the tractor, harvesting this weird experimental soybean crop that the
Doc had come up with-- something with the genetics that pretty much
quadrupled the effective protien yield. We had almost hit the grove when
we heard shouts of "out of the tractor!", "move it!", "federal agents"
and the like. We hit the ground still covered enough by brush that they
couldn't see us and watched as they pulled Hudson out and hit him with a
taser. It was unreal, like watching somebody beat up your grandfather in
When the helicopters came, we decided to beat ass back to the Shell. We
knew if we waited too long it would cool down enough that the FLIR
systems in the helos would be able to pick us up out of the background
noise that the Doc had created. Dominguez was faster than I was,
probably because of her small frame, and she reached it first and keyed
in the door code.
The Shell was a converted underground bunker left over from some
governmental paranoia a couple of generations back. The thing was almost
entirely underground with the exception of a large low building shaped
kind of like one of those clam shells that you find on the beach. Doc
said that it was a fine example of "organic engineering", some of the
first attempts to grow structures from bioengineered components. It was
huge, and at the time it had been one of the most expensive experiments
done. I suppose that was what had doomed the whole field: it was just
too expensive and time consuming to build. Doc said that they had
designed some sort of living tissue cloned from oysters that they could
spray on like a sheet, and as long as they kept spraying it with a
nutrient solution, it would keep producing thin layer after thin layer
of material that was as hard as the hardest concrete, but smooth and
translucent like a pearl. It had taken something like twelve years to
build the shell, almost four feet thick and built to withstand a
10-kiloton airburst. Yeah, back then they were still worried about
nuclear bombs. What a joke that turned out to be.
On the inside, it was beautiful. The ceiling was like looking at an
infinite depth of swirling color and shining beauty that changed as you
moved from place to place. It stood in stark contrast to the industrial
concrete columns and walls that had been built on the inside to
compartmentalize the space into offices and meeting rooms.
Dominguez and I ran by the unmanned security station, no indication
that it was even live. I knew different; when I had first signed up, the
Doc had given me a very vivid demonstration by tossing a hunk of frozen
meat through the hallway. It was immediately hit by microscopic streams
of ultra-high pressure water which effortlessly cut it to shreds. He
said that this same technology was once used to cut through inches of
armor plating in fractions of a second, and they were better than guns
because they never ran out of bullets. I had a really hard time going
through that station the first time, even though the Doc had implanted
me with a tag that let me through. It's hard trusting your life to a
piece of something the size of a pinhead.
We caught up to the Doc in the Sitch Room. Monitors were on
everywhere, and he was focused on the table in the center which was
displaying a topo map with tiny moving symbols all over it.
"They got Hudson," I said.
"Hudson's dead," said the Doc without even looking up from the table.
"What? How?" Dominguez looked like she was gonna collapse.
"Massive electric shock."
"They hit him with a taser." I helped her into one of the chairs at
the enviro station.
"They couldn't have known about his heart, Cyn. They would have wanted
The Doc studied the map on the table. "They don't care," he said.
"They stopped caring about people a long time ago." He looked up, and
his eyes were rimmed with red; it was the first time I had ever seen him
cry. "They took out Tennebrex too. The whole station. Seventy-five
people, the farms, the tanks, everything. They burned it all from LEO."
He turned to us.
"Seven of them were children."
Tennebrex was a renegade station. They weren't supposed to have
breeders by federal law, but someone there had broken the code that kept
them sterile and had worked it into the crop rotation. We knew, as did
Alphase in the Southwest and Cheyenne, and there had been hope that
Tennebrex could get enough seed crop smuggled out to start phasing in
the other stations.
And the Feds just erased it from existence, like it was never there.
They would deny its existence of course, just as they denied the
existence of any renegades. The tight population controls existed in
theory because of the limits on resources that the last war had
destroyed, or so they would have you think. Yes there was destruction on
a massive scale, bioterrorism at it's best-- or worst. Huge swaths of
agricultural land were rendered infertile with soil-bound crop viruses
that mutated every replication cycle and were impossible to combat; oil
supplies had been contaminated with petroleum-destroying bacteria that
ate everything including most plastics.
It had been devastating. Two-thirds of the population had died from
starvation and disease and exposure. Martial law was declared, and the
world as we knew it had ended in a matter of less than a year. Travel
was restricted to "necessary" traffic, and fertility boards were enacted
to control the population. That had been 12 years ago.
Thing is that there were a few renegades who worked on recovering the
land. Retrovirus-resistant strains of food crops had been engineered and
were growing on ground that had once been barren. Livestock was growing
again, and healthy, and water was pure. Geneticaly-engineered soybeans
were now almost 100 percent efficient: the beans were pressed for oil
which was used for everything from biodiesel fuel to soap, the mash
byproduct that remained fed people and livestock with high-protien food,
and the remaining plant matter was burned as biomass to create energy.
Originally, the good news had been spread widely. Ames had been the
first to announce success in growing the resistant strains, but then
something went horribly wrong. The news reported that there had been a
"viral backlash", complete with video of FEMA and CDC agents in full
biotox gear carting out bloated bodies. Everyone had died, or so they
said, and Ames was cordoned off and quarantined; nothing in or out,
trespassers terminated without question.
That was when the Silent War began.