Peering through his low powered scope, the mass of people below looked like never ceasing wavelets in a disturbed body of water. There were thousands of people crammed in the street, and their numbers were only increasing by the day. Swinging the scope to the right, Douglas could see the 20 deep line of police blockading the street. The majority of the department were in all black with with black riot body armor and clear riot shields. The men of his special "Hotel" unit were in dark green uniforms with black body armor. This sixty-plus man unit carried the black bullet proof shields used primarily by Special Response Team members for entering buildings that had armed suspects barricaded inside, and since the SRT members were on various rooftops of the surrounding buildings in the downtown area, they were issued to the Hotel unit for today's operation.
What began two weeks previously as a peaceful demonstration and protest against rising food costs and falling wages turned into a riot three days ago, and not by accident. Douglas had been attending his department's regular morning briefing for his unit when a "specialist" from the Division of Homeland Security entered to inform the unit of "certain happenings" for the following day. Without saying so directly, the "specialist" made it clear that the peaceful protesters would shortly become violent rioters, at the direction of DHS. It became apparent to Douglas that this information was being conveyed so that the police would not interact in a manner that prevented the situation from escalating.
After that briefing, things started to make sense for Douglas. In previous briefings following the first week of demonstrations, the information that was being disseminated started turning ominous. He could never put his finger on exactly what was happening, but the tone had been changing. Initially everything they had been told about the demonstrations were generally positive. The department was told not to interact with the crowd provided they remained peaceful. They were to keep the streets clear, but to allow the people to express themselves. By weeks end, they were being told to try and move the protesters away from the businesses, arrest any unruly demonstrators (even if they were not committing a crime), and to generally make it difficult for the protesters to continue. The few days before the DHS specialist appeared, the directives were to arrest protesters for almost any plausible cause.
In just over a week, his unit had gone from targeting and arresting pickpockets and troublemakers, to arresting protesters. The reasons were vague and generally untrue: blocking traffic, preventing employees from getting to or from local businesses, and/or public disturbance. He had not seen anything of the sort. Having worked multiple Mardi Gras during his previous time with the New Orleans police department, this much larger crowd had been more docile, and considerably less inebriated. He just could not understand why the department was turning on the protesters like this; that is, not until the briefing given by the DHS specialist. Then it all made sense.
Three days ago, the day following the DHS briefing, came the shit storm in the streets. From his perch inside the Comal building's 4th floor office suite, he watched as a group of men arrived wearing bandanas on their faces and started trying to get the crowd riled up. The men split up and worked as pairs for several hours trying to foment the crowd. Eventually the men became violent and started breaking windows of cars and the fronts of businesses. The banks appeared to be a favorite target, along with anything that was postal service related. They knew exactly what they were doing. The men targeted those places and things that had some form of federal protection. This would allow the Federal government to get involved, and force his department into action. Eventually fires were set to random cars and buildings and the protest, turned riot, flowed into the streets.
Now three days later Douglas found himself in the same office of the Comal building watching what was to be the final act of the DHS manufactured protest turned riot. Thousands of protesters against several hundred well armed police. With over forty businesses burned, hundreds of cars destroyed, untold amounts of individual property damaged and destroyed, and at least one known death, the police department along with a force from the DHS were set to move on the protesters, turned rioters, and crush it once and for all. More than thirty caged busses were staged in a parking lot a few blocks away for those who could be caught and arrested. Thousands of flex cuffs hung from the bullet proof vests of the officers. Water cannon trucks had been staged on cross streets to push the rioters back into the main column. Everything was ready and the officers were tightening their formation, ready to start marching down the street in force.
It was Douglas' job to give the commands. He had the most knowledge of what to expect and how to direct the various actions. He had previously identified seven rioters in the crowd for direct and immediate elimination. They each wore a red ball cap with a unique logo insignia. He also noted that each had small triangular manufacturers brand patch on the back of the jackets they wore. Even though the jackets were each very different, the logo was the same. He knew there were more of these people in the crowd, he was just unable to find them in the sea of humanity. If these people were not eliminated at the beginning, he knew they would slip away in the crowd, never to see justice.
The ground commander had given his order, and Douglas could see the police moving forward in small steps, keeping shoulder to shoulder with their shields tight. The rioters were steadfast, neither moving toward the police, nor away. He peered though his four power scope and found the first of the seven red hatted men near the back of the crowd. He would work from the back forward, so as to not risk alerting the others in the man's group as to what was happening.
He placed the crosshairs on the center of the man's chest. Though there were people behind the man, Douglas knew that his custom manufactured 200 grain segmented hollow point bullet would not exit the other side of the man's body. The 30-caliber round would only travel at just over 1000 feet per second out of the suppressed 30SuperQuiet® AR-15 rifle, impacting the body and immediately shearing off the five petals inside the body cavity, with the remainder of the bullet slug expanding to bleed off speed and force, transferring all of the energy into the organs. The department would need to fabricate a story about the deaths of these men during the riots, and the media would gladly parrot whatever the official police report said. It was a foregone conclusion.
Douglas relaxed and exhaled, squeezing the trigger, eliminating the first target with the only sound being the clank of his bolt carrier chambering another round from the 30-round magazine. He then keyed the remote microphone of his radio that was clipped to the shoulder strap of his load bearing vest, which contained all of his spare ammunition and supplies, and said only one word before releasing the mic key, "Smoke."
The twenty low frequency thuds in less than two seconds would not have been noticeable over the volume of the crowds below. Douglas could see the trails of the rounds streaming in as he acquired his second red hatted man. Even though he could not see him, and he had no clue where the shooter's hide was located, Douglas knew that there was another person helping him to take out the red hatted rioters following his "smoke" command. In less than 15 seconds all of the red hats were dead, with small pockets of people opening up around them. By this time, the smoke from the grenades was filling the street.
The 37 and 40 millimeter military grade smoke grenades were doing their job. The fact that most of the smoke grenades had been launched from homemade "slam fire" launchers, and at least 18 of the 20 rounds had been amazingly accurate, astounded Douglas. He had called for twenty rounds because he had little faith in the accuracy of the slam fire launchers. With proper launchers like the T-12 TSV, he would have only called for five smoke rounds, expecting four to hit their mark. But now, there was so much smoke, that he thought their might be some unintended consequences, but there were none. In fact the extra smoke would be beneficial.
He kept his rifle pointed towards the crowd and fed it a fresh magazine, while looking towards the line of police that had now stopped moving forward. Looking back at the crowd, most were starting to back away from the police, while some at the front were moving forward, sensing opportunity. This was not good. He could see that the police were starting to panic as the smoke became thicker around them, blocking their view in all directions, while at the same time choking them. Their gas masks would do them no good for smoke.
With still enough distance between the advancing crowd and the faltering police line, Douglas again keyed his microphone and spoke another single word, "Drinks." This signaled multiple elements to use fire in the form of Molotov Cocktails. One group firebombed the parking lot where the busses were staged, flinging in more than fifty improvised fire bombs. Several other crews simultaneously flanked the unguarded water cannon trucks with the low budget incendiary devices. All of the vehicles were fully engulfed in a matter of seconds. There were even small crews that fire bombed the lightly guarded police station and substations around the city. The final crews were staged in the offices and apartments above the police lines. They disgorged dozens of fiery "drinks" onto the unsuspecting police below. The smoke that had engulfed the police, also prevented the department's snipers from finding any targets, and the heat rising from the street below due to the chimney effect caused by the buildings pushed anyone nearby back from the windows, balconies, and building edges.
Douglas could see the crowd now fleeing in panic away from the burning line of police. He keyed his microphone one last time revealing another one word paragraph, "Butter." At that command, the resisting dissidents sanitized their gear and locations and bled into the fleeing crowds. For Douglas, that meant removing his load bearing vest and frequency hopping spread spectrum radio, stripping his outer layer of clothing, removing a can of WD-40, and spraying down everything he had touched. He paid special attention to the rifle and unused magazines, liberally spraying a heavy coating on the gun, its internals, and down the well of the magazines, heavily coating all of the remaining rounds. He sprayed down his discarded clothing, radio, and LBV. As the thick smoke from the street started to fill the room through the open window, Douglas took a deep breath and approached the windows of the office and sprayed them with a coat of WD-40 as well.
He walked to the office door and sprayed the door knob and lock then tossed the nearly empty can into the middle of the room. He momentarily stepped outside and pulled the fire alarm handle and moved back to the doorway. Douglas then removed a small bottle from his pocket and sprayed a stream of it's pungent liquid onto the floor and onto the drapes adorning the windows on either side of the door. He dropped the half filled container on the floor and remove the disposable gloves he had been wearing and dropped them in a pile on the container. Using a wooden match, he lit the drapes, dropped the match on gloves, and walked to the stairwell exit at the end of the hall, using his sleeved elbow to manipulate the handle.
As he moved down the floors of the stairwell, being careful not to touch anything, he realized his three days of sick leave from the department was over. In fact he knew his time as a police officer was over as well. His mind drifted back to the conclusion of the DHS briefing just four days ago when he turned to his partner and asked, "What do you think of this bullshit?" His partner replied, "I don't think about it Douglas. I just do what needs to get done."
"So do I. Burn in hell, bastard," Douglas murmured under his breath as he exited the building onto the street with the rest of the crowd. He knew the surviving SRT members would either get the message or they would be dealt with at their homes, one by one. Douglas knew where they all lived, as did the half-dozen other former police officers who had also just completed their three-day sick leaves.REEF, AYE!
Copyright AbsoluteSurvivalist.com 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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We are offline for 9/11/2013 and pledge to commit no commerce for the entire day, denying the NSA, the US Government and all other consumers of tax dollars our productive output. We are taking this action because of the outrageous nature of the NSA’s and other government agency actions — acts that disrespect the unalienable rights delineated in the Declaration of Independence, enshrined in The Constitution and which all Federal, State and Local governments are obliged to honor.
"Does anyone have anything else to add?" Greg eyed the men and women around the small room for a hint of a comment, only to see most shaking their heads in the negative. "Very well. Get some food and sleep. Tomorrow we will clean up, catch what the news is saying about the operation, and get ready for the next one in less than three days."
With that, the men and women of the team stood amid the squeaks and squeals of their chairs scooting on the concrete floor and departed to their makeshift barracks inside the warehouse. Staying behind as usual, were Greg and Alex, since needed to do some further debriefing on the previous night's raid. The raid had gone far better than expected given the loss of Vik and several vehicles. The vehicles were of little consequence. They would just have to procure some more. Vik, on the other hand, was a very good man - a natural leader who had been on every one of the previous eleven missions. His trained replacement would arrive in less than 48 hours, but it would take some time for the new person be fully integrated into the well-oiled team.
Their discussion revolved mostly around the sudden arrival of the local police as the operation was ending. Though they had been monitoring the scanners during their destruction of the Baptist church, who's congregation was entirely black, and the subsequent killing of the preacher and some aids, the patrol officer arrived as they were getting back into their vehicles to leave. Both Greg and Alex agreed that, though unexpected, the arrival of the police and the subsequent 30-second shootout, the media attention given to the dead police officer and their team's escape would have greater effect to their longer term goals. To the best of Greg's knowledge, this was the first time since Operation Paint Dry began three months prior, that any team involved with the operation had been engaged by police. Part of their explicit orders were to avoid police and military, and to cancel or immediately terminate any operations if police presence or response was expected before they could vacate the area. Eventually, they would target the police specifically, but that would come under a new operation order.
Alex pointed out that it was likely that the officer had arrived on the scene from a routine patrol and had been able to radio a general description of their team and vehicles, before he was killed. The team had also left behind a significant amount of spent brass casings from their AR-15s. Though they had destroyed the vehicles when they abandoned them, Greg and Alex discussed whether or not they should ditch their current AR's and commercial camouflage hunting clothing. After a brief discussion on the matter, they decided that they should maintain the "tree-patterned" hunting clothing to keep within their operational orders of the militia persona, but switch out the AR's to avoid any forensic evidence should they be captured.
The next morning, new AR's were issued to each team member from a cache hidden in the warehouse among the thousands of boxes of merchandise that were shipped out daily. The returned AR's were sold off on a free gun sales website. One of the logistical members of the operation was used to pose as an individual selling the guns one at a time. Each time a new gun was listed, a new profile was created. Each profile had a different IP address since the "seller" used a VPN to access the internet. They had used this method before to sell items on various websites, with good results. Normally the team would sell their "unused" guns via a licensed FFL pawn-shop front operation that the team employed for most of their procurement needs. But with these guns being considered hot, it was better to be more anonymous in casting them away. Further, if the police ever did come in contact with one of these "murder weapons," as it would be referred to in court, it would likely be in the hands of a person who called themselves a "patriot." This alone would keep the focus off of them, and shine the light on other movements.
The vitriolic nature of America was well suited for Operation Paint Dry. Greg's team, along with dozens of others across the country had been able to hit political offices, low level government buildings, banks, assassinate individual high-ranking employees of the IRS, EPA, GSA, and many other federal government departments. The teams had also been able to do some damage to the electrical grid in some outlying areas. One team in Los Angeles was given the task of taking out as many street gang members as they could find, and in as high profile a manner as possible. Greg had heard that in just three short months they had killed over 700 gang members, and more than double that were dead at the hands of other retaliating gang members. LA had become a shooting gallery and the citizenry were starting to flee the city. Lately, many of the teams had been hitting churches with black congregations as well as mosques.
It was always important to hit while the hitting was good, then change tactics and targets before the police and feds could get a bead on the pattern. The teams moved all over the country, and each had advance units that took care of all of the surveillance, mapping, and transportation. All the teams had to do was the dirty work for a few days or weeks, then move on. Greg's team was about to move on, but they had one more target and then they would be three states away. Their next target was a pair of outlying small farms. This was to be a retaliatory strike for the burning of the church, and would be one of the few times they would not wear their commercial tree-patterned camouflage. Instead they would wear oversized shirts, jeans, and bandanas over their faces. Though they would have their AR-15's with them, they would use 9mm pistols and 12 gauge short-barreled shotguns exclusively for this operation. The logistics team had stolen some vehicles for the team to use from a city in the next county. Alex reported back to Greg after personally inspecting them. He had said they were perfect for the job. The mid-eighties Chevrolet Caprice had 22" chrome wheels and dark tint and ran excellent. The van was as plain as one could get, and most of the support team could ride in it, while the Cadillac Escalade would be the perfect vehicle for him to ride "in luxurious comfort" to the operation.
Two days later, during the mission briefing, the recorded news stories were replayed and analyzed. The room erupted in laughter when the news reported that "dozens of white militia men dressed in hunting-style camouflage, carrying machine gun assault rifles had murdered five people, including a police officer, and had escaped." What made it funny to the team was that their were only nine of them, not "dozens," as had been reported, and the rifles they used were not "machine guns." What had been even funnier to the group, assembled in the small makeshift conference room tucked into a corner of the massive warehouse, was the speculation that "one of the group was possibly a woman," as reported by the talking head on the TV. Though two of the nine member team were women, they had short cropped hair and were generally unrecognizable as women under such circumstances. Only Alex, a small but powerful man, had long hair, which had somehow come loose from its ponytail and was free flowing when the police officer had arrived on scene and engaged the team in a firefight. The team's executive officer got a good ribbing about his girlish looks for several minutes.
After Greg quieted the team down, he lamented the loss of Vik, and was getting ready to introduce the new team member who had just arrived. The team replaced any lost members by taking out an add in the local newspaper. The ad was for an experienced overhead crane operator, of which their were none in the small city. It was a code that was read by another logistics team who then provided the new member. The standby members were highly trained and could quickly be integrated into any team at any time. This was one of those times.
The door opened, and in walked the newest team member. Greg made the introduction, "This is our new team member, Damon."
"Привет. Я сожалею, что услышал о Викторе." (Hello. I am sorry to hear about Viktor) Said Damon in a quiet Russian voice.
"DIMITRI!" Alexei yelled in the most authoritarian voice he could muster, while at the same time rapidly drawing his Glock 19 and pointing it at Dimitri's head. Quickly calming himself, his face relaxed and he tilted his head slightly, and speaking it a measured and softer tone he stated, "…I mean Damon. We may be good friends, but if you speak in your native tongue ever again, I will send you back to the homeland in a body bag."
The Spetsnaz team never flinched. They all knew if Alexei failed to do it, Grigory or one of the other team members certainly would, friend or not. They had come too far now to be compromised. America was beginning to fall apart. The stitching of the overburdened seems was being cut one strand at a time by the dozens of independently operating Spetsnaz teams. Some had been imbedded in the US for decades, while all the others had been raised speaking english without any sign of an accent.
They knew better than the Americans. The Americans had been fed propaganda for so long that they couldn't see the truth. Americans thought they were an integrated culture. Though they may live in the same cities together, they were never mentally integrated, and never would be. It was an impossible socialist dream that was now being exploited by the Russians.
The Russians could see what the Americans could not. The races hate each other; rural and urban America are at odds; the religions still do not agree, politicians have created divisions in politics that never existed. Republicans hate Democrats and vise versa, yet they are the same evil with different names. Conservatives and Liberals are at odds because they believe there is a political difference, and therefor a political solution. But their isn't one. The poor despise the rich, and the working classes hates the non-working social services class. Every American plays the blame game. Just like a new president blames the outgoing opposition president for the ills of a country, individuals blame their ancestors, or neighbors, or politicians, yet never look in the mirror.
It is only because of these festering ingrained psychologies of Americans, and their refusal to admit they are not socially integrated, that the Russians are able to use it against them. Grigory knew the successes of their team and the others depended on this underlying manufactured hatred and distrust of one another. He knew that taking out a black church while dressed like white rural hunters that formed into a race hating militia was only possible because America's government and entities like the ACLU, SPLC, and NAACP, along with many other black-faced talking head personalities said that is how blacks should feel about whites. Their later raid on white farmers by what will look like black and hispanic gang bangers from the city will only be successful because that is what the rural farmers have been trained to believe by media and talking heads.
Success for the Russian Spetsnaz teams is using American's ideologies and idiosyncrasies against themselves. All the teams had to do was look the part that the media sold Americans over the decades since communism invaded the shores of America in the 1960's. It wasn't hard - pick a side, look the part, then attack the opposing side, then switch sides and do it again. Do that enough times, and the Americans will be fighting amongst themselves without any further input. It is only possible because of the denial Americans live in.
Grigory knew that after this final "race war" raid on the farmers that their next targets, three states away, were the rich and the poor. That operation would be the easiest of all - almost fun for the team. They would target several ultra-wealthy campaign financiers and their families who lived just a stones throw away from some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. He knew the wealthy snobs felt safe behind their gated compounds with roving rent-a-cops and high tech alarm systems. He knew their perceived safety was nothing short of more denials of reality. Why else would they live behind such security measures unless they were afraid of something? It is not wild animals they are afraid of; no, it is wild people - poor people. And Grigory planned to deliver on that fear with his team (and several other teams added in for effect.) Like any other operation, they would be actors of the part: disheveled, smelling dirty and rotten, carrying bats, pipes, and machetes. They would beat to death any rich person they could find with overwhelming angry ambushes and then move on. And they would do it in full view of the thousands of cameras
But for now, he had to get everyone ready for the farmers. Though he expected the operation to go as smooth as all of the previous ones, he knew those farmers likely had guns, and would use them if given the opportunity. He didn't plan on giving them the opportunity. Pre-operational intelligence suggested that both of the targeted farmers kept all of their guns unloaded and locked in combination safes in order to be in compliance with the laws of the state. The farmers were going to be easy prey for the Spetsnaz's version of ethnic city gang bangers. Grigory thought he might even try to hold and fire his pistol gang style, like he had seen in some American movies, just to make it more "authentic."
Grigory "Greg" Asimov drew his Springfield 1911 pistol and turned to the small mirror on the wall and pointed it at himself. Then he rotated the gun sideways to admire the appearance. After a few seconds he muttered quietly to himself, "Глок будет выглядеть лучше." (a Glock will look better)REEF, AYE!Copyright AbsoluteSurvivalist.com 2013. All Rights Reserved.
The preceding article may be reproduced in WHOLE for publication on the web or email for non-commercial purposes only, and/or linked in any web publication. It may not be reproduced in part in any manner or form, in any media for any reason.
For those who do not know, we sell lots of various product lines that are not listed on the main retail website of AbsoluteSurvivalist.com. The majority of our sales are through private group buys on various websites, and not through the retail web portal.One of the lines that we have sold the most products is from Troy Industries.
Though it has never been a huge money maker, it has been a volume line that has served to grant us better discounts on other product lines.From this moment on, we
will no longer sell anything from Troy Industries, EVER! The only way we will even consider once again offering Troy Industries products is if Steve Troy, the owner of Troy Industries sells his company and all subsequent rights to someone with more brain power and of a libertarian mind.
I have recently found out that Steve Troy has had multiple colossal brain farts (that, or he is just a complete idiot. Which one does not matter at this point.)It seems that Mr. Troy has recently hired Dale R. Monroe, the other, less infamous, sniper on Ruby Ridge who defended Lon Horiuchi's murder of Vicki Weaver in court. Monroe was Horiuchi's spotter at the time Vicki Weaver was murdered. Steve Troy's second brain malfunction was his personal defense of Monroe's actions and justification for hiring him. What a fucking ass hole!!But it doesn't end there, if you can believe it. Steve Troy has had yet another cerebral malfunction when he also recently hired Jody Weis, a former Chicago cop who following Sandy Hook wrote an opinion piece for the ultra liberal progressive Chicago Sun Times calling for "enhanced background checks" and ban on "high capacity magazines for assault weapons
," a product which Troy Industries produces and sells. Weis has also been an outspoken critic of the Rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. How fucking mindless can you be Mr. Troy! Just open the fucking door and let the foxes into the hen house!
Because of outside pressure, Troy was compelled to fire Weis, but that does not make up for the continued mindlessness Steve Troy seems to be exuding recently.So, because of Steve Troy's continued apparent mental flaws and inability to make objective and rational decisions that pertain to his company and those that relate to the continued liberty of Americans, I say FUCK YOU Troy Industries. I will not encourage others, nor contribute a single penny to you or your
company ever again, so long as you are the owner or are involved in any manner. Dumb ass!!Some of us have principles.REEF, AYE!Copyright AbsoluteSurvivalist.com 2013. All Rights Reserved.
The preceding article may be reproduced in WHOLE for publication on the web or email for non-commercial purposes only, and/or linked in any web publication. It may not be reproduced in part in any manner or form, in any media for any reason.
Sam was still kneeling down looking over the intel package when his son startled him, suddenly appearing behind him. He quickly closed the small folder and jammed it under his jacket. His nerves were already on edge from the unplanned rendezvous, and his son appearing unexpectedly nearly sent him over the edge.
"Dammit, son! You scared the shit out of me!" Sam picked up the loose arrow from the ground and turned to face his son who was still closing the distance, now just ten feet away.
"Sorry, dad. I thought I heard something and came to make sure everything was OK."
"Yeah, everything is fine. Why would there be something wrong. Has there ever been anything wrong as long as you and I have been coming out into these woods, Jr.?"
"Well… no," Jr. sheepishly replied and continued, "Did you get something?" pointing to the arrow now in his father's hand.
"Nah. One of my rare misses."
Of course, Sam had not missed. Even though they were deep in the woods, it was not uncommon to come across other hunters these days. It seemed everyone was trying to get fresh meat for the table, considering the stuff at the store was nearing unaffordable. No, Sam had intentionally dropped the arrow to the ground near the hollow of a large tree. This way he could kneel down to appear as though he were retrieving it while looking for blood in the event anyone happened upon him during his inspection of the documents. Based on the fact that his own son assumed he took a shot at something, the impromptu idea had worked.
"Did you see anything out there, Jr.?"
"No. Just other people making a lot of noise. They might call themselves hunters, but I wouldn't!"
"Let's head back then."
During the long walk back, Sam had some time to contemplate the earlier deep woods encounter. While sitting behind his hastily made blind, he heard his name being softly called, "Mr. Cortreau?" Though only slightly taken by someone approaching him in the woods (it seemed to happen all the time lately), the real shocker was someone calling him by name and with the correct pronunciation. No one ever got it right unless they knew him. Sam turned to see an unassuming man dressed in two different variations of real tree camouflage. The jacket was snow based and the pants were not a pattern he was familiar with; something with large heavy bark.
"How's the hunting?" the mysterious stranger inquired.
"Not too good with so many people stampeding through here," Sam retorted in a manner meant to convey a message to the stranger about his heavy footfalls.
"That's not too good. Maybe things will improve," the mystery man said as he continued to approach.
"I doubt it," Sam was wondering if he could get to his concealed pistol in time.
"Do you think we will get any storms this week?"
Sam started to look up at the sky, then realized this new stranger was opening an introduction code dialogue. "I think the chances are low," Sam challenged. Sam chose one of his only two options to see how the unmatched camouflaged man would respond.
