Tag Archives: Jeep XJ

Chapter 35 -Belt Fed Revolution

This was exactly what I wanted at this point in my life. And during the end of the world to boot. I wanted to be caught up in drama and games, especially when the loss of my life would be the end result.

No, wait. No, I wanted the opposite of that! That’s right, I remember now.

I had listened to Mr Leader or rather General  Leader and decided that I had no interest in who was right or wrong or who thought they had the best interest of the state at heart. I was content to let these lunatics slug it out between themselves and let the looters sort it out as they picked through the wreckage at the end.

“I’m going to do you a favor, Finn.” Mr Leader droned as he fiddled around with his pipe “I’m going to clue you into the big push, so when you’re talking to your friends over there in injun country, you have a semblance of a clue.”

“You know, actually, I don’t need to know–”

General Leader waved my objection aside “It’s all about Lansing. Detroit has been a statewide loss leader since before the turn of the century. There are manufacturing concerns there we’ll want to open when we start to rebuild, but for the most part we consider those locations to be hardened–more or less immune –to attacks from citizens. Lansing though,  is where FedGov is setting up their defenses. Lansing is where they’ve massed a good deal of their troop strength, but more importantly their leadership and the head of their logistics and supply ops are contained within the city limits.”

General Leader stopped and eyed me curiously for a moment. I couldn’t remember having fallen asleep, but from the way he was eyeballing me, I figured I must have been snoring. I hoped to get out of this soon, so I prompted him with “Uh huh?”

The General nodded and continued “The MVDF wants to get in there to push out FedGov, but not to oust them, just assert that they are in control of the state. The PLM on the other hand wants them out period; once that’s accomplished, Michigan is going to cut ties and declare itself an independent republic with a constitution based on the founders work that spells things out in plain language.”

“Uh huh. And you’re just the person to lead the Sovereign Republic of Michigan into a bright and glorious future?”

The General, his finger templed at his lips, smiled and shrugged expansively. “At least until the state gets back on its feet.”

“Mm hmm. Well, you can run your government, your state and your war without me, thanks. I’ll be your message boy, but that’s it. I made a deal with the MVDF. I do this thing for them and I walk. I’m offering you the same thing; no more, no less.”

He regarded me for a moment then smiled and leaned his chair forward so it rested on two legs “You’re not in a position to be dictating terms. You will do as you’re told or you will regret it.”

I leaned forward in my own chair until we were close enough that our noses nearly touched. “Actually, I’m in a perfect position to set terms. You can keep me here as a prisoner wasting manpower to guard me and resources to keep me alive or you can kill me. Either way your mission dies on the board.”

General Leader stayed face to face with me, the stench of pipe smoke radiating up to me “Or option three, we torture you until you feel like cooperating.”

I laughed in his face. “You have time for that? And do you really want to entrust someone you’ve tortured to carry your interests forward after that?” I shook my head and leaned back. “No. I’ll do my part and then I’m out. Take it or leave it.”

I was so good at making friends and influencing people. I thought maybe I could write a book about it, but like taking prisoners writing just wasn’t something I wanted to do.

General Leader considered this for a while. Finally he stood and made a gesture to one of his lackeys who disappeared outside, opening one of the large service bay doors. Moments later I heard a familiar sound as my Jeep was brought into the service bay.

The lackey handed me the keys with a sadistic grin. “Sorry ’bout yer windows.” was all he said.

The front windshield of the Jeep was intact but that’s pretty much where it ended. The buckshot had eaten up parts of the door panels and all the windows on the driver’s side.

This was going to seriously effect my trade in value. I opened the door and got in, my revolvers and Ka-bar were on the passenger’s seat and my rifle was in the back. I put the keys in the ignition and the Jeep turned over without complaint.

The General appeared at the driver’s side door and leaned in. “You’re right in one respect. I can’t make you do what needs done and expect it not to rear up and bite me on the ass. I can tell you you really need to think about the future, your own and that of the state. Think about what role you want to play in that future. You can either get with the winning team and help us rebuild, or you can be part of the trash and vermin that we end up dealing with.”

