Takeover: Part 1 – Outbreak

“Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it” – Unknown

Years ago our former President had wanted to build a wall to resolve the “crimewave” that was coming over the border from Mexico. The guy even tried to get the Mexican Government to pay for the damn thing. Well, like the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it”. Under Trump, the building of the wall had started. Under President Harris, the rest of the world finished the job.

In scenarios like this you often hear different rumours and takes on how the end of the world began. Not here. With 24/7 TV coverage and the hive mind of social media broadcasting every little human movement in real time, we all knew how it started. The whole world did. It started with him, Harris. It was always going to start with Harris. After Trump I thought that things would turn on it’s head, I thought we’d get our feet firmly planted on the ground as a nation and get back to a ‘traditional’ Presidency. I was wrong. So wrong. The campaigns were torturous. The candidates were former pop stars, movie stars and social media ‘influencers’, whatever they were. Career driven professionals, lifelong philanthropists and storied war heroes were now scoffed at and ridiculed. Apparently America no longer cared for values and policies, you know, the essentials when running one of the largest nations on earth. Instead the currency these days was online ‘clapbacks’, fashion sense, chat show appearances and social media followers. The Presidency had become a damn recording contract, $50k or whatever else reality show ‘winners’ walked away with. Harris took things to another level.

Daunte Harris was a former child rapper (Lil Vanilla), singer, author (“Lil V’s Guide to Life” was a New York Times Bestseller) , fashion designer and tequila company owner. His policies? he only had one: “Peace, Love and Positivity”. #PLP trended on twitter daily, weekly, monthly and annually ever since his campaign had begun. The irony of his message was that this man essentially battle rapped his way to the White House, his team digging up every little misstep and controversy his opponents had ever made. He of course used this to publicly decimate them one by one. America ate it up, we love a scandal. Some gossip to feel like we’re getting a peek behind the curtain. Harris shovelled scandal after scandal into one giant online heap and set it alight.

Once he got into the White House “Peace, Love and Positivity” became hard to maintain on a daily basis when the majority of the world despised the country you’re running. The economic structure of the country was in the toilet, 65% of the population was overweight and with the introduction of AI to the majority of manual jobs, unemployment rates were the highest they’d ever been. That’s without mentioning the damn climate. People were literally cooking on the street on a weekly basis.

In what I can only imagine was his way of boosting morale, our esteemed leader’s social team had begun posting about a very special scheduled broadcast. These broadcasts had become a norm for the Harris administration since his Presidency had begun, they were streamed live automatically to any device with a screen and an internet connection. I wasn’t the only one who had become tired very quickly of these broadcasts which mainly spewed faux positivity or even worse became thinly veiled advertisements for the First Lady’s latest venture into fashion or the fragrance market or even worse a promotion for the First Dog’s Instagram page (5 million followers and counting). This broadcast, we were told, was to be a major groundbreaking event. I’d normally have found myself a good paint to watch dry during these broadcasts but I have to admit, even I was intrigued by this.

With a small sense of apprehension and a large spoonful of skepticism I hopped onto my exercise bike and waited for my television to jump into life. After cycling a few kilometres, my TV screen jumped into life with the usual graphic:

THIS IS A PRESIDENT HARRIS PRODUCTION. PEACE, LOVE AND POSITIVITY TO YOU ALL. #PLP2025

The graphic faded out into a beautiful blue sky, not a cloud was present, just pure blue tranquility. The familiar drums and piano keys of Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z bounced into life as the camera snapped down, spinning slowly to show a beautiful panoramic shot of the New York City skyline. This seemed to be being filmed from the very top of the Empire State Building. The camera panned right across the Hudson River, zooming into the Statue of Liberty. I admitted to myself that it looked amazing, as with all of Harris’ productions, the guy knew style. Just as Alicia Keys hit the crescendo on the chorus the camera peeled back to the top of the Empire State Building to reveal Harris, arms wide open, a movie star smile aimed directly at the camera. With his shaved head, shades, open necked white shirt and tattoo sleeves you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a music video or movie trailer. His tanned skin glistened in the sunlight. He was stood alone next to a square glass structure. The glass structure looked a bit like an old telephone booth, almost 6 foot high with the Presidential Crest emblazoned across it. The glass was clouded, no doubt to arise interest from his adoring public.

