Entry 22 – Paintjob
Over the last couple of days, several things happened. For one, I moved all my stuff to Perihelion HQ. Hector wasn't really happy but I paid my dues in full and then some. I learned from my mistakes, no loose ends this time. A sleeping pod on one of the top floors became my permanent residence, much to the dismay of the original occupants who were occasionally tripping over army duffle bags scattered around the room.
Secondly, based on the desert experience, I, Jim Twocrows and Gail re-organized the Perihelion force into something resembling a rifle company with fire support and anti-aircraft elements attached to it. We ditched the heavy armor altogether, much to Espinoza's dismay. She felt safe behind thick layers of composite and I couldn't blame her but a tank company is exceptionally difficult to transport and only very few battles actually require that kind of force. Most tasks can instead be handled by fire support vehicles and IFVs and that's pretty much what we got. Faced with Espinoza's protests, Ferguson (calmly, as always) explained that was there ever a need for additional firepower, obtaining local assets would actually be far easier (and considerable cheaper) than arranging a transportation of our own assets overseas.
The third thing was our mission. Preparing for a sortie always bonds people – even the smallest of details are suddenly meaningful, a wrongly applied patch or a sloppy paintjob can mean a difference between life and death.
A few days after the initial briefing, I met Ezra Rosenstein again. My instincts were right – the old coot was far more than he had let on during our first encounter. In fact, his procurement skills allowed the whole operation to begin in the first place. He took us to an abandoned military base near Chicago (currently leased by Perihelion), where he introduced us not only to our new and considerably more modern vehicles, but also to something I was wondering a lot about – the means of transportation.
Murdoch spared no expense, I thought, when I heard (with my mouth slightly open) Rosenstein state that Perihelion actually had its own small navy of two ships – a modified LST and a Hamilton class long-range cutter, both capable of crossing the Atlantic.
In this regard, the plan was notably straightforward. Load up what we can on the LST. With the cutter acting as an escort, sail to Ireland's eastern coast, land the ship there, roll out, complete the mission, fall back to the ship and – mission accomplished. I wasn't looking forward to the two weeks spent sailing but considering how much tech we had to haul with us, it seemed like the only viable option.
Espinoza was unusually quiet the past few days. Ever since that strange evening, nobody mentioned the topic of parallel universes again and any inquiry attempts were met with stern 'not now' so, after a while, I stopped even trying. I'd learn more when the time was right; at least that was my hope.
Fortunately, we had other topics to discuss with old O'Sullivan as he recalled the bloody history of Ireland fighting against British oppression only to end up a corporate property. He actually grew up in Dublin and saw it change first-hand from a capital of a proud nation to an AI-controlled "smart city" where your movement, habits and even facial expressions were constantly monitored and every single action required an electronic pass. The DRUID AI was a merciless master and any unusual behavior triggered an instant response, resulting – in best case – in an unpleasant meeting with corporate enforcers or the police, which was in effect one and the same. At worst, people could disappear for days without their loved ones having a chance to learn about their fate.
Such blatant abuse of power drove many to rebel during a short period nowadays called the New Troubles in hopes of re-creating the spirit of the old Irish resistance. The times have, however, changed, mostly due to new surveillance methods and technologies. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. In the end, the AI-driven counter-terrorist measures were brutally effective to a degree the Nazis or Soviets wouldn't even dream of. Those few escaping the enforcers tried to get to America in hope of starting a new life – precious few made it though, O'Sullivan was one of the lucky ones. Listening to all that made my skin crawl. To me, it looks like O'Neill's long overdue for good kick in the teeth and we might have just the right boot for that.