Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flash Fiction: McCarthyism

This story came from a Chuck Wendig prompt, SomethingPunk.

To wit:
Cyberpunk. Steampunk. Dieselpunk.
The literary subgenre -punk contains, as I see it, a couple key features –
a) A world taken over by the technology or fuel source or by humans (often in an authoritarian role) attempting to control the utilization and implementation of that tech or resource.
b) Characters who represent an anarchic, rebel “punk” vibe in this world.

your job is to write 1000 words of fiction in a new SomethingPunk world.
Where [Something] is a noun (tech/resource, most likely) you choose.
Definitely no cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk.

I picked Vaxxpunk. Usual disclaimer, this was posted with little editing, after I picked at it and stopped and restarted all week long.


It was worth the risk to try to get vaxxed. It was worth sneaking into a fiefdom past guards with guns, to get to its pharmacy. It had gone smoothly, vials and syringes in their cargo pockets and Sal already back outside the barricade, but then the guards grabbed Billy.
He'd been dragged to a blank concrete building and taken downstairs into the basement. Maybe it had been the police station, when this place was still a normal town. Before the anti-vaxx movement made it so people were dying of stuff nobody had even heard of in years. Before some bioterrorists went and let the demons out of some doctors' freezers. Billy and his crew were lucky; this fiefdom was measles, and both Billy and Sal'd gotten the MMR before the world went to hell. But it could've been smallpox. Tuberculosis.
"How many of you are there?" The leader of the guards looked normal. Not all scarred up, not even a particularly big guy. Just tough.
Billy just shook his head. They'd prepared, as best they could. They were just kids, undernourished and undervaxxed, their parents long gone. They'd traced their plan in the dirt, using an old greasy gas station map, in the light of a coffee can fire. Four teenagers, Billy the oldest. Six little kids. Sal was in charge after him.
"Who sent you?" Billy shook his head again, and that's when the security guy knocked on the door, and a woman in a white coat came in with a little metal tray and drew off a vial of his blood.
"Was somebody paying you to get these?" The guards had taken Billy's coat, socks and shoes. Gone through all his pockets. Tied him down in a chair. The guy brandished the vaccine vials, the syringes. Billy kept mentally replaying his last moment of freedom, that quiet crunch of gravel just behind him, as Sal slipped through the gap in the barricade.
He didn't see it when the punch came in. The shock of a fist against his cheekbone, the pain bursting in his eye, his head, his face. It was a show-off shot; punching people in the face hurt, and was to be avoided. Somebody knocked on the door, and the guard paced away, boots grinding on the concrete.
"Immunity," he heard a woman's voice say eventually. By then, his head had stopped ringing, and he was faced with the woman in the white coat, from before. She read silently from a clipboard for a few minutes, and looked up at him.
"I'm Dr. Smith," she said, plastic smile pasted on. "I can see you and Ted are getting along great." Billy glanced at the guard who had been with him and back to Dr. Smith. "I just have a few questions for you, and these gentlemen are here to make sure things stay friendly."
"Oh, Ted's real friendly," Billy said, leaning over to spit blood on the floor. He'd seen that in a movie once, when there still were movies. Dr. Smith smiled tightly.
"Your blood tells me you're immune to measles. Did you have measles, or were you vaccinated?" Billy shrugged. "Why were you stealing vaccines?" Billy said nothing, and she sighed and drew a plastic syringe from her pocket.
"What is that?" Billy asked.
"Ted would just as soon pound you into burger until he was sure you didn't have information, then shoot you out back." Billy didn't doubt it. "This is going to make you feel very relaxed. And then you'll answer my questions."
The needle itself wasn't so bad. Cold, and the liquid was cold. He looked away from Dr. Smith, and the guards, and listened to a clock ticking somewhere. A homey sound, for a place like this. He wondered how much time had passed since he got caught.
"Billy, how many people are in your group?" Dr. Smith asked, speaking slowly with that same smile.
"How do you know my name?" he asked.
"Your friend told us. She's here too, though much more cooperative than you've been so far."
"I don't have friends." Sal had to be long gone. Though they could've tracked her, with dogs and guns, and dragged her back.
"Don't lie to me, Billy. Let's make this easy. How many people are with you?
"I'm alone," Billy said.
"Don't be too smart. How many people are in your group? They're depending on you. It's cold tonight, Billy. There was already frost on the ground when you crossed our border. Are you going to let little kids sleep on the ground, when they could be inside and safe?"
Somehow, it did feel safe. "Quarantine?" he asked. None of the kids were vaxxed. Only one other teenager did, Art, and that was just chicken pox. Rob didn't have any of it.
"We have facilities." Dr. Smith looked at her clipboard again. "If you work with us, we can get your people in. Quarantine them, vaxx them, make sure they're safe. You'll just have to do some work for us, but it's nothing you can't handle."
It's what they wanted. Vaxxed and safe, no more shitting in the dirt. And if they already had Sal, he could just be messing everything up. He should just answer the questions. Make sure everybody was okay. "Six little kids," he said. Dr. Smith wrote something on the clipboard.
"Who else?" she asked.
"Me. Sal. Two more."
"Ten, that's a big group. A lot of responsibility."
"But we'll be safe here," he said. Was he drooling? His hands were still tied.
"Yes, they'll be safe here. And you'll work for us." Dr. Smith nodded to the guards, and Ted was the one who untied Billy.
"How do I know I can trust you?" Billy asked. He tried to get up out of the chair, and his knees buckled.
Dr. Smith was already at the door, and she turned to look at him for a moment. "I guess you don't," she said.

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