Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

After the Revolution: Chapters Twenty One, Twenty Two, and Twenty Three

After the Revolution: Chapters Twenty One, Twenty Two, and Twenty Three

Sat, 24 Jul 2021 04:02

This week's chapters from Robert's fiction podcast, "After the Revolution."

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Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Hey there, it's Ebony Monet, your co-host for the San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we're speaking with Doctor Jane Goodall about the fascinating journey that led to her impactful behavioural discoveries on chimpanzees. It wasn't until one of the chimpanzees began to lose his fear of me, but I began to really make discoveries that actually shook the scientific world. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. In the 1980s and 90s, a psychopath terrorized the country of Belgium. A serial killer and kidnapper was abducting children in the bright light of day. From Tenderfoot TV and iHeartRadio, this is La Monstra, a story of abomination and conspiracy. The story about the man who simply become known as. Lamaster. Listen for free on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts outer space. A vast, unknown frontier. We don't yet know the dangers that lurk beyond the stars, but unfortunately for Captain Sydney Owens and Jenna Prescott, they're about to find out. Mag Mel from iHeartRadio and Bamford Productions. Listen to Magnell on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. What's up guys? I'm Rochelle Bilal and I am Troy Millings and we are the host of the Ernie Leisure podcast where we breakdown business models and examine the latest trends in finance. We hold court and have exclusive interviews with some of the biggest names in business, sport and entertainment from DJ Khaled to Mark Cuban, Rick Ross and Shaquille O'Neal. I mean, our alumni list is expansive. Listen in as our guests reveal their business models, hardships and triumphs in their respective fields. The knowledge is in death and the questions are always delivered. From your standpoint, we want to know what you want to know. We talked to the. Legends of business, sports and entertainment about how they got their start and most importantly how they make their money earning. Alicia is a college business class mixed with pop culture. Want to learn about the real estate game? Unclear is how the stock market works. We got you interested in starting a trucking company or vending machine business? Not really sure about how taxes or credit work? We got it all covered. The earn your Leisure podcast is available now. Listen to earn your leisure on the Black Effect podcast network, iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Mama, what does the chicken say? Job. Rap giraffe. Really. Giraffe, giraffe. You're not going to get it all right? Just make sure you nail the big stuff, like making sure your kids are buckled correctly in the right seat for their age and size. Get it right? right, seat Broughty by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the ad Council. Chapter 21, Sasha. Alexander hadn't seen it coming. He hadn't expected her at all. The sound of his furious scream was the most beautiful thing Sasha had ever heard. She hit him again and again, and he fell back and then down to the ground. Blood streamed from his nose in a gash above his brow. His eyes looked unfocused, his lip was split. He tried to scream or cry out or beg her, but she didn't give him the time to say 1 damn word. Instead, she hit him again. And again. And again. She didn't make the conscious choice to dive down on top of him. And in fact, Sasha. Was rather surprised to find herself straddling the prone Broken Boy soldier, but once she was there she kept hitting him until she felt his skull give way and the helmet had something soft, squishy, and hot that lay beyond. She sat back and for what seemed like a year just stared at the helmet imbedded in Alexander's ruined face. Blood pulsed out from around the edges where it met the skin. The way the blood bubbled up looked just a bit like the water in one of the fountains outside the hospital her mother ran. For some reason, that similarity did more to raise her hackles than the act of killing. Her ears still rang, and so it was easy to lose herself in contemplation of Alexander's body. Her mind turned to the book of John and the words of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. Had Alexander's actions truly been righteous, Sasha knew if she searched the Bible, she could find Scriptural justifications for everything Alexander had done. That's why she'd come here in the 1st place, wasn't it? The Heavenly Kingdom was finally going back to the letter of the Bible, the word of God. Only now that she'd seen what that looked like Sasha had found, she could not abide it. Am I still a Christian? She couldn't say. Her faith had been such a part of her identity. It had been everything, and now it felt like a lie. What am I if not a righteous servant of the Lord? Where do I go from here? Is ash little problem here? Rowland's voice jerked her out of her contemplation. She looked back at the man and her mind recoiled in terror. His skin had been shredded by gunfire. It hung in pale tatters down his face and arms. His clothing had largely been shot away, and the rags that remained were so drenched in blood that they clung to him. He looked almost as if he was clad in a single giant scab. One of his eyes was unfocused, dislocated, and something had happened to his left arm. It looked as if an enormous straight razor had burst out of the forearm. Where did you get that? She asked. Sasha was surprised and a bit disturbed by her curiosity. Roland seemed surprised too. This he looked at the blade. I really know it's sort of forgotten it was in there. He lifted his arm and its blood soaked blade up and looked at it like a small child opening a prized gift on Christmas morning. Then he flicked his arm down towards the ground and the blades slid back into the meat of his forearm with a wet thwack. Look, he said. We got more press and **** to deal with right now. Here. All those sirens. She actually couldn't. Her hearing had begun to recover from the gunfight, but Roland was just barely audible. A loud tinnitus hum still rang through her ears. Sasha was pretty sure she'd suffered permanent damage. I can't hear much right now, she said. The gunfire, you know. Oh, he frowned. I forgot. That can happen to you folks. Well, there's a **** load of cops or martyrs or militia, whatever. A bunch of them are coming. Probably 2 or 300. They got tanks and drones and ****. God almighty. Sasha felt fear rise up in her heart again. Yeah, listen, God's not really the dude to worry about right now. Manny's all ****** **. I stopped his bleeding, but you're going to need to get him out of here, Manny. She'd forgotten all about him. Sasha realized with a start that she'd blotted the rest of the room from her mind. She looked around and took it all in. Manny was still lying where she left him, nursing a gunshot wound to the belly. He was pale, sweaty, and he looked to be in terrible pain, but he was conscious and alive. That was more than she could say for Marigold. The poor woman had been shredded by shotgun fire. Sasha couldn't bring herself to look too closely at the shattered, steaming remains, but Marigold's friends were alive. The young man, Rick, was unconscious and drenched in blood, but most of that blood didn't seem to be his own. His head was in Tully's lap. She'd been wounded in the buttocks and bled quite a lot, but the wounds seemed to have clotted. There were tears and a haunted, pained look in her eyes. Oh my God, Sasha said once her mind started to process the visual stimuli. Lord in heaven. No, no, no, no. That poor woman. That unborn child. How could this happen? How could this be? Sasha? Roland shouted. This is a very bad time for you to have emotions. Try killing those for a while. How? Just think about the fact that everyone but me will die if you don't get your **** together and then get your **** together. Her initial action was anger and frustration. You see that? Disconnected from humanity? Does he think people can just turn their empathy off? But then she stopped herself, listened to him, and tried. She imagined. Yourself putting on a heavy jacket, something that blocked out pain and horror rather than the cold. It worked. OK, she said. What do I need to do? You need to take Manny and uh, what's her name and what's his face? Tulie and Rick, right? Take the non dead people, run down and out the back door and find me a car. Then you need to a car. He stopped sifting through the dead man's firearms to roll his eyes at her. Yes, a car. I'm not going to carry all you lame bloods out of here on my ******* shoulders. We'll need to get away. Vehicle? I can't drive, she said. All the cars in the amphet are autonomous. He shrugged. You'll figure it out. Many moan just then. Almost as if it was in response to. Go and suggestion. Sasha knew it was more likely she'd just been too focused on the big posthuman to notice manni's pained moans the whole time. Can he drive? Sasha asked. Sure, Roland said with sudden cheer. He's only lost, what, 2 quarts of blood? I gave him a little mind. I'm sure he'll be right as rain soon, many moaned again, handed his blood soaked belly. He didn't appear to be bleeding still, but he was pale and his face showed agony too obvious to ignore. Sasha doubted he'd be capable of driving a car in the immediate future. I can drive, Tully said in a cracked, broken sounding voice. Right, Roland said. Well that's lovely. Get your ***** up and get moving. You've got about 2 minutes before ******** fans start their lovely dance. The Posthumans good humor was incongruous in this blood soaked room addressed to two people who'd lost a friend today. He grabbed one of the guards pistols which he'd shoved in his waistband and handed it to Sasha. Safety's off, he said cheerily. So once you pull the trigger, stuff will happen. Sasha took the gun and then went over to help Manny up. Tully did the same thing with her wounded friend. Neither Manny or Rick were in great shape, but Manny at least seemed capable of standing under his own power. Once Sasha got him to his feet, he stayed there. She looked him in the eye and while he seemed sort of dazed and glassy, his pupils fixed on hers and he nodded. We have to go, she said. Sutradhar the temple in murder, he muttered. What? Sasha asked said it's about ******* time. Just follow me, she said with more confidence than she felt. I'll take care of everything. Oh, **** that, man, he said. He put a hand on her shoulder and moved as if to push in front of her and shield her with his body. Then he grabbed aside, groaned, and staggered back. All right, yeah, you lead the way. Men. Tooley was up now. She had an arm around her friend, and together they moved almost as fast as a single elderly person with bad hips. Manny was not much more mobile. Sasha looked back at Roland. Where should we meet you? The next street behind this building is called Alma. Take it and go left until you hit a road named Cross Bend. I should be there by the time you arrive. What if we can't find her? He cut her off. Not finding a car is not an option. Talking more is not an option. I have to go kill people. You find something with wheels and get Tully in the driver's seat. Sasha started to say something, but the Sirens had drawn very close indeed. She heard several shouts from outside the front of the building. Roland cursed. He'd already gathered up two of the rifles and slung them across his back. He had a large pistol in his left hand. At the sound of the shouting he brought his right hand up to his belly and dug it deep inside his skin. Sasha watched in horror as he tore a heavy, blood caked weapon out of his gut. Roland walked up to the front window of the room and fired the weapon once, twice, three times. Its report was deep and bassy. Like the sound of a heavy drum being struck. There was a brief island of quiet, followed by a trio of explosions that rattled the walls of the jail. Look, Rowland said as he glanced back to her. I gotta go. Be a distraction. Find the car. Get to Crossband and Alma. I'll be there in. He glanced out the window again and shrugged. 10, maybe 11 minutes. OK, should Sasha started to ask. Talking time is done. Tully's flat voice interrupted. He moves. We move now. She pulled her friend towards the door. There would have been something almost comical about the agonizing slowness with which they actually moved, but the gesture had its intended effect. Sasha took many by the hand. She let Tuley lead the way to the door, but once they were in the hallway, the young woman had no idea where to go. Sasha took the lead then and guided her new comrades towards a flashing red exit sign that she knew led to a rear stairwell. For a brief passing 2nd, she'd been worried that they might encounter other guards or jailers during their flight. That concern proved groundless. Gunfire had torn through the walls of the examination room and ripped apart the interior of the jail. She saw a few gouts of blood by the walls and one sinister looking pool of it beneath a desk. It all drove an important lesson home for Sasha's bullets don't stop when they miss. The stairwell was as deserted as the rest of the jail they hobbled down at as quickly as three wounded people could manage. Sasha stayed in the back, under the instinctive assumption that it would be best for morale if she didn't rush ahead. Their progress down the stairs was painfully slow, almost every step punctuated by the sound of gunfire out on the street below. It sounded like a full scale war had broken out there. There was a lot of screaming, and Sasha tried not to think too much about which of the Nice young martyrs she'd met in the square were now dying by Roland's hand. What about Anne? What about Susanna? You're abandoning them? Sasha shook, the thoughts clear from her head. There'd be time for self loathing. Later, Tully and Rick reached the bottom floor first. They leaned back against the wall together and caught their breath. Rick was as white as a sheet and looked like he could still barely stand. Tully was doing better, but not by a wide margin. When she and Manny hit the bottom floor, he went straight for the exit door. He clearly intended to be the first out in case anyone had a weapon trained on the door. Sasha stopped him. That wasn't hard because he was only a little more stable. Naturally, she pushed him back, put a hand on the door, and then drew the pistol Roland had given her. She fixed Manny with what she hoped was a firm, fearless look. You're in no state to be heroic. He looked at her as if he wanted to fight her, but then he looked down at the shaking hand he had pressed into the sobbing wound in his side. Yeah, all right, you down to do the hero stuff then. She nodded. Well, then, be my guest. Sasha didn't know how to use a gun. The M Fed banned almost all private firearm ownership. Her grandfather had owned a couple of bolt action hunting rifles, and he'd let Sasha hold them a few times. That was as close as she'd gotten to firearms training. She'd never actually shot the darn things once he died. Her father had sold the guns rather than deal with the hassle and expense of a license, so she burst out onto the street with the pistol held high in front of her like she'd seen in the movies. It took her a few seconds to realize, sheepishly, that this behavior. More likely to get her gunned down than aid in her defense. Thankfully, there had been no martyrs watching the rear exit. Sasha waved for the others to follow her out and stashed the pistol under her shirt. For a few minutes they'd ran, or rather hobbled, in what seemed like the right direction. The city still rang with the sound of sirens, gunfire, and the occasional concussive blast, but it seemed to be moving away from them. Plano wasn't exactly crowded, but there were enough people out on the street to notice the fresh wounds on Tooley, Rick, and Manny. No one approached them, though. Sasha wasn't sure if they passed unnoticed, but they were able to pass through the city without incident. Fear and the flight reflex were enough to carry them a few blocks in relative haste. Once they were out of sight of the jail, Rick put up a hand as he slumped back against the wall. Tooly continued to hold him up. She was pale, sweaty and pained looking. Ryan Shook and shuddered. His eyes were unfocused and he was clearly in shock. He needs to rest, Tuli said. Manny stopped next to them and leaned against the wall as well. He dotted at Tully and then looked back to Sasha. Yeah, Ditto. I might prefer to lay down and die at this point. We need to find a car anyway, Tooley said as she helped lower Rick down to sit against the wall. If I carry him for much longer, I'm going to drop. Sasha realized everyone was looking at her. Is that my job? Manny looked mortified. Tooley looked angry. Rick, bless him, was too deep in shock to react. Yes, Tooley said in a toneless voice that still somehow implied deep disappointment. OK then, Sasha said. When I find the car, I assume you'll know how to Hotwire it. Tulie laughed. It wasn't a nice laugh. If you're hiding a real nice deck somewhere in that silly head of yours, or you find a car that's older than my dad, maybe. Otherwise, we're going to need something with keys in it. What, so I'm just supposed to carjack someone? Tooley stared, dead eyed at her. Manny gave a pained, helpful smile. I mean, you've got a gun, he said. Sasha felt the heat rise in her again. Why not? I've given up every other principle I have today. I might as well commit armed robbery. The guilt staying her guts. But not as badly as it should have. Perhaps she was still numb from watching Doctor Brandt and Marigold die. Or maybe it's because I killed Alexander. Maybe I'm evil now, and this is what that feels like. There was no time to mold the possibilities. Sasha left Manny and the others to catch their breath and darted down an alley towards a larger street that sounded like it might have traffic. She passed 2 parked cars and looked inside with a vain hope that just maybe someone might have left their keys behind. It was to no avail. Sasha soon found herself on the cracked and shell pocked asphalt of Alma Rd. The buildings on either side of this stretch of St had taken significant damage during the Heavenly Kingdom's birth pains. There were no people out on the sidewalks or visible in the windows. Anyone alive had probably hunkered down to avoid the shooting. There was still traffic on the road, though. 3 trucks and a dented fume spewing white sedan shot by her at the speed of wartime traffic. Sasha drew her gun, looked at it, and then hurriedly stashed it inside her blouse again when she realized how dumb that had been. Godly women do not carry guns. A series of four loud booms sounded in the distance. Sasha didn't know enough about weaponry to guess what those had been, but she knew they'd had something to do with Roland. People are dying. So I can find us a car and get everyone to safety. She started walking down the street, face pointed towards oncoming traffic, hands waving above her head. And the international gesture for oh God, please help me. Two more cars zoomed past without even slowing to check on her. It was odd how that shocked her. After everything else she'd seen in the Heavenly Kingdom, the faithful protect and support each other. Pastor Mike had claimed, but not, it seemed, when 1/2 human monster was on a rampage through their city. That helped debate her guilt, at least. Or it did, right up until the moment a familiar, janky brown truck rumbled to a stop next to her. Excuse me, ma'am, do you need. She turned around and the man's face lit up in surprise. Miss Sasha? It was Darrell, the kindly old foreman, who driven her to the House of Miriam on her first day in the Kingdom. Was that really only days ago? Seemed like years. Sasha felt like an old woman, even though she was just on the edge of 18. You hurt? He slammed the car into park and opened his door. One SEC. I got a first aid kit in the back. Where did you get hit? Sasha looked down at her chest and realized she looked like she'd been badly injured. The blood wasn't hers, of course, but Darrell couldn't have known that. He thought she was hurt and he was trying to help. Am I really going to rob a Good Samaritan? She was. Sasha waited until Darrell had closed the door, grabbed his medical kit and turned towards her. Then she drew her pistol and levelled it at his weathered grease, stained and now thoroughly surprised face. Huh? I need your truck. I need your truck, she said. Darrell dropped the medical kit and put both his palms out. Well, now, girl, all right. Why don't you just put that gun down? Darrell ain't gonna hurt you. I'll take you anywhere you need to go. Let's just be real calm, real slow about all this. Did somebody hurt you? I need. Your truck. It was so hard to keep her voice Even so hard to do this cruel thing. To a man who'd only been kind to her. Sasha could feel white hot tears streamed down her face. I must look like a crazy person, she thought. Maybe that will help. Now, Miss Sasha, Darrell said. I'm. I guess you don't know how to drive a truck. Mine ain't autonomous. It's old stick shift. Please, why don't you let me take you where you need to go? Sasha's mind raced. It was the same species of nervousness that had always gripped her. During major exams and college admissions essays, she rammed through and discarded a dozen different courses of action in her head. What if he won't give me the keys? What if he takes another step forward? What if he moved? It started with a single glance. Daryl's eyes darted towards the driver side door of his truck. She almost didn't catch it, but for whatever reason, the gesture rose. Goose pimples on the back of her neck and forearms. I need your truck. Her voice was cold, strong, firm. Darryl nodded at her. His body posture stayed the same, but his eyes changed. There was something hard and haunted in them now. All right, Miss Sasha, I'm just gonna reach in here for Mckees. He took a step back and moved towards the door. The bottom fell out of Sasha's gut and she screamed at him to stop. Don't make another move. He dove for the door, pulled it open, and reached a hand down beside the driver's seat. Sasha saw a flash of metal in his hand and she opened fire. She wasn't sure how many times she pulled the trigger, but soon the gun was empty. Sasha