Monday, 1 May 2017

DMZ Book 7: War Powers (#35-41)

"Once again, I achieve outsider status" - Matty Roth

It's more DMZ time.  Set in a noughties USA where the midwestern states seceeded and set themselves up as the Free States movement, this series has been exploring what life is like in a wartorn demilitarised zone as the Free States and U.S army observe a sullen ceasefire either side of the DMZ. This DMZ is the island of Manhattan, which was not fully evacuated when the Free States made it as far as there.  Nearly half a million people are trapped there trying to survive day-to-day under fire from both sides as well as the villianous Trustwell company working on reconstruction of various New York landmarks.  In the last volume a new power player appeared on the scene, charismatic demagogue Parco Delgado and his Nation of Delgado party who won the first elections run in the DMZ and who is now governer of what's left of Manhattan island.  Embedded journalist Matty Roth has been filing stories on various goings on in the DMZ for two years but has fallen completely under Parco's spell, losing his journalistic objectivity in the process.  This volume contains the two parter "The Island" which sees Matty doing some proper journalism drawn by Kristian Donaldson.  The four parter "War Powers" drawn by regular artist Riccardo Burchielli which follows Parco Delgado's first weeks in power and finally "ZEE, DMZ"  drawn by Nikki Cook which is another Zee Hernadez focused one-shot.  So let's begin.

THE ISLAND: We join Matty taking a boat out to Staten Island, it's a place that never seems to come up when people talk about the war, "but you'd think it would".   It's part of the DMZ and has the highest concentration of U.S. troops in the whole war. "What happens here?" he thinks as he arrives to find everyone partying, "why so many guns but so little noise?"
Welcome to The Island.
He's greeted by a soldier who calls him over excitedly to see his friends tracer firing. He steps over squaddies sleeping on the ground he decides it's "time to get my hustle on". He's always thought troops on the frontline have adrenaline overiding all their other functions:

Matty: "But troops stationed  somewhere, on base, standing by, keeping watch... what's that all about?  What's their P.O.V? What's it like to get this close to Manhattan and all you can do is stare across the harbor? Beyond the rah-rah shit, beyond the shit talk, beyond the soundbites.... these invisible troops in the forgotten borough.  What's their deal?"

He shares a cup of coffee with a female soldier as they watch the sun rise over Manhattan.  She tells him "I don't fuck anyone who can't kick my ass.  No offense" to a surprised Matty who just wanted coffee.

She then tells him to relax, she's just messing with him.  She knows he's going out with "that weird chick, the medic?  Saw you guys on TV at some Parco rally".  Does Zee know he here?  Matty says yes.  She hands him some binoculars and points him towards a boat full of Free State soldiers.  They fish there every morning.  

Matty asks if they aren't planting mines or putting divers in the water.  The soldier says no, why would he say that "you have something against them or something?"  She tells him he's paranoid and tells him to refill her coffee and wake some more people up.
Checking out the Free States/
At headquarters Matty is told by the commander there that this place is in a complex situation, "lots of grey area.  Lots of... operational leeway".  He tells Matty when the war ends will they want half the population pissed off at them?  Matty says he's heard how the country needs to heal, but know one seems to know how.  But here apparently it's been figured out.

The commander says they chose not to fight, although that's off the record.  One day he sent some booze over to the FSA to say "what's up? Easy right?"  Matty thnks he did indeed make it that easy.

Matty: "It was one of the most beautiful ideas I've heard of since I've been in the DMZ.  And one of the most insane, most ludicrious, at the exact time...Their faith in the arrangement is total.  Nothing is off-limits, everything is open.  These soldiers are friends... and why not?"

The FSA arrive in boats bringing bags that Matty thinks could have explosives in it but in fact booze, junk food, pirate dvds and music. The U.S. army has more women than the FSA, the U.S. swap uniforms and dogtags with them, I.D. and code words, "things that would terrify the leadership... Free States troops in U.S. ranks?"

Matty: "Defecting? Sabotage? We're all so alike it hardly seems to matter, this close up."

He still has the words in his head about the end of the war where everyone is still an American.   These soldiers are thinking ahead, "refusing to buy the premise of the war".   They collude on falsifying reports and have an "extraordinary level of trust".
Sharing a moment.
As he and another soldier watch fires burning over in Manhattan, Matty wonders how much of this can go on the record, he doesn't want to spoil a good thing.  The soldier hands Matty a message, it's from the Free States leadership for Parco via Matty. Later Matty is snoozing when an alarm is sounded.  He picks up his camera and goes to investigate but is told to put it away by the commander or "I'll kick the living shit out of you myself! Off the record".

All the Free States soldiers have been lined up against the wall or are kneeling on the ground, "we didn't do shit.. we didn't do shit" says one of them as a rifle is pointed at him.  The commander asks Matty if anyone of them stole something last night?  Matty can't think of anything.  Turns out what's missing is a vial of ricin which the commander had as a souvenir of a prior posting.

It was sealed up in his safe but now it's gone and "some sniffer drone is gonna pick it up and then we're all fucked".  He realises what he has to do and orders his men to hood and shackle the Free State soldiers. "The war is on" says the sergeant in charge.
It all goes wrong.
The Free Staters are put in orange jumpsuits and caged.  The commander asks Matty where he was last night and does he need to searche his belongings.   He says to Matty not only is the poison a bioweapon on the loose, but also  "this brotherhood... it's all gonna unravel. Fuck." He hurls his stress ball at the wall yelling "I want answers Roth!"  Matty says this isn't helping.  But he thinks the commander did a wonderful thing here and he means it.  The commander starts to cry and Matty gives him a hug and says "there, there".

