Chandra, Nico, and Asher were escorted into the Oval Office by a put-out White House minder. Once inside, they found Raymond, torn and stained in the last outfit they’d seen him in a few hours earlier, lounging on one of the office couches as casually as they’d ever witnessed Raymond lounge.
Nico, filled with both relief and anger, broke from the group and strode towards him shouting, “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you tell us it was you ‘requesting our immediate presence at the White House’ at four in the morning? We were terrified when we heard what happened at Martha’s Vineyard. The reports are so confused and the press is frothing. They’re saying somehow it…it sank? We thought, or I thought…”
“I’m sorry,” Raymond opened his eyes, apologized, and stood to embrace her, “I didn’t think you’d worry too much about my safety and…well frankly I’ve been insanely busy since I got back into DC an hour ago.”
“So…you’re safe. And…in the Oval Office. And…where’s the President?” Asher inquired.
“I’m not entirely sure yet but I think I might be the President. Or, well I don’t know what to call it because clearly I wasn’t elected. But I thought calling it anything else might make my leadership feel unfamiliar, which would make everything harder. Even if I wasn’t elected, calling me President might be more comfortable for everyone. The powers of the office and appointment process are a bit different, but I figure if it’s the same word people might feel better about the whole thing. “
“Raymond, what are you talking about?” Nico asked, taking a seat on his couch.
“You can leave, if it’s alright by you,” Raymond dismissed the group’s escorts, who happily backed out of the room and closed the handsome wooden doors behind them. He turned back to his companions and spoke with no-little amount of embarrassment, “So I sort of took over the country I guess.”
“You just decided this? When?” Asher asked.
“Well…I was pretty sick of the whole thing, you know? Like, I went to Martha’s Vineyard and had this confrontation with a group of awful people who, I mean I understand they are scared of change and their psychology and all but, god, they were just so awful! But I was going to make peace. I was going to stand there and let them try to kill me as much as they wanted, but I was going to make peace no matter how hard it was. But then, before I could really even try, another group of equally awful people decided to blow everything up. So we all sunk, but none of us died and all of it was stupid and awful. I floated for a while on a plank from a broken table waiting to be rescued and all I could think about was how hard both sides were trying to get around not being able to use violence to do the same stupid and awful things they’ve always done. Those people are everyone else in the whole world, or at least it feels like they’re everyone else. Or, maybe just everyone else is complacent or tolerant and content to just let those groups of other people carry on in whatever way they want, with all their stupidity and awfulness. And so, basically what’s the point of trying to convince anyone of any better way? No one knows any better way because there’s never been a better way and as long as those people are there and, even when they literally can’t even use violence, they still do everything in their power to blow up and sink and destroy everything.”
He was feverish; his words confused and repetitive with significantly less contrived elegance.
Nico began, “But, Raymond all we can do is try to convince…it may be an uphill battle, like Sisyphus, but…”
“I don’t want to be Sisyphus anymore! What no one is saying is while we’re feeling very righteous and noble and philosophical in our views while we try to educate and convince all these complacent, tolerant, and content people that there’s another way to live in this world other than having to put up with these stupid and awful people and letting them continue doing all the shit they’ve been doing for all of human history to make this planet full of horrors, what no one is saying is the horrors are happening right now. And those aren’t theories or philosophical debates or academic ideas, those are real people experiencing real suffering and being blown up and sunk and destroyed by awful people every single second, perpetuating our infinite cycles of violence. Balancing out there on the water trying to twist myself into a shape to keep as much of my body out of the cold as I could manage, I thought how silly it all was, and how silly and selfish and idiotic I’ve been. The second I found out I could put a stop to all this, why didn’t I? Because I hate violence? I’m a pacifist? Human existence is violence. Our essence, the core of our being, is constructed for and calibrated towards violence. We don’t know how to function without it. And by pretending my personal philosophy protects me from the sins of my fellow man, that somehow I, as a pacifist and human being who has not directly committed any violence, am not equally culpable in my species’ crimes; that’s the greatest lie I can tell myself. So I’m going to start using my violence, because humanity always uses violence in the end. But I’m going to use my violence exclusively to force humanity to see there’s a better way; a way to live peacefully. Even if that peace isn’t a choice, I will be the one who break our cycles.”
Raymond’s eyes were shining with the fervor of his convictions. The remainder of the group became increasingly tense as the flood of his ramblings washed over them.
