Thursday, February 17, 2011

For The Greater Good 7


CHAPTER SEVEN



    The briefing room was filled past capacity. Everyone gathered together by military branch, groups and specialties. The conversation was subdued and focused on one main topic, “What are we doing here?” Coffee cups filled most hands and the occasional plume of cigarette smoke rose toward the ceiling.

    Colonel Bill Walters had a distinct advantage, as he had spoken with most of the men here. They didn’t recognize his face or his name, knowing him only as the commander of ‘Raven One.’

    The Admiral was conversing with another sailor; Colonel Walters glanced at his name badge and saw a familiar name, “Walls.” Colonel Walters paused as the Admiral finished his conversation and then glanced his way. “Excuse me Sir, how is Alaska?”

    The Admiral looked at Bill Walters name badge and then made the connection. “Alaska isn’t San Diego, that’s for sure. Colonel Walters, good to meet you face to face.” They shook hands. “So Colonel, what is this all about?” The small group standing next to them became quiet, trying to pick up any information about their meeting.

    “Wish I knew Sir.”

    The tall thin Admiral adjusted his eyeglasses and briefly smiled. “You know Bill; I did a little research on that aircraft of yours. It’s quite an amazing piece of equipment, ugly as sin, but amazing.” He smiled and continued, “From what I understand, you not only collect a lot of information, but you’re also the middle-man for the Intel that’s being passed around, right?”

    Bill Walters knew he was being set up. “Yes Sir.”

    “So, you do know what’s going on.”

    The Colonel stammered. “Um, Sir...”

    Before he could finish, they were interrupted “Len, you know better than to beat up on my Colonel,” Lieutenant General Benjamin ‘Buck’ Barker said. The short and very stout Lieutenant General had the appearance of a fireplug. Bill Walters thought that he wouldn’t be someone to mess with in a bar fight. 

    General Barker walked up to the small plywood podium, and said authoritatively, “Alright, listen up. We all know this is highly unusual for everyone to meet like this. I appreciate everyone’s effort in getting here and being on time.”

    Malmstrom Air Force Base hosted the meeting, and had commanding officers representing all of the military branches from across the country. Punctuality was no small feat.

    “Look around the room gentlemen; your fellow officers command ships, missile bases, submarines, aircraft and professional soldiers. Each one of you has been hand picked to be here. I feel that I know you well enough to trust you.” He paused, allowing the men to look at one another. “There are some developments that are quite disturbing, and we need to know how to deal with it. That being said, I am allowing a free floor, so if you have questions, introduce yourself, and then ask.”

    “Excuse me Sir, Commander Bart Jacobs, Commanding Officer SSBN West Virginia, are there more nukes?”

    “No, nothing like that Bart. These developments have to do with the Acting President and his Administration.” He paused again. “Let’s start from what we know. After the attack, the Acting President empowered FEMA to gather up local Police, National Guard and any Army units they could muster. FEMA was to go into the general population and stabilize the situation as much as possible.”

    There were questioning looks from everyone. 

    “I hate this type of talk,” he said, moving the podium away and finding a chair, turned it around backwards, sitting with his massive forearms resting on the seat back. The room loosened up dramatically. “After FEMA was put in charge, Colonel Walters flew around the country gathering intelligence. With the exception of the Navy, we have had a lot of desertions; some bases have experienced almost 50%. Now we are receiving word that the troops that FEMA has appropriated are also deserting.”

    “Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Watkins, 509th Bomb Wing, B-2 Commander. Why would those troops and the local police desert?”

    “Roger, word has it that FEMA is using a heavy hand in dealing with the civilians.” He paused and then added, “There are reports of indiscriminate shootings. I guess the local units are rebelling against FEMA’s directives, so they are deserting.”

    The group’s chatter grew louder with an angry tone.

    “I have a written directive, which was faxed to me from the Virginia National Guard. I’ll pass this around.” General Barker nodded to Captain Renee’ Wilson who passed the photocopies to everyone.


_  _  _  _  _

 


EYES ONLY…NOT FOR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION






From: Reginald Charter, Director FEMA

To: All National Guard, Military and Police Units, CONUS, Alaska and Hawaii


ACTION PLAN

1. All National Guard and Police (State and Local), will fall under FEMA’s Command. If Military units are needed they too will assume direction under FEMA.

