May 26th 2038/ Cheektowaga, NY (a suburb of Buffalo, NY)
“Hello fellow Americans. Yesterday our nation experienced a tragedy. At an illegal protest in Buffalo, NY one of the protesters attacked police officers as they tried to peaceful enact a zone warning. This act of terror took the lives of dozens of officers. Unfortunately, the perpetrator is believed to have fled before officers could move in to secure the site but is believed to still be in the city. As it has been rumored by local media, there is evidence that he used some kind of unknown weapon technology to commit his terror attack. From what our investigators have gathered this technology can create shockwaves in the ground. Because of that I have ordered the deployment of the Department of Homeland Investigation and Security to Buffalo to track down the assailant and any accomplices. In the interest of keeping our officers safe from this unprecedented threat we have equipped them with a new experimental weapon system that we are confident will give them an edge when confronting the assailant. The public should not worry about further attacks, our officers are-”
I abruptly turn off my HUD.
I lean back on Terrance's porch and let out a big sigh while tapping my finger on his stairs loudly.
"Mina, you good?" he asks concerned.
"No, I'm not alright! That man wants to focus all his attention on the cops, and I mean yea its messed up that they died.”
“Meh,” Terrance utters behind my statement. I ignore him and continue.
“But what about the fact they were about to charge us for no good reason, and then they detained everyone on the suspicion they might know that man! And don't get me started on how the cops are already out here bugging out on folks.”
"Yea...I hear you," his voice trailing off. "I just hope shit settles down soon. I’m definitely not down with all these pigs out here." As he says this he's looking down the street at a Cheektowaga PD armored SUV parked at the corner.
"I don't think it will T. This is basically collective punishment for what happened. I wish whoever did that had done it in someone else's city cause fuck this." I turn on my HUD again and access my transcribed notes from a meeting I was at earlier with a bunch of local activists.
'Terrance, so I was meeting with folks earlier about what went down, and they been talking about marching on City Hall to demand an end to the heightened police and DHIS presence in the city. You'd think you’d want to go?" I ask acknowledging silently to myself I asked this same question a few days ago and we see how that went.
"I don't know forreal forreal. I ain't trying to give them a free target to shoot." He turns towards me with an apologetic look on his face.
"I get you. I'm scared too but it wouldn't be the right thing to do to back down now."
“Nah fuck that. You don't always gotta do the right thing,” he says in a serious tone.
“Why wouldn't I? Can't call myself an activist or radical if I don't show up." I tilt my head a bit as I say this.
“Too many niggas I know got clapped thinking exactly like that. I ain’t gonna tell you what to do, but I don't want you to fuck around and find out ya mean?" His tone shift from dry to slight worry as he speaks.
“I hear you T but remember I'm a grown ass woman whose been organizing for years. You're my friend, not my older brother.” I don't want him to worry about me, but also, I hate when dudes get paternalistic like we ain't never run the streets. Gotta remind them what’s up sometimes.
“Mmhmm,” he replies with an eye roll.
Just as I'm about to say something about that eye roll a call comes in.
Call from Julissa
I double blink to answer.
"Amina did you hear about what's happening!?" she screams at me.
“Ancestors! What's happening now?"
"I just got a call from my aunt who live over at Ferry. The police and DHIS just showed up to the projects and surrounded the entire complex!"
"Wait what the fuck!? Why would they do that!?"
"Because they say they think the terrorist is in the complex!"
"Oh shit.... I gotta get down there!"
Terrance picking up on the urgency in my voice signals me to silence the call.
"Julissa, hold up a minute, ok?" I mute the phone and turn to Terrance.
"You can't go down there. They might have caught us on a drone at the protest," Terrance says in a soft but worried tone.
"If they had, they would have already rounded our asses up, especially after the whole taser thing. Hold up real quick." I unmute the call.
"Ima be down there in a few but ima stay out of the crowd though cause...um well you know how cops are," I tell Julissa as I hang up. None of us have told anyone we were near the front of the protest or what we saw. You never know who might snitch.
As I pack up my bookbag to leave Terrance sighs loudly.
"What is it man?” I respond annoyed at his sigh as I pack up my bag to leave.
“Why do you have to go down there again?”