Matty: "I grew up on Long Island, and spent the last three years living in an active warzone.  And I can safely say I've never seen people this seriously batshit fucking crazy".

Back where the Free Staters are being held, the U.S. soldier guarding them shares a cigarette with one of them.  The FSA soldier says it's "fucking bullshit" they've been getting fucked together for months.   The U.S. soldier agrees but says it's war.  They could have coasted to the end of the war but all it would have taken is for a new commander to be assigned and it would all be over.

The FSA soldier says if it had to end with them on the shitty side of the chainlink fence, he'd be damned if he'll agree they're winning was inevitable.  He says the U.S. army here is a joke, "a couple hundred half-assed faggots guardiing this whole island. We could have invaded this shit years ago".   The U.S. soldier asks how the fucking Free States look "from the inside of a dog kennel?"  He asks for his zippo back saying "America man.. love it or leave it".
Someone else being tortured for a change.
The U.S. army start torturing the Free Staters.  Matty has to block his ears so he can't hear people having their fingernails torn out and knuckles broken. "This feels like a bad movie" he thinks to himself.   The commander comes in looking defeated saying he's not very good at all this.  He tells Matty not to look in the torture room and he goes for a lie down.

Above Staten Island is a satellite, a U. S. military survelliance station.  It reports that Staten Island has failed to log in. This sends a stealth plane down to fly in low and check things out.  It comes down to the level of the Island, a soldier gives them the thumbs up and tells them it's just tech difficulties.  The plane leaves, but the soldier tells someone else they need the commander to file a status pronto.

Two Free Staters are being menaced by huge dogs on leashes, they wet themselves in fear as the U.S. soldiers laugh.  Then one of then accidentally lets go of the leashes... other FSA soldiers have been hooded and strung upside down.  One of the U.S. soldiers talks to them through a megaphone saying "this is fucked up.  I mean fucked up in like a hundred different ways. You guys are our friends."

Command in Brooklyn know something isn't right going on and the FSA probably think the same.  So they need to work together to find the ricin, even though things will never be the same again between them.  They have commited treason and a bioweapon is on the loose "they're gonna bring the hammer down unless we all start working together".  The commander is no longer in charge "our boss is done".  If they free the Free Staters will they help them out, all grunts together?  Please?
Commander Dick Move strikes.
So they free them and everyone looks and the vial is found.  Then the commander blows off the head of one of the FSA and laughs.   The U.S. soldiers can't believe he did that. 

Matty: "Are you insane? They worked together, they found the vial, no violence, no blame... they had a truce. Everyone could have walked away.  Business as usual. No one had to die!"

The commander says he forgives Matty ignorance, but there is a chain of command.  No truce unless he says so. No collusion with the enemy, no justice that he doesn't hand down.

He orders Matty's belongings searched and all tapes he's made here destroyed.   He never been more than a guest of the United States military, "consider that if you ever find yourself tempted to talk about what you saw here."  Matty is hustled out, his belongings tossed to him as he sits in a boat.  The soldier taking him back to Manhattan asks where he wants to go, Matty says someplace quiet.  His friends "can wait a little while longer".  End of arc.

WAR POWERS: A shabby looking Matty arrives in the DMZ through a U.S. army checkpoint.  He's being driven in a taxi by a Rastafarian who asks if he is THE Matty Roth who is "hooked up with Parco?" DMZ royalty he goes on to say. He drops him as far as he can, Matty pays him and when he is asked where he's been he thinks he's been away "too long it seems".

He enters his flat and finds a message pinned up in the bathroom which says "You Lied To Me."  As he sits on the toilet a Liberty News broadcast tells us that not thirty minutes into his new administration, Parco Delgado was in front of the cameras rejecting the provisional nature of his position, and announcing several major changes  to the delicate balance of holding the city together.

He claimed a landslide victory in the polls and has a "bulletproof" mandate Delgado declared his administration 100% valid, 100% in power and 100% accountable to the people.   He then intsructed the U.S. and the Free States to withdraw all thair personnel within ten days.  Also he cancelled all Trustwell's reconstruction contracts and any remaining operatives will be regarded as "enemy combatants".   Trustwell is toxic and has ten hours to get out, "I have a city to protect.  I have a people to protect" he declares.
Zee quits.
We then cut to Zee, she's walking to uptown Manhattan.   The people on the checkpoint say they can't protect her past that point.  Then they get orders that Parco wants no one in or out, but they let Zee go anyway.  A riot breaks out, Matty thinks that the DMZ he returned to "bore little resemblance to the one I left. Was I bitter?"

He muses that he was away too long for his friends, Parco and Zee especially. He thinks it isn't like the block party where he hung out with the man he liked. He's barely seen him, "but that didn't stop him from putting me to work. Dispatch. Messages. Interoffice mail. Fucking shit work".  With the city in chaos he ended up saying "fuck it".
Going to meet Parco.
He gets caught up in a rioting mob, curled in the foetal position, Parco's soldiers find him.   They take him and clean him up as Parco wants to see him asap.   "Not Zee" he thinks "but the next best thing right?"  He is taken to where Parco is and enters his office and Parco greets him effusively.

