July 19, 2011 by Anne Tenino
This is from Chapter 3, where Matt is trying to meet up with James in Idaho, but James has no idea Matt is coming. James has been recently released into Idaho (the Red Idaho Authority) society after spending months in re-education camp because he’s a “moral criminal”. In other words, he’s gay. Matt has been sent to help him get out of Idaho and back to the Blue States.
Matt cleared the block, including an alley. When he first looked down it, he’d been surprised to see a Dumpster. He hadn’t known you could get someone to service them. No one could fit inside a Sorpacter, but clearly someone could fit inside or behind a Dumpster.
When he checked it out, he found nothing. Except a really bad smell, which was now clinging to him even with the all-weathers he wore. Nice.
James had to be long gone by now. Matt would have to stake out his house. He looked around the corner at the end of the block just in case.
Bingo. The façade of a building partway down the cross street was being deconstructed, although there weren’t any workers around at the moment. There was equipment, scaffolding, even some debris strewn about. He bet James was there, and since it was deserted it was a good place to approach him. James might recognize him, and Matt couldn’t predict his reaction. It would be better without witnesses. A familiar reaction could cause problems when a guy was wearing the pink triangle. Even if “familiar” translated to “fistfight.” It could be reported and linked to James.
In front of the deconstruction zone sat a construction-sized Sorpacter. It was attached by a sorting chute up the scaffolding, with openings about every three meters so stuff could be dropped in. He didn’t think anyone could fit inside the unit, but he checked to be sure. The sorting bot inside slammed the cover in his face. Nothing.
Matt turned back toward the scaffolding. He was looking left, so he didn’t see James climb out of the sorting chute. He did manage to catch movement out of the corner of his eye right before 85 kilos of man hit him from 2.5 meters above him.
Not the way he usually preferred to be jumped by a guy.
“Fuck, James!” he sputtered, his cheek mashed into the rough sidewalk. He could feel James freeze when Matt said his name. He had Matt’s arms twisted into some impossible configuration by then.
“Th’fuck?” muttered James, letting up on Matt’s arms a little. Thank God.
“Get off me, you fucking idiot!” Matt hissed. “If anyone sees you lying on another man on the street, you’re going back into re-education.”
“You were following me,” James pointed out calmly, not moving.
“Yeah, so I could talk to you. I’m not trying to do anything to you! Would I have been so obviously following you if I wanted to fuck with you?” Okay, so Matt hadn’t known he was so obviously following, but he’d use what he had. “C’mon, James. Seriously, you need to get off me before someone sees.”
James got up, but Matt could feel him standing very still back there in defensive—or offensive—readiness. Matt rolled over and looked up at James a few seconds before standing.
James stared at him stonily, ready for anything as Matt dragged his sore ass off the concrete. He really would have preferred a plastic composite walkway. Idaho seemed a little short on modern updates, though.
Matt could clearly see the pink triangle on the front of James’s shirt. Yeah, it would be obvious to anyone that this guy just got out of re-education.
“Th’fuck?” James asked again, the look on his face changing from stony to confused. “Matt?”
Ten minutes later, they were walking down the street together, each holding a coffee pouch. James had that completely blank expression he was so good at.
“What are you doing here? You need to get th’fuck out of the Red, Matt.”
“I’m gonna go.” Matt kept his voice just as low. “As soon as you’re ready.”
James said nothing for half a block, just stared straight ahead. “You’re rescuing me?” He whispered incredulously.
Matt imagined his smirk bore a striking resemblance to Andry’s from that morning. “Yup,” he said cheerfully.
“I don’t need you to rescue me.” James’s tone was flat.
“Then why haven’t you left yet? You’ve been out of the camp three weeks.”
“How do you know that?”
“Sorry; that’s classified info.” Matt was just goading him, now.
James snorted. “I have clearances you’ve never heard of.”
Matt got serious. “Yeah, I’m thinking my file on you was incomplete. You aren’t a SOUF Regular or a Ranger, are you?”
“Your file on me? Who the hell are you with?”
“You show me yours, I’ll show you mine.”
“Fine. I’m Psi-force.” Matt took a small misstep. Psi-force was one of the most secretive and legendary branches of SpecOps, formed from the Blue remnants of Rangers PSYOPS after Fort Bragg and Camp LeJeune went Red in the ’50s. When the Blue states military reorganized in 2057, the Marines and all Special Operating Forces formed their own branch of the military—Special Operations Unified Force. Psi-force was one of the units that ultimately fell under the jurisdiction of both SOUF Command and the ArmySF Subcommand. Psi-force troops could be embedded with any military unit.
“Your turn.” James nudged him.
Matt stopped walking and turned to James. Let the fucker face this one head-on. “I’m an extraction agent for Queer Extraction Services Association.”
James gave another little snort, and stared for a second. “I’m being rescued by a contractor,” he muttered to himself.
Matt smirked again. They turned and continued on.
“You have a licensed recoder?” James asked in a low voice.
“Yeah.” Matt smirked a little more. It wasn’t like they let just anybody walk around with a recoder. James needed him for that if nothing else.
“Guess that’s all right, then. Thank God.”