Monday, April 4, 2011

Birthday Skeletons

Friday, April 4, 2121

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life the last few days. I suppose it’s the circumstances. Even though the Rogues are becoming a little more civil, they still see fit to keep us locked up. And to make matters worse, I turned 40 today. Not that it matters much, but with all that’s happened, idle thoughts can be dangerous.

That’s why I’ve chosen to record today. No, nothing significant has happened since my last recording, but it has occurred to me that I began this project entirely wrong. Sure, I started promptly enough and gave accounts faithfully, but if any future listener doesn’t happen to be my best friend, which is highly unlikely given my profession, they won’t have a clue what’s going on. So I’m going to take a few minutes to recount my past. Bear with me.

First, I never knew my biological parents. I was adopted by Robert and Lucille Carlton. They were brutally conservative Lutherans. Though, bigotry does have its advantages. With the opportunities their social influence provided, coupled with my intelligence, I showed promise early on. Too bad it didn’t last.

I couldn’t help it. I hated that place. So I left for a few months in high school and worked as a bartender in one of the, shall we say, less savory sectors of New Washington. I eventually came home, but nothing had changed. After I coasted through 4 years at George Washington University, Robert and Lucille had aspirations of their only son becoming a lawyer.

So I joined the Air Force instead. I rose quickly through the ranks and worked for six years as an intelligence officer at H-RAF, but was dishonorably discharged for beating a superior officer in his sleep. It wasn’t the first person that had paid dearly for humiliating me. It wasn’t the last, either.

Unwilling to return home to lick my wounds, I moved to Texas, the center of all manufactured goods produced by C.O.R.N. With my military experience and chameleon-like personality, being a successful moneylender was simple. I was at the top of the food chain within 2 years, but, as is my tendency, I overstepped my bounds. This time, it was I who was jumped in my sleep and beaten within an inch of my life. A Street Cleaner found me in front of an ice cream shop the next morning, and I was air-vac’d to Sinai Medical Complex in New Washington. At that point, there was no hiding my shame from my parents, so I returned home for a year.

During that time, I reunited with Erica, a family and childhood friend. Despite my promise of a thorough account, I’m not inclined to reveal the events of our ensuing disastrous relationship. Suffice it to say that the next 3 years included an engagement, a betrayal, a break-up, and a fair amount of law breaking. In the end, I found myself back among the comforting unaccountability of the C.O.R.N. underworld. It seems I’m destined to be a kind among thieves.

By the time the Raptus hit on March 7, 2121, I was the premier recruiter for the Coalition for Organic Resources Nationwide, and I hadn’t talked to my family or Erica in 2-and-a-half years.

Well, this has been fun. There’s nothing like dragging the stinking, rotting corpse of the past back into one’s life. At any rate, I'm tired of broadcasting my ignorance and failures, past or present. Hopefully I'll get a handle on what's happening before it's all over. Maybe I'll have a chance to write some of it down before I'm dead. Either way, I'm not signing on again until I've regained some semblance of control over my life. Happy birthday to me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Career Changes

Sunday, March 30, 2121

I’m back. A guy named Carlos saw me talking on my PIC on Thursday and confiscated it. I guess he thought I was calling for help. He obviously didn’t know what kind of person I was. I guess I should have called in a favor a long time ago. Oh well. Too late now. Somehow, he disabled my PIC’s personal communication features. If they can hack into that kind of technology, I wonder what else they can do.

Anyway, a lot has happened in the last couple of days. We’re still captives, but our box is bigger. Actually, we’re in the cargo hold of an old carrier. I guess I had it coming. Damien was just saying something about Karma. That is, right before one of the Rogues kicked him in the ribs for speaking out.

The world’s falling apart around us and Texas is no exception. That’s how these people started out. When President Rodriguez called for the re-registry after the Raptus, most of them opted out. So they ended up here. Renegades of the industrial wastelands. Ghosts among the machines. If I can become one of them, I might come out ahead. I might even be able to use them to get back to Missouri. First, I need to get my dog back.

