drewkitty: (Default)
Reaction Team (RT): Employee members of a unified volunteer force authorized to respond to emergencies and carry weapons in emergencies.

Security Force (SF): Non-employee contractors assigned to regular duties in the protection of life and property.

Company Security (CS): Full time management employees of the Company assigned to regular duties in protecting life and property. Authorized to direct Reaction Team and Security Force personnel. Includes Executive Protection Team members, all of whom are managers.

Collectively: Security Personnel (SP)

1) Human life is irreplaceable, unique and sacred and the protection of human life is of utmost importance to the Company.

2) The property of the Company is vital in national defense, in providing for employees honest work to support themselves and their families, and returning value to investors and shareholders.

Therefore:

All employees and contractors, whether SP or not, enjoy the basic human right of direct self defense. This carries with it the obligation and responsibility to act with restraint and mature consideration of consequences.

The privilege of access to weapons is at the discretion of Company Security through procedures, and may be restricted, amended or revoked at any time either individually or collectively.

Personal property of any nature, including firearms and ammunition but excluding hazardous materials, may be stored by the Company for affiliates. Receipts will be provided and items may be reclaimed on departure from the site and/or end of contract or employment.

The possession of a weapon carries with it great responsibility, as even when properly employed, weapons harm people and improperly employed can maim or kill. Therefore:

- misuse of weapons will be strictly dealt with
- failure to secure weapons will be treated as gross negligence, the actual loss of a weapon will be investigated and corrective action taken
- horseplay with weapons will not be tolerated
- the use of alcohol or intoxicants in connection with weapons will not be tolerated
- SP will meet all medical, background, and training requirements on pain of revocation

RT have emergency access to arms only when authorized and under the direction of SF or CS supervision. This includes training which is frequent and rigorous. When armed they must wear the prescribed uniform, vest, brassard or other identifying devices.

SF are authorized to possess arms according to procedures established by Company Security, and vary according to the nature of protective duties. Generally, SF line staff carry arms only in uniform on duty; SF supervisors and designated persons carry concealed arms only as authorized, and SF managers are authorized at all times.

CS possess arms according to their duties, openly or concealed, and are required to carry a firearm at all times except where doing so would pose a grave danger or is illegal (i.e. prisoner handling, air travel by common carrier). CS members are always on duty unless specifically placed off duty by their direct manager.

The use of deadly force is restricted to the preservation of human life from a deadly threat. Lesser means may be employed when effective, but risks to affiliate life must never be tolerated.

Warning shots are not to be used.

All gunfire directed at a human being shall be considered an intended use of deadly force to destroy that person, to immediately save the lives of others put in danger by the target's actions.

Accordingly, there is no such concept as 'shooting to wound.' Gunfire shall continue until the deadly threat is neutralized.

Restraint is required in dealing with helpless persons, including the gravely wounded and children, regardless of prior actions. Cruelty towards the helpless and prisoners will not be tolerated.

A credible threat of force will be treated as an actual use of that same level of force. This rule is 'mirrored.' In other words, a Company affiliate who issues a deadly force threat must be justified at that moment in using the force threatened and will generally do exactly that. By the same token, it must be taken for fact that an adversary making a credible threat will immediately follow through in that threat, and preemptive defensive action swiftly taken.

The deliberate destruction by gunfire of dangerous animals or objects, including engines and tires of moving vehicles, is permitted. This is not a general authorization to shoot at dogs or fleeing vehicles.

Deliberately striking a person with a moving vehicle over 5mph, with a vehicle equipped with wire or spikes, or to run over them with a tire or tread, is deadly force. Striking a person with a bumper is otherwise less lethal force.

The use of less than lethal force is permitted to protect Company property from theft, sabotage, intrusion or compromise. This force is to be controlled. When possible the least force is to be used consistent with achieving the defensive objective.

The Company will indemnify RT and CS personnel acting in defense of Company and affiliate lives and property.

SF will follow Company guidelines under the direct control of their own supervisors and managers. Except in emergencies, CS will avoid directing SF and work cooperatively towards the common goal of protecting affiliate life and Company property.

