Family killed and farm destroyed by invaders, a simple farmer turns to terrorism.
| Perhaps it began in Kandusi, Jakerstan and perhaps not. But it is known that Kandusi was attacked, and violently, by the Intricias under their General Thoros.
I'm awakened by being thrown upward in my bed, dropping down into the same position. As I rub my eyes the bed jumps again, banging into an adobe wall of my room. Eyes barely opened, they are blinded by a blazing red light that penetrates the very wall itself. It's accompanied by an unseen force, shoving me, bed and all, over onto a packed-dirt floor.
I try to stand but can't, due to further shaking. The thatch roof eventually falls on me, exposing a sky alternating between flashes of intense red light and darkness. The ground rolls and ripples with shock. It knocks everything in the room over onto both the floor and myself as I huddle under a feather mattress.
I hear sirens and people screaming in the distance, enforcing a feeling of hell on earth. Dust billows into the room through what was, moments ago, a sturdy roof and new tears in the walls. Cattle offal falls through the ceiling as the family corral is shelled or bombed, I don't know which. The cries of cattle and terrified sheep mimic my own. Fear and terror is so thick it seems, somehow, as a protective force, shielding my mind from frantic thoughts. I neither can nor want to think, simply to exist, to survive.
Eventually, sirens fade into the background as the sound of a powerful engine seems to curdle my brain, causing me to cover both ears in panic. I watch a shadow pass over me, that of some sort of noisy aircraft. After it passes, I smell a strong odor of petroleum.
Without warning, there is almost complete silence, broken only by the sound of screaming -- which is, I find, my own. As I notice the otherwise silent night, my own cries become whimpers. They compete with other dim sounds that I don't recognize as human, coming into a ruined bedroom as overburdened ears adjust to a change in pressure; all the more terrifying in that they signify the pain of others. My family?
My family! I grab at the nearest ruined wall, trying to rise. Its surface crumbles at my touch. Luckily, there's a wooden strut still strong enough to hold my weight as I manage to get to my feet. Heedless of my own injuries, I stagger to a wide hole that used to be a doorway.
I find my father lying on his stomach, covered by debris. He isn't moving. Pulling on his shoulder, I turn him over -- to find his face gone. Entirely gone, a bloody mess, one eye drooping over a cheek, held on by a strip of muscle or gristle.
My mother and one sister took cover under Aunt Kussi's sturdy oak table, now collapsed with half a wall and a hind-haunch torn from a cow half-covering it. After, with effort, I topple cow and wall, I see them crushed together, covered with dirty blood and ... lifeless.
Although I search, frantically, I never do find sister Taki. The barn and shed are toppled and on fire. Two lone sheep wander the front yard, quietly eating varicolored blooming flowers that had previously been denied them.
Tired from searching and still in shock myself, I sit under the one remaining tree in our yard and cry. Somehow, my mind fades into sleep.
As I later find, it was the Intricias that attacked and almost wiped out our town of Kandusi. As explained in the international press it was a righteous and successful attack to wipe out a band of terrorists. My own government doesn't even protest.
The Intricias are applauded for the illegal bombing. No matter that dozens of innocent people died, including my own family. That was classed as "unavoidable" collateral damage.
Well, I survive. And within a month, about the time I heal, the rebels are back. While before they were vilified in our town -- in fact physically thrown out for our own safety -- this time they're welcomed. This time, they promise to bring in Land-to-Air Anti-Aircraft rockets to protect us.
I'm now the owner of four cattle, three sheep and a dozen chickens; no house or other buildings. With the only factory in town destroyed, there's no work to be found. And, of course, I am an angry, very, very angry young man.
I try to keep busy as a way to avoid thinking of my family. But I can't help noticing their graves in a splintered olive grove behind where the house used to stand. Life becomes a shadow, a dim existence without reason. Without hope or ambition, only a day to day attempt at survival for survival's sake.
There is no compensation for my losses, financial nor emotional. The government, once a fatherly figure, ignores my, our, status. As weeks go by, the rebel movement sounds more and more enticing ... something to live for. A reason to exist, even a source of income. They're known to pay well.
Before the attack, I was never political, having enough to do in helping out at our farm. Although it wasn't a rich life, I'd been fairly content with its simplicity in a complex world. I'd never held, much less fired, a firearm. But I can learn, with vivid visions of slaughtering Intricias in my mind. Filling my dreams with restless nights.
As a reason to continue living, and as revenge, I join the rebels.
"The Intricias must be stopped," Mikos, our political instructor, tells us. "Before their friendship with the Ubama, our ancient feud had quieted down since WWII with both our countries briefly battling at the border, a handful of deaths every year.
"Now, with the help of the technologically advanced Ubama and their air power, they seek to take over all of Jakerstan. Since the Ubama want our oil, they've armed the Intricias with battle tanks, modern artillery and aircraft against which we have no defense.
"Our own government is sucking both Intricia and Ubama asses. Even though the Rachia's offer us assistance and our own modern weapons, our traitorous cowardly government refuses. The officials prefer to keep their personal estates and wealth safe, rather than fighting for our country and its honor," Mikos exhorts us.
