It was the vigilante Robert North who divined that his second name was providence instead of chance.
Born and raised on the coast of Maine, North looked to the sea, his eyes reflecting the slate grey of the Atlantic. When the sea looked choppy, he brooded on the state of America – American living, American decadence, American apathy. We were at our best when we were at war, he thought, as waves broke against one another, roiling with an otherworldly anger. We leapt forward when we had people to save, messages to send, ideals that were worth fighting for.
Online, North had followers that he whipped into frothy disciples. They re-posted his thoughts, quoted him endlessly. Break down the Mexican border, and let’s make Mexico ours, he would write, citing gross national product statistics, immigration costs, the money-earning prospect of a larger empire. He had graphs that backed his theories, pages and pages of endnotes on his ideals. The books he wrote were derided until they weren’t, until coffee shop philosophers quoted him as they once quoted Machiavelli.
North, at age 8, had staged a coup against an evil 4th grade bully who had claimed dominion over the handball courts. Through elementary school gender bias and two scores of third and second graders raising their tiny angry fists, North was tagged as a Handball King, a force to be reckoned with. His presidency in school politics was never questioned. His word was seen as sound. Cold, cool logic pervaded everything he did.
North opted out of college, furious with a system that preferred calculated scores over written logic. He stayed at home with his ancient parents, taking care of them as they slowly passed away and out of his life. When they did, his idle mind spun a complicated web of a plan that he was only privy to in its final stages, when looking at his browser history, his college-ruled notebook, his website. At 20, he realized the dark promise his life held, and sought out the way to fulfill it.
Historians would cite a failing war machine economy and an unseasonable death of lobsters as possible reasons for North’s unbelievable early success. They cited low employment and low wages, a particularly bad year for high intelligence television, a lack of the normally stratospheric highs of holiday economy boosts. They cited lax gun laws and a couple of the more arcane portions of the Bill of Rights. But whatever the ultimate reason, the facts was clear: Robert North and his private army took Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto in quick succession, in the warmest winter the Northeast had ever seen.
North marched revolutionary style, with an army that grew exponentially as media outlets took to covering the story. He offered peace and prosperity to each city via online missives and flash-mob style ticker tape parades. The flags he flew in the conquered cities were a mixture (called “cunning” by his constituents) of Benjamin Franklin’s “Don’t Tread On Me” Poor Richard’s Almanac design, and a modified American Flag, showing 10 more stars shining in the dark blue, and a 14th black stripe.
They were the Northern United States led by Robert North, although the President decried North as a mad man, a scoundrel, and a danger to the nation. People took sides like it was a political debate instead of a reign of terror. North always came across as collected and pure in his television appearances, his face unmarked by worry, his tone sonorous as he spoke about broken economies and a government mismanaged. His following bloomed as he marched his way West and took over the rest of Canada.
The occupied country of Canada did not see a significant change in lifestyle. There was no systemic crisis, no visible effect, negative or positive, of North’s being there. In fact, the entirety of North’s campaign played out so quietly and flawlessly, it seemed like it hadn’t happened at all. The television was the only tether to the situation, as politicians flailed to find meaning.
North did close the border between the original fifty states and his newly created ten until he could be sure that the virus-ridden American government would see him as a cure rather than another fatal disease. He shut down some major highways, every airport. While import had stopped, export had as well – he fed his people with the food that they grew.
The President of the United States called for detente, for peace, he threw up his hands and promised no trick, no illusion. It had been two years since North had amassed his online army into a real one, since he occupied Canada and took it in the name of the forefathers of the United States. The President wanted a meeting, wanted to make sense of the whole thing. Why it happened was on everyone’s mind. It was the true thought behind every soapbox speech and political posturing. Why had he done it?
Robert North sat in the airport, waiting for a plane to come. He had chosen his pilot himself, and he would bring no one. He would land in the national mall, he would walk without an assemblage. The President would shake his hand. He looked out the window. Did he really think the President was going to pat him on the back, assimilate his new 10 states into the nation, listen to his ideas on Mexico, on South America?
He didn’t know, and it barely mattered. He had needed something to do and once he discovered what that was, he had done it. The fact was, his plans hadn’t extended this far. He knew what he had written to say to the President, but he wondered about the meaning. He thought back to that bully, holding on to the handball courts as though it was an important dominion, and while he waited for his plane to be ready, Robert North wondered about the bully’s reasoning. He had his handball court. What now?