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Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by RVM45, May 2, 2008.

  1. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    ….. .....This may not seem a "Survival" story at first. However, I did just what I wanted to do, and no more, in the first chapter.

    .....There is very little description of the outside World Bill lives in, in the first chapter--but trust me, it is ripe for a classic collapse, adding physical survival to Bill's other challenges.

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    Chapter One

    Bill was far too heavy to weigh on a reasonably affordable home scale. The local health food store had a very nice electronic scale in the vestibule right outside the main entrance. A sales clerk had once told Bill that the electronic scale would weigh anything up to eight hundred and fifty pounds.

    Bill wondered about that from time to time. Why eight-fifty? Eight-fifty wasn’t anything like a round number. Why not eight hundred? Or nine? Why not make it an even one thousand?

    Maybe, Bill thought darkly, the scale had been originally designed around a metric number. The thought of the metric system caused his upper lip to start to curl into a sneer. He hated the metric system.

    The thought of the metric system caused him to go over his short-list of things that Bill disapproved of.

    He hated plastic Guns—and don’t try to tell him how cheap and reliable they might be. He had his doubts but felt it was completely irrelevant. Plastic Guns were just wrong. It was an open letter slandering Pistoleeros everywhere that such things existed.

    He didn’t exactly hate soft drinks made from corn syrup and bottled in plastic. They still tasted better than the next-best beverage.

    He thought of a friend who’d had gastric bypass surgery. Her Doctor had told her that she’d have to give up carbonated beverages for the rest of her life. No bypass for Bill! No sireea! He’d rather give up sex than give up carbonated beverages.

    Still, the old soft drinks made with pure cane sugar and bottled in returnable glass bottles had tasted much better. Real buttermilk with flakes of butter had tasted better than the modern “low fat cultured” buttermilk too. Butter was superior to margarine and lard was a better cooking medium than vegetable oil.

    The old Smith and Wessons—with their recessed chambers and pinned barrels—were better than the later ones. Smith had jumped the shark with their gay little security locks. He wouldn’t feel right about using a keyhole Smith, even as a trotline sinker, without some compelling necessity.

    The old 1911A1s were far better than the abominations with firing pin blocks. Ditto the old Browning High Powers. The Ruger Security Six was a far better Gun than the GSP and SPs that replaced it. And the modern limp-wristed would-be Pistoleeros eschewed pinning their grip safeties.

    Words, words—ugly truncated words! People said: “tarp” and “deli” and “sides” instead of “tarpaulin”; “Delicatessen” and “side-orders”.

    There was the Hughes amendment and the Brady Bill—not to mention the ”Patriot Act.” You couldn’t buy catfish steaks anymore. Sometimes you could find fillets, but never steaks. You could hardly find a church that sang the old-time hymns anymore—and what passed for “music” amongst the young nowadays…

    Bill cut his ruminations short. He was at the scale. He carefully climbed onto the platform and fed the machine two quarters. He was careful to insert both quarters face up. He always inserted coins into vending machine face-up, or if the slot was vertical, head facing right. Of course he knew it didn’t matter. Why would he go to all that trouble, if he thought it made a shred of difference?

    He stood very still as he fed the scale his date of birth; height; build and gender. He liked that about the machine. For his fifty cents it not only weighed him—it gave him a card with all his vital stats on it, including his weight; what the machine thought was his ideal weight; and how many pounds he had to loose to get to his ideal weight.

    Of course he already knew his height; gender; age and build. He thought the low-ball figure the scale gave, as his ideal weight was the consequence of someone doing lots of LSD somewhere. Nonetheless, the neat little two-by-two card made it all seem so clinical and official.

    Bill started to put the neat little official looking card into his billfold. It would be safe from loss or damage there. Then he realized that he’d forgotten to check his weight first—which was the main purpose of the whole exercise…

    The card told Bill that at a height of a smidgen over six feet, he weighed three hundred and sixty-three pounds. He stared at the numbers in semi-incomprehension for a few moments. He could not come up with any more plausible alternate number, so he tentatively accepted the number on the card.

    He couldn’t recall how much he’d weighed the last time he’d visited the taciturn little scale—no matter how hard he tried. He vaguely felt that he was losing weight. He though that not too long ago, he’d been noticeably heavier. No matter how hard he tried though, he couldn’t dredge up specific past memories of weighing at the scale; or weights; or dates. He realized with a mild start, that he didn’t even know what season it was, much less the date. He took a quick look at the card to find the date.

    Bill also thought that he’d lost a bunch of weight at least once before in his life. Once again he couldn’t dredge up specifics.

    He paused momentarily, when he got outside into the parking lot. He wondered if he had a car, and how that he might identify it. A brief pat down of his pockets revealed no car key. Also, walking just seemed right. Since he had no idea where he was going, he decided to let his feet and his intuition guide him. It would be good Zen.

    *************** **************************** *****************

    When his feet reached his home, he found that he lived in a reasonably large single room, on the third floor of a rooming house. It was like the old fashioned boarding houses—sleeping rooms with a common restroom on each floor—but they didn’t serve meals. Several of the other inmates greeted him with the casualness of long acquaintance. Many of the other boarders didn’t appear quite right.

    To be fair, Bill supposed that he wasn’t quite with it either, with such gaping holes in his memory. He did remember a statement that he’d made on any number of occasions though. It made a good joke; because it sounded funny—even though Bill was firmly convinced of its truthfulness.

    “There are many types of insanity,” Bill said. “Many of them don’t rule out a happy and productive life. Being classified as “Crazy”—or worse yet, being confined to a mental institution creates all sorts of all but insoluble complications. So if you suspect that you may be crazy—by their admittedly subjective criteria—be very careful what you reveal about yourself.”

    Bill wasn’t going to ignore his own advice by quizzing everyone about the glitches in his hard drive. He was craftier than that. He did have his observing, and his deductive faculties in hype-drive though.

    “Who am I? How did I come to be here?” Bill asked himself. A moment later he added, “Hey WOW Man! It is like: Really Man, be for Real! I like restated some of the Classical Questions of Philosophy. I’ll bet that Thoreau and Aristotle and Lao Tse didn’t wander around in a muddled fugue though. Heisenburg and Kant might have though…”

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  2. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Two
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    Steve was dressed in black BDUs, like always. He’d set up a plywood target at one end of the hallway, and was practicing throwing his stars again. He insisted upon calling the stars “Shuriken”; though Bill had told him several times that the stars were “Shaken”. Properly speaking, “Shuriken” were throwing spikes sharpened on one or both ends.

    Bill couldn’t have told anyone where he came up with that piece of arcane trivia. Nonetheless, Steve’s improper terminology grated on Bill.

    “Hold up, I want to go to my room now,” He told Steve.

    He had a healthy respect for Steve. The man was a chucklehead. Such people could cause more death and destruction by accident, than most folks could achieve by design.

    Shaken were illegal of course. Almost anything that could be considered a weapon was either illegal, or very tightly regulated. That’s why Steve took his target practice indoors—as if there weren’t more than enough snitches in the boarding house to keep the Laws fully informed.

    The Laws were pretty busy tracking down all the illegal firearms—and shooting it out with the occasional die hard—to go too far out of their way to bust chuckleheads for possessing Shaken. That wouldn’t prevent them from busting Steve just for “Fits and giggles” if their business called them into the boarding house. The Laws were subject to come calling anytime; since for all practical purposes, the Fourth Amendment was dead.

    Bill wondered absently, why Steve didn’t join one of the underground Dojos. All he ever seemed to do was waste large chunks of his disability on Shaken, Brass Knuckles, Nunchaku, and even more obscure weapons—and then he stood around in the hallway flailing away with them. Then again, if Bill were running an underground Dojo, he’d have been most reluctant to allow Steve to join.

    Bill shut the door to his room. He was momentarily relieved to be out of easy reach of an errant Shaken. When he studied the magazines and newspapers though, he felt a vague but urgent uneasiness return and grow, deep down inside of himself. He wasn’t quite sure why, but he trusted his instincts.

    He’d been researching diligently over the last couple weeks. Magazines and newspapers made the tacit assumption that one had been both conscious and making at least a token effort to stay reasonably up to date on current events for the last decade. Bill hadn’t. Things were more than a little confusing at first—even now, for that matter—but he’d persevered and gotten a reasonable idea of the state of the Union. It sucked!

    NA was sweeping the country—or the world for that matter. No one knew what caused it. Most scientists thought that a virus caused it. Some thought it was caused by prions—similar, and perhaps based on the Mad Cow prions. Of course no one had even demonstrated that prions even existed; but that didn’t prevent wild speculation.

    NA stood for Nouveau Alzheimer’s. No one was sure that NA was linked to classical Alzheimer’s. The symptoms appeared very much the same though. Three million people aged thirty and below, were currently in institutions with premature senility severe enough that they were completely incapable of taking care of themselves. There were seven million aged forty-five and younger.

    The economic consequences, the drain on the health care system and the general panic the disease inspired were enormous. Why plan for the future, when there was an excellent chance that you’d get NA?

    Very few people seemed to get the disease ‘till their mid-to-late twenties. The percentage affected went up sharply each year of age until about thirty. Most folks who were going to contract the extremely early onset version had gotten it by the age of thirty. Once the symptoms became noticeable, the descent into total senility was very rapid.

    The next big spike seemed to come when people approached their late thirties. The progression to total incapacity was noticeably slower with the later group, but still rapid by Classical Alzheimer’s standards. Once again, if someone didn’t get it by their mid-forties, then they were unlikely to get it until their sixties—when the rate of Alzheimer’s for people in their mid-sixties was three times higher than it had been. There was no way to distinguish the Nouveau Alzheimer’s from Classical Alzheimer’s at that age. No one was even positive that there was a difference. Either way, the results were the same.

    There were over one-million-and-a-half cases of Tuberculosis that was immune to every known antibiotic. One in five people were reputed to test positive for HIV. To say “Antibiotic Resistant” Syphilis or Gonorrhea was a redundancy.

    Gasoline was at seven dollars and thirty-five cents a gallon. Congress had passed an amendment canceling the Second Amendment. The President had passed martial law; and nationalized all the police forces under one central agency.

    Droughts and famines were the order of business for much of the World. Although the US wasn’t exempt from drought, they had the technology and resources to largely cushion the impact—through irrigation; genetically engineered crops and other measures. The fact that much of the United State’s grain was used to produce ethanol for domestic fuel, worsened the impact of the crop failures in many third world countries; and incited more hate propaganda against America.

    Bill’s hadn’t been keeping very good records of his own actions. There was enough documentation to show him that he’d been walking five miles per night, for some time. He was on a three-pints-of-milk-per-day diet; along with several multivitamins, and little else. He treated himself to a very occasional can of salmon; or Spam or corned beef. Every few days he ate an orange. He also bought himself three non-diet soft drinks each night, during the course of his walk. Three twelve-ounce cans had three hundred sixty calories. It was worth the calorie penalty, to keep himself motivated. The Cokes were a groovy carrot.

    He’d been losing a bit over four pounds per week on his diet. He wasn’t quite sure what he was trying to prepare for, but his studies convinced him that he needed to speed up his schedule.

    He added a mile-and-a-half in the early morning, and a bunch of calisthenics. He bought a set of push-up bars, and found that when raised high enough that his belly didn’t smack the floor, he could gut out five or six shaky push-ups. Astonishing for a man of his weight.

    Bill bought an abdomen wheel; a set of spring grips; and a wrist-roller and a set of steel spring exercisers. Although he couldn’t have explained why, a strong grip became an obsession. He would squeeze the grips hundreds of times daily. Then he’d stick a quarter in between the grips, and see how long he could hold it. A very slight, imperceptible weakening of the grip would cause the quarter to drop to the floor. Then he’d turn the grips around, and work them with only his index fingers. He felt that he especially needed extra strength in those fingers—though he didn’t consciously realize that those were his trigger fingers.

    He’d roll his wrist roller up and then roll it down dozens of times per day. While he did his wrist-roller exercises, he thought about an old movie that he’d watched once, called “Hannie Calder.” He remembered a man giving Hannie an improvised wrist-roller, and telling her to apply herself diligently.

    He knew that he’d known about, and used wrist-rollers long before he’d seen the movie. He couldn’t have told anyone that Hannie was strengthening her fingers and wrists to be a gunfighter. His memory was very scattered and incomplete.

    The springs weren’t good for much, except to work the rear deltoid. He wasn’t too disappointed, because he’d known that’s about all they were good for. Nonetheless, a strong rear deltoid is a very good thing, and it can be a difficult muscle to work.

    He also managed to do a partial curl and a partial triceps extension with them. He figured that he was far enough out of condition; that even partial exercises had some value.

    **************** ************************* *******************

    Bill wracked his brain, trying to figure out his own situation. He didn’t have any form of Alzheimer’s. As Alzheimer’s robs someone of their memory, the disease also obscures the fact that their memory is failing. Someone who is aware that his or her memory is failing is not suffering from Alzheimer’s.

    He remembered a movie called: “Memento”, about a man with brain damage. He lacked the ability to transfer his short-term memory into long-term memory. He’d largely had to start all over again every fifteen seconds.

    That wasn’t Bill’s problem. He could remember everything since his awakening several weeks ago, at the scale, in considerable detail. Everything before that was a grand muddle though.

    He’d considered that maybe his memory got swept clean every so often, but he didn’t think so. He’d started keeping a very detailed daily journal, in an old cipher that had been used since the time of the War Between the States. It wouldn’t frustrate a cryptologist for long. It did prevent a casual snooper from learning anything.

    What fascinated Bill was that he’d used the old cipher long enough, that he could write it as easy as he’d print regular letters by hand. He’d probably been in the habit of keeping such a coded journal for years.

    ************ *********************** ********************

    As Bill went about dieting; doing his exercises; researching and keeping his journals, a vague concept kept nagging at the back of his mind. The concept was a “Bug-out Bag.” He wasn’t sure exactly what a Bug-out Bag was; but he felt a strong urge to put one together.

    Steve turned him on to the nearest Army Surplus Store. His first trip there, Bill had bought a medium-sized ALICE Pack; a couple quart canteens and canteen cups; a couple of ponchos; a poncho liner and an old fashioned entrenching tool. He knew somehow, that he didn’t like the folding delta handles.

    On subsequent trips, Bill bought a Kabar knife and a couple whetstones; a couple Buck folders; a couple wool blankets; several magnesium fire starters and a miniature pick. He also picked up a small double-edged Marbles axe—though he thought the price was rather extravagant.

    Money didn’t seem to be much of a problem. Apparently he’d been squirreling away big chunks of his disability for years. His intuition led him to a loose piece of molding in his room, with a clever little cache with a nice big stack of twenty-dollar bills in it.

    He picked up some of his other Bug-out gear other places. He got an eight-by-ten foot tarpaulin at Harbor Freight. He bought three two-inch by eleven-inch long pieces of PVC at True Value, along with enough hardware and pipe-dope to put a screw-on cap on each end. He filled them with long spaghetti pasta. He liked his noodles long, and didn’t want them broken.

    Bill stored a number of high protein and/or high-energy foods into his BOB as the spirit moved him. He collected a set of nested cans, to make a hobo cooking set.

    *********** ****************************** **************

    Seven weeks after his awakening, and five weeks after radically increasing his exercise routine, Bill was down to three hundred and twenty-seven pounds. He could do a dozen push-ups on his bars—much stricter than his early attempts had been. He was starting to feel some of his muscle tone and flexibility returning. He was almost satisfied with the contents of his BOB—though he couldn’t say what it yet lacked.

    Progress had been made, but he felt that he wasn’t progressing quickly enough. Two things would speed his progress—gym time, and some anabolic steroids. Gyms were still legal, but steroids weren’t. Bill picked his gym carefully. By the third week, he’d talked one of the muscle-heads into introducing him to his supplier.

    Long term, steroids were a bad risk. For someone in Bill’s condition, trying desperately to get into shape for the imminent End Of The World As We Know It, a few weeks use was a fairly good risk—at least Bill thought so…

    Wait a moment. Did he just think that? TEOTWAWKI? He’d better keep his mouth firmly closed on that thought. Survivalists of any variety were strictly Persona Non Grata with the powers that be.

    Now how did he know that? Five minutes earlier, he couldn’t have told someone what a Survivalist was, let alone that the Hobnails didn’t like them. Now he realized that he was a Survivalist and that he’d been preparing for TEOTWAWKI.

    ***************** ******************** ******************

    Ten weeks of fairly heavy steroid use, and some frantic iron-pumping had seen Bill’s weight drop to two ninety-seven; while his strength had more than doubled. There had been a price though. His face and back was covered with acne, and his joints ached almost constantly.

    One of the dangers of steroid use was that muscle strength could grow much faster than the strength of the tendons and ligaments—leaving one injury prone. Bill was reasonably sure that he’d never used steroids before. He was also fairly sure that he’d done years of heavy lifting.

    Regaining levels that one had already attained is generally much faster and easier than building up to new levels. Also there was at least some residual strength in the ligaments and tendons. That had partially protected him from the consequences of working up to a four hundred and fifty pound bench for a single and four-fifty on the Squat for twenty repetitions.

    Nonetheless, ten weeks was a long run on the steroids. Time to cycle off, and try to keep the consequences of coming down to a bare minimum.

    While he still had full strength, and the rather arrogant assertiveness that the drugs brought, there was something else Bill needed to attend to. Time to find a black market Gun dealer—not that there was any other kind of Gun dealer nowadays…

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  3. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Three
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    Bill was sitting at the desk in his room, trying to concentrate. Bob and Ed the half-wit were carrying on a lively discussion in the hallway and although Bill had his door closed; he couldn’t help hearing it all. The knob-gobblers had him upset enough, that he felt that he might jump through his own anus and disappear.

    Wait a moment! Was that psychotic ideation? Well no, he knew very well that the action wasn’t physically possible. It was a metaphor—a hyperbole, if you will…

    Bob worked for a construction company. He always wore his brown uniform—on duty, and off. They let him drive the company truck home at night. The best Bill could tell, Bob functioned mainly as a gopher. His position was much like a trustee’s. Bob was convinced that he was some sort of assistant foreman though.

    Ed rode a bicycle remarkably like Peewee Herman’s. He had a waspish disposition and he wanted to be left alone. Most folks left him alone; since a simple “good morning” would get you a fierce cursing. Bob was only marginally smarter than Ed though. He lived with the persistent illusion that he and Ed were friends.

    “Ed, how much do tomatoes cost per pound?” Bob asked.

    “Bob, yoo thupid haf-wit! Why don’t you weave me awone? How in hell would I know what tomatoes cost?” Ed was tongue-tied.

    “No Ed, I want to know how much tomatoes cost, per pound?”

    “Leave me alone!”

    “Tomatoes Ed.”

    “If you don’t leave me alone, I’ll slap you!”

    “Per pound Ed.”

