Catch up time! In a noughties version of the USA a Second Civil War fought between the south-western Free States Army and the sitting U.S.Government came to a halt when mistakes made by U.S. soldiers during the occupation and battle for Manhattan caused the U.S government to negociate a ceasefire between them to the west and the FSA hanging round in New Jersey at the Lincoln Tunnel. This ceasefire caused the Island of Manhattan to become a Demilitarised Zone and the people left trapped inside after a botched evacuation tried to carry on as best they could. Reporter Matty Roth came to the DMZ by accident, but soon broke important stories about abuses going on in there. Then elections were held and helped along by a star struck Matty, the charismatic Parco Delgado was elected governor of Manhattan. Almost immediately he bought a nuke which one group had hidden away, and when Matty annouced this to the world things turned bad fast. Matty had jettisoned his journalistic ideals and was running a death squad. Then Parco disappeared as the U.S.army invaded to look for the nuke. Matty was beaten up by soldiers and his attempts to have them killed went badly wrong as fourteen civilians were murdered by his goons instead. Left alone, with not one person willing to take his calls, he wandered out onto the streets only to see a mushroom cloud billowing up from where the U.S. had bombed the defunct nuclear powerstation the nuke was being hidden in. This volume "M.I.A" contains the one-shot "Notes From The Underground" and the four-parter "M.I.A". Now although I said it was my policy to only split volumes when they exceeded seven chapters, "Notes From The Underground's" unique construction means It's the longest I spent on one issue, I wanted to include a visual sample from every short in it and wrap things up in a conclusion seperately from the "M.I.A" arc. Having done so in my previous post, let's enjoy the "M.I.A" (Missing In Action) arc and Matty's attempt to atone for what he's done.
|Stewing in misery.|
Liberty News: "And for all the vaunted rhetoric of the 'Delgado Nation' as a peaceful people's movement, in the end it was little more than thug tactics and mass murder".
There is a hunt for Parco Delgado still on-going and a demand to the Free States that if he seeks sanctuary with them they must hand him over has been made. His followers have mostly discarded their uniforms and melted back into the general populace. The U.N has convened in support of the U.S. and for them not to contain the FSA but defeat them utterly.
We then join Matty's thoughts as he limps round the flat, he found the radio which is pre-tuned permantly to Liberty News (dropped in the DMZ as propoganda implements) and after two weeks of living alone it's become his only link to the outside world. He's in upper Manhattan, a no-man's land within the DMZ. He sees maybe a couple of people a day, the nuke scared all the animals away.
He then wanders around outside on the deserted streets, foraging for food in garbage bins or rubbish piled on the pavements. He is sitting eating up on some stairs on the side of a building when he is startled by a man holding a sign saying "Change". Then the man blows up, leaving a big bloodstain on the path, and Matty falls off into a pile of debris. A chubby guy walks over to it, then two kids armed with assault rifles ask if that was his bomb? Unable to keep his journalistic impulses in check Matty starts photographing what unfolds. The man kills the two kids, then tearfully apologises and blows his own head off.
|Crippled by guilt.|
Matty: "I didn't want to come here in the first place. I shouldn't have to put up with this shit. I shouldn't have to live like this, like a fucking animal."
Then he sees something like he just saw and realises how close to oblivion everyone is, whether by shotgun or nuke and you can either "stop feeling sorry for yourself... or crawl deeper into self-pity".
There is some more from Liberty News, the yield from the nuke was "surprisngly" low. Foreign news reports are running with the true story that the U.S. nuked the plant themselves and the military are insisting that it was "impossible" and have offered up documentation as proof. The aircraft deployed only had a "bunker buster" bomb.
Matty ruminates more on the fact that the wind keeping the fallout away from the DMZ is somehow "divine". Apparently a cult is forming round this idea. Matty thinks about whether God did spare them, "the delusion is preferable to the reality" that it's just random chance.
Matty: "I know something about delusions. Not the supernatural sort. More along the lines of 'the things we tell each other'. Or that we tell ourselves. Or what we lie about. Or the facts we choose to ignore. But where did that ever get me? Or any of us."