We're sitting in a half-circle in front of a large campfire, Mikos silhouetted by open flames as he tries his best to work us into a rage. Every few minutes my group leader, standing in half-shadows to the side will raise an arm, bringing rousing cheers from the audience. It serves to urge Mikos into a frenzy which, in turn, does the same for us. We hang onto his every word, while sitting on cold ground, involuntarily twisting and bouncing in response.
"We here, us few, are the only force willing to fight the asshole Intricias and, if necessary, the Ubama. It's a fight for liberty, to save our ancient ways from encroachment. We have our own oil deposits along their border which the Rachias would be glad to help us develop and the Ubama covet.
"Most of the world thinks our efforts are hopeless and maybe they are. But if we put on a brave showing we can topple our corrupt government and accept military aid from the Rachias. With their help, we can win and retain our freedom. Only with a mutual defense treaty can we protect our people and way of life.
"We've tried Democracy. It didn't work. We've tried our present Supreme Ruler. Now the Ubamas from across the sea accuse us of Communism. Why not? Why the hell don't we become Communists? It can't be worse than the other two."
We build defensive bunkers and train endlessly. One day I wake to the sounds of many powerful engines. Strange, since we have only a few pickup trucks and old sedans given us by sympathizers from the big cities.
I look out my tent-flap to see a convoy of huge modern trucks driven by strangers in civilian clothing. Although large, the vehicles aren't new, with many dents but new tires. I can dimly see different military logos from many countries painted over with glossy gray paint on the sides.
The strangers are wearing the same types of clothing as we are, though their skins are of a much lighter hue than mine and I later notice they're taller than my people.
This morning, after breakfast, we're issued new rifles. They, like the trucks, are from several nations, many rusty from disuse. But they are automatic assault weapons, better than our five-shot WWI Mausers. Mine is an AK-47 with what I think are Chinese markings. Although the new people are found to be Rachia, none admit to it and I look, in vain, for Rachia equipment. There is everything but Rachia goods. A truckload of rations are marked "US" from WWII.
We are gathered in a group and given an explanation by Captain Thomos.
"These are your new instructors. You'll find them from every country except," he says, winking, "Rachia. I repeat and you'd better listen well. We are receiving NO help from Rachia. If you are ever captured, even tortured, you WILL deny it to your dying breath.
"They will teach you how to use your new weapons. With their help, we can preserve our precious freedom. Listen to them well and obey them as you would obey me."
Along with the new instructors come an influx of recruits. Our pay is raised, the money coming in from somewhere but not my concern. I'm glad when we move into the mountains, away from my war-torn town. The sight of the town, even from a distance, is depressing.
This mountain camp has many caves which we enlarge with both pick and shovel and more modern machinery. Hidden roads are built, meandering through trees and kept covered with fresh brush. With the new roads, more vehicles are brought in, themselves covered by camouflaged netting, while crews are trained to drive and fight with them. I'm pleased that we're starting to look, act and feel like a real army.
I shudder at the thought of revenge, to have my hands around a Ubama or Intricia throat, squeezing slowly, watching the light of life leave those evil eyes.
One night, an air raid tears up part of a forest near us but we aren't damaged. Obviously the enemy is looking for us. The captain decides to split up the camp, moving many of us to other locations for more safety.
"When are we going to fight, sir?" someone asks. "All we do is train but for what?"
Myself, I take the opportunity to ask, "Can I be taught on one of those tanks, captain? I can kill many more Intricias from in there."
"Don't worry," he says, laughing, "I've picked you for a more personal task. One where you can kill many of the bastards, face to face. If you have the guts, that is. Just wait until we're moved."
It's a frantic and exhausting few days as we receive more supplies of items such as tents, stacks of lumber and netting. It's loaded onto some of the smaller trucks, along with other supplies.
Finally, many of us move to other camping sites. Although we take trucks with us, the heavier tanks are left behind. The captain is afraid they will leave tracks and doesn't want to take time to build sturdy hidden roads like we have to our first camp. Any day now, the Intricias might find us. I've learned that our own cowardly government is also looking for us. I don't know, kinda feel queasy, about killing my own people -- but I long to kill Intricias. No matter who flew it, it was their plane that killed my family -- they who will suffer my wrath.
There are thirty of us at this smaller camp and about the same amount of instructors. This camp is supposed to be for specialized training. I still don't know what we're doing here but our rifles are taken away and we're being trained with new weapons. They are silenced mini-Uzis, an Israeli weapon normally used for clandestine operations.
We also have sniper rifles. Heavy .50 caliber Chinese M99-IIs. They weigh over 30 lbs and kick like a son-of-a-bitch, far too heavy to hold in my hands and fire. We have four of them. At first, we shoot from tripods, then in a very strange manner. We practice with steel sheets, about two-feet square, that one man has trouble lifting. They're designed to stack easily and then quickly bolt together into larger panels, 6' x 6' square, braced in back with stout wooden poles.
