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Peripheral Visions: Royce's Rules

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 21 MIN.

"Peripheral Visions: You sense them from the corner of your eye or in the soft blur of darkest shadows. But you won't see them coming... until it's too late."

Royce's Rules

"That's right, guys! Proudly serving Manipulyatsiya!" William Royce held up a bottle of vodka, expecting to hear cheers from the patrons of his bar.

"Really, Bill?" someone called. "Every gay bar in the country is boycotting that shit."

"This ain't a gay bar, it's my bar," Royce called back. "Being gay is me as a man... but not as a businessman."

"Guess you know what side of your toast is smeared with caviar," someone else said. The voice was close to his elbow; Bill looked over to see Richard sitting at the bar, nursing his glass of dark ale.

"Don't you believe the bullshit," Royce told Richard, lining up a row of shot glasses and pouring to vodka with a flourish. "It's not the Russians who are trying to steal the election. It's the leftists!"

"And how exactly are they gonna steal the election? Just look at that map," Richard said, nodding at the TV screen above the shelves of liquor. "Michigan just went red."

Royce glanced back. The electoral map showed a scattering of blue states, a mass of red states, and a skein of states that were still depicted in white.

"It's a horse race for sure," another man sitting at the bar piped up. He had been swilling gin drinks for the last hour. That made sense: He sounded British, and his nose looked red, even in the dim light of the bar.

"All the more evidence," Royce declared. "The more the map goes red, the more the deep state panics. They'll be pulling out bags of ballots pretty soon – "

"Man, don't you know anything?" the British guy asked. "Nobody uses paper ballots anymore. It's all electronic."

"Okay, then, the socialist hackers will work their bag of tricks," Royce said. "But if the election really is fair and secure, like they keep telling us it is... and who believes that, am I right?... then pretty soon we'll see a red map of America and know that Kirsch won."

"Don't count on it," Richard scoffed. "You remember what it was like four years ago? We had to wait almost two weeks until they figured out the tallies in the last few counties in the last few states."

"Yeah, and all so that RINO Presterly could have another term," another man at the bar – this one standing, rather than sitting on a stool – piped up. Royce hadn't noticed the standing guy before. He must have just bellied up, looking to place his order. "But once Kirsch takes it, America will be great again!"

There were scattered cheers and just as many grumbles as another state went red on the map.

"This is for you, my friend," Royce said, handing the standing man a shot glass full of Manipulyatsiya. He grinned as the TV's glow took on a redder hue. "What were you looking to order?"

"Three domestics, if you got 'em."

"If I got 'em he says!" Royce cackled. "Mister, I got rid of all that imported shit a long time ago!" He gathered up three glasses and worked the tap. One by one he set the glasses out before the standing man, who offered his phone for payment.

Royce held up the credit reader and the man tapped his phone to the device. A ping confirmed the transaction.

"Thanks," the man said, gathering the glasses into a tight bundle in his two large hands.

Something in the back of the room caught Royce's eye and he looked past the man. A couple of Promise Posse guys had come in at some point and they were standing against the far wall.

"Hey!" Royce called in greeting. "What you fellas doing here? You done making sure everything's fair and square at the local polling site?"

The two Promise Posse guys looked at him somberly. They were both heavyset and bearded. Their black body armor caught the glow of the bar's various neon signs along with the glow of the hi-def TV and its electoral map; the armor shone red and blue. One of the men raised a thumbs up at Royce, who nodded back.

"Bash the heads of any ballot-box stuffing liberals?" Royce called out, chuckling.

"And again, no knowledge of voting actually works," the British guy sighed, the accented syllables cutting though the ambient noise in a way that irritated Royce.

He turned to the Brit. "I suppose you're here on a tourist visa, overstaying and taking some patriot's job," he said.

"I'm here on a work visa, actually," the Brit snapped back, "and if the company could have found any Americans who know enough applied physics to do the job, I'd still be back in fucking Blighty."

"Oh yeah? And what's your job, exactly?"

The Brit nodded at the television. "I help design better TVs, for one thing. And better routers, and laptops, and pacemakers, and... well, everything."

"Everything digital, huh? I suppose you helped build these new voting machines they're using?" Royce scowled.

"My company didn't, no, but I do know about them, and I can tell you they are secure."