As he rummages around piles of trash and rubble he suddenly comes a cross a crashed U.S. army helicopter, inside are the long dead bodies of the pilot and co-pilot. Matty realises they probably come from the start of the war and have spent all this time forgotten, untouched and undetected.
|A lonely tomb.|
The next chapter begins with a montage of images of U.S. helicopters fighting with what's left of Parco's militia on the streets of the DMZ as Liberty News report some more on the current situation. The goverment has declared some places "Special Zones of Aggression". This means anyone living in the areas are automatically unlawful combatants, "not recognised by any law of the land, and not afforded any protection, federal or international." Civilans are urged to flee the areas and turn themselves over to the U.S. government.
Although there is still international speculation at just what happened at the power plant, the "moral authority" of the aggressive action being taken is not being debated. According to Liberty News tha U.S. government "continues to enjoy a 90% 'Sympathy Rating'" according to a worldwide web poll.
Liberty News: "The longstanding premptive war policy, commonly called 'The Bush Doctorine', while not originally designed to apply domestically is now the law of the land. 'To defeat them in the purest military sense of the term.' is the soundbite on every pundit's lips these days".
Matty meanwhile is making a large red cross out of bricks and sits waiting. Night falls and he returns to his current home and sketches a map of Manhattan on the wall. He's decided to head for the 59th Street U.S. army checkpoint and surrender himself, while returning the dogtags, flightbook and location of the helicopter crash site.
|All from memory, impressive.|
There is a breaking news report from Liberty News that Parco's escape vehicle has been found half-submerged in the Hudson River. There is no body and the proximity of this car to the New Jersey shore where the FSA is stationed has meant the army has been authorised to bomb the FSA coastal defences, they gave them thirty minutes warning.
We return to Matty slumped asleep on a mattress. He is woken up by several hooded figures pointing guns at him. They know who he is and drag him out to a car saying he sold them a "pussy nuke" and force his mouth up and open to catch the water. A woman in the car they are taking him to tell them to knock it off, they are friends of Parco. "Welcome back to the Delgado Nation" she says.
|Matty's recent past catches up with him.|
Elsewhere in the DMZ, Radio FreeDMZ is making a broadcast. Airstrikes have destroyed her main power source and she is running the station off a portable solar generator.
Radio Free DMZ: "How long ago was it we were all talking about the DMZ as a sovereign nation? Or, rather how short a time ago was all that? And now how many more will be killed, paying for the mistakes of the few?"
She goes onto say word on the streets is all kind of conspiracy theories about what's been happening. That it was a Trustwell nuke, that Parco never had one and this is a U.S. coalition-busting stunt, that Parco did have it and it was his plan all along, "no Free States rumours, people? I'm shocked." She tells them things could get worse, and when the sun sets tonight "Just pray it comes up again in the morning".
Back with Matty, and he cleans up his battered and bruised body, Parco's sister Rose calls him ino her room saying she wants to talked to him about Parco, "Tell... me... he isn't what people say he is... a terrorist and a mass murderer... is he?" Matty turns and thinks "how could I possibly answer that?"
We see images of them speaking but we don't hear what they say, we hear Matty's thoughts instead. At first he thinks "where she got off" treating him like she did and then expecting an answer. But he realises that it's about family and not wanting to believe the worst of someone you love.
Matty: "And, truth be told, I loved the guy too. I spent the first couple of years in the DMZ being moved around like a chesspiece, never quite living up to what people believed I was capable of becoming. But Parco? He had me over for beers and never once made me feel less than the coolest guy in the room. Next to him of course. So what do I tell her?"
He finally delivers an anwer to her question as to whether Parco was a criminal, traitor and mass-muderer, "Rose... listen... of course he wasn't".
|Parco's sister Rose.|
Matty: "Was this always supposed to be MY role? Merely to bear witness?"
He leaves the Delgado Nation, the DMZ is undergoing heavy punitive airstrikes, with daytime sorties to clear the designated zones of "terrorists" and "illegal combatants". Then a quick warning from Radio Free DMZ, bombers are heading north "when will it end? When will it be enough".
