Just in case you have been on the fence about buying “Anarchy in New England,” here is an excerpt from the novel in order to help make your decision. Don’t forget to leave an Amazon review if you have already read it!
That night Mr. Barry and Mr. Drake met for dinner. Drake had suggested Hillside, but Barry insisted on a less popular restaurant where he wouldn’t run into as many familiar faces. Of course formal attire was required, so Mr. Drake and Mr. Barry were dressed similarly to their work attire, but classier.
Formal clothes were reminiscent of just before the collapse, but with some notable differences. Blazers and suit jackets didn’t have any buttons, and were hardly ever made to close, but when they were, it was with poly-melding-elastomer. This synthetic rubber-like material was made to bond and fuse together to form a seal, but could easily be touch activated to release to its old form.
Poly-melding-elastomer replaced zippers and other fasteners, and its use extended beyond clothing. Many high-end windows and doors would seal with poly-melding-elastomer for more efficient insulation. Reusable food containers made of poly-melding-elastomer had become quite popular lately, forming to the food and sealing without air pockets, or molding to any shape needed to fit in the refrigerator or storage and remain firm. But the material could always return perfectly to its initial state.
Whole garments were made of poly-melding-elastomer as well. For sports and physical activity, the clothing would regulate how much air was allowed through the garment based on body temperature. A shirt would increase ventilation during hot weather, and seal shut if it got too cold. Poly-melding-elastomer was a favorite for chiseled men and well endowed women, whose clothing would form fit and seal to accentuate their features. And they never had to buy a new size, as the material would expand or contract naturally, as needed, even as they breathed. Poly- melding-elastomer gloves and belts always fit perfectly. There were even anti-rape poly-melding-elastomer undergarments coded to unseal only under specific circumstances. It would be hard to find a home without something made from the new high tech material.
But any poly-melding-elastomer that Drake and Barry wore was well hidden, so that they would not appear tacky. The collars of their shirts were much thinner than pre-collapse collars, or sometimes only an outline with a different material, flush with the rest of the jacket. Dress shirts were also closed with poly-melding-elastomer so that there were no buttons, and only smooth cloth could be seen down the front of the formal shirt. The neck was wider, collar less prominent, and no one wore ties anymore. Instead a “badge” would be worn on the center of the chest, about three quarters of the way up the dress shirt.
Badges attached magnetically or with poly-melding-elastomer, depending on the design of the badge and shirt. Some were small like an old tie clip, but others, especially for formal occasions could be quite large. Most companies had their own insignia, in various sizes and styles, which employees would wear for work; however for personal wear, badges were quite varied.
Drake wore a pure silver badge – except for the poly-melding-elastomer back that attached to a strip of the material on the front of the shirt – which bore his family crest. The coat of arms was engraved with a dragon holding a sword in one hand, and scale in the other. The seal was created by Drake’s grandfather when he adopted the family name Drake in the late 2030’s after Food Corp operations expanded beyond its walls. Drake’s grandfather had been ashamed of how his family raised him before the collapse, and disgusted with the things they did to survive after the collapse. For a range of reasons it was common for people to take a new last name after the collapse, with a strong influence of history and mythology.
Barry wore a badge the size of a large coin that had a black sapphire set in glazed Brazilian rosewood. Barry was a pre-collapse family name, his grandfather was on the board of directors for Food Corp and never suffered much upset during the collapse and New England Renaissance.
“All I need is for the wrong person to see us together and there will be more wild accusations about collusion.” Barry hissed.
“For God’s sake Barry we aren’t the first arbiter and security CEO to ever eat dinner together.” Drake said looking up from his touch screen menu as Barry sat down, glancing around to make sure no one he knew was in the dimly lit basement bistro.
“Well with the way BER is up my ass it wouldn’t take much right now, with their…erroneous and… flippant…” Barry stumbled as he searched for words to express his anger in an intelligent sounding way.
