Tag Archives: freedom

Chapter 51 -Belt Fed Revolution

We sat around the table trying not to stare at each other but largely failing.  Michael looked at us expectantly waiting to hear the tale.  I had no doubt he’d make one up later if this one didn’t suit him.

I maintained eye contact with Starke for as long as I could. I saw O’Toole wince and his head whip around to look at Starke.  The two of them exchanged a brief look before turning back to me.

“Boys care to tell us what happened since we last met?” I asked searching my expression database for congenial smile I think I pulled it off, but without a mirror I never knew for sure.

Starke cleared his throat and stood unfolding a map. “You may recall last time we met the MVDF was pulling out of one of their forward operating bases. My group joined up with another militia at almost the same time. . . I think you know our new leader?”

I nodded. “I think we met, but I don’t recall his name.”

Starke nodded and continued to look at the map. “Well you were kind of busy last time I saw you. What ended up happening with you guys? The PLM was busy bugging out of the area after the nuke.”

All talk ground to a halt.

“Nuke?” my voice was a whisper and I was sure I’d misunderstood him.

Starke nodded and took a marker and made two X’s on the map. “Not like thermonuclear weapon, but nuclear material. Here at Palisades nuke plant and then down the coast at Cook Nuclear. The populations from those areas were swarming the nuclear plants, looking for aid, electricity maybe. Maybe they wanted to play some Madden. Who knows?”  Starke shrugged. “Anyway, the people overran the guards at the one plant, here” he pointed at one of the X’s “the Feds, they tried to drive them out but with their resources spread so thin they didn’t commit enough resources.” Starke and I shared a laugh at that. “So after some fights back and forth, the Feds they realize that maybe they don’t need to take the plants. . . maybe they just keep the people from having them.” Starke shrugged again. “You can do the math there.”

We all stared quietly at each other for a while. Eventually some more coffee was brought out. Starke sat down and turned in his seat looking at me. Michael wasn’t there as far as we were concerned nor was O’Toole. This conversation was just between us.

“So most of the lower southwest quadrant is considered uninhabitable. No telling how they fucked up the lake. . .” he trailed off for a minute lost in his own thoughts. “We had wounded we had to evacuate because we didn’t know how far the fall out was going to spread. . .” he raised an eyebrow at me.

I kept my expression neutral as I swallowed that. I had escaped from friendlies. I am a genius. I nodded to Starke and hoped he knew that I got the message.

“Where did you hear all this? Were there survivors or what?”

Starke shrugged and leaned forward placing is arms on the table. “Survivors? Probably. Hell if I know. We heard it from an Indian News Station. India, indian. Caught it on shortwave.” He laughed here “I don’t know how much of it is propaganda, but India actually sounds relatively stable now. Of course that because they nuked the living shit out of Pakistan, but y’know, give peace a chance an’ whatnot.” Starke whipped out a can from his back pocket and offered it around making a question into a statement. “Chew.”

Michael and O’Toole passed, but I leaned forward and took a pinch,completely  ignoring Michael’s disapproving look.

With the offer of tobacco it was my turn now to talk which I did with some care. “I was in a firefight. It was a weird one. It was really hairy at first, but I was on my gun and was taking the enemy down as fast as I could work the bolt.”

Starke and O’Toole both nodded since they knew this part well. “There was a lull in the firing and even though we were winning I held out the white flag when I realized the unit was friendly.” I smiled “We were all kind of confused in that fight; tough to tell the good from the bad when they don’t wear uniforms you immediately recognize.” I said veiling the reference to their new urban camo outfits  in my comments.

I saw the ‘fuck you’ in Starke’s eyes but kept on talking. “I went out thinking the other side realized I was trying to sue for peace and then I took a shot ” I pointed to my side “in the back.”

Starke’s eyebrow’s flew up, but as he was facing away from Michael the expression was hidden from him as well as the fact that Starke’s eyes locked onto O’Toole. The implication was unmistakable.

“Good ol’ friendly fire.” I said and locked eyes with O’Toole “I’m sure you’ve all been through that before. Or may soon. Happens when you work with a bunch of untrained types.” I let the threat hang there though there was really nothing I could do about it at this point.

Starke gave me a nod, his jaw clenched tightly shut.

Michael decided to interject at this point “Well that’s terrible news. Terrible!” he shook his oversize head sadly. “To think that the government would do such a thing to their own people!”

We all nodded our agreement.

“So what brings you guys to our little slice?” I asked.

Michael smiled broadly his eyes practically sparkling “These fine men have brought news. There’s going to be a fight soon. ”

“That so?”

Starke nodded. “The Feds have holed up in Lansing. Several unconnected groups are heading this way. Final push and such. We’re out scouting, hoping to find supplies or recruits.” Starke shifted in his seat a bit to look at Michael. “Your leader here was telling us you’re raising an army for him.”

“Trying to. I just got here, really. These guys are green. Like pine saplings.” I looked at Michael, since this was our first chance to really discuss such things it probably came as an unwelcome surprise to him. “Of course, I’m not in charge here so I couldn’t commit forces one way or the other. If I had to send anyone it’d be the guards. They’ve got the gas tanks for a fight and at least some discipline.”

Michael nodded at my assessment, looking displeased. “So be it then. I’d be happy to support this effort, even though it cost me dear. Do you boys know when this fight is going to take place?”

Starke looked at me. “Not too soon. Probably the next couple of weeks at the soonest. Of course, if you like we can take your men with us and start getting them trained up.”

Michael nodded “Yes. Yes, indeed. I think that’d be just fine.”

“Michael, I don’t know if you are aware, but Mr Starke here was also a Marine.” I smiled at the little psychopath “his experience may be invaluable. If I could have him look at the range set up, he might remember some things I’ve missed.”

“That would be fine. I’d welcome the help and I’m sure it’ll make your job easier as well.” Michael nodded and smiled as though indulging a small child. “The sun will be up shortly if you gentlemen can spare the time?”

“Be happy to help.” Starke confirmed folding his hands in front of him, waiting I think, to be dismissed.

I saw my chance and took it “Uh, gentleman, if you don’t mind I’d like a minute to speak to Michael, alone.”

Starke nodded, standing up and seizing O’Toole by the arm. “Sure thing.” he said pulling O’Toole along after him.

Michael hopped down off his chair and waved at a nearby guard “See that these men get some food and water. Replenish their supplies, too.” The guard nodded and escorted them from the room.

“Michael, I’ve been hoping to have a minute of your time. I hope you don’t mind.”

Michael’s thought’s was not truly present but he nodded and resumed his seat at the table.

“I know this may not meet with your approval, but given current happenings I feel it may be more than a good idea. It’s a necessity.”

Michael focused on me with tired eyes. “If you need something else, just tell John . . .” he started to wave me away.

“Well not exactly.” I said.

He raised an eyebrow at me “Okay. Out with it.”

“If you’re thinking about taking on the Feds then we’re going to need all hands on deck.” I put the idea out there and waited for him to seize on it.

“What do you mean, brother Stephen?” He asked. Michael was aging before my eyes. Slumping into his seat almost impossibly growing even smaller.

