Those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security.
The windows were tinted, giving a blue hue that distorted the image of the city outside. People could be seen walking around the campus, their eyes directed to the ground. No sound was heard, only the shuffling of steps as they made their way to class. A breeze of wind rustled the trees, the leaves dancing to an unheard rhythm. Over the horizon an Angel could be spotted, watching over the citizens of America. Their wings spanned out, the metal glinting in the sunlight as they scanned the masses. One soared close to the window to gaze in. The single red eye scanned the room, profiling every individual in the class. Satisfied, it drifted back into the air, leaving only the smell of smoke and fuel in its wake. No one in the class took notice, choosing to stare at their books; blank stares, empty faces' void of emotion. A scream echoed through the hallways, sirens heard, a single gunshot. The bay would be seeing a new subject soon. That was the punishment for disloyal thoughts, to be taken away from family and friends and never be seen again.
This was America, the once free country had overnight become a monarch almost overnight. It was written in books now banned that the country had fought for its freedom, unwilling to settle for any less. It had been created from the blood of its peoples sacrifices, sweat from the brows of any man who was willing to give it all, and tears from loved ones who would pray to see them once more.
But now there were no tears, no blood, and no sweat. Wars in the past 30 years had taken their toll on the country. Citizens were afraid, and the government preyed on that fear as they took more and more power. It had started with The Act. A bill passed, which would allow the government to protect its people from agents of fear, even on home turf. Not until later had people realized what they had allowed to pass. The Act had allowed the government to capture, torture, and murder any dissent in the ranks of America. When realization finally struck, it was too late. You were a slave to the system, a number in their database, you had no rights but to live and breathe.
There were revolutionist, people that would not take the obvious corruption lying down. But soon most were packed away in the Bay. The silent civil war in America was now being fought in the shadows.
This is America, the police state. I am Allen, one of the Collective, a group that fights to end this cancer that has spread.
The day was coming to an end as Allen pulled into the driveway. He had just finished up a shift at Value, the super-mart that sold everything. Walking to the door, he put his hand on the scanner. After the door confirmed his identity, he stepped inside. Music could be heard, a metal band from years before The Act. Walking up the stairs, he saw the door at the top open. Out stepped Samantha, his younger sister of 18.
"Hey there bro, how was work?" Sam asked as she brushed a dangling piece of her red hair out of her face. Allen grunted as he walked passed her and into the room. Two beds lay on opposite sides of the square room, one decorated in pink flowers, the other in black. Setting down his bag, Allen turned towards his sister.
"They got Wolf today," his words were subdued as he sat down on the bed. Sam gasped, immediately sitting down next to her brother. Wolf had been another member of the Collective. Rachel, or wolf as she preferred to be called, had been one of the Distributers of information within the Collective. She had also been Allen's ex-girlfriend. His face shown of anguish, unable to believe how close to home he had been struck.
"Have you told pup yet?" Sam asked as she stood up. Allen shook his head, Pup had been the name of Rachel's little brother. The government had most likely taken him as well, shipping him off to a state sponsored foster home. There he would be told lies about his sister, become brainwashed as they attempted to appeal to materialistic senses.
"How many Sam, how many will they take before they come for us?" Allen asked as he stood up. Sam slapped him across the face.
"Don't you dare talk like that! You call yourself Dragon? Then act like it! Retaliate, burn their fields, tear down their defenses! Do anything you can to make them regret their decisions. But do not act like this is the end!" Sam said as she walked out the door. Allen sat there in the empty room, the music playing a soft whisper in the back ground. His face grew stern, Eyes shining with determination. Sam was right, now was the time for retaliation.
The screen was blue, words and code spread across it in a jumbled mess. The keyboard was dusty, a side effect of being stored in the hidden room in their house.
This is Dragon, anyone on the net?
Dragon, this is Raptor, I heard about Wolf, is it true?
Yes, they got her today. We need to implement Op release the hounds.
Bout damned time! I will pass the word. Do you got the coding?
I have it, transferring the beta now. Get Owl to check on Pup would you?
She already has, he has been re-located to her safe house.
That's a relief. How are things between you and Mamba?
Good, she is right next to me right now. She wants to know what time you want to implement the action.
Next week, on the 5th.
