PRELUDE: III

CHAPTER 3
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Orson Roland pulled over to the side of the backroad, bringing his Custeria to a halt under the shade of the cypress trees. The din of the ORRA siren slowed and then chirped off as the law enforcement vehicle parked up behind him and a pudgy, fat-fingered middle-aged man in a navy blue uniform stepped out. A pair of aviator glasses rested on the tip of his nose and a wad of chewing tobacco was entrenched in his left cheek as he stepped toward Orson's vehicle, jackboots crunching twigs and dirt all the way.

Orson tried to steady himself and keep his cool. He had done nothing wrong yet that they could possibly know about. Well, he had listened to Andrew rant about how the very structure the nation was built on was a massive lie, but they couldn't possibly have heard that... or had they? At any rate, his knuckles were still white on the steering wheel as the trooper walked up to his window. The stench of fast food and wintergreen tobacco hung heavy off the portly officer, barely masked by a cheap cologne. The ORRA man's hair was greased back with pomade under a forage cap.

"Well, well, what do we have here, citizen?" the trooper said in a sing-song yet very authoritative tone as he leaned in the Custeria's window.

"Uh, well, you see, sir," Orson stumbled through a chaotic jumble of responses he had prepared in his head over the last few seconds. "I, uh, my name is Orson Roland. All hail, sir. Wh-what can I do to assist you, officer?"

Behind the mirror-shades the officer squinted in growing suspicion, Orson was sure. "S.I.N. and V.I.N., son. Pronto." He held out a fat hand and his face showed no emotion whatsoever as he brought an emphatic singular finger down onto his empty palm.

Orson struggled to open the glovebox (it had needed some oil on the hinges for quite some time) but finally cracked it open, shakily withdrawing a yellow envelope labeled "V.I.N.." All V.I.N. numbers were required by law to be kept in a fireproof envelope of that sort to make quick work of identifying cars after fiery crashes and whatnot. He gave it to the officer who quickly snatched it up. Then Orson withdrew a billfold from his suit pocket and produced his Societal Identification Number card.

The pudgy officer gave the items a cursory glance. "Hmmm... Says you're up to date on your vaccines. Pure fluidation. Good stuff. Now, son, y'all mind telling me what your city-boy ass was doing bothering Andrew the Apostle? He don't like visitors. The government tries to make sure he lives a peaceful retirement, y'see. Now what was you doin', kid?"

The young film student stammered another moment before replying, "Uh, well, I'm a film student. I am, uh, trying to make a documentary for school and I am traveling the South to talk to eyewitnesses to historical events. Well, who better than Andrew the Apostle?" Orson tried to sell his innocence by giving an exaggerated shrug and awkwardly laughing.

The cop leaned back off the window, never reacting. "I'll run your papers through dispatch. Wait here, kid." At that, he tucked the papers under his right arms and walked back to his patrol vehicle. The ORRA car was rusty from a decade of swamp living, but it was still the fastest thing around. In the dash was a more modern dispatch radio that had been bolted in recently.

While Orson waited impatiently and nervously, he kept eyeing the bag of camera equipment sitting in the passenger seat of his car. He hadn't filmed anything, but he knew the ORRA man would be wondering if he had. Just as his fears about the camera and tapes were growing, a white, unmarked vehicle sped past him and parked about two car-length ahead. It was clear from the way it stopped so quickly that it was a modified government vehicle. This was proven correct when the three Zealots he had seen on the hill outside Andrew's house popped out, weapons drawn. Two of them hung back, armed with shotguns pointed in his general direction, while the third kept advancing, taking a glance out of the corner of his eye at Orson as he strolled to the ORRA vehicle.

After a few minutes of discussion and more unnerving shotgun-waving, the ORRA man and the Zealot approached the Custeria's window yet again. The ORRA man smiled a bright, perfect smile that by no means set Orson at ease. The man's cold blue eyes stared Orson down from behind a pale, pasty complexion framed in dark brown hair and long sideburns. Then he raised a hand in a quick salute, folded his arms behind his back, and said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Roland. My name is Tobias Potter, a Zealot of the American Fundamentalist Christian Church. My men and I are a protection detail assigned to Andrew the Apostle. We make sure that he isn't disturbed in his well-earned retirement. The good pastor's health isn't what it once was, I'm afraid, and he doesn't take kindly to visitors. Now, Officer Henry over here says you claim to be filming a documentary for college. Very interesting, and I wish you luck. The Apostle, however, is protected under the Former Church and Government Officials Voluntary Protection Act of 1963, making him illegal to film or record without a Class-A Press Permit, as issued by ORRA under FCGOVPA regulations and statutes and approved by the Media Clan Press Council Board of Regulatory Admissions. The Apostle entered himself into the FCGOVPA by choice and does not wish to be interviewed. So you technically broke the law by filming him, son." With those last words, Potter leaned in close to Orson's face, bending straight down at the waist while keeping his hands clasped behind himself. "So technically we could arrest you right now."

