A quick recap of the premise behind DMZ. At some unspecified time in the mid-noughties a protest movement arose in South West USA calling themselves the "Free States". The installed their own government in Montana and began working their way east while a unprepared US goverment scrambled to get their troops back from the Middle East to fight them. The Free States Army made it to New Jersey and after a disasterous evacuation, around 400,000 people were left stranded in the island of Manhattan. The Free States Army (FSA) and the US Army clashed there, before both withdrawing in a sulky ceasefire leaving the FSA on the East side and the US on the west and a Demilitarised Zone in the middle where the inhabitants make the best of things despite being under constant fear of war breaking out again, which it nearly did in Book 2. Journalist Matty Roth has become something of a spokesman for the DMZ, now filing his stories to anyone who'll take them rather than just Liberty News. In this book we're going to see some undercover journalism from him as he joins the company Trustwell Security, a firm who has won a lucrative contract to rebuild Manhattan, but Matty has suspicions that something nefarious is going on and he's going to find out what, no matter how far he has to go. So without further ado, "Public Works".
The story begins with a news report over images of Matty getting ready for his new job at Trustwell Inc. We are told the U.N has peacekeepers in the DMZ, who traded small arms fire with Trustwell's security forces.
News Report: "No casualties were reported, but this most recent incident further complicates the already uneasy situation both groups find themselves in... providing security for the reconstruction, but answering to different authorities with very different mandates".
Trustwell are under contract from the US Military to repair and reconstruct "select and symbolic reconstruction projects in Manhattan". The U.N are there to monitor Trustwell after complaints involving corrupt business practices and excessive violence.
|Trustwell Security at Ground Zero.|
Scribbled on his hand is the name "Naeir". He looks for him and finds him, a man with a bomb who yells "Allahu Akbar! God is the greatest!" before detonating it. The symbolism of a suicide bomber at Ground Zero was not lost on people. Matty thinks to himself, "Public opnion for the war spiked up a few more points, and there was much rejoicing. I'm only two weeks into this. How jaded am I?"
They got the shit beaten out of them until the U.N forces showed up and processed them under Article 3. Naeir was just a contact, a way to get in deeper, "clearly there was a little more to him than that". He gives a fake name, he was going to be a nobody for the duration, "it sucked".
As he works cleaning, he thinks about why he is here. Trustwell is crooked and everyone knows it, but they've survived countless scandals, investigations, whistle-blowers and left-wing documentaries, "they've been making money from conflict since Kabul and Baghdad". He ponders how he can break them wide open when they have all the right friends in all the right places. After two weeks he was still on the outside, "I needed a way in".
|Matty ponders his next move.|
Kelly herself came to visit him and offered him a way inside Trustwell if he grants IWN the story exclusive. They carry on the discussion post-coitally, she informs him they take in labour off the streets, she can give him a fake travel pass, where to go, how to look. However he'll be cut-off for the duration. Housed, de-bugged and watched constantly. She'll give him her phone number as a fail-safe "and I'll send people to pull you out". He agrees to do it and we rejoin him in the present, schlepping round in scummy water.
He notices two of the workers silent plant a bomb on the boat outside the barracks. Later when they are all eating and the boat is outside Trustwell HQ, one of them reveals a small detonator switch hidden in his food and sets the bomb off.
Matty: "I knew that was a bomb and I knew that was the detonator and I let them go ahead and do it. It was easy. And I felt fucking horrible that I really didn't care so much."
We then get another news report, several terrorist attacks took place that night on various parts of the Trustwell infrastructure. Martial law has been extended while the U.N tries to keep the peace. However the DMZ residents defie this restriction and take to the street to protect Trustwell's human rights abuses.
Trustwell refuse to answer those criticism and call the terrorist attacks "cowardly". Over an image of someone being tortured we are told Trustwell "report no leads or suspects in custody". Work has been halted at Ground Zero and have focused on the Empire State Building which is a sensitive site for New Yorkers and the "presence of Trustwell there is an emotional trigger". But Trustwell aren't backing down.
|Join up, get sexy ladies on tap!|
Matty: "Just like that. One minute I'm on the outside, the next part of a group. A crew. A brotherhood. A cell. Perfect."
The next chapter begins with two U.N soldiers being gunned down in the street, then we return to Matty as he ruminates on being part of a team. He thinks about how he's been a loner for so long that he'd forgotten the sense of belonging and security being part of a group gives you, "especially in a place like the DMZ."
Then one day he's given a rolled up bunch of dollars by the leader. It was because one of them did a "job" earlier today and everyone gets to share in the spoils, "consider it a down payment on your loyalty and silence". Another of the gives Matty two thumbs up saying it makes him "officially one of us".
Matty: "What it made me was officially complicit with a terrorist cell. But I took it anyway".
One night he thinks about the phone hidden under his pillow and how much he wants to call Kelly and have her get him just to see her again.
