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Today's Story by Mike Tuggle

“Barbarians!” J. P. shook his head. “Tell me, how many people do you know that have been attacked by Barbarians?”

The Uprising

It was a poor night for conspirators.

That was the thought that prodded Thom Lipton on as he hurried toward the meeting place, an abandoned garage made of cinder blocks and tar paper perched on a remote rural highway. In the January cold, stars shined more brightly, sounds traveled farther. As he silently followed his companion across the empty dirt lot, Thom suspected that though there was no moon, the mobile nanocams that roamed the countryside could still detect their outlines against the starry sky. And the nanocams could alert the drones.

Claude pulled the wooden door open. “It’s a clean room.”

Thom scurried in, the chilly night chasing close behind. He prayed Claude was right. It was illegal to even discuss security monitors. And to tamper with one was a death sentence.

He stopped. Someone was already there. A young man seated at a small round table peered up in the light of an LED lantern.

Claude shut the door and snapped the deadbolt. “Thom, this is J. P.”

With both eyes on the new man, Thom stripped off his gloves and stepped across the room. The two men shook hands. A flabby grip, thought Thom. Cold, too.  But then the deserted garage, its concrete floor thick with dust, was even colder.

Thom sat down and unfastened the first button of his coat. The room, cluttered with old engine parts, smelled of decayed paper and grease.

“I have news,” said Claude, as he took a seat. “Good news.” He made eye contact with each man. “Raleigh Wilmont has formed the New Whig Party. He’s demanding free elections.”

J. P. banged the table. “Finally.”

“How can we help?”

“Resistance teams like this are meeting everywhere tonight.” Claude leaned closer. His silver hair flashed golden in the lantern. “We’re past the point of just handing out flyers and denouncing Paulus and his goons on the nets. Wilmont tells me it’s time for direct action. Thom, you need to organize a strike. I think you’ll find J. P. very handy in the days to come.”

Thom nodded. So it had come to this. It had been seven years since Paulus suspended elections, citing continued Barbarian violence. Over time, grumbling among the people escalated into open protest. Last winter, Raleigh Wilmont openly broke with his former ally and began quietly building a network of supporters. Wilmont’s unexpected ascent to the National Consulate in the spring had electrified everyone in the growing Resistance movement.

“I hate to admit it,” said Thom, “but I voted for Paulus. Got everyone in the union to vote for him, too.”

“I was district tribune back then, remember?” Claude leaned back in his chair. “I threw in with the Paulus bloc early on. Thought he’d take care of the Barbarians.”

J. P., who’d been leaning back precipitously in his straightback chair, let it slam forward. His open palms struck the table.

The two older men stared at him.

“Barbarians!” J. P. shook his head. “Tell me, how many people do you know that have been attacked by Barbarians?”

Claude, his hands clasped together as if in prayer, stared at the ceiling. “Don’t start.”

Thom studied the newcomer. Claude had always stressed unity within the Resistance, so it puzzled him that Claude would bring someone like this to a meeting. Thom didn’t normally care to argue with fellow Resistance members, but there was something about J. P.’s smug expression that got to him. Thom folded his arms and faced J. P. “My cousin in Boston lost the right side of his face in the Victory Day attack. And the weaponized hornets they released killed eleven people.”

“And you’re positive ‘Barbarians’ did it?”

“It was in the news.”

J. P. leered back across the table. “You believe the media?”

“Talk like this,” said Claude, “is what prevented me from joining the Resistance for many years.” He glanced around the room nervously. “Look, I’m risking a lot in this movement. My position in the State Consulate, my business—”

“And all I’m risking is my neck.” J. P. pushed away from the table and stood. The light from the utility lantern cast his shadow against the wall. “Have you ever seen a Barbarian?”

Thom whistled. “So you’re one of those?”

J. P. briefly cut his eyes at Thom. “Look what Paulus has done to us. Now it made sense for National Protection to monitor the nets and watch the streets. That’s okay. But now they listen to us in our own homes. And Paulus wants to put nanocams in every living room. All those stories about a Barbarian invasion are just excuses to spy on us and control us.”

Claude rubbed his eyes with his fingertips. “I’m as concerned about potential abuse in the government’s monitoring program as you are, but–”

“Potential?” J. P.’s face bunched into a mocking grin. “And how do you like having those murder machines flying over your head?”

“After we deal with the invasion, we can return to normal.”