watched as Daryl stumbled back into the truck and then slid to the ground. Most of her shots had gone wide. Very wide. She'd shattered 2 of the trucks windows and put four or five rounds into the vehicle's body, but at least one head hit Darryl right in his throat. A kill shot. He slumped to the ground, gagged on blood, and jerked like an electrified marionette. Part of her wanted to run to him, to hold him while he died and say she was sorry. Then she saw the gun at his feet. It didn't dissipate her guilt after all she'd drawn on him first, but at least she hadn't shot and killed an unarmed man. She'd killed an armed man. An armed man who only ever helped me. Sasha slumped against the hood of the truck and lost herself in a storm of sobs. She didn't realize she dropped her gun until it hit the asphalt with a dull clank. She couldn't control her hands or her breathing. Her frantic sobbing had robbed all the air from her lungs. Her legs weakened and she started to stumble to the ground when a pair of warm, semi strong arms caught her from behind. Hey hey, it's all right. It's all right, Manny. It's OK. You're going to be OK. Her world went black for a little while. Sasha felt Manny lift her up, heard the sound of the truck's. When rumble back to life, but she couldn't see and she couldn't move and she couldn't stop crying. Time lost any sort of meaning. When she came back to herself there were in motion. Manny sat next to her and Rick next to him. Tooly drove. Sasha's eyes were drawn to Manny. He held Darryl's pistol in his left hand. She couldn't help but stare at the four spots of dried blood on the silver slide. You all right, Sasha? Manny asked. His question passed through your ears. Without hitting her mind, Sasha couldn't stop staring at Darryl's blood. I did that. I ended him. She'd ended two men to day. She felt no guilt about Alexander, but that was almost more disturbing. It seemed impossible that she'd been a pampered suburban girl less than a month ago now. She was a murderer. Whoever sheds human blood by humans shall their blood be shed. Sasha felt as if a thick cloud of doom had fallen on her shoulders. The truck veered off to the right and slammed to a sudden stop. Sasha was flung forward into the back of Tully's seat. A trio of vehicles zoomed past them, speeding in the opposite direction like several bats fleeing the same hell. Sasha realized with a moment's focus that there was an awful lot of traffic heading away from them as fast as possible. Truly cursed and fought with a stick shift, the truck lurched forward again and made it back onto the road for a few seconds. Then another speeding car roared into the oncoming lane and she was forced to veer off to the shoulder again. The sounds of gunfire grew louder. Sasha heard the thrum of helicopter blades too. A second before 1 buzzed right over their heads. It looked like a military vehicle painted matte black and laden with weapons. Sasha watched as it zoomed ahead and rose up over a pair of high-rise apartment buildings near the horizon line. There was a loud Crump sound and black. Smoke billowed out from the side of the craft. It spun around drunkenly in the air for one very long second before slamming into the roof of one of the high rises. The resultant blast rocked the truck. Tooly veered left and right around a pothole at another speeding truck, respectively. Her knuckles were white, her jaw was clenched. Sasha could see Tully's eyes in the rearview mirror. She looked terrified and angry at the same time. Rick moaned in pain. With every shake and jostle, Manny closed his eyes, shook his head, and muttered something low under his breath. We close? Sasha asked Manny. He squinted and looked out at the road for a second. I mean, he shrugged. Yeah, probably. I'm going to guess Roland's close to the explosions and also causing them. Smoke now dominated the horizon, which grew less horizonally and more imminent with each passing 2nd. In spite of all that, Sasha's eyes kept being drawn back to the gun in Manny's hand and the dry, red brown stains on the slide. That was a good man's blood, she thought. How did it come to this? Hey Jesus, girl? It was tuli. Sasha looked up to the rearview mirror and locked eyes with the other woman. But the **** ** Chika, Tully said. For the first time, Sasha heard real anger and not just cold indifference in her voice. The other woman continued. My best friend was just shot to pieces. My lover is bleeding out and you're all ****** ** because you gunned down some crystal fascist ****. **** suck your heart into your guts. I don't know where you came from, girl, but you're in a **** *** part of the world now. It's time to fortify. Fortify. Sasha held on to that word like a life preserver. Fortify. Survive. Then you can lose your head in tears and shame. OK, she nodded. She started to apologize, but was interrupted when the truck screeched to another sudden halt and threw everyone forward. Sasha's head hit the front seat again and her world dissolved into stars. **** Tooley cried. Something rammed the rear of the truck. Sasha lost all orientation to reality. When her head and eyes cleared, the first thing she saw was Tooley, nursing a broken nose. Blood poured down the other woman's face. Manny seemed intact. Sasha looked behind them and saw a small sedan had dashed itself against the bed of their truck. It must have been following right behind when Tuuli hit the brakes. Sasha swung her eyes front to see why they'd stopped. She saw Roland. He stood maybe 10 feet in front of the truck's hood. That arm racer of his was extended again, but the blade was cracked in half, shattered. His other hand held some sort of large black assault rifle he hadn't been carrying in the jail. The pistol grip grenade launcher he'd been carrying was still with him, but he'd holstered it in an open hole in his belly. The left side of his cheek had been ripped away, most of his hair was burnt off, and Sasha made out at least one clear bullet hole in his forehead. There might have been more. All the caked on blood and gore made it hard to discern. His clothing had been mostly shot, burned or torn away. The dominant colours on his body were black and red, with a few horrible spots of white where bones shone through in the open air. The city behind him was all smoke and fire. Emergency lights from several vehicles blinked madly in the miasma, but there were no martyrs or emergency workers visible. At least none that were standing. Sasha saw several terribly still bodies lying among the piles of rubble. Roland staggered towards the truck and flung the passenger side door open. He slumped into the seat, bringing with him an overpowering stink of blood and fire. He leaned back in his seat and took three long breaths, and then he spoke. We're heads pretty clear, but you might wanna hang a right and then take a left. Avoid the traffic. Tooly nodded, and the truck jerked forward again. The ride out was so easy it scared Sasha. In fact, it seemed to scare everyone but Roland. Manny's Knuckles grew wider and wider as they navigated their way out of the old Metroplex. Tully's expression didn't change. But her body shook with nervous energy, and her jaw was set so tight that the veins on her neck bulged from the strain. It was a mercy that Rick was unconscious by that point. Convoys of military vehicles rolled past them, sometimes escorting ambulances and other emergency vehicles, sometimes bringing more soldiers to the chunk of the city rolled into devastated. Sasha's heart leapt into her throat every single time, but somehow no one stopped their truck. Roland assured them all that it would be fine. I kicked their ***** so hard. It will take him an hour to find their cheeks. His only discomfort came once they left the zone of active danger. He seemed to deflate then. After 1/2 hour on the road, his wounds had mostly healed. The new skin that grew back underneath seemed weirdly dark compared to the skin above it. Rowland scratched at it and irritation. And then, as casually as if he'd been tossing an Apple core, he ripped off his face in one smooth motion and tossed the bloody skin out the window. Jesus, dude, Manny said, disgusted. Couldn't you have waited until we weren't all in the car? Sasha stared in shock. Her hands started to tremble and she felt the urge to vomit, but she fought it down and forced her stomach to an uneasy calm. You've seen worse than this now, and that was true. She looked back at Rowland and forced herself to take in his new face, which she guessed was really his old face. Neither iteration of him had been exactly handsome. She watched in queasy fascination as he picked the rest of the white skin from his hands and tossed it out the window. When he'd finished, he glanced up at Sasha. What? He asked please tell me you're not a racist. This would be a real bad time for you to be racist. She's not racist, dude, Manny said. You just ripped your skin. Off that freaks people out. Ohh, said Roland. Right, sorry. It's OK, she said. This is just my first time seeing someone rip off their own skin. First roll and grunted, but probably not last. Sasha didn't have the guts to question him, so she kept quiet for the rest of the ride. So did most of the other passengers. For a long time they only sounds. Inside the truck were Ricks unconscious moans and Rowlands occasional directions to Tooley. He led them through underpopulated neighborhoods and around checkpoints, passed blackened buildings and wrecks of military vehicles destroyed during the Heavenly Kingdom's first great advance. Sasha was surprised at the emptiness of most of the city. She began to understand why Manny called this place Ciudad de Muerta. It took them two hours to escape the city sprawl and finally make their way out onto the open plains. They avoided the main highway that linked Dallas to Waco and instead spiderwebbed their way across a series of farm roads. Every few minutes, they'd roll past the bones of a rural town. Every town out here seemed abandoned as dead and dry as the acres of yellow grass that swallowed them up. A little before dark, they rolled over a decrepit bridge across a dry riverbed. A bullet riddled sign identified this area as Basque County. Rowland put a hand on Manny's shoulder and pointed towards a big metal barn on the horizon. Take us up there. We should probably stop for the night. What truly spoke up why we could be at rolling **** in an hour. Roland shook his head. We got 2 routes back to the city. Either we find the main highway and deal with Kingdom patrols, or we keep riding these country roads. That'll take at least another two or three hours and a lot of time off road in the dark. There's no better recipe for cracking an axle or blowing a tire. Tully fumed, but she rolled the truck up and through a gap in what had once been the fence line of a farm. There were a lot of farmhouses around them, stretched out across acres and acres of fields and pecan orchards. They all looked abandoned, devoid of light, half reclaimed by vegetation. The barn Roland LED them to was just as empty. There were large holes in the sheet metal roof, and chunks of the metal walls had been peeled away for scrap metal. The underlying structure had been built from metal girders, though it seemed solid. They got out of the truck Roland helped Julie. Carry her lover across the last few yards of field and into the old barn. The innards of the building were dusty, rusted tools hung from the wall, and boxes of assorted goods littered the floor. Some of them had been ripped open by scavengers, but most looked like they'd sat unmolested since the property had been abandoned. Manny found an old couch inside. Roland and Tooley helped Rick on to it. Then Roland walked off into the middle of the barn and started to root around in boxes. He came back a minute later with a load of canned goods in one arm and a handle of brown liquor in the other. He sat the whole lot down on the ground next to the couch, held up a can labeled water in big red letters, and then punched his finger through the top of the can. He handed it to Tuli and she helped Rick drink. He was semi conscious now. Sasha thought there might be a little more color in his cheeks. Roland opened three more cans, one of water and two filled with some sort of gloopy beef Stew. He ripped the aluminum tops open with his bare fingers and then passed them around. Sasha was still too deep, in the throes of depression and adrenaline dump age to have any kind of appetite. The brown, Gray color of the Stew didn't help with that, but Manny insisted she take a gulp, and as soon as the food hit her tongue, Sasha realized she was starving. She took two more deep gulps of the salty, mushy mass before passing it along to Tooley. The crew ate and rehydrated without conversation, although not in silence. The sounds of gulping and lip smacking filled the barn. For a few minutes, Roland didn't join in the eating. Instead, he popped open the liquor bottle and drained it dry. Over the course of about 90 seconds, the big man closed his eyes. A smile crept up onto his features and he gave a deep, contented sigh. When the food was almost gone, he stood up and staggered back into the piles of gear to grab two more bottles. These ones were filled with an off yellow liquid. He sat one down in between Manny and Sasha and immediately began to guzzle the 2nd. Many glanced at Sasha than at Tooly. Then down at the bottle. He popped the top and took a belt. Then he offered it to Sasha if there was ever a time to dive into drinking. It's the day I killed two people. Sasha took the bottle and stared at it for a second. The label said Talisker and identified it as a product of Scotland. The bottle itself was covered in dust. He Roland? She asked, suddenly curious. Did you know this place would have food and water and alcohol? Roland paused, draining his second bottle, and fixed Sasha with his strange blue eyes. He looked tired for the first time since she'd met him. Sasha wasn't sure if that was due to the rampage he'd just carried out, or her question. I've been here before, he half mumbled years ago, back before this old chunk of dirt was as much of a shithole as it is now. Wait, did you used to live here? Manny asked. I don't know. Roland shrugged. What do you mean, you don't know? You clearly know this farm. He shrugged and gave a vague wave with his free hand. I have memories of this place. Bright lights at night, people dancing, drugs and wine and people and songs. I have memories of packing the supplies into boxes, buying ammunition. He nodded towards the still locked door of the barn. I remember locking that thing up, but I don't remember why, exactly. I might have lived here. I might have belonged to a friend either way. I feel like the last time I was here was back before the revolution. His mind is full of holes, Manny explained. Something happened to him a few years back. He remembers pieces of who he is, what he's done, but not everything. Tully kicked Sasha gently in the hip. She gestured to the bottle of whiskey. If you're not drinking past the bottle, some of us have grieving to do. On impulse, Sasha took a pull from the bottle. She started to hand it over to Julie, but then the taste hit her and she gagged. It was like someone had lit a fire in her throat, one that tasted of burning peat. She coughed and hacked for several seconds while Tully and Roland laughed. Once she regained her breath, Sasha finally handed off the bottle. You'll get better at it, the woman said, her lips twisted up into what might have been a real smile. Whiskey is an acquired taste, like cigars, Nanna Archy. Two they took a very deep hole inside and satisfaction. She handed the bottle off to Manny and started gently petting Rick's face. The wounded man was asleep, but he seemed much healthier than he had been 1/2 hour earlier. How are you doing, Sasha? Manny asked. His eyes met hers and Sasha saw a deep concern in his gaze. I'm fine, she said, not really meaning it. She's all ****** ** over the guy she killed for the truck, tooly grunted. Shouldn't be ****** picked the wrong side. So did I Sasha tried to keep the anger out of her voice. At first. Darrell was a good man. He didn't deserve to die. Neither did Marigold, said Tooley. Neither did Major Peron. Manny added in a quiet voice. They hung him on the day you and I met. The whole world's full of good dead people, said Julie. My advice? Don't cry over someone you shot and Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for. None of that. For anyone who hates their phone Bill, Mint Mobile offers premium. 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We can't save chimps, forests or anything else, and that becomes very clear when you look at poverty around the world. If you're living in poverty, you can't afford to ask as we can. Did this product harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals like, was it factory farmed? Is it cheap because of unfair wages paid to people? And so alleviating poverty is tremendously important. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors from your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we hear at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes there are answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research. With you for the first time ever in a book format, you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know now. It's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. Self-defense. That's a karmic freebie. The guy had a gun, Manny added. Seems like he just did what you had to do. Rolando was quiet through all this. He kept drinking, but his pace had slowed, his face took on a dark cast and he slumped down into his chair. He seemed to collapse in on himself a little. Look, Cheeka, Tully said there was a slight drunken slur to her words. Now, I know I gave you a hard time and it was dumb as **** you to move to this Kingdom, but I give you credit for breaking free and for helping us escape. You might be a little dumb, but you aren't bad people in my book. Don't beat yourself up over doing what you had to do. There was quiet for a little while. Manny passed the bottle to Sasha. She took another gulp and managed to hold it down. This time. Tully nodded in approval. When Sasha passed the whiskey on, Sasha found her eyes drawn once more to Daryl's gun. It was tucked into Tully's waistband. Roland cleared his throat and gave a loud flammy cough. Sasha looked back at him. You didn't ask me for an opinion, he said. But since everyone else's way in and I might as well, there ain't nothing wrong with feeling bad about murder, even justified murder. But personally, I don't think that's what's ******* you up. What do you mean? She asked. He drained the last of the whiskey bottle and tossed it off into the darkness. It landed with a clank. I got real good senses, you know. Can't turn them off. So I heard your heart rate. I smelled the neurotransmitters running through your synapses. I could taste the guilt wafting off you, but that's not the only thing I taste. He locked his unsteady gaze on hers. Sasha stared into the cold blue of his pupils. A chill ran down her spine. Sweat beaded on the back of her neck. When he spoke next, his voice was barely above a whisper. Back at the jail, when you crush that guy's skull with a helmet, you enjoyed yourself. You liked it. Sasha broke his gaze. She stared down at her lap and struggled to find a reply, but there was nothing else for her to say. Roland was right. Hello and welcome to our show. I'm Zoe Deschanel and I'm so excited to be joined by my friends and castmates, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris. To recap our hit television series New Girl. Join us every Monday on the welcome to our show podcast, where we'll share behind the scenes stories of your favorite New Girl episodes, reveal the truth behind the legendary game True American, and discuss how this show got made with the writers, guest stars, and directors who made the show so special. Fans have been begging us to do a New Girl recap for years, and we finally made a podcast where we answer all your burning questions. Like, is there really a bear in every episode of New Girl? Plus, each week you'll hear hilarious stories like this at the end when he says you got some Schmidt on your face. I feel like I pitched that joke. I believe that. I feel like I did. I'm not 1000% I want to say that was I I tossed that one out. Listen to the welcome to our show podcast on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. I'm Eve Rodsky, author of the New York Times Bestseller Fair play and find your Unicorn space activists on the gender division of Labor attorney and family mediator. And I'm doctor Edina Rucar, a Harvard physician and medical correspondent with an expertise in the science of stress, resilience, mental health, and burnout. We're so excited to share our podcast, time out, a production of iheart podcasts, and Hello Sunshine, we're uncovering why society makes it so hard for women to treat their time with the. Value it deserves, so take this time out with us. Listen to time out a Fair Play podcast on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. When PT Barnum's Great American Museum burned to the ground in 1865, what rose from its ashes would change the world. Welcome to grim and mild presents an ongoing journey into the strange, the unusual, and the fascinating. For our inaugural season, we'll be giving you a backstage tour of the Always complex and often misunderstood cultural artifact that is the American sideshow. So come along as we visit the shadowy corners of the stage and learn about the people who are at the center of it. In a place where spectacle was king, we will soon discover there's always more to the story than meets the eye, so step right up and get in line. Listen to grim and male presents now on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Learn more over at grim and Chapter 22 Manny rolling **** was as bright, shiny and chaotic as it had been when he left, but many could see a real change among the citizens themselves. Gone were the lounging crowds of half naked people. Instead of the perpetual party, a war camp spread out around the great superstructure of the city. Hundreds of men and women were busy dawning armour. Applying war paint and checking over stacks of weaponry. Manny saw crates of guided mortars. Piles of rocket launchers, boxes of high velocity ammunition, and enough firearms to equip every citizen. A dozen times over. There was no discernible rolling **** uniform that Manny could see. Some of the