It is impossible to know what year it is.
Professor Ratty Vermington opens her eyes for the first time after an indeterminate amount of time comatose. She remembers being arrested, being tortured, and then nothing. There is a black spot in her memory that fades in on the words “freedom of the press.”
She’s standing in the evacuated street of a dusty town, surrounded by collapsing beige buildings. She flinches as a computerized screeching roars in her earpiece, rips it out, and drops it on the ground.
There is another person here. A foil-wrapped charge hangs off their vest, supported by a combination of velcro and wires. Ratty begins to panic as she notices the pistol leveled at her head. She raises her hands, only noticing the assault rifle hung around her neck as she dings her finger off the barrel.
She drags something up from her memory, the voice of her mentor, a story about foreign reporting. She tries and fails to sound out the Arabic word for journalist. She used to speak Arabic. Doesn’t remember learning it, doesn’t remember any of it, just knows that she used to speak it.
“I speak English.” the other figure says. “You know I can’t stop this.”
“I-” Today was not the first day Ratty Vermington the reporter snapped awake in the middle of a news situation, personal questions could be answered later. “Who is making you do this?”
“Your people. Angelcorp people.” the other figure points at her vest with his pistol. “Took my family, told me to come here, this whole war is their doing.”
That rings a bell.
Ratty is then obliterated by a pound of C-4 explosive.