Ahh going for the gunpowder plot are we?
No, just seems convenient.
Well I got to go, did you get the beta?
Yeah, take care Dragon.
You too. Dragon out.
Allen closed the laptop, making sure to disconnect the cable from the rigged dial up. Leaving the room, he closed the trap door behind him. Seeing Sam in the kitchen, he assisted her in making dinner.
"So what is the word?" Sam asked as she stirred the mashed potatoes. The smell was heavenly, bringing back memories of when their mom would make miracles on the stove.
"Next week the hounds are released." Allen said as he turned the hamburger meat on the stove.
"Who was on the net? It had better not have been Mouse again." Allen laughed at the disgusted look on her face. Mouse was the token pervert of the collective, and had inconvenienced Sam while he was paying a visit to their apartment. He had walked away with a bruised ego, and scratches that he would later claim came from his cat.
"No, it was Raptor and Mamba." Allen said as he put some plates on the table. Sam walked in with the pot of potatoes, and the two ate in silence, broken only by the sounds of Angels and programmed messages being transmitted through loud speakers.
"So what is the target of the OP?" Sam asked suddenly. Allen pushed his plate away, having eaten everything on it. Looking at the clock, he saw it was getting close to light restriction time.
"We will be targeting the stations that power the Angels, the virus that we programmed will infiltrate the system, and with luck disable all of the interior mechanics of the damned monstrosities." Sam whistled in appreciation. "As soon as the Angels are brought down, Division will begin phase two, which will be a coordinated service attack on the profile system, and the information we gain will be able to tell us who was taken."
"Are there any risks of it being tracked back to sources?" Sam asked curiously. That was the greatest fear of the Collective. It had happened before, when Allen had started coding. One of the members, Opossum, had been caught with contraband, and in the process of interrogation had release information on ten other members. It had been a blow to the group, and now his name was spoken with the same malice as Judas.
"The risk will always be there, we just have to hope that this new bug will remain hidden until it is too late." Allen said, right before the lights shut off. That was the cue for both to go to bed. As he lay there, Allen prayed that Wolf would be okay.
The day passed as any other. Between works for the Collective, going to the state sponsored school, and trying to hold down a job to feed the both of them, Allen had little time for rest. As he stocked the shelves full of government regulated food, he felt anticipation brew within his chest. Today was the day. Calling out to his manager that he was going on break, he took a step outside the building cluttered with customers. The air seemed saturated with Angels, the smoke expelled by them was a faint black, and covered the air like a hazy mist.
Lost in thought, Allen jumped as a crash was heard. Looking off to the far right, he saw that a hovering Angel had landed on the ground. The bodies shining finish had scratches from its contact with the concrete. Another crash was heard, followed by another. In the distance sirens blared, warnings being shouted by the overhead speakers. Allen hid a grin as he walked back inside. His pudgy manager ran up to him in panic.
"Holy Christ! What is going on out there?" he hollered as he came near. Allen took a step to the left so that he could see outside. The Angels lay on the ground, being trampled on by people trying to leave the scene. Police cars were entering the fray, firing their beanbag rounds and rubber bullets trying to detain the chaotic mass. The sound was music to Allen's ears. Today was a good day.
A celebration was held in the apartment that night, Allen and Sam dancing to the old metal and drinking a bottle of their fathers' vodka. All plans had gone off without a hitch, with the Collective getting the names of 215 individuals that had been sent to the Bay. The sounds of sirens in the night did nothing to dampen their moods. A knock on their door had Mouse walking in with a 24 pack of beer, followed shortly by Raptor, Owl, Mamba, and Pup. Pup's eyes were downcast, his face red. The six year old boy had been crying ever since Wolf had been taken away.
The conversations were light, as everyone drank. Pup sat in the corner, sipping on some grape juice that Sam had given him earlier. Allen walked up to the boy and ruffled his hair. Looking him in the eye, he spoke.
"Hey kiddo, cheer up. We will get your sister back." Pup started crying a little at that comment, and Allen had to endure a glare from Sam as a result. Sitting down next to the kid, he pulled him into a hug. "Listen Pup, I know how you feel. The only thing you can do right now is go forward and make your sister proud. You are the pack leader, the alpha male now, and you need to be strong." Pup looked up at Allen as he said those words.
