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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

James Blakey:The Solar Punks

104_ym_thesolarpunks_hstanton.jpg
Art by Henry Stanton 2024

THE SOLAR PUNKS

By James Blakey

 

Holst’s Mars, Bringer of War blared from the sky above McLaughlin Ford.

Danny, the lot attendant, raised his hand to shield his eyes. A swarm of a dozen quadcopters descended out of the sun—like World War II enemy fighters—targeting the dealership’s recently arrived inventory.

 “Get the jammer!” Danny raced to the entrance of the service department, pulled open the door, and rushed inside.

The drones’ music ended, replaced with an AI-generated female voice with a hint of an up-country Carolina accent. “Give up your carbon dioxide-spewing vehicles. Small actions, big impact. Let's go green!”

The quadcopters dive-bombed a row of new model year F-250s. Upon impact, the payload of plastic spheres shattered, covering the freshly waxed trucks with orange slime.

Danny emerged from the building, in his hand the military-grade, green-camo jammer, the size of a George R. R. Martin hardcover. He flicked on the power and aimed the device at the departing attackers.

Eleven of the drones appeared out of range. They flew up and across the highway, disappearing from view. But the last circled like a drunken bumble bee, colliding with the giant American flag flying from the roof. The copter plummeted to the ground, smashing to pieces on the pavement in front of the parts department.

Emblazoned on the largest surviving shard was the image of an anthropomorphic sun sporting a mohawk haircut.

The logo of The Solar Punks.

*****

Across the city, The Solar Punks' war on environmental degradation continued.

They hacked a group of video billboards, replacing the ads for airline trips to tropical destinations and developments of five-bedroom McMansions with a video of a man in a balaclava, while the list of the Solar Punks demands played on a scroll. When the billboard company regained control, a power surge fried the circuitry, leaving the high-def video screens permanently dark.

At a wooded site being cleared for an outdoor mixed-use lifestyle center, they reprogrammed the firmware of all the construction equipment, ensuring that the engines would never start again.

And in a nod to old-school vandalism, The Solar Punks dumped sand in the gas tanks and oil crankcases of the local electric utility’s fleet of service vans, trucks, and cherry-pickers.

*****

The Mayor cringed as he watched the security camera footage of the individual wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, armed with a shotgun, blasting away at an electrical substation.

“Do we have any leads?” he asked the Chief of Police.

The Chief shook her head. “The Solar Punks aren’t listed in any terrorist database. Homeland Security has nothing on them.” She sighed. “We ran the serial number of the drone recovered from the Ford dealership. Built in Estonia. Sold to a shell company in Dubai. No trail after that. These guys, whoever they are, are good.”

“Maybe I need a better Chief?”

The Chief pursed her lips. “If you really think that will make a difference, you can have my resignation.”

“Hell, no.” The Mayor gave a weak smile. “I’m just frustrated.”

“Me, too. And the whole department. I had my guys set up a sting. They organized a monster truck rally. A target so tempting the Solar Punks shouldn’t be able to resist.” She pounded her fist in her hand. “But nothing happened. Almost like they knew it was a setup.”

“The most annoying part of all of this is: The Punks and I want the same thing,” the Mayor said. “A cleaner, greener world. But they’re going about this all wrong…”

*****

Citizens packed the next City Council meeting.

“This is the third attack,” Charlie McLaughlin said into the microphone. “And that wasn’t paint they dumped on my trucks. It was some kind of plant-based solvent. Ate through the metal. Destroyed nineteen trucks. Had to sell them for scrap. Over a million dollars of inventory lost. And insurance won’t cover it. Said damage due to ‘civil unrest’ is excluded.”

The Mayor said, “That’s unfortunate, Mr. McLaughlin, and the entire council and I sympathize with you. But this portion of the meeting is open for comments about agenda items. Comments of a general nature will be welcomed later.”

“This is about the agenda.” McLaughlin pointed his finger at the Mayor. “Your Little Green Deal is exactly what these Solar Punks are demanding. The city is capitulating to terrorists and fanatics.”

Citizens stood, waved placards, and chanted, “Don’t give in to punks!”

“We’re not giving into terrorism.” The Mayor struggled not to roll his eyes. “And it’s not My Little Green Deal. It’s everyone’s. This is a chance to do our part. If every county, city, and town adopted these reforms, the planet would heal.”

McLaughlin said, “Maybe focus on jobs, building our standard of living, and locking up these criminals.”

The Mayor said, “The Little Green Deal is about more than saving the environment. These proposals and reforms mean investments in education, employment, and communities. The plan will pay for itself, and we get a more sustainable world.”

*****

The heated remarks from outraged citizens, combined with the pressure from their largest campaign contributors persuaded two councilwomen to change their votes. Every item on the Mayor’s agenda went down to defeat: the wind farm, rooftop community gardens, installation of EV fast-charging stations at City Hall, the gas stove replacement rebate, and the rest. All by a four-to-three vote.

The Little Green Deal was dead.

*****

Miles outside the city, The Consultant drove down a dirt driveway. He pulled up outside a dilapidated farmhouse and honked the horn.

A man in a faded army jacket emerged from the house and approached the car.

The Consultant handed the man an envelope full of cash. “There’s a bonus in there for you and your team.”

The man peeked in the envelope and smiled. “What’s next?”

“New Jersey.” The Consultant offered a manilla folder. “Light-rail planned from Camden to Glassboro. The vote is next month.”

The man nodded. “Not a problem.”

 

THE END

James Blakey lives in the Shenandoah Valley where he writes mostly full-time. He's a three-time finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer Award, winning in 2019 for his story “The Bicycle Thief.” He leads critique groups in Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and Shenandoah County. His paranormal thriller SUPERSTITION will be published by City Owl Press in 2024.

Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024