Billie and Johnny and the War of the Machines - Chapter I
"What's for dinner?"
"Beans. Can of baked beans. Again."
"Cool. Let's eat."
I sat down to dine with Johnny in his farmhouse deep in the woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Our dinner was by candlelight, and through the open window and the darkness outside, we heard the rustling of wildlife while we breathed in the fresh, cool woodland air.
"When do you think Nancy will get back?" I asked. Nancy was Johnny's wife. She had traveled to Toledo on matters of much importance.
"I don't know and I don't care," said Johnny, spitting out beans in anger as he spoke. "She wants to go out and get a job, I won't stop it but I won't condone it, either. Women should be in the home, cooking and cleaning for their man. My woman wants to run around like a feminist feminazi--whatever. I guess I have to make do with you. That sucks."
"You want to play Risk?" I asked.
"Of course!" yelped Johnny. "Right damn now!"
We threw our bowls and what food remained in them out the window and set up the board game.
The Last Free Land
Johnny and I played Risk throughout the night. Normally we play with Nancy and gang up on her early on, so when it's just the two of us we set aside a third of the territories for a neutral army that only stays on defense. Then we would ally to quickly wipe the neutral army off the map.
"Ha ha," I would say as I took Central America from the neutral army. "The Gray skinned people have lost more land to the superior Green race, who can now spread out furthur to live and breed. The Grays who once ruled Central America will be exterminated. The men will be executed, the boys castrated and sold into slavery along with the women."
"The genocide of the Grays must be total," said Johnny as he eyed the Gray held territory of Congo. "They are sub-human dogs who must be put down. My own empire of the Red people are more deserving of the natural resources held by the Grays. The Red people are a superior race, we must have breeding room!"
"The Red people are very impressive, both mentally and physically. However, the Green people are a proud and healthy race with a glorious history that rivals all others."
"I would agree with that," Johnny said as he stroked his chin. "The Reds and Greens are both the superior race for their parts of the world. It's like when the Nazis decided the Japanese were the Aryans of Asia."
"That's exactly what I was thinking."
We heard a knock on the door and a horse braying.
"There's a horse at the door," I told Johnny.
"Not another one!" he said and then answered the door.
The horse had a man attached it, a short man with a comical moustache.
"Are you Johnny Dangerous?" he asked.
"Call me Mr. Johnny Dangerous," Johnny told him.
"Mr. Johnny Dangerous," the man began. "I have traveled many hundreds of miles. We need your help. Your wife has been taken prisoner by the Machines."
The year is 2021. Skynet has obliterated civilization and destroyed the major cities with nuclear weapons. Half of humanity was killed in an instant. The humans that were not killed now hide from the Machine army which hunts them down and rounds them up in extermination camps for orderly disposal. A small group of humans fight on in the Resistance. Most of the world was devastated by Skynet. However, the Upper Peninsula remained mostly unaffected, and life went on the same as it did in the year 2000, or 1950, or 1850.
"It's a good thing other people always assumed no one lived in the UP," Johnny would remark. "We were able to keep out of trouble that way. Skynet thinks all it'll find up here are deer and outhouses, which is kind of true."
"Yes," I would agree. "Plus, Skynet took over the world by infecting every computer in the world via the internet. But a lot of people up here don't own computers and most of those who have one still use those grey box PCs that run Windows 98, which were too old and slow to install Skynet. And even the people who have more modern computers had them so crowded with viruses and spyware and porn that the Skynet program couldn't even make room for itself. It's hard to infect a computer that is already infected by 500 other viruses."
"Do you know how long it takes to download Skynet over a 56k modem?" Johnny would ask. "Like, a long time. I once tried to download some Hamtaro episodes in Japanese over dial up. It took four days to get one episode and I had to not use my phone that entire time. But it was worth it, baby. It was so worth it."
"I mean, having the rest of the world pretty much destroyed sucked," I would say. "But the UP never had much of an economy or contact with the outside world, so you don't really notice it much up here. Sure, all the people who had their Social Security and welfare checks cut off noticed and are still bitching about it."
"Yeah," Johnny would say, "but they were complaining about 'that n-word Obama' even before the world ended."
The man on the horse introduced himself as Reggie, one of Nancy's comrades in their Resistance cell. Nancy had believed in the cause of the Resistance while we had laughed in her face and given her nookies over it, until she got fed up with us spending everyday playing Risk and eating beans that she went downstate with a like minded group of people to join the fight against the Machines.
"We had managed for several months to hit the Machines in guerrilla attacks," Reggie explained. "We even liberated an extermination camp. That was Nancy's plan. She saved hundreds of lives."
"She can do all that,"Johnny quipped sarcastically, "but can never remember to empty out the litter box before I complain about the smell."
"Why don't you ever change the litter box?" I asked Johnny.
"Because it's gross."
Reggie stared at us for a minute before continuing, "We made our base in Toledo. Skynet had wiped out Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, but left Toledo alone."
"You always forget about that other city in Ohio," I said.
"I've never heard of any of those places," said Johnny.
Reggie rolled his eyes. You could see he wasn't sure if traveling all this way was a good idea. "We were succeeding." he went on. "Maybe too well because the Machines came after us. They attacked our base. The soldiers that weren't killed were captured. I was the only one who managed to escape. I fled on horseback all the way up here."
"Why?" Johnny asked.
"Nancy and the other Yoopers told us stories about how heavily armed people up North were, how the average home had a dozen rifles and people would openly talk about shooting Michael Moore. We need the firepower this region has."
"But why should we help?" Johnny asked.