“What’s up my fellow Americans!” he announced. “Today, you join me in the birthplace of my hero, a true inspiration of mine: Shawn Carter, otherwise known as the rapper, Jay-Z. I have some major groundbreaking news to share with you my fellow countrymen and I thought to myself, where better to unveil it than in the city that never sleeps.” He smirked to himself, like he was the only one in on a private joke he was keeping from the nation. He moved to the front of the phone booth. “As you know, I preach Peace, Love and Positivity wherever I go. I believe it’s the key to us as a human race finding our purpose. But, just like I found out when I entered the music business as an enthusiastic 13 year old, not everyone welcomes a new fresh outlook on life. When I dropped my debut album “Not 2 Young to DM” all the top rappers in the game laughed at me. They had fun dissing me, they said I was their son – that they’d fathered my whole style and that I’d be forgotten in months. What happened? oh yeah, that’s right, I broke every single streaming record there was. When I unveiled my “Albuquerque Tequila” business the industry laughed. They called it corny, a rip off, they said it tasted like pisswater.” He raised a small shot glass , toasting to himself and, as he downed the drink, proclaimed “Well who’s laughing now?” He laughed theatrically, smashing the shot glass on the ground and, opening his arms out wide, he looked to the sky and screamed “I’m literally on top of the world!”

In an instant he fixed his gaze back on the camera “I’ve encountered unprovoked aggression and unfair judgement from world leaders wherever I’ve went since I started this project…” Wait a minute, I thought, did he just call the fucking Presidency a project? like it’s a damn concept album or a bit part in a movie? Jesus. “….just because I’m an American. A successful American leader. These attitudes have lead me to today’s major announcement. For the last few months I’ve been meeting with the nations top scientists and weaponry experts. The objective I set was to develop a deterrent for anyone, ANYONE, who will even consider trying to take away from us our peace, our love and our positivity. I want my countrymen to live a relaxed and secure life with no concerns about your future….” I scoffed. This guy was unbelievable, he could sell snow to the eskimos. . “…now we have that deterrent.”

By this time I’d stopped pedalling the bike and was now firmly fixed on the screen. Icy trickles of anxiety slithered up through my stomach and crept into the back of my throat. Where on earth was this going?

He disappeared off screen for a moment, reappearing with his smug smile beaming into the camera. He was pulling along a heavily chained up person by their shackled hands. The person shuffled along, their legs bound together by chains. Their face was hidden by a black bag which had been taped over their head.

“This man” said Harris, now with a fire and passion in his eyes, “is an enemy of this country. This man is a murderous, despicable, cowardly criminal who has broken law after law, harming good American men, women and children. This man will today pay his debt to you and I by helping me to demonstrate what will happen to those who want to act on their negative feelings about the United States of America. He moved over to the clouded glass door, slowly opened the door and pulled out a large syringe, the contents of which were a yellowy green colour. He grabbed the man by his chained up hands, raising the syringe to the sky. The song “Takeover” by Jay-Z clapped through the speakers. Staring into the camera Harris expertly rapped along. It was pure theatre.

” We bring knives to a fistfight and kill your drama, we kill you muthafuckin ants with a sledgehammer”

With that, he injected the contents of the syringe into the mans arm. The music cut to silence. Harris let the man go and, what seemed like in slow motion, he fell to the ground like a chopped down tree, landing face down with a thud.

The camera panned in on the slumped, seemingly lifeless body. After a few seconds it started to shake uncontrollably. The whole body was flopping around on the ground like a newly caught fish, it might have been comical had it not been so damn frightening. The exposed areas of the mans skin turned a putrid shade of grey. Eventually the shaking stopped. Harris, now in picture, looked at the camera. As he opened his mouth to say something the body sat bolt upright. Harris began stuttering, trying to berate someone behind the camera “Hey…hey, asshole!! You! yeah, you! You said he would disintegrate! Cut the fucking feed, cut the feed!!” He looked panicked. There was a commotion going on behind the camera with shouting and swearing overheard, the camera jostled and shook as though the cameraman was unsure whether to keep filming or not. Just in the corner of the screen you could see the body begin to pick itself up off the floor, very slowly. It began advancing on Harris. More shouting, screaming erupted and then the deafening undeniable sound of a firearm being discharged rang out. The feed cut immediately followed by some muzak plinkety plonking over a black screen.

I leaned over and grabbed at my glasses sitting on my bedside table. The facial recognition automatically logged into my twitter account and I began using the motion-detecting hands-free lenses to scroll through my feed. The reactions were polarised. There were the usuals “WTF’s” and “holy shit”s mixed in with political opponents accusing Harris of using tax payers money to promote a forthcoming horror movie. Needless to say people were confused. The few journalists I followed could only merely speculate about what had transpired, however when I looked at the trending topics all I saw was one word:

#ZOMBIE

I laughed, yeah right. Of all the things it could be, that would be bottom of my list behind the apocalypse and the Spice Girls reforming for their 800th tour. I winked my right eye onto the trending topic which opened up a new screen on my lenses with millions upon millions of posts. As I scrolled and scrolled through the mountains of them I noticed that a video file was increasingly being tweeted and retweeted over and over. It had no subject line, just a video file attached to a blank tweet. I blinked on one of the posts and waited for it to buffer, a fifteen second clip popped up in my lenses. I watched it. Then I watched it again. And again. It showed a mans feet shaking on the same ground where Harris had been stood, that much was clear. Another man seemed to be crouched over the top of him. As the crouched man pulled away from the body on the floor, it turned towards the camera. The face was crooked and grey but more obvious and much more alarming than that was the deep scarlett mask of blood he wore. He turned methodically and then suddenly lunged at the camera. That horrible trickle of anxiety I had felt before became a thunderclap which began in my feet and rose to hit my lungs like a cricket bat. My heart rate flew. I wanted to run, it didn’t matter where, I just wanted to run. I threw my glasses across the room, jumped down from the bike and paced my flat. There was no doubt about it, that blooded thing in the video clip was President Harris.

