RRButler would love your feedback! Got a few minutes to write a review?
Write a Review

The Oasis is Burning

By RRButler All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Thriller


Lawrence, Kansas was a nice community before the siege. It's hard to say where to place the blame for the whole mess - the packs of skull-busting reactionaries roaming the streets, the clashes between radicals and police, or the blockades enforced by the personal security teams of Sec. State Augustus. Even in an age of war, all eyes have turned inward toward what most people fear will be the future of the country. Enter Atticus Gainsborough, outsider journalist. The talking heads don't care much for him - he's not exactly prompt or civil or even sober most of the time. But he's also one of the few people left in his dying profession willing to disengage himself from his desk. That's why he's headed to Lawrence in hopes of finding out what the hell happened. If he doesn't catch a bullet, he'll walk away with the story of a lifetime.

1.1 - Ingress

I woke up sprawled across two seats on an eastbound Greyhound bus with a toothy hangover and the flat chirp of my Digital Pardner informing me that we had just begun bombing Lebanon. At hand was an enormous insulated cup filled with an ugly off-color alcoholic slurry which had once been a delightful combination of cola and a rarely exported high-proof dark rum. Judging by the scenery through the window, the concoction had caused me to travel through time. I had mixed up my drink - a reliable cure for motion and altitude sickness - at a rest stop at the foot of the Rockies. We were just climbing into the mountains when I tipped my cup back, and then everything went flat and grassy.

There is a reason I drink too much when I travel for work. I used to subscribe to the romantic notions of the open road until I realized just how tribal and insular travelers can be, afraid to even make eye contact. The sole exception on this trip was a portly guy whose name was not “Billy” but whose true handle didn’t fit him nearly as well. I’d met him a few hundred miles before and he’d clearly decided that I was a crazy person, but he was still genial.

I reached through the gap in the seats and tapped Billy on the shoulder. “S’cuse me. We’re in Kansas now, right?”


“And how far to Lawrence?”

“Twenty, thirty minutes.” Billy peered back through the gap. “It’s not too late to change your mind. You know how things are up there.”

“I know.”

“I don’t want to stop there. Hell, I’d just as soon avoid the whole state, all the shit that’s been going on. And you wanna go looking for it.”

I took a swig of my slurry. “It’s what I do. I’m a journalist.”

“That’s not a real job.” I could hear Billy sniffing the air. “Geez, you’re drinking more of that stuff? You think anyone’s taking you seriously in that condition? Goddamn, Atticus, you smell like a distillery.”

“They won’t be able to smell it over the blood and cordite.”

I settled back into my seat with my sugary booze slurry and watched the highway streak by. Goddamn, have the transit corridors of Kansas gotten weird and disturbing. Here we have a billboard featuring a nice crowd of plain folks with Kansas Secretary of State Karlyle Augustus, looking decidedly less crocodilian than I’d imagined, standing at the fore. He just wanted us to know that Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium had been thoroughly secured and there would be no risk in attending games. Next was a disused board, hastily converted by some spray can-toting fascist into a list of “pointy heads” in need of a good beating. And then there was Karlyle again, requesting that visitors report any Union For Justice agitators who may have slipped past the security forces.

Billy’s eye appeared in the gap again. “Hey, they were supposed to start bombing someone new today, right?”


“You know who they’re tossing against the wall this time? Everyone I read said it would be either Yemen or Egypt.”

“Neither. We just hit Lebanon.”

“Lebanon. Huh.”

The PA system crackled to life. “Good afternoon, everyone. We’re now approaching the city limits of Lawrence, Kansas. For those of you who are exiting here - and I know there is one of you - now would be a good time to consult the pamphlet put out by the state of Kansas regarding safety during your stay. Um, I’m going to go off script a little here...I’m sure that you’ve heard all this alarmist bullshit about the ‘crisis’ going on in Lawrence. Personally, I’ve run this route dozens of times since it started, I’ve never run into any trouble, none of the people I’ve picked up have had any trouble.”

I dug out my pamphlet, a glossy little tri-fold put out by the state’s new Office of State and Interstate Safety. For those of you who haven’t seen the scans of this charming little bastard, it’s a collection of best practice tips, decorated with the winched-up grins of Augustus and Governor Merton Goldstreet at various local restaurants and attractions. Some of the standouts:

-State security forces have no interest in harming visitors, but to be on the safe side you should stay at least 100 yards clear of the campus perimeter (especially those of you whose disposition makes you likely to be mistaken for one of the UFJ goons).

-If you should run into the Brigg, and you happen to be carrying any books on science or philosophy or sociology, keep those articles well out of sight. They really don’t appreciate that sort of thing, and that state can’t be held responsible for how they might react.

-All UFJ members should be considered dangerous, and if you spot one you should not make any effort to apprehend him or her yourself. Other leftist types are generally harmless, but UFJ thugs may be using them as bait in some scheme, so keep your wits about you.

-Don’t smoke anything you buy in one of the cafes. There have been some unfortunate incidents.

