Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Unknown - Chapter 3a - by nova

chapter 3a

It wasn't far to the bridge and I was glad. If it had been any further I would have had Jacob stop the truck and switched places with the kid in the back. Jacob was trying to get me talk by asking questions about Salt Lake and I really didn't feel like answering. We both agreed that the Tabernacle was worth going to see and hear. Thankfully that got us to the bridge.

We were waved through after Jacob chatted briefly with the young Navaho who came out to take a look at us. We didn't pay -- we were waved through and proceeded slowly through a serpentine course designed to get us dead if the need arose. I took a look around and was impressed.

The entrance to the bridge on this side had a decent size building at the bridge head. It had probably once been a visitor's center. It was surrounded by a round shaped sandstone hill that had been gouged deeply to run the road through.

The hill, the locals called it Beehive mountain, had more than the usual number of shallow caves with some being used for heavy weapons emplacements. It looked to be all Navajo here too. I found out later the Beehive was once considered a sacred mountain by them. As usual that hadn't stopped progress. Progress. I spit on it.

Rolling across the bridge let me take a good look at the leftovers from this progress. The Glen Canyon Dam, a giant sized progressive dump of concrete in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the world. A feat of world class engineering built in the wrong place an anchored by sandstone, natures version of frozen sand drifts.

The dam had failed not long after PowerDown rather spectacularly. Enough debris was still in place to keep a much smaller Lake Powell filled with runoff and in time I suppose the water stained sandstone left behind would be scoured clean. It still pissed me off to look at it. The only thing uglier was the coal fired generating plant which should have been blown up the day after Powerdown.

Why where these ugly pieces of shit built? To generate electricity for cities that never should have been built in the first place. PowerDown had taken care of the cities, especially in the south west which had already sucked down or polluted the aquifers that kept them alive. Changing weather and the resulting drought that never seemed to go away made sure that the survivors of PowerDown who wanted to continue to survive migrated the hell away.

The Unknown - Chapter 2d - by nova

Chapter 2d

We began negotiating the price for my ride. After he realized I didn't want to buy his truck and I listened to them bitch about how much gas was we negotiated a price in silver. They wanted it upfront and were surprised when I agreed to that. So I told them, "You look like decent law abiding young men." Then I lowered my voice and added, "I'll make sure I mention this when I report to Salt Lake."

Those two words changed everything. It was a guess on my part but not a wild one. Even if they weren't Saints they would be well aware of their presence and influence this close to the end of the Navaho Nation border. Inside of those two words was another possibility; I had just popped out of nowhere. I had admitted to coming from Kanab. I was heavily armed. Could I be a Danite hit man? Sleepyhead processed both of those first and he seemed to like it, a lot.

He called an impromptu family conference. They walked away far enough that they thought I couldn't hear them. They were almost right. My hearing, once on pare with a wild animal, had declined a lot over the years. Too many loud blasts in tight spaces will do that. I heard enough to confirm that I had guessed correctly My body armor hadn't gone unnoticed. Sleepyhead Dad told them, "That's ceramic body armor! Nobody has that anymore but the rich..." here he lowered his voice, "and the Danites."

The Danites were part of the Saints equivalent of the Mossad. They were a strange bunch, a mix of fanaticism, with the usual total commitment to killing enemies of the church, good manners, and a shit load of kids. I liked them and had worked with them before. They totally hated the federal government and that was before everything fell apart.

The broke from the huddle and everything was now sunshine and love. Well, almost. Jacob still wasn't a hundred percent in love with me yet. I figured there was a back story there and I hoped I would not have to listen to it. Hell, if he gave me a few hints I could probably write it for him. He probably felt like it was a big deal. It was for him but it wasn't unique. No way it could be. Not for someone like me.

Of course we couldn't leave right away. He had to go back up the hill to get the truck and Dad told him to check with Rebeckah and see what she needed from town and if any errands needed to be run. I was paying for an off schedule town run for them it sounded like.