“Because...well I wanna be there for my folks. Isn't that enough? Anyways like I said just a minute ago I know what I'm doing. Stop worrying about me so much.”
His eyebrows wrinkle as he sighs again, louder than the last time.
“Listen, I just want you to be careful. I’m no seasoned activist like you but you know as well as I do that when DHIS shows up somewhere they're coming to drop some bodies. Yeah, you played around with regular cops on campus and shit, but these niggas are another breed.”
I can see the concern on his face and he's not wrong. Alot of the archives I'm working in detail the bloody trail DHIS left across the country after their founding in 2027. But someone needs to stand up to them, regardless of the risk.
I get off the bus and as it loudly pulls away, I look across Ferry St. to the growing crowd of DHIS, police, and residents who are angrily screaming at the police for blocking the entrance to the projects. Sitting next to an old train bridge line, surrounded by a combo of fences and trees, and with only one entrance/exit it's easy for the cops to encircle the place.
"I need to pick my kids up from school!" one person screams.
"My kids are home waiting for me! How long are y’all gonna keep us out here!?" another says.
“I’ve been at work all damn day and y’all pull this shit. Come on yo!" a third person yells.
The police aren’t answering any of the people's questions directly like decent people and instead issues a zone warning. The notification opens on my HUD, and I see that the entire project grounds aside from the front sidewalk is redded out. The text attached to the zone warning reads:
Police are searching the grounds for a subject wanted in a terrorism case. We will update this warning if/when circumstances change. Anyone caught violating the zone warning will be detained.
Seeing the AR red and reading that message got my hand twitching a bit. I hold my hand with the other and look on as silence comes across the crowd and they begin to back up. I take a deep breath and decide to call Julissa to update her on what's going on. Hopefully she can get the word out to the rest of our organizing network, so people know what's happening.
"HUD, Call Julissa" I say to my HUD.
"Hey Min, what’s up? Did you end up going down there?"
"Yea I'm across the street from the entrance and people are pissed. They won't let people get in to see their families. I think they think the person from yesterday is here."
"Yea I saw the zone warning just now. But yo I'm riding my bike down Grider on my way there and two DHIS Hummers just whizzed past me. Look out for ‘em ok?"
"Yea I got you. Call me when you get close."
"Ok love, stay safe ok?"
I hang up and just as I begin to look around sure enough those Hummers she mentioned come around the corner. They honk loudly at the crowd and as people part to make space for them to drive up the driveway the cops already there use the opportunity to push people back and create more space. Now there's like 70 people and news crews squeezed on the sidewalks, all annoyed as fuck.
As the door opens on the Hummers I see a white man, tall, suited with a dirty blonde buzzcut step out, DHIS logo on his shoulder. Behind him comes out 3 soldiers from the same Hummer and 4 from the other one. They look different than DHIS officers I've seen before. Instead of the usual SWAT type uniform with tactical HUD visors and rifles, they have sleek all black one piece outfits with dark blue stripes going down the sides, a blue belt across the waist, no guns, and....
A dark metal oval device attached to their left arms!
I stand frozen, eyes wide as a deer in the headlights, and my hand starts shaking again. How?! How do they have the same tech as the guy from the protest!? Wait! The president talked about giving them experimental weapons. Holy shit, I have to call Terrance and Onyeka!
"Yo" They both answer not knowing the wild shit they are about to hear.
"Turn on your sight share. NOW!" I scream at them barely able to hold back my terror.
"Mina, what's wrong?" Onyeka asks sounding both confused and concerned.
"Yea are you aight?" Terrance asks behind her.
"Just turn the fucking shit on and you'll see why I'm not alright!" I scream louder this time. I don't have time for this.
"Ok damn shit!" Terrance retorts. Notifications pop up that they can now see what I'm seeing through my eyes.
"Do y’all see those guys in blue. They're DHIS." I point directly at the officers who are still at the entrance talking with the local police. "Before the earthquake the man at the waterfront had some black oval device attached to an armband. I think that's what he used. They have the same shit!" I whisper scream to them.
"I think I remember seeing it too," Onyeka replies with a tone of disbelief.
"You have to leave Amina," Terrance replies without directly addressing what I just revealed to him.
