Serial Fiction
February, 2037
Episode 1.2

Their production cycle began every third Friday night with a casual, beer-assisted rundown of the next edition. The three of them commandeered a booth near the back at any of half a dozen Alliance-friendly pubs. An occasional stringer or two might drop by briefly, but the core of the Tech was just Rory, Clara and Frank.

This time it was the Bad Manner in Midway, and things got off to a jovial start as the team clinked pints together in celebration. The news from Boston had been a welcome, even humorous relief from the constant dread that accompanied yet another new Bundy Administration. All week long, within the right circles, they’d encountered raised fists and hearty greetings.

The Liberty heist was symbolic, of course; a poke in the ribs of BundyUSA. But an indisputable victory, just the same. Not all punches on the fascist state were going to be game-changers.

And, it made this particular pre-press confab something of a formality. There’d be no turf sparring on content this week for Resistance Tech. Liberty was page one, and much of the whole fold. The event was already well known by those on the Northern Road, but Rory had new details on how it had gone down.

I’m thinking we set another two thousand copies for this one, he said to the others across the table. There’s the souvenir crowd to think about. I can round up more distributors if we need it.

TheResistance.Tech was read, primarily, by Activist Front friends hooked into the Low Grid. But there was a small print run, too. Three thousand copies on standard, an eight page tabloid, pressed and delivered into the predawn hours of a Sunday publish. The same 36-hour cycle usually set a tone for the weeks ahead as well. Printing the alliance activities on paper, however impractical, and even brash under the eyes of the Regime, nonetheless triggered a routine accounting of movements on the Northern Road. Moreover, as the team had discovered long ago, physical illustration infuriated the government even more than the illegal digital wires. And so, a newspaper.

I’ll order the reels, let’s go 80 pound brite for this one, Frank said, as he finished off a bowl of chili. These particular editions are likely to get some shelf life.

Bad Manner was no epicurean highlight, but a small kitchen off the bar turned out a few simple staples, well enough. Soup and chili and a deep fryer.

The long bar along one side of the narrow room was filling quickly. A distinctly industrial feel to the place, perfumed by hoppy pints, steaming food, and the occasional waft of California indika.

TheResistance.Tech tossed around their edition plan for an hour or so, occasionally tapping notes on armband screens, mostly just setting information in their heads. They finished up, just as the evening act fired amplifiers on a small stage near the door.

The Bad Manner playbills, hung liberally about the walls, had noted a trio now on stage calling themselves Serenity Now. And Serenity Now was joyously humiliating its moniker.

The playbills shared space with pinned up photography of various Activist Front participants. General stuff, though. Nothing very specific. Usually single portraits, untitled, rather than groups. Even the Manner was not immune to unannounced visits from the Bureau, so keeping a low profile was part of the game. On the Northern Road, you knew that agents of government had a limited reign and reach, but that didn’t stop the random harassments.

As the room went from merely noisy to maximum volume under the band’s thrashing punk, Clara stood to pull on her coat. Tomorrow, then, in the warehouse district, she said, drifting to the door with a wave.

With two teenagers, a husband, and three or four group commitments to the Front, Clara kept busier than the other two left at the table. This pace was was augmented by a notoriously large ring of family that both filled and skirted the Northern Road. Many were on the wrong sides of each other’s fences, politically and culturally speaking, but somehow the string of brothers, sisters and cousins managed an arduous peace. Rare, in this world.

Now into her forties, Clara had watched it all fall, as a protesting college kid right on through to middle-age. The whole sorry collapse and partial renaissance. An old adage tasks that may you live in interesting times, and Clara supposed that she had complied.

Occupationally, her history had stints at publishing houses in graphic design and copy editing throughout the metro. When Bundy the elder had taken office, long term permanent jobs began to drift away quicker than before. Particularly for those in the opposition. By now, much of the working class of the Northern Road made their way with three or four separate commitments.

For Clara, that meant occasional help at the museum where her husband worked, working a bustling food truck weekday afternoons, and freelance gigs for a bundle of commercial publications. And TheResistance.Tech.

Watching her go, Rory surveyed the room, seemed to contemplate something important. Then glanced over at Frank. Another one?

Yea, but first, let me give this old fart a chat, Frank said. He nodded toward an approaching grizzled and unshaven older gentleman wearing a bedraggled trench coat and misshapen fedora.

Frank stood to greet him and the two moved over to the bar, where a pair of young people in their twenties were leaning in, strapped with VAR goggles, oblivious to their physical surrounding.

With an expression of mild disgust, Frank moved one of them aside with a gentle push to the small of the back, making room. Then he settled into a standing spot at the bar with his old friend.

Rory smiled at the interchange. He remembered Frank trying goggles just once, years ago. After half an hour standing still, seemingly engrossed in the virtual environment, Frank had pulled them off and thrown them to the table. Okay, I’ve done that now. Won’t need to do it again.

Frank was a printer. In a word. Now more than 70 years old, he’d spent time back in the 90’s on a full web, wringing out dailies for the Star Tribune in the wee hours. Moved to sheetfed, high-gloss work later on. Still found time for old-school letterpress work, — his art, as he called it.

Now, Frank ran a small print, sign and mapping shop in the Powderhorn neighborhood, a few blocks west of the river. The vintage look of everything connected to Frank’s Fortress of Print was partly collection, partly disguise. Underneath, the technology tools he used for Activist work were ahead of the curve, often experimental. A Luddite, Frank was not. But many forms of entertainment for modern youth, including VAR goggles, fully eluded his interest. Bewildering Fluff, in his words.

Rory leaned back deeper in the booth seat, setting his gaze on the band. Not too bad. They’d launched their set with an oldie cover that Rory recognized: Having a Blast, from Green Day. Next came something far newer that still moved along nicely. Could be their own, Rory thought. If so, maybe get ’em some ink before long. A job for one of the stringers, he thought.