I killed time talking to Sleepyhead Dad. "You got anyplace you'd recommend for me to stay at?"

He ran down the list, all two of them, one of them being a flophouse, the other were visiting VIP's stayed, and the slyly, for him I'm sure, suggested I go see the local Bishop and see if a good family could put me up.

I pretended to think about that for a couple beats and then told him, "Naw. I want to keep a low profile."

"You hear on business?"

Yes, he was a sly dog. I winked at him, "Nope. Just passing through."

He seemed disappointed. "Oh. Thought you might be here because of them fed boys that just got in town."

That was news to me but it wouldn't do to let him know that. "Naw. I figure you can throw them off the bridge just as well as I can." We all found that pretty damn funny including the tow headed kid who had been hanging on every word.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Unknown - Chapter 2c - by nova

Chapter 2c

"So what was the kill word?"


"That's catchy."

He didn't smile. He also didn't like me. Some people were like that. I just had to enter a room and it was all downhill for them.

Sleepyhead Dad sensed it too and said "Son. Did you see that? The man knows how to handle them guns."

"I saw it. I saw him come walking by the house too. Came out of nowhere,"

The trailer door was open now and a tow headed kid of 16 was staring in at me. He had a pump action shotgun hanging low and loose in his hand. He looked okay. Too bad he was going to have to go first if his friend kept pushing.

Looking at the kid made me realize how old I was getting. America, or what passed for it now, had two big age groups for the most part. My generation, the generation young enough to survive the big die off after PowerDown, which had killed most of the real young, the out of shape middles, the fat and medicated, and the old. Now all the survivors kids were of age or coming into it.

I decided to end the bullshit. I didn't want to be standing around in this sweat box chatting all day.

"Jacob. You got a vehicle that runs?"


What a surly fuck I thought. "Because I'll pay you to run me into town. That's why."

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Unknown - Chapter 2b - by nova

Chapter 2b

He laughed. As answers go I find that laughter for a reply is never a good sign. I waited until he stopped, it wasn't long. He mumbled, "mmmm...yeah. Next convoy isn't due through here until tomorrow." He looked me over and added, "No offense Mister but if we get regular people passing through they ain't going to be to eager to let you climb in with them."

That made sense. "No bus or cart service?"

"No. Been talk that one might be starting up but as usual, its been nothing but talk. Going to be kind of hard to do since the road gets real bad in places once you get 20 miles or so north of Kanab. How did you get here?"

"Took the old Kanab road until my bike busted a fork."

"No shit. Did..."

He didn't get to finish. The same door I came I in busted open and the same scowl faced young man I had passed earlier rushed into the room. He barely made it a step into the room before I was back on my feet, both guns drawn and cocked, one pointed at sleepyhead, the other at him.

Two things saved his life. The AK was at port arms and he yelled "Dad!" as he came through the door. He froze in place when he saw me. We all did. Sleepyhead handled it better than I expected. He told the kid, "Damn it Jacob. I hope you fed the cat." Jacob relaxed. I didn't. I told him, "Jacob. Go tell your backup it's okay." He looked at his dad who nodded and then he yelled out the door, "We got a cat!" Now I understood. Safe words and phrases.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Unknown - Chapter 2a - by nova

Chapter 2a

I skirted the edge of the houses. I had no desire to catch a round because someone found me threatening. I did, with great difficulty, restrain my self from stomping a small mixed breed dog who dogged me for all but the last 100 paces yapping mindlessly and shrilly.

A young man came out of the house on my left and watched me walk on by. He didn't seem friendly but he never pointed the AK he was carrying at me either. I waved, he scowled, and the fucking dog yipped. When I crossed the cattle guard at the bottom of the hill I flipped yappy the dog off, paused to check out the view again and get a feel for the place. Nothing off was in the air so I climbed the wooden stairs into the "office" and stepped inside.

I wished I hadn't almost immediately. It was hotter than Hell inside that metal box. The guy on duty was behind a wooden desk, his feet up on it, and he was sound asleep. Was there something in the air here? Was the fed gov spraying a sleeping agent in the air as prep for the invasion? It couldn't be that dead here?