He thinks about having no name here, no identity, his reason for being there hidden under "so many layers of deception and cover story it was hard to remember it." He repeats "My name is Matty Roth" a hundred times before falling asleep, every night. As he sleeps, we hear another story about a bomb going off near a New York landmark and the U.N forces weariness in keeping the peace between Trustwell and the civilians of the DMZ.
Next day there is an attack on the bus Matty is on and he takes a rifle butt to the head after escaping from it. He wakes up naked, tied to a chair in a freezing room. He has cold water splashed all over him and a man standing before him asks him, "who's your contact?". When Matty refuses to answer the man says Matty's I.D is fake and his name belongs to someone who died six months ago and they have his cellphone. The cold will kill Matty in less than an hour, so who are his friends, who are his contacts?
Finally, weak and exhausted, the masked men drag him out of his cell and force him to kneel and hold a gun to his head. "I was so wrong" he thinks. And he gabbles about the crew of men he joined and being paid by them but not having done anything himself and that's all he knows and please not shoot him. The two men both burst out laughing.
They take their masks off and reveal themselves to be his crew, the ones he just ratted out. "You passed the test" says one of them and now they will answer the very confused Matty's questions. We then cut to Matty in a luxurious bedroom, thinking that "I told them what they wanted to know, but I kept Matty Roth a secret". The whole thing was a test he passed with flying colours, some are willing to die to keep a secret or follow an order, but Matty is someone whose loyalty can be bought with money, "you're no fanatic right? You're a businessman".
Amina tries to make small talk with Matty, then says she thinks he doesn't like her and that sleeping together was a mistake. Matty says it wasn't, but before he can say more it's time for them to go. Elsewhere in the DMZ the U.N are holding a press conference. The are talking about the upsurge in violence and that Trustwell are doing a "superb job" supporting them. This conference is being broadcast live to "show everyone watching that reconstruction projects... are the path to peace. Not a catalyst for violence". And the U.S government are fully behind them.
Then a Trustwell spokesman steps up and says it's an "honour to rebuild some of America's historical treasures". This will help the country heal, they also not tolerate violence towards them and the U.N forces supporting them. Meanwhile Matty is driving with Amina and another of his cell, and putting the picture together in his head.
Matty: "I had stumbled right into the story, except it was turning out to be ten times bigger than what I thought. And a hundred times harder".
Back at the press conference the U.N spokesman is defending Trustwell from accusations of corruption and affirming they have the full confidence of the President.
Back with Matty, he is told that if Amina fails to detonate herself, Matty must use the trigger to do it himself, "we have people watching you. They also have a trigger. So no funny business". Matty is to walk her to the target and make sure the plan executes itself, then he'll get paid.
The press conference is still going on The secretary general of the U.N is now speaking saying "I look to Trustwell to be partners in peace. Anything less than that and I can't help but wonder what our soldiers are risking their lives for". Matty is walking with Amina, they are going to the peace conference of course. But Matty knows they'll never get past the barricade, "and I knew they'd detonate in this crowd if they had to".
|There are limits of what Matty will be party to.|
The U.N secretary general is being driven away and their armoured car drives over an I.E.D which causes the whole convoy to explode. He survives and staggers out the burning wreck, only to be shot by gasmasked men. The cell leader is told, "it's done". Amina finds Matty slumped in an alley and slaps him hard. The chapter concludes with a news report saying the U.N has withdrwan its forces from the DMZ. The head of Trustwell security vows to investigate the attacks and "bring the killers to justice".
The next chapter begins with Amina curled up asleep while Matty sorts out by phone what to do with her. When she wakes he tells her she can go stay with a friend of his called Jamal. Amina accuses him of washing his hands of her and that he's made it impossible to return to the cell. She says it was her business how she wanted to end her life and "I don't even who you are to tell me anything, You lie to me, lie to the others. I'll bet you'll lie to your friend Jamal about me. Do you even know who you are?"
|Trustwell on the rampage.|
Jamal says he can't guarantee her safety if someone in his crew sees profit in selling her out. He want's to know about the story but Matty say it's better he don't know just yet. Jamal agrees to keep her safe for "a week tops". Matty leaves Amina saying her death, when it comes, should mean something, and the people back at Trustwell will kill her, "for no other reason than they're pissed off". As Jamal leaves with Amina he tells Matty to call Zee sometime.
The next few pages are a montage of Trustwell security rampaging through the DMZ killing people left, right and centre while a news report plays over the images. It reports on a conference being attended by various interested parties and begins by saying that the U.N peacekeeping mission has failed, that Americans don't want foreign troops walking the streets. A counter argument is put forward that Trustwell needed the cover of the U.N. but are now being allowed total discretion in how they operate.
Now with the absence of any oversight, "it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better". There is now chaos on the steets and Trustwell "may see opportunities there". Someone then defends Trustwell saying they are doing what they need to do to fight the Free States and carry out the reconstruction. But someone accuses Trustwell of carrying out "collective punishment. In effect letting everyone know there is a new sheriff in town". At the end of the day, when reconstruction is complete, the residents of the DMZ will be the ones to "tell us if it was worth it or not".
|The FSA commander and Danzinger.|
He tells Matty he just plays Trustwell Security but is a loyal Free Stater. He also manages the cell Matty joine confirming Matty's suspicions that Trustwell is behind the "terrorist" attacks on itself an the U.N. He says hiring a group of "raghead terrorists to fuck shit up for you, create demand for your services" has lead to them taking charge of the city now.
