It is impossible to know what year it is.
Professor Ratty Vermington opens her eyes for the first time after an indeterminable amount of time spent comatose. She remembers falling asleep on a train, being arrested, being tortured, and after that: nothing. There is a black spot in her memory that fades in on the words “freedom of the press.”
She stands in the evacuated street of a cold, frosted hamlet, surrounded by collapsing buildings, their bricks a rotting shade of white. She flinches as a computerized screeching roars in her earpiece, loud enough to send spiderwebs through her vision. She rips it out and drops it into the snow.
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 levelled at her head. She raises her hands slowly, 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 Russian word for journalist. She used to speak Russian. 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 snapped awake in the middle of a news situation, personal questions could be answered later. “Who is making you do this?”
“Your people. Handler Smith. 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 the half-pound of C-4 explosive sewn throughout her vest.