city's warriors wore powered body armor, painted in garish colors and bedecked with various quotations. **** your day seemed particularly popular. Many of them wore pieces of pop culture costumery mixed in with their gear. Manny recognized Darth Vader's helmet, Hellboy's red right hand, and a surprising number of people. With Mickey Mouse's face spray painted on their chest armor. An equal number of falchions wore no armor at all. Some of them were dressed in their normal flowing lounge garments. The weapons they wore were the only signs that they had plans beyond debauchery. Others were naked, or mostly so. He saw one man wearing the helmet of a Greek hoplite and carrying two Viking axes on his back. He saw a woman with a dragon off rifle on her back, an old German stalhelm on her head, an Ottoman mirror armor on her chest. She waved at them, excited. It took Manny a second to recognize Topaz's face. Under the helmet. They're here. They're she stopped. Tulie had stopped too. She cast her face down. Many could see the shimmer of tears on her cheeks. A crowd gathered around them. In a few seconds they were encircled by dozens of heavily armed post humans in a dizzying array of war costumes. School ******. Mike pushed his way to the front and ran up to embrace Tooley. Manny was surprised when she started to ***. The big man held her tight, but looked to Roland. What happened? Roland gave him a look that said you know damn well what happened, but then he spoke anyway. Your friend didn't make it. Skull ******. Mike's jaw went tight, his eyes bulged, and he held on to truly a little tighter. Manny thought back to the night they'd spent in brain Breakers and the things he'd said about Merigold man. He hadn't really known the woman at all, but he could tell Mike had cared deeply for her. He looked around at the crowd closing in on them, the dozens of half human God monsters with helpless rage carved onto their faces. What happened? Mike demanded. Roland opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and ran a hand over his bald head. He opened his mouth again, managed to squeeze out an eye before he slumped his shoulders and hung his head. I wasn't fast enough, he said. Finally they had better gear, newer suits than I'd expected. Skull ******. Mike stared at him. Behind him, topez slid down to the ground and buried her head in her knees. Murmurs swept the crowd. And then Sasha spoke up. Your friend saved my life. Mike looked over and seemed to notice her for the first time. And who are you? His voice was not unfriendly. It wasn't exactly warm either. My name is Sasha, she said, her voice clearly on the edge of a ***. She looked from Mike to Tooley, to Topaz, to the crowd, and then back to Manny. He saw panic in her eyes, barely held in check by a cage of steely resolve. I made a mistake. I left my home for the Kingdom. I thought it was the right thing to do. I met Marigold while I was there, and she helped me see how wrong I'd been. She pointed to Roland. I tried to help him free your people. We all tried, but they were ready for us. They shot him. She gestured to Roland. They shot him a lot. They had us all dead to rights. And then Marigold. I don't know how, but she got a gun. She shot two of them. And then they shot her. She died saving us. The silence that followed was louder than any artillery barrage Manny had ever sat through. Finally, skull ****** Mike nodded at her. There were tears in his eyes, and Manny soon realized tears on every face in the crowd. Some people fell to their knees, others embraced and held their friends. 1 voice hoarse and heavy with pain, howled out in anguish. It was met by another voice, and then another, and then another as ***** and after ***** and tilted their head back and roared their grief out to the empty blue of the Texas sky. Rolling **** preferred to mourn through activity, though. Whaling and mashing of teeth over Marigold didn't stop the city's medics from taking Rick and Julie to whatever building served as their equivalent of a clinic. Topaz stayed behind with the Gathering crowd of mourners while skull ****** Mike gathered up Manny, Sasha, and Roland. There will be time to process later. He'd set as much to himself as to them. There's a war council soon, and they'll be wanting to debrief you. Fine, Roland said. But I'm stopping at the bar first. I need some opium, and some got empty. Ella. Many expected skull ****** Mike to be angered by that given the circumstances, but the other chromed man just nodded and said I could use a drink or 9 myself. They headed for the lift underneath the main roller. Manny started to prepare himself for the meeting with this war council. Whatever that term meant. In a place like this, whatever happens, it's bound to be weird. They reached the lift, skull ******. Mike opened the door and gestured for everyone to enter. And so, less than an hour after arriving back in the city of Wheels, Manny, Sasha, and Roland found themselves seated around the same Redwood table where they'd first met Nana Yassi and Donald Ferris. The room was more crowded this time around, with two new people he didn't recognize. One was a shirtless man with writhing snake tattoos across his chest, and a pair of chaps that did nothing at all to cover up his junk. It didn't help that the man's legs were spread as wide as possible. He seemed to be deliberately showing off. Manny looked away and found himself staring at a very tall, very muscular young seeming woman with a Mohawk made from thick Chrome spikes. She had light brown skin. Her cheeks were covered in several long, thin diagonal scars. The woman's eyes had no pupils. They looked Gray at 1st until Manny realized they were actually just filled with static. When Manny finally pulled his gaze away from her, he was met with the biggest surprise of the day. Deshaun Clark was seated 2 chairs down from Nana Yazzi Major Clark manage the majors lips cracked open into a wide mouthed grin. The left side of his face was still covered in hemostatic gauze, and the edges of the skin around the gauze looked black and burnt. His right hand was a smooth, angry pink color, a sure sign that had been severed and regrown in the recent past. Major Clark was bloody, but unbowed. It's damn good to see you, Manny. I can't tell you how proud I was to hear you've volunteered for this mission. Mr Perrone, Manny started to say, but Major Clark put up his hand. I know, he said. Donald Ferris a hemmed, which many took as a gentle reminder that now was not the time for personal business. The old Brit gestured first to the man with a riding snake tattoos. This is Jim Shannon, he said. He heads up a small mercenary outfit and the guy who roped Roland into helping Jim said with a wink. And this cheery lass Donald pointed to, the woman with a Chrome hawk is Kishori. She's been the city's elected war leader for the past three years. And who might this young lady be? Nanny Yazzie asked, nodding at Sasha. The old woman stood and stepped forward to greet Sasha with a hug. Sasha tensed up. She looked scared to return the embrace, so Nana Yazzi backed off and favoured the girl with a warm smile. I'm sorry child, I didn't mean to pressure you. I'm just happy you're here with us. Sasha relaxed at that, but she still didn't step forward. Her name's Sasha, said Roland. She used to be with the Kingdom, now she's not. He paused a second, considered his words, and added she beat one of them to death with a helmet. Oh my. Oh dear. Nana Yazzie tested and shook her head. I'm so sorry, Sasha. That must have been a terrible experience for you. She enjoyed it. Jim said with a harsh bark of a laugh. I'm sure Rowland smells it too. Isn't that a rat, Hun? You loved killing whoever the **** you killed and you feel ****** about that. Well, let me. You'll stop right now or you'll leave this room. Nana. Yazzie's voice was firm but devoid of any anger or heat. To many shock. Jim stopped the post. Human nodded. That said, I apologize, Sasha. That was * **** ****. And then he lowered his eyes just a little and contrition. Nana Yazzi offered Sasha seat and then busied herself in the corner making Sasha a cup of tea. Once that was done and they were all settled in, Nana sat back down and looked at Manny. What happened is all she asked. Manny started talking, he told her, and by extension, the whole table. Everything that had happened since he and Roland left rolling ****. He told them about their trouble with the checkpoints on the way into town. He walked them through the intake process, his enrollments few days as martyrs and training, and what he'd seen in the few sections of Plano he'd been allowed to haunt during his time there. The woman with the Chrome hawk was particularly interested in what he and Roland had to say about the kingdom's preferred assault tactics. They're not going to be kicking in doors and fighting house to house Roland. Explained. And we'll just start shelling at the first sign of resistance. They don't care about civilian casualties. When Manny explained what the Kingdom had been doing at the old Tesla factory, almost everyone looked horrified. Donald Ferris spat at the ground. Most of the others cursed, or at least shook their heads. Nana Yazzie teared up. Jim, though, seemed almost enthusiastic about the revelation. Fascinating, he muttered, just loud enough for Manny to hear. Once everyone was caught up, the table fired off a few questions at him and more towards Roland. They seemed mostly curious as to what they'd been able to glean about the number of recruits in the Heavenly Kingdom. Manny didn't have much useful there, so he shut up, leaned back, and let Roland give the answers. An awkward silence descended on the table after a few minutes. Well, Donald, Ferris said finally. I suppose we were fools to hope for much more than what you got. As it stands, were left grappling to try and account for the sheer number of men the Kingdom has deployed to assault Austin. 20,000 Modas, Jim spoke up. Give it take a grand. Manny's blood went cold. The SDF, at its height, hadn't been more than 6000 fighters, and those were spread out across the Seried battlegrounds of North Texas. The whole free City of Austin didn't have more than 5000 people in its full time Defense Corps. 20,000 men was impossible, he said. That's just ******* impossible. I'd be inclined to agree with you, kid, said Jim. If my own men hadn't double checked the count for us. The kingdoms already marshalled half of that force on the outskirts of DF. To be near Lancaster, they'll be in Waco tomorrow if no one stops them. Hell, they could be pound in Austin with artillery by dock. Donald Ferris nodded. Mr Shannon here? He gestured to Jim has agreed to lend a hand along with several dozen of his mercenaries. Add that to the warriors of rolling **** and we've got 700 ish posthumans. It's a large enough force to hold Waco and badly bloody their nose, but Kishori spoke for the first time. She had a deep, gravelly voice that sounded like she'd been eating cigarettes for the last 10 years. Rolling **** is not in the business of volunteering for our own vietnams. My people aren't signing up for a war. I can guarantee our presence on the battlefield for up to 48 hours, enough time for vengeance, she continued. After that, you're herding cats. Is that a problem? Manny asked. I mean, I saw Roland lay waste to half a city, 600 of him. There's only one of him, Kishori said. Jim nodded in agreement and fixed Manny with his uncomfortable Gray eyes. Let's see, kid, he said. Mia. Anyone are rolling *****. Warriors is good for a few dozen normal troops in a straight fight, more if we're talking half trained partisans. But nobody is like Roland. Many looked over to Roland. The big man seemed distinctly uncomfortable with all the attention. He stared down at his hands, which seemed to be occupied with tearing up a paper drink coaster. The Maddas have a lot of half trained partisans, but they've also got tanks, artillery suits, the resources of a nation state, or close enough. Roland **** can hold that off for a while, but without rolling, the best they can do is delay the inevitable. Now with Roland, Jim continued. This is a 2 hour fight, tops. We set up our troops and some little chunk of the city and start dropping mortars and rockets on the vanguard. They pull up and circle us and start deploying their artillery to bomb us to Kingdom come. Then, when they're good and packed together, we drop Roland on their *****. Kishori nodded. Yes, she said. He'll hit them and disrupt their whole order of battle while our cavalry rolls around their flanks and charges. That should be enough to make them panic. Then we'd chase them down until they lose cohesion. Roland's head stayed down. He didn't speak. Manny looked from him to Jim Tanana Yazzie and Donald Ferris. So what's the problem? Manny asked. If Roland and rolling **** are all in, this should be a walk in the park. Roland, Nanny, Ozzie said, prefers not to fight. But I just saw him. You just saw me break a long streak and not killing people. Roland's voice sounded odd, hollow and dry, and utterly without any of the merthur mischief Manny had come to expect from the chromed man. I did that to get my memories back, Manny. He shrugged. And I did it for you because you're my buddy. But I got no stake in Austin. But you know what the Heavenly Kingdom will do if they take the city, Manny protested. You've seen what they did to Plano. They'll do that to millions of decent people if they can. You have the power to stop that. You're telling me you won't? Roland met his eyes and just said yes. You *** ** * *****. Manny felt the anger well up inside him. It merged with his grief over Major Peroni's death, Oscar's death, and his rage at the Heavenly Kingdom, the martyrs, and every other group of ******** who'd helped turn his young life into a parade of nightmares. Hugh. Absolute *** ** * *****. You ******* coward. Manny didn't think. Couldn't think. He pulled back his fist and swung as hard as he could for Roland's face. The chromed man didn't move, didn't even blink. Many hit him right in the nose. He was softer than Manny would have guessed. Didn't feel any different from punching a normal human. Manny swung again and again until he felt something crack in his knuckles. He cried out from the pain and pulled back to nurse his wounded hand. For a few seconds, Manny forgot about the rest of the room. He closed his eyes and let his thoughts dissolve into an ocean of physical pain. The agony of his broken hand was almost soothing. It was better than thinking about Mr Peron. It was better than thinking about Alejandro or Oscar. It was better than thinking about his soon to be shattered home. Many felt a hand on his shoulder. The sensation pulled him out of his spiraling thoughts. He looked up and saw Nanny Yazzie. She smiled her sad smile and said, Manny, everyone here understands your pain, not me, said Jim. I've never been a big fan. Austin too. Damn. Rolling through his empty pint glass at the other post humans face, it shattered on impact, embedding shards deep into Jim's cheeks and forehead. His head snapped back and he blinked in shock a few times. Sorry, he said. I deserve that, and I deserved that, Roland said to Manny. No hard feelings. I get why you're ******. But kid, you gotta understand something. Austin's home to you. To me, it's just another city held by just another side. Half my remaining memories are of 1 cause or another asking me to go murder in their name. I'm ******* done with it. Manny looked to Major Clark. The SDF officers eyes were lit by a familiar cold fire. He spoke in a tone of barely controlled anger. That is your right, of course, you can choose to leave, just as I will choose to fight and die. I wonder what Manny will choose. Many hadn't really settled on that himself before he could stumble through his response. Sasha spoke. All fight, she said. I don't know much about guns, but I'll do my best. Roland slumped back in his chair and tossed his arms up in a dramatic show of frustration at 2. Jesus girl, I'll fight, Manny said to Major Clark, doing his best to talk over Roland. I'll choose to fight, too. This isn't gonna work, you know, Roland said. I'm not going to be shamed into fighting again. It's just not going to ******* happen. Jim leaned in. He fixed Roland with a look that seemed almost hungry. I think it will happen. I think the peculiar ark of your moral compass won't let you leave these kids to die. He seemed surprised by the revelation. Huh. Fascinating. Enough of that, Donald Ferris sounded angry. I won't stand to see this man badgered and pressured into fighting against his will. We might as well. Solve the Council for now and reconvene without Roland. Good. Roland stood up and stomped over to the exit. That's all you people need for me. I'm going to go get good and ****** and start my walk back to Arizona. He flipped his middle finger out at the room and slammed the door behind him as he left. All eyes turned to Manny. I should probably go talk to him. Don't do anything you're not comfortable doing, Emmanuel Donald said. **** there, Jim said the best. It's on the ropes. Shame him. Shame him good. As he headed for the exit, Manny looked to Major Clark. The old soldiers. One good eye was narrow and focused. Manny, he said if he didn't want to talk, he wouldn't have gone up to the bar. He'd have just left. There's no honor lost in another conversation. Another try. Roland was three beers in by the time Manny reached him, and knowing rolling **** that could mean he'd already ingested enough acid to kill a large octopus. Hey, Manny said. Hey buddy, Roland replied in a voice that was just super stoned. Sorry about getting angry back there. The Posthumans spun his empty pint glass around on the bar table. It was a strange sight to see. Manny had gotten so used to seeing Roland as something akin to a Greek God. He certainly wasn't omniscient or omnipotent, but he was unspeakably powerful and just as irresponsible to leave out around humans. And yet here he was, fiddling with an empty pint glass like a nervous college freshman standing at the back wall of some house party. Many felt a surge of sympathy. It's OK, man. I think I actually get it, he said. Like I've had plenty of chances to join either the SDF or the Austin Defense forces. I never did. Maybe some of that's because I'm scared. Hell, up until like a few days ago, my plan was to get the **** *** this continent as soon as I could afford it. Manny paused and bit his lip. It was an instinctive gesture, his guts reaction to a sudden burst of self-awareness. Manny hadn't thought about any of this before. I don't know, he said. This ****** been going on basically my whole life. I can't remember a time when I wasn't scared of something like this happening. I didn't understand any of it as a kid, but I can remember being seven or eight years old and just being so angry at the soldiers, even our soldiers. I thought if all you ******** would just refuse to be let into battle, none of this could happen. You know that's not how it works, right? Roland asked as he turned away from Manny and waved at the bartender. We love this warship. At least some of us do. Those of us who were. Oh, the bartender arrived. Roland ordered a my time mixed with a Margarita and one of those. What do you got, M column? Oh yeah, a ******* mojito. Roland Manny's voice was gentle but firm. How many beers did you drink before I got here? Not beers, Roland said in a casual voice. Mushroom rum. Sweet, but not bad. He licked his lips as he watched the bartender work through the Herculean task of crafting his requested beverage. Roland, Manny said, and the chromed man turned back to him. Her. Sorry, it's just been too long a stretch of sober for me. I got excited. What the **** was I saying? That war is fun? Oh yeah, as long as you don't think you will die. That's why all throughout history had so many generals and politicians kicking off conflicts because they felt safe. And when you're pretty sure you'll live, war is an absolute hoot. That's the problem with me and fighting. The problem is, you like it too much. Roland grabbed his hand. The chromed man moved so fast Manny didn't even see the motion blur. Roland's hand was just wrapped around his wrist and movable. He squeezed hard enough that it hurt. Roland's eyes bulged out and stared into Manny with a manic intensity. That was frightening. I ******* love it. It's like sex on heroin and bungee jumping and getting rammed in the ***. And that first shot of liquor you snake when you're 14 all at once and mix with the best actual battle drugs, the most bloated military budget in history. And by. He loosened his grip and turned half away from Manny. That's why I shouldn't do it, because I'll get carried away like I got carried away in Dallas. Maybe this time I won't be able to stop. When it's time to stop. Many kept his eyes on Rowlands. The big man turned a little further to the left. But he didn't look away. How do you know that your intervention won't make things better? Manny asked. Maybe if we can kill enough in the martyrs, their power will be broken forever. Maybe your intervention will be the first step towards making this a more livable part of the globe. Roland laughed. It started as a low chuckle that then cascaded into a series of rolling rib cracking howls. Many didn't get the joke and he couldn't find any humour in his words, so he sat tight until Roland's mirth subsided and the chromed man had recovered enough to explain himself. Sorry, he said between chuckles. Just **** kid. You're too young to know how funny that is. Rolling straightened up and wiped a tear from his eye. So you're talking about me the exact same way people talked about the US military back when I was a kid. The bartender came by and sat down. Roland's drink an enormous jug filled with a multi hued mix of alcoholic beverages. The posthuman took a deep pole from his Mai Tai Guerito. Manny took the chance to ask a question. I thought you didn't remember anything further back than a few years ago. I don't remember anything clearly, Roland said. But I do remember bits and pieces and I remember being a young man and watching the news break in an off base bar. Some election had gone bad in Bolivia. The president announced he was sending in soldiers to keep the peace. Did it work? Manny asked. I'm no kid. Would your school teach you about Bolivia that there was a genocide at? Oh, Manny said as Roland's point sunk in. Right? Yep. Roland grunted and took another deeper pull from his ridiculous beverage. They were quiet for a while. Manny took the opportunity to take a long look at Roland. His face held only a few lines around his eyes and lips, and yet he still looked old, positively ancient. There appeared to be a tremendous weight to the man's eyes, accentuated. With the deep wrinkles underneath them, it looked as if the chromed man's face was sagging underneath the weight of what he had seen. Roland? Manny asked. Do you have any idea where you came from? I think I was born around Mississippi, but no many interrupted. Not like where you were born, but how you became what you are today. You said you've been disconnected from the Internet for the last 10 years. I've got to guess your implants are even older than that, but the way everyone here talks about you, you're still king ****. Ah, Roland said. Yeah, that. I got no real idea what happened there. I know I was in the army. I'm pretty sure that's when the tinkering started. Sure, Manny said. But didn't a lot of the rude people start his ex special forces who went rogue? Why are you special? They had no clear answer to that, buddy. He smiled as if he just remembered something good. I guess I've got that surgery coming up. Once I get my memories back, I'll let you know what I find out. Manny laughed too, but his was cold and bitter. Sure, I'll probably be in a refugee camp at that point. Or dead. Damn, kid, Roland said. Yeah, Manny said. I'm really not trying to manipulate you here. It's just now. I get it. I get it. Rolling. Waved him off. It's fair. You got every right to be ****** that just can't. He trailed off. Many put a hand on Roland's shoulder. He didn't understand how the posthuman felt. How could he? Manny couldn't even conceive of having that kind of power, but he could see why it was a difficult choice. There was a part of Manny, a dark, manipulative chunk of his soul that knew he was on his way to changing. Bolens mind, this was essentially the same strategy he used on the job. You built empathy with people through a combination of shared experiences and regular engagement. That empathy paid dividends when you needed some lieutenants approval to cross the rich checkpoint. It would pay dividends here if he was careful and consistent. That's ****** ** man, he thought. You're manipulating your friend into killing a bunch of people. You know what Manny said? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to roll and drain the rest of his mug belched and looked over at Manny. He looked unsteady, half conscious. The Crumbed man put his left hand over Manny's hand while it rested on his shoulder. He fixed Manny with his half focused eyes and nodded. Fugget, Roland said. Oh, fuggin help you and be * **** if it didn't. Thank you, Manny said with a nod. I know, don't say anything else, kid. I don't really want to think about what I just promised to do. Manny found Sasha sitting around a fire pit outside the city proper, deep in conversation with Donald Ferris. She sat on the ground, legs splayed out wide with her **** in the grass. Donald sat in a folding chair. It wasn't cold outside, precisely, but it had cooled off a great deal from the heat of the day. The air held just the barest tent of winter. It was shaping up to be one of those odd September days where Texas seemed on the verge of an actual seasonal shift. One look at Sasha's face told him that she was at least as unsettled as Roland. He didn't want to crowd her, so he squatted down on the other side of Donald. Emmanuel, the old man's voice was as smooth and rich as man, he remembered from the narration of his documentary. It's good to see you. Sasha's been telling me her story. She actually just turned to the subject of you. Yeah? Manny asked. Yes. She was telling me how she met you in Marigold and how you both helped her find her way free of the Kingdom. Oh, he said, and looked to Sasha. I never really met Marigold. I didn't realize you knew her well. Sasha shook her head. I only knew her a little while. I was just supposed to be administering tests to her, but I couldn't stop her from talking, and she made sense. She made more sense than what was going on out in the Kingdom every day. Sasha stared down into the fading embers of the fire. I feel stupid forever believing in that place. And what do you believe now? Donald asked. I don't know, she said. It seems arrogant to decide that God doesn't exist just because I let myself get taken in by a cult. Hmm? The old man nodded. The good news is, you're young. You've got plenty of time to figure things out again. His cheeks turned up into a smile and his face blossomed with wrinkles. Now he looked up at Manny. What have you been up to, Madea boy? Talking to Roland, Manny said he agreed to help by the way he's going to fight. Donald Ferris's smile turned into a frown. Manny hadn't been expecting that. How did you do it? He asked in a somber, grave voice. We just talked for a while, Manny said. He explained why he didn't want to fight. It sounded very reasonable. Manny paused and then made the choice to lie just a little. I wasn't trying to change his mind. I didn't ask him to help that. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. 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In this special episode, we sit down with Doctor Jane Goodall to hear her inspiring thoughts on how we can create a better future for humans, animals and the environment. Anything, particularly young children out into nature so that they can experience it and take time off from this virtual world of being always on your cell phones and so on. And get the feel of nature so that you come to be fascinated, then you come to want to understand it, and then you come to love it, and at that point you want to protect it. And then we'll come to the sort of healthy world that I envision as a good future for us. And the rest of life on this planet. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors from your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we here at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes there are answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research with you. For the first time ever in a book format, you can preorder stuff they don't want you to know. Now it's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. Last part was true at least. I do feel bad though. I'm sure he changed his mind because of me. Is it really on you if he chooses to fight? Asha asked. I killed two men. Both of those deaths are on me. But you didn't order Roland to do anything. No, Donald Ferris agreed. But I doubt Roland would have made the decision to intervene if Manny hadn't pressed. That's probably true, Manny admitted. Donald looked for Manny to Sasha. There's a war ritual peculiar to the men and women and whatevers of this community. I think you'd benefit from seeing it. A ritual? Sasha asked. Not a religious one, I assure you, but yes, they call it their war ritual. He extended a hand out to the field around rolling ****. Many looked out at it for the first time since coming out here and realized that people seemed to be packing up right now, Donald said, the citizens of packing up their tents and their avis and preparing the city for departure. It's moving out with their army. No drive, that thing. He jerked a thumb in the direction of the City of Wheels, right up to the dam battlefield. It'll be behind them the whole time they're fighting. I think they stole the idea from the ancient Celts. Anyway, he said, once the city's in position, they'll open up these little boxes that look quite a lot like beehives and the lead out of swarm of about 1000 little drones. Those are mostly just facial recognition cameras attached to wings and a wee engine, though. Record everything and send data on the faces of every enemy fighter to a central computer in the city. What good does that do? Manny asked. It gives us a chance to identify those men or women so we can scrape their social media profiles and display pictures. And videos from their lives once they die, the whole city. Everyone who isn't fighting turns out to watch that. That sounds ******* terrible, Manny said. What do we gain from watching the home movies of dead men? A memorial. Manny didn't understand, but he could see that Donald Ferris was revving himself up for an involved explanation. He let the old man speak. I was a small child when my country invaded Iraq, along with the United States and a few other nations. The war was news, yes, but that's all it was. Even our own soldiers were more numbers than real people. I'd hear that 2 Royal Marines had died in a roadside bombing, and it meant less to me than when my neighbour broke his leg slipping down the stairs. War isn't like that for us, Manny said. I don't know anyone in Austin who hasn't lost a friend or family to the fighting. It affects us all. So it does, my boy. So it does. And if any of our warriors die today, you can bet it'll affect everyone in this social experiment we call a city. But you didn't let me finish. The first thing that was truly toxic about my childhood knowledge of war is that it erased the other side. Our boys didn't do body counts, so there were seldom reports on how many civilians we killed, how many enemy fighters died. That information was out there. But you had to look hard. Most people never did. Donald Ferris shrugged. And then winced from the motion. It's easy to get people to care about their own soldiers, but if you want to stop wars, or at least make them less common, you've got to get people to give a **** about the soldiers on the other side. That, my young friend, is where your people are even worse than my own. You're close enough to the war to not just feel indifferent about these martyrs marching off to die. You actively want them to die. That's understandable, but it's also poisonous. When you dehumanize others, you become less human yourself. Manny nodded, not sure of what to say. In my youth, Donald Farris continued, the country that occupied this continent was the most powerful nation on Earth. They held the keys to the deadliest military machine ever constructed. It was easy to get Americans to support involvement in 1000 little conflicts because each only required a small fraction of the nation's military power and only risked a few American lives. But millions of people around the world died, women and children and old men and dummy young boys from Yemen to Turkey to Guatemala. Justify those murders Americans had to make those people less than human, and once they've done that, it wasn't such a great jump to do it to their neighbors. He stared up at the setting sun, and Manny saw tears in his eyes. What you're going to see tomorrow is the best attempt I've seen so far to bridge the empathy gap between a people and their foes. Look to your children's eyes to see the true magic of a forest. It's a storybook world for them. You look and see a tree. They see the wrinkled face of a wizard with arms outstretched to the sky. They see treasure and pebbles. They see a windy path that could lead to adventure. And they see you. They're fearless. Guide is as fascinating world. Find a forest near you and start exploring at discover the. brought to you by the United States Forest Service and the Ad Council. This is Roxanne gay, host of the Roxanne gay agenda, the Bad Feminist podcast of Your Dreams. Now, what is the Roxanne gay agenda, you might ask? Well, it's a podcast where I'm going to speak my mind about what's on my mind, and that could be anything. Every week I will be in conversation with an interesting person who has something to say. We're going to talk about feminism, race writing. Books and art, food, pop culture, and yes, politics. I started show with a recommendation. Really, I'm just going to share with you a movie or a book or maybe some music or a comedy set. Something that I really want you to be aware of and maybe engage with as well. Listen to the Luminary original podcast, the Roxanne gay agenda, the Bad Feminist podcast of Your Dreams, Every Tuesday on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. What grows in the forest? Trees? Sure, no one else grows in the forest. Our imagination, our sense of wonder and our family bonds grow too, because when we disconnect from this. And connect with this, we reconnect with each other. The forest is closer than you think. Find a forest near you and start exploring at, brought to you by the United States Forest Service and the Ad Council. Chapter 23, Sasha rolling **** trundled forward, crunching its way over the Texas Plains and leaving a carpet of flattened grass and broken trees in its wake. And Sasha Marion, situated in a little purple building atop one of the city's tallest Spires, couldn't quite believe her eyes. In spite of its many wheels, the city didn't look like the kind of thing that should be able to move. It was as if the Empire State Building had taken up jogging. Sasha had been more or less alone since the War Council had concluded. She'd wanted to go up to the bar with Manny and Roland, since they were the only people here. She even sort of knew, but their conversation had seemed a private sort of thing. At first she thought that her hosts had made an oversight in leaving her unwatched. Surely they wouldn't let someone who'd been their enemy just a few days ago wander freely through their home. But as the hours went by, it became clear that's exactly what they've done. So Sasha explored. It had been exhilarating, actually. Every inch of the city was different and strange and new to her. Across the gantries there were numerous market stalls with fresh meat and produce. At first she recognized all the foods, but the higher and further she went, the stranger everything seemed the meat went from beef and chicken to alligator and zebra and mammoth, and eventually, something Sasha thought might be from an actual dinosaur. She was sure it was all lab grown, and the produce was certainly gene modified. At one point she came across a kiosk. Filled with fruit that had been tweaked to take the shape of gigantic erect penises, there were penis watermelons, penis oranges, penis apples, and even bags of tiny penis shaped grapes. She knew she should have felt disgusted 2 weeks ago. Sasha would have been horrified, but somehow she just wasn't. She felt a vague sense of unease, awkwardness at the sight of so many genitals. But after all she'd seen in the Heavenly Kingdom, it didn't exactly horrify her either. How could it? The fondle boats were another matter. The sight and the strange, musky, sweet smell that wafted out of the grinding, groping crowd inside it made her queasy. This is exactly as depraved as Pastor Mike said it would be, she thought. But she also thought, is this really worse than all that violence and death? Who are they hurting? The Lord said, a shrill, small voice in the back of her mind. Why would God hate this and not the hanging of good people? Sasha wondered. Why would this make him angry, but not the butchery inside that factory? You know what the Bible says, Sasha. There is no getting around that. The Scriptures were clear. Well, maybe they're wrong, then. Maybe they've always been wrong. Or maybe I read them wrong. Maybe they didn't say what I thought they said. It was odd how freeing that thought was. She made her way past a fondle boat, and for no reason beyond curiosity and the desire to stretch your muscles, Sasha started to climb upwards. The gantries that made-up the bulk of rolling fox walking space were fairly easy for a human to traverse. They had high walls, so even the very drunk were unlikely to fall. And in spite of the city's clutter and bustle, its designers had done a good job of making two clear lanes for foot traffic. But the gantries only gave Sasha access to a handful of the strange, glittering buildings that dotted the city's rolling superstructure. So she left them and she climbed up. It was not an easy climb. Here and there she found small sections of ladder or knotted rope to ease her passage. For the most part, though, she climbed hand over hand up the crisscrossed metal girders. She passed several buildings filled with people drinking and partying. Sasha didn't stop to talk. The climb was hard, but at least it allowed her to avoid awkward conversation with whatever manner of creatures lived in this place. By the time she reached the top of the spindle, Sasha's body was drenched in sweat and her arms were too sore to pull her up one more foot. She was grateful to whoever had decided to cap this spindle with a tiny purple shack, and she was even more grateful that the shack appeared unoccupied. Sasha pulled herself inside and collapsed on the floor. For a while, it was all she could do to regain her breath. She wondered, in a vague sort of way, if she just broken into someone's home. Nobody had warned her that there would be certain places she couldn't travel here, but no one had told her much of anything at all. After she'd arrived, Sasha took stock of her surroundings. The interior of the room was plush, the walls were carpeted and thick, cushiony velvet. The floor below her seemed to be some sort of black ****. There was a framed picture on one wall. Sasha didn't recognize the artist, but it looked like a cross section drawing of a handgun with fetuses. The bullets, the sight of it, made her feel a bit sick, but there was also something about the art that drew her eyes. The center of the room was a low, flat table that appeared to be made entirely of mirrored glass. There was a pile of white powder on the centre of the table, along with a strange rectangular piece of green paper. Sasha picked up the paper and stared at it. It took her a moment to realize what it was. Money, said a voice from behind her. Ohh, it used to be Once Upon a time. Sasha froze, stiffened. She turned around, not sure what to expect, but with an apology already spilling out of her mouth. I'm sorry, Sir, I didn't. Something in the man's smile and the relaxed slump of his shoulders made her stop talking. He stood in the doorway of the little building, just a few feet in front of her. She had no idea how he could have climbed up and in there without her hearing him. She didn't remember the man's name, but she recognized him from the War Council. Those writhing snake tattoos identified him as clearly as a name tag. I'm. She trailed off. He smiled at her. There was something about his eyes that seemed off wrong. She couldn't place it. His pupils were somehow different than they should have been. When he spoke, though, his voice was warm and friendly. You are Sasha Marian, the girl who was brave enough to flee her home and family for the Heavenly Kingdom and then brave enough to leave it. When she realized what it truly was, his head dipped down into a slight bow. I'm Jim Shannon. It's an honor to meet you, Miss Marion. Jim squatted down on his haunches and dropped his arms in between his legs. It was a casual motion, but he executed it with almost mechanical precision. There was something to his movements that spoke of terrible potential energy, kinetic force just waiting to be unleashed. It's nice to meet you, she said. Because what else could she say? Jim smiled, didn't change, but his eyes did. His pupils contracted and then changed shape from a circle to a spiralling, rounded star. No, it's not, he said. That's not lie to each other. Hey Sasha, I'm weird, I move wrong. My eyes. As he spoke, his star pupil started to spin in a hypnotic spiral. Are wrong. They don't look human. I can hear you. Heartbeat elevate as we speak. I can smell. Cortisol in your brain and elevated levels of blood glucose. I can see in your eyes that me saying this has made you even more nervous. Yes, she admitted. Yes, you're right, you scare me. That's perfectly normal in this, Marian. It is not an act of weakness to admit fear. Quite the opposite. You feel better now, don't you? She actually did. There was a queer sort of relief in admitting her fear and discomfort in this man thing's presence. I do feel better, she said. Why is that? Admitting fear is the first step to conquering it. You don't strike me as someone who wants to live in fear, Miss Marion. You do strike me as someone who seeks control, strength, power over your own life. I, she sputtered. I don't. I don't know. A week ago I'd have told you God was in control of my life. Sasha looked down at her lap, suddenly embarrassed. It wasn't very long ago, but it feels like a lifetime. It was so peaceful, just handing over control. Jim nodded and leaned his head forward a few inches. That didn't end well, though, did it? Sasha shook her head. You travel to the Heavenly Kingdom with a certain set of beliefs about the universe. Those beliefs met reality. Reality broke them into little pieces. There's no shame in that. It happens to all of us now. You're a bit older and a few bits wiser. She looked up at him. His smile seemed somehow softer now. She felt like opening up, confiding in this stranger. Sasha wondered if that was another aspect of his modifications, some alteration of his body chemistry and physical appearance that allowed him to seem more familiar and trustworthy to her. She opened up anyway. I just don't know what to do now. I guess I could go home, but I don't think I was wrong in leaving home. I don't want a life in the American Federation. I know that. I just. You don't know what's right, Jim finished in a voice that was gentler than she would have guessed he was capable of sounding. She nodded as she struggled for her next words. I know I can't go back. I don't know where to go next. I don't have any money or really any useful skills, so I can't go to California or Cascadia. I doubt this place will take me. She gestured down at the rolling city. Below them, and even if they would, I don't really feel comfortable here either. Hmm. Jim nodded and leaned back. Perhaps, he said, you should wear a less about where you want to end up and more about what you want to end up doing. I don't have any options, Sasha said, fighting down a rising panic that tickled the back of her throat. I didn't even finish high school. I've spent the last two years preparing to join the Kingdom. I don't know how to do anything useful. That's where you're wrong, Jim said in a firm voice. You lied well enough to hide your intention from your parents and am Fed law enforcement. You did that for years. Sasha wanted to argue that she hadn't lied, not according to Pastor Mike's definition of the word, but she stayed silent while he spoke. You escaped from one of the most fortified. Quotas in the world, Jim continued. And you did useful work in a medical facility. Then you helped facilitate