I shifted into reverse and looked into the rear view mirror. I could see the big Ford dually sitting outside. I looked back to the General. “Thanks for the advice, comrade. I’m sure we’ll all do what we can to help the Party obtain its goals and drive the unbelievers into the ground beneath our heels.”

With that I let out on the clutch, the Jeep whining loudly as I backed it up, and aimed for the Ford. I hit the gas a little and slammed into the front of the grille crushing the skull and its glowing eyes. The ersatz owner of the truck ran outside in time to see me back and slam into the front of his ruined ride a second time.

He stood there gape mouthed as I put the Jeep into first and rolled up next to him. I gave him a wink and stuck my hand out forming my fingers into a gun and mimicked shooting him.

“Be seein’ ya.” I said as I pulled away.

I looked up in time to see the rear of the pick up truck I had destroyed.  The erect nipples on the naked lady mudflaps would have glowed red with little LED’s just like the skull. I gave a shake of my head and accelerated toward the highway.

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Chapter 32 -Belt Fed Revolution

I went to bed that night with a stomach full of deer liver and onions, the heart sauteed with carrots, I shared with Starke and his crew who provided me a Guinness Extra Stout to wash it all down. It had been ages since I’d had a drink and I must have been somewhat dehydrated to begin with as the one beer made me drunker than I can ever recall being.

Sleep was fitful. I had dreams of my old life. I dreamt of being late for work and behind on paperwork. For some reason my dream self found this all terrifying, but on waking I had trouble recalling why such  things would be of concern. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and sat up in a small tent. I couldn’t remember having crawled into the tent the night before or who might have been displaced by my lightweight self crashing here.

At least I had remembered to take off my boots. I rolled out of the little tent and fished out a pair of my new socks and laced up my Cadillac’s.  I needed water, but wanted coffee. It occurred to me I should have checked to see if the CONEX box with the Wal-Mart stuff in it had a French press. I’d sold myself too cheap.

As much as I felt Dwyer’s policies were unfair to the civilians under his charge, I didn’t feel like sharing my small hoard of coffee with them and given Dwyer’s edict of the previous day I wasn’t sure what my status in the camp was. Things weren’t nearly as bad as I expected.

Patrell came by as I was getting my ruck sorted and handed me a small leather pouch. He took one look at me and started laughing. “Rough night, bro?”

“Hel if I know. I slept through most of it.” I replied as I opened the pouch. Inside was a key and a piece of paper. The key had a stylized Ram’s head logo on it which I regarded with some puzzlement. The slip of paper was a small hand drawn map with details on how to access a cache of gasoline stored nearby and a warning not to use more than five gallons.

Patrell saw my confusion and pointed over toward the Wal-Mart parking lot “I got sent out to find your little request. Hope you like it.” I looked in the direction he pointed and saw a 2001 Jeep Cherokee, black with tinted windows and sporting a small lift.

“Foo-ken A, man.” I smiled impressed with his choice “You want a cup of coffee?” Patrell as it turned out went around prepared for situations exactly like this and produced a small camp coffee pot and and a bottle of water to cook it up with.  We walked over to the Jeep and Patrell set up a small cookstove on the macadam and set the water to boil. This kid really did come prepared.

We stood about silently for a bit watching the water heat up. “Hey!” Patrell almost jumped at my sudden exclamation “This thing got a radio?”

Patrell looked at me like I was new to the century. “Yeah man, it’s got a pretty kickin’ system too. I mean, not as nice as my ride back home, but y’know, nice.”

I grinned at him  and asked “I don’t suppose in the effort to get stuff out of Wally-World the CD section was touched was it?”

Patrell shrugged “hell if I know man. Why, you needin’ your country music fix?”

“Eat a dick.” I told him as  I proceeded to look in the Jeep. There was a knock-off maglite secured in the rear. I snatched it up and took off at a run.  Patrell fell in behind me.

“The hell’s so important man?” he called out as we ran for the store.

“Gotta have some tunes!!” I said and laughed as I trotted up to the open entrance.

Dreams really do come true.