I mulled evil ways to wake him up starting with kicking his feet off the desk but I quickly disregarded that one because I was afraid my boot would fall apart even more if that was possible. I ran through a couple more, decided the Hell with it, and sat down in the chair in front of his desk.

"Hey sleepyhead!"

Unfortunately he didn't fall out of his chair. I momentarily regretted not busting a cap or pulling the desk out from under him. His, "Oh shit!" wasn't bad but it was thin gruel to what could have been.

"Who the Hell are you?"

I just stared at him.

His bluster and anger drained out him in about 3 beats. In a completely different tone of voice he asked me "Can I help you sir?"

"Any chance I can get a ride into town?"

A Photo From a Reader

TheDreamer sent me this. Taken in downtown Brooklyn. Thanks!

The Location

The Unknown - Chapter 2 by nova

The Unknown - Chapter 2

He was right. It was almost two miles to the toll booth and road stop. I figured I could get a ride into Page, the nearest big town, buy some new boots and something to eat, and catch another ride to Flagstaff. I was looking good as far as making it to Flag and if Page looked interesting and had a good Mex restaurant I might hole up there for a few days. It all depended on what was running south and how fast it got there. Nowadays you never knew for certain what was being used for mass transportation. If I got jammed up I could always get word to my new employer. Wanabee warlords, if they could afford me, usually could afford the goodies that came with running a kingdom.

I had found out about this place from the two Navajos I had traded my bike to. I didn't get much as I was bargaining from a position that was one step up from nonexistent. At one point one of them told me, "Hey man, its not like that bike is going anywhere but you will eventually." My reply? "You want to watch me toss it off the side of that ridge over there? Then maybe drop some rocks on it?" They didn't have any problem believing I would do it either. I think it may of crossed their mind that I was also extremely well armed and we were out in the middle of nowhere. I ended up with enough water for 2 days and a pound of corn flour. I was happy. They were happy. It was one of my few win-win encounters. I kind of liked it but I didn't expect another one for at least five years.

I approached it from the back. Before I started down the dirt road to it I glassed it from the hill behind it. An hill that was crowned by a dried up pond that still had a wooden diving board sticking out of one side of the hill and as useless every hardon I had for the past six months. Willows grew around it and a few cattle skulls and bones littered the dry ground. Below me was a corral, then four houses and a trailer. Leading to them from the road below was an asphalt road that was not in the best of shape. Below that and off to the side of the road was a trailer and a small wooden building. A horse was tied to a rail in front and that was it.

Off to the right, sitting on a low plateau and maybe 8 miles away was the town of Page. In between here and there was the Colorado River, the still intact bridge, and the ruined hulk of the Glen Canyon Dam. The lake behind it still had some water. Getting to it though looked like a real bitch. The water was one reason there was still a town. It and the bridge across the Colorado. Once upon a time the Navajo Electricity Generating Plant had been a big deal. I had been told in Salt Lake that the Saints were seriously considering cutting a deal with the Navajo Nation and doing a joint project to bring it back, at least partially, online. It was an ugly looking plant and those three stacks must have done wonders for the air quality when they were running full tilt.

The Unknown - Part 1d by nova

The Unknown - Part 1d

He passed me a ceramic jug that had been fitted into a woven wool sock. I pulled the carved pine cork and took a deep pull after weighing it in my hand. I did drink to deep, he had plenty, but sucking down all his water would have been bad manners. I was a lot of things but I tried to avoid being an asshole whenever possible. It was difficult, I had been told a few times that I came by it naturally, but I tried.

The water was cool and actually tasted good. Both were pleasant surprises. I handed it back to him, he weighed it in his hand without thinking, did some calculations, and asked me if I wanted another drink. Once upon a time I would have declined, This wasn't then and I was thirsty. I took another deep pour and handed it back. He didn't ask again.

