Played Your Eyes 5: Lobby

Banks sat there in the lobby of the Hilton hotel, slouched in his chair, looking like a drunk that had stumbled in and taken up residence there instead of some doorway purely by chance. Asa had worked hard to try and get him to smarten himself up, but he was actively resistant towards any imposition of order.
Asa was trying to smooth over relations with the ARMY representative who was understandably not impressed. The guy had expressed an interest in walking up to Banks and shooting him in the head and it had taken a lot to talk him down.
‘What is this shit, Ms. Blumen? Granted, at the moment we need a representative of the established press to get our message out there and calm down the country, but looking at him, i have to ask, are we really that desperate? What the fuck is he supposed to be?’
‘He’s a world class reporter – he is used to reporting on war zones. He has lots of experience.’
‘Pull the other one – it has bells on it. He’s washed up – anyone can see it. Can he even string a sentence together?’
‘Oh, yes, he’s quite verbally dexterous.’
‘Christ, do I have a choice?’
‘I’m sure Mr Hent will find him admirably suited to the task.’
‘Ms. Blumen, no offence, but given how strongly you’re defending someone who looks like they haveĀ  a whole raft of problems that makes it a miracle they are still here, one has to wonder if you’re just being paid really well, or if maybe you’re on something even better than he is.’
‘Blumen! – Blumen! Can you come over here for a second? I am being hassled by some grubby little oik who claims to be working for this establishment. All I did was ask the stupid fucker for a drink and he starts trying to push me out the door. Blumen – sort this out or I’ll have your job!’
‘Ms. Blumen, I wonder, do you understand how delicate matters are at the moment? Do you believe that our efforts to stabilise the country are going to be helped any by having this drunken buffoon interviewing a representative of our cause? It shows that we are willing to accept your establishment’s insults and that we do not take ourselves seriously, and nothing could be further from the truth. If you were confronted by a situation such as this, what would you do?’
‘Mr Shirk, I can assure you, no matter how bad he looks, when you put him in front of a camera he will perform perfectly. He was apparently always like this before a show and no one ever suspected who saw him on TV.’
‘Apparently? Meaning you’ve not exactly seen this miraculous change occur? Tell, me Ms. Blumen, as a journalist, how reliable is hearsay? Are you really willing to gamble your future on this man?’
‘I don’t have a choice.’
‘Maybe. But we do.’
‘Do you? Aren’t we really in the same boat? Look, if Mr Hent does the interview and it goes wrong and he wants to shoot Banks through the head then who is really going to complain? I’ll be ruined and won’t have anything to lose. The interview can be effectively buried – no one loses.’
‘Hmm, a strangely persuasive argument, even if aall this jumping through hoops is not something I would ever haave wanted to be doing.’
‘One does what one must.’
‘Yes, of course. And I think you need to go and deal with your charge.’
‘Yeah, maybe you’re right.’

PLayed Your Eyes 4: Human Interest

You don’t have to be old to be a veteran these days – barely have to be out of short pants to have been dragged into the war. They aren’t handing out any medals so don’t expect any, but you might get to eat better than anyone else in the country right now.
Sid was twelve, joined up somewhere around Chester when the Midland Boys swung through and razed the place to the ground. He’d been living rough, chased out of his home by his drunken father who said the country was going to the dogs and he was damned sure not going to keep a mangy pup in the house who might turn round and bite him at any moment. It was a common story reiterated a thousand times, more – it bound them close.
He made his first kill in the battle for Cambridge – his tally grew quickly thereafter. He didn’t even think about it now – point, squeeze the trigger, re-sight, squeeze the trigger. A thousand yard stare from a stone cold killer. And Sid felt like he was burned out already – like this PEACE shit was all well and good to talk about, but in truth how did they just expect everyone to shift gears so quickly?
Killing people had given his life some kind of meaning and purpose – it had become as natural as breathing. What was he going to do now they had won? Sure he had heard the plans the same as everyone else, but he found it hard to imagine a day where he didn’t wake up, march, find an enemy and kill them.
He was thinking that he would volunteer for the clean-up operations because there were bound to be stragglers from the other side who just didn’t want to get with the program. People who were the enemy who, like him, didn’t know how to let go of what they had become.
He sparked up, drew deep. He looked around him – who here wasn’t fucked up and lost to the seduction of the war drums? It was messed up, but he didn’t think he wanted it to be over. What would he be without this? What could he ever do after having done this for so long? They had made him and now they wanted to take him apart, and to be honest he wasn’t sure he could live with that; wasn’t sure he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
For Sid the journey wasn’t over and he felt that it never would be, until he had either killed the last of his enemies, or they had killed him. That made sense to him – the idea that he would go out like that, fighting bravely for something he believed in – that made him happy. He just didn’t understand the other option that they were offering him; they hadn’t built that possibility into him.