the escape of several prisoners from a Kingdom jail. You functioned effectively in a firefight and killed a trained soldier in hand to hand combat. Then you killed another man and stole a vehicle to aid your comrades in an escape. Am I missing anything? Sasha looked down again. She didn't speak. She felt bad about taking praise for murder, especially for Daryl's murder. She did, however, feel a tiny swell of pride. Jim's words it was immediately accompanied by a flood of guilt. Killing is not something to be proud of, she said. Ohh, I disagree, Jim chuckled. Killing is a highly technical skill, and you've proven yourself a talented amateur. With some training and a spot of Chrome, you could really be something. He trailed off. Sasha was quiet for a moment. She looked into Jim's eyes and tried to read something in them that proved a fool's errand. There was nothing in those orbs but cool confidence. And even that might be false. What did any gesture or look mean from a man who could control every aspect of his body, right down to his pupils? I don't want to get better at killing, she told him. I don't want to fill my body with unnatural things. Just thinking about it makes me feel ill. And yet, Jim said. What do you mean? And yet? She asked. And yet that thought intrigues you too. It's no use, hadn't it? I can taste deceit. Sasha shuddered a little at that, but she couldn't deny that he was right. As much as the idea repulsed her. She'd spent too much time powerless to not crave power. I'm not looking to push you into anything, Sasha, but I would like to provide you with a unique opportunity. What do you mean? She asked. He smiled, plopped down on his **** and swung his legs in to sit cross legged on the **** carpet. Jim stuck a finger into the thick black fibres of the carpet and started tugging at them. It was an idle nervous gesture and Sasha found it oddly endearing. Part of her suspected that had been his goal. I mean that I would be willing to take you on as a project. A project? He nodded. My organization has access to skilled surgeons, military grade dogmatics and VAT grown organs. I'll front the bill and I'll train you and in return you'll work for me forever? She asked. Jim laughed. She felt a little annoyed by that, and it must have shown on her face because he stopped. Sorry, sorry, he said. It's just that'd be debt slavery. You must not know this, but I helped kill the last country that lived on this land in that sort of thing. So how much time would I owe you? Sasha asked. Five years, he said. Sasha's heart trembled with excitement at the offer. When she thought about the way the adrenaline had coursed through her during the fight in the clinic, she wanted to say yes. But when she thought about Darrell bleeding out next to his car, the shame and sight her overwhelmed everything else. Sasha knew she couldn't handle more weights like that on her conscience. I don't want to kill people, she said in the tiny voice. Shame dripped from every syllable. That's fine, Jim said, his grin widening. We always need medics. You've shown an aptitude for that already. I have a feeling you'll take well to combat engineering. There's plenty for you to do without pulling a trigger. If I work for you, Sasha said. I have a feeling I won't be able to avoid pulling triggers. None entirely. Jim shrugged. But in his shooting you'd do would be an immediate self defence and you'd have the right to refuse an emissions that violate your moral code. I know that's important to you. The way he said that last bit set the hackles on her neck arise. Is it not important to you? She asked. Morality, I mean. He swung his hands out to the side, palms up, in a vaguely budick pose. When I was a young man not much older than yourself, I knew a lot of gallant men who claimed to live by codes of honor. Such things were fashionable in the warrior culture of a dying empire. None of those codes stopped. The men are new from serving that great beast we called a state. When you see enough good moral men enable war crimes, you stop seeing value in the term morality. So what matters to you? Sasha asked. What do you believe in? Change, Miss Marian, he smiled, revealing rows of pearly white teeth. The snake tattoos on his chest and shoulders writhed in excitement. I believe in change. I grew up in a time when the climate changed and my home became a deadly broiler. Politics changed and democracy became a dictatorship of capital. For a time, I believed in the promises of change handed out by progressive politicians and centerfold revolutionaries, but every one of them was either Co, opted by the system. Are killed by it. He shrugged and cast his eyes down to the carpet for a while. Just a moment, his mask slipped. Sasha saw a deep, yawning pit of despair in the tight lines at the edge of his lips and the subtle twitch of muscles below his left eye. It passed, and a black velvet smile took its place. Then I met a man who showed me the way. Nothing new could grow on this continent until the weeds of the old were pulled out by the root and tossed into the compost pile of history. So, he said, forget the old debates about what system should replace capitalism. Kill the state and the seeds of 1000 new worlds will sprout on its corpse. You've seen two of those sprouts already. Sasha shook her head. If you're referring to the Heavenly Kingdom, it's a nightmare. The old US can't have been worse than that. Jim shrugged. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. Tell Miss Sasha you left the amphid, the Old USA's most direct successor state. Why was that? Because it's a soulless pit, she said, the words almost leaping from her throat. Jim smiled at that. This isn't though, is it? He gestured out at the City of Wheels below them. No, Sasha said. Whatever else it was, rolling **** was not soulless. Neither is the Navajo Nation, Jim said. All Cascadia, the Blackstone Nation, even the Mormons are up to some interesting things these days. One faction at least. So which do you believe in? Who do you fight for? He grinned again. Neither, child, as I told you, I fight for change, to cast down the ossified bones of the old world and make space for the new. I owe allegiance to no nation or God, save perhaps Lady Eris. Who? He smiled. A bit of smugness leeched into the expression. She could see it clear as day, right around his eyes. It should have repelled her more than it did. Eris was the Greek goddess of discord. Back when people cared about what the Greeks believed, she set the spark that lit the Trojan wall. I know it's a bit silly, reaching back to that old mythology, but I can't help myself. There's something about those old gods that calls to me. I can identify with them. He leaned in. There was an eagerness to his posture, his tone, his eyes. The snakes jerked and spun on his muscled chest and arms. I'm offering you a chance to join us. Olympus, DSS, Sasha, you've spent your time in worship. It's time to embrace your own Godhead. Leave your antique books behind and rewrite the world with your will. I don't know if that's what I want, Sasha said in a still, small voice. She tried to ignore how much part of her ached for what he promised. The thought of killing again nauseated her as much as it excited her. But the thought of having power, the kind of power she'd seen Roland exercise. That was intoxicating. She hated how badly she'd started to want it. Well, you don't have to decide now. Jim shrugged his shoulders and gave an amiable smile. The floor rumbled underneath them. There was a loud clattering wine as the whole structure of rolling **** came to a slow stop. Jim waited for the scrunching noise to cease and said come and watch what we'd do today, then make you call. Roland? Don broke just his rolling **** pulled to a long, slow stop by the shore of Lake Waco. The city had taken the long way around the reservoir, which had added at least an hour to their journey, but also put a sizable water barrier between rolling **** and the advancing forces of the Heavenly Kingdom. It had been a tight fit at several points, and Rowland had enjoyed watching the wheeled city crunch over several abandoned homes in many a street lamp, but eventually the pilots and navigators had found a suitably large public park and brought rolling **** to rest. There, it's a nice sunrise, Manny said. The kids stood next to Roland on a wooden deck built onto the side of the main roller. Skull ****** Mike had assured them this spot provided the best vantage point to watch the rising sun. It looked like he'd been right in that the sky around them was a heady blend of red and orange that brought up fragmented memories of Mai Tais and fireballs. And Roland's head clouds clustered at the top of the horizon, ripe to bursting with the color and light of the new day's sun. Roland nodded. Yeah. It's a shame no one who lives here gets to see it, Manny said. I've never seen the city this empty. Roland looked over at his young friend. The boy had seen a lot for his age, and Roland could see how much it pained him. Sorrow had Essent all its own. The plunging levels of norepinephrine and serotonin brought out the sharp stink of cortisol in the greasy odor of opioids. Lurking just below those smells was the odd spicy tinge of the IL 18 protein. Roland could almost hear it weaken the valves of Manny's heart. I imagine this sucks extra much for you. I mean, you've been where they are, right? Twice, Manny said. Roland nodded again. Exactly. Recall, he admitted. But I expect I had something to do with the first time. Manny looked over to Roland. Chemically, it was clear the kid was battling him alonge of sadness, trauma, and anxiety. His actual thoughts, though, were just as hidden from Roland as they would be from any stock human. Perhaps more so, there were moments when Roland feared he was losing the ability to read human emotions or even display them properly on his face. What's that look you're giving me? He asked finally. What do you mean? I can't tell what the look on your face means, Roland explained. And I'm curious. Are you angry at me? Many shrugged in the Nissan side. His shoulders slumped. His head drooped forward and down just a bit. No, he said. I'm not angry. What would I even be angry about? If you can't remember what you did back then? Are you even the same person who did those things? And even if you are, maybe you were doing the right thing. I assume someone was at some point in that ******* mess of a war. Maybe everyone was, Roland offered. I know the Heavenly Kingdom think what they're doing is right, Manny said. I also know give a ******** **** what they think. They're murderers. They can all sit and spin. You're confident that me murdering the lot of them is the right thing to do? Then I'm confident it's better than letting them win, Manny said. Roland nodded quietly and stared out at the rising sun. The red had faded and the orange had grown brighter. He could see the shape of the sun behind the clouds. Mist rose off the field in front of them, and across the lake a low, light fog rolled in over what appeared to be an old golf course. You're probably right about that, Roland said. But where does it end? It ends when they're beaten and Austin is safe. Manny's words were forceful, but he looked down and away from Roland when he spoke. You know that's not true, Roland said. I forget my own name a lot of the time, and I still know you're full of it. Killing these ***** buys Austin time, and probably not a lot of it. There are still millions of guns and millions of ****** *** desperate people in this ragged chunk of country. So what are you saying, Roland? It'd be better to just let the one place around here that isn't terrible get eaten by darkness. No, Roland said. Read the writing on the damn wall. This place. He waved a hand out in a gesture that encompassed the whole horizon. Is ******. Don't stay here and die with it. Many crossed his arms in front of himself and leaned forward onto the railing of the deck. His head slumped into his hands, and he was quiet for a while. Roland knew the army of the Heavenly Kingdom was less than 40 miles distant. The scent of that vast, ramshackle horde had grown more prominent over the last few minutes. His nose took in the stink of diesel, the ozone odor of discharging batteries, and the cumulative reek of hundreds of vehicles worth of engine oil. Behind those prominent smells lurked the foul, gangrenous stench of 10,000 men sweating fear and stress. Out of every pore. Roland looked down over the deck and onto the yellow grass that led up to the shores of the lake. The Warriors of rolling **** had started to assemble themselves there. A large group of men and women had started to unpack dozens of quadra facts. The four legged robots had been built by Boston Dynamics back before the fall of the old US they'd been meant to fairy men and equipment up steep Afghan mountainsides. Roland stared at them, and he stalked through the lap, a razor sharp machete in one hand and a machine pistol in the other. The air reeked of blood. Ahead of him. He could smell the fear sweat wafting off 2 engineers as they hid beneath an overturned metal table. Pieces of robotic equipment were scattered on the floor. Roland reached out his senses and felt that these were the last two people alive in the facility. He stepped forward, swinging his blade in an arc that he knew would end in flesh. Roland shook his head and pulled himself out of the past. The flashes of memory were growing more frequent. Guilt came with them. It took some effort to force his mind to focus again on the world around them. Rowland looked back. Out at the mustering yard warriors dawned armor, a fantastic array of old fashioned polished steel plate mail, ultramodern powered body armor, antique flak vests, and a significant number of costumes. He watched a man in armor that mixed the aesthetic of a Polish winged hussar with an imperial. Stormtrooper help a woman in a crop top Neil Green Geely suit as she locked a pair of rocket launchers onto the flanks of one of the four legged robots. Over to his left, another group of warriors had started to assemble the city's vehicle pool. Ramps had descended from garages in the bellies of the rollers. A slow, steady stream of armored vehicles motored their way down the ramps and into the ragged lines on the field. The bulk of rolling fox vehicles were either modified a PC's or armoured motorcycles sporting portable field guns or automatic grenade launchers. On sidecars, there were tactical arguments for the use of such vehicles in open field combat, of course, but Roland suspected they'd mainly been picked because they were fun to drive. Almost every vehicle's engine had been souped up well beyond any potential battlefield benefit. Most of them also had nitrous oxide tanks, although Roland suspected those were more for huffing than they were for speed. Where did they get all this stuff? Manny asked Roland. I had no idea, Roland said. But when the old government fell, it left behind a lot of equipment, bases and bases full of mothballed ordinance. My guess is these guys got in early before the rush and grabbed what they could. At that moment, Roland caught Sasha's scent, moving down one of the spindles above the main roller. His hind brain guessed she was headed to the deck he and Manny occupied. Roland couldn't smell Jim, who was good at staying hidden, but he knew that Sasha couldn't have known where they were. On her own, that meant Jim had likely sniffed Manny out and made the same assumption about Rowland's location that Roland had made about Jims. It wasn't long before the sliding metal door slid open and Jim and Sasha walked out onto the deck. Jim was in his familiar battle gear. His blood red chaps almost shone in the blinding light of the morning sun. He had a smug, self satisfied grin and gigantic pupils that spoke of recent drug use. Beside him, Sasha looked disheveled and exhausted, but jittery. He could smell the coffee. Often from her pores. Hey **** **** Roland said. Hey Sasha. She looked confused for a moment. Jim just nodded and said, hey shitbird, hey Manny. Manny waved vaguely at them without turning his head to meet them. He continued to look out at the army assembling in the field. So pretty cool showdown there, Roland said. Kind of wish I had some dissociatives. Maybe a blunt. Now would be the time for one. Oh **** Jim said. Just so happens I got both. He stepped up alongside Roland, extended his forearm, and then tapped his left index finger to the back of his right hand. The tip of that finger detached and rolled up onto his knuckle. A line of white powder poured out onto the back of Jim's other hand. He offered it to Roland. Sure, Roland said, and railed the line. Ketamine wasn't Roland's favoritest of drugs. He preferred MXC if he was going to snort a dissociative. And in all honesty, a big bottle of DXM, heavy cough syrup mixed with vodka was even more his speed. But hey. Drugs was drugs. Once Roland had finished, Jim poured out another line and offered it to Manny. No thanks, said the fixer. It's pretty good stuff, Roland said in a helpful tone. Ketamine goes well with unspeakable violence. Might be fun to watch the battle that decides the future of your people from inside a keyhole. Manny looked defended. Rowland shrugged. He glanced at Jim, who gave him an I don't know why you're looking at me. Look. I'll try some, Sasha said. I mean, **** it, why not? It was a little cute how she stumbled over the **** Roland founded in Deering. It seemed Manny did too, the cocktail of dopamine, testosterone, and oxytocin that wafted off and made his feelings as clear as day. Hell. Yeah, girl, Jim said with an exaggerated southern twang. Get on over here and rail this. That means snort it, Roland said helpfully. Sasha approached Jim's arm. She looked him in the eye, then looked over to Roland and last to Manny. Then she stared down at the powder as if she was hoping it would say something to her. It didn't, but she leaned in any way and snorted about half of it before she sneezed and then wretched, and then staggered to the side of the deck and vomited over the side. Jim and Roland laughed in sheer joy. Manny, being a good person, moved to hold her hair back and help her deal with the pukey aftershocks while the humans engaged with their frailties. Roland and Jim did a couple more lines each. That was terrible, Sasha said a few minutes later. Yeah, Jim chuckled. It takes some getting used to. And then the door slid open again. Skull ****. Her mic walked out onto the deck. Boy *** hats, he called out. We're about to warm up. You should get down to the field ASAP if you want to see the face taking. What? Manny asked. Excuse me, Sasha said. At the same time, Mike just laughed and clapped them both on the shoulders. I'll explain down in the field, get a move on. He nodded to Sasha and added there's a puke wash station just inside into the right next to the bathroom. Right. Jim rubbed his hands together in excitement. Why don't you kids go roll with skull ****** Mike? I've got to get Roland up to my mechanic so we can suit him up. Roland didn't like the eagerness in Jim's eyes or the excitement in his voice when he said that there was something indecent about it. But a promise was a promise, so Roland nodded and gave Manny a little squeeze on the shoulder. I'll see you soon, buddy. This won't take long. Manny? Schucker? Mike Manny asked as the chromed man LED them through the gantries and towards the elevator. What exactly is so special about Roland? I mean, he's a nice guy, but what makes him so much scarier than the other crumbed folks like you and Topaz? What do you know about Roland's past? Mike asked in return. Very little, Manny admitted. He doesn't seem to remember much. I've sussed out that he was in the army back before the revolution. He's talked about fighting in Turkey, but also in Dallas and Denver and a bunch of other American cities. Mike nodded. Yeah, we met in Dallas, back before it was Ciudad. The Marta I had just been dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps for. He frowned, shook his head, and continued. It doesn't matter what four. I was broke and I had a body full Uncle Sam's Chrome. He wanted it back. I wound up taking shelter in the White Rock commune. Roland was there, too. He was pretty political back in those days. Always quote and bacon in and ashlan and Red, John. Did you guys actually know red? Don? Sasha asked. Up until that point, she'd walked quietly in the rear of their little group. The few times Manny had glanced back, she'd had her head down, stuck in her own little world. But now she was alert and engaged. Many guessed it was hearing the name of the famous revolutionary that had done it. That's odd, he thought. I never met the guy Mike said. But Roland did. He was in real deep with that whole circle. So was that weird ****** Jim. I was tight with Roland, but I never got into the political side of things. I liked smashing stuff and they needed stuff smashers. How does this relate to why Roland's Roland? Manny asked. Well, I've known old Roland for a while. Magni was still fully himself. He was always cagey about his background, but we had our theories and mine was that he'd been part of Project Orange. What was that? Sasha asked. Holy **** Manny said he'd heard of Project Orange, although he wasn't surprised. Sasha hadn't. The amped was the closest descendant of the old United States. They'd have kept most of the bad stuff out of their history books. Well, you know, Mike said. Through the 20s, the military struggled with declining enlistment numbers. All the little resource wars climate change sparked created a need for a capable, nimble force that could project power without requiring a public commitment of force. So back in the late 30s the US military started ******* hard with gene editing tools and biomods. At first it was just basic upgrades to select combat units. Early versions of the healing suits y'all both have now. Then they moved on to carbon fiber laced bones, bullet resistant skin nano healing sweets. The end result was Project Orange, the best warriors in the whole military loaded down with experimental, self adapting, neural and physiological upgrades. Yeah, man, he added. It was a real success right till they wiped out a whole city. Skull ******. Mike nodded and looked back to Sasha. He's talking about the Battle of Incirlik. I've heard of that, Sasha said. A US air strike hit a giant munitions cache. Like 10,000 people died. Skull ****** Mike gave a noncommittal grunt. There was one version of the story, he said. The story I heard, the story everyone told back then, is that it was Project Orange. They blew up a city? Sasha asked. They didn't blow it up, Manny said they just butchered everyone, mostly in hand to hand combat. The DARPA guys miscalculated. Mike nodded to Manny. They entirely revamped the endocrine systems of these soldiers and made them immune to exhaustion and gave them perfect situational awareness. But it also made bloodshed. He trailed off and frowned while he searched for his next word. Addictive. So what happened to Project Orange? Sasha asked. Well, said Mike. The scientist did what scientists do. They refined things. They revised their hypotheses and tweaked their creations until the Joint Chiefs had another job for the Orange team. They must have done well for a while, and Sir Luke was 39 and no one heard **** from them until 41, when they hit that protest in Denver. 