The guy who predicted that Sara would have one of her blitzdocs up by midnight was wrong. She didn’t get it uploaded until three a.m.

After I finished my boiled weeds, I scanned the Twitter stream from Ian’s conference talk and Convoed with Wheeze, who is a night owl like me. Jane Shandy was keeping him occupied, working through the giant sack of hickory nuts and recording a huge Dickens novel so that she could listen to chapters of it when she did chores. His ankle didn’t hurt so much, but he had to keep off it, so he sat by the woodstove, hand-feeding the sick chicken and making friends with the dogs. He hadn’t yet won over the antisocial cat.

While we texted back and forth, I was scanning through the feeds on the Group. It was all the usual stuff until somebody posted the link to Sara’s film.

<inky> Did you guys see this?

<DoDec> Wow.

<inky> <3 <3 <3

<freddieb> Sara Esfahani is teh ossum

I sent Wheeze the link and we watched it together. She must have been busy. The fifteen-minute film took some of Ian’s talk and images from his slides, some old film of fascists marching in Europe, photos from the McCarthy hearings and snapshots of old FBI files on Martin Luther King and Occupy Wall Street protesters. There were pages from a report to Congress about the NSA, covered with black ink, only a word or two allowed to peek out, and photos of other people who had been arrested in fake terrorist stings. Then pictures of my brother and his friends, things she must have found online.

There was Wilson lying in a hammock looking sleepy and innocent. Wilson and Emily holding up matching hand stamps from some concert, clowning for the camera. Their friends sitting around a fire in the overgrown backyard, the light flickering off their faces, all of them looking young and happy in their peaceable corner of a messed-up world. It ended with the familiar video of my brother and his friends being led out of their house with their hands cuffed behind them and my eyes welled up with tears. She made me feel proud and hopeful and angry and ready to fight for justice. But those photos of my brother had opened something up inside me and it hurt. I pictured Wilson, sitting in a cell, worrying that there would be no more hammocks for him, no campfires, no goofing off with his friends. Just cells and scratchy uniforms and rules, surrounded by people full of anger and violence.

I had to get him out. I just had to.

Meanwhile, the Group was enthusing over Ian’s talk.

<inky> Damn I wish I was at that conference. ferret’s talk was aMAZing. Glad it was livestreamed.

<DoDec> crap, I missed it.

<ferret> thanks, everyone. Conference organizers uploaded it to the Internet Archive.

<inky> great stuff, ferret! that case against the Minneapolis Nine is so transparently bogus

<DoDec> those who forget their history etc. etc.

I sent the link to Ian’s talk off to Wheeze and then got ready for bed. I needed to get enough sleep to be ready for a long day of spying.

I couldn’t stop obsessing about Wilson, though, so I finally got one of Monica’s history books, picking one that seemed especially boring. I lay on my back and read it until it fell on my face, and I woke up just long enough to set it aside and turn out the light.

~ ~ ~

Monica had left for work by the time I woke up. I made coffee and read  about Ian’s talk in the tech press. There were major stories at Wired and TechCrunch. A local news station had a dumb segment about the conference, mostly gawking at cool equipment being demonstrated at the exhibits with stupid references to James Bond, as if government surveillance was as fun as a blockbuster action film. But Sara Esfahani had so many Twitter followers, #Freethe9 was trending. I wondered if Wilson had any way of knowing that millions of people around the world were viewing a film about him and his friends. I felt achy, seeing those photos that I’d never seen before, picturing him wearing an orange jumpsuit and sleeping on a hard mattress in a cell with no windows. I hoped Frances Bernadette McSweeney let him know how many people were on his side, even though somebody would have to explain to her what “trending on Twitter” meant.

Once I was caffeinated, I tried on the shirt Nikko had worn to his interview with the FBI. It looked weird, but no weirder than my usual get-up. I spent some time trying to figure out how to aim the camera button without looking too obvious. I also tried to figure out how Sara had made my hair look so good, but stopped when I realized that I didn’t want anybody paying special attention to me. Better to look as normal as possible, which meant my usual untamed, lopsided hair. I packed a laptop, phone, and chargers in my backpack, then wrapped up for the weather and carried my bike down the stairs and out in the icy day.

It had dropped twenty degrees, and the snow-packed streets were glazed and icy. By the time I got to the Owl, Simon’s favorite hangout, I was half frozen. I was also blind. Though the sky was cloudy and snowflakes were skirling down, the light that bounced off the snowbanks was glaring, so when I went indoors it took a minute for my eyes to adjust. And in that minute, Simon Meyer snuck up on me. Actually, he wasn’t sneaking, but I couldn’t see anything, so I jumped when his arm dropped heavily across my shoulders.