"I hope you're right. I need to get some roof repairs done," said the man now only five feet away and still closing.
"Better you, than me," Sam replied, completing the challenge sequence.
The man extended his hand, "sorry for having to do it like this."
Sam shook the stranger's hand, "me too," relieved he was not going to have to draw his pistol and possibly use it in self defense. Those days were long past for him.
"The original drop site was compromised." Removing a small folder from under his jacket and handing it to Sam, the stranger continued, "Because these are not encrypted, we could not take the chance."
Sam immediately put the folder under his jacket. "But you left me an encrypted message anyway." Sam was confused. He had done exactly as he was instructed to do. He arrived at the small convenience store in town, picked out several items, perused the candy isle for the box of 3Musketeers. He lifted the box and found what he came for, a small two inch square manila envelope. He picked out a candy bar, and checked out with the cashier. Once he left the store and got some distance away, he opened the envelope to find a small piece of paper with a series of letters and numbers on it that he recognized. The underground military had taught him how to use the replacement code using his cell phone key pad. It took him a couple of minutes to decrypt the code which simply read:
"GO HUNTING TODAY"
"There were several Darks that had been in and out of the store yesterday and today," the stranger said. "We could not risk the information and had to get it to you in another way - this way. We just left you a simple encrypted note. Had that note been found, and had they deciphered it, it would have led them nowhere. For our purposes, it led us here."
"Ok," Sam replied trying to absorb the information.
The man then reached into his pocket for another small envelope and handed it to Sam. "This is a set of what are called one time pads used for decrypting messages. It is different from the replacement code you are used to using. There are also some self-explanatory directions on their use inside. They are considered the most secret thing you could ever imagine. They must never fall into the hands of the enemy. This goes the same for the information in that folder. The one time pads are printed on flash paper. If you even suspect that they may be compromised, burn or eat them immediately. The stuff in the folder will need to be burned completely when you are finished. Understand?"
"We know this is your first combat operation for the Underground. We chose you because we know you can do it."
"But I am not a field person. I just supply food and tools."
The stranger turned and started walking away. "Not anymore; we found your calling. Happy hunting."
"Umm… What?! Hey!"
Still walking away, the stranger looked over his shoulder at Sam, put his finger to his mouth and loudly whispered, "Shhhh, people are trying to hunt."
Sam's brief glance at the paperwork before being interrupted by Jr. had revealed something to do with the local lake. Though he did not yet know what it was, he was already wary. The lake was very heavily patrolled day and night. He did not know exactly why, but it was considered a strategic piece of real estate for both sides. He was sure it was due in part to the small hydro electric station at one end. Sam and Jr. continued their three mile walk home, mostly in silence, during which time they nodded to at least a dozen hunters throughout the area. They forded the five foot deep creek with their packs, bows, and arrows over their heads. During the transition, Sam was able to covertly transfer the intel folder to his pack without Jr. noticing. This deep creek, which served as a nearly permanent line of demarcation to other hunters unwilling to cross it, was only a quarter mile from their home.
As they approached the house, Sam bid Jr. farewell and told him he loved him. Sam split off to go to the main house, and Jr. returned to the small cabin that had been converted from a detached garage he and his wife had been forced to move into following the riots the previous year that burned the section of the city where they had lived. Sam passed quickly through the house, greeting the various members of the family that he saw as he moved upstairs and finally to the attic. He closed the walk-in attic door behind him.
Because he had given up his previous workshop/garage (now Jr.'s temporary, likely to become permanent, home), Sam converted the attic into a small workshop and storage space. He carefully hung his bow in its appropriate location, removed his backpack and coat, then sat at his work bench. He flipped on the work light and adjusted the beam and retrieved the small folder from his backpack. Scanning the documents, it became apparent to Sam that the Underground military had become aware of his past as a combat rescue swimmer.
He had never told anyone of his past military service, including his wife and children. He had literally buried his DD-214 to keep anyone from ever finding it. After eight years of service, he slowly became aware of the truth behind the US military machine, aka: military industrial complex. He had come to the realization that the military was being controlled by a huge system of money and power far beyond the reach of Congress and the Commander in Chief. The declared and undeclared wars he had taken part in were nothing more than fabricated conflicts with the ultimate purpose of protecting the legitimacy of the Dollar and the oil that promulgated it, regardless of the story the complicit media was selling at the time. And if he was not protecting the Dollar, he was involved in rescuing shot and blown-up servicemen who were protecting the CIA's drug profits, under the guise of a false War on Drugs. He laughed at the mere thought of it. It was not a war on drugs as much as it was a war on drug cartel heads who were not falling in line with directives to make deliveries and split profits with the CIA to fund their illicit black operations. He concluded that if he stayed in the US armed services, eventually he would be turned against by the people of the country and the people of other countries. He even thought that as a veteran he may eventually be vilified for his past once the truth came out, and decided to never mention his military service to anyone for the rest of his life.
How the Underground found out, he could not fathom. Obviously the majority of his service records were publicly available, but they would have to specifically go searching for them in his name and military ID number. 'Wouldn't that send up a red flag for someone to be searching in a government database for his name?' he thought. However it happened, it couldn't be undone, and now they wanted him to do some swimming. But this was not going to be a combat rescue operation. The more he read, the more he realized they wanted him to make an underwater dead drop. He already knew this was one of the most secure ways to hide nearly anything, so it made sense. The part that bothered him was that they wanted him to do it in a highly watched and patrolled lake under the light of a quarter moon.
The details of what they wanted were straightforward. He needed to retrieve four carbines, forty-eight magazines, four cleaning kits, two thousand rounds of ammunition, four carriers, four med kits, and twelve ration packs. Somehow he would need to submerge all of this in a waterproof housing and create a retrieval method that would utilize a grappling hook suspended from a moving vessel. Sam's head was spinning. It wasn't the job so much, but the fact they had found out about his past and recruited him for an amazingly dangerous job, far beyond the scope of his normal food acquisitions, caching and deliveries of materials and supplies for the Underground. He decided to take a shower and hopefully dinner would be ready by that time and he could have some time to think things through. He would use this particular night to rotate out to the porch to eat in the cold since the dining room table, card table, and every possible seat in the living room would be occupied by their long-term family guests. Anti-social Gramps always chose to sit outside away from everyone, and would likely appreciate a night of being left alone while he ate dinner.
Strangely, Gramps was a relative chatterbox tonight. Sam never got the piece and quiet he wanted and expected. It seemed that Gramps was upset at the lack of meat in his diet, and never considered the extra thirteen mouths Sam had to feed over the last six months, nor appreciated that prices for meat were nearly three times higher. Gramps was old and wanted what he wanted. Sam couldn't bear a grudge for this ninety-two year old's desires, but he did hold a grudge for Gramps choosing tonight to become a news broadcaster about the issue. Anyway Sam knew in a few days the family would receive a hog or more for payment for Sam completing this new operation. After finishing his "who-knows-what-all's-in-it" soup and homemade bread, he took Gramp's bowl and plate and loudly told him goodnight, returning to the attic following a brief stop in the kitchen.
Once in the attic, Sam put his mind in gear and started making a list. Once he got going, the mental exercise became enjoyable. He then made a list of technical details, and another list of required intelligence he would need in order to conduct the operation. He had less than 72 hours to get the job done and send a report back. Not nearly enough time in his mind, but that was the mission. Now that was a word he never expected to think, much less conduct again: mission.
He read back over the details of the intel package, then back over his own lists and notes two more times. He retrieved an old section of newspaper from a box of stored glassware and rolled up the intel package in the paper. He returned to the living room where most of the extended family were gathered and walked straight to the wood burning iron stove, opened the door and threw the cylinder of paper inside. Before the door of the stove was closed, his wife asked suspiciously, "What was that?"
"Just some old paper, " he stated a plainly as possible. "I'm gonna hit the hay. Goodnight everyone."
"Goodnight," the room erupted in a chorus.
After nearly eight hours of work the next day, Sam was happy with the outcome of the project. He was satisfied that it would do the job and serve the purpose. The real problem was that the total package weighed nearly 130 pounds. And even with this weight, he would need to add at least 30 more pounds of dead weight to overcome the buoyancy of air in the four PVC cylinders. Each five foot long, six inch diameter PVC cylinder contained one fourth of the required list. That meant that there was one AR-15 carbine (upper disjoined from the lower), twelve magazines (loaded, vacuumed sealed), 140 rounds of loose ammunition in a heavy duty plastic (vacuum sealed), one carrier (tightly rolled), one med kit (vacuum sealed), one cleaning kit, and three ration packs tightly packed inside one cylinder. There was still enough air in each cylinder to make it neutrally buoyant, so he would have to add dead weight to adequately sink them.
Sam had left before the sunrise to retrieve the items from the secure storage facility. It was a series of forty foot shipping containers that had been buried next to the unmanned, and now defunct, Co-op gas station just before the new government took over. On the other side was a farm Co-op that sold various farming implements and animal feed where the hidden entrance was located behind the storage building. There were only four people who had access to the containers, or knew the whereabouts of the buried containers: two who added the supplies, and two who removed and delivered the supplies covertly. He had no idea who the other three people were. He also didn't know how the hidden containers were supplied, but he had a good guess considering that the majority of the items had "Property of US Government" stickers or engravings on them with serial numbers. The items had either been stolen, were spoils of the war, or the Underground had someone on the inside; maybe it was a combination of the three. As usual he took the time to sign the 'Permanent Material Removal' sheet with his coded entry. During the same visit he borrowed a PVS-14 night vision monocular, signing it out with a separate coded entry on the 'Temporary Material Removal' sheet.
So far, after nearly a year, this system had worked flawlessly. He figured when people's collective asses were on the line, the trust factor must have gone way up. None of the four people with access were stealing anything, and the supplies were flowing well, both in and out. It was nothing like the military he had served in decades before. Payment for his services came in the form of food, and less often various hard supplies.
After retrieving the items, he shuttled them to Mr. Compton's barn less than a quarter of a mile away using his tractor with the items hidden under a trailer full of hay. The hay was offloaded in the barn for Mr. Compton as payment for continued use of the barn. The hay had been supplied gratis by the farm Co-op. The plumbing parts and other supplies Sam had requested were already on the bench in the back corner of the barn. Supplies always arrived here, and Sam never had any idea how or where they came from.
Sam had found the most difficult part of the build to be the creation of the retrieval system so that it could be easily transportable, and the calculations for determining the exact amount of dead weight needed to suspend the works fifteen feet below the surface. If his calculations were too heavy, the whole thing would sink to the bottom of the one hundred and twenty foot deep lake, and there would be no way he could retrieve it. If it was too light, everything would float, completely defeating the purpose.
Satisfied with his work, Sam returned home with the whole works covered on the trailer by a manure pile behind the tractor. The manure was for the enormous garden anyway, and Mr. Compton kept Sam well supplied. Sam pulled the trailer next to the other manure piles and pulled the pin on the tilt trailer. The manure and his secret supplies easily slid to the ground next to a dozen other piles, some of which still had secret items hidden within. Sam returned to the house and announced he was going to take a nap. He needed the sleep. His reconnaissance would begin tonight.
Sam found a well concealed point from which to conduct reconnaissance of the lake just before the sun set. He stayed all night using the PVS-14 borrowed from the supply containers, documenting everything he saw, the times, and conditions. He was looking for a window of opportunity. Under normal circumstances, he would do this every night for as long as it took for him to discover a pattern that he could exploit, but he would only have tonight and hope that tomorrow was the same. He was out of time. In the military, someone else would have done all of the reconnaissance, then another group would have interpreted it and made a mostly boring, hour long Powerpoint presentation to submit five minutes worth of usable data, then the officers and NCO's would have developed a plan, and the unit(s) would have executed the plan. Sam had to do all of this himself, sans the boring Powerpoint presentation, and then execute it perfectly if he wanted to return home to his family.
After a few hours sleep, Sam spent the next several hours transporting and caching the PVC tubes and support gear next to the lake. Using his trusty Kubota tractor and water trailer, Sam covered his operation with a couple of water runs to the lake. The efficient old 22hp diesel powered tractor was the most commonly used power item the family used. The fuel tank held less than seven gallons of fuel, but the tractor would operate for nearly a week of multiple tasks each day sipping fuel from the tiny tank. It was not uncommon for it to take several weeks to drain the tank if they kept the RPMs on the engine down and used the higher gears. Satisfied that none of the constant parade of fishermen had noticed his covert dropping of the camouflaged tubes into the tall grasses, Sam returned home with his last load of unfiltered water from the lake. Jr. would take care of the filtering process along with a couple of Sam's nephews. Sam needed another nap before his endurance swim.
The timing had to be perfect. During the previous night's reconnaissance he noted that there was never more than an hour between times when patrols passed by the area he needed to traverse and set the cache. He knew it would take at least an hour for him to make the swim in one direction. After avoiding the roving shore patrol attempting to rustle up after-hours fisherman still out after curfew, Sam bound together a pair of fallen tree trunks he found on the shore in a manner that put them askew of each other, forming almost a "V." He also made sure that any limb stumps were facing in an upward direction so that if viewed by a patrol, that his makeshift float would obviously appear as nothing more than a floating log jamb. He wanted to avoid any undue inspection.
Sam tied an old piece of netting in the V of the trees and loaded his cache. The only piece that would not fit was a ten foot long piece of capped 4" PVC pipe that Sam intended to use for facilitating the eventual capture of the cache. Because this piece had a nearly ten foot long piece of 2"x2" angle iron sealed inside, it floated with nearly half of its surface below the water. Sam simply tied a line to the pipe and then put a quick release loop at his waist and swam out into the blackness of the lake. He positioned himself between the two logs and pushed them ahead, with the pipe following close behind. To any casual observer on this dark night, they would see nothing more than a low floating log jamb lazily moving through the lake. The sixty eight degree early spring water temperature was quite cold, but would be comfortable as his muscles warmed with the hard swim to come.
Sam had to use the timing he had established as best as he could. This meant that he had to start his swim as a patrol boat was on their way to the area he was to drop his cache. He could see the outline of the boat nearly a quarter of a mile away, moving slowly towards him at an angle. If his timing was right, they would never get any closer than a quarter of a mile away during this pass. Once he could see that the patrol boat was about to be backlit by the moon's reflection on the lake, Sam stopped swimming. This would be the time when the most light would be on him from the point of view of the patrol boat. Would they be lazy and dismiss the floating debris if they saw it, or would they investigate? He was banking on laziness.
He lowered himself deeper into the water and shallowed his breathing. Only his head from his nose up was exposed above the water, and that was concealed from view by the large logs he was floating between. he could not see the patrol boat, but he could hear the popping and clicking of the propeller, exhaust, and hull moving through the water. With his ears submerged, it was far easier to hear these things than if they were above the water. By the consistency of the noise, he could tell the boat was maintaining its speed just above idle. After a minute, he very slowly raised his head to where he could see over the log raft. The patrol boat was continuing on, so he continued his swim.
The journey took a little over an hour, avoiding another patrol with the same technique as before. He estimated that he had less than twenty minutes to complete his work and get out of the area. He quickly tied the small bucket filled with concrete to one of the loops he had fashioned to the end of one of the PCV cache tubes. He then lashed the four tubes together so that they were parallel to one another. He double checked his lashings and moved on to the capture system. After lashing each side of the parallel tubes to each end of the ten foot long, four inch PVC float tube he had been trailing behind him, he was ready to launch.
He had checked all of his calculations multiple times to ensure everything would float below the surface at the right depth. The one thing he could not account for was the exact depth where he intended to drop everything. The lake varied in depth from a little over one hundred and seventy five feet up to nothing near the shore. He was aiming for a spot that was estimated to be one hundred and twenty feet, and this was based more on local fisherman providing their own knowledge, than from accurate surveys of the lake. Sam was a fisherman himself and knew how inaccurate fisherman could be about anything related to fishing, including the size of 'the one that got away' to the speed of their now non-existent fishing boats. For this problem he had extra line attached to the concrete counterweight just in case it was deeper than the expected one hundred and twenty feet.
Taking a quick glance around, Sam deployed each item in reverse order after tying a safety float to the end of the ten foot long PVC float/capture pole. As expected the cache tubes were floating horizontal, but mostly submerged. Only about an inch of the PVC pipes were above the water. He quickly checked for tangles in any of the lines, then drug the concrete bucket off of the netting and let it quickly sink to the bottom. The flaked line was screaming off of the log float as he cleared away to keep from getting tangled, hopeful that there was enough weight to sink the works. Suddenly the cache tubes disappeared beneath the surface followed half a second later by the float/capture tube. Sam took a deep breath, grabbed the safety float line and started swimming below.
He instantly noticed the very faint clicking and popping sounds of a boat propeller and exhaust, but kept swimming down the line. After what he determined to be just ten feet, he ran into the horizontal float/capture pole. This was good since all of his hard work and calculations had not sunk to the bottom and he could adjust everything down another five feet. He felt his way down to the cache tubes and counted each one by feel, suspended as expected. Then he took up five more feet of line from the counterweight and using a previously installed trucker's hitch pulled the cache down as he descended with it. Clasping the line with one hand, he squeezed his nose and then tried to blow through it, the small pops in his ears gave him instant relief from the pressure. With that relief, his mind refocused on the noticeably louder clicking and popping of an approaching boat. Though only below the surface for just under a minute, his lungs were no longer trained they way they had been in the military, and his above water conditioning the last couple of days had only marginally improved his lung stamina. The burning was starting to get to a significant level, but he had to tie off the counter weight before surfacing.
The lack of oxygen to his body was dulling the sensitivity and dexterity in his extremities, especially his fingers which is what he needed to use to tie the knot. The approaching boat sounds were ringing in his ears further complicating his oxygen deprived brain and its ability to process information and conduct needed tasks. He forced himself to focus on tying the knot and was able to complete a less than adequate single carrick bend knot, then shot himself to the surface, keeping a set of exhaled bubbles even with his eyes as he ascended.
Gulping a breath of heavy lake air, he spun to look for an approaching boat. Sam was shocked to see a patrol boat less than a hundred yards away and closing. He took a quick scan and evaluated his circumstances. His logs had floated too far away to reach in time, and he was basically exposed in the open. His only choice was to submerge and hope the boat passed over quickly. Sam started to take quick deep breaths to oxygenate his blood, then took one final deep breath and pushed himself beneath the surface with an upward sweep of his hands. When he felt he was adequately below the surface, he inverted his body and pulled himself below in search of the horizontal float/capture pole fifteen feet below, equalizing his ears as he went.
He quickly found the float and took a grip on it to hold him in place, listening to the noise of the approaching vessel. Could he hold his breath for the two to three minutes he figured it would take for the boat to pass by. He didn't know, but he also didn't have any other choice if he wanted to survive - capture was nothing more than delayed death following days or weeks of torture. As the boat was about to pass over, Sam could hear the distinct sound of the transmission kicking out of gear, then back into gear, then a quick rev of the engine, followed by the transmission being kicked out of gear again. The boat had intentionally stopped above him. Sam knew he was dead!
'What had happened?' Sam thought to himself. Was this the boat that was supposed to do the pick-up instead of a patrol boat? It kind of made sense. Sam did not expect another patrol for about twenty minutes. But his encrypted message about the drop was not to be picked up for several more hours. Had they come early? He didn't have any answers, and his lungs were starting to burn. Slowly, the numbness was moving into his fingers and head. Sam released small amounts of air from his lungs every ten seconds to reduce the pressure in his chest, but the lack of oxygen was taking its toll.
'THE DAMN SAFETY FLOAT!' Sam knew that was it. He struggled to the end of the ten foot long horizontal float/capture pole, where he had tied on the safety float. He felt for it feverishly, but it was not there. His starved mind, now more than 90 seconds without required oxygen struggled to answer the riddle of the missing safety float line. He knew he had not released it before surfacing the first time, and it has been properly tied, so it had not come loose. The other end! The horizontal float/capture pole must have twisted while he was surfaced. Sam moved as quickly as he could to the other end, and he could hear a splashing sound in the water above. As he searched with one hand, he reached for his knife with the other. In one swift motion, he found the line, opened the 4" lock blade knife, and severed the line above the knot.
Because he had attached over fifty feet of clothesline to the old twenty ounce plastic soda bottle, it would take a few seconds for the water nazis to find the end of the freshly severed line. It would only take them a few seconds more to surmise that something might not be right on the lake tonight when they see that the line is new with no growth of any kind on it, and had been freshly cut. Sam's options were running out. He was out of time. Either he was going to stay down and pass out like he did in the training pool decades ago during drown proofing, or he was going to surface. Either way he was probably going to die.
As Sam's mind started to go dark, his grip on the float pipe released and he slowly rose to the surface, completely unable to stop himself. His gentle rise brought him to the surface and his head barely bumped the partially submerged bow of the vessel. The sweet relief of air was nearly invigorating, but he was still numb and lethargic. Sam struggled to stay afloat without flashing as he continued to breath the thick air, tainted with boat exhaust. As his extremities started to begin functioning, Sam was able to reach the bow eye and get a couple of fingers through it to hold him in place as he tried to recover, "recover for eventual torture!" he silently whispered to himself.
He had no escape that he could see. He could hear the two men in the boat discussing the float and line. Their theories were all over the map, with the majority of them revolving around things of a suspicious nature, with very few related to fishing of any kind. He could hear one of them ask for the goggles, which Sam assumed meant night vision goggles. They were probably generation four or better, and possibly even thermal. The bad guys had the best equipment, some of which had been liberated and were now stored away in the Underground's secret supply containers.
The several minutes consumed in scanning the lake for suspicious activity gave Sam plenty of time to recover, though not completely. He had begun evaluating his options, but could only come up with one: submerge again when it appeared they would resume their patrol, and hope he could clear the propellers in time. He couldn't just dive any time and hope they would leave. No, he had to wait until he was sure they were about to leave to minimize his dive time. As they continued to discuss their find, Sam oxygenated his blood with short deep breaths. The still running outboard motors were enough to mask his breathing, or so he hoped.
"Look, if we report this, there will be lots of paperwork, a late morning, and probably extra patrols. I don't know what this thing was for, but I don't think it is anything that is damaging in any way," Sam overheard one of them say. He could tell they were about to leave. He slowed his breathing to get ready to take that final deep breath and dive at the first indication they were going to move. He waited for what seemed like five minutes as he could hear the pair moving around on the boat. They were not speaking, but constantly moving. Sam's fingers were now starting to get tired from holding onto the bow ring. 'What are they doing?'
"Shit we're late!" was the only thing Sam heard before the transmission was suddenly engaged and the engine pushed instantly to full throttle. The sudden force had ripped Sam's grip from the bow ring, but his fingers were still wedged inside the loop of stainless steel. His shorts had been unceremoniously stripped from his body along with his underwear. The force had shifted his body to one side of the hull as the bow rose with the acceleration, lifting his upper body out of the water. The side he had been shifted towards was in opposition to his grip on the bow ring, lodging his fingers in place, as well as breaking them. Had he gone the other way, he would have simply slipped free.
With the force on his body, and his broken fingers stuck in place, Sam could not pull himself forward to free his fingers. Even if he could, he had a more pressing problem of two propellers connected to a pair of 150 horsepower outboard motors spinning at full speed in the path that his body would drop into the water. Beyond that, if he didn't free himself in seconds, the pair above would know that something was creating too much drag on the hull, stop and inspect, finding his naked body stuck too the hull.
Sam could feel the bones in his hand and wrist starting to pop. It was a good thing that he could not feel his trapped fingers any longer. He didn't know if a man could overcome the inherent strength of the skin, muscle, and tendons in the first two fingers with nothing more than brute force, but so far, they were holding firm. His feet and knees were feeling the pain of the drag, but he had no choice. His shoulder and elbow were starting to separate. With his free hand, which still held the knife, Sam pushed down on the fingers just below the knuckles as he attempted to use his legs and knees to force himself away from the hull and the spinning propellers, just as the knife passed quickly through the overstretched skin and muscle creating a sharp snapping sound as the fingers and body parted ways at high velocity.
Just as Sam slammed into the water, not at all confident that he would be clear of the propellers a tenth of a second later, but comforted by the thought of a mission accomplished, his last split-second thought was the look on someone's face when they found a pair broken severed fingers lodged in the bow eye of a federal patrol boat. He hoped they choked on their own vomit.REEF, AYE! GentlemenCopyright AbsoluteSurvivalist.com 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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In the last few hundred yards of her skull drag to her final position, Lynn found herself encumbered by the thoughts of how she had gotten here. She continually fought off the distracting thoughts in order to focus on the current critical task, but the memories continued to flood back. For whatever reason, this seemed to happen on every mission at about the same time: in the relatively short period of time before she would pull the trigger on her target.