600 dead, Manny said, reciting the facts he'd memorized a half dozen times during his elementary education, including a sitting senator. They reached the lift doors, which slid open once they got close. Sasha and Manny stepped in first and Mike came after them. He fiddled with the control screen on the wall for a moment. I'm just making sure this thing is set to normal human speeds. We don't want any more puke from y'all today. Mike winked at Sasha as the lift doors closed. There was a soft clump sound and many felt the lift descend. So, yeah, score ****** might continued. The president deployed the Orange team against a fortified camp that had blocked off access to most of downtown Denver. They cleared out the camp. Sure enough, after the bloodbath, some hackers with the gesture Collective took close to a TB out of the Pentagon servers. It contained a few files on Project Orange and a partly redacted report on the Incirlik massacre. And then? Sasha asked. Mike shrugged. Then they disappeared. They weren't used during the revolution, and they have been pretty damn handy for the old us. At a couple points midway through the war, we recovered some Intel that they'd been wiped out. Some terrible accident in orbit only. Only Roland, Manny said softly. Yep, skull ******. Mike nodded. That was certainly my suspicion. Still is, but the ******* never confirmed it or denied it. Not that he remembers now, anyway. The lift reached the ground with a gentle bump. Its doors slid open to reveal an army, 600 people and three large clumps out by the shore of Lake Waco. To the left was the city's vehicle pool in the center, where the infantry bedecked in a ridiculous melange of medieval weaponry, small arms and hand held field artillery, and then to the right where the quadra facts. The sight of them took Manny's breath away. There were well over 100 of the strange horse like robots. Most of them were still being fussed over by the riders, having bolts tightened. Weapons belted on to their chassis, or in a few cases old timey leather saddles strapped onto their backs. Manny saw one saddle with what looked like a large purple ***** attached to it. The Quadra fracked writers were the most uniform group of warriors on the field. While rolling Fox Infantry wore everything from Roman legionary armor to bikinis made of bullets, the cavalry wore nothing. Even from here he could see that every ****** in the group was as hard as diamond. They were all covered in the same sort of LED tattoos that Jim wore, but were his took the form of ever writhing snakes. Theirs appeared in blotches of Gray, black static all up and down their bodies. What are they? Sasha asked, voicing Manny's thoughts too. The elite skull ****** Mike said. The best of the city's warriors. Real tough *************. Mostly former soldiers who augmented their government issue upgrades way back in the day. Some of them have 5 or 10,000 hours of combat experience stored in their bodies. Why aren't you out there? Manny asked. He grunted. Quad refracts make my *** look big. Besides, Topaz is a sniper. She keeps to the rear and I keep to her. It's not as fun as ******* ****. Up at the frontier front, his lips curled up into a wistful smile. But we all got to grow up sometime. Well, Sasha and Manny gawked. The main rollers other lift descended, the doors opened just 20 feet to their right. Nanny Yazzie was the first one out. She moved slowly, some of that was surely due to her advanced age, but there was also a note of ritual to her movements. It was something in the arc of her spine, the cadence of her step, the way she held her head. The enormous gold bladed knife in her hand didn't hurt either. Behind her walked the citizens of rolling ****. There were around 50 of them in the lift, but as that group walked forward, ropes and ladders began to roll out from all around the enormous wheeled city. Within a matter of minutes, hundreds and hundreds of people had descended. More continued to disgorge from the lifts under the main roller. In the rear roller, the riders had all formed into ordered ranks. They stood at something very much like a military attention. It was the only time he'd seen Posthumans do anything in an orderly fashion. Many Yazzie stood in front of the cavalry and the human civilians clustered behind her in a big semicircle. The other warriors gathered behind them. Mike maneuvered their little group to a hill that overlooked the whole scene. It took almost 20 minutes for the entire city to gather. What are they doing? Sculpt ****** Mike? Sasha asked, only stumbling a bit over the curse word in his name. This is what I wanted you to see, he replied. She's about to take their faces. Roland the process of getting ready for war made the bile rise up in his gut. That was curious. Roland stomach didn't still produce bile, not the same kind of vile it had when he was human. It had been years since his nervous system had been natural enough to respond to anxiety with any kind of physical symptom, and yet there it was. The bile, or the hallucination of bile, curdled at the bottom of his stomach while Jim's men strapped him into the murder suit. The armour they'd constructed was altogether. Different from the powered armor he'd faced a few days ago in Dallas, it was also different from what little he remembered of the armor he'd warned as an American soldier. That made sense, of course. Roland's wetware got better with time and experience geared did not age so well. He watched while Sardar bolted a gauntlet into place over his left forearm and hand. He could tell it was made of boron nitride carbon tubes, but the weapons blister carried a sextet of tiny rockets that were not familiar to him. Sir, what are these things? A smile split the little man's dark, handsome features. Scatter rockets, he said with relish. Each of them contains 12 guided solid fuel warheads. The left hand are all antipersonnel, built to blow up big. The right hand rockets. He tapped the second conflit, which sat on the work table next to him. Those pack a tiny bronze dart. One will penetrate a leopard. Mark Fives front armour, no problem. Roll inside and looked around at the workshop of death that Jim had flown out here. From the outside, it had looked a bit like a shipping container, but painted a glossy white. Its edges were rounded and smooth, and the whole thing looked slick enough that it could have been an Apple product. Inside the box was wall to wall weaponry and armor. Jim's personal stash. Roland couldn't actually name any of the weapons inside. Most were similar enough to older weapons systems that he could make an educated guess as to their capabilities. But there were strange. Do things on the walls that he'd never seen before. Jim sat in a comfy chair at the rear of the workshop and watched Sardar work while he sipped Scotch out of an enormous Rams horn. So this so is this like your man cave or what? Roland asked him. Jim took a deep gulp and then smiled. I find it relaxes me, he said. I've spent a lot of time curating this collection over the years. I spent a lot of time working on that suit too, so don't **** it up. Something tingled at the back of Roland's mind. The suit had clearly been built to his specifications that suggested Jim had been planning this for a while, but Roland had been retired at ***** *** and though very recently, so how hey man, I need your port, Sardar said. The squat mechanic held up a pair of fiber optic cables that terminated in peculiar boxy plugs, not unlike old Ethernet cable. They were connected to a metal breastplate on the table. Roland pointed to a pair of lumpy white scars on his lower back. The input sockets are in there, they've scarred up. You'll have to cut them back open, but it should fit. But it should still fit. The nice thing about DARPA engineering is that a little bit of blood in the skin never gets in the way. Starter set to work, carving the sockets back open, Roland felt the pain as a distant sort of itch. He was having a hard time focusing his senses on his immediate surroundings. The smells of the advancing army presented an almost overpowering flood of data Roland had loaded up on ketamine and vodka to quiet his hind brain, but all that interfered with his introspection. He built this thing for me to wear. Jim, how long have you been planning this? Years, Jim said. His forthrightness surprised Roland. You'll pacifism is a mistake, Jim continued, brought on by your overactive conscience. There is still so much you need to do in the world. I figured at some point you'd realize that yourself. So I kept my men working. Sardar lifted the heavy metal breastplate up over Roland's head and settled it over his shoulders. The weight was comforting. A cold electric shock ran through his body as the armour connected to his central nervous system. Roland felt parts of himself wake up that he hadn't truly realized were asleep. Something in him had missed that feeling and he felt guilty for that. I'm taking this thing off the instant the fights over, Jim. You wasted your money, Jim. Smile only deepened. You forgotten how fun it is, Roland, and you've forgotten what it's like to be a ******* human roll encountered. Have you always been a sociopath? Is this what I was like back before? Whatever took my memories? Jim's amused smile didn't shift by so much as a nanometer. Roland felt a spike of irritation before he was distracted by Sardar. Raise your hand please, the mechanic said. He lifted A4 barreled machine gun on a circular frame and slid it around Roland's right arm. Sardar bolted the weapon into place while he explained it's a stack charge machine gun magnetically fired similar to the old metal storm weapons, but this ******** capable of putting out 20,000 rounds per second. How long did it fire? Sardar laughed. A little less than a second. The mechanic turned back to his table, and Roland tried to direct his wandering mind back to the conversation with Jim. You're going to love it, his old friend said. I know you've been loving it. When you fought your way out of that city, I could smell the dopamine wafting off your brain from all the way out here. Sardar snapped acquiesce around Roland's thigh. The armor also sported a bulky weapons blister on its outside edge. Guess grenade launcher, the mechanic explained. Should go great with all the frag rockets. Ah, so we're committing war crimes now? Roland asked Jim with more indignation than he really felt. Jim rolled his eyes. Is just tear gas, he said. Mostly. At least I may have included some aerosolized LSD in there. I've been on a big psycho chemical warfare kick lately. For a little while Sardar worked in silence. Jim drank and Roland stared near him but not at him. The self-inflicted haze in his head had cleared a bit. That meant his hind brain grew louder. By now it was all but shouting about the approaching army. Roland felt a trickle of adrenaline, oxytocin and endorphins. His left hand twitched involuntarily. He felt the power of the weapons system around him and he felt the power in his own body. Something like arousal gripped him. Roland fought it down as best he could. But it lingered there, at the edge of his consciousness. Have been remembering more, he said to Jim. As much to distract himself as out of a desire to get it off his chest. Hmm. Jim cocked an eyebrow in interest. I've had a few big flashes of memories. Once when we drove into Dallas, past the side of the Lakewood blast, I remembered he locked eyes with Jim, and Jim nodded back. His eyes said. I know, so Roland moved on. The memories come most intensely when I'm in combat. I remembered hiking with Topaz, I remembered burning the Taz in Denver. I got flashes of you and me in Mexico and a lot more. I'm still sorting through it. It's confusing because there's no timeline for any of this, just associated memories I know happened at some point. Jim leaned forward. His eyes flashed with excitement. Interest and, he said, tell me, have you been able to draw any conclusions about who you were from what you've remembered? Have you gotten any insight into the old Roland? Roland frowned. He'd been so focused on trying to remember his old life that he hadn't given much thought to what the memories he had said about the man he'd been. As he pondered, Rowland's mind lingered on the memory of shooting the Chaney boy in the back of the head. I think I used to be a lot more like you, Roland said. Jim grinned, his lips curled up to reveal long rows of white, straight teeth. That's true, he said. Why else do you think I've missed you so much? Sasha. A part of Sasha had believed that after the Heavenly Kingdom, nothing she saw would ever shock her again. That part of her was proven wrong when Nana Yazzie's aged, arthritic hand began to messily carve at the First Warriors face. Her target was the young woman with the Chrome hawk Sasha had seen in the War Council. The carving was a messy thing. It took the better part of a minute for her to slice and peel the skin free. Sasha noticed that there was very little blood. It was messy, but not as messy as it should have been. Once she was finished, Nana Yazzi stepped back with the woman's face in her hand. As she did, dozens of citizens stepped forward. They pulled out daggers, swords, straight razors, and switchblades of their own. Each civilian paired off with a warrior and began to carve. Some of them were quick and practiced. The motion of their hands reminded Sasha of an autopsy video she'd watched in one of her pre Med classes. But the other citizens were cruder. With their cutting. A few verged on brutal hacking and slashing at the faces and necks of their persons. None of the post human warriors showed any signs of pain or discomfort. They just stood unmoving and without their faces, seemingly without emotion. I don't understand, Sasha said. She hadn't expected to say it out loud. The words just slipped out. It's a symbolic thing, Schucker, Mike explained. Before they leave, the city's warriors give up their identities to the group. They leave their humanity behind and bloody tatters in the hands of their friends and loved ones. It's a way of making sure the city civilians don't leave a war without blood on their hands, and it makes them look ******* terrifying, someone said from behind them. Sasha turned around. A short, fit man approached them. He had a thin build, but his body was girded with lithe muscle. There was something familiar about his face, the short mop of curly black hair atop his head. The man smiled when Sasha saw him, revealing pointed metallic fangs. Hey, wait a second, Lo Topez skull ****** Mike said. Manny looked shocked as well. He stared at the man and surprise Topez. What happened? There was a woman with those exact same teeth yesterday when we arrived at the city. Sasha hadn't gotten the woman's name, but she'd borne a striking resemblance to this man. Yeah, I felt like a man today, Topaz said. Well, with the war in all. Sasha finally realized what had happened. Of course, she thought. These people can change their Physiology on a dime. Ah, Manny said with a nod. School ******. Mike walked up to Topaz and the two embraced and then kissed. They twined their arms together and a few seconds later Topez seemed to finally notice Sasha's presence. Sorry, he smiled as he spoke. But I don't believe I got your name. Sasha, Sasha, Marian Topez stepped closer. Well, Sasha, Marian, he said in a low voice. How are you liking our strange ways and customs? They're interesting, Sasha said diplomatically. Do you find this place more to your liking than the Heavenly Kingdom? Topaz stepped closer. Sasha took a step back, and then another. The man's expression was friendly enough, but there was a sort of queer menace in the set of his shoulders. It may have had something to do with the very large rifle slung across his back. Sasha started to sweat. Fear gripped her mind. Topez back off skull ******. Mike's voice was devoid of anger, but firm. You're scaring her. Topaz stopped and stared at Mike. His expression went from Placid smile to rage and then back to a smile almost faster than Sasha could process. Sorry, darlin, he said in an artificially chipper voice. I just wanted to make sure our guest was enjoying her. Stay here. He looked to Sasha again. You are, aren't you? Yes, good Topaz purd. Hopefully you won't be joining any more extremist groups that get my friends killed. He turned immediately to Manny and with barely a pause for breath. Embraced him and kissed his forehead. I'm proud of you, buddy. As far as I'm concerned, your family. Many mumbled his thanks and returned the hug, but he glanced to Sasha and they shared a what the hell? Look, school ******. Mike seemed to want to plaster over the awkwardness. Yup, he said. We've made some wonderful friends these last couple days, he pantomimed, looking down at his watchlist wrist and checking the time. Oh my goodness, he said in mock surprise. Look at the time, topez. We've got a war to get to. You kids are better find some decent. Cheats. Topez smiled at skull ****** Mike. His eyes lingered on the big man's face and then drifted back to Sasha. Enjoy the show, he said with an empty smile. Roland? It was windy on the landing pad. He and Jim stood next to a heavy black VTOL aircraft, the steed that would carry him into today's massacre. Rowland could taste the dying summer in the faint stirrings of a North Texas fall in the air. It was cooler than he'd have expected this time of the year. Grayer, too. August of chill. Wind blew across his face, and Roland found himself falling back in time. Again, he was shorter. The world seemed sharper, even though his senses were dim and unenlightened. Roland felt a hand around his own. It felt big, powerful, and comforting. He looked up and saw a woman standing over him. She was tall, a giant. Her hair was brown and straight and long and clear as day in his mind's eye, but her face was blank, obscured even in memory. His head turned to track the passage of a blowing leaf. He felt chill winter air on his arm, and he watched. His Orense sedan rumbled past them, spraying water into the air as it hit a puddle on the asphalt. Rowland pay attention. Jim's voice snapped him back to reality. The other crumbed man held a paper thin tablet in front of Roland's face. That memory flash had been the most immersive yet, although not the longest. He was a little confused at that. Why that moment? Had it just been the similarity in whether or Rowland Jim was angry? It was actually somewhat refreshing to see genuine emotion on the other man's post. Human face veins bulged his neck and his eyes were fully open. Roland caught a harsh whiff of methamphetamine. From his breath. All right, all right, ******* chill, Rollin muttered. What am I looking at? He needn't have asked. Once he focused on the tablet, it was obvious that it displayed a map of the area around Lake Waco. Ruling Fox, Warriors and vehicles were displayed in little blue pinpoints. Jim scrolled up a few inches and Roland saw a swarm of red. It was half over the Brazos right now, and it crept millimetre by millimetre towards their position. The river slowed them down a bit, Jim said, but the bridges there were still in good order. I'd say they'll hit Rock Creek in about 10 minutes. Roland nodded and asked. Couldn't we have killed those bridges? Bought some hours? Jim gave a careless shrug. Why would we want to slow him down? We're ready enough. No sense in dragging this out. There was a strong smell of ozone as the VTOL aircraft next to them woke up red. Lights glowed on the missile pods slung under its belly. The chain gun on its nose cycled. The whole thing hummed with potential energy. It was too modern for Roland to know the make and model, but it reminded him of the Russian COBRA assault transport, which had been state-of-the-art back in the mid 40s. So what's the plan? He asked Jim. Well, his friend said we know they got at least a half dozen mobile anti air batteries, old US patriot threes, and accurate garbage. Nothing I'm worried about. The name conjured up a ghost of another memory. A big patriot battery wheeled around on its trucked sized chassis. He heard the machine wine of the motors and then the reek of fear, hit his nose as rich and heavy as Texas Thunder. There were missiles in the air aimed at him. As he fell, there were child's play to Dodge. In his suit. He descended his fierce. Think rolled up towards him from the soldiers below. For poor ******* Roland. Jim shouted. I'm gonna have to find another murder guerrilla to take your place. What? No. Roland shook his head. Sorry, he said. Just memories. Jim gave him a long look. Anything you need to talk about right now? No, Roland said. It's just the memories are coming at me faster now. It's distracting. That makes sense, Jim said at imagine stimuli that reminds you of your past could prompt your brain into sudden healing. Hmm. He reached into a bag at his hip. It looked like a standard dump pouch meant for half spent magazines in the heat of battle, but Jim pulled out a fully loaded crack pipe, even unlit. It smelled like burning tires. Adenan percent peel. Jim held the pipe up to Roland. Alright, roll in and grab the pipe and lifted it to his lips. Jim reached out and flipped on the lighter built into his index finger. He held it under the glass bubble of the pipe. The rocks vaporized into white smoke. Roland inhaled and felt the vapor dissolve into his bloodstream through his mucous membranes. There was a tingle as the crack reached his brains ventral tegmental area and said in essence you know how much dopamine you were planning to produce? Make a **** load more than that. The happy chemicals flooded Roland's mind. His anxiety at the recently churned up memories faded, as did