“I got him…I GOT HIM!”

The joyous cry perked Mason’s ears as he removed his VR mask and looked over at the end of the room. A group of men and woman, all in their early twenties, had gathered around Liam’s computer. The skinny redhead frantically pecked away at his thin keyboard as Mason approached, drawing respectful head nods from each person.

Mason leaned beside Liam, holding back his anticipation. “What happened?”

“I got it; I hacked the White House predator fleet!”

The room of 20 suddenly grew silent, save for the gentle hum of the computers dotting the walls. They all turned to Mason, waiting for his response. He was totally uncertain how to behave as the commander of the “Zbellion,” the cringe name and hashtag that Boomers at the Pentagon had given their “movement,” as if it had been planned from beginning to end.

Taking a deep, subtle breath, Mason put his VR mask back on; Liam quickly patched him in with one of the surveillance drones equipped with night vision. The White House perimeter was, by any modern means, well defended. But they had come to rely too much on their predator drones to do all the work for them. The Boomers had also learned nothing from the “Siege of Boston,” where Liam had first discovered just how easy it was to bypass the pathetic drone cybersecurity defenses.

South of the White House was Force 10, a small group of older Millennials and young GenZers who had volunteered for the mission, the one that would bring their fight to an end.

“Large Wooden Badger, this is King Arthur,” Mason said. “You may attack under the cover of daylight; it’ll be the last thing they’ll expect.”

Everyone inhaled sharply as they now faced Liam’s screen. Mason allowed them to watch for a moment, then ordered them back to their computers. One of them went to clean up the empty pizza boxes and root beer cans, having lost a bet Liam could pull it off.

Mason wandered over where Freddie worked by the window overlooking downtown Seattle. He was tirelessly keeping their online friends updated. They had long since been deplatformed on every social media site. Freddie had set up a private chat forum, where he and three other 4chan veterans had generated a new Morse code as well as cockney slang-like terms to communicate secretly on public platforms. To any FBI troll monitoring their conversations, it was a debate over whether Breath of the Wild or Ocarina of Time was the best Zelda game, rather than a discussion over whether the White House or the Capitol should be the next target.

“You got the message to them?” Mason asked.

Freddie nodded, his eternal sarcastic expression apparent. He was in his late forties, one of the few GenXers in Mason’s HQ. It wasn’t that Mason distrusted GenXers; most had been just too damn apathetic to show up when the war had started, if one could even call it that; what did you call a conflict waged by people who didn’t have to leave their homes?

“Liam, does the White House know we’ve hijacked their drones?” Mason asked Liam.

“Not yet. We haven’t diverted them off their main course.”

“Wait until Force 10 is spotted and let Nikolai call the targets.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mason winced. He hated being called that. “Sir” had been his stepdad’s name; the first one, at least. He didn’t even remember the names of his mother’s other two husbands, other than her favorite cusswords for them. At least all that fighting growing up had left him alone in his room, first on his tablet and then on the first computer he had built from scratch at age 12. If only he had known one day he would build a computer that would take over a city.

“Force 10 is entering the perimeter,” Liam said.

“Can someone order another pizza?” Kate asked. She was one of two girls in the room, also a redhead.

“What kind of pizza?” asked Jeff, a short Asian proudly wearing his 20th anniversary Cowboy Bebop t-shirt.

“Meat lovers, but no sausage.”

“I love sausage!”

“Fine, but I want some actual beer.”

“But I can’t drink yet!” Chris said. He handled their doxing campaign whenever someone criticized them online. He was the youngest among them, but made the best memes.

“Then don’t, but I want a beer!” Jeff said.

“We shouldn’t be drinking right now.”

“It’s the perfect time for a beer. I was drunk when I hacked into Atlanta’s police department.”

“You would have done it sooner if you had been sober!”

“Just order the pizza and the beer,” Mason said. “And if you don’t want the sausage, Kate, just pick them out. It’s not like they’re putting pineapple on it.”

“That’s something a Boomer would do.”

The room erupted into laughter before Liam flailed his scrawny arms. “They’re in! They’re in!”

“What kind of beer do you want?” Chris said as he picked up their landline phone. There were no smartphones or even flip phones allowed in the “War Room.”

“Make it IPA,” Jeff said. “Get some of that local stuff.”

“You’re such a hipster,” Kate said.

“Yeah, well you drink bitch beer.”

“Enough,” Mason said. “Just order the damn pizza.”

“They’ll want ID,” Chris said.

“We’re invading the White House and we can’t make a fake ID?” Freddie said.