Drake calmly set his menu down, and offered an amused smile; though a smile on Drake’s face was hardly detectable. Slight dimples could be made out however, and his bulldog cheeks were raised, ever so minimally.
“Well I wouldn’t exactly call it erroneous… You did take the bribe after all.”
“And why shouldn’t I? I work hard everyday, aren’t I entitled to a bonus? Don’t I deserve to offer my services outside of the typically expected products arbitration can deliver?” Barry shot back quickly and defensively as 3 slow chuckles made Drake’s head bob. “And you’ll drop me as soon as the report comes out, don’t try to claim otherwise.”
“Well,” Drake shrugged, “If you get downgraded I might have no other option. Believe me Barry, I am not too keen on the idea of spending more money for less favorable arbitration outcomes.”
“This whole thing is just a big mess I don’t want to have to deal with! And now my retirement is in jeopardy! I can’t even sell the business if I get downgraded, I’ll get peanuts, I’ll be destitute!”
“You could always move into an adap.” Drake joked dryly.
Barry’s stare burned of indignation as he spoke a bit too loudly, “Could you take this a bit more seriously Drake! Aren’t we friends? I could use some support!”
“Of course, of course,” Drake glanced quickly around and made a calming motion with his hand, telling Barry to take it down a notch.
Barry lowered his voice, leaned in, and continued venting. “There’s too much competition these days. Remember 20, 30 years ago how easy it was? We were still the first kids on the block, and people needed us! We were running the world and should have done something to keep it that way while we had the chance. Now we’re just slowly bleeding to death while these go-getters pull the carpet right out from under us!”
“Speak for yourself, bleeding to death,” Drake drawled without glancing up from his menu.
“Ha! I know how your business is doing Drake, you’re just as doomed as I am,” Barry picked up his glass of wine and gestured to it before taking a sip, “We should enjoy this while it lasts. Pretty soon we’ll be swigging little more than spiked grape juice.”
Drake was annoyed, but his annoyed expression looked pretty much like his normal expression, and only slightly drearier than his “joyful” expression.
“Well to be honest, I had been thinking about the same thing. Running a business these days isn’t like it was when my grandfather started NESA. No one knew what was going on back then, and people like him were able to corner the market. Took a long time for anyone to catch up.”
“Yes,” replied Barry darkly, happy to have Drake agreeing with him. “And before that, in the days of government, people in our positions never had to give up what we had earned. Men like us were set for life, pensions, tenure, the treasury of a whole continent at our disposal. But today, despite the years of service, we can still be pushed out and left to die in the cold like a stray dog!” Barry finished dramatically, biting into a fresh caught crab cake brought over by a silent waiter. Still chewing Barry continued, “Of course, some places still have governments. Things would be different if we were born in Korea or even Texas.”
“Yea but Korea’s a shit-hole, and in Texas judges and security chiefs couldn’t pay for this dinner with a month’s salary. Even ruling those countries wouldn’t put us where we are now.”
“But how long can we stay where we are now?! I thought that million I put into Transcend Space Travel would pay off, but they’ve had setback after setback. They said they would be able to travel to Mars by now in under a week.” He was talking with his hands, one still holding half a crab cake, and a full mouth, crumbs dropping onto the table. “I can’t keep my company afloat with today’s competition! I’ve been racking my brain and I can’t think of what to do! If only that bitch Molly would – ” He stopped himself.
“Would what?” Drake chuckled.
“Die!” Barry blurted out loudly, laughing; it became apparent to Drake that Barry must have been drinking since noon.
A slightly more detectable smile crossed Drake’s face. But he let a good time pass before speaking, just in case Barry had attracted any attention.
“We do seem to be in a unique position to help each other out. You know there is one particular firm that has been sucking up my customers.”
“Atlas no doubt”, Barry chimed in obliviously, helping himself to another crab cake.
A shudder of fury boiled up inside Drake, and he closed his eyes for a moment to quiet it before speaking.
