky ready to meet his end. It was a better death than he deserved. A better death than he had offered her.
In the drunken stupor, pellet-shots hissed that only he could hear. The smell of ozone from his rifle and a taste of blood that wouldn’t leave his memory. Her face, so bland and plain, covered in dirt and blood.
“Run from me, run…” he spat as he fell into his own lonely emptiness.
He was dead to the world till the burning sun teased him into consciousness. His painful resurrection came with tingles and stings in his hand. Had he slept on it? Why was it burning, maybe the sun? He knew it couldn’t be both. Then, the sensation of tiny things crawling on his skin woke him.
Kendrick leaped to his feet and scanned his swollen right hand, now covered in red fire ants. Screaming like a child he used his shirt and tried to wipe away as many as he could. He stumbled back and fell on his ass ripping his shirt in the process. He was hungover, dizzy, sick, and lost.
Twenty years of life, all ended here, drunk, shirtless, and doomed in the desert. He collapsed again and began to cry, slobber dirt and tears muddying his face. Grey would find him; Grey would never abandon him.