****

I didn’t spend a lot of time looking through the music offerings, but I came up with a winning soundtrack pretty quick. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Sabaton  and much to my surprise Amon Amarth’s ‘Fate of Norn’s’ album. I may only be driving a few miles but I fully intended to rock the entire way.

I started the Jeep, the familiar inline six engine making the right sounds as I put it into gear. I chose Amon Amarth to go in the CD player first and selected ‘Pursuit of Vikings’ as I left the parking lot. The sound system was set up for bass heavy music, but with a bit of fiddling I managed to get it to produce the sounds I wanted.

The Jeep had a nearly full gas tank and a happy Heathen behind the wheel. Now came the part I was dreading. I had to come up with some sort of plan to find the militia group Dwyer was interested in and in the process not get my head blown off by the same group.

I switched CD’s to listen to Sabaton’s ‘Forty to One’, which seemed entirely appropriate, a song about a small force of Polish soldiers holding off the German Wehrmacht in World War II. I drove the Jeep in the same way I would have driven mine, which was to say slowly as I got on the freeway to go the few miles to the town where the militia was thought to be holing up.

I hadn’t come up with much of a plan, but I thought if the briefing I’d received from Dwyer was accurate I might do well just to try and get spotted.  The exit to the town was approaching and aside from being one of the few vehicles I saw on the road, I thought maybe doing something to get myself noticed might be a good plan.

I slowed as I approached the exit ramp and coasted over into the breakdown lane. I was checking for hostiles, but more importantly for my purposes, I needed to get a look at the terrain. The area next to the off ramp looked manageable so I shifted into four wheel drive and did something I’d always wanted to do. I drove off into the little area just to the right of the breakdown lane. Once I’d hit more or less level ground, I floored it.

This Jeep wasn’t as near like mine as I would have preferred, but in typical Jeep fashion it performed without a problem. I accelerated hard, causing the ground– which usually only saw the occasional riding mower– to be torn up, mud flung everywhere. I turned the wheel hard over and did a couple of donuts and did my best attempt at a hill climb toward the areas that ran next to the road.

I stopped when I felt one or more of the tires leave the surface. I’d decided that I’d had enough fun for now and proceeded to slowly climb up out of the little pit.

I made it back to the shoulder and got out to admire my handiwork. I had managed to cover the Cherokee with a good thick coat of mud. I nodded and muttered to myself as I walked around the vehicle checking the tires “Field expedient camouflage? Check!”

I hadn’t heard anything from the town and while I wasn’t exactly sitting there with a pair of Big Eyes I hadn’t seen any potential  hostiles checking me out either.

Okay genius, what now?

Time for plan B. I climbed back into the Jeep and cranked up the sounds. I chose my favorite song by Iron Maiden. ‘Run to the Hills’ and drove into town.

Chapter 24 -Belt Fed Revolution

I couldn’t remember having had this much fun in ages. Certainly not since gas became crazy expensive. Only the truly wealthy drove for pleasure now, but here I was, ripping through this field, the 33 inch tires on my Cherokee tearing up the ground flinging mud helter skelter. The young woman on the seat next to me was certainly enjoying this. She cried out “Look!” and pointed through the windshield to a pair of bobcats we had disturbed.

I tried to turn the Jeep toward the bobcats but the snow was everywhere and I wasn’t getting a lot of traction. I got us pointed in the right direction and hammered the gas pedal. It was too dark to see properly so I flipped on all of the off-road lights turning the Jeep and the area surrounding it into a small pale blue sun. Motörheads “Ace of Spades” was blaring away on the radio in an infinite loop.

From the passenger’s seat area I heard the sound of a belt buckle unlatch as she leaned over and kissed me on the neck. The song on the radio seemed to get louder in anticipation.

I woke up to near total darkness, my interior voice laughing and mocking at the same time.

Oh sure, it’s not because there’s a chick in your Jeep. That’s all normal. Uh huh. You know it’s not real because there’s a radio. Even your dreams are pathetic.”

I couldn’t really deny what the voice said. My dreams were kind of pathetic, but those were old world dreams. As meaningless now as dreams of dragons.

