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Call Me Maybe; trigger warning: transphobia
Topic Started: Aug 26 2016, 07:48 PM (1,538 Views)
frogue
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just a picture of a cloud
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
[Tessa Mabel Cole continued from This is not a War]

Everyone knew there were drones over Arizona.

You couldn’t see them in the sky or anything, the feds were way too smart for that, but you could see where they’d been if you knew where to look. There were holes in clouds that shouldn’t be there, or occasionally the sun might seem to be glinting off of nothing. You’d hear noises like a plane, but there’d be no planes around; the signs were everywhere, as long as you knew what the signs were.

Tessa had been reading about the signs for years.

The problem with these drones was that, according to the feds’ own laws, you couldn’t really do anything about them, not even if you knew they were there. As long as they were in your airspace and not on your property, they weren’t technically trespassing, and you couldn’t just go shooting them down. You were meant to just sit there and let their infrared x-ray microwave future cameras look down your chimney and watch you undress.

Needless to say there were people who weren’t too happy with this arrangement, and they’d figured out ways to deal with them that didn’t end up with anyone in FBI custody, being shipped off to some secret prison in Cuba with a bag over their head.

When it came to drones, there were two basic types. The big drones, the ones they used in the Middle-East were called Hunter-Killers, and those had all kinds of fancy communicators and satellite feeds and whatnot to keep them going. If one of those came for you, there wasn’t a lot you could do except hope that they messed things up and “accidentally” blew up a school full of brown kids instead of the house you were hiding out in.

No, those things weren’t to be messed with, but the little ones were just spy drones, and those communicated using good old-fashioned radio waves. Radio waves that the good folks who made up the Arizona survivalist community had all sorts of ways of jamming, blocking and subverting.

The way that Tessa had in mind was by building a spark gap transmitter.

From how that smug government stooge had talked, it was clear the collars were radio activated. When they talked about how they’d blow them up if the kids didn’t do what they said, it was clear that that required some sort of external signal, and radio was the obvious choice. A spark gap transmitter would stop those signals coming in, and once Tessa had done that, these false flag faux-terrorist fucks wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing to her.

She hadn’t built one before, since they were technically illegal (and what a shock that the Government wouldn’t be permitting its citizens to build devices that would prevent drones from hovering above their heads) but she had a good understanding of the theory behind them, and thought she remembered the practical details well enough to rig up something that worked, as long as she could find the parts.

She reeled off a list of them in her head as she trudged across the grass. It was her mantra.

“Wood. Wire. Nails. Hammer. Motor. Batteries. High voltage source.”

Most of what she could find would be at the vehicle depot, but it made sense to leave that for last. All that stuff would be heavy, and she wouldn’t make things any easier on herself by having to cart it around the island with her. No, she would gather everything she needed first, and then once she was fully equipped she would make her way there.

She’d spent a good quarter hour pouring over the map, planning her route. Much less time was spent on any of the other contents of her bag, except to note that the Claymore Mine she’d been given was manufactured by the U.S. army. But oh no, that was all just some big coincidence, wasn’t it?

Tessa had snorted. Like hell it was.
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frogue
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Tessa lifted her arm, her body mirroring the boy's, and gave him a wary nod of greeting, not taking her eyes off of him.

She'd recognized Vincenzo Gatti the second she'd seen him. He was a familiar figure from school, prancing around, pretending he knew what it meant to be a girl. He was a pantomime woman, but of course nobody was allowed to tell him what a fool he was making of himself with his sad make believe, since apparently anyone had the right to decide they were whatever they felt like on any given day of the week. It wasn't really his fault, of course, and Tessa didn't blame the boy. He was a kid, it wasn't like he was in any position to be making any kind of decision about who he was. it was his parents who enabled him, who allowed him to go out dressed how he dressed, who bought him the clothes, probably.

Tessa'd never passed comment on it of course, she knew better than that, but she'd certainly passed judgement.

All things considered though, she was happy to see Vincenzo. As fruity as he might have been, the boy was hardly threatening. He had maybe half a foot on her, but his little twig arms certainly made him look like he weighed a good twenty pounds less, and if he had a weapon he certainly didn't seem to have any intention of doing anything with it.

"Yo," she replied.
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frogue
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This was not a tone that set Tessa at ease.

She herself had avoided, assiduously, becoming mired in despair and fatalism. Her eyes had stayed dry and her mind, insomuch as she could control it, had stayed away from her parents and from thoughts of what they were doing, how she missed them, what she'd said to them last and how they'd react to hearing about this. They wouldn't hear about this, not if Tessa had her way. She'd be back in Kingman before any of this hit the airwaves and there was no point in assuming anything else.

Sad thoughts were wasted thoughts as far as Tessa was concerned, and she needed all her brainpower for the problem of how to get out of here. She couldn't afford to squander it on sentimentality.

