Patience, and shuffle the cards.
—Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote. Part ii. Chap. xxiii.


Edmund’s not happy about being on the road, either always right up with the clearing crews, and sometimes ahead, in what he thinks of as his personal Humvee, his usual driver Joey, who doesn’t talk much, but hardly silent as he wrestles with the steering wheel and grunts and leaks half-utterances of curses, or what Edmund thinks must be curses, as the Humvee noisily sways back after the big lurch as the right side tires hit into the asphalt edge of the road. Joey has been struggling to pull the vehicle back up out of a soft sinking shoulder he had to swing into to get around some old wreckage that the clear crews haven’t gotten to yet.

Edmund stays silent, concentrating, all limbs splayed out, arms and hands pressing against the headliner, the front dash, legs up and trembling against the floorboard as he tries to keep hovering above the passenger seat.

Edmund has a lot to say about how hard and uncomfortable his seat is, even when the going is smooth, which, at this moment, it is not. Edmund doesn’t have anyone around he’d want to say anything to, however.

Joey is an okay guy, Edmund believes, but Edmund is far less convinced that Joey is his own man, assigned by Lucille, not Edmund.

Fuck me, Edmund says to himself, and hardly for the first time, and it is hardly the first time he tries to figure out exactly how he managed to get himself this assignment out in the Fucking boonies.

He is still a Member of the Board, For what that’s worth! Fuck!

Still, he has to count himself among the fortunate, not only because he’s still on the Board, but because he made the right choices at the right times, right choices, except that these have landed him here, bouncing around, a truck behind with some guards, for his protection, although Edmund can admit that the old danger of being swarmed, or trapped, attacked by raiders, by wilders, has pretty much faded.

Well, the raiders and most all others not part of one of the towns are gone, Edmund thinks, the year without summer last year pretty much having wiped out any and all the remaining independents. If it wasn’t for the Argentines… he’s thinking, but he let’s the thought drift away.

Edmund doesn’t really like to think about the Argentines, his confident coup, his triumph, his schemes, because that leads to thoughts of Lucille, and Edmund mostly would rather not think too much about her.

Lucille was a fellow Board Member, the only woman, pretty much right from the start, her essential contributions obvious right from the start, Edmund can acknowledge.  The depth and the quality of her logistical operations, her organizational talents, her having made possible much of the success of La Maison. The first two years wouldn’t have struck anyone using the old standards of success, Edmund knows, just like he knows how much worse things could have gone, how easily a lack of mastery of the odd stocks of food, the fuel calculations, the rationing and methods for assigning medications, housing, the identifying of the tasks and assignments and schedules could have so easily led to collapse.

Lucille had been, still is, so quiet, so unthreatening, no obvious thirst for power, but simply the sense of service, and Edmund, from his perspective today, has to admire her, envy her skill, her intelligence.

Edmund prides himself on his operating talents, also choosing, like Lucille, to stay behind the cover of others seeking power, and he had thought he’s finally ensured his place, having brought the Argentines into play, he had been proud-sick, really.

Why he had been so blind to Lucille, he wonders if he’ll ever understand how he was so well outplayed.

Top of the world, Ma! He quotes, he’s always enjoyed irony.

Well, until Lucille, with her replaceable assistants, her rolls of butcher paper taped along two walls, the operational needs, projects managed the old-fashioned way, with pencils, markers, files.  The Handmaiden, he had named her, back before he saw her real strength, her power.  Back before she had taken the Argentines and the offered resources into the plan, one part among so many others, including, even, the Canadians, playing quid quo pro masterfully.

Edmund fears her, but his admiration is as sincere as his awe.

Fuck me, he says to himself, a nervous tick of sorts since the change in his power.

The road is clear, at least for a stretch, it seems, probably, Edmund thinks, the work of Townsend, or maybe not, maybe Gardner, but he’s grateful for it, the Humvee bumpy in a normal broken-pavement sort of way, smooth enough so that he can get back to his notes, his instructions.