Asher spoke first, “But, Raymond, how are we showing the way to peace through violence? This isn’t the way we’d discussed. There’s a path…a method to doing all this. And you know I was the first one to call for waking up and recognizing what needed to be done in reality as opposed to sitting around debating philosophy…but this…”
“Yes, I know you were. And I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you sooner. I was so caught up in my own self-righteous ideas. But now I see and so I act. And from here we can go any direction we choose.”
“No, we can’t Raymond,” Nico cut in, “Don’t you see that decisive action doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing the right thing? Taking action simply because you have the power at that moment doesn’t mean you’re making things better. We have no idea how your actions will shift the world. Humanity is too complicated and unpredictable for these sudden, unplanned jolts. I understand it’s frustrating and horrifying to see all that suffering and know you have the power to act and have an effect, and I’m sure it feels like the right thing to do. Once you act and see the immediate and instantly gratifying results of your actions, it’s so easy to feel satisfied, and maybe for the first time feel accomplished because you can observe these immediate macro level changes rather than the imperceptible micro-shifts we’d been working on before. But, this isn’t the way to do it. Taking these actions…we have to plan and consider and research and then decide. If not, we have no idea what road we’re taking humanity down. This instant gratification; is it any better than the actions of those ‘stupid and awful’ men? Why do you think they do what they do? And…why do you think I made those mistakes in Anacostia?”
The light in Raymond’s eyes diminished slightly as he looked around at his friends, “But…I feel like we’ve all been living in a fantasy world. Like some naïve paradise where we can fix humanity with soft solutions like education and technology and political reforms. I…I don’t know if I believe we can anymore. Maybe sometimes you have to kill people.”
Chandra entered the conversation, “You do not have to do anything. We can say killing is an expedient solution to an immediate problem, and we might even say in some scenarios killing is essential for self-preservation. There are humans with mental diseases or twisted philosophies or chemically-manipulated brains who will kill without a moment of hesitation. But to say we ever must kill is a falsehood. If we kill to accomplish a goal, let us say we killed to accomplish that specific goal, even if that goal is simple survival. Let us never delude ourselves into believing we do not have a choice.”
“That’s the same naïve logic!” Raymond cried, “Semantic discussions are well and good for academia, but when we’re dealing with real life it means nothing. Do we tell an invaded nation they should comfort themselves with the reality of their choices? As their cities are pillaged and women raped, as always happens during an invasion, should they remind themselves they kill to ‘accomplish a specific goal’ of stopping the pillaging and raping? It’s such a useless thought!”
Chandra responded calmly, “Raymond, you are saying it is useless to think. You are condemning our species to a descriptive state, one where we are never anything more than petty, selfish, rampaging beasts reacting to external stimuli with minimal internal control. Perhaps we have been such. Perhaps some of us still are. And perhaps some of us still are some of the time. But I believe you have lost sight of our nuances and potential. Action simulates clarity by removing nuance; decisiveness requires sharp contrasts. However when you speak of naïveté, I think perhaps it is the action-oriented who are naïve, even though their worldview makes them believe otherwise. The righteousness of certainty, particularly when it justifies the death of another human being, does wonders for the regard one holds for one’s own sophistication.”
Agreeing, Nico added, “And is it in you to think we’re nothing more than the beasts Chandra described? If we’re not capable of anything better, why try to improve the world for humanity at all? Don’t we deserve the world we create for ourselves? I know that you believe, despite what you’re saying, we have hope and there’s the potential within us to be better. Not just one person, one family, one tribe, or city, or state, or nation. Rather all of humanity is capable. That is the least naïve perspective I can imagine because it’s the hardest road to walk. We know how futile every action appears when compared against the grand sum of human suffering, but recognizing that and taking action anyway is the most important decision you can make. Perhaps you’re tired of being Sisyphus, and you think it’s naïve to hope for anything better as you push your boulder, but it’s just as naïve to believe there’s no hope. Eternity’s a long time. Why condemn yourself and humanity to hopelessness when neither you nor anyone else knows what will happen?”
Raymond sank back onto the couch and closed his eyes in deep contemplation. Minutes passed and the others began looking to one another in concern. Nico warily crept to Raymond’s side and placed her hand on his shoulder. Immediately his eyes snapped back open and he stood up, flustered and bewildered.
“What? What is…oh I’m sorry. I think I fell asleep. I’m so tired, I haven’t slept at all.”
