Thursday, December 30, 2010

American Apocalypse - Chapter 12b - by Nova

I thought it was interesting seeing, once I had stopped shooting, what my graduating classes reaction was to the sound of gunfire. They did pretty good. Most of them immediately ran for cover and drew their weapons.  I was so impressed that I realized it might be smart of me to say something so I didn't get shot. So I yelled "US Marshall!  It's over people."   I walked over to Sledge just to make sure he was dead. He was.  It would have been a miracle if he wasn't but if anyone would have a spark of life left it would have been him.  It was weird but I kind of liked him. To bad he went over to the dark side somewhere along the line.  I was getting ready to start looking for his truck keys when the security team arrived with weapons drawn and yelling "Drop your weapons now!"

I looked at them and said "Fuck you. US Marshall serving a warrant. Point them muzzles in another direction before I jam them up your asses. Better yet, secure the area and get them people moving."  Then I went back to looking for the truck keys.  He had them in his front pocket.  I hit the emergency button on the clicker and the truck with the light bar and goodies started talking. I shut it up and pocketed them. When I got back on my feet and looked around the security team was moving people on. A couple was complaining about the blood all over the Prius and I saw Sherri and her escort standing not to far away staring at the bodies.  I yelled to the security team which had doubled in size to put the bodies in the back of my new truck and walked over to her.

"Hey Sherri"

"Hi Gardener." She had greeted me but she wasn't looking at me.  She was totally focused on the dead guys.

"Sherri." No response so I said it again softer "Sherri."

"What?" She looked at me and looked away just as quick.

I kept my voice low and soft and ignored her escort who was staring daggers at me "You want to to shoot them before they throw them into the back of the truck? Kick them maybe?"

Now I had her attention. "Why?"

"Might make you feel better?" I was starting to feel like an idiot.

"I'm fine. Nothing happened. Nothing." She was smiling way to brightly at me. 

I looked at her escort, back at her, and said "Sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. You take care now." I touched my hat and left. I made it two paces when I heard her say "Thank you" I didn't stop but I did hesitate for a heartbeat.

They were chucking Greasy Ink into the back of the new truck when a lieutenant decided to get in my face, offically rather than personally. 



"The base commander would like to see you in his office in exactly one hour. Plus I will need you to fill out an incident report and provide us with a copy of the warrant you were serving." 

I looked at him. I wasn't really all that much older than him in years but I felt lifetimes older right then.

"No problem Lieutenant. I'll get right on it."

"Thank you sir" and he was gone but not before yelling at the body loaders "Lets move men. The Marshall has somewhere he has to be!"

He looked back at me for approval and I gave him a lame ass salute that was more of a wave than anything else. He loved it.  What a ass kisser I thought.

I walked over to my truck where they had just finished chucking my kills into the back and told the Corporal who was in charge "thanks."

"No problem Marshall." He dropped his voice "Good shooting. We heard what those assholes did. Sorry to draw on you like we did know... it's procedure and people were watching."

I slapped him on the shoulder and told him "Yeah. I know. We're good." 

I got in the cab, it was a crew cab, and it stunk of sweat, booze, and reefer. I guess passing the urinalysis test wasn't a job requirement in their line of work.  It turned over nicely and I drove out of the parking lot on to the field and headed for the tree line were I had left Zane and Woof.  I pulled up so the passenger side door was facing the woods and got out leaving the engine running. 

Zane was good. He didn't pop out of the woods when he saw me coming. Instead he stayed back inside the tree line until I called his name.

"I heard shooting."

"Yeah. That was me."

I opened both passenger side doors and told Woof "You're in the back fuzz brain." Woofs nostrils were flaring and as soon as he got in he was looking out the back window.

"C'mon kid. We got to roll."

He didn't see the bodies because he was too short. With the crew cab seating he couldn't see them either.  So the first words out of his mouth were "Did you kill Sledge and them others?"


"Good. They were bad people."

"And now they're dead people." 

"So do we go find my Mom now?"

"Buckle up and hold on." 

The truck had been setup to run law enforcement lights and I hit them. Then I hit the gas, whipped the wheel, leaving some ugly tire marks on the carefully mowed grass of the field and we rolled.  I blew through the gate at twice the posted speed limit and flipped the guards off as we went past.  Zane and I were laughing our asses off and Woof was slobbering all over the back window. Life was good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 12a - by Nova

I went over to my truck, got in, slouched down behind the wheel and waited.  The sun was up and the dog shit had warmed up enough to release a subtle bouquet into the summer air.  After awhile I almost didn't notice it.  I dozed for a bit in the sun and woke up as my class began filing into the chairs for their graduation. Once again I had missed my graduation ceremony. I snickered and told myself "The more things change the more they remain the same." I noticed that Sherri had indeed shown up but sat as far as possible from Sledge who when he noticed her, smiled and waved at her. Damn, you got to admire a sensitive lug like that. I would kill him last.

Everyone from my class had reclaimed their weapons. It was interesting to see the change in how they carried themselves now. Well god may have created us but firearms made us all almost equal. I hoped Sherri wouldn't go off and drill them before I had a chance. I wasn't the only one who had thought of that. She a woman in camo with her who was there as much for moral support as to make sure she didn't go off on anyone and ruin the event.

The base commander spoke from his podium draped in the red, white and blue.  His voice carried well, I could hear what he was telling them which was nothing unexpected. It was your basic welcome to the team, better days are coming, together we can make a difference speech.  Then again what else was he going to say?  I doubt if "We're glad you decided to join the firepower team. Give us your hearts and souls and we'll make sure you get enough to eat most days?" was considered politically correct. Actually, when I thought about it, that's all anyone could promise now.

He finished up and sat down behind the podium and some other numbnut in uniform told them they were great and remember that freedom was never free! Then they were dismissed. A couple of yo ho's actually threw their hats in the air. 

I watched Sledge and the boys move in a wedge towards the parking lot. The two assholes behind him were laughing and looking back at Sherri.  She was watching them and I saw her escort reach out, grab her sleeve, and say something fast to her. I stretched, opened the door and dropped down to the ground.  I walked around the front of the truck in a wide arc so I when I stopped I was standing in the center of the lane that Sledge and his boys were walking up.  He saw me and stopped on a dime. The two fools he had teamed up with weren't as fast and one of them walked up his back.  I thought it was pretty funny  Sledge didn't. He reached behind him and tossed Pockmark about six paces to the side of him.

When I was sitting in the truck I had thought about what I was going to say or if I was even going to bother to say anything. I knew I had to work "I have a warrant for your arrest" in there somewhere. I really wanted to say that.

"Hey Sledge...ladies."  I touched my hat brim.

"Get out of the way Gardener." 

Sledge wasn't in the mood it seemed for the formalities.  Greasy Ink laughed and said "Look at the asshole. You think this is a fucking movie cowboy?" 

He quit laughing a microsecond later when his face exploded. I shot Pockmark in the throat a twitch after that. He had bad skin but good reflexes. Just not good enough. He wasn't dead yet but he was pumping blood in a very impressive manner. He stumbled over to a Prius, and draped himself over it.  Sledge just stood there and looked at me.

"I got a warrant for your arrest Sledge." 

"It doesn't have to be this way Gardener.  I had a feeling something was up when they didn't give me my HK. You know we would make a ..."

He was smiling again and moving very slowly towards me. I shot him in the left knee cap. He screamed and went down on his good knee.  

"You okay big guy?"

Through gritted teeth he told me "Fuck you. Jesus it hurts. Help me."  He reached out his arm to me and tried to smile.

I laughed.  "Don't worry Sledge. I called the doctor."  Then I shot him in the mouth.  That smiling shit was getting on my nerves.  

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 12 - by Nova

Morning came soon enough. I woke up wishing the crows had come to me. I would have liked to have seen Night. We had slept a hundred yards from the truck under a tree. We had too. The damn dog shit in the back was still pretty rank. I had opened the cab, grabbed the M-16 and our bedrolls, then we walked upwind until we were good.

Zane was already awake. He asked me "What are we going to do for breakfast Gardener?"

"Go hungry."

I had spotted a real nice diesel crew cab truck with a light bar and all the other goodies parked down from us. I had a feeling I knew who it belonged to.  We sat there watching the sun come up and I amused myself for awhile trying to match cars with their owners in the lot. I was pretty sure that Sherri drove the Subaru with the COEXIST bumper sticker. The location of the graduation ceremony was no mystery. We were about a thousand paces from it.  It was going to take place in front of the main building next to the shrine.  From the number of chairs that had been setup it was not going to be packed.  I watched some camo clad unfortunates do the setup and wheel a podium out while what had to be an NCO supervised.

"All right people, lets mount up."

Zane looked at me puzzled and said "G. It's just me and Woof."

"Yeah. I know. Just go with it kid. Okay?"

He muttered "Okay." 

I stood up and looked around. "Okay Zane. This is what I want you to do. You see the tree line across from us?"


"I want you to take the 16, Woof, and your gear and find a place to sit just inside it." He opened his mouth to say something and I cut him off "No. We do it like I say." I dug into various pockets and gave him all the gold, silver, and script I had left. "Here hold on to this. If something happens to me find Sherri.  She will look out for you. Tell her about Freya. My guess is she might know some Burners."

"You're coming back...right?"