The blood chilled in Orson's veins at those dreaded words, words no American citizen ever wanted to hear uttered from the mouth of law enforcement. "Well, uh, I'm sorry, sir, for not being aware of the FGCV... uh, the Act, and I will certainly and very happily take an extra course at college in regulatory procedures to protect myself and others. If it makes it any less... illegal... I didn't film the Apostle. I merely talked with him a few minutes before he, uh, kicked me out. Like you said, he doesn't like visitors!"

Potter kept staring him down with that eerie, otherworldly smile, as if his teeth were sculpted in white marble by an old Renaissance master, but extended his hand and pointed at Orson's passenger seat. "Bag. And don't worry, your belongings are protected by law from seizure if no contraband is found on them. Please allow my men to search your car for further tapes."

Shaking, Orson handed the man the green and white plaid camera bag. With almost robotic movement the Zealot took the bag and walked back to his panel van. The other two Zealots moved in, ordering Orson out of the vehicle before searching every inch of it. A beeping sound emanated from the dash of the rusty ORRA patrol car and Officer Henry, as Orson now knew his name, yelled out at Potter. "Hey, if y'all guys have this kid covered I'm gonna get this next one from dispatch! Think it's probably those absinthe boys finally slipping up. I don't wanna miss that."

With a crunch of foliage under his shoes, Potter turned around and waved at the ORRA man dismissively. "Yes!" he hollered back. "I think we have this about wrapped up. Jehovah speed, Henry. All hail!"

"Same to you, all hail!" Henry clicked his heels in salute and climbed into his car and drove off, leaving Orson with "just" the three Zealots.

Potter climbed inside the van and obviously was checking the tapes out and taking his sweet time doing it. Orson still felt sweat dripping down his face and neck as he waited with bated breath to see if he was going to be let off the hook. After about a half-hour, the two shotgun-wielding Zealots gave up on searching his car and Potter emerged from the truck, bag in hand. He marched over to the Custeria, his smile still unnaturally wide. "Well, my good man," he said while nodding to Orson, "Good news for us all! I discovered no footage violating the FCGOVPA standards. So lucky for you, I'm gonna cut you a break!"

For the first time all day, Orson felt a wave of relief pass over him, and he muttered a prayer of thanks and thanked the Zealot as well. But his good feelings were ground to a halt when Potter raised a single finger in the air to indicate there was going to be a catch. "Under one condition."

Sweat rolling into his eyes, Orson squeaked, "Yessir?"

With a swift movement that would be the envy of any professional rounders pitcher, Potter heaved the camera case into the nearby creek that ran along the other side of the road. "You get the hell out of McClellan Point for good and I better never see your face in my town again or anywhere near the Apostle. Am I understood?"

Mouth agape in horror and disbelief, Orson mumbled a yes and shrunk back into his seat.

"Oh," Potter said as he turned around from walking toward his van. "And if you remember me saying your equipment was protected from seizure, I didn't seize it. I didn't say I wouldn't destroy it." He let out a laugh as he leisurely strolled back to his vehicle. "And you better hope and pray that our UltraNet monitors don't show you bought another camera attached to your S.I.N., kid! We'll know to bust your ass then. Give up on this stupid documentary and be a paper-pusher... like your father."

Orson was crushed. That was a great camera, one he had purchased for just this occasion. Every purchase of that magnitude had to be filed with the S.I.N. number of the purchaser and the camera's serial number linked to the proper owner as well. If Potter was serious, he'd be thrown in jail for buying another camera or, at the very least, have his interstate or even town travel permit suspended. As he sat there trying to not have a massive anxiety attack, he knew he was in deep shit. But below it all was a boiling, simmering rage. He had never really questioned the system until today. He had never thought twice about the way America was. It was always this way, he thought, as God ordained it. But today had shook him to his core. After having the seeds of doubt planted by Andrew, he was then accosted and had his property destroyed by ORRA and Zealots. What of Oswald's motto about "Security and Property?" The fact that they were so quick to shut him down helped convince him that the Apostle was likely telling the truth. They had shut him down because he was onto something. They wanted him silenced because he was a threat. While still cold with fear, Orson began to feel the tiniest bit of pride. He was a threat. He was onto something. And he wasn't going to give up. As the white van peeled out and vanished around the next curve, Orson started his Custeria and stared at himself in the shiny chrome rear-view mirror, quickly deciding his next course of action.

