I had a big glass of cold sun tea to my lips when both the front and back doors slammed open. Oh well, you knew this day was coming. The thought flickered through my mind as booted feet thundered through my house, closing on where I sat at my desk. I took a long sip, letting the chill liquid slide down my throat as a group of men in dark coveralls and full tactical equipment pushed into the small space with me. One, a man a little shorter and a lot thicker around the waist than the rest, stepped forward.
“Allen Tanner, I am here to arrest you on the charge of treason. I would advise you to come peacefully.”
A few of the men behind him stared at me, and I saw nothing but hate in the eyes that met mine. A few grinned openly, like they were hoping for an excuse to shoot me. I refused to give them one. I pushed back from the desk slowly, raising my hands as I did so.
“So, you’re here to arrest me for treason. Will you tell me the details of my supposed high crime?”
One of the smiling ones lost his grin. Stepping forward and lowering his automatic weapon to point at my chest, he snarled. “We don’t have to tell a traitor anything, Captain. Let’s drag his ass out of here, and if he keeps delaying us, let’s just shoot him and spare the taxpayers the cost of his trial.”
Fat Man (for that was how I thought of him now) put a hand in front of the angry young man. He gave me a smile that went nowhere near his eyes as he answered. “No, Corporal Renton, he’s right. Someone facing a charge of treason is entitled to know the details of the crime they’re being charged with. Very well, Mr. Tanner. You are charged with communicating with an enemy nation. You are also charged with sending information to, and receiving information from, said nation. You are also accused of, by undertaking these communications, offering aid and comfort to said enemy. Does that make the nature of the charges you face sufficiently clear to you, Mr. Tanner?”
I favored him with a smile. “Actually, no, it doesn’t. You accuse me of sending information to an enemy nation. Would you tell me precisely what information I am supposed to have sent?”
The smile disappeared. “I have to tell you what you did, not the details of the prosecution’s case. Now, I advise you to stand up, so we can properly restrain you.”
“So I can’t know what information I supposedly sent. Can I at least know how I supposedly sent it? Am I accused of sending it in an email to someone? Did I drop a folded piece of paper with the information on it in an inconspicuous corner of my local park? Am I accuse of sending it via smoke signals when I burned my leaves?”
Fat Man’s jaw clenched. “You know perfectly well how you sent the information!” He didn’t quite bellow, but he came as close as his fat body allowed. “You communicated the information in the comments section of a web site run by and from the foreign government in question.”
So either they’ve managed to get the NSA to sic their supercomputers on my VPN communications, or they’ve got someone monitoring the comments section of that site. Neither possibility was impossible. It made no difference how they knew, because they clearly did. Hell, I’m dead anyway, might as well make this clown squirm as much as I can. “So, Captain….”
“MacMurray, James MacMurray, if it’s any of your business.”
I gave him a smile. “I’d think it’s the business of any American to know the name of the men who’re helping crush freedom.”
MacMurry flushed. “I am not crushing freedom, I’m defending it! Don’t try to push your sins off on me, sir!”
I let myself laugh, and the change clearly upset MacMurray. He sputtered and in that moment of inarticulate near silence, I drove my point home. “But you are. I know the communications you speak of. I posted a reply to a story on the BBC’s web site, correcting some facts they got wrong about the protest march in DC, the one that was fired upon by private security forces working for the President.”
“That wasn’t a ‘protest’, it was a riot by traitors, and they got what they deserved!”
“No, Captain MacMurray, there was no riot. If he wants to push that lie, your boss should have jammed cell coverage. He didn’t, and plenty of folks streamed what happened live. He did manage to keep those live streams from getting out of the US, but plenty of folks here saw what happened. Those people were peacefully marching to protest the suspension of elections, and the private security contractors opened fire on them without provocation.”
MacMurray’s anger so overcame him, his words came out in a storm of spittle. “They were traitors! The President suspended elections because he couldn’t be sure the vote would be secure.”
“He suspended elections three years ago. What’s he done to secure the process? When, precisely, does he intend to let Americans vote?”
I caught a blur of motion just before something slammed into my head. Pain exploded, then was amplified as my back caromed off the desk. I hit the floor, and a boot came down in my right hand hard enough that I felt bones break. I didn’t try to keep the scream of pain in. Then I felt something cold pressing against the back of my head.
“Those fuckin’ socialist bastards got what they deserved, and you’re gonna get what you deserve too, you worthless traitor!”
It didn’t surprise me that the voice was Renton’s, and I knew without looking that what I felt was the barrel of his gun pressed against my skull, ready to fire. I swallowed my cries of pain and forced myself to lie still. MacMurray spoke into the silence I made, and I could almost hear the smile in his voice.
“Now, Corporal Renton, don’t shoot him. If we drag him out of here dead, his neighbors might think him some sort of martyr. We’re likely to have to come back here as it is, what with none of them reporting his traitorous behavior. No, let them see him come out as he is, a battered and beaten traitor being taken to his trial. Let them watch as he’s given a fair trial, then given a fair sentence of death for his crimes. After that, any of them who might think to speak ill of our glorious President will think twice.”
The barrel pressed harder on my skull for a moment, then the pressure vanished. I rolled over, looking into the eyes of the young man who’d struck me and smiled. “He’s right, I’ll get a ‘fair’ show trial, then I’ll be executed by someone just like you. You just need to wonder how long it will be before your beloved President sends someone like you for you. After all, a good dictator never leaves witnesses around to talk about the crimes he’s committed.”
Renton’s mouth hardened, and the rifle centered on my face…then I saw his eyes dart about, taking in the men around him. I knew I’d made my point, that he couldn’t trust them. Another man came forward to roll me over before handcuffing me. It wasn’t a lot, but if I could spread doubt to a man like him, my death wouldn’t be for nothing.