Tuesday, November 16, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 1d - by nova

Of course he said "Sure" and of course I didn't believe him. I was trying to figure out if I was going to kill him or let him join the Horde. It was going to be close at this rate.

We went in the front doors. It still smelled like an elementary school. That was where the resemblance ended. Two little midget soldiers stood in the lobby flanking a large portrait of the Colonel between the US flag and the local one. Their rifles, they looked like Enfields, were damn near as tall as they were. Painted in block letters above what used to be the administrators glass cage was "MY LOYALTY IS TO GOD AND THE PEOPLE" I thought they might want to work on that. It did nothing for me.

We went into the administrator area and were greeted at the counter by an old woman who probably never stopped working there. She looked exactly like the librarian who banned me from the computers at school for watching youtube videos back in the day. She asked us "Can I help you?" Very polite and even colder.

"Yes. We're here to pick up Zane Morton." I wanted to add "And a pizza with everything on it for carryout" but I didn't. I was working on being smooth and diplomatic. Of course Thursday added "We're on a mission for a fair maiden." I was beginning to think he had been dropped on his head one too many times at the Renaissance Festival.

Once again I noticed the shadow pass over her eyes. What the hell had Carol given birth to? A mutant?

She said "I see. Please wait here." She disappeared down a hallway and I listened to her footsteps until she went inside an office at the end of it. She whispered "They're here." I heard a male voice reply "Thank you Mrs. Greene." She came back to us smiling and said Mr. Lowell will be with you in a minute." She went about doing what had to be busywork. He made us wait of course. I was being remarkably patient I thought. Too bad Night wasn't here to see it. She would have approved. Thursday was not good at patience. After a couple minutes he said "Where is this Mr Lowell? Perhaps we should go find him."

Mrs Greene heard this and sent a disapproving stare our way. We both ignored it. After about seven minutes I was done with being patient and was going to go find him when I heard a chair squeak and the heavy footsteps of a large and graceless man coming towards us down the hallway. I almost laughed out loud. Mr Lowell was wearing a Scoutmasters uniform that looked two sizes too big for him. There were a few additions. Like the black plastic handgun in the brown leather holster. He was beaming, balding and needed to start wearing sunblock from the looks of his florid face. I hated him on sight. He went behind the counter to join Mrs. Greene. The hand he extended across it was as soft as I expected. He smelled like old cum and sweat.

He extended his hand to Thursday. He ignored it. Instead he told him "Make us wait again and they will be able to mail your head to your Mother in an envelope." I laughed. I liked that. I guess he didn't like to wait anymore than I did. I told him "We're here for Zane Morton on behalf of his Mother."

"I see." He looked down at his boots which were nicely polished. Took his index finger and rubbed his nose, then said "Certainly. We do have procedures." He looked over his shoulder at the woman and said "Please explain to these gentlemen the procedures." Then he started to walk away. That was a mistake. I grabbed him by the shirt, twisted, and slammed him against the counter hard. He winced and groaned. Then I hit him in the sweet spot right below the rib cage. Mrs Greene started moving and without looking at her I said "Don't." She froze.

I told Thursday "Go get one of them midget honor guards and tell them to find Zane and bring him here." I smiled at Mr. Lowell and said "You don't have a problem with that do you?" He was looking a little ill and just nodded his head in agreement. "Good" I told him. I added "We just had a misunderstanding...didn't we?" He nodded again. I let him go and stepped away from him. He looked like he was going to barf any second.

I smiled at Mrs. Greene. She didn't return it. Instead she snarled and said "You just wait. You heathen, foreigner loving, terrorist piece of crap. You just wait..." She shut up. Not because of me. Mr. Greene was giving her the death glare though I didn't find it all that scary. I told her, speaking quietly, "Talk to me like that again and Mr. Lowell will be cleaning your head off the wall with a sponge." She looked like the type that keeping her mouth shut was something she wasn't accustomed too. I gave her ten minutes before I painted the wall with her poor excuse of a brain.