Generally, only SF will exercise powers of arrest, according to Company procedures. RT and CS may detain pending SF arrival.

An intelligent enemy acts in anticipation of responses. In the resulting "arms race," meeting force with equal force alone is dangerous and leads to predictability, tolerance of outrageous provocation, and ultimate defeat.

Consider overwhelming force to neutralize threats promptly before they grow out of control. Swift and decisive force that ends an encounter may ultimately be less force, with less risk and less harm, than a play by play clash that escalates to uncontrollable levels.

ALL SP are to receive ethics training.

Designated SP marksmen, specialist drivers, technicians and equipment operators are to receive special ethics training.

All CS are to receive and _to conduct_ ethics training, and are obligated to enforce these rules. Failure to enforce by any RT or SF supervisor, or any CS, shall be treated as complicity in misconduct.

No rule or procedure, including these Rules of Engagement, is to considered greater than the obligation to protect affiliate lives from serious harm. Accordingly, any Company affiliate or employee may take ~any~ action necessary to save affiliate life. Investigation will follow and the actor will either be exonerated or harshly disciplined.

Addendums, in the present emergency:

Due to lack of access to medical care, supplies and medicines, a threat of serious bodily harm shall be treated as deadly force.

Force may be used to eject trespassers, with force rising in proportion to resistance.

Company property is a 'no hostage' zone. Signage to this effect is posted and all visitors are to be informed. Persons taken hostage will be considered already dead, murdered by their captors, and SP will take all action to end the continuing threat without regard to the (pre)deceased. NO DOOR, LOCK OR GATE WILL BE OPENED FOR CAPTORS HOLDING HOSTAGES UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Experience has shown that the only result is greater loss of life.

RT personnel may not resign their position on RT _during_ an emergency situation, but may do so at any other time.
drewkitty: (Default)
Before Firecracker Day, there were about eight hundred critical burn beds on the West Coast of the United States. Three days ago they were full, but mostly occupied by unlucky adults.

Today the remaining six hundred beds are full and to overflowing, and every single one is occupied by a child.

They are the lucky ones. Too many children, thousand and thousands, more than can be borne to think about, were killed instantly in and around San Francisco and Millbrae. Others took painful hours to die, of blast or burns or radiation, or all three. Best not to think of them.

The survivors have been triaged - sorted - three times. Children who were expectant, a grisly euphemism for 'expected to die shortly' - were left with their parents, who would care for them as best they could and at least be there for their passing.

Children who were lightly injured, or suffering from unknown radiation injuries, were also left with their parents, or evacuated to makeshift orphanages. One of these is the CalExpo center in Sacramento, and a venue more accustomed to car and RV shows is instead just as full of orphans.

Time will tell. Radiation sickness is a game of numbers: how many days to onset of symptoms? How many days of function before the second decline? How many transplant teams (few) and how much bone marrow (not enough)? Then for the survivors, the second game, the cancer lottery, and the third, immune system collapse. These would be later, months and years.

Where are the adults who were in those scattered beds, burned in peacetime by accident before Firecracker Day? A lucky few were whisked away to more remote hospitals, where this would not interfere with rescue operations. Some will survive in conventional hospital beds, although in great pain and horribly scarred. But most will die within days, dead that others who need a greater chance might have it. They weren't asked. They were just... moved.

Children heal well. Children need more care but use less consumables, especially medications and plasma.

Children are a higher ratio of lives per pound.

The 'Air Bridge' of medical evacuation helicopters is fed from Stanford, Childrens at Oakland, Santa Rosa and Walnut Creek. Civilian medevacs and crews have been flown in from across the continent. They feed into Fairfield.

There, the military medical evacuation system takes over. At least that was the plan.

Instead, both military and civil airlift has been retasked to the far more important task of preventing the next San Francisco, the next Millbrae. They are flying troops into airheads in China, where American forces are outnumbered hundreds to one yet killing dozens for each soldier they lose.

So instead, UC Davis has stopped being a college campus and has become a medical city, a barracks of broken bodies. Sophomore biology students are ICU nurses now. Anyone with hands can change a dressing or empty a bedpan.