He says Matty must have a lot of questions, but he has some for him.  What can he tell him about the Chinatown gold?   Matty says it's an urban myth supposedly stockpiled before the initial invasion.  People have been looking for it for years, but no one has found it.   Parco says he thinks it's real and Wilson is the one who has it.

Matty loses is temper saying Parco told him he wanted to help him rund the city but all he's had him doing is grunt work and he never sees him, "and mom?  What are you still doing here?"  Parco asks her to give him and Matty a moment.  He says he's been using Matty to handle the flow of information, "the whole political shit, it's a nest of vipers on a good day".  Also he just issued eviction notices for three armed factions in the DMZ including the army of the USA.

Matty says he's Parco's press guy, does he think he'd be where he is without him?  Parco says bluntly that Matty got him exposure and access where he had no access and exposure.  "And now? " growls Matty. Parco says Matty is a symbol of the city like he is.  But he's global now and needs more than local hood recognition.  Madeleine is handling  his message, she has the connections and the knowledge. But he also needs Matty:

Parco: "I need to back up my words with power. I have my militia and for now world opinion is on my side.  But I need undeniable power, tangible assets, and loyal people working for me. And how do I get that?  I need that gold Matty.  And I know Wilson's got it".

Parco says he's the true face of the DMZ, Matty's mum might be the mouth of his administration but Matty can still be its beating heart.
Two scary guys.
Matty thinks about the legend of the Chinatown gold., he was surprised to hear Parco bring it up like he believed it existed. He might be desperate, grasping at straws, "but he just smiles that steady smile of his, so impossibly fucking cool about everything" that he doesn't doubt the gold exists and is waiting for him to find it.

He wonders about Parco's wanting tangible assets.  His militia is thousands strong but although they love Parco, there is a sense this is all just a game to them.   They feel part of something important, "when does the bloom come off the rose?  When people start trying to kill them".

The Trustwell deadline has ended, they didn't quit the city fully.  Everyone knows the strike teams, field agents, spies and informants are still scattered amongst the populace. Now he's about to add another enemy to the list, Wilson.   He walks into Chinatown and Wilson is there waiting for him.  Matty says he missed him.  Wilson responds, "yeah yeah... long time no talk to, blah blah blah.  What do you want Matty?"

The next couple of pages are Matty narrating the state of things on the ground in the DMZ, summarising events so far. Parco won the election despite a smear campaign and an assassination attempt.  In his first month in office he kicks out the U.S. army, The Free States and Trustwell from the DMZ.  He consolidates his power in an area known as "Parco city", checkpoints are everywhere, but beyond them life in the DMZ is as rough as its ever been.

The other players might have pulled out but everyone knows they've left operatives in the DMZ and the are watching Parco Delgado for any sign of weakness.   Any sign his popular support is cracking. "Any whiff of corruption" and any chance of getting in to finish the job the assassin failed to do.
Negociating with Wilson.
Parco needs to shore up his defences and that will cost money. Money he thinks the Chinatown mob boss Wilson has.  Matty is eating alone with him in his restaurant.  Wilson says no one is stupid enough to ask him about the Chinatown gold, except Matty - "always the tourist, yes. You lucky, man."

He tells Matty that most people don't want to know if it's real or they'll risk electrodes to the nutsack to get the location out of him.  "Pfft. Matty Roth... he always gotta know." sighs Wilson.  Matty says they are both in the same boat, surviving, looking out for number one. He then pleads with Wilson saying the DMZ under Parco has a sense of hope again. There's a real chance of ending the war, but Parco needs money. "He needs the gold Wilson" he begs.

Wilson asks Matty if he ever wondered where he got the fresh food from.  You can't eat a gold brick, "think about that when you wonder why Parco can't hold his hoods."  He then says he will make a deal with Matty but not with Parco. The gold exists it was in a bank and wasn't moved in time before the invasion. U.S. troops came to retrieve it, instead they levelled the building, "burying it so they can come back in good time and take it out themselves".
A deal is struck.
They were too slow and Wilson owned that block from his Triad days.  He watched and waited and then dug it out and hid it somewhere else, "it's a lot of fucking gold Matty".  He spread it around Chinatown where it was a safe as it would be in any bank.  Then suddenly some of Parco's soldiers tries to sneak in through the kitchen and gets a face full of noodles for their trouble.  Wilson's bodyguards rush to restrain the men.

The men are bound and gagged.  Wilson says Parco had a plan b. Maybe he didn't have much faith in his "best buddy" Matty. Wilson tells Matty he is fucked, he's got to deliver the gold, "so if you help me, I help you. You follow?"  Parco will keep sending men and a "stupid bullshit gang war" is not something Wilson wants.   So he will give some gold to Matty.  All he can carry and tell Parco that's all there is.  Matty asks if he can afford to give away that much.  Wilson grins and says "you have no idea how much gold I got do you?"

Later, Matty laden down with gold, bids Wilson farewell.  He tells Matty they are still cool, but he doesn't want to get involved with Parco and his shit.  He wishes Matty the best of luck and not to get killed.  Matty calls for an escort from parco, but they get ambushed and Matty drops a bag as he runs for the vehicle.  He is told to run back and get it. There is a sniper firing on them, so the commander of his extraction team blows the building up.