    They went on that way interminably. First Bob would say “Tomatoes.” His tone seemed to say that he could understand Ed’s hostility, had Ed thought that he was asking about oranges, turnips, parsnips or dingle-berries, but that in this context, “tomatoes” made it a perfectly reasonable and inoffensive question.

    Then Bob would say, “Per pound.” He seemed to imply that asking the price per kilogram, ounce, or carat would have been offensive indeed, but that “per pound” made the question innocuous.

    Finally Ed put an end to the chuckle fest by taking his bicycle into his room; and slamming his door closed hard enough to shake Bill’s fillings.

    Steve was standing out in the hallway shadow boxing. He had a set of brass knuckles on each hand. At eight ounces each, the brass knuckles probably added enough resistance to help the muscle tone—a bit. Bill had to admit that Steve’s boxing form was decent.

    Bill steeled himself and walked up to Steve.

    “Take the knuckles off. I want to show you something. Here let’s put this one totally to one side. Now put the other in your jacket pocket. Try to put your hand in the knuckle and bring it out quickly, as if for a punch.

    “Do not actually hit me. This is a demonstration.”

    Bill got up too close, in Steve’s face. He trapped his hand in the jacket pocket early on. He neither threw nor tripped Steve. He simply used very mild hand pressure to waltz the man all over the hallway. He used no more pressure than one would use on a dancing partner. The whole scheme worked because he got Steve off his center of gravity and kept him there.

    As he released Steve unexpectedly, he said, “Quick now, come out with the knuckles.”

    Steve, who had never managed to get his fingers into the holes during the unexpected dance, fumbled yet some more.

    “Come into my room for a moment,” He said to Steve.

    He took the brass knuckles and clamped them in a small Pana-Vise. He left the bridge between the middle finger and the ring finger; but he ground the other two bridges out with a Dremel Tool.

    “It will still be plenty strong; but you’ll have a good bit more room for your fingers. That will make it so much easier and faster to slip them on. Tarnation! I wish that I had a Milling machine. This would go so much faster. We’ll get him done though.”

    Bill let Steve try on the altered brass knuckle.

    “It’s way better!” Steve enthused.

    Bill took the weapon back from him.

    “I need to borrow this for awhile,” He told Steve in a tone that allowed no argument.

    “You can have it, if you’ll fix me a couple more like that,” Steve said.

    “Okay, but not today. I’m off to see the Wizard.”

    **************** ****************************** **************

    People who’d sell steroids could put you in touch with someone who sold hard drugs. Someone who sold hard drugs could put you in touch with someone who sold Guns. Thus one unreasonable prohibition led to a total lack of respect for the law, and a thriving black market.

    Bill had long ruminated about Kurt Saxon’s famous dictum: “When someone tries to buy Guns with gold, when the transaction is over, one party will have the Guns and the gold.”

    That sounded remarkably cynical and clever. In actuality though, it wasn’t true. There was a certain honor among outlaws. Baring outrageous provocation or potential for profit, most of them were willing to trade value for value—most of the time. It behooved a man to be cautious though.

    Bill thought Kurt Saxon was another chucklehead. The man admitted to being a former Nazi and a former Satanist. He’d also managed to blow all the fingers off his left hand, bollixing with a pipe bomb. Still, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again.

    *************** ***************************** ****************

    The “gangsta” dude had on an oversized sweat suit. He had gold teeth and a big auto pistol in a shoulder holster—probably a nine-millimeter. At first he tried the gangsta rap with Bill. But after a few moments, he dropped the pose. When he wasn’t playing a role, his voice had the mellow deep tones of a Shakespearean actor.

    Somehow he flashed on the fact that Bill wasn’t taken in and he’d abruptly dropped the act. He’d told Bill that the gold teeth were removable fakes.

    “It’s for business purposes,” He explained. “How would people recognize me without my disguise?”

    He led Bill into the basement of a deserted factory building. While the upper floors were tumbledown, the basement was well maintained. There was an iron door with a couple AK bearing sentries taking passwords in a vestibule inside.

    Inside was a space roughly fifty by fifty. On one side of the room were Lathes and Milling machines. On the other side were long rows of hardwood-topped worktables, with plenty of vises and reloading presses.
    The gunstore proper was in a little twenty by twenty-five foot alcove, in the corner most distant from the entrance.

    The shop wasn’t quite jam-crammed full of firearms. Nonetheless, there was a respectable number of Guns. Bill was a bit surprised to see that the handguns were displayed in glass cases—just like a real gunstore.

    “I had a gunstore before the ban. After the ban, I still have a gunstore,” a grinning dude wearing a shop apron told him. “The only difference is that now I can be arrested for minding my business. Most of the display cases are from my old shop.”

    Bill decided that he liked the man, as he shook his proffered hand. Still, he didn’t trust anyone without reservation. There was no sense in dropping your pants and bending over. If someone was going to take advantage, Bill meant to make them work hard for it, at the very least.

    He saw row after row of Glocks and Berettas; Sigs and Walthers. All except the Berettas had plastic frames. Bill sighed wearily. Then he saw something across the room.

    “Let me see the nickel Model 27,” Bill said.

    The N Frame Smith and Wesson .357 had an eight and three-eights inch barrel—a bit larger than Bill wanted, but the Gun was a beauty. Someone, doubtless someone like Bill, who never hammer cocked a double action revolver, had bobbed the hammer. The barrel was Mag-Na-Ported, and the butt had been cut down to K Frame round butt configuration.

    Bill had large hands, but he preferred the round butt to all others—as did a noticeable number of other folks, with many different hand sizes.

    Now Bill was not at all sure that he could have named a brand of Gun, or have even a clue what a Model 27 might be—if someone had asked him before he’d laid eyes on this one. He definitely couldn’t have told someone how to check a used revolver for serviceability.

    But once he had the long barreled .357 in his hand, he deftly opened the cylinder. He pushed the extractor rod a few times, to assure himself that it worked freely. Then he spun the open cylinder slowly. He peered down the bore, using a thumbnail to reflect light down the bore. He tried the action. He was pleased that someone had taken the time to put in double action only lockwork.

    “I’ll let you have that for twenty-seven hundred,” The dealer said.

    “Why so cheap?” Bill asked.

    “Nobody wants a revolver anymore, except old guys like you.”

    Bill was a bit taken aback by that. It wasn’t vanity. He simply had not consciously considered his age. He thought of himself as a regular person. Old people were a special subset of humanity that he felt no particular allegiance to.

    As he thought about the long mane of silver hair and the crow’s feet at the corner of the eyes of the man who always stared back at him from the mirror, he was forced to conclude that he was indeed old. How peculiar. He took the time to reflect that his gym exploits were even more remarkable in that context.

    The dealer took his hesitation as a sign that Bill thought the price was too high.

    “I’ve got a nice vintage Safariland shoulder holster for the Gun. I also have three speed loaders for it. I’ll throw all that in, and a hundred and fifty rounds of 158 Grain Jacketed Hollow Points—all for twenty-five hundred.”

    “Let me see the single action,” Bill said.

    “That’s a four-and-three-quarter-inch EMF .357,” The dealer told Bill. “You know that they don’t have a transfer bar—gotta carry the hammer down on an empty chamber.”

    Bill wondered if he looked stupid, since the man felt it was necessary to tell him such basic facts. He didn’t take offence though. Too much data is rarely the problem that too little is.

    Bill placed the EMF beside the Smith and Wesson. The three Safariland speed loaders; three fifty round boxes of ammo; and the Safariland shoulder holster were all lying forgotten for the moment on the counter.

    He got the clerk to bring him a double barrel twelve-gauge shotgun. It had eighteen inch barrels; a padded but youth-sized stock and it was coated in frosted hard chrome. Bill haggled for enough rounds of 00 Buckshot and Slugs to fill a fifty-five round nylon bandoleer, along with a box of high base number sixes.

    “How much for all that?” Bill asked, gesturing at everything inclusively.

    The man was a bit surprised. He hadn’t really expected to sell more than one Gun.

    “Four thousand for all of them.”

    “That’s one hell of a bargain in today’s money.”

    “Tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ll ever sell the .357s, if you don’t buy them. Most folks think the .357 is obsolete.”

    “Chuckleheads!” Bill Remarked.

    ************ *************************** ****************

    Maybe setting Steve up to loan him the brass knuckles hadn’t been all that inspired an idea. Now Steve was convinced that Bill was some sort of martial arts master. He’d firmly made up his mind that Bill had something to teach him. He was determined that Bill was going to teach him.

    Steve had settled in for the long haul. He was respectful, and rarely obtrusive. But he did occasionally remind Bill that he was patiently waiting to begin his apprenticeship. He had even started calling his stars “Shaken.”

    Bill was forced to revise his opinion of Steve somewhat. Steve was young, and he was ignorant; but he knew how to be both polite and persistent. He wanted to learn very badly.

    Too bad that Bill wasn’t a martial arts expert. All that he really knew about the martial arts was that most folks over complicated them. Learn the basics of human anatomy. Learn which way the major joints are meant to move; and the places in their range of motion where the leverage worked against them. Trap a client’s joint where it was weak, and force it against the grain. Simple really.

    Learn where the body is weak. Learn how to pack a reasonable amount of force into your blows. Strike the client’s weak points—again, very simple.

    Learn how the body balances itself. Strive to keep your balance, while trying to force the client off his.

    There were a few other rules, but they were all very simple—sometimes difficult to implement—but simple in concept.

    Come to think of it, maybe he was a martial arts expert. Maybe he’d start turning Steve onto a few techniques, while testing his integrity. It might come in handy to have someone that he could trust guarding his back.

    Guarding it from what though…?

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  4. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Four
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    “Did you get the stuff that I told you to?” Bill asked Steve.

    When Steve indicated that he had, Bill invited him to bring his gear and join him in his room.

    “Take your shoes and socks off,” Bill told him.

    Steve was puzzled, but he complied.

    “Can you balance on one foot? Lift your other leg a bit higher. There you go. Now close your eyes tightly and give me a slow count of ten.”

    Steve could stand on one foot quite readily. When he tried to balance with his eyes closed though, he’d lose balance and have to let the other foot down—usually by the count of three.

    “How can you fight, when you can’t even stand up?” Bill asked him.

    Bill fished around in the sack Steve had brought. He opened the plastic sack full of marbles, and counted out forty-eight of them. He put the marbles on the floor and placed an empty number ten can on the table.

    “I want you to practice this three or four times a day. Don’t do it much more often. I don’t want you to get burnt-out on it. Stand on your left foot like so. Pick one marble up with your toes. Bring your right foot up to your left hand. Take the marble with your left hand. Put it in the can.

    “Try as much as possible, to balance on one foot without putting the other foot down ‘till you’ve picked up all the marbles. When you’ve picked up all forty-eight marbles, turn around and pick the marbles up with your other foot.

    “Each time you do it, alternate which foot that you start with. When you can consistently pick up all forty-eight marbles without your marble foot touching the ground a single time, let me know.”

    “How long should it take me to master the exercise?” Steve inquired.

    “Don’t rush and don’t obsess. It will take as long as it takes. I don’t particularly care if you ever master it. The point is that by doing it, you will build balance and ankle strength.”

    Bill went on to show Steve how to use the wrist-roller and the spring grips. (He’d had Steve buy his own. No way that he wanted Steve using his room as a gym.) Then he showed him how to work his rear delts with the cable exerciser.

    He impressed on Steve the importance of a strong grip. Just to make it more interesting, he told Steve to stand on one foot while doing wrist-roller work or using the steel springs. He also had Steve buy himself a top quality jump rope, and told him to work up to a half-hour at a time.

    Since he firmly believed that fighting was largely a matter of understanding the human body, he located Steve a few books to buy and study: A coloring book to help nurses learn basic anatomy; a couple of basic books on kinesiology; and a few Art books on drawing the human body.

    “You can’t tell me that you truly understand the structure of something and then turn around and tell me that you can’t draw it,” He’d told Steve. “Basic drawing techniques are fairly simple. The rest is familiarity with what you’re drawing. I want you to become very familiar with the human body—particularly the muscles and bones.

    “Now you should have plenty to keep you busy for at least the next six months. Don’t bother me ‘till then. If you’re not interested enough to be a self-starter; then you’re not worth me bothering with.”

    ****************** ************************* *****************

    Bill was not at all sure that things would hold together for another six months. Gasoline went up a few cents on the gallon almost weekly. There was talk of rationing in the near future. Bill remembered a golden free market axiom: While governments may not know how to create surpluses, they certainly know how to create shortages and a thriving black market—simply impose rationing.

    Inflation was around thirty percent and creeping upward. Unemployment was said to be hovering close to seventeen percent—but most folks thought that the government cooked the figures to conceal even more alarming numbers.

    There were always job openings in the healthcare field: orderlies; nurse’s aides; LPNS; RNs—even janitors to work in Nursing Homes. The jobs went begging. Most people found it too depressing to work around the NA victims.

    Every month there were more cases than the government had predicted. Bill had become convinced that both the actual number of cases, and the future forecasts were both adjusted, just as with the unemployment figures, to reduce the despair.

    There were more and more cases of violence against the senile. People had started calling them “Zombies”. They weren’t of course. They weren’t contagious. They didn’t bite, nor did they crave human flesh. Fact is all they did was sit and stare vacantly into space. If someone didn’t take the time to feed and hydrate them, they would stare unconcernedly until dehydration or starvation claimed them.

    Calling them zombies though, served to dehumanize—even demonize—them in the eyes of many. There was increasing talk about practicing large-scale euthanization on the senile.

    Bill was willing to concede that the great imaginary entity known as “Society” might not be able to afford to continue to care for all the disabled much longer. However, a civilization that committed itself to mass-murders on that scale had already signed its own execution order. Six of one—a half-dozen of the other…

    *************** **************************** *****************

    Steve persevered in his lessons. So at about the three month point, Bill went back to see the gunstore dude—who he learned, went by the street name of “Jeffrey”—and had him locate an old Webley Tempest and plenty of pellets. Pellet guns weren’t illegal, but it was hard to find good quality ones. Bill didn’t want to invite any scrutiny.

    Why would someone go out of his way to order an expensive and accurate pellet Gun? He wouldn’t be using it as firearm trainer, now would he?

    At the six-month point, Bill took Steve to see Jeffery; so Steve could buy himself a Gun. Given some advanced notice, Jeffrey had managed to find Steve a nice stainless steel Ruger Security-Six .357 Magnum with a four-inch barrel, and a nice custom set of smooth walnut grips.

    Steve even got a chance to fire a few live rounds on Jeffrey’s improvised underground range. They were looking at a .38 Special Smith and Wesson Model sixty—a stainless version of the five shot; two-inch barreled Model thirty-six; the “Chief’s Special”. There was also a Marlin .357 lever action Carbine that someone had custom converted to a takedown.

    Neither Steve nor Bill had the money for either. Nonetheless, Jeffrey enjoyed showing off some of his better pieces. Besides, it would give each of them something to go home and start saving for.

    Just as they were about to say their “good-byes”, a breaching charge blew the big metal door off its hinges. One of the guards was able to return fire. He fired round after round from his AK-47 through the breached doorway. He’d dropped several of the masked; black clothed invaders, and had fired his way almost through his third thirty-round magazine, when a grenade took him out.

    “It is always a good day to die,” Bill said calmly.

    “It’s not time to die yet. There’s a hidden back-way out of here. Grab that stuff. Y’all might as well have it as the feds—the nasty knob-gobblers,” Jeffrey shouted.

    ******************** ****************** **********************

    Bill had taken the time to thoroughly learn the neighborhood on his frequent walks. He led Steve through a series of circuitous routes that only began to start leading them back home after they’d gone far out of their way. A couple of times Bill had to cuff Steve impatiently when he balked at laying down on the damp grass, or low-crawling beneath a sticker-bush. There simply wasn’t time for debate.

    Finally, when Bill was fairly sure they’d managed to lose any would-be followers, he took the time to confer with Steve.

    “I want to go home,” Steve said with every ounce of conviction that he could muster.

    “I know, but first we have to be double sure that we aren’t being followed. It’d be a bitch to have them follow us home. Stay cool. You did well tonight. Got you a couple extra Guns too—for free!”

    They wandered nonchalantly out of a yard with six-foot high shrubbery. They strolled to McDonalds, where the burgers were made largely of soy in the modern world, but where the milkshakes were still made of real milk—at least so they claimed. Then they went to a bar for a couple drinks.

    Bill doubted the wisdom of too much ethanol under the circumstances; but it was one more opportunity to try to spot any possible tale. Bill bought a bottle of J&B Scotch to take with him—for reasons that were obscure to him. When he got home though, he realized why he’d bought the metal hip flasks for his BOB.

    *********** ****************************** *******************

    News of the raid filled the news for the next few days; but then someone set off a trio of very dirty suitcase nukes in New York City and twice that many in Los Angeles. At the same time someone released some fairly large amounts of nerve gas in Miami and Portland Oregon. Of course panic was responsible for far more deaths than all the blasts; lethal gas; and radioactive fallout combined could have possibly achieved—even in the affected areas.

    There were a few scattered incidents all over America, of snipers taking pot shots at semi-drivers. That was enough to scare a considerable number of drivers into pulling their rigs into the nearest truck stop, and hunkering down.

    The fabric was stretched to the limits already. With each new incident, things started ripping apart even faster.

    Bill sat and watched the news on his little Thirteen-inch color TV. It had all the fascination of watching a slow-motion demolition of an old high-rise. Yes, it would have been an excellent time for someone to Didi-Mau; split; Bog-out or to get out of Dodge.

    That is, if someone had anywhere to go. Wait a minute!!!

    Bill realized that he did have somewhere to go. He had a nice retreat prepared in Eastern Kentucky. It was one hell of a thing to have let slip his mind! The bugging out would have been far easier several hours ago. Anyway, it would be dark soon. Valparaiso wasn’t that large a town—wait a minute—was he in Valparaiso? He hadn’t realized…

    Anyway, he had a partner trained well enough to be an asset. He’d just come off the worst of the crash from his third course of steroids. He was down to his fighting weight of two-seventy—so that was his fighting weight…

    He had two revolvers and a double-barreled shotgun. He had a nicely equipped BOB. It was time to go.

    Steve lived right down the hall, but knocking on his door would get everyone’s attention. He decided to call him on the phone instead.

    “Steve, get your stuff together. It’s time for us to leave. I got a retreat way out in the country,” He said into the phone.

    Bill had his Guns fairly well hidden. That had seemed the wisest course of action at the time. But before he could dig his Guns out, he was surprised to hear a key being inserted into his lock. His door slammed open.

    There stood Ed the Half-wit—only Ed didn’t look half-witted anymore. He was wearing a dark brown BDU Uniform that looked like it had been tailored and starched. He wore a brown beret jauntily cocked to one side, and he was cradling an H&K MP5 with one of the five-inch long suppressors on the barrel.

