Little wars breed little protests. Alexander Hammil is standing on the barricades, shouting down the motorcade, and it has been weeks since he has seen another protester, months since the last meeting. The war continues, he knows, by the smoke in the sky and boxes painted black shipped out of the city in driverless trucks, but the people passing in the street below are as silent and directionless as so many plastic bags.

“He seems like a nice enough guy,” he mutters to the latest stone he has prised out of the wall. “Like, you met him in a bar, you’d think, yeah, okay. Sure. Just a pleasant drunk propping up a barstool.” He hucks the chunk at the long armored limo with the little flags as it rolls solemnly past and ducks down; the service pops a few rounds his way, far too high to hit him even if he were standing. He hears them laughing, a mocking, friendly twist of breath receding into autumn. “It’s just his politics that are awful.”

“Go home, man!” The first human voice he’s heard in ages! Alex pops up over the edge, paws desperately through the crowds with his eyes, but all collars are up and all heads are down. He sucks deeply at the air, straining after one last taste of sound, and grinds white-knuckled into the barricade again.