I was touched. He actually looked worried. I laughed and told him "Oh yeah. I'm coming back. This is just standard operating procedure." I cuffed him lightly upside the head. "Don't worry. Now go." They went and I forgot about them. 


Monday, December 27, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11f - by Nova

We sat outside on the grass and waited for him to come back. I was feeling good still and was just sitting there checking my weapons when Zane asked me "So you are going to kill Sledge and his friends tomorrow?"

"Yep. That's the plan."

"Good. Is Sherri going to be okay now?"

"I don't know Zane." I thought about it for a few beats and added "Probably."

He didn't say anything about that. I had pulled my weapons and dumped each round, looked at it, and then reloaded. Everything felt right but I still had to make sure. I was sitting there spinning the cylinder for the hell of it when Zane told me "The crows came last night."


"Your wife is the Asian one right?"

"That she is."

"She hates my mom."

"Yep. She does."


"Not enough time to go there now Zane. How did she look?"


I laughed. Then I heard Lee coming. "Okay. He's on his way back and he's alone. Stand about ten paces from me and off to my left when he gets here.

It took him another two minutes to arrive. I practiced drawing a few times just to make sure everything was flowing right. It was. We were also being watched.  I felt it but I couldn't figure out from where yet.

"That you Gardener?"

I bit down the first reply I thought of and went with "Yeah. Just me and Sledge catching the evening breeze.

He stopped dead and I heard him draw his weapon. "Is that so?" He replied flatly.

"No. Put your gun away. Your scaring Woof."

"Woof growled from over by Zane.

"C'mon Lee. Lets do this."

He approached slowly and didn't holster his weapon until was about ten paces away. When he came to a stop in front of me he handed me a manila envelope and said "Anyone ever tell you that you're an asshole Gardener?"

I took the envelope and stuffed it in a pocket. "Actually yeah."

"So whats your plan?"

"I don't know yet Lee.  Do you know we're being watched."

"Yes. They run night patrols here. Why?"

"No reason. See ya in the morning deputy."

"One more thing Gardener. He handed me a cell phone that was bigger and bulkier than the normal ones. "Sat phone?" I asked.

"Yes indeed. My number is in the envelope. Stay in touch."  Then he walked away.  I watched him go. The sonofabitch had out exited me. Damn. I hated that.

"Lets go people." I still loved saying that. I started walking towards the parking lot. "We're going to sleep near the truck tonight."

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11e - by Nova

Lee asked me "You done?"

I laughed in his face and told him "I'm just getting started. Damn I feel good."  Then I screamed again.  I looked around. Counter man had taken a couple steps back and looked liked like he wanted to run. I smiled at him and he hurried away to the back room.  I laughed.  I looked at Lee "I need Zane's credentials and that warrant."

"We can drop that off at your new room in the morning."

"No. I know they're sitting on your desk. Go get them. We'll wait here. We aren't sleeping in any room. I'm done with that shit.  From here on we roll with one thing in mind."

"What's that?" Lee asked me.

"Take no prisoners." I told him.

I watched his eyes. He wasn't my friend. We weren't buds and he sure as hell wasn't my new boss.  I was curious to see how far he would push it. Would he try and put me in my place or just pretend it was all good and let it slide.  How he reacted next would also tell me how bad they wanted to kill these guys. Someone wanted them dead because he told me "Sure. Give me about twenty minutes." 

I smiled at him and said  "Thanks. I appreciate that." 

I learned from watching Max and Night that smoothing stuff like this over with a little insincere BS went a long way as far as keeping the machine running.

His eyes, which had flickered with uncertainity for a beat or two, steadied and he said "Not a problem." 

We watched him go and I asked Zane "Want to go sit out front with me and wait for him?"

"Sure. Lets go Woof." 

I held the door for Zane and Woof.  We both laughed when Woof  lifted his leg and pissed all over the door once I let it shut behind us. 

"Yeah. I'm done with this place."

"Me too." Zane added. Woof didn't need to say anything. He already had.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11d - by Nova

We walked into an empty building.  It was after hours and everyone had gone home for the day. There was minimal lighting on, the only area really lit up was where we had checked our gear. I saw Zane and Woof standing by the counter and the same old man on the other side of it.  He didn't look happy and I didn't really care. Zane and Woof did. I even got a couple of tail wags. I told Woof "Don't even try." He just grinned at me. 

I stepped up to the counter and told the old guy "Hey."

"Yeah. How's it going."

"Good now."

I pulled Zane's box off the counter and handed it to him. Then I just stared at mine. Just for a minute. Everything was there but that was not why I was staring. The contents were beautiful. I have always been different and I suppose this was just another sign of it. The Rugers were works of art to me. Cold, gleaming, and where the metal showed wear I saw my history. The holsters, sweat and grease stained, the leather scarred in one place by a barbed wire fence I thought I had successfully cleared. The Colt Navy the best looking of them all. Just to hold it was a delight. All of them, once in hand, felt like an extension of me, a part of me I should have been born with.

I slipped my K98 bayonet through my pants belt and slid it in and out of its sheath three times.  That was like the first drink, it went down clear and good. The warmth hitting my stomach and telling me the world was going to be alright. Strapping on the body armor felt good too. Not anywhere as good as putting my guns on. That was good. That was the third shot. The one were it all comes together and you feel like anything is possible.  Then I bucked on Swords harness and it all clicked.  I balled my left hand into a fist, slammed into my chest, and screamed my delight to the world.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11b - by Nova

We did it. Jesus the fed's loved their paperwork. I filled out forms that asked me the same thing the other forms had when we got here. I used the same bogus DOB, city, and other info I had used before. I never used my real info and hadn't for awhile. I learned that when I used to have to fill out forms online and realized I needed some fairly reasonable but wrong dates and places to use. I used the same information over and over after I forgot a password and couldn't remember what city and year I had used for my DOB.

We finished that up, I pocketed the pen, and I asked Lee "Okay. I want my weapons." 

"Not a problem Deputy Marshall Gardener. Not a problem. Welcome aboard" he stuck out his hand. I shook it. I was surprised, he didn't try to do the macho hand squash thing. He was also the first persons hand I had shook in awhile.  I had gotten out of the habit as I hadn't meet anyone I wanted to let get that close and a hold of me.

Lee wasn't slow. "Not used to shaking hands Gardener?" He asked with a faint smile.


"Yeah, I know. I think in the last year, outside the wire, for every hand I shook I must have shot a couple people."

I didn't bother to reply to that. I quit counting what felt like a million years ago now. Instead I said "Nice... Weapons?"

"You're kind of one tracked aren't you bro? Okay. Let's go get them."

We headed over to get them and once we cleared the building I asked him "So how is this Sledge thing going to play out?"  I figured I'd kill them as soon as I got geared up but I wanted to hear what the official agenda was and if it suited me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11a - by Nova

I was led outside the building and down a path lit with solar powered lawn lights and bordered with whitewashed rocks.  We came to a halt outside a two story building of red brick. Here Mr. Lee told the Lieutenant "Thank you. I have it from here."  He saluted Lee and did decent about face and was gone.  I looked at Mr. Lee who gestured towards the twin doors and said "After you."   I walked into the shine of gleaming floors, paint, and the best equipped soldiers I had seen since I arrived.  I had to pass through a metal detector, get a pat down, and then we had to sign in and tell them who we were there to see.  Since I was just baggage Mr. Lee handled that.  He told them we were here to see Maj. Gen. Richards. I was impressed.  I knew that meant stars on his collar but I wasn't sure how many.  The General ranks always confused me. A major was higher the a Lieutenant but as a General a Lieutenant General was higher than a Major. Or was it the other way around?  I guess I was going to find out. 

We took the stairs because there was no other working option. I did see an elevator door but whether it was down for mechanical reasons or management just wanted everyone to get some exercise I never found out. The second level followed the same pattern that I had seen in corporate America once upon a time except the security was far better.  We walked down a hallway and made a right down another one. I knew we were almost there. We had switched from gleaming floor to carpet and the door at the end was very nice wood and flanked by the American flag and a red one with two stars in white.  Well that answered that question.

We walked through the door into wood paneling, thicker carpet, and a empty waiting room.  "To your left Gardener" Mr Lee told me. "We will be meeting in the conference room."  Jesus this was a time warp.  I felt like I was back in the world of when I had a job, the US economy was semi-functioning, and I had been sent to some VP's office to do tech support.  The conference room was a dead ringer for everyone I had ever been in back then. Polished wood table. Swivel chairs on rollers, and a big LCD screen to display PowerPoint presentations or web conferences on. 

A black male was sitting at the head of the table, a laptop was open and off to one side. He had a handful of manila folders in front of him. The one he was looking at when we came in he closed and then stood and offered me his hand.  He said "Marshall Kelly" we shook hands and he said "I see you met Deputy Marshall Lee."

"Yes. He has been talking my head off." I told him and grinned. I liked seeing him shoot Lee a "WTF" look before focusing back on me.  "Good. Good. Please have a seat."

I took one and Lee walked around the table so he could sit across from me.  I had a feeling this was going to be interesting.  

"I'm sure you are wondering what this is all about Mr. Gardener and I"

"Just call me Gardener...Chief"

"Excellent. You can call me Marshall. Now, as I was saying, I have a proposal for you." He paused and they both stared at me, yep, he switched to his piercing stare, these guys were so fucking predictable, and told me "We would like you to become a US Deputy Marshall."

