Millr and Taryn sat on the porch. It was dusk, the sky melting away in buttery yellows and a broad stroke of violet. The bats had just come out, they zipped back and forth eating bugs, maneuvering in the sky through intermingled patterns with occasionally startling reversals. The yard extended out to a grove, on one side, and the old warehouse on the other. The fence that once separated the two was mostly gone, becoming a rusty, obsolete boundary. The rotting shells of a few trucks still sat in the overgrown lot, abandoned when the drivers were dissolved into a slurry of bio-matter.
Millr didn't know what the warehouse had been, it was empty by the time he moved here. Weapons maybe. Electronic components. Ag-tech. Something anyway, enough to get them targeted by the Shrubs.
Millr and Taryn moved into this house because it wasn't too big, it wasn't too small. There were no Shrub fields nearby. The house wasn't far from town but it wasn't very close either. After Surrender they probably could've taken a mansion—the Shrubs had been efficient eliminating leaders of the military-industrial complex. Those places were tombs. Most people avoided them, not just out of fear, but often from plain disgust. What good had it all been? In retrospect it seemed obscene.
Sometimes deer came across the yard, less about foraging and more about egress to the grove. The sounds of them coming through the brush was common. Tonight, however, instead of delicate hooves and a gentle exploratory progression, there was stumbling, snapping branches and other flopping noises of men. Millr could see the shapes of them out there, as they got closer to the house he could make them out. It was the Sheriff and his deputies, dressed in absurdly aggressive tactical gear, the haphazard strapping, jiggling pouches, and Velcro patching making their already fat bodies appear like loaded, fertile beetles awkwardly crawling forward to some ritual of insemination.
"Dck," Millr said quietly as the Sheriff and his men rushed ahead onto the porch, one of them stumbling on the stairs, launching forward while his gun swung around his body with measurably applied velocity.
"GET DOWN ON THE GROUND," several of the men yelled simultaneously.
"It's a porch," Millr said calmly and reflexively, then reflecting that this fact could be interpreted as resistance. He heard a subsequent chorus of "DOWN NOW" from the clearly excited deputies. Their tactical gear squeaked. Both he and Taryn, who'd so far only uttered an acerbic "relax, for God's sake," got down onto the porch where he saw closely the wood he'd promised to repaint this summer. One of the deputies put a knee hard into his back.
"Dck," Millr said again, the name muffled by the porch.
"I warned you Millr," the Sheriff said, stooping down above him, "the Governor's been ordered by higher ups to stop distribution of those ReeLs. Terrorist shit, they say."
"Where's your warrant," Millr asked. He smelled the porch.
"Ha," the Sheriff uttered. The man with his knee in Millr's back echoed the Sheriff's laugh, but meaner and stupider.
"Let the man up Jhn," the Sheriff said. Jhn moved heavily off of Millr, who got up creakily.
He saw Taryn standing in the corner, arms crossed, her eye glaring with vicious anger. A deputy stood in front of her with his hand on his gun.
"The other guys are ripping your house apart. If you just tell us where they are, might save you some trouble," the Sheriff said.
This is idiotic, Millr thought, but I don't want them trashing the house.
"In the basement," Millr said, "by the work bench."
"Good man," the Sheriff said, nodding at Jhn who went inside the porch door, through which Millr and Taryn could hear banging and crashing.
"Those motherfuckers," Millr heard Taryn say.
In a few minutes a deputy came out onto the porch carrying an old cardboard box full of ReeLs. He was smiling.
"Find one of the copier things too?" the Sheriff asked.
"Yup." The deputy, pleased with himself, pulled a dark gray slab from inside the box and handed it to the Sheriff.
"Well, well," he said, turning it end over end a few times without any clear purpose, "looks like you've been busy." He shoved the copier back into the box, making a dense clattering noise against the other ReeLs.
Millr didn't say anything. Randomly he wondered where they got the box. Probably something on a shelf in the basement, its contents now thrown all over the floor.
"See, I know we talked about this. You can't believe how much royal shit the Governor is getting about these things. This," he pointed at the box of ReeLs, "is anti-Shrub terrorist propaganda. At least that's what they tell me. I'm on the short end of the fucking stick, Millr, and I do not like it one bit." He shooed away the deputies holding the box. "Look, I'm not going to drag your ass in, I don't know how much point there would be in that anyway."
"How much do you want?" Millr asked.
The Sheriff smiled broadly and openly.
"Whatever you've got."