Friday, April 23, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland - Chapter 2d

Loco began trying to untie the cords that they had used to tie down the tarp with. It was blue of course. I sometimes thought if I ever started my own country the national flag would be a blue tarp. He was having problems with the knots they had used. I told him "Just cut them Loco."  The Old Mans lips compressed into a tight line when I said that. He started to put his sunglasses back on. I said "Don't." I watched his face ripple with his thoughts "Fuck him. Do it. No. He'll do something. Probably painful. I'm a man damn it!" He was going to do it. I pulled the hammer back on the Navy. He changed his mind.

Loco cut through the cords, sheathed his blade and began pulling back the tarp. I didn't know what to expect. Hell, it could been filled with dried people jerky headed for some Gnawer market. Carefully wrapped bundles of white and dark meat.  It wasn't.

We had the same stuff we saw in the backs and trunks of cars. A suitcase. Some trash bags, the official suitcase of the homeless, a couple of cardboard boxes with pots and pans, and what looked to be spices. Also three sleeping bags, each tightly rolled, and some plastic water jugs, one of which was leaking I noticed. Seeing that let everybody relax a notch. I smiled at the boys and said "See. No big deal." Bearded Boy smiled weakly. The other two were still pissed. I understood that. Too bad.

I was going to tell Loco to just grope the Hefty's.  I changed my mind. He obviously knew what he was doing.  The tension went back up a notch when he stepped away from the cart. looked at it, then walked around one side. knelt down, then stood back up. He looked at me, and said "We got something here." I knew it as soon as he took a knee by the change on the Boys faces.

Of course then they had to go for it. Ricky was for shit as an actor but he was fast on the trigger. I already had a round in Bearded Guy, maybe a tiny piece of a second before Ricky. Loco was on them too. We were fast, but it was sloppy and overkill. Overkill because none of us knew the other well enough to bet their life on them doing what needed to be done. I sighed mentally and thought "No wonder Max walked us through the why and whats afterwards."

I looked at Old Man who was frozen in place and white in the face.  "So...what are we going to find old man?" 

"I don't know. Really!"

Either did I actually. I didn't even know what had alerted Loco. I thought I would keep that to myself. Instead I said "Show him Loco."

Ricky looked at Loco and said "False Bottom?"

"Yep. Same old shit. Different country." Loco started tossing luggage out of the back of the cart when a voice I recognized blasted the word "Run!" into my head and followed it with an image of a smoking crater. I went from 0 to 60 in nothing flat yelling "Bomb!" as I passed Loco and Ricky. They understood that word. I had a five stride lead on them but they were moving at speed right behind me. I felt like I had been running, and not fast enough, for an eternity or three or four seconds when the same voice screamed "Down!" and down I went.

I hit the ground hard, ate grass, and skidded to a stop. Almost on top of me was Loco who from the "Oof" I heard hit as hard as I did. Ricky was about two strides behind us. I covered my ears, and buried my face in the grass I had just mowed with my face and waited. The ground shook, the boom not even muffled by my hands and Marlboro butts in my ears, and dirt and other crap rained down on us. I knew my head was going to be hurting for certain soon. Jeebus that was loud.

I waited a few seconds, got up on my knees, and while I finger combed crap out of my hair and clothes looked back at where we had been. There was a small crater where we had been standing. Old Guy was nowhere to be seen. I thought "Well, he did say his legs were hurting. Probably not bothering him now."  I stood up and gave Loco a hand up. Him and Ricky started doing what I was doing. The only  difference was they were saying "Holy shit" while I was thinking it.

I was rearranging all the gear I had hung on me. "Take a look guys" I told them "While I check in with headquarters."  Mentally I sent Freya the word that meant I wanted to talk to her "Svärd." I didn't get why I had to say that. I wanted to say "Earth to Freya" but no, we had to had to have a nifty cool Norse word.  She was there instantly as I had expected. I didn't bother with verbal foreplay "What the fuck was that about?"

 She sounded genuinely puzzled "I don't know."

 "Damn. I bet you can hear my ears ringing from there."

 She laughed "No, all I hear in your head is the usual." I didn't bother to ask. I knew it would be insulting. "Can you patch Max and Night in?"  I was surprised by how much I wanted to hear Nights voice. Everything we verbalized in our heads went out to whoever was tied into the Freya party line so she heard and felt it too.  I heard/saw her smile. "No Max. He is discipling people. I felt her fierce joy about that. "Here is Night"

 As soon as she came on I sent images of how much I missed her as she did to me. I thought "Wow! This is intense. Maybe we could..."

Night cut me off laughing "No."

 We went back and forth, then settled down an actually talked for about five minutes about nothing really. It was a delight just to talk to her. Well, actually it was listen. She did most of the talking.  Then we got down to what just happened. Prompted by Freya who told us "You want to hurry up. I got birds to talk to."

 "So what do you think?" I asked Night.

She was silent for a few beats and then said "Who were they going to be running into next?" Then she sent me an image of the horde.

 "Oh. Yeah."

 Freya joined in "Me?"

 We both answered her "Yep." 


  1. Cart-people were going to lay a cart-bomb on some Fed's, if they ever found some. Booby trapped, or triggered by one of them?