"Why would I want to do that?" I was genuinely curious. 

He reached into his sport coat pocket and laid it on the table, open so I could see inside, and pushed it towards me with a finger.  It was a black leather folding wallet. Inside it was a Deputy US Marshall's credentials made out in my name and with my photo.  His went back into his pocket and came back out with a silver star in a circle that he set beside it.  "This is why. You want Zone credentials.  Well, with these you can go anywhere in the United States.  Not can you go anywhere but you will be treated with respect by local law enforcement and provided courtesies you would never get otherwise."

"Why me?"

Deputy Lee answered this time. "You have prior law enforcement experience and you have a reputation for enforcing it rather impressively."

I wondered which manila folder was me and whose life stories the others contained. "So who do I have to kill?"

"Just the people you planned on killing anyways.  This will make it legal and easier for you."

I had a feeling I knew who they meant. I wanted to hear them say it. Besides I might be wrong. "Who would that be?"

Once again it was Lee who answered "Sledge and his crew. We know they were there. We know the reason you wince when you breath is because you got a little to close to him. We know they raped that young lady. If you are who we believe you are then they are dead men walking."

"Yeah. So why do you want them dead. Don't give me any bull shit about the rape either."

They both looked at each other. I knew I was going to be lucky to get 40% of the real story.

"It's like this Gardener" the Marshall told me, "Certain people thought that using people like Sledge to help restore order would be" He paused and waved his hand in the air "Better than using regular troops or law enforcement. Especially in certain situations.  The administration has since decided that was not a wise decision and would like to terminate that program.  From now it will be done following established procedures and using trained personnel."

"I see." I did too. I would assist in tying up some loose ends and, if need be, I could be eliminated in turn if and when it became necessary. Nice actually. 

"Sure. Why not." I told them and scooped the badge and credentials off the table. The Marshall put out his hand to stop me but he was too slow. He tried to make it look like it was a joke and told me "Not so fast Gardener. There's the matter of the oath..."

"Yes Gardener. The oath. You don't have a problem with swearing allegiance to the United States of America do you?"

"It depends. You want to tell me what I will be swearing too?"

Lee told me "It's pretty simple actually. It goes like this 

"I, Gardener, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.' 

I asked them "Who gets to define the 'all enemies, foreign, and domestic part?"

The Marshal told me "I know what you are worried about. It's your connection with Freya right?" He didn't wait for an answer which was good because he would have been waiting awhile.  "Current policy is that followers of Freya are practicing a religion and not considered a terrorist organization. In fact current thinking is they maybe considered a stabilizing presence when they settle down." He added casually "Where is that going to be?"

I promptly answered "Nevada. Freya likes the desert." 

Lee said "That's surprising. I would have thought it would some were colder." 

I just stared at him.

"Oh yes. One more thing." The Marshal told me "Your friend Max.  When you see him let him now he was made a 1st Lieutenant and recalled to active duty retroactive to the day before he separated from active duty."

I laughed. I couldn't help myself. I could wait to tell him. A 1st Lieutenant made it even better."  When I got done laughing I put on my Mr. Serious face and said "I'm sure he'll be delighted." Then I started laughing again.  When I got my act together Lee asked me somewhat irritably "You ready to take your oath?"

"When do I get my weapons back?"

"As soon as we finish your oath and do some paperwork."

"Where is the General?"

They both laughed with the Marshal telling me "He kindly consented to allow us to use his office space. I believe he is in the field."  They both grinned that. My guess was the General was down the hall in a storeroom dicking his aide.

"Okay. Lets do it."

Authors note: The US Marshal Service has a lot of leeway to do this kind of thing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 11 - by Nova

We walked back to our room, slowly.  The hallway felt different. People knew. How? I have no idea but they did and always would. What the actual story was that was being whispered I had no idea.  I am sure the body count was higher and my role was insignificant. It sure felt that way to me. 

We passed Sledge's room. It was silent and I got an empty feel from it. Woof sniffed it then hoisted a leg. I tried not to laugh while Zane thought it was insanely funny. Neither one of us mentioned cleaning it up.  Sherri's room had the same feel too when we passed it. Woof knew which one was our room. He stopped in front of the door and waited for us. 

We went inside, I shut our pathetic bolt, and slowly stretched out on my bunk.  Zane was sitting on his and scratching Woof behind the ear. Woof seemed to like getting it scratched as much as Zane liked doing it.  I closed my eyes and had begun to doze off when Zane asked me "Will Sherri be okay?"

"Probably not."

He let me get back to where I was almost asleep before saying "Are we going to find Sledge and the rest and kill them?"

"That's the plan." 

"I don't mind if it takes a few days."

"Zane" I told him "Measure it in hours."  

I had made it past doze and was actually asleep when I heard the knock on the door. I was up and my feet were on the ground a half a beat ahead of the pain from doing it. Zane had fallen asleep and Woof who had been stretched out on the floor next to him was up as fast as I was. 

"Yeah. What do you want."  Then I moved a few paces from where I was and waited for the reply.

"Mr. Gardener. Can we speak to you please."

"Who is we?"

"This is Lt. Grayson and Mr. Lee from installation administration. Please open the door."

I slid the bolt back, stepped back, and told them "Come on in." 

Woof hadn't moved nor stopped growling. He was in warn mode and not attack, pretty much how I read the situation so far myself. They began to step into the room, saw Woof, and froze. Zane was up and standing next to Woof. I noticed he had his toothbrush clutched in his hand. 

"Sir. We have been asked to escort you to the installation commanders office. He would like to speak to you."

I didn't bother to ask about what. Why bother. "Okay."  I told Zane and Woof "Stay here. I'll be back." Then I walked out the door and stood in the hallway. Mr Lee was not wearing camo. I had made him for a fed as soon as I saw him. Lt. Grayson was a generic camo officer type who seemed a little stiff for the occasion. Mr Lee was in charge which made it even more interesting. Both were wearing sidearms. Mr Lee had a black leather FBI style holster while the Lt. wore the standard issue drop leg one. I wondered if there was anyone left in the military who wore a belt holster anymore. Probably not.

Mr. Lee gestured in the direction he wanted me to go and once I started moving fell in beside me while Grayson followed behind me. Things were looking up. I may hurt like a son of a bitch but I knew I had two handguns when ever I wanted.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10e by Nova

Left in the dust by Woof but coming on quick was the light patter of Zane's footsteps.  Behind him I heard a woman yell "Kid! Get your ass back here!"  Then a muttered "Shit!"

"Help me up kid."  He was useless for it but it helped motivate me to get up.

"You okay Gardener?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

Damn. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to walk. Someone had hit me hard in the thigh were a rake had bitten me once. I think the other side hurt too but I permanently numb in places there. Nerve damage or something.  My rib cage hurt, especially one rib.  Jesus. No wonder you only had to do twenty years in the military before you could retire.  At this rate I would be ready to retire next month. That thought made me laugh. That was a mistake.

"Call your dog off before they shoot him." I hobbled as fast as I could over to the door, leaned in, and said "Sherri. When they ask it was just the guy who worked here."

"Go away!"

I heard the same woman who had yelled at Zane to come back yell at me "Freeze! Hands in the air! Now!"

They had not impressed me. Way to cautious coming in.  Even a two man team without backup should have pressed harder. Her partner, a white male who was smaller than her, she was a big boned woman, lit me up with a laser dot. She was advancing towards me slowly talking into the mic that hung off her shoulder while she did. She was asking for a medic ASAP.  A little late for the dipshit on the floor but good for Sherri. 

I was trying to raise my hands in the air but I couldn't. It hurt too much.  "Officer" I told them "I am injured an unable to comply. You have another..." Jesus it hurt to talk. "Injured woman" I stressed the "woman" maybe she would pick up on it "inside the room."

"On your knees then!"   The female officer started to go around me and then really looked at Woof. He was standing next to Zane and blood was dripping from his muzzle. The guy who was supposed to take care of Woof looked like a chainsaw accident.

"That dog moves kid I'm shooting him"

Zane told her scornfully "Woof only eats bad people."   Woof licked his chops then.  She looked less than pleased about it but she turned her back to them and went in the room.  I heard the sound of boots running from the lobby, their backup was here.

Thirty minutes or so later they let us go after taping my ribs up.  Sherri had verified that it was just PFC Stark, he actually had a name, I don't why I was surprised, who did it. If there was anyone else she didn't see them.  I said we had come to see the dog, heard her cry for help and did what we could.  Nobody believed it but they were letting it ride.  My guess was they wanted to spin it that way for their own reasons.  It wouldn't do their public relations much good for the place to become known for gang rapes.  A wacked out PFC, damaged from prior trauma was a better play.