Played Your Eyes 3: Headshot

He wasn’t a spokesperson, he was a tactician – he was somewhat good with words so they hoped that he would be able to convey what it was that ARMY stood for and what this last action they had carried out meant for them and the rest of the country. The government was in disarray and what remained of the cabinet had been unable to offer anything to assuage the fears of the country. That was not unexpected though, given that it wasn’t their country anymore.
The King and all his heirs were either dead with a bullet in their skull or on the run somewhere. They had taken all of the major settlements across the country – there were still small pockets of resistance scattered in certain places but how long would it take them to mop those up?
His group was composed of one particular section of the community but he had to speak to the whole community – had to let them know that ARMY was here to free everyone; that it realised everyone was held in chains. PEACE was the next phase – Project England: All Communities Embraced. That was the important thing that he wanted to talk about – the war was yesterday and it was tomorrow that they were interested in.
He was worried, because they believed that the media was not sympathetic to them – that it supported the deposed government and believed that the remaining royals with a rightful claim to the throne would rise up and claim back rulership. They had to be convinced that this was not a conceivable option for anyone anymore – that England had moved beyond such considerations. He had to convince them that he and the others who represented ARMY were not just some bunch of thugs who had driven away the bigger kids so they could just play with their toys. ARMY had to seem more than just a fighting force; ARMY had to transform before their eyes into its adult form: PEACE.
They’d been working on this a long time behind the scenes – everyone in the army knew of the intention; knew that this was what they had been planning – knew that it was their final goal. What use would it have been if they had fought to get all this way and then the troops had felt like they had been cheated by what kind of system was put in place to replace the old one?
Peter Hent was one of the first to step up and say – they all know what we’re against, but what are we for? And it had been a question that not one of them had been prepared to answer: no one had thought beyond the possibility of ousting the oppressors. Before the war he had been studying politics via the internet, trying to get a degree – here he was getting a chance to bring what he had learned to bear on the future of the country … it was terrifying and it was exciting.
Who would they send? What journalist would get the scoop? He kind of wished that there had been more options as far as media groups but that was part of the set up of the country they would soon change.

