Friday, June 26, 2020

Quest: Guilt by Association

The guards supporting the immigration center were bored.

They took turns escorting applicants who had been rejected to the east end of the Bull Fence.

Things had really slowed down after Mrs Galt had a heavily armed crew post signs just west of Fowlerville, some five miles east of the center, listing who would be allowed in.

Do not bother walking to the immigration center if you cannot prove: -You own more than ten acres of property

-You have family we can contact who will vouch for you. If they do not respond by radio in 30 minutes, you will be rejected

-You can prove you have these critical skills (see list below) and are carrying your tools with you

There were some more stipulations and conditions.

The bottom of the sign read

Applicants who are rejected will NOT be given a ride back to Fowlerville. Nor will applicants who are accepted be given a ride deeper into Ingham County.

It did not hurt that the bar that was closest to the immigration center was inhabited by drunks who collected stories of wannabes who had been crushed when the she-dragon that ran the place coldly rejected the applicant’s narrative. Ten miles is a long way to walk, especially when the five miles back to Fowlerville is spiced with a tongue-lashing from the Mrs.

Winos and homeless people will tell you they are faceless. They are less than human in the eyes of most. They are treated with less consideration than furniture. They are inanimate objects with no inherent value.

In many places, soldiers have the same non-human status as winos and the homeless.

That is probably why the applicants did not notice the soldier standing beside the posts that marked the west end of the Bull Fence. He was just one more, anonymous soldier wearing battered, sun-faded outerwear and carrying a weapon with practiced ease.

But the soldier noticed the applicants. Well, that is not accurate. He recognized the puffy-cheeked girl. Somehow, she had acquired a new brother and new parents...middle-Eastern by the look of them.

The girl no longer had blonde ringlets. Her hair was jet-black and straight which didn’t quite jibe with her mossy-brown eyes.

But the cheeks were a dead give away. They reminded the soldier of his sister right after she had her wisdom teeth pulled.

The soldier waited for the applicants to enter the first building before telling his mate something had come up and he needed to disappear for a while. The soldier was a good soldier. He never shirked. His mate figured his buddy had a case of the Johnny-trots and needed to void his bowels. It would not be the first time the grub had been sub-standard and caused a run on the outhouses.

His mate said “Sure. I got this.”

The soldier did not trust the radio. There was no way of knowing who else might be listening.

He hailed a couple more soldiers and hand-over-handed his way to where his commanding officer was.

The commanding officer was the same one who had directed the soldier to “Handle it” the first time the girl and other actors had come to the center. He regretted not handling the situation better.

It is a rare and precious gift when fate gives you a do-over. The commanding officer relished the chance to rectify the situation. He was not going to screw it up this time.

He found Sheila in the main office, a good twenty minutes before the faux-family got to the interview offices. He asked Sheila to handle it personally. He outlined what he wanted and Sheila could not improve upon the plan.


Sheila’s simple changes gutted Ann Arbor’s acquisition of raw footage to use as propaganda.

You can only rerun the same footage a certain number of times before people filter it out. They need “new”. They need “graphic”.

Images of dead bodies had been run on Ann Arbor Cable TV with almost no impact.

Ironically, the dead bodies were exactly where AACTV claimed they were. The bodies were a few foolish people who attempted to circumvent the immigration system and tried to sneak into the Buffer-Zone in the dark-of-night.

As promised, they had been shot.

There was no manpower allocated to disposing of bodies of enemy combatants east of the Buffer-Zone. That is, downwind. The bodies lay beside I-96, well preserved as the temperature oscillated between 20F and 40F.

The citizens of Ann Arbor said “Meh.” Dead bodies were a dime-a-dozen. Most people had seen several. The bodies shown in the propaganda were much tidier than the bodies of Ebola victims. Ebola victims were typically laying in a soup of five gallons of exsanguinated body fluids. Of course, there is not five gallons of blood in a human body, but the exuberant and unrestrained mayhem Ebola wreaked on the human body resulted in massive amounts of other body fluids and cellular contents joining the blood in the massive, slimy, dripping pool of fluids.

The bodies in the propaganda could have easily been in a wax museum for all of the emotional impact they elicited in the viewers.