The Purge: Catharsis

These events take place in 2022, following a positive vote for Scottish Independence. Having left the UK, Scotland is now operating it’s third successful year as an independent country in spite of Westminster’s scare-mongering.

After the now famous “Pinkie Cleugh” riots which followed the vote, the British Prime Minister, Morris Johnstone, introduced UK Martial Law. The subsequent Parliamentary debate saw Westminster consider many options on how to bring peace back to the country. Following a fly-in visit and speech from John Stanford, leader of the New Founding Fathers of the United States of America, the Houses of Parliament marginally voted in favour of introducing an annual “Catharsis”. The Catharsis was considered to be the UK’s answer to the US Purge, where all criminal activity, with the exception of murder, was legal for 12 hours one night a year. It was argued that this would allow UK citizens (now Northern Ireland, Wales and England) to release their frustrations with everyday life in a healthy, cathartic way.

Despite the clamours from some minority groups, Scotland did not follow suit leaving it exempt from the annual Catharsis. The Scottish Army patrolled the border, with an agreement made between Scotland and the UK that anyone attempting to gain entry past Hadrian’s Wall after the commencement of the Catharsis would be, according to the Cross-Border Act (Scotland) Act 2020, “considered a mortal enemy of Scotland” and legally could be met with “extraordinary punishment”.

The sweating, red-faced official in the high-vis vest was visibly stressed and was speaking in double time. “I’m sorry sir” he blurted “I do understand, but it’s affecting more than just you I’m afraid. No trains have come North all day.”

“So that’s it then?” I said back to him. “That’s me stuck is it?”

“No, of course not” he laughed, struggling to convince himself, “we’re working hard to ensure there’s a minibus in place to take you back to Scotland before the curfew.”

I thanked him for his help and went and grabbed a coffee. I’ve never been a believer in fate but this was bloody typical. Stuck in Lancaster for the bloody Catharsis whilst these crazy English fuckers take out their daily frustrations on the closest poor bugger who gets in their way. I’m sure when they hear my Scottish accent they’ll not hold it against me, nope, course not.

Two events had taken place to leave me in this absolute worst-case-scenario. Firstly, after a really busy period I’d been on leave from work, having myself a week off to chill out, play Xbox and get reacquainted with sleeping beyond 6am. My boss had decided in my absence that I was in dire need of a “development opportunity”. That opportunity was, of course, a trip to Lancaster the day of the Catharsis to speak to a bunch of UK Civil Servants about my experiences working in the Scottish Parliament post-Independence. I’d been chuffed to read that email when I sat down at my laptop on my first morning back. Bastard. Secondly, some fud had rattled his Mini Cooper into a telegraph pole in Carlisle whilst checking his Facebook likes and had managed to take down all train services North of the Border, rendering Virgin trains and the Transpennine Express completely useless.

So at 4pm, I sat at Lancaster train station drinking a large latte, munching a Jaffa Cake and deliberating how I was going to get home. With 4 hours until the town shut down I was beginning to wonder if I couldn’t get home, where was I going to stay to avoid getting the shit legally kicked out me?!

The tannoy system was providing me with some really useful quarterly updates that I was essentially fucked. 6pm and went and I was fairly sure that this Minibus chat had just been a ploy to make sure all the Scots didn’t react hysterically. Of course there wasn’t actually any other fucker daft enough to even think about planning a return trip down South the same day of the Catharsis, so I was the lone Scottish idiot left to fend for himself. Fuckin development opportunity indeed.

By 6.30 I decided I needed to buckle in and prepare for the worst. I took off in search of a hotel. As I walked out past the doors the sweaty red-face gave me what I’m sure he thought was a sympathetic acknowledgement but it was more of a “sorry you’re gonna get your face rearranged” smile. It was starting to get dark and the streets were already really quiet. All the shops had their shutters down and there was pretty much no-one going about. It was eerie as fuck. I felt like Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later wandering about London with no-one to be seen. By 7pm after a panicked walk along the cobbled streets I passed four different B&B’s all in a row that had the same “Closed for Catharsis” sign. Having tried to speak to the first three proprietors, I gave up having the same conversation with the fourth. There were no hotel chains in the town and things were looking pretty dire. I couldn’t even hole up in a 24 hour supermarket or garage. The hatches were well and truly battened down for Catharsis. At 7.45 I was sat in a park at the other end of the town when my phone chimed:

“Customer J Brown, a Minibus is Scheduled at Lancaster Train Station. 9pm. Press 1 to Book a Seat.”