Eduardo knows quite well that he should have gone with Edmund, whom he thinks of as his minder.  Edmund was heading out to Greenfield, up by Route 2, which Eduardo knows from his repeatedly looking over road maps, is from the old U.S. interstate highway system, from well before the big Interstate projects of the 1950s and 1960s, 1970s.

Like Interstate 90, which is often called Mass Pike from what he can figure from his conversations with people here, although there’s not frequent reference of it, since it ends in Boston, where people still largely avoid going, the going too difficult physically, streets crammed with a great variety of rubble—building fragments, burnt car shells, and still corpses, although those are more like moldering piles of leaves or trash.

Eduardo knows this, because one of his first projects, as part of the permanent Partido station in Lowell, was to build a survey for themselves, checked against the information they’d gotten from the people here, and he had been on the Boston segment.  His team had gotten no further than what he knew now had been an area called Watertown. The going after that was pointless, confirmed later, when another survey team had approached by the water, but had to turn away for safety reasons.

Goddamned Americans, he thinks, remembering the shock of the destruction, what had seemed to him spanning the horizons.

Amurricans is what he thinks of, for some reason remembering the English course, in high school, and then later, those two years of University, before he dropped out to help his father’s construction business, the same business Eduardo had built into quite a big operation, in time.

Fukkin’ Amurricans, part of the accent play he and some classmates had taken to, back in the language classes, trying to copy accents, different ways of speaking they’d come across in movies from the U.S., although Eduardo has no recollection of the source of this one, an English film, maybe?

Back then, back before, he had planned one day to travel to America, changing destination targets depending on the daydream: NYC, the Old West, California, maybe New Orleans to check out, someday, their Carnival.

He’s not happy, at all, about finally having made the trip.  Eduardo hates this assignment, hates being in the midst of it all, el Norte, even though the potential rewards are compelling, even as it had been repeatedly made clear to him back home that he should not have much expectation for advancement back home, for success, despite his experience running a mid-size building company, his talent in construction management.

Goddamned wrong party, he thinks, mentally shrugging.  Considering the wildcard the world had played ten, almost 11 years ago, he wasn’t going to take himself to task for his past affiliations.

And up here, it didn’t matter. What mattered was who you were working for, what you were doing.

It is now nearly two years ago when he had been first approached by Luis Montenegro, who, as he had learned, was recently back from the North American run, which was pretty much the only thing Eduardo had known about both Luis and the expedition.

It had taken Eduardo a couple of days to bring his thoughts and reactions together.

As Luis, a stranger to Eduardo, had pointed out, Eduardo had little family, had poor prospects for regaining anything like the life he once had, Although that is pretty universal, right? Eduardo finds himself wondering, not for the first time.  He certainly had very much liked being successful, the niche his company filled—high-end retail and office and facility renovations, light-to-medium new buildings—had provided for his family and had provided well.

And then, The Shit. He had lost his family, his young beautiful wife, his two young children, in the first big food rioting that happened to spark in a suburban neighborhood near where he had his big house, the pretty wrought iron fencing doing little to stop the frenzy of violence that had erupted from the repressive efforts of the recently deployed army, under military law.

It had taken him two days to get back to his family, but the house, and his children, his wife, were gone, killed by smoke inhalation, he’d been told once he had tracked the whereabouts of their remains, although he still suspects the story, never allowed to view their bodies, suspecting that was a small act of mercy after later learning about the ferocity of the violence that had taken over the protests and the counter to the protests, his neighborhood perhaps targeted by los desperados for its seeming advantage, the look of wealth, even though, in a bitter irony that Eduardo thinks he won’t ever resolve, he had been away from his family in an effort to secure food for them, himself desperate, trying to leverage a once-significant business relationship he had enjoyed, with a friend who had found himself on the right side, with some influence, or so Eduardo had hoped.

Eduardo often thinks of his own survival afterwards, that is was mainly due to his stubbornness and his anger, but the anger, at any rate, had slowly dissipated over the years that followed.  He had become a popular hire for construction projects, although never paid well, and never acknowledged as a project manager, despite his duties, his skills.

Luis had seemed to know all that.