For over a week, all thirty of us train in carrying those squares, the rifles, poles and ammo. Once in place, we practice until it only takes a few minutes to form the large square with a firing hole near the middle. The panel is raised and braced, the sniper rifle mounted in the hole and we're ready to fire. It's a small armored emplacement, one which normal pistols and rifles can't penetrate. That's our morning training, while we're fresh.
In the afternoon, we have political training while our meals digest. We've our own political trainer, mostly to re-enforce loyalty, trying to work us up into a passion against the Intricias. Some of it, initially, seems silly but I find my patriotism and loyalty increasing to a raw rage. I do notice the Ubamas are mentioned often, given an equally evil status similar to our real enemy, the Intricias. Although from halfway around the world, they seem to be an equal enemy.
We're shown movies of Ubaman atrocities around the world, seeing them slaughter real people in real places, mostly from aircraft. I begin to wonder just who bombed me and my family? Was it a Ubama aircraft, not an Intrician? We see endless bombings, people milling around in panic, only to be cut down by aerial machine-gun fire. The killers are sometimes Ubaman with stars on the sides if their vehicles, sometimes Intricians. Some films are of teeming masses of starving commoners ignored by fancy cars containing the wealthy passing among them.
A crude mock-up of a building is built of wood. Not the entire thing but only two floors and no roof. We're required to not only memorize but walk the halls, sometimes blindfolded and cussed at if we even touch a wall. We spend hours every afternoon, evening, and night in that edifice, learning it like the back of our hands. Sometimes we wear gas masks and stumble around in the dark. In the end, I can walk that space in my sleep.
During the training, ten men from our original thirty are gradually eliminated. Not entirely but still trained, tested and kept as alternates. Me, I'm assigned as a sniper. Though still able to take on any task, I keep on with sniper training on the .50cal while others concentrate on other aspects.
As the alternates, wearing padded clothing, play hostage, we practice taking, confining and moving them around. That's a fun part, as they are encouraged to protest and resist. Later, it stops being fun as we're taught to use real force. The idea is to keep them off balance at all times, not giving hostages time to plot or even think. Random kicking, slapping and constantly moving them from room to room keeps them confused as to our intentions ... unable to think clearly or plan escape.
Pulling our punches only slightly, we degrade them, beat them for any supposed infraction. Conflicting orders are a favorite, fists and boots punishing errors. Endless movement from one locked room to another keeps escape plans down. We yell at them, spit on them, degrade them. One of the first things we're told is to strip real captives of all clothing, then handcuff their hands.
We're told that with real hostages we can rape the women at will and to occasionally have male troublemakers, especially leaders, perform oral sex on us and each other to further degrade them. I try to get prisoner duty but, since I'm a large man and a good shot, end up as a sniper. Having carried that heavy rifle, I can see their reasoning. That's alright, though, in that I can do a lot of killing with the M99.
Then, we're taught to wander from one window to another in the mock-up, keeping rescue forces occupied. To that end, we're to lay land-mines on the roof to keep helicopters and enemy soldiers from landing. We're also going to have a large supply of phosphorus hand-grenades, we're told.
"Where are we going to get all this stuff?" one man asks. "We can't carry it with us, especially those steel plates."
"Don't worry. It'll be there. All you need do is use it," is the answer.
Although we're not told where or when or why, we certainly learn how.
"Quickly, you bastards. And don't take any shit off that guy. Slam him in the guts and shackle him." An instructor shows us, barely pulling a punch on the complainer, knocking him to the ground. "Like this. These aren't people we're taking, they're the assholes that killed your families, your friends. Treat them like the pieces of shit they are. They'll kill you in a moment if they have a chance. Remember that and show no, I mean no, mercy. If it's a ten-year-old female dog, kick it like one. Think of it as a rabid puppy, trying to bite your ankle."
Three of us are chosen as team leaders, myself among them. Team Leader Achi is to be in charge, Dumas and I to be co-seconds in command. If and when Achi should die, it's hoped that one of us others survives to take over.
Finally, Achi, Dumas and I are called into an otherwise empty conference tent to receive more-specific orders from the captain.
"Gentlemen, your country is depending on you. As you've no doubt surmised, you're going on what will probably be a suicide mission. Whatever happens, remember that I and your countrymen will be forever grateful. You were chosen, at least partially, for your patriotism and loyalty.
"Millions of lives depend on you, your training and your ... ruthlessness." He paused, going on with, "Also because you have just cause, more than most of the others. You three have been orphaned by Ubama or their lackey Intricias. You've, all three of you, seen your families die by cowardly attacks with no chance to save themselves or fight back. There's no way to defend yourself from a 500 lb Ubaman bomb."
I look over and see Achi, hands white as they grip the edge of the table. Dumas sits, red in the face, eyes a mask of hatred -- as my own no doubt are.
"Tonight, after sundown, you will be transported to an airport; you don't need to know where. You will all be given civilian clothing and take flight for Intricia. Although it will stop for fuel, you will end up in Arentia, the capital city of Intricia." He pauses, as if to let the information sink in, then continues, "A local guide will take you, by foot, to a certain building. It's a government building. The floor plan will be the same as the mock-up.
