As we drove, I realized I’d only seen white people. White, Christian people. No others. Nothing but white, Christian people.
“They really did it, didn’t they. Ethnic cleansing.”
The truck’s cold, metallic voice answered, “It’s not a surprise. The drones recorded them.”
I didn’t speak as we explored Jackson. The ruins of the business district, most buildings collapsed from the drone attacks. Another time we’d had no choice, the people who’d worked in those buildings had funded God’s Army, and the Southern Resistance. Billions of dollars had passed through those buildings, into the war. The people who worked there contributed part of their paychecks to the war effort.
In some of those buildings they had worked on advanced body armor. Armor that made standard ammunition useless, that shattered bullets on impact, and spread the shock of the impact over feet of surface area.
In other buildings they had worked on advanced firearms, the kind that aimed themselves, all the human did was pull the trigger. Hell, even the ammunition was smart, guided, heat sensing, some even video based. The guns fired, the rounds took flight, then found a target, and aimed at it. It didn’t matter who, as long as it wasn’t someone on their side.
In still other buildings, they worked on parts for their war machines, their aircraft, ships, tanks. Whatever was needed to keep their machines working. Parts for their bombers and fighters. Parts for their aircraft carriers, destroyers, and cruisers. Parts for their tanks, and mobile artillery.
They even had buildings working on chemical weapons, neurotoxins, super bacteria, vectored viruses, designed to kill us. Designed to kill my people.
I remembered the time the truck drove through what had been Jefferson City. I will never forget that drive. Jefferson City was littered with bodies. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. Every human who’d lived in Jefferson City, died when two B-21s flew over, and dropped two bio-weapons. A super bug. A killer bacteria. People’s arms turned purple, swelled up, the skin broke. Their legs did the same. Green goo flowed from the skin tears. They choked on the goo as it filled their lungs.
There was no cure.
We’d had to seal off the area. Anyone within 10 miles of Jefferson City had been trapped. We’d sent in medical droids to do what they could. When they found someone alive, they accessed the extent of the infection. When they had to, they euthanized people. When they could, they amputated the infected body parts.
The same kind of thing happened everywhere. The B-21’s flew over, dropped their weapons. Millions died. Millions.
I looked at my right arm. The skin looked real enough, it felt real enough, but inside was ceramic bone, an array of sensors to detect pressure and heat, computer circuitry to format the information the sensors picked up, convert it into biological signals it fed to my central nervous system.
I’d lost my arm when God’s Army bombed Springfield. My mother died when her chest broke open as the bacteria ate her lungs and heart. My father shot my brother and me, then he shot himself, so we wouldn’t have to die like Mom had. His aim was off when he shot me. I didn’t die. And the medical droids found me.
And they cut off my arm.
They saved my life.
We’d set up air defenses using lasers, and optically guided missiles. Radar was useless against the B-21s, and their fighter escorts. The lasers shot down hundreds of aircraft. There are still areas where those B-21’s crashed where nothing lives, nothing grows.
Each time they bombed a city, they bombarded the media with stories of how they’d attacked more of Satan’s spawn, and were continuing to do the work of God, saving the country from the Devil.
And for everything we shot down, they made more.
We’d had no choice.
We’d had no choice. We’d sent in the Furies, and the Strafes, our autonomous fighters and bombers. They flew less than 100 feet off the ground. God’s Army and The Southern Resistance had no defense against them. We sent them endlessly. Hour after hour. At first, we had 500 Furies, and 100 Strafes. We’d learned to make them using autonomous factories. Those factories poured out more, daily. After twelve months of the air assault, we had 6000 Furies and 1200 Strafes.
We bombed, and bombed, until the building that made the biological weapons were gone. Then, we bombed until the buildings that made the war machine parts were gone. Then the advanced guns. Then the body armor. We took apart their ability to make war.
And yes. We killed millions.
We’d had no choice.
The rubble of the buildings of Jackson showed the truth about the war. A war with no winner save Death. A war where the country’s population dropped hundreds of millions. It had been a war unlike anything in the history of the human race.
As the bombing continued, God’s Army and The Southern Resistance moved production facilities, research facilities, and all the rest, into churches, people’s houses, apartment buildings, barns on farms. Anywhere they could to continue building weapons for the war.
And we’d had no choice to but move the bombing to those structures.
The cold voice of my truck interrupted my memories, “Drone one reports a sighting of humans.”
“Send drone two for a better look.”
“How far away are we?”
The truck displayed an overhead map comprised of images taken by Furies over the years of the bombing. There were two red dots on the map, one identified where we were, the other where the drones were reporting the humans.
My truck didn’t ask, it headed toward the humans.
The two drones circled the area, their cameras zoomed in. Those cameras could see the teeth in a human smile from a mile. The drones circled, and collected information. The truck pieced the video from the drones together into a map.
There were two, heavily armed white men, guns drawn, barking orders at twelve people, all non-white. Some black. Some white, but clearly the wrong kind of white. I figured that meant they were Latinos, or Atheists, or Jewish, or something other than Christian. They could have been middle eastern, or European. I had no way to tell. They weren’t black.