Eduardo had been living in a tiny room in an apartment rented by an old school mate and his family, in the downtown, near Parque Las Heras, a stupid choice in some ways, but then, he had first found work repairing hospital spaces, and there was plenty of that work early on, with plenty of hospitals in the medical area that was close by.

Luis was recruiting, he said.  Luis had offered Eduardo the chance to manage again, although not, as it became clear quite quickly, not at the highest authority.  The assignment was hard to define, but Eduardo understood the broad strokes of the work, which was to have day-to-day control of various projects, starting with ways to improve access to the city Eduardo have never heard of, and to build and repair infrastructure that could support shipping in and out of the area.

This also meant that Eduardo would sometimes visit sites convenient to the collection of material, and especially metals, but sometimes, too, odd things he wouldn’t have expected, like the time he had gone with Edmund to see if an entire manufacturing plant could be taken, to judge the demands of handling and transporting the machinery, but about which Eduardo had never learned what the machinery was designed to do.

Eduardo could have gone out with Edmund today, Edmund off on a run westward of Lowell, some considerable way, to negotiate some cache or another of interest to Eduardo’s boss, Ricardo, who always insisted be addressed more formally, as El Director or El Ejectivo, which took all of Eduardo’s will not to substitute el hijo de puta, that sorry son of a bitch.

But Eduardo convinced El Director that his time would be better spent moving the loading facility construction forward, and El Director, as Eduardo knew, would see this as a priority. Material was still largely being manhandled onto the makeshift barges at the Lawrence North and South Canal entryway transfer points, and the volumes of material were growing fast now that Mitchels Falls upstream had been made more easily navigated for the barges coming from Lowell upriver.

Not that Edmund doesn’t fascinate Eduardo, and he enjoys—More like I’m transfixed—trying to figure Edmund out.

Or why he frightens me.



This far west, Edmund thinks, and the presence of the Canadians seems greater, or maybe it is simply more unsettling, as their presumption of authority expands, even though he knows that there’s no more of them here than La Maison relative to the number of people—Per capita, he thinks, chewing on the phrase a bit with a sense that it is from another world. Typically, there are still just modest numbers quartered among households near the outlying small groups, while in some towns, a few, there are actual barracks, outposts they call Aid Centers.

That is not what La Maison and most other of the groups call those places, at least when not standing in front of them, asking them for something.

Feddies was pretty popular, as was Freds.

The English Forces or English is how some in La Maison might refer to them, but that had always—Well, since the Canadians had first shown up—struck Edmund as trying too hard. The whole Frenchie thing, as Edmund tends to think of it in the privacy of his own thoughts, was strange enough. Not that he minds, since he understands quite clearly that, all things considered, he’s doing fine, that he likes the way he’s played it, Well, except for the end of the fucking world.

Edmund usually keeps these dark, crushing thoughts well at bay, preferring to enjoy the absurdities before him and taking pleasure from the game.  If he thinks much about it, he knows that has always been his way in the world, it had always been that for him.  In high school, college, finding the best angles, the influence, the play, reading people, that was what he learned along the way, that was the bonus, excitement, the point was the score, whether grades or letters of recommendations or even bedding women, at least until he had decided that the particular gamesmanship of sexual conquest was less important than other pursuits, took too much time, without enough payout.

He had been on a business trip when it had all happened, in Lowell to meet with a bishop, Bishop LaGrange, who was the chair of the multi-diocese religious and lay personnel health insurance committee, and while Edmund can’t recall with exactitude the weirdly formal name of that committee, he does remember the delight he had taken in its actual name. But more than that, it was a big score for him, and already a coup of sorts, because the corporate pitch should have been the purview of his boss, the executive vice president, the potential contract one of the biggest that year for the company.

But his boss, as Edmund had discovered, digging around, had briefly been part of a failed class action effort, one of many that had come up years back, another Church sex abuse complaint, and though his boss—“Sorry Ass Jenkins” is what Edmund had called him, privately—had withdrawn almost immediately without deposition or other further participation.  But record traces had been enough for Edmund to come across the reference in his background searching, and with that lead and some footwork, Edmund made his case, and his boss had decided that, yes, Edmund was ready for the assignment, Say no more.

