Dystopia Rising has been going through some major changes. One of them is a huge shift to a new, more streamlined rules system. Now, I’m not here to debate the rules. I don’t even know enough about mechanics to pull that off. But I’m happy to give the new system a try and see if I enjoy it. Part of the process of switching to that new system is that we’re having a three year time skip. At my last DR event in August, Jeanie was 31 years old (not that she knows that). At my next event, in September, Jeanie will be 34. So, this story, is what happens a good year into that time skip. As always, Jeanie is my own character. Hugh is a character I made up solely for this singular short story. The rest of these characters are owned by the wonderful people who created them.
The compliance labs of the Iron Works had documented everything. Their work with the Iron Dragoons had been a massive atrocity that should have mentally destroyed those involved. It didn’t. They were focused on the science of it all. Not that they believed Irons were even worth considering as people, so they never once choked up about the potential repercussions of their actions. No, they focused on the data and science. And, as proper scientists, they documented everything in explicit detail.
It would have been impressive if not for the horrific subject matter.
Jeanie sat at the desk, stacks of research notes on the desk around her. Piles of it on chairs and on the floor. A metal mug sat near Jeanie’s open research notebook, filled with a tea that had long ago been forgotten and gone cold. The Iron was hunched over, reading through some of the data in front of her and pausing to take her own notes in her notebook, muttering each word she wrote under her breath.
With a groan, Jeanie dropped her pen and reached her arms up to stretch. She turned at the sound of the door creaking open. An Unstable entered the room carrying a crate. He smiled at Jeanie as he walked over and looked for a place to put his things.
“How’s the research going?” He pulled out two metal tins that had been strapped closed and handed one over. “Find out anything useful?”
Jeanie shook her head and turned the chair around to better face him. “There’s a lot of data on the areas of the brain responsible for decision making and compliance with demands and the relationship between the two thought processes. Earlier dragoons were created based on this data, complete with brain surgery to destroy the decision-making centers of the brain right in the most frontal area. It’s gruesome stuff. But, at least it can be used to help design the deprogramming process for the Dragoons. Give them a chance to start making their own decisions again.” Jeanie opened up her tin. It had creamed corn with some strips of grilled chicken sitting on top. In the middle sat a divider separating the corn and chicken from some canned peaches in syrup. Jeanie grinned at the sight of the peaches.
“What is it?” the Bay Walker had asked from where he stood next to Jeanie behind the bar.
“Peaches. Irradiated. Very tasty. The radiation gives it a nice cinnamon flavor.” Jeanie grinned with mischief.
“You should try some!” Francis had very helpfully added.
“But it’s irradiated.” Billy looked down at the peach in his hand. “Will it make me sick?”
Jeanie shrugged. “If it does, it won’t kill you. You’ll be fine.”
Billy Foster shrugged and took a massive bite out of the irradiated fruit he held. A few moments later he hunched his back over the bar and groaned as the telltale signs of radiation poisoning began to set into his body.
“What’s so funny? It’s mostly just canned food from the storehouse.”
“Nothing,” Jeanie muttered grabbing a fork from his crate. “It’s just… I was remembering when I willingly got a Bay Walker to eat an irradiated peach back in the Grove. It was… it was a fun time.”
“Must have been awhile ago. I mean, it’s from when you were living in the Mass. How long have you been living here in Three Rivers now?”
Jeanie put her fork down and looked over at the Unstable. “I’ve lived out west here for most of my life, Hugh, though mostly Motor City. But this time? It’s been almost a year since I came back.”
“A year? You gonna go back or stay here?”
“I’ll go back. The Grove is my home and there are a lot of painful memories here.”
“So, then how long you staying?”
Jeanie shrugged and took another bite. “Til the job is done. When I know there is a successful process for ensuring that Dragoons forced into submission and blind compliance have their free will once again and it won’t require a trip through the gravemind to get it back. That’s when I can go home.”
Hugh nodded and took another bite. After a moment, he paused and sat up straight, putting his meal down for a moment. “Oh, something came in for you today.” He leaned over and reached into the crate, pulling out a small package of brown paper and twine. “Mainz told me that this was for you. Said to bring it with your dinner and that I couldn’t give it to you till you ate something. Then they started ranting about how you’re worse than Tommi at the whole getting caught up in your work thing and you forget to take care of yourself and if it weren’t for them looking out for you, you’da starved awhile back.” He handed the package over to Jeanie. “It was actually kinda funny. They kept saying fuck as they ranted.”
Jeanie chuckled. “Yeah, that sounds like Mainz.” Jeanie looked over the package. The label on it stated that it was from the Aysea, well, what was left of the place.
“So what is it?” Hugh asked.
“Let me open it first, will you?” Jeanie grabbed a nearby knife and sliced through the twine. She tore the paper off to find a bundle of papers with a small letter on top. The letter simply read “Here’s the information you requested. Hope you find what you’re looking for.”
The iron quickly scanned through the documents. Her eyes would run across the page as her fingers slid over the writing. Then she’d flip to the next page and do it all again.
Finally, she stopped. Jeanie’s finger tapped on a number. A-816.
“Come on!” Hugh piped in again. “What is it? What’s it say?”
“It’s information about my sister. I’ve been looking for her, for years. Since she was sold from Motor City when I was a kid. Once, after I ran away, I got a letter from her. I hadn’t heard anything since then. Not til now.”
“Wait, really? What happened? Is she okay?”
Jeanie turned back to the previous page. In the Aysea. There was a riot. An uprising of Irons. They were all fighting for freedom. There’s a bunch that succeeded. They got free.” Jeanie froze and grinned. “Emily! Her number’s on here! She was there! She got out. She’s free!”
“Emily Gordon. She was a friend. She helped me when I first got free and went to Hayven. She was the first person I met. She helped find me a safe place to stay. We went to the May Cape together and got snatched by slavers. I got away. I thought she was with me. But she wasn’t. She’s been in the Aysea every since. She’s free now.”
“That’s awesome! What about your sister?”
Jeanie read through more of the page and turned back to the one where she had found her sister’s number. “She… didn’t make it. She was noted among those that died in the fight. This says a bunch had died in the fight and when they didn’t come out of the morgue, they were looked for in the hordes that showed up. Her zed was put down that night.”
“Oh.” Hugh looked down at his food. “Sorry about your sister then.”
Jeanie shook her head. “No, don’t be. She died fighting for freedom. If you have to die, what better way is there to die?”
“I guess that’s true. I mean, especially with the whole, you don’t know if today’s your last, so enjoy it thing. Fighting for freedom sounds like a really good last day.”
Jeanie rolled her eyes and looked over at her blue glowing friend. “You sound like my uncle.”
“Is he a hedon?”
“Then I’m doing the faith right!”
Jeanie shook her head and closed the now empty metal tin. “I should get back to work. There’s still a lot to do before I can formulate a proper theory to start testing. Fuck, what I wouldn’t give to have Idle and Mica here helping. We’d get this done so much faster.”
“Or, you could come back with me to Mainz and Tommi and get some rest. It’s well past nightfall.”
Hugh nodded. “Seriously, you need to sleep too. Mainz told me to knock you out and drag you if I had to.”
Jeanie threw her hands up. “Fine. No sense in arguing with Mainz. They’ve got the stubbornness of Yorkers, like my mom Shea, down real good. If they say to stop working and rest, they’ll make sure it happens.”
Hugh smiled. “Besides, tomorrow is Saturday and the hedon temple has some fun stuff going on. You don’t even gotta be a Hedon to get involved and have some fun.”
Jeanie chuckled and turned out the lights, closing the door behind them both. “We’ll see.”