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Category Archives: The Union

I got bored.

Illinois

The British artillery doesn’t even reach the fort walls. The brigade lacks scaling ladders, so Appleseed’s safe on the wall, watching. In the distance, the Shawnee sit: there’s nothing else to do.

“You didn’t try too hard,” he says, “to stop me.”

“No.”

“I saved twelve families, bringing them here.”

“They’ll be cold enough, in time.” Frost smiles. “But their deaths would have changed the Ohio campaign–kept the Shawnee useful. Now, they won’t be able to use the colonies’ conflict with the Empire to preserve their independence.”

Appleseed shivers.

“Why freeze farmers,” murmurs Frost, “when I could shatter a nation?”

Alabama

Some of the falling stars are big: the Governor’s mansion takes one and becomes a smoking hole. Some of the stars are a spark shower; boys chase them through the woods, but the wet loam they kick up always puts the stars out.

Some stars are just right. Corbin catches them in the pouch of her jumper, enough for a bowl full. She pours milk on the stars and eats them with a spoon.

When she’s done she looks up, and serious. Her head is full of fusion. She gets out her scooter.

She has a lot of work to do.

Maine

“Moxie Bitters,” says Moxie Bitters.

“Misery Slant,” says Misery Slant.

They don’t bother shaking hands. They eye each other, Moxie up, Misery down: sometimes a book is written on its covers.

“You’re not worth bribing, are you, Miss Bitters?”

“I prefer Moxie,” says Moxie, “and no, Misery, I’m not.”

“Then we have a problem, Moxie,” says Misery. “And I prefer Miss Slant.”

“The lighthouse stays on,” says Moxie, and shakes her hair back. “That’s what a lighthouse does: welcome by warning, safety in departure.”

“The Platonic lighthouse, perhaps, yes. This particular lighthouse will go out,” says Misery.

“Maybe tomorrow. Not tonight.”

Missouri

“No!” shouts Moxie, arms pinioned by two of Misery’s goons, as two more smash the casing off her little basement generator. The room goes dark and quiet.

“Let’s take Miss Bitters outside, boys,” Misery chuckles. “I think she’ll want to watch.”

Moxie kicks and struggles, but doesn’t bite. She’s busy counting under her breath.

“Three Missouri,” she mutters, “two Missouri, one–”

Crack. Misery spins around to see the bloom of light at the top of the tower–then a flicker, and a surge. Soon the whole roof’s on fire.

Not far off, a fugitive winks its lantern, then sails away north.

Arkansas

“Too far to walk back to the city now.” Luck keeps his head low as they look over the ridge. “I can’t believe you survived the trip once…”

“I hid on a river barge.” Blot’s face is blue with blackberries. “It didn’t hurt, then, as long as we were going south.”

“Neither of us belonged there anyway,” says Luck. “And I know there are people on this side of the river, no matter what they say. Other people, other cities.”

“You believe those baby stories?” Blot’s scorn is older than she is.

“I believe,” says Luck, “in a place called Hope.”

Michigan

“You look like an undertaker,” says Lou, skipping a rock. He looks different without his suit and hat: older, jarred, denim and oilskin.

“Undertakers don’t wear much black, actually.” Rita’s in the silk, now, so dark it stands out against shadow. She doesn’t even have her gun.

“The Cold Man’s dead,” says Lou. “Killed by the Cold Woman?”

Rita shakes her head. “He was a man, and he broke. I unbroke him: he’s a name now, a terror, a legend. I’m merely Rita, humble agent in his affairs.”

“So I work for him now.” Lou sounds tired.

“Everyone,” says Rita, “does.”

Florida

Level thirty-eight and their first blank wall. Roy runs a pen over the seamless surface until he finds the edges of three wheels, then presses his hands against them and turns. At last, they interlock: one large circle, with two smaller ones atop it.

“Surprised?” says Roy.

Michael finds that he isn’t. “I always knew it was… more than a logo.”

Roy grins. “Hidden Mickeys have power–more than the Cast Members know. There’s a reason we control and track their locations.”

“What power?”

“Passage,” says Roy, “among others,” and when he pushes the wall it cracks into a door.

Texas

Night Numbers are just her day job. Everybody wants a little bar code zero, and nothing less than steel will trap that void–but it’s unpleasant, if easy. She’s glad to send them off to the retailer, who’s far away, overseas.

She hangs up the big hammer and locks the forge doors, and she’s no sooner around the corner than the first of the kids is there.

“Miss Summersmith?” he asks. “I was wondering,” and holds up string and some crayons, a dime and white chalk.

She’s already smiling: unpocketing the little hammer, the one with a prism for a head.

Iowa

“A Mister Sort,” says the aide, “from the Office of Mayhem Evaluation.”

Sort shakes hands with the Minister, nods to the Cabinet. “Glad I can be of service,” he says. “I assume you want my take on the situation outside?”

The Minister nods. “We moved the Capitol out here to get away from the unrest, and now–”

“I am fairly certain that it is, in fact, mayhem.”

Quiet.

After a while, one of the Czars coughs. “That’s… that’s all? Do you have a notion of the cause?”

“Oh,” says Sort politely, “you really want to know that? It’s all your fault.”

Wisconsin

Provo’s not in Wisconsin or Washington, but that’s where the trucks are: limbo. Abbot and Sweeney chew outside the Flying J.

“Think they’ll sell?” Sweeney takes a pinch of Skoal.

“They’ll sell.” Abbott snorts. “Milwaukee. Watch, they’ll call ’em the Beers.”

Milford’s going over the trailer, pulling padlocks and tucking flaps. He looks back, then eases the handle of the big steel door.

White noise and white leather. Endless grass. Sepia and clean cotton, crack and arc, the sun and the floodlights–

“Quit,” says Abbott sharply. “You’ll let it all out.”

“I was just checking,” says Milford, and slams it shut.

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