The New Yorker Protocol:

The New Yorker Protocol:

Surviving the Surveillance State

December 4, 2022
by Rose C.

Portland ranks among the Top 10 Most Surveilled U.S. Cities, according to Cybernews. Atlanta tops the list.

We live in a world where surveillance is a fact of life. Any encrypted software product may be backdoored, and even if it is not, you have no guarantee that the person on the other end does not have spyware such as keystroke monitoring or screen video capture running on their system. Encryption enthusiasts and amateur hackers, no matter how valiant, simply cannot compete with a nation-state in this game. Cf Pegasus.

Sneak and Peek, or “No Knock,” Warrants have been around since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, but they receive scant attention from the media. What they mean is that you may have your home searched, and items removed from your home, without any official notice from law enforcement. Ditto for electronic files. If you file a FOIA request and the investigation in which you are named is still ongoing, you will not receive any confirmation that a warrant exists. (Pat Eddington, Cato Institute)

The most frightening aspect of these warrants is the potential for planting false evidence. The second most frightening aspect is the potential for planting surveillance devices for tracking and listening — as if cell phones were not effective enough.

Nothing to Hide?”

Like roughly 2/3 of the U.S. population, I reside within the 100-mile “border zone” where Border Patrol agents are granted additional authorities and the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment no longer apply. You may think all of this is irrelevant if you are a law-abiding citizen.

The problem is that who you know can get you put on a list. It can also make you a target. To put it another way, we all know somebody who has a cousin who is a drug dealer.

Laws in this country are changing, and not (in my opinion) for the better. Roe v. Wade is gone, and civil rights for gays and lesbians may soon disappear as this country takes a hard shift right. Remember ICE? Children in cages? Forced sterilizations?

Come 2024, they may all be back.

If you don’t feel like being a freedom fighter, if your first priority is keeping your family safe and saving for your children’s college tuition, I am not here to judge. Just remember that in a world where power rules in place of law, abuse of that power is an inevitable consequence.

Get in a traffic accident with somebody employed by the surveillance state? What if one of them rapes your daughter? Or your son? When a large class of individuals are above the law, nothing good will come of it. This is especially true when the same individuals fear consequences from their actions. They tend to lash out and do everything they can to harm and intimidate witnesses and injured parties.

I am not an America-hater. Far from it. The country I grew up in gave me 40+ years of freedom in its purest form: freedom to explore, to create, to love and befriend those I chose, to work as much or as little as I liked. Freedom to just be. I am a GenXer. I don’t mean to talk like a crusty old-timer, but I believe I’ve seen this nation at its absolute best.

Or maybe the best is yet to come.

Nothing is fixed. Nothing is certain.

The combined 2022 budget of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the 17 different United States spying agencies (of which CIA and NSA are only two) is over $150 billion. For comparison, that is roughly one fifth of the Department of Defense 2022 budget of $742B. But remember, the DOD budget covers submarines, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, helicopters, tanks, nuclear weapons, and anti-missile defense systems, not to mention an active network of bases around the world. That’s a lot of people and hardware.

What exactly are we paying for? This remains largely unclear. Marijuana is now legal in 19 out of 50 states, but the DEA’s funding continues to grow. If you were an officer monitoring wiretaps and running undercover operations in Colorado or Washington State, where and to what were you reassigned? And as far as truly terrifying threats to health and safety, the surveillance state could be doing a much better job. We read about mass shootings in the news practically every week. It failed to prevent the violent attempted coup at our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021. 

Your tax dollars at work, my friends.

Government salaries range from $20K (GS-1) to $147K(GS-15) — much less than the equivalent in the private sector. If we assume that wages (including benefits) average $100,000 per year, we would expect that the surveillance states employs as many as 1.5 million people in the United States. Keeping in mind, that is not accounting for slush funds to be distributed overseas, or James Bond style gadgetry, server space, or the cost of buildings and operations. But if we slash that number in half, that is still one federal domestic spy for every 440 U.S. citizens.

And that’s a lot.

Regarding terminology, “federal domestic spy” includes FBI informers, often recruited under duress or experiencing economic hardship. It does not include state or local police forces.