“Yes. Atlas. But I see an opportunity for us both to benefit, Barry.” Drake said his name because he wasn’t sure Barry was paying attention. Here Drake was, trying to propose a solution, and Barry seemed to care more about hors d’oeuvres and wine.
“What’s that?” replied Barry, mouth full, his moments-earlier bad mood seemed to have been quelled by good food and good wine.
“Well…” Drake briefly considered dropping the subject, but continued. “Atlas is prosecuting that murderer, Ted, from the Cape. The real sick one with the trust fund. It’s an open and shut case. He obviously did it. But Atlas just so happens to own some stock in Ted’s daddy’s brewing and distilling company, Illicit Liquors.”
“So how’s that going to help us?” Barry was beckoning to the waiter to bring more wine, so Drake, annoyed, waited for the waiter to leave the area before continuing.
“So if it turned out the case wasn’t so open and shut, it may look like Atlas wanted little Teddy to be prosecuted, to save the business from crumbling when he takes it over.”
“Well that doesn’t really make much sense, unless Atlas owned some big percentage of the company. How much stock does he have?”
“Practically nothing, but it doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to be widely believed. The story is that Atlas owns a piece of the distilling company, and wants to make sure it succeeds at all costs. We can get the story out, and if we repeat it enough times, people will believe it. You should know that from all the history books you read.”
Barry chuckled, “Yes, but in the history books, everybody and their brother didn’t own a news website. They just had to get a handful of people to agree, and the world would believe whatever they passed down to their minions.”
“We can handle the media,” said Drake who owned a controlling stake in a popular area news site, News of New England, and had some connections to others with Internet companies. He figured he’d just pay off the right people, and reimburse himself later by extorting money from Ted’s family for the favorable outcome.
Barry put down the knife he was using to butter his roll, finally catching on to Drake’s plan. His stressed out demeanor returned as he realized this meal was meant for more than fraternizing.
“But how could I do anything about that. BA isn’t even involved in the case.”
“No, but if a conflict of interest arose for the arbiters on the case, it would be moved, and if I give Teddy’s father a nudge and a wink, I think we could get Barry Arbitration involved in the case.”
“And then I commit career suicide by putting my neck on the chopping block when it’s found out that my ruling was false!” Barry was not convinced. “I could be confined to an adap for that, and what do I get in return? Nothing.” Barry was shaking his head no.
“Nothing?” Drake gave a small snort and sigh, “You get to be rid of a certain reporter, and have certain files of hers go missing as well. In the shock and confusion, the report from Business Ethics Review never comes out, and no one pays attention to Barry Arbitration’s rating.”
“Oh,” Barry was taken aback, surprised that the plan had escalated so quickly. “I see. But that still doesn’t protect me from it coming to light that I lied about the evidence in the murder case. I’d just be digging my hole deeper, and kicking the can down the road.”
“Only if we stop there” Drake retorted.
“Where else is there to go? I undermine your main competitor’s credibility, saving your business. You bury a negative report, saving my business… until it is found out that I blatantly lied, at which point I become a confine until I die.”
“Well that’s where the rest of the plan comes in. Molly’s murder won’t be just any murder. It will be a drug cartel murder of an innocent, beautiful young women.” Drake hadn’t planned on discussing this in such detail, but he was too excited, and was planning out loud as much to convince himself as Barry.
Drake had been dreaming this plan up for a while, but now added the details from recently emerging circumstances. “Only the 9th murder this year in all of New England, quickly followed by the 10th, 11th, and 12th – the victims strategically chosen to both elicit fear that no one is safe, even the rich, and take out the people who would most stand in our way. We make it brutal, we frame outside cartels, and we scare people into demanding a border. A border which we control.”
“And when other agencies protest the border,” Barry said, staring somewhere behind Drake, thinking as he spoke and becoming visibly excited, “BA shows ‘evidence’ that they are working for the drug cartels, meaning the only ones that can be trusted are ourselves and our partners!”