“Zen, your brother’s famous.” I recognized his voice before the dark spots cleared from my eyes. “Did you see that crazy documentary? It’s all over the internet.”

“Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Awesome. Not that the feds give a damn. Are you here for the Solidarity Committee meeting?” There was a sneer in his voice. He was really sore that he didn’t get to be in charge of it.

“Actually, no. The stuff they’re doing isn’t going to make any difference. I just need to be around other people today, what with my brother’s problems and all.” I gave him a sad, soulful look and hoped he didn’t see through me.

“The committee over there is working on their publicity strategy. Developing the brand.” A couple of people from the committee glanced at us and Simon smirked as if he’d just scored a point. “They think they’re so cool, with all their cutesy social media accounts,” he said, shaking his head.

“Playing right into the hands of the surveillance-industrial complex,” I agreed. I went to the counter and ordered coffee, not that I wasn’t already sufficiently wired. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Simon, who settled at a table in the middle of the room, all by himself for once. “Mind if I share?” I asked him, pulling out a chair at his table.

“Be my guest.” He gave me his usual smile as I sat across from him – the one that said “aren’t you lucky to be in the presence of someone as awesome as me?”

I started playing around with my phone while Simon played with his. “Oh, wow,” I said. Simon was so busy texting someone he didn’t notice. “This story is amazing,” I tried again, a little louder, and he looked over. “There’s this new app. It tells you when police cars are nearby. It’s called Oink.”

“Sounds useful.”

“Unfortunately, it won’t work on my phone. They only have an iOS version. That’s an iPhone, right? Can I see it for a minute?” I took it from his hands and brought up a free app for kids that played animal sounds. I selected it and handed the phone back to him. “Here you go. You need to sign in.” I scooted around and watched closely, concentrating as he typed in his Apple ID. It turned out to be simple to memorize – simonisgr8 and 123me.

He watched the app load, then tapped a pig picture and got an oink. Then he tapped the cow and it mooed. “This can’t be it.”

“Really?” I reached for his phone. “Huh. I wonder if . . .” I held the phone up so that he couldn’t see what I was doing and quickly found and installed the Find My iPhone application and hid it in his Utilities folder. With any luck, he wouldn’t notice it was there, buried among pages of silly game apps. “Oh, crap. The police probably made them remove it from the app store. Sorry.”

“You’re supposed to be good with computers. Why don’t you make an app like that?”

“Maybe I will.”

“It would be handy to know when the pigs are around.” He made some disgusting snorting sounds as he grabbed me and started tickling my waist in not-very-appropriate way.

I giggled, while also throwing up in my mouth a little, and scooted away from him. “Quit it. I need to  do homework.”

“Such a serious student.”

“Not really. I’m just trying to take my mind off my brother being in jail.” As I talked, I tilted my laptop away from him and brought up the website where I could log in and track his phone. “I wish I could do something about it, but I can’t get behind what the Solidarity Committee is doing.” A green dot showed our location at the Owl, which gave me an inner squee of excitement.

I quickly closed the lid when Simon leaned toward me. “Why’s that?”

I felt along the hem of my shirt until I found the button that turned on the camera. I doubted an FBI stooge was going to join our table anytime soon, but it might be useful to add some visuals to Nikko’s audio recordings.

“It’s just people patting themselves on the back for taking action. But it’s ineffective. Nothing changes.”

He nodded. “I totally get what you’re saying.”

“I mean, the film that woman made is great, but the revolution won’t be televised, you know?”

“Whoa, that’s deep.”

Actually, I didn’t even know what it meant. I’d seen it on a T-shirt. “The guy who put himself in charge is way too full of himself. Besides, setting up Facebook groups doesn’t accomplish anything other than telling the feds who they should be watching. If something’s going to make an impact, it has to come out of left field. Something they won’t expect. Something dramatic.”

“You’re serious.” A funny little smile played on his face. Like, that’s so cute.

“Of course I’m serious. My brother’s in jail.”

He nodded. His expression changed slowly, the smirk turning into something almost thoughtful.

“I don’t even use Facebook,” I went on. “It’s a stupid platform, just a way of distracting people from what’s really going on. I want . . .”


“I don’t know. I want to do something. Something serious. Action that matters.”

He looked at me for a long time before saying, “I met some people. There’s a guy . . .”He stopped, frowning in thought.

I  glanced around the room and leaned closer. “Yeah?”

“You can’t tell anyone about this, okay? There’s a meeting set for tonight to talk about doing something.”

“Something real?”

“Like you said. Action that matters. Something big, and soon, before everybody forgets about the Minneapolis Nine.”