Matty asks why attack the U.N? Danzinger says Trustwell didn't need them anymore. The Iraq war taught everyone that "hit 'em hard enough and they'll cut and run". Matty is rendered speechless with rage, Danzinger agrees it's deplorable, "what some motherfuckers won't do for a little job security".
Later Matty sits alone, thinking about what Danzinger, told him. It was all off the record sadly, so he needs a way to verify what he was told. He's in a mess right now, can't show his face to the cell, Trustwell, Liberty News, his friends. Only one person left, he calls up Kelly Colloney and tells her everything, "my first honest, open conversation with a friend in weeks".
A bit later one of the cell tracks him down and attacks him with a knife calling him a "traitor". Matty manages to fight him off, using his knife on him. He wonders how they found him, then realises they bugged his phone while they were torturing him. And in a panic he realises they heard his conversation with Kelly and know where Jamal and Amina are, so he races off to find them.
|Jamal's self sufficient camp.|
Jamal tells him that the Free States brought with them the workers being used in the so-called terrorist cells. Matty goes outside and angrily confronts Danzinger over this. The Free States commander calms Matty down and says this is part of the "plan". It's about a post-Trustwell Manhattan, everyone of his friends will be safe, this is only temporary.
The commander says a power vacuum is coming, now they have the worker cells they have Trustwell by the balls, Danzinger got them out before they could be "liquidated". Matty says "... you're going to sell them back to Trustwell" and the commander says they'll be bought, "every single one".
Matty thinks "fuck that". It was the second time the FSA had him playing propaganda machine. He is told everything about Trustwell and what they told the worker cells to do, and the FSA want to use it as a bargaining chip to gain ground and power in the DMZ.
Matty: "The idea of all this time I invested, the people I lied to, betrayed, put at risk. All for a story that was being stolen right before my eyes. I couldn't bear it".
So he held up his phone hidden under the mike used to record the testimony of one of the cell members, he hit redial and it went straight through to Kelly at I.W.N, "and she got her exclusive".
|You couldn't do that with a Smartphone.|
Matty thinks to himself that for the first time he felt he owned the title of journalist, the commander could have pulled the trigger then "and I would have died with that huge grin on my face". He might have been killed right then, we'll never know because the U.N arrive in helicopters and the FSA commander runs off. The U.N trooper who runs over to Matty says "a lot of very powerful people are going to be very grateful to you, Mr.Roth. You should put some thought into what you'll ask for in return". Matty knows, he wants Amina left alone.
When the U.N are gone with the Trustwell cell members Matty tells Amina she is free, no one is going to detain or prosecute her. She can do whatever she wants. Bitterly she asks him what she is "free" to do. Starve to death? Take a random bullet?
Amina: "If that's freedom, I wish I had never met you, Matty. I wish I'd given my life as I always wanted. I could be in heaven, with a peaceful mind. Away from this horrible, horrible world. What could possibly be more free than that?"
Matty tries to tell her she can stay with her, but she sadly tell him to forget about her, "at least then I can be free of you". And Matty has no reply to that as she walks away from him.
Matty watches her as she leaves and realises that the one advantage of working undercover was that you got to be someone fictional, "but then when it ends, and you come back to reality... the repercussions are unavoidable".
|Manly tears Matty?|
Two months later Matty is doing some shopping in the market when he sees a tatty woman foraging for food in the nearby bins. With horror he realises its Amina. Aghast he watches her kneeling eat something she found, then he just dumbly watches as she wanders off dragging a bunch of possession behind her, before taking a call on his phone and turning away from her retreating form. The end.
|THERE ARE NO HAPPY ENDINGS IN THE DMZ!!|
An exciting storyline that looks at how both the U.N. and Private Military Contractors would operate in a place like the DMZ. However, this is still more a story about Matty's evolution as a journalist. By presenting a mystery with a conspiracy that could be seen as entirely credible, we get to see him spend prolonged amounts of time undercover, survive days of physical and mental torture and not give up his real identity, be forced into a moral quandry regarding maintaining that cover, and finally stop himself being the Free States chewtoy by cleverly breaking the story via his trusted contact. One of the most interesting parts of the story is Amina, she shows that sometimes there are no happy endings in the DMZ. Matty did what was right by her and she still would rather have died a martyr even though what she was dying for was manipulative bullshit. This is not the last we'll see of her, but for now she remains testement to the notion you can have done everything you possible could for a person and still have it suck. Once again Matty's journalistic zeal maintains the balance of power in the DMZ. Was the commander right? Could they have really ended the war if they had done things his way and blackmailed Trustwell? We'll never know, he is obviously pretty self-serving and biased Matty can therefore be justified in taking the least-worst line, which is mainatining the status quo... for now. Join me in a few days time for more DMZ.