He checked his billfold for cash and put his S.I.N. card back into its proper slot. He had enough money to get to that Daygone Inn near Lewisburg Andrew had instructed him to meet him at. He had enough for maybe a cheap typewriter at a junk shop. If he got an old enough model, pre-electric, you didn't need to attach a serial number to it or register it. He could pay in cash. He might not be able to film it, but he just might be able to type out his next encounter with Andrew. He drove south for an hour and a half before arriving in Lewisburg, where he stayed the night at a local inn. The next morning, at the crack of dawn, he entered an antique shop in town and purchased a 1929 Keystone typewriter and a few spools of ribbon before hitting the road once more.

Halfway to New Antioch, just as Andrew had said, there was a Daygone Inn off the side of the highway, engulfed in an almost eerie fog, despite it being 8 in the morning. He carefully turned into the lot, the parking lot visible thanks to the neon glow of the famous orange-and-white mermaid sign bearing the hotel's name. Thunder peeled overhead, a sudden storm flaring up from out of nowhere. Before he could even park, heavy drops began to pitter-patter down to earth. He sighed, took an umbrella out of his back seat along with the sack containing the typewriter and stepped out into the downpour. The Southron humidity was still raging even if it was raining hard, and he hoped the hotel was air conditioned. He saw a few other cars in the lot, but nothing that screamed "Andrew the Apostle is here." Which was great, because if Andrew was going to travel it most certainly would be with a boring, uninteresting ride. Riding to a seedy hotel in an immaculate brown and white 1955 Himmler and Hess Super Special would likely definitely put him on NUSA's Most Wanted.

The double-door entrance to the Daygone Inn creaked open with a push, leading into the lobby, covered in tacky orange-and-brown deep-pile carpet. The smell of stale tuna sandwiches almost triggered Orson's gag reflex and he had to stop in front of the white faux-marble counter where piles of the "treats" were located. A sign with the words "Complimentary New England-style lunch!" hung on the woodpanel wall above the counter next to a gold starburst clock. A swarm of flies were cloistered around the sandwiches like priests at a mass, partaking of the rotting, fetid almost paste-like tuna meat smothered between crusty slices of toast. He looked on in horror as a writhing maggot slid out from under one of the sandwiches. Barely repressing a gag again, he stumbled toward the oval-shaped front counter, closing his umbrella.

The man at the counter was wearing a bright orange bell-hop uniform, a round flat cap perched upon his head like a monkey at the circus. All Orson could see of the attendant was the back of his sandy brown hair, as he was standing away from the entrance, slumped over against the counter on one arm.

"Ahem," Orson announced his presence by clearing his throat. It also was to try to clear the lingering scent of the putrid, ghastly tuna.

With an odd creaking sound, like a turkey wishbone about to snap, the man whipped around, a manic smile on his face. Orson's eyes widened in surprise at the man's face. He had seen enough unnatural smiles lately to last a lifetime. "AHOY, TRAVELER!" the man shouted in a monotone voice. "Welcome aboard the finest hotel on the Destiny Road! Name's Pete! How can I help you, sir?" He leaned in close. Just like the smile, Orson had had enough violation of personal space lately, as well. Pete's yellowed teeth weren't quite up to par with Potter's, though, and the scent of body odor hung heavy.

Orson wanted to ask him when the last time he dry-cleaned his uniform was but bit his tongue and replied, "Hi, uh, Pete. I need a room. Quieter the better."

Pete took an almost puppet-like step toward the off-yellow tabulator bolted to his counter before raking his fingers across the keyboard like he was a concert pianist. "Oh, all the quarters in this port of call are quiet, skipper! Yessir, 'For Quality and Comfort, nothing beats Daygone Inn!' We promise a restful night sleep and enough tuna sandwiches to feed a whale! Help yourself, cap'n!" Pete took his round cap off the top of his balding head like a showtunes dancer and made a jerky gesture toward the countertop lined with rotting snacks.

Orson cringed and replied awkwardly, "Well, I'm afraid I've eaten already. Look... I just want a room. In the back if I can."

Pete flipped the cap back on and shrugged. "Up to you, admiral! There are many relaxing ports of call in this abode, but we have room 33 in the back corner! Sound good?"

"That'll be fine. I'll take it. How much?" Orson quickly replied, withdrawing his billfold.