Edmund ended up not meeting with Lagrange, who had instead sent a substitute so that he could personally lead some sort of big prayer vigil, Whatever, that had become something of a thing, considering the headlines.

And that’s how I got to be part of the whole Frenchie thing, Edmund is recounting, letting himself be lost in such stupid thoughts.  It was the sort of mental state he was prone to in such circumstances as he found himself in today, at those times when in discomfort, some low-level distress due to the sense condition of undefined, unidentifiable danger.

He’s not a fan of putting himself in danger. He’s not a fan of bouncing around in this Goddamn Humvee.

But his instructions are clear, and the assignment is more than the transit condition assessment for the Greenfield machinery, which almost any boob could do.  Lucille had made it crystal clear what she had expected from him. Contact with the New York Militia.

The so-called New York Militia, Edmund wonders.

They’ve long known that some of the upper Hudson towns and cities upstate were still extant, Or whatever extant means these days, Edmund thinks, with something like a snort, which he sees Joey notice, he’s nodding his head toward Edmund, with a sort of What? expression, but Edmund ignores him.

But now Edmund is back to the world, the world he’s not all too fond of, mainly because Lucille’s man, Ouellette, who leads the extended security and scouting, had briefed Edmund on some scouters gone missing, and reports from other forays into mid-Vermont—Rutland, Killington, and Hanover and Lebanon, in New Hampshire—had described a much heavier presence of Freddies, and increasing harassment. Including, according to Ouellette, denial of entry to some of those refugee centers the Canadians operate.

Which is why Edmund’s not happy, bouncing around in This goddamn Humvee, and unable to keep himself from staring, squinting into the shadows of the woods they’re passing through, expecting some sort of trouble, every minute.



Eduardo is in a meeting with Lucille, accompanying a visiting Argentine named, bizarrely, Bobo, but since Bobo carried a letter from Luis asking Eduardo to help as he could, he’s just letting the odd name go.  Ask no questions, he tells himself.

Although, really, he has a lot of questions, never mind the name.  He’s read the Luis letter a number of times, and still isn’t entirely clear about just what it all means, but he figures that he’ll get Bobo to spell things out, answer some of the finer points of his confusion. For instance, there seems to be the implication that the new material shipments should be handled differently, and that difference, it seems to Eduardo, is that the manifests are more likely to confuse volumes, amounts, and counts, making it far more likely, is Eduardo’s guess, for things to go missing on the receiving end. But it is also Eduardo’s guess that he shouldn’t check in with Bobo to see if the inference he’s drawing is on target, or maybe just poor planning, changes that don’t help, maybe a new system for the sake of change, which in Eduardo’s long experience with complex projects is never a good idea.

Eduardo is standing in this room, off to the side, still near the door, watching Lucille and Bobo sit across from one another, one on a couch, the other, Bobo, an arm chair.

The only thing going through Eduardo’s mind at this moment, like the last couple of and the next couple of moments, is the refrain, Never a good idea.

“We have agreement, everything okay, good,” Bobo is saying, and Lucille is standing and Bobo is standing.

“We get what we want,” she’s telling, or asking Bobo, but when she looks toward Eduardo, his heart jumps with panic, thinking she’s asking him, but she’s back looking at Bobo.

“Everything understood, clear,” says Bobo.

And that is that.



Edmund has company now, a driver called Robbie or Bobbie, he didn’t quite catch it at the rendezvous, and now that they’re back underway, Joey squished against the hump behind the front seats, none too happy about the added discomfort, or loss of the sense of control, but the arrangement had made sense, their new companions knowing the cleared routes, the right roads.

Edmund cares not a whit that he’s not sure of the driver’s name, but he is a bit concerned that the kid looks like he’s twelve, despite the completely hairless head, no hair on top, no eyebrows, nothing, a little freaky, but then Edmund decides that is what makes the driver look so young, despite this guy’s weirdly low voice, at least the little Edmund hears in the driver’s monosyllabic replies, basically saying nothing.