There is one last desperate sorting. Not by paramedics, not by overworked doctors, but by experts in pediatrics and trauma and radiation medicine.

The children who will survive anyway are diverted to Sacramento hospitals. There the long work of rehabilitation can begin. (Next year, America supplants Cambodia as the largest consumer of child prosthetic limbs in the world.)

The children who will die anyway are sent to the State Hospital at Vacaville. The psychiatric nurses are accustomed to giving painkillers and psychotropic medications. (The former adult patients were given a swift, stark choice: volunteer for Army Shock Troops - penal battalions - for immediate China deployment, or be shot.)

The middle range, the children who might survive with adequate care, are sorted again. The superb military burn center at San Antonio, Texas is a painful three days by improvised hospital bus away.

The others are cared for at UC Davis, until they are well enough to survive the bus trip or sick enough to send to Vacaville.

There are still thousands of them.

But there are tens of thousands to care for them.

Many children cannot be saved. But no more will have to die alone.

###

Approved for distribution, Pritchard.
drewkitty: (Default)
When we last saw our plucky hero, he was crawling along a BART track under construction, buried by an earthquake triggered underground collapse under many tons of landfill and debris. Hindered by a broken leg and horrible thirst, he begins to hallucinate.

###

I am supposed to be crawling toward the light. I am crawling toward the air.

I am trying not to think about the odds that the air is coming through a thin pipe, or many tiny cracks. The odds of reaching safety are very low indeed.

The odds of dying here if I stop are 100%. I don't want to die in this pit.

No one will miss me if I die, not even my accountant. I had a life and walking down that escalator, all unknowing, I pissed it away.

I wish I had something to catch piss in. Then I could drink.

My head hits something hard. I stop.

End of the line. End of the track.

I reach forward.

What I touch will tell me my fate.

Smooth concrete? Metal? Or jagged rock?

The touch is cold and my eyes frost. I would weep if I could.

I roll sideways a short distance, into the trackway. In total darkness, by touch I assemble the parts. Wires, a smartphone battery, torn bits of cloth.

Spark, spark. Finally it lights.

I am in a construction area. No bodies here. There is a big plywood sign painted in that unique font of busy construction workers with a spray can, "REFUGE."

It is in a cross tunnel between two trackways.

I am half lying in one of them.

There is no chance I can get myself up four feet and over that lip. My broken leg will bear no weight. None.

But if I do not, I will die here.

So it is up to my one good leg and my arms and my ability to suffer.

The screams bring no reply.

My arms and hands and fingers are bleeding now. AND I AM STILL LYING IN MY FUCKING GRAVE.

I mumble. I realize that I am starting to pray.

If there is a God, there is no God down here. No God down here. No God. Oh God. BOh God. Ohgodohgodohgod.

I am lying on the plastic faux cobbles of the safety strip.

I do not know how long I have been out. But it was long enough for divots to form in the skin that was pressed against the plastic.

My pants are ripped. The ersatz torch and its parts are gone.

I start crawling and start to fall off the edge.

No no no no no no!

I desperately twist and start to fall, and kick out. With both legs. The pain is a white hot blowtorch. But my broken leg hooks just long enough for my scrabbling hands to push me back.

I pant and carefully pat as I move forward and away from the edge.

My hand touches the plywood of the sign.

I have to identify items by touch. A can. A metal box. A radio.

A radio!

I turn it on and it gives the reassuring Motorola beep.

The backlight for the LCD display is as good as a flashlight.

I key up.

"One alive in the refuge," I try to say. What comes out is a thick gobble.

I piss in my hand, rinse out my mouth with bloody piss, key up and broadcast again.

No reply.

The metal box is a first aid kit.

The cans are water. They are pop top.

I force myself to sip slowly, so slowly. After half a can I get into the first aid kit. I wrap a foil blanket around myself and slide another piece of plywood under my butt.

Then I pass out again.

I wake up warm and able to see, from the dim sliver of light from the radio charger.

Power. We have power.
drewkitty: (Default)
There is something soothing about taking a long, hot shower.

