by Max Barry

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by The UB-32 of Socialist Macronesia. . 110 reads.

SOMAC: President John Adam Ross

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If we had known what John Ross was going to do, we would've shot him when he was born.

- Anonymous CIA Agent, 2016

August 27. 1985.

The man watched the guards change outside the Presidential Lodge. To him, this wasn't a big thing. He knew governments. In places like the US and Europe, a regime change was a huge event. That was because people had had a choice in what happened. They could vote fairly for a leader. Here in Nigeria and the other African nations, this was just a regular Tuesday... literally. After all, the sides were pretty much the same. According to the brief he'd been given, the so called Supreme Military Council was being ousted. Which would likely be replaced with an organization of the same purpose but named differently. Maybe a Glorious Armed Forces Command or a Liberation Military Council. Or was that those people they'd funded in Liberia? Either way, things wouldn't change. Things never changed here. He always joked that if they didn't bother to change the name of the government, nobody would even know a coup had occurred.

Ibrahim Babangida sat next to him, a weathered soldier of age 44, watching the ex president, Muhammadu Buhari, being led from the palace by guards; he would be arrested and sent to prison quite soon. Ibrahim was smiling. Buhari was definitely not. And the man was just tired.

"You see that?" Ibrahim nudged the man in his chair.

"What?" The man raised his head and sat straight. "Is there a problem?" Ibrahim grinned even wider.

"No. You see, you have done me a good service. I did not even have to shoot anyone! And now I am President. Did not even have to shoot anyone... you know how many of your guns I bought just in the case that the guard would fight back! Ha! I suppose that makes me a... sucker, no?"

The man couldn't help but laugh. "Well, at least your military will be well stocked." That would come in handy later on, considering that a coup attempt only five years later would be struck down using military force, troops firing with the same bullets the Precursor had sold them years ago. The new president didn't know it yet, but his decision to stock up on arms had saved his job and likely his life.

"That is true. Anyway, I have arranged the standard payment method. A hundred carats, finely cut, as previously arranged. This convoy will take you back to the airport. You must leave before tonight. There will be a curfew. Do not stay around. And thank you again. It brings me great pleasure to do business with you, mister..."

"I'm not supposed to tell you my name. Company policy."

"I see. I see. Anyway, see you later, my friend. Hope to work with you once more."

The next day, Ross was born.

He was a good kid, we thought. He was smart, he was funny, he liked to read. How would we have known what he would have become in the future? Is that supposed to be our fault? Are you trying to blame his actions on us? I love him, but... I don't know anymore. Perhaps if we'd parented more strictly he would've come out differently. But who could tell if the results would be better or worse?

- Nancy Ross, 2009

According to our records, John Adam Ross graduated from high school third in his class with a 4.0 GPA. On that accord, he was a good student, one of the best. We don't have any logged disciplinary offences, we don't have any exceptionally horrifying grades, nothing like that. I asked one of the teachers here that knew him if she remembered him. According to her, he got a mediocre scholarship to some California college, said goodbye to his teachers, packed up, left town, and never came back. She says he majored in political science. Thought he'd have been a good politician if he hadn't... fallen down that path.

- Ross's high school principal, 2009

I was the professor of that class. Ross didn't like half the people in the class. Thought they were a bunch of hippies who thought they could change the world. I promoted civil discourse in my classes. Ross preferred uncivil discourse. He was polite, sure, but he really, really didn't like his classmates. If I'm being honest, I didn't either. But you still have to be respectful, at least in class. They were out of class when the incident happened.

- One of Ross's professors, 2009


Ross only vaguely remembered what the conversation they'd been having had even been about in the first place. It had probably been something about communism, but that seemed to be far too broad. It had to have been something more narrow. Maybe a particular leader?


And then the man or woman or whatever they were tried to kick him... in the face? A poor move. Ross's family wasn't poor or anything, but he certainly had been in his fair share of scraps. He'd grabbed their leg in midair, and pushed them away. That only pissed them off more. They tried to charge him again, yelling obscenities... and they'd paid the price.


There was something about fighting someone far weaker than you that felt so liberating. They couldn't resist. They couldn't fight back. They just tried to say sorry. Well, sorry ain't gonna cut it this time. Sorry wouldn't set those broken bones, either.


Ross found the blood disturbing. But he was more disturbed by his immediate instincts upon tasting it...

