Upon reaching the camp I noticed things were greatly relaxed compared to the last time I’d been here. The guards around the supply CONEX were still pretty rigid, but the rest seemed to have settled into a mode that spoke of resignation to their new lives. I could recall having seen this when I was deployed with guards that had been in country before Desert Shield kicked off. Sure, they’d still shoot you if you looked wrong, but they probably wouldn’t bother shouldering the rifle; they’d just shoot you from the hip.
I hit the little two-stroke’s kill switch and let our momentum carry us into the center of the camp which was the erstwhile Wal-Mart delivery area. I had to stand there and blink the grit out of my eyes for a few seconds before I could begin to engage in conversation.
“So what’s the plan?”
Starke shot back “You’re the guy with the plan, you tell me?”
Having seen which side of the loop we were both on, we decided to go Dwyer’s office for my after action report. I didn’t have to wait this time. Being escorted directly into Dwyer’s office suited me just fine. I had some questions that needed answers right now.
Dwyer looked up as we entered, appearing slightly surprised to see me. I waved his opener away before he said it “Yeah, I know you didn’t expect to see me so soon.”
Dwyer gestured to the plastic chairs in front of his desk. I stood back and let Starke take the one furthest from the door. As soon as he settled in, I stepped around behind the desk and drew my revolver, shoving Dwyer’s head down onto his desk. Starke regarded me with the same look I imagine he would have if I’d sprouted tentacles and began to dance. I stripped Dwyer’s sidearm from it’s large, ostentatious holster and pointed it at Starke.
“Relax. I’m going to ask the Major here some questions and I think you might want to hear the answers as well.” Starke nodded and held up his hands, leaning back into the chair slightly.
“Not that I don’t trust you, but I’m gonna need to relieve you of your sidearm as well.” Starke drew his 9mm from the shoot me holster on his leg holding the grip with two fingers. “Now empty it.” I could see the rage building in Starke and I understood it. When you carry a weapon for so long you get used to its presence and for someone to take it from you carried the same feelings that might accompany having a finger removed with a cold chisel and a hammer.
Even though he didn’t like it, Starke ejected the magazine and pulled the slide back until it locked, letting the chambered round dribble down the mag well onto the floor and set the gun on the desk.
I did the same with Dwyer’s gun, a very nice chrome plated Colt chambered in .45 caliber with what appeared to be genuine pearl handles. A show piece I thought as I examined it. The gun fit Dwyer to a Tee.
“So question number one. Who are you working for?”
Dwyer didn’t answer immediately so I placed the revolver at the nape of his neck.
“What do you mean? I’m working for the governor, for the state of Michigan! Who else would I be working for?!” Dwyer wasn’t shouting which was good. I didn’t need to draw too much attention from the bored looking guards outside.
I considered his response for a moment before switching gears “Okay, let me rephrase. You are working for the governor who wanted martial law declared and wants to continue martial law, with the help of the feds. True or false?”
Dwyer began to try and bluster. This didn’t really work for me. Turns out in the new world there are quicker and better ways to get things done, so I drew my Ka-bar and slid my revolver back into the holster. Placing the blade between his index and middle fingers , I drew the edge over the soft web of flesh there until I saw a little line of red appear.
Dwyer to his credit endured this well a sharp intake of breath the only hint that he was not enjoying the days proceedings. Starke stood up and began to protest. I didn’t point the gun at him this time, only stared at him until he resumed his seat. I placed Ka-bar against Dwyer’s eye this time and repeated my question.
“Yes, damn it!Yes!!!” I was glad that the threat of losing an eye was enough to motivate him as I really didn’t want to strip him naked and cut off his balls. “My orders come from the Governor himself! We want the Feds to know their place, but we don’t want them to leave!”
Starke stared at Dwyer now as if he, too, had grown tentacles and joined me in singing a duet of ‘No Greater Love’.
“Terrific. Now that we’ve answered the how full of shit is this guy question, hopefully we can proceed without need of further crude demonstrations. Agreed?” I waggled the blade of Sweet Louise in front of his face slightly until he nodded. That was impressive considering he had most of my weight bearing down on his neck.
I stood just behind and to the left of Dwyer, letting him raise his head and rub his neck a bit. I was pretty sure that Starke, if he wasn’t on board was at least swinging that way, but I wanted to be able to cover the both of them just in case. There was one tense moment when Dwyer, apparently without thinking, turned slightly away from me and reached toward a drawer in his desk. My .357 was out of the holster and laid against his temple before he had a chance to close his fingers on the drawer pull.
He held his hands up “I just wanted to get the neosporin out of that drawer there” he gestured slightly with his head. I opened the drawer for him and saw that it did indeed have a tube of neosporin along with a compact .380 semi auto located just deep enough inside the drawer that most people would have missed seeing it from the other side of the desk.