 There was a candle lantern near my bed, but my eyes were well accustomed to the gloom so I didn’t bother with the light.

I could see a familiar lump at the end of the bed. My ruck had been placed there with my boots lined up next to it. Someone had been busy while I was asleep. My BDU style pants were placed on top of my ruck and neatly folded along with my shirt. They even smelled clean.

I got dressed silently in the dark and sat down to slip my Cadillac’s on. For the first time in a while I  felt pretty decent. My back wasn’t bothering me, my knee hadn’t had much of a chance to complain yet and if my pants were any indication I had even lost a few more pounds. This end of the world stuff wasn’t too bad then.

I tried to sling my ruck, but as I grabbed one of the straps it became immediately apparent that its weight had almost tripled. I thought Stephen might have crawled in there, but chided myself and mumbled into the darkness “He’s far too tall”.

I reached into the pack and pulled out something anyone familiar with military surplus could identify immediately. A spam can. I couldn’t see what caliber it was, but given the guns I carrying I was pretty well assured I didn’t have anything that could chamber the contents of the spam can. I reached into one of the pouches on the back of my ruck and grabbed my little wind up flashlight.

I pressed the button and was rewarded with a watery light from the three LED’s. I couldn’t read the language, but  important stuff was plain. 7.62 something. Mosin? Kalashnikov? I shrugged and pulled the spam can out and laid it on the bed. There were two more in my ruck and I removed those also.

I wasn’t hearing sounds in the house so I assumed everyone else was still asleep. I made my way outside so I could get a fix on the sun and figure out what time it was. I opened the front door and saw Stephen sitting in a plastic Adirondack chair. His head moved slightly at the sounds I made and I knew that he was awake.

Propped up next to him on the arm of the chair was what I took at first blush for some AK variant, but it didn’t look quite right. The stock and foregrip were aftermarket polymer, but the length of the foregrip and barrel gave it away. A Romanian PSL. I had always admired these rifles and this one looked to be in fine condition.

“G’morning.”

“Morning, Stephen. Nice stick you have there.”

He smiled appreciatively. “There’s coffee. I made it the way my dad showed me, but I don’t know if it’s any good.” He gestured toward a blue metal carafe on a table with some coffee cups.

I said my thanks and grabbed up the carafe. It was still hot and I didn’t think it would be polite for me to use it as a coffee cup, so I settled for one of the small ceramic mugs and took a seat.

“Got some people comin’.” Stephen said and pointed toward a small two lane track that was probably a lot of fun on a snowmobile. I leapt to my feet and went inside, grabbing my .243 and hoped the lighted reticle scope still had some power.

I ran out and dropped down to one knee behind some concealing junk in the yard. “Um. . .  ” Stephen began “I invited them.” I looked back at him. Damn kid. He had this cool detachment thing down far better than I did. I looked through my scope anyway and saw people shapes at about 1500 yards.

Stephen held the PSL out to me. “Thought I might offer you a trade. My dad’s PSL for that.” He pointed at the rifle I held. I handed over the .243 to Stephen so I could examine the PSL. I pulled back the bolt and to my surprise a live round leapt out of the chamber. I grabbed it before it could hit the ground and examined it. Oh yeah. I was smiling inside, holding this familiar cartridge, running my finger around the odd rim that was part of its designation. 7.62x54r .

“Well as much as I appreciate the offer, Stephen, I’m kind of trying to travel light.” I winked at him before I realized he probably couldn’t see the expression in the faint light of dawn. “I can’t hump all that ammo around, unless you want to throw in a pack mule.”

He looked a bit disappointed, but handed me back my rifle without protest. “So who’s coming?”

“Couple of the neighbors. I went out last night and talked to ’em while you were sleepin’.” Stephen pulled the magazine from the PSL and reinserted the round I had ejected. “Some of ’em are in pretty bad shape already, so they were happy to come. Johnson’s tried to follow me right then, but I told ’em to wait an’ come  later.”

I cradled my rifle in my arms and sat down on a tired looking deck chair to drink my coffee and wait for the guests to show up.