Too bad the last time I did that was before the Firecracker.

So instead I was in the Data Center single user toilet, doing my daily scrub with a bowlful of hot water heated in a microwave and unlimited cold water to shiver and splash myself with. I also had a single hand towel, two cut up pieces of knit shirt to serve as washcloths and a single, carefully preserved manual razor. Rank had its privileges - an 8 ounce bottle of hand soap.

I had an interesting morning ahead of me. We were going to conduct an RTX - realistic training exercise - for the corporate militia, which we had dubbed the Reaction Force. They would be summoned to respond to a threat outside at the South Gate. The notional attackers were a mob of angry trespassers who would have to be suppressed without casualties, but mixed within, two or three desperate attackers with actual weapons.

The overhead PA announced, "Condition Yellow, this is a Condition Yellow for a security condition at the South Gate. The Reaction Team will draw arms and equipment."

My first thought was, are we kicking off the RTX early?

My second thought was to start frantically wiping in the best whore's bath style. Face, pits, junk in the front, trunk in the back.

"Echo 18, this is Control," paged my radio on Command frequency.

"Go," I replied, short on protocol while pulling on my underwear.

"We have a package delivery vehicle at the front. Subject vehicle claims to have a delivery for [Client]. Name checks out. But he's dead."

"Set Condition Red, divert him to Point One."

"Copy."

The PA changed its tone. "Condition Red, this is a Condition Red for a security condition at the South Gate. The Reaction Team will draw arms and equipment and move to defensive positions. The Reaction Team will draw arms and equipment and move to defensive positions."

This was followed by an annoying repetitive BONG-BONG-BONG tone every thirty seconds.

Productivity was wrecked for the day, and Site Ops would get nasty E-mails from various management teams.

But recent events had established that they wouldn't have E-mail servers to complain with if we didn't meet basic physical security objectives, such as not allowing threats to enter the perimeter.

I barely had time to shrug into my armor and fasten my gun belt before our least bright security guard barreled into the hallway outside and came to a shuddering stop near the door.

Shane Shreve had met the "bulky" hiring criteria back in the day. He was literally dumb as a post. No, dumber. I'd met smarter posts. He had passed the multiple choice licensing exam by taking it five times. Most of the questions had four choices, some had two.

I had caught him taking a company training program by clicking the right arrow with great diligence every time it popped up. I asked him the subject. He didn't know. I asked him to tell me something he'd read. He replied, "I'm tired, my eyes don't see so good." I checked the schedule later to see if this claim had merit. He'd just gotten off of a ten hour rest break. He was wearing earphones to listen to the soundtrack. A glance showed me that they were not plugged in and the sound was muted.

But he had been told to right click the arrows and right click the arrows he would, until the Certificate in Basic Access Control with his name (which someone else had typed) popped up on the screen. Then someone else would have to find the Save As and attach it to an E-mail.

With a great deal of effort, my senior officers and junior supervisors had worked with him to understand basic concepts of observation and reporting. It wasn't going to happen.

So I had him under my wing, so to speak. My personal guardian angel made of half stubborn and half stupid. Assigned as bodyguard to the Site Security Manager.

He would do what he was told without really understanding how or why. But with enough repetition he could follow simple commands.

It is a fair measure of a brutal industry that he had been a patrol driver before the Firecracker. He had only had two car accidents, neither his fault, or at least the other drivers had said when they saw him get out of the car.

I popped out of the toilet and Shane followed me to the golf cart.

"Where to, boss?"

The procedures called for the duty manager to respond to the threatened area. The threatened area had been announced on the PA, the South Gate. Two plus two, in Shane's case, still added up to zero.

"South Gate bunker."

"Yes, sir."

I had to be careful. If I said South Gate, he'd drop me off outside the front of the South Gate, ignoring minor obstacles such as vehicles, concertina wire, and automatic weapons fire.

Arriving at the South Gate bunker, I stepped into the room and looked at the zoomed image on the camera. A van with the logo of a well known package delivery company. A driver trying to do a bored imitation, but not very well. He kept glancing up.

