American Eyes, American Lies See The World From American Eyes. Bury The Past. Rob Us Blind And Leave Nothing Behind.'
Rage Against The Machine, '(There Be) No Shelter (Here)'
The Past is always painful, especially in Post Pulse America. Remembering what was once good only brings sorrow, sadness, and anger to those who continue to dwell about it. Alina Herrero knows this fact all too well. Her father, the famous journalist and human right activist Nathan Herrero, has fought against the tyranny of Seattle's Mayor Beltran and was 'disappeared' for his troubles. She can't forget her father and what happened to him, even when most others would turn to the luxury of drinking Post Pulse Moonshine like the bum who harasses her on a daily basis.
The pain of his sister dying in the Tallahassee Food Riots was too much for him, but at least he had the chance to watch her die. Alina didn't even have that. So, she turns to Eyes Only for help. A dangerous move since, like her father, Eyes Only has been marked for death by the cops, the Russian Mafia, and the City Council. As she steps off from her bus and the almost welcoming rant from her drunken 'friend' at her rundown apartment, a couple of dark figures garb her from behind, toss a hood over her eyes, and carry off in an unmarked van. The bum can do little more than scream and bitch before the siren song of his bottle lulls him back into stupor.
In a sparsely lit, sparsely maintained room, Alina confronts her captors. It's Eyes Only himself, linked via a private satcom on scramble. Being one of the most wanted men in America, he takes no chances in giving aid to those who need it. He remembers his involvement with Nathan from their days of the Pacific Free Press two years ago. He remembers the lessons taught by his friend and the dedication he gave in fighting against the new overlords of America. He tells her that he isn't an investigator and that he only exposes the evil of the world, leaving punishment to the few honest citizens with the means. Alina is desperate. It's been two years since he was 'disappeared.' Whether it was the Mob or the Government or the Cops who did it, she wants closure. She wants to know who killed Nathan Herrero.
Her plea echoes again and again on Logan's video replay. Nathan Herrero did much to shape his beliefs and perhaps it's time to settle his debt to his teacher on who or whom 'disappeared' the great journalist. Max is her usual self, the young don't particularly care much for the past unless it involves them personally. Logan then shows her some photos of Alina and her father in happier times. One picture is from her seventh birthday. This triggers a memory from Max's own turbulent past. While on training maneuvers with her squad, they chance upon a red balloon stuck on a tree. One of them retrieves and they notice how red and shiny it looks, and the strange letters spelling out 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY.' It's bewitching and rather soothing. A drill sergeant tried to confiscate the article, but Zack (who was leading Max's squad and noticed the balloon) subdues him with a kick to the chest. They want to keep this treasure for themselves. Lydecker soon arrives and his presence overrides their desire for the balloon. Max herself lets it go, watching it float to the sky in silent sadness.
Reality snaps back as Logan asks for her assistance in the Herrero matter. She agrees, but she wants to know about the other pressing matter in her life: the search for her birth mother. Logan concedes finding a twenty year old woman being confined to a psychiatric ward after giving birth and being so close to the time of the Pulse is difficult…especially when the child she bore has no memory of her exact birthday. Max sympathizes with the blight. Manticore wasn't sentimental about birthdays, only funerals. She does give Logan an early present for his birthday. She gives him a grapefruit, a rare find in Seattle owing to the lackluster supply routes. She found it in a market at Fremont where they had chickens as well. Logan muses about a recovery coming with some irony before going back to the business at hand. He'll continue digging for Max's mother's whereabouts if she can help out with finding Alina's father. She agrees, knowing the arrangement they made at the beginning. She's his Samurai, as long as he searches for the remaining Manticore escapees. After that, …who knows?
At the courier office, Herbal's in a jam. He needs some cash to tide him over until payday. Dru's willing, but he's running on vapors himself. Sketchy comes to the rescue with an well-appreciated Benjy before he goes off on another run. Dru wonders where he's getting the bread. After all, Sketch gets paid the same miserable rates as everyone else. Herbal rationalizes it to the good graces of Jah. Actually, it's more like the good graces of the local Russian Mafia chief Rafe and his Odessa Social Club, an illegal gaming house. Sketchy doesn't mule over drugs or guns, just the day's receipts to a clearinghouse where the money's laundered nice and clean. In fact, he has one of those receipts in his backpack right now. A fat blue envelope with $15,000 just ready to be processed. Of course, a fool mule and his delivery will soon be parted.
