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For the environmental health of the American continents, all inhabitants who survived the Corporate War will be relocated onto densely populated human reservations, with the remaining land slated for either collective farms or comprehensive greenforming, returning it to the pristine beauty of nature. As part of his historic Edict 101, our beloved Chairman Rahma Popal has announced, “Anyone who resists will be dealt with severely. He will be recycled.”
—government news flash, March 17, 2043
THE NUCLEAR-POWERED TRUCK flexed its long body around highway turns without slowing, its air whistle keening to ward off wild animals. Inside the passenger dome sat a man and a woman in complementary uniforms—his forest green and hers black, with peace symbols on the lapels. They held hands and gazed out at the sun-mottled trees of autumn, bearing leaves that were a spectacular array of golden-brown hues. This was an old road, bumpy from decay and debris, having fallen into disuse because of the mass exodus of population in the last two decades. It was the year 2063 in the New England Conservancy, and soon there would be no more need for this route.
Ahead of the vehicle and behind it, police cars created a security zone, their strobe lights flashing and fender-mounted weapons glow-ready, while a Greenpol aircraft flew low overhead. For years there had been attacks by disaffected Corporate elements against GSA assets, and the Chairman had ordered extra precautions to secure his valuable equipment and personnel. Greenpol was the special police force he had created, with divisions to stop eco-criminals, prosecute other crimes, and bodyguard his person.
Presently the big armored truck slowed and turned onto the rough, weed-encrusted surface of an abandoned parking lot, where it screeched to a stop. Outriggers shot into position and adjusted for the uneven surface, leveling the great machine mounted on the chassis. The two passengers, both eco-techs, exited the dome and stepped onto a wide turret platform on the vehicle. They secured their stylized, owl-design helmets and dark goggles, then grabbed hold of safety bars. Other crew members rushed to their stations, to operate the complex equipment and monitor the results. They wore black trousers, jackboots, green jackets, and shiny green helmets.
The platform rose to the proper height, and the twin, opposing barrels of the Janus Machine telescoped out to their full extensions, pointing in opposite directions. The barrels—one bright green and the other deep black—began to glow intensely. While the man waited, the woman climbed into a bucket seat at the rear of the long black barrel and tapped keys on an instrument console. The turret swung around, so that the barrel was pointed at the center of the industrial plant.
“It’s Black Thunder time!” she shouted, as she began the three-minute countdown.
Joss Stuart smiled as he watched her admirable efficiency. Kupi Landau, tall, light-skinned, and willowy, was his lover as well as co-worker. In her mid-forties, she was his senior by a decade and a half, but he still found her attractive and exciting. Her waist-length hair was close to its natural auburn now, though she sometimes dyed it a bright color, which was not uncommon in the Green States of America. Her face was oval, with large brown eyes.
With a stubble of brown beard on his face, Joss had long hair, secured by a silver ring at the back. He was muscular and around her height, a mixture of races that gave his skin a smooth, light brown hue. Barely thirty, he was commander of the seven-person crew, having been transferred to this division from Greenpol, where he’d been a decorated eco-cop, busting wetlands violators, polluters, murderers of endangered species, and other heinous environmental criminals.
He nodded to her, then scanned the jobsite arrayed before them, a cluster of shabby, deteriorating metal buildings and smokestacks, sitting dull and lackluster in the light of midday. Years before, this had been a major military products factory, belching pollutants into the atmosphere and draining contaminants into the nearby river system, as the greedy Corporate owners lined their pockets at the expense of the environment. It was one of many polluting industrial sites in the old days, before Chairman Rahma set society on the correct course and began the widespread greenification of the Americas.
Patting his uniform jacket, Joss felt the reassuring presence of his copy of The Little Green Book, a slender forest-green volume containing the favorite sayings of the Chairman, along with his sagacious, environmental-oriented poetry. Often during the day, Joss liked to bring out the volume and find some piece of useful wisdom to inspire him, and guide him in his decisions.
