Tag Archives: guns

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.

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Chapter 19 -Belt Fed Revolution

It was late afternoon by my reckoning. I tried not to move my head and give away that I was awake. “Feel better?” John. I don’t know what I’d done to give myself away, but there was no point denying it. I stood and was immediately almost doubled over by the pain and stiffness all over my body. “Motherfuckity fucking fucker” was my reply as I tried to stretch out the various aches and pains.

“You kiss your mother with that mouth?” I looked at John, still not truly awake and pulled out my Ka-Bar “No, but I used this to cut the lips off the last person that tested me with their smart-assery.” John laughed at me ” I know, Mr Tough, you kill everyone that blah blah you’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger and this ain’t no action movie blah.”  John held up his handiwork for my appraisal. “Whaddya think?” I was impressed. John had managed to make something like a bush blanket while I slept. I took it from him and pulled on the burlap strips he sewn on. They held tight so I nodded and handed it back.

“Gather up some the loose branches and start tying them in like I did. Once you look enough like a small hillock, go to sleep.” I had to admire his work. A blanket would serve him better than my poncho as concealment and he had a blanket, the bastard. “Anything happen while I was asleep?” He shook his head “Not much. A couple of cars went by. I watched them with your little spyglass. They slowed down by the vehicles up there and one carload actually popped out with about a billion guys ready to go to war.” I just  looked at him until he continued “They got out and looked around” he shrugged “no one attacked them so they decided that they won…or whatever.”

I waited for him to finish his story but other than having spotted a deer across the road there wasn’t much else to tell. “Okay, get some sleep if you can. I’ll wake you when it’s time to move out.” John handed me back my monocular and went off to bed down in the pines. I shook my head and sighed. I was going to have to explain to him how camouflage works before our next stop.

****

About an hour or so after John racked out I heard the sound of an engine on the highway. I didn’t have time to get into position and check it out so I went for Plan B, which involved me making the best use of my ghillie suit and standing absolutely still against the background of the trees. A motorcycle with a passenger and what looked to be a sporting goods store strapped to the sissy bar. I stood stock still against the tree and waited. Before the bike pulled even with our hide, I thought I saw the passenger look at me. Not just in my direction, but at me. Whoever it was didn’t alert the bike’s pilot to my presence, but I was left with the feeling that I had been spotted.

I heard the bike down shift as it approached the ambush site. Seconds later the sound of the engine stopped all together. I grabbed my rifle and ran up to the edge of the road. As I lay in the grass, I took aim at the rider and saw the passenger pull off her helmet. I wasn’t really sure why I did this: I didn’t want to kill them and I didn’t want to take the bike, but at the same time I thought there might be a chance that the passenger would tell the pilot what she had seen. The pilot was still wearing a full face helmet and full leathers. For a moment I found myself wondering what kind of bike it was. Not a Harley, but some sort of loud, throaty V-twin.

As I was taking my trip down distraction lane, the pilot’s helmet came off revealing long blonde hair with a thick dyed streak of blue in it. Two women on a motorcycle. I didn’t envy them. The pilot pulled what I had to guess was a gun from inside her leathers. I couldn’t make it out at first, but when she put in the magazine I realized she was holding an extremely small AR pistol. “What is it with these things?” I muttered to myself. A second later she pulled out another AR pistol.The pilot turned and said something to her passenger and then started moving toward the burned out cars.

The AR pistols in her hands were very small.  Smaller even than the one I’d used  when I ambushed the ambushers what felt like years ago. As she approached the cars something leapt out of the ditch and fell to the ground instantly as she lit it up. “Nice shootin’, Tex” I said,happy my compliment was unheard. I increased the magnification on my scope and saw that she had nailed a deer. Not just hit it, shredded it. I searched my memory for the sound of the guns firing even though it had just happened I couldn’t recall what it sounded like.  Looking again at the deer though, I had little doubt those pistols were full auto.

The pilot looked around the ambush site and I saw her disappear down into the ditch where we had seen the bodies. Night was coming on and my scope could only pull in the bit of light there was, so I hoped whatever the pilot was doing didn’t take much longer. I didn’t like the thought the she may be making her way back toward us, especially since I had no night vision implements to give us the upper hand. I looked around for a rock I could throw at John to wake him, just in case.