“Raymond, did you hear what we said?”
“Yes of course, about eternity and all that. And, right. I get it. I suppose you’re all right and I was being a bit…imprudent with all this decisiveness and condemnation and hopelessness. But it sure feels like I’m doing the right thing, you know? It’s naïve to hope, less naïve to give up hope and assume all humans are base animals, and the least naïve to recognize you should probably give up hope but still try to make the world better anyways?”
“I don’t know whether we should keep talking about what is and isn’t naïve. It’s more a question of what type of world you want to live in and how we get there. If we gave it all up and became nihilists, I don’t know what we’d work on. We could always be wrong and blowing up the world is the best option after all,” Nico attempted levity, “Now why don’t you get some actual sleep and tomorrow you can tell us how you took over the United States in an hour.”
“I like that idea. Want to sleep with me in the President’s bed?”
“That sounds marvelous, though I hope they changed the sheets with the administration. Chandra, Asher, I’m sure there have to be other beds somewhere…”
Asher smiled, “We’ll manage. We should probably get back to the safe-house to make sure our test-tubed bundle-of-joy is alright. Call us tomorrow when Raymond’s had a decent rest and is feeling slightly less megalomaniacal…or send the Secret Service to pick us up, whichever is more convenient.”
The next afternoon found Nico walking into the President’s bedroom with a pair of lunch plates, waking Raymond from his refreshing slumber.
“I’m shocked at all the people still working like nothing’s happened!” Nico expressed as she made her way to the bed to sit beside Raymond and hand him lamb curry.
“Yeah, hardly anyone seemed too upset after I put out that I was doubling their salaries if they stayed on for a seamless transition. Mmm, curry!” Raymond quickly consumed the plate’s contents, realizing only after finishing how he’d forgotten his manners, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so rude…I just remembered all of a sudden that I hadn’t eaten since I left the safe-house…”
Nico smiled happily, pleased to see Raymond was comfortable enough around her to mistakenly drop his formal mannerisms every now and then, “Please, don’t be sorry! I’m happy to see you eat with such vigor.”
Raymond blushed, “I’m trying to be more relaxed, really! But I feel like trying to relax just turns into awkwardly fake relaxing, which makes me much less actually relaxed.”
“I know, I know. You can do whatever you want, fake relaxing or real relaxing, whichever makes you more comfortable.” She hesitated before adding, “Raymond, I’m really happy with us, with our relationship. I think we’re doing great.”
Raymond propped himself up in the large, luxurious bed and looked at Nico inquisitively. “You mean our relationship is structured correctly? You enjoy its power dynamics, or…”
“I think we’ve achieved a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of connections and relationship infrastructure, and I’m really in love with you.”
A cessation of all previous brain activity greeted this specific wave pattern of vibrations as they filtered through Raymond’s mind. According to his best guess as to his own state of affairs, he loved Nico as well. But he didn’t trust his best guess or any self-assessment of his own state of affairs, so offering forth an honest affirmation of love was tricky. He attempted to relate this in what he hoped was a timely manner after a new type of vulnerability was revealed by the woman sitting across from him on the President’s bed.
“I love you too, Nico,” he said.
“I know. And I know what it means for you to say that. And I know that your brain is analyzing what you just said, wondering if it’s completely accurate or whether you’re fooling yourself or lying to me or fooling yourself about fooling yourself or lying to me about lying to me. And that’s okay, because those thoughts are part of why I’m in love with you. You shine beyond your neurosis, however thick they are, and can make the choice to leave your confinement anytime. Keep talking to me when you feel overwhelmed and slowly build a reality for yourself where you learn how to lead your neurosis rather than the other way around.”
Raymond’s brain looked for a flaw or an escape or a trap. Why was she saying this to him?
“I understand how lost and battered by the world you feel. You rescued me from my cynicism and half-experienced life and I think I can, I really think I can, help reintroduce you to loving yourself without reservation. It’s terrifying, but let’s be terrified together!”
Before Raymond could react in the only way he knew how, a hurried knock rapped at their door.
“Yes, please come in!” Nico called.
A frightened looking White House staffer entered and skittered over to the side of their bed, “Umm, good afternoon sir, Mr. President? Mrs…President?”
“I’m not sure I’m going with “President” and we aren’t married. And even if we were I’d never be so chauvinistic as to suggest she abandon her identity and last name in favor of mine,” Raymond smiled kindly at the staffer and then at Nico, who rolled her eyes.