She had failed the sniper course just a little over six months ago after twice failing the long range shooting exercise. Though she was 100% out to 600 yards, she could not consistently make the needed corrections necessary for longer shots. It was a huge let down for her. She had aced all other portions of the 9-week class, and was considered to be at the top of her class in almost every category; she just could not hit her targets at longer ranges.
Unlike the military sniper courses where a student is kicked out the moment they fail any portion, this underground course, which was put together by two retired military snipers and a vast array of other gentlemen of various skills, all of the students went through the entire course without knowing if they had passed or failed. She later found out that the instructors were evaluating the students for other roles in the underground. Within an hour after the heartbreaking revelation that she would not graduate with the class, she was approached by SSgt Carlton, the ex-Army sniper who had helped create the course. He asked if she would be interested in filling a special marksmanship role they had for students like herself.
As she began to ask a question, SSgt Carlton told her that he could not answer any questions, but gave her some vague details of what the job would entail and told her she would have to accept or decline based on that limited information. Having already lost her husband to the brutal "Neighborhood Monitors" in the early days of the new government, she knew that she had to fight back any way that she could. She sent her two children to be with their grandparents in NE Washington, and immediately joined the underground military system, knowing that she may never see her children again.
"Yes" was the immediate answer to SSgt Carton. She remembered the broad tobacco stained smile that crossed his face, the first smile she had ever seen him give. Two days later she started another 3-week course with two other non-graduates from her sniper course. She recalled that the two others were also excellent stalkers and had finished only minutes behind her in the sniper class stalking events, though no one else in the class could stalk faster, quieter, or more stealthily than she could. In this new course, they were given lessons on the customized .22LR rifle, the suppressor systems, and most importantly new classes on obtaining missions from dead drops since they would never use any type of electronic communications systems.
And here she was stalking again, dragging herself inch-by-inch across a mostly open field to get within 200 yards of her intended target, still amazed at how she had gotten here. Just five days ago, she had picked up the target intelligence package at a dead drop. It was ingenious in it simplicity. When she noticed that the local store put a certain brand of pimentos on sale, she was to go shopping on Tuesday between 10 am and 11 am. While shopping she was to purchase, among other items, a package of ground chuck that was mislabeled. The mislabeled package would be found at the back and would be priced 50¢ higher per pound than the other packages.
Once home, she found a small capsule buried within the package of meat. Inside that capsule was an encrypted message written on flash paper. She used a previously obtained one time pad to decrypt the message. In this case, the message led her to the time and location of her next mission package. The intel package was located on a sign in a rural area. She would show up at her convenience within a 3-day period to collect the package. She found the heavy duty ziploc bag taped to the back of a stop sign. This was obscured by a "Do Not Enter" sign on the opposite side of the same pole. The three inch gap between the signs was a perfect hiding place for many items she had picked up in the past, though never from the same sign. She realize that in all of her 36 years of life, she had never noticed the 3" gap, and certainly had never paid attention, or would have even cared that it existed. There was even one occasion where she had picked up medications and a broken down gun out of similar gaps in these back-to-back signs all over the area she conducted operations.
With the package in hand, she drove to an isolated area to decrypt and read the contents. As usual, there was also a mini-SD card in a case, which usually had photos and maps. Also in the package was a new bundle of one-time-pads for the next drop. She used a very old Nokia N8-series tablet to view whatever was on the mini-SD card. For this mission, there were two pictures of the target, with some indicators highlighted for identification purposes, and a couple of arial views of the terrain. She downloaded what she needed and then destroyed the package and SD card by burning them in a small ceramic container filled with UtilityFlame gel. One strike and the the whole thing disappeared in a 1300 degree fire.
Having scraped her face along the dirt and grass only a few inches since these thoughts entered her mind, she started listening to her surroundings for patrols or anything else that might be a threat. It was not uncommon to encounter snakes, spiders, or other non-human dangers while skull dragging to a firing position. She took the short break to view her immediate surroundings. She wanted to make certain that the wind had not shifted or that she was not inducing any undue irregular angles on the surrounding grass, and that it was still the same color and height as her ghille grass. It was imperative that her ghille suit fill the void in the grass that her body occupied. She was in the wide open at this point, with the nearest tree line over 300 yards away.
Satisfied with her situation, her mind drifted back to the processes that existed for her to be laying in a field, surrounded by enemies, about to shoot a human target that was considered a tyrant leader. The amount of people that must be involved just for her to take a single shot was amazing. She did not even know exactly where the intel she received came from. She wondered just how many people were involved: The store manager? The butcher? The butcher's assistant? The stock boy? Those who put the intel together? Someone to work the encryption? All of the people involved who make the capsules, print the data, take the pictures, make the dead drops, find the dead drops, plus the all of the people who trained her. There must be at least twenty people involved in this one shot. Not a single one of whom she knew personally except SSgt Carlton, and she had no idea how to contact him. It really was mind boggling to her.
Lynn inched up the last few feet to what she hoped would be her final firing position. It was a small fold in the earth, probably made from an old dry drainage channel. The rise was maybe nine inches and heavily covered in thick grass. She took a few moments to make sure she was well camouflaged and that her ghille suit was still compatible with her surroundings. She slowly looked around to make sure she was not creating any contrast or shadows that might give her away. She carefully and gently pulled her drag bag up next to her and removed the custom savage .22LR rifle. After just a little over five months of operations, she had racked up 12 kills with this rifle that she had come to love. She had several more successful operations that were non-lethal in nature, but required extreme stealth to accomplish.
A very old man had presented her the rifle. He had worked with her for a day to completely fine tune it just for her purposes. She only knew him by "uncle." Uncle had adjusted the trigger to the sensitivity that she liked and had also made a custom cheek rest that gave her that so important repeatable cheek weld. They had fired over 100 rounds to get the Nikon BDC scope dialed in perfectly. He had also spent some time making the bipod even lighter. Late in the afternoon he disappeared with the rifle and left her sitting at a picnic table under a large shade tree. A couple of hours later, he handed Lynn the custom camouflage painted rifle and a small laminated book of bullet drop compensation charts for various loads and magnifications. He had also shown her the BDC chart for 4X using 40gr subsonic loads that was affixed to the inside of the flip open cap on the scope.
It was at this time that Uncle had given Lynn a small thread adapter and a fuel filter. He had explained to her that instead of the military grade suppressors she had been using, that she would now be using fuel and oil filters for suppressors. This adapter screwed onto the 1/2 x 28 muzzle threads, and then the commercial fuel filter threaded onto that, creating a very effective silencer for little cost. He explained that the adapters were called "Solvent Traps" before they were made illegal by the new government. He had purchased hundreds of them for about $8 each back in the day because suppressors were getting harder to get and he knew they would eventually be illegal altogether, just like most guns. Lynn was still on her original fuel filter suppressor after five months of use. The subsonic .22LR rounds, coupled with the adapted suppressor and bolt action Savage rifle made any shot almost imperceptible. What Uncle called "Hollywood Quiet, but quieter."
As the suppressed rifle emerged from its bag, Lynn could not help but admire it. As it was passing by her, she open the bi-pod. She paused briefly to add some local grass to the painted burlap cloth she had wrapped around much of the camouflaged gun and suppressor. She gently positioned it out in front of her. She used the small berm as cover for the bulk of her body and rifle. Only the front half of the suppressor extended beyond the edge of the berm, and was completely obscured by the surrounding grass. The bi-pod was resting behind the berm and was only elevated just enough to get the suppressor to clear the top and not touch anything. So far as she could tell, it was about as good as it was going to get for being out in the open.
Lynn settled in and made very small refinements as needed. At one point she had to inch forward to clip some grass for a better loophole from which to observe and take the shot. It took over two hours to complete. She made notes about every movement she saw, every location of various things she saw, and observed the speed at which each person moved under normal circumstances. After she had identified her target and made detailed notes, she took a moment to securely delete the files on the Nokia tablet in the event she had to leave it behind. Though she could have taken the shot multiple times already, the time was not right. The idea was to take the shot when it would least be noticed. She was alone and needed to exit quickly and quietly following the shot. In her mind, it was imperative that his death not be noticed for several minutes if possible to facilitate her escape. Taking a shot when the target is entering the latrine would be best, but those opportunities never seemed to present themselves. She guessed leaders had private latrines.
Regardless, if she wanted to complete this mission and live, she had to be meticulous in her decisions. The S.E.R.E. class had taught her that. The 10-day Survive, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape class was a huge eye opener. The very first thing "Grouch" said to them on day one was, "you were sent here to learn to survive. No one will ever come for you if you screw up, so don't screw up. But if you do screw up, this class is to teach you how to make it back alive." He followed up by saying, "I don't know why we do the Resistance and Escape portion, because if those bastards catch you, they will torture and kill you. Don't screw up!" Each class was customized for the students. Because the special marksmen were effectively lone operators, the S.E.R.E. class was mostly devoted to survival and evasion with a twist. They taught the students to survive in the field with rudimentary tools like they would anyone else, but the evasion portion of the class was based more on silent maneuvering out of the kill zone, and if all else fails, how to turn tail and run in a proper fashion. It was easily the most grueling 10-days since she had entered the underground military.
They capped off the S.E.R.E. class by using the last three days to capture each of student, put them through various types of torture, molestation, and interrogation techniques, then put them each in an isolated outdoor cell. Finally the instructors just left them, literally. It took Lynn the better part of 30 hours to escape he makeshift cell, where she immediately disappeared into a nearby line of woods. It was barely 60 degrees outside, and Lynn was only left with a pair of shorts and a bra, and no clue as to her whereabouts. When they had been captured, they had been blindfolded, bound, and thrown into the back of a truck and bounced around for what felt like half a day. None of the surroundings looked anything like any of the places she had previously been with the various schools. She spent a short amount of time sneaking around the small compound looking for her classmates, but she realized that she had not seen nor heard them since they were captured, and that she had been isolated. She was on her own.
It took Lynn a full day to completely gather her bearings, "acquire" some clothing, food, and tools, and finally determine that she was over 200 miles away from the S.E.R.E. school. She had a long walk unless she could find a ride with no money and looking completely disheveled. She could not chance trying to hitchhike or steal a car in this revolutionary environment, especially with all of the electronic surveillance. After almost five days of eluding police and Neighborhood Monitors, Lynn walked back into the S.E.R.E. school indoc door to the obvious surprise of her instructors. Grouch immediately jumped up and offered a hearty welcome, peered down at his watch, and turned to the others saying, "it's a new record."
Lynn was peering through her scope at the target. He was standing behind a derelict car talking to a subordinate. She could only see his shoulders and head. She remembered that it was 137 yards to the near side of the vehicle, and 139 to the far side where he was standing. She looked down to her notes and sketches to confirm the range and immediately noticed several ants scurrying across the page, which was just to the right of her rifle. Then several more appeared. She quickly peered back through the scope to see the tyrant still talking. Though she had been trained not to pay attention to grass and leaves brushing up against her, and to ignore any itches or other annoyances in order to remain perfectly still, the sudden tickle feeling on her hand made her take note. She looked back down at her sniper's bible to see the ants still dancing along the page. She quickly moved her eye back to the scope for a moment, then refocused on her visible right thumb and the visible parts of her rifle. The ants were everywhere - fire ants.
She knew she had only seconds before things got ugly. She was about to be compromised by ants. Either way, people were about to start shooting at her. Her ghille suit would soon be infested with enraged biting ants, hell bent on consuming her flesh in thousands of minuscule and painful chomps. She refocused her breathing, and quickly consulted her BDC chart and dialed in 33 clicks on the elevation knob and 5 clicks right on her windage knob. The target had not moved and was still flapping his lips. She started the press of the trigger after disengaging the first safety with with her right thumb. As the trigger safety disengaged, she felt the first bite on her left thumb which was helping to support the rifle's stock, and struggled to keep from flinching and letting the round loose.
The rage built in her mind as she shallowed her breathing. Her 6 and 9 year old children were going to lose their mother today. The ants were forcing her to give away her position before she was ready. She was going to get into a gun fight with at least 40 trained enemy combatants, and would most likely lose. She had no support and was alone. Then the second and third bites were again on her left hand and fingers. She blocked out the pain and let out the last breath just as the target raised his hand to his chin. "Perfect," she thought just as she pressed the 2.2 pound trigger back the remainder of the way, with the cross hairs pinned on his right eye. The target had not hit the ground, and Lynn had already chambered another round with the smooth bolt action.
The bites were now too numerous to count on both hands and she could feel the ants moving. She made a slight adjustment to aim at the subordinate the tyrant had been talking with, who was now bent over the likely dead man. She could only see the back of his head from the ear lobe back, as everything else was obscured by the derelict vehicle. She exhaled and pressed the trigger just as the crosshairs settled on the area just behind the ear.
Lynn immediately jumped up to kneeling, leaving her rifle in place and retrieved a homemade smoke grenade from her battle belt, pulled the ring and threw it as far as she could. No one was shooting, and their was no alarm yet. She started hacking at herself to remove the biting insects. By this time she had at least twenty bites, and with all of the movement, they were swarming. She had no way to know how many ants might be in her ghille suit. Between sadistic self-beatings, Lynn quickly deployed two more smoke grenades at 30 degrees to either side of the first one. Happy that she was devoid of ants on her exposed skin, she picked up her rifle, collapsed the bi-pod, dropped it in the drag bag, and zipped it up. The Nokia tablet went into an exterior pocket. She pulled the pack straps free on the drag bag and hoisted it onto her back. She withdrew her Kel-tec PMR-30 pistol from the custom Kydex holster and started running towards the line of trees some 400 yards distant. It had been less than twenty seconds since she had fired the first shot.
She peered over her shoulder to see the cloud of red, blue, and green smoke mixing in a psychedelic haze that completely obscured her. 'I might make it,' she thought, only 200 yards from the tree line. Just then she heard the yelling. She could still feel the sharp pain of an ant bite every few seconds as she ran. Her ghille was definitely infested to some degree. She would have to get it off as soon as she felt secure enough. Less than 100 yards to go, and she could hear gun fire. Within seconds, she could tell the bullets were flying past her. The sound of a bullet screaming past one's head was unmistakable.
"Damit!" She murmured in agony. The ants must have gotten inside her clothes. She felt two nearly simultaneous bites. One on her left thigh and the other on her right waist. Until then, the bites had be limited to her exposed hands and neck, which seriously hurt, but these two were worse by some degree. Then it dawned on her. Still running, she glanced down to see her pant leg expanding with blood. She could not see any blood on her waist in the brief moment, but did see a hole in a pouch on her battle belt that was not there before. She had been shot and was slowing down, but made it to the tree line where she dropped her last smoke grenade, looking back to see at least 20 men emerging from her smoke screen moving and shooting in her direction.***REEF, AYE!Copyright AbsoluteSurvivalist.com 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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This is a continuation of my short story series. If you came here looking for my Sandy Hook story
or GC rant, either scroll down or click here
for the direct links.
Note: I want to give a special thanks to commenter Ed for cleaning up my grammatical mess in Part 5.
J. Allen Timms was the man in charge of the old RVS distribution center, but very few people, including the employees who worked there, realized it. He started his career in Naval Intelligence immediately after graduating college. Through some fortuitous events, as well as his natural ability to diagnose a situation, come up with a solution, and take the right actions, he moved up the officer ranks to Commander at the quickest possible speed the Navy would allow. This, coupled with his natural abilities, got him noticed by the CIA. They recruited him while he was still serving in the Navy and based on the feedback they were receiving from him, they decided to move forward with getting him in a position that better suited his abilities.
The CIA arranged for his very early retirement from the Navy. They then took 18 months to secretly send him through multiple training facilities to hone and better his skills, and get him familiar with the latest state of the art gadgets that would be available to him. After his training was complete, they got him a top position with the newly created Bureau of Domestic Affairs and Crisis Intervention Agency (BDACIA), that dealt specifically with domestic terrorism and extremism, which was a sub agency of the Domestic Homeland Security Agency (DHSA.) Because the CIA could not conduct operations within the borders of the United States, they simply circumvented them by creating sub agencies of domestic agencies that had the power to operate within the US, and they filled positions with their trained operatives that were paid, not by the CIA, but instead by the parent agencies. This made it all legal. It was no coincidence that Timms worked for an agency who’s acronym ended with CIA. The conspiracy theory people ate it up. However, J. Allen Timms was an elaborately created alias. It was so good, that even the DHSA and FBI hadn’t flinched when doing the background check for the high level position at the BDACIA.
Timms had been asked by his country to stop the negative domestic actions against his country, and he had willingly answered the call. He knew it was his patriotic duty to stop the terrorists and extremists operating in the US. He had aggressively studied and excelled during every course the Navy, CIA, and DHSA had laid upon him. During his 18 months of various CIA training, he had mastered martial arts, two foreign languages, the art of covert operations, surveillance (of every type imaginable), coercion, evasion, killing, and healing, among others. He took his job and responsibilities personally. He knew that there were very few people capable of doing the job, so he was very serious about everything he did to make sure the job got done. No terrorists would ever get past him while in his area of operations.
The BDACIA’s publicized function was to deal with the new and emerging development of people who were resisting the new laws and taxes, while its primary unpublicized function was to process persons who had been deemed “domestic extremists and/or terrorists.” The BDACIA operated various processing, holding, and internment facilities throughout the US as well as overseas when necessary. But the position Timms held within the BDACIA was a dual role of interrogations of “interesting” persons being processed, and external intelligence gathering to assist in the capture other extremists. This was a highly classified unrecognized position. Timms’ actual job title was Director of Operations, American Health Authority (AHA) Region 6-2.
External intelligence gathering is where Timms excelled. Though he had become quite good at interrogating people, it was not what he loved. In his back office, he had access to a large array of sophisticated electronic and visual surveillance technologies, many of which ran automatically 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. For his work, the best tools were those he personally manipulated, directed, or controlled in some manner. These sensors worked best when coupled with his innate intuition and gut instincts.
This is how he had found Doreen and Drew, several months earlier. It started with a gut feeling, but the finding of the two anti-government extremists was pure luck. He was monitoring one of his near perimeter sensors (which was not something he normally did) that scanned for anomalous RF transmissions, when he noted a spurious Wi-Fi handshake attempt. It wasn’t the fact that it was Wi-Fi, or that it was attempted, it was that what he witnessed was encrypted and lasted less than two seconds. The encryption itself was not a big deal, as people used encryption all the time (not that it ever mattered, since he could either break it or use the back door accesses to the encryption programs), and the attempted handshake was no big deal either, but the combination of the two that piqued his interest. Had he not been monitoring the receiver at that very moment, he would have received a computer generated report several hours later with the broken handshake, and not given it much thought. He may have given it to a technician to follow-up on, but generally nothing ever came from these anonymous RX/TX hunts.
He quickly turned his chair to the bank of monitors and looked at what the building’s various cameras were seeing. He could detect nothing out of the ordinary, but this did not change his mind about the strangeness of the event. He took a few minutes to look over some of his recorded data and concluded that this event was worth pursuing. Even if it led nowhere, it would be a good exercise. He determined that since the RF monitor had been installed, that it had never recorded any similar events. He also found that the connection attempt was made with the BBQ restaurant across the street from the old RVS facility, which had an upgraded and more powerful business signal that had a significantly longer range than normal private Wi-Fi signals.
These two pieces of information, coupled with the time of occurrence, he hoped would allow him to find out what happened. Since the restaurant had a signal booster he had to do some math, but figured they had a boosted range of somewhere around a three hundred feet radius from the router. This was a fairly significant area to search, but whatever had occurred, he was confident he could figure it out.
He slid over to his review monitors, which allowed him to look over the recorded video and any other data collected on a pair of monitors simultaneously. Normally, he viewed video feeds on one monitor and data from other sources on the companion monitor. Timms pulled up the first eight video feeds and had all of them paused at the exact time of the event. He also pulled up the collected RF data (Wi-Fi, cellular, radio, etc.) streams for the same time period on the other monitor. He would need to correlate each signal with a person or place on the various video feeds. This was something he normally had one or more of the technicians do for him, but on this particular day, he was treating this event as “hot” and wanted to do the exercise himself. He felt it was important that he stayed fresh.
It didn’t take him long to match up various transmissions with their associated sources in the videos. His saving grace was that the restaurant was closed and not full of patrons on cell phones and tablets at the time of the event, otherwise it would be impossible to figure out what happened, but at a little after 9am there were only passing cars and pedestrians to deal with. He was also fortunate that there was only one other business open with an active Wi-Fi signal within the area he was doing his search, and he had direct access to the internal camera feed. After 15 minutes, he had visually correlated all but two RF transmissions - the event, and an encrypted connection that was still ongoing. He did not need to visually correlate the last one since he was able to break the encryption and determine that it was a computer belonging to a family in a nearby apartment surfing the web for how to repair a dryer. He had accounted for every, passing car, person, business, and residence within the range of the Wi-Fi signal. But the event was still associated with someone he had yet to find.
When Timms took over at the old RVS Distribution Center, now dubbed the AHA Distribution Center, they were winding down their actual distribution functions. The facility had been quickly undergoing a conversion from distribution of drugs and medical supplies to use as a temporary internment and interrogation facility for the purposes of processing persons arrested and captured under the new anti-terrorist and extremist laws. The trucks kept coming in those early months, but instead of bringing in new medical supplies they were bringing in fencing, pre-fabricated walls and cells, as well as tons of fancy monitoring equipment. And instead of taking out medical supplies for distribution to stores, they were taking out the old logistics equipment, shelving, and heavy equipment. Because the trucks backed up to the bay doors, what was happening inside was unseen by the outside. It only took four short months to accomplish, and they had created a very useful facility for the purpose of getting the bad guys processed out to where they needed to go, but only after extracting any relevant information first through various interrogation techniques.
During the transformation, all of the external security systems had to be updated. Instead of the normal closed circuit security cameras, the guts of the cameras had been upgraded to the latest technology. Along with camera upgrades, various sensors and other devices had been installed. One of Timms’ favorite pieces of equipment was a very small acoustic listening device that had been installed on an existing antenna on the roof. It was barely bigger than a hand, and was made from a special clear polycarbonate material. The receiver’s electronics were the size of a woman’s pinky finger, and the servo that allowed the device to be actuated to the controller’s desired position was the size of a bottle cap. From fifty feet away, it was almost impossible to see. From one hundred yards away it was completely invisible. In this case, with it position on the roof of the large building, no one even knew it was there.
Timms put on the headset for the Claptrap 2012a, and faced his bank of video monitors. He would listen to normal audio while monitoring the video feeds for correlation. Mostly he listened to people talking on their phones, or cars going by on the street. There was nothing of interest to him. After more than half an hour, he was about to move on to something else, when he spotted a woman on the sidewalk talking on her phone. She stood out to him because of the way she dressed, which was very nice for this area of town. He figured she must work for a bank or some other institution that required a higher standard of dress code. He rotated the acoustic dish to her position on the sidewalk, placing the digital overlay of crosshairs on her, and then began the drama into which Timms was unwittingly pulled.
The entire conversation revolved around a divorce. Though Timms was detached, the whole conversation made him sad for the couple. They had small children together, and he wanted to work things out. She was over him and his antics. As they talked it out for ten minutes, the young lady paced back and forth on the side walk, forcing Timms to constantly keep the dish moving to keep up with her and the conversation. He noted that this falling out had nothing to do with the normal problems that ended relationships - money and infidelity. No, this one had more to do with personal attention. She wanted more than he was giving.
“What?!” Timms jammed the remote toggle for camera 6, instantly forgetting about the lady and her problems. He panned and zoomed the camera onto an older Ford Crown Victoria parked in the lot between two buildings across the street. He continued to zoom in to look into the interior. The windows were tinted very dark and there was a tint strip across the top of the windshield making the dark colored interior of the silver Crown Vic pitch black. The best he could do was to see that there were no occupants in the front seats, but he was certain that he had seen movement inside the vehicle in the background while he was watching and listening in on the lady’s conversation. It had been a small movement, but he knew he saw something. It could have even been a dog for all he knew.
He rotated the Claptrap listening dish and put the crosshairs on the car. The only thing he could hear were some external city noises and rap music. He continued to watch and listen, but he neither saw nor heard anything of interest. He brought camera 5 to bear on the parking lot, and started a methodical search. As he did, it dawned on him that he could not tell where the rap music was coming from. He started rotating the dish around the area of the parking lot and noted that the only place the music seemed to be coming from was within the parking lot, and most specifically the silver Crown Victoria.
‘Were there people smoking dope in the back seat? Did anyone still do that?’ he wondered. He focused his two cameras on the car and then the listening device. He adjusted the sensitivity on the Claptrap to diminish other sounds. Then he tried to cancel out the rap music, but the computer program that did the work was unable to match the notes, even though it had identified the correct song. He zoomed in camera 5 to the corner of the rearview mirror. If he could see it vibrating from the bass, then he would know the music was coming from the Crown Vic. As the zoom hit 122x, he could make out the mirror vibrations. Most people would think it was the camera vibrating in the wind on the roof of the building, but Timms knew better. Besides the fact that the wind was minimal to non-existent, the camera was triple dampened, with a dampener at the base mount, the head mount, and internally on the camera itself. It would stay completely stable up to 25 mph. It was definitely the mirror vibrating.
