Editor’s Note: This story is part of Global DystopiasLearn more about the project and become a member of Boston Review to receive our forthcoming Global Dystopias print issue edited by Junot Díaz.

So the thing about the Death Squads is that their outfits are super cute. There’s a clear sartorial vision at work, and that reassures me as a dutiful subject of civil authority that they know what they’re doing. I believe clothes really do make the manslaughter.

Some person, or team of persons, as currently defined by the Statutes of Personhood, was given the task of dressing the Death Squads, and this person, or team of persons, as currently defined by the Statutes of Personhood, of course, they really leaned into that shit. Bravo.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to look out the window of my mandated housing unit and see a Death Squad lined up in obedient shoulder-to-shoulder fatality formation. But you know, they’re out there doing the work and, at the moment, I have eyes. You notice things. Plus, if you’re going to be summarily executed for holding seditious views or inhabiting a seditious body or feeling a deep and freeing yet seditious love for another person* (see previous qualification), don’t you want that to happen with a hint of style?

If you’re going to be summarily executed for holding seditious views or inhabiting a seditious body, don’t you want that to happen with a hint of style?

The reinforced multi-environment masks designed for the Death Squads have that vaguely sexy insectoid thing going on. Just gorgeous flowing lines, reminiscent of those sleek predatory insects with cannibalistic feeding practices in which they hunt and consume even former broodmates with whom they emerged from the egg sac to share their very earliest nourishment, that kind, taking in and breaking down bodily proteins that formerly governed movement, sensory process, flight, goddamn, eating even the untethered rise and rush of flight, absorbing it all for their own sustenance. Or something like that. You know, aesthetic response is highly subjective.

We’re totally spoiled. Our boys are nothing like the back-road Central American death squads my father talked about decades ago. Those putos didn’t even have masks. Like, when he finally came face to face with a squad he was literally face to face and could see that it was Mauricio from down the street or Ernesto from university. That’s probably why they gave him an ultimatum instead of dropping him right then and there, because they had to look at and recognize one another in that moment. Not our squads—they never would have let him reach asylum. They’re insulated and secure. Efficient.

And get this: my father’s death squads, they just wore their standard-issue camo fatigues. Can you imagine? What a tacky silhouette, all that soft material drooping off their bodies, and all that exposed skin, their sweating arms, hands, and faces in the tropical heat. Bleh. Our Death Squads are covered head to toe in the finest tactical couture: base layer of insulating neoprene, then a ripstop Kevlar weave, and over that the articulated tungsten body armor with elastic webbing for maximum maneuverability. The juxtaposition of textures really gives the uniforms character while suggesting an effortless organic feel. All of this is presented in a deep, hungering, open-mouthed, infinitely ingesting event-horizon black so that in the night the Death Squads swim with shadow and in the day they are apparitions of the night. Whoever the designers were, they stripped away all other colors, even in the low-relief flag embossed over the heart, letting the sophistication of a limited palette speak for itself. They understood that the most long-lived and elegant designs are streamlined, and streamlining is a process of elimination.

Elimination is efficiency.

Efficiency is progress.

We’re in the business of progress.

Part of the styling genius of this look is that nothing can touch the Death Squads, not even the sun. I mean, imagine that feeling—every tactile inch of your skin hidden, intimately enveloped in the embrace of exoskeletal armor. There is no more you. There is no more vulnerable participant in human relationships. There is only protection, immunity from harm, exception from humble limitations. Just glistening HARD shell, and nothing remotely Freudian about it. One hundred percent smooth HARD carapace. Mmm.

The most long-lived and elegant designs are streamlined, and streamlining is a process of elimination.

See, this whole shell vibe combined with the buggy facemasks makes me think the designers had this total biomimetic thing going on, like they got the order, “Hey, you gotta come up with gear for the Death Squads,” and they happened to see a beetle or a wasp and a light bulb went off. (Don’t worry, one of the rationed low-wattage ones, I’m sure.) I mean, I’m not an entomology nerd or anything, especially because the scientific impulse is clearly branded heretical intellectual witchcraft in the Citizen’s Code of Conduct section of the Little Red, White, and Blue Book, which of course I carry on my person* at all times. But look, I see a theme here and I think the effort and unity of design should be admired.

Even from a branding perspective, the Death Squads’ game is on point. My father’s death squads took names from twentieth-century Salvadoran presidents, none of whom really managed to bolster the blood flow of fully-erect transmittable democracy. Our Death Squads though, they’re named after the Founding Fathers (Praise Them!) whose virility and fecundity are unassailable forever and always, amen. It’s such a simple marketing move that it seems almost too easy, but that’s the masterstroke: the names of the old gods are a direct line to the fearful heart of the true believer.

Efficiency is progress.

All of this is really just the canvas onto which the touches of true artistry are laid, because it’s always in the details that the flourish of a master’s hand shows through, and a truly appreciative citizen should notice these things. Notice how the placement and shape of each segment of body armor mirrors an ideal underlying musculature, so that no matter the shape of the person* beneath the armor, from the outside they fully express raw physical power. Form often suggests the ideal, and obedience is one ideal. Notice how the infrared lenses of the facemasks are actually red, so that for the Death Squad the world is already awash in the color of submission, no instinctive or subconscious shock when lifeblood meets the air. Or the reflective coating on those lenses, so that if you have the courage to seek their eyes you’ll see only yourself seeking. Who even thinks of that? The heavy-duty polycarbonate shields pitched perfectly to match the thud of boot heels when struck with the baton, doubling the sound of approach. Just listen to them now, drumming up ghost squads stomping lockstep— Right. To. The. Door. Oh, the graceful kinetic beauty of the forward-weighted battering ram dispelling illusions of “here I am safe.” The surge of dark on the doorstep behind the splinters, cold black water spilling commands, so sleek in the rush there’s almost too much to take in, but notice, PLEASE: contoured carbon fiber knuckle plating knocking home “answer the fucking question,” trademarked and textured palm of gloves guaranteeing secure grip on wrists and hair, drink it in, do not let these details go to waste, these weapons are instruments precisely designed to perform their function with artful efficiency. HARD seamless alloy steel tubing negotiating compliance and concession with tibia and patella and vertebra after vertebra, swinging arcs of “you stand accused, have been found guilty, sentence to be carried out on sight,” such exquisite attention to material, density of the truncheon accentuating the transfer of power, channeling impact deep into insubordinate muscle and bone, slip-resistant non-marking dual-density rubber tread with shock-eliminating heel cushion and extra-wide steel toecap for protection and durability when deployed against the pleas of treasonous jaws, and do not worry, the designers included a breathable blood-borne pathogen–resistant membrane so there can be no contamination, hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel with ventilated rib thermoplastic handguard and extended flash suppressor pressed into persuasion points guiding every single step toward the street-side pit, isn’t it magnificent, everything a component of a clear cohesive plan, ergonomic two-finger grip of the bolt-action system to charge the rifle, “crafted with steel aluminum strength and honor,” even the click of the chambered round is crisp and clean, no bullshit, mechanical efficiency ready to eeny meeny miny mow down the opposition, and it’s all really breathtaking toeing the edge of the impatient grave and all I can think is what an artistic triumph.

Look good, feel good. Goddamn, it makes me—

This story is part of Global DystopiasLearn more about the project and become a member to receive our forthcoming Global Dystopias print issue edited by Junot Díaz.