2. All civilians will cooperate with the National Recovery by assisting with excess stores of food. Anything over a three-day supply will be seized. Hoarding will not be tolerated, as food is desperately needed throughout the country.

3. All resources are to be considered sole property of the US Govt., such as fuel, food, portable generators, medical supplies and medicines. These resources are to be gathered and shipped to central locations for disbursement. A listing of Central Supply Disbursement Areas will be sent along shortly.

4. ALL civilian owned weapons and ammunition are to be confiscated.

5. ALL operable vehicles are to be confiscated. This includes cars, trucks, long haul tractor-trailers, farm implements (including tractors) and construction vehicles.

6. Due to the need to conserve resources, you are to set up and maintain roadblocks to deter any in and out of the contaminated areas.

7. National Forests and National Parks are to be guarded against any theft of wildlife or natural resources.

Crimes and Punishment

Looting or rioting

Price gouging

Black-Marketeering

Hoarding

Murder and rape

Unauthorized occupancy of any house or dwelling

Taking of resources from US Govt. Forest or Park. Including the slaying or capturing of animals, fish or birds. Removal of wood for fires; or for use in building.

All of the above crimes are to be dealt with swiftly and severely. Due to the lack of available food and power sources, discretion must be used with the taking of prisoners.

You are authorized to use deadly force.

It is hoped that with our broadcasts of the previous letter to the ‘General Population’ over the radio airwaves in the Shortwave and the AM/FM bands, the ‘General Population’ will understand that the above actions are, for the greater good of the country.

Reginald Charter, Director FEMA


_  _  _  _  _


    The General continued, “Now, with FEMA losing their manpower, we don’t know where they’ll get their muscle. But you know as well as I do that anyone with this level of power will not give it up easily. That brings up something else, have any of you all been contacted by this Administration?”

    All heads shook no.

    “My contact with them has been less than minimal. The only time I spoke with anyone was the contact I had ordering us not to use any more nukes. You’d think that they would at least ask us for help, right?”

    Heads nodded in agreement.

    “Colonel Walters intercepted some overseas phone conversations from Mt. Weather. It seems that Acting President Engstrom’s advisors are from the European Union and Mid-Eastern countries. As a matter of fact, Mr. Engstrom has had more communication with Iran than he has had with his own military. My concern is, with all of the ‘international players’ involved, that they will try to negotiate our country away. So, if someone shows up at your front gate with a Bill of Sale and says ‘We just bought your aircraft, or whatever’, tell them to fuck off. We are not going down the same road as the old Soviet Union…we will not sell off our defenses.” 

    “Commander Greg Nash, SEAL Team 2. What do you want us to do, Sir?”

    “Our job before the attack and after is the same. We are to protect our country.” 

    “Brigadier General Robert Perry, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Do you want us to put men on the ground? We can take out this FEMA group and stabilize everything.” The General said with typical Marine aplomb.

    “No,” Barker said, scratching his stubble covered head in thought. “I have read the Constitution and I cannot find anywhere the justification for military action against ourselves. I want to see how this plays out. I don’t want our military directly involved, yet. Let’s just keep our eyes open, ok? Now, I do want our aviation assets and armor to group together. We’ll use the base here at Malmstrom and Hill AFB in Utah. Let’s do this quietly, alright?”

    “Admiral Len Walls, Commanding Officer CVN Ronald Reagan. Just to let you know Sir, where we are in Alaska, the local refinery is producing a decent quantity of fuel for us. I know that fuel is going to be an issue…that’s just an FYI.”

    “Thanks Len, that’s one of the things we are here for. We need to communicate with one another regarding fuel and food. The days of internal competition between one group and another for budgets and the like, are over. We have to cooperate.  All the ports on the west coast are gone, so logistics is going to be a real issue. One last thing, and I don’t know the complete ramifications of this, however Colonel Walters feels that this is important. Why don’t you tell them Colonel?”

    “Colonel Bill Walters, 55th Wing, Air Reconnaissance and Intelligence. We made contact with a group of farmers in northern Kansas. They were talking to one another on CB radios about the aquifer. If you didn’t know before, the majority of the farms in the Midwest and the West use underground water from a few large aquifers. Evidently these underground lakes are now salted; the water is unusable for crops.”

    No one said anything, the potential crop failure issues went over their heads.

