I’ve just returned from New York. I mentioned I was going there before. A holiday, I claimed. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t telling the truth.
See, this was actually a work trip. But no ordinary work trip – oh no. I’d had a call from Unatco. Terrorists on the loose, they said. Something about the Statue of Liberty. Their usual guy, some dude named JC, wasn’t around – and I’m their next go-to-guy in line.
I didn’t have a trench-coat. Fuck, it was well into the 30s (or “90s”, as the Americans like to think) all week: it was too fucking hot for trench-coats. And contrary to what past Unatco-related endeavors had taught me, New York does actually see daylight. But sod it. I had the shades, at least.
The deal was this. Some terrorist organisation – the NSF – had taken one of our guys hostage. Gunther. Bit of a weird bloke, augmented up to the eyeballs. The NSF leader was hiding out at the top of the statue, and the whole of Liberty Island was said to be swarming with his armed goons. This was going to be a tough job.
So off I trotted. I’d been told to meet Paul – JC’s brother, apparently – on the dock once I arrived. But I’d have to get the boat out there first.
As I stood in line (it seemed I had a fair amount of support – I felt slightly patronised that Unatco had felt it necessary to send quite so many reinforcements. Sure, it was my first gig for them, but still), I wondered quite how terrorists had managed to even get to Liberty Island, given the stringent security checks.
But I couldn’t be worrying about that now. For starters, my mind was already racing after finding a praying mantis on top of the Empire State Building the day before. I mean, how did it get up there? But more importantly, I couldn’t be worrying because I had a job to do, man.
Through security I began to trot. I wondered which route I’d end up taking. Would I use the pistol I’d stowed away so neatly, take out the NSF goons one by one before sprinting for the statue? What about the riot prod I’d been issued? That could be a good non-lethal means of reaching my goal. Of course, there was always the pepper spray. Standard issue weapon these days. You can’t go to any terrorist-filled environment without your trusty pepper spr–
Not even mace?!
Christ. This wasn’t good. I just hoped to fucking Deus that my multitool didn’t count as a sharp object.
Well. I’d been told Paul might be able to issue me some hardware, even though he was pretty heavily against mindless slaughter. I never did understand those kinds of fools. Sometimes, violence isn’t just the only answer, it’s also the coolest answer.
Onto the boat I hopped. Off the boat I hopped, at the docks on Liberty Island, and– oh, double fuck.
Fuckety Fuck McFuckeroo. They weren’t kidding when they said the place was well guarded. Look at them all!
Fortunately a vast majority of them had their backs turned. Which was convenient, to say the least.
But this still meant I wouldn’t be able to meet with Paul. I’d never be able to find him among all the terrorist bustle, anyway. And I couldn’t quite believe they really were using small children in terrorist organisations. Look! There in the bottom right of the photo! How terrible.
I went into overdrive. Goodness knows how I did what I did next, armed only with a high-powered £30 camera. I mean, this mission was set long before the days of snapping pictures of enemies to research them, right? But somehow, I managed: I cleared the dock, zoomed past almost all of the guards, and found myself with the Statue in clear sight.
I’m coming to get you, Gunther! I’m coming to interrogate your ass off, NSF Leader!
Another problem straight away, though. Some idiot had forgotten to stack a load of boxes next to the base of the statue, so there was no obvious route in. Which dick designed this place? I was going to have to use my cunning and wits, as well as my extraordinary good lucks and world class people skills. And I knew just the man whose ass I needed to get people skillsy with.
Unatco had warned me of this eventuality. Well, not that there wouldn’t be boxes. No one warned me that there might not be boxes. But that I might need to find an alternate route in. They told me I could find a contact down near the other dock – an unassuming little place tucked around the opposite side of the island. It’d require more sneaking to get there – not just past the guards, but past the countless robots I somehow forgot to photograph – but in a gig like this, you gotta be prepared to take risks, dude.
Actually though it was quite easy.
That’s the North Dock. Except it’s not, as it turns out. Unatco distributed bizarrely erroneous material, by the seems of things, rotating its maps approximately 80 degrees anti-clockwise so that what is actually pretty much east ended up looking like north. It confused me for a little bit, until I realised it made absolutely no difference whatsoever, because I was already on the island and had lined the map up accordingly.
So yes, that’s the East Dock, a.k.a. the North Dock, a.k.a. the place where I had to go and meet the dude. From there you get an absolutely beautiful view of much of New York. That’s Manhattan on the left of the image. To the right is Brooklyn. If you could look beyond that, you’d see Queens, but you can’t, so you don’t.
I came armed with a code phrase. “Iron cock.” Sorry, no. “Iron and copper.”
I trotted down to see the guy. He wouldn’t let me take any photos of him – new security measures, he told me, just like in Customs at the airport – so you’ll just have to trust me that I did. We had a nice chat. He told me about a lovely restaurant up in Little Italy which I went to later that night and found to be delightful. He looked a little bit like Kieth Allen, but he was a lot friendlier. Eventually I remembered why I was there, shouted “IRON COCK. NO WAIT! IRON AND COPPER!” in his face, and he handed me a small key. I was on my way. I was on my way!