Thursday strode into the office. He was perking up. I guess the old guy enjoyed this. It had to be better than sitting around in a village outpost watching a lot of nothing go by. I also noticed the gloves he had tucked into his WWF belt were now on his hands and the hammer was out and being carried. The hammer looked different too. It was lighter in color but it was inside illumination rather than a metallic shine. Mr Lowell was gripping the counter edge tightly but his color was better.

"What's up Thursday?"

"One of the little men went to find him. He will bring him here."

"Thanks Thursday."

I looked at Mrs. Greene and asked her "Got anything to say?"

She opened her mouth, thought better of it, and shut it. I laughed.

Two minutes later I heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Light ones. Kid sounding ones. Honor Guard kid came in, saluted the room, and said "Corporal Zane Morton is here." He then did a snappy about face and left. Probably back to his post. That's when Zane stepped in the room, saluted, and said "Reporting as ordered sir."

I stared at him. He wasn't much to look at. Just a scrawny kid in a green t-shirt and khaki shorts. His corporal stripes had been drawn his t-shirt sleeve with a black magic marker. There was just a couple problems that I was trying to process and I was having difficulty doing it. The flow in the room changed when he entered. Not just a little. A lot. He didn't have any African American ancestry. At least not in the last 40,000 years or so. No, that I was certain of. What I was also certain of was I knew who his daddy was. It just didn't seem possible. I tried doing the math in my head but it wouldn't compute. I was looking at Max's son.

I dug into my left cargo pants pocket and pulled out the Transformer t-shirt and tossed it to the kid. "This yours?" He caught in the air, unfolded it, sniffed it, and said "Yes sir."

I asked him "Your Mom named Carol Morton?"

"YES SIR!" The kid was literally quivering in place.

"You want to go see her?"


I grinned "Okay. We can do that." I looked at Lowell and told him, not asked him "So we're good." He croaked out a "Yes." I looked at Mrs. Greene "You okay with this?" Tight lipped she replied "Yes." I stared at her, waiting for the tirade I knew she so wanted to bust loose with. Nothing. Good. Let the toxic hate inside stay inside. Maybe she would have a stroke. I looked around the room, and then said "Well, I guess we are out of here."

The kid stopped us. He asked me politely "Can I say goodbye to Mr. Lowell?"

I wanted to say "Are you freaking crazy? The man is an asshole." Then I thought about it, "Maybe he was good with kids? Maybe he let him be head of the hall patrol. Shit. Who knew?" So I told him "Sure. Make it fast." Mr Lowell didn't seem to enthusiastic about coming out from behind the counter so I told him "Get your ass out here Lowell. I don't have all fucking day."

He pushed through the little swinging door at the end and came out and stood about as far away as he could get from me. I told the kid "Do your thing little man. We got to roll." Zane looked up at me smiled, and said softly "Thank you sir." Then he marched up to him. I couldn't see his face but I was interested in the flicker of fear I saw cross Lowells face. I heard Zanes little kid voice say "Thanks for everything Mr. Lowell" and then he punched him in the nuts.

He did a nice about face, marched back to me, and said "I'm ready now sir."

I laughed, and said "Yeah. I guess so.

I looked at Thursday. He understood what I wanted. He strode out of the room and stopped a couple feet out the door and looked around. If anyone was out their waiting for us with a weapon Thursday was dead meat which was okay with me. Better him than the kid or me. I didn't hear anything so I told the kid "Follow the hammer." Once I saw him moving I started backing towards the door behind him. My body in their line of fire. I thought about shooting them both but I wanted a quiet exit from this town.

"Well. It's been real" I told them and we walked out of there.

We hit the street and nothing was waiting for us. "All right." I told them. "Lets move." I let Thursday walk in front while us while the kid and I walked side by side."The kid was looking around, about breaking his neck in the process while trying to look like he wasn't at the same time.

I knew what he was looking for. I had looked for her enough myself. I told him "She isn't here but she isn't that far away."