“I’d like your permission to train the women–those that are fit–how to shoot. Not the physical training the men have gotten, but as a last line of defense for home ground.” I gestured to the area of the camp behind me.

Michael nodded and thought about it for a moment. “No. Absolutely not. It is not woman’s work to make war. Women are here to serve men, to please them,  rear children, and take care of the things we must needs let slip in order to wage this war against the heathen.”

“Have you ever heard the name Simo Häyhä?” I asked changing tactics.

Michael shook his head. “I can’t say that I have brother.”

“Simo Häyhä was a Finnish sniper in World War II. During the course of his service, he managed to kill 505 enemy combatants. That happened over the course of one year. From 1939-40. There was only one more sniper that even came remotely close to matching his skill. Her name was Lyudmila Pavlichenko. She killed 309 men. ” I leaned forward to indicate how sincere I was “They killed almost 1,000 men between them, using the very rifle you were so far sighted to provide for your men. Your army.”

Michael sat back in his chair locking eyes on me, searching for something. Finally he let out a sigh and nodded. “All right. You may train them.” he held up a stubby finger “With the understanding that they are the last line of defense.”

“Thank you, brother.” I smiled “When this war is over, I think you will be regarded as a prophet for your vision.”

Michael smiled tiredly “God willing brother. I am just here to do his will.”

I turned to leave but stopped “Brother Michael, you look tired. Are you well? Should I send for Sarah?” I smiled down at him “We need you to strong. We can’t have you leaving us before you’ve served your purpose.”

Michael smiled at me and nodded “I want that more than anything brother. But I’m fine. I just need to get some rest.” He hopped down out of his chair and took my hand in his own “I’ll send for Sarah later, when I’ve had some rest just to make sure. I thank you for your concern brother. It’s touching to know that humanity still knows compassion even in these dark times.”

I closed my other hand around his and smiled “You just concentrate on keeping your strength up. We need you to be strong for a while longer.”

I chuckled inwardly. Stay strong at least until I have a chance to bathe my knife in your blood.

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Chapter 50 -Belt Fed Revolution

My quarters were empty except for the dogs. I slipped inside happy to be out of sight of prying eyes. I sat on the bed and removed my weapons, stuffing the Ka-Bar into the bag with my medical kit.

I kicked off my boots and slid my revolver under my pillow. I stared at the door and pondered what Preston had said. Why would Michael be making up stories about my past? What purpose did it serve? Between that and trying to figure out a plan to even the odds with the men of the camp my brain was working at full capacity.

I fell asleep without even realizing it.

There was a person laying next to me in the bed. My eyes snapped open, and I went into full alert. I caught a whiff of Paige’s natural scent. For a brief moment I felt her soft warmth pressed up against me and the rhythm of her snoring. I pushed myself up out of bed, my heart racing, layers of pathology suddenly reasserting themselves. It had been so long since I’d touched another human being for any purpose other than to kill I didn’t know what to do with them anymore.

Paige was rudely awakened by my movement. Her eyes popped open and she reached for her hammer. To me she whispered “What is it? Is something wrong?!”

I had my revolver in my hand and was sweating profusely. I lowered the gun, gently releasing the hammer as I did.

“Sorry” I looked at her.  I hadn’t realized how attractive she was until this moment. “Bad dream” I shook my head as if trying to clear the lingering remnants of my dream. “What–what were you doing in bed? With me?”

Paige’s face turned a lovely shade of bright pink. “I don’t feel so good. I just wanted to lie down–I didn’t think you’d mind.”

My brain kicked into neutral for a moment as I examined her. She had a long graceful, almost swan-like neck with blonde hair that reached down past her shoulders. I guessed she must have weighed only a bit more than she did now since she didn’t look quite as ‘deflated’ as the other women in the camp, even given her current circumstances.  When she’d lifted her dress to remove the hammer I’d given her it wasn’t exactly lost on me that she had, long, very shapely legs. I realized I was taking a mental inventory of her, breaking her down to component parts. I stopped when I thought of her breasts and how Michael had marked her. It didn’t actually serve to make her any less attractive, but it did stop my prurient line of thought when I remembered.

I felt my hand flexing on the grip of the revolver and  forced it to relax. I suddenly became aware of an odd feeling  below my waistline and quickly sat down. The last thing I needed right now was for Paige to freak out over a biological reaction I had little control over.

I tried to cover up more than my physical discomfort by engaging her in small talk.

“We haven’t really had much chance to talk since, ” I shrugged and looked around “well since we were thrust into this little arrangement.”

Paige nodded and smiled almost making eye contact with me.

I asked her the question I dreaded. “What do you do? Er, what did you do? You know, before?”

Ugh. I wanted to kick my own ass. I hated asking this question far more than I hated answering it. I took a breath and prepared to make small talk until the sun rose if it were necessary.

Paige smiled and rose to take the bait. We talked for hours into the night, and yes, I even answered the question about what I used to do back when there was a world and a civilization inhabiting it.

Paige and I switched places after a while, with me on the bed, Sako and Tikka curled up in my lap. I laughed, knowing that it would be considered incredibly stereotypical, but women really did enjoy talking about themselves, or failing that what terrible people their friends were.

I got a good chunk of Paige’s life story out of her before I drifted off again.

****

I was floating somewhere in between wakefulness and sleep. I didn’t believe the things my senses were telling me but they didn’t seem implausible either. In my own personal twilight I felt the warmth of a body pressed up against my own. On my feet were fur covered shoes filled with sharp little things that occasionally poked me in the toe or scraped across my ankle.

The scent of a woman was in my nostrils and it was enticing. Suddenly my feet were cold, my furry shoes gone and bouncing across the bed.

The movement of the dogs woke me up. They jumped off the bed and were sat in front of the door alerting to something there. My eyes snapped open as I saw the door begin to swing inward. I hurtled Paige’s sleeping form and threw a kick at the door frame slamming it shut with great force. Paige sat bolt upright in bed, reaching under the pillow for my revolver, handing it to me without being asked.

I gave her a quick smile and eased the door open. A red faced Donnelly was standing there doing his impersonation of a man about to die from some coronary event.

I let out a deep breath and surreptitiously handed the revolver back to Paige as I squeezed out the door.

I smiled at Donnelly as I approached him. No reason to make my prey bolt before I had a chance to kill it. As soon as I was within reach of Donnelly I seized him by the throat and drove him to the ground.

“The next time, Gene, you try and enter my quarters without permission will be the last thing you ever do. Have I made myself clear in this?” I asked slightly releasing the pressure I was applying to his hyoid bone.

Donnelly nodded. Flecks of spittle had formed at the corners of his mouth and stood in stark white relief to the bright red-going-purple of his face. I eased my weight off his chest and broke the hold I had on his throat.

Donnelly sat up hands at his throat and gasping for breath.

I looked at him. I had always been a fan of Wanderlei Silva and his propensity for soccer kicks must have rubbed off on me as I had to restrain myself from delivering my self-styled version of that kick to Donnelly’s head.

“Micheal or training?” I asked him in a voice that was almost a hiss.