One more thing. I’m not going to waste so much talking about my life when I get out of here. I might not record as frequently, but when I do, it’ll be important. I mean…significant…historically. It seems like there’s a lot more going on in the shadows than I realized. Not that I care that much, but a thorough account of something this huge could be worth a lot of money. I certainly have the connections, so when I get on my feet again, I’m taking my career in a whole new direction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week 3- The Industrial Wastelands

Saturday, March 22, 2121- Damien, Ivan, and I made it out of the city today. Unfortunately, we left on foot. We didn’t have enough money to get the carrier in the air and we couldn’t stick around to fix it ourselves. One more night in that place and I would have been a dead man. We couldn’t even take a train out because all public transportation is still down.

So here we are, in the middle of Texas’ industrial wasteland without anything but a couple of pistols and the clothes on our backs. Not the best place to be right now. We covered as much ground as we could before the sun went down, but it gets dark early these days, so we were forced to find a quaint little rust pile to set up camp in. Ivan’s been growling at the edge of the fire since it got dark. He probably has something cornered back there. Maybe I’ll have Damien check it out.

Sunday, March 23, 2121- Another long day of walking. Nothing but a bunch of automated factories and skeleton crews lurking in the shadows. I haven’t had any food since last night. Oh, that’s right. Ivan did have something cornered, after all. I sent Damien to see what it was and not thirty seconds later I heard him spout some ignorant hillbilly exclamation and start firing his side-arm into the darkness. Then he disappeared into the shadows, himself. When he returned, he was dragging a decent-sized Burmese python, still mostly intact. Cursed things are worse than rats around these parts, but it provided a lot of meat, what was left after Ivan the Terrible tore into it, anyway.

I’m regretting my decision to leave the carrier though. I had plenty of time to think it out today. At our current rate, it would take us three or four weeks, if we were lucky, to walk all the way back to Missouri. Thankfully, I know some people just outside of Oklahoma City that will give us a lift. It’s still going to be a lot of wasted time, but we should be home before my birthday.

Monday, March 24, 2121- We made it to Waco today. Damien had enough credits left from the moneylender to get a few essential supplies: Water, food, ammo. I think he thought it somehow made up for selling me out with the rest of the crew. I’ll go on letting him think that. He did save my life, after all. We found safety among the bums tonight. They’re actually pretty friendly once they realize they have more than you. One even gave me his cot to sleep on for the night. Might as well enjoy it. I’ll be on the ground again for the next week or so.

Tuesday, March 25, 2121- I was way off on my estimate. We barely made it 20 miles today, and I doubt we’ll even be able to go that far tomorrow. It’s going to take weeks at the rate we’re going. We can fend off murderers and pythons, but I would have never guessed our feet would be our downfall. They’re completely destroyed. Of all the stupid things. My socks are caked with blood. At this point, every step feels like I’m walking on hot coals, and I think Damien might be worse off than I am.

We were planning on going around Dallas, but now I don’t know if we have much of a choice. That place is worse than Austin. There are more people there that want me dead than I can count. But, like I said, we don’t have a choice. We have to find some transportation, one way or another. Maybe I’ll sell Damien to the slavers. That’s what I’m good at.

Wednesday, March 26, 2121- This place has turned into a ghost town. Not one person all day, just miles and miles of automated factories, working by remote. It’s hard to even see the sky around here. Just like Damien said, “Smoke an’ axle grease.” Well, more dust than smoke, really. And dirt. Hard dirt. I can’t even feel my feet anymore, but my back is killing me. We try to find decent places to sleep, but I usually end up on the ground with a few layers of tarpaper under me. At least Ivan keeps me warm most nights. We should make it to Dallas tomorrow, for whatever it’s worth. Maybe then someone will put me out of my misery.

Thursday, March 27, 2121- I can’t talk long. They’re watching my every move. I was wrong about it being deserted out here. We got jumped last night. I took down two of them and Damien got another one, but their were at least twenty total. I haven’t killed anyone in a long time, but these people aren’t much more than animals. They definitely don’t work for the Coalition. They live in the factories, but I doubt if C.O.R.N. knows anything about it. Rogues of some sort, and they’re not happy about us killing three of their own. They’ve had us in a steel box with nothing to eat and little to drink all day. I haven’t seen or heard Ivan since last night. If he’s hurt, I’ll kill them all. Even if he’s not, they’re still going to regret this.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 2- The Honorable Judge Cabello

Thursday, March 14, 2121- I called mom again today. I’m not sure why, but I did. She still didn’t answer. I’m starting to miss them. It makes me sick sometimes. I’m not going to call Erica though. If she’s alive and wants to talk to me, she can call me. I think she owes me that much. Besides, I don’t have time for her. I have thirteen conscripts on board my carrier plane right now and they haven’t shut their mouths since I picked them up. I can barely hear myself talking over their pathetic threats and screams. Apparently my crew is more useless than I thought. Ivan keeps a tighter ship than they do. I’d better go.

