After a couple of hours, even Tobey began to believe Park 51 wasn't the hotbed of terrorist activity that Glenn Beck had led him to believe. And even if it were, we couldn't find any trace of the Internet. We were about to grab our things and get wrecked at the Heartland Brewery in the Seaport when we heard it. Something I hadn't heard in at least ten years. A modem.
"Fuck, I knew it!" Tobey said.
"Knew what?" I said.
"Don't tell me you didn't hear that modem. That's the sounds of the Internet."
"Yeah, I heard something, but why would anyone be using a modem now?"
"What's a modem," Oz asked. (She was very young.)
"It's a terrible crunching beeping noise that used to connect people to the Internet on dial up."
"That?" Oz asked. "I think chef Abdul is just mashing some more dates in a blender."
"Wait a second. It's coming from outside," I said.
We looked up through the glass of the lobby doors to see twenty soldiers in riot gear. The black stormtroopers from the Park had returned. And that modem we'd heard now appeared to be merely dispatcher crackles over walkie talkies. But I didn't process that then. At that moment, all I could think of was the force of twenty troops plowing inside a lobby. Flowing like violence and filled with screams for everyone to hit the floor.
Oz broke for the door, and was taken down instantly. I sprung forward as if the knee pressing into her back were actually driving mine, but a trooper blocked my way, screaming, "Get down, now!"
Before I could even decide to comply, another guard shouted that someone was getting away. Tobey was sprinting uptown with two troopers following after him. They labored under the weight of their riot gear, but Tobey bounced off pedestrians all legs and elbows like an 80s video game character.
And then I was on the floor. My face inches from Oz. My own trooper for my back. She looked at me, hoping for something I could not give, and I watched them take her away.
Day 35: INTERROGATION
I was placed in a van and taken to what seemed to be a conventional downtown office building. I wasn't told why I was under arrest or if I were under arrest. Once sequestered, my cuffs were removed, but so were my possessions: backpack, journal and flask. After about an hour, a man about forty-five and devoid of body fat or humor entered the room. He was holding my backpack.
"Mr. Gladstone," he said, pulling a chair from the small conference table between us. "My name is Agent Rowsdower. Do you mind if I have a seat?"
"Am I under arrest?"
Rowsdower sat and smiled. His teeth were too small or there were too many. Maybe both. Something was wrong and less than human.
"Why? Have you done anything wrong?" he asked.
"Good one. What have you done with Oz?"
He unzipped my backpack and tossed my journal on the table.
"Oz," he said. "Would that be the Australian webcam girl you write about?"
"What gives you the right to read my journal?"
"What gives me the right? What's the matter, Gladstone? Bright guy like you doesn't read the papers?"
"I used to get my news online."
"Right. Of course, you did. Well, you might want to acquaint yourself with the NET Recovery Act."
He pulled my flask from the bag. "Here. You're not gonna like this."
I took a swig and felt the numbing warmth tingle to my arms while Rowsdower proceeded to tell me about the National Emergency Technical Recovery Act. Drafted by Obama's White House and passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses across party lines, the Act gave the government additional state of emergency powers if used "in the direct furtherance" of restoring the Internet. This power allowed officials to interrogate and even detain "persons of interest" for up to 48 hours without charges or representation by counsel.
"And how the hell did I become a person of interest?"
"Well, you tell me, Gladstone. Do you think in the last few days most citizens have been consorting with Anonymous at covert 4Chan gatherings and visiting downtown Mosques amid rumors of terrorist Internet chatter emanating from downtown?"
"Still doesn't make me a threat to national security."
"Don't worry, Gladstone. I tend to believe you. I'm thinking someone out on psychiatric disability for the last two years isn't going to hijack the world's technology."
"Two years? Check your stats. More like two weeks. No wonder Anonymous kicked ass in your counter-intelligence wars. You guys are a mess."
Rowsdower remained calm. I was fairly certain everything he'd ever attained in life was achieved from this ability not to react. To not say the things a more honest man would say. But there was something else at play I couldn't discern. Not quite empathy, but something. He took a breath.
"Am I correct, Mr. Gladstone that you wouldn't want to talk to me about your wife, Romaya?"
"I'd prefer not to," I said.
"And why's that?"
"My wife is dead"
A pulse rippled across Rowsdower's face, beneath his skin.
"Right. That's what I thought," he said, zipping up my bag.
For some reason, it also contained Tobey's camera.
"You're free to go, Mr. Gladstone. I'm sorry for the disturbance. I'll let you find your own way out."
"Out of a prison?" I asked.
"Prison? This is just an office building. Under the NET Recovery Act, the Government is empowered to commandeer private property for the purposes of interrogation."
Rowsdower left the door open behind him.
I was free to go.
I was alone.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
GO TO PART SIX
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