"Yeah," Royce said, glancing back at the TV. "Well, I'm only half convinced that's true. Look, a state just went blue. That's... what... twelve loser states, fifteen patriot states?" Royce looked back at the Brit. "You want to tell me that America's gotten that lost, that the election can be so close? I know, and everyone in here knows, that the woke liberals are importing people from across the world to displace white working people, silence our voices, shut us out of our own government... and America's great silent majority are tired of suffering in silence! The only reason there's twelve blue states on that map is because of digital saboteurs like you."

"You don't know anything about. You think they still use paper ballots," the Brit said.

"Oh, and some limey knows more about America than a native-born American?" Royce looked around the bar, his voice getting louder. "See, that's the problem. You military-age foreign males flood out country and you think you can just walk away with our heritage."

"And our women!" someone shouted.

"And our women," Royce nodded.

"Like you'd care about that?" the Brit asked. "If there's anything everyone in here really does know, it's that you're gay!"

"So what?" Royce asked.

"So, what is a gay guy doing giving all that money to the Kirsch campaign?" the brit asked him.

A huge grin came across Royce's face. "You read the paper, huh? Nice story they did about me and the bar. I was expecting a hit piece, but they did okay. Except they didn't print what I really had to say. Just harmless little quotes taken out of context. But let me tell you something, I gave that fake news peddler plenty she didn't see fit to print. And why not? Because the media machine would crumble if they dared to tell the truth!"

"Yeah? And what's the truth?" the Brit asked him.

"America's like a house," Royce declared. "Real Americans built it. Real Americans lived in it. Real Americans made and used the furniture... and then you people came along."

"Really!" The Bris snorted with contempt. "As I remember history, it was the English who settled the original thirteen colonies. And it was Englishmen who decided they'd had enough of a government clear across the ocean interfering in their lives."

"And Americans still don't like the government telling us what to do!" Royce shouted.

"Unless it's the case that the government is telling you who you can marry, or what you can do with your own bodies!" the Brit snapped. "Or, for that matter, what books you can read. What schools you can send your children to."

"We have to clean out the rot," Royce snarled.

"What rot is that? History? Facts? The way that one and one make two, and correct answers on a math test come from equations instead of claims that 'Jesus said it?' Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. 'My religion says the answer is eight.' Which is great, except that if the answer is really twelve, then the airplane you're designing will crash, the bridge you're building will collapse, and the electrical grid you're setting up won't work. And then what? It was all part of some plan by Satan to challenge your faith? Maybe there's a simpler answer: You're too goddamned lazy to bother with not being lethally stupid!"

"Get the fuck outta my bar!" Royce shouted at the Brit. "You're cut off, so just get out! Leave!" Looking over at the Promise Posse guys, Royce noted that there were more of them now – six of them, all standing at the back of the room. He waved and pointed. "Come on, boys, show this asshole the door! If he puts up a fight, give a black eye or two. And don't worry if he calls the cops on you. I'll pay your bail!" Royce barked a harsh laugh. "Anyway, after tonight it's not gonna matter! When we have a President Kirsch, real Americans will have their rights back and foreign agents like this prick will either have to get the fuck out of our country or bleed in the gutter!"

The Promise Posse guys didn't move, but they didn't have to. Other guys in the bar – similarly stocky, similarly bearded – had stepped forward. They grabbed the British guy and hustled him roughly toward the door.

"That's right, fellas, throw the fucker out!" Royce called as the knot of men muscled their way toward the door, the British man struggling and shouting all the way.

Richard watched the fracas, looking unimpressed. The knot of men ejected the British guy out the door and onto the street, and Richard turned back to his drink. He downed the rest of his ale and gestured at the empty glass.

"You want another?" Royce asked. "I thought a libtard like you would run out of here screaming at the sight of a little high-spirited fun!"

"Just pour," Richard said.

"Anything you say," Royce smiled, holding a fresh glass to the tap and pulling the lever. Ale frothed into the glass. "You want me to do the whole thing with lopping the excess foam off the top?"

Richard just stared at him, unflappable.

"Fine." Royce set the glass in front of him.

The gang of men who had thrown the British guy out were at the bar now, panting and sweating. "Hey, that was thirsty work," one of them said.

"A round?" Royce asked.

"Yeah!" the men said as a group.

"Which one of you is paying?"

"Paying? Hey man, we just did you a favor!"

"You stood up for America, and America will thank you," Royce said. "But you're gonna have to pay your tab."

The men looked at each other. "What a cheapskate," one of them muttered.

"Oh, you're just in it for a little reward, huh? Like protecting your country isn't an award in itself? I ought to charge you double," Royce told them.