“Oh, well then…Sir? There’s an issue that requires your immediate attention. If it’s your prerogative to get dressed after you do so I will escort you to the Situation Room.”
“My pleasure. Could you also have someone call Asher Rose and Chandra Sen at our house in Alexandria and…or rather just send a car for him. Or call him and send a car, actually. Oh and I don’t have any clothes other than the tatters I came here in, do you have any spare shirts, pants, belts, ties, jackets, socks, and shoes?”
“The Preside…former President should have some clothes here…though he was quite a bit larger.”
“I’ll just have to make due I suppose. If you’ll excuse me, I’m naked under these blankets.”
Forty-five minutes later Raymond emerged wearing a dark blue suit three sizes too large and cinched up to his waste by a belt containing a roughly punctured hole miles away from its machine-made brethren.
The gathered aides stifled their laughter.
“I suppose this is the best I can do for now,” Raymond grinned, “Now let’s go check out the situation!”
As Nico fell in beside the group, one of the aides objected, “I’m sorry but ma’am, you do not have the security clearance to…”
“Oh rubbish!” Raymond said, laughing, “Nico Leftiè, by the authority granted by…whatever I am, I hereby dub thee Ms. Nico Leftiè, Really High Security Clearance Holder. There,” he continued, turning to the objecting aide, “Does that work?”
“Well…Mr. Presiden…Sir, We have protocols and…”
“You were part of a pretty bad government.” Raymond responded. He moved forward alone before remembering he didn’t know which way to go, “Now please show me where the Situation Room is so I can get to work.”
The cavalcade arrived at the highly secured briefing room to join a cluster of bewildered military generals and admirals as well as the heads of various important lettered departments and agencies.
“What’s up?” Raymond asked.
“Who are…where’s the President?” one of the men called out.
“Oh, you don’t know? Who knows?” Raymond asked, turning to the closest aide.
“We decided it would be best if you told people directly. But there are always leaks.”
“Oh yeah! That’s a really good idea! Alright then,” Raymond announced, “My name is Raymond Clock and if it’s alright with everyone, though probably also even if it’s not, though I really hope you will all hear me out and we can get through this turbulent period together, but I understand if some of you have moral qualms with the situation, which I would be more than happy to discuss anytime!. But…anyways, I’m the new leader or whatever of the United States of America.”
The highest ranking members of America’s defensive and offensive capabilities stood in stunned silence.
Another voice called from somewhere in the room, “Is this a joke? Where’s the President?”
“Well, I was hoping Asher Rose and Chandra Sen would join us so I didn’t have to repeat…ahh Hey Asher! Hi Chandra! Perfect timing! I hope you had a pleasant ride!” Raymond called to his friends as the slid into the back of the room in front of the highly-distressed minders from much earlier that morning.
“Raymond, why are we in the Situation Room? What’s going on? We had to force our way in.” Asher responded with an edge of annoyance.
“Damn it all, by the power vested in me I now name you both Cleared or whatever it is you need to be in here. Anyways, I was just starting to explain to all these lovely people how we got here. So,” he shifted his focus back to the whole group, “As you might have noticed, I’m not the previous President. In fact, I’m probably not even a President at all, though I’m still unsure on that point…”
“Just be the President, Raymond! Deal with semantics later!” Nico yelled at him.
“Fine, fine. Okay, I’m the new President, but obviously I wasn’t elected…”
“How did you get in here?! Where’s the Secret Service?” voices from the crowd interrupted him.
“Right!” Raymond shouted over them, “I’m getting there, hold your horses! So the thing is I’m the only human in the world not infected with NFVS.”
“That’s impossible! It’s not a disease, it’s a state of being!” came a response.
“Oh hey Chandra, look at that! I see we have another Believer in the crowd! Well, okay, state of being, or disease, or whatever it is, it doesn’t affect me at all. Which means I can still use violence.”
“Lies! Prove it! You’re lying!”
“I’ve been punching a lot of noses recently and don’t really want to punch any more, but if I have to punch another nose to prove my point, I will. So who wants their nose punched?”
The crowd was silent until a red-faced admiral volunteered, “I’ll do it!”
“Great! Please step over here, sir!”
“What? I didn’t say anything!” The admiral spluttered.
“Didn’t you just?” Raymond asked, “Didn’t everyone just hear him volunteer?”
