Go West, Young Man

Roger Maris Stockton had lead an interesting life. Once a nihilistic rural Wisconsin punk, Roger had been swept up in the secessionist fervor that gripped the USA at the end of the last century. After California’s manufactured farmland failed, the full weight of provider fell to the Midwest. Ergo, rationing. Ergo, bread riots. Ergo, a suspension of that fall’s national election. Ergo, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa and Indiana left the United States of America to form the Union of Free States. For the next thirteen years, brushfire battles erupted within the country, as the former American Midwest became one of history’s largest and longest disputed borders. Roger, an unwilling hero and last surviving member of the suicidally brave Rabbit Squad, had been the only one of his unit to survive the Battle of LaCrosse and moved on to subsequent battles in Minnesota, Iowa and, later on, the newly captured Dakotas and most of Montana. He had risen through the ranks of the Army of the Union of Free States to become a general, based out of his old hometown of Neillsville, accompanied by his girlfriend-turned-wife, Toryn, and with time two sons, Nicholas and Clark.
Roger was Will’s older step-brother, the original Nick Stockton having been gunned down during the Easter Offensive in 1972. Roughly eight and a half months later, Roger was born, named after Nick’s favorite baseball player. Dying in the arms of his good friend and high school buddy, Nick had begged for the protection of his wife, his daughter, and his unborn son, and he had begged it from one Wayne Russell. Upon returning home after a year of duty, Wayne found a woman that needed him, a woman that would eventually become his wife. Out of that marriage came two more sons, Daniel and William, and a one last daughter, Susan. It was a grudging Wayne Russell who allowed his son to fight for the resistance, knowing that this time, at least there was a cause. However, when US forces began to dwindle and the Free States began to receive foreign aid in their struggle, it came time for a draft. Will Russell had managed to lie and cheat his way into the former US for grad school, and they were glad to have him. However, they were even gladder to draft him. Suddenly, was being asked to go to war and fight those he went to high school with, those he went to college with, even the man he had come to know as his brother. With a bottle of whiskey and a .357, Will ducked back across the badly-guarded north border, through Free State-friendly Canada, and back to Chicago. Once there, it was a call to his parents in Neillsville, a chug of the bottle, a pull of the trigger, and three long years of hiding from a government seeking his extradition or, in the case of his Bostonian days, his good old-fashioned arrest.
With time, the draft dodging charges became treason charges, with the penalty of death. The slippery Spud suddenly became public enemy number one in a broken nation desperate for a moral victory. While skirmishes fired among the eastern and western borders, William slipped in through Manitoba and made his way hitchhiking down the old familiar highway 73, to meet his half-brother. His blue eyes shone with a fierceness in the warm July night, laying down in the back of an old Chevy, one like his father used to drive. He’d give the parents a call too, just to see how they were doing, but Roger was his main goal. Leaving Boston had been heart-wrenching, and Will was sick of running.
Running had cost him an education.
Running had cost him half his right foot.
Running had cost him Sally Camden.
Running had cost him what was once his life.
He had a plan.

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