HOME OF THE BRAVE By Edward Morris

Mr. President, honorable Senators and Representatives from all fifty-two states and the District of Columbia polis, please be seated. This is not an exercise.

Your building has been compromised. The Enemy awaits your surrender. Pucker up.

What? What thunderbolt takes your picture now, ', and where will you stand when it hits? Distinguished pedophiles, rapists, war criminals, waste dumpers, what sympathy in Death discloses what cancerous betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams, that when exposed can never be forgiven, on any world?

I'll be quick. You think you get any unnecessary words? You think you get some filibuster from Dr. No until the Bureau of No You Didn't breaks down the door?

You never gave anyone but yourselves anything. Not much. Not those whose lands you stole, or those whom you stole from their lands, or those who bear your diseased little larvae you groom for the Presidency from elementary school---

What? You like my suit? This here little ol' Airstream trailer with Kung-Fu grips and hydros to match? Wait till you see how it gets around long-distance. I'll give you a hint. It doesn't move through normal Space.

Oh? You've almost got it. I can look into your eyes from here and see the little squirrels running on their wheels, nearly aware of this massive barrel of pork that has grown arms and legs and clawed its way home to you.

There are a lot of new mods on this, as you. . . may have noticed. This is not my father's Dreadnaught that made last year's black-ops budget scream Dixie all the way through Research & Development.

I have some new investors, now. They have some information I didn't, information you don't, and. . .

Oh, now it's starting to sink in. Your worst nightmare is here. The new investors, I mean. It. . . Oh, just shut up and listen.

On the night I decided to go on and join my Dad in death, the main processor of this then-unfinished Suit started getting a signal your dogs couldn't decrypt.

A signal. . . from the new investors, the new upstairs neighbors in geosynchronous orbit.

Yeah. The Osirians. The ones you've detained all damn year while you frisk their little Away-team time and again, starving them of their native air and the spores that clean their minds. Two of them are already dead---

ARE YOU ON ME, CAMERA THREE? TWO OF THEM ARE ALREADY DEAD! YOUR GOVERNMENT ARE LIARS AND MURDERERS!

Sorry. You're not responsible? I beg to differ. Long ago, we gave you consent to govern us, to help provide the basic biological rights and do the things which we the people could not do for ourselves.

In return, you robbed us blind, put us in chains and kept all our money in your family. So why is this new? The first god-damn life form to ever put its trembling hand out into the dark and say Hello In There, and you feed them the one Earth commodity that will never run out: red tape.

Two of them have died. Two of them have died! The living ones sent me blueprints! They gave me notes! They told me everything Dad got almost right, walked me through the final draft of this here bargain-basement Bringer Of Death, and I'd do it all again and again and again!

(CLANK)

Me. The prototype at home was all I have left of Dad, before you bastards became the real-life hole in every theory.

Before Dad got far enough on the prototype to account for synaptic-recovery lag, and then walked out into the kitchen and put a pistol in his mouth when the CIA Nanite cluster he swallowed with his morning coffee suggested he do so.

Did you think I was stupid? Deniability or not, all of you murdered him with your silence, your ignorance. He was a man. A man!! His name was. . .

I'm not here for that. Your flunkies weren't as thorough as they think they are.

Dad copied everything from the drive in his ear canal. . . to mine, as he'd done since I was little, regurgitating my favorite food beak-to-beak, mind-to-mind, down the years.

I gilded Dad's Vitruvian Man in a squat-warehouse far off the grid where the buses don't run. Anybody wanna armwrestle? How about you? Yeah, you in the back, there, with the face like a slapped ass.

You, with that young page-boy still on your breath. If I win, you spill every name your pet snake of a lobbyist now rotting in the can never did. If you win. . .

No, Mister Majority Leader, we let you win too many times. Punk. Come up and tap on the glass. See? I'm right behind there. The President has his limo windows made out of this same goop. Costs the earth, too.

What? Mr. Speaker, would you like to approach? Please do. Let's drag the whole rotten chronicle out into daylight while you put up your dukes, like that's going to do a thing except make me pee my plastic pants from sitting here laughing at you.

Camera One, can you come down in front here, a little? C-Span's still rolling, Mr. Speaker. Tell 'em the rest. Tell 'em who signs your real paycheck. Tell 'em!

While you're at it, stand there and call this planet home with a straight face. Tell 'em what you really look like. You have no options left, here. Closer, closer winds the bobbin of the cambot. Tell 'em!

#

Tell 'em--- Oh, why hello, troops! I see the stunflash wore off with no ill effect on those ten of you in front. How was that gas, for the rest of you in the back? Any persistent vomiting? Discolorations in urine or feces? Sorry. How rude of me.

That's okay. I'll wait. I feel all your little pulses and eyes crawling all over my skin. That's why there are jamming coils in my boots. The copper wire came from the streetlamp at the end of my block that hasn't worked for as long as I can remember. POWERING ON. . .

The spare parts for these coils came from coffee cans in Dad's basement workshop, sainted oracle bones that first began to vibrate the pure frequency of revenge late at night in that drafty old rattrap up in Georgetown that can never be a home again. . .

#

Comes a moment of quiet. This wasn't covered in their Employee Handbook of Homeland Stupidity or anywhere else. But I've steeled myself to this, and more.

These are no fresh-faced, smart-assed volunteer boys and girls from Akron, Ohio waiting out their four-year hitch to pay for Art School. These are career officers, hard babies, flak-vested bitch and black-shirted bastard lifers from buck brush parishes where blood feud is the whole of the law. If they saw behind the glass---

Shots finally fired. The game's afoot. Bushido!