Logan's contact on the Seattle Police, Detective Matt, comes up empty with news on how Nathan Herrero was 'dealt with.' At the bar, he tells Logan how Mr. Herrero's name tends to send off bad vibes to the precinct, in particular one very bad hardcase Allan Lans who's running for police commissioner. Such inquiries about the missing journalist tends to make life extremely difficult. The only place that might have the information Eyes Only needs is in the Municipal City Hall, an armed camp with security bordering on the paranoid. They're sealed in the evidence room, and the guards don't take trespassers very lightly. Logan understands Matt's blight and thanks him for the info with a pre-Pulse Gameboy for his son. At first, the detective is squeamish about accepting it. It's one thing to give out information to one of the few honest outlets of information remaining to the city via a go-between, but he has seen how his 'fellow' officers take bribes and become corrupted. But, he reasons everyone's on the take and if such information can help bring justice to the world, then perhaps he can feel better about himself in the morning…even if it means taking a gift or two for the family. If he only knew the man he was talking to was the very same man helping in the restoration of sanity and true order to America…
Sanity and order is the least on everyone's mind at the local stunt bike spot. The kids are showing off their moves to an eager audience, wanting to kill a few hours from the daily grind of survival. Original Cindy, Max, and Herbal check out the grooves, though Cindy's tastes are more of the female vibes than the movements of the bike. Herbal gently but firmly reminds her about how her lustful statements could cost her plenty. Cindy shrugs it playfully. She's more of deeds than words and that blonde girl has her thinking of some very delightful moves indeed. Sketchy notices the girl too, and he tries his damnedest to impress with his stunts. Unfortunately, one of them was timed a little off. He falls flat on his ass and the envelope with Rafe's cash goes literally floating down the drain without his even knowing it. After having a good laugh, Max gets Logan's page. It's time to do a little 'fact finding' at the Muni. Time to go to work.
In the daylight, the City Hall just looks ugly with the concrete blocks, razorwire fences, and guards in full riot gear. At night, it's practically a fortress. With everyone searched for weapons and 'Shoot to kill' the Main Order of The Day, getting in even by legal means would be a chore. But for Max, sneaking in the back way is so much more fun. The idiot fuzz spend more time harassing the innocents than actually doing their jobs. In the men's bathroom, Max sweetens the deal with an old diversionary gag. She stuffs one of the sinks with a towel and lets it overflow. She briefly freshens up her lip gloss before checking out the floor. The records office has a keypad lock. Breaking the glass would be speedy, but so would the guards. Noticing a bull making his rounds, she does a quick climb to the ceiling and listens for the code. As the guard finishes checking out the office, he discovers the growing puddle at the restroom and calls in maintenance. While the mess is being cleaned up, Max cleans up at the files and snatches the CD-ROM of the Herrero Investigation. After pocketing the disc, all she has to do is take out a few annoying guards with some insults to their manhood and hits in their soft spots, a quick leap from the fourth floor to the street below, and a fast getaway on the bike with gunshots ringing in the air. The guards notice the burglar was a girl, but they didn't catch her smile.
Sketchy is not smiling of late. Seems the little envelope he was carrying has gone missing. Rafe and his boys will not be at all pleased with his foolishness. Herbal and Original Cindy take great sport in reminding him just how dangerous the Russian Mafia is these days. Their money is so tempting, but the price is so high. Sketchy is concerned about what punishment will be coming his way…until he plans to discuss the matter with Rafe and see if he can see his way to letting him work off the debt without having his limbs float down the harbor. Herbal and Cindy know better. They start to discuss about who'll get the foolish boy's bike when the cops find his head in a dumpster.
The evidence Logan finds on the disc is not very conclusive on Herrero's 'disappearance.' Yes, Mayor Beltran made a special contract on his life after one of his beloved associates was deposed by Nathan's articles. But, three days before it was to be carried out, someone broke into his house and kidnapped him. A clean grab with only a few upturned items to suggest a struggle and a housekeeper named Rebacca Cuthrell to give only scant testimony. Alina was estranged from her father due to her love with an older man and the bong. She ran away from home after one particularly brutal argument. The housekeeper would be no help either since she too 'disappeared,' but by her own hand. Apparently, there were threats against her too and she didn't like the heat very much.