The leader of the small gang shook his head. "Shit, man," he said. The row of vodka shots Royce had poured out earlier was still sitting on the bar; the man reached out, grabbed one, and tossed it back. "Let's get the fuck outta here," the man said to his buddies.

"Yeah, ya freeloaders, get lost," Royce told them. He leaned close to Richard as the men made their way out of the bar. The crowd didn't seem to pay them any mind; the brief disturbance they had made hustling the British guy out seemed to be forgotten. Royce glanced again at the half-dozen Promise Posse guys, all in their black body armor, and then fixed his eyes on Richard. "Tell ya something, there's not a whole lot that's worse that woke fuckin' liberals, but freeloading fakes like those guys? They're really what kills freedom. You can't get anything done if you don't know who your friends are in this world. White people are a minority now, did you know that?"

"I read about it," Richard said.

"Yeah, sooner than they thought was gonna happen. They didn't think it would be until another nine years or so. But suddenly – hey! We're outnumbered! And outgunned too, probably. Those liberals who want to take out guns away? You know who the biggest market is for guns the last few years? It's them. They are arming up, and you know why. They want to put all of us in camps, just because we don't agree with their socialist agenda."

"The more you talk the more you make that British guy's case for him," Richard said. "None of what you're saying makes any sense or has any basis in fact."

"Who needs fact?" Royce laughed. "I heard it on the radio."

"Yes, or you read it online. I'm sure you 'did your research'." Richard put a sarcastic spin on the words.

"I didn't need to research nothin'. It's right in front of your face," Royce snarled. "Crime, prosecution, lawfare! Those leftist fucks burn cities and get off scot free, but if we say one thing about not wanting books about rapists and perverts taught in the classrooms, suddenly we're the bad guys. Well, it's not a coincidence. None of it's a coincidence," Royce said.

"Well, cheers, then, to the global conspiracy," Richard said, lifting his glass.

A cheer sounded in the bar, along with an equally loud groan. Royce glanced back at the TV and saw that Georgia had just gone red.

"Another state called for Kirsch," the TV's yammering announcer said, before his droning voice faded into background noise again.

"Those fucks talk about the rule of law, and they're the lawbreakers," Royce insisted, turning back to Richard. "They want laws? They want rules? Here's the rules we're gonna have once Kirsch gets in. Those invading foreigners? Put 'em all back on a plane. Fly 'em back to shithole land or else dump 'em in the ocean from thirty thousand feet up high. You want to come to this country, to my country? You better show you have the stuff. Speak the language, know your history, be ready to fight when the socialists start a civil war."

"Uh huh." Richard said, sounding bored.

"And women? What do women need with jobs outside the home? They make babies, that's the job natured assigned them."

Richard looked at him skeptically.

"Hey, don't blame me. It's biology," Royce said. "Just like it's biology that there's two sexes, not three or four or nine, or whatever. And people don't switch from one to another. You're born with what you've got, and what you've got is who you are."

"What does that even mean?" Richard asked.

"You know, your body. Your plumbing," Royce said. "But really, everything. You're born with smarts, then you got smarts. You're born with looks, then you got looks. People from Northern Europe, they've got the full suite, plus a special extra sense – a moral sense. No matter how much these propagandists try to confuse our minds, at the end of the day our moral sense will come back to us. That's why Hungary and Poland have been bastions of liberty for more than a quarter century now. That's why Russia is showing us the way. Hell, even Argentina corrected course!"

Another patron pushed up against the bar and Royce filled his order: A Manhattan and two whisky sours.

"Don't stand for no morally compromised bullshit!" Royce said, coming back to Richard and assessing the level of le left in his glass. "Young kids get confused? Straighten them out! That's all it takes. But people are afraid to trample their precious little snowflakes. Well, you know what you got when everyone's a snowflake?"

"A white Christmas?" Richard asked. "I'd have thought you'd love that."

Royce stared at him. "What? No. You get confusion, everybody pulling their own way. And then our enemies sit there and laugh at us."

"Last I heard, Russia was laughing pretty loudly," Richard said. "And India, too."

"Yeah, they're laughing with us," Royce said. "Not at us. It's a big difference."

Richard drew a long swallow from his glass. "All right," he sighed, "so what rules do you think are going to improve things?"

"What rules? Easy. Just go back to the basics. Boys in the boys' room. Girls in the girls' room. College for the smart boys who need to know, like, what that British guy was talking about. Mathematics, that sort of stuff. But you don't gotta go to college to build a plane or a bridge, you just gotta know how to swing a hammer, work a bolt gun."