I am an extremely law-abiding citizen. That has protected me to some extent, but not completely. Somebody who has cheated on their taxes or who runs a warez server with their friends is at high risk of being “turned” and pressured by law enforcement to inform on others and further widen the surveillance network.

If you wish to minimize the risk that a conversation will be overheard, consider the New Yorker Protocol.

The New Yorker protocol consists of three simple steps:

  1. Assume good intent. I am not interested in contact with people for purposes of criminal profiteering (drugs or other contraband) or with groups that instigate violence. My philosophy is nonviolence except in the case of self-defense. I am only interested in working with people who share these values.

  2. Confirm receipt as soon as possible. If somebody emails you asking to meet for coffee, say, “Hey, I got your email. Swamped right now! Will be back in touch to coordinate a time.” If somebody you know leaves a signed, sealed note taped to your front door with instructions to communicate only by dropping messages in yonder hollow tree, then by all means, drop them a note asking, “Did I get the right tree?”

  3. Allow up to 90 days when making a major decision. Depending on the stakes involved, this might be anything from agreeing to meet somebody for the first time for coffee to participating in civil disobedience or leaking a story to the news media. If you feel certain of your course of action sooner than that, of course it is ok to let the other person know. Likewise, if you know you are not down for whatever the person is asking, don’t feel that you need to respond at all. The basic courtesy of acknowledging receipt (Step 2) is enough.

Two of these three steps come directly from the New Yorker writer’s guidelines for submitting unsolicited short fiction manuscripts. I was so taken with these guidelines (in particular, their clarity and brevity) that I submitted a short story almost on the spot. I don’t expect that it will get published, but I do appreciate that 90 days after sending it in I am free to re-submit wherever I like. I also appreciate that immediately after emailing my story as an attachment, I received an auto-responder email acknowledging receipt.

The New Yorker protocol should by no means be restricted to clandestine activities. I consider it an effective strategy for social and business networking as well.

Creating an expectation to observe and respect these simple guidelines is an essential first step to initiate an effective communications process that is platform- and technology-independent and minimizes surveillance risk.



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Bluetooth Vulnerability

Bluetooth Vulnerability

November 26, 2022. By Rose C.

I am concerned because while I was in Phoenix, AZ earlier this month I encountered a dangerous piece of malware allowing an outside entity to take control of a phone.

The thing that complicated matters was that my cell phone locked up on me. Nobody ever touched it — I hadn’t clicked on any links recently or installed any new apps. It just went dark, with a tiny bit of purple visible. Occasionally it would come back to life, but not reliably.

The source of this vulnerability is almost certainly Bluetooth. I recommend turning off Bluetooth on your phones as a precautionary measure.

A Resource Guide to Help Seniors Who Don’t Have Relatives Nearby

A Resource Guide to Help Seniors Who Don’t Have Relatives Nearby

If you have parents or grandparents who live far away, you may be worried about the fact that you can’t help them with daily tasks. Luckily, there are many ways to help your senior loved one maintain a great quality of life, even if you can’t be there yourself to provide hands-on care. Read on for resources that can help the elderly in everyday life.

Find Tools to Help Your Senior Loved One with Important Financial Decisions

Finances are often a primary concern for persons in retirement. Make sure your parents or grandparents are managing their money wisely with some helpful tools.

  • If your loved one needs ongoing support, use a long-term care cost calculator to determine the expenses.
  • Your senior loved one may want to sell their house to cover the move to a nursing home. Use the RedFin calculator to figure out what they’ll make if they sell.
  • Make sure they have the essential estate planning paperwork done.
  • Provide practical tips to help them save in retirement, like downsizing.

Leverage Technology to Help Your Loved One Navigate Everyday Challenges

Technology can make life easier and more enjoyable for seniors in many ways.

  • Get them a senior-friendly cell phone to stay connected.
  • Provide them with a smart assistant so they can do things like adjusting lighting and music hands-free.
  • Invest in a medical alert system with fall detection to bring you both peace of mind.
  • Find innovative ways to connect from afar, like virtual game nights.


Connect with Third-Party Providers to Ensure Your Loved One’s Needs Are Met


When you can’t provide hands-on help yourself, knowing there are others nearby to assist can bring you and your parents or grandparents peace of mind.