At least when Edmund is asking questions, since the kid chats well enough over the walkie, back and forth with the box truck up front and the pick-up truck that brings up the rear.

Not Edmund’s pick-up escort, which stayed behind.

The truck ahead has the back rolling door up, and there are four or five guards sitting, or trying to, on some crates and bundles bouncing around on the bed, a makeshift webbing acting as a gate of some sort, which Edmund guesses is for safety, to keep the stuff, the guys, from dancing out the end when the roads get rough. It occurs to Edmund that if safety is a concern, they’d do well to better secure the rolling overhead door, which keeps threatening to bounce closed.

Knuckleheads, Edmund thinks. He looks back at the pick-up and the two guards in the bed are swaying, but holding on to the roll bar, looking pretty secure.

And then it hits him, that these aren’t guards, not the way they are in La Maison, anyway, but more like soldiers, an attempt at uniforms, one or two with insignia.

Well, woop-de-fucking-do, he thinks, but he has to admit he is feeling impressed, whether he wants to or not.  They are on their way to Schenectady, The New York Militia, this escort, in the flesh, the first face-to-face with them from Lowell.

Edmund is trying to relax into the situation, and what it can mean for him, and that perhaps Lucille is warming to him, dropping her paranoia, her steady state of awareness of others’ relationships to real power, the talent that prevailed against his own.

Well, he tells himself, I’m okay being Lucille’s guy, and he’s letting himself try to settle into this feeling.

The walkie squawks it static burst, and Baldy picks it up off the console.

“Yuh,” he says, keeping his eyes on the road, pressing the squawk hand-off button.

The walkie is open static for a moment, and when the voice starts up it is hard for Edmund to make it out, but he hears explosions and is pretty sure about attack, but he can’t make out much more.

However, he clearly hears Baldy say, or rumble, grunt, “Holy shit.”

Edmund bides his time, and after Baldy and the other voice talk about what to do, some sort of decision seems made, and Baldy gets back to concentrating on driving.

Edmund feels a lot like screaming at this asshole, but he is calm.

“Well?” Edmund asks, sweet as can be.

“Yuh,” Baldy says.

“Well?” Edmund repeats, and then adds, “What’s going on?”

“Yuh,” Baldy says again, and then he’s picking up the walkie, switches something, and begins to explain, looking at his side mirror back toward the pick-up, which makes Edmund think he’s now talking to the second truck.

“Guys,” he is saying, holding the walkie close in, “Report of explosion, some attack, unclear, downtown, we’re to proceed.”

There some sort of squawked reply and Baldy drops the walkie back on the console.

Edmund counts to ten.

“Well?” he asks again. “Well, what’s up?”

Baldy looks at Edmund like he’s just sprouted a second head, more than the slightest hint of puzzlement flickering.

“Report of explosion, some attack, unclear, downtown, we’re to proceed,” he says, eyes back on the road.



“They can’t shoot for shit,” the short man with the hard stoop says, looking at the others through his wild bushy eyebrows.  At least, that is the impression Edmund has, that is how the guy is looking at them.

The man continues, stating that the damage is all about three-quarters of a mile away from where this group has adjourned, collecting in a conference room on the top floor of the office building that has become the headquarter facility of the New York Militia.

The short man has turned back to the overhead projector, trying to circle the area that had been hit, maybe by bombs. He is pressing into the map transparency, but the marker must be pretty dry, it is barely making any mark, a faint circle on the overhead transparency overlay which is projected on to a small movie screen, the roll-up kind Edmund remembers his father had had, back when family slides were a thing. The marker has seen better days, barely makes a mark.

The transparency must be from the old assessor’s office, or planning board, maybe, Edmund wonders, dug out from some municipal storage, he assumes.

The building footprint marked is a squat cross shape, adjacent to the footprint of a long rectangular building shape, the nearest street a curve, following the river.

“If we were the specific target, not just some sort of scare tactic, not a simple coincidence, they suck,” the younger man next to Shorty says.