I relaxed a few moments later when I saw the pilot make her way up the embankment and start talking to her passenger. I couldn’t hear them, but the body language told me the passenger wasn’t happy with what she was hearing. The pilot just shrugged and pointed back the way they had came which to me seemed unacceptable. The argument continued for several minutes. It went on long enough that I had to wonder why the pilot didn’t just shoot the passenger and get on with it. She was the one in command after all. For a moment I considered helping her out and I reached up to release the safety. As soon as I had decided to shoot the passenger the argument was apparently over.

Both women put their helmets on and mounted the bike. The pilot, instead of just pulling a u-turn actually crossed slowly back over to the north bound lane. I slid down the hill a bit to help conceal my presence and pulled my rifle inside my poncho. The bikers rolled out slowly, much more cautiously than they had approached. The passenger didn’t look in my direction this time, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been spotted.

I slithered my way back down the hill until I reached the bottom. The sound of the bikes engine faded. I turned over slowly and saw John sitting up against his pack, shotgun gripped tight in his hands. I gave him a thumbs up and bared my teeth at him in approximation of a smile and saw him relax.

I was about to stand up and walk over to him when I heard a voice. A man’s voice followed by several more. The voice was no louder than was necessary to have a conversation, but the voice was deep and cut through the air like a blade.  It took several moments but I got a fix on the voice’s location. I cursed and started to skull drag my way toward John. I knew he’d heard the voice, too, as he was lying prone with the shotgun pointed in the direction I’d heard the voices coming from.

Skull dragging was a pure pain and it took what seemed like a day to make it over to John. Once there I could see one stubble covered head and another covered with a ball cap. I couldn’t make out much of what was said but I caught a few words here and there. I was doing a lot of guessing here I realized, but I thought this was a family, maybe even the ones that owned the fields we were camped between.

I grabbed John’s shoulder and indicated that he should freeze in place. He nodded and I began another slow skull drag closer to the voices. There was no arguing with these folks. Stubble head was in charge. I think he was the father or at least an elder and the others seemed to accept his leadership without question. I envied Stubble head.

After a few moments the group decided to go investigate the area where the shots had come from. One of the voices was saying they thought they’d spotted a deer moving in that direction right before the shots were fired. Satisfied that these people didn’t pose an immediate threat, I turned back to John hold a silencing finger to my lips and told him to get up.

We made it to our feet without any great noise, not that it was likely we would be heard over the sound of frogs chirping away, a sound that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. I thought for a second about all the hand signals I was using. We weren’t having any communication issues in that respect and made a note to ask John about it later. I signaled move out and pointed in the direction I wanted us to go. John gave me a thumbs up and we began to move.

I was straining my eyes looking for twigs and roots that might trip me. Being this focused on one task was not good, but I didn’t want to make any noise that might give us away. I thought this was an excellent plan and I made a mental note to give myself a gold star later for my awesomeness.

As we approached the edge of the field I froze with one foot in the air yet and flashed the ‘freeze’ sign back at John, hoping he could see it. Stubble head left a sentry at the place where they’d been standing. He didn’t give any sign that he’s seen or heard us before we pulled up only a few scant feet away.  Two more steps and my face would’ve smacked into the back of the sentry’s head.

I eased my foot to the ground and stood unmoving while I tried to decide how to proceed. The decision was made for me as a sound like a bird call drew the sentry away from his post. I let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding and mentally chuckled. I’d drawn Sweet Louise without really thinking about it. I gave the hand signal for John to move up. “Finn?” he called out. I turned prepared to drive Sweet Louise through his stupid not-knowing-to-keep-quiet-mouth and saw Stubble head holding a Ka-bar very much like my Sweet Louise to John’s throat.

I sheathed my Ka-bar and held up my hands. As soon as I did I felt what I had to guess was the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of my head. Why, I asked myself, why did I call on Odin?

The barrel of the gun pressed harder into the back of my head and I heard a hammer being cocked.

“Figures” I muttered mostly to myself and tried my best to smile at our captors convincingly.

Chapter 18 – Belt Fed Revolution

The bodies at the bottom of the hill had been stripped clean of what people considered valuables. The contents of the cars had also been tossed down the roadside. I noticed a lack of tire irons and other things that made good weapons of opportunity. Mostly there was windshield wiper fluid, jump leads and the randomness that makes up people’s second homes. One item of interest was a roll of burlap three feet wide by 50 feet long. I grabbed this up along with a couple of empty water bottles. Everything else was junk including the bodies.