“Then NESA graciously provides patrols free of charge to anyone within the border,” Drake continued, “cutting out the business of whatever security companies are left. We take enough of whatever is coming into our territory on roads and magnet tubes that we control – a sort of tariff – in order to pay for these free patrols, and once NESA and its affiliates are all that’s left, impose a tax on the population.”
“We trump up charges against other arbiters, or absorb them – pick the right ones to form branches of government with the right positions as bargaining chips,” Barry was now smiling with wide eyes, taken away by the possibilities of Drake’s plan for power, like a child planning his first trip to Disney World: “I become the Minister of Arbitration, you the Minister of Security, and from there on out it’s easy street! Just like pre-collapse!”
Drake’s smile was more detectable than usual, “Bingo!” he drawled as he raised his eyebrows and took a sip of his wine.
The better part of a minute passed in silence as the two considered the plan.
“But…” Barry was still thinking, and his smile turned into a sideways frown, skeptical that the plan could fall into place, “It would be such a risk.”
“All great men once took a great risk,” argued Drake calmly. “But we have this opportunity once, before our businesses decline or come crumbling down. It’s now or never.”
“How would we put it all into motion though, without it getting away from us?”
“Just leave that to me, I know who to talk to, I know who I can trust. I’ve already done some probing and testing, so to speak.”
Barry wasn’t convinced, and he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I need to be sure. I can’t just throw caution to the wind with nothing but your assurance.”
The two fell silent as their food arrived. The juiciest pink-in-the-middle fillet mignon – rarer these days as people were used to much less meat in their diets, and cattle raising never resumed on the same scale after the collapse. On the side were mashed potatoes with garlic and real butter, grilled asparagus, assorted raw leafy greens topped with goat cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette, lamb-broth gravy with mushrooms and onions, lobster tail with a cream sauce topped by caviar, and olive oil painted dinner rolls with herbs that looked like an artist had prepared them for a museum.
“Listen,” Drake began as he lowered his voice and cut into his steak, placing a bloody, dripping morsel into his mouth, and chewing, “We can handle the media. We have more to offer with this plan than money, we can now offer power, straight up, unadulterated force, used for whatever they desire. So we set up Ministries, and sell the positions to those with the most power. I happen to have the right connections in the news world so that we can control the very thing which will advance us to the next level; it will be state propaganda… like the Soviet days.” Drake added, knowing Barry’s obsession with history, particularly dictatorships.
“I’m reading about Joseph Stalin now!” Barry exclaimed, excited to add value to their relationship.
Drake acted as if he hadn’t heard Barry, and he was so wrapped up in his plan that he indeed might not have heard. “We might need some strategic Internet blackouts, but we can take care of that with a couple of false flag killings, and then some raiding of the right businesses. But the key is that the things going wrong must look like it is society disintegrating around the people. And when my men arrive on the scene everything is righted, and NESA is the hero. BA will apply the law as it currently stands in the most common contracts, but you will be the only arbitration agency left, so there will be no one to check up on the rulings, the evidence, and the convictions. We purge the detractors by charging them with crimes connected to the cartels, or crimes destabilizing the region.” Drake wasn’t even talking to Barry anymore, and Barry sensed this, feeling left out for a moment.
“And we’ll call Barry Arbitration New England Arbitration for cohesion!” Barry slammed his fist on the table a bit harder than intended, and his half full glass of wine spilled onto the white tablecloth, creating a deep red stain like blood, as Barry let slip an expletive.
Drake was brought back to reality and looked at Barry with a note of agitation and slight disappointment in his face as the waiter rushed over to clean up the mess, “Yes, that is a good idea”, and he did in fact like the idea of renaming the agencies to match the new state.
Barry turned a little red in the cheeks at his mishap, and the two ate in silence for a minute or two. Barry was coming back to his senses, and again starting to worry about the potential for the plan to go awry.