He walks dazed back to the bag but someone has beaten him to it.  It's the Free States who Parco sent to get him.  Matty waves a gun at the commander who notes how unusual it is to see Matty Roth armed. They did a deal with Parco so they aren't going to take the gold and abandon Matty, "what's good for Parco Delgado is good for the Free States of America".
The FSA to the rescue.
Matty keeps his gun trained on the Free States commander, he's a "slimy fucking bastard who has used me, threatened me, manipulated me, and tried to kill me and my friends several times over".  He tells Matty he's his knight in shining armour and he can call Parco to confirm it.

Free States Commander: "You know, as happy as I am to see you like this... I'm still shocked you spent two years trying so fucking hard with that journalistic integrity shit  I mean it, you were really working it.  And now look at you, all tucked up in Parco Delgado's pocket".

His collection of the gold is confirmed, the Free States are to escort them in. The Free States commander holds out his hand to Matty who reluctantly grasps it and pulls him up. "You may carry a weapon" the commander says, "but you're still the same fucking pussy you always were." And Matty is left standing alone in the street as the others move out.

He joins the group travelling with the gold, it makes him think of the old days. "Men killed and died for it.  Loyalties became suspect.  Allegiances, even the most rock solid... could unravel in the time it took to name a price." he muses to himself as they travel through the broken streets.

Two of the men get into an altercation, Delgado Nation versus Free States. The commander tells them to put aside their differences for now, "put your personal grudges aside".   He orders Matty to have his men finds a place they can hunker down until first light. 

They hole up in an abandoned bar, the commander tells Matty his men are protecting the gold, "so lower the fucking gun and let's talk like a human being".  Matty thinks it was hard choking that one down and not spit it back in his face.   On the other hand he did save his ass, he thinks. Time ticks by as they wait for reinforcements from Parco.  But no one comes.
Matty and the Commander chat.
Matty decides to ask what's in it for the Free States working with Parco Delgado.  He could have jacked the gold and be back in New Jersey by now. The commander says "our reward is in heaven Roth, not on this Earth".   He then says he was simply hired to do the job.  He knew big changes were coming and offered his services as a "security consultant".

Matty calls bullshit saying doesn't he have a revolution to run?  Are the Free States recognising Parco's government as legitimate?   The commander replies that the government has its hands full over Parco's popularity overseas.  Trustwell is a powder keg waiting to go up, "so what's best for us is to just maintain and do what we can to keep the chaos going."  Matty wants to know why he's telling him this.

Free States Commander: "Why isn't it obvious Mr. Journalist?  You know it doesn't seem like Parco's told you anything about what he has planned".

First light Parco sends out a patrol that picks them all up, complete with air support. Matty thinks to himself that the DMZ at night is not a good place to be walking around.

Parco calls Matty and asks if everything is still cool.  Matty says it is apart from the things that aren't.   He wants to know why he cut a deal with the Free States commander.  Parco apologises for not telling him. The commander did what he did to protect the gold like they agreed to. The gold is a foundation, for creating power to acomplish everything he and Matt set out to do.

Now he has the gold what is Matty to do now? Parco says he's holding a few bags back for Matty to take to a guy for him.  "Don't worry! You'll be among friends" he reassures Matty, well familiar faces at least.   "Surprise" says the FSA commander and they go driving off through the city.  Matty catches up on some sleep, then the commander wakes him up as they are at their destination.
Uh-oh this can't lead to anything good.
Much to Matty's surprise the gold they have is being delivered to the Ghosts of Central Park (see Book 1).  Soames is there and tells Matty to follow him. He takes Matty to a pit where he has something that Parco wants.  They have a nuclear device.  "You just bought it" says Soames, "try not to set of armageddon on your way back downtown, Okay, Matty?"

Parco calls Matty to ask is he has his cargo, Soames tells Matty they have to install shielding in his humvee so it's safe to transport.  A  downcast Matty says he can't believe all this.  "It's a situation of your own making" Soames tells him.  Matty asks him where the hell he got a nuclear bomb from.

Soames: "Let's just say: we heard about it and captured it.  We hid it and the original owners shut the fuck up about it.  Since it's a P.R. disaster and then some.  Say what you will about us... we're far better caretakers of the fucking thing than the other would have been".

But now they are selling it to Parco, Matty says.  Soames says his conscience is clear and his eyes wide open.  "Are yours?" he pointedly asks Matty.  "In the DMZ no one stays impartial forever" he comments.

He needs the money Parco acquired was supposed to be for "operational expenses" says Matty.  To pay staff and get equipment, to hire security and shore up his goverment.  Soames says this bomb is deterrent with a capital D.  Parco sees that the wolves are at the door and he needs a way to keep them off him permanently as well as elevating himself in the worlds eyes.

Matty bitterly says he's always "the last to fucking know."  Soames says he should have words with Parco and not stew in it.  He knows a little about ending up on the wrong side of your goverment.   Matty asks why they are giving the bomb up now?  Soames says he wanted the thing out of the park and also he made a deal with Parco, not just for gold he got a thirty-year lease on the park, Fort Washington, Fort Tyron and Inwood Hill park.  He'll get their neighbours to back off, "and we stay autonomous, our own enclave."

