Saturday, February 10, 2018
Entering the Lion's Den - Handmaid's Tale Fan Fiction
(See author's note at the end.)
My days are simple now. They are a set routine of mundane events that vary only slightly over the course of a year. What doesn't change though is that after waking up I take a quick shower before eating my breakfast while listening to the news on the radio. It is during those few minutes that I feel some solace in the fact that the world has finally calmed down, somewhat, after having nearly everyone's preconceived notions radically overturned. Its been five years since the events that historians are saying marked the end of Western Civilization and even now I can tell no one still believes it actually happened.
Except for me, I saw the juggernaut speeding down the tracks bearing down on the distracted and self-adsorbed nation oblivious to the danger it faced both from forces outside the government and the cancer inside. I tried to warn my superiors, men and women with real authority but who were so part of the institutional mentality that they could neither see the mutating landscape nor the corruptive forces lurking in plain sight. The darkly funny thing that still needles my soul is that while the winners and losers of the life and prosperity columns switched hundreds of millions of innocent souls since the end of everything, above it all a tiny minority sailed through the chaos unscathed as usual.
That's all in the past now. With breakfast finished, I turn off the radio and begin to prowl the small portion of the Earth I can call my own. During the summer months I keep occupied working in my garden and doing repairs on the small cabin I call home. But it is now during the harsh winter months here on the South Island of New Zealand that I am forced to accept the fall of the United States of America and the establishment of the Republic of Gilead.
The day is misty with heavy gray clouds sealing up the sky from the sun. With no real chores, I go for a short hike through the hills. There is comfort in the forest, a solitude that allows me to imagine a much different world, one far wiser and more adaptable. That morning however, I feel old instincts stirring. Someone is watching me, probably several people off in the distance.
In the early days of Gilead it would have been their secret police, curiously called the “Eyes of God.” A combination of former CIA or former military types who were either Christian extremists or well disciplined and trained serial killers that didn't have any guiding philosophy. They made a point of hunting down people around the world the Gilead government had declared were “unredeemables”, American dissidents who refused accept the new regime or quietly fade into the society of whatever nation they were taking refuge.
With the world dissolving into chaos the Eyes had free reign for months. That is until the Remnant United States, a government in exile consisting of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico launched six nonnuclear cruise missiles at the Texas compound where the “Leader” of Gilead resided when he wasn't in Washington. The Remnant U.S. had possession of all the workable nuclear weapons and long range delivery systems once held by American Armed Forces.
The missiles killed hundreds of the most fanatical participants of the new government, which the propaganda arm instantly turned into martyrs. The attack missed the Leader by a couple of hours, but he got the message and ended all overt assassinations.
If my not so well hidden observers wanted me dead, I'd already be laying on the ground in a growing puddle of my own blood. So, with nothing left to do I begin walking back figuring they wanted to talk with me. The only questions remaining being who are they, and what do they want. As I approach my cabin I notice the front door is wide open. I can't help but feel a growing curiosity combined with a great deal of worry as I stepped threw.
When it became apparent no one in the doomed U. S. Government was listening to my warnings, I skipped the country with money and a new identity. For several months, I jumped around the world looking to avoid the hundreds of assassins the Gilead regime had dispatched to short circuit anyone forming an organized and effective resistance.
But once the Eyes were called back home, I settled on the South Island of New Zealand. In normal times unless you were a legitimate refugee or very rich, the Kiwis were always stingy about allowing outsiders into their beautiful country. As far as the Kiwi immigration ministry was concerned, I was a rich entrepreneur who just happen to become a permanent resident right before the Mayday Attacks that overthrew the United States government. When the world was thrown into chaos because of that event, New Zealand along with every other stable nation was forced to take in tens of thousands of displaced former Americans.
For that reason, New Zealand didn't put up with any shit from alien residents. Even a minor crime committed by a stupid teenager could result in the entire family being deported on the first available tramp freighter. At best the family would end up in the Remnant U.S., probably Alaska where they would end up working the mines or oil fields. At worst, Gilead itself in one of the toxic interment camps they called “colonies” where life expectancy is usually less than two years.
I liked New Zealand, I felt at peace here and the last thing I wanted was to cause any trouble or be noticed by the local constabulary. For that reason, I had my hands up as I entered the cabin curious about who had finally found me.
“Hello Ryan, its been too long.” The beautiful redhead sitting at my kitchen table said. “I'm reforming Section Thirty-One, and you're one of the band members I just can't do without.”
While the roar of the cargo plane's massive jet engines were canceled out by the headphones I wore, escaping the clamber of my thoughts was something far more difficult. Seeing Amanda was one of the absolute last things I thought would ever happen again in my life. Thinking back on it, having an affair with her while she was married to a high-ranking aid to a powerful United States Senator as well as being my boss was a really bad idea.
On the face of it Amanda Carter was the poster woman for dynamic feminism. After graduating West Point she became a member of the Criminal Investigation Command working in intelligence gathering. Her exploits in Afghanistan and several other dangerous locations around the world cleared her a pathway to joining the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team and eventually commanding it. From there she fell in love and married Andrew Maddox, senior aid to the now deceased Senator Laura Claiborne.