"Okay. I'm good." I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. "I'm coming from Kanab. I was on a bike...I was taking the old highway, and hit a hole wrong about 5 miles out of town. I've been walking since." I didn't bother to add that I went through Kanab at night and my starting point had been a bit further north.

"My cousin Alicia, she lives there. She works at the Saints fort in the supply department. She says it's a great job. Sometimes she comes home and brings really good stuff like canned pineapple. Have you ever had that?" He took a breath and I got inside the conversational curve by asking him "There is supposed to be a road stop around here. How far am I from it?"

"Oh yeah. The toll place?"


"About 2 miles that way." He pointed east and said "Just keep the mountain in front of you. You can't miss it."

You couldn't miss the mountain. It filled the horizon in the direction he had pointed. I wasn't so sure about the 'can't miss it' part but it was good to know I was close.

"You sure got a lot of guns. Is that real body armor? Are you a contractor? They said a really famous contractor was coming this way. Maybe you might know him. His name is..."

"Al. Work with me here. Not so many questions at the same time."

He actually looked embarrassed. "Sorry..."

"No problem. Yeah. it's real body armor. No. I'm not a contractor. I'm doing my two year mission and I lost my name tag and partner awhile ago."

He didn't look like he totally believed the last part. Maybe half of it. Damn, somebody let this kid run around by himself?

I knew why he thought that. First off I was one. Second, well, I was probably one of the best armed men in the state. I usually was no matter where I was.

I was wearing plate armor sewn inside a custom made canvas vest that I had lined with cotton except for the slits I had cut slits in it to allow me to be semi cool. I had thought it was a pretty good idea at the time but it didn't make any difference that I had noticed. It did allow me to reach through and scratch my self a lot easier so it wasn't a totally stupid idea.

My belt was held up a Y rig made out of leather and had a fighting knife attached to it and two leather pouches. My gun belt was tooled leather hung with two holsters filled with a Ruger .357 each. My cartridge loops were empty because I didn't like sparkling in the sun. A pouch hung off that with two spare cylinders for the Navy Colt I kept tucked in the belt, another modification I had added was a loop inside the belt for the barrel to slide through and help me keep it in place. A K-98 bayonet hung just behind my left side Ruger and I had a .38 snubbie in my boot. The Y rig had a scabbard fitted to it and it had once held a sword. Now it held a Winchester 30-30. I was a walking gun store and while they all showed a lot of wear I kept them clean and oiled. My hardware, once considered stupidly retro was now state of the art, well, almost, and If I decided to sell it all I could afford to buy a farm. It would end up being the farm but I wasn't planning on selling them. Otherwise I really didn't care.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Unknown - Part 1c

The Unknown - Part 1c

He wasn't looking all that reassured but he told me, "Sure" and settled back down on his rock after yelling at the dogs to get back on the job. The sheep? It was a nonevent as far as they were concerned.

I settled down next to him on the rock. I kept his bike between us. No need in making him any more nervous than he already was.

"So how's the sheep ranching working out?" I asked him.

"He laughed and told me "It's the family business" and shrugged.

For a second the thought that this might be an awkward conversation flashed through my head. It wasn't. The kid wanted to talk. He was seriously lonely.That was okay with me. I needed data.

"How did you get here? Are there more of you? Do you have a horse? You got some nice gear! Where did you get it? Is that body armor?"

I sighed. I hated multiple questions slung at me like that.

"You got a name?"

"Oh yeah. I'm Al. Al Tsingine. That's short for Alfred. It was my Grandfathers name."

Damn. This kid was a puppy. "That was a lot of questions Al. You have any water?"

He blinked, and smiled, the kid was a smiler but his people generally were, "Ah sure. Sorry. I've been out here for 7 days and ..." He didn't finish it. He didn't need to. I was supposed to know the rest. I could have answered, "Yeah? I've been out here for 12 days by myself and I have enjoyed it. Well, yesterday I got horny but other than that I don't have a problem with it." I didn't. He didn't need to know. Plus I wanted to keep him talking and getting him weirded out wouldn't help.