Still, the tone of her fellow students was far from reassuring. She hadn't expected them to know the truth of their situation, of course, but this easy joviality was something else entirely. Was it shock, or simple denial? It certainly was not, she decided, remotely helpful.

Tessa eyed the three of them with unease.

Was the story about the stairs true? Tessa had her doubts. It was the sort of thing wives told their doctors when their husbands were beating them, and would have been suspicious at the best of times. Here, in this state-run violence dispensary the odds of someone being injured in a simple accident seemed very low indeed, and Cameron's empty little laugh did nothing to reassure her.

Why were they lying? What did they have to hide? What had they done?

Vincenzo offered help, but Vincenzo was an idiot. He couldn't even tell his own gender, of course he couldn't tell he was being lied to.

Someone clearly had to be an adult here, and if all of these children were busy playing pretend, that someone would have to be Tessa.

"Bullshit," she said.

"You 'bailed down some stairs'? I mean, that's totally the most likely way to get an injury here, right?"

She took a step away from the trio, her hands at her sides.

"Pull the other one."
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frogue
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"'That's what they want'?" Tessa shook her head. "Wow. Wow, you really do not have a clue, do you?"

The space between them seemed to widen, the few feet between them becoming a massive, yawning chasm, and Tessa was hit by a sudden shock of vertigo. The world span, the building behind her seeming to enter their orbit, as her eyes met Mel's.

"Let me break this down for you, okay? They have what they want. Everything they set out to do, they've done. That whole thing about seeing us turn on each other, mistrust each other or whatever, they don't give a fuck about that, okay? You want to prove that people will turn on each other you can go film a Macy's on Black Friday, you don't need to pretend to be a terrorist. This is about proving that they can take whoever they want from wherever they want, whenever they want. They've got a bus-full of schoolkids from Arizona in the middle of the day, and now you think they give a shit what we do?"

Tessa rolled her eyes.

"We could be shooting each other or fucking each other or singing kumbayas and these 'terrorists'..." she made air quotes with her fingers "...wouldn't give two shits. They're probably too busy patting each other on the back to even watch what we're doing at the moment, and frankly I don't care either way."

She jabbed a finger at Cameron.

"Y'all don't wanna be straight about what happened to her, that's your prerogative, but don't tell me to trust you just to foil these 'terrorists'' nonsense, made-up 'agenda', okay?"
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frogue
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Cameron's squinty little eyes were made all the squintier by whatever it was she was feeling. Confusion? Suspicion? Fear? Tessa stared into them, unimpressed.

"Yeah, it is. The person who said it's probably a real fuckwit, I'd say."

She kept her gaze on Cameron, not looking at Vincenzo. That the little creep would put words into her mouth didn't surprise Tessa for a second. He'd already convinced himself he could think like a girl, it was hardly a leap to go from that to thinking he could think like any girl.

"I didn't say you killed anyone, did I? I said there're things that've happened that you're not telling us, and what I went on to say is that's your business. I don't trust you, I don't need to. Ain't no need for it to be a big deal: I wouldn't trust half our teachers as far as I could spit them, but I still sit in their classes every day."

Tessa folded her arms.

"Maybe we got off on the wrong foot, here, no pun intended. You ain't gonna find any ice in there - power's been out for a while - but maybe we can stop saying people said stuff that they didn't and imagining accusations for just a minute here, get that foot elevated, and talk a while about where we're all going."

She pushed the flap open on her bag using her foot. The mine sat atop what was now the entirety of her worldly possessions. It looked cheap and plastic.

"I've gotta pretty surefire way of making sure we're not disturbed."
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frogue
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"We keep an eye out. We see someone coming, we give them a holler and let them know not to come any closer, and if they do? I mean that's their look out."

She gave a shrug.

"Stand Your Ground's legal in Arizona, ladies. Some feller's coming at us with evil thoughts in his head and we have every right to put him in the ground. Or, y'know..." she gave her bag a little kick "...all over like a hundred square feet of it."

Tessa looked up, staring at Vincenzo with his stupid nicknames, at Mel with her defensive sarcasm and Cameron, whining about her leg. None of them looked particularly impressed.

"No bar in the world ever had a battery powered ice maker, but sure, no harm in heading in there."

She gestured towards the door.

"After y'all."
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frogue
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"Wow."

Tessa stretched, her back making a cracking noise like someone riffling cards. She'd sat herself down in an overstuffed armchair last night, intending only to stay a couple of hours to rest up before heading out, but it had gotten dark faster than expected. Now it was morning.

"What a choice!"

She yawned. Her mouth tasted like armpits.

"Stay here and then don't stay here or wander around, looking for people to... to what? Stay somewhere and then not stay somewhere with? I mean, wow, those are some... machiavellian level plots, right there."

Tessa rubbed her eyes.

"Like, I get they drugged us and all, but like, Jesus, really?"