"Why isn't he at Point One?"

"He said he would wait at the gate until someone signed for his package."

Point One was set up for this kind of situation. A secure large parking space with a little cover from the road and no cover from the gate defenses, it was meant for unverified truck deliveries that might be truck bombs, other people's convoys, and a useful turn-around in case one of our convoys came back in a questionable (i.e. not sure if it had been hijacked) status.

Instead he was parked in front of our South Gate, with no cover from anyone and blocking our main vehicle access.

That was just not on.

"Tell him to leave. If he doesn't, take him into custody for investigation."

If there had been still law, that would have been fairly illegal. But the law book was out the window along with clean food, hot showers, medical care, emergency services and not needing radiological detection equipment to decide whether to buy a can of beans.

The message was communicated to our gate guard, who spoke over a megaphone and waved his hand imperiously. The driver shook his head, the gate guard put down the megaphone and motioned him closer, then when the driver was at arm's length, suddenly tackled him.

Two other guards rushed forward and dragged the driver into the site. Some squirming (his) and kicking (ours) later, he had been searched for weapons.

He had a pistol. Well, if he was doing package delivery, probably a good idea.

He also had a grenade. That was another check in the "not our friend" column.

I had Mo paged to respond in order to identify the grenade.

Then I investigated the driver.

"What's your employee number?"

"Huh?"

"You're a [StateWye] driver. Your employee number, fast."

He blinked. "3 4 5 1 2?" he hazarded.

Not a StateWye driver.

"What's in the truck," I ordered him to tell me.

"Packages and stuff."

"The one for us?"

"Yeah."

"Go get it, drop it on the ground, drive away."

I nodded, the guards let him go, and he ran for his truck.

He didn't demand his pistol and grenade back.

So far we had two strikes out of three.

When he reversed his truck, however, and towards the gate, my patience had worn out.

"Green light," I stated into the microphone, and we heard a CRACK CRACK from the bunker roof and a THUNK THUNK from the truck's engine block, which obediently shattered and made metallic chunky noises until it lurched to a halt.

The driver came out with a rifle.

It all happened faster than I can tell you about it. "Drop it!" boomed the PA, he started to put it to his shoulder, a subtle coughing from the perimeter up ahead caused red blossoms to flower on his chest, and the rifle fell to the ground unfired.

Then the world blew up.

Either the driver had a deadman switch or someone had a remote detonator.

Instead of an access road to the site, we now had a crater about 6' deep and 30' in diameter, and an awful lot of asphalt and metal chunks flying through the air.

A large cloud of filthy black smoke mushroomed upward.

"Stay alert!" I ordered on the primary Tactical frequency.

To be continued...
drewkitty: (Default)
I needed a day off. Legal One told me so, and he is never wrong, because he is the client.

Admittedly things were getting to me. I finally had the supervisory team trained up to the point where they could tack things down in my absence. I also hadn't had to shoot, strike, beat or order arrested anyone in about a week. This bothered me. What was I doing wrong?

Perimeter encampment, checked. Site, secured and searches. Employees, accounted for. Residents badged.

So one morning, I borrowed a helmet and motorcycle and put on a vest and left site. Alone.

This was arguably a great way to get killed, except that I was going where no one sane wanted to go. I was also wearing a dosimeter badge.

I had a friend in San Francisco. I wanted to know.

The route to the regional freeway, 280, was relatively safe. Someone threw a rock at me from a pedestrian overpass, but missed.

The run up was interesting. The road had been cleared mostly by dozer, but maintenance had been slipshod and both potholes and debris were an issue.

I was stopped at three checkpoints. At the first two, my ID and business card were enough to get me waved through.

The third was in Daly City. I was closely questioned by first a sergeant, then a lieutenant. Who did I think I was? Where did I think I was going?

My pistol was not noticed.

Ultimately the lieutenant made a decision. He issued me a 'day pass' valid for the route to and from the address. He warned me that I could exit the zone only from his checkpoint, and by the time indicated. I would be searched. Photography was OK and papers and print photos could be removed, but absolutely no metal. Looters would be shot. If challenged I was to stop immediately and show my pass. Failure to stop could be enforced by sniper or gunship. Briefly.