the memories themselves. Better? Jim asked. Super good, Roland said. Can I? Jim waved. Show man, keep the pipe. In fact, he pulled his index finger free from his hand and gave it to Roland. Keep that, I'll grow a new one. Cool. Roland took the finger, flicked it alight, and took another deep pole of burning crack. So, he said as he exhaled a plume of crack smoke. The plan ride, said. Jim, like I told you, Rock Creek is where we plan to hit him, the Edmund Fitzgerald here. Jim banged a hand on the side of the VTOL craft. It's going to take you up to around 15,000 feet and then drop you right on the heads. I expect we'll take some flak afterwards, but this bird can handle it. And besides, he raised his voice and jerked his head towards the cockpit. Anderson's piloting it today, and it's not like I give a ****. He does. In response, the nose gun wheeled around on its mountain, locked on to Jim. There was a clanking sound as it ratcheted around into its chamber. Jim rolled his eyes. ******* pilots. Anyway, me and my people will be with the Roland **** folks getting shot at? He tapped Roland's helmet. When we're ready for you, I'll ping you both, and Anderson can drop you on top of the *****. So? Roland asked. I've just got a fall on top of a hostile army and start shooting. Jim nodded. Alright then, let's get started. Many years ago, it would now seemed like another life. Manny had gone to watch an outdoor movie at Zilker Park in Austin. Ghostbusters. He was pretty sure it had been Ghostbusters. Hundreds and hundreds of people had shown up. Families with children and couples on dates and so, so many dogs. The sound hadn't been great, and the projectionist could have been better, but he remembered the evening fondly. Rolling **** before a battle reminded him of that experience. The people were different. Very few of them were children, but clusters of citizens, friend groups, and families and families of friends had set up little viewing nooks across the wheeled city itself and in the field in front of it. The whole scene would have been idyllic if they weren't about to watch a battle. The vehicles, cavalry and infantry, were already almost out of view. He could just barely see shapes out on the horizon, setting up firing positions on top of buildings. In Rock Creek, they move so damn fast many didn't think he'd ever get used to the pace of post human life. He knew Topaz and skull ****** Mike were somewhere out there. He knew where they'd be soon, and in spite of their confidence, he worried for them more than anyone. He worried for Roland. Drinks for everyone, Donald Ferris said. He had a tray full of drinks in his hands. Fresh from the bar, he sat down next to Nana Yazzi and smiled. Manny and Sasha sat on the opposite side of them in a booth in the main rollers bar, looking out over Waco. Donald started handing out beverages, first bubbly drinks, and long brown bottles that smelled familiar. Coca-Cola, the old documentarian said. Not the stuff they still sell all over the original recipe with cocaine and alcohol hits great **** we go through. Gallons of it every day. Nana Yazzie took a sip from hers and smiled. It's quite good, she said, and the intoxicating effect is mild. A chromed comrades have a stronger variant. Of course. We're all humans here. Donald smiled, more or less. Manny took one of the Cokes, sipped it, and nodded to Sasha. It's really good, he said. You should try it. It was good, and it didn't seem like it was too strong. Manny took another sip and smiled as Sasha grabbed her bottle and took a gulp. She seemed to like it. There was a loud pop sound from somewhere up above. Manny tensed up, but then he tracked its origin to one of the landing pads that extended from a gantry tower. At least 100 feet above them, dozens of small black shapes flitted out from it and soared forward, off in the same direction the army had gone. Spy drones, Donald Ferris explained. They'll be at the front by the time the fighting starts. This all seems so weird, Sasha said. I think I read about people doing something similar during the Civil War. They'd set up picnic blankets on hills overlooking the battle. Donald Ferris grunted and shifted in his seat a bit awkwardly. Nanny Yazzie smiled and said it is a bit like that. The difference is that we're not doing this to be voyeurs. We won't see much fighting. What will we see? Just watch, Donald Ferris said and reached for a tiny shot glass filled with a yellow brown liquid. Maneva drink first. It'll help. Manny took one of the shot glasses and moved to belt it down, but Nanny Yazzie put her hand on his. That's fine tequila, son, I'd recommend sipping. So he sipped it, and it was good. The burn rolled down his throat and mixed with the cocaine and alcohol from the Coca-Cola. A comfortable warm haze settled over Manny. He was about to encourage Sasha to try some. When another sound intruded, the high hum of drones filled the air. Manny fought down an irrational surge of anxiety. He wasn't sure he'd ever feel comfortable with the sound of drones again. Each of these drones was the size and rough density of a Rottweiler. They flew in pairs, connected by what looked like a thick. Indy white tube that hung between them. Several pairs settled in front of the main rollers bar in a stable hover. With a wire and a click, the white tubes in between them opened up and unfurled into screens. A second later, the screens lit up. Manny took another sip of truly fabulous tequila and looked back across his new friends. Donald Farris looked somber as solemn and Gray is a granite wall. Nana Yazzie seemed almost excited, as if she'd reached the 1st Jump scare in a good horror movie. Sasha hadn't touched her liquor. She didn't seem to have taken more than a few sips of the coke. Manny found himself wondering what would happen to her after all this. What am I going to do after this? Many realized with a bit of shock that Oscar's wife was the only person he'd messaged in almost a week. He hadn't sent anything to his family or his friends back in Austin. He'd had the excuse of his deck being deactivated when he'd been inside the Kingdom. But now that he was back and his deck was functional, his lack of communication felt less and less defensible. Just thinking about Aisha and the terrible news. He still had yet to deliver, brought a spike of anxiety that was somehow worse than his fear over the coming battle. There's a certain sound that happens when a large group of people all notice something at the same time. That sound shook Manny out of his contemplation and alerted him to the fact that something had started to happen on the screens. He looked up and he saw that all the screens scattered around the city and hovering over the field now shared the same images. One side of the screens displayed a video feed of a man in full tactical armor, his eyes covered by goggles and his head protected by a black helmet. He was seated in the cupola of an armored vehicle, rolling fast over the highway. Next to that video feed was a picture of the same man sans armor and more peaceful days. He was fair skinned with red hair and an easy smile. He wore a shirt that many guests signified his allegiance to some sports team in the amped. The images sat there alone for a second. Manny looked out at the horizon towards Rock Creek, where rolling Fox soldiers had embedded themselves. He saw three black Gray contrails rush out from an old office building and out towards the highway. The Heavenly Kingdom's forces were just barely visible to his naked eye. Tiny Ant sized tanks and transports. All three rockets hit, and the black smoke of the detonations obscured the head of the vehicle column. And then, on the video feed, a rocket burst right above the man in the cupola. Manny watched as he was torn apart in a hail of shrapnel. The video and the still image of his smiling face were replaced a second later by a looping video of an older man playing with a baby girl. He picked her up and spun her around, and the camera zoomed in on his joyous smile. Another video played of a younger man attending his high school graduation. More videos and still images popped up, displaying gentle moments in the lives of at least a dozen. Different men and then all the screens cut violently to video of an exploding APC. Manny jerked back in surprise. He saw that Sasha had reacted similarly. Nana Yazzie just sat and stared, her face unreadable. Donald Ferris frowned and when he noticed Manny looking back at him, he waved a gentle hand towards the screen and mouthed the word. Watch. Many turned back to the screens and time to see them populate with more faces and more looping videos. He watched his children opened birthday presents and celebrated graduations. He saw young men pose with team mates or hug their kids. He saw pizza parties and Christmas mornings and laughter and love. And then another vehicle detonated. The screen cleared and then it populated again with scenes from four more lives next to video of a detonating leopard tank. The parade of Shattered Lives went on as rockets, mortars, and now gunfire. Hashed out from Rock Creek and towards the vehicle column. Roland isn't even there yet. This is just the beginning. Manny stared out numb and queasy, and watched as the Heavenly Kingdom's armored spearhead changed direction and began the drive to Rock Creek. They were firing now to pouring explosive shot and long range rockets into the neighborhood. This is what she wanted, he reminded himself as the parade of deaths sped up. Roland it was downright cold. At 15,000 feet, Roland relished the bite in the air and stared out the Edmund Fitzgerald side window as he hit Jim's crack pipe. For the last time, his synapses bubbled with dopamine. Now he couldn't stop his lips from curling up into a grin as he looked out onto the distant fields below 5 minutes to drop point, the pilot's voice echoed through the cargo compartment. Normally it would have held an array of smart bombs or close assault drones. Today it held only Rowland. He stepped forward towards the rear Bay doors of the craft. The feeling of the cold deck under his feet and the elevated hemoglobin levels in his blood brought the threat of another rush of memory to Roland's mind. The dizzy Glee of the crack eye helped him shrug it off. Combat zone, battle and battle drugs. He tried to temper his excitement. He didn't want to crave that high as much as he did. It'll just take a few seconds, he told himself, and then I can disengage. He could already feel the Heavenly Kingdom's army. Far below settling in, their nose had been bloodied by rolling Fox rocketry, but they'd suffered relatively few casualties so far. The plan did seem to be working. Dozens of vehicles and thousands of men had already moved into position around the Rock Creek neighborhood. Rowland could hear the sounds of their mortars, recoilless rifles, and assault guns opening fire. He reached out with his senses and tried to find Topaz and skull ****** Mike in the mess, but their sense and heat profiles were obscured by shell fire and smoke. Roland was able to. OK, Jim, as well as Bigsby and his assault team. They were hunkered down at the edge of the neighborhood, embedded in an abandoned apartment complex, and engaged in a furious firefight with the Heavenly Kingdom's vanguard. Rowland could smell the dopamine rushing into Jim synapses from 15,000 feet in the air. His heart began to beat faster. He felt. His left hand started to shake, not in fear, but in delirious anticipation of the battle drugs. Another flash of memory took him, and his hand shook so bad he could barely hold the needle straight. He'd already missed the vein. Troy Scott, damn it. God dammit, he cursed before taking a deep breath and preparing himself to try again. 60 seconds to drop. The pilot's voice pulled, rolling back into the moment. That memory had felt weird. It had been blurry in his mind's eye, but Roland's arms and hands had felt smaller than was I shooting up dope as a teenager. He knew the answer, based on his current predilections, was probably. Roland shook his mind away from the past and focused again on the war downstairs. The Kingdom had moved quickly, he guessed. Around 4000 of their men were already in position. These would be the elite, their most veteran fighters, the soldiers wearing power armor or riding in real armored transports and not up gun trucks. He could feel the rest of the kingdom's army flung out far behind them in a long tail that stretched back to the Brazos. How many of these men will die today? How many are already dead? 10 seconds. His nose caught the distant gasoline reek of a flamethrower opening up on a squad of advancing martyrs. That's gotta be Jim, right? 5 seconds. The jump light turned from red to green and the Bombay doors opened with a rush of air and wind that cracked the uncovered skin on Roland's face. Three, said the pilot. He stepped out to the ledge and planted his feet, the world whipped by around them at a madding speed. Roland looked down, focused, and saw the Heavenly Kingdom's army underneath him. Dozens of vehicles and thousands of men. Had taken up position in a large park and several buildings surrounding Rock Creek. Two large gatherings of mortars and a trio of leopard tanks made-up the bulk of the artillery, now pouring fire into rolling Fox forces. There were also several large field guns and rocket batteries currently being bolted into place in an old parking lot behind the park. Competent, Roland was impressed by how the Kingdom soldiers had parked their armored transports to help complete a fortress wall around one side of Rock Creek. They'd sent a few probing attacks of Power Armored troopers, but he could tell they wouldn't launch a full assault until they'd flattened the neighborhood to a trickle of endorphins and serotonin, joined the soggy mush of dopamine and Roland synapses. He closed his eyes and with a thought, activated the sundry weapon systems that Sardar had wired into his body, the missiles in their pods. Plumbed in the barrels around his right arm, chimed in readiness lyrics from 1/2 remembered. Song flitted across his mind. Time, time, time for another peaceful War One. Roland stepped off the back of the craft and into the skies. Embrace. Sasha the faces flashed by, along with video clips and curated posts from social media and, of course, scenes of death. Some of the men died from sniper fire, cut down as they ran for cover. Others died in long range firefights or from shrapnel. The pace of death had gradually risen over the course of the battle. Some of that was due to the fact that the martyrs had sent in several assault teams to test the medal of the Defenders. Those men had died fast and badly. Many of them had been burnt alive. The sight of it all should have horrified her. She wanted it to horrify her. Everyone else at the table had tears in their eyes. Even Nanny Yazzie was crying and that Lady looked like she'd been through some **** since. When do you curse like that? Sasha felt a pang of guilt at how easily the swear word had come to her mind. Then she felt really, really stupid. She was literally watching people die. She'd killed 2 human beings less than 48 hours ago. What the **** does cursing matter? But still the guilt. Is there? Perhaps what she felt was a betrayal of her past self? Or maybe she was just dumb? Sasha shook it off. She tried to focus on the carnage. It was horrible. She knew that in the detached academic sense. She couldn't quite feel the horror, though. It was as if shooting Darrell had opened up a great knawing hole inside her heart, and that hole had spread like a black film over her entire body. All her feelings seemed so distant now. She wanted to cry about Darryl. She wanted to cry. About this she wanted to cry for Susanna and Anne, left alone in that living hell of a Kingdom. She wanted to cry for herself too, but she couldn't, and so she didn't. Instead, she sat and watched as the warrior gods of this strange city helped the martyrs earn their title. Sasha looked out at the citizens of rolling ****. Most of the people she could see were crying, and even those who weren't looked shaken, horrified. The perpetual party atmosphere she'd come to associate with the City of Wheels was gone. It had been suspended. To allow for pain, Sasha wanted to hurt with them. But instead, she thought about the offer that man Jim had made. She thought about the squeaking sound of the razor blade ripping out of Roland's forearm. She'd seen the way he fought. She longed for the high that had come with the violence and the clinic. But she couldn't stand more of the guilt killing Darrell had brought her. I could be a medic, Sasha thought. Jim said so. She looked up to the screens again at the parade of death. She wasn't sure if any of the dead had been rolling Fox soldiers. It didn't look like it, but as she settled back in to watch, something glitched on the screens. The stream of faces sped up well past the point where she could focus on any of them. Then the flow stopped, sputtered, the picture glitched out, and then righted itself. Whatever algorithm handled the show eventually stabilized, and the individual images on each screen shrank to accommodate many, many more people. A flood of the dead and moments from their lives. The nature of their deaths changed too. Most of the first waves seemed to come from a sudden burst of explosive detonations, but the explosions stopped and the dying continued, and whatever was killing the martyrs now moved too fast to be clearly seen. What's happening? She heard Manny ask. Is something wrong? No, the old man said. That's just Roland. Roland 45 seconds after his feet hit dirt, Roland was out of ammo. He'd managed to do a tremendous amount of damage in that short span of time, decimating their mortar batteries with cluster rockets and clearing the martyrs away from their field guns with a mix of gas and fragmentation grenades. He'd emptied his machine gun in three long bursts, mostly aimed at the infantry who'd been clustered behind the APC barricades when he landed. Then he'd taken to scavenging rifles from the dead and emptying those into targets of opportunity. By the one minute Mark Rowlands, hindbrain estimated he'd killed or wounded close to 1000 men. The sheer ferocity of his initial assault sent the kingdom's forces reeling and cleared a circle of ground around him about 200 meters wide. Roland finished gunning down the crew of a patriot battery and ran for an abandoned anti tank rifle lying next to a pile of bodies. Bullets smacked into him from all sides, diversionary fire meant to distract him from the UP Armoured Mattis, a PC that suddenly gunned its engine and barreled towards him. I think they can run me over, Roland realized with something like Glee. So we slowed down, reducing his Sprint to something like a normal human running speed while the vehicle closed the gap between them. He jumped at the last moment, landed on the AP's roof, and punched a hole through the top armour with both of his fists. Then he gripped the ragged metal at the sides of the hole and tore the a PC open. The smell of fear hit his nose as he tore through the concrete wall. The room held a dozen men, a mix of guards and officers. One man in the middle wore the stars of a general in the United States. For me, some of the soldiers screamed. A few opened fire, but the general just stood there while Roland killed. He didn't even blink. No Fear poured off him. It's our fault, the general said once. They were the only men left alive in the room. This is all our fault. Roll in time. A bullet hit his face and roll in, snapped back to reality. The men in the A PC were below him were dead. It looked as if he'd shredded them with his bare hands, but while he'd been lost in a memory two more a PC's had roared up and disgorged a dozen power armored soldiers. They shot him with big guns, weapons meant to hurt monsters. He avoided some of their rounds, but not most. Roland lost the better part of his right hand, a chunk of his skull in his left knee. It hurt, but that didn't stop him. He leapt off the Mattis, and soon he was among them, ripping off armoured plates and shattering bones with his bare hands. The battle drugs poured into his brain and lit his synapses up like the New York skyline. Roland let out a terrible whooping cry that was half laugh and half scream, and he tore into the men as they tried in vain to do him real harm. It took 19 seconds to eliminate them all. As the last man dropped, Roland realized with some surprise that he could hear Jim's voice. Distant, but getting closer. His old friend was charging, screaming out war whoops and firing those big dumb pistols. Then he heard the familiar crack of a dragon off sniper rifle. Topaz's rifle. He remembered it now. The sound was as familiar to him as the voice of his own mother. Holy ****. Roland realized that for the first time in years, he could remember the sound of his mother's voice. Her name and face were still lost in memory, but all this violence was clearly knocking some things loose. He took a step back. Find one of the intact Apcs to avoid a spray of heavy machine gun fire and take stock of the situation. Now that he focused, he could feel the hoof beats of rolling Fox Cavalry. He could sense that many of the city's infantry had charged out from their positions in Rock Creek to meet the martyrs in hand to hand combat. The Heavenly Kingdom was not in flight, not yet, but they would break soon. Roland knew it. He could smell it in the air. Time to stop now. Time to let skull ****** Mike Topaz and the others finish the fight. He'd done enough. He knew he'd done enough and yet. The drugs. Even after just a few seconds out of direct combat, the high was starting to fade, and Roland wanted more. He thought about cracking another skull in. His hand itched. He heard one of the martyrs open up with an automatic grenade launcher and thought about how good that gun would feel. Bucking against the meat of his shoulder, the man with the grenade launcher was close. Roland could close the distance between them and two, maybe 3 seconds. No, you don't need to do this. Stop. Fewer people will die if you just. Roland charged Manny. Manny had seen nine people killed by bullets or bombs. He'd seen a good deal more fresh corpses in the aftermath of firefights. He had a strong stomach, and he was not easily distressed by Gore. The opening stages of this battle and the war ritual had been unsettling, but not because of the violence that changed soon after Roland landed. He's just tearing people apart, Manny said, without really meaning to say anything. At all, Donald Ferris replied with a grim nod. It's hard to watch, Nanny Yazzie admitted, as another dozen lives and did messily on the screens before them. It'll be over soon, though. They can't take much more of this. I haven't seen any of your people die yet, Sasha said. Is that abnormal? No. Donald's voice was grim. There will be a lot of injuries, but I don't expect rolling **** will lose a single warrior. Good, Sasha said. Is it? Donald asked. Of course it's good, you silly **** Nanny Yazzie snapped. That was the first time Manny could recall hearing her angry. I disagree, the old man grumbled. We're on a precipice here. The edge of a deep Cliff. Every time this happens we get a little closer to falling off. What do you mean? Manny asked. He means Nanny, Yazzie replied with a bit of drunken slur to her voice. He doesn't trust the people of this city. He thinks they'll get a taste for war and this whole experiment will turn into a nightmare. You can't trust the dark Donald, Ferris insisted. And we're in the dark here. He waved out at the field and the hundreds of people watching the faces of the dead and tearful silence. Right now we've managed to lash together a chain of rituals that keep them peaceful. How long can that last? Nana Yazzi glared at him and then shifted her gaze to Manny. She pointed a finger at Donald. He thinks we should have let your people die. I think we have a responsibility to intervene. I'm not saying we don't, Donald Ferris insisted. I'm just saying I've seen how this story ends. History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Pithy, Nanny, Yazzie said, but Ohh. She stopped mid sentence and stared out into the screens. Many looked back just in time to watch the flow of dead faces speed up again. The screens jerked and shuddered to accommodate the new flow. Once they adjusted, Manny was shocked again at the violence on display. He saw men run through with lances, gutted by scimitars, burnt by napalm, and trampled under the spiked hooves of Quadra frats. Oh God, he moaned. Ah, yes, Nanny Yazzie sighed. That would be the cavalry. It won't be much longer now they're here to finish the job. Roland the Knights of rolling **** were a sight to see. Truly. It wasn't often that Roland came across something that registered as completely new to the deep, battered banks of his memory, but there was no deja vu here, no sense that he'd watched anything like it. Before. Rolling Fox Riders worked in two and three person squads, mostly using a mix of hand grenades, small arms, flamethrowers, and melee weapons for shock value. Their timing was exquisite. 