Now he just needed to hear what was going on inside the car. He needed to know if it was a dope smoker or something else. No amount of adjusting would cancel any of the rap songs that played on the radio for the next ninety minutes of observations. The computer continued to note an anomaly in the sound, that is best described as “incalculable distortion.” He also noted that the volume would increase and decrease from time-to-time, but never saw anyone make an adjustment to the radio. He picked up the phone and punched the number 3:
“Yeah, Boss?” came the answer on the first ring.
“Launch the cloud,” Timms replied.
“What’s the tasking?”
“Don’t know yet. Just get it over us. Call me when you are in the AO.” Timms hung up the phone.
Timms knew that with the SilkCloud IV es (electronic surveillance) drone airborne, he would be able to use its more sophisticated infrared and thermal cameras to see into the car. He didn’t have any on the building. That was something he was going to need to remedy. He figured it would take Jason about 15 minutes to get the bird up and over their area to start the surveillance. He just hoped he wasn’t spending a bunch of money on some damn dope smokers. Of course, he could call the police and have them check out the car, but that would ruin the exercise, and if it were something other than dope smokers, they may get spooked off. Timms was aware that counter surveillance was a better option than to just burn a possible lead with a police check.
Minutes later, he watched as a person exited the rear driver’s side of the vehicle and get into the front seat. The person was wearing a denim jacket and a ball cap. Because the person had short hair, he assumed it was a man. The person kept his head down so his face was not visible, which meant that Timms could not run a facial recognition profile. Timms was unable to tell if the person was a man or a woman. The car backed out and exited the parking lot.
Timms punched the speaker button on his phone and tapped the 3.
“Where’s my bird?”
Timms hung up without acknowledging. There was really no use at this point. The SilkCloud would not make it in time. He returned to his bank of monitors and pulled up the traffic cameras. As the Crown Victoria passed through a signaled intersection three blocks from the parking lot, he snapped photos of the front and rear of the vehicle. The driver was still obscured by the ball cap, and it was still too dark in the interior to see anything useful. He did get the license plate, which he immediately ran through the police database.
The license plate came back to Jones Sisters Security, L.C. out of Spain. ‘Spain? That didn’t make any sense. The license plates were from this state. What is going on?’ He simultaneously did a check for the company while tracking the vehicle with the city’s traffic cameras. As he was waiting on returns for the security company, he watched the vehicle turn into a large restaurant’s parking lot. The traffic cameras could only see at an extreme distance, and there was almost no detail. Timms immediately picked up the ringing phone.
“Three minutes. Tasking yet?”
“Head over to the Greasy Spoon on the west side. You are looking for a mid-nineties silver Crown Victoria. Do you know what those look like?”
“Uh, yeah boss,” Jason retorted in a sarcastic tone.
“Hey, I had to check. Those were a little before your time,” Timms joked with the young flight operator.
“Ok. I will reroute and be there in five.”
Timms turned back to his display to look at the incoming data on the vehicle and the company. He found it odd that there was almost no information. The vehicle had a very short history. It had been owned by a large city’s police department on the other side of the state, then purchased at auction by an individual four years later. Then just less than a year ago it was acquired by Jones Sisters Security, L.C. with an address in the Canary Islands, La Palma (Spain). He could not find any record with the county for such a company. He was almost at a dead end. He knew one thing for certain - these were no pot smokers.
Timms had reflected on that fortuitous day many months since. Had Drew and Doreen not been so poorly trained, he would have never detected them that day in the background of a separate conversation he was watching and listening in on. Even so, he had lost them that first day. The car was a complete dead end, and had been abandoned later that day in the Greasy Spoon parking lot, never to be revisited. The company was finally found to have been created in another state, with no listed members or owners, and the Registered Agent had no information other than a bad address.
It was three weeks later that Timms found the 58-year old Broussard twins again in a mid-nineties Ford F-250 truck in an adjacent parking lot. The only reason he caught them was from the music playing on the radio. It took several more weeks for him to finally get enough of a face shot to identify the pair. They were again driving a vehicle registered to a New Mexico limited liability company with a foreign address on a difficult-to-access island. It cost the government considerable monies to run down the addresses only to find that they ended with a tourist hot dog vendor who moonlighted as a mail forwarder. He would send the mail to another island in another country where the mail may or may not be forwarded again. Eventually, it would dead end somewhere. And why not? No one really needed to be notified that their registration was about to expire. They knew when it happened. Since the limited liability companies were not doing business, the State never needed to contact them for any reason. All very anonymous. All very untraceable.
But your face stayed with you where ever you went. Doreen made the mistake of propping her binoculars on the headrest of the seat in front of her. At one point she moved them and a camera captured enough of her face in the darkened truck to run through the recognition computer. Through Doreen, Timms determined her accomplice was her twin brother Drew. Neither had any criminal history; they both graduated high school and operated the family ranch, which they inherited. Though neither of them were well trained in actual surveillance, they were most certainly being trained and assisted in everything else by professionals. Timms was glad he had not burned them with a police check many months back, but he was still no closer to their handlers than he was that first day.
The twins had a fairly set routine. Early in the morning, one or both of them would go to a local store or shop and purchase some non-essentials with their Homeland Equitable Liberty Pay (H.E.L.P.) card. Timms was grateful for the laws that did away with paper money. Digital money was so much easier to track people down with. He found it very effective to use against people he was interrogating. Timms figured that these purchases gave the twins some form of plausible deniability in the event they were confronted by police. Of course, it would not help them once Timms finally decided to bring them in, since he had video evidence of their activities to confront them with once they started lying.
The other thing they did was play rap music, especially music with long bass hits. Sometimes they would run the engine of the truck in lieu of music. He knew they were doing this to mask their conversations, and it was working well, even against the agency’s most sophisticated equipment. No matter what he tried, the computers could never noise cancel the music or engine. There was some anomalous background interference that the computers were unable to account for. On top of that, the engine would change speed at an irregular interval. Because of this, Timms could never hear or record any part of their conversation in a manner that was useful.
Once the twins completed their surveillance, usually no more than twice a week, they would leave the parking lot and take a circuitous route through the city streets and end up parking the truck in a private parking garage. Even though Timms had had teams covertly enter the vehicle, install trackers, and put 24/7 surveillance on it, they always seemed to get around it. Twice a covert team had entered the vehicle, and it was completely clean. The only worthy intel that gave a piece of the puzzle was to learn that the stereo system had a wireless remote that allowed them to change the volume, station, or CD track from the back seat. Every vehicle tracker had failed to operate when they were in the vehicle, and no one ever got near the truck when surveillance was on it.
Even when the SilkCloud was up, they would either go into an underground structure, parking garage, or operate in places that had dense overhead cover. Even on the days that Drew would spend over thirty minutes to get his snacks at the corner convenience store, he took a route that shielded him from overhead view. Any of the private cameras at various businesses that Timms had access to, either suddenly didn’t work or were of too poor quality to be of any use.
Timms had tried to use the cameras in the parking garage to monitor the truck and the twins, but they always seemed to be broken. Timms had entertained offering the owners of the parking garage an upgrade to their video system, but figured that it may be too suspicious. Regardless, he was still perplexed as to why, with all of the great technology he had, the twins were still able to keep their actions following their surveillance secret. They certainly had professional help.
Timms was contemplating new ways to track the twins as he was driving in to work this morning. He always made it a point to not look in the direction of the parking lots from which they would conduct their surveillance, even though his instincts always told him he should. They had been playing this cat and mouse game for so many months now, and he was enjoying the chase. His only ace was that he knew they were there; otherwise they seemed to be holding most of the cards in this game. He knew they didn’t know what was going on inside the building under his command, and he was sure…
“Is that…?” Timms said aloud to himself. He was only four blocks from his office when he spotted what he thought was Doreen walking down the sidewalk several blocks ahead, likely on her morning illicit caffeine run, later than usual. He slowed down to several miles under the speed limit to observe longer and make sure. The person had all of the right features. In fact, everything was right except for the time. It had to be her. As he was only a hundred yards away, he could tell for sure that it was Doreen.
Timms made his decision instantly. He was going to jump on this rare opportunity to do some field work. He made a left turn into the first parking lot on the same side of the street as Doreen, but still almost one hundred yards away. He took the chance that she saw him when he made the turn, but it was a chance worth taking. She may be doing surveillance on the facility and its employees, but there was no way that she knew who he really was. In fact, Drew and Doreen had come in contact with several agency employees over the months, and they had always acted as if they didn’t know who they were.
He quickly parked and set into a jog towards Doreen. His line of sight to her was blocked by a building, and as he approached the corner of the building, he slowed to a walk and stepped onto the sidewalk. He saw less than the back half of Doreen as she was disappearing into the long pedestrian alleyway between the various businesses. He picked up his pace again to close the distance and get to the alley before she could disappear down one of the many side alleys. He was contemplating his next move. He wanted to subdue her, capture her and get her into an interrogation room. He could have had a team do this months before, but never saw a good opportunity. But today she was out of routine, and out of routine was an opening to be exploited.
As he came to the alleyway, he was becoming excited to be personally responsible for getting a domestic extremist off the street. Drew and Doreen had broken many of the constitutionally upheld laws that he had sworn an Oath to protect and defend. He already had a Constitutional Executive Decree (C.E.D., erroneously pronounced “seed”) for their arrest, search, and detainment back in his office, drafted under provisions of the Agriculture, Livestock, and Paper Products Act (ALPPA). Today was going to be a good day. He could see Doreen just twenty-five yards in front of him. The narrow brick-lined alley with dense foliage trees made the alley a perfect way to prevent a person being seen from overhead. These alleys were strewn throughout several blocks of businesses and residential lofts. It made sense that people used them to conduct illegal business. Yesterday was Doreen’s last day for doing that, and she didn’t even know it.
As he approached her from behind in a fast walk, he was rolling his foot falls in a heel-toe fashion and keeping his weight on the outside edges of his feet. This made his fast walk nearly silent; certainly quiet enough to approach a lady twice his age who had been listening to loud rap music for the past twelve hours. He noted her limp caused by a genetic defect that both her and Drew shared. It didn’t help that she was overweight by seventy pounds.
Timms scanned the area for witnesses. All of the businesses in this area were closed, and there was no one in the alley but Doreen and himself. He reached under his suit jacket and pulled the small 100,000 volt Taser out of its fabric holster. The new technology made these amazingly small. It was no larger than his two battery flashlight, and actually looked very much like it. He was just ten feet away and ready to make his move. He was going to have to go for her neck, as her heavy denim clothing and jacket would likely keep the prongs of the device too far from her skin.
As he raised his hand to deliver the voltage, Doreen delivered a mule kick directly to his abdomen just above his groin, causing the Taser to fly out of his hand and him to collapse to the ground. She had not even turned around, but had waited until he was in range and thrust her leg rearward with immense force on his advancing body. Timms wondered if she had seen his shadow or reflection in some glass. It didn’t matter, he was down, and she was not.
“Blue Jay?!” she said with astonishment as she turned to face her attacker. “Well, I don know wut you wan’ned, but Ima ‘bout ta fuck you up!”
She reached down and grabbed Timms by the hair and stood him up. He was still half folded trying to recover from his abdominal pain. He never saw the powerful punch to his face, followed by a swift kick to his groin as he was falling backwards. He was curled up as sheer pain spiked throughout his body. He was developing a putrid metal taste in his mouth. Then Doreen started to kick him in the spine and ribs. His fetal position was the only thing protecting his vital areas, but he was in so much pain that he figured dying might be the only plausible solution to his current situation; and it sure seemed that Doreen was intent on delivering that solution.
“You’s a dumb bas’derd!” she said between kicks. “You dun taut you’s could take vantage of da ol lady, huh? You piece of….”
Her voice trailed off, and she stopped kicking him, which he was more than grateful for. The pain he felt was worse than any training he had been exposed to. He glanced up and saw Doreen half bent over holding her chest with one hand and the other on her knee. She appeared to have used all of her energy and was suffering from not being able to get enough oxygen into her chest. She was breathing hard and gasping. Timms decided this was the best opportunity for him to get back on the offensive. He tried to push himself back up, but the pain in his abdomen and groin was too much. He just had to lay on the ground and hope Doreen stayed winded for a while.
As he kept watching her, she didn’t seem to be recovering at all. She was wincing and pushing on her chest. She had backed herself up twelve to fifteen feet from him trying to catch her breath. He just kept watching and waiting for his pain to subside. Doreen stood upright, still clutching her chest, but it appeared that she was intent on smashing his bones even more if he didn’t do something to stop her. He started to push himself up again, fighting through the pain in his back and belly. He was unable to stand completely erect. As he looked towards her, a wave of pain went through him and he threw up bile between his spread legs.
“Caint hold da breakfast, huh? Wuss!” Doreen scolded him. She started limping her way towards him, clenching both fists as she approached. He couldn’t let her hit him again. She had already bested him. She was far stronger than he had anticipated, extremely quick, and not at all what he anticipated, especially for a 58-year old disabled, overweight woman. He figured that she could probably take out more than half of his classmates in his hand-to-hand class back at the CIA. If she got another good lick in, he’d be done. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.
As she closed, he braced himself for the blows, hoping to be able to launch an effective counter. Her first swing was a left uppercut intended for his abdomen, but hit his breast plate instead. Even this was considerably more painful than he expected, as it had enough energy behind it to force him into a considerably more erect position. With his peripheral vision he could see a right overhand coming straight for his head. He wasn’t going to have time to dodge it, at least not completely. With considerable effort, he thrust his knee into her ample abdominal region, making contact just below her sternum, as the punch grazed down his face, almost entirely missing him.
Doreen collapsed in a pile at his feet and he folded himself again, putting his hands on his knees. Doreen rolled onto her back, either by her own efforts or by momentum, he didn’t know. She was pale with bulging eyes and obviously in serious distress. She weakly put her right hand on her left shoulder and attempted to squeeze. She was having a heart attack. Timms reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.
“Doreen? Doreen? Look at me,” Timms said in a soft, but panting voice. He looked down the alleyway in both directions and saw no one moving about.
“Doreen? You’re having a heart attack.” Timms held up the phone, with its face towards Doreen. “You need an ambulance if you want to live. I just need a little information from you. Doreen? Look at me.”
Doreen rotated her head slightly and looked blankly at Timms.
“Doreen? Did you hear me? You are having a heart attack. An ambulance can be here in two minutes. Just tell me who you work for,” Timms said, still waggling his phone at her.
Timms wasn’t sure what to do. He had never had to interrogate someone who was suddenly dying from natural causes. Maybe she knew she was dying, or maybe she was in denial. Either of those were not good for him being able to extract information from her. A person had to believe they were going to make it, or at least have a chance. He knew she was not going to make it, but what did she know? He had to assume the worst.
“Doreen? Drew’s going to be next unless you tell me who you work for. I am going to go pick him up, and he is going to go to prison for the rest of his life. But if you tell me who you work for, I will leave him alone. He can tend the ranch into old age and live a good life,” he lied to her, still panting. “Who do you work for?”
Timms could see that she was trying to speak, but he couldn’t hear anything. He wasn’t about to get too close. She had proven a significant adversary and could still have a winning card to play in this fight. If she had not had a health problem in the middle of their confrontation, he likely would have died or been captured if that was their prerogative.
“What? I can’t hear you Doreen. You‘re going to have to speak up.”
“Traitor!” She spit out in a gravelly voice, her eyes tightening on him as her grip loosened on her shoulder.
“Traitor? Are you calling me a traitor?” Timms queried, incredulous at the accusation. He was a patriot, and this woman was an extremist, maybe even a terrorist, calling him a traitor, of all things. “You’re the traitor, sweetheart.”
Her eyes relaxed and started to gloss over. Her body was relaxed, and she was still taking short shallow breaths. Timms put the phone back in his pocket and walked in the direction where his Taser flew when he was mule kicked. She was a lost cause if her delirious mind thought he was a traitor. He found the small Taser some thirty feet from where he was initially kicked, between the wall of a building and the base of a tree in the alley. He holstered the device and continued to walk opposite the direction he had entered the pedestrian alleyway. Just as he was turning into a side alley that would take him back in the direction of his truck, he noticed Drug Doug standing in an alcove in the alley. He quickly wondered if Drug Doug had witnessed their altercation. Probably not from where he was standing in the alcove, but Timms couldn’t take the chance.
He retrieved the phone from his pocket and dialed 911.
“911. This call is recorded. Where is your emergency?” came the female voice on the other end.
“There is a lady laying in the pedestrian alley behind the old Johnson’s place. I don’t know if she is breathing or not, and I saw a man dressed in black jeans and a dark plaid shirt walking away from the area to the south.”
Timms disconnected the call and removed the battery from his phone as he came to the street. He could already hear sirens in the distance. He dropped the back of the phone into a trash bin and put the battery in his pocket. He crossed the street and walked the block and a half back to his truck. Once he got there he put the main part of the phone under his front tire and got into the truck. He looked himself over, and noticed that his suit was a bit dirty, so he stepped out of the truck and started dusting himself off. He removed his coat and dusted off the back to make it as presentable as possible. Fortunately, the brick lined alley was swept daily by city workers, and Doreen’s boots had not done any noticeable damage.
He could hear more sirens now. He looked in the mirror to see if any bruising was visible from the punches he had received. He couldn’t see any, but he knew that some might show up later. He was certain that his body would be bruised. He was still suffering from the effects of the beating he took, and would likely suffer for weeks to come. He removed his “company” phone from his other pocket and punched in the speed dial number and hit send.
“We’re secure. What’s the job?” came the familiar voice.
“We need a man at the hospital to get eyes and ears on one fourteen alpha and one fourteen bravo. Alpha may be arriving later, while bravo should be arriving by ambulance in a few minutes. We also need to get the Cloud up ASAP, with tasking to follow. Can you handle that?”
“I am going to be a little bit late.”
“I’ll pass it on.”
“Thanks.” Timms disconnected the call and put the phone back in his pocket.
He waited a few more minutes in the parking lot, recovering as best he could. As he backed out of the parking space, the tire crushed the phone he had left behind it. As he turned on to Collins Ave, he could see three police cars and one ambulance in the street. He drove slowly past them with the slow moving traffic. He could not see anything down the alley, as the body of the ambulance was blocking his view. He pulled into the parking lot and entered the building, going straight into Jason’s flight control room for the SilkCloud drone.
“Where are we?”
“Hey boss. We’re up and flying. We’ll be in the area in 3 minutes.”
“Good. Your task is to follow one fourteen alpha wherever he goes. He is still in the truck across the street.”
“What about bravo?”
“She is on her way to the hospital. Don’t ask. I think this is going to significantly change their day, and there might be a slip up.”
“OK,” Jason responded dryly.
“Just don’t lose him. Record everything.”
“Just like normal, boss.”
“Yeah. Just like normal, except this won’t be a normal day.”
Everything they had done thus far had not produced any more leads. Today had been no different. Drew had gone through his normal routine to shake tails, and left the truck in its normal parking space in the parking garage. The surveillance team had been delayed in getting into position by a minor traffic accident they had been involved in. The only difference was Drew did everything at an earlier time period than usual. He went to the hospital as expected, and found out his twin sister had died of a heart attack. Drew had not done anything unexpected, except make a strange phone call from a pay-as-you-go phone that had been purchased two years previous and never used until that moment to another pay-as-you-go phone that had been purchased three years before and never before used until that day. Otherwise he drove straight home to his small ranch. Neither of the phones used for that short phone call had ever been found.
Timms had made his way out to the D&D Ranch an hour before Drew arrived. He had parked his truck well down the road beyond a bend where Drew would not see it when he was approaching. Timms had removed the rear wheel and tire and put them in the back of his truck, and installed the spare. He let the air out of the spare and punctured the original. He then made his way to the home of Drew and Doreen by foot. Jason had been keeping him apprised of Drew’s whereabouts. Timms broke into their home by entering through an unlocked window.
Timms knew from the multiple “sneak-&-peeks” his team had done on the ranch, that they left their windows unlocked, so he already knew he could get in without any issues. He situated himself on a nice comfortable recliner in the living room, facing the front door. He would confront Drew the moment he walked in the door, his internally suppressed custom Ruger MK 22/45 resting on the arm of the chair. He would have Drew dead to rights if he tried anything, but he didn’t expect a grieving man to be ready to fight.
Timms heard Drew arrive on the gravel driveway. After a few minutes, Drew had not come in the house. Timms became a bit nervous, wondering if Drew had figured out he was there. No, he couldn’t know. How would he know? Just then he heard the engine of an ATV start up. He slowly got up and moved towards a window that faced Drew’s Man’s Shed. He realized that that is where Drew’s gun safe was, and Drew may be getting ready for a fight. Timms observed the building from back in the room, where Drew would not be able to see him. Just then, he could see Drew drive out of the building on the ATV in the direction of the bulk of the Ranch. Timms reached for the collar of his RealTree camouflage tee-shirt, grabbed the ear bud connected to the phone in his pocket and put it in his ear.
“Talk to me.” Timms said.
“He’s going west on an ATV,” Jason came back, watching the large man riding an ATV with the camera on the SilkCloud IV es drone aircraft that was circling at just 3000 feet.
“OK. I am going to grab the other ATV and follow far behind. You are going to have to keep me in the loop on what he is doing and where he is. Don’t let me get too close.”
After nearly two hours of tracking Drew driving around in aimless wanderings of his ranch and a part of the neighboring ranch, Jason was finally able to report that Drew had stopped and dismounted. Timms was about 200 yards away on the other side of a small rise, and decided to walk in to keep from giving away his position with the ATV’s engine noise. Jason guided Timms to within 50 yards of Drew’s position just beyond a tree line.
“Jason? You’re off this task now. RTB,” Timms whispered into the microphone.
“Umm…Roger. Returning to Base,” Jason said with disappointment in his voice.
Timms removed the ear bud from his ear and disconnected the call. He drew his Ruger and made sure the safety was off. He moved the last 50 yards in a slow crouch. He paid careful attention to his shadow and any sound he was making. He didn’t know what gave him away to Doreen this morning, but doing the same with Drew would certainly get him killed. Just as he came to the edge of the tree line, Timms could see the ATV and Drew laying behind a scoped rifle. He was just twenty five yards away.
He took a long look at Drew laying behind the rifle. Timms had assumed that Drew was out here to commit suicide, but it appeared he was hunting instead. It didn’t make sense that a guy would go hunting just a few short hours after finding out that his last remaining relative was dead. He surmised that Drew must have been one tough cookie to be able to quickly work through such a trauma. That, or he was just cold hearted. Either way, it spelled trouble for Timms. He really wanted to interrogate Drew. Drew was his last link to the extremist cell in the area. They had no other leads. But dying at the hands of a man who was either amazingly emotionally tough in the face of lost family, or a cold hearted bastard with the same fighting genetic code as his sister who had damn near killed him this morning made his decision a little easier. He also had to consider that Drew had nothing left to live for. Timms no longer had any hook to coerce Drew with - no family, no improprieties, no public embarrassments, no better life, nothing. Prison wouldn’t scare him. Interrogating him would be a completely wasted effort.
Timms pushed the button that turned on the compact red dot mounted on the top of his Ruger. He was not going to take the chance of making noise by closing the distance, only to be mule kicked again then pummeled to death. No, he could easily hit Drew in the skull at 25 yards. He lined up the glowing red dot on the back of Drew’s head. He took a shallow breath as he took up the minimal slack in the trigger and then pressed the trigger back.
The sound of the special subsonic 22LR bullet passing through the suppressor and out of the barrel barely made a sound. In fact, the louder sound was the metal on metal bolt cycling and making contact with the chamber when it loaded the next round. The shot was so quiet that he could even hear the bullet smack the back of Drew’s skull, killing him instantly.
Timms approached the lifeless body. When he was about six feet away, he put two more bullets into the man’s head, just to be sure. Timms took a deep breath, and actually felt a little bad about what he had done. It was such a waste of resources. He really needed Drew and Doreen to get to the real extremists. These two had obviously been pawns, and now they had died for their transgressions. It was also the first time Timms had intentionally killed someone from the Executive Transparent List, which was a list compiled for the President, of terrorists and extremists that could be captured or killed (as required by the situation in the field) at the discretion of field officers. Drew and Doreen had been added to the list by Timms only days after he determined who they were, and they had been approved by higher authority. He didn’t like doing things this way. He felt that most people deserved due process, but not at the expense of him dying to make sure they got it.