I hadn’t replied to a text faster. I thumbed in 1 immediately. My phone chimed again instantly:

“Thank You for Your Booking. Departure is Scheduled for 9pm. Lancaster Train Station.”

OK! So that was it then. I had an hour to make my way back along to the station – probably a half hour swift walk – then I’d be back in Edinburgh in a few hours time. Thank fuck! As I contemplated my next move I was suddenly paralysed with sheer panic. What sounded like an air raid siren cut through the cold, dark night completely overwhelming my senses. For a second I was completely discombobulated, then I realised, it was 8pm. Catharsis was underway. Fuck.

I can remember sitting watching my first purge when I was younger. Me and my older brother had been looking forward to it for weeks. “Purge night, 10 days” we’d text each other countdowns like it was the Scottish Cup Final. When the night arrived we were set up with pizza, popcorn, juice, ice cream – all the essentials. We got logged onto our favourite Youtubers feed and sat back to watch the carnage. Carnage, is exactly what it was. I don’t know what it is about a young mind that is so attracted to watching something they know they shouldn’t be. This was madness. Chainsaws, people being set on fire, groups of hulking guys wearing crazy masks, souped up muscle cars running people down. Absolute madness. It was exactly what we thought it would be. But that was then. As you grow older you realise that this isn’t some entertainment show. You’re not watching the pizzazz of the Superbowl. This was real life, this was people literally being murdered in the street for your entertainment. It was morally corrupt and an absolute disease. Then we got independence and the Catharsis was dreamed up. Johnstone. What an absolute tool. In what world would you think that giving people a free pass to run riot and go mental for one night is going to further society? They only help themselves that lot. Jobs for the boys as usual. Catharsis Clean Up Services all across the UK funded by Downing Street and if it just so happens to rid the population of some of the burden on the health and welfare system in the process then that’ll be jolly good old chap. Wankers.

I made my way to the gates of the park in the pitch darkness. I knew which way I’d come and knew the town well enough to know the best way back up to the train station. I walked with a purpose but really didn’t want to attract any sort of attention, if there just so happened to be any young Lancastrians out for a stroll. Of course, as I got to the gates and out onto the dimly lit street I spied two men wandering down the street maybe 100 metres away, walking away from me. I cursed my luck and kept to the darkest parts of the streets, trying to maintain a quiet, but good pace.

I should make clear now that I am not a fighter. With the exception of primary school, when I swung Derek Bell round and round by his backpack into that wall, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a fight and if I ever was you could probably measure my confidence by the volume of urine running down my legs. I was hoping if it came to it, the fabled ‘fight or flight’ mode might take over or even better I would make like Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless and unlock something in my brain from all the UFC I’d watched in my 20’s – of course I’d forgotten to bring my NZT pills with me, silly me.

As I got closer I could see that the two men had black walking sticks and Clockwork Orange masks on. Wonderful. They were swinging them round and round in their hands and walking arm in arm. To be honest I thought the extent of the Catharsis would be a bunch of chavs kicking wing mirrors of off cars, this was a bit too American for my liking. As I moved to within 10 metres of them but on the opposite side of the road I didn’t take my eyes off them. This felt like a great idea until I stumbled over a random can of juice lying on the pavement. Both of the Malcolm McDowell’s spun round on a 10 pence piece and ran towards me. At that point I did the manliest thing I could think of. I ran. Like fuck.

Running in work shoes isn’t an Olympic sport (yet) but if it was and the Scottish running in work shoes coaching team were watching Lancaster CCTV that night, I’d be living a different life right now. As it was, I managed to outpace my new friends, despite them screaming in unison “left two three, right two three” and “WON’T YOU COME AND WALTZ?!” as they ran after me. These guys really seemed to like A Clockwork Orange. Fair play I suppose, it’s better than watching Geordie Shore Season 16. They gave up after what seemed like a marathon but was apparently only about 5 minutes. I heard glass smashing and a car alarm blaring as, thankfully, it seemed they had decided to take out their frustrations elsewhere.

Sweating my ass off with my feet pulsing in agony (maybe the Olympic sport was a bad idea) I made my way towards the cobbled stoned main high street. I was probably about a twenty minute walk from the station now, I tried to slow my breathing down and get my head back in the game. If that was the worst the Catharsis had for me, I’d happily take it. Under street light I stood at the bottom of the main high street taking in the road ahead of me. The streets were clear, Lancaster seemed to have decided to give the Catharsis a miss this year, great news for me.

