Brothers in Arms

The perky redheaded news reader beamed as she continued, "The war in Europe is going well, the fascist British dissidents losing ground on several fronts." She became a bit more serious as she concluded her broadcast, "Today's danger level is Red, I repeat, Red. Remember, when the police ask you questions you must reply, or risk arrest. Cooperation with the authorities is what all good citizens do, and if you do not, you are a bad citizen...."

... there was a burst of static across the screen and the regional news broadcast disappeared, replaced by the national news desk. A younger man sits there behind the curved desk, keeping his face carefully neutral. Down in the corner of the screen there was a stylized symbol, the letters 'GNN.'

"This is Matt Fields," the brown haired young man said a little stiffly, "in a special bulletin on the Global News Network."

On cue the banner appears above his head on the screen reading 'California in Crisis' and split screen effects are used to show events over the past few days. There was rioting, burning buildings and in one very disturbing scene, a dead little girl.

Matt looked towards the viewer, almost radiating trustworthiness as he gently tapped the documents on the desk. "Less than a week ago California was peaceful." he said to them dramatically, "entirely unaware of the enemy within."

Stock footage of various university campuses appear on the screen as he smoothly continues in a voice-over, "Due to an dangerous upswing in radical, treasonous tendencies in universities and the subversion of our noble educational institutions by foreign terrorists, the President was forced to dispatch National Guard troops to restore order."

They cut back to the newsroom where Matt was looking a little frayed around the edges. Looking down at the sheets in front of him he read out, "In response to threat to their life and limb the Guard units opened fire on student dissidents...."

Matt trailed off, seemingly unable to read any more as he clenched his hands on top of the desk. From the side a woman's voice softly called off, "Read it, damn it, that's what the President's media secretary approved." A moment's pause, "We can't afford to have our license to broadcast in the states pulled, or worse."

"Damn it, I have family in California," Matt looked up with new determination of his face. "The National Guard opened fire on unarmed students," he said firmly, "who were only using their rights of free speech and assembly."

Weakly from the side, "Oh no...."

Continuing on Matt said, "The President attempted to mobilize the California Army reserves to stop riots that broke out over the shootings, but they have instead chosen to protect the protesters. We've just found out that the Governor of California and the house of Representatives have voted to succeed from the United States."

"Cue footage," the woman ordered, "we're in deep already, might as well finish it."

Cut to the front steps of a government building in California where a older man stands, two army officers who are obviously bodyguards nearby. "The United States government has willfully violated the rights of the citizens of California," the Governor said gravely, "and show no signs of changing their course. It is with a heavy heart that I announce that in an emergency session the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pull out of the United States. This is hopefully a emergency measure, until an investigation into the shootings can determine who gave the orders to fire."

"For now the President isn't moving against California," Matt said crisply, "possibly due to fears of further military desertions. An emergency declaration is moving through the United Nations in support of California, further tying the government's hands."

"Matt," the blonde haired older woman who had been speaking came on camera, "security shows military police coming into the building!"

Matt nodded grimly then looked at the camera, "The President doesn't want you to know about this, or the rising movement against the current system." Banging sounds off in the distance as he continues on, "We've been ordered to kill stories about any successful resistance strikes and protests or the growing international condemnation of our policies."

"They're here!"

Figures in uniform rushed into the room, quickly spreading out. One grabbed the woman roughly even as another hurried towards where Matt was sitting resignedly. A third noticed that the camera was still on and walked towards it, filling up the screen for a second before the image cut off again in a burst of static.

That was nearly a year ago.

Now Washington D.C. was burning, red light shining against the night sky. Many historical monuments had already fallen to combat, but efforts were being made to try to preserve as much as they could as military forces from around the country moved in towards the White House.

Two figures waited tiredly in one of the many encampments, trying to get something to eat and some rest. "So how did you get into this, Neil?" Suzanne asked, her blonde hair clipped short, her blue eyes tired as she looked towards the young man. Neither one wore traditional uniforms, just street clothes with a simple cloth armband.

"Probably the California broadcast on GNN," Neil admitted, black hair falling into his eyes as he leaned against the side of the building. He lit up a cigarette and continued, "I don't think I ever realized how bad things were really getting, until I saw that. You?"

There was a moment of silence as Suzanne took a drink of her cup of juice. "My lover was taken in a security sweep," she said grimly from where she sat on a broken piece of column, "I did everything legal I could to try and get her back." A short beat of silence then she added bleakly, "Then I moved on to illegal."

From the look on her face Neil knew that hadn't ended happily, "I'm sorry."

"At least I found out about what happened to Rebecca," Suzanne said quietly, "there's still so many people who've lost love ones and don't know."

"God," he sighed, cigarette glowing red in the semi-darkness.

"Any news on the Library of Congress?" Suzanne asked, finishing off her drink.

"Sounds like they kept the federals from burning the building," Neil smiled grimly, "we'll need those records to try and bring the President's inner circle to justice."

"I doubt they're going to live to reach trial," Suzanne said, eyes alight with a dangerous glow.

A runner arrived before Neil could form an answer to that statement, the teen nodding respectfully to Neil before turning to Suzanne. "Colonel.," he said, "the meeting is going to start soon."

"Sorry," Suzanne got up, wincing slightly.

"Good luck," Neil nodded, moving off to try to grab some food.

"What's the situation, Rafe?" Suzanne asked, limping slightly as the two figures made their way across the encampment together.

Rafael Dacosta quickly summarized, "They're debating how to move on to the White House itself, ma'am."

As he walked by her side Rafe thought about Suzanne, the stories that were circulating about her. Over the past three years she had practically built the east coast resistance from the ground up, recruiting, training and leading an elite team of operatives. Few people had done more to push the President out of office, but he often wondered what it had cost her.

"About time," Suzanne nodded slightly.

"There are representatives of the European news media here, they'd like to talk with you along with other leaders," Rafe tentatively said.

"No," Suzanne growled.

"But ma'am...." Rafe pleaded.

Suzanne grit her teeth, "They stood on the damn fence for years, toeing the president's line, and only now that he's on the ropes are they finally willing to show some balls."

"I don't have balls," the amused female voice commented as Rafe brought them to the primary encampment. The tall young woman met their eyes frankly, "I have no illusions about how we acted in the past, but we're trying to make up for it."

"And who, exactly, are you?" Suzanne frowned.

"Heather Rice for the BCC," the redhead replied. Softly she continued, "We want your story, if only because people need to know why this is happening."

"Not interested," Suzanne snarled.

"I've already done some research," Heather spoke fast as the woman was walking away, "I have a good idea why you're doing what you're doing." She chose her next words carefully, "But wouldn't it be better if you told the story, if only for her memory?"

Suzanne stood there for a moment, stiffly, as she considered. "All right," she finally conceded, "let's get this over with."

Rafe led them, to an empty tent, then excused himself. Heather set up her recording gear and took a nervous breath, "Tell me what brought you here."

Suzanne closed her eyes, remembering a pain that had never really gone away. "For me, it began when they came to take my lover away....."

End.

Authors Note: I should hang a sign on my wall saying, 'Never say never.' Many times I said I wasn't going to continue 'First we take Manhattan' but then the opening scene of this story showed up in my head. This story starts several months after the end of 'First' and then takes up the story about a year later, which I hope is fairly believable.