Three of the dozen people were men. Three were women. The remaining six were children, two girls, four boys.
“Truck. I want to be there now.”
The truck engine roared to life as it left the remains of the roadway, and made a straight line toward the other red dot. We didn’t dodge anything, or go around anything. The truck’s reinforced frame, and metallic foam armor let us run through anything we hit.
We were, in effect, a four metric tonne tank. As we raced through the remains of Jackson to the sight of the humans, the video from the drones played on the truck’s windshield, and I watched in horror, and rage.
A little black girl tripped and fell. One of the white men grabbed her by the arm, yanked her to her feet, screamed at her, and backhanded her across the face. He broke her nose, split her lips. She crumpled to the ground, and I wondered if he’d broken her neck.
One of the men stepped between the white man, and the little girl in an effort to protect her. He reached for her, to help her up, to see if she was OK.
The white man shot him. The white bastard aimed an automatic assault gun at the man, and pulled the trigger. My truck reported 17 rounds were fired. It nearly cut the man in half. The other white man screamed, “Get back to work, ‘fore we have to shoot the rest of ya!”
My truck broke through the last pile of rubble between us and the people we’d found. As it did, I grabbed the wheel, and slammed my foot down hard on the gas. I drove straight at one of the white men. He heard me coming and turned just in time to meet the grille of my truck with his face.
The second white man saw what was happening. He saw the remains of his partner piled on the ground behind my truck, and my truck heading straight for him. He dove for cover behind some rubble.
I adjusted my truck’s course, and pedal to the metal, plowed into that rubble. The rubble pile was destroyed. So was the white bastard inside it.
I backed my truck up, then opened the door.
My truck turned on its external speakers, “Both targets disabled.”
I stood before ten terrified people. I reached into the back of my truck and pulled out a supply container. I carried it toward the injured little girl. No one stopped me. I opened the container, and pulled out bandages, and antibacterial cream. The others watched. The cream found any infected areas of the little girl’s broken nose, busted lips, and broken teeth. When it did, it sent in nanobots to penetrate the bacteria, and literally explode, killing that bacteria.
We’d learned a lot about advanced bacterial warfare during the war. We’d had to. Now, it was being put to good use. The bleeding stopped. I looked at the little girl, and tried to smile. I reached into the kit, and pulled out an additional ointment, filled with nanobots that mended wounds. I applied it. “It tastes like dog poo, I know. But it’ll heal the cuts and broken bones. And it’ll mend your broken teeth.”
No one moved.
I stood up. “I’m from America.” I looked at the adults, “You know what that means?”
One of the men nodded, “You’re one of the soldiers of the North.”
“Not exactly. There is no north, no south. No states. We’re just America now. On government. One country.”
He nodded, trying to understand.
“Those men,” I pointed at their dead bodies, “They were making you work?”
He nodded, “Yes.”
My voice shook with rage. “Not anymore. Y’all are free now.”
Slavery had returned. The non-white Christians they hadn’t killed, they’d enslaved. We’d wondered if they’d killed everyone, and what they’d done with those they hadn’t killed. Now, we knew. Now, we had proof. The images from the Furies had shown what looked like forced labor camps. But we couldn’t be certain. We couldn’t believe until we saw it ourselves. Until we put feet on the ground, and witnessed it with human eyes.
And I was staring at it.
I picked up the container, handed it to a black woman. “Medicine and food. It’s yours.”
Nope of them moved. They stood there, confused. Until a little boy asked, “Will there be others?”
“Yes.” I nodded. “With what I’ve learned today, there will be lots of others.” I smiled at the little boy. “We don’t tolerate slavery. It’s wrong.”
My truck was already reporting the proof of slavery. We’d send troops in. All we’d been waiting for was proof. I’d found it. I wondered if any of the others had found it.
“Are there more of you?” I asked.
The black woman I’d handed the case bowed her head, “Yes, ma’am.”
I put my hand under her chin, raised her face to look her in the eyes, “You’re free now. You don’t have to bow down to anyone.” I smiled at her. “Can one of you show me where to find them?”
A man I guess was Latino, or maybe middle eastern, I’m not good with racial stereotyping. Never have been. Never will be, stepped forward. “I know where they are.”
I motioned for him to follow me. “We’re going to get in my truck, and we’re going to go free more people.”
The man climbed into my truck. I waved at the others, “I’ll bring him back before long.” Then, I got in my truck, and we drove.
It turned out the war wasn’t over. The damned war refused to die. We’d hoped it had ended, we’d prayed it had ended. We were sick of war. Sick of dead bodies. Sick of the stories of mass burial sites.
But we’d found slavery, and that meant the war wasn’t over. That meant the war was about to heat up once more.
And once more, there would be dead people everywhere.
“What does it take to end this damn war?” I couldn’t help myself. I said it out loud.
And my truck answered, its voice as cold and synthetic as ever, “The death of every last Christian.”
I prayed it wasn’t right. But I was beginning to believe its cold mathematical self had spoken the truth. And the war would continue until every last Christian in God’s Army was dead.