The Unknown - Part 1b by nova

The Unknown - Part 1b

I got moving. Well, half assed hobbling was more like it. My leg and thigh, the one that had taken one too many deep penetration wounds, was numb all the way to the knee which wasn't helping. I made it to the top of the sandstone ridge after a couple of awkward hops from rock to rock. Awkward because I had seen a snake trail in the sand just before them and was trying to be careful about where I put my feet. My final jump had startled a horney toad whose quick movement had upset my timing by a hair. It was far from a graceful and quiet movement and another reminder, if I needed one, that what once was taken for granted had become a struggle.

I hadn't lost it completely. A young Navajo was sitting on a chunk of sandstone watching his handful of sheep graze about a 100 paces away from him. His bicycle was leaning against the same rock and his rifle was in its sheath across the handle bars. I grinned, and yelled, "Yatahai!"

To say he was startled would be an understatement. He literally fell off his seat and sprawled in the dirt. His dogs, two mixed breed collie types out tending the sheep, heard me and came hauling ass towards him. I saw him look to his bike and the rifle. I shook my head, smiled, held up one hand in greeting, and said "hello" again in Navajo.

He gave me a tentative smile with a hint of embarrassment. I told him in English, "Sorry about that. I would have yelled out if I knew you were here." He yelled something in Navajo at his dogs who were standing off and barking at me from about 10 paces." Inwardly I winced. Navajo was a sing song language that picked at old scabs. He was going to be out of luck if he thought I spoke Navajo. Hello was my entire vocabulary.

"You okay with me coming closer? I just want to talk."

He looked a little dubious but nodded his head and told me "Come on. I'll make the dogs behave."

I almost laughed at that but if it made him feel safer I was okay with it. I had already run it in my head. Him and his two dogs had a lifespan of, maybe, one second after I drew my guns.

The Unknown - Part 1a

The Unknown - Part 1a

I liked this part of the world even though it was as alien as the moon compared to where I had started from. You could see for a hundred miles in any direction and the air had a clarity that still amazed me. Somewhere due west of me a patch of clouds were raining on some piece of lucky dirt. Over me it was blue sky and cloudless and had been for days.

I needed to move but I was reluctant to. More and more I just didn't give a shit. I probably should be trying to analyze why and fix it. Not giving a shit was no way to go through life in the best of times and today was years down the road from those times. Once in awhile I had thought it would turn around, life would be, maybe not better for me, but better for the world around me. People had tried, hell, I had fought with them more than a few times for it, but in the end we always lost. The wheel had turned and what was once was never going to be again.

I had made a career on not caring and taking insane risks for the sheer joy of it. I had never put much of a value on anyone's life except for mine and the few people I cared about. Now, now even that was slipping away and had been for awhile. I was losing it and I didn't care. I had fought it for a long time but I was tired. Really tired. Part of me screamed "You're losing your edge!" My response? A mental shrug.

I kept going through the motions. I had to eat. I still liked to get laid once in awhile. Hell, I needed to reequip, my shit was getting ragged from the boots up. Somewhere ahead of me was supposed to be a road stop and eventually, maybe in a week, I would be in Flagstaff where the call had gone out that there was a need for people like me. Someone needed killers to put out or start fires in yet another pointless border skirmish between yet another set of wannabee warlords.

My recruiter in Utah had wanted to give me the details about how the side that was going to hire me was the righteous one. I laughed in her face and told her "Don't worry about it. I don't." She had recoiled from like I had struck her. Her partner, he just looked at me and smiled. He knew. Their crusade, her cause, well, it was just another job in a long string of them for people like me. She would learn, I didn't want her too, but she would, of that I had no doubt, if she lived long enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Unknown - Part 1

The Unknown - Part 1

I came the side of the hill the hard way. I walked. It had been awhile since I had walked any distance and it took me all of six steps to remember why. My boot leather was in sad shape but the soles were even worse. I probably would have tossed them out of anger and frustration but common sense, something that is not a natural thing with me prevailed. The little voice in my head whispered “Hey dumb shit...that's your only pair.” Tough to argue with logic like that. Though when the left heel came off the second time it was a close call. The third time I stopped, picked up the heal, and sat down. I pulled my boot off and stared at where it was supposed to have stayed attached and laughed. I sat there, laughed, stopped and stared off into the distance, looked at the heel and laughed again. Life is a bitch. You take it too seriously and you'll end up fighting for a cause or worse – dying for one.