"As you enter, you'll see a gift shop against the back wall. Your metal shield parts are inside. The clerk will show you where. But first, you'll be shown a room that will hold your other supplies, weapons, mines and the rest. We've smuggled those items inside, some with the help of the guards themselves. As you must know, loyalty is not an Intricia trait. Once you're inside and ready, the shopkeeper, guide and the others will leave. That is when you begin your task, which is to ensure that everyone else in the building is taken hostage. If they resist, don't hesitate to kill them.
"There will be a meeting going on in a ground floor conference room. It will consist of both Intricia and Ubaman generals and high-level diplomats. They are your prime objectives and will not, I repeat, will not leave that building alive.
"You are to take as many of them and their personal staff alive as you can but don't hesitate to kill. Then you let the outside know about it. We want the worldwide press to get there which might take time. After that, put on a show. Kill those important hostages, one by one and in plain sight if possible, as well as anyone else in authority that you can target outside. That's what the snipers are for. Those M99 rounds will go through most of the armor you'll find out there, even as the shields protect you.
"It'll be up to you three, as leaders, to keep our people on track. Since you'll be in charge, you'll have to decide just how but keep the mission going as long as possible. Kill all the important people but leave a few guards and others alive to tell the story later. We want the world to know our power and to fear us. A few days or a week on the International News Services will aid our cause greatly."
He stops to wipe tears from his eyes. "Good luck and may God be with you and aid you in doing His will. Now go and inform your men. You'll leave all personal identification and weapons behind, receiving new ones at your destination."
He shakes our hands and hugs us as we troop out. I hardly notice, my mind filled with senses of purpose, pride, patriotism and ... yes, apprehension and fear.
Arentia is a lovely city, though I hope to change that at least a little. Our guide, an Intrician traitor, is waiting as we leave the aircraft. It looks like we're parked in an out-of-the-way spot near a fence, since no other aircraft are near us. As soon as we leave, the airplane taxis away.
"Come. The others are waiting and getting anxious," we're told. "The sooner we're out of it, the better. I'll take you to the janitor's entrance to the basement.
"Because of the conference, the building is supposedly sealed. Ground-floor doors are solid steel, two inches thick and locked. They were locked this morning by security because of the meeting inside but it helps your cause since you have no need to barricade them. Fortunately, nobody ever remembers to secure my, I mean the janitor's, basement door used to take out the trash." Eyes bright, he gives a nervous laugh.
"What kind of security can we expect, inside?" Achi asks, even as we file through a small rusty gate from the airport. The other side is an overgrown vacant lot, grass as high as my head that ends at a cracked sidewalk on a street filled with warehouses.
"There are two guards on each of the two conference-room doors ... with rifles. They look to be mean bastards. I counted eight more in the lunchroom and two walking the corridors. The ones in the lunchroom seem to be mostly chauffeurs but might be trained and armed. I might have missed some."
"And the big shots themselves?" I ask, getting a shrug in return. We start off, knowing to walk spaced out, not more than two or three men together.
He leads us to this building, four stories tall and not all that wide but looking to be solid with marble sides. We enter through a small recessed door in the rear. Crossing to a room behind a large boiler, we find our promised weapons waiting, along with small two-way radios. We load up and get ready. For a few minutes, the air is suspiciously loud with the snapping of bolts as weapons are checked and loaded.
"You take three men and take care of the drivers," Achi orders me. "Just kill them to get them out of the way. We don't need them as hostages. Then come back to get your rifles and set them up."
He turns to Dumas. "Take a couple of men and find the walking security. Kill them. I'll take the rest of our men and storm the meeting."
"Let me go up first, to see where the walking guards are," the guide suggests, "then get the hell out of here. They know I work here and won't be suspicious. Oh and Milli at the souvenir shop got cold feet and left already. The door to her shop isn't locked. Your metal plates are stacked in its storeroom. It's a large pile and easy to see. Also, don't kill the large man behind the counter in the lunchroom. He's one of us. Give him a gun and he'll join you."
"Is that all that's in the building?" I ask.
"No. I don't think so. Although the place is locked up for the meeting, there are probably a few workers in some of the offices. They come and go at odd hours. Some sign in and out but most don't bother."
"About how many can we expect?"
"Who knows? Maybe half a dozen? This is a day of rest."
The janitor leaves us, going up a set of stairs leading to the lobby. Achi motions one of us to go with him.
We mill around anxiously, for what seems like hours but is only a few minutes. While waiting, we test our radios. Although cellphones are more modern, radios are immediate communication, without constantly pushing buttons or dialing numbers. Turn them on and you can communicate with everyone on that bandwidth. I don't trust them. Whoever put them here might know the frequency.
The longer we stay penned up in this room, the more anxious I become. We'll be in real trouble if trapped here. I'm relieved as the janitor and our man come back.