“Just give them the name of someone here,” Mason said with a sigh. “They can answer the door. Just keep it quiet until they’re done ordering.”

Chris yapped away on the landline while Mason stared nostalgically at the phone in his hand. Like Chris, he had grown up in a home well after all that had become a thing of the past. Phonebooks were kept for helping light fires. Now, both were proving their best asset. All the idiots in the surveillance community were probably searching every app on every smartphone for data that would help them track down the “Zbellion.” They would never see Chris look up the pizza place in the phonebook, and it was a safe bet nobody was listening to the landline phones or getting riled up over an actual pizza delivery.

“They’re on us!” Liam exclaimed. “They spotted Force 10!”

“Have Nikolai call the targets.” Nikolai was the team’s older Millennial commander.

Mason checked his VR mask to ensure his orders were followed. He trusted Liam, but he couldn’t risk a miscommunication. Not when they were so close.

“Target confirmed, Lancelot,” Liam said to Nikolai on his headset. He clicked his mouse and cheered as the room watched a missile strike just north of Force 10’s position, wiping out a security detail.

“Target’s gone, you’re clear!” Liam said.

“The pizza’s on its way!” Chris said as he hung up the phone.

“Can we keep the room chatter down?” Jordon whined. “It sounds like my dorm room in college during a drunken LAN party.”

“What’s a LAN party?” Kate asked.

“Large Wooden Badger, are you inside the castle yet?” Mason asked on his headset.

“Not yet, King Arthur. What of the Holy Grail?”

“Holy Grail is still confirmed to be in the castle.”

Jeff giggled as he typed at his computer. “Not bad for a bunch of kids, eh?”

Mason nodded before turning to pick a zit on his face. He wore casual clothes like the rest of them, T-shirts featuring their favorite anime, video game, or cartoon characters, while original trilogy Star Wars posters were plastered all over the walls. Most of them didn’t even have a driver license yet. None of that had mattered when he had casually decided on a Friday evening to hack into the Seattle public utility system, suspending its supply from the carefully guarded Cedar River Watershed on the other side of Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish.

Hours later, another dozen hackers had joined him in assuming control of the city’s power supply. The authorities had capitulated within hours, despite the fact that no demands had been made.

There was no way for Mason to have known in advance what would follow, how hundreds of others would do the same in their cities. It had all been a joke, a prank gone too far. Then some Boomer in the military had dubbed it the “Zbellion,” and they realized just how far they could take it, how unprepared the government was for a new type of warfare they could conduct in their pajamas.

The way everything came together so smoothly it would have seemed it had been coordinated. Hackers suddenly declared their allegiance to Mason, then anonymous Bitcoin investors tossed in their lot with him, providing him an entire rental house to operate from. Other GenZers and Millennials followed, either behind a screen or in front of one. Some did it out of conviction. A few for the laughs. But then the struggle had finally gained a purpose, a reason for all the madness.

Debt forgiveness. Whatever they owed, gone. Like they had gone to confession and had their sins absolved by a priest.

Mason and everyone in his HQ had one important thing in common; they owed some financial institution a small fortune for their education, whether it was to their public state university or to a big fancy college like Stanford and Harvard. Debt they could never get rid of unless they paid it off, in an economy where unemployment benefits and welfare checks had long offered higher wages than any jobs available to people their ages.

“Missile away!” Liam cheered as he aimed for another cluster of Secret Service agents about to ambush Force 10. Mason smiled as the screen showed a billow of smoke, followed by their strike force moving past the corpses and into the White House.

“You disable their electrical grid?” Mason asked.

“Five minutes ago,” Jeff said. “Including their ‘secret’ backup generator. So, where’s that pizza? I’m hungry.”

“We should have ordered a pepperoni for us normal people,” Freddie said. “I hate all that nasty shit you toddlers love on yours.”

“Like what?”

“Like anchovies. Really?”

“You can pick them out if you don’t like them.”

“It’s a pain in the ass.”

“Well, sometimes you’re a pain in the ass.”

Mason shook his head. “We can wait until this is done.” He then spoke to Liam. “What about the federal marshals?”

“They’re preoccupied with that diversion we created near Arlington. Freddie did a good job fooling them into thinking there was going to be a secret meeting at the cemetery.”

“They’ll fall back to the White House and defend it.”

“I’ve arranged for a few car accidents along their path. They’ll have trouble getting there in this congestion. Our buddies at Shangri-La are going to mess with their traffic lights, too.”