Friday, March 15, 2121- The thirteen I picked up yesterday have been more trouble than they’re worth. Literally. It turns out that they’re actually Salvation Army refugees, not illegal aliens like the contracts said. Nobody will buy refugees. There’s too much chance somebody will come looking for them. The sub-jets are still down, so that’s not an option, either. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, but I need to get rid of them soon. They’re taking up valuable space in my carrier’s cargo hold.

Saturday, March 16, 2121- Holding these refugees has become a serious liability. I’ve decided to look up some of my old connections down in Texas. I wouldn’t do it if I had another option, but I don’t. Besides, those sharks down there will take anyone. I would have. Still, it’s a risky move going back. The last time I was down there I was jumped and beaten almost to death. Thankfully I’ll be bringing a little more muscle this time.

Sunday, March 17, 2121- Finally. My carrier’s empty again. I don’t even care that I didn’t make any money on them. I have to admit, though, it was a little intimidating coming back to my old haunt. It’s almost embarrassing to admit I used to work in a place like this. And I can’t leave soon enough. I thought things were getting bad back in Missouri, but that’s nothing compared to here. It’s like something out of those old Charles Palahnuik novels. Everyone’s either insane or dying. Or both. I’m leaving first thing in the morning.

Monday, March 18, 2121- I should have left earlier. I found my carrier, but it's been completely stripped. There’s no way it’s flight-worthy. My crew’s gone, too, though I didn't really expect much more out of them. At least I still have Ivan. I need to get moving if I’m going to find out who’s behind this. Someone's going to pay.

Tuesday, March 19, 2121- Two days of searching and I’ve gotten nowhere. Well, not nowhere. I’ve walked through about fifty kilometers of dirty streets and back-alley bars, I had to pull Ivan off of a would-be mugger before he ripped his throat out, and I’ve thinned out my wallet paying off low-level lackeys in an attempt to find out why I’m stuck in this trash dump. So I’m worse than nowhere. I’m nowhere with no cash and no energy, and I’m sleeping in my carrier.

It could be worse, though. I saw at least seven dead bodies today. Some showed signs of a violent end, but I didn’t get close enough to most of them to find out. Things are definitely getting worse. And that’s saying something around here.

Thursday, March 21, 2121- I was almost killed at the hand of the Honorable Judge Cabello yesterday, but it was worth it. He was the same one responsible for my misfortunes five years ago. It seems I’m not the only one that holds grudges. His thugs jumped me around noon yesterday and if Damien, my best crewman, hadn’t responded to my PIC distress call, I would probably be floating down the Colorado River right now. Instead, we managed to overpower our attackers, but not before I was thoroughly battered. Two of them got away, but Ivan held on to the smallest of the three. I squeezed enough out of him to learn that Cabello was the one responsible for my carrier.

As for my missing crew, Damien claimed that a local moneylender bought them off; no doubt one of my past associates that fell in with Cabello. When I asked Damien why he returned, he said, “Wha’s the point of money in a place like this. S’all smoke an’ axle grease. No subst’ute for green grass, tha’s for sure.” I usually can’t stand his type, but Damien has proven himself to me more than once.

My main concern now is finding the fastest way out of here. Things are changing too quickly to keep up with. I’ll be back for Judge Cabello soon.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Week 1- The Lucky Ones

Saturday, March 8, 2121- Something happened late last night. I don’t know much yet, but it seems global. PIC communication has been jammed all morning, which really scares me. Radio chatter is filled with speculation from ignorant hillbillies, so everything I’ve picked up about biological warfare and the Armageddon sounds the same as every other conspiracy they’ve been spouting off since I’ve been out here. I haven’t addressed my crew yet. They’re as impressionable as the hillbillies. If I’m to have any hope of surviving whatever’s happening, I’ll have to be careful about what I let them know.