“Ye arite mate?” I spun. Someone was stood vaping in a darkened doorway only 5 metres away from me. If you hadn’t known they were there, you’d never have seen him. The smoke (vapour?!) looked incredibly cool in the darkened light. All I could see was the outline of this person. “em, aye” I mumbled. It was all I could manage. Oh nice one mate, I thought, real confident and imposing, bet this boys shiting himself now. He stepped out of the shadows into the street light smiling. He was a young lad in his twenties, bearded, long hair, dressed casually. No masks or black walking sticks to talk of, good start. “Been watching ye” he drawled in a deep voice. Weegie then, this was getting better and better. “Who ye running fae?” he sniggered. “Oh just these boys, chased me for a bit” I said “they had fucking walking sticks and masks and that. Mental.” I looked at him and he chuckled. “Aye this is fuckin mad like. I punted some daft wee cunt in the baws doon there earlier, didnae seem like he felt that cathartic after it” he pointed towards a statue in the centre of the high street. A man was lying in a pool of blood at the base of it, he was very clearly lifeless with his hands cupped over his balls. “Fuck me” I whispered to myself. “So” he said “you gaun on the minibus tae Edinburgh?” “Aye” I replied, pulling myself together. “Sound” he says smiling again “lets fire up to the station then”

We walked together quietly for a while at a good pace, it was a 5 minute walk to the station when the next treat arrived. “Good evening gentlemen, WELCOME!!” shouted a woman’s voice. We both glanced at each other, I probably looked like I was shitting myself, he had a wry smile. I assumed me and my new best violent friend had telepathically agreed to keep walking but when I dropped a gear and started walking faster I realised I was alone.

I heard a rousing “HOW’S IT GAUN LADIES?” and glanced over my shoulder to see my travelling companion standing with his arms wide open, illuminated in front of 12 women dressed in what seemed to be pagan ritualistic robes holding burning lanterns. What the fuck was this now. At this point in time I’ve never wanted to ride in a minibus so much in my life. I checked my watch, it was 8.40. I was torn between turning round into the inevitable turmoil or legging it to the station. I had a free run. I guess ‘fight or flight’ kicked in for me and it chose the former, much to my displeasure.

“WE ARE THE PENDLE WITCHES” shrilled the middle woman. Her features were sharp and it felt like she was looking directly into my soul. “WE WILL GIVE YOU SAFE PASSAGE IF YOU BEND YOUR KNEE AND PAY TRIBUTE TO OUR WITCHCRAFT.” Fuck me. Witchcraft now? I was a little stunned to be honest. I was standing staring at all 12 of these scary looking women when I heard what sounded like running water. “BEND YER KNEE INTAE THAT YA FUCKIN BOOT” shouted the Glaswegian. He was standing taking a pish right in the ‘witches’ direction. Course he was. “CAAAAAAAM AAAAAAN” he shouts and runs straight towards them. As he was running he pulls something shiny from his pocket and goes straight for them. I thought the only way I was getting back to my bed was if I join in so I went for it too. These witches had hammers, spanners, they had big fuck off bayonetts and chains. Adrenaline took over, my mate had set at least three of them on fire. I was punching, kicking, head down and smashing into everything. When all was said and done I looked up and the weegie was pummeling a body over and over and over. He turned and smiled at me. “Right chief, Minibus time”. We both laugh hysterically and run like fuck.

I’ve never thought a shitty white minibus had looked so good in my life. We jumped straight in and the driver slammed the door shut. “You’re the only two” he says, “lets get the fuck out of here”. He explained to us that the Minibus was immune from the Catharsis and therefore it was plain sailing to the border. I drifted off for a while but was awoken by the driver shouting. “Passports lads”. The massive gates opened at the Carter Bar and the border security popped his head in, his face immediately lit up at the Glaswegian. “Heeeeey Davie!!” he shouts “another year another Catharsis eh? Where’d you end up this year?” “Ach, Lancaster mate, was quite pish this year” the bearded nutter says in response. I look at him in disbelief. Is this a thing?! I think to myself. He shrugs his shoulders and gives me a wink. Mad bastard.

“John, if you could write me up how that meeting went in Lancaster last week by close of play today, that’d be great” my boss gives me his usual smarmy condescending look.”No worries” I say “it was definitely a learning experience….thanks for volunteering me”.

DRI 5154: Part 1

It’s 2024. At the beginning of January, the state of Ohio in the United States of America had 56 current death row inmates on it’s books. By the end of March, 54 of them had been executed. 2 remained and plans were in place to schedule the next two injections in the following weeks.

Amongst these dry, white-painted walls of the highly guarded secure ground floor of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, something inhumane, corrupt and absolutely incredible was quietly happening. Something which would preserve the lives of the majority of the worlds population without them ever having any hint of an idea.