100 riders. With the martyrs at the same time, they didn't seem to have specific targets or goals beyond causing mayhem. But they did this expertly spiking armored vehicles and field guns with white phosphorus charges and scattering any clusters of martyrs they could find. The woman, Kishori, rode past him, her face skinned and weeping blood as she lobbed a hand grenade towards a group of martyrs. Hunkered behind the shattered remains of a public restroom, she pulled a macuahuitl with an iron trunk and gleaming Obsidian blades. Three from her belt. As her steed leapt over the burning wreckage of a Jeep and bounded towards the survivors, Rowland followed her, tearing a piece of rebar free from some rubble as he charged. The restrooms were at one end of what had once been a giant playground in a public park. It had been derelict for more than a decade, but the corpses of swing sets and remnants of slides were still visible. Several hundred of the martyrs had fallen back to this position, trying to create some sort of defensive line. Panic and mass death had robbed them of a lot of cohesion. But they still managed to pour a lot of fire into Roland and Kishori. As they charged, a rocket propelled grenade hit the chest of her Quadra Fract and burst, ripping off one of the machines legs and sending the Chrome woman tumbling to the ground, gravel and rubble embedding itself into the red musculature of her bleeding face, Roland didn't stop for her. He charged ahead, absorbed a few dozen rounds of small arms fire, and dodged a handful of rocket propelled grenades. He hit a group of 23 men clustered behind a long still glass barricade and several heavy metal. Rates these martyrs have been trying to get a trio of anti tank guns back into the fight. They gave up on that once. Roland had closed to about 20 feet. One of them, an older man with a spine, shouted words of encouragement and charged forward, firing with a dozen of his men. These soldiers weren't wearing powered armor. They weren't good enough to hit more than one in 20 shots. They wore old upcycled body armor. Only a few of them had bayonets. They presented no real threat. 20 seconds and I can put every one of these. Walkers down for the rest of the fight. No one needs to die. His hand twitched. The river of dopamine in his synapses shrank to a babbling brook. Roland felt a craving rise. Maybe just a few more. He was among them. Roland found that brave old ****** picked him up by the skull and used him as a flail until the bones of his face came loose in Roland's hands. He deployed the razor in his wrist and started slicing off hands and ears. He moved on to slashing tendons and muscles and eventually just hacked at his enemies like a drunken butcher. One boy dropped his gun, tried to back away, and fell on his ***. As Roland stalked towards him, the protester screamed and screamed. They swung sticks and tried to bash him with their Shields, and he knocked their clumsy. Drakes aside and waded into the mass. Roland didn't even consider drawing a gun. He tore every fistful of human flesh, sent a wave of orgiastic Glee bubbling through his brain. A young woman screamed and tried to run, and he grabbed her hair and pulled in. The sound of her neck snapping almost made him shriek with joy. Please, said a different man before Roland shattered his skull against the pavement and left up to chase down a trio of fleeing martyrs. He was back in Incirlik, bloody and injured and almost Snowblind from the battle drugs. Roland shoved. The way through the door and into the air raid shelter, he'd already pulled a grenade free from his harness when he found himself face to face with a room full of women and children, old men and young boys, civilians. Unarmed and with sudden shock, Roland realized he didn't care about that last part. His synapses screamed for more, roll into obliged them. My God. Stop, stop. He came back to himself and realized he was on the ground and locked into a pretty darn good half. Nelson. It took him a moment to realize that woman. To Shory was the one holding him. Oh, he said. What the **** man? Roland looked around. None of the martyrs near him were still standing. It was hard even for his hind brain to identify how many people had fallen around him. He guessed South of 100, but not far South. The number was shocking. It implied a longer blackout than any of the others. What was scarier was the sheer violence evident in these men's death. Most of them were in more than two pieces. Are you going to? Flip out if I let go? Roland shook his head, and Kishori released him. He turned around, still seated, and looked at the young woman. She was filthy with grime and blood, some of it her own. Her skinless face wept red, but Even so, he could still see the judgment in her eyes. That was not ******* necessary, she said. I'm sorry, I. Roland it was skull ******. Mike Topaz trailed behind him at a sizable distance, sweeping the field with a rifle. Roland tried to catch his eye. He avoided Roland's gaze for a second or two. But then they connected and she stared at him with those big brown, tear stained eyes. This isn't what I wanted, Roland. This isn't what we said we were fighting for. This is just butchery. He felt anger at her, blind rage that warred with his love. Of course it's butchery. He screamed. The world is built by butchers. Dude. Kishori slapped him hard and Roland came back to himself. Schucker. Mike was closer now. Rowland looked for Topaz and found him. He was closer too, and looked worried, but he didn't say anything. Is Roland all right? Mike asked Kishori. Was he hit? Sure, but that's not the problem, Kishori said. He just went. ******* unlike a company of those guys, ripped them apart with his bare hands. That's a ******* relapse, said skull ****** Mike. He knelt down in front of Roland. Put a hand on his shoulder, buddy, he said. It's done. They're starting to run. Whole Army will be routed in a few minutes. You just sit here and catch your breath and rout it. Roland looked around and realized his hands were shaking. He felt a vast, throbbing emptiness in his synapses. He realized that the emptiness was always there and had been for as long as he could remember. Most days he hid it under a haze of narcotics, but now that he'd had it filled for just a minute, it's emptiness. Hurt like an amputated limb, he looked out and saw that, yes, skull ****** Mike was correct. Several pockets of martyrs still held out, but the bulk of the vanguard was either dead or fleeing. For the line of transports and technicals that stretched back to the Brazos, it felt like the rest of the army had started the slow process of halting and reversing its advance. The Kingdom had decided to pull back. Are you done or not? Roland asked, an evil voice in the back of his head. If you're not done. If you want more, you'd better go get it. Roland leaned back. He looked from skull ****** Mike to Kishori and finally to Topaz. Then he reached behind him, grabbed a busted rifle he could use as a club, and stood up. Roland. No skull ****** Mike started to say. Roland didn't hear the rest. He bolted off as fast as he could run in the direction of the fleeing martyrs. Sasha it was amazing how much she could tell about the course of the battle just from watching the faces of its casualties. The pace of the killing had escalated to a certain level and then started to slowly fall. More and more of the men died with their backs to the enemy's running. Sasha guessed that meant the army, or at least a lot of it, had started to break. The pace of death slowed to a trickle. Well then, Donald Ferris grumbled. You'd seems like that's more or less settled. I'm going to get us another round, I think. We've all eaten enough guilt further. He stopped, his jaw dropped. Oh no. Sasha turned back to the screen to see that the role of the dead had started to increase again. These men were running too, but most of them weren't dying to ranged weaponry. They were being grabbed from behind, ripped apart, or clubbed to death by something moving far too fast for human eyes to focus on. Roland, Manny said in a dull voice filled with sorrow. Sasha scanned the faces of her table mates. Manny looked almost overwhelmed with guilt. His eyes were watery and he just kept shaking his head and muttering to himself. Nanny Yazzie's mouth was closed, her face looked tight and frozen in horror. Donald Ferris was quite clearly furious. His face was so Red, Sasha worried his heart might give out, and yet she felt nothing. That's curious, isn't it? Sasha could remember how angry she'd gotten as a girl when she read some story about anti Christian brutality in Turkey or Illinois. She remembered being horrified by the executions she'd witnessed, but she could only picture her emotional state in those moments from a great distance, as if she were staring at it through the fogged up lens of a telescope. Why am I not angry? Why am I not horrified? Her concern over this fact actually generated a stronger emotional reaction than anything happening. But on that battlefield, Sasha stared out at the cameras and the continuing parade of violence. She heard Manny cursing under his breath. She heard Nanna Yazzi fight back a *** but Sasha felt nothing, save perhaps a bit of jealousy. Roland the scene out by the Brazos felt less like a battlefield and more like a playground. This might be the highest I've ever been, he thought as he broke a man's neck with the back of his hand. Bullets whizzed by as a few of the braver soldiers tried to cover the retreat of their comrades. Most of them, even the drivers, had abandoned their transports. Hundreds of men were already wading into the river, tearing off their armor, and tossing aside their weapons as they plunged in. The Heavenly Kingdom's army would not rally anytime soon. A martyr turned and drew his knife. In a feeble attempt at resistance, Rowland caved in the man's sternum with a fist and squashed his heart like a June bug. 10 meters ahead, he saw three soldiers preparing to make their stand behind an overturned flatbed truck. As he ran, Roland grabbed a discarded rifle off the ground, a Thompson submachine gun. He realized it didn't feel like a reproduction either. Roland brought the gun up to his shoulder. The Thompson gun bucked in his hand. Roland laughed as he danced through the charnel house that had once been a forward operating base. Most of the National Guardsmen were dead, but his nose told him one of them was still in the game. Roland turned past a hesco and saw the young man propped half up against a pile of sandbags. The boy held a hand to a bleeding hole in his gut. His black face was bloodless, pale, and young. So young Roland didn't know if he'd ever seen a soldier who looked that young. There was something familiar about the boy's face, Roland, the kid said, and recognition dawned in Roland's eyes. And then he was back. He was about. 50 yards further ahead than he'd been before, he blacked out. The Thompson gun was still in his hand, pointed at a man 12 yards to his left who was scrambling to get a wire guided rocket launcher into a firing position. Roland put a bullet through his brain. He turned past the burning wreckage of a semi truck. A dozen bullets impacted his chest and side. Then three martyrs charged him, their bayonets fixed. The hit wasn't bad. Nothing but a flesh wound. Skull ******. Mike looked worse. He'd lost most of his left arm. Topaz had taken 3 rounds to the Dome. But she was still firing her dragon off. Roland's mind stretched into the city of Dallas. Around them. There were a lot of men coming their way, but those men were mostly police SWAT officers, nothing substantial, no one who could stop them from getting this bomb where it needed to go. Roland screamed as he broke his Thompson gun over the head of another martyr. Then he reeled back and dropped the gun. That last memory had felt different, like it unlocked something. Roland shook his head. The last martyr in front of him broke and ran. Roland didn't even think to chase him. His head hurt in a way he couldn't remember it ever hurting before. What the hell is going on? It had all started the second he'd thought about. The bomb was small as nukes go. Just about one megaton. It matches the ones that fought Leonard Wood. The Guardian already released the hacked documents showing the government considered bombing several of the separatist camps. I think we can trust the American people to put two and two together, Jim smiled. Roland did not. This was his plan, but he didn't like it. He knew, though, that it was the only way forward for the revolution. There has to be another way, said Skull ****** Mike. This feels wrong. Really, really wrong. The floodgates of Roland's mind opened and a tidal wave of memories swept him away. He dropped to his knees. The martyrs around him continued to flee, too shocked and awed to take advantage of his vulnerability. The battle drugs were gone now, or at least he couldn't feel them anymore. Hundreds of memories assaulted his consciousness. Thousands for the first time. Years, Roland knew who he'd been, who he was again. I'm back. Roland stood. He took one halting step forward and then another, and then he leaned against the frame of a broken APC for a little while as he pictured his mother's face and voice. For the first time in years. He wanted to *** but there was no time. He knew who he was now, and he knew what he was bound to do if he stayed this way. Roland's conscience wouldn't allow that, so he trudged forward until he found the right tool, a hand held grenade launcher clutched in the dead hands of a martyr. He took the weapon and sat cross legged in the blood soaked Texas dirt. Roland looked up at the Sky One last time and allowed himself a long moment to remember his parents and his brother and the day he and Topaz had first met. And then he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. Manny's nanny Yazzie, Sasha, Donald, Ferris and Manny had all rushed to a transport as soon as Roland's face showed up on the screen. It seems the drones either didn't know or didn't care enough to separate dead friends from dead foes. Maybe that was the point Nanny Yazzie drove. It took about 6 minutes for the shiny green Jeep to make its way over the broken roads and towards the side of the battle. No one spoke. They reached the battlefield. There are so many dead people. Manny had seen a lot of carnage in his life, but nothing like this. The stenches of burning flesh, opened bowls and burning fuel were so overwhelming they almost knocked him down. Donald, Farris and Nana Yazzie looked just as queasy. Only Sasha weathered the sights and smells with calm. She stayed focused enough to spot skull, **** her, Mike and the mess and direct Nana Yazzie his way. Rolling **** soldiers were out in force. They stalked through the killing fields in groups of four or five. Searching for survivors or just looking for loot, Mike stood with Topaz and Kishore and a couple of chromed Manny didn't recognize. Most of them were seated by a handful of large metal crates in the centre of what had once been a large playground. Oh God. The dead men here had been torn apart. There was so much blood, more than Manny had ever seen it sliced around on the concrete like some sort of macabe Kitty pool. The Jeep came to a wet stop in front of the group. The act of breaking sent a spray of gore out across skull ******. Mike's legs, hey, he said. What are you all doing here? Roland, Manny said. What happened to Roland? Mike looked confused. Topaz raised his head up to look out at them. Many was surprised to see tears rolling down his face. His lip trembled a bit, but when he spoke there was steel and fury in his voice. He decided to keep killing. I'm sure he's still killing now. No, Manny said. He's dead, or that's what the drone said. We have to find him. Get out of that seat, Mike said to Nanny. Ozzie, I'm driving in an instant. Topaz's tears. Popped in before many could say anything, Topez hopped into the back seat of the Jeep. Fast, Topez told Skull ****** Mike as he took over from Nanny Yazzie. Go very fast. It didn't take long to find him. Roland's route through the army was painted in red. Hundreds of dead men, may be more than 1000, made a clear path with their corpses. That path didn't end until they were almost at the Brazos and they saw where Roland had fallen. Roland's armored body was splayed out limp, next to the carcass of an old semi truck. There were two very dead men directly in front of him, but neither of them looked to have done him in. Rowland hadn't gone down to enemy fire. He jammed a very large gun in his mouth. And blown the top off of his head. To all signs and to all logic, he looked dead. Donald Farish shook his head and muttered something. Sasha just stared. Nana Yazzi put her hand on Manny's shoulder. He was, she started to say, but she was interrupted by Roland as he lifted his ruined head up to look at them. His eyes were still unfocused, blood drooled down his nose, out of his mouth, and down from the gaping exit wound in his forehead. He spat out several teeth. Many saw daylight through his skull, but still Roland was able to speak. Who the **** are you people? He asked. This is Roxanne gay, the host of the Roxanne gay agenda, the Bad Feminist podcast of Your Dreams. Each week I talked to an interesting person about feminism, race, writing in books and art, food, pop culture, and yes, politics. We can't escape politics. Listen to the Luminary original podcast, the Roxanne gay Agenda every Tuesday on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hey, lethal listeners. Tig. Here. Last season on Lethal lit, you might remember I came to Hollow falls on a mission, clearing my amp Beth's name and making sure justice was finally served. But I hadn't counted on a rash of new murderers tearing apart the town. My mission put myself and my friends in danger. Though it wasn't all bad. I'm going to be real with you, tig. I like you, but now all signs point to a new serial killer in Hollow Falls. If this game is just starting, you better believe I'm going to win. I'm Tig Torres and this is lethal lit. Catch up on season one of the hit Murder Mystery podcast, Lethal Lit a tig Torres mystery out now and then TuneIn for all new thrills in Season 2, dropping weekly starting February 9th. Subscribe now to never miss an episode. Listen to lethal lit on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. The art world. It is essentially a money laundering business. The best fakes are still hanging on people's walls. You know, they don't even know or suspect that they're fakes. I'm Alec Baldwin and this is a podcast about deception, greed, and forgery in the art world. I just walked in and saw this bright red painting presuming to be a Rothko. Of course, art forgeries only happen because there's money. To be made a lot of money. I'm listening to how what they're paying for these things. It was incredible amounts of money. You knew the painting was fake. Umm. Listen to art fraud starting February 1st on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's break our handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Hey there, it's Ebony Monet, your co-host for the San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we're speaking with Doctor Jane Goodall about the fascinating journey that led to her impactful behavioral discoveries on chimpanzees. It wasn't until one of the chimpanzees began to lose his fear of me, but I began to really make discoveries that actually shook the scientific world. Life on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. In the 1980s and 90s, a psychopath terrorized the country of Belgium. A serial killer and kidnapper was abducting children in the bright light of day. From Tenderfoot TV and iHeartRadio, this is La Monstra, a story of abomination and conspiracy. The story about the man who simply become known as. Lamaster. Listen for free on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.