"I want to be strong Dragon." Allen ruffled his hair again.
"Then do it kiddo, go out there and show them what you are made of. Remember, we fight this war, but you, and other kids like you will be the ones to change the world." Pups face brightened. Running up to Owl he started jumping up and down.
"Did you hear that Aunt Owl? He said I could change the world!" Owl laughed at the kids change in demeanor. Allen stood up and walked into the kitchen. Grabbing another beer, he turned around to see Mouse standing there.
"That was some poetic stuff you said there Dragon, and I will be damned if it aint true." Allen nodded, looking at Mouse. He saw a red mark on the side of his face and chuckled.
"I take it your cat grew fists?" he said as he grabbed an icepack out of the fridge. Throwing it to Mouse, he grabbed another beer to give to Raptor.
"I tell you what, Wildcat sure has a temper," Mouse said as he held the pack against his face. "Don't tell her I called her that," he said with a sudden fear flashing before his eyes.
"Too late," a voice said from behind him. Mouse turned around slowly, to see Sam standing there with a furious look on her face. Then the game of Cat and Mouse began.
Allen chuckled as he picked up the shattered pieces of glass. It was dark, and he was cleaning up after the mess that Sam and Mouse had created. It had gotten out of hand until Pup stood in between the two. Neither wanted to risk harm to the kid, so they called a temporary truce for the night. As he cleaned the mess, he heard footsteps. Looking up, he saw Sam standing there.
"Let me help you with that, it's my fault that it broke." She said as she bent down to start picking it up.
"You really did a number on him tonight, hard to believe that you care about him," Allen said as he picked up the last shard. Sam's head whipped around and stared at him in the darkness. Her green eyes seemed to shine in the darkness.
"You say a word dear brother, and I swear that they will never find the body." Sam hissed as she threw the glass in the trash. Allen laughed as he made his way upstairs to the room. Laying down in bed, he heard Sams' voice echo through the darkness. "Good night Allen."
"Good night Wildcat," he said, getting only a rude gesture from Sam as a reply. The darkness lulled him to sleep.
It was a Sunday, and as per state orders all businesses were to be closed. The only exception to the regulation was private clubs, like the one Allen was walking into. He had gotten a message on the net that stressed the importance of a meeting. The Collective had no leader, no structure, no governing body, this made it difficult for the Government to track down people. But it did have representatives for each of its cities. During the meetings, one did not use real names, their persona in the public world did not exist once inside the meeting. Some went as far as wearing masks, as to conceal their identity. Knocking on the door, he was greeted by a set of eyes peering through a slot in the wall.
"Code?" the unidentified man asked.
"Lazarus," Dragon spoke as he waited for the door to open. The man behind the door nodded, before a creaking sound ensued. The door swung open, and Dragon quickly got inside the room. That was the rule, if the door remained open for more than 3 seconds, an emergency egress was executed.
As he walked up to the bar, his eyes swept the room. People of all ages, sexes, and nationalities littered the club. Each one was in a discussion with another, some talking about OP's, others complaining about the lack of progress. Dragon paid for a beer, and made his way to the back room. Coming to the entrance, he was caught off guard by a pair of slender hands wrapping themselves around his waist.
"Well, if it isn't the master coder himself?" a voice purred in his ear. The smell of lavender caught his nose.
"Hello Phoenix," Dragon said as he turned around and looked at the identified woman. Her stature was short, standing at a glorified 5'2'', with brunette hair dangling in curls around the smiley face mask she always wore. She had on a black dress, with a slit that ran up to her thigh. He caught a glimpse of steel before turning back to her.
"You seem in high spirits today, did Sheep finally bite the big one?" Phoenix laughed, her voice sounding like church bells on a wedding day.
"No unfortunately not, I just woke up on the right side of the bed this morning, of course if you want to join me, you can know what that feels like." Dragon rolled his eyes at the comment. Phoenix had been hitting on him ever since he started joining the meetings 3 years ago.
