J Bryan: Dominion

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J Bryan Dominion
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    Dominion
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Dominion

J.L. Bryan

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;

He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;

He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;

His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;

They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;

I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps-

His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:

"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;

Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;

Lo, Greed is marching on!"

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,

With a longing in his bosom-and for others' goods an itch.

As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich-

Our god is marching on.

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated"

Mark Twain, 1901

black gold for silver stars cold hard cash for armored cars the brass ain't fighting

but they're sure as hell taking a stand and they'll have to live with

American blood on their hands

"American Blood" Reckless Kelly, 2008

ONE

Daniel Ruppert left the steel-reinforced black dome of the GlobeNet, Los Angeles studio and drove into the war-torn concrete hell of south L.A. The roads deteriorated beneath him as he traveled deeper into the Economic Reclamation Zone, where the Western Resources and Energy Committee now permitted up to four hours of electricity a day and as much as two gallons of water per household, a bid to stave off riots as the National Guard effected its latest withdrawal. Another intervention would likely follow within the month. Ruppert would report on it ominously, while framed by footage captured by the triangular GlobeNet spycams that glided like tight swarms of black vultures over newsworthy sites.

On this evening’s newscast, Ruppert had described the new measures as a “bold initiative to increase prosperity and opportunity for the citizens of Southern Los Angeles.” Privately, he’d wondered whether “increase” was the proper word, since it implied that those things existed in the first place. The word, like the overall positive tone of the story, had been chosen by network, and a mere reporter had no place suggesting revisions. Ruppert was just a face-man, someone who could look trustworthy and reassuring regardless of what he said, or how much he lied.

His new 2035 Ford Bluehawk stuck out like a golden thumb as it raced low and sleek along the shattered 405, picking up speed each time he darted under a wrecked overpass bridge. Scavengers sometimes lurked in the shadows beneath bridges, waiting to snare a promising target using a homemade explosive tucked into a roadway fissure, or maybe an old-fashioned burst of machine gun fire. At least, this was the kind of thing Ruppert reported for the local news. The boundary between the true world and the one manufactured for the audience was slippery and porous, even for him, especially since he didn't know when he told the truth and when he didn't. It was all just script.

Garbage and earthquake rubble buried most of the ramps on this stretch of interstate. Up the ramps, behind the rusty barbs and chain link running alongside the highway, most of the old concrete buildings stood lightless except for the occasional red glare of an open fire in a window hole. The four hours of electricity was probably an exaggeration. More likely, the Western Resource and Energy Committee provided one hour, or no hours at all-most likely, they had simply issued the announcement to assure security-enclave residents in Beverly Hills and Orange County that something was being done for the benighted masses of the south.

In three or four weeks, he would be reading a new statement for the cameras-that the residents of South L.A. had sabotaged the transformers and power lines, or had used the new electricity to fuel insurgent activity, and the power needed to be cut once again. Over iced drinks on manicured golf courses, where groves of trees concealed the electrified razor-wired fences, Ruppert’s colleagues would shake their heads and comment on how you just couldn’t help those people.

To support the story, the National Guard would be sent in for another round of occupation. A few hundred adolescents and young men would be swept up and shoved into the overcrowded Emergency Penitentiaries, and the well-heeled portion of the public would go on with their lives, satisfied that what could be done, had been done.

Ruppert should never have pointed his car south. His home was north, in Bel Aire, a three-story house in a high-walled, high-security suburban cell, where the houses all faced a “village green” in the center, complete with a swing set none of the obese neighborhood children bothered to touch. He did not belong down here.

Traveling into the southern zone was not illegal, of course, but highly suspicious. Suspicion mattered more than the law. Suspicion was enough to send you to an Emergency Penitentiary, though it was more likely that Ruppert, with his job and his background, would be submerged into the nightmare realm of the state's psychiatric prisons. Or just killed-one could always hope.

He reached his exit, passed through a lightless warren of dilapidated office parks, and trundled up to the gate at the STORE-SAFE. He waved his access card and the gate squealed as it rolled aside. The STORE-SAFE facility ran on its own battery power when south L.A. was blacked out. It was part of the STORE-SAFE Quality Pledge.

He navigated through the low brick alleys lined with rusty, padlocked garage doors until he reached his unit-332-and stopped the car. He got out, breathing in the burnt, ozone-laced night air, and his door quietly closed behind him. The manufacturer claimed the automatic-closing door was "soft as a butler's touch," which just sounded creepy to Ruppert.

His car locked itself up, and the windshield and windows tinted black to conceal the interior from potential thieves. He’d disabled the car’s GPS system. If asked, he would say it had been malfunctioning but he simply hadn’t made it to the mechanic. It would seem unlikely that he would disable it himself-what sane person wanted to run the risk of falling off the steady, safe beams of the grid? Still, he figured he only had a few weeks until that excuse became questionable.

The old-fashioned padlock on the storage unit door, and its matching archaic metal key, always amused him. It was the only physical key he owned. His car, his home, his office granted entry based on biometric data. Such an object, implying secretive off-the-grid activities, was also great cause for suspicion.

The padlock screeched open and the hasp shed flakes of rust as he lifted it free. Ruppert raised the garage door, stepped inside, and let it rattle shut behind him.

He flicked on his flashlight. The beam passed over a heap of furniture-a couch, a moth-chewed recliner with a broken ottoman, coffee table, dusty cardboard boxes filled with moldy books and clothing. None of this was his. It had been here when he’d rented the storage unit, abandoned remnants of someone else's life. When Ruppert had rented the unit from the facility manager-an old, half-blind man named Carlos-the manager had avoided the ridiculously obvious subject of clearing out the previous renter’s property, but Ruppert had said nothing, and hadn’t bothered to do it himself. The heap of old junk made the unit appear to be nothing special, nothing that Department of Terror agents should waste their time searching.

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