****

Before Stephen’s neighbors began to arrive I went in the house and woke John. I wasn’t expecting trouble, but I’d rather be on my feet to meet it if it came our way. John was definitely not a morning person. I had to wake him two more times before I left him to stumble through getting dressed.

Stephen was talking to an older couple when I stepped through the door. Conversation stopped and I found all eyes on me, or more likely on the rig I was wearing and the gun I had slung over my shoulder.

The stragglers were coming in at this point so I waited for them to arrive and enjoyed another cup of coffee. Stephen was willing to give way too much for my rifle. I’d probably have traded him for a pound of coffee, but I wasn’t going to mention that.

Only a couple of them carried weapons. I had to wonder at that. Michigan wasn’t exactly known as a gun-shy state, but the few decent people I had seen lately with the exception of Stephen and his clan, weren’t exactly loaded for bear.

When everyone, including John was present Stephen began to hold a meeting. I stood up and introduced myself.

“Morning folks. I’m Finn” I smiled and nodded at the few that made eye contact “This is John.” John still grouchy stepped forward and offered everyone a sullen wave before collapsing onto one of the chairs.

“What’s yer part in this?” One of the neighbors, asked an elderly man with forest of stubble covering his face.

“Nothing, honestly. I helped Stephen out with a problem he had and he’s given us room and board for a couple of nights.” I waited for a further challenge, but the old man seemed satisfied.

The rest of the meeting was all Stephen. He made it clear to those assembled that John and I were temporary guests and we would be leaving soon. I offered what help I could as they discussed logistics and started making plans. More coffee was prepared and I helped myself. I figured it was a fair trade for the work I had done.

I made it around 11 am when the meeting broke for lunch. Stephen was a sight. He began working people individually while they ate, doing his best to swing them around to his way of thinking about issues they had argued over.

After lunch was over people wandered around and examined Stephen’s steading. Stephen let them look around but he wasn’t showing all his cards yet. I had seen him call a couple away from the barn and engage them in conversation as a distraction. I didn’t like the predatory looks on some faces but I chalked it up to people hard pressed to survive, seeing things they desperately needed.

I listened in on some conversations while doing my best to look like I was doing anything other than eavesdropping. I heard some talk I didn’t like, but I kept it to myself for now. The meeting resumed eventually as meetings tend to do. I was largely tuned out, watching a hawk circle on a thermal in the afternoon sun.

“Well, no offense Steve” My attention suddenly focused on the discussion “But I don’t think you’re exactly cut out to be our leader! ” I stood up at this point deciding to interject on behalf of my host. Stephen shook his head when he saw me stand, so I merely crossed my arms and stood there.

“This is my farm. You want to live here? Eat my food? Then you follow my rules. Don’t like it? You ain’t gotta stay.” I rubbed my chin and tried to hide a smirk. This kid was setting the standard for being the big boss. “If you don’t want to follow my rules, you’re welcome to go back home, but know this: once you leave, you’re out. I ain’t gonna take you in when you run outta food or can’t get water. We have to work together now, if we’re going to survive.”

The old man who had challenged me earlier spoke up “The boy’s right. Fer what it’s worth I wouldn’ta invited most of you here if it was my place.” He picked one of the troublemakers out “Dave, we all know you and your lady friend like that Metha-amphetamin shit.  What ‘re you bringin’ to the table Here?” My .357  in hand, I wordlessly  shot Dave in the head across the circle of those gathered. He slumped to the ground his head nearly falling into the small firepit we sat around.

There were screams and someone started crying. The old man looked at me gape-mouthed. Stephen just stared at me.

“Consider that express rehabilitation.” I picked a round out of my pocket to replace the one I had just fired. “Trust me. You don’t want or need people like that in your group. If you want to make it through this with half a chance everyone here needs to be healthy and willing to work.” I wasn’t telling Stephen that Ol dead Dave there was one of those I had heard talking about what they could take to sell.

I looked at the woman who had been standing next to Dead Dave and took aim once more. I fired and she flopped to the ground a few feet away, dead, but making a weird low-pitched whining sound with her last breath. I looked each of those still gathered in the eye. “You’re welcome. People say that. Usually after others thank them for the favor they’ve just received?” The old man laughed and spat “He’s a dirty fucker anyway! ” That was close enough to thanks for me.