According to one of the witnesses, the two men began to argue and become agitated at one another. ██████ attempted to kick Ross in the face. Ross dodged the attack and retaliated with several punches and kicks, knocking ██████ to the ground, and began to attack him. According to first responders, ██████ was treated for several broken bones, major lacerations, and internal bleeding. Ross was unharmed.

- A police report, dated 2006.

You expect me to remember patrons I had four years ago? You're f****** crazy. Yeah, I remember their faces, but do you expect me to remember what they talked about? Hell if I know, man. I think it was something about a job opportunity. Just let me go.

- Anonymous bartender, 2010.

Word on the street is that they rushed in, put everyone against the wall, and... people saying the feds counted four-hundred shells on the floor. ██████ and all his family. They killed them all. But nah, man, Ross wasn't even there. He heard about it, though. For sure, for sure. Went to trial for a few days, came out like nothing had happened.

- Anonymous citizen, 2006

Alex slid next to Ross. "Fancy seeing you here." He motioned to the bartender. "Two beers." Then back to Ross: "What'd you think about the job?"

Ross didn't reply.


"You... killed..."

Alex didn't smile. "That's my line of work. And I'd like to offer you a job."

"No... I... I... no..."

"Ross, you're perfect." He grabbed a beer and took a swig. "You're not cut out to be a politician. Here's the two things that are gonna happen. You're going to join, or you won't. If you don't join us, you'll go along as normal, assuming you aren't arrested, and you'll get a low-ranking political position, but your little scandal will keep you out of anything important. You'll die in another fifty, sixty, seventy years, you'll be buried, and nobody will remember or care about you. Your kids may keep you in their thoughts for another few years, maybe so on for a few hundred years? And then you'll be forgotten, and nobody will know or care about you. You'll just be dead." He took another drink. "Or... you come with us. You'll get to have a good paying position, a nice office, fun, exciting, risky work. People will remember you for years because of your work and scandals, not in spite of it. You'll be known for thousands of years for your actions. You'll get your own Wikipedia page with multiple sections. People will know all about you. They'll read books about you. Assuming you live long enough, that is. I can't make any guarantees, but it's mostly safe work."

"But... killing..." Ross pulled his hood over his head. "I don't..."

"Be ready to go at nine o'clock next Saturday morning." He slid from the booth, and Alex was gone.

That night at least fourteen vehicles showed up outside his house in a convoy. Blackhawk choppers and big trucks with soldiers with berets and M16s. Humvees, too, with mounted 50s. I served in the Gulf War. Those were our troops, there weren't any kind of mercenaries. They dragged Ross out in his pajamas. They came back a few hours later, dropped Ross off, and never came back.

- Ross's neighbor, 2010.

They came in. They didn't say a word. I remember that face being there. Kid looked kind of scared. They went to the elevator. They went up. A few minutes went by. I heard some quiet popping noises. The elevator came back down, the men came out, and they left without saying a word. I think it's pretty damn clear what happened there, but I can't prove anything. The security camera feed went down that whole day, only got fixed a few days later.

- Front desk worker at Sunshine Condos, 2006

Yes, sir, I checked his ticket. If I recall correctly, it was an 8:30 flight to Hartsfield-Jackson, with a layover in London and a final stop in Tripoli. Seemed nice enough of a guy. What'd he do, again? What do you want him for?

- Airline worker, 2007

We nearly caught the bastard. I had their RHIB lit up with floodlights. And then they pulled a f****** rocket launcher out of their asses and blew a hole in my boat, and sped off to the mainland. He's definitely in the country by now. It'll be a miracle if we can even find where they landed, much less where they are now. Damn it, we were so close! If only we'd shot sooner we could've had him...

- Captain ██████ ██████, US Coast Guard, 2008

It happened so fast that nobody could react. Missiles were streaking across the sky, and everyone was trying to make it to cover but couldn't... the Capitol is supposed to be the symbol of our democracy, and they just blew it to hell. Fourteen senators died, and hundreds of people were injured. I myself caught a fragment in my leg trying to get people to safety. I didn't even see the shooters. F****** hell out there. I hate to say it, but if I were a soldier, I'd want those missiles on my side. I have to give that company some credit. Er... sorry.

I don't want to talk about it anymore. Just brings back bad memories. I've resigned. I can't take the nightmares anymore.

- Anonymous Police Officer, 2009

The CNN anchor surveyed the landscape.

