Nesson 11

Nesson is a serial novel about living with technology and sprawl in the near future. Learn more or start from the beginning.

The population of the island exploded. It was as if the bombs contained the future residents, blasting them from who knows where into their new island homes. Most of the world was debating the meaning of the attack and whether or not the landbridge should exist. These people were rolling in with the tide. Were they people coming despite the explosions or because of them? Either way, there was nothing reasonable about moving to a new, remote neighborhood moments after a terrorist attack.

The island sprang to life, animated like a holoroom activated for the first time. From an inside perspective it did not feel much different from loading a theme for a holoroom. One moment the place was empty, it was nothing, then you blink and everything is moving. Did they coordinate this, or was there a planned opening day? If there was, no one was talking about it now.

There was plenty of media coverage about the explosions themselves, the Links Corp reaction, and the US action (or lack of action). No one was talking about the people suddenly living on the island, though. Maybe no one knew the island was vacant when the explosion happened or maybe they really did not notice some of the wealthiest Americans disappearing. Based on the snippets of news coverage she watched, everyone was focused on Links himself and the future of the developments, not what was happening on Nesson. A few hundred rich people go missing during an international crisis and no cared. To be fair, no one could keep up with their travels anyway.

Probably none of the island’s residents had given up their net habits. It was possible to lead a continuous, uninterrupted life online while changing locations in real life. What did it matter where you were in real life, everyone you knew looked for you online. The wealthy were known for living more offline than normal, but they were also known to travel. It was not odd to not see someone in person. Now if someone disappeared from the net, it was time to worry.

Helen was alone on the island for a few days. Mike, Al, and Pat fled to who knows where after the explosion. They talked about making their way to Japan, but she could not imagine that would work out well. These days Japan would extradite anyone just to get him out of the country. That Links ever got his islands anywhere near the country shocked her. Japan’s isolation following the turn of the 21st century was unrivaled. High-ranking foreign political figures underwent a strict visa application process. Most common foreigners were lucky to get a one-week pass to the hermit nation.

Helen received no real protests when she told the group she was not going with them. Mike might have had the slightest kind of puppy eyes, but no one said a word. No goodbyes, just the sight of their backs as they made their way to the coast. Exactly how they got off the island, she did not know, but she had not seen them since. As for Helen, she figured hiding in plain sight was well enough. While squatting got harder since the sudden population boom, walking about in the day unnoticed was much easier. She could still find unoccupied houses; she just needed to be vigilant lest the rightful owner appear.

One afternoon she did have to creep out the backdoor as a man and wife threw open the front and oohed and awwed at their portion of this new country. Honestly they were too intoxicated by their surroundings, and otherwise, to notice her if she had just continued sitting on their couch. They might even mistake her for the help, which, by the way, where was the help? Actually, these houses were automated beyond the need for live help. Most houses, even middle class, were. Still, many super rich kept human servants for style reasons. As far as Helen could tell though, these people were making due with just the electric help.

Helen had a pack half-full of food, enough to last a few more days before she had to get creative with her meals. Until she had to do otherwise, she would keep out of sight and remain alert. She was expecting a sign, some indication of what to do. Her reporter instincts told her she was in the right place. Maybe the story had already broken, but she would be the first to see any developments.

She thought about calling Josh, letting him know she was on the scene. Would that be blowing her cover at this point? None of the open acres crowd was around to see, and to the island residents she was not Helen. She was not anyone to them. No, it would not be blowing her cover because her cover was arbitrary now. Actually, she probably needed a new alias, seeing as Helen was accused of terrorism. The problem with making a call was she did not know who might be monitoring the lines. Whether it was the US government or Links Corp, a simple holocall could easily land her in jail, or worse.

Prison was not what it once was. It became something more like house arrest. No one went to a large stone building with iron bars anymore. There was no cramming thousands of society’s unstable and unfortunate into small cells together. You stayed home. For the imprisoned, this was not the hard part. Everyone stayed home all the time anyway. The real problem was convicted felons lost holonet access. With no ability to go outside of the house, either literally or holographically, many were in solitary confinement.