  • Find a senior-specific transportation service to help them get to appointments.
  • If cooking is a hassle, get a meal delivery service for them.
  • For seniors who need more hands-on support, get a caregiver.
  • If they are struggling with mental health issues, connect them to a virtual wellness practitioner. PDX Local offers a roundup.


Living far away from your senior loved one can be emotionally and practically challenging. However, there are many resources and tools to help you care for them from afar. Let the above guide inspire you.

Mmmm… Cocacao

Mmmm… Cocacao

Can vegan chocolate ever be as good as the real thing?

So many people can’t have dairy or follow a vegan diet. They don’t want to settle for hard, bitter chocolate. You can still get great tasting chocolate with that creamy mouth feel and not have dairy in it. We use coconut oil for a silky-smooth mouth feel. You get that milk chocolate mouth feel without the dairy.

How do you ensure that your products are ethically and sustainable sourced?

We order from companies who source their ingredients from reputable sources. Our organic cacao powder comes from the Dominican Republic and other locations in South America. It costs more but it’s worth it.

What are some of the health benefits of coconut oil? Why choose this over other dairy alternatives?

We chose coconut oil because of the truffle like texture it provides. It also a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT’s). It helps keep you satiated or feeling full. This means that only a few pieces of Cocacao will satisfy a craving.

We are a refrigerated chocolate due to the coconut oil. We use only 3-5 ingredients in Cocacao and no stabilizers or preservatives. Due to the low melting point of coconut oil we need to be kept in the refrigerator. It doesn’t go bad if it is left out, it only gets soft in a warmer environment. In stores you can find us in the refrigerated bakery, grab-n-go, or even by the dairy. Each store is different since refrigerated space is very limited.

I am always asked what do you do with Cocacao? YOU EAT IT! Cocacao is a decadent, delicious treat that is made from 3-5 simple ingredients, no refined sugar or dairy, silky-smooth texture, pre-portioned pieces, and will satisfy in small amounts. You can melt it in short bursts in the microwave (5-10 seconds), stir and pour over granola or ice cream (creates a magic shell). People will drop it in their coffee or smoothie. But really it is just a decadent dessert that everyone can enjoy, no matter what their diet looks like.

What is your favorite flavor?

My favorite flavor is our Blueberry. It has dried organic blueberries from Oregon in it. I love the chew of the fruit in it. The Hazelnut and Sea Salt is the most popular flavor. If you enjoy an after-dinner mint, then our Mint flavor is for you. It has the cool taste of peppermint. We have a Cayenne and Cinnamon flavor that has some kick to it. Those that like a spicy chocolate will enjoy this flavor. Our Pumpkin Spice seasonal flavor is like a chocolate pumpkin pie. And those that want simplicity, our Original flavor is for you. Only three organic ingredients.

Hazelnut Cocacao

Can you talk about how Cocacao came to be? 

Ours is a story of Death, Divorce and Chocolate. After the loss of Jeff’s wife and my divorce, he asked me on our first date, “Do you like chocolate and coconut?”

My answer of yes led me to not only a new marriage, but to running a company. Jeff had a health need to have a treat that would not cause inflammation and I wanted a decadent chocolate that wouldn’t cause a migraine from refined sugar. For the full story,  see “Our Story” on our website.

Cocacao is vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and certified organic.

Cococao - Vegan, Organic Chocolate Confection

Everybody Hates a Tourist

Everybody Hates a Tourist

I don’t know how it was for all of y’all, but this is how it was for me.

THAT Summer. Portland, Oregon. First year of the Pandemic.

You know there’s something wrong with your living situation when you’ve had a Go Bag packed since May. And not in case of forest fires.

There were red flags much earlier. But I let my roommate stay on, because I didn’t think I could get through quarantine alone. For almost two months, he was the only person that I saw IRL, other than supermarket cashiers. We were close.

“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge / She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College”

We watched movies together. He cooked for me.

We were friends. I thought.

I wanted to collaborate creatively. Specifically, I wanted to produce this parody radio play, “POORtland,” about being poor in Portland during the pandemic. I wrote the scripts for two six-minute episodes. The characters were diverse and multiracial. In retrospect the whole concept seems kind of hokey but at the time I thought it might bring people together and jolt middle-class listeners out of their bubble — give them greater empathy for people who’d just had the economic roof cave in on them.