    General Barker looked at his watch. “So, let’s recap this and get back to our business. Aviation and armor are going to concentrate here and at Hill.  Make sure your supplies are topped off and keep the communication lines open, and finally keep your eyes and ears open to what’s going on with this Administration, FEMA and the civilians. Dismissed.”

    The group broke up; they passed over the information about the farmers and talked amongst themselves about FEMA, the Administration and the possibility of a civil war.

    Colonel Walters was refilling his coffee as Commander Nash and General Perry stood behind, waiting their turn for a refill. “Bill, tell me more about those aquifers,” Greg Nash asked.

    “There’s really not much more to say, except that the farmers I talked with are pretty despondent over it.”

    “I’m from the Midwest, and know just how important they are, without a source of fresh water, there won’t be any crops.” Robert Perry interjected.

    “Did the farmers say how they thought that this could happen?” Greg asked.

    “Yeah they did, and there are two theories. First, is that the earthquakes somehow broke up those underground lakes and are allowing seawater to filter in. I have a Lieutenant on my crew and she is into geology. Anyway, she said that’s not likely.”

    “What’s the second theory?” Robert asked.

    “It’s an act of God.” Bill replied.

    “God?” Greg questioned.

    “Hmm…He’s been quiet for the past two thousand years and now He’s got something to say?” Robert offered.

    All three soldiers sipped their coffee, deep in thought. “How much food do you think is in the supply chain?” Bill Walters asked.   

    “I don’t know, maybe a year or so in canned goods,” Greg Nash replied.

    “If those crops fail and we don’t have anything in the pipeline…I’m going to have some hungry Marines.” Robert Perry said.

    Greg changed the subject. “Colonel, you were near that missile when it launched, right?”

    “You mean the one that created the EMP? Yes, we were very close to it.”

    “Has anyone gone out to that site?”

    “I don’t think so,” he replied.

    “When you get a chance, I’d like for you to show me exactly where that missile was launched from.”

    “No problem, I have the data stored in our aircraft.”

    “I’d like to see that too, if you don’t mind. By the way…I don’t think your airplane is nearly as ugly as those Navy Greyhounds sitting on the ramp.” General Perry said jokingly as the naval transports were arguably the ugliest but most useful aircraft in their inventory.


* * * * *


    The cool, dark basement shelter was the perfect asylum for Rick and Melissa. They fell into a deep sleep the moment their heads touched the pillows. Rick was the first awake, sitting up on the edge of the bed and looking at his watch, he got up and dressed in the dark, trying as best as he could without waking Melissa.

    “Good morning,” she said, rolling over and finding his warm body gone.

    “Hi babe, did you sleep well?” He said, standing over her, he leaned down and gave her a kiss.

    “I slept like a rock, this bed is so comfortable.”

    “It is. I’m going to make some breakfast, are you hungry?”

    “Oh yeah, by the way, last night your spaghetti was wonderful.”

    “Yeah, it’s hard work opening the jar and boiling water,” he joked, smiling. 

    “I don’t care, it was great. What are you going to make for breakfast?”

    “How about pancakes, and I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

    “Well…what are you standing around for? Get started Mr. Redneck,” she coyly countered, smiling.

    Rick lit the wick on a kerosene lamp, and adjusted the flame. His muscles protested the activity, independently screaming out in cramps. He countered their insolence by stretching before getting started. Pumping the gas cylinder on the camp stove and lighting both burners, he set the coffee pot on one and a well used coal black cast iron skillet on the other. The aroma of fresh coffee and pancakes soon filled the basement.  
  
    Sitting on the floor, which was their impromptu table, under the dim orange glow of the antique lamp, made an intimate setting.

    “What should we do today?” Melissa asked between bites.

    “I’m going to inventory our food and stuff, and get my weapons together.” He paused and then added, “Before I do any of that I am going to bury Louie, and the cats.”

    “I’ll dust the house. Do you have a spray bottle?”

    “Sure, it’s at the top of the steps hanging up behind the door. Linda used it clean the hardwood floors, there’s a towel next to it.”

    “Rick,” she hesitated before continuing, “never mind.” Her words trailed off.

    “What? I thought you said that we should talk everything out…so, talk.”

    “It’s stupid and childish,” She said, looking at him. “It’s about Linda…and me.” She said, softly and insecurely.