Parco calls Matty again and Matty's humvee goes on the run with the bomb, when he is stopped by several cars full of armed militia. A chopper arrives and one of the soldiers tells Matty it's "time to explain yourself."  Matty is sent into the chopper and put in touch with Parco who asks him what he wants?
Parco's bomb retreival
Matty says he's giving over the bomb.  Parco asks why he shut his phone off, parked it right in the open and forced them to come and fetch it, "you're pissed. You want something.  What is it?"  Matty tells him "fire my mom."  He wants her job, he wants full security clearance and credentials.  He wants a hand picked security detail and an expense account.  Parco jokes "damn man, you planning a coup or some shit?"  But he agrees to Matty's demands.

As the chopper takes off with the bomb, Matty choses to walk home.  He thinks to himself that he wants acceptance and has had enough living day to day on other people's charity, we bring this arc to the end with his following thoughts:

Matty: "I don't need Liberty News.  I don't need my dad.  I don't need the Free States. I don't need Wilson.  I don't need Zee, or my mom, or even Parco.  What I need is autonomy of my own.  And enclave of one. I'm here to do my thing, right?  I need the freedom to operate.  I earned this.  And I deserve this".

ZEE, DMZ: We return to Zee going through the checkpoint to uptown.  She finds an empty house and makes herself at home.  We hear the Liberty News broadcast again about Parco's first day in office.  We then see some Trustwell soldiers one badly injured being helped along by the other two. They drag themselves up the stairs. Meanwhile Zee thinks:

Zee: "I quit Parco City.  I quit the whole fucking thing.  My apartment, my route, my friends.  I quit Matty Roth and his newfound love of gangsters and firearms. I walked uptown until I couldn't hear anything anymore.  Until the riots, the speeches, the checkpoint guards and the psychopathic hangers on faded away into nothing".

The Trustwell soldiers are on the floor above. The woman, Martel has a huge gash in her leg while the others try to attend to her.  Zee wanted a quiet place to catch her breath, "but in a city that never sleeps, that's impossible."
Zee tries to shut the world out.
She listens to the cries of pain, hunched over thinking how Trustwell were the worst of the worst.  It sounds like one is about to check out for good, "and all I have to do is just sit here and do nothing". She sits and tries to ignore the cries, but finally she gives in and goes upstairs to tend to Martel's wounds.

Later she is lying next to Martel while the rest of the cell sleep.  Martel asks Zee who she is.  Zee says she's a doctor.  She's also a universal donor and transfused some of her blood into Martel once she stabilised the bleeding.   Zee tells her she probably won't be able to walk for a while, she lost a lot of blood and was badly damaged.  She needs heavy duty antibiotics so she should try and get to a real hospital.  She lies there and thinks to herself:

Zee: "Another immature charity case, new to the city, with a whole fuckload of violent baggage and bad associations.  And in time flat I am in way over my head. I'm committed.  Sound familiar?"

One of the other Trustwell soldiers asks Zee if Martel will really be OK. Because going to a real hospital won't be happening anytime soon.
But she can't help intervene.
She mulls over the fate of the Trustwell cells abandoned in the city by the main organisation.   The cells are panickng and starving.  Being picked off one by one by local insurgent groups. Slowly dying out but causing a much damage as they can.  The two male Trustwell soldiers went out foraging but were followed back to where Zee and Martel are holed up by militia. One turns on Zee demanding to known is she told them where to find them. "The sins of the past always catch up with us" she thinks as the man is shot through the chest.

Zee tells the man to go, Martel can't move but will be safe with her, "but it's a lonely survival". He makes to leave but is shot in the doorway while Zee and Martel hide behin a chair.  Masked men come looking inside. They discover them and one points a gun at Martel. But they don't shoot.

Zee thinks "despite her injuries. Despite her age, she is a Trustwell mercenary and that label sticks out here".  If she was down in Parco City she'd be detained, way up here she wouldn't survive a day, "unless she's with me. Call it some new kind of conviction". And that brings this volume to an end.

Well a lot to unpack here.  "The Island" is an interesting take on the "Christmas Truce" trope, where two sides realise the futility of their conflict and come together to party.  And yet how fragile that alliance is when trouble starts both sides retreat into factionalism again and terrible things like torture takes place as a weak commander panics and lashes out.  "War Powers" is a very dramatic story, and shows how far Matty has come from journalist who loved the friends he made and who supported him in the DMZ.  Now he's a bitter loner, happy to wield a gun and who as part of the machinations of Parco is caught up in some very serious shit.  A nuclear bomb is no joke and will play an important part in the story to come.  Matty's disillusionment is matched by Zee's in the final story as she abandons where she's lived for the past seven or so years because she can't bear to be around him anymore.  And yet she still can't stop her true caring nature shining through as she uss her blood to heal a Trustwell merc, one of the bad guys and her reputation is still such that she is able to vouch for the woman and save her from anti-Trustwell militia.  The story is getting pretty dark as the idealism behind Parco's election quickly leeches out of the story amongst back-handed deals, heightened security, roving milita and a nuclear fucking bomb.  Return here in a few more days for more DMZ.

35 comments:

  1. "A facefull of noodles" is a perfect spaghetti western title on both levels.

    I'm really getting shades of early Rogue Trooper here. There was an arc in that where he came across an enclave where soldiers from both sides had just agreed to keep their heads down together for the duration. Similar events transpired.

    As for the real world I also got the Christmas truce vibe.

    "You remember that football game sir?"

    "How could I forget it? No way was I offside."

    It's not that uncommon though. Remember all that inhibition against killing thing? Even in Vietnam there are loads of instances of US and Viet Ming patrols just passing each other in the jungle and pretending not to see each other.