The man and woman from Quebec are listening. The woman seems calm, but the man with her has yet to shake off what had happened, he still seems rattled, jumpy.  He keeps bending slightly toward the woman, his hand up, saying something into her ear, until, finally, the woman gestures her impatience, her annoyance, shutting the man’s frenetic whisperings with a gesture, while never taking her eyes off the other men standing around the table, following their arguments and comments.

“Well, if they were looking for causalities, their targeting is pretty fucking great,” one of the other men says. “The Fletcher Street dorms took a hit, and there were plenty of people in there, or were…” but he lets his voice die, and a short silence fills the room.

“That’s County Community,” says a thin man, who too seems jumpy and really wound up to Edmund, but then maybe that makes sense, he figures.

“The College,” the thin man adds, but it isn’t clear to Edmund if he’s talking to anyone but himself.

The younger man pulls another transparency from a file box, and places it next to the other, so they are both half-way off the glass, butted together.

“You can see the distance here,” he is saying, using the marker as a pointer, its shadow moving from the hit building to the building they in now, but it is clumsily done, and one of the transparencies flutters to the floor.

And then someone comes through the conference room door, and it seems like almost everyone is trying to talk, ask questions of the fellow, who, dressed in a heavy red plaid wool shirt, and with his huge beard, makes Edmund think of lumberjacks. Well, a one-armed lumberjack, Edmund tells himself, when he notices the empty sleeve, loosely pinned up.  The man has his one arm raised, holding something, and it takes Edmund a moment to recognize the object as a digital camera. That’s interesting, he tells himself.

The others notice too, and the questions are flying about the room, even louder, one statement after another overwhelming the previous ones, until the one-armed man shouts, “All right, All right!” his arm, clutching the camera above his head making Edmund think he looks like he’s surrendering.

Well, Edmund tells himself, trying to accept that he’s having all these weird thoughts, It has been quite the day.

The Lumberjack Man is handing Shorty the camera, the others are all quieting enough that Edmund hears something like a question about How to work this, and Edmund understands that it has to be too hard one-handed, and the men are standing in a group, peering at the small screen, the talk rising again, some asking to Go back, some saying something Edmund can’t make out, until they’re turning toward him, almost synchronized in their movements, the camera being held toward him, and the Quebecoise are standing close in, too, and Edmund is trying to parse the image, and he’s just realizing it is of a plane, a jet maybe, a fighter jet of some kind, markings, the whole image not well-focused, something of a blur, and then another image, clearer, with fire streaking forward from the wings, and then another image, not as good, another plane, different markings, the Canadian Maple Leaf.

“Go back,” one of the guys says, and Shorty finds the way back to one of the images of the other jet, and one of the men looming over the tiny screen says, “Rockets, not bombs,” but Edmund knows that the guy must be a fucking idiot since that’s really not the salient point.

The markings are Brazilian.

Another silence.

Someone says, “Man.”

The woman has stepped to the overhead projector, picking up the fallen transparency, holding it up to the light of the window, and then places it on the glass, moving one on top of the other.

“Look at dis, she says, with her slight accent, but the men are back speaking, talking over each other, fingers poking at the tiny screen, going through the shots, questions flying.

Fait attention!” the woman shouts, surprising the men.

She nods toward the image on the screen, the overlaying transparencies.

The hit building, everyone can see has the same basic shape and size of their building.  The curve of the Mohawk River near the hit building has a similar curve to the way the river approaches next to their building. There’s a long building next to their building.

“Fuck,” says someone, after a while.



Eduardo is in the thick of it, feeling like a goddamn idiot.

Señor Bobo is looking at him like he’s an idiot, he’s back to shaking his head.

“Well, what the fuck do you think is going on here?” he’s asking Eduardo.

They are speaking in their own language. They are back at Argentina Station, which is on the pedestrian mall a block from the canals, in what Eduardo believes was an office building, probably built sometime around the turn of the last century, well, the one before that, and with a lot of detail, like the high ceilings, interior cornices, and plaster ceiling medallions, good marble floor, and the fancy woodwork is in great shape.  In the front part, there are several desk areas, plus a large and well-appointed central lobby with nice chairs, a good rug.