    “Hmmm, I think I know what you’re asking. You want to know how you compare to Linda, right?”

    She nodded demurely.

    “In some ways you two are very similar, you both are organized and you like things clean, right?”

    She nodded.

    “You both love animals,” he said nodding, and then continued, “…Linda and I were married for ten years, and she was my best friend. Our uh, passion didn’t ever reach the point that you and I share. What we had in that department flamed out a long time ago. That’s where you are different.” He reached over and embraced her. “You make me feel like I am special, and I think that you truly love me.”

    “I do love you,” she said smiling, her insecurities answered. “Let’s get started…later.” She took his hand and led him back to bed.

    The second attempt to get up and start the day was more successful. Rick went into the work shop and changed clothes into a pair of camouflaged military styled pants. On the left side of his belt hung a Marine Corp Ka-Bar knife, and his pistol on the right. The tennis shoes were replaced with a pair of lightweight, rubber soled hunting boots.

    “Wow, look at you. That’s the Redneck I’ve come to love,” Melissa said, smiling.

    “Ha ha, funny hippie woman,” he joked. “You said that you were going to dust? I have some masks back here in the shop. I got them when we had the Bird Flu scare, do you remember that one?”

    “Yeah it was kind of like the Y2K thing, everyone got worked up over it and nothing really materialized.” She thought and continued, “Although, I guess those germs are still out there. That would be horrible if Bird Flu emerged after all of this,” she said, her voice tinged with fear of the unknown.  

    “Yeah, that would be the perfect ending to a perfect day, right?” Rick put on his leather gloves, found the shovel, and went out to bury his dog and the cats. There were no tears for the pets, as he had given everything he had emotionally mourning his family the previous day. With the pets buried, he looked around the back yard, bringing back memories of barbeques and the kids playing in the sandbox. Grinning over the pleasant thoughts, the quiet was broken by a single, not so distant, sharp report of gunfire.

    He quickly left the patio and went back into the work shop. Melissa was upstairs dusting. Donning a mask, he began to clean the pistols. Melissa came downstairs, the smell of the cleaning solvent, Hoppes Number 9, drawing her.

    “What’s that smell?’ she asked.

    “Like it?” He said smiling through the mask.

    “No, it stinks.”

    “This, my dear is ‘Redneck After-Shave.’” Chuckling, he ran a cleaning cloth patch through the unattached barrel; his gun lay in parts on the work bench.

    “Ugh…call it what you want, still stinks,” she grumbled, turning away to finish her dusting.

    “I just heard a shot when I was outside, I don’t think it was too far away either.” Rick quickly assembled the pistols and loaded them, inserting his favorite into the molded plastic holster on his belt. He felt empowered, but at the same time, afraid that he might have to use one for something other than punching holes into paper targets. 

    Melissa finished and came into the shop. Rick was pulling out the containers of food, which he stored in orange paint buckets, into the aisle. Stacking the buckets on top of one another, they reached chest height.

    “Wow, is this our food?” Melissa asked, impressed.

    “Yeah, there is enough here for a family of four…” he mentally recalculated, and then said “…I mean for us…there should be enough for six months.” He paused and added “Water is going to be the issue. I have about fifty gallons stored, but that won’t get us far.”

    “Is there enough to do some laundry?”

    “I don’t know.” He said, trying to avoid saying no.

    “What do you think of this idea? We take the kiddie pool that’s out back, clean it out, and when it rains, we could use that water to wash clothes.”

    “That sounds like great idea, let’s do it.”

    “Rick, do you think that Linda would mind if I wore some of her clothes?”

    “I don’t think she would mind at all,” he said as he pulled some old green metal boxes out from their hidden spaces and spreading them along the floor. 

    “What’s in there?”

    “Ammo and some other stuff.”

    “Other stuff? Rick Martin, did you have secrets from Linda?”

    “You catch on quick, don’t you?” He smiled. “Linda didn’t accept any idea that our world might go bad, however, I’ve had thoughts of something like this since I was a kid. I don’t know why, but one day a thought came to my mind that something catastrophic could possibly happen.” He paused. “Is that paranoid behavior?”

    “Well, based on what we are living through now, I’d say no.”

    “Anyway, when we got married, I gave up hunting, but kept what I really like, which is shooting sports.”