He coughed more trying to calm himself and regain his breath. “Mi–Mi” he heaved.

I grabbed his chin and titled his face up to meet mine. “Michael?”

He nodded. and I let him go. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen Paige open the door, peaking out watching quietly with an almost joyous glee in her eyes. I stepped back into our quarters and began to get dressed.

I looked out the window and noticed how dark it was. I reckoned it to be around 0400 as I got my gear on and headed out the door toward Michael’s house. Donnelly was nowhere to be seen.

I kept my features expressionless but inside I was laughing, giddy as a school girl. Violence– it turns out–does solve problems. Must be in the application. Violence also cured what ails you apparently. As soon as I’d kicked the door shut my knee felt like a knife had been jammed into it, but know I was moving along at a decent lope, barely aware of any pain at all.

I reached Michael’s house and noted there were several guards there that had not been present before. There were in uniforms I probably would have laughed at at any other time being dressed in a combination of blue and black ‘urban’ camouflage patterns.

Two guards were on the door and those I did recognize. They waved me through without so much as a glance and into the house. I hadn’t seen the upstairs level of Michael’s house which was furnished in Early American-Creepy, complete with sepia toned photos of  what I guessed was Michael and his mother. I had to wonder how much Norman Bates was charging to decorate a place these days.

I was ushered into a room that was darker than the rest, mostly due to the heavy velvet wall covering that seemed to drink in the available light. I heard the sound of a motor starting somewhere outside and was instantly blinded as the house lights came on.

“Ah, here’s our Brother Stephen!” I felt someone take my hand and place it on the back of a chair as I tried to rid myself of the afterimage  while my eyes adjusted.

Michael continued “I’m so sorry, brother to have you woken so early. I know you have a full day of training and such to do today.” Something was placed in front of me. My sense of smell was working just fine. Coffee. I inhaled deeply of it. My eyes finally cleared enough I could make out Michael’s face as well as the guests seated at his table. One face smiled broadly at me, while the other gaped almost open mouthed.

“I wouldn’t have brought you here if it weren’t important. These two gentlemen are militia fighters like us. This is Adam Starke,” he said pointing at the Marine who was just a shot away from needing to hold his sides to contain the laughter “And this is. . .I’m sorry, was it Mr Toole?”

I shot Starke a look and the smile dropped almost instantly from his face, but it was too late. Michael had seen the recognition pass between the three of us.

I nodded and extended my hand. “Mr Starke. Nice to formally make your acquaintance. ” I turned and offered my hand to Tool who would not deign to shake it at first “Mr Toole.” I nodded to him. “Nice to see you both again.”

Chapter 38 -Belt Fed Revolution

I ran to the improvised front gate falling in beside the  guard  kneeling there as he returned fire into the growing dusk.  “Corporal! Sit-rep!” I asked as I knelt next to him and leveled my rifle out toward a group of vehicles at the farthest edge of the Wal-Mart parking lot.

“Not sure, sir.  Guard duty was ’bout the same as every night  then Stevens just goes down. Looked like  he was shot the throat…” I didn’t need to ask who Stevens was. I could see the bodies outside the gate already bled out. I eased myself between the Corporal and the wall and raised my rifle, resting the forward part of the stock on my left arm using the scope to scan the vehicles.  It was only about 150 yards away, but I couldn’t see faces only  feet and the top of an occasional head.

I continued scanning for a few moments seeing occasional muzzle flashes from under the vehicles and hearing the reports of rifles with no idea where the rounds were landing. Even though I didn’t have a great shot to take, I did have a .300 Winchester Magnum and that made up for a good deal  of the cover my targets were hiding behind at such a relatively close range. I was watching the furtive movements behind the vehicles when the Norns stepped up and began snipping threads.

The first kill was pure luck. I happened to be looking at one of the trucks as one of our unidentified OpFor ran between vehicles, leaving his head exposed for a second as he passed by the truck’s sliding rear window.  I almost missed the shot but just then time  slowed to a crawl. As soon as I saw the bill of the man’s ball cap enter the opening I squeezed the trigger and the man disappeared from sight.At the moment I couldn’t actually say I had hit the man, only that I had fired and seen him drop.

My next opportunity came when I saw a head using cover poorly. The top of another ball cap peaked out just behind a mirror of a big truck, the kind used for hauling horses. I squeezed the trigger gently and smiled a bit when I saw the hole appear in the mirror and the hat get ripped from the head it had been on.

Within moments the entirety of the camp had turned out and began taking up positions around and on top of the Wal-Mart building. The people on top of the building allowed us to set up almost in an enfilade-defilade position.

Without a word from anyone firing began en masse. If I had to guess I’d say this was just random shooting as I wasn’t seeing a lot of enemy bodies dropping given the amount of lead we were sending downrange.

The OpFor group was larger than I’d guessed .Their reinforcements began to move up on foot in small groups from the road that lead to the Wal-Mart.  I knelt back down and began to pick them off as quickly as I could. I wasn’t exactly Gunny Hathcock out here, but I was dropping people as fast as I could work the bolt.

I dropped the expended magazine and yelled “Reloading!” though I’m not sure to who. Everyone was busy dishing out their own personal size servings of whoop-ass just then. I slammed a fresh magazine up into the mag well and gave it a tap just to be sure but for some reason it wouldn’t seat. I pulled the magazine out and gave it a quick shake and a tap against my leg trying to get the rounds to settle into the magazine then realized I must have shot up every round of  the .300 Win Mag I had. The rest of it was back at the Jeep in bag I hadn’t been able to take with me because of my knee. The magazine I held in my hand was filled with .338 Lapua which was mostly useless to me just now.

I cursed and shoved the magazine into my pocket. I pulled out the BFR thinking at least I could shoot fairly accurate from kneeling. I had a target lined up and fired. The shot came nowhere near the target I had selected.I took aim again thinking I might be able to walk a shot in. I took a second to slow my breathing and make sure adrenaline wasn’t giving me a case of the shakes.

I focused on one truck I noticed sitting at the far edge of the parking lot. The truck looked familiar for some reason. It was the same truck I’d shot through the mirror to get at the tango that had been hiding there. I gave the truck a long look and was pretty sure I was looking at a black Ford F-450 with most of the front end torn off.

****

“Cease fire! Cease fire!” I stuck the BFR back in my belt as I walked up and down the row of soldiers and armed civilians nearest me calling out “Cease firing!” until eventually the word started spreading down the line and the rate of outgoing ordnance dropped to a crawl.

“Get someone up to the roof and tell them to stop shooting!” I  grabbed a civilian near me and yelled an order I didn’t know if he was capable of carrying out, but I didn’t have time to do any hand holding. I started calling out for Starke who was a bit further down the line than I had walked.

Starke was taking the cease-fire call as an opportunity to deal with the M-16 he was carrying which had double fed on him in the midst of the fight. “Starke! I need you to go get everyone to stand down.”

Starke finally cleared the malfunction in his weapon before he agreed. “Sure thing. What’s going on?”

I winced slightly “I think I might have just shit the bed here. Just try and get everyone calmed down.”