John was stripping the shirt off one of the larger males and using it to make a pack. A snappy one liner ran through my head but I dismissed it and left him to his task. I crouched at the bottom of the ditch waiting for John to finish collecting the things he thought would help him, all the while I kept scanning with the monocular.

The quiet no longer bothered me. It no longer bothered me mostly because there was little quiet. The sounds just weren’t the sounds I was used to hearing. Red winged blackbirds–highway birds as I thought of them for their insistence on gathering in the median–were calling out to each other soliciting mates and warning off rivals. Combined with the ravens and other birds in the cornfields around us, the birdsong itself was a screen to most noise. Hel, it was deafening.

I looked out to the ravens in the field and apologized for interrupting their meal. My hand went to my hammer beneath my shirt and I called out to the ravens asking them to remember my name to the All-Father. I thought about that for a moment afterward and realized I might not necessarily want Odin as my battle buddy. Instead I thought of my grandfather and my uncle and hoped they were watching with approval.

I looked up and realized John had been standing next to me for some time. I cursed myself again for my less than sterling situational awareness. “Ready?” I asked as I stood. “As I’ll ever be. I didn’t find much on them, but I took what I thought might help.” He dug into his pocket and withdrew a piece of blue metal “Found this too. I needed a knife.” He unfolded the blue metal into what I thought of as a carpet knife. He had a lockblade knife that was fed with razor blades that could be replaced when they wore out. I nodded my approval as I turned it over in my hand. “Find any blades to go with it?” He smiled and held out his other hand which contained a small plastic case of refills.”Sweet.” I said and handed his knife back to him. “Aww, you too!” I raised an eyebrow at him as he let out a laugh. Good to know he had found a sense of humor again. We would need every mental tool at our disposal to make it through what our lives had become.

****

Our march didn’t have much more to go. Lucky for me as I didn’t think I’d be able to do the marching. The copse of pines turned out to be a bit farther away than I had thought and I was still trying to determine whether or not the fact that it separated two farm fields was a good thing. As we got closer I saw that among the pines were some scrubby little deciduous trees mostly young boxwood  and elms. I wished I’d bought some Real Tree camo; I would be almost invisible here with it.

I chose a spot amongst the leafy trees that had clustered together and dropped my pack there. My back thanked me for it with another twinge of pain. I grabbed my scavenged burlap and begin to unroll it. I used my Ka-bar to cut the burlap into strips and after a bit of rummaging in my ruck I came up with a small sewing kit. I cut the burlap into a few long sections which I left intact and began sewing the smaller strips onto it. John watched me with something approaching fascination.

“Well,well, if it isn’t little Suzy Homemaker lost in the woods!” I laughed at his joke and continued sewing. “Well?” he looked at me as if expecting an answer to an unasked question. “Well what,John?” “What are you making, Ms Homemaker?” he chortled. I stared at him until the smile left his face. “The proper term would be a ‘field expedient ghillie suit’ ” I replied and added “Jackass.” He continued to look puzzled. Fuck him, I thought. It’s not my job to educate the whole damn world.

I kept working on the suit and test fitted it to see if it would cover my ruck when I was wearing it and how far down it would hang. Eventually I came up with something resembling a poncho that covered me almost to the knees. Satisfied with this I gathered up some of the local plant life and began adding it to the suit. When I was satisfied I laid back against my ruck and closed my eyes. “Uh, excuse me?” Well that was nice. I had closed my eyes for about ten whole seconds. “What, John?”  He wasn’t trying to hide his exasperation. I appreciated that since I reading facial and verbal cues wasn’t a huge strong suit for me. “What do you think you’re doing?” I sat forward and looked up at him. “Sleep, John. What I am trying to do is called ‘sleep’. You are on watch and I am going to lay my ass here and rest for several hours.” I tossed the burlap to him “While you are not busy patrolling the perimeter, try to make yourself a ghillie cape, or frilly ghillie dress. Whichever moves you.”