"Well, good luck with that," he said as he sat down at a round conference table. Phoenix sat down next to him, her legs crossed and hands placed in her lap. Every once and a while he could see her shoot a glance at him, her chocolate brown eyes full of mirth. A sharp whistle caught his attention, as a tall African American walked into the room. This was Fox, the representative of Division. Dragon and Fox had never gotten along. Fox was a former Marine prior to joining the Collective. His militaristic views also transferred over, leading to many arguments about how to fight this underground war.
"To a successful Operation!" Fox hollered as he held up his beer. Cheers were heard around the room, each person in the room was thankful for the victory that had been handed to them. "And a special toast to my self proclaimed nemesis Dragon, for coding the virus that made this possible!" Another round of cheers were heard, as people started walking over and patting him on the back.
"Thank you everyone," Dragon said as he stood up. "What is the manning status of the Collective right now?" Papers started shuffling as each person walked up to the board and put down their information. After it was completed, everyone took a second to look at the numbers. Each sector held over a thousand people. The highest it had ever been.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have the numbers now! We must march on the capitols and end this horrific system!" Spoke an older man with salt and pepper hair. Dragon and Phoenix rolled their eyes in quick succession. The old man was Sheep, a former gun store owner that had been shut down by the government for doing shady dealings with gangs.
"Sheep, why don't you go out to pasture already?" Phoenix said standing up. Everyone laughed at the obvious slight. "What we need are more coordinated attacks against the infrastructure. We target the one thing these monsters want. Money. If they have no money, they have no power." Everyone in the room nodded.
"Very well, we will need our INFO squads to start collecting everything they can," Fox said as he stood up. "Let us give a moment of silence for our lost brothers and sisters." At that everyone stood and bowed their heads. For five minutes they gave honors to those who had been taken away. After the silence, the meeting had adjourned with only Fox staying behind. "Dragon can I speak with you?"
"What's up?" he asked as he walked over to the tall man. Fox sighed and sat down. Taking a swig of his beer, he turned to Dragon.
"Look I mean what I said, good job on that coding. If it weren't for you, then we would have not been able to get the information we have. But I need to know, how far are you willing to go in order to save this country." As he said this, he looked into Dragons eyes.
"I do what it takes, as long as I am not putting my fellow members or family in danger." He said as he stared at Fox. Fox nodded, satisfied with the answer.
"I remember when I was in the corps. We had just taken a puddle jumper to a city in the Middle East and were shot at right as soon as we got off of the plane. It was pure chaos for 72 hours, as we tried getting reinforcements. But none came; our government had abandoned us, feeding us to the wolves. On the third day, we had pushed the insurgents back, holing ourselves up in the home of an elder man. We managed to escape the country, and made it to an embassy, only to find out we had been reported as KIA. Our own government was willing to turn us into a statistic." Tears glinted in the man's eyes. "That is why I fight, so that no one else will have to deal with abandonment like that."
Dragon nodded, and walked out of the room. Foxes words had struck him like lightning. Standing outside the door was Phoenix, who was wiping tears away underneath her mask. Dragon motioned her to follow him, and they made their way to the bar. Sitting down, he paid for two beers. Handing one to Phoenix, they drank in silence.
Allen got home right as the curfew hit, his steps heavy as he walked down the hallway to the kitchen. Looking into the living room, he saw Sam curled up on the couch asleep. Grabbing a spare blanket, he laid it across her. "Mom, Dad, please don't go," he heard her murmur in her sleep. Kissing her forehead, he walked over to the recliner and sat down. Pulling a photo album from the shelf next to him, he began flipping through the pictures of a decade ago.
Their father had been a civilian contractor, working with biochemical researchers to try and find a cure for the HIV epidemic that had sprung up. Their mom had worked alongside him, as a liaison for the drug administration. At home though, they were two of the most brilliant hackers the net had ever seen. Not believing that any good could come from The Act, they had prepped and executed many attacks against the establishment. Their actions caught up with them, and they were terminated in a "lab accident". The government was quick to issue an apology in regards to the accident, and paid Allen a hefty sum of money. This was prior to the enactment of state sponsored orphanages, so Allen had to raise Sam alone.
Looking at the wall, he saw his father's old cane, solid oak with a silver handle. It was one of the few reminders they had of their parents. Feeling the exhaustion of the day, Allen made his way up the stairs to bed. Closing his eyes, he drifted off into dreams of gunfire and explosions.