I needed his sound editing skills to turn the scripts into something listenable. We recorded a run-through on my cell phone, but my friend lost interest when I wanted to bring in more voice actors than just the two of us. My Fred Armisen he was not.

That was all before George Floyd’s death. Poverty took a back seat to race then in the national dialogue, as maybe it should. It’s not for me to say.

This is not a victim narrative.

This is not a victim narrative because nothing particularly bad happened to me. Sure, I got groped. Yes, he had angry outbursts. Yes, I slept with my bedroom door locked every night. But I doubt I experienced anything worse during those first few months than your average day as a waitress at Hooter’s.

More to the point, I always had the option to leave. Not great options, sure. No health insurance on the East Coast and it would have been career suicide. But these are better choices than so many women have, who are in so much worse situations. Better choices than a shelter or a tent. There is no comparison.

“If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah / Never live like common people”

When it was clear that I wasn’t interested, something shifted between us. Quarantine had eased up by then. He stopped spending time at the apartment. He barely spoke to me. He paid a few hundred dollars each month to help cover expenses. It felt like a more typical roommate dynamic. Except I couldn’t get him to leave.

In the summer of 2020 in Portland calling the cops on a Black man was absolutely not an option. I wasn’t happy with the situation. I knew things would deteriorate when I started dating someone new. But until about a week ago, I didn’t have the cushion to cover staying at a hotel until it all got sorted out. So I smiled and made nice. I figured it was better to stay nominally friends and take his money than force a disruptive confrontation I could not win.

This is not a narrative to absolve or justify my actions.

I had always felt confident that he wouldn’t hit me or rape me. Until a certain Monday morning. He was mad because I went into his room after he left for work and stopped a video from rendering. I thought he just left Internet radio on. The sound was driving me nuts. In the past, this was the kind of conflict that would blow over, but not this time. Later that day, when he held the apartment door shut on me for several minutes so that I couldn’t get inside, the rules changed.

Luckily, no violence. I got a restraining order, but he left of his own accord before it was served. When we came back this Friday afternoon we had no idea what to expect. But he was gone, and he’d cleaned out his stuff. Took my HD video camera with him. As far as I am concerned, he is welcome to it.

Locks have been changed. Police never had to show.

A bunch of people have told me I don’t need to feel sorry for him but it’s not that simple. I caught him lying to me multiple times. I also know that he cared for me. I had Thanksgiving dinner at his mother’s house a year ago. He believed in my business and my artwork, at least early on. Not that many people did. He wanted to be a part of it.

I remember working on my spare laptop (the beat-up Chromebook, all covered with stickers) at a club in Buckman while his friends performed. I felt like Neo in the first scene of Matrix. Wherever we went, it seemed like he always knew some of the musicians performing. I am glad he is out of my life but truly sorry that it had to end this way.

I don’t think he wanted to live here past June or July. He just didn’t have a better option. That’s what poverty does. It erases freedom and control.

“You will never understand / How it feels to live your life / With no meaning or control / And with nowhere left to go”

He worked full time at UPS as a package handler. Made $15 an hour. Only job he could get with a high school diploma. It didn’t go far, and it was murder on his body. He put everything he had into his music and his films.

White guilt is toxic and embarrassing.

I don’t have a lot of it, because I’ve spent much of my life under the poverty line. To some extent that was by choice. When you don’t have children or other dependents, you can go out on a limb financially. You can follow your dreams. You can travel. You can try a new career and see what shakes out.

What’s that you say? Entitlement?

The nonprofit gig I have right now comes solely through a personal connection. The funny thing is, I didn’t meet my friend in boarding school or at my elite Northeastern liberal arts college. I met her at a party thrown by a friend I made at the People’s Pint in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He worked at the local food co-op, as did his roommate. He had a college diploma. His roommate was a high school dropout.

That was more than a decade ago. It sort of boggles the mind.

That town was super unusual because it was a place where you could make $11 an hour and sort of get by. A lot of serious money settled around the Pioneer Valley, precisely because it wasn’t the Hamptons or Northeast Harbor. They could blend. My joke was always that you could go to the local bar and have a millionaire sitting on one side of you and a bum on the other side, and not know which was which. That town was one of the least class-segregated places I have ever encountered. Bohemians ruled the roost. Very different from Boston, or for that matter Portland, Oregon.