"A bolt gun," Richard smiled. "Of course."

"You know what I mean. Be a welder, put shit put together. Make stuff. And those Wall Street fucks? They all graduated from those snooty schools. What did they ever do except crash the economy in '09, and again in '27? Tell you, that was the one good thing from this last economic disaster, that we got a Theopublican president again."

"The first one, actually," Richard corrected him. "After the implosion of the Republican party and the reformation on the right."

"Yeah, whatever. God's party. Heavenly justice on Earth. Al of that. Except, see, they got so caught up in the lie about Jesus being a bleeding heart they forgot to enforce the laws, keep America for Americans. A RINO president, it's no good. No wonder those liberals are coming outta the woodwork, all it did was make them bold, make them think they could take our country away from us. Well, they're not gonna!" Royce turned to look at the TV screen just as two more states turned red. "Look at this! It's America roaring back."

"I thought you said the liberals were going to steal the election," Richard said, raising his glass again.

"If it all goes blue, yeah, that' the evidence right there," Royce said. "But maybe it's a free and fair election after all. In which case..." He glanced back and saw that another state had gone from white to blue. "Well, hell, those blue states are gonna learn a lesson. No one says we have to give them our money or our rights."

"What about their rights?" Richard asked.

Royce scoffed. "If they're such idiots, they don't deserve any." He looked up and glanced around the bar out of habit. Someone ought to be getting thirsty by now. Sure enough, he saw a guy wending his way through the crowd to the bar. Royce moved to intercept him and get his order. As he did, he glanced at the back of the room once more and took note of how the half-dozen Promise Posse guys had swelled into what looked like at least a dozen.

After serving the guy, Royce waved at the Promise Posse. "Don't be shy, boys, come on up!" he called. "This is a bar. Have a beer!"

"We don't drink," one of them called back.

That was right, Royce recalled; Kirsch was a teetotaler. "Then what are you all doing gathering in a bar?" he yelled back at them.

"Providing security," the body armor-clad man called back. "If people get rowdy because of the election, they need to know real Americans are gonna put them in their place."

"You got nothing to worry about," Royce called back "This is a friendly sorta place."

"Yeah?" the guy laughed. "Like that foreigner you had in here a while ago? Like him?"

"You saw what happened to him," Royce shot back. "Now don't just hang out in here and take up space. Drink something."

The black-clad men seemed to confer, Then the leader shouted back, "All right, club soda all around."

"Club soda," Royce laughed. "You're not even gonna have something with a little flavor? Some sodee-pop?"

"No, club soda's fine."

"Mine with lemon," one of them called out.

The other Promise Posse guys all groaned at him. "Jesus, Jeff, be a man," someone chided him.

"Club soda," Royce muttered, pulling down glasses, filling them with ice, and filling them up with the soda gun. "Stacy, take this over please," he instructed his server.

Stacy gathered the drinks onto a tray. Royce tuned back to Richard, who was watching him with amusement.

"Big spenders," he said.

"Ah, you just wait. When Kirsch wins they're have a snort. They have to."

"No, they don't. Their guy abstains, so do they. They'd swallow poison or die of thirst if he told them to. It's easier than thinking for yourself." Richard tilted his head in a knowing way and raised his glass again.

"Yeah, now, you listen. Kirsch is gonna make this country great again."

"Right," Richard said, "By putting all the minorities back in their place."

"Sending 'em hone!" Royce said. "Which is where they belong. They only came here to take what we have. Why should we give it to them?"

"That's one way of looking at it when people with nothing take the initiative to get themselves to a country that advertised itself as a land of opportunity for centuries. That's a tough brand image to shed," Richard said.

"No, they just want to steal," Royce said.

"Yeah? And what about what Kirsch was saying about confiscating assets from, how did he put it... 'enemies of the people,' I think was one word for it. 'Vermin,' that was another. And, of course, that old standby – 'liberals.' He's saying he wants to steal the money and property of Americans who disagree with his ideology.'"

"Yeah, well, it's because they're traitors," Royce said. "And it's a good idea. They've taken enough from us! We need to take it all back."

"Personally, I worked for everything I have," Richard said.,

"So did I," Royce said.

"But you gave a huge donation to a presidential candidate who doesn't drink?" Richard shook his head. "I don't see how that's good for the bartending business."

"Once we clear the leeches out, everyone will benefit!" Royce declared.