    During the tank campaigns in WW2 north Africa both sides agreed to knock off at five each day. They would then trade supplies. The agreement was no one would take advantage of the situation. One night a British unit stole a German truck. To keep things sweet British command turned a blind eye when the Germans came next night and stole two trucks in return.

    So this story continues to maintain authenticity. The ricin 'wmd' was a nice bit of foreshadowing for the next story though.

    Hmm, a nuclear bomb. That is somewhat upping the stakes. I can see the logic of the characters though, especially Parco. I did at first wonder why the Park lot would risk handing it over. After all, the only viable way of using it is in a Sampson Option. Which is a problem when you live next door. But of course they need Parco to honour their lease. So looks like they have confidence in his strategy and are content to live under a nuclear umbrella.

    Just one nerd point though. Nuclear devices, especially modern ones, have relatively short shelf lives. They regular servicing which requires specialist facilities and access to some of the rarest materials in the world. So Parco only has two to five years tops as a deterrent. After that it's just a dirty bomb.

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  2. Believe me, the "acquire a nuke" turns out to be a spectacularly bad idea for everyone involved and reverberates through the next few. The DMZ needed a big shake up of the status quo too take the series through its second half and this was a perfect idea.

    I didn't know those temporary truces were so common. One of the criticisms I have heard of military themed videogams is they actually make "better soldiers" because they remove that built in inhibition against killing. One of the reasons I only play sci-fi themed ones myself.

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  3. In many ways it's the modern 24/7 total warfare that's the aberration. Historically there have always been truces. That's partly from the mutually beneficial altruism that we now see reflected in the various Conventions. It was also for practical reasons. We didn't really have the technology to fight after it got dark and we used to have campaigning seasons before standing armies so the foot soldiers could do farming stuff. That famous 'Washington crossing the Delaware' incident was criticised at the time because it was seen as taking advantage of everyone knocking off for the day.

    You like you eastern stuff so it's interesting to compare the advice given in 'Art of War' to western practice. Sun Szu advised allowing POWs to change sides and then instantly being treated as equals to existing troops. That was standard policy in the East. The western tradition was for prisoner exchanges, ransoms and 'parole' (ie prisoners being allowed a degree of freedom so long as they promised to take no further part in fighting). We still have that today. If POWs are repatriated it's on the understanding they won't re-enlist. In medieval wars, even civil wars, it was customary to pardon all lower rank troops who fought on the opposing side. That was a class thing. You couldn't blame troops for obeying their Lords, nor do you want them to take an interest in challenging authority.

    The video games thing I could go on about for hours. It's the old 'murder simulator' argument. It is true the military do use video games. But the idea of creating what's now called 'distance' (ie dehumanising the enemy) is somewhat more complicated than that. There's a bit about it in that paper I did. But it's more down to conditioning automatic responses and not allowing troops to see other combatants as recognisable people. That's why they use green blob scopes on rifles even when metal sights would suffice, and we have a lot of 'over the horizon' fire and forget weaponry now,

    One thing you might like to read up on is the 'Red Cross box' during the Falklands. That's a nice example of how humans are basically decent. It also lead to one guy getting a medal from both sides in the conflict.

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  4. Once again I learn lots of interesting stuff, actally I have't read The Art Of War and considering it taps two interests of mine, war and East Asian culture I really must amend that.

    I am obviously as a keen gamer always worried about the fact they might be conditioning people, when there is a mass shooting in the USA you can usually find a newspaper article saying "he played violent videogames". Of course that's because 90% of men his age play videogames now, so the stories don't find much traction anymore. Still I personally find catharsis through games, although for me it's fighting games that do it.

    Is the reason drone warfare is now so prevalent because it helps de-humanise the targets as well? I watched a John Oliver story on Drones and it was super-sad, they had a kid saying they fear sunny days and hope for cloudy ones because they know they'll be safe on a cloudy day.

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  5. Ooh you'd love Art of War. I'd recommend the 1910 Giles translation. His version has loads of commentaries annotations and footnotes that really put things into a historical context. The actual original text is very short. It's all good stuff though. Still as valid today as it ever was. Interestingly it opens with a chapter saying war is to be avoided at all costs. Even to the extent that a general's duty is to disobey the Emperor if he proposes a foolish endeavour. But if you are going have a war make sure you win. It's on Gutenberg in various formats.

    There's actually more PTSD stuff from drone operations than regular air support. The imaging is just so good and you have more 'time on target' to see exactly what's going on. In an aircraft you're just whizzing past and you don't really have time to see the details. That's why there's a move to more autonomous operation. They could do their own targeting if necessary. For legal reasons though they still have a human in the loop who actually authorises the firing. The U.S. employ a lot of civilians now. That brings its own legal issues of course. They are flown with video game controllers though; officially that's because they're just so ergonomic but it gives you an idea of where they're recruiting now.

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  6. Yeah, kids in warzones. That's another bugbear of mine. What makes things especially bad is that, under international law, cluster munitions have to be very brightly coloured. The idea is they're a deterrent not a booby trap. But of course that just means kids are attracted to all the pretty looking things on the ground.

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  7. Never fear, kids and cluster bombs get's covered in issue #50 which is a collection of short stories. Just goes to show Wood has pretty much covered everything.