    Bill was durn-near certain that the suppressor wouldn’t come anywhere near being a true “Silencer”, but it would cut both recoil and muzzle-blast a great deal. It really didn’t matter. Bill was far more concerned about the bullets he expected to be headed his way soon, than he was about any hypothetical muzzle blast.

    Bob backed up Ed. He also had one of the tailored brown uniforms, but he was holding a Remington Witness Protection shotgun—one with a plow-handle grip and a fourteen-inch barrel. Bob was such a skinny shike-poke that notwithstanding the gravity of the situation; Bill couldn’t help but think that the man looked like Barney Fife.

    Ed wasn’t lisping now, and he didn’t sound at all tongue-tied as he addressed Bill.

    “This has been interesting, and we’ve been getting some fascinating data; but with everything going to hell in a hand-basket, it is time to tie up loose ends,” Ed said.

    Ed started to bring the MP-5 to his shoulder, in preparation for a single aimed shot. Bill gathered himself to rush Ed. Ed would probably go for a headshot, but if he made the mistake of aiming at the torso, Bill didn’t believe that he could put enough of the pissant nine millimeters into him fast enough to keep Bill from ripping his throat out…

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  5. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Five
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    All of Bill’s mental processes were in hyper-drive. Ed seemed to be raising the machine pistol in a sort of jerky slow motion. Then Bill heard a flat slapping sound and Ed’s eyes crossed momentarily. He was standing a little to one side of Bill; so Bill could see that he had a throwing star firmly stuck in the back of his head.

    Some of Steve’s stars were simple pieces of stamped sheet metal; but this one had been machined out of three-sixteenths inch steel. It was comparatively heavy. Nonetheless, it was an extraordinarily powerful throw, to have it stick into a man’s skull—even just barely.

    Even so, though Shaken would have had minimal stopping power—it had beaucoup distracting power. Ed jerked his head around to try to see what the hell had just smacked him. He looked just in time to see Steve ram a Katana through the small of Bob’s back.

    The blade neatly skewered Bob’s right kidney, and since the angle was somewhat inward, a foot of the blade protruded just a hair to the right of Bob’s navel. Steve kept barreling in. He hit Bob with what would have been called a very hard example of clipping, had he been playing football.

    Steve kept his grip on the Katana and rotated it around several times, as if trying to cut out a core. Then he jacked the handle up and down like a water pump handle.

    Bill had no time to watch Steve’s Mall-Ninja Dance of Death. He had problems of his own. He grabbed the H&K’s suppressor with his left hand. He grabbed up the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel off his desk. He brought the edge of the entrenching tool down on Ed’s head at least a dozen times.

    He was hitting as hard as he possibly could. In all probability, the last eight or nine blows were superfluous. Still, he didn’t intend to let go of the suppressor ‘till he was doubly sure that his client had full satisfaction.

    As Bill caught his breath, he realized that he’d regained another small piece of his memory. The worn, second-hand shovel was a Special Forces Shovel; based on the Russian Spetznatz Shovel and manufactured by Cold Steel.

    Bill did a fast but thorough search of Ed. He confiscated everything that looked like a firearm. Ed had three extra magazines for the H&K. He had a parkerized Beretta in a nylon drop-leg holster along with a couple extra magazines.

    There was a wallet-like carrier in Ed’s left hip pocket. It had two extra Beretta magazines and curiously enough, there was also a .25 ACP magazine. It was no big surprise then, when Bill found a .25 Beretta in an ankle holster—a nylon ankle holster, of course.

    Bill shook his head in disgust. He didn’t like nine millimeter. He didn’t like subdued finishes. He didn’t like synthetic holsters.

    Oh well, Bill thought philosophically. At least the pistol wasn’t plastic; and so far as double action nine millimeters went, the Beretta wasn’t a bad one.

    Bill would have rather had a Browning High Power. He’d have swapped the Beretta and his favorite jack-knife, along with two pounds of coffee for a nickel Smith and Wesson Model 39. Not that he thought that it was that great a Gun—but he grooved on the looks.

    He smiled to see that Steve had only come up with a Glock; two extra magazines; and a half-dozen shotgun shells, in addition to the Witness Protection shotgun.

    “If you’re going to keep the shotgun, I can let you have some ammo. If it was me, I’d strip all the nine millimeters out of the Tupperware Wonder, and pitch it. I’ll give you the Beretta, if you want a nine. At least it has a steel frame. When we get to my retreat, I can make you a leather holster and some nice wood grips for it.”

    Steve appeared undecided.

    “Could you make a holster for this one?” He asked.

    “I could—but I won’t. A plastic Gun doesn’t deserve a leather holster. Make up your mind. We’ve got to skeedaddle.”

    Steve shrugged, and tossed the Glock out of the window.

    Bill’s room was the first one encountered coming off the stairs. He wasn’t sure if they had meant to kill everyone, and had simply started with him; or if he had been singled out.

    A quick glance at the second and third floors convinced him. They had started at the first floor and worked their way upward. There were a couple more corpses in brown BDUs too, but whoever had serviced them, had also inherited their weapons.

    “Soon as I can stop somewhere and chance a light, I’ve got to check those badges and ID from Bob and Ed—maybe figure out where they come from,” Bill said.

    Steve looked at him blankly.

    “Those were Federal Health Bureau uniforms. How can you not know that?” Steve said in amazement.

    “I have some major issues with my memory. We’ll talk about it later. Right now we need to make tracks. By the way, thanks for the rescue. I gotta ask though: What’s up with the Sword and Shaken?”

    Steve shrugged and looked embarrassed.

    “I wasn’t sure that I’d trained with the Guns long enough to use them well under stress. I was afraid that I might shoot you.”

    ************* ********************************** *************

    As Bill and Steve headed out of town, they saw several instances of neighborhood watches gathered around fire barrels to ward off the night chill, and taking a walk through security check very so often. There were also a surprising number of people walking the streets openly armed.

    Bill insisted that they go slow; keep to the shadows; thoroughly scout before moving and give the campfire groups a large berth. Steve found the routine rather irritating. He couldn’t very well go on alone though; since he had no idea where they were headed.

    There was the sound of truck motors and headlight beams swept around the corner. Bill yanked Steve into the dark shadow beside a concrete block building. They had to go prone to stay in the shadow.

    A Humvee turned the corner, followed by a big truck with its back filled with soldiers. There were four teenagers caught in the beams. They had a shotgun; a .22 rifle; and a long barreled Ruger Single Six between them.

    “Halt!” a bullhorn on top the Humvee shouted at them. “ Drop your weapons and raise your hands over your heads! You are under arrest for violating the curfew; possession of firearms; and unlawful assembly.”

    The horrified teenagers hastened to comply. A couple of squads of soldiers came boiling out of the truck. The teens were knocked down; thoroughly beaten up, frisked and secured with plastic tie-locks.

    The officer in the Humvee called for a paddy wagon to come pick them up. He left two soldiers behind to stand guard. The vehicle went on with the patrol. Apparently they either meant for the two soldiers to ride back to headquarters in the paddy wagon; or they meant to pick them up the next time around. Presumably they were following a route; so that wouldn’t be too wild an assumption.

    From twenty yards away, Bill drew a bead on one soldier’s head. Although Bill was in the darkness, the man was standing under a streetlight and he was clearly silhouetted. He fired a quick double tap at the man’s head. Then he laid a five round burst into the second guard’s torso.

    Bill walked briskly up to the teens. He drew a Buck lock-back; thumbed it open with one hand and cut their bonds. Bill walked over to one of the soldiers and picked up his weapon.

    He’d been expecting an M4 or perhaps an M16A1 or A2. Instead he found a bizarre plastic bullpup weapon that he’d never seen before.

    “What in the hell is this POS?” He demanded from Steve, who’d joined him by then.

    “That’s a Model 34. The Army went to them back in ’37.”

    “You mean like 2037?”

    “Yeah. Why does that upset you?”

    “I just had no idea that it was that late. What year is it anyway?”

    “It’s December 2057. Didn’t you know?”

    “Not really. Hadn’t thought about it. We’ll talk about it later. What’s your story?”

    This last was addressed to the three young men, and the girl.

    “We come from our churche’s youth group. We volunteered to go try to find a drugstore that was open. Several of the old people have a list of medications that they need badly.

    “ Pastor Rod said that we should go armed. He said that there might be muggers and looters around. He said that they wouldn’t be enforcing the Gun laws during a crisis like this.

    “He said that the Laws would have enough common sense to realize that people would need protection during a crisis like this.”

    “Wrong,” Bill said,

    He’d been reloading the kid’s weapons as they talked. He handed them back. He also gave them the M 34s, and all the soldier’s spare magazines.

    “Well, I would stress getting out of here; but that wouldn’t get you your meds. Fortunately there’s a drugstore right there on the corner. Give me a hand Steve.”

    Bill drug one of the soldiers into an adjacent side yard, out of sight of the road. Steve did the same with the other.

    “That drug store isn’t open,” one of the teens pointed out.

    Bill used his entrenching tool to break out the plate glass window.

    “It is now. Steve, I doubt there’s any kind of response time at all, what with everything that’s going down. Nonetheless, get out of sight, and watch for approaching lights—or whatever.

    “Give me your list and come on,” He said to the teens. “Everybody still able to walk?”

    Bill marched into the store like a man on a mission. He had each of the teens grab a canvas diaper bag, and follow him.

    “Everybody got flashlights?”

    It turned out that none of them did—but the pharmacy had flashlights and plenty batteries.

    “Get you a flashlight going and follow me. Don’t shine it in my eyes; but try to direct it where you’re looking. Try not to shine it out the window.

    “Alright. Glucophage and Insulin. It’s chill enough right now; but that Insulin needs refrigeration. Furosemide; Maxide; Atenolol; Tiazac; Clonidine. Xanax; Darvocet; and Prozac—we need Warfarin and Theophilline—Glyburide that’s another Insulin extender.

    Bill quickly filled the order. Then he started grabbing drugs that he knew would prove useful.

    “Penicillin; Keeflex; Tetracycline; Sulfa,” he said as he shoved them into the teens sacks. “Nirtoglycerin; Dilaudids—hmmm. Y’all take the two and three milligrams; I’ll take the fours. Demerol—two bottles for y’all, one for me. Amphetamines; Adrenalin; Dianabol I’ll get some too.

    “You guys do have a doctor? Yes well…”

    Bill grabbed a few handfuls of bottles at random. Then it occurred to him that the things in big bottles, were things there was a lot of demand for.

    He told two of the teens to start raiding the candy racks at the front of the store. Bill tossed the others powdered milk; Iodine; Betadine—Sterile Napkins and kotex.

    “These are sterile,” Bill remarked. “They are good emergency bandages in a pinch. Your doctor probably knows that; but remind him.”

    They were in and out in less than twenty minutes. Bill came away with some Amphetamines; Dilaudid; Demerol; Dianabol some assorted antibiotics and a few other over-the-counter things—along with beaucoup batteries; M&Ms; and Snickers Bars. He also grabbed one four-pack of toilet paper and two three-liter generic colas.

    “Don’t use your flashlights on the way back. Stick to the shadows. Looting and firearms violations are capital offenses—so if any Guardsmen or Laws try to arrest you, do unto them as they would do unto you—BUT do it FIRST. Good luck and Godspeed.”

    As Steve and Bill turned away, Bill spoke.

    “Do you see why I’ve been hiding in the shadows and staying out of sight? From now on when we stop, I don’t need you looking over my shoulder watching what I’m doing. I’m capable.

    “Sometimes I may need help; or I may want to show you something. If I do, I’ll tell you.

    “But unless I tell you otherwise, your default position is looking all around trying to spot trouble coming—especially from our six. Do you understand?”

    “What’s our six?”

    “Our rear end. Our back-trail.”

    “Getting tired? Here take a couple of these and was it down with some of your cola.”

    “What is it?”

    “Amphetamines—speed. It is easy to overdo the speed; but I’d really like to be out of town by dawn. It’s an acceptable trade-off—under the circumstances.”

    “Why did you get generic? It was free after all.”

    “That’s using your head. No, I wanted the three-liter bottles. Calories are always at a premium during a bug-out, so the cola will help—marginally, for a day or two. When they’re empty though, they’ll make nice improvised canteens. They won’t last as long or take the rough handling that metal canteens will; but we have metal canteens too. These will be nice additional water bottles while they last.”

    They walked along a little while longer, and then Bill added, ”I almost forgot. Speed always works better with some caffeine, and I always take some aspirin with mine. Here you go.

    “I’ll whack fair with you on the pills when we stop and it’s light enough to see clearly.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “Whack fair? It means to divide equally. Now we really need to be quiet and listen for soldiers.”

    ************ ************************** *****************

    They did make it out of town before dawn and without further incident. Later, after they’d made camp and eaten, Bill told Steve everything he knew about his memories. Steve tried to help him sort through some of his random recollections.

    Steve kept interrupting Bill to ask questions like, “What year was that?” and “How old were you then?”

    Finally after they’d turned in for the day, when Bill was almost asleep, Steve spoke.

    “Something doesn’t add up, Bill. You can’t possibly be old enough to have memories going back to the 1960s and ‘70s.”

    “Nonetheless, I do.”

    He’d thought that Steve was a chucklehead; but he’d figured out something in a couple hours that Bill hadn’t thought of in almost a year of obsessing.

    But what did it all mean?

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  6. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    Interesting story; keep it up.
  7. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

  8. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Looking cool.
  9. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Six
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    “ ‘Travel light: freeze at night.’ I remember reading that proverb somewhere,” Bill said. “ ‘Tain’t necessarily so. Anyway, we travel at night. That works out better any number of ways.

    “We can sleep better during the day—cause it’s warmer. At night, when it’s really cold, we’re moving and creating body heat,” Bill explained.

    They had just slept and generally lounged around through the first day. Now as the sun was setting, they were preparing to set out on their second night’s march.

    “Why won’t you light a fire during the day? I’d think that a flame would stand out more at night,” Steve asked.

    “It’s true. You can see even a small flame from miles away at night. However, it isn’t hard to hide a flame. The coffee-can hobo stove does a fair job of hiding the flames all on it’s own. I also make sure that we’re in a screened place.

    “During the day though, you have to deal with smoke and the heat column. You can largely eliminate the smoke, by selecting the right fuels—though it makes fuel gathering far more demanding. There’s no way to get rid of the heat column though,” Bill explained.

    “What’s a heat column?” Steve asked.

    “Hot air rises. It leaves a visible column in the air.”

    “And why do we travel at night?”

    “All the harder to see us, my Dear,”

    When Steve looked momentarily blank, Bill asked him, “Never heard the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood?’ Never mind. It’s a children’s story about a girl that almost gets eaten by an anthropomorphic wolf.

    “Well actually, in the original French it was an allegory. Little Red Riding Hood represents an innocent rustic girl coming to the Royal Court; and the Big Bad Wolf is an aging lecher/seducer—possibly even rapist.

    “But the story has been recast as a child’s tale in most modern versions. I’ll tell you the story tonight—well, our night, which is dawn.”

    “I can hardy wait,” Steve remarked dryly.

    “Don’t be an ass Steve. A Warrior studies everything around him to achieve true insight. Most folk tales contain wisdom. Even a stupid story tells you much about the chuckleheads who crafted it.”

    After they had completed their meal, Bill turned to Steve.

    “It’s gonna get real cold tonight. I can feel it. You have a coat, but I don’t think that’s enough. Grab one of your wool blankets.

    “Here, drape it over your head like a cape. Tuck it—right over left—just like a Judo Gi.”

    Bill got a rather thick piece of nylon rope from his pack. He wrapped the rope around Steve.

    “Once again, just like a Judo Gi. Put the center against your belly. Wrap it from both sides and bring the ends to the front. At this point, you have it wrapped around your waist twice. Now tie a square knot dead center.

    “Now you could poke a small stick through here and here, right beneath your chin; then connect both ends with a string.

    “I don’t care to poke holes in my blanket—even minimalist ones. So I had the foresight to order several blanket broaches from a catalog. Don’t seem to be many camping sites anymore, but they still have people who like to dress as Celts or Scots—for whatever reason…

    “If you get hot, you can let your hood down. You can take it off down to the waist. If you need to use your hands, simply reach out, and let it hang freely.”

    “How did you learn all this?”

    “I don’t really know. I read a lot. Whenever I came across a useful idea, I hung onto it. I was a Survivalist for a long time,” Bill said.

    Many times Bill didn’t consciously know that he knew something, until someone asked him the right question. Sometimes he’d just happen to ask himself a leading question. Sometimes need would summon a memory. He found though, that each new memory came with several auxiliary memories—like the clumps of dirt left clinging to the roots of a freshly pulled-up weed. Only these clumps weren’t filth. They were more like nuggets of platinum.

    He started actively pursuing one memory thread after the other. Sometimes the resurrected memories came out smoothly. Sometimes something would stay just out of reach—for hours, or even days. He’d worry at it the same way that he’d worry at piece of meat trapped between his molars, with no dental floss to be found.

    Bill remembered the Olympic Style Weightlifter’s maxim: “The more you can lift: the more you can lift.” It meant that once you got strong enough to lift enough weight to make the bar bend, that you could use the spring and whip of the bar to lift still more weight.

    With Bill, the more he could remember: the more he could remember. Usually, when he’d finally dredged up a hard to retrieve memory; it would clear the path to many easy to recall memories.

    While his memory wasn’t coming back any too quickly, the rate at which it came back was gradually growing.

    The speed had jogged a big chunk of his memories loose. So were all the dirt-time skills he was getting a chance to use again, as well as the feel of the big Smith and Wesson riding in the shoulder holster; the Single Action .357 riding in his waist band and the Double Barrel Shotgun always carried in his hands.

    He strove to keep his attention on the task at hand. He could be in the here-and-now and still probe his memories—but it required a much less intense, less conscious probing. Even so he continued to accumulate unanswered questions throughout the night.

    *************** ***************************** ****************

    At first the night seemed endless. After about an hour and a half though, Bill got into the groove. They were following the Railroad tracks, but they weren’t walking between the rails. The track bed was raised and they’d be silhouetted against the skyline from either side. Also, there was no way to walk silently on the ballast.

    Bill had Steve walk about five yards behind him. Every hundred and fifty yards or so, Bill would pause to listen; take some deep breaths through his nose to try to catch anything that smelled out of place (like wood smoke from a campfire, for instance) and to probe any deep shadows within his visual range.

    After about an hour or so of the pause; study; move, Bill sort of got into the groove and it wasn’t so bad. He began to wonder if he weren’t being too cautious. They could make much better time, and not have to work so hard to do it, if Bill didn’t insist on doing it like they were on a combat reconnaissance patrol.

    Of course, Bill had never been on a reconnaissance patrol. That was a strange thing: somehow Bill was absolutely certain that he’d never been an Army Ranger. Yet he had a vivid memory of practicing some Judo throws in a wet sawdust pit. The Sensei wore woodland camo and he habitually addressed Bill as “Ranger” as he corrected Bill’s technique. Odd.