Bicklebaugh knew he had to step-up his game.

Hence the almost Norman Rockwell family that he sent to the immigration center with the intention of generating horrific footage. He had sent other families and they had failed.

Perhaps “failed” was too strong a word. Each effort had successfully penetrated deeper into the process. Each failure had resulted in Bicklebaugh learning something so the next effort could penetrate deeper.


The girl, “Mona” insisted on wearing some religious jewelry. Since it was on a leather thong rather than a metal chain and because the pendant did not appear to be metal, the clerk handling the in-processing let her keep it.

The pendant dangling from the thong was a ceramic representation of Five Pillars and there was a sapphire gem at the top of the center pillar.

Sheila’s review of the “father’s” critical skills was perfunctory. He claimed to have a Ph.D in plant breeding with experience in cucumbers, turnips and nitrogen fixing crops.

Experience in breeding crops was on the list of desired skills. He had copies of papers he claimed to have co-authored. His identification exactly matched the name of one of the authors. If anything, his ID was just a bit too new to be perfectly believable. That would have triggered a deeper investigation by Sheila any other time.

The “family” was treated with exquisite courtesy. They were ushered into the delousing facility. They were instructed to remove their clothing and to shave all hair off their body (Except their eyebrows and eyelashes. Some immigrants had been a bit too literal in the past). A woman soldier inspected the women before delousing and directed them to be more thorough. The soldier noted that there was no way in hell the girl was 9 as captured in the documentation. A male soldier inspected the men.

After the family was washed and then sprayed with vegetable oil….they were left to soak. Thei clothing was not returned.

After fifteen minutes, the man knocked on the door and asked when their clothing would be returned. Sheila replied that protocol required that they wait 60 minutes for the lice to be smothered.

The video camera behind the sapphire lens captured the events with high fidelity. It captured the events but could not transmit them. It had been hardened against assault by 23 giga-Hertz. The hardening entailed writing all data to storage and then transmitting via a separate device that WAS susceprtible to the assault from the microwave energy.

The windows in the louse smothering shed had very helpfully been left open an inch and the sashes fixed in that position with the hasty application of decking screws left over from the Bull Fence.

Thirty minutes later, the shivering “father” again hammered on the door demanding that his family be given their clothing and that the be let out. The temperature in the shed was down to sixty degrees. He had no way of calibrating for time because they had been relieved of their electronic devices.

Sheila informed him that sixty minutes had not passed.

The “father’ hammered on the door at five minute intervals.

After sixty minutes had passed, Sheila regretfully informed the cold, wet, hairless “family” that their clothing had been misplaced and they would be released as soon as it was found.

That was as close to a lie as Sheila Galt had ever come.

Three hours after the “family” had entered the delousing shed, Freddy, one of Benicio’s Lieutenants arrived to pick up the immigrants.

The hypothermic humans offered no resistance to being loaded into the back of the prison transport van. The only thing they seemed concerned about was that the heater worked.

Freddy looked the new meat over. He didn’t expect the adult male to last more than a day or two.

The two women, by now too cold to ‘act’, radiated radical femme-NAZI hatred. Freddy did not consider that a problem. Freddy knew that Benicio had many clients who had been shit on by femme-NAZI activists. They would pay EXTRA to beat the snarl off their faces. A good businessman always looks to turn the unexpected into revenue generating business.

The younger man...only time would tell if he would survive.

The device that could uniquely communicate with the Five Pillars pendant with the sapphire lens and then transmit the video data to Ann Arbor was tossed in a tub with a hundred other, unclaimed electronic devices and forgotten.



  1. Good catch on the part of that soldier to recognize the infiltrator and her 'family'. He might be NCO material.

  2. Well done, and sometimes it IS that simple. One grunt doing his job.

    1. Begging your pardon, but it is almost always that simple. People just doing their job. One job at a time. One person at a time.

  3. I love how they are dealt with. Wicked.

    1. I do like the finality of it. Bicklebaugh will never know what happened to them. I would not be comfortable feeding people to Benicio's system. Just put them down and be done with it. Tie em up outside and walk away. They were halfway there already.