"We saw two guards walking up to the fourth floor," the janitor says. "They're taken care of. We slit their throats. Good luck." As he hurries toward the back door, I hear a "Phuuut." The janitor has time to look back with questioning eyes before dying on his feet. Achi has seen fit to kill him.
Achi looks at me and I shrug. He's the boss.
At a nod, we troop upstairs and separate. Three men stay with me as I hurry down familiar corridors to the cafeteria.
We waste no time. Going in, we spread out just inside the doors. Our silenced Uzis spit bullets, stitching seven or eight men and one uniformed woman, mostly seated with cokes or coffee. The loudest sound is that of cartridge casings hitting and bouncing on a linoleum floor. Most simply fold, heads thumping heavily onto tables, with a couple sliding down to the floor. The smell of cordite rapidly infuses the air. It's overkill but we have a lot of ammo with us, more than we'll probably live to use.
"The shields," I order my people, motioning a bug-eyed civilian washing cups behind the counter to come with me. He's a large man, presumably friendly. Why not use him?
As the others hurry through long-familiar hallways to get the metal shield plates, I lead the cafeteria worker back down to the basement.
Although heavy, we each manage to carry two sniper rifles back upstairs. Dumping three onto the floor in the lobby. I carry mine, along with a heavy metal crate of ammo, over to my assigned window. It's nearby, the one on the left side of the main entrance door. I send the stranger back down for more ammunition for the sniper rifles.
While others struggle to assemble my personal shield, I take time to check the front door, finding it secured with a broad iron bar connecting the two halves. Knocking it with my knuckles, gives a solid thud. Shaking the bar has no effect whatsoever. It will take a tank to knock that metal door down, I believe.
Then I go back and check out my weapon, fingers clicking the scope to a battle-sight range of 100 yards. Opening the 50 round box of ammunition, I slide three extra cartridges into each of my shirt pockets, load another into the weapon's chamber, then slam a loaded magazine into the bottom with a sharp "kaclack." I'm ready to go. As I regain my feet, I see the shield assembled and in place. Sturdy wooden 6" x 6" bracing poles are holding it upright, though leaning back at a slight angle because of the weight.
I click on the radio. "Three ready at one," I mutter. "How things going?"
"Okay," Dumas replies. "Number one is finishing the room. Wait twenty and then it's a go."
Heart beating, infused with adrenaline, I look out through the small gun-port in my shield. The street outside is busy, traffic backed up at a light. Dozens of people are on the sidewalk, suspecting nothing. I see a middle-aged couple sitting on a bench over by the opposite sidewalk, backs to me and feeding pigeons. At one point, my keyed-up nerves are startled by someone knocking on the front door. After a few tries, he or she leaves.
I'm so nervous and petrified by the scene outside that I lose track of time. Enough to jerk upright as I hear sounds behind me. Looking over, I see my conscripted assistant from the lunchroom setting down several more containers of cartridges. He gives me a sickly grin.
Then hell breaks loose, catching me by surprise as others begin firing through windows around the building. I hear the deep-throaty "cracking" of heavy rifles such as mine, each report drowning out the staccato firing of 9mm Uzis, silencers removed for accuracy. There are also sharper "Cracks" of rifles picked up somewhere, maybe the conference guards?
Looking back at the street, I see an old woman, pigeon-seed sack falling from her hand. Her companion and the walkers are, every one, staring right back at me. Cars, horns blasting, are everywhere, trying to get away onto sidewalks and lawns, mowing down defenseless pedestrians in their frantic haste.
Some of my companions are firing from windows on this side of the building. I see bullets ricocheting from sidewalks and cratering car bodies. Dust seems to be puffing up from everywhere, making it hard to see the morning sun. Screams fill the air outside as victims get over their shock, at least enough to run ... the ones still able.
The heavy M99-II Chinese sniper rifle almost slips out of sweating hands as I lift it, trying to fit the muzzle and scope through that small gun-port.
I try to blank my mind, as I've been taught. Not to think of them as victims, not even as the friends and relatives of the pilot that killed my family. They are simple moving targets, particularly complex mechanical icons, a challenge to my expertise.
Not needing the scope at such short range and leaving individuals to the Uzis, I fire my heavier rounds at the thickest targets, autos and buildings across the street. My bullets, unlike the smaller 9mms, go completely through both civilian cars and walls. A .50cal is a mean weapon.
When I see a face at a window, I blow it off the body. I can imagine the round not even slowing down as it blasts through room after room behind her. If this were a machine gun, I could tear those buildings down to the ground. I fire at a tree across the street, seeing pedestrians fall as a large chunk of the trunk disappears, sending deadly wooden splinters over a wide area.
Changing five-shot magazines, I continue to fire at trees. I feel no elation, nor regret -- nothing at all as the first tree falls, partially blocking a six-lane street. To me, at this moment, it is only the cumulative result of hundreds of hours of training, nothing else.
The smell of cordite in the lobby makes it hard to breathe as I reach back for ammunition, finding none waiting. Looking behind me, I see my loader struggling to press fresh cartridges into a magazine in his lap. He's having a hard time of it and can't keep up with my firing. Those magazines are heavy, the cartridges thick and slick from sweating hands.