"20 dollars a night, commodore!" Pete said, continuing to do his best theatrical impression of a New England sailor despite his obviously Southern birth. There was something about the man that seemed rather more like a reanimated corpse than a living human. With a few clicks and dings, Orson was checked in. "Right, cap'n, can I carry your cargo, sir?" said Pete, extending a hand and offering to carry the typewriter bag.

Orson flinched and drew the bag closer. "I'm okay, just need the key."

Pete didn't lose a beat and his arm jerked to a nearby drawer and he pulled a set of keys out before throwing them up in the air, taking a step forward, and catching them without looking, backhanded. "RIGHT THIS WAY!" With jerking steps, almost like he was a clay animation character from the Patriot-Saints Day movies, he led Orson to the back of the hotel. Only two of the rooms, Orson noted, appeared to have lights on inside. Room 33 was in the very corner, next to a snackcake vending machine that had been long-graced with a yellowed "OUT OF ORDER" taped to the glass. With a flick of the wrist and the turn of a knob, the door to the room swung open. Pete led the way and flicked the lights on. "Here we go, sir! Fresh as openin' day!" A series of spiderwebs covered the windows and a thick layer of dust covered everything. Pete tried to turn on the tiny 1950s-era televisor on the dresser. After smacking the side a few times and cursing cheerfully under his breath, the hum of the tubes broke the eerie silence and soon a local commercial for a furniture store appeared on-screen. "Right then!" Pete said, placing the keys on the dresser dramatically. "Dial 1 to call me at the front desk and remember, all-you-can-eat tuna sandwiches are at your disposal, cap'n!" With a brisk salute the man waltzed back down the hallway, whistling cheerfully.

Orson explored the room, both disgusted and curious. There appeared to be a narcotics syringe under the window air-conditioner, which didn't appear to run anymore. Orson's one wish was for air conditioning, but apparently that was too much to ask. The bed seemed clean enough, if dusty. The bathroom had seen better days and the pink pedestal sink was crudely affixed to the black-and-white tiled wall with some heavy-duty epoxy of some sort, which had dripped and hardened onto the wall all the way to the floor. The shower had a few scratches and cracks in the tiles, but it was passable. Inside the medicine cabinet was an empty bottle of someone's prescription medication and a rusty pair of tweezers with a disgusting waxy substance caked on the edges. The only other thing to check out was the nightstand, a rickety thing on flared pin-style legs. In the drawer was a copy of the AFC Bible and a Book of Graham, as well as a notepad and a travel map for the surrounding area dated to somewhere around 1962. And a wadded up piece of chewed gum. Orson sat the typewriter on the little desk by the window and pulled up a dilapidated chair likely far older than the hotel itself. The manager of this establishment was likely well-familiar with local charity shops.

Just as Orson turned to the televisor and began to worry about if Andrew would show up, he began to feel a sleep lull over him. When he awoke several hours later, it was to the sound of someone gingerly tapping on his door. He grabbed a gooseneck metal ashtray stand to possibly defend himself against an attacker. He peered out the peephole and breathed a sigh of relief. It was Andrew. He quickly unbolted the locks and in came Andrew, wearing simple clothes and a tan raincoat, which he promptly tossed on the bed.

"Man, am I glad to see you," Orson said, smiling grimly.

Andrew stared him down through his horned-rim glasses. "You have your equipment?"

Orson shook his head. "Sadly, no. I was stopped by fucking ORRA AND Zealots not long after I left your place."

"I know," the Apostle said dismissively.

"Yeah- wait! You know?!"

"Yes," said Andrew. "When they were tracking you down I used an old slave escape tunnel to get out of there. Had a rustbucket car with forged numbers ready to go."

"Wait, so you used my possible capture and/or earthly demise to cover your own escape?" Orson asked, shocked.

"Yes. I presume they took your equipment then?"

Orson stared at the musty ceiling and waved his arms. "Wow. Well, I can't say you aren't a tricky fellow! Anyway, I was able to buy an old typewriter off the books. I took typing all during high school and I am pretty speedy. Figured I'd write down your testimony."

Andrew took his glasses off slowly, folded them up, and set them on the nightstand. He kicked off his oxfords and sat down on the edge of the bed. "So, it is my biography, then? Very well. I suppose trying to expose an entire system will never go easy. I'd rather it be film, but this will have to do."

"When do you want to get started, sir?"

"Now. Get a glass of water and prepare to work fast. If I'm to tell you the whole story, God's honest truth, this is going to take a while...."
 