    “Sounds like a decent compromise. I don’t like killing animals either.”

    Rick paused from lifting the heavy military surplus ammo boxes, looking her in the eye.” I grew up hunting, my Grandfather taught me. It wasn’t so much about the killing as about the challenge, and being in the woods.” He focused back on the boxes. “You might notice that I’m a little obsessive-compulsive.”

    “You? O-C?” She laughed sarcastically. “After seeing what you had in your backpack, I figured that one out from the beginning.”

    He smiled, seeing that she understood his personality quirks. “Look at this.” He opened one of the boxes, exposing ammunition that was filled to the brim. “This is pistol ammo; I have three of these, that’s about three thousand rounds.” He pointed another group of boxes. “Those are rounds for my Garand, about fourteen hundred total, and that doesn’t include the components that I have for reloading.” He took a long, tan canvas bag, and unzipped it. Extracting the brown and black rifle, he opened the action to check if it was unloaded, then handed it to her. “This is my M1 Garand.”

    Melissa hefted the rifle uncomfortably. “This is really heavy.” She put it to her shoulder, trying to hold it up, without much success. “It’s pretty…is it new?”

    Rick scratched his head and said, “Pretty? Yeah, I guess she is. This rifle was built in 1944. I don’t know if it saw any action in World War II, or Korea, but it certainly could have. This type of rifle was our main battle rifle in those wars. I have had it for a few years now. When I first got her; she was in pretty bad shape, I put on a new barrel, new stock and replaced all of the internal parts. After that, I sent her away for a complete parkerization coating. This old gal is about as new as it gets.”

    “Do you have any other guns? Maybe something a little lighter.”

    “Would you like to learn how to use a weapon?”

    “You did say that you heard some shots, right? Well, what if some of those creeps come around here?” Melissa was definitely afraid. “It might be a good idea to learn how to use one, don’t you think?”

    Rick reached behind some boxes and produced a shotgun. Sliding back the action, again making sure it was unloaded, he handed it to her. “What do you think about this one?”

    “It’s kind of long, don’t you think?” She held it awkwardly.

    “No problem, I’ll shorten the barrel and take some of the stock off…it’ll fit like a glove when I finish with it.” He said looking at her with the weapon shouldered, trying to get an idea of how much stock to remove.

    Melissa handed the shotgun back to Rick and then left, starting on the task of cleaning the kiddie pool, and then laid the dirty sleeping bag inside.

    Rick started moving his weapons around the house. Taking a scoped bolt action hunting rifle, and some boxes of ammunition, he set the rifle on the top floor. The Garand was loaded and placed in the dining room, propped against the wall. Rick slung a bandolier of ammunition for the M1 around his chest and neck. The shotgun was taken apart, he changed the magazine tube, adding one which held seven shotgun shells and then began to cut the barrel to the length of the extension tube.

    Melissa came back into the shop. “Rick I was thinking.”

    “Uh oh,” he said, smiling.

    “Smart aleck…anyway, what do you think about being here?”

    “Do you mean whether we should stay or leave?”

    “Yeah, what do you think?”

    “I don’t really know, I haven’t given it much thought.” He paused from the work on the shotgun. “We have enough food for about six months, and we can probably scrounge another six months at least from the houses around here. That’s on the positive side, on the negative, there isn’t much of an area to plant a large garden, and when winter comes we won’t have any way of heating this place.”

    “So, if we were to leave, where would we go?”

    “Someplace warm, that’s for sure.” He smiled.

    Melissa looked up and started to paint an image of what she would like. “I’d like a house with a wrap around porch…and enough space to raise some animals, and flowers…I want lots of flowers.”

    “Yeah…and land to grow our own food.” He paused deep in thought, and then continued, “I have some money stashed away, so we could probably buy a place.”

    “More secrets?” she smiled.

    Rick tried to lift one of the green ammo boxes; instead he slid it over to Melissa. “Go ahead, open it up.”

    Unclasping the latch, her eyes grew wide as she exclaimed, “Wow, is this silver?”

    “Yeah, and a few pieces of gold too. I would guess there is probably fifty pounds, I don’t know what the exact value would be now, I guess it all depends on what they would trade for.” He reached down and took out some of the old coins. “I’ve collected these for years, and set it aside for a rainy day…I guess this qualifies as a rainy day,” he said, smiling.