    ***************** ******************** ***********************

    Bill stuck to his original plan though. There was no urgent need to get to Kentucky. All that he planned to do in Kentucky was what he was already doing in Indiana: survive. It made absolutely no sense to risk compromising that worthy ideal in the service of an ill-considered haste.

    The fifth night of their bug-out though, all their precautions were almost insufficient.

    As Bill walked along the Railroad right of way, a dark figure stepped out in front of him.

    “Hold it right there pilgrim. Let me see what you got in your pack,” The man holding a rifle at port arms said.

    “Pilgrim?” Did the dude think that he was in an old movie? Several others came forward from their hiding places—possibly to help convince Bill that resistance was futile.

    Bill thought that if it were him, he’d have taken the lone hiker out with a single well-placed shot—or lacking ammo, with a knife or garrote from behind. These chuckleheads wanted to play brigand, but they didn’t have the killer instinct to truly play the role.

    Bill brought his shotgun up, and gave the first client a load of buckshot to the chest, while tightly shutting his left eye against the muzzle flash. He swung onto a second client and tripped the second barrel.

    Just then Steve, who had avoided notice so far, fired the thirty-five millimeter flare pistol that Bill had give him, straight up in the air. Bill dropped to one knee. He laid the shotgun down quickly but gently on the ground, and drew his big eight-and-three-eights inch Smith and Wesson .357 from its shoulder holster.

    He ripped off six rounds in a couple seconds. The men were clearly silhouetted in the blinding white light from the magnesium flare. He fired three double taps and was two for three. His second two round burst had went wide of the target for some unfathomable reason.

    Meanwhile Steve shouldered his .357 Marlin Lever Action, and fired ten shots at the attackers as fast as he could pull the trigger. He’d spent some time practicing dry-firing the Gun, and working the action every day since they’d left. Under the stress of combat, he shot the ten rounds in about three seconds.

    He only hit two clients, and only one of those dropped on the spot, but he sent enough rounds their way, to thoroughly intimidate the opposition. Bill held onto the .357 with his right hand, and reached down to grab the shotgun with his left.

    He yelled, “Blue! Blue, blue,” as he ran back the way that he’d came. “Blue” was code for, “Retreat along the back trail.”

    The magnesium flare and all the muzzle flashes had pretty much ruined the night vision in both Bill and Steve’s right eyes. It would take an hour or two for the night vision to truly return. But because they had tightly closed their left eyes, they both still had full night vision in one eye.

    Bill had heard the remark on the television once, that bad vision had no vision beat all to hell. The vision from his right eye at the moment, while pretty bad, was still a big improvement on nothing. It was helping him to navigate, to some limited degree, right now.

    Bill could hear Steve running on the other side of the Railroad tracks. After Bill had counted three hundred steps, he stopped and shouted.

    “Tick,” Bill sang out.

    “Tock,” Steve responded loudly.

    Bill worked his way over to Steve’s position, trying hard not to make noise doing so. He placed his mouth close to Steve’s ear and whispered urgently.

    “Reload. We’ll wait here and ambush them if they try to follow us.”

    Bill spilled his empty .357 shells out on the ground, and speed-loaded his .357. Then he reloaded his shotgun. He drew some loose rounds and reloaded the speed loader. Finally he picked up his brass—all except for one .357 case that he couldn’t find.

    He shrugged. There was really no pressing reason to police up his empties anyway, under the circumstances. It was just a way to keep his shaking hands busy. He wasn’t afraid, but the adrenaline was making his hands shake as if he were palsied.

    After about an hour, he put his mouth to Steve’s ear again. This time he also cupped his hands around his mouth and Steve’s ear to further muffle the sound.

    “I think that if they were going to follow us, they’d have done it by now. I don’t think they’re stalking us. They didn’t seem the subtle type. Nonetheless, be as absolutely quiet as you can.

    “About a half-mile further back there’s a small road crosses the track. We’ll get off the tracks there, and follow the road to the highway.

    *********** ******************************* ******************

    They reached the highway before dawn. They set up camp in a thicket beside the highway. After they’d eaten, Bill spoke to Steve.

    “You did good today Steve,” Bill told him. “Now do you see why I want you to maintain a tactical distance between us, and try not to be seen?”

    “Why did we leave the Railroad tracks?” Steve asked.

    “Didn’t want to take a chance on meeting up with those peckerwoods again.”

    “Couldn’t we run into them while traveling beside this highway?”

    “It is possible, but far less likely. They might decide to leave the Railroad; but there is little or no reason for them to come here to this highway. Too many other highways for them to go to.”

    After a few moments, Bill spoke up again, but reluctantly this time.

    “I’m remembering more stuff all the time. This is disturbing; but I remember being in a nursing home. I was a lot older looking, and feeble back then. I was very bald and I didn’t have any teeth,” Bill said.

    Although his hair was snowy white, he had a very full head of it. He also had a full set of perfect teeth—including a pair of eye teeth that were a bit longer than average. The modest fangs weren’t that noticeable unless he snarled; but they gave him a very fierce aspect when angry.

    “That’s weird,” Steve said.

    “There’s more. I can plainly remember dieing. That’s a trip you don’t come back from—at least not until judgment day…

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  10. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

  11. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Seven
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    Bill and Steve made it to the highway. They continued South, but parallel to the highway, instead of the Railroad tracks.

    The incident with the gunmen had made Steve start to take their ambush precautions more seriously. Even Bill felt as if all his senses had been given a good steeling—like a butcher’s blade—and were once again razor-sharp.

    But security verses speed and ease of travel is always a trade-off. They could have paused for an hour every twenty feet and still not be absolutely certain that no one lie in wait just ahead. The riskiest course of action, by far, was to let apprehension freeze them into one place. Standing still was a sure way to become prey.

    They had gone well out of their way to miss Terre Haute. It was a reasonable-sized city of about seventy-five thousand, if Bill’s memory was correct. According to Bill’s research, the population of the US was down to about two hundred and ten million. There were a larger percentage of immigrants than in his day, and a fair chunk of the population was down for the count in nursing homes.

    There had been a modest exodus from the country and from the smaller towns and cities into the population centers. He thought that Terre Haute had probably been on the downside of the population shift, but he wasn’t certain.

    It didn’t matter. Terre Haute was something to avoid, whatever its modern population.

    A few days South of Terre Haute, they paused to make camp and get their cooking done before dawn, as always. Steve killed a rabbit with one of his throwing stars, so they had some meat with their beans and rice.

    Bill had been irritated when Steve had insisted on bringing four or five pounds of his favorite stars with him. Bill thought that Shaken were toys at best, and at worst a very feeble reed to lean on in a crisis. He’d relented, thinking Steve would either lose them one or two at a time, or ditch them when the rigors of the trail hit him.

    Steve had mastered the throwing stars to a higher degree than anyone Bill had ever seen though. He rarely missed. When he did miss, he could track the errant star’s trajectory with amazing accuracy. So far he’d yet to lose his first star. He’d killed four rabbits; two quail; and several songbirds—and even a small songbird added some welcome flavor and protein to a pot of rice or noodles.

    They had extinguished their fire and Bill was asleep, when Steve gently shook him awake. Steve was watching the road with the pair of Tasco 7x35 binoculars That Bill had given him. Bill’s own binoculars—at least the big set—was a pair of Tasco 7x50s.

    Tasco optics weren’t top of the line by any means, but they were good solid optics and a good value for the price. Bill had used them ever since he could remember. He wouldn’t have traded his Tasco binoculars for a top of the line pair of Zeiss, Bushnell or Nikon. He liked to stick to what he knew.

    Bill joined Steve. He could see a ragged horde—perhaps two or three hundred folks walking down the highway, headed South. Although the temperature had climbed into the high forties; and the sun was shinning brightly, these folks walked with their arms wrapped tightly around themselves as if they were extraordinarily cold.

    Lack of food; exhaustion; lack of acclimatization—which can’t really take hold while one is both starving, and making long forced marches every day—along with inferior clothing, all added to the peoples inability to stand even modest cold.

    He wondered if the folks had come from Terre Haute, or one or more of the small towns in the area. It didn’t matter. There was no way that he could help that many people, even if he felt called to, which he didn’t. He limited himself to a brief prayer for their welfare.

    Just as Bill was noticing that there were at least a couple big dogs with the group, several military trucks and other vehicles came up behind them.

    “Maybe they’ll give them some food,” Bill said quietly to Steve.

    A Humvee went to the front of the group. A man in a blue beret got out with an electric bullhorn.

    “United Nations, “ Bill remarked. “Can’t see any rank insignia though.”

    When the dude started talking though, Bill and Steve could hear the accented voice quite well.

    “I am Major Schmidt. You people are in violation of a number of the provisions under the martial law. I am ordering you to turn around and return to the refugee camp.”

    Bill had no idea what the deal was with the refugee camp, but the indications were that the refugees didn’t think much of the idea. He could see them shaking their fists at the Major; some were giving him the finger. Others were gathering up twigs and small stones to throw.

    As the people advanced, the Major climbed into the passenger side of the Humvee, without bothering to close the door. The vehicle moved a couple hundred yards further down the road and paused again.

    He leaned out the open door, and addressed them through the bullhorn once again.

    “This is your last warning, turn around and go back!”

    The people continued to surge forward. A helicopter appeared in the South. The rest of the convoy was parked a good four hundred yards behind the refugees. The Humvee with the UN Major drove across the divider, and a couple hundred more yards farther away from the refugees.

    The helicopter executed a strafing run the length of the column of refugees. At the same time, the vehicles in the rear opened up with both some twin fifties mounted in the truck beds and some .30 caliber belt-fed machine guns on small tripods that had been set up on the spot. Bill couldn’t tell if the helicopter’s twin Guns were fifties of twenty-five or thirty-five millimeters.

    At least that’s the general class that the weapons appeared to be to Bill. He was a little behind the times in military armament. In the end it hardly mattered what weapons the UN Forces were using. The unarmed refugees were defenseless against them.

    Bill’s mind seemed to open up and absorb all sorts of random impressions. He noted that at almost a quarter mile away the rifleman weren’t’ wasting their ammo. That was admirable frugality. Save those shots for a rainy day boys—you might need them.

    A dog ran toward the tree line. Sheer terror made the dog move like a blue-striped racer. About half way to his goal, the dog was knocked off his feet. He stood and limped toward the trees, yelping in pain the whole way.

    Bill wished him well. If he survived the massacre, he’d be the only one.

    Somehow in the midst of all the carnage, Bill had drawn his eight and three-eighths inch Smith and Wesson, and hunkered down into an admirable roll-over prone, without ever consciously deciding to do so.

    After the helicopter had made three strafing runs, it left. They hadn’t fired anything like a full complement of rounds the last time through. The Major pulled his Humvee back to within spiting distance of the head of the column. He stood smoking a cigarette by the hood of the Humvee, while his men made sure there were no survivors.

    “Elmer Keith hit a deer at six hundred yards once, with a six inch .44 Magnum. I’m no Elmer Keith—but I’m reasonably sure that I can hit a UN Major with an eight and three-eighths inch .357 Magnum—when he’s only about three hundred-fifty yards away.

    “If I only had my old Smith and Wesson eight and three-eighths inch .44 it would remove all doubt…” Bill told himself.

    Reluctantly he abandoned the plan. He might get the Major. With luck, he might get three or four of the others. Then the helicopter would come back; or they’d send all the soldiers into the brush; or they’d call for reinforcements or perhaps they’d call in an artillery strike. The bottom line was that he and Steve would end up dead—to no good purpose.

    He wasn’t afraid to die. He just wanted to kill plenty of the enemy before he did. He hadn’t felt the slightest burden to try to help those folks. He knew that he didn’t have the wherewithal. He accepted that without a twinge of guilt.

    Watching the UN Forces Gun down unarmed civilians in his own State had laid a burden on him though—a burden of vendetta and vengeance.

    Bill grumped around after the massacre. Steve had never seen his friend and mentor angry—let alone in an extended berserker. Truth be told, he was afraid of him. He left him alone for a couple hours.

    Bill rummaged through his ALICE pack. He brought out a pad of drawing paper; several expensive mechanical pencils like draftsmen use—though loaded with the softest lead he could find in each size; and three different kind of erasers. He hadn’t been consciously aware that he’d packed the art supplies. And if someone had pointed them out to him the day before, he wouldn’t have had a clue why he’d packed them.

    After he’d sat writing, scribbling, sketching or whatever he was doing, Steve overcame his apprehension to come see what Bill was doing. He found three excellent pencil sketches of the Major along with one or two sketches of several of the other soldiers.

    “You’re an Artist!” Steve said in amazement.

    Concentrating on the drawings had purged Bill of his anger. He hadn’t been mad at Steve in any case. Nonetheless, Steve’s comment hit Bill like 220 volts of electricity, or as though someone had unexpectedly doused him with thirty gallons of ice water. Whole blocks of memory came back to Bill all at once.

    “You’re right. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and later a Master of Fine Arts from Purdue. I studied Judo for five years in college. Purdue had an excellent Judo program back then. After I got my Bachelor’s, everyone else was struggling to pay off their student loans—get ahead in the rat-race. But me—I scrapped together enough money to go to Japan for two years to study Judo at the Kodokan.

    “ Then I talked my way into a Sumo stable and trained for three years to be a Sumo Wrestler. Made just enough money, before I lost interest, to pay off my loans, and start work on my MFE.

    “Good Lord Steve, I’ve never been rich or famous. I was never conspicuously successful—but some of the adventures I’ve had…”

    “What year was all this?” Steve asked.

    Bill raised one hand in protest.

    “Debrief me later Steve. Right now this is rather unsettling.”

    ********************* *************** ************************

    Later, before they resumed their march, Bill spoke briefly to Steve.

    “This is all kinda grim. Never mind! Tomorrow, or day after tomorrow, we should reach one of my old caches. I’m reasonably certain that all, or at least most of the stuff should be usable. There’ll be gifts and treats all around.”

    “Do you mean to go after those murdering scum?” Steve asked.

    “Eventually, once I get to my main retreat and salvage some of my best gear.”

    “Count me in.”

    “Steve, it is my geas to go on the vengeance path. After what I saw today, nothing else can matter until this is addressed. It’s like a hollow spot inside me.

    “But I wouldn’t recommend that path to you. It’s for people who have nowhere else to go. I don’t have any kindred. You’re the only friend that I have. I haven’t figured out what it all means yet; but I distinctly remember dying.

    “Maybe that’s the sole reason I’m here—so those souls can rest easy until the judgment.”

    “I don’t have anywhere else to go either,” Steve said.

    “Well it will take awhile to get to my retreat—if it’s even there anymore. Promise me that you’ll search diligently in your heart for another path. Pray over it. Then if you still feel like you have to come with me when the time comes—then maybe it’s your geas too.”

    ************** ******************************** **************

    The area was just as Bill had remembered it. It was secluded enough that he felt it safe to start digging in the daylight. After a few hours of digging, and a couple dry runs, they found Bill’s stash.

    He’d originally used a posthole digger and several home made PVC cache tubes—and he’d buried them all within arm’s reach of each other. He dug out the old white plastic tubes until the number matched what he remembered burying.

    “This is an SKS. It’s from Yugoslavia. It’s been thoroughly worked over by Accurate Plating and Weaponry. It has one of their hundred dollar trigger jobs; it’s been plated with frosty hard chrome; it’s got a fiber optic front sight; a ghost-ring aperture rear sight—lots of good stuff. They offered a nylon stock, but I stuck with wood. Later I made my own custom walnut stocks for it. It’s yours. I’ll show you how to get all the preservatives off of it shortly.”

    “What will you do for a rifle?”

    “There are two more—one for me, and one to rebury for a rainy day.”

    Bill rummaged around some more. Then he found what he was looking for.

    “ I knew that I couldn’t afford to buy all the Guns that I’d like to cache—so I started making them. These are .45 Autos based on Bill Holmes’ Home Workshop pistol. I blew these up to .45. The original design was for .22, .32, or .380.

    “These use 1911 magazines—though they’re retained by a butt clasp. They kick a bit, being straight blowback, but not too badly. There are eight of them here. I’m taking two. Take as many as you like. We’ll rebury the others.”

    Steve only wanted one of the .45s. When Bill showed him the .32 Autos, he once again took only one to Bill’s two.

    There were knives and leather for the handguns. Bill had made the leather too, since the pistols were non-standard. Bill had every confidence that the Guns and ammo would come through okay, but he was pleasantly surprised at how well his leather had endured.

    There was whole wheat; beans; sugar; honey and salt in some of the tubes—and jerky-jerky. Curiously, at least to Steve’s way of thinking, Bill had also stored some jewelry.

    “These beads are made from Fossil Mammoth Ivory. These came already strung. Bought them from Boone Trading Company. I bought these Mammoth beads singly and strung them myself. Those claws are from a brown bear that I killed in Alaska. These beads are from Ancient Egypt—no joke. They were high, but not prohibitively so. These are modern beads made of amber. These beads are from the old French-Indian trading days.”

    “Were you around back then?”

    “Hell no! I bought them from a reputable dealer. Here take a few strings of beads…”

    Bill was surprised that Steve would only take one string of the Mammoth Ivory beads—and only because Bill insisted, even then. Bill happily hung seven or eight of the strings of beads around his neck.

    “If they could see me on the Carnie now. Carnival…you know?” Bill said.

    Steve had never heard of a Carnival; and he didn’t know that it was Carnie Chic to wear multiple bead necklaces—at least on some Carnivals. He did gather that his friend really grooved on beads.

    “Look at this revolver Steve. This is the only one like this that I have and I’m sorry; but it’s for me. It’s a seven and a half inch Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt. It’s been worked over by John Limbaugh—it’s still a six-shooter, but it can take like real heavy-duty loads.

    “It’s been Mag-Na-Ported. It has Brass Super Blackhawk grips and a Super Blackhawk hammer. It’s been shiny hard chromed—and those grips were made from the thighbone of a Mammoth. It’s a beauty.

    “I tell you what—you can have my EMF .357. No? Are you sure? I’m just going to cache it here if you don’t want it.”

    The next offer was harder to make.

    “Would you like the big Smith .357? No? Okay.”

    Finally they got down to the last couple tubes.

    “I saved one of the very best things for last.”

    Bill opened the cache tube gingerly. Inside were three smaller PVC tubes. He opened the other tube and reverently extracted three more mini-tubes. He screwed the cap off one of the mini-tubes. Inside was a glass bottle full of brown liquid.

    “Do you know what this is? This is Double Cola—the best soft drink ever made—by far. These were bottled back when they still used cane sugar and bottled them in returnable bottles. They were very much superior to the later corn syrup/plastic bottled ones.

    “Depending on how well my other caches came through, these may be the last six Double Colas on Earth—and I intend to whack fair with you.”

    “When did you bury this stuff Bill?”