Back I ran – sprinted – to the statue, firing blindly with my camera left, right and centre. The remaining NSF goons were livid. “What was that?!” they cried! “Ah, probably just the wind,” they decided. Before long, I was at the statue, about to turn the key in the door, and suddenly something struck me.
Shit… surely not.
I checked my bag. Pleasepleaseplease say I bought the right– no. Shit. Shit.
I mean, I could try to break in anyway. After all, I was a super-outrageous nano-agent. But something felt wrong. After all, if I would have to break the rules to complete my mission, would I really be any better than the terrorists? Yeah. Exactly. There was only one thing left for it. I shuffled, head down, back to the boat.
Then I pressed E about a hundred times until they finally let me on-board.
Given my luck so far, I was worried this was going to happen. But it didn’t.
So. My first mission might not have been the most enormous success. But come on! The odds were stacked against me. The crippling heat didn’t exactly help matters, and nobody warned me about the boxes. Buying the wrong sort of ticket was an honest mistake. And anyway, I could redeem myself on other duties. Battery Park was fucked. The terrorists were hiding out in Castle Clinton, storing some Ambrosia vaccine which could be used to cure the Grey Death if only they’d hand it over. It was my job to get it back.
I was hoping to stop for a chocolate bar at the vending machine at the Battery Park docks, but for some reason, the promised vending machine wasn’t there and in fact the docks were closed off for renovation. I couldn’t help but feel Unatco could have provided me with some slightly more up-to-date info for these missions, y’know?
The boat pulled into the park a little way up from the docks. I hopped out. A woman fell over and screamed. This could not be good.
Anna Navarre was supposed to be waiting for me at the Castle. That place used to be the first port of call for immigrant settlers in New York once they passed through Ellis Island, I’d heard. It’s a place with a history. Sometimes it’s hard to shoot those up.
It seemed out of character, but Anna obviously felt the same way, because when I made it to the Castle she wasn’t there.
It was quiet. Eerily quiet. After the hustle and bustle of Liberty Island, the deserted Castle Clinton served as a stark reminder of just how lonely this job can be. Fighting terrorists might seem like it would win you a lot of friends, but really, all too often, you’re lurking in the shadows, crying, on your own…
…Oh no, wait, I was just on the wrong side. This was much better.
This time, I was ready. I had my pepper spray and weapons and sharp objects including tools back, now that I wasn’t anywhere near the Statue of Liberty. I had a plan. I was going to storm Castle Clinton, go mace-to-face with the NSF, and emerge with as much Ambrosia vaccine as I possibly could.
Wait, what? Something was wrong.
Queues? A ticket booth? Tourists? This wasn’t how it was meant to be. And something was oddly familiar. Isn’t this where I came to purchase permission to travel to the Statue of Liberty in the first place? And if these guys were all tourists, who exactly did I leave sprawled out on the ground surrounding that big copper lady, symbol of American diversity and freedom?
And come to think of it… oh no. Oh, noey-noey-no. I fumbled around in my bag, checked my camera, scrolled as quickly as I could through the hundreds of billions of photographs I’d madly snapped on Liberty Island, trying to find peace of mind or, immeasurably worse, confirmation of what I feared…
…and there it was.
She stood tall, proud, and – crucially – intact.
This was bad.
Unatco had called me in to deal with a terrorist threat after the Statue of Liberty was bombed. She’d lost her crown and her flame. The crown represented the majesty of this nation, and the flame was the first thing its new arrivals saw as their boats edged over the horizon. The NSF had removed these symbols. I was sure of it. I’d seen the grainy, distant photos as proof. And yet there she was, towering above the camera in this photograph snapped just half an hour before, complete and symbolic as she ever had been.
I felt like I was in Planet of the fucking Apes. This wasn’t Planet Deus Ex. This was our planet! Whatever had I done? No wonder I couldn’t find Paul on the docks. No wonder Anna never showed up at Castle Clinton. No wonder Liberty Island was rotated 80 degrees from what it was supposed to be.
I looked down at myself. I was wearing shorts and carrying a New York guide book. Just another tourist in the big city, mind frazzled by the heat and the exchange rate.
Dejected and ashamed, I headed back for the subway. I’d heard about this neat Italian restaurant, but by now I couldn’t quite remember who from. Maybe I’d go try it out later. Maybe I’d just go back to the hotel and sleep. By this point, everything felt like a dream anyway.
My shoulders drooped and my eyes focused only on the dirt below my feet. But a mile or so away, out in the bay on an island all of its own, one lady stood tall, straight and triumphant. She punched the sky with a hand of flame, for behind her stood all of New York, all of America, and some of the most majestic wonders of the world.