Anyway, even with the little information I’ve gathered so far, I can tell it’s going to be a story worth recounting. So, until things straighten out, I’ve decided to start recording daily updates. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them yet, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last seven years, it’s that you can’t change the past, but only an idiot refuses to learn from it.

I’ll report until I’m dead or until things go back to the way they were, but neither option sounds much like a happy ending. 

Sunday, March 9, 2121- PIC communication was down yesterday because everyone still alive had to re-register. It’s back up now and it’s on fire. I’m still pretty isolated out here in the Ozarks, but the Coalition has been recklessly liberal with their information. They’re saying something called the Raptus Virus went global around three or four a.m. Saturday morning and consumed a good portion of the earth’s population. And I mean completely consumed. Nothing left but gold teeth and prosthetics. They’re not sure how many were infected by the original virus and how many died in the chaos that followed, but there was a 20 percent drop in population with the PIC re-registration yesterday.

Between President Rodriguez shutting down all E-train and sub-jet travel and presidential candidate Nerius Drake suggesting a socialist government, I’m not holding out much hope for help from above.

I got a contract this afternoon. I’m supposed to pick up two fugitives out West. I’m kind of surprised. The world is ending and the Coalition is still worried about its productivity. It’s not a bad business move, since their workforce was hit hard by the virus, but it takes some guts to secure your retirement when you might not even make it through the day. Oh well. That means job security for me. I guess tomorrow will be just like every other Monday. Business as usual.


Monday, March 10, 2121- I picked up the fugitives today. The first one, Dr. Tighe, came quietly. Those academic sorts always do. High and mighty in the classroom, but they can’t wait to roll over when it comes to the real world.

The second one, though, he was different. Areli Adva was his name. He might have been a doctor too. I don’t remember. He seemed more like a military man, but his file said he was a civilian. A lot of government contracting for combat training, though. It showed, too. He was sleeping in the Great Basin Cornfields when we found him, half dead already. We had him completely surrounded, but he still almost managed to get the jump on us. We had to tranq him. I was glad to get rid of him. I sold both of them to the Missouri Lumber Yards. He’s their problem for the next two years, or, at least, until the world ends.

Not much else happened today. Not out here anyway. I’m sure thing are going to hell in the cities. No wonder so many people are running for the hills. The Coalition couldn’t pay me enough to take a job in San Angeles or New Washington right now. That reminds me. I wonder if my parents are still alive.

Tuesday, March 11, 2121- I finally called mom and dad today. A part of me was waiting to see if they would call first. They didn’t. No one answered when I called them, either. I’m not too surprised, though. They wouldn’t answer even if they were alive. I might go back to New Washington eventually and see if they’re still there, but I’m in no hurry. Either they’re ignoring me or they’re dead.

I haven’t called Erica yet. She hasn’t called me, either. Whatever. Ivan, my 60-kilogram bullmastiff, is a better companion than she ever was.

Wednesday, March 12, 2121- I hate Wednesdays. I hated them even before the world was ending, but at least then I had an excuse. At least then I had weekends with cookouts, and golf trips, and boat races. I don’t have anything now but work, so I’m not sure why I hate them so much. Maybe it’s because they remind me of why I used to hate them.

Anyway, today was just as bad as every other day since nature’s failed attempt to get rid of us, but I hated it more. If I were a weaker man, I probably would have killed myself by now. Everyone else is.

Thursday, March 13, 2121- Business has definitely picked up. Between the chaos in the cities and the loss of so many of the Coalition’s workers, I have more contracts sitting on my desk than I ever have.

I picked up three more from the sub-jet tunnel coming out of New Washington. They really need to increase security in the tunnels. Anyway, before I dropped those three off at the fabrication headquarters in Houston, they were going on about the Great Tribulation. They said all this is the beginning of the end, in the Biblical sense. The oldest one of the three used to work for the CDC and he claimed that all of the victims of the virus were Christians. It’s the first I’ve heard of it.

Hopefully it’s the last.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 29, 2128, 20:37

Inter-PIC conversation recorded from Personal Identification Card #75-0021-8681 to # 52-4812-1304:

Carlton: We’re recording. Now, Colonel Joseph Berko, do you wish to be a part of my history?