    For some reason, Bill found that hilariously funny.


    “They used to say that 1984 gets closer every year—and they’re still right.”

    “Hmmm. You ask me, I’d say that it was getting further away every day—but that’s just my uninformed opinion. But Bill, those soft drinks have been in the ground over seventy years.”

    “Don’t seem to have hurt them none. Lets try one and find out.”

    ************* ******************** **********************

    It took them a couple days to get all the various preservatives off of their new/old things. The Double Colas turned out to be just fine—and chilled to just about the right temperature from being buried beneath the winter soil.

    But they didn’t last long…

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  12. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Eight
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    A couple days after the massacre, a huge dog came limping into camp. Steve hastened to grab his .357 Ruger Security Six in one hand, and a Shaken in the other.

    “Easy Steve. He doesn’t mean any harm. Look at him. He’s hungry. I think he’s the one that got away.

    “Aren’t you boy? Here have some beans and rice—with a little jerky-jerky thrown in.”

    Bill carefully set the food down close to the dog and then backed slowly away. The dog quickly ate the meal that had been intended for both of the men.

    “Now what are we going to eat?” Steve asked.

    “We have plenty. He doesn’t,” Bill shrugged.

    After the dog ate, he warily approached Bill. After Bill had talked to him and petted him for a few minutes, he seemed to accept Bill.

    The dog had an extra-wide leather collar on. It was over two inches wide. Whether the dog stayed with them or not, the collar was a liability on a free-ranging dog. It bothered Bill much the same way as an unlanced boil would have bothered him.

    He didn’t feel that he knew the dog well enough to bollix around with the collar, trying to undo it. Instead he slipped a thin, razor-sharp blade under the collar, and deftly severed it. The dog merely glanced at him curiously.

    There was a big brass plate on the collar. It was covered with small scripted engravings. It looked like someone had tried to write the Lord’s Prayer—or their life story—on the brass plate.

    Bill muttered a curse as he tried to read the flowery cursive. He wished that whoever had written it, had learned to print.

    “My name is ‘Loki’. I’m half Bloodhound and half Bullmastiff. Though I was bred to be a ‘kill-dog’, I ended up being a Pamela’s house pet. So even though I may look big and mean; if you find me please send me back to Pamela. She’ll miss me so…”

    There was a bit more—along with an address; but something—Bill thought high-speed road fragments from a near miss—had obliterated part of the writing.

    “Why would anyone put all of that on a dog collar,” Steve asked after Bill read it out loud.

    Bill shrugged.

    “Anyone who was afraid of the dog wouldn’t get anywhere near close enough to read the collar. This dog has probably lived a very sheltered, over-protected life—until TSHTF.

    Someone—probably a little girl—obsessed about him becoming lost. The plaque was for her peace of mind. Although you never know, the address might have helped if he was ever found.”

    After thinking silently for a few moments, Bill spoke to the dog.

    “Well Loki, I have every confidence that you’re a gentle giant. It’s gonna be a feral old World though, for a good long while—almost certainly for the rest of your life.

    “If you’re going to hang with Steve and me, you’re going to have to toughen up—get just downright mean, in a lot of ways. Can you dig it?

    “By the way Steve, I just remembered: I buried the SKS, the Ruger and the beads about twenty years after the rest of the stuff. Before that, I had Enfields buried here, along with a Ruger .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk.”

    “Where are the Enfields now?”

    “They’re around,” Bill said mysteriously. Then something occurred to him.

    “Why are you asking,” he bantered with Steve. “You don’t even know what an Enfield is.”

    *********** ************************** ******************

    “We’re almost to Vincennes,” Bill told Steve. “My mother was born in Vincennes—though her family moved to Haubstadt before she was old enough to remember.

    “We’ve been traveling alongside the highway. We’re going to try traveling alongside the banks of the Wabash for the next few days. Maybe we can catch some catfish—though they won’t taste like the one’s my father used to make. We have neither lard nor cornmeal—still, I think that we can come up with something palatable.”

    They stopped just short of some river camps that morning.

    “These camps are interesting. This used to be called ‘Pearl City’. Folks made a living dredging up fresh-water muscles. They’d eat the meat-ughh!!! They’d sell the shells, which would eventually make their way to Japan to be turned into seeds for cultured Pearls. Occasionally they’d find a fresh-water Pearl.

    “I used to have an old H&R Breaktop with Mother of Pearl grips. It was made in the 1890s; chambered for .38 Smith and Wesson and after all that time the Pearl grips were still perfect. I wish I had some Mother of Pearl grips. Wouldn’t mind having a string of Pearl beads either—but they are beaucoup expensive.

    “I doubt that anyone still lives there. But we’ll go through after dark tonight—just to be extra cautious.”

    ***************** ******************** ******************

    Bill, Steve and Loki were halfway through the apparently abandoned river camp when they were abruptly caught in the crossfire of a couple dozen high intensity lights.

    Bill hated to stand around like a deer caught in headlights, but at the moment the metaphor was remarkably appropriate. His retinas were bleached to the point of near blindness. Even if he got away from the light, his night blindness would persist for a large fraction of an hour or so.

    He was considering aiming at the lights and going down shooting when the lights were abruptly turned off.

    “It’s okay. We don’t mean you any harm. I’m coming down to speak to you. Don’t shoot me,” A disembodied voice said.

    All Bill could see was a dim shape floating in front of him, but the man sounded cheerful enough.

    “Lets see, you have a nice big claw and bead necklace, and you have long silky white hair. Are you Inuyasha? No, Inuyasha doesn’t carry an SKS. Are those beads Mammoth Ivory? Is that a Holmes style Auto-Pistol riding on your hip? And you have a BIG dog.”

    Bill had answered the two questions in the affirmative. He was about to ask a couple questions of his own; but Steve spoke up.

    “What in the hell are you two jabbering about?” Steve demanded.

    “You can’t understand us?” Bill asked in surprise.

    “And he’s fluent enough in Japanese, that he doesn’t even consciously realize when he’s switching languages from English,” The cheerful blob told Bill.

    Switching to English, he added,” I’d say that you’re Bill Perry—the infamous number five.”

    “You know me?” Bill asked.

    “I know of you. I’ve met four of your namesakes. One of them tried to kill me. I’m still standing, but he isn’t. Nonetheless, he died honourably. Two I only met briefly. The fourth was my best friend. He died with honour too. So you’re my fifth number five—an omen of what, I wonder…”

    “Why were you speaking Japanese?”

    “We’re Yakuza. We speak Japanese amongst ourselves. In your case though, it was a test. If you can understand Japanese, you’re well on your way to accessing your full memories—and you’d be a most formidable opponent.”

    “You’re not Yakuza.”

    “Bill, you’re a few decades out of date. I’d watch calling people liars to their faces. You are right in one way though: we’re not the old Mafia style Japanese Yakuza. We’re the American Biker Gang Yakuza.

    “Tell me, have you experienced memories of dying yet?”

    “Quite clearly.”

    “Well you ought to be close to complete recall then. The idea of being able to recall dying fascinates me—even though it isn’t actually your death.”

    “What do you mean? When I get all my memories back, will all this make any sense?”

    “Not without some inside info, but I have that. Lets get under cover and we’ll fill you in. By the way, I go by ‘Kogi’—and no, that’s not my real name.”

    ************* ******************** **********************

    The old river camp buildings only served as entrances to a fairly elaborate underground clubhouse. The clubhouse wouldn’t be usable when the river flooded, and it was underwater, but the Yakuza had engineered a watertight system of hatches so water wouldn’t come in and ruin anything in their bunker.

    They were, by their own account, pretty nomadic anyway. They rarely stayed in one place for longer than two or three weeks. They had numerous clubhouses and were quite capable of camping out and roughing it in between; so leaving the river camp when the river was high was no particular hardship for them.

    Bill and Steve dined on steak; catfish; potatoes and gravy that night. The Yakuza ate well—at least part of the time.

    As Bill looked them over he saw that the club had about equal numbers of whites, blacks and Hispanics. There were only a couple of men who looked oriental and Bill thought that both of them were Chinese.

    Some of the Yakuza sported the traditional tattoos, but most of them didn’t. That wasn’t a gang requirement. Speaking fluent Japanese was. The Yakuza figured—quite reasonably—that if someone wasn’t serious enough to learn a foreign language, he wasn’t terribly committed to being Yakuza.

    The Yakuza may not have been oriental but they had mastered the art of trying someone’s patience in true oriental style. They politely brushed off or ignored any questions that Bill tried to ask them about himself. After the third or fourth time that someone deftly deflected one of Bill’s questions, he realized that they simply didn’t want to discuss it at that time.

    “The Club had its genesis amongst hackers, geeks, and internet anarchists. For the most part, they were big readers of Comics and Magna. They were really into Animae. Many of them studied Japanese largely to be able to watch Animae in its original language.

    “They admired the Comic book style of heroism, Bushido and Budo. They found much to admire in Japanese culture. Many of them did their own Animations.

    “Then about twenty-five years ago, America started to change very abruptly. Some of the Artists and Dreamers felt compelled to act—but they were bright enough to know that for the most part that they were pencil necks and wimps.

    “They organized what has come to be known as the ‘Rice-Burner’ motorcycle clubs—named for the Japanese bikes they rode. The Yakuza was one such club. Then there’s the ‘Yamakazis’, the ‘Ninja’, the ‘Werewolves’ and a few other clubs. And no, ‘Werewolves’ isn’t a Japanese name. Nonetheless, they were one of the original Rice-Burner clubs.

    “These guys had money back then. They built clubhouses that were dojos and training centers. They hired the best people that they could find to teach them full-contact martial arts, kendo, self defense with a pistol, long-range marksmanship and high performing motorcycle riding—maintenance too.

    “Some of the guys couldn’t hang when the going got tough. They split—and no hard feelings. Some of our most loyal supporters are washouts from our training programs. They weren’t Yakuza material, but nonetheless, they learned something of value in their time with us.

    “Along the way, we picked up some other types of people—hard corp biker types, wild and crazy types, freedom militia types. We’ve absorbed quite a few of them over the years—but if they aren’t bright enough to understand the two-fold way of the ‘Pen and Sword’—then they’re not Yakuza material either.

    “We’re one of the most active resistance groups around. If you seriously want to harass the UN Peacekeepers and the various Jackbooted, Hob-Nailed alphabet agencies, you should hang with us.”

    “That’s all very charming—fascinating even—but…” Bill said, leaving the end of the sentence trail off suggestively.

    “You want to know about yourself, don’t you? You’ll find the truth unnerving at first. We didn’t want to spoil a fine meal.

    “Bill Perry was born in 1957. He lived a rather eventful life and died in 2033, at the age of seventy-six years old. Ordinarily that would be the end of the story—but in these cases, it’s just the beginning.

    “Bill took part in an experiment to watch neurological changes in the nerve cells and brain tissue as it dies. Serendipitously, they captured Bill’s complete personality engram and memories as he faded away.

    “You don’t know how extremely rare that is. The technology to capture personality engrams has been around for decades—but it’s a very exacting process—Impossible for all practical purposes. In all this time, Bill and six others in the accidental group are the only usable engrams to ever be captured.”

    Kogi paused for a moment. Bill’s eyes tried to bore holes in Kogi, as he saw where this was going.

    “You can’t download a personality engram into a working human brain. It erases the original engram, and garbles the new one beyond recognition.

    “NA victims eventually lose all memories, but their brain has turned to mush. Once the disease runs its course, there is a way to ‘cure’ the brain, But all that gets you is a forty-some-odd year old man, still somewhat brain damaged and with the memory of a newborn.

    “Still, with all those potential resources laying around, it is not surprising that they’re loathe to give up.”

    Bill leaned forward in his seat.

    “Tell me the rest,” he said.

    “Well they take a zombie with no memory. They put him on a drug regime to clear all the mucilage out of his skull. Then they inject him with a mixture of embryonic human brain cells and small microprocessors that have the power to swim along and wire themselves into the brain’s neuron network at fairly regular intervals.

    “The microprocessors more than compensate for any residual slowness—and they’ve been proven to cause the new cells to form much richer connections than they otherwise would

    “Then when the new hybrid brain is fully formed, they download one of the seven engrams into it.

    “They fail more often than not, but they succeed often enough to keep them trying. You apparently, were an initial failure that was still of enough interest to keep alive for further observation. Then your memory came to you belatedly. Sorry to tell you Bill.”

    “I’m not Bill Perry. I simply inherited his memories. I’m not the zombie, because every shred of his personality was erased. And I’m not the one or more donors of the embryonic brain tissue either. I’m none of them; but all of them. I’m nobody…

    “And to top it all off, I’m old!”

    “I wouldn’t sweat the age thing Bill. They do some remarkable regeneration on their retreads,” Kogi said.

    “So these mad scientists also have the secret to eternal youth?”

    “Not exactly. The treatment is fatal far more often than not. A sane person wouldn’t risk it. You weren’t given a choice and the fact that you’re here means that you’re one of the lucky few that did survive. You’re probably good for another century, at the very least.

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  13. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

  14. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Nine
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    The Yakuza had a fair-sized Dojo in their underground clubhouse. Bill had just been through a fatiguing and thoroughly depressing Judo workout on the tatami mats.

    “I must say that I expected better from you,” Kogi taunted Bill.

    “I though that you would be a Master. After all, you spent two years in Japan studying Judo at the Kodokan. You spent a year in South America studying Brazilian Jujitsu with the Gracies. You managed to travel and study martial arts with some of the best Martial Artists in the World.

    “Yet here you are being beaten by a so-so club fighter,” Kogi concluded.

    Bill’s face started to cloud, and he was about to issue a challenge to fight once more.

    “Peace! I only wanted to get your attention. I only said what you’re thinking. Now I want to point out some flaws in your thinking,” Kogi said.

    “Bill Perry studied for two years at the Kodokan. Bill Perry traveled to Katmandu—just to see the place and to hike to the foothills of Everest. Bill Perry traveled on the Amazon in a canoe. Bill Perry shot several Brown Bears in Alaska,” Kogi said.

    As he enumerated each of Bill’s adventures, he counted on his fingers.

    “But you aren’t Bill Perry, are you?” Kogi continued. “You never studied Judo and Sumo in Japan. You never took any of Jeff Cooper’s classes at Gunsite Academy. You never sent the hundreds of pounds of lead downrange that Bill Perry did.

    “You are just the schmuck that inherited Bill Perry’s memories—and not the only one at that. Your own martial accomplishments—or any sort of accomplishment, for that matter—are extraordinarily modest.

    “So now, every time you step up to the plate, you have something to prove. That’s not good Zen. You speculate; verbalize and stiffen up.

    “On top of all that, your body isn’t an exact duplicate of Bill’s, so most of your moves are subtly off. You should be able to compensate for that in a very short while—but not when you’re ‘Monkey-Minding’ everything you do.”

    Bill sighed and shook his head while looking at the ground.

    “You’re right Kogi, but what’s to be done?” Bill asked.

    “First of all, don’t despair. I’m pretty good and you still beat me more often than not. Bill had any number of tools for dealing with ‘Monkey Mind’. Use them. Don’t expect immediate success. Recognize that this situation is yet one more way to further master your skills.

    “When you do master this, you will be a true Master in every sense of the word, with plenty of your own hours in the gym, or doing other sorts of training, to stack up against Bill Perry’s.”

    Bill resumed teaching Steve again. Teaching was an excellent way to learn. He set himself to doing some of the same tedious tasks that he’d given Steve. His own balance and sense of kinesthesia wasn’t as exemplary as he’d thought, given that his software was in new hardware.

    He had meant to hotfoot it down to Harlan County to pick up a good sniper rifle and some ammo at the retreat—but Kogi had convinced him that one of the other Bill Perry’s had raided the retreat caches by now. Now there was no particular need to continue the trek. It was more than a bit of a letdown.

    “What do you intend to do now, Bill?” Kogi had asked.

    “Well, I had intended to go after that Major Schmidt and as many of his henchmen as I could find, but that was when I thought that I was an expert rifle marksman, and had some fancy sniping rifles. Now I don’t know,” Bill said.

    “I need to locate a good scoped bolt action rifle—and enough ammo to get myself fully trained. I read somewhere that it takes about fifteen hundred rounds to make a true marksman. God knows where I’ll get that much ammo,” Bill concluded dejectedly.

    “What you say Bill?” Kogi asked. “You’d have to space those rounds out to get anywhere near maximum training benefit from them. Say fifty rounds per session—even that may be pushing it a bit—three times per week—with lots of dry-firing practice along the way, for about ten weeks.

    “Give us sixteen to twenty weeks. We’ll get you a rifle with a quick detach scope; night vision scope—what have you. I’m almost certain that we can get you a single shot .50 BMG too, with at least a hundred and fifty familiarizing and sighting shots,” Kogi continued.

    “You can continue to work out with us—we’ll all benefit from the training. It will also give you a chance to further train your apprentice. Will you accept, Bill?” Kogi asked him.

    ****************** ***************** ********************

    Bill accepted Kogi’s offer to train. Bill’s first four weeks of rifle practice involved shooting a hundred rounds of .22LR at ranges no more than one hundred yards at one of the Yakuza’s underground indoor ranges. The recoil and blast of the .22s were minuscule—when one wore earplugs—so they could practice daily without fatigue or flinch.

    Steve trained alongside Bill. He would spot Bill’s shots. Then they reversed roles, and Bill spotted for Steve. Steve fired as many of the rimfire rounds as Bill. In the evenings they worked on pistol marksmanship and hand-to-hand skills. Bill only had Steve fire his revolver weekly, but they did dry-fire drills nightly.

    Bill took some of his own advice, and spent long hours picking up marbles with his toes and working his wrist-roller while standing on one foot. Her also spent some time every day meditating and learning to calm his mind.

    After a month, they picked up stakes and trekked halfway across the State to another clubhouse. When Steve learned that they were going to move by means of nocturnal tactical marches at night—remarkably similar to him and Bill’s marches—but on a larger scale, he was truly disappointed.

    “I thought y’all were a motorcycle club,” He groused.

    “We are, and we still use the bikes sometimes—but ethanol is short. Besides, we’re running silent and deep right now. Try as we might, we can’t be as inconspicuous on the bikes,” Kogi explained.

    Bill found having to work as a part of a team particularly depressing, but he persevered.

    When they arrived at the new hideout, there was an outdoor range. It was an old trick to put twenty or so car tires on end, fastened firmly together. When the muzzle of a firearm was inserted a foot or so inside the rubber tunnel, the report was very effectively silenced. Of course it limited just exactly where they could fire.

    The Yakuza got around that drawback by having several sets of tires well concealed at several locations—straight shots; uphill shots; downhill shots; shots across water—some ranges allowed two hundred yard shots, some allowed one thousand yard shots.

    It turned out that firing fifty well-aimed deliberate shots from a rifle at one setting was a bit ambitious. Bill averaged thirty to thirty-five rounds per session. Steve, who lacked Bill’s virtual experience, shot twelve to fifteen rounds per session.

