This story is about what Fort Worth, Texas and what all of it personally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually means to me, but it doesn’t take place in Fort Worth. The setting of this story is a perfect utopia, completely fulfilling for all of its citizens in every way. The citizens who inhabit this city call it The Place because previously in history, there were many places. Now, there is one; just one big, intimately, interconnected neighborhood. Imagine a world where if you needed food, friends, culture, or education, or any sort of fulfillment all you needed to do was go to the vacuum tube delivery system built into your house and fill out, then deposit, the proper paper work. Everything that happens in The Place happens through this system of applications. This is the functionality of the central government whose headquarters have been nicknamed “The Mailroom” because of the constant back-and-forth correspondence the government has with its citizens.
This is the outline for the structure of what is the equivalent of voting for them, because instead of being left to do their own thing, or decisions being made for them, the citizens have totally equal shared power in enacting their vision for what they as individuals believe their society should be. Every household is a member of their Parliament. In their home’s vacuum tubes, they receive from the government a daily education on as intentionally objective of a worldview history as anyone could ever receive. And as they learn more about how the world has worked previously, these citizens form their own individual ideas of what works best in terms of economics, politics, social studies, etc. Once this happens, at any given point in time, the inhabitants of The Place are welcome and even encouraged to make changes in the mechanism that is their government by applying for amendments to their society’s structure.
Through their world history schooling, the local populace can determine for themselves what has and hasn’t worked throughout history; what was and wasn’t a good idea. People who make the informed decision that anarchy, socialism, democracy, capitalism, communism, or anything in between works best can send in a two-part application (first part in multiple-choice, box checking form, and the second part being an essay portion) to The Mailroom to be processed. The government observes everyone’s applications and close to immediately compromises all those individual requests into this society’s pool of ideas and puts them into action. Based on this, no matter where you stand in your worldview, everyone gets what they want. Those who want to do for themselves, those who want to makes sure everyone is getting shared resources, and those who want to see and acquire the finer things in life can all be satisfied in their yearnings there. No one wants for resources, community or activity and everyone lives in total harmony.
Well, that would mean that it’s someone’s job is to lift the thousands of bags of applications from one place to another and do the hard work of sorting these things by hand and making sure that they get to the right place. Insert our protagonist, whose name is T. In a world where you only work if you want to, T volunteers for the most annoying, tedious, and labor-intensive job known in his community because he’s constantly seeking out ways to serve his environment as a means of fulfillment. He’s a natural skeptic, a tad absent-minded at times, and highly sentimental and nostalgic, but he loves his community and he’s always happy to participate in a hands-on way. He enjoys working hard and sharing equal power with his fellow man. He plays with The Place’s largely pantheistic spiritual climate like a toy, but doesn’t really hold on to any religious truths for himself. He’s charged with a sense of duty, but the way he sees it, even the flowers blooming and producing a poignantly stirring scent are naturally doing their part to make their world a better place.
“At home my neighbor's the president
So am I plus a resident of this heaven-sent benevolent sediment settlement
Petals intelligent blooming a precious metal sent
Assuming its position in our atmosphere conditioned
I'm a human on a mission: protecting and servin'
There's no election and perfection
Just inspectin', observin'” – The Place
But T becomes discontented when he starts seeing what he believes to be a pattern in his observation of history: greatness. Great people doing great things for the greater good whose great works last as a great monument to greatness. He keeps seeing history happening in a way where great people become major catalysts for change. In his life now, he sees lacking for a concentrated striving toward excellence. And now in everything from art, politics, speech, media, and architecture he’s constantly reminded of what he has yet to achieve as a low-rung volunteer Mailroom employee. In his mind, greatness is there for all to pursue and achieve, but those who don’t are left to gradually grow bitter for not attempting to do so in their own way just as he is. So he applies for a promotion to Bag Room Supervisor believing it will be the first step on his conquest to respectability and historical relevance.
“Turning in my thus completed promotion thesis
hoping it's decent, genius, or close to cohesive reason
I'm not elitist, I'm just hoping to decrease my perceived alienation,
improving upon greatly the state of my nation
I wildly filed for every job except my current one
Give me responsibility where others preferred to run
I'll make sure that the job is perfectly done, deservedly won
Because I prefer to be strong” – Great Minds (Think For Themselves)
However, a problem emerges when T receives a letter back that states his application has been received and processed. It seems as though he was so crazed, frenzied, speeding, and obsessed with enacting his potential greatness while filling out his promotion application that he didn’t think about the fact that his application was for all jobs issued by The Place’s government and not just the Mailroom’s list of occupations. So in checking every single box on the application, he left his fate up to the government and based on his statements in the essay portion of the application and reasoning for what he hoped to achieve in excellence, they decided that the best place for him in their society is in a secret military group of special ops titled the Mailroom Military Vanguard: Free Radical Division. This division does the work that nobody else wants to.