We took Woof with us. Nobody argued much.  They just said to make sure to clean up after him if he took a dump.  "That's your job from now on Zane"  He didn't argue.  "As for you" I told Woof. "I know who's side your on. He just laughed at me. Woof was in a good mood.  So was I. I wouldn't have to pay the other half of his kennel fee. I wasn't going to tell Woof anytime soon but he had made the right call.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10d - by Nova

I hit the floor hard and so did Sledge.  He began punching before he landed and the only good thing was he wasn't launching them with his entire body. I felt Greasy Inks boot connect and I wondered if Pockmark had cum yet. I hoped he hadn't because these two were going to be difficult enough as it was. I was struggling to get up and Sledge wasn't going to let me go. We were both grunting, him from punching me, me from getting punched.  I was slamming into him with my one free arm but it wasn't doing jack. I might as well have been beating on a tree trunk. I got him to let go by grabbing his pinky and bending it back until I broke it.  He didn't yell, He just grunted "Motherfucker!" and let go enough that I could break free. 

Free is a relative word. It was more like get to my feet, try to step away to get some room to work, and get kicked backwards by Greasy Ink. What was working in my favor is this all took place in front of the door. That limited it to Greasy and Sledge against me until they got of the way to let Pockmark join in. Counter guy passed by inside the room. For a microsecond I saw him pass by -- both hands holding on to my toothbrush in his neck. Good man. He was keeping track of it for me. 

Greasy Ink snapped a kick at me. He had martial arts training somewhere in his past.  I didn't bother to block it, if we had been alone I would have moved into it and taken him down. Instead I flipped his leg up and he lost his balance. That was a good thing. The bad thing was Sledge. He was quick and he was upright. He hit me so hard in the chest that as I flew backward I half expected to see his hand holding my heart.  I understood why they called him "Sledge" now. I hit the ground partially and a pallet partially.  That hurt like a mother too. I slipped down to the floor and looked up at them.  They were coming towards me. Greasy was smiling. Sledge just looked bored. I couldn't breath or talk clearly but I managed a fairly credible "Fuck you" for them.

Sledge abruptly stopped, cocked his head, and held out his arm to stop Greasy Ink from moving forward. We had both heard the same thing.  Someone in a security team had just yelled "Clear!" in the lobby.  Sledge told him "Time to go! Get him and move." 

"Him" being Pockmark. Greasy hesitated and Sledge growled "Now!"   I heard him yell at PockMark "Police!"  While he did that Sledge looked down at me, shook his head, made that damn tsktsk sound and told me "She wasn't all that good of a fuck." He turned and started jogging down the hallway towards the fire exit. Greasy was a few paces behind and Pock was catching up quick.  I was trying to get back on my feet and not doing all that well when I heard two things simultaneously. One was the click of claws moving fast towards me. The other was the guy wearing my toothbrush in his throat. It had been leaking blood steadily.  If he had pulled it out he would of been dead by now but he knew enough not too. 

He was standing in front of me. He couldn't yell or scream at me but eyes were trying to make up for it in a pure hate filled glare. His lips were moving. I think he either was trying to say something or just going through the motions when Woof hit him.  If I had been Sledge I would have made "tsktsk" sounds at Woof. He wouldn't have heard them probably. He was too busy ripping someones throat out.  Stupid damn dog would probably eat my toothbrush too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10c - by Nova

Where was the robot talking asshole who was supposed to be here?  I looked behind the counter hoping for a weapon and found nothing but a cheap pair of scissors. One of these years all the cheap crap will have been flushed out of the American system and I wouldn't have to deal with plastic handled metal with all the edge and strength of a paperclip. I put in my back pocket anyway. 

I quietly opened the door to the animal area and crouched down to look around the corner. Nothing in sight but everything I needed was coming in clearly in audio.  The dog pens were to my left. Straight ahead led to the big animal pens. Off to my right and down was a storage area.  They really should have shut the door. 

"Okay Zane. This what I need you to do. You need to haul ass to Woof , let him out, and come back to me. When you get back here I want you to go just as fast to find a security team. If you don't see one when you get back in the main building start yelling Fire!  Got it?"

"Got it."

I squeezed his shoulder and said "Go!"

He went like a little rocket.

Well this is going to suck but I had no choice. At least I had a choice in which weapon I was going to use. It was going to be me and a sharp toothbrush or a cheap pair of scissors against Sledge and his fuckwads.  I really wanted to wait for backup but Sherri's low scream of pain let me with no options other than one.  I really hoped Woof understood my situation and didn't decide to hang with his biggest fan.

I moved at a lope down the hallway with my toothbrush in my hand. When I made the door way I stopped and eased into it. The dumb asses had the counter robot watching the door. He wasn't doing a good job of it due to being distracted  I hoped he had done a better job with Woof. What I saw matched up with what I had heard.  Sherri was bent over a pallet of feed sacks and was getting raped by Pockmark.  Sledge and Greasy Ink were watching. Robot Man was asking Sledge "It's my turn after him. Right?"  Sherri's face was turned away from me. I was glad of that. 

That's when everything started happening.  I reached out with my right arm and grabbed the counter guy, pulled him close, and stuck my tooth brush in his throat. I was going to have to remember to get that back. Practicing proper dental hygiene was important to me. Then I shoved him to one side, grinned at Sledge, and said "I heard they got some sheep here. Isn't that more your..." That was as far as I got. I had hoped we could exchange witty insults for a couple of minutes but Sledge wasn't the type. He let out a roar and bull rushed me. No finesse. I set myself, rode it, and used his forward movement and weight against him.  It would have worked, in fact it kind of did, the only problem was Greasy Ink was a half step behind him.  Maybe Max or Bruce Lee could have Kung Fu'ed their asses.  Instead I went backwards off balance along with Sledge. I let go off him because I knew I was going down and I didn't want him next to me or on me when I landed. He didn't let go. He had done this before.

Friday, December 17, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10b - by Nova

Sherri wanted to know what had been said. I told the table "Nothing much. We were just caring and sharing." I got blank looks when I told them that. "Well, it didn't look like you caring and sharing any love" was Sherri's reply. "Men show affection differently Sherri. Don't worry about it."  Sherri was annoying me. Night would have known without me explaining anything. Hell, Night would have filleted them.  I missed her.

We went back into the classroom. That might have been awkward for some people.  I just sat back in usual spot and grinned at the lads. Sledge looked at me, shook his head, and made "Tsktsktsk" sounds. Greasy Ink stage whispered "You're so fucking dead."

"Excuse me. Do we have a problem back there gentlemen?"

I told our instructor who I had grown very weary of "Nope. Everyone's cool."

He let it slide. I wished I could tilt my chair back. Instead I tilted my hat over my eyes and hoped for another movie.

The movie didn't come. Time dragged on and I let the drone wash over me. Eventually it was time to eat dinner and cruise into our final night here at Camp Happiness. Tomorrow at 10:00 was our graduation and our diplomas were going to be our Zone ID's.  I couldn't wait.

We ate dinner with Sherri and the others as usual. She was excited and talking about how she loved animals and couldn't wait to be a vet someday.  Sherri had signed up, as had almost every one else for Stage II Integration.  That was government provided housing, training, and career direction services. Everyone was amazed that we had passed on it. Someone mentioned that Sledge and his lads had too. Somehow I wasn't surprised to hear that.

When we walked back to the rooms I just kept going past Sherri's door.  She was already history to me as was everyone else in this place. Well, almost everyone.  Sledge and his boys would have to get shot by someone else. I had places to go and someone to see.

Once we got back to the room Zane reminded me that we were going to go see Woof.  "Fine" I told him. "First we take a shower. Then we go see Woof." I wanted to get one last warm shower in before we went back out on the road.  I can take a fast shower. I don't think Zane was under the water for more than three seconds before he reappeared and began getting dressed.  I didn't say anything. I understood.

We dropped our towels off at the room and started making our way to the Animal Containment Area.  It was quiet in the hallways. We passed a few people but nobody said anything to us other than a greeting.  We found the door leading out to animal land. Someone had left a sliver of wood between the lock to keep it open.  I barely noticed it. It never occurred to me that we could end up locked out. Hell it had been awhile since I had let a locked door stop me. I didn't have my door openers so I carefully replaced it.  As we stepped through it I held up my hand to stop Zane and froze. Something was wrong. For the first time since we had arrived I felt it then I heard it. Woof was going nuts. Zane heard it too and took off at a run. I followed him for a few paces and then passed him. 

I went through the door into the lobby fast and found it was empty. I stopped, and when Zane shot past me I grabbed him by his collar and jerked his ass back hard. He lost his footing and I pulled him to my eye level and hissed "On me." Then I let him drop. Damn I felt good again. This place had been really fucking boring.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10a - by Nova

It blew over as soon as Sledge started talking again. He gave me the big smile, then switched to sincere, even leaning in to show it and dropping his voice to just above a whisper told me "I could use you on my team. We do the wet work, you know what I mean." I nodded and told him "Yeah. I think I do."

"Nothing you wouldn't be uncomfortable with for the most part. It sucks. We spend a lot of time in the field...usually we work with a special police unit but the pay is good. Hell Gardener, after we get done with this bullshit we get paid our wages in Gold!"

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other two nodding their heads and licking their lips.

"We talking serious gold here?" I asked casually.

"Oh yeah Gardener. That we are." Sledge replied.  The ugly twins were grinning. We were all getting on the same page here now. Pockmarked jumped in with "Tell him about the bennies Sledge!"
"Yeah! We get some good pussy" Greasy added. Being a grudge holding dick head he added "If you like woman that is."

I ignored him. For now. Sledge hissed "Shut the fuck up!"  Then he held his hands out, palms up, shrugged, gave me a boyish grin, and said "There is always that."