Played Your Eyes 2: Tracking Shot

‘So, Banks, do you wake up every morning looking like you tried to fuck a porcupine?’
‘Did I invite you in? I seriously doubt it – I gave up on poisonous cunts the day I dropped out of my mother and she walked away from me.’
‘You know you have an appointment today, yes? With the head of ARMY?’
‘Yeah, I’d heard something along those lines. Some stuck up bint gave me a phone call and told me I need to get myself detoxed.’
‘So you – ‘
‘So I went and got seriously fucked up, yes. Why? Because I haven’t written anything of worth in a long time and I was hoping that if I took enough drugs you all just might evaporate. But of course I am still held by the rules of some arcane contract that dredges me up out of the shitter every time they need some dispensible turd to go and stir up the other shit that floats around the bowl they call England.’
‘Yeah – okay – so how much detox juice am I going to have to pump you full of before you approach being somewhat more human?’
‘Are you sure you want to do that? I’m a bastard when I’m intoxicated, but I am way worse when I have sobered up – especially if you enforce rapid cold turkey.’
She looked at him – seriously, was this some kind of joke? A puke covered addict who according to the column inches he had managed to rack up since his spectacular implosion had barely been given the time of day by a single editor on even the smallest newspaper. She had to babysit this narcissistic no-mark prick while he jacked every known narcotic in the book into his veins? Was this just some kind of colossal fuck you to ARMY? It seemed kind of pathetic and low that this was all they could muster – here’s your big story so we’re sending you the worst journalist in the country to cover it. What did it say about what they thought of her? Asa Blumen one time hope of female journalists in the industry having to mollycoddle this fuckwit.
Banks leaned himself just close enough to the edge of the bed so he could puke on the floor. He began scrabbling inside the bag that was next to him on the bed and fished out a handful of ampoules of some dark scarlet drug.
‘Are you not worried you’ll OD?’
‘No, I have the constitution of cornfed cheerleader, and all that after I’ve been more fucked up than a funk band and an after party.’
Asa hit the speed-dial for Hunt Parser her editor.
‘Hunt – this is Asa Blumen; I have a question for you, sir, with all due respect, is this assignment some kind of fucking joke?’
‘Oh yes, Asa, of course it is. But the thing is you aren’t in on the joke, and you won’t be. You’re there to do a job – except if you ever call me again and use the tone you just used you’ll be writing the obituaries of diseased parrots and three-legged dogs from now until you retire. I can find some pimply intern who will be more than happy to shepherd our resident junky fuck-up around for minimum wage. Yes, you’re a babysitter, but you’re a very expensive one – so please quit your whining and do what you have to do to het him ready.’

Played Your Eyes 1: Establishing Shot

Rumours were that Banks had been out with a bad case of Plagiawrist for two months. He’d won the award for warzone reporting in a sinkhole estate in Essex but had felt burned out thereafter and had resorted to taking Remix – a neural net hack drug that allowed you to speed-edit someone else’s work and pour back out onto the page through an instantaneous thesaurus filter that made it sound like it had been written by someone else. The reason he was in charge of the team being sent in to cover the ARMY taking of the last royalist stronghold in the country was because no other fucker wanted to do it.

ARMY stood for Anti-Royal Mass Youth and they had been possibly the biggest surprise that had ever come along to kick a sitting government up the arse and shake them out of the circle-jerk revery that a third term seemed to have pushed them into.

You were born criminalised – the profiling taking a long hard look back down your ancestral line to determine by very clever maths what exactly it might be that you were worth. Generally the answer came back – not much. If it wasn’t true the computers didn’t care, and the civil servants operating the consoles didn’t give two tugs of a dead politician’s cock either.

Anti-social behaviour orders had once been issued as social control means that sought to prevent the need for police intervention – they didn’t work. The Anti-Social Person Identification Card (ASPIC for short) was a pre-emptive strike that kept you locked down as soon as your first kick from the womb was felt and recorded.

The youth had nothing to lose. They couldn’t get jobs, they weren’t allowed to travel freely, and they were constantly hassled by the police force; the only thing that gave theem any kind of protection and sense of place was the gangs that they all gravitated towards. Given the intense pressure brought to bear on them by the situation they were in it was hardly surprising, at least to the people who had been watching, when the gangs began to organise into a larger structure.

The hit and run tactics of the early months got them labelled as terrorists and the measurements used to deal with them were escalated accordingly. It didn’t matter – they were fighting for something bigger than the individual lives of their members. The future shouldn’t be locked up or witheld from someone, but that was what had happened. The royals were just a symbol of what they stood against and were by no means the main target – turn the country on its head and start at the top – that was how the thinking went.

There was no single leader of ARMY, no matter the propaganda that the government issued, and there wwas no need for one. Each leader, gathering together in a council could speak for their own men without fear of misunderstanding. It worked perfectly well – the government just didn’t understand so tried to promote the idea that it didn’t work.

Today was a big day.