Letters from the Waste: Part VI is the sixth installment in the ongoing Puritan serial. The Order of the American States has been subject to the will of one man for the last few decades, and the other nations and parties of the world navigate the aftermath of the omnipotent. Click here for the previous chapter.
The Order of the American States
Department of Designations
Bureau of the Census
Notification of Birth Registration
This certifies that the following Record of Birth is registered and archived in the office of the Census Registrar of the Order of the American States in New York City.
Name: Mary Lucia Whittaker Sex: Female
Time of birth: April 10, 2055, 7:06 a.m.
Place of birth: Sinai Summit Hospital – Central, New York City, New York
Name of father: Redacted
Name of mother: Grace Mireia Whittaker
Vice Vicar, Census Registrar, New York City
Fragment 0213 – Page 0
[Inscription in front cover of recovered journal]
If you’re reading this, and I really don’t know how you could be reading this, I’m captured or dead. I’m writing these things down so that I can remember everything that I might need to. I need a record to look back on, someday.
[Further down, in blue ink, likely an addition]
This is for you. This is the truth you’ve always wanted. Good luck.
[A patchwork of doodles, chicken scratch, and scattered repetitions of the Latin alphabet, in two discernibly different handwritings, fill out the rest of the page]
Fragment 0213 – Page 17 [Decoded and Translated]
January 19, 2054
Wednesday and I have moved the Sun family from their home in Jiuduhe to the ports of Tianjin. We made excellent time by train, although we had to get off twice just in case we were being tailed. The father was even more paranoid than I am, but I can’t blame him. Our request for back-up was approved, and I ended up using it to help motivate our marks, rather than for protection. The Sun family was hesitant to leave. After having their daughter returned just a year ago, they were not eager to trust anyone, especially a foreigner. The bullets through the window helped persuade them that they were in danger and that W and I could protect them.
Only the child, Sun Ya, did not believe us, even after their home was practically torn to shreds by machine gun fire. She is only six years old, quiet, but firm when she needs to be. She tried to tell her family not to trust us. The mother almost listened. Another spray of bullets above their heads did the trick. I don’t know what happened to her for the two some-odd years she went missing, but she’s the best lead we’ve had since Wisconsin. Better even. Child trafficking is relatively common in China, but the children are almost never seen again, let alone returned to their family homes, in their bedrooms, tucked into their beds. Still, she has yet to demonstrate any abilities, despite the chatter of an incident in the town. She acts like an elderly woman in a girl’s body. She’s grave and sullen and bitter, somehow.
When we got to Tianjin, we checked into the top floor of the most moderately conspicuous hotel that we could find. It only had the two rooms and the bathroom. The two older brothers are sleeping in the bathtub. The family is in the bed. Wednesday’s on the floor and the girl is on the couch, where we can keep an eye on her. I took the best spot in a hotel room: the chair by the window, where I can see everything I might need to. We are near a river, so there’s only really the one street and the docks to watch. Besides snipers, there’s not too much to worry about in the buildings across the Yongding.
Ya doesn’t know it, but I can tell that she still isn’t asleep. Her brothers and parents are. Wednesday is. Ya’s breathing like she’s awake, and I can see her head turned to watch me in the glow of the city lights. That’s alright. I can’t sleep either. We can stay awake together and keep an eye on each other.
The ship we are stowing the family on is set to depart tomorrow at one in the afternoon. Until then, all we can do is wait. I’ve worked aboard the Astrolabe, a private cargo freighter owned by Necessary Motto Shipping, for the last six months. Before that – a time when I was Stanley Reid instead of Rook R and seafaring for the Order was my primary occupation, I never could sleep before a voyage. The morning of, I used to grab a cup of stand-iss coffee from a dispensary near Magnolia and that would be enough. I won’t sleep now. I especially won’t sleep, because I’m nervous about bringing Sun Ya to my employers in the Order. This is the first person we’ve made good on, let alone an entire family. Not quite soon enough, their safety will be the Wheel’s problem and I can go back to working as their tax-free nobody.