    “This is really heavy…how will we carry it?”

    “That’s what you’re here for,” He said, laughing.

    “Jerk,” she replied, smacking him on the arm and laughing as well.

    “I wonder if any of the Government is still around?” He asked, closing the lid on the coins. Looking for and finding the orange five gallon paint bucket labeled ‘Electronics’, he unscrewed the lid. “I hope this radio still works.” He set up the small multi-band radio on the work bench, replaced the batteries, extended the antenna, and turned it on. Static was all that came through the speaker. Looking at the face of the unit, he pressed the scan button; the radio scanned all channels, and then stopped.  


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


 “This is a message from the Emergency Broadcast System…The President of the United States, Howard Engstrom, has an important message for everyone….‘As you well know; our nation has suffered a devastating nuclear disaster recently. Many lives have been lost and many more hang in the balance. At the same time, the damage wrought on our environment is unprecedented in the history of the world.

 I am at this time, declaring a National Emergency for the Continental United States and our territories. I am placing the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of all relief, rescue and restoration. All National Guard and Police units will report to their posts and wait for direction from FEMA. Military units, both active and Reserve, not directly involved in National Security, are to be called up and will assist if need be.

 To the citizens, I am asking that you refrain from any activity that will detract your Government’s efforts in restoring this country. Illegal activity such as looting, rioting, price gouging, black-marketeering and hoarding will not be tolerated. The penalties for such actions will be swift and severe. I am urging you to stay in your homes and refrain needless travel, this will save valuable resources.

 With your help and support we can take the steps necessary to restore our great country.

 Thank you’….this station will broadcast any more information as it comes available. This has been a message from the Emergency Broadcast System.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


    The prerecorded message ended and in its place was the annoying electronic buzz which accompanied the EBS announcement.

    Rick and Melissa looked at one another. “What the hell was that?”

    “Who is Howard Engstrom? I don’t remember him being President, do you?” she commented.

    “No…that was a bunch of pabulum…bull-puckey. We still have to live and defend ourselves, I don’t hold any hope that FEMA will come to anybody’s rescue. Their track record isn’t anything to brag about.” He paused and then continued, “Tonight I’ll hook up the wire antenna and we’ll listen to the shortwave…maybe we can pick up some information from another country.”

    “So, how long do you think we’ll have before we can leave?”

    “I don’t know; let’s give it a couple of months, ok?”

    Melissa nodded her agreement. “What do you want for dinner?” Her stomach growled in anticipation.

    “What would you like for me to make?”

    “Umm…spaghetti.”

    “Again?”

    She nodded and left the work area to set the small table in their basement home. “Do you have any scissors?”

    “Upstairs, in the knife block.” He said and went back to his previous task, which was working on the shotgun, after turning off the radio.


    BANG!


    Rick immediately stopped and quickly moved across the cluttered floor, “Melissa?” The sound he heard was definitely a gun shot, and it was close. He ran upstairs, and saw the front door open, “Melissa?” He called out, rushing to the front door. “Oh Jesus!” He saw her lying on the ground outside, scissors in hand, next to the blooming tulips. Opening the door, he stepped around Laci’s pink and yellow bike which partially blocked the steps, one of her training wheels jutted out, catching his foot. Rick kicked at the bike, and reached down to Melissa. Turning her over, he saw a growing red spot on her chest.

    “Melissa…” He picked her up, carrying her back into the house, as his mind raced crazily. Setting her down in the corner next to the sofa and wall. The damage to her was shocking.” Oh sweetie, what happened?”

    “I just wanted….some flowers.” Melissa said as blood poured from her chest.

    Rick ripped open her shirt and saw the entrance wound, directly in the center of her chest. He knew that there was nothing he could do, except, “Oh…God, please no, please don’t her die on me…please God.” He held her as the life drained from her body.

    “Rick…I love you.” Her voice whispered, and then softly, she passed away.

    “Oh Melissa…please don’t go…” Rick buried his head in her chest, smearing his face with her blood.

    The front window blew apart as bullets smashed through the glass, buzzing over his head like angry bees as they impacted the sheetrock walls, showering the room with particles. Rick’s anger erupted, he belly crawled into the dining room, grabbing the Garand. Belly crawling back out past his love, he peeked through the window and saw the shooter.