She pushed herself up from the chair, her legs stiff and sore. It would be good to be back in her bed.

"So just in case I'm being too subtle, that was sarcasm and those plans are, y'know, kinda shit. If you're interested in doing something actually worthwhile, though..."

Tessa looked at her companions. Mel had fucked off, probably giving up on a doomed cause. Vincenzo looked like someone had just shot his dog in front of him, but Cameron at least seemed to be doing okay. Assuming her leg was better, which of course was assuming something had ever really been wrong with it in the first place, she'd be pretty useful to have around.

She cleared her throat with a hacking, phlegmy cough.

"Anyway, pretty sure I can get these collars off."
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frogue
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"So don't listen to me."

Tessa put up her hands, mock-defensive.

"By all means, keep on keepin' on with operation 'wait until we die'. I'm just super looking forward to hearing how that works out for you. Ya know, on the next obituary list."

She turned her attention to Vincenzo. His face was a picture of sullenness, a toddler who'd just had his toy taken off of him, but at least he was listening.

"Look, these collars, right? The uhh... the trigger mechanism isn't internal, right? That guy was saying that if nobody dies day one, they'll blow up one of the collars, remember? They'll blow it up. That means they have control over when they detonate, which means they have to send a signal to the collars, which means radio."

Tessa paused, putting her hands on her hips.

"Radio signals... you can block them, pretty easily. You can build things, machines, that send out all this interference, and if you're closer to it than whatever they're transmitting their signal with it'll be stronger, and the stuff they're trying to send can't get through. Now, when they decide they're sick of us and they go to press their magic button..." she mimed pressing a button "...fuck all happens, right? Their power over us is gone."

Words had always come easily to Tessa. Her mom had said she could talk the ear off a bunny, but talking now was like pushing a wheelbarrow through quicksand. Perhaps it was the situation, perhaps it was the open hostility of her audience or perhaps it was a shitty night's sleep in a shitty chair, and who even knew how bad that was for her back, but even the few sentences she'd uttered left her feeling drained and exhausted.

She wanted to sit back down. She didn't.

"There's one machine that I'm pretty sure I can build. I haven't done it before, but I've looked at plans and I've, y'know, spoken to people who've built them, and it's easy. We've got a supply depot, right? And we've got a vehicle depot? If we can get a couple of tools from one and a car battery or two from the other, I'm pretty sure I can build this thing. Very sure. Certain."

Tessa turned back to Cameron.

"Or we could keep waiting here. Just uhh... remind me, again, how the fuck that's meant to help?"
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frogue
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Tessa watched them go, arms folded across her chest, face frozen.

They'd never liked her, she was sure, even back in Cochise. Tessa had laughed along of course, pretended the cute little nicknames were nothing more than names and that she didn't know what people said about her when she wasn't there. She'd pretended to think people were laughing with her, pretended she wasn't hurt, pretended that everything was okay, and when she'd seen Cameron here she'd pretended not to know what the girl really thought of her.

Now, as Cameron left, Tessa pretended not to care.

She'd been fine, by herself. What had they brought her? Nothing but wasted time and hurt feelings. Here they were, standing in hell, and nobody was following Tessa out because... what? She wasn't nice? Wasn't willing to sugar coat the truth of their situation, or pander to their vanity? Calling what Cameron had come up with a "plan" was to use the word so liberally as to render it basically meaningless, and fuck her if she was too much of a little bitch to hear the truth of her incompetence.

Tessa pictured the girl wandering into a danger zone, her head reduced ton offal. She pictured her wandering off a cliff, wandering into a hail of bullets, wandering onto a spike.

It was a joyless daydream.

She sat back down in the armchair she'd slept in, still alone in the pub, friendless and abandoned. She was herself.

So what if they were gone, if they didn't want her? Why the fuck would she give a shit about the opinion of some faux-punk poser or the little pervert she had following her. Tessa had people who loved her back home, people who cared for her, who respected her, who she'd get back to. "I tried, I really did," she'd say to Cameron's parents, back in Kingman, "she just wouldn't listen to reason. She thought it was more important to look for her friends than try to escape, and of course I told her that plan was completely fucking retarded, but I guess you just didn't raise her right? Her friends were all dead, too, by the time she found them, it was oh so sad, I'm so sorry" and she would be, too, because nothing would have given her greater satisfaction than having Cameron watching her, then, and seeing that Tessa had been right and she'd been so tragically, embarrassingly, moronically wrong.

Unbidden and unwelcome, a tear formed in Tessa's eye and she wiped it with a grubby thumb. Across the room from her a camera lens glistened in sympathy, broadcasting her weakness to the world. She met its gaze, wanting to see if she could see anything behind it, but if the camera had secrets to share, it kept them to itself, and Tessa felt herself plunge into an abyss of frustration.

The ashtray had left her hand before she was even aware of picking it up. It hit the camera with the sound of the Titanic striking an iceberg.
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