“You can also consider that a statement on how serious is your situation if you’re in doubt of your hosts word.” I looked around and saw shocked faces still doing their immitation of a goldfish. “My name is Finn Arngeirr Sigurdsson. I killed these people. I’m happy to leave my fingerprints and a DNA sample if that will make you feel better, but trust me–no one is going to come along to punish me for that” I gestured toward the two bodies.

My ears were ringing a bit from the .357 but I heard the old man’s wife ask “What’d he say?” The old man flapped a dismissive hand at her and replied ” He said he’s some sorta Viking.” he looked at the two corpses “he was right about them at least. He did us a favor.”

The old man stood and offered me his hand “Thanks much Mr Viking.”

The old-timer didn’t see me roll my eyes at that as he retook his seat.

Stephen restarted the meeting after my little display and smiled as he asked “Anybody got any questions?” This kid was a natural.

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 15 -Belt Fed Revolution

The truck stop was about the same as we left it. My Jeep had remained intact and at first glance I didn’t see anything missing letting me breathe easier for a few minutes. I unslung the .338 and tried to hand it off to one of the truckers. “Well now, that’s fine Finn, and nice of you, but I can’t just let you give this up especially considering how you helped us out.” He told me to wait a second and took the rifle back to his rig. I turned to John and prepared to make my goodbyes.

“Well, ” was as far as I got before John cut me off. “Look, Finn–uh, I’m sort of S.O.L. here now that my truck is done . . .” he looked at me as if expecting I would know what to fill in here. I obliged with “Yeah?” Somewhat uncharacteristically for John he looked down at the ground, embarrassed as if he’d been caught stealing apples off the neighbors tree. “Well, I don’t have anything keeping me here and I was kind of hoping I could, you know . . .” I didn’t. Mentally I was trying to cut to the chase so I could see what he was after, but the closest thing I could figure is he was getting ready to pitch me a time-share in Florida. It had been a kind of long day. “Shit. Look man, I want to go to Canada, okay? I don’t have a truck anymore and I could use a ride!”  Ah, there’s the chase I told myself.

“John, it’s not that I’m against offering a hand in help, but . . .” I tried to think of a nice way to say ‘I’m done here’ but kept coming up blank. ” My Jeep is packed full. I really don’t have room for a passenger and, well. . .” John looked at me inquiringly “I’m kind of done here . . .” Even in my time as a social worker and all the hard luck stories I’d heard I’d never actually seen a grown man give me the puppy dog eyes. Damn it. I love dogs.

I was grateful to be interrupted by the trucker to whom I’d given the rifle coming back with a gift for me. He held out the little black rectangle along with a whip antenna and a 12v power cord. “This little CB won’t let you hear us on our sideband models, but you may at least be able to get some news from folks out there.”  I don’t really know what it means to feel happiness, but relief and gratitude seemed to be good substitutes that most people translated that way. “Thank you. I hope this won’t leave you short?” The trucker just laughed “Naw, man. You gave me that rifle so I can reach out and touch someone just as easily. Fair trade!” We both had a laugh at that and shook hands before parting company.

I had almost forgotten John was waiting for me. I turned around and saw the same heartsick look a dog gives when you scold it for chewing on the linoleum. “Fuck me runnin…yeah okay. Let me go see if I can move stuff around. But I’m not going to Canada. You can ride along with me as far as my gas holds out.” John dropped his salvaged belongings he had carried back from the truck and shook my hand pumping it vigorously. I was worried if he kept this up my arm might literally be ripped off and no way was he driving my Jeep. I took my hand back, somewhat forcefully. “You need to go talk to your buddies here and see if they have any gear they can spare you.  See if anyone’s got some shoes you can use” I lifted my pant leg to show my Cadillac’s, a pair of leather jump boots, my only other souvenir from my time in the Corps.  I pointed at John’s thin soled shoes that the other truckers seemed to favor as well. “We have to hoof it and those aren’t going to last for more than five miles.” John disappeared and I went to sort out the Jeep, shaking my head as I went.