Lord knows I knew about that the hard way. I was a veteran in a world where everyone nowadays was a veteran of something. I wore a uniform for awhile. I liked wearing a uniform. It eliminated another problem in my life at the time – having decent clothes to wear. I had to get rid of of most of it. When your side loses it helps not to identify yourself as a recent participant, let alone former member of a unit that was regarded as an elite by the losers and as a band of terrorists by the winners. I held on to my boots long after I should have dumped them and bought another pair. Why? Because they were from back then, the time when I believed, the time when defeat was never an option and victory was still a possibility. In the moments when I was honest with myself, I knew even if we had won I had still lost. Another reason I was sitting out here in the middle of nowhere, thirsty, broke, and hungry.

I had come a long way in an even longer time. Since I had no where specific I was going it shouldn't bother me but it did. I had gotten use to goals, plans, and making shit happen. So I dealt with it the same way I did a lot of thing now -- I just locked it away and kept going. Memories are a bitch too. I got up and began walking with only one working boot heel. Hell, some-days everything was a bitch.

I may have been sitting but I had sat next to a clump of grass. Always look for concealment despite how piss poor it was. Grass here grew in clumps. Not like real grass. I was in the high desert somewhere, if I done it right, just inside what had once been Northern Arizona according to the tattered paper map I had found awhile back. I scanned the sky. I always scanned the sky even though any reason to had been long ago left behind. Looking for the glint, the shadow, the feel of evil.

We had a guy with us somewhere back in the beginning who said his old units motto was “Death from Above.” Most of us thought he meant he was a drone jockey. He hated that and I grew to really dislike his rants about what the difference was and how special by implication he was. He wasn't. He died like all the rest. Fucking drones don't care how well you were trained or what a bad ass you were. They killed you as dead as a fourteen year old kid who didn't know his left from his right for shit.

Two Books on the Way

"Gardener Summer" with "The Lion" should be showing up on Amazon in paper by early next week.

"The Chosen" should be out in paper and ebook format by early August.

Then I will be all caught up and be able to start writing again.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On Writing - Or My Lack of It

I am reformatting Gardener Summer for paper release. I am going to add "The Lion," a short story I wrote a while back to it.

AA V will be the final AA book in the series. I am thinking of writing spin offs from that.

I am also thinking of writing the story of Gardeners grandson. That will be set 60 years or so further in the future.

The Chosen II needs to be written. Chosen: Part One will be coming out in a month or two in paper and ebook.

I read all my reviews and I understand the dislike of Freya and the Norse thing. Well, I'm sorry it wasn't to everyone's liking but that is the way the story came to me.

I will probably write about Gardeners grandson next. I like that for some reason. Probably because it will be another world. I am also drawn to the western gunslinger myth and world.


Rottenclam got me to thinking. That, and what I have been reading over at the Bison blog. Which is the ludicrousness of most survival plans an ideas.

The stronghold idea. I thought about that and I think, given a .270 with a scope, a decent sidekick, and some muscle, I could crack any stronghold. All it would take is the ability to wound a human being regardless of age or sex.

It will take a community to survive. Even then you might have to pay off the local warlord. The local warlord will probably be wearing a US Army or LE uniform. You would still be paying. Most people assume the feds would quietly go away. Not.Going. To. Happen. Even if a collapse happened tomorrow the fed's would still be major players three generations from now. They have the manufacturing base, the resources, and the weapons to make sure of that.

I would suggest studying the Russian collapse. Soon we will have Greece. Perhaps China and other European countries.