Starke gave me a shrug and headed off to make sure everyone had the order. I began looking around for towel or t-shirt or anything large enough to serve as a white flag. I finally found a civilian who was wearing a dingy, sweat stained A-frame shirt and told him to surrender it or risk getting shot by the OpFor, or if they couldn’t be arsed, I’d find someone on this side to do it.

The man looked more than a little perplexed, but took off his shirt and handed it to me. I made a quick search for a broom or something I could use to  keep the soiled garment away from my face. It’d be cool if I could use it as a flag pole too,  but fire from the PLM was picking up speed and I had to give up the search.

With no firing coming from our side I walked back to the gate and stuck the shirt out giving it a wave. Firing from the other side must have hit a lull about then and I took it as a sign that my decision to sue for peace had been accepted.

I stepped out and waved the flag over my head and felt a weird tugging sensation in my abdomen. Awesome. I survive the firefight unharmed only to pull a muscle during the surrender.

I continued walking forward for a bit, waving the t-shirt over my head while hearing the occasional shot being let off. I was about a quarter of the way to the PLM’s improvised cover when I heard someone from their side yell out “Cease Fire!” I saw heads poke out over the hoods of cars. One of those heads belonged to General Leader and it began moving toward me.

He walked at a brisk pace. I was glad because I suddenly felt very tired. The muscle I had pulled felt like it was on fire. I put my hand on my abdomen to apply some pressure to the muscle and felt a warm, sticky substance there. My hand came away bloody and breathing suddenly seemed like chore.

I staggered a few steps  as I tried to turn around before I fell to my knees.

****

I was surrounded pretty quickly by people from both sides. There was a tense stand-off going on out in the middle ground. Starke rushed out  and began hauling me backward by the sleeve of my BDU shirt. Others from the MVDF camp were trying to help him while maintaining a defensive stance with the PLM.

“Starke!” I thought I yelled but apparently my voice wasn’t all that loud. “STARKE?!” I tried again this time grabbing his wrist with my free hand.

He wasn’t listening, instead focused on dragging me back to the camp. I had a brief surge, from adrenaline or some other substance I didn’t know. I  managed to turn  to the point where  Starke had to drag me almost face first. I manage to get to my knees and fully grab his wrist. He finally stopped pulling for a second.

“They’re not enemies . . . ” Starke must have thought I was in shock as he started trying to drag me back once more.  “Adam! Damn it!” Starke stopped again.

“What the fuck? What? What’s so important? You’re shot in the gut here how about you just hold off on the long meaningful conversation until you get patched up?!”

I ignored him and pointed to General Leader. “He’s the head of the PLM . . . not an enemy.” Fuck, why was it so hard to talk? The words coming out of me felt like cement blocks being mixed in my mouth and turning solid as I spoke. I suddenly felt weak, weaker than I could ever recall and was overwhelmed by nausea.

I noticed now there were bodies all over inside the camp. People were running around tending to the wounded. It was a scene of pure chaos, but I had to get through to Starke. “Truce . . . declare a truce. Go meet with them. . .”

“Yeah, fine! I’ll give him the fuckin’ keys to the city if you’ll just shut up and let me get you taken care of!”

I relented and things got really fuzzy. I heard Starke say “asshole” but if it was directed toward me I couldn’t tell.  I couldn’t tell much of anything except that I seemed to be floating, no longer being dragged, but facing down, looking at the pavement moving below me as I floated along.

Chapter 34 -Belt Fed Revolution

As a Heathen turning the other cheek has never really been an option on the board for me. I’m flexible though and I’d like to think a rational man. I could forgive being struck. That’s the way men handle things. Shooting up my Jeep on the other hand, that was something I was going to need some payback for.

The jackhole that had shot up my Jeep was also the very same that hit me as my new militia friends were covering my head with a pillowcase. The pillowcase was flannel and I liked it. I greatly preferred it in fact to the place I now found myself which I could only assume was a long- abandoned service station.

Large yellowing plexiglas greeted me, heavily scuffed and covered with the same initials I had seen earlier, PLM. The murky light coming through the windows was still enough to keep me at a disadvantage. There were people moving around in the small space, but they kept themselves between me and the light effectively making them little more than shadows.

After some conversation a second chair for my interrogator was produced and shortly occupied by someone with a flashlight which was pointed at my face. I recognized the voice as someone from the fight at the gas station, but it wasn’t the leader who had remained mostly in the truck during that encounter.

“You with us?” the voice began. “Hello?”

“If this is the way you treat all your guests, I’m going to be leaving a very negative note on my feedback card.”

“Sorry about all that. Some people don’t know how to treat valued customers.”  It was good to know people had a sense of humor still. “So what are you then? I mean no offense, but you don’t look like a SEAL, but hey,  FedGov’s gotta be scraping the bottom of the barrel too, am I right?”

“You think I’m a Fed? Wow, yeah they would be scraping the bottom if they sent me. Good looks aside, that is.” I paused. There was no laugh this time. Screw him, I know I look good. “I’m just a guy trying to find a safe place to hole up and ride out our collective failure.”

My captor’s posture changed. “Our failure?”

“You don’t think we have a part in this?”  He didn’t respond so I carried on  “We let the government do this to us.  We had plenty of opportunities to ‘correct’ our ‘leaders’, but we just sat back and let them run the country into the ground all the while thinking we could vote our way out of it, or we’d elect the right guy and he’d fix everything. Tell me you don’t see how ‘we the people’ could have done something before it got to this point?”

The flashlight turned off. “Yeah.” he laughed “I’ve heard something like this before.” This time everyone  in the room laughed.

I was blinking, trying to clear the after image of the flashlight from my eyes. “Does this mean I can go? Don’t I have answer two more questions?”

Another voice chimed in, this time I recognized their leader.  “We know you’re not part of FedGov” He said,the word seemed somehow strung together. “What we don’t know is who you are working for?”

“I’m working for the real Michigan Militia. MVDF.” I looked to the shadows where the voice was coming from “They paid me with a Jeep Cherokee. I think you may have seen it?”

An uncomfortable silence passed. I could see movement from the shadows as several people left the room.

“You have my apologies for that.” He cleared his throat before continuing “However, you’re working for the government and that makes you an enemy of the Patriot’s Liberty Militia.”

I stifled a laugh. “The government? As I understand it these guys are fighting the same people you are. Maybe you’ve heard that old saw ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend?’ I mean, I’m not trying to tell you how to run your war, but maybe you ought to consider at least having a sit down with them?”

Quiet laughter filled the room. “That what they told you? They’re fighting FedGov? Hate to bust your bubble son, but you’ve been had.”

****

Things got a might friendlier after that. I wasn’t exactly welcomed as a long lost kinsman, but I was offered some water and taken to sit at a table with the PLM leader and others.

“So they told you they’re fighting FedGov, eh?”

I shook my head.  “Not so much told me as showed me.” I recounted the fight that had taken place between Starke’s crew and the Fed forces, skirting around things like John’s death and my desire to leave Starke and his friends to their own devices while we got out of dodge.