I took possession of the little handgun and, wrapping my hand around the grip as I slammed my fist into Dwyer’s face twice in rapid succession. I had opened a small cut on the bridge of his nose and my hand was on fire from the impacts.
“If you have any ice in the other drawer, you just leave it there unless you want me to send you off to meet your gods.” Dwyer nodded and took a tissue from the box on his desk and placed it against the cut on his nose.
The voice in my head was insistent that I kill him, but I knew I couldn’t do that and hope to walk out of here alive. I took a moment to master my emotion and gave Starke a chance to chime in. “So why have we been killing the Feds if we’re on the same side?”
“The Governor considers it an ‘acceptable loss’. Plus there just isn’t a way to get everyone in the comm loop on this. We can’t exactly fake a battle!” Dwyer’s face had taken on a deep purple hue. I guess being made to answer to an NCO is a blood pressure trigger for some people.
I waved Starke back before he could say anything else. “So you sent me out to meet with the militia in the hopes that, what? They’d agree to your little plan and when they showed up you’d just slaughter them?”
Dwyer laughed. “Not entirely. We have a use for the so called Patriot’s but it’s a plan that’s already happened you see. We’ll be sending a patrol along shortly to pick up the survivors.”
“You total piece of shit. I was your bird dog?”
Dwyer regarded me calmly “In a sense. We knew where they were, but not what buildings they were using and it’d be wasteful to destroy the whole town, so we just added a little something to your Jeep.” Dwyer looked like the cat that ate the canary, his smile was wide “their headquarters probably went up in flames moments after you left.” He shrugged and smiled so broadly I thought his head might split open “I mean, I’m no pilot but I’m pretty sure the guns on an A-10 have incendiary rounds, right?”
A slight wisp of smoke wafted out the muzzle of my revolver before I had a chance to remind myself that killing Dwyer would likely mean a full on shooting-war to get clear of the camp. The room stank of gunpowder and quickly of urine and feces as Dwyer’s bowels let loose.
I swung to the door seconds before it flew open, two guards with M-16’s appearing there looking confused. Their confusion was short lived as they saw Dwyer’s lifeless body sitting behind his desk.
I pointed the revolver at the guard nearest me and fired before he had a chance to swing his muzzle toward me. The second guard wasn’t as slow in aiming, but had been about to order me to drop my weapon before I shot his companion. I dropped him with another round, his mouth still working wordlessly as he fell.
Starke reached for his gun then stopped holding up one hand “I’m on your side here, okay? But we have got to get this shit under control now. Just let me handle it and don’t shoot anyone unless you have absolutely have to.”
I nodded and thought if I made it through this, he and I were going to need to have a talk about my definition of ‘absolute’. Starke took up his sidearm and reinserted the magazine, pausing for a second to grab the loose round from the floor and inserting it directly into the barrel.
“Okay, come on. We have to get to comms riki-tik.” Starake turned and left the room stepping over the bodies, not glancing back to see if I was following him. In the maze of CONEX boxes and regular semi-trailers there stood a small U-Haul style truck with several confused looking guards around it. They’d heard the gunfire, but no one knew where it was coming from or what they should do about it, so they kept their posts, but now in high alert.
One of the guards attempted to challenge Starke, but he stood down as Starke brushed by him saying “The fuck out of my way before I shoot you in the dick, boy.” The guard and his compatriots chuckled nervously as we rushed the truck.
Starke raised the door of the truck and stepped inside walking immediately over to a gray phone and snatching it off its cradle before anyone inside had a chance to object.
“All civilian section leaders and all NCO E-5’s and above report to command immediately.”
The inhabitants of the commo truck began to ask questions, but Starke shook his head and held up a silencing hand “Command has issued a change of orders. Your squad leader will be by in a little while to explain.”
Starke looked at me and let out a pensive breath. “Let’s go. You have a meeting to lead” and was out of the truck before I had a chance to respond.
I stood there for a moment wondering if it was too late for me to sneak out of camp. Yeah, probably was.
Before I could formulate anything resembling a plan small arms fire erupted around the camp. I turned back to one of the comms techs and told him “if there’s a general order to get everyone moving, issue it now. After that, I expect everyone in here to get suited up and get out there ready to build a wall of lead,brass and flesh.” I paused for a moment the comms tech was a slightly pasty faced and overweight kid who probably spent most of his time playing Modern Warfare instead of learning how to operate a rilfe. To the blank stare I said “How read?”
The kid jumped up out of his seat and pressed a button before responding “Sir, yes sir!” I muttered something about being called ‘sir’ under my breath and exited the trailer, the sound of small arms fire still intermittently filling my ears.