    If this was RDX, it could have been made good use of in improvised Claymore, EFP's, or barrier breaching. If it was nitroglycerin or sweating dynamite, good riddance.

    Even low-tech just-a-big-lump-of-explosives (as found, dynamite in a case or salvaged from a wrecked military vehicle) can make a mess of a bunch of people gathered around for a snake-oil sale or a pie eating contest.

    Politics? They seemed to have no love for the electric car Fed's, but it doesn't seem like killin' themselves was exactly the plan.

    It's good to have a 10-second head start courtesy of a minor god speaking in your head.

  2. The target was Freya. Max and Gardener are important pieces. Freya is the game changer.

  3. So the fed's tried to take Freya out cheaply. I suppose the failure of this operation will kick it up to the next level- the lieutenant's problem just became the captain's problem, or whatever the hierarchy may be. Assuming that the horde is being watched by drones, would they do better by abandoning the bikes and walking through forests? A trade-off between moving relatively fast in the open versus going slower but with less chance of detection. So much to consider... do you want to arrive in Montana at the beginning of Winter with only the supplies on your back? Take it slow and get there the following Spring, in time for planting? But how to survive in the meantime?

    I really enjoy this serialized novel. It's a joy to follow the creative process as it unfolds. The blog form of a serialized novel will probably be seen as nothing special, another accepted method of writing, to my children. But to me it's new and exciting.

    And of course it will require a new type of writer- those that are bold, not secretive, and who tolerate feedback from the anonymous masses. A far cry from the stereotypical novelist. The type that won't let anyone read their work until it has been blessed by a publishing house's editor. Even though the same editor would probably pan Moby Dick because some chapters spend too much time on the mundane details of whaling technology and do nothing to advance the plot.

  4. Interesting that Freya was the apparent target.

    How did word get around to a band along the line of travel that she was important to the Max and Gardener horde?

    And even if they had heard reports of her powers, wouldn't they need to have been bested by the horde in a number of unusual ways before they would conclude that the report was credible enough that they had to do something to take her out of the picture?

    My impression from reading these new chapters is that we have rejoined Gardener just a few days after the battle that happened right before the end of AA III. It seemed to me that up to then Freya was a capability that the band was just starting to mention publicly. Gardener invoked her name when he kicked ass in AII Ch.17 and Max had sworn the newly absorbed horde members "by Freya".

    I don't recall an incident that would have caused other bands to pay attention to her powers and realize that she was a threat to their success and survival. It would probably take a few weeks, maybe even a few months, for other folks to figure out the Freya that they heard of in battle was an actual, living on earth, advantage-granting war goddess who tooled into battle on her own motorcycle.

    I would imagine that it would be difficult for recently church going Ohioans to even wrap their mind around the concept that a goddess who did bird's eye surveillance was actually a danger to their future success and survival. If some one came in telling that story, they'd suspect at first that the tale-teller had a bunch of screws loose.

    The horde just showed up in Ohio the other day and kicked ass, but I would think rumors and stories would still be sparse enough, that other bands would not know enough about them yet to think that the horde was a threat that needed to be dealt with posthaste or that Freya was a capability that should be neutralized before others.

    Wouldn't the horde's success in battle put the target on Max before anyone else since his generalship would be given most credit for the victory that was won?

    I would think that the horde could get through four or five major battles before opponents would know for sure that Freya needed to be reckoned with.

    Also, whoever sent the cart pulling trio towards the horde would have to be extremely forward thinking leader who must have been able to marshal great threats or rewards to send these guys out to do an almost certainly suicidal mission.

  5. Hello David,

    Good questions. Thank you. This is the main reason I am posting this online. What is obvious to me may have gaping holes in it to a reader.

    How I got to this point?

    1. Freya was a creation of the Burner movement. Or they believe so at least. Inside the mountain they thought of her more as a light weight photogenic movement prophet with possibilities. Some of the more devout may have expected more.

    2. The part of the military who tried to run a coup would have had knowledge of her. That knowledge would have become known to the feds. She was important enough back at the mountain that a squad was sent to find her when she left.

    3. It would not have escaped the powers to be that this group was of interest when the Burner leadership tried to contact her in the town. The reaction to her. and their desire for her to leave with them points to the fact that the Burner leadership, and probably rank and file are expecting a messiah. Specifically her.

    4. Why not kill her? Perhaps the plan was keep her under observation and watch her. You can always kill her but it is hard to use her if she is dead.

    5. She was also with Max. His people had a good rapport with the feds and state. She would have been seen as "in custody" without alerting anyone.

    6. The local gangs and what have you don't know yet. The Christian groups would only be know what they here from Burner sources and the fed/state.

    7. It may not been advertised as a suicide mission. They may have planned to do it as an IED

    I also wrote the build to the cart scene not knowing where I was going with it. I had a different idea in the back of my head but decided to go this way when I started writing.

    Thanks for reading. I will reread and think about it. I may have to rewrite or add...

  6. I'm glad to see other possibilites of her. I thought of two reasons for bringing her in, whether she is a goddess, or a psychic, or just a child that has been through too much: 1. The whole grooup is going to be wiped out, or 2. The group will turn into the bad guys. The original goddess, I believe was a fertility goddess. That will be something they can use if they settle down and become farmers. mmr