    Videogam controllers are amazing;y ergonomic it's true. I had to stop playing videogames on console for a few years because my bad back meant I was in agony after a shot period trying to play. Then I got my hands on an Xbox 360 controller and it was amazing. No back pain at all.

    I didn't know that about PTSD through piloting drones. Interesting. And employing civilians as well. I'm learning so much writing this series up!

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  8. The UK doesn't use cluster ammunition anymore. Even the US avoids it. It was one of the criticisms of that strike in Syria on the airbase that they didn't cluster the runway so they had it reopened the next day.

    It can take quite a few people to fly a drone. What's weird is that you might have two people in Arizona and two people in Iraq all working together on one vehicle. Some of the land based drones are interesting. There's a big move towards automated tanks. That's partly for the general reasons but also if you remove humans from the equation you can make the tanks much lower profile; which is a big thing in tank design apparently. One of my mates specialises in drones (he works for a company that assesses tech) and the land ones especially. That's how I got interested in the legal stuff.

    Oh and the new JSF aircraft use a joystick that's a copy of one that's popular with gamers.

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  9. Bruce "Be like water" Lee had obviously read it...

    "Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain."

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  10. I didn't know drones were a multi-person operation. Given the average co-operation between your average gamer I'm surprised they manage to co-ordinate well enough not to just crash it where it was launched from :P

    When I am feeling a bit less tense over waiting for my sister to give birth (she's two days past her due date and feeling very fed up) I shall find a copy of The Art of War online and have a good read.

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  11. This is what the 'pilots' see...

    http://i.imgur.com/hdB36nY.jpg

    It's complicated because the surveillance and firing aspects are controlled from the US. That's because that's where the intelligence peeps and lawyers etc live. But the satellite feed introduces a time delay. So the guys who keep it in the air need to be local so they can fly by direct remote control so they can react in time to real time issues like wind and mountains suddenly appearing.

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  12. The pilots are just in those small shipping containers dumped out in the warzone. They just keep it in the air and fly where they're told. The surveillance side is run from somewhere nice and air conditioned called 'predator bay' back in the states.

    http://i.imgur.com/EAKW8WN.jpg

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  13. Fascinating stuff. Drones do make an appearance in this series but they're a lot more basic given the fact it's around ten or so years behind. They just get deployed to look for he bomb doing basic surveillance. I'm sure if DMZ was running now drone warfare would feature a lot more heavily.

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  14. Spotting nuclear weapons is supposedly quite easy. There's special detectors that pick up on the characteristic radiation. One thing I liked about that otherwise dreadful (even though I quite like it) Broken Arrow film is the plan to hide the stolen bombs in the radiology department of a hospital.

    Having said that, if you want to sleep tight, don't Google how many nuclear bombs are unaccounted for.

    Drones have been around for ages though. A certain Norma Jean May got her bog break when some photograpers did some PR shots at the drone factory where she worked. And Joseph Kennedy Jr was killed when a drone aircraft he was piloting (they manually took off then parachuted out) blew up because of a faulty radio signal.

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  15. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Aphrodite

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  16. Bit O/T but combines some of my favourite topics (wonder woman, krav, gal gadot)

    https://www.thejc.com/gal-gadot-s-krav-maga-warning-for-donald-trump-1.54465

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  17. Hey, Gal and I dress just the same for Krav

    http://i.imgur.com/rzoAgfl.jpg

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  18. Oh you'll be impressed at where Parco stashes his nuke, although in the long run it turns out to be a terrible idea. I didn't realise drones had been around so long in one way or another for so long, is just because the Predator ones being deployed in Pakistan are somewhat controversial that they have suddenly appeared on the general radar?

    Hah getting to like Gal Godot. I am genuinely looking forward to the Wonder Woman film and really hope all the criticism of Dawn of Justice have been taken on board and it's a little more inspiring and hopeful as the character embodies those qualities in great quantities. As well as kicking ass.

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  19. Ooh, now I'm trying to think where I'd hide one.

    It's funny Predators get all the bad press. They're UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). It's the charmingly named Reaper that's the UCAV (combat) and does all the missile stuff.

    The Brits have a number of UAVs. But we use them for 'forward air control' ie guiding bombs and missiles onto targets, so they're not exactly friendly. There was a bit of controversy because we use them in Syria where we're not supposed to be. But we get round it by technically lending them to the US when they're in Syrian airspace and controlling them from across the border in Iraq where we are allowed to be.

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  20. So every reason to actually Fear The Reaper, eh? I don't know if drones have made it to videogames yet but when I am trying to aim a missile at the flailing tentacles of some Lovecraftian hell beast I could sure use a little friendly guidance!

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  21. More cowbell!

    If you haven't seen that sketch you're missing out. But it's a very USian name isn't it? Ours are called Hermes and Watchkeeper. Rather embarrassingly our new artillery system was originally called Crusader, but then it got its first deployment in Iraq. So it was rapidly rebranded (as something like 'totally innocuous new artillery system'). That's an amazing bit of kit. Be very handy against Lovecraftian eldritch horrors. Most guns are limited by how strong and heavy the carrier vehicle is. But not-Crusader works like a skip lorry and levers the gun so it's resting on the ground. So it can fire much bigger charges.

    But on less armed combat, ah yes, really growing into Gal. From the trailers she looks amazing and completely well suited to the part. Of course I had to go searching for the trailers cos it's not like they're going out of their way to promote the film.