"Yes there is." I slung my feet over the damn bench seat, stood up, and leaned over the table bracing myself on the edge, and told them "If I see any of you when I leave here I will kill you without warning."  Then I walked away.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 10 - by Nova

The next day was more of the same until lunch. 

Sledge caught me in the lunch line and asked me if I wouldn't mind joining him. Sherri was standing with me and Zane, she had caught up with us at breakfast and had not said nor indicated any reaction to my not coming by. Sledge ignored but I had noticed in class he been busy scanning her more than was necessary. I said "Sure." I was curious. I left Zane telling her about Woof and the animal storage area and joined him and his crew.

I settled into my seat across from him and told Greasy Ink "Hi honey." The other pockmarked freak got a nod.

"So what's up?" I asked Sledge.

He didn't answer right away. He was busy ripping off chunks of bread and chewing them. I really hoped he didn't chew with his mouth open. I hated that. He didn't.

"I know about you."

I chewed some of my bread, washed it down with the kool-aide they called bug juice and said "That's nice." Then I went back to eating.

He looked at me. Chewed some of his bread. Realized I wasn't going to say any more and decided to go for the pitch. I knew one was coming. It couldn't be anything else.

"Me and the boys here...we do law enforcement for the government.  We're contract employees of a sort. We do the...special jobs.."

Here Greasy Ink and Pockmark both started laughing. Greasy started choking and I told him "You better hope them two love you because I sure as hell ain't doing any CPR on your ugly ass." 

Both him and Pockmark acted like they were going to get up but Sledge waved them down. He told me mildly "No need to get personal Gardener."

Greasy added "Especially cause your skinny ass ain't packing them sixguns in here."

I looked at Greasy. I smiled slowly and spoke even slower "Anytime you want."

I saw the flicker in his eyes. It didn't last and I don't think even realized it but I knew. One on one I would kill him. If it meant ripping his throat open with my teeth then I would do it.  I didn't care.

"Lets all calm down now." Sledge was playing peacemaker. He sucked at it. I was doing it in my head. Jam my tray into Sledges throat and shatter his windpipe. Grab Greasy by his hair and face slam him into the table top, drive the sharpened toothbrush into his ear, and then get untangled from the fucking bench seat and kill Pockmark. Max time would be under five seconds. Then deal with the security team and get myself armed or dead.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9g - by Nova

And if I was honest with myself the idea of saving Carol and returning the conquering hero was appealing. Very appealing. Plus I could back to Night and savor the other rewards after she got over being pissed. I really hoped she wouldn't be but odds were pretty good she would be.

"Okay Zane. Show me how you sharpened yours."

We worked on them until lights out. While we did I asked him if the crows had shown  him anything new.  He was slow answering and when he did tell me there had been nothing I heard the undertone of sadness. It took me ten minutes to understand. Probably a record for me.

"You worried about your mom?"


"Don't worry. She's a survivor. Plus she couldn't be any safer than where she is at now."

He looked at me and truth checked my eyes. He was satisfied with what he saw.  We went back to honing our toothbrushes.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9f - by Nova

He looked at the point, looked at me, and told me "Okay...if you think so."

"Yeah. I think so. Have you thought about how you plan on using it if you have to?"

He nodded. "I go for their crotch if it is a man or their stomach depending on how tall they are."

I was curious. What had he seen or felt that I had missed?  "Why did you decide to make yourself a weapon?"

He shrugged and told me "I had one at the school. Everyone did. You had too. I had a pencil there. Toothbrushes were for the rich kids."

I thought about that. I could think of a couple reasons why he had carried one. We didn't need to go there. "You getting any weird feelings about this place Zane?"

He furrowed his brow, looked up at the ceiling, then at me and said "It's a lot like the school where you found me. It's okay most of the time but sometimes the bad people get someone or they let it happen."

I thought about that. I was getting careless. A big part of me wanted the old world still or maybe it was, for me at least, the old world had been a safe place. It had never been safe at home but outside of it, well, that world seemed safe if I could just figure out what I had to do to get where everyone else seemed to be. It had always been my world and their world. Nothing physical divided us but I felt it none the less.

I used to think about it when I was stoned. Was it a force field?  Was it really clear glass that no one could see but me? Was there a secret door?  I used to think if I did and bought the right things they would activate the secret door and let me through the glass to their side.  That hadn't worked.  Just like getting drunk and stoned didn't work. All it did was dull the pain I felt from running into the glass over and over.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9e - by Nova

We went to dinner. It was uneventful except Sherri joined us again.  She was funny with a dry wit that I liked. We kept it light and danced around a lot of topics without going to deep. I sat back and Zane and I listened. He talked less than I did but just like me he never stopped watching. He was a weird kid in some ways.  One moment I would look at him and see a midget Max with a sharp jab of Carol. He was focused, at times he talked like an adult  and he was always alert an aware of the world around us.  He moved like a ghost when he wanted too and just for a second once or twice I saw his eyes go flat, cold, and dead.  I don't know what he was seeing or thinking but I knew that look from his dad. It usually meant he was back in the Marines somewhere or he was about to kill someone. I saw the Carol part when he laughed and acted his age.  When he asked me kid questions and trusted me to tell him the truth. Hell, I think he expected only the truth from me and I tried to deliver it. 

As we walked back to our quarters after dinner Sherri lagged behind and I fell in step with her. Her room was one of the first ones we passed and I stopped with her as she opened it. I looked down the hall and Zane had stopped about fifteen paces from us and was looking back at me.  She took a quick look at him and the quietly told me "I'm the only one in my room if you want to come by later..."  I looked at her, smiled, and said "Thanks" and left it at that. 

I caught up with Zane and we walked down the hallway to our room.  As I opened the door he
said "She likes you."

"Yeah. I know."

"Woof likes me."

I shut the door behind us and told him "He's a dog. He's supposed too."

"Woof isn't just a dog. He's special. You know that too.  Are we going to go see him now?"

"No. We need to do something while they have the lights on." We had an hour before the lights went out. They didn't ask anyone. They just turned them off an hour after dinner. They had told us in class it was to conserve energy. I figured it was more to conserve on security and to keep us in our rooms. I expected a protest from him. Something along the line of "You promised!"  I didn't get it from him. He accepted it without saying a word. He just looked away.

"I got a plan and I need your help. What we are going to do is sharpen our toothbrush handles."  I was going to say more but I saw the smile on his face. "Yeah?"

"I already did."  He pulled his toothbrush out of his shirt pocket. "See." 

I took it from him, looked at, and handed it back to him. "You need to work on that point."

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9d - by Nova

We went back to class. It was as boring as before.  We did have a movie.  It had the flag, the General, highlights of what was and what would be if we all just worked together.  Of course we had those people who wanted to destroy America. Those people, as best as I could tell, were anyone who didn't accept the authority of the United States as personified by the General and the Zones. That covered a lot of people.

We were shown a map of the USA with the good areas in blue and known bad areas in red. The areas with active Zones were shown with gold stars. I saw that and thought I would have marked the bad area headquarters with black frownie faces. No wonder Night never let me do more than look at her maps.   There was a lot more red than I expected. Most of the Northwest, a good chunk of the Southwest, at the top part of the map where Maine or was it Vermont? I was never sure where those states were on a map but that area was red too.

They went from the map to the General telling us America was based on separation of church and state and the US government was not going to put up with anyone or any state seceding because of religious or political beliefs. He told us how we were in this together regardless of religion or color of your skin.  Yes, some traditional liberties and parts of the constitution had to be suspended but that was only until the emergency was over. Somehow I doubted it would end in my lifetime. People like him never let go of power. Never. I was surprised. I actually stayed awake through it.

Sledge didn't. He was head down and softly snoring. I looked at him.  I decided I was going to sharpen my toothbrush handle and keep that with me. Zane was going to get his sharpened too. I looked at Sledge with his head down and saw the spot in the neck I would bury the toothbrush in given the opportunity. There was always the eyes too. I might be able to pull it back out if I stuck it in an eye.  I was going to have to brush up on my toothbrush tactics. I was still laughing to myself when the lights went back on and Sledges head snapped up. I was a pretty funny guy sometimes I thought.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9c - by Nova

"So what brings you two here?"  She was managing to eat, talk, and not get any spaghetti sauce on her.  I was impressed. 

"Just passing thru. How about you?" I was asking her but I also looked at the other two as I was genuinely curious why people came here.

"Oh...I see...being the mysterious stranger." She gave me a crooked smile and it clicked. She liked me.  She really, really liked me. This was a change for me. Usually they fell over me trying to get to Max.  We locked eyes for a few beats and she looked down.  The guy who was part of the couple who had joined her at the table filled the empty conversational space "We're here because we want to live free." He didn't just say this. He stated it. "We want to raise a family in a place where the laws are enforced and people know you have to pull your weight to make it. No more craziness. We want law and order." His woman, I wasn't sure what their relationship was, chimed in with "Peace and quiet. We just don't to worry about the lights going out. The General is fixing all that."

She continued proudly "Mike is a chiropractor and the government said medical people get special privileges."

I just looked at her. No wonder this country was so fucked up. We had an endless supply of idiots.  Sherri told me about how she had studied to be a vet and while she had not finished she thought her skills would be in demand.  She was telling us how the Zone promised her safety and a chance to do something with her life when her voice trailed off with a muttered "Oh shit."