Now, it’s important to state here that until this very moment, T, along with all other inhabitants of The Place, has no idea that The Mailroom even has a military. Why would they need a military? Especially a military with a Special Ops division? After all, they call themselves The Place, because there are no other places. There are no other societies. This application-reception letter is the first time he hears the words “The Rest” which eludes to all other locations that are not within the geographical confines of The Place.
He’s told that Boot Camp for The Vanguard’s trainees starts in 7 days and he’s told to report at Undrafted Center, the place where everyone who volunteers to be in The Mailroom’s military is indoctrinated. T’s reaction to this assessment is an impassioned rejection. He sees the prior militaries of the world as a farce, a scam, and a tool of destruction more than a tool of defense. How could The Place have been more wrong in their assessment of him? How could they have lied about there being more than one “place”?
He arrives at Undrafted Center ready to explain that there’s been a mistake and reject his indoctrination, but a drill instructor at the camp convinces him that that he lacks what is necessary in his pursuit of greatness in the midst of his current life: discipline. In a few short words, the drill instructor begins to align T’s concept of greatness with The Vanguard’s concept of discipline. T spends some time mulling over the concept. He cannot escape his sense of duty. He still believes in The Place. It is all he has ever known. He has high hope and confidence that the function of this military is to serve The Place’s community altruistically. What he’s being offered by The Vanguard is what he’s been searching for all along: purpose. His imagination begins to fill in the blanks of what services their military provides. He begins to believe that these guys commit to being the very best they can be mentally, physically, and spiritually so that they can, with every ounce of their faculty feed and comfort those who need help, perhaps by going outside of The Place to collect resources. After all, more land outside of The Place doesn’t necessarily mean more societies. He isn’t certain of anything at this point, but he’s on a path to greatness and the mission may have become deeper, but nothing can stop his pursuit. So, he enlists.
Here, we meet Sudo, a friendly, but overbearing and aggressive personality who takes it upon himself to show the ropes to T, who sticks out drastically from the rest of packin Boot Camp. All of the other members have been training to be a part of this outfit for years. T is still in public servant mode while the others are intentionally absorbing their training to become the finest fighting men in the world. Sudo often makes fun of T’s naivety, and has a more practical sense of what’s happening with The Vanguard, but Sudo though he identifies himself as a warrior, isn’t entirely in-the-know either. Nevertheless, Sudo goes out of his way to make sure T knows that by going through this process together and becoming new people, they are being made brothers. Through this friendship with Sudo, T becomes less distracted by his reservations and is excited to relay his progress to a friend who is going through the same scenario he is. And together, through barb-wire crawls, sky jumps, lethal sparing, tactical training, and near-drowning, they become an inseparable lethal force.
They become fully devoted to their fellow operatives. They test state of the art weapon technology including Cybernetic Vests which enable them to run marathons in as little time as 17 seconds, Pathogen-Deposit Rockets (which are used with gas masks) that directly poison an enemy and their surrounding area so that biological warfare is readily accessible in handgun-form, and amphetamines which are glued to the roofs of these soldiers mouths so that they can call on that “extra something” in the midst of battle as easily as possible. They are given free reign to test their abilities to make their movements and actions as free-flowing and natural as possible.
All of this training takes place and yet none of them still know how they will actually be using this training. None of them have ever been to The Rest.
Boot Camp is completed by Sudo and T and they are put in a plane so large that it could fit multiple other planes on it. They are told that once they parachute out of the plane into The Rest, they will set up camp, sleep, and receive further instructions from there. On the plane, they express their readiness for an as-of-yet imaginary war while they listen to a blaring intercom shouting instructions or demanding their alertness. They’re excited to know all the various formations and war tactics that they do and to feel as physically capable as they do. They have grown to worship their own toughness and they look forward to their future youthful adventures which the Vanguard calls “Development”. The plane ride takes days. And days. And then more days. And over time, they casually express their skepticism and reservations to each other.
Why are there no windows on this plane? Why have we been fed 30 breakfasts? Where are we going? Why wouldn’t our training include more about the environment we’d be fighting in? Going from an environment of constant training and activity to sitting on a plane for a month where the same instructions and demands are repeated over the intercom slowly drives them insane. Stir-craziness sits in with all of The Vanguard and when it comes time to jump out of the plane, Sudo upon landing in the dark, totally uninhabited, dying jungle wasteland, checks out of the whole setting-up-of-camp objective and, for reasons unknown, just takes off running.
T, better than anybody, though taken off-guard by Sudo’s actions, is able to keep up with him and once he relocates Sudo, he finds that he’s brutally beating an orphaned, unarmed kid and is about to intentionally murder the child.