"I am at a loss for words."

He couldn't think of a way to put the situation that would reflect what had truly happened here. People screaming... people who had their entire bodies blown to pieces by missiles moving too fast to even see... the blood... the bodies... and the bastards up in the Board of Directors are making money off of this. That's even worse.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a terrorist attack at the Capitol. The attack was carried using rocket launchers. Fourteen senators along with almost thirty other civilians are dead. No groups have claimed responsibility." And then he turned off his microphone and stormed off air. He sprinted to the news van.

"Why'd you stop? We're still runn--"

He bent over. "Turn it off."


"I've given all of the relevant information. I'm not about to stand around and make money off of this... national travesty. The center of democracy of our country has been attacked, and you expect me to go out there and make my pay for the month from this? Turn the cameras off."

"I can't do that. I have ord--"

"F*** your orders! Turn it off! Turn it all off!"

"What if there's updates in the story?"

The reporter leaned in close. "This kind of thing happens... because we make these people famous. We make these... terrorists... the story of the year, and all of a sudden everyone with few morals and a few bullets can get their spot on the nightly news without having to do any more than pulling a trigger. End this program now, and they don't get that publicity. People don't try to shoot people to get famous anymore. Now which is more important, a couple more pieces of information, or people's f*cking lives?"

"The information could save lives!"

"Does that outweigh the lives it will take?"

WANTED: John Adam Ross, for Charges of Terrorism, Murder, Attempted Murder, Weapons Trafficking. A $10,000,000 reward is offered for any information leading to his capture and arrest.

- FBI Most Wanted Poster, 2009

How was I supposed to know or care about what was on that ship? Records said it was like potatoes or something. And not only was I being paid twice as much for this job, but right as I was about to inspect the cargo a bunch of black-suited earpiece-wearing people came over and started flashing badges for quite a few three-letter agencies and told me to f*** off. I just left the site. You can check the punch card records. I wasn't there when the raid happened. No, I didn't hear or see any helicopters. No, I didn't see this man there. If he tried to hijack the ship, he must have done it at sea. And I wasn't on that ship. Never was.

- Anonymous Dock Worker, 2010

You want to know about Ross personally? Okay. He was a really nice guy, he always found the best of situations, even if said situation involved someone getting their limbs blown off by a cruise missile, he was a good shot with his rifle, he was an all-around pretty great guy. Would've been a really good politician had he not chosen the career he did. But all men make bad choices at some points in their lives, do they not?

- Defecting PO Operative, 2010

He did have some... uh... tastes, you could call them. For a variety of things, in alcohol, and his occasional use of drug. And he had a lot of partners, from women... to... well, men, and several people who... what is in-between? And... there were some rumors that he uh... you call it cross-dressing in English, no? But I quite liked him. He paid me on time, and he never really got mad at me or any of the soldiers, so... I did not bring any of that up near him. I did not care. He fed my family. I did not care.

- Anonymous Libyan Mercenary, 2010

Ross followed what he called "Ross-ism." The basic gist was that you did whatever would get you further ahead and keep you there. So if you were, say, a poor person, then you would advocate for more social policies and higher taxes on the wealthy. And if you became more wealthy, you would try to cut market regulation, and want to lower your taxes, stuff like that. He didn't understand why people were so surprised and intrigued by that. He just thought it was normal human behavior to try and get a step ahead of everyone else.

- Defecting PO Operative, 2011

At the end of the day, I think Ross was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He may be a mercenary, but he established standards of morality in his operations. When someone broke those standards, they were reprimanded, often with death. If you just sort of... did what he said, and didn't f*** up, he didn't care about anything else about you. He didn't care who you were, he treated everyone the same. Held them to the same standards. He was fair. He may have been a murderous paramilitary leader and he may have committed war crimes several times, but... we don't choose whether we even get to have a morality or not, do we? I mean, he built a nation from the ground up, defeated the US, stamped out corruption, exposed illicit US government actions... but do his accomplishments outweigh his immoral actions? I think they might. Maybe. But it's not up to the common man to decide, is it? It's the government's call. I think they're making the wrong call.

- Anonymous CIA Employee, 2016.

People who make decisions based on judgements based on assumptions can be divided into two classes.

Those who lose, and those who win.

The former are those who are smart.

The latter are those who are lucky.

- John Adam Ross, 2007

The UB-32 of Socialist Macronesia