I could feel them come up behind us. I casually swung my legs up and over the bench seat and pivoted to watch Sledge and his crew approach. The boys stopped a few paces away while Sledge sat down next to me. I noticed he didn't tuck his feet over the side of the bench either. He looked at me, smiled brightly and said  "Hey Gardener."

My reply was a noncommittal "Hey."

He wasn't looking at me anymore. He was looking at Sherri. "Hi Sweetie."

"What do you want?"

I watched Sledge out of the corner of my eye while I watched his boys.  I smiled at Greasy Ink who mouthed a silent "Fuck you" to me. Sledge was huge and he smelled like sweat, gunpowder, and the aftermath of a lightening strike. It wasn't unpleasant. It did make me aware, I mean really aware again that I wasn't carrying a weapon. I was going to have to take care of that soonest. I was also aware that whatever I made wouldn't stop this guy unless I cut his throat. 

"Just thought I would let you know that I hadn't forgot you."

He pushed off and walked away. I looked at Sherri. She had gone white.  "That guy scares me."

Zane added "He's an asshole."

I looked at him, laughed, and said "Yep. But he has a nice smile." Then I laughed some more.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9b - by Nova

It didn't get better. It got stupefyingly boring.  The break for lunch came right on time as far as I was concerned. When we got up to go I noticed Sledge stop Greasy Ink from coming over to talk to me. I was disappointed. I heard Sledge whisper "Later." I shrugged it off. Later, tomorrow, a week from now, it was all the same to me. I needed to go find Zane and get us into the lunch line.  Later, after dinner, I wanted to check on Woof.  I also needed to find out if anyone had a map of the Zone.  Maybe they even had some kind of travel advisory for the roads outside of it.

Lunch wasn't bad. Spaghetti with tomato sauce. Corn was the vegetable. Desert was applesauce. Nobody wasted any which was a good thing. They had a woman posted by the tray drop off to check to see we ate everything. It was eat everything or else. I wasn't sure what "else" might be. Me and Zane would probably never find out for ourselves. We both could pack away the food.

We didn't eat alone. The feisty Latina joined us as did a couple of other people that she had already met.  She didn't ask to join us.  She just sat down, grinned, and said "I bet you hate meetings."

 After slurping a bit of stray spaghettii noodle down I replied "That has been said by others."

"Hi. I'm Sherri."

She reached across the table to shake my hand and I caught the swell of her breasts. Nice.  Woman made a point of dressing down now I had noticed. Baggy clothes and short hair. Outside it was hard sometimes to know the gender as some went as far as they could go to hide it.  The days of dressing to display what made women delightful was history in the places I traveled to. A woman would have to be a serious badass or traveling with a group of them to want to hang temptation out there for others to notice. No tight leather bodices, cleavage, and long legs in shorts like the video games.  It was frump, baggy, and lock down in the new reality.

Except for Sherri. She was modest in dress but she let you know that a woman was wearing those camos. She must have gotten lucky on the draw to get a set that fit so well. I was also going to have to remember to call her "Sherri" instead of Maria which I had mentally expected.

I told her "I'm Gardener and this is Zane." 

She shook hands then with Zane who said "Hello" to her.  She introduced the two people who tagged along with her. I didn't bother to remember their names. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9a - by Nova

Sledge was going to say something to me but class started.  He was a good boy. He didn't talk when the teacher was.  Mr Langer assumed the position in front of his podium. I knew that position. It was the "Listen up. I have important shit to say." The problem was I had never heard anyone say anything of importance when they struck that pose. He cleared his throat and told us:

"Welcome back to the world." He paused and did the sweep the room look. "Yes. The world. America." America rolled off his tongue. He liked the taste of it so he said it again. I wanted to raise my hand and say "But they told me this was Canada sir."  I didn't. I just wanted to get this over with.  "Yes. Together you have taken the first step in helping your country and yourself to get back on your feet and reclaim the greatness that once was America and the standard of living that is your birthright."

This was news to me. I thought we were supposed to work for it. I wish they had thought of this when I was busy getting evicted from my condo.

"Your classes over the next three days..." Here was a pause as papers rustled an everyone took a look at the course outline or agenda or whatever the hell they were calling it. I didn't rustle any paper because I had given mine to Zane and never asked for it back. Sledge and his boys actually had theirs. Well, everyone but Sledge. He reached over and grabbed one his boys paperwork.  My lack didn't go unnoticed.

"You. Where is your curriculum?"

I mulled several answers and decided to go with "Lost it."  As soon as I said it I saw an image of a once upon a time Carol sitting two rows over, looking at me, and smiling. I hoped the image would stick around. She usually was my go to person for a pen or pencil back then.  It faded.

I had been lost in the image. Lost enough that I only caught the end of his lecture on holding on to any material we received. That is was our scared duty not to waste paper and slouch in our chairs. Well, actually he didn't say that in so many words but I ran it through my translator and that was what came out. I took the paperwork that was passed back to me, sighed, and tried to focus on it. Sledges smirk didn't go unnoticed either.

While Langer continued to ramble on about the new nation we were going to build I daydreamed about going back, getting my weapons and killing Sledge, his boys, and maybe Langer. I gave up and actually read the fucking schedule.  I might as well since it was how I was going to be spending the next three days. It didn't hold any surprises.We were in orientation now. During Day One we would be talking about exciting stuff. I read:

The US Government and your role
Basic Hygine
Who is the enemy?
Building community

Pretty thin stuff I thought. With a little luck we would watch a movie and I could sleep.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 9 - by nova

I have to tell you it was the strangest experience so far when I walked into my assigned classroom after dropping Zane off at his down the hall.  It smelled like high school. It even looked like high school. The feisty Latina was sitting up towards the front. The others, a mix of youngish to middle aged packed up front and fading the closer you got to the back of the classroom. Then the dead zone, a couple rows of empty chairs with the stupid half desk tops that were never big enough but were very good at getting in the way when you wanted to get up.  The ages weren't right but the distribution was. We even had a couple of hotties with nice racks clustered together off to one side working on their whispered asides and smirks.

At the back were the bad boys. Sledge and his crew of wild boys. Greasy Ink was even there with a nice wrap on his hand.  He was trying to kill me with hateful looks.  I had paused at the door before moving towards where I decided on sitting. The teacher, an older white male with close cropped gray hair and a leathery face was writing his name on the whiteboard. He was dressed in the usual woodland camo but he wore it instead of it just being something he was wearing. He noticed me, finished writing his name "Mr. Langer" and told me "Find a seat."

"Shouldn't that have something like US Army, Ret. after it?"

"Yeah. Something like that. You have twenty seconds before class starts. Find a seat."

I decided to sit next to Sledge and the boys. I was a natural born back of the class sitter anyway. Plus it would be fun.

I nodded at Sledge and just before I settled into my seat I told Greasy Ink "Sorry about that. I thought it was a roach. If I knew it was your hand I never would have done something like that." Then I gave him my best fuck you smile.  All of Sledges boys were glaring at me. The Sledge? He was looking at me, a faint smile on his face.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 8c - by nova

I looked over at Zane. The little shit was eating my doughnut. I sent invisible death rays at him but nothing happened except that he ate faster.  The security guard with the shotgun told Sledge "Get your ass over here and take him" He indicated who "him" was by not so gently kicking Greasy Ink who was beginning to stir, "to the clinic. Hell. Take the rest of your buddies and get out of my sight."

"But officer..."

Sledge saw the same look in his eyes that I had. This guy would have no problems pulling the trigger. None what so ever. I kind of liked him. From two tables back the Latino woman yelled "They cut in front of the line too! The pigs!" Yep. She was a feisty one. Sledge flipped her off without looking.

"Fine. Can we finish eating first?"

"No. You don't want to keep testing me Sledge."

"All right." Sledge turned and bowed to the people eating and told them "Sorry folks. Some people have lost their manners during these trying times."

I watched his eyes. He was marking the Latino woman. Shotgun security guy sent his partner with them to make sure they didn't get lost. We watched them file out and the noise of eating and talking filled the vacuum.

Shotgun walked over to me, looked me up and down, and said "You can file a grievance with the base administration."

I looked at him and laughed. It took him a couple seconds but he smiled and said "Yeah. That's about it."

So we can go?"

"Yes sir. You can go."

I went but only as far as where Sledge and the boys had been sitting. I harvested three doughnuts and told Zane "You coming?"


As we walked out of the mess hall I told him "Don't even think of asking for one of my doughnuts."

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 8b - by Nova

We settled down when they came in. Sledge and his crew of ruffians.  They tried cutting the line but the middle aged Latino woman who they tried to push ahead of wasn't in the mood. She lit into them and Sledge tried to chest her.  She poked him in the sternum with her index finger and got louder. Security was already moving towards the disturbance and Sledge switched to smiles and apologies while he smoothly disengaged and turned his flock around. They amused me. I kept track of them while I listened to Zane talk about his favorite cereal and how long it had been since he had it. 

I listened as the one with the ink and greasy hair argued with the woman who was doling out the doughnuts. He didn't get anywhere. She spoke four words "One man. One doughnut." and then just shook her head until he gave up.  They were headed our way. No big deal there. The only table that had enough space to seat them was just down from us.

