Starke and I started our walk out to the range with O’Toole and several guards trailing us. Tool had the sense to walk behind us creating a little buffer so Starke and I could speak.
We walked on in silence for a while before Starke spoke up. “Okay, I’ll go first. What the fuck, Finn?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” I chuckled forcing myself not to use any body language in our communication. “I’m trying to figure that one out myself. How close are your guys?”
“Not very.” he replied “We’re scouting fall back locations. The main body is over 35 miles west of here. Tell me what you need though, maybe I can help out?”
“Did you bring a fire team with you? Enough strength to take this location–because this place is FUBAM.”
“FUBAM?” He asked.
“Fucked Up Beyond Ability to Measure. This place is seriously lacking just a few things to be stone-age compatible.”
“Give me the short and sweet, Finn. My balls are already trying to crawl up inside of me.”
“Slavery. Little fucker treats the women like property and marks them if they displease him. Threatened to mark me too. Religious fanatic, kills anyone not subscribing to his particular brand of crazy–er Christianity.”
I could hear the shrug in his voice “Muslims? I killed plenty of them myself. He’s not the only one to do so since the shit hit the fan. And it’s gone both ways. Christians in Detroit weren’t exactly treated well . . . some were allowed to evacuate though.”
I stared Starke down as we walked. “You killed Muslims–I’m assuming–because they presented a threat to your Marines, not out of some disagreement about the proper day on which you sacrifice the goat.”
“True enough. Old prejudices. So what can I do?” he asked as he offered me another pinch of his chew.
I lowered my voice to a whisper “Save Tool for me. I mean to kill him myself.”
“Yeah.” I saw him nod his head “We’re definitely going to have a talk about that after we leave. I’ll let him live, but I can’t make any promises about keeping him physically intact.”
“Fair enough.” I said with a laugh “You have comms with the–what are you all calling yourself now?”
“Michigan Volunteers. Our affiliation with the MVDF has kind of fallen to the wayside. We’ve got communications with units close to use, but they’re two man scout teams like us. Patrell and Guerrera are a few miles down the road. We have two other teams in about a 15 mile radius. I can get them here if . . .”
“No time. I have to end this soon. Best thing you can do for me is draw some of his troop strength away. I think we can handle the rest.”
“We?” he asked as he turned to look over his shoulder at the guards following us. “We who?”
“Myself and the women. I gave my word that I would get them clear of this and that’s what I aim to do.”
“Roger that. You think you’ll be able to join us for our festivities?”
“Lansing?” I shrugged slightly “Adam,” I began “War to my people is holy. So much so that we have not one, but four Gods of war. I’ve gotta be honest with you– since this all started I’ve felt like I’m home–but I just want to be on my own. I’m not meant to be around people. Normal people anyway.”
Adam nodded “I’ve been doing some reading– a little bit of research since we met. Isn’t building a tribe supposed to be an important part of your life as well?”
“Innangard–people very close to me–are important. They don’t necessarily have to form a body in which we all physically exist.”
“Don’t be a dick, Finn. I’m not trying to ask you out on a date here. We need you, the Resistance, needs every body it can get. Join us.”
“You realize you’re asking a dead man to help you out? There’s no guarantee I’m walking away from this. Or if I do that I’ll be physically capable of doing anything useful.”
“Yeah, I’m sure this group of warriors, will be the end of you. Meet me in Lansing?”
I gave in. I couldn’t be held responsible for breaking my word to him if I was dead. “I’ll try.”
We arrived at the range with just enough light peering through the gathering clouds to make the marked grounds visible. Starke looked at the layout approvingly.
“Looks like home to me. You’re going to train his guys here?”
I smiled “I’m going to turn this into Náströnd.”
I saw Starke raise an eyebrow at me, but I didn’t explain. We walked through the range as it was laid out, Starke offering a few helpful comments here and there about things I had forgotten.
“You have equipment to dig the trenches?” He asked distractedly.
I pointed back toward Michael’s house “Bobcats up there. Etools if those don’t work.”
“Wait one.” Starke said and walked off to speak to one of the guards. When he returned he was hiding a smirk. “Got something for you.”
A few of the guards took off toward Michael’s house and a moments later the natural sounds of morning were interrupted by the Bobcat engine’s firing up. Starke made a show of changing one of the markings on the field so that the trenches would be connected, allowing those inside to advance or retreat as necessary.
When the guard returned with the Bobcat, Starke immediately began directing him on how and where to dig. The guards not being true professionals did what men tend to do in this situation and gathered around to watch the work. Starke stood next to me watching and occasionally calling out a command to be relayed to the equipment operator.
I watched the work beginning with some interest. I was starting to focus more on the work than the problems at hand when I felt something poke me in the back. I looked at Starke who was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I reached behind my back and smiled as I gripped the barrel of my .357 .
Starke gave me a wink and held up a finger. I felt something else tap against my back and grabbed that as well, feeling the breath catch in my throat as I felt Sweet Louise’s kydex sheath in my hand. I stowed everything in my improvised blow out kit and gave Starke a nod of thanks.
After a while the trench was coming along nicely and the things I’d asked to have brought out began to arrive, including a chalkboard. Starke looked at me questioningly when he saw the board being set up. It was my turn to wink at him and smile.
Dawn fully broke over the range as I called for Donnelly to sound the call and get the troops assembled. As the men began to turn out I sent them all off to get entrenching tools to deal with the dirt the Bobcat was churning up.
The men set to creating a berm in front of the trenches with the excess dirt. Starke smiled at the progress and came over to speak to me.
“How much do you charge to shoot here?” He smiled admiringly at the at way the men were all working to get the range finished.
“More than you’d be comfortable paying–I hope.”
Starke nodded all traces of humor leaving his features. Tool came over and stood next to us making our conversation come to an uncomfortable halt.
“Your boss is headed out.” Tool said, jerking his head toward Michael’s house.
Starke turned to look and saw a golf cart coming our way. “Hate to do it man, but we’ve got to get moving. we’ve got to rendezvous with another scout team and get our exfil on.”
“You going to take some recruits with you?” I asked watching the golf cart like a cat tracking a mouse.
“Kind of depends on what he says.” Starke nodded his head toward the approaching golf cart “If he’ll let us we’ll take as many off your hands as possible.”
“Works for me.” I offered Starke my hand and we shook. “I’ll see you in Lansing.” I said and turned away before he had a chance to show me his idiot grin.