"Go back to the basement," I tell him. "There's a little square mechanism down on the smaller table that fits over the magazine. It has a lever on it to force them in and easy to load."
While he's gone, I load several by hand. When, after a few minutes, he returns, huffing and puffing, I show him how to use the loader, then step back to my weapon, hanging loosely from the firing port.
In my absence, many conditions have changed. For one thing, the street is clear, only dead cars and people spotted over concrete and lawns. Secondly, I see police and emergency vehicles piling up at the far corners of the street.
With inactivity, I feel apprehension about facing legal authority. Up until I was bombed, I've always been law-abiding. Like with most people, respect for authority is at least partially because of fear. The sight of flashing lights, uniforms and the sound of sirens is intimidating -- even now.
My response is to try to aim at the nearest corner, finding my small firing-port won't let me.
Screw it, I think, pulling the rifle out. I carry the heavy weapon around the shield. On my knees, the rifle's thick barrel resting on a window ledge, I use my scope to aim. The first shot knocks down a man in a suit that seems to be giving orders. I take time to aim each round, trying for those in charge. In half-a-minute, that end of the street looks empty of humanity.
For awhile, I don't know how long, I alternate with both ends of the street. When the bastards take cover, I simply fire through the police cars.
At the end of that time, heavier vehicles move in, armored cars and an Armored Personnel Carrier, APC. I don't know if I can shoot through or into them but continue firing anyway. Maybe I can and maybe I can't but it keeps their heads down and is something to do, rather than stand around with my thumb up my ass.
It seems to be a standoff.
It's now hours later. I still fire an occasional round but, after counting my remaining cartridges, decide not to waste them. My loader, the cafeteria worker named Tronto, is standing with me in front of the shield, daring any fool to give himself away by aiming at us. We control the street.
There isn't much activity at the street-corners except for a gathering of more and more military-style vehicles, no activity in front of us. I do see occasional shadows moving in some of the windows across the street. The Intricias must be, have to be, setting up for a counter-attack.
One or two of my pals are wasting time and ammunition by peppering them with Uzi fire, as well as someone with a rifle is taking pot-shots at shadows. Whatever they're planning, it doesn't show.
"Why are you helping me like this?" I ask Tronto. "This isn't your fight."
"But it is," he says, leaning out a few inches to look down at the ground. "I better get some of those grenades from downstairs. We should have them to drop on the ground outside. Sooner or later someone's going to try to creep up to throw something in here. Explosives of some kind."
"Go ahead. Maybe you should look for something to help prop this shield up? It'll probably stop grenade shrapnel."
"There are a lot of politics here, in Intricia," he tells me. "I'm a member of a group fighting the government for our own freedom. Two of my best friends are political prisoners because of our religion."
"I never paid any attention to politics," I tell him, "even in Jakerstan, before I lost my own family. Now, it seems I'm involved in them, up to my ass."
"Aren't we all? They can be both insidious and persistent. Mine is religious. My people have been repressed for hundreds of years here and are finally fighting back. Every day, it seems, our synagogues are burnt and the police look the other way. It has to stop."
"I never paid any attention," I repeat.
"Nobody does, unless they're involved ... or forced."
"I never did," I can only repeat again, thoughts deep in my own problems. "I never noticed. I was too busy making a living to vote or pay attention to elections. That was for other people. The interested, not me."
"They say we're devils. If we want to worship our way, we should move to Jakerstan with you. This is our native land, not Jakerstan."
"I didn't know that, never noticed."
When he doesn't say anything more, I notice he simply isn't here, has left for grenades.
Before I can turn back to my firing-port, Achi comes over to tell me what's going on and planned. We have our radios, mine in my shirt pocket and turned on but we know the enemy will be listening in by now -- which makes them virtually useless.
"For now, we're in control," he tells me. "So far, we've lost one man and three are slightly wounded. One of the generals carried a pistol and got a couple of rounds off before we shot him. I'm in constant contact with the Intricias, through a landline telephone.
"We've got fifteen big shots locked up, including the Ubama secretary of state and the Intricia general that was in charge of the raid that killed your family. His name and picture were in the newspapers here afterward." He pauses, a large smile on his face. "I thought you might want to kill him, personally? What you say? In the fucking window where the foreign news media can see? I've been talking to a reporter on the telephone and she said her station is broadcasting live."
"Christ, yes. Give him to me. Damn. I can't believe it."
"Now, wait a minute. We have to make this a real media event. I've been thinking. What we'll do is save the Ubama guys for last. But to prove we're serious, execute four of the other big guys at once, simultaneously. One on each side of the building. And...." he stops to giggle insanely. It takes Achi entire minutes to be able to tell me his plan with a straight face.
"Hey, pal. Too damned crude for me," I tell him. "I don't think I could physically do it." I look over at Tronto. "How about you? Can you do it for us?"
"Easy," he says, "with his help."
All three of us break out laughing at the way he says it.