Timms looked down at the magnificent rifle Drew had been about to use. It had a long bull barrel, free float railed forearm, an adjustable precision stock, and was sitting on a bipod. He looked out in the direction the barrel was pointing and saw a small movement in the distance. “What the hell…”
Timms rolled the heavy body away from the rifle. There was only some slight blood spatter on the shooting mat, so he didn’t bother to clean it up. He laid down behind the rifle and adjusted his eye to the scope. He rotated the rifle just a little bit to bring the target back into view.
“HOLY SHIT! It can’t be!” Timms was beside himself. He took his face away from the rifle and looked over at the pale lifeless face of Drew, eyes still open. “I’m sorry. That would have been a real trophy around here. Very illegal and immoral, but a back-slapper for sure.” He sincerely meant it when he said it to the dead man.
Timms put his cheek back on the riser and thumbed up the dial to raise it about a quarter of an inch, since his cheeks were not fat like Drew’s. He put the crosshairs of the scope back on the beautiful, and quite large brown bear. Timms was not an avid hunter, but he knew it was very rare for this area, and certainly one this large. It had a light brown, almost tan coat and blackish feet. It had adapted its coloring well to the area. He could see that the bear appeared to be eating something. As he focused in, it appeared to be plastic of some kind.
He started rotating the rifle around to look for where the bear had acquired its gains, and that’s when he saw the man come out of the tree line below. He was one of the Livestock and Agriculture Recovery Department agents. They had sent some eighty plus agents out this morning to a neighboring ranch to do a recovery and collection under the Livestock, Agriculture, and Paper Products Act, for not bringing the livestock to market and paying the required taxes on them. They had used his facility this morning to do the briefing and make the transfers from the buses to the SUVs. The man was obviously deserting his post. He was supposed to be doing the work of the United States, not out here in the wilderness.
This was no good, but it was also excellent, Timms realized. He had the right to kill any deserters on sight. The Desertion Act had been instituted just over a year ago due to far too many police, military, and government employees suddenly not showing up for work. Much of this behavior began after the passage of several new federal laws following the re-election of a contentious president. These desertions were preventing the government from properly functioning, and offering monetary incentives in the face of very high unemployment (officially 21.8%, but realistically 49.2%) did nothing to keep these people on the job. This spawned the one page Desertion Act, which allowed for the immediate death (by any means) of any member of a government office who left their position without due notice and for good reason.
This circumstance certainly qualified as desertion: this man, still dressed in his issued tan uniform was far from his assigned duty. But what was even better was that Timms could use the illegally possessed gun of a known extremist to kill this deserter, and it would be blamed on the grieving domestic extremist Drew Broussard, who took the loss of his sister too hard and killed a federal agent acting in the line of duty. It was genius. It would save his whole day. Hell, it would make his whole year. The government would pour money, manpower, and technology into his office and area. It would give him far more resources to find the extremists and terrorists in Region 6-2.
He put the crosshairs on the man and worked to anticipate each movement. His target was moving and almost 300 yards away he estimated. Drew had a bullet drop compensation chart (BDC) glued to the inside of the eye piece scope cap showing where to place the crosshairs for various distances. Timms lined up the crosshairs according to the BDC and got ready to take the shot. He slowed his breathing and took up the slack on the trigger. He had timed the forward and up and down movement of the man as he walked. Exhale….squeeze….
The clean break of the two-stage trigger sent the titanium firing pin into the primer of the cartridge, igniting the power and propelling the 75 grain round out of the barrel at nearly 3-times the speed of sound. The bullet impacted the man from behind sending him immediately to the ground. Timms fired another round into the body about a second later, just for good measure. He looked through the scope and could see the man’s lifeless body laying half curled on a bag of what appeared to be trash.
“That’s where the bear got the plastic,” he said aloud, followed by, “Oh shit! The bear!” Timms suddenly realized the bear could ruin his plans by eating the man, and with him the evidence of the crime. He quickly swung the rifle back to where the bear had been. It wasn’t there. He looked over the top of the scope to see if he could pick up movement with his wider visual field, and he did. Moving in the opposite direction, he saw the bear enter the tree line at a full run. Even after the bear became invisible in the trees, he could still tell it was running, as he could see the tops of the trees swaying as the bear was crashing into the small trunks.
Timms stood up and surveyed the scene. He grabbed the ear bud hanging on his shirt and put it in his ear and pressed the appropriate speed dial button.
“We’re secure…Ready for orders,” came the reply after one ring.
“Clean up on isle 3. Jason will give you the coordinates. Everything goes back where it belongs as though it never left. Alpha and vehicle disappear along with all coin in the safe. We gotta hurry on this one.”
Timms took a deep breath. The thoughts of half a dozen SilkCloud drones and half a dozen more covert teams brought a thin smile to his face. He was going to root out these extremists and help get America back on its feet. Right now, Timms was on top of the world knowing that a lucrative promotion was going to be in his future. Even when things went wrong, they always turned out right, and today was a perfect example.
Drew’s back had been aching for over an hour from sitting in the same position. Not only that, but he was starting to get stir crazy from the long hours of doing nothing. The conversations had grown stale by 2am, and he was just bored. His body and his mind were not created to do this job. He did it anyway because it kept meat on the table. When he saw his opportunity to get a break from the monotony, he jumped at the chance.
“Hey! Ders George. Ima gonna go see whut new stuffs he got.”
“You ain’t got no money to get nuttin, Drew,” Doreen chirped.
“Da hell I don!”
And with that, Drew was unceremoniously out the door. He had never taken orders (or good advice for that matter) from Doreen and certainly was not going to start now. He bounded down the sidewalk as fast as his numb legs would take him. Doreen watched him disappear around the corner, unsure when he might return. She put the binoculars back to her face and continued her surveillance of the old RVS distribution center. The sixteen plus acre building was over 700,000 square feet and sat on more than 60 acres. When it was originally constructed, it served the entire six state region of convenience store pharmacies with every product they carried. As the economy started to falter, and the National Health Care Act (better known as O’drama Care) started to take effect, certain medicines became more difficult to get, while others were in very short supply or not available at all. Even many common over-the-counter medications became difficult to obtain. This started a series of high profile violent robberies and burglaries of the RVS chain stores and other similar stores they competed with.
Doreen was now looking through her twenty power Sony Digital Recording Binoculars (DRBs) at the consequences and fallout of the legislation passed without any votes from the opposing political party. The windowless steel facility was encircled in a double row of twelve foot high chain link fencing topped with razor wire. RVS had only installed one row of fencing as a deterrent after the robberies and the American Health Authority (AHA) installed the second row, as well as the razor wire on both fences, when they took over the facility after RVS declared bankruptcy. The AHA continued to use the facility for its intended purposes for nearly a year. But when the pharmaceutical and medical supply companies took their business outside of the US, refusing to sell their products at fixed pricing, eventually the AHA no longer had any use for the facility, at least not for its intended purposes.
It had been believed that the Domestic Homeland Security Agency (DHSA) had then acquired the right to use the facility from AHA and was doing so in a nefarious nature. Publicly, the building was still funded by the AHA and had their acronym on the outside. Drew and Doreen had been requested to watch the facility at given intervals and document any comings and goings. They were paid either in sides of beef or silver coin, which they considered a perfect situation. The two assumed that others watched the facility when they were not, or that there was intelligence to which they were not privy that indicated when the facility should be watched. On previous occasions when they had conducted surveillance on the RVS facility, the most they ever noted was the occasional government passenger vehicle or SUV entering, and later exiting, though the “Deliveries” gate. This activity was besides the normal “employee” traffic that entered through the front gate of the facility, of which they had compiled extensive documentation and photography of each vehicle, its tag, and the occupants. They didn’t know if this information would ever amount to anything, but at least they had a baseline of data to work from. Any new vehicles or personnel would be easy to spot. Yet after all these months of surveillance, they had never seen any activity to back up the rumors.
Doreen took a quick glance at her watch then went back to the binoculars. It was 7:07am, and George always arrived an hour before his store opening of 8am to conduct his “l‘economie de la debrouillardise” business (also known as “Systeme D,” or to Drew it was simply the Black Market), and only with people with whom he was familiar. George was very familiar with Drew. Drew had worked for George many years before when George had a profitable hunting and sporting goods store. Last year, George had been forced to downsize his store when 90% of the firearms, 75% of the ammunition, and some 25% of his hunting and sporting goods products had been outlawed by Amendments to the National Firearms Act.
George had seen the writing on the wall and sold off his entire inventory of what would become contraband arms, ammo, and supplies, to a dummy LLC just a week before the amendment was signed into law. George had continually listened to far too many people falsely believe that there was no way such an Amendment would get passed by congress. George knew differently. He had historical precedence on his side. He tried many times in vain to show people that the government was not working in the best interests of The People, and that they had already removed their Natural Born Rights through previous legislation, and would certainly do so again when the time was right. He would even provide documentation when people didn’t believe him.
George would pull out his binder and show them the laws: The National Firearms Act (1934), which restricted access to certain types of guns and equipment and levied a hefty tax and registration system; the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (1968), which restricted interstate trade of certain guns, mandated a minimum age to own handguns, and established a national gun licensing system; the Gun Control Act (1968), which restricted ownership of any gun by certain persons, established the FFL system, restricted importation of various guns, and created marking requirements; the Firearm Owners Protection Act (1986), which did the exact opposite of what the title stated, and instead restricted citizens from owning machine guns manufactured after a certain date, and established the national background check system, and above all was signed into law by the erroneously loved Ronald Reagan; Gun Free School Zones Act (1990), which eventually led to multiple mass killings with guns at several schools around the nation; the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993), which also had no effect on actual crime, but instead created red tape for citizens and retailers by forcing an expensive national background check before purchase of any marked gun from a dealer; and the expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994), which further restricted access to certain types of guns by citizens. But people just wouldn’t listen to reality. “Oh, that would never happen again,” they would say.
George was no idiot. The harassment by the BATF(E) of his original store, before recently consolidating with a near bankrupt hardware store where he now conducted business, only hardened his resolve that the government would (and eventually did) remove, through draconian and tyrannical legislation, the Natural Born Rights of The People. Seven years previous, George recruited his assistant store manager, Darvin Watts, to help him create another dummy store. He did this for two reasons: George trusted Darvin who started working for him at age 15, and Darvin had recently been diagnosed with an inoperable congenital heart defect and was only expected to live a few more years at the most. George’s wife had chided George for taking advantage of Darvin, but George would have none of it. All that was required of Darvin was to sign the paperwork and answer the BATF(E)’s questions. For this he earned $1500, plus $100 every time the BATF(E) made a visit, plus another $25 each time FFL paperwork needed to be processed; all of this was on top of the salary and benefits he already received as an Assistant Manager, and Darvin didn’t have a problem with any of it.
George started by establishing a LLC in a state that did not require the members or owners to be listed in the public record, and did not require annual filings. This gave George an anonymous LLC with which to work. Darvin then acquired the requisite EIN and Resale Tax certificate for the state in which the business was conducted, which was different from the LLC. From there he used Darvin to establish the FFL to go with the LLC, and being that Darvin was a fine, upstanding 22-year old with no criminal record, the FFL went through without a hitch. They established a store front on the edge of town at a storage facility with offices for rent in the front. It was very inexpensive space considering none of the 11 available office spaces had been rented for over a decade, mostly because they were too small for most businesses. The owner was just pleased to have a little extra revenue, especially since the rent was paid in cash one year in advance, every year. George then had a sign made to put on the glass door that read:
FFL Transfers $25
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Mo, We, Fr - Noon-5pm sometimes
Tu, Th - 8am-noon otherwise
Sa, Su - never open so don’t ask
If we are not here, try back tomorrow.
If we are not here tomorrow, call us
It was never George’s intention to be open for regular business, but to only serve as an established place to make FFL transfers if needed at a later time. Friday Firearms actually did a fairly decent business doing mail order FFL transfers, which gave Darvin some extra income. To satisfy the BATF(E) visitations, he made sure to purchase a few guns from a distributor and keep them on hand in the safe. It tended to annoy the Feds, that no one was ever around when they came to inspect. They would call the 877 number and wait 15 or so minutes for Darvin to arrive. After Darvin’s unreported death a short 19 months later (he had been sent out of state to an in-care hospice facility to die in peace and comfort, 100% paid by George), George would send any one of half a dozen other young men (Friday Firearms employees) he had recruited to deal with the BATF(E), each whom earned $100 for the 30 or so minutes of work - Darvin was simply unavailable, and the men knew what they needed to do.
When George realized that the new draconian gun laws were going to pass, he immediately transferred all of what would a week later become contraband illegal firearms to Friday Firearms LLC using one of the hundreds of previously created sales/receiving forms and checks signed by Darvin before his death. The actual transfer was nothing more than a paper push, and the actual firearms, ammunition, and banned sporting goods went into a storage facility registered to a blind Trust. When the BATF(E) came to collect Georges 122 now illegal guns, he could produce a legal sales receipt dated before the ban, to a legal FFL dealer who’s owner, unbeknownst to the BATF(E) was long dead. The BATF(E) put out a warrant for Darvin, but he was never captured. The day of the passage of the Amendment, George immediately went down to Friday Firearms and changed to sign to read:
CLOSED DUE TO THE
SAFETY OF AMERICANS Amendment
George was now selling his guns, ammo, and other items (all considered illegal per federal laws) for silver and gold out of the back office of his combination store. He couldn’t sell them any other way since all US currency was now electronic only. The Homeland Equitable Liberty Pay (H.E.L.P.) cards that had been issued to every person with a social security number (including children to keep track of gift monies) tracked all income, ependitures, items purchased, taxes collected, and the legality of each transaction. This lack of tangible money allowed “Systeme D” to flourish in the US. It was more common within “Systeme D” for the average person to use black market obtained Chinese Geuld Yuan, which were fully backed by Chinese Gold, but George would not accept these on principal.
George was surprised that seventy-five percent of his “Systeme D” sales were for ammo. The new laws mandated that all ammunition manufacturers must load center fire ammunition with degrading primers and/or powder for civilian sales. This prevented stockpiling of large amounts of ammunition since the ammunition would only fire consistently for about six months. The government had considered serializing ammunition, but found it so cost prohibitive that it would put manufacturers out of business. This created a huge black market for surplus ammunition and any ammunition that was created before the new laws went into effect, as the day the new laws were passed, every available box of ammunition and reloading components were scooped up nation wide in just under 20 hours, most at highly inflated prices (for the time.)
By the time Drew returned forty five minutes later, Doreen could see he was carrying his usual shopping bag from the convenience store and a six pack of cola. As he hopped in to the back seat of the ‘94 F-250 4x4 Crew, she reached for the wireless remote to the updated stereo system and turned up the music. Playing was 2 Live Crew’s Ghetto Bass, which though completely grating on Drew and Doreen’s nerves, served a valuable purpose, or so they were told.
“Wud’ya get?” she asked, already back to peering through the binoculars, ready to document the regular employees that would be soon arriving.
“Same as usual, jus double dis time.” After a brief pause he asked, “wanna cola?”
“I dun tole you, I don drank dat poison with dat new fake sugar.”
“Suit yoself woman!”
“Ima gonna go get me a real bev’rege,” Doreen said with sarcasm.
“Bev’rege? You been goin’ ta charm school or sum’n?”
Doreen put the binoculars in Drew’s lap, lowered the volume on the radio with the wireless remote and exited the rear door of the Ford. Within seconds she was out of sight. Drew checked his watch and pulled out the tablet computer to make sure it was on the right application for documenting what he saw. He picked up the binoculars and started to make notes on the normal, do good, early arriving employees. They didn’t bother recording them any more, unless they saw something unusual, and then it was just a simple press of the record button on the top of the high dollar optics. Over all of their observations, they could now determine the basic patterns of each employee. They knew which ones were very consistent in arriving, and those who would be late and unable to properly manage their time.
For ten minutes, Drew made notes on the normal parade of employees arriving at the facility. Documenting each under their associated code names in the application on the tablet. So far, at two minutes till eight, everything was occurring as normal at the facility and Drew could hear a siren approaching from a distance. It had to be a fire truck or an ambulance with its continuous wail. Police rarely let their siren wail unless they were involved in a pursuit of some kind, or were responding to some other grave emergency, neither of which were rare these days, except this early in the morning. He needed to push the distraction out so he could be sure to catch the principals of the RVS facility arriving. With few exceptions, they always arrived within one minute either side of 8am.
Just as a police car passed by on the street in front of his surveillance spot, he watched “NoteBook,” the CEO of the facility, turn in to the parking lot. He made his notations as he pondered the surprise of the passing police car. As it went by, it had also appeared to be slowing, and the siren was extinguished seconds later. Though he couldn’t see it, he realized it had stopped on the same block or next one down the street. He wondered what was going on, but could not neglect his post. He then could hear at least two more sirens approaching in the distance. Something was definitely going on near his surveillance position, just out of sight. He watched “Big Bird,” the executive VP of sales arrive just 20 seconds after “NoteBook.” Making his notations, there were only two people left to arrive “Blue Jay,” the Director of Operations, who should arrive in less than 90 seconds, and “Magnum,” an executive secretary who was always late by up to one hour.
He realized he should be documenting the police car going by, and whatever else was coming down the road. Later, he would insert a new entry just before the “NoteBook” arrival entry. Still peering though his binoculars at the main gate, he saw an ambulance and two more police cars go by and extinguish their sirens just seconds after going out of sight.
“Whut da hell is goin’ on?” he said aloud, taking a quick glance at his watch, “and where da hell is Doreen?”
A knot quickly formed in the pit of his stomach. Doreen had never been gone this long to get her caffeine fix. (At least one of them shopped in the area with their HELP card to establish some base reason for being in the area if they were ever questioned.) It had only been a few minutes, but it had still be longer than usual. He took a quick look over his shoulder to see if she was returning the back way to avoid whatever was happening on the street, which would certainly take her a little longer. Nothing. He went back to his binoculars. Nothing. “Blue Jay” was late and Doreen was late. He took a quick glance at his digital notes and quickly found that in eight months of watching, “Blue Jay” had never been more than one minute late. It was now three minutes after 8am. Drew thought to himself, ‘maybe the police had blocked off the street for an accident and “Blue Jay” was stuck on the other side. Maybe Doreen was rubbernecking.’ He just kept watching and wondering. Finally, at seven minutes after 8am he recorded “Blue Jay,” the Director of Operations arrive in his 6-month old Chevrolet Silverado 4x4.
Drew documented the late arrival in the tablet as well, then went back and added the police and ambulance arrivals to his chart. While making the changes, he continued to glance up to see if “Magnum” was arriving or not. He now expected Doreen at any moment since “Blue Jay” had gotten beyond whatever was going on in the street. Just as he set his tablet computer down, he could see in the distance three busses entering through the “Deliveries” gate. He quickly put the binoculars to his face and depressed the record button to try and get more information. All he could tell was that they were of the MCI style, solid white, and no noticeable markings anywhere. All 3 busses followed nose to tail and were driving straight for the side of the building with no signs of stopping. Drew was aware from previous surveillance that there were a pair of roll-up doors at ground level that were adjacent to the normal loading bays. He could only assume they were going to drive the busses directly into the building through one of these ground level doors. Sure enough, all three busses disappeared into the side of the building.
He needed Doreen here now. Normally one of them operated the binoculars, and the other documented the goings on in the tablet. Now Drew was doing both, and the knot in his stomach was not going away. The rap music was driving him nuts. He started the diesel engine and turned the music off. He wasn’t speaking, so it wouldn’t matter. He took a quick scan around for Doreen, then mounted the Sony DRBs on a small tripod in the middle of the floorboard. He peered through and focused them on the “Deliveries” side of the building. He decided to let the DRBs free record what was going on. He removed a pair of compact 8x21 binoculars from his jacket pocket and continued monitoring the main gate, occasionally glancing over at the “Deliveries” gate.
After a little less than ten minutes passed, he could hear a siren wind up and then the Ambulance passed back by in front of him. A couple of minutes later, two of the three police cars slowly rolled by with no extra occupants, neither with their lights or sirens operating. But still, Doreen had not returned. He knew that whatever had happened just out of his view had happened to Doreen. He just didn’t know what, and he couldn’t stop watching the new happenings at the old RVS facility. Three busses pulling in was a big deal, and Doreen was a tough old gal. He loved her as much as a person could love another, but there was nothing he could do to help her. He would find out what happened soon enough.
Eventually at 8:31am, Drew was able to document the normally late arriving “Magnum” finally showing up to work. Then at precisely 9am, he witnessed the oddest thing he had ever seen. A convoy of SUVs and Vans were exiting the side of the building where the busses had disappeared earlier. Once they were beyond the “Deliveries” gate, they scattered in all directions. Something serious was going on, that much Drew was certain, and it probably wasn’t good. Once the parade of vehicles had exited, he waited to see if the Busses would exit as well. While he waited, he couldn’t help but think about Doreen and what must have happened to her.
‘There were three police cars and one ambulance. They had all responded code 3 (lights and sirens). Police responded like this to unknown injuries. Had she been hit by a car? No. He never saw a wrecker or anything else that would indicate such an event, and there was no excess traffic in on the street. Had she had another one of her fainting episodes? Maybe, but those happened very rarely, and only now when she was sick with something. Was she sick?’ He wondered to himself. He didn’t think she was sick. ‘What else could have happened? Could she have tripped and smashed her face again? Maybe. But would that elicit a response from three squad cars? Maybe she had been mugged? No, that was not very likely; too many people knew neither of us had any money, and you can’t use someone else’s HELP card with their imbedded biometric sensors.’ He realized that he just didn’t know what happened, but he would find out soon.
After waiting 15 more minutes, and not seeing the busses exit, Drew disassembled the DRBs from the tripod, collapsed the tripod and put it in its bag, removed the micro SD card from the DRBs and inserted a fresh one from his pocket. Then he placed the DRBs and the tripod into the Pelican case on the floorboard. He inserted the DRB’s micro SD card into the tablet computer, making sure none of its Bluetooth or WiFi ports were open and downloaded the data to the tablet. He double checked that the content had actually transferred, then securely erased the micro SD card. He removed the card and then reinserted it. His next step was to transfer both the video from the DRBs and his documentation log back onto the micro SD card, but only after is was first encrypted, then put into a separate encrypted folder. This took him few minutes, but was now routine. He removed the micro SD card, put it in its tiny waterproof case and snapped the hasp closed, putting this in his pocket. Finally, he securely erased the data from the tablet using a custom application, and put the tablet in the Pelican case with the DRBs and closed it.
Drew moved to the front seat, taking his breakfast bag with him. He put the truck in gear pulled out of the parking lot and turned left on Collins Ave. The slowness of the acceleration of the old diesel assisted him in looking for signs of Doreen or what might have happened too her. Passing by both of her normal routes as well as the shop he knew she was going to showed no signs that he could perceive. At this point she had just disappeared, but most likely had left in the ambulance. Drew followed his third choice of routes through the city to get back to the parking garage. The route took him through multiple choke points to catch anyone trying to tail him, and also used these routes to lose any tails.
After driving for fifteen minutes and 4 miles to go less than one mile from their morning surveillance spot drew pulled into the parking garage and drove to the top floor of the four story structure. He assembled his four month old pay-as-you-go-phone and called the only number he was allowed to call from that phone, ready to let them know he had abandoned the surveillance early because of new developments, and that the package needed to be picked up earlier than usual to be analyzed due to something important being on it.
“Hey buddy, been waiting for your call,” came the answer after just 2 rings.
“Yea…well…I got delayed and won be able to make da show,” Drew responded.
“Are you sure you can’t make it?” came the unknown voice.
“Ima sure. I still gots to tend my cattle.”
“OK. Maybe next time then?”
“Sure. Next time.” Drew ended the conversation.
He disassembled the phone and stuck the battery in his pocket. He drove the truck back down to the second level and parked it in its normal spot. He put the disassembled phone parts in his shirt pocket, picked up his breakfast bag and untouched 6-pack of cola, removed the encased micro SD card from his pocket and exited the truck, locking the doors as he left. He walked down to the other end of the garage to the trash can. With the tiny SD card pinched flat between his fore and middle finger on his right hand, and his breakfast bag in his left, and the 6-pack squeezed under his armpit, he deftly disposed of the trash while at the same time pushing the SD card deep into the cigarette disposal sand tray that rested on top of the trashcan. Anyone who may have observed him would only have seen a man supporting himself while he threw trash away.
Drew continued walking while removing the thin leather driving gloves he had been wearing since 8pm the previous night, and stuck them in his back pocket. He stopped at an older midsized sedan parked in a reserved space on the third level, opened the door and got in. He located the keys and pulled out of the parking garage. Minutes later, the ever-present bedraggled homeless beggar lady who panhandled near the entrance of the garage retrieved the micro SD card from the cigarette tray, as well as the pelican case from the truck. She placed the pelican case in the trunk of an adjacent car and reassumed her spot at the entrance to the parking garage, politely asking people to give her food to feed her children. She put the SD card in the bag with her donated discarded food from passers-by. In less than ten minutes, she would be robbed of her entire food bag by a young vagrant man who would ensure that the SD card made it to the proper people. They were both paid well (anonymously in silver rounds) for their covert actions, and the constant requirement to maintain their poor appearances and to always be on standby for immediate action.
