Back in the DMZ, it's the noughties and with the U.S. Governments attentions being drawn away from home affairs by a series of middle eastern wars the unthinkable happens. A movement in the midwest begins calling themselves the Free States who declare themselves independant of the USA and establish a capital in Montana. Almost immediately a second civil war begins, and with U.S forces mostly tied up abroad and many in the National Guard sympathetic to the Free States movement soon the US finds itself pushed back to New York. Manhattan was evacuated hastily anc chaotically as the Free States approached but around 400,000 were left trapped inside as the island was sealed off. After much fighting which pushed the Free States back to New Jersey a massacre of one hundred and ninety-eight peace protestors by a U.S. army patrol saw them mostly withdraw from Long Island and negociate a ceasefire. Now with the FSA to the west and the U.S. army to the east, surviving in the middle are the residents of the DMZ, their stories being told by Matty Roth, a journalist who's been embedded in the DMZ for around three years. With this volume we get the first big shake up of power in the DMZ as a charismatic street politician stands in the first wartime elections the DMZ has seen. With Matty co-opted into his campaign we finally see Matty's journalistic integrity be tested to the max as he himself becomes part of the story...
We begin with a march that is going out of control, people are holding signs saying "DELGADO NATION" and are coming under fire. Men in red wearing red berets fire back saying "Parco's down! Down!" The man in question is being held up and Matty confronts a news reporter and yells, "get that fucking camera out of here!"
The news broadcast speaks of "ongoing normalisation talks" taking place, as delegates come together with talks of setting up a provisional government in Manhattan. Matty disagrees and thinks that the talks are the "scourge of lower Manhattan". Any signs of improvement on the ground is "totally manufactured". The talks are between the U.S. government, the Free States, Trustwell, the U.N. and representatives of the major militia groups although their inclusion is indicated to be purely honourary. They are expected to lay down their arms and rejoin the population.
Matty is back doing some reporting for Liberty News, he's going to get full access to the normalisation talks and conferences afterwards, "at least this way I can be a player and not some loser behind a security cordon". The talks are taking place in Cooper Union, the East Village. The U.N. troops are Thai and Bangladeshi, "nice to see the world hasn't forgotten about us".
He's surprised that the Free States have been invited and treated as equals, is pragmatism prevailing? He spots the crowd and asks his U.S. army escort what they have done with the people who aren't here. The soldier tells him "screw you Roth. You think we're some gestapo, but most of the time we're barely holding on." He says no one knows what will happen one day to the next, "fucking 'normalisation' - what's normal about this city?"
Matty goes inside into the press pool, catching up with the latest developments he finds out they are intending to set up a provisional goverment and there will be a real election.
Matty: "The remarkable thing, as fucked up and fractured as this country is, it's still not so far gone that it's given up on the notion it's a democracy. The cynical part of me thinks it's all an act, but who knows? There are lots of ideas being floated recently, on how to fix things, how to end the war. But so far, just ideas".
The press conference begins and a four week ceasefire to be observed by everyone, even the paramilitary groups and Trustwell will be observed. This will allow the citizens of the DMZ to safely pick candidates for the provisional goverment.
|Step forward Parco Delgado.|
Parco: "This city has thousands of people, hundreds of tribal and local groups, and still the best we can give them is a choice between the same two parties?"
One of the men on the podium tells him to shut up, but Parco goes on to say the peace can't work when the delegates are already chosen, "if a ceasefire is meant to allow us all a chance to participate, why can't we put forward our own people?" Matty smiles to himself and thinks, "I gotta meet this guy".
Later outside, Matty tries to talk to him. However Parco mocks him for being on Liberty's leash, "you, Roth, are a tool." Then he laughs and invites Matty over, he says Matty isn't a tool but why does he never go above 59th street? Matty says it's "impenetrable". Parco invites him over to talk to him on his own turf.
We then cut to Matty and Parco listening to a Liberty News broadcast on the fact a tentative list of delegates will be produced soon. Parco says the DMZ needs its own candidate, "how the hell do you plan on doing that?" asks Matty. But Parco won't be drawn further. Midnight, and the ceasefire comes into effect. Parco tells Matty to look at his phone. Outside Cooper Union a compressed air bomb goes off but it's full of five thousand flyers reading "Delgado Nation" announcing Parco's official candidacy for office.
|Delgadi throws his hat in the ring.|
Liberty News report that both the U.S. and the FSA have dismissed Parco and not a serious contender, while Trustwell accuse it of being a possible terror cell although the blast he announced his candidacy with has been confirmed as harmless. Matty takes out his frustrations on a mugger, kicking him repeatedly while he's down.
|Party time in Delgado's town.|
Parco: "Before you answer, make sure you understand: we can sit around, have a few beers, eat some food, laugh and bullshit and have a good time, say goodnight, no problem... or you can join the Nation".