I had just finished eating my eggs and was gazing at the beauty of my doughnut when Greasy Inks hand appeared. He was going for the doughnut and he was quick. I drove the fork into the web of his hand just in time to stop him before he touched it. The first stab pinned his hand. Then, using my right fist as a hammer I came down hard on the fork handle and punched it through his skin.  He was most unhappy. He screamed like I had gut shot him.

As soon as I had driven the fork in the second time I was swinging my feet up and twisting my body to get out from under the table. My boots had just made it to the other side and I was coming off the bench seat when he hit me. Hard.  He caught me on the shoulder and drove me backwards and on my ass. The son of a bitch could punch. I came back up off the floor with the fork still in my hand. I was going to punch it straight into his throat when security yelled "Freeze!"  One of the security people was behind Greasy Ink with a leveled shotgun. I read his eyes and froze. Greasy Ink didn't. He snap kicked me in the gut and then went down hard because of the butt stroke he had just received in the head. I held up my hands and said "Hey! I'm cool."

I could feel Sledge and his remaining lads coming up behind me and then stop. The second security guy was on Zane's side of the table and I could see the barrel of his weapon out of my peripheral vision. It wasn't pointed at me. He was telling Sledge to get his ass back in his seat. The one with the shotgun told me "I want you to slowly back up until you hit the wall and stay on it until I say otherwise." I did it.  I ended up with a nice view of what happened next.

Monday, December 6, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 8 - by Nova

We didn't get to eat right away. We were issued three sets of woodland camo, there must have been a shitload of woodland camo in a warehouse somewhere nearby.  A toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, a cheap towel, and some propaganda which I didn't bother to look at after seeing the photo of the General on it. He was looking very leader like nowadays compared to what I remembered.  Someone had convinced him to trim his eyebrows so he no longer looked like he had caterpillars pasted above his eyeballs.

We were checked for head lice and then we got our naked bodies ogled by a couple of guys who liked their job. Supposedly it was to make sure we didn't have any running sores or the measles which, according them at least, was making a comeback. I did ask them "Y'all waiting for your old jobs with TSA to come back?" I thought it was funny. Zane didn't get it. The older one muttered "asshole" once we had moved on but I let it slide. I could shoot someone when I was naked but punch them? That took being a  "swinging dick" farther than I wanted to go.

We were given our course material and told we could get a light meal since it wasn't officially dinner. We ate a fairly decent meal in the "mess hall", yes, it was really called that.  I was a bit surprised they called it something so simple and descriptive. I was expecting something like the Food and Nutrition Delivery Center.  It wasn't a bad meal. Soup and sandwiches.

We had our room that could have slept four. Two sets of bunk beds. I thought about Night again. We could have made it work. Just drag both mattresses on the floor. Hell, we could made one mattress work for at least a couple hours. Instead it was me and Zane. He was sitting on his bottom bunk while I sat on mine and studied the door. No chair to wedge under the door knob. No lock except for a cheap ass bolt that Zane could probably pop if hit the door with a running start.  Not good. I was really missing my weapons. Damn, I even missed the weight of all that iron. 

"So how are you doing Zane?"

He was busy looking at the course material for our classes. I don't know why. He couldn't read all that well.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 7d - by Nova

I was surprised at how large and well setup they were and told him so.

"Yes sir. It was designed to function as a holding area for entire farms in transit. We just finished it a couple of months ago as the previous facility was considered inadequate."

"What were you using before?"

"An empty body shop down the road and a old barn. People didn't like it. I didn't like it. We had an couples cow freeze to death and they got angry. Real angry."

"How angry is real angry?"

"Oh...angry enough to drive back to the processing center and shoot four people before they were neutralized."

"I've been angrier than that." I told him. "So that's why you have a stock pen." We had stopped and we were looking the place over. I told Freemen "You put in some seating and you could have yourself a rodeo here."

We kept going. The place was clean. I smelled less animal than I expected but it was in the air along with the smell of hay and fresh built building.

"What do you think Zane?"

He grudgingly nodded his head and told me "I want to see where Woof is going to stay."

I had heard a lone dog barking since we had entered but what had surprised me was how empty the building was.  Even brand new there should be more animals in here or even a deeper smell of animals that had passed through before. I found that interesting.

We passed through another set of double doors that led to where Woof and his type were kept. I knew this because of the sign that said "SMALL ANIMAL AREA."  I was right. I like being right.  Not because it made me feel better, well, it did, rather I knew the penalty for being wrong could be harsh.

We walked through a row of small silver metal cages. Almost all of them were empty except for two that held cats who were asleep.  Then it was dog land.  This was where all the action was in the Animal Kingdom we had toured.  There wasn't much. Barky the dog, a Pomeranian,  went nuts when we walked into the pen area and then shut up, backed up as far as he could go and pissed himself.  The other two dogs, Both nice looking black labs looked up, got to their feet and started beating the air with their tails.

The dog pens I recognized right away. "Not bad. We're checking Woof into Guantanamo Bay." I looked at both of them to see if it registered. Neither one knew what I was talking about. "Which one is Woofs?" Zane asked.  "Your choice young man."  Zane wandered off with Woof inspecting dog runs and asking Woof which one he liked.

"So what's the deal Freemen? This gold covers questions too."

"What do you mean?" He replied giving me the stone face.  Damn, Not having weapons made all of this shit so much more difficult. I patently replied "Don't jerk me around. Why no animals and y'all being so nice. You're the government not the fucking Salvation Army."

He laughed, saw my expression, choked it off, and held up his hands "Sorry sir. That was the funniest thing anyone has said to me for days now." I saw his body and face lose some off the robot righteousness he had been wearing since we started. The change in his voice confirmed it. "Yes, I know.  It's a policy change from the General himself. My version is if we are going to recover as a country we need happy productive citizens. The Zones are going to be marketed as the place to come to do that.  As the quality of life expands it will attract more people who will tell others affirming that this model is the one to bet on."

"You went to school didn't you?"

"No sir. Not really. I can read and think tho."

"Yeah." I handed him the gold. "Let's get the dog settled so I can see what all you got to eat around here."

Friday, December 3, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 7c - by Nova

We walked down the hallway and just like the lady said we saw the sign and ended up where we were supposed to; at the Woof hotel.  Actually it was called the "Animal Containment Center." We went through the door and I sighed. Yet another counter and form awaited me. No security here which was surprising tho I noticed a CCTV pointed at the door. The young black guy at the counter said "Hi. Can I help you?"

"We would like a room for one for two nights."

He looked at Woof. Looked at Woof again and said "We have a few available with king sized beds.  Would that work?"

"Do they vibrate?"

"No sir."

Damn. This guys face never changed.  When I worked this hard to be charming I expected results. I was getting tired of being charming anyway. "What did you fuck up to get this job?"

"Nothing sir. I like animals better than I like people. Please fill out this form. Do you have the shot record for this animal?"

That question out of all of them today actually gave me pause.  "You're kidding."

No sir I am not."

"No" I looked at his name tag "Mr Freemen I do not." 

"Very well. You will need to fill out this form also. It authorizes us to give your animal a rabies shot. It is also a requirement for the animal in order for it to stay with us." 

I took the offered form and added it to the other one.  Then I casually asked "Who gives the shot?"

"I do sir."  

I almost said something and then changed my mind. Since he claimed to love animals more than people he should have no problem convincing Woof to go along with him sticking a sharp needle in Woofs ass.

Zane piped up with "I want to see were Woof stays before I let him take him." 

Smart kid. I told Freemen "Yeah. Lets see the accommodations."

"Sorry sir. Authorized personnel only."

My hand dropped to my gun and kept going. Nothing but empty space there.  Shit.  Okay it was time for Plan B.  I dug into the little pocket that was sewn inside my front pocket and came out with a piece of a gold coin. I opened my hand, let him see it, and closed my hand again. "How about I give you this. In return you show us where you're going to keep Woof and you tell us how he is going to be fed as much as he wants from the best food you can find."

Freemen thought about it for all of a microsecond. "Follow me gentlemen."  We followed him.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 7b - by Nova

The tension in the room bled off.  As they swaggered over to the first station Sledge stopped mid swagger,  looked at me, and then started moving again. His crew had followed his glance and they stared at me long enough to violate the two second gawk rule. The one with the long greasy hair and ink smiled and drew his finger across his throat before doing his swagger catchup.  I was hoping he would trip and impale himself on a pencil but it didn't happen. The camera woman involuntarily shuddered and said "Sorry about that."

"Sorry about what?" 

"They're going to be in your class."

"Yeah. I have always been lucky that way.  You know them?"

She shook her head. Pain flashed in her eyes and she lowered them so I couldn't see in.  "No. But I know the type."

She looked up "Did you know them? I mean that one seemed to know you."

"Yeah. I know the type. They usually don't live this long."  I told Zane "Lets go check Woof into the hotel. See ya."  I headed for the door and didn't look back at her.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 7a - by Nova

Monster threw up his hands and a nice easy grin lit up his face. I never understood why people like him always got the good teeth gene.  Probably a throwback to what what they were only a step or two evolved from.

"No problem Sarge. Everything is good. Why I..."

Sarge didn't smile. Instead he said "One more step asshole."