Mason chuckled. Shangri-La was a de facto American student debt refugee community in some unknown southeast Asian country where creditors couldn’t access their bank accounts. The members had turned to cryptocurrency as a living, but most were eager to return home…without the debt load.

Putting his VR mask back on, Mason encouraged the members of Force 10 as they navigated through the darkened White House, moving from room to room.

“We came here for one thing,” Mason said. “Just focus on that.”

A doorbell rang down the short flight of steps behind them.

“Pizza!” Chris sang. “Who’s getting it?”


“I can’t! I’m not 21!”

“Someone get it, I’m hungry!”

Mason rolled his eyes. “Good grief, Kate, you get it!”

“You think I’m not important in all this?”

“Just answer the damn door!”

Tossing her hair to the side, she put down her headset and hurried to the door, her driver’s license in hand. She flirted briefly with the pizza deliveryman before taking the boxes and beer and paying for the order with cash. She then came back upstairs with a large stack of pizza and a six-pack in hand.

“I got dibs!” Jeff said.

“How about waiting for everyone first?” Kate said.

“That’ll take all night,” he said as he pulled out a slice and bit into it.

“I got confirmation from our friends in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas,” Freddie said. “They’re going to blast social media with our latest memes.”

“Good,” Mason said. “Let’s see if we can get this trending in time.”

“They’re almost there!” Liam said.

His VR mask back on, Mason watched anxiously through Nikolai’s camera feed as they moved through a darkened corridor. He hastily grabbed a slice of pizza and chewed on it before throwing it down as the strike team opened a security door Liam had unlocked for them.

“Nobody move!” Nikolai said as they stormed into the room.

The scene didn’t shock Mason. He had seen it a dozen times before. But it still amazed him.

The Secret Service men already had their weapons on the floor, neatly aligned, their hands above their head as they knelt before Oval Office desk. 81-year-old President Dorrington sat behind it in his wheelchair, his hand clasped around his oxygen mask as he wheezed in and out.

“We’ve done it,” Liam said.

Mason was quiet as Nikolai approached President Dorrington, retrieving a document from his coat. He then placed it on the desk.

“An executive order cancelling all student debt,” he said, producing a fountain pen from his tactical vest. “If it’s not too much trouble. The sooner you sign, the sooner we leave.”

The president looked up at the millennial, hazy eyes conveying a sense of forgetfulness. He blinked rapidly, glanced around at his surroundings, and then grew alarmed. He wheezed violently as he reached for a bottle of pills on the desk and feebly placed two in his mouth.

“If you don’t mind,” Nikolai said, placing the fountain pen in the president’s bony fingers.

Liam mumbled. “He’s delaying.”

“No, he can barely move,” Jeff said. “You remember the last State of the Union address he gave? They had to do an intermission to change his diaper, and the speech was only ten minutes long.”

“I just want him to sign the damn thing and get it over with,” Kate said.

His hand trembling, the president eased over the desk and stared blankly at the pre-written executive order. Glancing at Nikolai as if to ask what it said, he shrugged and began to scribble his name. Groans emanated from the strike team as time passed with barely a letter finished.

Then the president’s heart monitor began beeping.

“What’s going on?” Mason asked.

Nikolai inspected it; his face went white. “He’s having some sort of heart failure!”

“Someone do something!”

“I’m not a doctor!”

“What the hell is going on?” Freddie asked.

“Just get him to finish his signature!” Kate screamed.

“Why is everybody shouting?” Jeff said.

Seizing his chest, the president’s eyes rolled back as he fell over in his chair. Several Force 10 members rushed to his side while Nikolai stared at the document for a while.

“Well?” Mason said.

“He signed it,” Nikolai replied softly. He scanned it and sent a copy to Liam.

“Got it,” Liam said. “Jeff, you know what to do with it.”

“It’s away. Everyone will get it within minutes.”

Nikolai tucked the folded executive order in his vest as the rest of the team gathered around him.

“So it’s over?” he sked Mason.

Mason took off his VR mask, finishing his slice of pizza “Yes. It’s over.”

For a while, his HQ was silent. Eventually, Kate went to the fridge to grab a bottle of champagne to open, but when she came back, she put it on the table near the pizza and sat down. Everyone noticed Freddie standing by the window gazing out into the city. When he faced them, he broke down crying. It seemed to have a contagious effect on them, as, one by one, they too began sobbing.

Mason held his tears back, but there was an unmistakable glisten in his eyes. He and Freddie exchanged looks that made it clear despite the age difference, they knew the other’s pain.

Wiping his face, Freddie laughed. “If it all would have so much easier if we had known earlier just how easy it would be.”