John threw the burlap back at me “Look, I’ve about had it with the damn gay jokes, okay? And what the hell do you mean you’re going to sleep? Shouldn’t we be moving? I mean I don’t know about you, but I…” That was as far as I let him get. I leapt to my feet, my revolver came out and landed barrel first against his forehead knocking him backwards a bit. “Not a democracy, Johnny. This is what I am doing. You don’t like it get gone, but don’t you open your mouth to utter one single word of complaint.” I looked at him to see if I was cutting through his line of bullshit to the part of him that did the thinking. I thumbed back the hammer on the revolver and took aim at him. “This is the last time I am going to have this conversation. Say anything other than an agreement or goodbye.” I walked forward and pressed the revolver to his forehead. For a moment I saw a glimmer in his eye that was telling him to grab the 9 millimeter and meet me and his death like a man. I wasn’t conscious of how much pressure I had on the trigger but we were reaching the point of no return. John just stood there looking bewildered. I dropped the revolver and decocked it.

John stood there rubbing his head. I apologized mentally to my grandfather who had always told me not to point a gun at something I wasn’t going to kill. Although in fairness to myself,I thought, I would have killed John. He relented and held up his hands in surrender. “Okay. Sorry, you’re in charge Mr Stalin” he thumbed away a trickle of blood from where I had bashed him with the gun’s barrel. “But if it’s not too much trouble, would you clue me into the plan?”

I dropped back onto my ruck and holstered my revolver. “I’m going to sleep for a few hours. Then I’m going to wake up and let you sleep. It’s called standing watch.” I made a the motion of a man walking with my fingers “you are going to keep an eye on things while I sleep. If anything looks wrong, you will wake me up and I will go kill it.” I pointed up at the sky “and when it gets dark, we will start moving so as not to make ourselves huge, and in your case flaming, floating,dancing targets to anyone with eyes”.

I closed my eyes and pulled the impromptu ghillie over my head. “And” I said as I kicked out my legs to relax “I’m in charge. I get to make the gay jokes. When you’re in charge you can pick something about me and make jokes about it.” I folded my arms over my chest and swatted at something flying near my face. “And by the way? You’re never going to be in charge.” He threw something at me and I chuckled. I was just able to reach my holster with my hands across my chest as they were, so I drew it out and held it in my hand as I faded off to sleep. As I did I thought I heard John say “We’ll see about that, fuckstick.”

Chapter 16 -Belt Fed Revolution

We drove in silence for a while until John’s nature got the best of him and he began talking again. Most of it I could apply my active listening skills to, by nodding my head and giving non-verbal encouragement. Amazing that people pay to learn how to do that. 

I answered a few questions, keeping answers brief and giving yes or no responses when possible. I didn’t really like to talk about myself. I didn’t think anything about me was that interesting and the bits that were I felt it best to keep to myself.

When I couldn’t evade I tried to misdirect. It was clear John wasn’t going to let go asking me about what I did for work. I wanted to say “What does it matter?” but I could tell he was in a fragile state of mind yet and I might need him as a meat shield soon, so I tried to keep him engaged.

“I used to read a lot of books” I offered in an attempt to change the subject. John’s brows knitted together and his head tilted sharply to one side. I was going to have to pick up some treats for him next time I stopped. “Most of the books I read,at least the fiction ones were about the apocalypse” John laughed at that. “Yeah, I know” I continued “Anyway, most of those books all talked about how highways were choked with cars and bodies of people fleeing from whatever had caused the collapse.” It was early morning sometime– still dark out– and I reached down and flipped off the Jeeps lights to make the point.” I guess most of those guys weren’t thinking of an ‘apocalypse’ where people were too broke to bother dragging their cars out to block up the highways.”

The change in light wasn’t a huge one. Without using the Jeep’s “off-road” lights the illumination coming from the headlights was best described as anemic. We cruised along at 55 mph never needing to dodge any cars simply because there weren’t any. John seemed content with that bit of attention turning to look out the window as we drove.

“It’s not cool you know.” John said interrupting the silence of several long, glorious minutes.

For those few minutes he was quiet I forgot he was there.I almost swerved off the road when he spoke. “What’s not cool?”

“Changing the subject. I’m just trying to get to know you, y’know? I mean fuck sake, it’s not like I want to get in your pants if that’s what you’re thinking!”