"You mean in addition to saving the human race?" Reggie asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Because Nancy is still alive. She was among those captured. If you help me, we can rescue her. But we don't have much time."
"If I see her, I can get laid!" Johnny squealed.
"Can I watch?" I asked.
"You always do!" Johnny said as we high-fived. "Let's go."
Reggie was speechless.
Our Journey to Toledo
Before we ventured into Machine controlled territory, we needed weapons. The only guns we had were plastic with orange tips, but we knew someone who had a lot of real guns. Argus Andersun was a neighbor of Johnny's who lived in a cabin a mile or so deeper in the woods. He was a 66-year-old retired miner who liked to keep to himself and owned a great deal of firearms, as well as vintage erotica. We rode on Reggie's horse. He was in the front, Johnny in the back and Johnny made me ride in the middle cause that was, as he called it, "the bitch seat."
Argus welcomed us into his home, though he didn't actually get up from his recliner. There was a young man with a goatee who opened the door. Argus introduced him.
"This is my grandson, Tyler. He's a liberal so don't shake his hand because it can be contagious."
Tyler explained that he was a college student from the University of Michigan who was visiting his grandfather when Judgement Day occurred. Since his school was destroyed, they was no way to return and he's been here ever since, helping take care of his grandpa.
Argus offered us some beer, but we refused. When Johnny and I drink, we end up making out...at a minimum. Despite having been cut off from civilization for years, you could always find a fresh can of beer in the UP. We didn't know where it all came from.
"Sure, you can take my guns," said Argus. "Barack HUSSEIN Obama wasn't able to get his hands on them and I ain't going to use them, so take all ya want. And you can borrow my pickup too. It's a Ford, not one of those Government Motors electric hybrids Obama ordered them to build, so this kid doesn't want to drive it."
Tyler rolled his eyes. "You're still going on about Obama."
"Damn right I am," ranted Argus in between sips of beer. "You put all your hope in the 'Anointed One'--blah--change. Yeah, he brought change, socialist Muslim change. The whole dang country was destroyed, just like Glenn Beck said would happen."
"You're blaming all this on Obama?!" Tyler yelped. "This isn't Obama's fault!"
"Oh no?" said Argus.
"No," replied Tyler. "This is Bush's fault!"
"Oh there you go again. When are you liberals going to stop blaming Bush for everything?"
"Never," replied Tyler. "Skynet was Bush's fault. Billions of dollars were wasted on that program during the Bush administration. Obama wanted to shutdown Skynet before it became sentient, just like he wanted to close Guantanamo Bay, but the Republicans in Congress obstructed him and filibustered any attempt to stop funding Skynet."
"That's bull. Obama hated our military so much that he thought some big government program could make better decisions than our soldiers in the field. Skynet was just another failed big government stimulus program, like ACORN."
"No, the Republicans destroyed the word!" Tyler shouted.
"No," Argus snapped back, "the Democrats destroyed the world!"
While they were arguing, the three of us loaded all of Argus's weapons into his pickup.
"It's weird," said Johnny as we were loading the truck, "how people are still going on about whether Bush or Obama is to blame. Cyberdyne Systems began researching Skynet under a Defense Department contract during the Regan administration and the whole project was taken over by government when Bill Clinton was president. Really, those two are more to blame than anybody for the mess that resulted."
"Yeah," I agreed. "Fuck both of those guys with a big black dick."
It was more than a twelve hour drive to Toledo. Reggie drove the pickup though the backwoods to avoid any Machines. Johnny and I passed the time by talking about many things, mostly TV shows from the 90s and fond memories of internet porn, but also the current state of affairs.
"Why did you join the Resistance?" I asked Reggie. Johnny and I had refused to talk to him for the first several hours, but I was bored.
"I wanted to help humanity," Reggie replied. "It's something I believed in."
"I never thought much of the Resistance," said Johnny. "You ever notice how all of the leadership used to live in the same neighborhood in Los Angeles in 2004?"
"There's a lot of nepotism in the Resistance," I replied. "Unless you're in tight with John Connor, like, knew him way back before Judgement Day, you won't advance very far up the ladder."
"Oh, are you a skilled military guy? Think you'll make a good leader in the fight to save humanity? Too bad, see you didn't go to high school in LA in 2003."
"I don't even know how all of those people survived LA getting nuked. Were they on a field trip to the desert that day?"
"I wish I was playing Risk right now," said Johnny.
"Do you?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied.
"Do you really wish you playing Risk?"
"I said yes."
"Do you really, really wish you playing Risk?"
"Fuck off and die."
I knew that was the signal to reach into my backpack and pull out my well worn copy of that board game.
Johnny squealed in delight to see what I was packing. We knew we didn't have room to play in the cabin, so I opened the back window and we squeezed through the hatch into the cargo bed. Reggie was annoyed by this, but didn't say anything. It was hard to play a board game in the back of a moving pickup, but we made it work, damn it, we made it work.
We weren't even to the Ohio border when it started to get dark. Reggie didn't want to drive at night, saying it would make it easy for the Hunter-Killers to find us, but we knew it really was because he was a wuss. And we told him so. He turned onto a crumbling road that was once part of a freeway. Soon we were in Detroit, or what was left of it. The destruction stretched as far as we could see, miles of collapsed buildings, fires that raged everywhere, and no people in sight. It was the first time Johnny or I had really seen the devastation that Skynet had brought on the world.
"No, this is how Detroit looked before Judgement Day," Reggie said. "Skynet didn't attack Detroit. It felt that would be redundant."
To be continued...