    Every month they broke off rifle marksmanship training, and went on a two or three week march to another hideout. About a dozen of the Yakuza stayed with Bill and Steve constantly, while another couple dozen rotated out every three or four weeks.

    The rotation gave Bill and Steve the chance to face many new opponents in the constant gym wars.

    While the two men built upon and honed their skills, the Yakuza silently did research on the ringleaders of the Terre Haute Massacre as they called it amongst themselves. When Bill felt ready to purse his vendetta almost a year later, the Yakuza presented him with a detailed list of his client’s whereabouts and daily routines.

    ******************* ******************** ****************

    Bill and Steve bade the Yakuza goodbye. If they lived, they would try to stay in contact. Nothing was guaranteed in the fallen-apart World that they now inhabited.

    As the two men and the dog made their cautious way toward their first client, Bill had plenty of time to ruminate about the new World they found themselves in.

    He had a new name: Bill Elder. It didn’t make sense to go on thinking of himself as “Bill Perry—the what?” Kogi knew of four others but there were almost certainly many other Bill Perrys that Kogi hadn’t met.

    He no longer looked old and haggard, but he still had the waist-length white hair that he generally braided. He did have very many years of experience, both the virtual years from the process, and the muddled years as a confused and unconscious amnesiac—as those years slowly became open to him. “Elder” was indeed a good surname for him.

    The Yakuza had largely rearmed them. Bill carried two 1911A1 Autos, in twin holsters modeled after the old Chapman High-ride Holsters. He carried his custom Ruger .45 colt in a shoulder holster. A skilled Yakuza gunsmith had supplied him with a .45 ACP cylinder for the single action, so if worse came to worse, Bill could use some of his .45 Auto’s ammo in it.

    He carried a Savage Steven bolt action with a three-power scope, and a twenty-inch barrel. The rifle had back-up ghost-ring aperture sights. Bill followed Cooper’s Dictum that even a sniper was highly unlikely to have to shoot much over thee hundred yards in the field. Outside of a few small hideouts, those were all the Guns that he carried.

    Steve had a Savage Steven much like Bill’s, but he’d opted for a twenty-six-inch barrel and a four-power scope. He carried his .357 Magnum Ruger Security-Six. The Yakuza had found him a near twin—though the grips were Birdseye maple instead of fancy walnut. He had another Security-six, but this one had been fitted with an eight-inch Colt Python barrel, and rode in a shoulder holster. It had grips of Holly.

    The two men also carried twenty-four pounds of taken-down fifty caliber between them, divided as equally as possible, and switched between them daily.

    Bill had always believed that chaos and breakdown in the cities would result in mass exodus to the countryside, but that was extrapolated from when Bill Perry was a young man. People weren’t as independent minded nowadays. By and large, the whole human race seemed listless and beaten down.

    The people had pretty much stayed put, or let themselves be rounded up to go to the refugee centers. No one had busted a gut to try to get the system up and working again. Well that wasn’t precisely true, but the few go-getters hadn’t altered the equation much in the end.

    According to the Yakuza’s best intelligence—and they had spies and double agents inside the occupation forces—about sixty percent of the people in North America were dead. Some countries had been hit even harder. Many of the survivors had come close enough to starving to death that they’d never be quite healthy again. And of course the NA would take a heavy tithe of the survivors, as they got older.

    The very best guestimate was that the population of Bill and Steve’s native Indiana was between four-and-a-half to perhaps five million people—and the numbers seemed destined to continue to shrink for at least another generation.

    Then as if things weren’t bad enough, the coalition of blue bereted United Nations Personnel; and the remnants of the Federal; State and Local governments seemed determined to inflict a kind of parochial neo-socialism on the survivors—and they administered their whimsy with an iron fist.

    Bill more or less thought “To Hell with all of them” if they were willing to lie down in the mud, and let tin pot UN dictators walk upon their supine bodies. But the folks from Terre Haute hadn’t kissed the hand and licked the boots that abused them. They’d made a stand—arguably a stupid stand, but ultimately a brave one. Honour sometimes compels a man to follow a suicidal course.

    He didn’t feel qualified to judge whether Bill Perry had lived a life of Honour, or not. Certainly Bill Perry had lived and died in much more settled peaceful times. He’d never had to face choices like the contemporary Bill did.

    Bill Elder intended to live his life with Honour though. That included killing the half-dozen officers involved in the Terre Haute Massacre—or die in the attempt. Afterwards, he’d be committed. The Coalition forces would never stop looking for him, once he made his presence unambiguously known.

    Well, what the hell? It’s always a good day to die. Cowards theorize with the goal of staying alive firmly in mind. It wasn’t as if he had any home, or loved ones. It wasn’t as if he could ever have them in today’s World—or ever. Bill Perry had never had wife nor children. As for the Zombie he’d once been—he neither knew nor cared. It didn’t really touch upon his reality either way.

    ************ ************************ *******************

    Bill and Steve were in what had been downtown Indianapolis. They found an ideal spot for a sniper’s nest on the fifth floor of a partially burned building. There was a nice line of sight to the UN Headquarters. The fact that the building was a bit over six hundred yards away was immaterial to Bill.

    Actually, the distance was a slight plus. Bill had no strong preferences on the subject; but all else being equal, he’d rather survive to kill clients another day.

    Bill looked at the cranium of Major Schmidt—now Colonel Schmidt—through the fifty’s eighteen powered scope. Yes, there was the good Colonel. Captain Lambert—another client on Bill’s list, accompanied him. He’d have time to get the Captain too. He decided to be greedy, and go for a third target before they started the rapid breakdown of the fifty caliber and executed a strategic retreat.

    The Major General looked like a good tertiary target. Surely a man with three stars riding on his shoulder was someone halfway important.

    Bill sighted on Colonel Schmidt’s head.

    “One arrow; one life,” Bill told himself.

    One of Bill Perry’s acquaintances had interpreted that line to mean: “Kill a new client with each shot.” But to Bill, the Zen Archery Axiom meant that each shot taken in the right spirit, was the Karmic equivalent of one life well-lived—not that he actually believed in Karma, since he was a Christian. But every shot done well, added something weighty to one’s Worldly accomplishments—at the range, no less, but certainly no more—than a shot with game or client in the sights or cross-hair.

    “One arrow; one life,” Bill said.

    He was more than surprised when the trigger broke and the big fifty pounded his shoulder. He was almost—though not entirely—astonished. His hands also surprised him as he deftly reloaded the single shot weapon at top speed, with no conscious thought.

    As Bill lined up his cross hairs on the second client, he had time to think: “This is good Zen.”

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  15. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Ten
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    Bill had no time to admire his handiwork. As soon as he pulled the big rifle down out of recoil, he reloaded and aimed at his second and then his third client.

    Colonel Schmidt’s head exploded into red vapor. Captain Smith’s head had also evaporated before the group had fully realized their peril. Then since the third client was purely extra credit, Bill didn’t scruple to shoot him through the torso.

    The big fifty-caliber bullet shattered the Lieutenant General’s left shoulder, transversed both his lungs and then struck the right arm about halfway down the humerous—nearly severing the arm. The last shot added a good deal to the blood, gore and confusion.

    Steve, who was watching through the spotting scope, had a kaleidoscopic impression of drawn pistols and guards with machine pistols running around. Everyone scanned the four winds, with little or no idea from what quarter they were being fired upon from. He only indulged for a second or two, before he turned to help Bill tear down the big rifle.

    They could take the fifty-caliber apart very rapidly—partly because their actions were well rehearsed—partly because they could both stay calm under pressure.

    They had known that they were going to flee precipitously after they’d completed their mission. They’d prepared for that eventuality, by leaving a lot of their gear cached outside the city. All that they had with them were their weapons, more ammo than they should ever reasonably need and enough concentrated rations to last them a couple days.

    It was only a day’s walk into their position, but Bill was prepared just in case they had to hide and skulk a bit after their attack. If hunger became a real issue before they got outside the city, then they had a serious problem.

    Bill would have been much more reluctant to leave perfectly good food, ammunition, clothing and what have you sitting around so close to the city, but he knew that he could count on the Yakuza for resupply if necessary—at least he could count on them as much as he counted on any worldly aid.

    It wasn’t that the Yakuza were remarkably generous. It was more that they shared a common enemy. They knew that a given amount of supplies invested in the two-man team would yield far larger dividends that it would anywhere else. The fact that many of them had met and liked Steve and Bill only made it better.

    With about forty pounds less gear than they routinely carried, Bill and Steve almost had to repress an airy bounce to their walk.

    When they got to the ground floor, they found Loki right where Bill had commanded the big dog to wait—right at the foot of the first flight of stairs. Bill didn’t like being separated from the dog—his dog now. He liked the idea of exposing the dog’s ears to fifty-caliber muzzle blast even less.

    He and Steve wore plugs and earmuffs; the big Gun sported a modest suppressor—and it was still loud.

    “Scout for clients,” Bill told the big dog. Loki walked about thirty yards ahead of them. A casual observer might not have even realized that they were a team. If the dog sensed any people whatever, he would freeze—somewhat like a primitive point.

    He wasn’t a pointer, after all. Nonetheless, all dogs had the instinct to freeze in place when encountering prey. The instinct could be built upon—to a degree. The command, “Scout for game” was subtly different. It would have included people of course. Just because they were hunting was no sign that they wanted to walk into an ambush. But game included anything from a rabbit or possum, up to a two-ton feral bull.

    By specifying clients, he was fairly certain that he wouldn’t get too many false alarms over pigeons or alley cats. Bill had never had any success training dogs, but some of the Yakuza were master dog handlers.

    When the dog came to a turning point, a low whistle from Bill told the dog to wait—and also clued him which way they intended to go, so he could focus his attention that direction. Bill didn’t want the dog out of line of sight if possible. He couldn’t warn them, and they couldn’t protect him when he was out of sight.

    There was even a signal to tell the dog they were retreating, and to hide and trail them after a reasonable interval.

    They walked briskly, but without undue haste. If someone got close enough, he’d see their rifles. But there was no need to alert people who were several blocks away that they were up to something.

    A few blocks from the shooting position, they went to ground in an overgrown lot. Fortunately there were many such lots around. In fact the lot linked with several other similar lots. They were able to travel almost a quarter mile that way, completely hidden from sight.

    Then they ducked into a trapdoor entrance that they’d improvised out of a sheet of plywood and some trash, covering what had once been an outside set of stairs down into a basement under an old building. Falling debris—or whatever, had blocked all the other entrances to the basement.

    That is, access to the basement was reasonably restricted. Bill wasn’t going to do a detailed survey, including crawling through sewers and storm drains. Even paranoia had limits.

    They had cached a ground cloth and some old blankets in the basement. It wasn’t cold, but it was a bit damp and clammy. Bill distrusted discomfort. It could affect the most dedicated Warrior’s judgment. It might make him move from an uncomfortable position too soon. Another time it might cause him to overstay somewhere, to postpone future discomfort. Since it was all subjective anyway, it was hard to compensate for.

    Bill’s remedy of first resort was to make every effort to keep himself as comfortable as possible. He would take quite a few pains to that end—not from weakness, at least he didn’t like to think so—but from thoroughness.

    They had a nice cold meal and one of them kept watch while the other slept. Since they’d cached extra food in the basement, it didn’t subtract from their two-day’s rations. Anything that they left behind would be forever abandoned.

    The basement was too ideal a hiding place. It was too tempting. If it were discovered in their absence, anyone who’d happened on it would be sure to prepare some sort of nasty surprise to await their return. It was wiser to make a clean break.

    *********** ******************************* *************

    They left about thirty hours later, just after nightfall. They were moving along from cover to cover, shadow to shadow. There was a curfew, of course, but relatively few Laws to enforce the curfew. What few Laws that the city did have, tended to ride around in groups of at least a half a dozen. Consequently they were fairly easy to avoid.

    Bill kept Loki close to him at night. He divided his attention between watching the dog and his own survey of the environment. He knew that the dog’s senses were a good bit keener than his own.

    It was warm enough that he could feel the sweat running down his back and between his buttocks. For Bill, that was one of the most uncomfortable aspects of sweating. He licked the salty sweat off his upper lip. He would be very glad to get out of the city.

    Bill Perry had possessed an almost rabid loathing for the city of Indianapolis. Bill reminded himself that he wasn’t Bill Perry. He needn’t share the man’s every preference. Bill didn’t necessarily hate Indianapolis. He hated all urban areas equally. They were all enemy territory—hard to hide in, and they were all potential deathtraps.

    Despite Bill’s anxious vigilance, they ended up right in the middle of a patrol. There was a half-squad of troopers moving cautiously down the street—for some unguessable reason. Perhaps they were in the midst of a training exercise. For whatever reason, they were moving three on one side of the road, four on the other side, with about ten yards between them.

    Loki should have heard or smelled them. Bill or Steve should have sighted them—but they were sandwiched in between the troopers before they fully realized their situation. Fortunately they were concealed in the shadows when they first caught sight of the soldiers.

    Bill’s rifle was slung securely on his back, out of the way. A bolt action was better than any other rifle for almost any purpose—except for a quick shoot-out at spitting distance. For that, a semi-auto was preferable—though a lever action or a pump would do within a hair as well. Bill had decided to rely on his 1911A1s for up-close-and-personal encounters.

    Steve had brought along his Witness Protection shotgun. Bill had been surprised to see him pull it out of his pack, when they’d cached them—not that Bill would have cared if Steve had chosen to haul a bowling ball around with him. Steve had it loaded with the flechette loads the Yakuza had given him. Good for penetrating body armor.

    Bill had his right hand on his right-hand .45 and was reassuring Loki with his free hand. The big dog knew that he had a beef with the UN Troopers. He drew his lips back in a fierce snarl and growled almost silently.

    Bill was focused left and Steve right. Just when it looked like the troopers would move on without spotting them, Loki broke loose from Bill and charged the soldiers to their left. He let out a great baying battle cry as he charged.

    Even then they could probably have remained hidden, but it would have doomed the big dog. Bill gave a mental shrug as he drew his .45 and started gunning down the troops. He assumed that they were wearing light body armor. He went for headshots. None of them were over eight yards away, but the light was dim. He fired a three to four shot burst at each head.

    “Pow-Pow-Pow!” The first UN Trooper fell. “Pow-Pow; Pow-Pow-Pow!” Number two went down. The first magazine was an eight rounder; so Bill had a round in the chamber as he dropped the spent magazine to the ground.

    Bill could reload a .45 Semi-Auto fast enough that there was no perceivable pause in his rapid fire. A four round burst took out the third trooper. He looked around, but couldn’t find any more targets.

    “Three down here!” Bill sang out.

    “Three down here!” Steve responded.

    “Damn! We’re short one,” Bill shouted back. “MOVE!”

    Bill dropped the partially spent magazine and reloaded as he ran five long steps to the next patch of shadow. He surveyed all around him, looking for the last UN Trooper.

    He shook his head ruefully. He hadn’t exactly been following good Combat Pistol tactics—but what the hell? The rapid-fire bursts had done the job, and done it extremely rapidly. He’d used up Beaucoup ammo and sacrificed a couple magazines; but he had enough loaded magazines remaining to run two or three IPSC Matches.

    There were more magazines and ammo with their packs. He’d also buried several thousand rounds and dozens of magazines as he and the Yakuza had toured the countryside—the exact locations known only to him. Steve had caches too—though he hadn’t cached nearly as fanatically as Bill.

    The only real limiting factor had been the amount of time they’d wanted to spend digging holes and committing sites to memory. The Yakuza seemed to have a bottomless supply. They claimed to manufacture their own, and Bill saw no reason to doubt their word.

    Bill was mighty unhappy about the missing soldier. He might be somewhere out of sight this very moment, drawing a bead on him, or Steve, or Loki…

    “Speaking of Loki, where in hell was he?” Bill wondered to himself.

    He heard a thump, and some loud growling. Loki had the man by the right forearm and was trying to shake the lower arm loose from his body. Apparently the man had broke off to stalk them, to try to flank them—but Loki had been stalking him. As Loki savaged him, the man tried frantically to draw the bayonet on his left side.

    Steve ran up to point-blank range and aimed his Shotgun.

    “Wait! You might hit Loki!” Bill screamed.

    Bill walked briskly to where the three of them were. He holstered his .45 and drew a long bladed dagger with his left hand. He waited momentarily for an opening. Then he grabbed the client’s helmet with his right hand and forced the neck open. He ran the blade through the neck in back of the sterno-mastoids and cut forward severing everything but the spinal column.

    Loki continued to worry the client’s corpse for a few moments. Then he stopped and lapped at the pool of blood momentarily. Curious, Bill carefully tasted the side of his knife blade with his tongue, and then shrugged. It tasted no different from any other kind of blood to him.

    “That dog is going to get us killed,” Steve complained; as Bill wiped his blade clean on his client’s uniform.

    “We’re already dead. Life: It’s sexually transmitted and invariably fatal. Anyway, the way of the Warrior is the way of death. Let’s split now though and try to delay the inevitable a little longer…” Bill said.

    *********** ********************************* ***********

    It was five weeks later when they rendezvoused with Kogi.

    “Word is that you got five out of six on your hit-list, along with numerous folks who just happened to be in uniform and in the general area,” Kogi told them. “You’ve done well.”

    “I need to talk to you Kogi,” Bill said. “Everyone is wearing soft body armor nowadays and headshots at night aren’t all that cool. Years ago I read—Bill Perry read—an article in “Soldier of Fortune” magazine. It was a test report on a special Ruger Mini-14. It had a folding stock; thirteen inch barrel and it was set up for three round bursts.

    “Don’t remember the model number—doesn’t matter. They were ‘Law Enforcement Only.’ You’d never locate one. I figure that one of your armorers can cook one up though. I want a Choate-style stock. I want a vortex style flash suppressor. I can live without the three round bursts.

    “I want about two-dozen twenty-four round magazines. The thirties are too bulky. Twenty-four comes to eight three-round bursts. If fabricating them is too much bother, I’ll go with twenties,” Bill concluded.

    “I can have that all for you in about ten days. What load do you want the barrel rifled for?” Kogi said nonchalantly.

    “Anything that I want?” Bill asked.

    “Sure, if it’s doable, we can do it.”

    “I want an oviate bore set up to use sixty-eight grain boat-tail soft points; but usable with the standard fifty-five grain bullets—say to two to three MOA? Also, the forearm—can it be some nicely figured wood, instead of plastic?”

    “No problem. Bill, I need to talk to y’all. How do you think the coalition is planning to grow enough food to feed the survivors?”

    “Beats me. Almost everything is shut down There doesn’t seem to be any good way to bootstrap everything back up without a huge die-off in the meantime.”

    “They’re staring up a small factories to make roto-tillers. They can use warehoused Briggs and Stratton engines to start. The advantage that tillers have over farm tractors is that they can be produced on a much smaller scale. There are many small companies with presses big enough to turn out tiller parts,” Kogi began.