“What rock is it you lived under?” I couldn’t see who said this. Apparently this little meeting had become a bit of entertainment drawing in a lot of the militia members to fill the room behind us.

Mr Leader waved his hand and the room quieted. “You got a little less than half the story. It’s true FedGov tried to declare martial law, but they did so at the request of the governor.” the old man drew out a pipe and a small pouch. As he was packing it he raised an eye “Hope you don’t mind. Even if you do, though.” he shrugged and left it at that continuing to fill his pipe.

“It’s true, I think, for the most of them–the NCO’s that is–that think they’re fighting FedGov. Their command structure isn’t exactly sharing information down the chain.” He paused to light up his pipe, an aroma of cherries filled the air in the small space. “I was part of that chain. I commanded the 3rd AO–that’s Detroit, by the by–So I know what was going on. Now it may be true what you say, that you were with a group that fought FedGov forces, but the truth of the matter is they and probably those they fought didn’t know the truth of things.”

Somewhere in the distance I heard a small generator kick on as it began to grow dark. The men of the PLM affixed plywood to cover the windows of the small building, while others went out to secure the perimeter. Loud fluorescent lights came on inside. I wasn’t exactly pleased when I saw them beginning to make coffee as I recognized the container they were drawing it from.

“Oh yes, please help yourselves to some coffee.” I intoned wondering what else was going to come up missing from my supplies.

Mr Leader nodded and smiled “Spoils of war, friend.” he tapped his pipe on the edge of the table adding “your donation is greatly appreciated.”

“So what’s my part in all this? If you’re going to kill me, then how about we just get to the show?”

“Your part in all this is you get to be our inside man. You can tell us what they’re planning. Tell us something about troop strength and armament.”

“Actually, no. I can’t tell you any of that. What I can tell you is why I’m here, because that’s what I know. Their man, Major Dwyer?” heads nodded as I mentioned the name “He tasked me with making contact with you, so you could be brought into the fold–as it were.”

Coffee was served. It was weak, but hot and I enjoyed it.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure anyone on that side is entirely in-the-loop on what the plan is. It’s possible even their officer’s believe they’re fighting for freedom from the Feds, as you call them.”  Mr Leader leaned forward in his chair and looked me in the eye “That being the case, let me make you a counter offer.”

Chapter 31 -Belt Fed Revolution

Dwyer was being very casual about this. “The job comes with a promotion. A big one, too. Congratulations Sergeant.”

Clearly there had been a scramble going on before the meeting. Dwyer pushed sergeant’s chevrons and a name tape toward me. I didn’t reach for either. “How about we restructure this sweet deal ? How about I agree to work on a contract basis?”

Dwyer sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.”All right, let’s talk. I can’t force you into this, or more to the point, I won’t force you to do this. I’d rather you were complicit and actively trying to accomplish the mission rather than doing it because you felt coerced.”

At least I had some leverage to work with. Money was worthless so there wasn’t much he could offer me in those terms and I was pretty sure I could feed and care for myself, unlike most of the conscripts wandering around outside this office;still didn’t mean I had to give away the farm. Unfortunately the more I thought about it there wasn’t a lot I wanted or needed. Luckily though my mouth jumped into gear before my brain had a chance to stop it.

“I want a vehicle. Personal use. Jeep Cherokee–oh!– and it has to be a stick.” Dwyer looked to Starke who shrugged.

“Okay we’ll see what we can do.” He leaned forward ready to conclude the meeting.

I let out a sardonic chuckle “Not getting off that easy, Major. I’ll help you with your militia problem, but when I’m done, I’m done. I walk away with nothing more than I brought with me.”

Dwyer’s cheeks puffed up with air as he considered this. I could see Starke watching the Major out of the corner of my eye, but couldn’t get a read on what he thought. Dwyer blew out the breath he had been holding and stood with his hand out “Deal.”

I should have asked him before if he had ever been a recruiter, but I took the chance and shook his hand. Dwyer took a piece of paper from his desk and signed off on the bottom. “Take this to supply. Anything you need, just have them write it here and it’s yours.”

I took the paper and smiled. At the very least I wasn’t going to have to worry about coffee for a while.

****

Starke accompanied me to supply, laughing at some private thought. I didn’t like that, didn’t think it could possibly be good for me, but he wasn’t sharing.

The clerk in charge of supply looked at the paper with wide eyes and waved a hand toward the back of the CONEX box. “Help yourself”.

It turned out there were several CONEX boxes filled with various supplies, some from Wal-Mart, some military issue. I grabbed a can of coffee as the first part of my shopping spree and cackled gleefully. People never learned. I’d have joined the Coast Guard as an E-1 if there had been coffee on offer. Dwyer got screwed.

There wasn’t really much in any of the containers that I couldn’t live without. I took a decent looking compass in a ‘shock-proof’ housing and a small Fiskars hatchet from the Wal-Mart stuff. The real shopping began when I was escorted  into a CONEX box filled with what military gear there had been for the MVDF to salvage.

I took a CamelBak hydration system with an extra bladder and some water purification tabs. I also found a box filled with socks and took several pair. Now I was sure Dwyer had gotten the short end of the stick. A man can never have enough socks.

This particular CONEX box was divided into two sections. I had to pass by an armed guard at the second entrance and  was required to leave my firearms with him before being admitted to the back. I figured if they had wanted to kill or imprison me they could have easily done so by now, so I handed over my revolvers and rifle. It was obvious the guard on the door didn’t share my taste in weapons, smirking slightly as I handed him my .357.

He practically giggled when I pulled out the .500. The Private unlocked the door and shouted into the back “Yosemite Sam, coming through!” I walked through the door after flipping the private off in a dignified manner and was greeted by two more guards armed with M249’s. A row of overhead flourescent’s flickered into life and revealed row upon row of M4’s and boxes of ammunition to feed them.

Although I had used the M16 in my day, I wasn’t particularly fond of the gun as it had always been touchy and maintenance intensive. I was ready to leave when I saw  a weapon case poking out, hidden by one of the guards stood in front of it.  I mumbled an ‘excuse me’ as I pushed between the men in these crowded quarters and was greeted by a glorious sight. Laying inside the pelican case was a custom-built bolt-action rifle. Definitely not military issue. The military couldn’t afford something like this.

I picked the rifle up and held it reverently there in the flickering light of the container. I had only seen weapons like this in gun magazines. The gun was massive, nearly 20 pounds but still felt well-balanced for all its weight. I turned it over and saw the heavy ‘competition’ barrel marked .300 WIN MAG. The stock fitted to it was either an Accuracy International model or a very well done knock off. The case contained a second barrel marked .338 Lapua Magnum and several spare magazines.

Attached to the picatinny rail on the top was a scout sniper scope. I flipped open the lens caps and was rewarded with a glance of a P4 reticle.

In my head I began writing a letter. “Dear Penthouse Forums, I never thought this would happen to me…”

I shook myself out of my reverie and asked the guards where the ammunition for this rifle was stored. They didn’t answer the question so Starke, whom I had totally forgotten had accompanied me yelled at them

“AMMO! NOW! MOVE,MOVE,MOVE!”