A communications satellite is listening in to their conversation. Matty asks Parco about "impartiality and ethics" and Parco asks if he isn't here on Liberty's say so. He says ethics, impartiality and neutrality go out of the window when the bombs start falling. He tells Matty to pick a side.
He tells Matty he's seen journalists come in before, strutting around like they're above it all, "that notion of objectivity or whatever... it's a fucking coping mechanism... it helps them cope with not giving a shit". He goes on to say journalists have a built in excuse, they "see people suffering and not feel bad about it" He tells Matty he isn't like that, "you never had the chance to be that guy".
He says he knows Matty's story and how he puts the people first, "you stick your neck out for the city. The real city, the people who live here".
Parco: "That's when I knew you were all right, man. You'd make it. I had that faith, ya know? Even when others didn't".
Matty realises he means Zee and tell him to shut the fuck up about her. Parco apologises then says it doesn't matter, "all that matters is what you know." Up in the satellite one of the listeners calls Matty's father saying "we need to talk".
|Parco teases Matty.|
Matty takes a rifle butt to the stomach and his phone rings. Parco picks it up and answers it, then passes it on to Matty saying it's his old man. Matty speaks with him, his dad tells him that Parco is "not some romantic freedom fighter for the people, he's not Che, he's not Mao, he's not Chavez, nothing like that. He's a gangbanger, a fucking ghetto thug with blood all over his hands".
Matty asks if he's just saying that because Parco is black? His father says he should know him better than that, he talks a good game but "you can't seriously see the next leader of Manhattan, can you?" Parco embraces Matty who says "I'm in man. I'd never rat you out". Then he has another call come through, it's from a middle-aged woman in an aeroplane. "Don't answer the phone that way, Matthew. It's rude, and 'yo' is not a word" she scolds him. "...mom?" replies Matty in shocked surprise.
Matty: "America broke her heart and that's why she left, my mother was fond of telling people. But all the Delgado Nation had to do was whisper a promise and here she is, back again like she never left".
She embarrasses him by acting like a socialite, even though the cab she "hailed" was sent by the Nation. As he sits in the car with her he feels like he's fifteen again.
She's a political consultant, he didn't know much about what she did growing up, just that she and his dad fought about it constantly. When people began choosing sides she couldn't deal and bolted to Europe. He wonders if his dad was always so right-wing or if she drove him to it, "I think I finally got some empathy for the old man".
Parco is on day five of a twelve day speaking tour round the city. Rallies, block parties, D.I.Y. radio shows... he never seems to sleep. At one of the rallies Zee comes to see Matty and check out Parco, she's somewhat perturbed by being assigned some of Parco's men as protection because she knows Matty.
She flips out saying she doesn't need protection, "in my city?" Matty says it's just a sort of perk of the job. She says the whole Delgado Nation sounds fascist and his mum "fucking hates" her. She leaves saying she'd just like to see him once in a while, "it took a lot for me to get into any kind of relationship.. I'm not ready for it to be over so quick". She goes home, and Matty goes back to work.
|Matty and Zee, under some strain.|
Matty: "I live in the DMZ. Where you don't. If you did you might have a sense of how someone like Parco could rise up. He hasn't elected himself to anything... isn't that the point of this all? To have an election? Parco Delgado is trying to get on the ticket. He's got the signatures for it. Anything beyond that is in the hands of voters".
The interveiwer says this election is symbolic, there is already an envoy and administrator appointed to the borough of Manhattan. Matty responds there was no mention of this person until Parco started gaining traction. He dug around and this person has never visited the DMZ, let alone administered it.
Because the U.S. thought they had the election in the bag, now it's not so cut and dried, they haul out this mystery admin. And saying the DMZ has a provisional leader who has been bunkered down for the past five years, now they are downplaying the need for an election which is a slap in the face to the residents of the DMZ, the Free States and everyone involved. The interviewer persists saying he is the presidentially appointed leader of the city, but Matty responds that the "DMZ needs an election. Put this mystery envoy on the ticket along with everyone else. But he needs to earn his position".