    “That shows more ingenuity than I’d give them credit for. Two points: It will be very labor intensive to farm large-scale with garden tillers—though not nearly as back-breaking as trying to cultivate the same acreage with hoes and shovels; and point two: where do they get hydrocarbons?” Bill observed.

    “There are enough small wells locally to get them started. Eventually they’ll switch to using all ethanol,” Kogi said.

    “Yeah well, as long as everyone has to grow enough grain to eat and to turn into fuel, the human population will never be able to climb back to what it once was. That isn’t altogether a bad thing,” Bill commented.

    “Perhaps not, but slave labor is a bad thing. Forced-labor camps are a bad thing. Free born Americans busting their backs, only to have most of their product shipped east—or to Europe—is a bad thing,” Kogi began. He started talking a bit in rhythm like an old-timey preacher.

    “That’s what we’d like to enlist you and Steve for. We want to liberate one of the camps. We have some semi-Auto fifties, and we’d like to have you and Steve manning a pair during the assault. Skilled fifty caliber rifle marksmen are hard to come by. Will you help?” Kogi continued.

    “Sure, why not? I sure would like to get my Ruger back first though. I’m really looking forward to having that Gun,” Bill said.

    “Don’t worry about that. We still have a few weeks of training and planning before we move. Oh and by the way, your number six is the XO of the camp we’re liberating.”

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  16. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Eleven
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    Bill examined the labor camp through his binoculars. The people inside wore ragged clothes and they were all painfully thin. Apparently their taskmasters weren’t high on the idea of not muzzling the oxen that mills the corn.

    Looking at the camp through the binoculars served no real purpose, except to satisfy Bill’s curiosity. He had a very narrow, limited role to play in the liberation of the camp—but it was a vital role nonetheless.

    When the attack began, it was Bill’s job to kill everyone in his assigned guard tower. There were a dozen of the towers spaced more-or-less evenly around the fenced perimeter. There was a three-man fifty caliber sniping team for each tower.

    The Yakuza were never ones to leave even the smallest detail to chance. When Bill cleared his assigned tower, he had a secondary and a tertiary tower. So if someone’s rifle jammed, or some such, there would be others to take up the slack.

    “One minute,” his spotter told him.

    Bill put his eye to the scope. He knew that his spotter was counting down to attack time—though Bill couldn’t hear him through his hearing protection.

    “Five, four, three, two, one…” The man counted aloud. He touched Bill lightly on the shoulder as he said each number.

    At the fifth tap, Bill started his trigger squeeze. He hit the guard closest to the tripod-mounted machine Gun with his first shot. He couldn’t see the results of his shot, due to the great recoil, but his spotter’s tap let him know that he’d been on target.

    He fired until he’d cleared the tower. There were a couple clients left at his secondary target, and he quickly eliminated them too. Finally, with nothing more pressing to occupy his time, he shot a few soldiers on the ground.

    The battle—if one could call such a brief route “a battle”—was over in minutes. The best Bill could tell, the machine Gun towers were a mere formality to discourage folks from leaving before they’d stayed their welcome. Apparently it had never occurred to them that someone might storm the gates.

    Bill stood up and went to reclaim his dog. He liked the Yakuza, and the big semi-auto fifty was a good Gun—but it wasn’t his. His job was to do the trigger work. How the rest of the team transported the big Gun—or even if they were able to save it, was no real concern of Bill’s.

    ************** ************************* ****************

    “I never saw the like!” Kogi spat. “Over half of them wouldn’t leave. They told us in no uncertain terms that they had a good thing going, and they didn’t appreciate our kibitzing.”

    “What’s so great about being in a forced labor camp?” Bill wondered.

    “Well to hear them tell it, they got fed three times a day. They had a clean dry bed—Winter and Summer, and the camp had running water. They got to take a brief lukewarm shower every night. At least we don’t have nearly so many to find situations for.”

    “How do you think those troops will treat those who stayed—after all their fellow countrymen were butchered?” Bill asked.

    “That’s not my concern,” Kogi said.

    “I think you’re wrong there. One of the goals of guerilla warfare is to force the occupying force to take such draconian measures that they become your best recruiters. If you’re bound and determined to do this liberation thing, I think that you should do everything that you possibly can to make the coalition forces hate the natives.

    “But I don’t see a lot of future in trying to free people who cherish their chains,” Bill said.

    ************ ****************************** ************

    “Bill, you’ve taught me a lot—and I appreciate it; but I think it’s time for us to go our separate ways now,” Steve said.

    Bill was a little surprised. Steve hadn’t given any indication that he was thinking of leaving. The proclamation left him unmoved though. Steve was a strange person. Bill couldn’t honestly say that he’d ever thought of Steve as a friend.

    He’d once thought that Steve was a typical chucklehead—what with his throwing stars, nunchaku and brass knuckles. He wasn’t exactly a chucklehead. He would obediently set out to accomplish any task Bill assigned him—always with a fervid joyless focus that was unnerving.

    He couldn’t ever remember hearing Steve laugh, or even smile—and he never made small talk.

    “Good luck Steve. By the way, if you don’t mind me asking—what were you doing in that government sponsored section eight nightmare?”

    Bill had never seen Steve smile, but he smiled now.

    “You really can’t guess? Severe autism—of course they were trying some new therapeutic modalities out on me. Otherwise I’d never have spoken to you and started my apprenticeship. If things hadn’t fallen apart right when they did, they were onto something that would have helped many autistics.

    “Never mind though—I have all the info right here,” Steve said while pointing to his cranium. I have total recall, and I paged through the lab books many times. No reason not to let me, and it kept me out of worse mischief when they were between tests.”

    ************ ************************** *****************

    “Bill, I need to ask you something,” Kogi said. “Are you gay?”

    Bill gave Kogi a look—undecided if he should be amused or insulted. Then the gross uncertainty with which he addressed any personal question that he hadn’t yet considered set in. He mulled the question over for a moment.

    First he asked himself if there were any memories of homosexuality in Bill Perry’s hard-drive. That was an easy “No.” Had this body ever taken part in such goings on? —Unknown and unknowable.

    However, even assuming for the sake of argument that it had—had it left any lingering urges on the chimera creation that was Bill Elder? No, it had not.

    “Sorry to disappoint you Kogi,” Bill said while shaking his head in the negative. “Why? Were you looking for a date?”

    “No, no! I have a potential new apprentice for you—a girl. I didn’t want to saddle you with a girl, if you didn’t like girls.

    “This girl—she’s smart, and tough. She’s not Yakusa material though—too much of a loner. She’s like you, in a way. Will you take her on?”

    “Bring her out and let me meet her,” Bill said.

    “Bill, even today there’s reason for a gay man to conceal his orientation. There is absolutely no reason for a straight man to do so. So if you’re not gay…”

    “Yes, I’m all but sexless. Bill Perry regarded the idea of one-night stands, and casual sex with a kind of horror and revulsion. He wasn’t opposed to long-term relationships; but for himself, he regarded entanglements as a sort of trap. He was too footloose to want to be tied down.

    “Bill wasn’t a saint. He found himself in a whorehouse a few times in his life; and he had a handful of abortive courtships over the years—but he stuck to his principles far more often than not. By the time he was fifty-ish, he’d pretty much killed the monster.

    “This body was old. It has been revived; but the revival hasn’t reached as far as the saddle horn yet. I could consciously try to awaken the dragon—though I don’t know if I’d succeed or not. It may awake someday on its own.

    “I am more than content to let it sleep for now. In fact, if I knew some non-invasive way to insure that it never awoke; I’d be sorely tempted,” Bill concluded.

    ************ ******************************* ************

    Bill’s new apprentice turned out to be a six-foot, two hundred and twenty pound black girl. She was all of fifteen years old. He wasn’t too surprised at her size—having seen a number of queen-sized women in his life. He was a little surprised at her age. Upon reflection though, she’d be better off roaming the countryside with him, than impressed into a UN Sanctioned Brothel or imprisoned in a labor camp.

    Bill took her more or less on the same circuit that he’d traveled with Steve. They’d travel a week—or two—or even three. Then they’d stop at a Yakusa base for a couple weeks. They’d eat Yakusa grub; shoot lots of Yakusa practice ammo and restock their supplies.

    Most of the bases had at least a few Yakuza in residence so there were partners for Tarda to play Judo with, spar with and shoot against. Bill found his own skills continue to grow; since he was no longer trying to rush anything. None of the sparring partners who came forward had anywhere near Bill’s skills—but he’d mastered an approach where every session taught him something, despite the rather low level of competition.

    Almost two years went by that way, the only break in the sameness of the routine being when Bill was asked to help liberate a couple other camps. Then Kogi took the time to track them down in the field.

    “Bill, the coalition forces have become unambiguously aware of you. They consider you a loose end. They seriously don’t groove on loose ends. They’ve sent a hit team after you. One of our moles managed to send us a coded message to warn you.”

    “So what they throwing my way? A platoon of Rangers?” Bill tried to joke.

    “I wish that was all Bill. They’re sending two Bill Perries. One got his memory download about seven years ago. It was viable form the start, so they sent him straight to two years boot camp in their elite training facility. He’s been logging missions for five years. The other is a couple years younger. He’s only been logging missions for a little over three years.

    “They’ve hired your old partner Steve as a special liaison—and they have a crack seven-man team of Rangers—picked from the absolute cream of their Rangers.

    “They’ll go on hunting you as long as any one of them is alive. Anyone of them is a serious threat—on his own. Together…”

    “Tarda, I want you to stay with Kogi,” Bill said.

    “NO!” She replied.

    “I don’t see any possible way to prevail against those odds. They’re sending ME after me—two MEs—matter of fact—two younger, fitter, sharper, crueler, more ruthless Mes, with a seven-man Ranger team, and an ex-student of mine thrown in for good measure. No, there’s no way to beat that…”

    “Who cares? Didn’t you tell me that cowards theorize with the goal of staying alive held firmly in mind? If you insist on fighting with the handicap of desiring to live, then it is already a hopeless task.

    “I thought you’d taught me better Zen than that,” Tarda pointed out.

    Bowing played very little part in Bill’s martial arts system; but Tarda had hit something so wonderfully straight atop the head, that he felt compelled to give her a deep heartfelt bow.

    He had been looking at the thing all-askew—wondering how he might survive. Such thoughts would always lurk in the background, ready to muddy a Warrior’s thoughts. But every time that he put such cowardly thoughts firmly to one side; it became dramatically easier to do so the next time.

    This time though, the monkey-mind had caught him completely off guard. He was much less likely to ever be blind-sided that way again.

    “Bill, I’d like to ask you to lead your clients out of Indiana. They’re highly likely to spoil many of our plans serendipitously. Can you take your show on the road?” Kogi asked.

    “You know, I’ve never seen Kentucky or Tennessee with these eyes—at least so far as I know. Time to remedy that,” Bill said.

    “I have a nice GPS for each of you, and a nice little back-up for each of you too. There’s a list of caches for each of you—mutually exclusive. This device is both holographic and Mnemonic. One one-minute look into the thing should fix it in your memory indefinitely.

    “However, if it were me, I’d make sure that I’d imprinted it on each eye at least two or three times. Destroy it after you have it imprinted. A simple stomp should do it.”

    The gadget that Kogi had given each of them looked for all the World like a magic Easter egg, with an abstract hologram inside.

    Bill gazed at it for about ninety seconds with his left eye. Then Having Tarda keep time, he spent three separate ninety-second intervals looking into the device with either eye alternatively.

    Then after she spent the same time looking into hers with either eye, he looked at it one last time with each eye. Somewhere in his subconscious—supposedly—were locations for quite a few caches and hiding places that would only intrude on his consciousness when they were sorely needed.

    Never mind a single stomp. Bill ground both the devices together between two rocks and put the finely ground powder into small plastic bag.

    “We’ll scatter this in the Ohio when we get there. Chances of recovering even trace particles nearly zero. Now let us meditate,” Bill said.

    “I should think that every moment is crucial at this juncture. Why waste time meditating?” Tarda asked.

    “Time is of the essence—and there is no better use of time than to get one’s head straight. I nearly lost my Zen mind when I found out about this hit-team coming after me. I may be struck down within the first quarter-mile of March—but it won’t be from marching along in monkey-mind,” Bill explained.

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  17. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Cool, interesting twist. So wonder if Steve is double or triple agent?
  18. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Twelve
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    “The Wide and Beautiful River,” Bill said.

    “What?” Tarda queried.

    “The Ohio. In one of the Indian languages it means, ‘Wide and Beautiful River’,” Bill explained.

    “Awfully compact language,” Tarda opined.

    “Wouldn’t know. Don’t speak any Indian languages. Since the ‘O’ sound is repeated, I’d assume that it means something like ‘Great’. In the first instance, it’s translated as ‘great: as in big—or wide.’ In the second instance, it’s translated as ‘great: as in impressive—or beautiful’.

    “Things like that always lose in translation. If I got it right, it would be pure happenstance that the word ‘great’ shares two separate meanings both in English, and the Indian tongue.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well in English, the word ‘run’ means fast locomotion—as in,’ He ran (1) away.’ It can also mean a mechanical device is functioning—as in ‘The engine runs (2)’.

    “In most languages, if you say the engine ‘ran’; you’re implying a cartoon-like image where the motor sprouted limbs and went locomoting down the boulevard. ‘Run (1) and run (2) are completely dissimilar words.

    “Whatever, right now we need to focus on how to get ourselves safely across the river,” Bill concluded.

    “Is it that big a deal?” The young woman asked him.

    “Sadly, in the modern world it is. There’s several bridges—both auto and Railroad, but any of them still standing is almost certainly guarded by someone.

    “Swimming a big river like this is very dangerous. We might make it without incident, but if we get snagged by a current, or clobbered by a big floating tree, or just find out that we’re not as good a swimmers as we thought—won’t be any lifeguards; won’t be any do-over either.

    “Getting across, but losing all our gear—or even a significant portion of it—would be almost as bad as drowning. Even if we didn’t lose everything, getting all our stuff thoroughly soaked does nothing good for our cause.”

    “So what’s the solution?” Tarda asked.

    “Sit here and discuss semantics and syntax—no! No, that’s not what I meant. We could build a raft—laboriously. We could get it across the river with a good deal more labor. It would be a better risk—but not risk free. Or we could find a good-sized log—big enough to float our gear, and help us kick across. That’s less work than a raft—but somewhat riskier too…”

    “So what are we gonna do?” Tarda insisted.

    “We’re going to travel cautiously along the river-bank, like we did the Wabash. We’re going to be on the lookout for a johnboat that we can buy or hire. An ounce of gold ought to be quite generous, either to buy a johnboat; or to get someone to merely ferry us—which I’d prefer.

    “Hell, we got gold. If an ounce won’t motivate, we’ll try two or three ounces.”

    “Won’t giving some yokel a handful of gold to ferry us across the river, point an arrow to where we entered the Dark and Bloody Grounds?” She asked.

    “I certainly hope so.”

    ************ *********************************** *************

    Bill gestured at Tarda to stay out of sight. He kept Loki close to him most of the time. The big dog could pretty much handle a man in a fight—but so would a single .30 caliber rifle bullet

    . A .30-30 or a .30-06 cartridge was far lighter than Loki; didn’t eat and drink, and took far less maintenance. Get right down to it; a well-placed .30-30 or a .30-06 would pretty much ruin Loki too, so far as that went.

    Bill treasured Loki, but he thought of the big dog as more of an early warning and game locating mechanism—particularly wounded game—rather than an antipersonnel device. When bullets started flying, he wanted Loki out of harm’s way.

    Tarda insisted on having a pack of four Bloodhounds and a Fox Hound—only because she couldn’t find a fifth Bloodhound when she’d wanted to add to her entourage. He let her acquire the dogs, because she was an absolute genius with them.

    Bill was good at catching rabbits; squirrel; songbirds and the occasional coon or groundhog. He caught a fair number of crawdeads; turtles and snakes in warm weather. He wasn’t a bad fisherman, but he wasn’t a great one either. He mainly lived on possum though. The smilies were easy and due to his long specialization, he could find a possum in twenty or thirty minutes, when any other outdoorsman would have sworn that there were none within twenty miles.

    Since Tarda had joined him though, they feasted regularly on venison; feral hogs; feral beef—and all sorts of good things. Bears and elk were making modest comebacks since the population was both shrinking and becoming more concentrated in the remaining urban centers.

    There were muskrats; porcupine and the occasional beaver. There were wild turkeys and feral chickens. Crows, pigeons and doves abounded.

    Tarda wore several dog whistles of varying pitch—though all of them were inaudible to human ears. Her dogs ranged far afield and she had a huge repertoire of commands they responded to. If anything happened to Tarda, Bill would have been hard pressed to utilize all the dog’s capabilities.

    All the dogs were reputed to be the result of modest attempts at genetic engineering. While they had far better night vision than a human, during daylight hours they could perceive colors as well as a man. Several modest areas of the brain had also been given light nudges. For some reason, light nudges generally brought some big dividends—but major alterations generally bollixed things.

    Be all that as it may, when Bill signaled Tarda to fade from view; although her dogs may well have been scattered over four or five acres, a short coded blast on one of her whistles put all of them into stealth mode too.

    “Peace old man,” Bill said gently.

    He had prudently taken up position behind a tree before he spoke out—just in case the old fart was trigger-happy.

    The old man had a big pump shotgun. It looked like a Mossberg 590—not that Bill was too concerned by the Gun’s precise providence.

    “Truth be told, if I’d wanted to bushwhack you I’d have already done so. I want to step out and parley,” Bill said distinctly, but without too much threatening volume.

    “How do you know that I won’t bushwhack you?” the old man asked.

    “Wait ‘till you see my dog. You might get him. You might get me. Getting both of us at close range—before one of us rocked your World would be problematical.

    “’Sides, I’m a civilized gent—but my partner, she’s always looking for dog food. Ain’t real particular where she gets it…”

    The old man had a johnboat and he told them that he was running a trot-line and working out of Tell City, though he said that he was working far west of where he usually fished. He was eighty-three years old; free of any sort of senility and remarkably healthy for his age.

    He was too old for the labor camps. He kept from being sent to one of the refugee camps by bribing some of the UN officials with catfish. Food was scarce—particularly high quality protein. Not many folks knew how to run a trotline anymore, or had the gumption either. What he didn’t eat of the rest of his fish, he traded for salt; coffee; cornmeal; sugar and flour.

    The old dude also ran modest trap lines in W inter; gathered a few edible plants for his own use, and medicinal herbs for some of the townsfolk as well. He also bagged a deer every now ands again.

    In the current economy, he was a highly successful entrepreneur. He had no interest in selling his boat, but he was more than happy to ferry them across the river—and fix them a big catfish dinner on the Kentucky side.

    As the old man prepared to leave, Bill hung over the boat and conferred quietly with the old man.