“It’s the Secretary of the Army, he’s a ventriloquist on the side and does this stupid thing all the time,” the Secretary of the Air Force responded, “Dammit Bob, can’t you be serious for once?”
“Screw you, Ronald. You always were a god damned Blue Falcon.” the head of the CIA seemed to say in a deeper voice than anyone would’ve expected to emanate from her diminutive form.
“Alright, alright,” Raymond calmed the bestirred bureaucrats and officials, “If the Secretary of the Army wants to joke around, it looks like he’s the one who volunteers. Come on up here, Mr. Secretary.”
The crowd parted and a short, balding man wearing his heavily-medaled dress-blues was pushed forward.
“Aww come on guys! Fine, fine. Get it over with, I’ve done combatives.”
Raymond wound up and delivered a well-struck blow to the middle of the Secretary of the Army’s bulbous nose, causing the man to fall backward and yowl with pain.
“YEOWWCH!! Oh my god! That hurt!” he cried, “Does someone have a tissue?”
The room dropped into silence once more as someone handed a tissue to the stricken Secretary and Raymond continued, “Well that’s done. I had to do the same thing to the President when I got here and asked him to get out of town to prevent any confusion. I believe by now he should be back at his ranch in Texas starting his relaxing new retirement. His staff has been kind enough to stay on to make this transition as painless as possible. I’m happy to accept resignations, however I’m equally happy to keep things as they are and move forward. To help persuade you to say, I’d ask you to consider that we are now the only country in the world capable of violence. We will make an announcement to the citizens of America soon.”
At these words the eyes of every general, admiral, agency head, undersecretary, and aide gleamed with the light of true believers. Nico, Chandra, Asher, and Raymond smiled at one another knowing they’d won.
“Now what’s this urgent business we’re all here for?”
The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a reedy old woman with an unauthorized purple patch over her left eye, an affectation no-one in the fifteen years since she’d lost her eye at the Battle of Iguazu Falls had ever had the internal fortitude to tell her violated military regulations, stepped out of the crowd and handed Raymond a folder marked TOP SECRET.
Raymond saw the words and chuckled, “You really do that? Wow, that’s so stupid! I feel like I’m in a stupid movie.”
“Sir, Mr. President, this is the full report from Operation Atlantis, the operation to take down the AFFA cell operating out of Martha’s Vineyard. During the operation I regret to inform you…”
“I know what happened! I was there!” Raymond shouted with a sudden passion, “I saw the idiocy of the decision-making process of the previous administration. No more! We’re done!”
“But sir…the terrorists escaped. We must…”
“We must do nothing! Let them escape! What can they do other than bomb us every once and a while and annoy a lot of people?”
“That…that’s too much and unacceptable…with our new arsenal and firepower…”
“You mean MY firepower, right? General Masalajammer, I’m not going to go out and kill these men. We’ve got better things to do, like getting the rest of the world on board.”
This pronouncement led to mass confusion in the small room.
“We don’t need the rest of the world!”
“The Chinese will betray us first chance they get! You can never trust a Chinese, that’s what my dad always said!”
“The Russians will never play ball! Those Russkies are cold-blooded killers, that’s what my mom always said!”
“Screw the Danes! What did they ever do for anyone!? Never pet a Great Dane in heat! That’s what my step-uncle-twice-removed on my mother’s side always said!”
“STOP! Be quiet! All of you!” Raymond shouted, silencing the commotion, “I thought it would be a good idea to keep the old-hands close for your expertise, but clearly I was mistaken. How can any of you begin to conceive of the world we’re building? Get out! Get out of this city!”
“But sir, my pappy used to say the Moroccans need to be…”
He kicked some and shoved others. He even punched a few extra noses just to make a point. Eventually the room was emptied of the mewling mass of officials, leaving only Chandra, Nico, Asher, President Raymond and the loyal White House staffers.
“Well that soured rather quickly.” Asher joked, trying to cheer a fuming Raymond.
“I don’t know what I was thinking. They’re the people who got us here! I need to remember my Freire.”
Nico comforted him, “Don’t worry about it. It would have been nice to have them, but I understand why you’re so upset. They’re gone, we’re here. Let’s go set up this big announcement.”
Raymond looked up from his brooding, “I…yes. That’s a good idea. Let’s do that.”
“I couldn’t sleep when I got home so I typed up your speech. Give it a read and let me know what you think,” Asher beamed as he handed a pile of papers to Raymond, who took the pages slowly.