From the first stroke, the destruction buggers description in every orifice.

[PLEASE IMAGINE TEN MINUTES OF PUNK ROCK VIOLENCE]

#

Anyone else?

(Someone coughs.)

All right, on the ground, now, all of you! Assholes and elbows! You too, Mr. President. What? No, you--- What? No. Yes. Yes, you will if I so give the order! Sir!

Sir? Are you starting to recognize my inflections through the filter? We've met, you see, twice, and--- Forget it. GET ON THE GROUND!!!!

As I was saying, before I was so charmingly interrupted by the piles of leaky meat currently blocking your exits, you don't get---

Well, what to my waltzing surveillance flies doth crackle into static life, so quickly! You'd think they'd give you guys at least a fighting chance to escape, band together, some sort of bullshit they could make into a movie. . .

SUIT: MAIN MENU.
STASIS GAS: YES.
%02/GAS ---20%. . .19%. . .18%...
PRE-ANAESTH. ADMINISTERING SALINE/LACTATED RINGERS IV,:
GO/GO. ADRENOCHROME DRIP: STANDBY TFN.
AUTO. COUNTDOWN.

Gotta go to ground, I guess. Straight down, through the floor. I'd bet dollars to donuts they'll use a neutron bomb. I'll be safe just above the water table. But why would they. . .

No. I get it, now. They've been waiting for a military coup for a long time, since the Fifties, at least---

But I'm still right here. I'm still standing. In this game, I guess I'm Beelzebub, the big gadfly in every ointment that will chew through the great slow-moving beast of state and watch as the eviscerated Trojan horse drops forward to its knees, and falls both ways.

EARTHMELD SEQUENCE INITIATED.
SWITCHING RADIO:
OUTSIDE LOCAL PROGRAMMING:

"Ladies and gentlemen. . ., please remain in your homes. As your Acting Commander In Chief, I swear to you on the graves of the fine men and women who died today in the United States Senate, we will r-r-r-root out whoever is responsible for this 'einous act of anarchy and bring them to justice. The United States Armed Services will not tolerate. . ."

SUIT, END FEED PLEASE.

Reason?

MAY BE VIOLENTLY ILL IF I HAVE TO HEAR ANY MORE.

Fully comprehend. Ending feed.

THANK YOU, SUIT.

Not a problem. . .

I sit back and let the gas come on slow and cool. I don't know if I'm laughing, crying or gagging. It'll all be over soon.

Up above, my surveillance flies are still picking up all those career criminals trampling each other at the barred exits of the Senate forum floor. I notice Prexy get knocked down, caught in the mosh. He doesn't look like he wants up.

I notice I notice I notice I notice the Minority Whip beating his face soft against the steel chamber door that won't open, and the distinguished senior Senator from Texas doing something I can't think about with the same brain I use to think about my dear dead Mother. . .

Even through Plex-Ann glass and organic filters, I notice the stink, oh god, sharp terror, rut, blood... They all have radios too. They know exactly what's about to land on them.

They must have known for minutes. The couplings I am seeing now, at the end ---

They all scream in the same octave, as if trying to block Death with their own shrill voices, all the lies they ever told their constituencies. Too late.

Gas. . .coming in waves. Stronger. Anybody bring the . . .marshmallows? I---

[static]

#

Not long later, I roll a large section of sidewalk aside, exposing the whistling sepulcher so far down into the ground. The slantwise hole that Suit just finished on Auto is still smoking. No more did Suit have time to dig the whole way down then it was safe to come up again.

I piston out and up to street level, looking around. It's so empty, out here. The smoke from the hole has no competition. Just by eyeballing the perimeter, I can tell that they evacuated the area down to the last homeless brain-case before detonation.

How do I know? No unmanned shopping carts. No filthy empty clothes covered in grotty human ash. Good for them. I guess it was just a sharp PR move on FEMA's part. Nothing like having to explain heavy-caliber friendly fire to the press.

I need a wash. Something tastes like blood. I'm still all wrecked from Dad's stasis-gas. I can read my own terminal now, barely. Suit's telling me they detonated a PS20 Anti-Personnel Neutron Pulse a hundred feet above the Senate roof.

I owed them all already, owed them all, for having my Dad whacked when he spoke out against the war. Dad quit making their toys for them in protest. That Dreadnaught Suit would have rendered all existing weaponry irrelevant, the way Dad's hero Nikola Tesla wanted to do, way back in the day when people pretended there was still a place for imagination in Science.

Their dogs ruined his life, drove him as mad as Tesla and made me mostly what I am, instead of what I wanted to be. All the long years of Eyes Front, Mouth Shut, working my way through a Nanochem degree by cleaning up after their indiscretions, projectile-vomiting at what some of those families did behind closed doors. . .

I've worked domestic security behind the Beltway a long, long time. But now I'm getting out.

Out, to Denver, and the Rockies, and the North American Air Defense Command.

I don't want any trouble with them. Just a whole lotta cameras in my almost-indestructible face.

Back to work. Back to the front. A tank sights me as I lope across the street, and the EMP shell goes wild, twisting savagely like ball-lightning up and down the deserted sidewalk, taking out a few windows on the way.

I hold out my hand to the sky and bounce it back, slingshot off the explosion through phase-space, and reappear brooding and alone in Denver's cold, thin alien atmosphere, reeling in the wake of the sequence I just initiated. .

Suit knows which way to go. I just know I have to hurry up.

#

[END]

For Cory, Laurie and Bill