Then the sergeant and I went over the same radiation survey I had checked yesterday from the National Weather Service Web site. Areas of safety, areas to avoid. "Stay in the open where rain has decontaminated most. We will wand you when you leave but being deconned sucks."

The zone was eerily quiet. They had shot all the dogs. The birds had left. The cats were dead. The rats too.

My friend's home was a typical two story with walk up stairs.

The front door was open. An X marked the door. "CHP / clear [date time] / low / D-4 "

I parked and cable locked the motorcycle, even though no one was around and I hadn't been challenged.

I walked up the stairs.

The living room was a scene of horror.

What got me was the tea. A nice brewed pot with a skull and crossbones logo from a household product under it. Three cups.

I could see into the guest bedroom. The bed buzzed with a horde of flies under and over the tarp in which someone had wrapped the small body.

But not as many as the three sitting corpses that grinned involuntarily at me, through rotted away faces.

I stumbled into the kitchen, fighting not to throw up despite the gauze mask I had automatically put on walking up the stairs.

I found the note. I took a picture of it.

It listed the names of four people. My friend, her kid sister (in the bed) and her parents. Full names, dates of birth and of death. The child had died on D+2. They had died on D+3.

It was my friend's handwriting. I knew with a certainty she was one of the three on the couch.

"We are trapped. My folks are old and feeling very sick. I am sick too, started today. Cathy was horribly burned at school. I had to go get her and bring her home in a shopping cart. She died. Fortunately not much pain.

"The radio says if you get bad sick within three days, there is not much they can do. I know there is little for lots of people. They are telling people to walk out by Highway 1 but the Daly City Fire is spreading. I made it to the Great Highway but couldn't get further. So I went home.

"We have decided that the thing to do is to go as a family. We are listening to music on the radio and drinking our tea.

"When there are no good choices, our family way is to accept the inevitable with dignity. If we had a chance we would take it, but we do not. So we will die as we lived, in our home and together."

"The Yamashita Family, San Francisco."

I carefully put the note down in its place, put it in a Ziploc bag from the cabinet and weighted it with ... another teacup of the same set.

I took no papers, I took no effects. I would update the Red Cross Web site when I returned.

A street of homes. A neighborhood of streets. A city of neighborhoods.

And every one a tragedy.

Not a statistic.
drewkitty: (Default)
"Down the Rabbit Hole" is based on this post.

My entries have been fairly dark.

2017: Lifeboat (this one)
2016: Atrocity Day
2015: Log of the _Blue Oyster_
2014: Pile It On
2013: Door to Door Inferno
2012: Future Imperfect
2011: Freedom From Fear: The Home Front
2010: War of Terror: On The Front Line
2009: America Back To Work
2008: nonfiction break "The Power of Nightmares," a censored film about Islamic and Christian fundamentalism
2007: In The Hole, Spectacularly Not Winning
2006: Security & Space
2005: GlobAll War Of Terror

[Note To Self: entries between 2005 and 2011 need to be confirmed migrated from LJ to DW and links updates.]

Lifeboat is a "get the humans off the planet" story with a twist.
drewkitty: (Default)
Moffett Field, CA
Firecracker War: Day Two

The helicopter staggered mid air as if it was being flown by a drunk. Slowly it descended, shifting from side to side, and scraping as the skids touched the concrete.

The pilot stumbled out of the cockpit and was immediately knocked down by a fire hose stream. He had radioed ahead, just a half hour ago. In that calm voice heard on so many flight recorder tapes, he had said what was necessary.

"Wind shift. We flew through the plume. Starting to feel dizzy."

The radiation safety specialist who had been running the equipment in the back got out of the helicopter on the far side of the fire truck, staggered like a drunk about fifty feet, drew a handgun, put it carefully under his chin and pulled the trigger.

The rescue crew wearing chemical warfare protective gear ignored his body and ran toward the stricken pilot. They rolled him into a stretcher and carried him towards Decontamination. All of them would need to be scrubbed and washed down.