“What’s wrong?” Nico asked him.
“It’s really just us, isn’t it? We’re it? There’s no one else?”
Nico sighed, “No, it’s not just us, Raymond. There’re plenty of great and diverse people in the world, maybe not as specifically talented in what we’re doing right now as you or Chandra in science or Asher in…well everything, or even myself in… I don’t know, being rich and empathetic with my power?” Nico laughed and continued, “But they’re better in plenty of other ways. Or not better, because that doesn’t mean anything, just different and diverse and worthwhile for the trillion nuances that make them interesting people. This isn’t some Ayn Rand ‘we’re the titans of society’ thing. So get that out of your mind now. There ARE other people in the world Raymond, they’re just not taking into consideration the way you think they should be living. But take knowing me or Chandra or Asher as proof that if you’re lucky enough to already meet us in your short life span, there must be plenty more wonderful people out there, all over the world, billions of them, that you haven’t met. And they’re worth working hard for to fix this world. Not just the ones we like though, because the ‘bad’ ones are merely a product of the constructs they were born into. So all those MBs, and racists, and war-mongers, and hate-filled idiots you despise, we can make the world better for them too. That’s also how you prove them wrong. Show them the world can be a better place and maybe they’ll realize they don’t have to think and live the way they’ve been tricked into thinking they’ve got to live. Don’t for one second believe we’re the only worthwhile people around, because not only is it untrue, it’s never something a worthwhile person would think. We just happen to be in a pretty unique position right now with a pretty unique skill-set and lots of resources between the four of us. Let’s not confuse our privilege for anything other than an increased potential for effective action. But really deeply considered and deliberated action, because that’s what the world needs and deserves.”
Raymond goggled at her, “Wow…wow, I really do love you!”
Nico smiled, “You’d better. That was a pretty good speech and you can’t do this without me.”
“Holy shit, Nico, why didn’t you give that speech earlier?” Asher chided her playfully.
“Well you’re not Raymond and you can’t single handedly destroy the world, can you?” Nico jabbed back, “I let you have your delusions as long as they didn’t go too far. Don’t worry, Chandra and I had a plan if you ever did.”
Chandra grinned broadly, “Who would we be if we did not have a plan to rein you in if you required reining?”
Asher was mockingly gobstruck, “Would you listen to this? I never! We’re just a pair of playthings for these two. Of course they didn’t know about our super-secret plan regarding them, now did they?”
“Plan? What pla…Oh! The plan!” Raymond said, catching on too late.
“Thanks, buddy.” Asher joked.
One of the long-forgotten aides cleared her throat, bringing the group back to the reality of the Situation Room.
Asher snapped back to work, “Oh yes, well we probably shouldn’t keep standing around like a bunch of idiots smiling at one another. His Majesty President Raymond the First, if I could make a suggestion to his Grace, might I recommend finding some clothes that fit before you announce to the world you’re its new violent dictator? You look a bit overwhelmed by that suit.”
“I need time to practice the speech anyways. Do you guys want to go shopping and get a bite to eat? It might be nice to do something kind of normal for the first time in…almost a year?”
“I’m just shocked people have enough discipline to do things like shop.” Nico marveled as the group moved out of the room.
“Never underestimate the power of social inertia. It’s amazing how different the world can become while human culture clings to its artifices. Familiarity’s a hell of a construct.” Asher waxed.
The happy party, with their now-permanent tail of aides, left the White House and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue in search of a fitting outfit for a ruler the world didn’t know it had.
 Waged during the height of the War on Drugs and Illegal Drug ParaphernaliaTM between America and the rest of the Americas. The war began after every other nation on both continents collectively decided they’d had it with America’s repressive drug policy. Though the central grievance is now dismissed and generally viewed as “complete poppycock” by victorious historians, according to losing historians and the rest of the world, America’s indefinite War on Drugs perpetuated cycles of trauma, violence, and instability and allowed the United States to violate the sovereignty of weaker nations nearly at will. THE America, with heavy assistance from mysterious groups of well-funded, well-armed native freedom fighter armies within each combatant nation, won the war handily and turned the governments of the losing nations over to their new local allies.
 Raymond, cognizant he’d only punched the noses of white men thus far, decided diversity in all things was vital and made sure to punch the noses of as many minority women as he could find. Unfortunately there weren’t many. He made a note of this and decided it was one of the first things he’d change.