After finding out how much 'heat' Max got from her little adventure at the Muni, Logan gives her a 'Birthday' present. It's a gun of finest caliber and craftsmanship. No one would dare mess with her with that piece. Max thanks him, but politely refuses the sentiment. The nightmare of seeing one of her 'brothers' being killed by a gun during the Manticore Breakout sticks out in her memory and she prefers using her wits and skills to deal with the punks in her life. Guns are for the weak and she is very strong. Logan marvels over how a genetically engineered killer would have a personal rule against using a gun, but respects her decision. Max, in turn, marvels over his rationalization over giving her a piece when his views are highly Liberal in nature. Logan reminds her that "It's a kick or get kicked in the ass world out there." Max jokes that she prefers kicking ass.
Sketchy's own ass is getting royally kicked by Rafe's goons. Seems they weren't too amused by his offer to work for free for the next seven and one-fifth years to pay off the loss. However, they were 'generous' enough not to kill him just yet. Max and Original Cindy find the boy naked, hanging upside down, bounded and gagged like an S&M freak. So Rafe had a sense of humor after all, since he gave Sketch only 36 hours to pay off the $15,000 (mercifully with zero interest. They do know there's a Depression going on.). After that, Sketch will only be recognizable by dental records when his charred remains are discovered. Max promises him to help clear his debt and leaves him in the loving care of Cindy while she goes off to Logan's. Cindy just enjoys the suffering as she lowers the poor fool down to the ground.
Logan has found some new developments on the case. Seems 18 months ago, Ms. Cuthrell bought an apartment in Alexander. It may be a small step up for the housekeeper, but since she's been unemployed after her boss's 'disappearance,' it smells of sellout. A little creative bugging is order. Perhaps a word or three will reveal her paymasters. Max does her best to put the latest in electronic surveillance in place when she gets a shocking surprise…the very much alive Nathan Herrero embracing Rebacca Cuthrell with a passionate kiss. Looks like somebody needs to tell the truth.
The next day, Logan meets his old friend and mentor in a private spot at the public library. Nathan reminisces over the old times, on how they took on Mayor Beltran and playing chess with fellow reporter Hunter Dillon…before his death by a government hit squad. They both left a mainstream media too eager to be the mouthpiece of the thugs, but to different destinies. Logan became an underground subversive while Nathan wished for a quiet normal life with his lover. He arranged the false kidnapping and left Alina with enough money to get her by. He admits he wasn't a good father and maybe he should've been there for her more often, but now since he's been discovered, he wants to make amends to her.
All Logan can do to shake his head in disbelief. His own private saint abandoning the fight for his own selfish reasons. Suddenly, he wishes Max had found him dead. A martyr would be more preferable to a burned out coward. Max has sympathy for Nathan. She reasons he fought the fight for as long as he could and deserved a rest. There are others like Logan to carry on and why should he be denied the chance at happiness? Logan's not in the mood, so she decides to tell Alina the good news. She's stunned by the revelation that her father was in town the whole time and he didn't even asked for her. Confused, she asks Max for advice. Should she contact him and make peace at last? Remembering how alone she is, Max tells her…yes.
Sketchy's getting more and more anxious as the deadline comes close. He has only three hours to get 15 Grand or his life ain't worth spit. Original Cindy, relaxing with an apple martini, tells him to chill. She and her homegrrl has it covered. Course when Max finally arrives at the bar, she's barely covered. With some choice fashion sense from Break, she's now dolled up in 70's attire with hot pants and a Farrah hairstyle for flavor. Cindy's all gushing with glee over the look and the plan. Since it's money Rafe's after, he'll get it…from his own Social Club. Posing as airhead strippers with money to burn (thanks to a loan of $100 from a close friend), they get into the gaming house and make like stupid. When asked if they ever made a bet, Cindy jokes about how Max won $50 for throwing her thong the farthest.