Drew took a circuitous route through the city, just to be sure he was not being tailed, on his way to the county hospital. He would find out what happened to Doreen and give her a hard time about it for weeks to come. If she had done something stupid, like tipped over her shoelace and broke something, he was going have a difficult time not laughing out loud at her. He pulled into the ER parking lot and made his way inside. He went to the reception desk and inquired about Doreen. After some confusion on the part of the receptionist not being able to understand what he was saying, they finally got things straightened out. He presented his ID to confirm their relationship, and he was directed to a small unoccupied waiting area.
Twenty minutes passed before a doctor finally came in to talk with Drew. Drew quickly sensed that there was something seriously wrong. He could tell by the way the doctor was presenting the timeline to him that the condition of Doreen was grave. Doreen was it. She was the last of his family. There was no one else. His heart started racing just as the doctor started to conclude his timeline:
“…and I’m sorry to say, there was nothing more we could do for her.”
Drew drove the thirty minutes back to his small ranch in a complete daze. Just hours ago, it had been theirs, but now it was just his. Doreen had died of an apparent heart attack. How was he going to manage, he didn’t know. Maybe he would finally sell to Mr. Numrey, who had for so many years been trying to buy his small ranch. He didn’t have anyone to pass it on to, so why not? Over time, he would just get further and further behind on the upkeep without Doreen to help. It would probably be better to sell now. Drew was distraught and his mind was wandering. He was thinking silly and sane at the same time. A little hunting would help to settle his mind.
Drew pulled into the D&D Ranch, and drove down the long driveway. It was not near as long as most of the driveways around, but their home, his home was not visible from the road. He couldn’t go into the house right now knowing Doreen would never be inside again. He would bury her in the family cemetery over in the southwest corner of the Ranch. He headed to the Man’s Shed. He entered and Doreen’s presence was still everywhere here too. He started to break down. He hated crying, and did all in his power to stop it. He immediately walked to the safe and put in the combination. He opened it and removed the custom AR-15 heavy target rifle he bought from George just before the new laws passed.
He was supposed to have turned in nearly every rifle and pistol he owned to the Firearm Recovery Team, but had decided not to. They were his, and he was keeping them, at least as long as he was alive. He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved the four boxes of Hornady .223 75 grain hollow point ammunition he had purchased from George this morning. The three ounces of silver, now worth a little over $1200, he paid for the 4 boxes of unregistered ammunition was a bargain. The ammunition had been purchased wholesale before the ban by George for $15 per box, and the silver Drew used to purchase the eighty rounds had been purchased at $4.20 per ounce at the turn of the century. Drew definitely got the better end of the deal, but the best part is that they were able to conduct business without the government having any say so in the matter.
Drew opened a box and loaded up a 20-round magazine. He put the rest of the ammunition in the safe and closed it. He slapped the magazine into the mag-well and pulled the charging handle, letting the bolt carrier slam a round in the chamber. He thumbed the selector to safe and proceeded to slide the 24” long bull barrel into the ATV gun carrier. He pulled the start cord and the old Yamaha fired right up. He removed the pay-as-you-go cell phone pieces from his pocket and threw them into the smoldering double barrel heater along with five new pieces of wood. He grabbed his hydration pack from the shelf, filled with basic essentials in the event he got stuck out in the field, and drove the ATV out of the Man’s Shed, still thinking deeply about Doreen.
He decided to hunt on a section of the Numrey Ranch (he had a lifetime invitation to hunt any open season predatory animals) where he almost always got a kill, and just maybe, he would run into Mr. Numrey or one of his children and could open the conversation about the possibility of selling his land. He slowly drove around his ranch and a corner of the Numrey Ranch for almost two hours, but it didn’t take his mind off of his loss. He just couldn’t shake it. Doreen was gone. She was actually gone…forever! It hurt him. The tears were starting to well up as he approached his best hunting position overlooking one of Numrey’s small open-sided barns in an open area that was built to offer protection to the horses in that section. It was a great location that attracted all types of wild animals that also used the building for shelter from time to time. The nearby shallow creek also attracted a lot of wildlife.
He shut off the reliable ATV that had his own custom version of a camouflage paint job. He withdrew the coveted heavy target AR-15 rifle from its ATV gun case, unfolded the bi-pod and set it on the ground. He removed his pack and laid it across the front rack of the ATV and opened the hard case on the rear rack and withdrew a rolled up foam pad. He unrolled the green yoga pad on the ground and set the rifle on it. He removed his jacket and hung it on the handlebars. He made the two steps to the mat and looked down into the narrow valley that was only about seventy five feet below his elevated position, and could see a black trash bag sitting in the open. It appeared that its contents had been partially strewn about. This was a good sign.
How the trash bag got there, he didn’t know, but there was a really good chance that a predator of some type had recently dug through the bag that had not been there yesterday. He laid down behind his rifle and took a couple of deep breaths. This was so he could start making shallower breaths, but also served to help him drown out the background thoughts of Doreen’s sudden death. Peering through the scope, he started to take short and shallow breaths while peering at the trash bag and trash around it. He could tell that something had definitely dug through it. He started to think like the animals that might enjoy such a find and started to move the crosshairs across the terrain in search of a target.
Drew took about 30 seconds to methodically search the open-sided barn in all of the usual spots animals liked to lay up. When he couldn’t find anything, he continued his search. After a few seconds, he was quite surprised by what popped up in his crosshairs. It was certainly not what he expected to see, not by a long shot. What was he going to do? This presented a real moral dilemma for him. He could do what his heart told him to do, and take this rare opportunity, likely to be rejoiced by his neighbors, but he would be breaking laws on so many levels; or he could not take the shot, and maybe just observe for a while instead, and would have to live forever knowing that he probably made the wrong choice, never being able to tell a soul that he passed on the opportunity.
He resigned himself, with great pleasure, to exploit this very rare chance. He wasn’t looking for accolades from his neighbors, but he would certainly get them. And like him, they would not care that much of the rest of the world would look upon his actions as immoral and illegal. He looked over his scope with his bare eyes at this glorious chance to make sure it actually existed. It did. Strangely, the black area near the feet appeared to be burnt areas. ‘Odd,’ he thought to himself. He put his eye back behind the scope. His focus became sharp; his breathing shallow with a slow tempo. He fixed the area between the crosshairs and the 1st mil-dot on the vertical bar of the mil-dot reticle of his scope on the area just between the shoulder blades, and slightly to the left of the spine. He knew the range to the target, and he knew the bullet drop for the ammunition he was using. His prey, completely oblivious to his presence was moving slowly, as if being cautious for some reason…and there was good reason.
The tan was blending well with the background. Drew had to double check his placement. He moved his left hand under the stock of the rifle to provide better support. He flicked the safety to the fire position and took up the first stage on his custom trigger. Taking one last short inhale, he was ready to send the bullet into his target when he had completed his exhale, which would bring the reticle back to the exact shot placement he desired.
The suppressed .22 long rifle bullet entered Drew’s brain from behind, and his death was instantaneous. His face fell off of the rifle stock and his finger released the trigger. He had been focused on his amazing luck, and doing what needed to be done to make a clean kill. He had temporarily forgotten about Doreen in these few moments. His hunting expedition had done what he intended it to do. He had never heard the person come up behind him. Drew may have been better served staying in his Man’s Shed and drinking his sorrows away for the day. He would be meeting Doreen far sooner than he ever imagined.
“Oh no!” she whispered quietly to herself; Jo frantically felt over her body for it. It wasn’t where she remembered, or was she remembering incorrectly? Her mind was still racing beyond her capacity to process the information, and her heart was pounding in her ears. She couldn’t stop or even slow down, so feeling around for it was more difficult. Regardless of how important it was, she could not go back if she had inadvertently dropped it somewhere. Even if she could go back to look, there is no chance she could find it anyway.
The branches were lashing at her face and body as she fled through the forest. How far had she gone? She couldn’t be sure. She had to just keep going! She found it ironic that her peanut lighter, a trusted source of life giving fire, was what she was desperately searching her body for considering she had just escaped a serious fire that claimed the lives of most of her fellow co-workers, and at least one armored military vehicle and its crew. Her body took over stress relief duty and she began laughing at the strangeness of her current circumstances. She slowed her pace and then finally took a seat in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but trees in every direction, and continued to pat her hands over her body in search of the silvery bullet.
Her laugh turned to giggles as she finally looked at herself for the first time. Her breathing began to slow as she took stock. Her black tennis shoes had a light dusting of white ash on them, and one of the shoe lace ends from the right shoe had been singed and was curled back with a hard nodule now replacing the original plastic on the end of the shoelace. The outside edge of the sole on her right shoe was also partially melted, but still intact. Her black socks also had a dusting of ash, dirt, leaf fragments, and pine needles stuck in them. The bottom of the right pant leg on her tan coveralls was well blackened on the outside up about four inches from the bottom.
How she did not get burned, she could not understand. She had been surrounded by dozens of people engulfed in flames, and the grass was on fire as well. She had been looking at the man walking next to her, mostly because his body stench was wafting downwind into her nose, when she saw a black shimmering ball coming down from the sky in her general direction. Jo didn’t know what was going on, and ducked down just before it impacted the hard ground beyond her. She could hear the “whoosh” of the object as it passed nearby over her head, followed by a loud crash, which sounded something like glass breaking. Then she could immediately feel the searing heat as the fire consumed nearly everything (and everyone) around her. As people started going in every direction, she was pushed over to the ground from her crouching position, and trampled on several times. When she was finally able to get up, she was horrified by the dozens of people on fire, running, rolling, screaming, and writhing on the ground engulfed in flames. Feeling under attack, she immediately started running for the cover of the their vehicle convoy parked 100 yards away on the gravel driveway.
She saw a black Ford Expedition near the rear of the column of vehicles that she figured she could slide under, about halfway between two of the armored military vehicles that had come with them - armored vehicles that were supposed to protect them from harm, which obviously was not working well at this point. As she ran out of the burning grass licking at her ankles, towards the Expedition, she dodged burning bodies and hurdled dying hulks. Just before reaching the vehicle, she heard one of the military vehicles start to fire its full automatic gun in short bursts. Jo could see the muzzle flashes in her peripheral vision. Something was definitely wrong.
She quickly reached the vehicle and easily slid under it. She had only been there a few seconds, and was evaluating her options when she noticed a soldier crouch between the Expedition she was under and the vehicle in front. At nearly that exact moment she heard another “whoosh” overhead quickly followed by a sickening crash of glass breaking. The screaming was instantaneous. After only a few seconds, the soldier (which she only recognized as a soldier by the boots that he or she wore and the camouflage pants that she could see from her limited view beneath the SUV) started running.
She assumed that if the soldier was running away from the same area she was in, that she had better run too. She slid out from underneath the SUV on the opposite side from which she entered and began running towards the distant woods. Everything after that was a complete blur to her. She felt as though she had covered the mile long distance to the woods in what had to have been record time. Just as she entered the tree line, she took a quick glance back to see if anyone else was behind her. No one was there, but in the distance, she could see that the armored military vehicle in the middle of the row of vans and SUVs was blackened and on fire, as were several other vehicles parked in front of the armored truck, and there were black lumps of people all around the outside of the vehicles. The other two armored vehicles were near the very large ranch house where they were supposed to have been conducting a search and seizure.
There was also a huge burned area of grass with dozens black lumps scattered within its ring of death. The most disturbing sight were the burned bodies that were outside of the large black circle, and the black lines of burnt grass that led to the bodies with the small circles of brunt grass surrounding the now lifeless mounds. It looked like the inverse of a child’s drawing of the sun, with radiating lines of sun rays flowing out from the main sun, indicating where burning men had fled the impact zone, their burning clothes catching the grass on fire in the path they had followed, and ending at their final resting place. There were at least a dozen such men who had fled for their lives, some leaving longer sun rays than others.
The remainder of her coveralls were in good condition. She had a scrape on the palm of her left hand, and she could feel a slight burning on the back of her head. As she continued patting her body in search, she came across the familiar feel of her CRKT Folts Minimalist neck knife resting between her breasts. The comforting feel of the two inch long Bowie point fixed blade knife with its sculpted dark green colored resin handles and deep finger grooves gave her pause. She immediately felt more relaxed with the realization that it was still where she left it. ‘But where did that damn lighter go?’ she wondered.
She continued her search and self-examination as she sat in the woods. She found the wound on the back of her head, and it felt tender to touch. She spread her hair to get a better feel. It was slightly raised, and maybe scratched a bit, and there was a noticeable feel of wetness. She brought her hands down and inspected them for signs of blood, but none was present. Instead it appeared to be oil. She decided that she must have hit the back of her head on the underside of the SUV at some point. She also concluded that as a result of her rail thin figure that she was lucky not to have been burned on the underside of the SUV. It had only been turned off for a few minutes when she slid under it for cover. There had been so much heat from the fire, that she had not felt any hotter for the few seconds she was under the vehicle.
“Of course!” Jo shouted much too loudly. She immediately ducked down and started listening and searching for anyone who may come running through the forest after her. Her heart was racing again with the realization that she may have just given away her hard fought position - thrown away in a moment of excitement. As she continued to listen and scan the woods for danger, she fingered the neck knife, tracing its features, feeling the Kydex style friction lock sheath, then finding the neck cord holding the knife to her body. That’s when she was able to feel the small peanut lighter. Earlier that morning she had taken it out of its normal place in her right front pants pocket and threaded it on the parachute cord used for hanging the knife around her neck. She had moved it because she was wearing the coveralls over her normal clothing, and would have reduced access to it had she left it in its normal place. Hanging from the knife’s neck cord, it would be more accessible if she needed it. She had learned this lesson the hard way in the past.
Jo removed the knife from her neck and held it in her hand. She slipped one end of the parachute cord from the quick adjust toggle and slid the peanut lighter off of the cord. She then replaced the cord back into the adjustment toggle. She held both items, one in each hand. Then she began to sob. She tried to cry quietly, but she was both overjoyed and overwhelmed. So much had already happened in her life, and here she was sitting in the woods after surviving yet another traumatic experience. She had been raped at seventeen, administratively discharged from the Marine Corps after less than two years, had lost her entire family, had a 10-year drug addiction problem, lived on the street for 12-years after losing her home to foreclosure, had been unable to hold a job, and now this. At least she had her knife and lighter, which were now being drenched with her tears.
She was not crying because she felt sorry for herself. No, she had done that enough in her life. It was definitely from stress. The same kind of stress that just moments ago had her laughing. Her emotions ran quick now. She had learned some years back that she couldn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She had to deal with them, then move on. But this was different. With the exception of the rape, she had brought every other adversity in her life upon herself, until today. Today was not her fault, and she had just witnessed dozens of people burned alive. People she had just shared a vehicle with. People who were her fellow co-workers, even if she had only just met them two days before. She and the fellow agents had just been attacked, she just didn’t know why. No, this was not her fault, and she had every right to be crying right now.
After she felt mostly relieved, she hardened herself and wiped her face dry with the sleeve of the coveralls. Jo started to walk, but stopped herself. She didn’t know where she was, and therefore didn’t know exactly where to go. The very few things that she did know were that she was in the woods near a very large ranch house that she was supposed to have been using as a base of operations to find the livestock the owner had not registered, paid tax on, or brought to market as prescribed by the Agriculture, Livestock, and Paper Products Act. She had been informed of her task only this morning from her new boss who had also given her, and thirty or so other agents, the tan coveralls she was now wearing, after arriving on a bus from the city after a three hour ride. It was painfully obvious that someone did not want her, or her co-workers, at the house, so she couldn’t go back there. It would help if she knew which direction that was.
She needed to orient herself. Because they had arrived at the ranch house in the late morning, she remembered that the rising sun was on her right side as they rode in the van down the long dirt road. She had boarded the white van just shortly after getting off the bus in a small town some 20 minutes ride from where they turned onto the very long dirt road, and had been driving generally west on the small farm road since she remembered that the sun had been reflecting off of the driver’s side rearview mirror into her face for part of the drive. That meant that she was at least 20 miles southwest of the town, and more likely double that. There was just no way she could walk that far without food and water. She was already near starving as it was, which is why she took the low paying government job to begin with. She could vividly recall the full page ad in the city newspaper:
“JOBS FOR PATRIOTIC AMERICANS
Assist your government with instituting, enforcing, and maintaining new legislation passed by Congress.
Immediate openings for:
NO EXPERIECE NECESSARY. Interviews conducted daily.
Must be willing to travel. We provide all transportation.
New hires receive a cell phone, clothing, and food allowance.
Government Employee Benefits are available after 180 days.
For Interviews, Contact:
Domestic Homeland Security Agency (DHSA) Division of Personnel
Interviews conducted from 9:00am to 3:00pm at any local bus station, library, or civic center in your area.”
While waiting in line for her interview at the substantial library, which had been a 45 minute walk, she realized that they seemed to only be hiring men at the time. At least half of the over 200 people in line in front of her that early morning were women; some had even brought their children with them. She noted that only women and the occasional drunken man would exit the building, all appearing quite upset. She correctly guessed that they were either not accepting women to the positions, or they were only accepting certain types. She couldn’t take the chance. She quickly grabbed another one page application from a nearby table and started filling it out. This time, she omitted the “Anna” of her first name and added an “e.” Now she was Joe Lee Bolton.
Everything about the name was correct except for the replacement of the “e” for the “Anna” following Jo. Everyone that knew her called her Jo anyway. She could easily pass for a man. Her long term homelessness and drug abuse had turned her once striking 5’8” figure and near runway model face into a gaunt, dirty, average looking “person.” The long term cocaine use had also served to reduce her once perky B+ breasts to barely A cup - she didn‘t even wear a bra any longer. Her voice was deeper than average, due in some part to her drug smoking. Her short hair style, cut on the streets without aid of a mirror, added to the overall effect. For the first time, she actually considered being mistaken for a man to be a good thing. And it worked, even though no mention was ever made about being male or female during the interview. There was not even a box to check on the application, which was probably due to the Gender Equality Act that eliminated gender specifications from almost all forms of employment and benefits, public or private. It still didn’t eliminate discrimination, even within the government. If anything it made it worse since there was no longer any way to document what gender worked where, and in what ratios, since it was illegal to ask about gender.
Now she was dealing with the strange consequences of having masterfully negotiated acquiring the job of a man. She just shook her head and continued to work on evaluating herself and her situation. She grabbed a stick about 18” long and drove it into the ground standing straight up in a mostly sunny spot between some trees. She marked the end of the shadow cast by the stick with a small white rock. Water was going to become critical soon, but she was unsure of how to locate it in this hilly terrain. She needed to make it a priority. She chose a direction and started walking away from her shadow stick, taking care to pay attention to small details so that she could find her way back to the stick.
Her old Marine Corps training was coming back to her. She had grown up in a big city, and lived in a big city the entirety of her 35 years, with the exception of her short stint in the military. During this short time in her life she had spent the majority of her Marine Corps career in the rural country side. Boot camp had been a huge shock to her system, along with much of the follow on training, but all of it had served her well over the years. She realized that here and now was going to be the time when that past training would serve her best. She continued to walk for about 100 yards, constantly searching for useful items, game trails, water sources, or anything that might assist her survival. When she felt she had gone far enough, she did an about face and returned to the shadow stick. She continued these outward walks in four different directions, always returning to the stick.
After these short walks, she concluded that the general area she found herself in was completely unremarkable and had very little variance. She was only able to perceive a slight grade drop going in a consistent direction. Now she just needed to figure out what direction that was. Finally back at her shadow stick, she placed a new rock at the new position the shadow had moved to over the course of the 45 or so minutes that had elapsed since placing the first rock. She pulled the stick out of the ground and laid it between the two rocks, connecting the “dots.” She then stood with her feet together and her toes just touching the edge of the stick on the ground. Her heels were facing the hole from which the stick had been removed from the ground. Now she knew for certain that she was facing north, and that to her immediate right was east. With this information, she was able to determine that the slight slope in the earth was trending northeast - the direction she wanted to go; the general direction of the distant town.
This was currently working out better than she had hoped. The tree canopy was far to dense to give the ability to pick a distant point of reference in order to keep on a straight course. The slope of the terrain, provided it did not change directions, gave her the frame of reference she needed. She could also use the sun to double check her direction of travel and the trueness of the slope. She faced northeast and made note of how the sun felt on her neck, right ear, right cheek and exposed right arm. She also noted how her shadow cast on the ground away from her body when facing the direction she wanted to travel. Jo figured that the sun’s reference would be good for at least an hour, maybe two. She started to walk.
She continued to scan for anything of use as she walked, always taking great care to continually check her direction of travel. Her mind would jump in and out, moving from the task at hand to various memories of her life. Most of her thoughts centered on her short Marine Corps career, one of the best times in her life, and the recent events that got her into her current situation, though certainly not one of the worst events in her life, but traumatic none the less. Occasionally, her thirst would seep in and take control, but she was able to suppress it and get back to the mental work she really needed to focus on.
“Improvise, adapt, overcome,” were the words that rang in her ears, not just today, but over much of her previous life. That nasty drill instructor yelling them at her and her company constantly was how she still heard them, she just left out the “maggots!” part of saying, or any of the other derogatory endings the colorful and demanding drill sergeant liked to use. It was these words that helped land the job that got her here when she adjusted her application at the last minute; it was these words that helped her overcome the horrible recovery period following the end of her drug addiction two years ago; and it was these words that helped her every day of her 12-years of living on the streets. These same words had even helped her after the fact when she would have adverse feelings about being raped as a teen.
After nearly an hour of walking down the very slight grade, she came across a trail of some kind. It was well worn and crossed her path in a north-south direction of travel. She studied it, trying to determine what type of animals may be using it. She was a city girl, she didn’t know animal tracks, and it wasn’t something they had really taught her in the Corps. Well, they had a little during her fortunate to be accepted into Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape (S.E.R.E.) course, but that was a bad memory that right now that she didn’t want to visit. The trail was wide and easy to see, so either it was traveled by some monstrous rabbits, or some much larger animals.
Even in the city, homeless animals created trails - not so much visible trails on the concrete, but consistent paths from one area to another. She noted that it was very rare that any of them wandered aimlessly. She knew that this behavior in animals was their survival technique. They used their trails to get from where they sleep, to where they eat, to where they drink. They were consistent patterns that she had used herself on the streets to avoid danger and basically do the exact same things that the animals did.
This trail represented an animal’s survival. But what kind of animal? She certainly didn’t want to follow the trail of a bear or something, right to its den, or worse its dining area. ‘Were there even bears in this area?’ she wondered, having no clue to the answer. She knew that this trail led to an animal’s food, water, or shelter - all three things she needed. But which way led to water? Water was more likely downhill than up, and north was going downhill. North was also much closer to her intended path. Now the choice was either keep heading northeast or follow the trail? She didn’t know how far the trail went before reaching resources, what those resources might be, what kind of animal(s) she may encounter, or if the trail even continued north or eventually headed off in a direction that she did not want to go. There were so many unknowns.
She suddenly realized that her decision to walk northeast was also a complete unknown, and had no better known prospects than taking the game trail. All she knew about walking northeast, was that somewhere out there, at least 20 miles distant was a town; she would be dead before she could walk that far without food, water, and shelter. She immediately made a half-left turn and started following the game trail through the woods to the north. With her mental commitment to take the trail and abandon her other route, she felt relief. Following an established trail freed her mind to wander, but she was still keeping an eye out for resources and signs.
‘What exactly happened today?’ she questioned. Too many things just were not adding up the more she thought about it. ‘Why were there so many agents? Why did so many of those agents appear downtrodden (including herself)? Why had they been handing out bats and axes, and why were the drivers carrying liquid-filled glass containers? Why had she been required to not talk to any of the other agents until this morning? Why were there only men? Why had they been required to wear these amazingly cheap coveralls; didn’t the government have better resources for their federal agents? Why were the vehicles so old? And for the love of God, why were the military there to protect us?’ She did remember that the military were not supposed to do such things, though she couldn’t remember why. ‘Had the laws changed?’ she wondered. It still didn’t seem right to her. ‘Then, we got fire bombed. How did that happen? Why did it happen?’ So many questions, but no answers.