“But can you imagine if we got caught, Drake, how terrible the remainder of our lives would be, like dogs in a kennel,” Barry was almost whining.
“As opposed to your life now? As a house-trained dog who’s got to wag his tail and lick the hand of his owners that we call customers? A man leashed by the market, who barks on command, and who is about to be put down by some bitch vet because you pissed on the wrong fire hydrant?”
Drake is quite the orator, Barry thought. Barry was comforted by his friend’s conviction, and more convinced as Drake’s confidence about their plan shined through his normally sullen face. In reality Drake had only convinced himself that the plan would work while explaining it at dinner. And Drake was comforted by his minion’s support.
The truth was that Drake too thought of Barry as a dog, but knew that a dog could be man’s best friend. Loyalty from Barry was not in question, and Drake knew that all Barry needed were a few pats on the head, and Barry would growl and flash his teeth at anyone who his master deemed an enemy.
Barry was thinking hard, and couldn’t decide what he wanted. The plan did sound great to him – well definitely the end result. And pleasing Drake was another huge plus; and with a man like Drake at the wheel it did seem more likely to Barry that they would see success.
But the risk! This was an all-in moment, and Barry was not the type to make tough decisions. As much as he hated being chained to the market, he had always tended to rely on popular demand of the customers to guide his actions; the reason he was successful in the first place. But here he was, one man who had to decide whether to take the risk with such an immense potential reward, but with such dire possible consequences.
Barry was used to betting with his money, but he had never bet with his freedom before. But then true power, in the old sense, had never been on the table. He felt like this was the reward that his whole life was building up to, and to give up on power would leave him only money – which was already at risk because of the pending BER report.
Barry thought that even if he did manage to hold onto his business, and maintain profits, what more could he look forward to in life? The very probable possibility of diminishing profits and less spending money only added to the desire to take this bet, and risk it all. Barry was shaking his head, gazing up in thought, biting and pursing his lips in quick and random succession. As his mind swayed from yes to no and back his body could practically be seen mimicking the thought process, like a drunk man trying to catch his balance after standing up too quickly.
“If there was some sort of insurance policy…” Barry pleaded, unable to commit, though wanting so badly to see the plan fulfilled. He was avoiding direct eye contact with Drake.
Drake was staring squarely at Barry. “How hard do you think it is to flee the area, go somewhere that no one will recognize you.”
“Pff,” Barry let out a humorless laugh, “any agency in this hemisphere would recognize us through facial recognition eventually, and collect the probably gigantic bounty.”
“There are places to go,” drawled Drake as if this was obvious. He knew Barry was on the tipping point. “And we are talking worst case scenario.”
Barry thought worst case scenario. Worst case scenario I take off on my yacht and sail the world. He thought that might not be so bad. Of course that still had its risks if he planned to go ashore at port, but then again he could choose his ports wisely, and perhaps hire people to buy the supplies he needed. Maybe there would be tropical islands without cameras. He would need to have supplies ready to change the appearance of his yacht enough so that it would not be recognized were he to become an outlaw. The idea was romanticized in Barry’s head, and he briefly imagined himself as a pirate, before becoming embarrassed at himself for having such a childish thought. But still, the rest sounded plausible. Plausible as a worst case scenario, if the ultimate plan, with the ultimate reward, failed.
“We’ll have to do this so that we will get some warning if things sour,” Barry was speaking seriously and skeptically. “I’ll be on my yacht when it all happens, and I’ll want to be in contact with you throughout the entire ordeal. The first one you call as the pieces fall into place. Just don’t hang me out to dry.”
Drake had convinced him. Drake’s face was the brightest Barry had ever seen it, and he swore he could see a full fledged grin for a split second. “I knew you would come to your senses,” finished Drake triumphantly as he held up his glass of wine for a toast. “To government.”
Barry smiled. He was entering into the most important contract of his life, what it had all led up to, with the best possible partner. He was starting to once again relax.
“To government!” he toasted. Clink.