I don’t know where my roommate is right now, but the ease with which he was able to move suggests that he will be ok. He was only spending about four nights a week at my place the last two months — wouldn’t tell me where he was the rest of the time.

As a white woman, it’s very hard to know how to engage in the battle for racial justice. We are told all the time that we need to be silent and fall back. That the most valuable contribution we can make is our financial support.

The only problem being, we make only $0.81 for every dollar a man makes. Kind of slims down the margin for altruism.

Over 170 years ago, Abraham Lincoln said the nation could not survive half slave and half free. I would paraphrase to say that our democracy cannot survive with 22 million Americans unemployed and sinking into poverty.

Not a winning ticket.

It feels pompous and callous to move from somebody else’s personal misfortune into pontificating about policy issues, but dammit, this is one of those times when the personal is political. If we’d had affordable housing in Portland, or universal basic income, or a better economic safety net, the situation between us never ever ever would have gotten this bad. We stayed in the red zone for months, because financially no one had a better option.

Power dynamics poison a relationship, each and every time.

Unless of course that’s what you’re into.

It’s weird to think no closure. That someone who was part of my life for most of the past two years is now gone forever. I wanted to stay friends. I wanted to find ways to work together. But short of me deciding I wanted to be with him despite the fits of possessive rage or him finding some other woman to focus his attentions on, it wasn’t going to happen.

Incredibly unlikely that you find this post.

 If you do find your way here, I hope you’re doing ok. I hope that video camera serves you well.

Some regrets, but plenty of good times too.

Rose C.

Previously published on Medium on November 21, 2020




Plot Synopsis by Rose C.

2023 is a work of fiction, set in a future Portland. All characters are composites. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

Michelle decides to organize a resistance after her girlfriend Lauren is taken in the middle of the night by a sinister government organization known as the Sentinels. They both live in Portland.

Michelle is short with spiky hair, bleached blond at the tips. She has a quick temper and wishes people would take her more seriously. Her girlfriend is a few years older. Lauren is medium height, with shoulder-length light brown hair. She is the grown-up of the couple — has the car and the office job. The lease is in her name.

Lauren works for a nonprofit, and Michelle works for an unnamed coffee shop in a supermarket. Lauren’s only crime was going to one Antifa meeting and also participating in a bunch of marches, including Pride. Michelle feels mega guilt because she hid when the secret police came to their apartment, so she decides to organize a resistance to free her girlfriend.

The one other hacker Michelle knows in Portland won’t help her, so she writes her own game mod (for a first-person shooter, very primal and raw) as a recruiting tool. She attracts a fair number of followers, many of them ex-military. The kind of people who play paintball on the weekends. They decide to plan a raid.

They are successful at breaking into one of the three detention facilities at a camp outside Spokane and freeing prisoners, but it turns out not to be the one where Lauren is held. Michelle is even more guilt-ridden because the experienced soldiers would not let her lead the raid. They told her she was too green and also too valuable. She watches the action play out from a hilltop, with two guards for protection.

People died because of her. She has a movement on her hands and the Sentinels are on to her…


Part One: “Taken”

I had insomnia that night. Got out of bed, left Lauren sleeping. Raided the fridge. Pistachios, gummy bears, and queso. Hit the boards, played the new Star Wars game past the point of idiocy, and was counting the hours until my shift began at the coffee shop when I heard a knock at the door.

No doorbell. Just loud, insistent knocking.

I checked my phone. It was 3:53 AM, exactly. That’s not a good time for anybody to be knocking at your door. Not that fall. I’d heard the rumors. I’d heard the stories.

I was going to run back to the bedroom and warn Lauren. I swear I was. But I just froze.

Then she came down the stairs, an angel in a blue bathrobe, and answered the door. WTF? Why would she do that?

And I am so ashamed of myself, but this is what I did. I hid.

Not any place fancy. We didn’t have any secret bunker. No safe rooms or go boxes. It was a $1200 / month Victorian walk-up off Alberta.  I hid in the coat closet. Shut the door behind me so fast. Would they hear the sound? There I was, trying to breathe through Polartec and GoreTex, while they took my baby away.

I couldn’t see at all. Even the words were muffled.