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  22. See now that sounds really useful against monsters. tend to really dislike boss battles where I have to shoot the tentacles off a humongous monster with them waving about and you only having limited numbers of missiles. I'm crap at aiming anything, I'm very much of the "spray and pray" combat school, which is why the shotgun is always my favourite weapon.

    Gal Godot looks amazing as Wonder Woman, she reminds me of how Wondy is depicted in Batwoman book 3. Slim but athletic looking.

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  23. I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!

    https://youtu.be/DLeNQKk4uuI

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  24. She certainly seems to have bulked up a bit from her modelling days. Looks amazing though. You can actually believe she can kick ass (notwithstanding my contention that waif fu can work if you know what you're doing). I'm really looking forward to the film.

    Just to be nerdy again it's considered vulgar to say 'aim' in regards to shotguns. If you don't want to get tutted at when you meet the Queen, say 'point'.

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  25. I'll remember that, aim doesn't really apply to my videogame gunplay with any gun anyway, more "argh, argh runaway, strafe, strafe, mash trigger aiiieeee! ..." *sigh, reload game*

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  26. There's a thing called the ACLAD study. They examined 2 million combat shooting incidents. Showed a few things (90% of kills < 100m; 0.01% > 300m; X,000 shots per hit etc) but one of the main conclusions was that just pointing in the general direction was as effective as aimed fire. Which is why it's now all about rate of fire rather than accuracy.

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  27. Heh, well it's unfair that the Resident Evil game I am currently playing grades you on your accuracy, I'm amazed when I manage to get higher than 70%. That said my favourite shooting game Gears of War requires you get pretty damn good with the sniper rifle if you want to survive the hardest difficulties. But that game basically popularised the cover system and "stop-and-pop" style of shooter so it's not so manic.

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  28. In the Vietnam war ("N-N-N-Nineteen") the US used 50,000 rounds of ammunition per kill (seriously!). However the average ratio for snipers was 1.2 shots per kill. There's a great video of some people going through US sniper school (it's one of the special tabs yiu can get, like Ranger). You have to get an absolute perfect score to progress. Apart from the final test. If you miss on that you have 30 seconds to take a second shot. That is at a distance of one mile though.

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  29. This one

    https://youtu.be/R6OgQAEanwQ

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  30. Well that's pretty cool. Sniping in Gears is at a relatively short distance, the game limits you to two rifle/shotgun type weapons and one pistol. On lower-to-mid difficulties you have the ability to close range while shrugging off bullets and the shotty is effective but the harder difficulties I always go for the assault rifle and sniper rifle, if you end up stuck at close range you have a chainsaw (YES!) attached to your assault rifle and if you're lucky can get out of trouble, but as your armour has all the survivability of wet tissue you're usually crawling about on the floor hoping for a revive by then (hey it is sci-fi).

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  31. "Ten Mile Snipers" is the nickname of the Royal Artillery Company.

    In real life rifles are generally used for suppressing fire. That's basically keeping the enemy's heads down whilst you manoeuvre. It's specialists in each company who actually try to take out the enemy. Mortars and grenades are the principal weapons for that. You've probably noticed how one or two guys will have those M130 grenade launchers underslung on their regular rifles. There was a cool potential new weapon that was basically a grenade launcher with an underslung AR15. It looked very sci-fi.

    If you've ever seen that bravo two zero film there's a very realistic depiction of the fire and move manoeuvre in that.

    Funnily enough there's a debate about whether shotguns are lawful in war. The conventions say ammo must be single slug and not be designed to fragment. Shotguns arguably don't fit that. There are underslung shotgun attachments for the AR15 though.

    Not sure how practical a chainsaw attachment might be. Won't be finding out either. Chainsaws scare the crap out of me. I won't go near them.

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  32. This thing

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/XM29_OICW

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  33. Actually I did know about the whole suppressing fire thing, it's one of my gun facts I bust out when pshawing about inaccuracies in US crime shows while watching with my family. I have a hard time with videogame grenade launchers because I play co-operative games alone and the AI of your partner isn't good enough to consistently pin down the baddies, so you tend to end up lobbing or shooting them at where you hope the opponents will be, not where they are.

    I didn't realise shotguns weren't allowed in war. TIL as reddit would put it. As for the chainsaw rifle:

    http://gearsofwar.wikia.com/wiki/Mark_2_Lancer_Assault_Rifle

    The only way they could make it cooler is to have it shoot bullets that were on fire.

    Another game series I've covered comics for is Dead Space and the last and least good game still has an awesome aspect which allows you to collect parts and build guns. I made a rifle that shot acid coated saw blades with and underslung shotgun that fired electrified spikes and I swear a heavy metal guitar riff played everytime I pulled the trigger.

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  34. If you like exotic guns and bullets on fire you should look out for a gyrojet rifle. They were developed in the 60s. Instead of a gunpowder cartridge the propellant was inside the bullet itself. On ignition it came out of 4 offset nozzles that made it spin (hence, gyro). Unlike regular bullets they got faster as they went along. And no cartridge to eject. The rifles looked really cool too, really slimline. Very much like the gaus in stargate. Didn't catch on though. (Dredds lawmaster is meant to be a gyrojet)

    If you want to see them, in you only live twice the ninjas have them when they storm the volcano. Although for some reason they then use their swords. Guess they weren't keen on them either.

    In the Martian Chronicles the Martians have B B Guns that fire trained bees.

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