Honestly it wasn’t. I was thinking as I always did of my grandfather. You got to know him by being around him, not through interrogation. All through my adult life, more like since I had turned twelve, I dreaded the “what are you doing” conversations. Every adult I met would ask “so, you’re in school right?’ No. I run a company that provides protection to foreign dignitaries and VIP’s overseas. Of course I’m in school; I’m 12. Now can I get back to my video game?

This of course turned into a “what’s your major/what do you do for a living” conversation as I got older. For that brief time I was in the Marines I really enjoyed not being asked that question. Everyone knew what they were doing and nobody cared what anyone else was doing so long as they didn’t get blown up near them.

I closed my eyes and took my hands off the steering wheel as I accelerated, willing the Norns, those weavers of fate to snip the thread of my life and save me from having this conversation one more time. When it was clear they weren’t going to oblige me, I sighed and said “I was a social worker, by profession.”

He scoffed “A social worker? You?” he laughed “Okay, go on, pull the other one.’

“It’s true” I said a bit defensively, already regretting my decision to open my mouth.

He cast a skeptical glance my way “Why would you want to be a social worker?” I favored him with a look of my own “You’ve known me for all of a day and you want to start making judgments about people? Really? That’s where you want to go with this?” He considered this for a minute and then started laughing like a kid who’s just heard the word ‘boobies’ for the first time in his life. “Well you have a point there, Mister Finn.”

The sun had just started to break the horizon to the east casting a pale purple glow in the inky sky overhead. I saw a blue sign on the road side that said there was food and gas up ahead and decided to risk it. I looked back to John and told him to get ready just in case.

****

I let the Jeep coast up the off ramp wanting to make as little noise as possible. the Jeep sat idling as I looked around. Nothing looked immediately out-of-place. I was even getting used to there being no other traffic to deal with, but something just felt off. I thumbed back the hammer on my revolver and kept scanning. I had just about decided that I was being overly paranoid when I saw some reflected light coming from the roof of the gas station I was going to check out.

I put the Jeep in gear and it jumped forward causing the big off-road tires to chirp as it did. John looked panicked but was keeping quiet. At least he’d figured out that much. I was short shifting the Jeep as I entered the on ramp trying to build speed as quickly as I could.  The rear window exploded behind us as I put it into 5th gear and an instant later I heard the rifle’s report. The inline 6 was screaming now as I stood on the gas, the Jeep doing the best it could to gain speed. I turned to look at John “You okay back there?” He nodded and kept looking behind us for signs of pursuit. Well if nothing else, I thought, I figured out how to make him be quiet.

We were down the road about a 1/2 mile when John finally asked “What in god’s name was that?!” “A warning.” I chuckled a bit. “I saw the shooter’s scope. He gave himself away–intentionally I think–and gave me a second to react.” John took a drink of water and spat a bit out the window. Combat dry throat. He was adjusting pretty well.

We had gone almost 10 miles when the Jeep started to sputter. The fuel gauge was reading empty. I pulled over onto the shoulder and got out to get one of the Jerry cans out of the cargo area. As I came around the back and popped open the lift gate I noticed the trail leading back toward the town. I dropped to my knees muttering a curse and hoping this wasn’t what I thought.

My fears were confirmed as I examined the skid plate that covered the Jeep’s gas tank. Two good-sized holes had sprouted there with drops of precious gasoline hanging on to the ragged edges of the metal. I had my rifle in hand and started walking back toward the town before my words rang in back in my head. A warning. That’s exactly what it had been. Anyone that could hit a moving target like that could have hit me just as easily if there had been a shot. If I approached on foot, that’s exactly what I would be giving them.

I turned back toward the Jeep, John’s constant chattering finally cut through my anger. I stared at him until he quit talking. “Get in the Jeep.” I was glad I didn’t have to repeat myself. I think I would have shot him if he didn’t obey.  I looked through my supplies for something I could plug the holes with. I ended up cutting the rubber floor mat and rolling it as tight as I could then jamming it into the bullet holes. I wished for some plumber’s putty or even some JB Weld, but I didn’t carry anything like that in my bug out bags.