No, she would not be making that call right now. It was not time to take the risk. Besides, she could not take a jail sentence. She had grown accustomed to being outdoors and traveling long distances. The suffocating thought of being left home alone, or even worse at her parent’s house, wrapped around her. She would keep to the unoccupied corners and watch for whatever might come.

The night after the explosion, she flashed her mobile and registered an alias. She probably should have done this sooner, but she was focused on staying physically out of site. She forgot about her digital trail. If she was going to be in hiding alone, she would need to be able to access the net. The Project was running generic stories about the attack on the island. Every media source seemed to have the same information and obvious dearth of details. The Project was no different, but the discussion boards were interesting. There were many theories about why the explosions happened and who did it. Most speculated about political issues that were bound to rise. Helen thought the matter was purely criminal, but it seemed there was some grounds for dispute between the mainland and Nesson. International attention was their goal, but not international conflict. Certainly not conflict over something they did not do. The events surrounding Helen seemed to happen independent of reasonable causes and effects. She was floating through each scenario and hoping for a hint, or at least an intelligible story.


At some point Helen had to laugh. Her food situation was clearly ridiculous, but she had become comfortable in her hiding routine and did not want to risk her obscurity by hunting food. She was sure she was being careful, eating small portions, chewing slowly. Even so, her pack ran out fast. It is hard to judge eating habits objectively, especially if you have never had to ration. She thought she had a week, but it turned out to be only a few days. She would not acknowledge the problem until she was really out.

One afternoon she sat in a stranger’s breakfast nook deliberating about a handful of dried peaches, one can of canned black beans, and a single serve box of bran flakes. She kept pushing musty clothes around her bag as if something new would appear. Perhaps a forgotten apple lay beneath that pair of socks, never mind that she had already dumped the contents on the floor multiple times and repacked. What was with the box of cereal? What a waste of space, all that air in the bag. She could have fit two more dry peaches in the space that air was occupying. She was doing her best to ignore the two sticks of beef jerky tucked into the little front pocket. She was saving them for real starvation. She could not decide which would be worse, being truly hungry, past nausea inducing hunger, and right up to cannibal hunger or the intense digestive issues that would surely follow her first taste of meat in seven years. Thinking about it made her stomach ooze. Well, perhaps there was not that much meat in the jerky anyway. She hoped not to find out.

She would have to go to the store. The thought should have invoked anxiety, but she felt light and calm. Perhaps she had gotten over confident, maybe she thought she was invisible after a week of walking the streets openly. No one acknowledged her, even when she waved and called hello. Sure she was dressed a little shabbily, but what she wore was not significantly different from her wealthy neighbors’ work out and outdoor clothes. There was a sort of quality difference, but Helen was not yet ragged, and she had access to showers and washing machines. She kept clean and presentable, what was it that made her repulsive?

Alienation aside, she was lucky to be disregarded. After a week of allowing herself to be seen in public without being arrested or attacked by some sort of angry mob, she figured she would be plenty safe to do a little shopping. Perhaps Marcus would not recognize her, or if he did, who’s to say he thinks she did anything wrong? Who’s to say? A hand drawn approximation of her face was all over the news; he probably thought she did it. Still, maybe he would not notice. It was shop in the store or eat jerky to stave off hunger for a few days and then have to shop in the store anyway. Risky or not, she was going to have to do it eventually. She put her fears aside and slid her pack on as she stepped out on the road and headed to the island store. A few neighbors were out, power walking, running, or simply wandering about their yards. All the money they spend on nice homes and these rich people were always outdoors. Strange as she thought it, at least it was not conspicuous to walk the streets.