I met Amanda when we were both recruited for Section Thirty-One, a semi-secret agency created in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. When America's commie foe went belly up in the 1990's, a whole host James Bond-like villains were the result. With access to thousands of loose Soviet tactical nukes, deadly biological agents, and other pieces of inconvenient technology the United States intelligence community created Section Thirty-One in an effort to contain and eliminate their dangers. By the time Amanda and I were on the team, its purview had expanded to other threats to the nation. All things considered, Section Thirty-One did a damn good job up until it was sidelined by what was called at the time the “War on Terror.”
They pulled her from the FBI and me from the Navy Seals in 2015 and made us partners after graduating 31's training academy. Several dangerous missions later one thing lead to the other and we became lovers in Vienna while holding up in a safe house. A couple of months later her husband, Maddox finds out with Amanda getting a new partner while I was assigned to a desk in Washington. All told the desk job analyzing domestic terrorist groups was probably a good thing. It gave me a heads up on the Son of Jacob, the radical group planning the overthrow of the U.S. government allowing me to cleanly skip the country when I realized no one in authority was listening to my warnings. Most of Section Thirty-One was assassinated in the months after the Mayday Attacks.
Amanda sat on the other side of plane from me, asleep but in the middle of a very bad dream. She was trying to curl up in one of the seats mounted in a long row next the fuselage. From the moment I saw her in my cabin it was obvious the years since Mayday had been nightmarish. Her face was still beautiful but her eyes were empty, the person she was when we were partners and lovers long dead. Emphasizing that point, was the scar running down the side of her face visible to to me.
After leaving my cabin, she wouldn't reveal the mission she had come all the way down to New Zealand to get me to join until we reached our destination. She did tell me that I had experience critcal to its successful completion. The cold expression on her face all but confirming the idea floating around in my head that I would probably end up wishing I hid from the world a lot better. Later on sitting next Amanda in the vehicle one of her teammates drove, I tried to ask about the scar and her reaction was even worse.
Our destination turned out to be Johnston Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A long time naval refueling station later turned into a testing facility for chemical and nuclear weapons. After the fall of the government, the Remnant U.S. increased the island's size many times by sinking scores of unneeded vessels in the shallow waters and then piling hundreds of tons of material on top from coral dredging. The purpose to provide a highly secure site to plan operations against the Gilead regime. The official capital of the Remnant U.S. was Anchorage, Alaska but brutal experience had taught what was left of the American government was infiltrated with Gilead sympathizers.
One of the few things Amanda did tell me before we departed New Zealand was that being admitted to Johnston Atoll meant that the Resistance leadership was sure you were not the enemy. Something I told her I appreciated since I was the goddamn person who tried to warn them in the first place.
The building we were taken to after landing while prefab had obviously been hardened to the point of absurdity. My guess was to withstand tropical storms and the disturbing possibility that Gilead, or its Russian ally, might try to attack the place. That is if anything they threw at it could get by the several cruisers out in the nearby waters or land-based missile batteries scattered about the island.
Amanda and I were quickly ushered inside and to a conference room filled with a collection of military types from all the military services. Mixed in where a few intelligence spooks wearing actual Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants. They looked like irate insurance salesmen who had missed the flight to Vegas for the annual convention and were about to lose the reservation deposit at their favorite whore house.
After taking our seats in the far corner of the room, a four-star army general entered the room and took up position behind the podium.
“Good day ladies and gentlemen,” he said while organizing his papers. “For those who don't know me I'm General Robert Okamoto director of continental insurgence. We are here today to begin plans to extract a high value prisoner trapped in Gilead. The president himself has approved this operation not just for how it will hurt the Gilead regime but the target is also a highly trained scientist who was researching the fertility crisis before the Fall.”
To say I was nervous about how I was supposed to be critical to this mission was an understatement. I had been part of at least a dozen hostage rescue missions in my career, but never one to what was supposed to be my home country. That it had become a totalitarian state dominated by a freakish religion only made the situation more bizarre. Nonetheless, I stayed quiet and waited for the other shoe to drop.
General Okamoto continued on for a several minutes before revealing the location of this vital individual. I began to understand why Amanda had come for me the second I saw the map. It was a map of Charleston, South Carolina, my hometown, a place that as a kid I thought I would never leave. But now one I wouldn't have bet money the day before I would ever dare to return.
I turned my head towards Amanda and found her looking intensely at me. The person next me was not my Amanda, she was long dead. But the expression on her face was one I was familiar with after being her partner and then lover.
“What piece of information are you not telling me, Amanda? I whispered to her.
She ignored me and just turned her head back towards General Okamoto.
End of Part One
(Author's note: For reasons that should be obvious I'm in a really dark mood right now. I honestly feel our country is just a few small steps away from a true nightmare. What history I've read seems to suggest any people that come this close to giving away their freedoms and rule of law have only a few fleeting opportunities to make them safe again. That the elements seeking to institute authoritarian restrictions have the advantage in pursuing their goals while the good guys are often at odds with themselves. Those of us in the “Resistance” can only do our best and hope.
This story is crap, but I have based it on the Hulu series, not the book or movie, and have done my best to expand the landscape of that excellent production.)