The Black Fox was spotted in Ezra’s city a third time. The first time she’d been seen visiting injured fighters in a hospital. The second time she’d assisted in a raid on a downtown Golem production facility that demolished nine bipedal behemoths before they could reach the battlefield. Ezra had returned from a cross country trip to find his home occupied by soldiers who studied his ID under flashlights. They searched his truck but found nothing. But they hadn’t found the Black Fox either. Still, Ezra didn’t relax until they waved him past the newly established checkpoint. He prayed, for his grandchildren’s sake, that this civil war would end soon.
Days later, a clockwork crow snapped a photo of the famous rebel: her teeth bared, eyes narrowed, fire barking from the end of her AR-15. The soldiers shot a panhandler in the city square and the rebels retaliated. The firefight became a major battle with more forces joining on each side. Of course, the Black Fox joined the fighting. Of course, the rebels chanted her nom de guerre: “Nigri Vulpes! Nigri Vulpes! Nigri Vulpes!” convinced they’d win under the invincible soldier’s command. They did.
Ezra’s bones ached from age but he also played his part. The President-General refused to allow aid into the western region for fear of “assisting dissidents.” Young people threw their bodies into the meat grinder of combat, spies delivered intel to the resistance, and Ezra smuggled provisions into their hurting city. Few suspected an old man might ferry medicine, ammunition, or equipment into the city. The evening came when his employer asked him to smuggle a person past their borders.
“Please Ezra,” his boss said as he introduced the muscular woman. “She’s needed in the eastern states. Ensure she gets there safe.”
There stood the woman they idolized. The Black Fox was shorter than him but somehow made him feel small. Her eyes and handshake were both hard as iron. He’d never smuggled a person before but didn’t tell her so. She gave him a long look when he opened the secret compartment beneath his driver’s seat.
“Miss, my freedom is right there in that hollow with you.”
The young woman nodded. “I appreciate the risk you’re taking, sir.”
The President-General often showed up on television, his daughter sullen and mute beside him, roaring into the mic: “Those who assist the enemy, are the enemy.” Ezra considered this as he approached the checkpoint. The exhausted soldier demanded his ID and his comrades searched the truck’s cabin. He looked ahead, rested his hands on the wheel, and thought of how his grandchildren’s faces brightened whenever The Black Fox appeared on a screen. He’d seen that expression few times since this regime commandeered their future. The soldier peered in through the window before handing back his identification. Ezra crept cautiously ahead, carrying the final flicker of a generation’s hope as his cargo. He couldn’t let that flame be extinguished while he held it in his gnarled hands.
Tony Quick is an African American speculative fiction writer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and served as fiction editor to Iowa State University’s literary magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment in 2013. His fiction has appeared in the quarterly speculative magazine, Devilfish Review. His poetry is featured in Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland. He is currently a Master of Fine Arts fiction candidate at North Carolina State University.