I emptied the last Jerry can into the tank and got back on my knees to look at the skid plate. It took a few seconds, but eventually I saw the gas begin to seep out. I cursed some more as I got behind the wheel and hoped that the Jeep would fire. The engine cranked uselessly for about 5 seconds before it roared back to life. I floored it. I got up to speed as quickly as I could and began issuing orders for John to start getting pieces of gear out of the cargo area. We made it almost 30 miles before the Jeep started coughing and the fuel gauge was again reading empty. The engine died and I put in neutral, coasting until we lost all our momentum.

I put the Jeep in gear and got out, taking my bug out bag with me. I wished now I had kept the .338 Lapua. I’d love to show it to the sniper that killed my Jeep.  As I gathered the things I thought I would need and doing the math in my head about how much weight I could carry I began to sing softly Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills”.

The words of a long ago drill instructor came back to me at this point. The only easy day was yesterday. I slung my rifle and started walking.

Chapter 14 -Belt Fed Revolution

I left John and his friends to bury their dead while I looked after my injuries in the cab of his truck. I hadn’t taken any significant damage a few cuts and scrapes mostly, but  my knee was swollen to about grapefruit size.

I jerked awake with a curse sometime later when John opened his door. I barely knew these people and here I was asleep. Great situational awareness, I chided myself silently.

John pulled shut the door with a deep sigh. “Well this rig has had it. Looks like we’re gonna be walking back. You up to it?”

I shook my head and told him “Not even close.” He grinned at that.

I got out onto the road as gingerly as possible. My knee wasn’t hurting enough to slow my walking anymore than it normally did. John and I took point while the others dragged along behind moving at their best speed.

“So. Want to tell me what that was all about?” I kept scanning the roadside for late arrivals to the dance.

“We’re all owner-operators for the most part” he began. “We own our rigs and contract to haul loads. The burned out truck belonged to a friend . . . Jenni.”

I nodded “And?”

He stopped and turned toward me. “And nothing. She was a friend. She didn’t deserve that!” He stood staring me directly in the eye. Brave man. “Look, whatever you were doing you apparently weren’t getting the news. You know how much diesel costs? Did you know we have been running in convoys for a couple of years to avoid shit like this?!” He struggled a bit and lowered his voice “Jenni an’ me an’ a couple the others have been running together most of that time when we could.”

He told me the rest of the story. Jenni had been at the truck stop along with him and the rest of his group for quite a while, waiting for a contract. Most companies realized the potential for hijackings and had done their best to make sure several rigs went out together to ensure security. This last run, Jenni’s contract had been the only one on offer and knowing the risks she decided to take it as it brought her close enough to home that she could deliver her load and get herself gone.

“Well that explains the weaponry.” I was still carrying the rifle I had used, a .338 Lapua Magnum, at the end of the fight. I’d given the AR to John for him to deal with. I wanted nothing from the dead.

“You don’t know the half of it” he spat the words out as though they came with a sour taste “for a while it wasn’t too bad; we had police coverage. Escorts sometimes too.”

I had to concede I didn’t spend much time on the highways since my Jeep wasn’t really cut out for it. John continued “Yeah, you and most people. At first it seemed to be random, but then it became clear. Trucks hauling food were targeted most often. Sometimes the drivers lived, but not often. Most people think Detroit is a ghost town, but that’s not entirely true. It’s a war zone.”

John told me that for a while Detroit and Flint were delivery zones that only the bravest would attempt. Lansing and Saginaw were  just as bad but truckers could usually count on escorts into and out of the cities.

“For a while we had drones running piggyback to our convoys.  I was in line with a bunch of other trucks once running up I-75 when out of nowhere there was just this big fireball up ahead of us. No one knew what was going on, but when we got to it, there was a bunch of smoking wrecks. Cars and people.”

I  prompted him occasionally with a nod or grunt. “National Guard had to come out that time to clear the road.” He laughed angrily and shook his head “Last time I delivered to Lansing it was a real convoy. Had two Hummers up front and one at the rear to take us in. After we made our deliveries a bunch of the locals swarmed the Hummers and opened fire on the police that had blocked off streets for us. A real belt-fed revolution right there.”

As we walked I got the low down on everything that had been happening–or at least reported–around the country. Truckers were switching to some highly modified cb’s and running communications in a way that would have made the military jealous. From what I heard, Michigan wasn’t even the worst of it, we had just managed to keep a better lid on it than other states.