The guard on his left jumped and turned around quickly locating 160 boxed rounds of .300 Winchester Magnum and held them out to Starke. “Do I appear to be holding a rifle?! About face, numbnut!”

The guards face was coloring rapidly as he spun around and handed me the ammo with a muttered “Sorry,sir.” I barely heard him. I was busy examining the massive cartridges and not trying to hide the wolfish smile I was sure I was displaying.

To Starke, I said “You guys have a sniper here?”

He shook his head “Don’t think so.”

“Right. You guys can have my .243 and the ammo for it. I qualified expert with my service rifle and was later awarded a distinguished marksman badge…I was scheduled to go to Dam Neck after my deployment to tryout the Designated Marksman course.”

Starke just smiled “It’s yours. Dwyer said take whatever you want.”

I worked the action a few times to make sure the rifle was in good order and walked out of the CONEX box feeling and looking literally like a kid with a new toy. Starke was laughing at me for a while before my perception finally snapped back to the here and now. “What?”

He kept on laughing “Man, I’ve been trying to talk to you for the last 5 minutes!”

“Did I answer you?”

“You grunted once and said ‘uh huh’ a couple of times.”

I slung the rifle over my shoulder and looked at him. “I’m sorry. Did you want to stop and talk about our feelings or are you good?”

“Nah, man I’m good.” he laughed again “So do you want to check zero on that thing or what?”

“Hel yeah.” I started feeding rounds into the magazine.

“Whoa there, cowboy! We gotta get off base first.”

I nodded, not really caring where I shot this work of art only that I get to do it soon.  I muttered “good point” to Starke and continued to load the spare magazines.

****

The delivery area of Wal-Mart was bordered by a small wooded lot. A stream ran through the back of the lot and opened out onto a more densely wooded area. The stream itself was wide, but not deep, coming up to just above my knees as I sank into the soft sandy bottom. I took out my ghillie suit midway across the stream and put it on so it covered me and my ruck.

The detergent-perfume smell of the ghillie suit was anathema to the smells of nature and I needed to get the suit ‘broken in’ once more. I spotted a small copse of trees nearby. The ground beneath the trees was covered with ‘canopy litter’  and I laid down and began to roll over.

Starke thought–from the look on his face–that I had lost my mind and he was going to have to shoot me. I popped up satisfied that the burlap was sufficiently subdued.

I took my ghillie suit off laid it on the ground with my new rifle on top of it. I opened my ruck and got the extra magazines out laying them on the burlap as well. When I opened my ruck I saw John’s bush blanket was still inside. I pulled it out and offered it to Starke.

I laid down on top of the ghillie suit while Starke went off to set up the targets. I placed the recoil pad against my shoulder and cradled the stock with my left arm, placing my left hand on my right shoulder with the web of my index finger and thumb just under and supporting the stock.

The rifle fit as well as any glove I’d ever worn, making contact in all the right places. I reached forward to flip open the lens covers and saw a crisp clear picture. The colors inside my scope seemed somehow brighter and sharper than  those around me.

Starke had liberated a couple of flat cement pavers from the Wal-Mart’s garden section and set one at what I reckoned to be about one-hundred yards. I watched him through my scope as he moved even further down range and set up the second target.

I waited until he returned to insert the magazine and the extra round directly into the bore. Starke laid next to me and pulled out a spotter’s scope while stuffing his ears with small neon orange plugs. I looked over at him and he gave me a thumbs up. I took a deep breath and let it out. As I got to the bottom of my exhalation I heard him say “Send it”.

“Sending” I replied in a voice that seemed quiet even with the ear plugs in. I squeezed the trigger slowly and was surprised when the round was launched downrange. The cement paver turned into a cloud of dust and I felt a strange sense of satisfaction having ‘killed’ the paver.

A few seconds later there was the sound of leaves as though the wind had suddenly come up. Starke was still looking through the scope and laughed. “Nice. You got a nice big sapling to bring home for dinner!”

I looked back through the scope in time to see a tree about 8 feet tall fall entirely to the ground. I adjusted my aim and began trying to set the dope for the other target. From the angle I was at, I didn’t have a clear shot at the second paver and so had to aim for center of exposed mass.

I repeated my ritual and at the bottom of my breath heard Starke say “Send it” again.

I was gently but gradually putting pressure on the trigger “Sending.” I felt the rifle recoil almost before I was aware I’d pulled the trigger fully, but this time there was no explosion of dust.

Starke called out “Miss! High, left.”

I ejected the spent cartridge and slid the bolt home once more “re-acquiring.” I adjusted the scope again and called out “re-engaging”. I heard Starke say send it and didn’t bother to reply as I let off the round.

“Miss! High!”

Starke chuckled tersely.”You scared the crap out of him though, look he’s trying to get concealed!”

I peered through the scope tube once more and saw that while I hadn’t hit my target I had knocked it over. I could see the impact of the round just a couple of inches high in the tree trunk where the paver had stood.

I started muttering to myself angrily.

“What was that?” Starke asked.

“I said that was the shooter,not the gun.”

He barked out another harsh little laugh “takes a big man to…”

“suck it.” I finished for him.

I took two deep breaths and got the call from Starke again. This time I replied and sent the round downrange. There was less dust this time, but I smiled happily as I watched the block explode sending pieces everywhere.

“How far was that?”

“Little over 600 yards.” Starke was setting up the bipod on my old .243 “Think this can reach down that far?”

“Without a doubt.”

Starke grinned and fed  rounds into the magazine. I was looking downrange through my scope and froze when I saw a herd of deer.  I reached over and tapped Starke on the arm. He looked at me wordlessly and I pointed down range. The small herd of whitetail deer was just beyond the area where my last kill was. Starke smiled and took aim.

I hadn’t been on the bolt side of my old rifle before and was a little surprised at how loud it was. I looked downrange and saw the deer flopping on the ground trying to get up.

I didn’t say a word to Starke as I sent another round to finish off the deer. I looked at him, my anger apparent. Starke hung his head and was completely silent.

I stood and gathered my gear putting on my ruck and my ghillie suit over it. Starke started to say something and I snatched the rifle out of his hands. “Why don’t you go back to base? I’ll go clean up your mess.”

Starke said nothing but set to policing the area and when he was finished headed back toward the camp. I have no problems with killing animals. Everyone knows how tasty they are. I have a problem with people that don’t kill cleanly. I had always been of the opinion it was unfair to the animals to hunt with a rifle and whatever hunting I had done before in my life was with a bow.

I walked down to where the deer lay and shook my head. I’m not exactly a mother-earth-let’s-all-hug-a-tree kind of Heathen, but I apologized to the deer for my compatriots action. I hated to see animals suffer. I pulled out Sweet Louise and set to field dressing the deer. If this one had made it to fall it probably would have been close to 175 pounds, but as it was I estimated it at just under 150.

I cut the liver away from the rest of the organs and stuffed it back in the carcass. I touched my Ka-bar to the heart and was rewarded with a spray of blood in my eyes. I sat there and blinked until my eyes cleared and then removed the heart.

I hefted the deer up in a fireman’s carry and headed back to camp.