They asked her name. They asked her for identification. I remember her saying:

“Why are you taking my picture?” “Why won’t you read me my rights?” “Am I under arrest?”

They never identified themselves. Never said what agency or branch of government they were with. They wouldn’t answer her questions directly. They never asked about me. Queer invisibility is worth something, I guess.

They just said, “Come with us, ma’am. And there won’t be any trouble.”

Ma’am! Lauren is 27. She went quietly, I guess. I didn’t hear much of a struggle.

The last words I heard her say were, “I want to speak with my lawyer.”

A muffled shout. Feet shuffled out, and then the front door slammed.

I was shaking. My heart was racing. I could barely breathe I was so scared. I was crying and I think I thew up a little bit in my mouth but I was trying my best not to make any sound. I had my phone with me the whole time but I was too scared to use it. I mean, what if they could track that? I stayed inside that closet until I could see gray daylight filtering through the crack at the top of the closet door.

The apartment was empty. Lauren’s unmade bed. Her work clothes set out neatly for the next day. Jeans, black velvet top, brown ankle boots. Her lunch in the refrigerator. Her car in the driveway.

I felt so guilty, and so sad.

I wished I’d had a gun. I would have used it. Wouldn’t have made any difference in the long run, but we could have made it to the getaway car, gone out like Thelma and Louise, in a blaze of glory.

I wished I’d just fucking gotten myself together and run up those stairs to warn her in time. Maybe we both could have hid. Maybe it would have been better if they’d taken us both.

I didn’t want to go home. Fuck, maybe they were waiting for me too.


I had to tell her family.

Her mom. Her brothers.

But the only way I knew to reach them was Facebook. And that was a no-no. Just trust me on that one!

Did she have an address book hidden away somewhere? We’d only been going out seven months. Would I know if she had a written record of her contacts, apart from her phone? I started to look, rifle through drawers and bookshelves like the Sentinels hadn’t even bothered to, but then I realized it was all just fucking pointless.

They were coming for all of us, or they weren’t.

They had the power. They had the data. They had the money and the numbers. This wasn’t one of my games. There was no Rebel Alliance. I was on my own. Dragging anybody else in was too dangerous.

So I did what I had to do. I locked up, grabbed my bike from outside, and went to work.

Made it there on-time, with seconds to spare. I don’t know what it says about me that no one much noticed that anything was wrong. It’s true I was insomniac and/or hung over and/or stoned a good 70% of the time. How much effort does it really take to press a button that says “Espresso”? I never tried to make the little hearts with cappucinno foam. Mine always came out wobbly, or demented, or both.

And it’s so funny, nobody at work even noticed anything was wrong.

There was no, “Michelle, are you ok?” “Michelle, you look kind of out of sorts?” “Michelle, are you feeling all right?”

We all just went along our way. Happy robots as usual.

I could only think of one person to call.

I had to think really hard about this. I didn’t want to get anyone else involved. I had an inkling of where this was going. And the outlook didn’t look good for anyone.

Plus Michael’s girlfriend was always really, really jealous! Even though I was a dyke, with really short and spiky hair, and like 10 years younger than both of them. She hated my guts.

#cisgirls #whatever #workonyourownissues Except they never do that. They just pop out kids and pass on their insecurities to the next generation. I watch that slow-motion train wreck every day of my life.

So I pulled up Signal on my phone when no one was looking.

> What are you doing after work today?

We made plans to meet at the Bye & Bye, at 5 PM. At least Happy Hour wasn’t illegal yet.

No cocktails for me that night. Kind of wanted a beer to steady my nerves, but then I was like, what if the Sentinels came at that very moment and I had to snake my bike through traffic in the wrong direction (no helmet) and onto side streets to lose them? No way was I taking that chance.

We sat down. Michael got some bowl with rice and avocadoes. I had french fries. Lauren’s last lunch (untouched) had been dolmeh, hummus, and carrot sticks. In honor of her, I was thinking of turning vegan.

“They took her,” I told him.


“The Sentinels took Lauren, in the middle of the night.”

“No fucking way!!! You’re shitting me.” Michael was incredulous.

“I wish I was. I was hiding in the coat closet. I didn’t see it, but I heard the whole thing.”

Michael lowered his voice. “Was Lauren into anything, you know, radical?”