She had been so excited to just have a job after more than 5-years of joblessness, even though it was only going to pay the national minimum wage of $64.20 per hour. Once she had been on the job for 180 days, she would receive benefits and be able to tend to some of her long-term her health issues. The previously mandated National Health Care Act (O’drama Care it had also been called) had only served to keep her from getting help for her medical problems. “The Panel” had determined that her health issues were caused by her own negligence due to heavy drug use and she had been summarily denied treatment. Her friend Alice had told her that the real reason she was not receiving help was due to her not being “a productive member of society.” Alice said that she had also been denied after having been on unemployment for more than two years. Sure she could go to any emergency room for free, but unless her problem was critical, the staff let her and other non-critical patients to languish in the waiting rooms until they were either fed up waiting and left, or were eventually seen almost a day later, only to be sent packing with no real treatment. Government Employee Health Benefits would change that, since they had a completely different health care system. She wouldn’t be denied, wouldn’t have long waits, and would actually get the proper treatment for her issues. Government Employee Health Benefits were as good as private insurance was 20 years ago.
She was also told that her job would be helping the country, helping the poor, and would serve to indirectly enforce the laws of the nation. She felt very patriotic about her new position. It was her way of making up for the disastrous Marine Corps career, where she had also felt a patriotic sense of self. She was proud to be able to serve her country again. She was proud to be able to help feed the many hungry people in America, including herself. She felt that it was an honor to be part of the new DHSA Livestock and Agriculture Recovery Department, which would serve as a directly responsible unit for helping to keep affordable food on the tables of Americans. She just could not fathom why anyone would resist such good works from their government. But still, something just wasn’t right, she could not put her finger on what that was.
Just ahead Jo could see that the trail came to a fork at a rather large tree. When she arrived at the fork, it was more of a “T” than a fork, with the left trail suddenly going down steeper terrain, and the right trail going on relatively flat, and possibly even uphill terrain. Since she had only been walking for a couple of hours, she used the shadows to determine that the right fork went generally east by north east and the left fork went more north west by west. Based on what she was looking at, the left trail in her mind had a better chance of leading to water since it was noticeably heading downhill. Even in her darkest days of drug addiction, when she would go without food for days, and sometimes more than a week, or shivered behind a dumpster or in a building’s exterior alcove, she always drank plenty of fluids, generally water from an unlocked tap behind an electronics store in a seedy strip mall. She took the left trail and started down the grade. She so hoped water would be near. Her cotton mouth and the burning corners of her lips were beginning to take over her thoughts. She didn’t yet have a headache, but that couldn’t be far behind.
This new path wound down the hillside. At this point she could see that there appeared to be large hoof prints off to the sides of the trail on occasion. They didn’t appear to be horse tracks, at least not shoed hooves. Maybe they were cows. ‘Were there any other animals that had this type of hoof shape? Were they even hoof prints,’ she wondered? After a few hundred yards down the trail, there was a flat spot that was quite wet. It was all rocky hard ground, but it was definitely wet. As she stopped to inspect, she could see that just above and below the two foot diameter wet spot on the trail, that there was a very thin line of moisture. She touched the wet line that was no wider than her thumb and smelled the ends of her now moist fingers. It smelled fine. It appeared that only this small area was moist, ‘but why,’ she wondered? ‘Where had it come from?’
Trusting her survival instincts, honed over a decade in the concrete jungle, she worked her way above the wet spot. She could hear the squish of moist ground under the dead leaves and grass. Ahead she could see the earth move upwards in a steep grade. The distant ground and underlying rocks were glistening and shimmering in the intermittent sun that was being moved by the gently blowing leaves.
“Water!” Jo quietly exclaimed. The water was flowing out of the rocks and trickling down the sloped face where it disappeared under the leaves and grass a few feet down. Straddling the tiny stream of life, Jo moved up to the rock face. The water stream was so minimal that it clung to the rocks. Without some new idea, she would be relegated to licking it off the rocks, which she was certainly not against doing, but she wanted to drink water, not lick at it. She placed her fingers on the rocks and smelled the wetness. There was no foul odor. She touched her moist fingers to her dry tongue, and could perceive no foul taste. The moisture on her leathery tongue was almost exquisite. She quickly ran through her options: She didn’t have a container; she could lick the rocks; sponge the water with clothing and wring it out, or use a some string to create a temporary faucet. She quickly removed her knife from around her neck and pulled off the twenty-eight inches of parachute cord that held it around her neck. She put the knife in her pocket and took one end of the cord and tried to figure out a way to get it to attach to the rock face. There were small cracks, but none large enough to get the cord in easily. She looked around the immediate area for a small stick to use to force the cord into a crack. She located one and used her knife to quickly whittle the end of the stick to the proper size. She place the end of the cord over a crack and used the stick to force the cord in.
With the cord laying against the sloping surface, she could see it immediately soaking up the water along its length. She pulled the end of cord away from the rock face, and it immediately began dripping. She was satisfied it would work. She left the cord to rinse. It had been hanging around her neck for years, and was caked with body oils and salts. She had occasionally taken the time to wash it, but she couldn’t remember the last time the cord had been bathed. A few minutes would do. Having found a primary source of life, she relaxed and rested against the sloping ground and allowed her eyes to close. She used the time to congratulate herself on making good decisions, for once. She knew there was still much more to come. She wondered how she would get back in touch with her new boss. Jo had not yet received her free phone that was promised in the want ads for the job - it was not mentioned during the interview, and she forgot to ask. She was more than a three hour bus ride away from the main DHSA facility in the city. Where would she find the bus? The last one had dropped her off, along with her co-workers at a stark windowless facility outside of the small town where she got into the van earlier this morning. What would she tell her employer once she got back? She would figure these things out after she got out of these woods.
Jo snapped awake from her unintended nap. She didn’t know how long she had been sleeping, but the sun was in a noticeably different position than when she had first closed her eyes. She felt her overwhelming thirst and tried to lick her lips. Her dry tongue only stuck to her chapped lips. She squatted down below the attachment point of the cord and lifted the other end out of the water. The fresh water was streaming off at a drip rate nearly fast enough to be a continuous stream. She held the end of the string above her open mouth and started to let it fill with the invigorating liquid. Suddenly the water stopped. She looked and noticed that the slight dip in the cord was now dripping water and that where her fingers grasped the cord was also diverting the flow of water away from the end. As she moved her hand, the drip moved. She tried to position herself under the drip, but it was elusive with the long moving cord.
“Improvise, adapt, and overcome, private Bolton!” rang in her ears. She picked up another small dead stick and quickly carved a sharp point on one end with her Minimalist knife. She cut off the other end to where the stick was about a foot long. She stuck the sharp end into the cord about three inches from the bitter end. She then stuck the blunt end of the stick into a crevice in the rock face so that the stick was pointing at a downward angle and was holding the cord away from the rock, but not allowing any inadvertent dips. The end of the cord was dripping water at a fast rate. The support stick added to the flow with water also now running down its length. She dropped her head under the flow and partook in the luxury for several minutes, stopping only to catch her breath.
“Aye, Aye Sir!” Jo murmured aloud, and started to cry again. She was on an emotional roller coaster. She wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if this had happened in the city- an environment she was intimately familiar with. Until recently, she had lived full time on the streets of the city, creating her own mostly invisible trails of repetitiveness. She knew where she could find food, drink, shelter, and if desired human companionship. She even knew how to get arrested so as to spend the night in a warm jail and get better food if required. But out here, it was so much different. Nothing was going to come easy. She was going to have to work so much harder for every step of her survival. In the city, she relied on other people’s cast offs. Dumpsters were packed full of useful items. A simple plastic bottle, old blanket, or perfectly good thrown out food could be had in a matter of minutes. But out here, the resources and their availability were much different. All this work for a simple drink of water! She still had to find or make some form of shelter today before the cold night set in, and hopefully food as well.
Getting up and brushing herself off, Jo walked back down to the wet flat spot on the trail, and started down the trail to investigate. After traveling about 150 yards down the trail she came to a small pond. She could see where the spring she had found was helping to fill this pond. It was obvious that much game used this pond to drink from. She could see all types and sizes of prints in the moist ground around the edge. She realized that she could have far more easily drank from this pond, but there was a one hundred percent chance it would have made her sick without filtering or boiling the water first. Since she didn’t have a filter, and no container to boil water in, the spring was a far better source. The little bit of S.E.R.E. school she had completed taught her that she could also dig a hole adjacent to a water source and allow water to filter through the nearby earth to create drinking water, but this ground was too rocky to dig deep enough without tools.
What was even more interesting to her was what she was able to see in the distance. There was a small clearing in the trees beyond the far edge of the pond. The elevated area of the pond overlooked a valley of sorts below. In that valley she could see a building in a large clearing. It looked like a barn or small covered livestock pen. She didn’t know since she wasn’t a rancher. ‘Why did they assign me, of all people - a city girl - to the Livestock and Agriculture Recovery Department?’ The thought just suddenly popped into her head. It appeared to be a mile or two away, and she felt this was her best bet for quick shelter. She hoped there was some hay inside, and maybe some feed of some type that she could render and eat. Who knows, maybe she would be lucky enough to run into a rancher and he could get her back to the small town. ‘Wouldn’t that be some good luck, for once?’ she wished.
She headed back up the trail to the spring. Now she was riding high. She had water in her system, was about to get more, and was likely to have adequate shelter tonight. Two out of three wasn’t bad, and she had two of the most important ones given her current situation. The parachute cord faucet was still doing its job when she returned, and she ducked down and took in multiple mouths full to the point of feeling bloated. She jerked the cord out of the rock face, threaded the soaking string back through her knife’s sheath and hung it back around her neck. She checked her pocket for the presence of her peanut lighter, and started back down the hill. With any luck, she would put her peanut lighter to use tonight.
The trail ended at the small pond, and she made her way around the edge to the clearing on the other side. She found that the small pond was emptying into a twelve inch wide, one inch deep creek that was flowing down hill directly towards the building in the clearing. Only a few feet down the hill she came across a small clearing in the trees that was obviously manmade. Three of the trees that had been cut down long ago were gone, but their intact and still rooted stumps had been carved into chairs. New limb shoots were growing out of the lower parts of the chairs indicating that no one had used them for some time. There was a small rock fire pit centered between the chairs. Inside the pit she dug out an old coffee can. At first she was excited, but upon inspection found it had several bullet holes in the sides. Someone had taken the time to fashion a wire loop handle for it, so at least it could carry anything she found along the way. She sifted through the ashes and found melted blobs that had once been aluminum cans (one of which tossed into the coffee can), and a few bent nails that she also kept. She also picked out a couple of pieces of well bunt wood fragments that would act as coal, or if necessary as a charcoal filter.
The sun was getting lower and so she kept moving down the hill parallel to the nearly straight creek. She could see the building for most of the way down. Once she reached the flat bottom of the valley floor, she noticed that the trees were shorter, more bushy, and spaced much further apart, and that the creek made a sharp turn to the south. At least she knew where it was, and could return to it if she didn’t find another water source. She could easily see one hundred yards or more, and at times much further. This gave her the occasional partial view of the building, which definitely looked more like a barn of some kind with at least one open side. She came upon a translucent piece of plastic tarp wrapped around the base of a small bushy tree. It looked very dirty, but her bigger concern was sun rot, which would make the plastic brittle to touch or move. She reached down and grabbed an edge and pulled on it, fully expecting it to break. But it didn’t and the entire piece of plastic came free of the tree.
As she opened it up, she quickly noticed the four inch triangular shaped hole almost in the middle of the trapezoid shaped heavy plastic drop cloth. She realized that it occurred when she did not carefully remove the plastic from the base of the tree. If she had some duct tape it would be an easy fix. If she was in the city, she would find some discarded duct tape in a dumpster and fix it. But now she just had to deal with it the way it was. It was an awesome find with a ten foot long side and was about eight feet wide. She would be able to use it for shelter out in the field, or wrap herself in it to retain some warmth. She could even make a greenhouse effect tent out of it if she found the right place to use it. She shook off the loose dirt then spread it out on the ground. She started to fold and roll it up as tight as she could. ‘Where did this come from? There is really nothing out here…or is there?’
She quickly looked up and scanned the area, the sudden realization that she had not been paying close attention to her surroundings. Maybe there was more around than she realized. Even though it was more open in this part of the woods, she still could not see anything but trees. She finished rolling up the plastic and slid one end down inside the coffee can, taking care not to catch the plastic on the metal turned in by the bullets passing through it. The other end stuck out of the top of the can a little, but it would not interfere with carrying the container. She continued on in her original direction, taking care to pay better attention to her surroundings.
Just as she came to the clearing she could see what might be a real gem in the distance, about halfway between the edge of the trees and the building. It was probably five to six hundred yards to the building, and the black plastic blob was just sitting there in between. ‘Could it actually be a bag of trash? Way out here?’ she thought with excitement. It almost felt like home. There were almost always treasures in trash. From this distance, she could not tell how old the bag was, but it looked completely intact. She could tell that it was open and appeared to be laying on its side with some of it contents spilled out on the ground, possibly caused by wild animals.
‘Wild animals!’ she shuddered. She would not be able to defend herself against much with her two inch long knife, or even her fists and feet for that matter. If wild animals had opened that bag up recently, and removed some of the goodies, they could still be nearby, maybe even in that barn thing. She had been having a streak of good luck since this morning’s horrible luck. Jo was still feeling lucky. She remembered the words from her well worn and compact pocket Bible that she always kept in her left rear pocket. It had been given to her by the Collins family, who were her sponsors and mentors when she went through her long drug recovery process two years earlier. They had taken the time to show her the Way, introduced her to Jesus Christ, and from the day that she finally saw the light, Jo was a changed person. She had been doing everything right, and had been looking for work ever since. The DHSA job was her first since becoming drug free.
She quietly recited the words of Psalms 23:4 from memory as she reached back to feel the small paper book through her coveralls:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
With that, she walked forward, eyeing the bag and darting her eyes left to right looking for dangerous animals. Occasionally she would peer behind her to make sure no fearsome predators were stalking her. Her heart rate started to rise as she could discern a recognizable clear plastic bottle with the red and white label that at one time many decades before denoted one of the potent ingredients it once contained as part of its snake oil formula. She couldn’t believe her luck. If that was an actual intact and useable cola bottle (without bullet holes) she was going to be able to vastly extend her range. With this great luck, she wondered if it was too much to ask that it had a useable cap with it? There may even be some edible food in the bag.
She was almost floating as she neared the bag, almost within reach now. “Thank you Jesus!” she exclaimed aloud. It was definitely a two liter cola bottle and there was more than one! She was already running through her mind how to get them filled with water from the very shallow creek, how to secure them, carry them, and get herself out of this situation and back to the city and her new job. Maybe she would even get a promotion for surviving the whole ordeal, or at least a commendation; metal of valor; keys to the city; something!
The overwhelming and intense burning pain ran through her upper body just as she started to bend down for the bag. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before. Child birth was a cinch compared to this pain, especially since she had had epidurals for both of her children. Unable to control her descent, she slumped to the ground in a pile, partially crushing the garbage bag. She could hear the crack just as she hit the ground, followed closely by another crack. She was intimately familiar with the supersonic crack of high powered rifle fire from her days in the Marine Corps, shooting thousands of rounds through her M-16 rifle, as well as her time on the streets under the constant barrage of gunfire.
Her mind went into hyper overdrive as she lay in the dirt, starting to have severe difficulty breathing. She knew she had been shot, but could not fathom why. She could feel her heartbeat racing in her head. She tried to move but nothing seemed to work. He breaths were getting more shallow with each rise in her chest. She could feel the warm blood running down the side of her chest. Focusing her eyes was quickly becoming difficult. She coughed and blood splattered out. Jo went over the last few moments leading up to this new crisis in her life:
‘My luck had been going so well.’
‘Had a knife and lighter’
‘…There were bottles……’
‘…….. tarp for cold………..’
‘…………bucket for carry bullets………’
‘……………drinked well strings………………’
‘………………no dangerous furs…………………’
‘……………………impro, adap, over, priv……………..’
‘…………………………God save queen………………….NO!’
1st Lieutenant Carlton Smith couldn’t believe how long the driveway was to this ranch. They were only two miles in and already the visibility was near zero as the dust from the many vehicles on the dirt drive were creating a mini sand storm to drive through. He had heard during the briefing that it was 14.2 miles long, winding, hilly, and consisting of all dirt and gravel once they turned off of the rural farm road and passed through the cattle guard. He had also learned from intelligence reports that this was not the main entrance, but a secondary access to the ranch. The main entrance was just a little over 1.5 miles in length, but the entrance was heavily barricaded with highway dividers. The other drawback to the main entrance was that the column would be forced to drive through the small community adjacent to the ranch, which might alert the ranch owners of their impending arrival.
The other fact that struck Lt. Smith was the sheer size of the ranch. At over 117 square miles, and broken into 27 separate sections, it was hard for him to grasp how a single family could come to own so much land. There were also multiple homes, barns, and other buildings scattered throughout the ranch, but their objective was the main house which was huge at 7500 square feet. Lt. Smith did the quick calculations and determined that he could fit eight of his 930 square foot apartments into this one ranch home. If he could live with his wife and child in 930 square feet, why did someone else need eight times that much space for just four people? He also figured that he could fit almost 6 of his hometowns of New Haven, Connecticut, within the area of the ranch. He just couldn’t understand why people with such wealth would be causing such big problems.
It wasn’t his job to figure it out, he realized. His job was to protect the civilian task force that was being sent in to liberate the resources, most specifically the estimated 3600 head of cattle that had not been registered under the new state and federal regulations. He was again dumbfounded as to why someone would intentionally not file the simple paperwork and pay the measly 7.5% tax per head, and why they would not bring their livestock to market when the new federal law stated that they must.
Lt. Smith started to become bothered the more he thought about it. When the economy started to quickly decline, prices on most all foods, fuel, and other essentials skyrocketed. A pound of ground beef went from $4.50 a lb to $10, to $20, the suddenly to $50 per pound in the course of just 2 years. The government passed the emergency Agriculture, Livestock, and Paper Products Act, that fixed the prices of most foods and paper products, and made it mandatory that growers, producers, and manufacturers bring a specific percentage of their products to market at a fixed price, as well as register their crop production and livestock counts, and pay a small tax on each head or bushel. Lt. Smith considered it a favorable solution that kept food on the tables of hungry Americans. He just couldn’t grasp why someone, especially someone with such means as the Numrey‘s, would knowingly bring trouble to themselves like this?
Lt. Smith considered himself a Patriot and an Oath Keeper. He had always taken the time to instruct those under his command about making good choices and upholding their Oath’s to the Constitution. When speaking of the Oath’s they each took, he would liken it to marriage, ‘Men; when you joined this military, your married this great country. She is your eternal spouse; you swore an Oath to protect and defend her, and that is what I will expect each of you to do - for the remainder of your lives, gentlemen!’
He knew that it was wrong for the military to take police action on US Soil. He had asked his commander why his Striker force had been tasked with this protection detail instead of the local or county police force. Major Cup, in his best staff sergeant’s demeanor and voice (considering he had been a staff sergeant before becoming an officer) and with his easy to identify Minnesota accent said,
“Lieutenant! We have orders! They are passed down to me and I delegate them to you! It is your job to follow them, NOT QUESTION THEM! Damn it!”
“With respect, Sir…” Lt. Smith started to say, but was cut off.
“Lieutenant! I don’t like this dog and pony show any more than the next guy. But the fact is that in this sector, we have people who have taken it upon themselves to break the law. And in breaking those laws, they have killed most of the local police, or frightened them away, and have killed many of the civilian task force personnel sent in to uphold the laws and collect the taxes, based on those laws!”
Pausing for a moment, the Major continued, “They’re fucking killing cops, Lieutenant! All of them! Cops with families who were just trying to uphold the fucking law! They are killing civilians who were just doing their job! Killed damn near all of them too! They are murdering them and destroying public property with illegal high powered 50 caliber rifles and banned military style rifles!”
Realizing he was starting to lose his composure in manner not befitting his rank, Major Cup calmed himself and finished his lashing of Lt. Smith, “That Oath you are always going on about with your men, did you forget that you took it as well? We are fighting domestic enemies, Lieutenant. You do remember the domestic enemies part of that sacred Oath, right? Well, these people have decided to withhold food from the plates of Americans, and taxes from the government that pays your damn salary, and kill our countrymen to boot!”
The Major, and the Lieutenant standing at attention, stared at each other for few seconds, each sizing up the other’s resolve on the matter. The Major finally broke the stalemate, “I am already pissed off today, Lieutenant! Don’t make it any worse for me, or I will be sure to make things worse for you. You’re worrying about nothing. If there is going to be trouble today, when they see those Strykers…they’ll back off. Now get out. Dismissed!”
Lt. Smith had not been expecting such a response from the Major. He was actually glad to be helping the task force with their duties to keep affordable food on the tables of his fellow Americans, as well as maybe rout the aggressors, who he also considered to be domestic enemies for withholding their livestock and breaking the laws that helped others. He was just wanting to double check the Constitutionality of their actions to make sure what he was doing would not be looked down upon at a later date. Promotions didn’t always come easy these days, mostly due to the requirement of increased pay for promotions, and the Numreys holding out both food sources and tax the revenue that could turn into a potential future pay increase for him, hardened his resolve to help the task force with their duties. Reinforcing his commitment even further was learning that these wealthy ranchers and their sympathizers were actually killing police and other citizens just there to do a job and uphold the law. He guessed the Major just had a serious case of male PMS today.
As the column drove around a bend in the long driveway, Lt. Smith took the opportunity to account for all of the vehicles since he could see them partially clear of the dust cloud. There were 13 SUVs and vans, which his superstitious upbringing considered unlucky, and 3 Strykers, which brought the total to 16 - an even number, and not 13, so all was good in his estimation. All of the SUVs and Vans were several years old, not one or two years old as he was accustomed when working with agents of the government. It also struck him odd that the few task force members he met at the second briefing, held to determine the route of the convoy and rules of engagement (ROE) for the Stryker unit, were not of the sort he expected. Two of them were heavily tattooed, and he thought he recognized a gang tattoo on one of them. The other member seemed slightly disheveled, as though he had just awakened from a nap and not taken the time to straighten himself and be more presentable. He also noticed that a rear seat passenger in the van in front of his Stryker, which was in the middle of the 16 vehicle convoy, that keep looking back at them appeared to be missing a tooth and looked unshaven. But he admitted that it was pretty hard to tell with all of the dust floating around, as well as caked onto the back of the van’s windows.
It also bothered Lt. Smith that his Strykers only met up with the task force column a mere ½ mile from the entrance to the ranch. In the end, the task force column and the Stryker column met up and within seconds of the predetermined time, and blended together in motion. The whole operation went far smoother than he had anticipated, and it gave him solace that he was at least dealing with professionals, regardless of how they appeared. He was told at the strategy briefing that the two columns would stay separate for as long as possible so as not to draw attention. Even the task force column was broken up until just a mile before the entrance to the ranch.
Lt. Smith reckoned that his column was certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with if anyone decided to screw with them. In fact, he considered it a foregone conclusion that no one would be stupid enough to try and engage them or the task force during the commission of their duties. The trailing rear security Stryker was equipped with the CROWS II remotely operated weapons system .50 BMG machine gun, while Lt. Smith’s Stryker was equipped with the MK19 Full Auto 40mm Grenade Launcher. The lead Stryker was equipped with the M230 30mm cannon adapted from the Apache helicopter. They also had many other tools at their disposal for combat of just about any type, including thermal vision, snap shot, and acoustic devices, as well as proven tactics to win battles. He seriously doubted that civilians had anything in their arsenal to deal with his Strykers, especially since he didn’t have an worries about IEDs.
The officer giving the intelligence briefing had also indicated that they would come to a rise in the driveway about 8.2 miles from the objective, that would allow them to see the large ranch house and possibly develop more intelligence before arrival. The intelligence he already received was based on topographical map data the intel guys used. Concluding he was nearing this point on the route, he became disappointed when he recognized that it was going to be unlikely that he would be able to see anything beyond about 100 feet, as the enormous dust cloud generated the seven vehicles in front of him obscured nearly everything. ‘The damn intel pencil pushers didn’t take the 16 vehicle dust storm into account, did they? Assholes!’ he thought to himself. Not only that, but the same dust storm that obscured his vision of the ranch home also allowed the occupants to easily see them coming. ‘Intel ass wipes!’
“Peters! Slow’r down a bit. I want to see if we can clear this dust cloud enough to see the objective at the top of this rise,” Lt. Smith addressed Corporal Charles Peters over the internal communications system.
Corporal Peters obliged without making any acknowledgement. He had worked with Lt. Smith long enough to know when he needed to speak and when he didn’t. Corporal Peters was a native Alaskan, and had joined the Army just 2 years before as a private. He was smarter than most with an IQ above 140, and had used his mental skills and outdoor experience to quickly move up the ranks, even receiving a meritorious advancement. He had dropped out of high school at 16 and received his GED at 17. He scored 1422 on his SAT, but never went to college, instead settling for the natural college provided by God and Mother Nature. He joined the Army on a whim, expecting it to be a challenge, but had since been quite disappointed with his decision. Just one more year, and he would be out and could return to Alaska.