“Exactly,” said Thom. “And what stands in our way? Paulus.”

“Getting rid of Paulus is just a start,” said J. P. “But then we have to—”

A loud knock shook the door.

Thom shot to his feet. He looked down at Claude, who appeared to have lost all the blood in his face. J. P.’s eyes glittered in mute fear.

The knock sounded again, with a demanding cadence.

Thom took a long, silent stride toward the rear window. The glass was painted black. Great for privacy, he thought. Not so good when you’re dying to know what’s outside waiting for you.

The wooden door rattled again. A man’s voice called out, “Claude. Open the door. It’s Fergie.”

Claude frowned, still frozen in his seat. He gazed up at Thom and mouthed the name.

Thom shook his head. He’d never heard of the man.

Eyes wide, Claude responded with a frightened nod toward the door.

Thom crept to the door. The deadbolt clicked, and Thom stepped back. The door flew open and a big man hurried in, scanned the room, and, with a sudden look of recognition, stood before Claude.

“It’s over.”

The three stared back uncomprehendingly.

“Did you hear me?”

Thom took a quick breath. “What do you mean?”

The man stared back at Thom. A huge smile formed. “It’s over. We won.”

“What happened?”

“Wilmont forced a vote on the Consulate. Paulus had no choice.” The man appeared amused by the bewilderment that greeted him. “We’ve got everything we demanded.”

Claude exhaled. “You – you’re the new man on the State Consulate.”

“C’mon, Claude! It’s Fergie Apple. We met three weeks ago. We’re on the same side.” Fergie gave the other two approving glances. He pointed an index finger. “J. P. Pedersen. A real fire-eater – just like me! And Thom Lipton. Best thing ever to happen to the Programmer’s Union.”

“So Paulus stepped down?”

“It’s better than that.” Fergie knelt down and clapped a thick hand on Claude’s shoulder, his face close to Claude’s. “Wilmont took over National Protection. Paulus had no choice.” He looked up at Thom. “Wilmont will take care of the Barbarians. He’ll send Special Forces to the north border, like we should have done years ago.”

Fergie stood and faced J. P. His fist tapped J. P.’s chest. “Now we have one of our own in National Protection. Wilmont will make sure nanocams will only be installed in the homes of suspected traitors.”

J. P. gazed up at Fergie. The young man’s face slowly reflected the big man’s triumphant smile. Then J. P. said, “Good.”

“Sorry I frightened you boys, but I had to tell you the news. Paulus has the military behind him, so he’ll stay on as a figurehead. The point is, Wilmont’s calling the shots.” Fergie gazed down at Claude. “The State Consulates will convene in November to hold elections. I hope Wilmont can count on your support.”

“So Wilmont will take over as First Consul?”

“He might.” Fergie cocked his head. “Then again, if the present arrangement is still good, why, what’s the point?”

Claude nodded. “That’s true.”

“Besides,” said Fergie. “We’re in control now.”

Thom, who had been absently staring at the floor as he absorbed the news, suddenly looked up. Paulus is still First Consul, he thought. Nanocams are being installed in private homes. This is victory? And how did Fergie know— He turned and saw Fergie staring at him. Without thinking, Thom said, “We?”

The light from the lantern shone in Fergie’s eye. “Yes, ‘We,’ Mr. Lipton. Me, Claude here, and young J. P. And then there’s the dozen men waiting outside.” The big man stepped closer and towered over Thom. “‘We’ means all who love our country, and want to keep it safe, safe from Barbarians and all other threats. You’re with us, aren’t you?”

It took a few moments before Thom became aware of his heart thumping against his ribs. He took a deep breath and turned from the grinning giant standing over him. When he looked down at Claude, he saw a face full of trust and hope.

Claude’s expression chilled him even more than Fergie’s.

“Why, yes,” said Thom. “This is what we’ve all worked for.”

Fergie wrapped his arm around Thom and gripped his shoulder. “Wilmont couldn’t have done this without you. All of you should be proud.”

Claude stood up. His eyes sparkled as he faced Thom. “Do you realize what we’ve done?”

Before Thom could answer, J. P. said, “We beat them, that’s what. Didn’t we?”

“Yes, we did.” Thom glanced at his co-conspirators. “We beat them. And no one else could have done it.”


Mike Tuggle is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has written for several political journals, including American Spectator, Taki’s Magazine, and Lew Rockwell. This is his second contribution to Fiction365.


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