Furthest Right

Crosses & Double-Crosses, by Clayton Barnett (Part 15: Begin Again)

We are fortunate at Amerika to be able to present the second installation of the exciting dystopia saga, Crosses & Double-Crosses by Clayton Barnett. You can find your copy on the Jungle River store, but first, read this week’s segment of the story, “Begin Again.”

She had jerked forward just enough that the last of her wine was spilled into the tub’s now-tepid water.  Sylvia looked around wildly.  Everything seemed normal.  The odd dream quickly fled her conscious mind.

“Remind me to never mix old wine with questionable whiskey again,” she muttered, getting out and reaching for a towel.  Her phone next to the sink chimed.  Who would be up this late?  Roberta?

There were three gears rotating against one another.  Thaad, she thought.  What now?  She pressed the screen.  A video feed?  That’s rare for him…  She thumbed ‘accept.’

“Hi there!” some over-energetic girl in a frilly scarlet and black dress called out, making a horizontal peace sign with her right hand over her right eye.  Her long, curly dark hair flew about.  “I’m here to fix your mind so you can recall Ninon!  Ready?”

“What?  Who are…?”

“Or not!” The girl changed her hand to make a pretend pistol pointing out.  “Bang!”

In a moment the totality of both dreams with the figure who called herself Ninon came back to her in perfect detail.  The sudden nausea was overwhelming.

“Live the dream!  Yours and ours!  It’ll be euphoria!” the hyper girl called.  “Bye-eee!”

Sylvia got sick into her sink, shaking uncontrollably again.


Barely alive, Sylvia arrived in her new office just after six in the morning.  Telling everyone else to be there at seven had not been a test, she simply preferred to get a jump on things.  Her first priority was taking her mug to the ground floor and topping it off with strong black coffee from a small vending kiosk.  Back at her desk, she unlocked the file cabinet and hurried to finish what was in the New Mexico folder.  Once done she went back to the beginning and began to take notes on a new piece of paper.  It was about then she heard everyone else beginning to filter in.

Santa Fe might be the capitol but the State’s center of gravity was its largest city of Albuquerque; not just in the geographical center but also the hub of all road and rail lines.  I’ll need to coordinate this with Stephens, no, Baker, over in Second.  We will have to mass a force around Amarillo in the panhandle and drive due west along old I-40… if we put too many forces in El Paso it might panic the Mexicans into something stupid.

She continued reviewing the file and her page slowly filled up.  She recognized Jones’ scratch at her door.

“Come,” she called.

“Morning, Deputy Director,” he said swallowing around his nervousness.  “I apologize for my tardiness – ”

“I said be here at seven,” she glanced at the clock over his head, “and it’s six-fifty.  You’re good.”

She was too professional to smile at his relief.

“How may I serve you this morning?” he asked, noting she already had coffee.

“Draw up requisition papers for a car, fuel, and so on,” Sylvia began, leaning back to stretch.  “I want it on my desk to sign in an hour.”

“Of course, Deputy Director.  For you?”

“Nope!” she lowered her arms and allowed a smile.  “You.  I want you in Albuquerque by nightfall.  I need a man on the ground gathering intel now, not two weeks from now.  I want you there one week and back in here in my office on the morning of the eighth day.  I want to know who the movers and shakers are:  the oligarchs who really run the State.”

She was pleased that he was taking this in without fear.

“And, John, I want you to exercise your judgment:  if you think some of these men can be trusted to know what’s coming – that is, us – then I want you to reach out to them and let them know that we can work with them.”

“Certainly, Deputy Director!” He paused, uncertain.  “By ‘we’ you mean ExComm, of course?”

“No.  I mean the Third Chief Directorate.”

Even with the little space heater running all-out, it was colder.

“I… I understand, Deputy Director,” he said to her treason.  He turned to go.

“One last thing, John?”

He turned back.


“Miss Fernandez, please.” Another small smile.

“Yes.  Miss… Fernandez!  I’ll return presently!”

If, she paused before returning to her notes, he comes back with the paperwork, he’s mine.  If he comes back with guards… well, I am the fallen soul who built the Conveyor.  She turned her attention to crafting a legal reason for Texas to seize land and people of the… Cisriogrande Region… she coined it.

Jones was back in forty minutes.  She signed everything, advised him on clothing (talk to the oligarchs in a nice suit; their minions in your ExComm kit… it scares the hell out of people) and what weapons to carry.

“All your notes are either on paper or in your head,” she concluded, standing and coming around her desk.  “Nothing electronic or telegraph or phone.  And anything very sensitive is only in your head, got that?”

She emphasized her point by tapping his temple with her right index finger.

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Good luck, John.  See you in eight days.” She extended her hand.

“Thank you,” he didn’t smile but came close to it, “Miss Fernandez!”

As he left a courier came in with a four-inch stack of files.  Pertaining to Oklahoma, she quickly saw.  With that plus the rest of her old team coming in for a briefing as to their new roles, this was going to be a very long day.

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