***

I had finished sorting out the Jeep, mainly by pushing stuff over the back seat into the cargo area when John returned. He gave me a very detailed map of Michigan and for himself a few spare cans of food and a couple of bottles of water. No one had any shoes to spare for him.

I got in the Jeep and reached back to open the rear passenger door. John, puppy like stood at the front passenger door looking at me expectantly. I returned his look, waiting for him to get the not too thinly veiled hint. I pointed at the back door and told him to get in. “Why do I have to sit in the back?” he was whining.

“Because I keep the gear I need next to me so I can get at it in a hurry. And because if we meet any unfriendly types, I expect you to take my shotgun and send them off to meet their gods.” I was getting pissed. “Suck it up, Nancy. It’s this or get out and you take your chances here.” When it was clear I wasn’t going to give in, he shut the door and took my shotgun wedging it between his foot and the floorboard.

I let out the clutch on the Cherokee and swung around sticking my hand out the window to wave goodbye to the few truckers that came out to see us off. I didn’t really like the idea, but I got on I-196 to head north. I knew there was a big state park up that way, but it was far enough away that I hadn’t bothered to look at the map just yet. I figured at best if the roads stayed clear and I didn’t have to stop I could make about 200 miles with the gas I had on hand. I hoped that would be enough since I planned to get off the interstate as soon as possible and push my luck with state and county roads.

John caught a case of the ‘Chatty Cathy’s’ as I drove and began telling me his life story. For the most part I ignored him and kept scanning the road for signs of trouble. I was half listening to John, waiting for an interruption in the stream of verbal diarrhea that was flowing out of him when I noticed something he had kept repeating. “John?” He stopped and tilted his head at the sound of my voice. Guy had to be part beagle, I swear it. “You keep saying partner. Are you gay?” He laughed and slapped the back of my seat “You’re pretty quick there! I think I only said my ex-boyfriend’s name about 100 times!” I looked at him in the rear view “Given the fact I killed several men today and am still a free man, I don’t think I need to tell you things have changed.” His head tilted to the other side and I wished for a rolled up newspaper.

“Of all the things I could possibly spend time caring about, your sexual preference is near the bottom of that list, but I’m not everyone else. Get me?” He looked puzzled for a moment “What do you mean?” he asked.  “John, there are no more police as far as I can tell, no courts, no lawyers, nobody is going to come to your defense and make others treat you as an equal. Dig?” the puppy dog look was replaced with one of indignation. I stopped him before he could get on his verbal bike and start in on me “I don’t care. Who you screw is your business as far as I’m concerned. But also as far as I’m concerned who I kill is my business; I’m guessing there are a whole bunch of folks out there think the same now. Mommy isn’t going to come around and make everyone play nice. I’m not saying don’t be who you are, but maybe dim the light a little, yeah?” John sat back against the seat and stared out the window in silence. Apparently I had gotten through to him.

I took the map and began looking for a place to get off the interstate and find my way to a side road. I knew a fight was coming. Now, hopefully, John knew as well. People weren’t going to be “accepting” like they had been when they had the possibility of legal sanctions facing them. “John?” Silence. I pulled out my hammer from beneath my shirt. “You see this?” He looked at it and nodded. “This is Mjolnir, John. The hammer of Thor.” I pressed on. “I’m a Heathen, as in not Christian.” Huffily “And?” 

 “I don’t advertise it, John. I’m still going to be a Heathen and worship the gods and my ancestors, but I don’t go around telling people–usually– because they grew up with things being a certain way.” He nodded slightly so I continued “Remember how Jews and Muslims were treated here? Well, how do you think people are going to react to this? People want homogeneity. Everything needs to be the same or the thing that’s different needs to be removed. Last thing I want now is to get my ass burned at the stake or beheaded or whatever people are going to do to those who are different. There’s a fight coming. If there’s a fight, let’s win.”

I couldn’t tell if I had reached him. I put the hammer back under my shirt and John sat back and returned to staring out the window.

A short time later I heard him say mostly to himself “Let’s win.”