"Except you," Richard said. "I mean, gay people. You've heard the Theopublican platform. 'Cure' homosexuals or execute them. And you think they'll be good for business? Kirsch wants to take America back to the '20s... the 1920s! He wants to impose a whole new Prohibition. In terms of business as well as your civil rights, those people want to hang you from the streetlights, and you've buying the rope for them."

Royce snorted. "You're buying the left-wing spin. Listen, all anyone has to do is get married, live on the down low. Like they used to do in the 1950s, before America went into a tailspin. You know and I know being gay is like anything else – it's part of who you are when you're born, it's part of the hand you're dealt, but no one has to jump up on the table and show their losing hand. That's not how you play the game, and it's sure not how you win. You bluff, you boast, you raise the stakes, you keep a poker face, and maybe... just maybe... you win."

"A few winners are only made from the bones of an awful lot of losers," Richard said, shaking his head.

"Yeah, well, those are the rules. That's just how they are, how they have to be, how they've aways been."

"Royce's rules," Richard said, smiling without humor.

"I see you been in the men's room," Royce said. The bar's logo was painted on the wall: ROYCE'S, the name of the place in big stylized letters that formed an arc. Someone – a drunk fan of the place, maybe – had used a large maker to scrawl "Rules" underneath, spacing the letters out to fill the space under the arc.

"See, my place is the king of bars. It rules."

"Or," Patrick said, "you feel entitled to dictate how everyone else in the world should have to live."

"Well, I do, yeah. I don't buy into any of the delusional bullshit. I charge the customers as much as they'll pay; I give my workers as little as I can get away with. The rest is mine, and every time I put a nickel in the bank I'm building my own future for myself. You were talking about initiative? Well, that's initiative, and Kirsch knows it. He's business friendly. He's not gonna drown us in fees and regulations and red tape and paperwork. People with money will be free to keep making money... more money than ever! And people with money are the people who matter. Freedom ain't free. You have to buy it – with your blood if you're a soldier, with your sweat if you're a worker, and with your cash if you're an entrepreneur. Once you have enough money, you can do what you want. It doesn't matter if you're gay or bi or if you like to fuck mechanical chickens, you rack up the dollars and eventually you get to the place where you do what you feel like, and it's all okay."

"In other words, the rich are above the law," Richard said drily.

"Hell yeah they are!" Royce responded with enthusiasm. "Rich people build society, and they make it work. They don't need laws, they have self-interest. Laws keep the rabble in line. The poor ain't got enough money or anything else to be self-interested. I mean, I'm not stupid. I know that the poor don't have a friend in Kirsch. But he convinced them that they do... and it's their own fault if they're fucking suckers. But you think it was ever any better under Democrat presidents? Please. Not hardly. Only difference there was that rich suffered along with the poor, and what good does that do anybody? I've got money, Richard, and that means I can pay my membership dues in the club of American greatness. When Kirsch wins, he's gonna remember me and we're both gonna benefit."

"Is he?" Richard drank the rest of his ale. "I'm not sure he's that smart, and I am quite certain he's not that loyal." Richard nodded that the TV. "A bunch of states just went from white to... well, some blue, a lot red."

Royce glanced back at the TV, when turned back to Richard with excitement. "You see? America's gonna be great again."

"Uh huh" Richard said with the same flat voice he'd used before. "And I'm gonna go home and finalize my plans to move out of this country."

"Yeah, you lefties say that every election. 'I'm moving to New Zealand!' Or Canada, or some other second-rate place. But even Canada is wising up. They're gonna follow the rest of the world pretty soon now, you watch. Woke is headed for global extinction."

"I'm sure you're right," Richard said. "About the extinction part, anyway. It's global, it's coming, and it was entirely avoidable. All it would have taken would have been a little respect for facts and less of an addiction to self-serving stories."

"Aw, get outta here," Royce said. "Don't even settle your tab, just go."

Richard smiled. "I paid when you served me."

"You bet! I'm not dumb enough to run a tab."

Richard pushed back from the bar and headed for the exit. Royce watched him go, and, as Richard reached the door and left the bar, he saw how the black body armor-clad ranks of the Promise Posse guys had grown still more. There had to be a couple dozen of them now – maybe as many as thirty.