****

When I made it back to camp I took the deer to the chow line and gave it over to the cook and asked if he needed me to skin it. The cook, a small Hispanic looking man smiled broadly and shook his head no.

The cook summoned two men from the improvised kitchen to carry the deer away.

“Wait! ” the two men turned to look at me. I couldn’t tell if they were Hispanic or not, so I asked “You speak English?” They both nodded. I stuck my hand out and put it inside the deer “Liver and heart are mine. Comprende? The rest is for everybody.”

The men smiled and assured me they understood and took the carcass away. I heard a murmur rising from behind me and turned to see Major Dwyer approaching. I figured my appearance, bloody face and dirt covered ghillie suit must have caused a stir.

When Dwyer got close enough he grabbed my elbow to pull me aside. Speaking in a low angry voice, he said “That’s not how we do things here!”

“It’s certainly not how I do things.” I said as I tore my elbow from his grasp.  “Do not put your hands on me again unless a fight is your intent.”

He demured slightly. “Sorry. But troops have the priority here. Any time an animal is taken, it goes to the troops and whatever is left over goes to the civilians.”

I calmed myself slightly and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper “That’s great. Tell you what: how about you write that up in a memo entitled ‘How to Foment a Rebellion’. I understand that the troops need to eat, but if you’re not providing for the citizens in your charge then what’s the point of this fight? Pretty sure the Feds could do the same thing for them!”

Dwyer made to reach for my elbow again but stopped himself and beckoned for me to follow him away from the line of gawkers “You do not tell me how to run this base. You want to talk about fomenting a rebellion? What do you think you’re doing?! Based on this little interaction alone I could have you tried for sedition and …” he broke off suddenly

“And executed?” I finished for him.

Dwyer’s face was bright red and a vein was throbbing up on the top of his forehead.

“Well shit, go right ahead. you’ve got me outgunned here. Hey, better yet why don’t you deliver me to the Feds? I’m sure they’d reward you– give you a nice position with even– since you seem to be following their playbook so closely.”

Dwyer leaned in close “I want you gone. Tomorrow morning. Do not come back until you have made contact with the militia groups in the area. Until then, you are to be considered ‘persona non grata’ here. Do you read me?”

Dwyer spun around and left me standing there without another word. I thought to myself I’m probably going to have to kill that man. I snorted with a bit of laughter as I realized I had drawn my .357 and had the hammer cocked.

“Soon.”

Chapter 27 -Belt Fed Revolution

I settled into the back of the APC  which had a lot less room than one would have imagined. Presently the back was filled with MRE’s and several boxes of ammunition for the vehicles gun.

Starke had assigned Tool to be the driver which I appreciated as it saved me from having to make small talk with the man. Starke sat down next to me with several papers in hand along with a ruler and a lensatic compass. I looked around at the interior of the APC and was given pause when I realized the lettering inside was in Cyrillic.

“The Hel is this thing?” I said out loud, but mostly to myself.

Starke looked up from his papers “BTR-80. We picked it up at an Army-Navy surplus store.” Starke folded his papers over the ruler and sat back for a moment. “The owner had this thing sitting outside for a few years. We were kind of surprised it started up.” He gestured to the boxes on the floor “That there’s for the little gun up top. We couldn’t find anything to feed the big gun.” at this he gave me a wink “So you see any thirty millimeter shells lying around you let me know.”

“Will do. The other armament didn’t look like a .50 cal.” I stated. I could make out the marking on the wooden cases of 7.62 once more but still I had no idea about the rest of it. Clearly I needed to learn Russian.

Starke nodded “PKT in 7.62x54r. Not much use against armor, but it’ll send the rabbits running.” Starke grabbed one of the wooden ammo cases and handed it to me. “You get to feeling useful sir, you help yourself to one of these boxes and check the belt links. We got caught in a pretty bad firefight outside of Paw Paw. The damn links wouldn’t feed through so we had to get out and personally hand them a can of whoop-ass.”

“Things are bad all over then?”

He nodded “We’ve been fighting the Feds pretty heavy on this side, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Lansing and Detroit.”

I paused for a brief second “The Feds? As in the Federal Government? Like regular Army?”

Starke laid his papers aside and took out a can of dip “Chew.” he said as he handed the container over to me. The last time I had put tobacco in my mouth I had been physically intact and too young to buy beer, but I took the offering gratefully. Starke took a dip himself and leaned back against the wall of the APC “You’re a Michigan boy, right?”

I nodded and Starke eyed me carefully. I was suddenly aware that there was the possibility of this ride coming to an immediate and bloody end.

“The MVDF got called up to help maintain order when the president placed Michigan under martial law.  The militia boys didn’t care too much for that idea and they made it plain.” He chuckled “Turns out those fellas had been buying and importing things a lot more dangerous than full auto AR’s and AK’s.” Starke closed his eyes for a second. I had no doubt he’d probably fallen asleep lulled by the soft growl of the BTR-80’s engine. His eyes snapped open “Yeah, so anyway, the militia’s got hold of some RPG’s, even got some homemade ones as I heard it, and some demilled anti-tank cannons from World War II. Give a man a lathe and he’ll fight you to the death.” Another wink.

“President’s decree of Martial Law didn’t set too well with the governor either it turns out. Especially when some Army weenie showed up and kicked the governor out of his office.” I had to raise an eyebrow at that. I hadn’t heard about a declaration of martial law, but given what I’d heard from others it wasn’t too surprising.

“So anyway, the governor gets good and pissed and starts contacting MVDF commanders secretly. The ones I guess he figured he could trust at least and started giving them orders to reach out to suspected militia leaders about joining forces.” he shrugged as if it were a given “turns out a lot of the militia boys were more than happy to join up and kick the Feds out.”

At this point Guererra poked his head in “Not just the militia’s either.I was regular Army, just home on leave when I got the call. I was in the MVDF before I joined the Army. Figured my oath was sworn to them first.”

Starke nodded “A lot of us feel that way. It’s one thing to ask for the National Guard to come in  and patrol the streets. something entirely different to start dropping ordinance on civilian targets.” The APC jerked to a halt. Starke jumped up front to where Tool sat. “Sitrep?”

Tool scanned the road “Patrell left a marker.”

Starke peered out the window then turned to look back at me “Think you can run that PKT?”

“A Russian gun? I would think a blind monkey could run it.”

Starke laughed “Yep. Pretty much.” He removed the magazine from his AR and checked it before putting it back in. Without a word Guererra appeared AR in hand and the two exited the vehicle.

I stood up as best I could and made my forward to the PKT and poked my head out into the brisk air. The smell of smoke was heavy on the wind. I couldn’t identify it at first but I knew it wasn’t wood smoke. I felt a little less than sure about my competency and wished there were a blind monkey nearby to give me a quick run down of the PKT.

“John, look in my ruck. There should be a small case in there with some glasses in it. Grab those then stand by with a couple of those belts just in case.” I was greeted by silence. It went on for a few beats before I called out “John? You with me?”

“Finn…um, I don’t see your ruck.”