Lt. Smith had specifically chosen Corporal Peters to drive the command Stryker due to his quick thinking, natural driving abilities (on and off road), and tactical prowess. Occasionally, Lt. Smith would seek out Corporal Peters’ advice in private on certain matters. Corporal Peters took it upon himself to stick close to Lt. Smith. He could see that the Lieutenant had a strong will to do what he thought was right, but Peters knew the reality: that the Lieutenant was mostly misguided, and most of that was due to his northeastern progressive schooling and upbringing. Peters understood, especially through the Lieutenant’s perversions of the Constitution during his pep talks, that at some point Lt. Smith may do something stupid, based on his warped sense of freedom and Liberty, and Peters wanted to be there to stop him if it happened. In the 14 months that Peters had been with Lt. Smith, the Lieutenant had only been 100% upstanding, but Peters knew that that could change in an instant.
As they topped the crest of the low hill, Corporal Peters had managed to drop back about 150 meters, and the dust cloud was not nearly as bad as when they were only 50’ behind the van in front of them. The slight breeze had also helped in removing much of the churned up driveway. The girth of the Numrey family ranch house was quite easy to spot, placed squarely on the military crest of a prominent hill in the distance. Its deep red color set starkly against the light tan background of the hillside. Though most of the ranchland thus far had been thickly covered with many trees of various species, the area around the ranch house for a good square mile had been completely cleared of trees. It was actually quite a beautiful sight from just over 8 miles away.
Lt. Smith pressed his eyes against the eyecups of the new generation gyro-stabilized optics and increased to the maximum magnification and started making mental notes of what he saw as the Stryker stated down the hillside. Seeing something in person is far superior to satellite images and grainy or blurred photographs. He could make out several vehicles parked on the west side of the home in front of the 4-car garage. He also noted that the driveway ran parallel to the front of the home about 200 yards from the front before making a sharp turn up hill to the garage. Just as they descended below the sightline, Lt. Smith thought he saw almost a dozen people standing on the front porch. The intel report made no mention of any other places where the home could be seen, except where they broke into the clearing about one mile before reaching the home, and so he couldn’t recheck to be sure. He couldn’t take any chances, and had to assume that they had been spotted, and may meet with armed resistance, since the intel briefing had suggested that it was a 100% likelihood that the occupants would be armed with banned light infantry style weapons.
It wasn’t so much that Lt. Smith was worried about being killed by small arms fire, but instead that his men did everything in their power not to kill the occupants if at all possible. This was not so much because Lt. Smith did not want to kill the occupants (he was really itching to get more trigger time on the MK19 if someone were dumb enough to try and engage them), but that after several reconnaissance flyovers of the ranch, they had not been able to locate the 3600 head of cattle, nor the other livestock they expected to be there. They were certain that the Numreys had not brought their livestock to market, as the Agriculture, Livestock, and Paper Products Act had mandated that all markets be monitored both electronically and with government “observers” to ensure government mandated fixed pricing was adhered to and taxes were properly collected. They also knew he could not have moved them by the roads to another location, as the Roadway and Interstate Camera Surveillance Systems, also mandated by the ALPP Act, had not found any unauthorized movements of livestock. No, they needed to keep the family alive so that they could find out the whereabouts of the livestock.
Lt. Smith broke radio silence, “Golf twenty-one Bravo, Golf twenty-one Bravo, this is Golf twenty-one Alpha, over.”
“Roger, Golf twenty-one Alpha, this is Golf twenty -one Bravo, over.”
Lt. Smith addressed the lead Stryker‘s commander, also knowing that the security Stryker was listening in, “Golf twenty-one Bravo; stop the column at the base of the driveway as it parallels the front of the objective. Break. This will place us nearly 50 feet below the objective, so make the necessary adjustments to account. Break. I believe we were spotted by the occupants. Remember, this ain’t the Sand Box. We need these people alive if possible. Over”
“Golf twenty-one Alpha, this is Golf twenty-one Bravo; Roger. Out.”
“Golf twenty-one Alpha, this is Golf twenty-one Charlie; Roger. Out.”
Lt. Smith was not concerned with breaking radio silence, as he fully believed that no one would be stupid enough to engage his Strykers with small arms. Rich people were not rich because they were dumb. He was also fairly confident that the Numreys did not have a way to listen in, nor decode their encrypted radios. So it really was not a big deal.
As the column broke into the open just under a mile from the front of the ranch house, Lt. Smith was struck by the beauty and grandiose of the ranch house and the surrounding property it overlooked. The home appeared to be of log construction, in a wood that appeared to be a deep red color. The lower level was mostly set back into the hillside, with only the front wall exposed and a small triangle of the side wall where the earth tapered away. He was confused since the intelligence report had indicated the house was constructed of masonry. The house definitely looked like log construction. ‘Intel pukes. What are ya’ gonna’ do? Kill them when I get back, that’s for sure!’ So far as Lt. Smith was concerned, it was a dam log house, and probably the most gorgeous one he had ever seen (not that he had ever really seen one before.) Though he really wanted to use the MK19, he silently hoped he would not have to put 40mm grenades into the structure. It would be such a waste.
As they turned west to parallel the front of the house, the Strykers continued to scan for threats. Lt. Smith had already noticed that there were no people visible outside of the home, and that all of the cars he had seen about 12 minutes before were still there. The occupants had obviously fled inside, and were probably right now saying their good bys, or more likely trying to hide evidence. With some eighty plus task force agents about to arrive, he was sure nothing would stay hidden for long. As the Strykers came to a stop, he decided to do a quick thermal scan of the area, and began to look into the device starting from the west, and moving in a clockwise motion. Just as he got to the southeast and was about the scan the hill behind them, Corporal Peters came over the internal comms system, “L.T. Take a look at this shit!”
Lt. Smith abruptly stopped his scan and opened his hatch and peered out at the humanity flowing out of the SUVs and Vans. They were all dressed in Tan, Blue, or Grey coveralls as had been briefed. Each color represented a different “agency” affiliation: Tan was newly formed Livestock and Agriculture Recovery Department (L.A.R.D. was fitting), Blue was for the Revenue Recovery Service, and Grey was for the Security Services, which dealt with illegal firearms and other contraband.
What Lt. Smith saw was not what he expected. Many of the “agents” had unkempt hair, tattoos, or amazingly wrinkled coveralls. Once the last man exited the van his Stryker had been following, he could clearly see that the rear passenger did in fact have a missing tooth and was probably 5-days unshaven, on top of having shoulder length, stringy, salt and pepper colored hair that appeared to have not been washed in two weeks! Lt. Smith looked left and right, and four out of every five “agents” looked out of place. As he looked and observed them attempting to get organized, he couldn’t help but think that it appeared that this was their first time doing the job.
Lt. Smith knew that the government was hiring all types to try and stop the hemorrhaging of job losses. The official unemployment was only 21.8%, but the Lieutenant knew the real unemployment was actually 49.2% according to ShadowStats.com, and many of those who had jobs were employed by the government in some way. He realized that nearly one third of the population had simply dropped out of the workforce altogether, and were living on some form of welfare or disability, but you would think the government could find better people than this!
Well, it wasn’t his job to judge. It was his job to protect them and ensure they got the job done they came to do. If all went well, the Numreys would peaceably surrender, the livestock would be located, and his detail would end in 24 hours when relief came to take over care of the house, land, and livestock by the Ranch Recovery Team. In his mind, it was tempting to stay in the exceptionally large house with his men for the night, but he was not going to violate the Third Amendment. No, they would use their Strykers for the night, or camp on the lawn if they so choose. Anyway, there were only six men total since no actual troops were in the troop bays of any of the Strykers. The cutbacks to the military had been severe in recent years, and much of the new money was being funneled into the Domestic Homeland Security Agency and the various other agencies it controlled. The Strykers themselves, with their armor and heavy arms were deterrent enough he judged, as did the command. Now that he though about it, ‘why wasn’t the DHSA here instead with their fancy new black HSRV (homeland special response vehicle) armored vehicles?’ he thought to himself. It didn’t matter now, since he was already here. He would certainly pose that question to command when they got back.
“L.T? Are you seeing this?” Peters came over the internal comms system again.
“Two vehicles forward.”
Lt. Smith rotated to look forward and saw the more clean cut of the agents handing out what appeared to be bats and axes to some of the other agents.
“Don’t you think knocking might work better? You know we are covering you right?” the lieutenant yelled to one of the men.
“These are for doing searches,” one of the men yelled back.
“Really? Did you ever consider just asking?”
Laughing, the man replied, “Asking? These people are breaking laws we asked them to obey. They are not paying their fair share of taxes they were asked to pay? They are shooting at people like me, and maybe you. Do you really think they are just going to voluntarily tell us where they have hidden everything?”
The man turned away without waiting for an answer.
Lt. Smith had to agree, but he still thought that asking was worth a shot. It was going to be a sad shame to see such a beautiful home destroyed from a search. Search?
“HEY! Do you have your warrant for the search?” Lt. Smith suddenly realized there had been no discussion of a warrant at any of the briefings this morning, and there were no police in this bunch. ‘Someone had to have thought of it, right?’ Smith thought to himself.
“No. As per the ALPP Act, we use a ‘seed.’ That’s what we have,” the man shouted back.
Quickly searching his memory for the familiar acronym, Lt. Smith fumbled for the place in his mind where he had stored the recent information on C.E.D. (pronounced inappropriately as ‘seed’), which stood for “Constitutional Executive Decree.” It was a Supreme Court ruling following the passage of the ALPP Act, that basically stated that any executive of government (Mayor, Sherriff, Governor, and/or President) could write a Constitutional Executive Decree for search and/or seizure of property relating to the ALPP Act, or of any other person property considered to be aiding in the hiding of ALPP Act property and/or taxes, without any oversight by a judge or any other entity.
“That’s right! I remember now. I just wanted to make sure everything was legal!” Lt. Smith yelled back to the man who was already 50 yards away waving backwards at the Lieutenant.
Corporal Peters was steaming. He could see what was actually happening. That idiot Lieutenant of his was just a New England dolt, who’s progressive higher education probably made him even stupider that he was before. Lt. Smith somehow embraced the idiocy that equality can be legislated and insanely believed that just because a law was passed by the government and approved by the judicial system, that it was “Constitutional.” (Like the Federal Reserve Bank is no more ‘federal’ than Federal Express, and certainly is not “Constitutional”) Well it wasn’t. It never would be! This had to stop! Here they were, the military on US soil, on private property, protecting a bunch of thugs about to enter a home without a properly issued warrant, who he doubted were employees of the government in any capacity, and they were probably all about to be complicit in the murder of a family who just wanted to live free of unjust laws.
“Fuck it!” Corporal Peters said aloud.
With lightening speed, he was formulating a plan to stop this insanity before it reached a point where he would not be able to forgive himself for allowing tyranny to happen on his watch. He had to neutralize the Lieutenant somehow, hose down the “agents,” and not die by the hand of the other two Stryker crews. He was illegally (per unconstitutional law) carrying his personal side arm, a Glock 35, in a concealment holster in his waste band. He preferred not to use it if possible, but didn’t see any other option. He still didn’t know how to deal with the other Stryker crews, but he was running out of time. He would cross that bridge when he came to it.
Corporal Peters started out of his seat and was beginning to draw his Glock. He could see the Lieutenant’s lower body in the commander’s hatch. He was going to have to compel him to duck down inside for a moment. Peters wanted to get a clean head shot, as the noise of the firing gun would be heard outside. He would have to be quick - quick to kill, quick to get on the comms system, and quick to get on the MK19. Just as he put his hand on the grip of his Glock, he heard a “Whoosh,” quickly followed by muffled crash, then lots of screaming men.
“Holy Shit! Peters get the fire extinguisher and get out there!” yelled Lt. Smith, awestruck by the sudden fireball to his left. He didn’t see what happened, but was jolted by the rush of air being sucked into the fireball and the sudden bright light of the fire. By the time he got his head turned, he saw a 50 yard wide by 75 yard long area of dry grass and men in coveralls burning. More than half of the agents were on fire, and the others were scurrying in all directions, but most of them were heading for the cover of the Lieutenant’s centrally located Stryker. The smell of the gasoline was burning his nose as was the horrible smell of burning flesh. But the screams of men burning alive was the most repugnant to his senses. He was starting to get overwhelmed and wretched on the side of the Stryker.
With a mouth full of acidic morning breakfast flavors, Lt. Smith called out again, “Hurry the fuck up, Peters! Where is that damn fire extinguisher?”
Having no idea what had happened, or what awaited him, Corporal Peters had put aside his desire to relieve Lt. Smith of his command, and instead was focusing on putting out whatever fire existed outside the safety of the Stryker. He had already retrieved the fire extinguisher and was dropping the rear hatch as the Lieutenant was yelling at him a second time. As the door opened, he was greeted with the strong smell of gasoline, and at least 3 “agents” rushing into the rear of the Stryker as the door came open, with more following close behind. As he turned the corner, he could see the bodies burning on the already singed ground. By the pattern, he could see that whatever happened had an east/west trajectory, and had emanated from behind them.
Quickly looking to the east to scan for dangers, he saw the small incoming fireball heading straight for him. As in the early days of youth baseball, his eyes and mind quickly worked out the trajectory and likely landing spot for the “catch,” and knew his Stryker was in the impact zone. Not wanting to catch this particular ball, he dropped the fire extinguisher and started running due east as fast as he could, scanning for the fireball, while more unwary agents flooded into the troop bay of the Stryker. At the moment the fireball struck the rear of his Stryker at the top above the open door, he had already moved eastward almost 90 feet and was behind a Ford Expedition, an in front of a Chevy van, clear of the impact zone.
Lt. Smith had rotated rearward to see his Corporal exiting the Stryker. He noted that he was standing at the corner surveying the carnage. He was about to yell at him again, but realized the horror his Corporal was quickly having to absorb, he hesitated. Just then he noticed that Peters started sprinting to the east and a split second later noticed the ball of fire coming at him. With the same basic human ability to quickly calculate trajectory, time remaining, and impact probability, Lt. Smith’s conclusions were the same as Corporal Peters’. The difference being that Corporal Peters was going to be able to clear the impact zone and he was not. For that split second before impact, Lt. Smith considered the absurdity of his imminent death from a what appeared to be a medieval device against a $5 million piece of the worlds most modern armored transport vehicle; ‘bested by a ball of fucking fire likely hurled from a wooden catapult’ he thought to himself in the last seconds, followed by his mind filling with scenes of the coyote being bested by the roadrunner.
Just as he made the feeble attempt to duck behind his open commander’s hatch for cover, the 20lb glass ball, of which was filled with 15 lbs of a gasoline-detergent mixture inside of a rubber bladder with a burning cloth wick attached, impacted the upper rear of his Stryker. The heavy glass ball shattered on the edge of the Stryker, splitting the bladder and spewing a now burning gelatinous mixture inside the rear troop area of the Stryker, down both sides, and a large flaming portion flying over the top and onto several vehicles parked ahead of the command Stryker. The burning globs stuck to the vehicles and to the many agents who had sought shelter in, or near the command Stryker. Their cheap, Chinese made cotton coveralls instantly igniting and the super-heated cotton gluing itself to their skin. The seventeen agents that had taken cover around the central command Stryker following the first fireball attack were now engulfed in flames and writhing about on the ground.
Corporal Peters, expecting still more incoming rounds looked back at the now flaming command Stryker. The five agents who had fled into the back just after opening the hatch, and an unknown number that entered as he dropped the fire extinguisher and ran from the vehicle were surely dead. The entire troop bay was engulfed in heavy fire. Lt. Smith was dead for sure. The open commander’s hatch was acting as a chimney, and fire was rising fifteen or more feet from it. He was certain that the lieutenant would not have had time to extricate himself in the less than 4 seconds it took for the medieval mortar to make its impact from the time he had first seen it and ran for cover himself. The scene somewhat reminded him of the rocket stove he kept in his storage unit, except that this one was much larger and cost million of dollars and instead of wood for fuel, it was fueled by gasoline, detergent, and the human flesh of what he considered tyrants. Fitting, and one less thing he was going to have to take care of himself.
As he peeked around the rear bumper of the van, he could see the remaining dozen or so unscathed agents darting about in random directions, trying to hide as best they could from the next barrage. He saw that the lead Stryker had already moved up the hill towards the house, presumably to take cover near the home. There were a couple of agents attempting to chase it down, but to no avail. He couldn’t around wait to find out, as he was still in the open, and turned to run to the security Stryker which had started firing at the eastern hill shortly after the first mortar had landed in the Numrey’s front yard, taking out over half of the agents in the process.
He had to get in that Stryker, and they had to move to adequate cover. Just before he made it to the buttoned-up Stryker, it lurched rearward as it started to back away from the remaining column of vehicles, its remotely operated .50 BMG machine gun still chewing up the trees and dirt at the top of the eastern hill. His adrenaline pumping, and the pain in his chest already unbearable, he sprinted as fast as he could to the Stryker so as not to lose contact. He knew that the Stryker driver would be able see him approaching (if he were looking through the driver’s port instead of the rear camera monitor.) Corporal Peters had to get his attention, and he had to get inside. The next ball of flaming death could be on its way any second. And with the accuracy he had witnessed so far, he had to assume they had a coordinated and experienced fire control and aiming system, complete with spotter ready to drop serious pain on him at any moment.
He removed his Glock and grabbed the barrel and began pounding on the front of the Stryker with the butt of the handgun, its plastic grip and magazine rapping on the hull was much quieter than he expected. He needed the driver to look forward. With the sudden stop of the Stryker, Corporal Peters was forced to take evasive action to avoid impaling his chest on the front armor plating. He only managed to slow himself and get one step to his left, not enough to keep from striking the tapered nose plate on the corner with his right side, sending him tumbling. He just managed to clear the large off-road wheels as the Stryker lurched again, but forward this time. He quickly jumped up and started rasping on the side hull as the Stryker started to move past him.
“Hey! Its Peters! Stop! Stop Damnit!” he yelled hoping someone would hear his pounding over the whine of the diesel engine and the blasts of the 50 BMG turret. He knew he would not be able to run along side the vehicle for long, partly because he was becoming winded, and also because the Stryker would soon be moving at a pace far faster than his legs could churn to keep up. But the Stryker again came to a sudden stop and the 50 BMG stopped firing. The commander’s hatch quickly popped open, and Sergeant James Masinov peered out as if expecting something else.
“Damn, Peters! We thought you became a crunchy! Hurry up! Get up here and inside!” Sergeant Masinov yelled to him.
Corporal Peters climbed up on the security Stryker and entered through the vacated commander’s hatch. Quickly assessing the situation, he yelled out, “I’m in! Roll! Roll!” and he buttoned up the commander’s hatch behind him.
The Stryker, piloted by Private First Class (PFC) Chris Hallilund quickly accelerated and started bounding over the mostly smooth terrain. Peters and Masinov silently switched positions, and Sergeant Masinov assumed the commander‘s seat again. It was not normal for lower ranking enlisted men to be the commander of a Stryker. This was usually reserved for officers or more senior non-commissioned officers (NCO). However their were occasions (this was one of them), where lower ranking NCOs would be the commanders of individual Strykers. For today, one of the three Strykers was commanded by an E-4, this one by an E-5, while Peter’s now destroyed Stryker had been commanded by the only officer of their small contingent, who was now deceased due to recently being over cooked.
In reality, Corporal Peters was a sergeant also. He had received his letter of promotion just a few days before, which gave him all of the privileges and responsibilities of the rank, but not the pay. On their remote temporary base, he did not have access to new sergeant’s patches and insignia, and no one else seemed to have any spares for his uniform. He should have been the commander of Stryker 21 Charlie, but Lt. Smith had asked him to pilot him one last time.
Once they were resituated, Masinov began his quick and terse report, “we’re moving to support 21 Bravo. And until you came knocking, we were suppressing to the east, but never located any tangos. Everything is operational,” concluding his report.
He then quickly added, “did you see that shit? That was some real World of Warcraft shit, I tell ya’!”
“Saw it? One of those damn things almost landed on me! The only reason I am alive is that I was exiting and saw it coming in. I ran like hell. The Lieutenant’s fried! We’re it, Sergeant” Peters reported. “Did you call it in yet?”
Even though less than two minutes had elapsed since the last round fell on the command Stryker and only about 4 minutes since the first round came in, it was common for enemy contact to be called in to command. “What d’ya think I should fuckin’ say, Sergeant? We’re under attack by a 9th century Viking catapult? Hell, we didn’t even figure out what it was until a few seconds ago when Hal saw the one hit your Stryker, and we still weren’t sure! For all we know, they are using a big ass sling shot or something to launch those things. I’m not going to be the one to call in that we were bested by ancient technology; not unless I have to, and I don’t have to!” Masinov exclaimed.
The whole time Masinov was speaking, Peters had moved in front of a non-descript panel and pulled a small tool kit out of his cargo pocket. The tools were rolled in tan canvas, which he laid out on the troop seat next to him. It had individual pockets sewn in with a small tool inside each pocket. None of the tools themselves were remarkable, but it was obvious that each of the mini-tools had been chosen for a reason. “Fair enough.” came the retort from Peters.
“Hey Hal? Put this thing in a good position so we can cover each other. Get as close to that house as you can. I doubt they will fire bomb their own house.” Peters would have preferred the cover of the heavy woods to obscure themselves from any spotters, but he knew they needed the mutual support of the other Stryker, and right now, the house was their best bet.
“Roger, Sergeant” acknowledged PFC Hal.
“Did Bravo call it in?” asked Peters, as he started to remove the 6 screws holding the flat cover plate on the wall, with one of the tools from his tool kit.
“Fuck no! What’s wrong with you, man? Nobody’s callin’ that shit in! And what in the hell are you doin’ to my Stryker, Sergeant?” Masinov was becoming exasperated with Peters, also wondering why he was removing a panel he had never even noticed before.
Peters started, “Look, we have to figure this out, and we only have a few seconds to do it. There is no telling if they are going to send another one of those things at us. The Lieutenant is dead, most of the agents are dead and the other ones are scattered. It is obvious to me that this whole thing is some type of a big set-up, and now we are wrapped up in it.”
Speaking over Peters, “Hal! Go another 20 meters and stop.”
“Roger,” came the reply from PFC Hallilund.
Having never stopped speaking, Peters went on, “We need to make a plan and put it into action. We have to do it right now!”
Peters paused while he pulled the plate off of its mount and placed it aside, then placed the tool used to remove its screws back into its pouch. He then removed a Robertson driver from its individual pouch. Behind the non-descript plate he removed was a bunch of wires and cables. There was another small box inside with wires going in and out. Corporal Masinov was listening while peering through the commander’s ports scanning for dangers.
Corporal Peters started to remove the square head screws holding the cover on, and continued, “Do you remember all of those Liberty conversations we have had over the past year or so? Do you think what we are doing here is right? Do you think those scraggly looking assholes were actually agents acting in a legal capacity?”
Peters continued without waiting for answers to his statements posed as questions, “Do you think those ‘seeds’ are actually Constitutional? Do you think the American people are going to view us a saviors or tyrants for such actions? The choice is now.”
“What the hell are you sayin’?” Masinov demanded.
Peters finished removing the square head screws from the cover on the small box and removed the lid revealing more wires and printed circuit boards. He placed the Robertson screwdriver into its individual pouch in the took kit, and then removed a small pair of needle nose pliers. He reached into the box with the pliers and placed them on a ribbon plug going into a circuit board.
Peters turned to Masinov, “It’s amazing the things you can learn from mechanics and electronic techs during a few drunken poker games.”
“We start making things right. What is happening in this country is wrong. You know it’s wrong; I know it’s wrong, and the great people of this country obviously know it’s wrong. It is time for us to take this golden opportunity and get on the right side of this situation and the Constitution.”
Peters was resolved. He knew that Sergeant Masinov would go along once he could better explain. He also knew that Hal and the two others in 21 Bravo would be open to doing the right thing. They had all had plenty of conversations on Liberty, Freedom, the Constitution, Politics, and Revolution for Peters to know their true hearts. He was making a command decision, even though he wasn’t in command.
Squeezing the handles of the pliers, he gently removed the plug from the electronic control board for the onboard transponder that sent out position reports to command and other Strykers. He then removed the plug that controlled the IR Stobe system, and finally removed the plug that controlled the communications system. He realized that they would have to devise some way to make the other two operational Strykers appear to have been completely destroyed , but that was for later.
“We’re dark….and we’re free,” Peters quietly stated. “Congratulations Sergeant! You just became the proud owner of a $5 million dollar Stryker. The question is, can you use it to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?" Pausing to wait for Masinov to turn and look at him, Peters continued, "Now, let’s get those two assholes pounding on Bravo’s hull in here and find out the truth, while I disable the other transponder!”
Masinov glancing down at Peters, “What the….”