Royce wondered if the new arrivals were going to stick to club soda, too. There had to be a few drinkers among the Promise Posse, didn't there? Kirsch had essentially deputized them, but that didn't mean they were as conformist as all that; they didn't used to all wear the same uniform of black body armor. Beards, hats, and face masks, sure; but the black body armor had become a signature look only after the courts had declared the Promise Posse and similar militias to be immune from prosecution if they defended themselves during the exercise of their free speech rights. The way the laws were enforced these days, that essentially meant that the Promise Posse were free to join the cops, or even replace them, when it came to beating and gunning down left-wing demonstrators in the streets. No one wanted a repeat of what had happened in America's cities fifteen years ago. But ever since Kirsch had announced that he himself aspired to be one of them – "I ride with the Promise Posse in my heart and in my beliefs," he had said, and "I know they're standing by for freedom" – their once-ramshackle numbers had taken on a militaristic new look. The rumor was that a billionaire Kirsch backer had provided members of the Promise Posse with new guns along with the body armor, and that the infusion of funding had resulted in a spike in their membership. And why not? The rumors also said that the Promise Posse got a stipend plus travel expenses when they descended en masse on stubborn liberal enclaves to punish them. They were essentially being paid to create chaos and fear, they were heroes in the eyes of law enforcement, and the courts had declared them untouchable. What could be better than that?

Whatever had happened with their membership, their presence was certainly spiking in Royce's bar. He was about to yell out to them to buy a drink when a deafening uproar burst out; cheers mixed with angry shouts. Royce turned to look at the television and saw that all but a few of the states had now been called, and two-thirds of the states were red.

"We are projecting that Winfield Kirsch will be the forty-eighth president of the United States!" the announcer said.

"And the first dictator!" someone shouted angrily.

There was a new uproar as scuffles broke out. The Promise Posse guys, true to their word, were moving now, wading into the crowded room and swinging batons. Screams mingled with the sound of skulls being cracked. Royce looked on in astonishment at the sudden chaos. His bar was often rowdy, but this level of violence was unlike anything he'd ever seen.

Royce realized that several of the body-armor clad men were now behind the bar with him. "Get out from back here!" he shouted. "This ain't a place for you!"

"Booze peddler!" one of the Promise Posse guys shouted at him. "Faggot!" It was the voice of the leader – the guy who had ordered club soda earlier. The leader of the Promise Posse swung a baton at Royce's head, and the next thing Royce knew he was on the floor.

"What the hell are you doing?" he screamed.

The Promise Posse guys were all swinging their batons bow, smashing bottles and glassware. One of them held up a jar with a strip of cloth dangling from it. It looked like a Molotov cocktail.

They're not gonna serve that up in my bar! Royce thought inanely, climbing unsteadily to his feet and leaning against the bar to keep himself upright. Blood trickled down his face in a hot rivulet.

But that was what they did: The man lit the strip of cloth and then lobbed the makeshift grenade across the room. The glass shattered and a blossom of fire crawled up the wall and across the floor. More screams rang out, and the press for the exit became a wild stampede. Someone threw a chair through the bar's plate glass window. Royce saw people flood out of the bar through the shattered window. Blood stained the jagged glass around the edges, streaked the wall...

"You want some more?" the leader of the Promise Posse screamed at him.

"What are you doing? Why are you doing this?" Royce cried as another Molotov cocktail sailed across the room and another wall of flame erupted.

"It's time to burn out the rot," the Promise Posse leader snarled. "Booze, gambling, sex, everything the church despises. It makes men weak. You make men weak!"

Royce was about to protest. His entire argument to Richard was on the tip of his tongue: The role of the entrepreneur in the new order, the way money had always superseded the law. The man had to hear and respect Royce's arguments. It was simply impossible that the world's fundamentals had changed so suddenly.

"Shut up, scumbag!" The leader of the Promise Posse swung his baton again and Royce jumped back, losing his balance and falling over. Lying on his back among broken bottles, in a pool of sticky, cold alcohol, Royce felt as if everything around him had become unreal. It was all some kind of movie and he was watching from far away...

He was concussed, Royce realized. That fucker had given him a concussion.

Royce watched the orange light of the fires flicker across the ceiling of his doomed bar. Then the looming black form of the Promise Posse leader towered above him.

The last thing Royce saw was the shape of the black jackboot as the man stomped his head, but even as he fell into darkness he thought he heard something... a voice... no, laughter.

Richard. It was Richard's voice. Richard's laughter.

"Royce's Rules," the voice in the darkness chuckled.

Next week sees the end of Season 11, and with it the arrival of Old Earth's last generation at their long-promised destination. A pioneering colony ship prepares to land on a new world... but old lies threaten to end fresh hope before it can make a full measure of these "Half Lives."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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