“What?! Oh, shit…” John had done as I asked him and hidden my pack. For some reason I assumed the delay in him coming out after I called him was due to him retrieving my ruck. I thought for several moments but I didn’t recall seeing him with it when he came out.

“Shit,shit,shit. Is it back at that house, John?”

More silence. then “Yeah. I think so.”

I didn’t have much choice. I’d have to deal with it later. “Damn it. Okay. You still have your pack?”

He didn’t hesitate as long this time, but the response still wasn’t immediate. “Yes.”

I sighed. “Okay, hand me all the .500 ammo you’ve got. If you’re carrying any rounds for the rifle, separate those and keep them somewhere we can reach them in a hurry.”

John handed me more rounds than I could count and I stuffed them in every available pocket I had. I told John to make sure the shotgun was loaded and to be ready to jump out if I gave the word.

We waited for several minutes before Starke and Guererra returned. “Looks like the Feds had a pretty serious fight with somebody. There’s a couple of disabled MRAP’s up ahead. We’re going to pull up and see if we can’t scavenge a few things.”

Since we were the FNG’s here I didn’t really want to press our luck, but I figured this diversion was as close as I might get. “Sarn’t?” Starke looked at me “Sarn’t I left my ruck back at that house you picked us up at. You think…”

I didn’t get to finish my question. Starke started laughing “It’s gone, man. We’re crawling out of here for a reason. Feds aren’t far behind us. They’ve been trying to intercept us for a while but we’ve managed to evade,” He smiled wickedly “or at least slow them up. Sorry. Maybe you can get re-geared at our base.”

I didn’t fight it. Shit happens, right? I looked down and saw Sweet Louise hanging from her accustomed spot. I had several hundred rounds of ammo for both revolvers since I’d thought far enough ahead to split the ammo between John and myself. I was down to very little now, my guns, Sweet Louise and my improvised ghillie suit. An old saying from my time in the corps came back to me: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.

“All right, sarn’t.’ It was all that needed to be said.

Starke nodded and called out “mount up!’ and we were on our way.

Chapter 26 -Belt Fed Revolution

I felt pretty calm as I walked out toward the pavement. I gave a sharp whistle and the scouts head snapped around. He held his rifle ready and I could see him lean his head over and say something. The APC that had been making its way up the road picked up speed to meet me and the scout at the same time.

A voice came through a loudspeaker “Drop your weapons! Get on your Knees!” The voice yelled a couple of other orders at me. I turned to face the vehicle and shook my head at whoever was inside.

The vehicle remained still and the scout froze in place where he was. I waited a beat and said “I’m not dropping anything and I’ll be fucked if I’m going to kneel in the road like a criminal.”

Several moments passed and a head popped out of the APC. The head–which may have been the voice from the loudspeaker repeated the commands– “Get on your knees! Put your weapons on the ground!”

I looked at the face behind the blast visor “Hey comrade, you speak English?” I thought I heard laughter from inside the APC. “Lookit here, chief. You got an APC with a pretty serious gun attached to it. More importantly you have an APC. You read me? I’m a man standing in the street. You wouldn’t even have to shoot me. You could run me over. All I have is a couple of old revolvers and a shotgun” I said hoping the people inside weren’t too familiar with the chunk of metal I had hanging on my hip. I didn’t think the .500 could penetrate the armor of the APC but if push came to shove we’d all find out.

“Are you alone?” Mr Blast-Visor shouted.

“Only if you don’t count the mouse in my pocket.” definitely heard laughter that time. I heard a noise and saw movement from the rear of the vehicle. A couple of guys in their late 20’s came around to the front of the vehicle. I noted that both they and the scout were carrying the M16A2 not the smaller, more maneuverable M4. The two that approached me had their rifles slung across their chests. I pegged them for vets who had probably been deployed not too long ago.

They looked relaxed and friendly, a look I knew meant twitch and die, asshole.I held out my hand “Finn.” The first guy to come around the vehicle took my hand and shook it. “Starke. This is Guerrera.”  I nodded and smiled politely “Gentlemen. You with the MVDF?” There was a barely perceptible turn of the head as Starke and Guerrera looked at each other.

Starke turned and made a motion to whoever else was in the APC and the engine died.  I hadn’t realized how loud the thing was until it shut off. My head was throbbing from the sound.

“Come on out, Tool!” A smaller individual with no rifle appeared next to Guerrera.  I saw the name tape and couldn’t stifle my laugh. ‘ Tool’ was the one that had been yelling at me. Corporal O’ Toole in fact. I shook my head and then I lost it. Damn it. Starke and Guerrera turned their heads to hide their smiles from ‘ Tool’ who was obviously used to this reaction.

When I collected myself, Starke made propper introductions. He pointed at himself  “Adam Starke, staff sergeant with the Marines until about 3 months ago. Private Gabe Guerrera, U.S. Army” he pointed toward the scout who had approached the vehicle when he realized I wasn’t going to try and start a mini war out here in the road “That’s Specialist Steve Patrell, U.S. Army and of course you already met, Tool here.”  Tool was giving me the death glare. “Robert O’ Toole. ” he said with a curt nod. I noticed there was no branch of service mentioned for Tool.

I noticed the chevrons on Starke’s uniform and asked why it wasn’t him giving me orders instead of Tool. “Meh, I gotta let the man have some fun.”

I felt a little bad for embarrassing Tool, but it wasn’t going to keep me from sleeping at night. “I’m Finn. I’d give you my rank, but it’s kind of pointless” I said with a smile.

Starke looked at me appraisingly “You military?”

“From about a millenia ago.”

“What branch?” Starke looked at me  over the top of his glasses.

“United States Marine Corps” I said with a grin.

Starke grasped my forearm and shook vigorously”Hell yeah, devil dog!’

****

We chatted for a moment before I remembered John. I was thinking he might have run for it given the way things had started out.

“Guys, sorry –I know how it looks–but I have a ” I struggled to say the word friend “traveling companion in that house over there.” Looks were exchanged.

“Call them over.” I saw Starke choke up on the pistol grip of his rifle as he said this.

I whistled and called “John! It’s ok, come on out!”

Several moments passed before I saw John peek his head out from behind the house. I waved him over again. I made introductions and kicked back a little and let John recount our story.

Starke interrupted “Hey, I don’t want to be a buzzkill here, but we need to get moving.”

“Oh. Right. Well…” I was looking for words as usual.

“You guys coming with or what?” Starke looked at me “We can always use another man who knows which end of weapon goes where.”

I didn’t want to appear to be too eager, but the idea of riding in an armored vehicle had a certain appeal to it. “Where are you guys headed?”

Starke shrugged the question off “Away from here. We have a supply depot to get to.” I guessed there was something about OpSec that kept him from answering the question. I looked at John. “I’m going to catch a ride with these guys. What about you?”

“Oh no, that’s okay, I’ll just hang out here.” John looked exasperated “Of course I’m coming with you. Get in the damn truck, what are you waiting for?”

I chuckled a bit “It’s an APC, John.”

He called back “Can’t hear you! I’m getting in the truck!”

Starke let out a whistling breath and laughed. “Guess that’s answered. All right, let’s mount up!”