Berko: Part of your what? What are you planning to do, Joseph?

C: I’m sending the truth into the void, so to speak.

B: You can’t be serious. Why the wasted effort?

C: It would only be wasted if I didn’t expect it to reach its mark.

B: Explain yourself.

C: I’m sending it to Novitellus using the coordinates used by the H.P.P. space shuttle. They have to know. He has to know.

B: You’re mad. I don’t have time for this.

C: You’re right, you don’t. No one does. But then again, we don’t have much of anything else, either. The best you can hope for now is remembrance, so do as I’ve told you.

B: So you think it's over too, huh? Let me guess, it’ll happen a week from today?

C: Yes, Sunday, March 7th, 2128, exactly seven years after this all began. That’s when it’ll happen. However, I plan to free my story from this living hell on Saturday, so if you want to be a part of the legacy of our people, then you’ll listen to me.

B: …Fine. What do you want to hear, Carlton?

C: The truth, nothing more. What do you think is really happening here? Where did it all go wrong?

B: Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I think. We’ve all seen enough to make up our own minds, the few of us still left.

C: You mean, those who managed to survive the drought, the earthquake, the meteors, the war, the blood, famine, pestilence, plagues, demon-

B: Quiet! We all lived it, okay. We’re still living it. I don’t need you to tell me what I’ve been through.

C: Yes, but when you hear it out loud, it sounds quite, well, Biblical, doesn’t it? I’ll take your silence as a yes. So, why do you think we were spared?

B: Spared? You’ve got to be kidding me. You call this spared? Those taken by the Raptus were spared. The rest of us we left at the mercy of this nightmare. No one will be spared. Unlike you, I don’t presume to know when it’ll be over, but for me, it can’t come soon enough.

C: Do you really think dying, at this point, will offer you any relief...Colonel?

B: …Colonel. Yes, I remember when that meant something to me. I was important. People listened to me.

C: Colonel, do you have anything you wish to say to the people of Novitellus, the last of our people, before we end this interview?

B: I wish I were sorry. I wish I could believe what I’ve done has somehow caused all of this, and I could be sorry for it. I wish I didn’t hate everything and everyone for tearing away everything from me and leaving me for dead. My family, my career, my home, it’s all gone. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll pull out of it. Maybe I can still get my life back. Mankind can do anything, right?

C: Goodbye, Colonel. [transmission ended]

Friday, July 2, 2010

March 7, 2121, 22:14

Inter-PIC conversation recovered from Personal Identification Card #43-9524-0221 to #09-4447-0040:

“Hi honey.  It’s late.  What’s wrong?”
“He’s gone, mom.  I can’t find him.  I called his PIC and he’s not answering.  I called his parents and they don’t know where he could be.  I-”
“Elizabeth, hold on.  Who’s gone?”
“Mike, mom.  He’s gone.  I don’t know what to do.  I knew something was wrong when I saw a wreck on the way home.  I’ve never seen a comp-car wreck before, and when I drove by there wasn’t anyone in or around the accident.”
“Slow down Liz.  What time is it there?”
“Just after ten.  I worked late.  But mom-”
“Oh yeah, I’m still not used to you being out there.”
“Mom, would you listen to me?  Mike’s gone and…wait.  There’s something on the news.”
“Liz, what is it?”
“Hold on.  They’re saying there’s been some sort of terrorist attack, or outbreak or something.”
“What?  That doesn’t make any sense.  What do you mean?  What’s going on?”
“How could that many people just be gone?  Mom, I’m scared. [crying] I don’t want to die.”
“Honey, you’re not going to die.  Now just tell me what they’re saying.”
“I don’t know.  They’re saying thousands of people just disappeared across the island.  They don’t know how or why.  They’re just gone.”
“Disappeared?  Was it just on the island?”
I don’t think so.  They’re not saying much, but it sounds like other places have been affected too.  What does this mean?”
“Liz, I need to call your dad.  I’ll call you right back, okay?”
“No, don’t leave me, mommy.  I’m here all alone.” [crying]
“I’m not leaving, honey.  I’ll call you right back.  You’ll be okay.  I love you, Liz.”
“I love you too, mom.”
[transmission ended]