"I'm not. I need to document them so we can expose them. Obviously that guy from yesterday worked for DHIS," I respond with a forced flatness, hopefully conveying that I'm not open to either of them trying to convince me otherwise.
"What are you going to do? If that whole thing at the Waterfront was a false flag and they killed a bunch of cops to just fuck with us, I can't even imagine what's about to happen there." Onyeka says as her voice fills with the same terror I had when I put the pieces together.
As I look suddenly, the DHIS officers begin marching into the complex and turn the corner. I have to find out what they're doing, fuck safety.
"Guys! I'm going to climb up on the bridge along the side of the projects so I can see what the officers are doing," I inform them.
"NO!" both say in unison as they helplessly see me through my eyes begin to run down Ferry towards the train bridge.
"I'll be careful but it's important that we find out who they are actually looking for and if what happened was indeed an inside job. I'll hit you all back when I'm in place." I hang up on them before they can say anything else. I love my friends but sometimes you gotta just follow your gut. Hopefully my gut isn't gonna get me killed. Ancestors protect me.
After climbing up on to the bridge I run crouched along the rusted tracks, hoping my grey t-shirt and purple legging won't give me away to the DHIS agents who are standing below in the courtyard on the opposite side of the complex from where I am.
What I see is disturbing. It looks DHIS has detained a bunch of kids and some of their parents at the playgrounds that sits in the middle of the courtyard. I can't hear anything but a bunch of noise both from the agents and the people. Looking around more I see DHIS and local police kicking in doors and searching all the apartments around the courtyard. I think again about how these guys and that man seem to have the same tech. Is this all for show or did one of them go rogue or something?
Incoming Group Call from Julissa, Onyeka, and Terrance
"Ancestors what's happening now?" I say to myself as I answer the call.
"Mina where are you? I don’t see you!" Julissa yells.
"I'm on the bridge across from the main courtyard. The DHIS people are detaining folks at the playground while they search the houses," I reply.
"Wait! why? But listen! The residents are literally fighting the cops and running towards the courtyard," she replies to me. Clearly folks done listening to the police.
"I saw the cops go into the projects and I wanted to see what they were doing to the people trapped in there,” I reply trying not the spill the beans about why else I'm up here.
“Girl, if they see you issa wrap. Please get out of there! I’m gonna back up from the crowd cause I can't be fighting no police.”
“I hear you, and I'll be fine. Get yourself to safety, ok?"
“Got it! Let me know as soon as you're outta there!"
Right after I hang up, I call T and Onyeka back.
"Y’all Julissa just told me folks trying to bulrush the cops and those DHIS agents with the arm things are still in there!” I start hyperventilating thinking about yesterday as I say this.
“We need to somehow stop them because they don't know what those devices can do!” I blurt out.
"Amina! Fuck tha-" Terrance's voice cuts out for a second as I see a flash coming from the direction of the playground out of the corner of my eyes.
I swivel my head as quick as I can and all I see is the group of people that was at the gate running towards where the police and DHIS were. One of the DHIS officers calmly step forward and raises his hand forward and suddenly a bright red flash flies forward from his hand.
Immediately I see one of the resident's chest explode in flame as the red flash hits them. I scream at the top of my lungs as I watch what I can only assume is someone's parent, partner, or sibling drop to the ground.
Immediately everyone else starts screaming. Even the police standing nearby step back terrified at what they just saw. I think I'm going to pass out. Did I just see someone create fire from their hand!? First the earthquake and now this!? What is happening!? My head spin as I struggle to keep my balance, my friends screaming into the HUD trying to get my attention.
"Amina! You ok!? What was that flash?! Did they blow up something? Or shoot someone!"
I calm down just enough to reply to her.
"...it...it...looked like magic. Like he just held out his hand and a man's chest exploded. I'll...I'll call y'all back." I quickly hang up as I collapse on the side of the train tracks and just stare up at the sky unable for a second time since yesterday understand some shit I seen.
My disbelief and fear quickly turn to anger. I stand up and wiping angry tears from my eyes I look down at the terrified and crying residents crowd around the smoldering body of someone's kin as the cops and DHIS agents yell at them to step away.
They’re gonna get what they deserve. I'm gonna make sure of it.