“54 of the bastards and nothing to show for it! Why would I come down there for that?!” spat Angela Kellerman. She slammed the phone down in a rage. She slumped back into her personalised ergo-tech chair, her body moulded into it after many a-night spent consuming awful coffee, eating vending machine sandwiches and working early into the morning. She counted to ten. Kellerman was tense, the counting took her blood pressure down from critical to barely healthy and she had a fleeting thought to meditate but knew she didn’t have the time. One day.

Kellerman was chief commanding officer of the US Government’s Department of Future Events. The DFE was a clandestine branch of the US Government whose objective was to investigate and prevent large catastrophic events or crimes from taking place. Kellerman’s performance was judged, by the President of the United States, on her ability to prevent large scale events from taking place before they happened. It seemed an impossible objective to ever meet.

The Department was established after the Long Valley Eruption (LVE) in 2021, where millions of American lives were tragically lost and many millions more were changed forever. LVE had been predicted for years by scientists, thousands had marched outside the gates of White House. No-one listened. When all was said and done the state of California was no more. A President was impeached and life as an American was brought to a standstill for years. It was only in the last year or so that life had begun to move on. For Kellerman, LVE had turned itself from an international tragedy into a job opportunity. Even more than that it provided an opportunity for this 36 year old Government agent to put into action a lifetime of work and theory.

Kellerman had thousands of staff working at the DFE. Thousands of staff working day to day to prevent crimes from taking place all across the 51 states. By this point most terror related groups were cyber based, so Kellerman had the greatest minds in America and beyond working for the DFE to prevent hackers, cybercriminals and black hat organisations from breaking down firewalls of the biggest organisations in the nation. However, it was one covert taskforce, based in Ohio which was causing the hypertension for Kellerman.

As a teen Kellerman had always loved the idea of time travel. When she was 13 her Mom had pulled out her old box of DVD’s (Digital Versatile Disc – a digital storage format used to watch movies and television shows in the 2000’s) from the garage and showed Angela her favourite movie. Young Angela was entranced, it only got better when her Mom told her there were two more! From there she read and watched everything time travel related she could get her hands on. Stephen Kings 11/22/63 was her personal favourite – she still tried to read it every year as a reminder to herself of her childhood. Movies like Avengers Endgame, X-Men Days of Future Past, The Butterfly Effect, and Minority Report fed her insatiable appetite to consume everything she could about fictional time travel.

Fiction turned to fact when she became a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studying physical sciences and science in the modern world. From there, as is experienced by most young adults attempting to live their dream, the realities of life called and Angela found herself working for the US Government in a multitude of consultancy roles concerning sciences and the law. Fate had her brought her to where she was now, in her office in Washington in her ergo-tech chair cursing at the telephone and unsuccessfully attempting to practice mindfulness techniques.

She took a deep breath and picked up the phone again, punching in the number 5 “Jane, I’m going to Ohio. No, now. Can you make the arrangements? Thanks.” she closed her eyes, took another deep breath and got up from her chair to make her way towards her office door.

The private jet touched down at Akron-Canton Regional Airport 3 hours later into the sticky, wet night and a blacked out SUV took Kellerman directly to a discrete Government-owned luxury cabin, just outside Lucasville. A meeting was scheduled the following morning between Kellerman and her task force.

The feeling in the room was tense. Kellerman sat, with her folders opened in front of her, staring at the two men across from her. “We have two left gentlemen, two.” she said, leaving the obvious question unasked. The more intelligent of the two, Watson, said nothing but smiled. The other one, Pendergast who was the more industrious man cleared his breath and began. “Angela, number 54 came back yesterday.”

“The fuck?” she muttered under her breath. Composing herself, she sat up. “What do you mean came back? he came back to life? the procedure didn’t take?” She was getting animated now “Pendergast, what in the fuck do you mean he came back?”

Watsons smile got bigger “he came back Angela!” he said with a giant grin, “HE. CAME. BACK.”.

“Show me”.

They marched out the meeting room and through a number of secure doors accessed only by a small number of authorised staff. After what seemed like a trek to Mordor and back of walking, they came to their destination. Angela walked into a long quiet corridor of single cells. Only three were occupied but there were enough cells within this facility here for over 100 death row inmates. It was deathly quiet. The cells had no windows and were securely sealed the outside by three state of the art mechanical and digital locks. “This one” said Watson. He ushered Kellerman forward and pushed a button next to the cell door. On pushing the button the contents of the cell became visible as the door became transparent. In it stood a very animated man, pressed directly up against the other side of the door shouting and screaming like his life depended on it. He was 6 foot 2, shaven headed with tattoo sleeves. He also had what Angela strangely thought was a kind, genuine face. “What’s he saying?” she asked Watson. He punched another button on the wall and the sound became audible.