He looked up at me, smiled, and said "I know. I can feel her."

We walked back the way we came. Nothing had changed that I could see. Why should it have? I hadn't killed anyone. I had picked the kid up and played it by their rules. Lowell would get over his nut whacking and Mrs. Greene still had her virginity of mind and spirit. Yet something was off. I got distracted from trying to figure out if and where a threat could be coming from by the kid.

"Excuse me sir."

I told him "The name is Gardener. The guy in front is Thursday. Sir is on vacation from reality somewhere on a mountain top. What?"

"I'm hungry...Gardener."

He couldn't have timed it better. We were approaching the diner and I could smell the food cooking. I was hungry too and my nose was telling me that someone was baking apple pie and grilling meat. "You hungry Thursday?" He just grunted for a reply. I took it as a "Yes." I told the kid "Okay. We'll eat." We crossed the street. I noticed the kid didn't even check for traffic so I smacked him lightly upside the back of his head and told him "Look both ways when you cross a street." He in turn looked at me like I was an idiot. I let it slide. My mouth was watering.

We walked into the diner and everyone stopped to stare. Nothing unusual there. We had caught them between lunch and dinner so everyone wasn't much more than a couple of tables occupied. I ignored the waitress who came up to seat us and took a table by the wall. I nodded at the people we passed, checked their plates, and was greeted with nods in return. The place was like Shelli's diner. A limited selection. We had our choice of stew or the special which was steak.

She greeted us and I asked her "That smells like beefsteak. Is it?" She laughed. "Yeah. Once it's gone it will be awhile. We got a side of beef in. Some farmer got his cow through all the stuff that happened by hiding it. Then just lately he decided it was safe for her to graze and he let her out. She stepped in a hole or something and she broke her leg." She laughed "God works in mysterious ways."

"That apple pie I smell too?"

"Yep. We might be the only place in thirty miles that has it."

I told her "I'm surprised you don't have people lined up down the street."

She grinned, and told me "Ask me how much this is going to cost you."

She was right. Plus I had to pay a "conversion" fee to cover the changing of my silver into "Freedom" dollars. I had to dig embarrassingly deep to cover it as it was cash up front. Thursday of course looked off into the distance while this all happened. When she left he looked at me and said "So who is doing the plundering here?" I just glared at him instead of replying. Of course he ordered his steak rare or as he said "Carve a piece and put it on a plate." That didn't go over well with the waitress. She wasn't to pleased with my "medium rare" either. The boy ordered "well done" which got him the waitress smile of approval. I asked Zane, after she left "What's up with the meat having to be cooked?" He knew what I was talking about. He told me, and he didn't look to happy to be saying it. In fact he whispered it "If it bleeds sometimes people think bad things of you or remember bad things."

"Oh." I told him. That made sense.

Thursday was not the kind of guy you wanted to sit across from at a table. His table manners were on the same level as Woofs. He took a look at his steak. Picked it up in his gloved hand and began ripping pieces off and stuffing them in his mouth. It didn't bother me or the kid enough for us not to eat. Damn, I had forgotten how good beef was. The pie was even better. Not as sugary as I liked but still good. While we were eating the remaining tables emptied out. I was getting increasingly uneasy. Uneasy enough that I was stuffing my face in the same style Thursday was. I told the kid "Hurry up. We got to roll." Thursday was already done. He leaned back in his chair, belched, and said "They come."

He was right. I looked out the window to see a Humvee rolling up in front of the diner right about then. "Time to go guys" I told the other two. We had stood up when they came in through the back. It wasn't a bull rush. They just casually sauntered out into the dining area. All of them dressed for the occasion. The officer in charge smiled at me and said "Hello Gardener. We've been expecting you. Nice of you to drop by."

I smiled back and said "I'm not going to leave a tip now."

He replied "That's understandable. We knew you or Max would be coming for the boy. Some would have preferred Max. Personally I don't give a shit. That 'Medal' shit may have meant something back in the day but it don't mean nothing now."

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