Matty is close by where the massive airstrike hits, and the place it hits is Central Park as he takes cover under a bench. He crawls out and can only think "They killed Central Park". Now the place kept safe by the Ghosts are all dead, "their park sanctuary was the perfect example of hope and selflessness in this shitty fucking city." It must have come out that they cut the deal for the bomb with Parco. "They fucked up. I fucked up. And whatever's waiting for me at the 59th Street bridge checkpoint. I'll deserve it" he thinks as he sits despairingly amongst the wreckage.
|The Central Park dream in ruins.|
Matty turns down Soames offer of coming to his bunker and tell him he's turning himself in, "because I'm guilty". Soames points his rifle saying they're linked and he is concerned Matty might give him up. He says he aims to survive the war. Matty tells him to look around, they took them out, the perception is that the "terrorists" who sold Parco the nuke have been eliminated, "you and me don't matter that much when they got a war to win".
Matty: "Remember when you first saw me? Not far from here, falling on my ass in the snow. I couldn't even tell which way was what. But back then, at least I had a sense of who I was and what the hell I was doing. If they shoot me for being a traitor, at least I'll have my answer".
And Soames watches him walk off through the dust and debris. He arrives at the checkpoint expecting the worse, but "whatever I was expecting... this wasn't it". He is escorted in to headquarters as an "honoured guest".
As he travels he ruminates over how he gets to travel accross one of the most tightly policed borders in the world, even though he is "not special". He hands over the helicopter pilots dog-tags, then goes to make himself presentable, shaving of his beard of woe and getting clean clothes. Then his dad arrives.
|Back in the U.S.|
He tells Matty he was escorted through the checkpoint because of politics, he is offering Matty an amnesty. Matty says he doesn't want an amnesty, "do you know what I did, dad? There's shit you don't know..." Mr. Roth says they know about Parco, the militant activity and trasporting the nuke. Matty tells him about the death of the wedding party that happened because he was "out of control and i gave a sloppy order to someone I knew would carry it out." His dad starts to say that no one is innocent but Matty yells "don't say it! They were civilians!"
He sits down and laments that he's sick of seeing people with guns, after everything he'd been through in the DMZ causing the death of civilians "completely invalidates the good I did". He says he's lost everything right down to his soul, how does he come back from that? Does he want to come back asks his dad? Matty pauses then says he honestly believed he'd be chucked in Gitmo the second he returned.
His dad spells out what he can offer Matty, "I'm here on behalf of Liberty News and the goverment to convince you to return to work". He'll get a full amnesty for past offences and contract breaches, "to do what?" demands Matty. His dad says this is where he gets honest:
Mr. Roth: "The United States has a lot of leeway militarily and politically, at the moment... but that leeway is conditional and the U.S. can no longer afford to 'go it alone'."
The U.N. has demanded observers be put in place at military command centres, to avoid that "an alternative was suggested... which was you." Matty is somewhat surprised at this turn of events.
He asks how he can be neutral attached to Liberty News and the government. He says they'll provide logistical support and first broadcast rights but they'll be limits on any editorial inteference and he'll be the eyes and ears on the ground, he is a freelancer, "your client is the international news media". The U.S. has a narrow window to apply force and probably win the war, and they are prepared to accept Matty looking over their shoulders, "to use a cliche... you are at least the devil you know".
|Matty's dad starts laying out terms of a deal.|
Matty accepts the deal and the five years of backpay he's accumulated while living in the DMZ. He has some terms of his own, when they are accepted he takes the deal.
Matty: "They accepted my terms and I took the job. The only terms I felt I could live with. The only way I could show my face in the DMZ again. The only chance I had of regaining and sense of credibility. My dad asked me if I wanted to come back from my 'fall'. This is the only way".
A chopper takes him into the DMZ, they suspend operations for two hours so he can get settled. He gets a call patched in from his mother. She says his father called her and said he specifically turned down the amnesty part of the deal. He tells her he was responsible for a "bunch of shit and I can't weasel out of it while calling others on it".
He goes on to say when it's all over he needs to go on the stand, but he need to be able to speak about it, "even if it indites me". His mum says it's hard because he is her only child, but also she is calling to let him know his friend "the one with the hair" called her last week telling her she went to his old flat and saved all his notes and is keeping them safe.
Matty is overjoyed, it was everything he wrote since first arriving in the DMZ. He thought they had been lost forever. As the chopper lands in the DMZ his mum tells him to "be safe, okay?" After disembarking, Matty stand watching the chopper leave then thinks to himself, "all right Matty... let's get it right this time".
|The journalist reborn.|