He felt good about the contributions he and Kupi Landau were making to the grand ecological dream. Today Joss was leading the crew of Janus Machine No. 129 on a run through the conservancy, hitting sites that had not yet been reverted when nearby cities and towns were emptied of people, leveled, and returned to nature. In only a few moments Kupi would complete her portion of the task, and Joss’s turn would follow.
More than two decades ago, she’d been a member of the legendary Berkeley Eight revolutionary committee that spearheaded the struggle against the Corporates and their lackeys, fighting for the inspirational Chairman and his anti-war, anti-establishment army. Kupi’s anarchistic, violent talents had been useful then, and were useful now in the aftermath of the conflict.
In a designated safety zone on the pavement, behind a clearplex blast shield, a handful of government officials had gathered to watch alongside black-suited anarchists and bearded, middle-aged men in green uniforms, all veterans of the Corporate War who now called themselves J-Watchers. The bearded vets were well organized, and liked to follow the routes of Janus Machine teams and cheer them on.
Joss noticed that three men wore patches indicating they had been Weather Warriors, a radical group that bombed Corporate and U.S. government facilities during the revolution, including dams and power stations. He also saw a man wearing the round patch of the Green Planet Brigade, whose followers had burned sport-utility vehicles in the old United States, and torched homes that were not constructed according to green building standards. In those days, these men (and others like them) were called domestic terrorists, but now they were decorated heroes.
Half a dozen young women in flower-design dresses and beads joined the J-Watchers and began dancing in a circle. In another protected area, feral dogs and cats had been rounded up, and specialists were using sonic devices to roust out rodents, raccoons, and any other critters that might be inside the buildings and on the grounds, saving as many of them as possible.
The observers, in a festive mood, were among a small, elite class of citizens who were granted permits to leave their reservations for specific purposes—in this case to bolster the morale of J-Mac crews. Behind the protective barrier, they clapped and cheered, and exchanged stories from the revolution. Everyone was pleased that the good work of Chairman Rahma Popal was proceeding methodically, covering the Green States of America with magnificent trees and other flora, so that animals could thrive in their natural habitats.
The dancers began chanting, louder and louder: “Rahm-m-m-m-a … Rahm-m-m-m-a … Rahm-m-m-m-a…”
Kupi’s countdown went through its final seconds in a beeping of electronics. Preparing himself, Joss secured the noise-protective system of his helmet. He heard a low, gathering roar, and saw the big black barrel spew waves of stygian particles at the factory structures and split them all asunder, separating the components on a molecular level and then transforming them into a gooey gray amalgam of basic elements. For artistic effect, she left three of the smokestacks for last, then blasted their bases out from under them one at a time, sending the tall structures thundering down in a dramatic display of flying debris and vanishing shapes, as if they were ghostly creatures of the past, dying from the inside out. Never again would such ugliness reign over the American landscape. The onlookers clapped and cheered for her showmanship, making muffled sounds in Joss’s headset.
“Black Thunder has spoken,” Kupi Landau said to the crew, over the comm-radio. She was referring to what the SciOs called the black barrel of every Janus Machine, more commonly referred to as a Splitter or a Splitter Cannon. Janus Machine technology was secret and closely guarded; only the SciOs could build new units, and if anyone tampered with the machines, the units would self-destruct.
Kupi was particularly well suited for her job, still able to vent her simmering anger against the foul remnants of Corporate civilization. Splitting was an anarchist specialty, one of the few GSA-authorized professions that the government haters actually seemed to enjoy. It was a union job, of course, like every profession in the Green States of America. Even soldiers in the Army of the Environment were unionized.
Now it was Joss’s turn. The bright green barrel had a SciO name as well: The Seed Cannon. Most people called it a greenformer, though, and the process was known as greenforming. He sat at another instrument panel behind that barrel, tapped the opening sequence to make the turret spin around slowly. He made subtle, last-minute adjustments to the seed mixture, tailoring it to this locale more than he’d already done in the setup, further eliminating any elements of vegetation that, even though native, he had now decided were not appropriate for the site. Like the work Kupi did, this was an art form, though one that religious radicals liked to call, derisively, “playing God.” He didn’t pay attention to such comments. They came from scofflaws, fugitives who were on the run from Greenpol.