T is in total shock and disgust and struggles with Sudo to stop his actions. He tells Sudo that he’s sick and twisted, confused, and going way off script. Sudo claims that T is a coward, that destroying people like the child in question is exactly what they’ve been sent there to do, that he has a license to kill freely, that it’s for the greater good, and T needs to get out of the way so that he can finish his work. T knows there’s no way he’ll stand by and let this happen. Sudo asserts that if T stands in the way of his actions he stands in direct opposition to The Vanguard, The Mailroom Military, and The Place as a whole and proceeds with attempting to murder the kid. T, without thinking, fatally shoots Sudo in the head. He doesn’t hear his body hit the ground.
If T was in shock before, he goes momentarily catatonic with this act of killing and, for a split second, isn’t fully aware of how his friend’s body ended up on the ground with a gunshot wound in his head. He comes back to his senses when he sees the child running and hiding from the other 20 members of their Vanguard class who have caught up to Sudo and T, witnessed the outcome of their conflict, and based on the fact that T just killed one of their own, they are fully prepared to kill him as a traitor, the child’s life being wholly inconsequential to them.
He realizes at this moment what they’ve been brainwashed to become: terrorists. They are a class of military solely trained to become monsters that are unleashed upon the world killing everything in sight. This drives what little sanity T has left out of the window and a savage showdown between T and The Vanguard commences.
T begins by arming an explosive while talking to the rest of his class even though he’s come to the conclusion that he will not be able to convince them. He throws the explosive, mid-speech and kills a few soldiers immediately while blinding or distracting the rest. He then takes off running because he knows he’ll have a tactical advantage in motion even with all parties involved having their speed-inducing cybernetic vests because of how long it took the rest of his class to catch up with him and Sudo. He lets his bloodthirst free and picks off each soldier one-by-one as ruthlessly and remorselessly as possible. He experiences the same delusions of grandeur as Sudo, but turned against the Vanguard, and he considers each member chasing after him as signing their own death warrant.
Over the course of an evening, he breaks some men’s necks, he impales some men with a javelin he fashions, uses more timed explosives, holds a man hostage only to stab him in the eyes, he cuts the Captain of The Vanguard’s head off, and fires countless rounds of ammunition. Meanwhile, The Vanguard hunts him with guns, explosives, flame-throwers, and aerial vision, but most effectively the Pathogen-Deposit Rockets which through the use of without a gas mask and through the use on under the same conditions, T grows gravely ill to the point of near-death, but by calling on his “extra something” and rendezvousing with the child he saved who says that he can take T to where he lives in safety, he escapes being found and killed.
With the child supporting T as they hurry through the miles it takes to get to their designated location (all while the former is firing his gun at more operatives), T’s entire worldview is flipped upside-down again when, through a series of disguised and hidden tunnels, he arrives at the place that has been referred to as “The Rest”: an endless underground population of malnourished, diseased, starving, naked, and weak people who’ve been forced into living in these subterranean burrows because traveling to the surface means being hunted by The Place’s military, who also have armed guards around bodies of fresh water. T discovers that The Rest uses children who are more agile and less detectable by their older counterparts to trek outside of the tunnels and gather food, water, or other needs.
He begins to put together that the reason why The Place is so opulent and capable as a society is because they have stolen and taken for themselves all of the world’s resources and have either killed the rest of the world’s population or have forced them into lives of inhuman suffering underground, keeping them powerless to prevent any sort of resistance. This affords them all of the world’s riches and potential and makes fuel for flights of massive aircrafts carrying massive amounts of people and weapons possible. T also discovers that even though he was in the air travelling for a month, the only thing their plane was doing was circling a location they knew a large number of people in The Rest congregate, which happened to only be a few miles away from the very Place he’s spent all of his life in the confines of.
In this cavernous setting, T comes face-to-face with people who beg for his services and aide, this population of helpless souls who’ve been beaten into submission. However, he also feels a sense of disgust and resentment for the people he’s serving because of how cowardly and passive he sees them as being. Fresh out of battle, his mind is also still going into the place of “Why did Sudo have to do that? If he didn’t do that, everything could go back to normal?” and his unwillingness or incapability to accept his new reality grows him more and more bitter.