The interviewer goes on to say that Parco Delgado "talks like the bastard child of Hugo Chavez and Al Sharpton. How is that supposed to resonate with the larger America? Doesn't the givernment have a responsibility here?" Matty says to do what? Rig the election? it's the DMZ's time and America doesn't get a say, these are local elections. With people so broken and demoralised, the Delgado Nation is a symbol of a unified city, "or the potential for us to get there"
The interviewer asks if he stands behind Parco Delgado? Matty responds that he's probably going to be the head of the new provisional government because he can't see people voting for the same people who have been bombing them for the last few years. The interveiwer asks about the allegations of his criminal past and racist statements. Matty says show him a rap sheet and he's not heard Parco say one racist thing.
The interviewer asks him flat, "what if you're wrong? What if everyone's wrong?" Matty says Parco is out there and people are getting to know him, "he's easily the most accessible politician I can think of". He notes that for all their attempts to dig up dirt on Parco they haven't been very successful. The interviewer hs one final question, the famous Matty Roth is easily Parco's most vauable asset, "so why'd he have to bring your mother in to help?"
|Matty goes from interviewer to interviewed.|
As he thinks about this, we see a mysterious woman in a non descript uniform getting out a sniper rifle. She takes aim at Parco meeting and greeting down below and that brings us up to date with the chaotic scenes we saw at the start of this volume.
|An assassin targets Parco.|
At Liberty News, Matty's father watches the footage of Matty abusing the cameraman just after Parco was hit. He says Matty is a kid, "he's a young stupid kid in way over his head... what do you want me to say?" His boss tells him he needs Mr. Roth to step up and protect the integrity of this operation, shield Liberty News from any blowback, continue the marginalisation of the Free States. Do his job basically. Matty's dad says "I know what my job is. And it doesn't include handing my son over to you fucking wolves. He's a kid... and he's on your payroll!" He's then shown an image of his wife, "what do we do about this?" he is asked.
Matty is cleaning himself up in a bathroom while a Liberty News broadcast plays. It urges people at the assassination to come forward with information about where Parco is, so he can get proper treatment and CSI can collect bullet fragments to help identify who was responsible as no one yet has stepped forwards and claimed they did it or why. Matty goes to see Parco but no visitors yet, he's still being worked on. Parco's men take his phone so they can dump it along with all their others.
|Reporting on the assassination fallout.|
Matty says that is her and his dad "kaput for good, eh?" She says his father and her were rarely in alignment on anything, "yeah, no shit" agrees Matty. She then turns to Parco saying this assassination attempt can be spun positively. When Matty says that's pretty cold, but she responds "It's how people get elected Matty".
By not naming who did it they won't risk being aligned with the shooter's opposing side. Parco in public appearance limbo can help tremendously. "He's gotta show his face at some point though" says Matty. She says she was hired to get him elected and if he never left the treatment room "this election would be a slam dunk".
|Parco under treatment.|
She drifts off back to sleep with the words "It's not going to change anything" on her lips. Matty can't sleep thinking what if she's right? Will it change anything? If Parco wins will they even give him the office?
Matty: "We have a long, ugly history of unseating democratically elected leaders... when people have voted 'wrong'. Can they handle a Delgado government in the middle of this war? Is this just pissing in the wind? Fuck. Long night".
Next day Matty is summoned by one of Parco's men. The United States wants a sit-down with the Delgado Nation. Zee tells Matty to be careful, he tells her not to worry, "Liberty still has me under contract".
Matty asks "hook me up" and one of the men gives him a gun. The "sit-down" actually takes place standing in a subway station. A man flanked by two soldiers says the United States is prepared to withdraw its envoy and agree not to put forward another candidate if Parco signs on under the United States ticket. That's quite an offer says Madeleine.
She goes to make a phone call. Then Matty gets called up onto the street, the Lincoln Tunnel FSA commander is holding one of Parco's men at gunpoint saying not to take the deal. They can go one better, he can give them the girl who did the shooting. "Hey mom... got a sec?" calls down Matty.
|The Free States stick their oar in.|
Madeleine: "Neither Mr. Delgado nor the democratic process itself will be subject to mischief or manipulation for political gain. Nor will we allow ourselves to live in fear of some lunatic with a rifle".
Delgado remains a viable candidate with a full recovery expected. On behalf of the Delgado Nation she asks for the ceasefire to be observed even though emotions are running high.
She goes on to say that Delgado has made a historic bid for office in a pivotal time in the city's history. Out of respect to "a great man wh has brought so many people together... and to a true son of the city who has shed his blood in an effort to serve it.. this election will continue". She finally appeals to the city to not give up hope, and to not place their fate in the hands of those "who would rule them with violence and murder". Support Delgado on election day and make the city the "shining beacon it once was and will be again".