“Ah, Rick! Thanks so much for coming. And waiting. Sorry to say I was a little held up.” And so he had waited. The whole trip was an exercise in waiting. He waited for the boat to pick him up from Hawaii. It was an auto-boat with no crew, so he waited alone in the middle of the ocean. Once he landed on Link’s mobile island, he had to wait for an escort. An hour or so before Links walked in the door, Rick Smithson had been led into a sleek modern room featuring floor to ceiling views of the Pacific. These, though, were real windows. Despite the view of tropical water, the room in which Rick sat, surrounded by elaborately inornate furniture and no artifacts to speak of, was cool and dry. From the windows, they could see Nesson proper in the distance. Links liked to be close to his development, but he maintained a safe distance and kept moving for security.

“Dick!” Rick called, standing and smirking. He knew how Links hated this diminutive. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your invitation to a rogue state?”

“Don’t be cute. Listen, you did well, guiding those communists here. The explosion was great, visible but harmless. Now if we could only tie up the loose end.”

“Our people have the three men under constant surveillance. They think they are escaping to Japan, but we’ll make sure they stay in Nesson.” If they actually made it to Japan it would be a mess. They would be immediately deported to the US and arrested before their absence could be of any use.

“Good. And the girl?”

“Harder to track down. But we’re confident she has not fled the country yet.”

“Ah, the country. I love the sound of that. Anyway, as long as she keeps hiding we don’t need to worry. By the time she surfaces we will have moved beyond any concerns about criminal activity.”

“Right, I’m still a little lost on how the terrorist plot helps this happen.” Rick followed the plan, but he never pretended to understand it. Spending the past year building a reputation in fringe circles was particularly hard to understand, but he followed that part of the plan too.

“It’s all about efficacy Rick. American law enforcement cannot possibly respond to this kind of situation, and they probably do not consider it a great concern.”

“But there are already warrants out for the whole group, despite the fact that the island is technically in international water.”

“Right, but when they cannot find them it will show just how irrelevant the US is to us, that we need to use our own resources to protect ourselves. If we have to do that, why should we bother paying taxes to the American government or obeying its laws?”

“Ok, so you’re ready to announce succession?”

“Not quite, we need to convince our people that they are no longer American. Only then will breaking US conspiracy laws cease to matter. Now, let’s talk about National Defense.”

“Well, Dick, we have the Links Corp private defense contractors. Not only are they a ready, standing army, their withdrawal has eaten a chunk out of the US military.

“Yes, yes, but we need more. A conventional volunteer army. Of course, we have very few eligible young people at the moment. Just the rich and unpatriotic.”


“Sure, why else would so many people move out to the middle of the ocean if not to get away from their own country? They may not be anarchists, but at the very least they don’t mind cutting themselves off from the country they were taught to love. Now, I’m not saying they’re against us, they just don’t care to support any nation. We can change their minds, but that takes time and we need people now.” Rick paused not saying anything but for the first time really considering his national alliances. Links sighed and continued. “This is why I’ve called you here. I need to know what’s going on in a lost corner of Nesson.”

“You mean,” here Rick’s heart sped, “New St. Louis?”

“Yes, we lost contact with the development some time ago. We have some reports from the contractors about good times and the abundance of the markets. No one knows who’s running the place.”

“So you want me to…”

“Remind them who’s in charge.”

“And then?”

“Then start enlisting, what else?”

“You think it will be so easy?”

“Why not? We own the place and I know they have no love for the Americans.” Funny, Rick thought, how quickly Links has made the linguistic shift of considering Americans as external, as others.

“But you already said no one knows who’s in charge. Who is to say they want any part of any conflict?”

“It doesn’t matter if they want a part or not, it will come to them. If they don’t pick a side, they will have two to fight.”

“So that’s what you want me to tell them?”

“I don’t care much what you tell them, as long as they send people and resources.”

“You think the Americans are really going to attack?” There it was. Rick was making the shift too.

“Probably not, but think about it, currently we are a new country with a weak military and an unusual concentration of wealthy people. We also have a huge coastline that we could never fully patrol. We have a giant target on our foreheads, every pirate and corrupt nation on this side of the world is looking at us. They need to know we’re no buffet.”

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