Over Joss’s headset, pre-war rock music surged on, the hard-driving beat of an old Grateful Dead song, harking back to a time of fantastic idealism in the prior century, when the seeds of rebellion were sowed, and ultimately cultivated. His job gave him a good feeling that he was doing something significant, something important. Brave Greenies had died in order to provide him with this opportunity. He held a privileged, high-level job, and appreciated having it.
He had the turret in position now and ran the test circuits through their course, causing an array of colored lights to dance across the top of the instrument panel. Using a viewscreen, Joss sighted along the top of the long, glistening green barrel and aimed carefully at the center of the gooey amalgam of elements that Kupi had left for him. Taking a deep breath, he held down a button at the center of the panel, then felt a percussive thump as cartridges spewed into the air and detonated over the landscape like a green fireworks display in the sunlight, scattering micro-organisms, infinitesimally tiny seeds that would grow quickly, replacing the factory eyesore with beautiful vegetation.
He fired twice more to fill in bare spots, using smaller bursts. Finally, his task completed, he rose and tilted back his owl helmet in satisfaction. The music went off, and he heard the applause of the onlookers. On one side of the turret, Kupi stood at the rail gazing out on the landscape, as if imagining she could already see the new plants sprouting. Joss chuckled. He had used a fast-grow recipe, but it was not that fast. In a matter of weeks, maple and oak trees would be half a meter high, and soon the animals, insects, and birds of the forest would reoccupy their habitat. It was only justice, he thought, returning the land to its rightful inhabitants, after humans had carelessly abused it for so long.…
* * *
LATER THAT AFTERNOON, the Janus Machine crew was on its way to the next site. Inside the dome, Kupi sat on a cushioned bench with Joss. She took a long drag on a juana stick, exhaled the smoke, and said, “This rig has only been on fifty-seven missions, and it’s already getting long in the tooth. I felt more than the normal vibration when I fired the cannon. Did you notice it, too?”
Joss shook his head. “No, not when you fired, nor when I did, either.”
“Well, I sure noticed it. Damn thing shook my chair, hurt my teeth, and made my bones feel like they were turning into jelly.”
“Part of the mystery of Dark Energy?” he asked, referring to the term for the destructive splitting technology, a power that reportedly was not fully understood by the SciOs who had discovered and harnessed it. The stuff was like a wild bronco, he’d been told, but on an exponentially higher level. The strange technology was rooted in the days of the revolution, when it enabled Chairman Rahma and his ragtag army to defeat Corporate armies—using the black cannons of early-model Janus Machines as weapons.
Kupi scowled and said, “Damned SciOs build these rigs so that they have to be replaced frequently. Just like the old Corporate crooks and their diabolical theory of ‘planned obsolescence.’”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Joss said. “Our cannons have unknown key components. Maybe the SciOs don’t have any other way to build them.”
“Yeah, yeah. True Green Joss, accepting everything you’re told to think. You’d better wake up, sweetie. Our lives could be at risk running these machines, and do you think the SciOs give a rat’s ass what happens to us? Do you think Chairman Rahma does?”
Joss fell silent, knowing he didn’t accept everything blindly at all, though she seemed to think he did. Even so, he didn’t want to argue with her. He gazed forward as the truck sped south, with peace symbols and stylized tree designs sparkling on the hood, and triangular green GSA banners fluttering on the front fenders. He liked Kupi personally, as a lover and as a friend, but when she started talking politics, she invariably made comments that made him uncomfortable.
Politics often put her into a bad mood, and he saw no point in debating with her. At times like this, his lover needed to be left alone.
He wished Kupi would watch her tongue. It could get her into a lot of trouble—and by association, him, too.
Copyright © 2014 by DreamStar, Inc.
I have always disliked Deus ex machina stories. Heroes who suddenly acquire exactly the superpowers that they need at exactly the right time? Read morePublished 6 months ago by James