Matty thinks to himself that with his mum there Parco had someone to handle the press, which freed him up for other duties. As he gets hands on with weapons helping out the red clad soldiers of the Nation, one day a package arrives at his place in Chinatown.
|A mysterious gift.|
Matty gives Wilson the laptop and calls his dad on the phone on the speed-dial number stored in it. His dad warns him the U.S. deal is "garbage", Matty says he knows.
Mr. Roth: "They call politics a game, but there's blood in this game Matty. This is gonna get ugly. You think it is already... you think Parco getting shot is the worst thing that's going to happen, but it's gonna get fucking. Ugly."
Matty wants to know why he's telling him this. His dad says he's on forced leave at home, "and I don't think I'm meant to leave the apartment". He advises Matty to crawl into a hole and stay there until after election day, "maybe there will still be a city left when you do".
In Washington Heights Parco is still on life support. In Midtown Matty and his mum are looking at the body of the assassin being held in a U.S. army morgue. She's been tortured. Matty asks what did she promise to the Free States to get them to hand over the body. She touches the dead woman's face and says "I promised them Parco would win... and he will win".
They contact "Liberty's own Matty Roth" for a report. He says "'No comment'. Or 'I quit' sure, that works too." The ceasefire that made the election possible is still holding. The U. N. has been redeployed to support international election observers. The eyes of the world are on America today, "let's show them how the greatest democracy this world has ever seen does an election, free and fair and for the people."
Some men dressed in black dismount from the back of a van. One of them yanks the I.D. out of the pocket of another telling him he'll get them "busted". They are to stay cool, blend in and remember their orders. "You've all been trained for this" says the leader, "let's keep it clean and professional". As they arm themselves and split up, we see the I.D. that was tossed aside. It's a Trustwell one...
|Trustwell still up to no good.|
Matty: "Even before the voting opened, the trouble started. The intimidation, the irregularities, the breakdowns...the fear... and the violence. But the DMZ's a warzone, you could say. So what else is new? Today, on this day... it shouldn't happen on this day".
The international observers were soon in way over their head, and there were rumours of bounties being offered for any blue helmets. You couldn't have blamed people for staying away and not voting, choosing to live another day, "but they didn't".
Every vote that ended up getting counted probably represented three more thrown in the rubbish. "But they voted. And cried and bled and fell and died in the streets for that vote". Even intentions to vote counted though the paper record had disappeared. It's soon obvious Parco Delgado's Nation of Delgado has won. He drives with Matty to their rallying point.
|A winner is Parco!|
He walks out under an umbrella held by Matty, still wearing a robe. He sits down and says to the crowd, "yo, so how you all doing?!" And the crowd erupts chanting his name over and over. He is handed a megaphone and starts making a speech. He tells the crowd:
Parco: "You bled, we all bled. We as a community cried out for some change, for a chance, for a moment to speak. The thump of mortars, the crack of gunfire, the hum of the drones, the sound of indiscriminate fire that's plagued us for years. Drowning out our voices. But no more! Your voices, the beating heart of our community, for the first time... we drowned out the war!"
He goes on to say that today came at great cost, but they must show forgiveness. That is not the same as forgetting and what went down here today they'll never forget. But they musn't squander what they have acheived on senseless revenge. Picking up a gun and going toe-to-toe with a Trustwell merc won't do anything other than add another body to the count.
|Parco inspires the crowd.|
He tells them finally not to be afraid. They can't be challenged now, the occupying powers will not try and overrule this election.
Parco: "How can I be so sure about people so untrustworthy? I'm looking at the reason. I look at this crowd of New York City's sons and daughters, and three simple words come to mind. They. Wouldn't. Dare."
Days later Zee and Matty are chatting and eating Chinese food in bed. Matty says the DMZ might become it's own country. Then his mother phones and appears to offer him a book deal he turns down then another call comes through. We get a brief flashback to election night, as Liberty News reluctantly reports that even with all the violence, fraud allegations and corruption, Parco's win won't be overturned. No official statements have come from either the USA or FSA, but the USA is considering endorsing the Delgado Nation to help maintain the moral high ground.
Liberty News: "America's greatest city stands poised to be ruled over by a new government, an untested and unproven regime that, for the rest of the country, is little more than a question mark... Is the battle for New York now moving into the political arena".
We then return to Matty taking the other call, it's from Parco who wants Matty to lay low for a while. He has political stuff he needs to do now and he needs to not have a press guy with him. Just business, just politics he says. He tells Matty to chill out and write something but, "when you come back, wanna help me run this city, Matty?" Matty thinks for a moment then replies, "absolutely". And that brings this epic arc to an end.
|A new dawn for Matty and the DMZ.|