To be honest, I enjoy the travel, if not the indentured servitude. Most of my missions just require waiting. I’m good at waiting. I’m better at watching. Just outside the window, I can see thirteen trees waving and swaying outside, indicating wind direction to the northwest. The currents of the river, traced in ripples lit by the incandescent reflections of rotted factory floodlights, flows out left towards the ocean. Across the river, I can see the insides of several apartments: a married couple’s place, one apartment holds an artist and her several acquaintances, and another dimly lit as someone searches for something inside, which, based on how many times they’ve turned their lights on and off in the same rooms, they can’t find it. Further up the road, someone had left their cabin lights on in their car, meaning that their battery might be drained the next morning. They might be late for work. Based on the cheapness of the car, one might assume they could easily be on the brink of losing their job. That’s the interesting part of my job. That’s what made me so perfect for it. Across Ordered territory, people are so used to their homes, their cars, and their food all looking the same, that they can barely survive or appreciate the outside world anymore, let alone the minor details and their significance. Metaphorically speaking, when everything’s been vanilla and white bread your entire life, it’s difficult to appreciate the complexity of the spices of fine dining. I can.
Interestingly, that’s also why I just noticed four identical, black SUV’s turn the corner onto our street.
Fragment 0215 [Translation]
People’s Liberation Army
Da Xiao Sima,
We have tracked the girl and her family to a hotel in Tianjin. She seems to have been moved by, as of yet, two unknown operatives, likely from the Order. They should have stayed away. After the collapse of the building in Jiuduhe, we were willing to send in a small battalion. Now that they are on the run, we must only intensify our efforts further. We are deploying those forces on the hotel at 03:20. While it would be useful to capture the girl, I doubt that that will be the ultimate outcome. It is time to correct the mistakes of the past.
Shang Wei Qiu
Report: China, #003 – BE01192054003
Date: January 18, 2054
Supervising Agent: Sam Dayle, Discrete Auxiliary of Acquisition
Request: Four vehicles for a covert operation, involving the capture and termination of the identified Pariahs; two dozen operating agents from the Order embassy in Beijing; extraction aboard a cargo freighter
Notes: Pariahs tracked to room 633 on the top floor of the Regent 9 hotel on Heyan Street. Extreme caution necessary. Lethal force not only authorized but advised.
Briefing: 01-19-54 02:00:00 LT
Mobilization: 01-19-54 03:15:00 LT
Fragment 0217 – Private Memo, Vicar Donald Cret
The question at hand is simple: how do you kill a man who seems to possess the powers of God? How do you kill a man who, in the last thirty years, has already had 217 failed attempts on his life, not even including the planned attacks?
A normal man would say that you cannot. A desperate man would say that you must. I must. We must.
You cannot poison him. He would simply extract the toxin from his blood stream.
You cannot stab him or shoot him with a gun, because he would bend the blade or stop the bullets.
You can’t drop a bomb on him or anywhere near him, because he can keep it contained or even prevent it from hitting the ground in the first place.
Twenty-three of the attempts on his life over the last thirty years have happened while the Patriarch was sleeping. Nine were bombs. Every time, the Patriarch has survived. One can deduce that sleep is not a reliable defense against his abilities.
Radiation poisoning might work, but it’s too uncertain. Frankly, we have no idea if Wade can heal himself from that kind of damage, and he might locate the apparatus by which we were dosing him before the radiation proved lethal.
The problem is speed. Your attack either has to be so slow that he never notices it or, better, you attack so quickly that he can never hope to stop it.
What is one thing faster than a bullet? Light – after years of researching earlier attempts on the Patriarch’s life, conclusions have been drawn regarding his reflexes. While they are heightened above that of the common mortal, they do not even hope to approach the quickness of light.
We must exploit this weakness. While our plans to secure a rival failed, we are now developing a weapon to defeat him. There is a still much uncertainty.
Nevertheless, there is a still too much left to chance. I would have preferred to use the child.