They have nothing that unique on the table, but the roulette wheel is willing to take their cash. After making some quick mental calculations on the ball's speed and the wheel's direction, the ladies soon clean up with $3,000. They have only one hour to make $12,000, or Sketchy's toast. Rafe himself takes great interest in the ladies and offers the exclusive use of his card table. He has a choice poker game a'cooking, and since they have a sizable bank… Max jokes if it's 'the game where they lose all their clothes?' Rafe is amused. It's not strip poker, but if she's not careful, she could lose her shirt. The girls take him up on his offer and soon, they play five-card stud. At first, Max is playing silly novice games with Rafe giving her some liberty in consulting with Cindy over her cards. But the minute she gets to deal with a fresh set, the hustle's on!
Using her ability of total recall, she counts the cards and soon the winnings are in their favor. The pot grows to a nice $14,234 with a gold watch and St. Christopher's Medal to boot. The final hand has Rafe with a full house and Max with a pair of queens, a 6, a 7, and an 8 of hearts. She suspects that she needs a better hand, so she ups the ante. She offers Rafe a chance at a threesome with her and Cindy, purring about how their double lap dance act at the Cherry Bomb Strip Club brings in a lot of green. Hormones get the better of the mob boss and agrees with the terms. Max asks Cindy to fold, drops the queens for two more cards, and wins the game with a STRAIGHT HEART FLUSH! Rafe is not pleased. He wants some explanations and his money back.
Max gently but firmly 'persuades' him to let the girls go. They're tired and their parents want them home by midnight. Unfortunately, Rafe and his boys are not so easily shaken off. It takes a rumble in the alley to finally give the gentlemen enough reason to give up the cash. Cindy holds her own with a lead pipe while Max does her battle ballet with a six foot walking mass of muscle. Sketchy's relieved when he finally gets the money, but Max gently but firmly gives him notice by the scruff of his neck. His lifelines are all used up, so the next jam he's in will be his alone to solve. The girls walk off into the night, beaming with sweat and victory.
Nathan Herrero is beaming as well. Beaming with joy over his daughter's impending arrival. Beaming with the second chance he's getting in making peace with her and perhaps asking her to go off into the country where they can start again. He doesn't notice the taxi cab arriving. Doesn't notice Alina standing the darkness. Doesn't notice her lighting her cigarette…and signaling an unseen assailant to detonate the hidden explosives placed in his apartment while he and Rebacca were at the marketplace shopping for the celebratory supper. Perhaps it's best he and his lover died at the moment of their truest happiness. Alina may have hated him, but she at least allowed for some mercy.
Logan was stunned not by the bombing, but by how he and Max were played by Alina and her betrayal. It was obvious she tipped off Allan Lans and his death squad of Herrero's location, and it should have been obvious to him about her true intentions for her father. Max rushes off to Alina's apartment and finds it abandoned. She soon discovers a carelessly discarded train schedule on the table. Since the Pulse, air travel has been restricted only for the government and the very wealthy. Train travel has surged and the railroads simply can't keep up with the demand. Alina finds her blood money in a suitcase from a locker before she broads her train to Portland. She now has enough money to make a break from her past…and her hated father. Unfortunately, she has one more person to deal with. Max has gotten wind of her travel plans and in the baggage car, they have it out. Alina sold out her father for money and hate, pure and simple. Max has no more sympathy for the spiteful woman, so she kicks open the case and the money flies off to the Four Winds. An alarmed Alina garbs what she can; her greed and hatred are now her only companions. Max leaves her to her fate. She has only pity for Alina now. Such despised creatures are only allowed that emotion.
Logan receives a package from his late mentor. It's a video thanking him for reuniting him with his daughter and one final act for freedom: a disc containing evidence of Allan Lans personally murdering a Seattle DA for some unimaginable offense. The note attached to the package quoting the adage 'The only necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' breaks his heart. Nathan's sacrifice must not be in vain.
Sketchy's little lesson hasn't quite set in as well as Logan's. Seems he wants Max to do a tour of some of the gaming houses to make a sweet pile of cash. Max is non-plussed by his crass attitude and gives him his papers. Original Cindy summarizes his need for money with a simple anagram: C.R.E.A.M. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. This may be true for most people, but for others it's something different. As Eyes Only transmits the video of Lans' crime over his bid for police commissioner, Max wonders if Cindy was wrong. For Nathan, his drive was for love. For Alina, it was hate of her father. For Logan, it is duty. But what for her? What drives her on and shapes her inner self?
In Post Pulse America, the past is dead. The future uncertain. All they have is today…and what is learned from it.