“COME ON!! LET ME TALK TO SOMEONE!!! YOU GOTTA LET ME TALK TO SOMEONE” “IS ANYONE THERE?” “I GOTTA KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON!!” “THE WORLD IS GOING TO SHIT AND I’M STUCK HERE IN THIS DAMN ROOM!!” “LET ME FIGHT, I CAN HELP!! The man went on like this until Watson punched both buttons again and turned back to Kellerman. “You won’t believe what he said he saw”.

Angela Kellerman sat up straight at the table with her heart racing and her body almost visibly trembling, staring directly into the eyes of a convicted multiple murderer. Watson sat to her right with his D-pad in front of him ready to assess the murderer’s vitals as he spoke. Pendergast sat to her left. “Begin recording” he said aloud and then nodded at Kellerman. “DRI 5154, firstly, please let me advise you that anything you say here is completely confidential and secure, we are recording this conversation for our own research and historical records.” “Secondly, whatever happened to you” she paused and looked up at the sky then back at the inmate “let me tell you that I 100% believe you.” “You were sentenced to death for two heinous murders of two innocent people but you have now been punished for those crimes.” Her tone now slipped from familiar to firm. “However be aware, DRI 5154, that you remain the property of the US Government until such time as we deem it appropriate for you to no longer remain so, do you understand?”

DRI 5154 smirked and nodded back at her, not giving away any emotion. He had been this way since they had digitally sedated him in his cell and transported him to this cold, nondescript interview room. He was handcuffed around the legs and arms and was held in his seat by the threat of the collar around his neck. One false move or comment and the sedation would be injected again. “So what you’re saying is, I do what you tell me or I’m toast, this time for real.”

Kellerman nodded “I’m glad we understand each other. OK, here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to tell you what happened to you from our side of things, you are then going to tell me what happened to you from your perspective. All I need you to do is be honest. You might not understand what it is that’s happened to you, that’s OK. I just need you to be honest and tell me everything. If you do that, we’ll all be happy campers.”

Kellerman went on to outline that when DRI 5154 had been sat down behind that screen and received the injection from Watson in front of the family of the two brothers he’d executed in cold blood, he’d actually just been given a mild sedation to knock him out. Whilst subdued Watson and Pendergast had wheeled him out of view and transported him to a highly secure room that only they had access to. For the 54th time that year, they had each started up their computers, wirelessly connected their computers directly to the chip implanted under the inmates skin and simultaneously run their self-developed programmes. Nothing had happened. This wasn’t unusual to Pendergast and Watson, that is exactly what had happened the previous 53 times. However, each time previously the inmates vitals had dropped to zero and their heart had given out. DRI 5154’s vitals were steady, he was, unbelievably, visibly still breathing. Then, in a matter of seconds during which a stunned Pendergast and Watson had failed to take a breath, DRI 5146 had opened his eyes.

The inmate had sat quietly and listened to Kellerman’s story, once again he had refrained from showing any emotion. That was right up until that final detail. “Did you say seconds?” he asked looking confused. “14.2 to be exact” Watson answered. “from initiation of the DRIPS programme until you opened your eyes, 14.2 seconds”. “OK….” he said, attempting to understand “…..drips?” asked the inmate, clearly confused. “Death Row Inmate Preventative Software” answered Pendergast.

“OK” answered the inmate. “Here’s my version of events”.

DRI 5154 was Tyler Reynolds. Reynolds was a former marine who had served his final year proudly and quietly before being honourably discharged. On the night he had committed the crimes which had resulted in him ending up on death row he had been in a restaurant with his wife, friends and wider family, celebrating his new civilian status. Reynolds had looked at the wrong guy the wrong way at the bar, making eye contact that bit too long and that’s where things had went south. Two brothers, both drunk and full of their own hubris had taken it upon themselves to wait for Reynolds and take him down a peg or two. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have the wherewithal to read the situation correctly. This happy, smiling 6’2 man was actually a trained killing machine and if provoked had the tools to end their lives. Unfortunately that was precisely what happened when both brothers set upon him with knives as the Reynolds family and friends left the restaurant. The former marine was left covered in blood, but not his own.

The subsequent trial was hell and Reynolds was ultimately sentenced to death. Those who knew him knew he was innocent but in the age of social media and microwaveable 24 hour news cycles it’s not the truth that sentences a man anymore, it’s the stories that are put out there in the minds of the people scrolling through their screens whilst walking out into traffic or driving on the highway to work everyday. There was no doubt the jury were going to find him guilty, the left-wing media had a field day with Reynolds’ past, dragging him and his family through the mud over his involvement in various wars and secret government operations. Reynolds was a square peg in the round hole of the world where everyone was seemingly desperate to be outraged at the drop of a hat, let alone a military operation.