"Come with me and we'll get him," Achi orders Tronto. Turning to me, he says, "I'll signal on the radio. Four quick clicks, then a lone one. Do it then."
A few minutes later, during a pause in firing while I reload, I look behind me. Tronto is back, along with a naked man stumbling towards us on his knees with hands tied behind his back. The guy looks to be in his sixties, pot-belly extending out from a flat chest. He's looking at the ground, blood dripping from nose and one ear. I notice the distinctive face and wild white hair, knowing it's really General Thoros. Not knowing if I'll be able to hear the clicking, I give my radio to Tronto. It's his operation, not mine, though I can hardly wait for the performance.
The Intricias wait until dusk. The counter-attack begins with half the windows across the street being abruptly filled with police or soldiers with rifles and light machine guns. I don't know what's going on at the other sides but my part of the building is soon being peppered by small-arms fire. Seeing the movement starting, I barely make it behind my shield.
Bullets hitting the shield sound like popcorn popping but are no threat at all. After the first volley, I kneel in place and fire back, bringing a second blast of the smaller projectiles. I can't see the street corners anymore but figure something must be happening there. I hear a few grenades going off but figure nobody's had time to creep up to the building and our automatic Uzis will discourage it for quite a while yet.
It's not long before two armored-trucks make their way, clumsily, down my street. Luckily, I think, they're not military tanks but only APCs sporting machine guns. But, I know, even a .30cal machine gun can probably knock my shield over and a .50 certainly will. Against them, I go from an almost invulnerable target with only a small firing-port to a six-foot-square bullseye.
Nervously, I see the two vehicles stop. Shooting back will, I know, be useless with their frontal armor. Even the drivers will be watching through armor-glass view-ports.
For long minutes, everything is quiet except for an occasional shot from either side and an errant grenade going off somewhere. I should leave my post, I know but can't force myself. I'm too frightened to shoot at the trucks and start a conflagration of return fire. They must know my position by now, in easy range behind a wide window.
A touch on my shoulder startles me into almost dropping my rifle-stock. It's Dumas. He's carrying an Intricia security-guard shirt, complete with shiny badge -- several more of them in his arms. I notice he's even wearing one himself.
"Put this on. I found them in a locker-room. We're going to start killing hostages. Once we begin, there's no saying how long it'll be before they take us out. It might be with the first execution or even after days of arguing. Largely, it depends on how much they value the Ubama pricks I captured. We're to keep resisting as long as we can but can't fucking win in the end.
"It's a long shot but Achi and I figure some of us might be able to sneak out during the confusion of an attack.
"We don't have enough of these for everyone and it might not do you any good but it's best to live to fight another day if we can."
"It doesn't seem right, Dumas. It just doesn't seem right. To leave like that."
"Why not, if our deaths are needless?" he points down at the groveling general, whose tearing eyes seem to beg for mercy. "We'll do our best and will kill all these bastards," he says, kicking the general over onto his side, "but if a few of us get a chance, we should save ourselves."
He leaves to pass out a few more shirts and badges. I, too, kick the general in the guts and put on the shirt, feeling slightly guilty. My own is torn in places but, between the two of them, I manage to stuff a half-dozen loose grenades next to my chest. I want them with me to drop out of a window later. My rifle is pretty much useless. One more shot and the return fire from those trucks outside will wipe me out. Achi will, even now, be on the telephone to give us more time, more television time.
I turn back to my firing-port, feeling top-heavy with cold metal cylinders against my t-shirt. I hope my belt holds the weight. The sight of those armored vehicles is unnerving, to say the least. Three of the four machine guns point at different angles but I'm looking directly down the barrel of one 50cal. That thing can tear this shield apart in moments.
Behind me, I can hear Tronto and that fucking general talking.
"You won't kill me if I do it? Please promise me. I've tried to be fair, only doing my job. I was only following orders. I even refused when I could get away with it."
"Sure, you did. My orders are to shove you out this window afterward, alive. That's the truth. If, of course, you do a good job on me." Tronto laughs, more a harsh giggle. "Oh, that'll feel so good. A fucking general, yet. I never had a general do it before."
"Do you believe him? That he'll let me go ... after?" the simpering fool asks me.
"We're honorable men, not like you bastards. We're not in the habit of lying," I reply, grinning.
Tronto's voice rises abruptly, "Are you accusing me of being a liar?" I hear a slap and whimpering. "Besides, I hear you did a couple of your guys before. The first time," Tronto says, giggling again, "is the worst, from what I hear. They said you enjoyed it, you fucking pervert."
"Please? Tell him you want to let me go. Please? I have a wife and three children. They need me."
"She must be a real whore to let YOU use her, you son-of-a-bitch," I answer, hearing a scuffling, ending with a thudding sound.
"Uhhhhh! Please, sir, I didn't mean it. No. I beg you. No more." More thudding and whimpering.
I think Tronto is probably kicking the shit out of the son-of-a-bitch. Good. Damn good.
"Hear that? Four clicks. Time to go, you bastard. Around the shield. Time for your supper, General Asshole," Tronto says, laughing. "Yum yum time."