“I want to be at this meeting.” I put my hand on his, gave it a little squeeze. “I mean, I know I’m kind of young, but it’s my brother who’s in jail.”

“That’s the problem. Maybe you’re being watched because of your famous brother.”

“But I’m not famous. The feds think I’m just a dumb kid, but I know a lot  about how to keep my tracks hidden. I’ll be super-careful. Please? This matters to me.”

“I’ll have to check, but it’ll probably be okay.” He tried to sound sure of himself but just sounded nervous.

“I have to be at this meeting. Simon, it would mean everything to me.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Give me your number so I can reach you.” He leaned close and whispered it to me as if he was a spy passing vital information. I saved the contact and smiled at him. “Thanks, Simon. It’s good to know someone who gets it. Who’s willing to do something more meaningful than post Facebook updates.”

“I’ll see what I can do to get you into this meeting. Call me later, like after six.” He checked the time. “Hey, I hate to bail when you’re having a bad day, but I have some business I need to attend to. Will you be okay?”

“Yeah. This dumb homework will keep my  mind off my problems. And it helps to know that somebody else thinks like I do.” I tried to look full of gratitude. “It means a lot.”

“I got your back, kiddo.” He slung on his coat, squeezed my shoulders, and left without bussing his dishes – of course. Simon Meyer was too cool for menial tasks like that.

I opened my laptop and refreshed the screen. Simon’s green dot was on the move, heading for the West Bank. I was just thinking about how I could follow him on my bike without him noticing me when my phone rang. It was Monica.

“You need to be home by seven tonight.”


“Your parents are coming over.”

“What? No. Did you talk to them?”

“I called Peter and tried to reassure him that we were okay, that I understood their concerns and we had made a plan to address them. But . . .”

“This sounds bad.”

“Yeah.” Monica took a deep breath. “It’s bad. He was not receptive.”

“Did you tell him I’m not . . . crap.” My phone made the annoying buzzing it makes when another call is coming in. “He’s calling me, now. I’m not answering.” I closed my laptop and got up. I didn’t want anyone to listen to this conversation, so I went outside into the cold and walked up and down the sidewalk, trying to keep an eye on my stuff through the window while my thoughts whirled.

“We’re going to have to deal with this, Zen.”

“Not now. Not tonight. I have stuff to do. It’s important.”

“They’re coming to our apartment at seven o’clock. They are going to be really upset if you’re not there.”

“So, they’ll be upset. They didn’t ask me if it was convenient.”

“Listen, if you’re home when they get here, maybe we can talk this through and come up with a compromise. If you don’t show up, I’m pretty certain they’re going to revoke my parental authority. If that happens, there’s nothing we can do.”

“Did you tell him I’m not staying with them? Because I’m not.”

“I tried to explain . . .” Monica took a shaky breath. “Zen, you’re a minor. The law isn’t on your side.”

“Great. It’s not on Wilson’s side, either. Did you tell him I’ll run away? He can’t make me stay there.”

“I brought up the possibility. He said if you ran away they’d call the police.”

“They’d sic the cops on me? Are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious! Zen, dammit. I’m trying to explain why you need to be at this meeting. It’s the only chance we have—”

I clicked my phone off. For a few minutes I couldn’t see anything through my tears, but I kept pacing, saying bad words, trying not to say them too loud because I didn’t want to attract attention, but I could see faces peering at me from inside the café. I walked to the corner and kicked a newsstand, which was loud, and the base of a lamppost, which hurt. I turned around, embarrassed and angry and limping because my toes were aching.

Then I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my contacts. There weren’t many. I hesitated and then tapped Frances Bernadette McSweeney’s cell phone number. It rang and rang before she answered faintly. “Hello? Oh for Pete’s sake,  how does this thing . . . hello?” Her voice was louder this time.

“It’s Zen. Wilson’s sister.”

“What’s wrong?” I didn’t answer right away, so she added, “Are you all right?”

I took a shaky breath. “No.”

“Are the police—”

“It’s nothing like that. It’s family stuff.” I paused to wipe my nose and clear my throat. “I need a place to stay tonight. Can I sleep on your couch?”

“There’s a bed upstairs that’s more comfortable. Do you need to go there now? I’m at a meeting, but—”

“That’s okay. I have stuff to do first. I’ll probably be out late.”

She hesitated over that, but only for a moment. “You’ll find a spare key under a stone turtle to the right of the front steps. Probably covered in snow, but it’s there. I’ll tell my neighbors that I’m expecting a guest.”


I disconnected before she could ask any awkward questions.


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if then else Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Fister is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.