On the day of his execution Reynolds remembered being wheeled out in front of the family. He remembered he felt proud as he sat there. Not proud for what he had done to those two young men, but proud of his life. He had a wonderful wife who he loved dearly and before the incident they had a great life together. He’d proudly served his country doing what he felt had to be done to ensure his country remained free, that meant alot to him. He remembered looking at Pendergast and Watson and remember thinking how emotionless they looked to be wheeling a man away to his death. Just another day at the office for them he had remembered thinking and had bizarrely chuckled to himself about it.

However, the next thing he remembered was absolute pandemonium.

He had found himself standing at a darkly lit bar with barely any space to move, surrounded by bodies. It wasn’t the usual thrum of a Friday evening after-work drinks that had created the crowd though. Every person in this bar was stood with their eyes glued to the large flat screen televisions dotted across the bar walls. No-one spoke. The only noise which could be heard was that of the newscaster.

“This will be a timestamp in history ladies and gentlemen. We have just heard confirmation directly from the White House secretary that President Woodbridge himself gave the order to assassinate the Russian President on US soil. President Yeghozin was confirmed deceased 4pm central time today by a single gunshot to the head. We expect to hear directly from President Woodbridge imminently”

Gasps went up in the bar, murmuring, shrieking, crying, screaming. Every type of reaction was heard throughout the bar, even the odd “woop” and “America!” could be heard.

Reynolds tried to collect his thoughts as best he could, a man in his mid-60’s turned to him, saluted with his piss-coloured light beer and toasted to those around him “well, here’s to what remains of this once great nation”. The bar hushed and the TV was turned to its highest volume again. A tall man in an exquisite suit walked slowly towards a wooden podium. He looked somber and serious. “My fellow Americans” he began “it is with great regret that I stand before our proud nation today. I take the defence of our wonderful nation and the millions of Americans who live in it incredibly seriously. It is with that in mind that at 0700 hours this morning I confirmed an order to Seal team 14 to execute operation Handstrong. The objective of Operation Handstrong was to identify and eliminate enemies who posed an imminent and mortal threat to the United States of America.”

“Any implications of executing Operation Handstrong were of course fully considered and the decision to eliminate the leader of a fellow UN country was not taken lightly. I believe that I owe you, the American public who voted me into this office, an explanation for why this has taken place. Unfortunately I can’t do that.” More cries and gasps went up in the bar. President Woodbridge reached under the podium as he spoke. He fixed the camera with a regretful smile “God bless America, May the lord have mercy on us all…” it was at that point that Reynolds heard a gunshot ring out in the bar. Panic stricken bodies crushed him up against the bar, people screaming and shouting. Reynolds set his feet as wide as he could to prevent himself falling over and braced himself against the bodies. It was pandemonium.

Eventually, the bar cleared and it had become evidently clear that the gunshot hadn’t went off in the bar, but instead on the TV.

President Woodbridge, whoever the fuck he was Reynolds thought, had just committed suicide on live TV , the Russian President had been assassinated on American soil and outside of the bar in the streets of the cities and towns of America, pandemonium would reign for the coming weeks and months to come.

Reynolds paused for the first time since he had began recalling this ordeal, he realised he was sweating profusely and had barely stopped to take a breath. Kellerman stared at him. She looked shellshocked. Not “I can’t believe you forgot to pick up the kid from school” shellshocked more “the sky is falling, aliens are here and Santa is real” shellshocked. “Can I have a minute?” asked a clearly exhausted looking Reynolds. “Of course” said Kellerman, she arranged for some food and drink to be prepared for him then ushered Pendergast and Watson into a separate room. “When was he?!” she demanded. Pendergast and Watson looked at each other then back at Kellerman. “Fuck me” she said.

4 hours had passed since Reynolds had described what he experienced after being “executed” by Pendergast and Watson. He had eaten, then almost immediately fallen asleep in his cell. He was awoken by Kellerman standing in his cell, flanked by Pendergast and Watson. “OK Mr Reynolds, Tyler. We need to have ourselves a serious conversation.” “Tyler?” he replied, “what happened to DRI 5154?” he asked. “Well, Tyler, it seems that you, me and my two colleagues here are in an elite group of 4 people who know that you weren’t executed and instead travelled to a future America and witnessed what sounds like the suicide of a future President following him confessing to the world that he ordered the assassination of the Russian President, on American soil. So. I think first name basis is entirely appropriate, don’t you? I’m Angela” she said as she extended her hand.

It took two days, many delivered pizzas and coffees, a lot of expletive-filled arguments, mainly between Reynolds and Kellerman, and not much sleep for the foursome to agree what they would do. Many options had been on the table including doing absolutely nothing. Ultimately they all agreed there was only one thing they could do: they were going to assassinate the future President of the United States of America in an effort to prevent an almost certain nuclear war with Russia.