It's going to get plenty hot in a minute, I think, finally daring to take my eyes off the steady black barrel of that fifty aimed directly at me. Wiping sweaty hands on soiled trousers, I slowly remove my rifle from the firing slot, hoping that action alone won't bring a burst my way. They must see me doing it, only the sight of that general keeping me alive. Quickly, I heft the heavy weapon and step back, away from the shield.
Once away from the window, I set my weapon down and glance toward the front. I'm looking directly into the general's blank eyes. He's on his knees in front of Tronto, eying the man's crotch. I see no emotion, only sweat dripping off his nose, mouth trembling but gaze steady as Tronto unzips.
My helper's hands grab the back of the general's head, shoving it forward. I hear grunting sounds as Tronto's dick is forced into the bastard's mouth.
General Thoros, the son-of-a-bitch that ordered my family killed, is sucking Tronto, his head bobbing back and forth right in front of the window, his troops, and who knows how many television viewers.
Too bad, I think, that we can't let him live like Tronto promised. The bastard is humiliated beyond belief. The cowardly cocksucker that's ordered thousands of innocent people killed, while himself living in luxury. Bye-bye respect, bye-bye honor, bye-bye to your place in the history books, you son-of-a-bitch. You won't be remembered for dozens of so-called brilliant campaigns -- but for sucking a single cock. Good for you.
Even as I watch, along with the world, I hear a lone pistol shot, slowly followed by two more. The other three are finished, three important hostages dead.
Hand shaking, I take out my own sidearm.
"Enough. Get out of the way," I order Tronto. He jerks back, turning to me, hard and still-damp penis waving. General Thoros also faces me, eyes bugged out as he sees the pistol.
"Damn!" Tronto jumps aside, as the general's bladder gives, a thick yellow stream arcing across the floor between them.
"No! You promis-- " he says, shaking uncontrollably.
I grab coiffured white hair, turning his face toward the window. Holding my pistol back about a foot from his left ear, I blow his head half-off. Only then does he get his promise, as I and Tronto shove his body out of the window. The son-of-a-bitch.
It's silent outside for a few seconds, during which I hear screaming and gunshots reverberating throughout the building as, I assume, other prisoners are executed. We were told to kill all the high-ranking ones.
Then comes a firestorm from hell as an intense wall of pent-up passion breaks loose from outside.
I holster my pistol and look up to see Tronto burst, parts of him spraying me along with shreds of glass. As I turn to run, I'm almost crushed by my metal shield as it's dented and forced back, the force of multiple .50cal rounds outside bursting the supporting poles behind it.
I stumble and fall to the floor. Spent, physically and emotionally, I lie there, looking at my faithful rifle, the stock now shattered by gunfire. Ha, as though I'd have the strength or courage to try to retrieve it. I can't force myself to move one inch toward that wall -- that virtually solid wall of lead. I'm probably only saved, so far, by the angle of fire from the street and the thickness of a concrete floor.
After what must be a minute or two, the firing slacks a little, though it doesn't stop. I crawl on my stomach, trying to get across the lobby and into the supposed shelter of the basement. It seems an impossible distance away as I slither like a snake.
If there's anyone else moving, I don't notice. Halfway across the room, some fool runs, actually runs, past, almost stepping on me in his panic. A wooden ceiling joint falls beside me, splinters jumping out to pepper my right leg. Bullets are ricocheting around me, a particularly lethal rain.
I roll over onto my back, trying to get my shirttails back in. I don't want to lose those grenades. One hell of a thing to think about. With trembling digits, I giggle as I re-secure them. At the stairwell to the basement, I simply slide down on my back, heedless of protecting my head -- only in getting away from the firestorm above.
Lying on the basement floor, I feel safe. Nothing can hurt me down here. Even the noise seems slightly abated. I manage to sit, feeling the injured leg. It's bloody and painful. I try pulling the largest splinters out but it hurts so much that I stop. I don't think any arteries are hit, since the blood is only seeping. My precious grenades are lying around me, again released when my shirttails came out.
A thought comes to me. Why the hell not? I think. I'm not in the same cowardly class as a cocksucking Intricia general. And I'm still wearing this Intricia security-guard shirt, complete with shiny badge. I pick the deadly canisters up and stuff them back against my chest, hiking my belt up a notch to keep them in.
A jolt of pain, intense in its suddenness, hits me as I manage to stand, chest heavy with ordnance. I must have hurt my back going down the stairs. Staggering heavily to the outside doorway, the shattered door itself lying on the floor, I look outside and up four steps to a sidewalk at the level of my chest.
I'm in luck. I see two real security guards stagger into Intricia lines, along with several females that are probably secretaries. I remember that we were ordered to release a few of them. I must not look out of place, bloody and torn as I am and wearing this shirt.
I stagger up the steps and outside, making my way to the enemy lines while waving wildly at where people are starting to show among still-firing vehicles.
As I reach them and a solicitous enemy officer reaches to help me, my right hand probes inside my shirt to pull and hand him a grenade-pin. I see a look of total shock on the bast--.