The PA kept blaring the whole time I was reading, and by this point the driver was miles off script. “And you know what else gets to me? All these shitheads on the news throwing around terms like ‘fascism,’ as though you’ve got to be some Nazi to want to see order restored. Sure, sometimes the Brigg go too far, but damn it, that’s only because they have a great love of justice - and real justice, not this ‘social justice’ crap. They’re the ones keeping us all safe, not just me but all those families who just want to watch a basketball game in peace. And it’s not like they’ve shot anyone or anything...”

As the driver wrapped up his spiel, I took a minute to review the contents of my messenger bag, a well-traveled neutral-colored satchel which had been my constant companion since this mess had started. Inside was a paper map marked up by one of my contacts, two water bottles, two days’ worth of energy bars, a multitool, a butterfly knife (illegal in these parts, but what isn’t these days), a half-dozen memo books, a dozen pens, a homemade listening device, two hip flasks full of cheap bourbon, eight joints, a couple tabs of some dubious herbal energy drug, a couple tabs of the real stuff, a hermetically sealed four-leaf clover, a Saint Christopher’s medal with a dent in it, and a treacherously large sum of cash. I’d wanted to toss a small handgun in as well, but aside from the added bulk and limited utility there was the risk factor. Running around in a controlled area with a gun and a bag full of dope and cash is a good way to lose twenty years of your life.

The bus pulled to a stop at the side of some unnervingly normal-looking stretch of highway, and for a moment I thought that the driver was giving this suicidal soul one more chance at redemption. I gave Billy another tap. “Is this really it?”

“You were expecting to see smoldering craters everywhere? Goldie isn’t gonna let things look bad. Now hurry up, to the front. They’re not gonna stay here long.”

Billy wasn’t kidding. The crank at the wheel gave me ten to get my stuff out of the hold before he peeled out. The only thing missing was a kick in the ass on the way out. All that was there for me was a disused gas station covered in competing graffiti, long lists of UFJ grievances and Brigg betes noires.

So there I was, by the side of the road at the outer edge of a crisis zone with a bag of contraband, a throbbing headache and no one to watch my back. It ain’t Lebanon under attack, but it’s still early in the week. Still plenty of time for a spark to hit the tinder.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
Further Recommendations

Spring: I normally don't read fiction novels, but I absolutely enjoyed reading Silent Shadows! The style is quite different from the previous fiction novels I've attempted to read.Great job!

Katy Blair: This is definitely a must read!!! I am not saying anymore, because I do not want to give away anything related to the story. Just read and find out how truly amazing this story is!!!

Sanjana Prasad: The book has a thrilling plot with interesting characters. The female lead is a strong, independent woman with skeletons in her closet. The male lead is a deep man who has been wronged but always fights the world to keep going. The chemistry between the leads is amazing. I like how the author has...

David Ramati: An unusual story, well worth reading. Good conversations, excellent prose, and keeps my interest, maybe because I was there, back in the day. You won't be able to pt this book down.

David Ramati: I can easily identify with the characters as having gone through those terrible times myself. The writer has skillfully brought yet another side of those days to life. A good read which I recommend to everyone.

Hayley: Beautiful story that has been well written. Something I will definitely read again. I loved how you could feel the tension between them and I loved the ending because It left it open to our imagination. I look forward to seeing to reading further stories by the same author.

Mary Abigail: I have always been a serious reader but reading romance has always been an outlet for me to be happy and this, makes me happy. It's entertaining with just enough drama and maybe a bit more - I do need more.

More Recommendations

Deleted User: Your San Quentin episode cuts an incredible parallel to something with which I am involved. Sounds real enough. Read just the four chapters thus far. Looking forward to continuing. Roy Jenner.https://www.inkitt.com/royjennerFinished now, Great read. Well done Steve.Enjoyed it to the end.re Plot...

marlalancaster: As in the title of my review I love it. Little cussing but overall it is amazing I am a huge mystery fan and I can always guess who did it after the first chapter but I would never have guessed it was the ..... that was the florist I love the florist's touch I mean so good her heart was in the ri...

briggy1998: I really enjoyed the book, even though I had to skip a few lines, because at times it could get a bit disturbing🙆🏻😅What I would have liked is if you could have given a bit more insight into jack's and fiona's relationship, especially the epilogue was a bit short 😬Other than that an amazing story!

Steven Tesoro: The Symphony Of Life, as I read this I myself are homeless, not much of an income an occasionally, it crosses mostly everyones mind about doing the dirty. But it is worth the time to read this story and as I'm reading it thinking about getting my life back to where it should be, it's hard in thi...

Ali Albazaz: I started reading "Caged" few hours ago and I'm on chapter 7 now. Caged is definitely one of the most addictive stories I've ever read. Thank you so much for writing this novel.

Barbara Zavela: Do you know the song, 'Imagine' by John Lennon?If you had a chance for a world like the one described in that song, would you grab it with both hands or turn away and reject it.This story pulls you in from the beginning with well-written scenarios. The author offers you the opportunity to bring y...

{{ contest.story_page_sticky_bar_text }} Be the first to recommend this story.

About Us:

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.