"Whoa now. Would it make you feel better if I stepped back?"  He took a slow exaggerated step back. Still grinning he tilted his head and added "All better now?"

I would have shot him for that if I hadn't before.  Looking at Sarge it was plain that he wanted too. Sarge was a good man but he was bound by the book and conditioning.  Monster was gaming him and winning.

I checked the people waiting. They were watching calmly. A few were slowly edging away. One guy, a tall, young black man was watching Monster like you would a science experiment. The rest were curious with only a few showing nervousness. You didn't live to get to Zone admission station because you had bought a ticket. Somewhere along the line you had earned it.

Then the fed law enforcement guy spoke and changed the dynamic.

"Bought time you showed up Sledge.  You decide to stop by an old folks home along the way?"  He didn't say the last sentence any different than the first one. It meant something tho. The flush on Monsters face told me that. It was gone just as fast as it appeared.  His reply was smooth. "Why hello Marshal. I should have known you would be the one to greet me. Back here in the rear with the gear and all."

"Yeah. It is a disgrace now isn't it. He stepped through the gap between the desks he was behind, told the NCO "At ease" and stopped a couple of feet in front. His right leg was shiny and skinny. It was also metal.

"Drag your sorry ass over here Sledge and lets get you and the girls processed."

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 7 - by Nova

The entire rooms flow changed.  I stood up. Woof, who had been sitting next to Zane, got up in one fluid move and positioned himself in front of him. 

There were four of them. They came though the door fast and hard in a diamond wedge.  The room went quiet for about two beats of time. They covered half the distance to the paperwork stations during those frozen few seconds. The two soldiers doing security were good. I would have been faster but they didn't fuck around. They had either done this before or drilled for it.  Why? One was armed with a shotgun.  Close in like this it was the perfect weapon for intimidation and if he pulled the trigger the rounds wouldn't be punching holes in cars and people a mile down the road. The NCO yelling "Halt!" knew how to yell with authority but his partner racking the shotgun added the punctuation that made them stop period. If this was a cartoon their boots would have been smoking from the lockup.

The leader was a monster. I knew that without even thinking about it. Woof did too. I could the rumble from his chest begin. I heard Zane whisper "Quiet Woof! Instantaneously it stopped.

Monster was an easy 300lbs of muscle an insanity. Close cropped blond hair, a face that was flat planes and eyes that were lit up with 100 watts of pure blinding bullshit and death. His crew were an unusual mix. Most times when an animal like him was running the pack the rest tried to look like clones of the big dog.  Not this bunch. Each one of them was a piece of standalone work. Anywhere else I would have gunned them down right then and there. Fuck talking. Fuck posturing. Coming into a room I was in like that said all I needed to hear.

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 6d - by Nova

We pushed through the double doors and entered the DMV.  Well, not the DMV, the line wasn't long enough but close enough for government work. The same model as the other building except I saw more people getting their photos taken and less talking. No one seemed stressed or really worried.  They had security in here. Real soldiers this time. I should have asked Zane if they had security in the bathroom too.  Woof and Zane were in a competition to see who could stare at the most stuff the fastest. Both their heads were swiveling back and forth checking everything out.  They obviously hadn't mastered the smooth room pan a professional like myself used.

It was a nonevent almost to the end.  We had almost finishing our processing. We had been told by at least four people that Woof was the biggest German Shepherd they had ever seen.  Woof had been praised for not eating or even paying attention to the cat in a crate that a woman was carrying around.  The damn cat, once it got a sniff of Woof, would not stop yowling but I didn't consider that my problem.

Each station had a different person, the fingerprint scanner, the question asking person, the sign this paperwork person, the let me cut off a tiny piece of your hair lady. All of them were pleasant, professional, and relaxed.  If you had to wait because the station you had to go to next was busy you found a seat and waited until they called out your name.  The people we waited with even looked like the typical DMV crowd if you squinted and didn't breath to deeply.  People smelled and it wasn't cologne. I was used to that so it didn't bother me. The clothes were less than clean but not homeless nut job with an addiction problem dirty.  What really stood out was everyone looked in fairly good shape. When then sat down the cheeks of their asses didn't hang over the side.

The last step was the photos. Zane and I took turns sitting in the chair to get our photo taken.  I asked if Woof could get his picture taken and get a card too but since he refused to fill out the paperwork and I wasn't going to do it for him they said "No."  Actually they would have said "No" anyway, which I knew, I just felt like jerking them around a bit.

The woman running the digital camera called my name. We walked over to her and I handed her the paperwork.  She looked it over, looked me over, and dropped the paperwork in a box already filled with the previous passerby's. I returned the look over. She had a great rack.

"Okay gentlemen.  This is how it works.  You've made it this far without anything causing your application to come back negative.  I saw on your form AZI-216  you are scheduled for the next class of Orientation and Acclimatization which starts tommorow morning at 07:30. When you finish your three day class you will be given your identification card and begin receiving the benefits of confirmed citizenship."  She looked at Woof "Anyone tell you that is a big damn dog?"

Zane laughed and answered "He's not a dog. He's a pony."

She smiled. "Young man I think you might be right."

Turning back to me she continued "When I finish up you will leave here through the door to the right of me.  Go down the hall way. The sign will say "Animal Care" and have an arrow. Follow it and drop your pony off.  Someone will direct you to the transient barracks where you will pick up your clothes, take a shower, it might even be warm water, and you'll be assigned your room.  Families stay together so you and the boy will share the same room. You will get briefed on what happens next during all that.  Any questions?


Zane shook his head. Woof just stared at the woman.

"All right gentlemen. I'll start with the young man and follow with you Mr. Gardener."

When my turn came I stood up and got that feeling.  Someone was watching me. I turned a bit so I could look in the direction I knew it was coming from.  Behind the finger print scanner station a tall white guy wearing a fishing vest, clean dockers, and a polo shirt was watching me.  He might as well have worn a sign saying "Fed Law Enforcement Here."  I wasn't getting a bad vibe from him. He was just giving me the dead eyes look over.  I heard "Please Mr. Gardener. There are people waiting." I walked the few steps, sat down, and smiled for the camera. Just as she triggered the flash the double doors swung open with a bang and I felt them enter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 6c - By nova

"What's next" was pretty simple. So simple I should have known. It was "Get in line."  Our next stop was to check our weapons. I knew how Woof felt then. Weapons Check and Storage was a counter with a room behind it that I could see into. It was lined with steel gray shelving with identical clear plastic tubs sitting on them. Clear isn't the right word. Semi transparent would be more accurate. Grimy would be even better.

The guy running it, somebody's Grandpa maybe, saw me coming. He whistled and said "Damn my man. You're packing enough iron to set off the metal detector a mile away. Shit that's a fucking sword on your back isn't it?"

"No. Actually it's stuck in my back and I have been meaning to see a doctor about it when I get some spare time."

He laughed. Yes, he actually laughed.  "You guys are always cranky about giving up the hardware. Shit, half of you would rather get a couple inches shaved off your dick then do this."

I stared at him. Somewhere in the jello he called a brain a survival circuit must have flipped on because he quit grinning.

"What do I have to do?"

He gestured at the big sign on the wall behind him "Read that and fill out the paperwork. I'll go fetch you a tub. The kid can put his stuff in with yours.

I looked at the paperwork. Jesus I had forgotten how much I hated forms and paperwork. I handed the clipboard to Zane and asked him "You know how to write?"

"Yes. Well I can't do cursive yet."

"That's fine. You can read too?"

"Yes!" He sounded offended. I really didn't care. 

"Okay. You read me the questions and I'll tell you what to write."

The old man came back with my tub and let it drop on the counter. Someone had written a number on one side with a sharpie. "You got to put the body armor in there too."


"Hey! The kid doesn't have to fill out a form. Just you. Don't be going thru the scanner with any weapons after this. They get upset."

"Right. You got anything to do?"

He grinned "No, this is what I do." 

"All right Zane read me what they want to know."



He looked at me. I spelled it for him."


"None. Just write N.O.N.E. in every space except the one there."  I pointed to where I was supposed to list what was going in the box.  It took awhile as I had to read of the serial numbers too. One sword. One bayonet. Two Ruger .357's. One Colt Navy, One Marlin 30-30. Miscellaneous ammo pouches. A Charter Arms .38 One set of body armor with plates.

When I was done the tub was full and he had gone back for another one that I partially filled. The old man looked at the tubs, shook his head, and said "You remember that movie where the guy pulls an entire armory out of his clothes as he strips? 

"No."  I felt naked. It was a strange feeling.  I also felt ...less.  I liked it in one way. I felt free. I felt regular. Hell, maybe they had a Starbucks and we could get a movie from the red box.  Mostly I felt ... weird. I told myself I was still me.  

"Yeah. Well that is what you reminded me of." 

I handed him the clipboard. Zane had done a good job. Some of the numbers and letters were backwards or a little off but I didn't care. "So what's next?"

"Go thru the double doors.  Get scanned. Go give them some more information and they will send you to the showers and let you pull some basic inventory for personal needs. Oh. Somewhere in there you'll have to drop the dog off at the stable. They'll tell you."

You ready Zane?"


"Lets do it."

I heard the old man lift one of my tubs, grunt, and say to our backs "See you in three days."