The plane landed in the desert outside Dallas. The glow of the city eclipsed the sky, drowning out the stars. Laura stared at the fence surrounding the city, a twenty foot tall monstrosity, topped with razor wire. “Electrified?”
“Of course. It’s impossible to climb. Of course we have a tunnel that goes under. I won’t be joining you. You and Paul need to get suited up. You need to be careful though. You look more or less like Texans, but you aren’t fit freaks or fatties. Might get you some looks. Pretty much everyone is either jacked up on some sort of steroids and living at the gym or else massively overweight here.”
“Well, I’ll do my best to pretend to be a fit chick. Let’s do this shit before I chicken out”
The tunnel was a ways from the aircraft. As they moved across the desert they covered their tracks, dragging a net behind them. Finally they reached a rocky outcrop, apparently the one they were looking for. Laura was parched, desperately thirsty. The desert air felt like it was sucking every drop of moisture from her body. She wanted to be back in the jungle, back where the air made sense to her.
Thiago handed her a bundle. “This is your outfit. You and Paul need to head in from here. We have identified on group of orphans to work on. Do what you can. If something goes wrong, get out. You can’t help more kids if you get executed.”
Laura started to strip off her practical clothing to replaced it with her garish patriotic gear. Thiago looked her up and down appreciatively. “Damn, you look good.”
“Nothing you haven’t seen before. In case I forget to mention it later, or you know, I get killed or something, love you.”
“Love you too.”
The outfit was ridiculous. A skirt and a t-shirt, both with large American flags on them. She also had a pair of cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. Finally, to make the outfit perfect, a handgun on her hip.
“Do I really have to have the gun?”
“Yes, it’s a city ordinance now. All citizens must visibly carry at least on firearm at all times while in public. It was supposed to reduce gun deaths. Hasn’t worked out so far, but they keep trying.”
Paul came around the corner. Laura couldn’t help but laugh. He was wearing a bandana around his neck, a blue shirt with pearl buttons and pearl tips on the collar, and leather fringe. There was also a pair of tight jeans over cowboy boots. The obligatory gun was on his hip. He said, “Are you sure? I mean, really, fringed shirts?”
“Yeah, it’s what’s hot this month. There’s a big Roy Rogers resurgence happening right now. All the cool kids are wearing it. No way an up and coming guy like you doesn’t get into the spirit of it.”
“Okay, cultural research knows best. Please, please don’t show anyone in Brazil any pics of me in this though. I might actually die of embarrassment.”
The tunnel was well hidden, but Thiago knew right where it was. “Paul, you better bring back my girl… you come back without her I might just have to leave you in that outfit…”
“Don’t worry baby, I can take care of myself,” Laura said, as she slipped into the tunnel entrance.
It was a longer walk than Laura would have imagined, but after the desert, the cooler air down in the tunnel was welcome. Laura sipped on her water and ran the risks through her head over and over again.
Finally, they reached the end of the tunnel. There was a monitor next to the ladder up into Dallas proper, showing the view next to the exit point. When it was clear they climbed up and popped the hatch. The noise hit them like a wall. They were in Dallas.
Jude made it back to the hidey hole. A literal hole of course. The kids were mostly there. Jenny ran up and hugged her. Jenny was the biggest problem in the group in some ways. She was clearly Asian. Sure, Asians weren’t as disliked as Arabs or Hispanic, but at least some of the Hispanic kids looked almost white. The ones who didn’t were old enough to stay hidden, not let security catch sight of them. Jenny being so young meant she wasn’t careful yet, not careful enough. Her parents had been lynched in one of the immigrant purges last year. Her mom was even white. Sometimes a white guy and an Asian girl was okay, but not the other way around, not ever.
Here she was, in her little hole of immigrant orphans. Most of them had seen their parents killed. Mostly by mob violence, but a few, like Jude herself, by the corporate security forces. In Jude’s case it had been Christian Nation Security, the biggest group in the city. They were actually under contract with what little was left of the city government to patrol the streets. They also worked for a number of the churches around town, but were selective about their client groups. Jude had been in bed when the company came calling. Her father told her to hide. She did, climbing into the crawl space under the trailer. The door splintered in and the security force beat her father to death with clubs. She was too little to do anything, she was always too little to do anything.
She brought her mind back to the present, back to the little girl hugging her so fiercely it felt like she would never breath again. “Jenny, love you, but you have to let go… I can’t breathe.”
“Thought they got you. I was so scared. Please, don’t go away for long like that again.”
“I’ll try, but if I have to in order to be safe I will. I can’t promise never again. You know that. I will always come back to you though.”