In desperation, before he has time to heal, he makes a plan to go back out and fetch water from the guarded water supply for him and perhaps those around him. His plan is to use the fatigues he’s already clothed in and go to the water supply pretending he’s another soldier who’s been wounded in combat. But by now, all soldiers in The Place’s military know who T is and he is immediately recognized by the first soldiers he tries to fool. He warns them that even though he looks weak, because of his training, he can still kill them with his bare hands. They try appealing to T by saying that they want to follow him and they want him to become their new leader because they got into the military not knowing what they got themselves into and they feel he is their only way out. They want to join a resistance led by T that doesn’t exist yet, and in response to the demands of the world, T begins to suffer a nervous breakdown and succumbs to a crippling hatred of all around him. All the defenseless, all the bullies, all the schemers, all of the unaware who have led to his ultimate torment. He is not ready in the slightest bit for any of this, and they way he sees it, if more people stood up for themselves, none of this would be possible and children wouldn’t be murdered for no reason. But instead of standing for something, the people he views as weak-minded all look for him to save them from their circumstances and he sinks into despising this behavior.
T grows more and more ill from his injuries and can no longer take care of himself. His ego is shattered as people who he views as weaker than him in every way help him do things that he can no longer do for himself as a sick man. He begins to process through his suffering of PTSD, depression, and deep hurt and gains a more willful approach to his service, and with the help of the water guard troop recruits, he begins to train The Rest how to take care of themselves; writing text books for their education and survival, but he issues a stern warning to all those who are lazy or reluctant to join the program, “you are in direct opposition of our progress and we will not play games with you.” A bold issue to all of the world’s population outside of his hometown, but they begin to recognize he is there to help and their training commences, all the while another Vanguard plane begins to circle overhead.
Through organization and mobilization of this information (yes, that is a lyric on record, haha), The Rest turns into one big, massive, underground boot camp where whenever one person learns something, they immediately teach it to another person. They develop a system for the mass spreading of this information based on 100,000 people learning it at a time. This knowledge travels through these endless cavernous halls, which T comes to find out reach every corner of the planet. The Rest becomes a power-keg of raw discipline and studious devotion to the betterment and survival of their people even using their buried environment to their advantage. All the while, T begins to come to terms with the fact that he will die very soon as illness takes more and more of his capabilities. He has come to accept that his quest for greatness was a shallow one, but in losing all of his natural faculties and power, he’s achieved more than he ever could in trying to work on his own. He’s played a role in the work of thousands of anonymous individuals creating a grassroots movement that works to truly serve people and he begins to really appreciate the idea of a well-intentioned individual doing their best to play their part.
The child who T saved begins appealing to his heart. With the help of defected troops of The Place and newly trained troops of The Rest, she takes T to the same water supply he once courageously sought out resources for, but now he realizes it has been secured by the force he has been instrumental in helping train. She begins to explain to him the faith of the people who inhabit The Rest, who without water, without food, without have medicine have survived longer than any human could be expected to do so. At this body of water she explains to him that the waves from this body of water could roaringly overflow and swallow everything they’ve ever known or experienced, but the hand of God keeps them right there at their feet. And right there at their feet is a line of where their reach extends. But God’s hand reaches everything. God’s hand holds the hand of each of us in the same way that the saved child holds T’s hand. When we’re lost, when we’re broken. We get another chance to love and be thankful for what truly makes life special. And even when we wish to be God, man may see us and praise us for our actions because that’s all that man can see: our actions. And even when we try to be God, God sees our heart. And even when we try to be God, God loves us. T begins coping with the loss of the best friend he ever had in a more healthy way and prays for him and vows to do so every morning he wakes up.
In his final moments, during one of The Rest’s many prayers-in unison, T begins reflecting on all of his past actions, worldviews, and identities and decides to try to let go of his thieving, lusting, controlling, manipulating, neglecting tendencies while at the same time, letting this unknown God further into his heart. He passes on a last bit of instructions to those around him, still serving as a drill-instructing camp-designer with high hopes for military he now serves even while not being able to move. A final reflection:
“A bird was flying near my ear 'round the year I enlisted.
The tune it sang was loud and clear through my fear it persisted.
Couldn't make out the words in terms of nouns and verbs
but heard it as a call out on my bluffing.
It didn't have the type of voice to say, "things will be OK if you don't do nothing."
First time I heard another call me "brother", meant something
but that was when we had forever to grow.
It's better to know.
I'm letting it go.
The me of now helps up the ledge the me of yesterday” – Reflections (On A Stranger)
With that, T dies. But he doesn’t just die. He is escorted into a new form, and the last song describes the journey of his soul going “somewhere”.
© Mecha Records 2016
released November 6, 2016
All beats produced by Ko49 except "Hyperrealistic Shock" co-produced by Ko49 and Tornup and "Sunrise" produced by Tornup
All lyrics by Tornup except "Feel Free" and "What's The Echelon" co-written by Tornup and John Proctor
All tracks engineered, mixed, and mastered by Tornup except "Feel Free" and "What's The Echelon" co-engineered by Chris Trent Billings.
Bass solo on "Somewhere" by Tornup
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