    “Is that shotgun the only Gun that you have?”


    “Man ought to have some kind of pistol or revolver. I carry a few Guns for trading purposes. Maybe I’m carrying a few too many. Need to lighten my load. I have a six-inch Smith and Wesson Model 19 here. Got a modest waist holster; a hundred twenty rounds of .357 and fifty rounds of .38 Special. Getting’ rid of all that ought to lighten me about ten pounds,” Bill said.

    “What do you want for it?”

    “Nothing. You took me across the river and then you fed me—all without charge. One good turn deserves another. There is a bargain that I’d like to strike with you; but you can have the Gun regardless.”

    The bargain was struck for five ounces of gold, and a dozen rounds of Twelve Gauge 00 Buck—all Bill had with him. The gold would have been sufficient, but Bill was generous—plus he did intend to run relatively light for a while.

    *********** ******************************* *************

    The old man waited until Bill had left. Then he rowed back across the river and quietly trailed Bill for about a half a day. He wasn’t anyone’s fool. Someone throwing that kind of wealth around was on the run from someone or something.

    A man with Bill’s obvious skills; top-notch weapons and a taciturn side-kick with a pack of genetically enhanced killer dogs—and yet fleeing, would be fleeing something heavy—like solid…

    The old man camped along the river for three more days. He built up a big bonfire at night and ran a smudgy fire through the daylight hours. His vigil paid off on the third day.

    “Hold it right there, old timer. What are you up too?”

    The Ranger quickly frisked the old man. He confiscated his Model 19 .357 and a couple hunting knives. Another of the Rangers grabbed the old man’s shotgun, where it leaned against a tree.

    “A man with long white hair—down to his waist long—and a bunch of bead necklaces traded me that .357 and a hundred rounds of ammo, to take him to The Dark and Bloody ground.

    “I figured that someone would come looking for him. Figured that they’d be willing to pay to know which way that he was headed. Are you?”

    The Rangers regarded him intently. They seemed to be deciding whether to eat, rape or kill him—or perhaps some combination.

    “Look, he tried to bribe me to steer you the wrong way. He gave me silver!”

    The old man showed them two rolls of junk silver quarters.

    “But I wouldn’t try that with killers like y’all. You’ll know that you’re on the right trail, because I’ll put you right on it. You’ll be able to tell,” He added desperately.

    Steve regarded the man contemptuously.

    “We can’t track ‘till dawn. I have a cache near here. I’ll be back before dawn,” Steve said.

    “What for?” The senior Bill Perry asked him.

    “To get some trade goods for this Judas,” Steve said.

    ************** *********************** ******************

    Steve returned just before dawn, just as he had promised. He was carrying a smaller knapsack across his shoulder, in addition to his regular pack.

    “All this is yours,” he told the old man. “I want to be sure that whatever Bill paid you, that I’ve out-bid him. Something else to consider too—Bill’s a honourable man. He won’t come back and torture you for days, if you sell him out. I probably wouldn’t either.

    “But if you cross us, and even one of these fine gentlemen survive…” Steve let the statement hang ominously.

    “Here, take your silver back—we don’t need it. There are five more rolls of silver quarters and a roll of silver dimes thrown in, for good measure. There are four hundred rounds of .357 in this knapsack; along with a two-and-a-half Inch Model 19; A hundred and twenty rounds of mixed buckshot and slugs; And a Witness Protection Remington 870 with a fourteen-Inch Barrel and a plow-handle grip.

    “Take the pack. I trust you. Give the man his Guns back. He ain’t stupid enough to try anything,” Steve demanded.

    The old man ferried them across the river. Then he showed them where he’d laboriously worked out Bill’s route and blazed the trail.

    When the old man had followed them for about an hour past where he’d turned back when tracking Bill on his own, Steve called him over.

    “You did a good job old man. If I were you, I’d make myself scarce around here for a while. Otherwise someone might get the idea that you’re trying to hook up with Bill Elder,” Steve said.

    The old man had no desire to hook-up with Bill. He planned to go sell his fish and take some time to camp out East of Tell City—somewhere he’d be very hard to dig out.

    *********** ***************************** ***************

    Bill was waiting in ambush as the UN Team came around a bend in the trail. He had a modest suppressor on his Savage-Stevens .308 Bolt Action. It wouldn’t completely suppress the muzzle blast—let alone the supersonic crack. It would make it harder to locate his position—and although he wanted them to find his position, he didn’t want them to do it right away.

    Bill sighted on a Ranger and fired. Three hundred and fifty yards away, the client fell with a solid chest hit. Before anyone really had time to realize their predicament, Bill caught the second Ranger through the chest.

    Ordinarily it would be time to split. Instead, for the first time, Bill got a clear shot at one of the Bills. He hit the man low—a gut-shot. He wanted a confirmed kill—not a maybe—so he shot the client again. Everyone was pretty well under cover now, and firing at Bill’s position.

    Bill had planned on them firing at him. His only exposure was a narrow firing slit. When they ran low on ammo, and slacked off a bit, he managed to hit a moving Ranger in the shoulder.

    Then something that every sniper dreaded happened—they managed to pin Bill down so that he couldn’t retreat. They started using suppressive fire and maneuver tactics. First one, then another of the clients advanced on Bill’s position willy-nilly.

    Bill hadn’t been completely incautious. He’d positioned Tarda to be able to give him some supportive fire—“some” being the operant term—“some” but not much…

    Nonetheless, Tarda managed to take out one of the Rangers and wound another—before they pinned her down worse than Bill.

    As the last of the remaining Rangers, one Bill Perry and Steve rushed the position; something warned Steve to hang back a little.

    At the very last possible moment, Bill sprung his trap. There were seven Claymore mines aimed in overlapping fields of fire, all along the only logical avenue for the clients to file into; There was also five grenades; a dozen of the Yakuza equivalent of “Bouncing Betties”; and several land mines. About half the landmines were set off by the same radio signal that set off all the Claymores. all the Grenades and all the Bouncing Betties simultaneously.

    The rest of the landmines lay in wait, to destroy those who fled to either side of the trail.

    Steve’s instincts had saved him any serious injury. By sheer coincidence, the Junior Bill Perry wasn’t seriously injured. All the other clients were wiped out.

    “I take it that you wanted to end this quickly. It could drag out for months now,” The Junior Perry shouted.

    “Musashi said that once a man faces death at the point of a sword; that his understanding increases drastically. I’ve faced death at sword point—have you?”

    The Bill Perry drew a Samurai type sword from its scabbard.

    “I don’t have a sword,” Bill Elder shouted back.

    “The other Bill Perry did. Fetch it, and let’s settle this like men. We both have our seconds.”


    Bill retrieved the other Bill’s sword. It was a hand and a half sword—sometimes called a “Bastard” sword. If he won, then he and Tarda could disappear into the South. By the time that they located him again, he’d have accumulated enough unique experiences that he wouldn’t be nearly so easy for his alter egos to predict.

    If he died—well, it was always a good day to die. He’d died once before.

    This would be good Zen. He would never be the same after this.

    .....RVM45 [chopper]

  19. RVM45

    RVM45 Monkey+++

    Chapter Thirteen
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    Bill carried the Bastard Sword in his strong left hand. He had inherited Bill Perry’s contrarian tendency to do many things left-handed despite being naturally right-handed. He’d put a lot of effort into building World-Class strength into his “Sword; Axe and Knife Arm”.

    Southpaw advantage wouldn’t really work against Bill Perry. (Though he noticed that his client was holding his Sword in his right hand.)

    That was the thing. There was nothing in his resume’ to give him an edge. There was no clever trick or technique in his repertoire that Bill Perry hadn’t seen—and practiced. Nothing— there was nothing to grab onto to assure him that he was special.

    This Bill Perry looked to be about six-four; and weighed maybe two-twenty. Bill was about three-eighths of an inch over six feet. He was a very heavy boned man and was in good fighting trim at two-seventy. Years in the bush had dropped his weight to a rib-revealing two hundred forty-five though.

    That might very well be his edge. He’d spent years at over four hundred pounds. Maybe the zombie body has a strong latent tendency toward morbid obesity. Quite possibly the muddled Bill Perry memories were reliving their Sumo years. Whatever—he was shorter and heavier, and probably stronger. Better yet, he could relate to the Sumo training in a way that the always-lean client never could.

    Once again Bill quieted the speculation running wildly through his brain. Cowards theorized with the idea of surviving firmly in mind. As long as he thought of the imminent duel as something to transcend and survive, he wasn’t in Zen mind.

    Anticipate nothing. Expect only what happens. Put away thoughts of victory and defeat. There was no reason to prefer life to death. Regardless of what happened, the only way that he could lose would be by cowardice. Any outcome that featured him facing his destiny unafraid was a victory—regardless of who remained standing at the end…

    Bill saluted his client by raising his Sword until the hilt guard was parallel with his brow line, his palm facing in.

    “I am no one. I came from nowhere. I have no goals and no agendas. My life is a random drunkard’s walk that can only end in my returning to the black chaos that gave me birth.

    “Strike me down, if you’re able. You will have accomplished NOTHING,” Bill told his client.

    “After I take your head, I will achieve promotion; a large bonus and the satisfaction of watching you die,” His alter ego said.

    Bill was too far into the zone to exult—even a little bit—that his client was way far out of it. Either way was fine with Bill.

    The instant that the client stepped into range, Bill attacked with a blinding series of Western style lunges. The client was rocked back on his heels and Bill didn’t give him pause to regain his balance.

    Bill’s client could do nothing but parry, while constantly giving ground. The attack couldn’t be continued indefinitely though. After a dozen full-powered lunges, Bill was a bit out of breath. More important, his Sword arm had accumulated just enough lactic acid to make it a wee-bit heavy and slow.

    The client used his Katana like a Classical Saber. He did a beat-thrust against Bill’s blade. Then he brought the razor-sharp Katana around in a vicious backhand slash at Bill’s abdomen.

    Bill Perry knew the trick—he just wasn’t anticipating Bill Elder using it right then and there.

    Bill’s Sword was way too far out of line to parry the attack. So he drew the long-bladed Bowie from it’s specially designed speed scabbard, and blocked the slash with it. He captured the Katana’s blade momentarily, with the Bowie’s upswept back quillon.

    While the client’s Sword was momentarily entangled, he brought the edge of the Broadsword down sharply across the client’s right wrist. The Katana and the right hand that held it, both dropped unceremoniously to the ground—although each of the objects made an audible thump.

    Bill backpedaled fiercely. He’d heard of Vikings using the “Fountain of Tyr”—aiming the fountain of blood from a fresh-cut stump into a client’s face to momentarily blind them. If you had to go, might as well take someone with you…

    Five very fast heartbeats later, the fountain had slacked off considerably. The client wasn’t in position to snatch up the Katana and it was apparent that he had no other long blade available.

    “Cripples are easy to defeat,” Bill quoted an old Sensei—knowing that the other Bill would recognize the source. “Do you want to concede? We need to get that bleeding stopped if you want to live. I hear that they’re doing remarkable things with prosthetics nowadays—with regeneration too…”

    “I yield,” the client said.

    Bill hadn’t bothered to claim the Broadsword’s sheath. He stuck the big Sword point-first into the forest soil—though it pained him to do so. He sheathed his Bowie, and was walking up on the man to bandage his stump.

    Bill realized that the man was drawing a small pistol with his left hand. He sidestepped while drawing his 1911A1 right-handed, knowing he’d probably be shot regardless.

    A shot rang out, and the man’s head exploded. Bill whirled around to find Steve lowering his Savage-Steven’s bolt action. Tarda hesitated with her rifle at half-mount, unsure whether she should aim at Steve or the now departed client.

    “I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as cheating,” Steve said.

    “Steve, you chucklehead, what are you up to?” Bill demanded.

    “They asked me to help find you. They struck me as the type people with self-esteem issues. People like that generally don’t take rejection good spiritedly. I promised to help the dickweeds find you. I didn’t promise to be on their side when they caught up to you.”

    “You could easily gotten yourself killed in the crossfire,” Bill said.

    “Would it matter? You taught me that it’s always a good day to die,” Steve said.

    “But if Bill had happened to shoot you in the ambush, he’d always believe that you sold him out,” Tarda said.

    “The truth is the truth. It remains the truth whether Bill Elder is aware of certain facts, or not. Once again, if I act with honour, why do I care what Bill thinks of my actions?”

    “Cool. Steve, meet my new student Tarda. She’s more of a graduate student nowadays,” Bill said.

    “Bill, once we get far enough from this cluster-bump to set up camp—can you fix us all one of your big meals?”

    Bill glanced at Tarda.

    “Don’t see why not,” he replied.

    “There’s something that I need to discuss with you.”

    *********** *********************************** **************

    “Bill, I’m kinda like you,” Steve began.

    Bill raised his eyebrows as high as they would go momentarily. Then he waited for more exposition.

    “I’m a very different person now, than I was before the treatment. Whole blocks of my old life are warehoused in out-of-the-way memory locations. They aren’t exactly ‘lost’. They are real hard to dig up—though once I touch on a ‘hidden’ topic; it’s extensively cross-referenced to other blocks of—not really ‘repressed’—shall we say, ‘Inactive’ memories.”

    “Cool. Take some acid, and call me when you’re fully integrated,” Bill joked.

    “Yeah, well one of my old-and-all-but-forgotten skills—I used to be a World-class hacker. I still am when I put my head to it.

    “Course back then, I had to wear diapers. I’d get so wrapped-up in my hacks, that I wouldn’t notice that I’d wet—or even messed myself.”

    “How charming,” Bill opined.

    “Be serious Bill! They sent me, the two Bill Perries and the Smurf Rangers, through several weeks of bonding and orientation. I managed to do some serious hacking into the government files,” Steve said.

    “Do all these plagues—Nouveau Alzheimer’s; Super ‘Berk; etc.; etc.—doesn’t it all seem a bit contrived to you?”

    “Don’t know man. Everything seems out of kilter and contrived to me. That’s part of doing the Rip Van Winkle gig,” Bill answered.

    “Let me tell you, it isn’t an accident. It’s part of a conspiracy,” Steve stated.

    “Well, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. You do realize that you are paranoid?”

    “Listen Bill, they’re fine-tuning the NA. In a decade, there won’t be any people older than fifty. And the numbers will start tapering down a decade before that. Do you know what that will do to demographics?”

    “Not without access to some charts. I’d estimate that if you chopped everyone off at fifty years old, the population should go down about twenty percent…give or take,” Bill said.

    “Okay, that cuts out everyone retirement age. It’s cold, but there goes one of the least productive segments of the population.

    “People over fifty tend to have more accumulated wisdom and perspective. They also control a disproportionate amount of the middle-class wealth—‘cause if you’re middle-class, it takes a few decades to accumulate it.”

    “Okay, that gives you a population that’s a good bit more productive per capita and also, noticeably easier to con. What’s the rest of it?” Bill asked.

    “They have preventative vaccinations and treatments, and in many cases, outright cures. They won’t be affected by the plagues. They plan to reduce the human population to just over a billion—a workforce fifty and under, with no disabled. That should be sustainable almost forever.

    “Meantime they have treatments that will allow them to live three or four hundred years—eventually longer. They’re experimenting with genetic enhancements to make them smarter and longer-lived; while making the working class a bit duller—but far more docile,”

    “Well protein for them. What can anyone do?” Bill asked.

    “Not much. Hitler talked about a one thousand year Reich. These folks are well on their way to setting up a fifty-thousand year Reich—and it’s practically a done deal—the plagues are already loose—and evolving just as predicted,” Steve said.

    Bill sat thinking about what Steve had just told him. He reminded himself that thought of good or evil; right or wrong, or success or failures were all the delusions of a sick mind. A wise man acted solely for action, without regard for consequences.

    Neither his Christian God, nor the inexhaustible void suggested a course of action though.

    He was tempted to walk into the nearest government building with a flame-thrower—or perhaps to go on a long spree of long-range snipping. Neither course of action grabbed his whimsy though. He glumly rooted in his pack for some of the Scotch he kept for especially dark days.

    “They are going to get the population down. It’s far too late to prevent that. NA will knock twenty-five or thirty years off the life expectancy. They have used guinea pigs like us to perfect their longevity and their genetic engineering tricks.

    “Venereal diseases will make unsanctioned sex so risky, that those who refuse to go along with the eugenics program will be dead or sterile in a generation or two.

    “Most of the people are already so institutionalized that if you raid the refugee camps and open the doors, they won’t even leave,” Steve concluded, while staring steadfastly at the canteen cup full of Scotch that Bill had given him.

    Bill got tickled. He started laughing. Eventually he laughed so hard that he fell backward off the log that he was sitting on, and continue to lie on his back, laughing uproariously.

    Steve was wondering if Bill was drunk. He countered the thought with the idea that Bill was a big man, and a five-ounce shot of liquor hadn’t hit him that hard. He thought maybe Bill had taken some Morphine—or Demerol—but he also noted that Bill had carefully set his glass where it wouldn’t be spilled, before he’d completely given himself over to his odd hilarity.

    “Steve, my man, did you ever read ‘The Molecule Men’?” Bill asked without getting up.

    “No,” Steve answered.

    Bill picked himself off the ground and dusted the pine needles off his clothes. He emptied the remainder of his drink and poured himself another, slightly smaller one.

    “The story is kinda far-fetched. Aliens invade the Earth. They’re huge. Compared to them, a human is the size of a puissant. Somehow they forget about the space faring race they once conquered. They live in huge houses and people live as stone-age vermin within the walls. They’d been working on a weapon for generations. It turns out to be a bust. For a while they’re devastated. It looks like the situation is hopeless.”

    Bill paused for effect.

    “So what did they decide to do?” Tarda asked.

    “They decided to stow away on every spaceship that they possibly could—much the same way that Norway Rats and German Cockroaches have followed mankind everywhere.

    “Someday they would develop a weapon—in a century; or a millennium or an eon. When they did, they would have multiplied their forces a trillion-fold—more.

    “We don’t have a weapon to strike back at the Smurfs right now; but we can survive. We can procreate. We can build up our numbers—though not quite as ambitiously as the Molecule Men.”

    Bill sat thinking of his new strategy for a good while.

    “We can largely work within the framework of the existing Rice-Burner Motorcycle clubs; some of the saner militias and some of the indigenous hillbillies.

    “We’ll need to get a hold of some of the Smurf’s lightning-bug glow juices—stop diseases; Slow aging; maintain parity with any genetic enhancements that they come up with.

    “It is a grand and glorious enterprise: starting a World-wide invisible; underground nation of guerilla freedom fighters.

    “We’ll start making plans tomorrow. This will be good Zen…”

    “Now do you see what you’ve gotten started,” Tarda complained good-naturedly to Steve.

    .....RVM45 [chopper][shtf]

  20. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Well, sounds like Bill may be awakening the dragon for Tarda soon to make a bunch of little Bills. lol
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