I laughed and shook my head. “She went to an Antifa meeting once. And she marched in, I guess, six or seven protests. Climate change. Women’s equality. And of course, Pride.”

I gave him a long stare.

Michael backed up pretty quickly. “I didn’t mean to imply anything. It’s more just like…”

“You wanted to know, was she cooking up bombs in the pantry?”


“We–she–has–had a really nice pantry. And honestly, it would be really more my style to build a bomb. And think about what room of the house would be best for bomb making.”

“Uh huh?” Michael asked quietly.

“But I haven’t done that either! Puh…leaze. I don’t even visit your warez server.”

Michael broke in. “Michelle, this is serious. Are you sure this is the best place to talk about it?”

We’d all had the paranoia discussion, so many times online. In a sense we believed in it, but none of it seemed remotely real. All the ways *they* could be listening: the microphones on cell phones, video cameras on monitors, smart TV’s. I never “X’d” out the cameras on my monitor with tape. But that was because all I had in the way of hardware was a beat-up Sony Vaio laptop. And my phone. And the Xbox I bought Lauren. (That was a bowling ball named “Homer,” if ever there was one.)

“Can you think of a better place?” I replied.

“Fair enough.”

Michael sipped his beer, and paused before speaking again.

“So you think they were Sentinels?”

“I do. I didn’t see them, but it’s how they operate.”

“Michelle, how much do you know about the Sentinels?” he asked me.

“I know they were created after the quote-unquote Terrorist Dirty Bomb Attack of 2021. Created the very next day. And they aren’t answerable to anyone except the Oval Office.”

“Rump and Pants. Our President and Vice President.”

“Yes, them.”

“Their raids are nearly always in the middle of the night, and they target U.S. citizens suspected of quote-unquote terrorist activity,” Michael intoned, then stopped himself. “Am I mansplaining?”

“No, I’m interested. Keep talking.”

Michael continued. “What is interesting is that the Sentinels have no ties whatsoever to the criminal justice system. They do not charge individuals with a crime. They simple seize them and hold them.”

“America’s home-grown Gestapo,” I chimed in.

“I’m afraid you’re right. Nobody knows who they are. Nobody even knows what their budget is, or how many of them there are,” he said.

“What I want to know is where they took her,” I told him. “So I can break her out.”


“Don’t try to talk me out of this.”

“Ok, then. How are you going to do it?”

“I don’t know yet. But there’s got to be a way.”

“Michelle, these facilities are heavily guarded…”

“No system is uncrackable. How many discussions have we had about that?”

Michael looked flummoxed. “Sure, in theory. But do you know what the consequences would be if you got caught?”

“Do you know what the consequences were for Lauren? Who had done absolutely nothing?” I whispered in a hoarse stage whisper, since I couldn’t shout in the crowded bar. “Sooner or later they’re coming for all of us.”

Michael was shaking his head.

And this was where I lost my cool, I admit it. “Look Michael, I know you’ve got a good job. I know you’ve got a lot to lose. I know you’re a straight white male. But you’re not immune.”

Michael got really defensive, then. “Don’t play that victim card on me! You could get a job as a programmer too. You have the chops. I’ve seen your code. Just go back to school.”

“This isn’t about that, Michael. You are acting like we’re still living in 2019. We’re not. This is the new world. Nobody is safe.”

Michael’s face just froze up. He wouldn’t talk to me. At the Bye & Bye you pay at the counter, but I saw him glancing around as if maybe a waiter could rescue him.

“I’m sorry, Michelle. I don’t know what you’re looking for. But I can’t help you.”

I stared at him, incredulous.

“Look, Michelle. You should be more careful. Just try not to attract attention. You’ll be fine.”

“But. What. About. Lauren?”

Michael was talking faster now. I could tell he was nervous. “And you know, really do think about a coding bootcamp. You’re a very bright young woman! I hear there are some where you don’t even have to pay anything up front. They just take 30% of your salary until the tuition is paid off.”

Now was my moment to get up and push my half-empty water glass and plate of cold fries away.

“Michael. Don’t give me advice.”

And then I made my daring getaway by bike. I really did weave in and out of traffic, and get honked at twice, but it was mostly because I couldn’t see through the tears. The only person I had trusted to help had just let me down.

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