In great shape, really, except where the rough-built cinderblock wall, about forty feet into the interior from the front plate glass and iron façade. The new wall bisects the space, joined to the interior brick walls at each side, the old paneling and plaster cut away for the new wall’s connection.

The wall, with its one modest steel door and three small windows was in the middle of construction when Eduardo had gotten there, and while he understands it is for protection, he is still sorry that the beautiful space has been so badly marred.  The later addition of steel roll down covers for the door and windows didn’t do anything to improve the look.

Still, better than the sandbagged front, which was still being carted off when he got to Lowell.

He’d actually helped the builders figure out how to most strongly attach the bisecting wall ends, but he is still glad that he hadn’t been there while the prep demolition was being done, nor had any design responsibilities.

Well, other to complain, and to make suggestions about how to plaster skim or add paneling to cover the ugliness, until finally he had gotten used to no one listening, and he had become used to, inured to, the abomination of it, walking through the cinderblock wall’s door many times a day to gain entry to his own office on the second floor and his residential room on the fourth floor.

Except, sitting in one of the front waiting areas, on the nice chairs grouped there, while listening to Bobo, Eduardo can’t stop noting How fucking ugly it is. and he’s glad that had been constructed without his participation.

For the most part, anyway, he is thinking, looking at the rough edge of destruction where the old interior wall brick is exposed, the edges of the removed paneling and plaster as rough as it is.

Both of the guards have moved to the outside sidewalk, one on each side of the old beautiful double door entrance.

All it had taken was a nod of the head from Bobo.

Who is this guy? Eduardo asks himself, even while part of him notices that Bobo is talking and Eduardo is lost in his own thoughts.

With an effort, Eduardo brings his attention back to what Bobo is saying.

“We need you in the game,” Bobo is saying, “at your best, the technical requirements are all here,” flicking his fingers toward a portfolio Bobo has brought to their meeting, Or whatever this is.

What Bobo is asking for really isn’t so different from some of the building work Eduardo had done in the past, some of the tech office build-outs, medical facilities, but exactly how this is all supposed to happen clandestinely, that seems to be the big problem as Eduardo sees it, but Bobo tells him they’re bringing more troops in on station, some construction-ready, he’s to use these for the build-out, down at the Port as Bobo keeps calling the Lawrence transfer, where Eduardo is already overseeing barrack build-outs and crane dock works.

“A covert operations center,” Eduardo says, repeating this phrase yet again, much to Bobo’s amazement, apparently.

Dios, yes, of course,” Bobo says.

“Still, I mean…” Eduardo says, and stops, looking directly at Bobo now.  “I mean, why the fuck for, I don’t understand.”

Eduardo sees Bobo close his eyes, and then the lids come open again, slowly.

“You don’t have to fucking understand,” Bobo is saying, like he is talking to an idiot. “You just have to do it, and do it so our friends don’t know it, think it is something else, understand?”

Eduardo does understand, and he’s already building ideas for the cover stories, maybe a place they’ll bring animals, quarantine, testing of material for, maybe radiation? Quality control?  High tech repair, clean rooms?

How do you hide the uplinks?

But that’s not the hard part.  For Eduardo, the hard part is seeing the Why of it all, and even as he’s seeing this, Bobo is trying to explain.

“You don’t need to understand,” Bobo says, but he goes on to tell Eduardo that the station is now Level Two, which Eduardo gets means this area had gotten more important for the Argentines, the levels are about security, defense, Eduardo already knows.

Eduardo knows that the border tensions with Brazil are high, but that’s nothing new. Brazil is working with Canada, in some sorts of ways, but Eduardo doesn’t really get much detail.  He does know that the Lawrence Seaway is a hot-spot, not their little Lawrence on the Merrimack here, but the big one, in Canada, that goes into the big lakes, St. Lawrence.

Level Two is like orange, Level One, red-hot. Level Zero, war.

What the fuck.