    He was standing behind one of the parked cars across the parking lot, and calling to an unseen companion, “I shot that bitch…I got her!”

    Raising the rifle, his movements slowed as if time stood still. Sighting the shooter and squeezing the trigger four times in rapid succession, he saw him stumble as glass blew out from the parked car, bullets smashing his body. Rick didn’t care about his safety; he stood and walked out on the front porch, weapon shouldered. Noticing some movement across the lot and to his right, he turned and fired at the running individuals, glass and wood from the corner house flew as the bullets passed through …the Garand spent its eight rounds and then the metal clip popped out with a resounding ‘Ping.’

    Reloading from the bandoleer, he inserted the clip and slapped the bolt with the palm of his hand; just he had done many times on the range and in competition. With the weapon shouldered, he walked across the parking lot, aiming at the downed shooter. Behind the car, lay the murderer. A white kid, no more than fifteen years old lay on the ground, his intestines spilled out of his left side. He saw Rick and tried to pick up his weapon, his hand wrapped around the handle of the AK-47 assault rifle. Rick stepped on the rifle, pinning his hand beneath.

    The kid screamed in pain.

    “Why did you kill her!” Rage engulfed him. “Answer me!”

    The kid said nothing, just glared angrily.

    Rick stomped his wounded side with the heel of his boot, eliciting more screams of pain. The kid tried to sit up, wiggling away from the source of his pain. Rick smacked him along the head with his rifle, and then with a rage he had never previously experienced, he raised and then drove the butt of his rifle into his skull just below the bridge of his nose. The kid’s head smashed like a dropped watermelon, his eyes popping from their sockets and brain matter escaping from behind the white golf balls lying outside his once round head.

    Stepping off, he raised the rifle again and walked along the sidewalk, looking for his friends. Nearing the end of the walk, Rick side stepped around a parked car, giving him a wider view of the corner of the house. Three of white kid’s friends were about one hundred and fifty feet away. They were dragging one of their wounded, one on each side. All had their weapons slung across their backs.
   
    Kneeling, and placing the front sight on the back of the kid to the left, Rick exhaled and squeezed the trigger. The kid went down immediately, the impact of the heavy slug tearing through his body. The one to the right turned around, trying to get his rifle up to firing position. Rick moved the front sight to his chest and fired, the slug hit dead center. He fell forward to his knees, then face first onto the ground.

    Rick stood, walking towards the three with his rifle in a shooting position. Nearing the downed killers, he stood over them after kicking away their weapons. It was obvious that the one on the right was close to death, the others moaned.

    “Why did you do it! Why did you kill her?” He screamed.

    “It’s our place now, mother-fucker!” The cockroach angrily barked.

    Rick set the rifle down and with all the strength in his body, punched him in the face three times. Grabbing the black kid by his short braids, he said “Have you ever made a mortgage payment?”  The rage continued to swirl in his mind, and he took the knife from its sheath, running the razor sharp blade into his neck. Pulling and slicing the blade out, he severed his wind-pipe cleanly. The insolent kid’s lungs gasped for air, with a sickening life ending sound, as blood spurted at crazy angles all over Rick.

    “Please don’t kill me.” The wounded white kid pleaded. “I didn’t do it. It was them…I didn’t kill her.” Excuses flew from his mouth.

    Rick, still kneeling by the black kid, saw the terror in his eyes. He wanted them all to die painfully. Taking the knife he sliced the severed kid’s vertebrae, cleanly taking his head off…and setting it onto wounded kids lap.

    Wounded kid’s eyes grew wide from fear, his pants turned wet from terror. “Please…please.”

    Rick wiped off the knife and his hands on the dead kid’s shirt, stood and pulled his pistol out. “Too late,” he said, and squeezed the trigger, blowing a gaping hole in his head.

    Rick went to the one on the right and shot him in the head, just to make sure. Holstering the pistol, and taking his rifle, he paused for a moment to collect the cockroach’s weapons, and then ran back to the house. His rage was replaced by the fear and the horror of Melissa’s death. Tripping on Laci’s bike again, he went into the living room, and knelt down next Melissa.

    Gently he picked her up and laid her in his lap, rocking and crying. Holding her and speaking to her, he emptied his heart. Running his hands through her hair, tears endlessly poured out, as night fell.

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