John agreed “Most people wrote Michigan off as a loss when ‘Government Motors’ went tits up the second time. Can’t blame ’em for that. If I didn’t own a house and business here I’d have gone to Canada. Hell, if I can get a ride that way I still just might!”

I asked John if he knew anything about Sleepy Hollow and he laughed. “The words ‘smoking crater’ mean anything to you?” he paused a moment to wipe the sweat from his eyes. “Some of the militia types decided that if the government couldn’t handle things they could.” 

We decided to take a break and let the rest of the group catch up. John offered me a bottle of water and I drank it gratefully. “From what I got, two different militia groups pretty big ones, too, tried to take Lansing. Unlike the military though these guys didn’t have any worries about opening up on civilians.” I knew the type: the ‘destroy it to save it’ mentality was a dangerous road to travel and even if you succeeded you lost.

“Anyways, the government didn’t like people poaching on its territory and they fer sure didn’t like the idea of armed citizens ruling anything. The feds sent in regular army troops to handle it. Real experienced types you see. Guys that had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and even some private contractor types that worked in Liberia and other fun vacation destinations.” The group shared a laugh at this. We were a Third World nation now, a ‘fun vacation destination’ as John had so aptly stated.

“Problem was though, these guys were used to fighting foreigners who had some training. The militias didn’t play by the same rules. Even worse they didn’t adapt quickly.” John pointed to one of the other truckers “Bill here, he saw it up close, right?” Bill nodded and took up the story “I lived in Laingsburg, aways from the park yer talking about. I was out with the wife and stepson looking to do some fishing there and suddenly it was like we walked onto a movie set. A bunch of pickups with guys in the back went flying past us. They’us all painted up military style, but they didn’t look military, y’know? Some of ’em was too fat and their guns was different. Old looking things, y’know?”

“Military surplus?” I offered.

Bill nodded his head vigorously “Yep. And huntin’ rifles too! Lot’s of those little things” he pointed at the AR pistol John had “but a lot more looked like somethin’ you’d get from Wally-World.” he laughed at his witty remark “anyways, they’us about 5 trucks filled with these boys and they was tearin’ ass headin’ to the park. I never heard anything like it before. With all the noise I almost didn’t hear the chopper come by, but no mistakin’ the sound of that gun; like a bunch a pissed off hornets!”

‘We pulled off the road and waited for a few and then Char–my wife– told me to get us home. And believe me brother I stepped on it!” He took a breath here, a look somewhere between sadness and confusion on his face “I kept one eye on the road and on the rear view when I saw it. Them boys had somethin’ more’n guns. That chopper got lit up like the Fourth-of-July!’ Bill must’ve lived down south for a while as he pronounced it ‘Joo-lie’. “Well me’n, Char an’ her boy made it back to the house okay and it couldn’ta been more’n 5 minutes before I saw this fireball. Had ta been a couple hunnert feet high, come from over by the park.” He imitated the explosion with his hands and the appropriate noises. “Then for the next hour’r so we could hear gunfire. That went on for a coupla days before it was over. Don’t know for sure who won.”

We started back again for the truck stop. I heard from all the drivers the various stories they had, either seen or heard over the CB.

America was done. We were just putting up a good front hiding it from the rest of the world.

Chapter 6 -Belt Fed Revolution

I spent the rest of my Sunday preparing tubes to store my guns and get my ruck loaded. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not Johnny Militia, but I had enough guns that I could shoot a different one every day of the week without shooting the same one twice. The big choice for me was whether or not to take my Mosin Nagant.

I loved the capability of the Mosin, but the idea of lugging that boat anchor and enough ammo to keep it fed wasn’t exactly what a man with a limp dreams of. I definitely liked the idea of being able to cover a lot of ground in terms of finding ammo so to me my choices then were pretty simple. I’d decided on my .357 revolver and compact 9mm for self-defense. To cover the road between those two I was taking my 12 gauge shotgun and a bolt-action .243 with a 3-9×40 scope. The only other weapon I planned to take was my takedown recurve bow and a couple of extra bowstrings.

Yeah, I know. Didn’t he just say that the Mosin weighed too much? Yeah, he did.The guns I chose–with the exception of the .357 and the shotgun– were light polymer framed pieces. The Mosin on the other hand had a heavy wood stock and also had the disadvantage of being about 8 feet long. Of course carrying the ammo to keep all these guns fat and happy on the other hand was an entirely different story.