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I'm curious to see where this goes- it's hard to imagine that a typed out account claiming to be from the Apostle Andrew in the hands of a random film student will get much traction in a country with no free press and a pervasive secret police. But one gets a sense that this is the start of something big.

I'm also love/hating the description of the Daygone in with its "New England" character transplanted to the South.
 
Well, this is going to be an interesting story.

Says you're up to date on your vaccines. Pure fluidation. Good stuff. Now, son,
Maybe i am paranoid, but either Oswald is drugging the RU's population to avoid problems or something went really wrong during Steele's invasion of South America and now the RU has to deal with various types of infectious outbreaks.
 
Well, this is going to be an interesting story.


Maybe i am paranoid, but either Oswald is drugging the RU's population to avoid problems or something went really wrong during Steele's invasion of South America and now the RU has to deal with various types of infectious outbreaks.

Well, they've had a fanatic vaccine program since the Beckie Flu. SIN cards were originally developed to show you had been properly vaccinated and to show your status as a Better.
 
Praised be Jehovah and Burr! It lives!

Now, things went better than I originally expected. The Zealots destroyed Orson's camera, but they let him go. And now, he's ready to write down Andrew's tale. Man, can't wait to read it!
 
This chapter was tactile in all the worst/best ways 😁 . As a born Vermonter, can confirm that tuna sandwiches on toast do as poorly in hot weather as Orson found. That alert that Sheriff Henry got however... maybe its the southern setting, but despite Henry's opinion that it's for bootleggers, I can't help imagining him being called away to help one Buford T. Justice. He's in hot pursuit!
 
PRAISE JEHOVAH! PRAISE THE MARTYR! Praise be, it has returned!

Glad to hear things are settling down in your life, Napo. We'll support you however you decide to deal with them or need another break.
He had never really questioned the system until today. He had never thought twice about the way America was. It was always this way, he thought, as God ordained it. But today had shook him to his core. After having the seeds of doubt planted by Andrew, he was then accosted and had his property destroyed by ORRA and Zealots.
Always the way with so many people, never questioning a horrendous system until it affects them directly.

Well, at lest anti-vaxers aren't a thing in this TL
Oh god! No, the Madnesserse would have anti-anti-vaxxers, insisting you vaccinate your kids to prevent them becoming Inferiors, vaccinating them with all kinds of crap like bleach to "maintain Their Pinnacle Fluidation!"
 
That was an excellent chapter. The Daygone Inn gets a solid "nope" from me. Now that I think about it, is that possibly a Lovecraft reference?
Oh god! No, the Madnesserse would have anti-anti-vaxxers, insisting you vaccinate your kids to prevent them becoming Inferiors, vaccinating them with all kinds of crap like bleach to "maintain Their Pinnacle Fluidation!"
"Drain cleaner cleanses the blood of imperfections, making it truly superior. All Hail!"
 
When Joe Steele handed his regime over to Oswald, was it ever stated what happened to Steele's children? In OTL, Stalin's children lived horrible lives with Yakov failing to kill himself before dying in a concentration camp and Vasily lived in fear while spiraling into alcoholism. I'm guessing that they're killed off pretty quickly by Oswald with Svetlana escaping like in OTL, unless they manage to join Oswald's regime. After all, Vasily's hedonistic tendencies wouldn't seem out of place on Chuck Oswald's cabinet.
 
So what's the most sane nation currently? also what happened to San Marino? otl they were offered territory by france in the napoleonic wars, but they declined so they wouldn't be a part of any italian nationalism
 
First off I wanna apologize for vanishing. I just *really* needed some time to do nothing at all besides my job. My family issues are still massive but I'm getting better, as well.

Second I'm back! Will be answering PMs tonight and working on the next update, which will honestly be when the Pinnacle Future takes off.
It's okay. After all, personal issues are more urgent than satysfing the needs of the "fans".

One question, I know the NUSA and the Oswald administration are the stars of this show, but how much focus will receive the other factions and it's characters?
 
When Joe Steele handed his regime over to Oswald, was it ever stated what happened to Steele's children? In OTL, Stalin's children lived horrible lives with Yakov failing to kill himself before dying in a concentration camp and Vasily lived in fear while spiraling into alcoholism. I'm guessing that they're killed off pretty quickly by Oswald with Svetlana escaping like in OTL, unless they manage to join Oswald's regime. After all, Vasily's hedonistic tendencies wouldn't seem out of place on Chuck Oswald's cabinet.
Oswald will marry Steele's daughter. Yakov doesn't exist ITTL.
 
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