A lot of the blogs I read, especially the “spicy” ones are also what I like to call “gear-queer” blogs. You’ll notice I’m not breaking down my gear, tossing out names and all the other things that get gear queers turned on. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

My gear was just that. Gear. Tools. Maybe some people would get all wet talking about the features of the really cool new Phillips head screwdriver they bought, but to me it’s just a tool.

The only big name thing I carried that I would get all warmed up about was my Ka-Bar, Sweet Louise. I bought this knife when I joined the Corps to remind myself of where I had been. And unlike a lot of the other things we tend to accrue throughout our lives, I kept Louise no matter what happened to me.Whenever I loaded out for one of my trips into the woods, I made sure Sweet Louise was right up front in easy reach. Some days I would rather have had my Ka-Bar than any gun I owned.

My loadout (save for the weapons) was really simple. I had a first aid kit I’d picked up from the local home improvement store, supplemented with a few extras like a tourniquet, QuikClot, extra absorbent feminine sanitary napkins, off brand anti-diarrheal, aspirin and a mucus expectorant with Guaifenesin. I also nabbed a big bottle of extra strength arthritis pain reliever, for the times aspirin just wouldn’t cut it.

I probably went a bit crazy with the other weapons in my loadout. I carried a machete, an M7 bayonet that my uncle used in Viet-Nam, and an entrenching tool with a sharpened edge. Yep. I think I had the weapons covered. Several pairs of wool socks, heavy leather gloves,two canteens, a change of clothes and my sleeping bag. All totaled I was carrying about 80 lbs, another reason I went heavy on the weapons: if I had to bug out on foot, I wouldn’t be going in anything that resembled a hurry because of my knee, but I’d certainly feel a degree of safety as I hobbled along.

It was late in the afternoon when I’d finally gotten all my things sorted. I’d sat down at the computer to begin doing a bit of spot editing on my resume when a news article caught my attention.

The New Carpetbaggers

By John Mokhat.

History has seen their like before. After the Civil War, Northerners were heading south with the aim of buying up huge swaths of property left uninhabited by the war. This trend seems to be experiencing something of a comeback, but with a twist. Southerners are fleeing north now, with rumors of jobs and opportunities spurring their steps.

I spoke to one of those heading north, just outside Louisville Kentucky with his girlfriend and their 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.  According to Steve Brenfield, an IT professional told me “there’s no jobs down here, Rebecca–my girlfriend here– is a nurse, and she couldn’t find a job either”.

This family is not unlike the scores of people I witnessed making their way up I-65. When I asked some of the others why they’d taken to the highway they answered me with a literal interpretation “there’s not as much traffic as there used to be”.

I had to chuckle a bit in disbelief. What did these people think they were going to find here? We had a governor a while back that kept talking about Michigan’s “great economic recovery” and the rebuilding of Flint, a town that was close to being its own third world nation long before the “economic downturn” hit us, but talk is all it was.

I thought about it for a while and decided that for those on the road the prosperity of the North must mean Canada. Michigan could barely fund its social services as I had so recently discovered and whatever manufacturing jobs there were were filled by people that would almost literally kill to keep them. Not that I could blame them.

As I drained my last cup of coffee and finished tweaking my resume I decided to post a classified ad for my motorcycle. The only toy I had that I could for sure do without.

Even in these times there were still people out there convinced that things would turn around. When an opportunity like picking up a 1960 Harley FLH for a song came up, they just couldn’t resist. Within 30 minutes of my ad hitting the web, I had two emails about it. Thank the gods for Craigslist and optimists.

Since I now had Monday off, I began to plan for visits to several areas I figured I’d be able to store my weapons caches in without too much risk of discovery. This meant a trip in the Jeep, which made me smile. Even though gas was down a bit ($10.35 a gallon at the station nearest me! Score!) the Jeep was an unrepentant gas guzzler, but it was also a gas guzzler that would go anywhere I pointed it without complaint.

The plan was to drop off some resumes early in the morning and then get to digging some holes.  How hard could that be? I went to sleep that night feeling a bit upbeat. I was a man with a plan. I was an intelligent, mature, professional with a lot of experience, and I was eager to get to work helping those less fortunate. Things were looking up.