If a mere hour of exposure had caused gross radiation sickness, the pilot was most certainly dead, beyond any hope of aid. The only question was how many days of agony it would take for him to die.

Another crew also in full gear began to decontaminate the helicopter. The only one in the squadron fitted with the full airborne monitoring and sampling package.

Mounting it on another helicopter would cost valuable time, and moreover risk damaging it. Unacceptable.

In a nearby hangar, the squadron's NBC warfare officer was giving a class on how to run the radiation monitoring equipment. The pilots were being briefed on weather and necessary flight information.

Thousands of lives depended on knowing the shape and extent of the cigar shaped plumes of fallout extending from the detonations in San Francisco and Burlingame.

The next pilot and the NBC warfare officer put on protective gear and walked out to the contaminated helicopter. Both checked their pistols. The fuel crew, also in full gear, had finished their task and was now decontaminating.

The helicopter crew chief spoke through his filter mask.

"Sir, she's really hot. At least ten REM per hour, maybe more."

"Doesn't matter."

The crews stopped and saluted as the helicopter lifted.

Within seventy two hours, every pilot and radiation safety officer in the squadron would be dead or dying from radiation exposure.

Within six months, all of them - ground crew, firefighters, medics - would be dead from cumulative exposure.
drewkitty: (Default)
[Header.]

It was a foggy afternoon in March.

This saved a lot of lives.

As best can be determined from the size and shape of the craters and shock waves, satellite and ballistic trajectory tracking, and the performance of the weapons employed, and US Navy sonar tracking data, a single Chinese SSBN (ballistic missile nuclear submarine) launched four 800 kiloton nuclear weapons at the San Francisco Bay Area.

The reason is unknown. The launching submarine received the personalized attention of a nearby US nuclear attack sub tracking it, to the tune of eight torpedoes, as soon as the sonar shack realized she was launching.

This probably also saved many lives, because the attacker carried twelve JL-2 ballistic missiles, each believed to have a yield between 250 kilotons and 1 megaton. Some of them may have been MIRVs, or multiple (3-4) warheads of 90 kilotons each.

The first weapon airburst at 300 meters above UN Plaza (between the Library and Civic Center) at 1:30 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. Four hundred thousand people lost their lives in sixty seconds. The weapon annihilated Market Street, devastated San Francisco, collapsed all freeways and bridges, destroyed or severely damaged every hospital (except the VA Medical Center near the Presidio) and almost every fire station. Every wood frame building in line of sight would have been on fire, except that the fog reflected and absorbed some of the thermal pulse.

The second weapon airburst three minutes later at 300 meters above San Francisco International Airport's main terminal building. Another one hundred and fifty thousand people lost their lives within a minute after that. South San Francisco, Burlingame, San Mateo, Foster City and points in between were obliterated.

This weapon did start a nuclear forest fire in the hills above San Bruno. Only by the most heroic efforts was the conflagration stopped from progressing further south, amid the wreckage of San Mateo.

No effort was made - or possible - to keep it from spreading north into Daly City and the San Francisco watershed. With all power out and all domestic water supply severed, San Francisco fought the greatest fire of its history - by far exceeding the Great Fire of the 1906 Earthquake - with six fire engines, two fire boats, sea water, and the contents of a handful of surviving underground cisterns.

They lost.

That two hundred thousand San Franciscans survived to be evacuated by an ad hoc effort by boats, ferries, yachts . . . anything that floated . . . is considered the greatest miracle of evacuation since World War II at Dunkirk. However, over half would die of cancer and other radiation injuries within the next two years.

Weirdly, due to both topography and accident of circular geometry, a triangle shaped patch of Daly City west of Highway 280, between the Daly City BART station and Westlake Shopping Center, was unharmed. At first. Literally trapped between fires in a high radiation area, the nominal survivors died of radiation exposure within 48 hours. Scratch another fifty thousand.

The third weapon detonated another three minutes later in open ocean about eight kilometers west of Pescadero, California. Two fishing vessels were destroyed, numerous people on shore were temporarily blinded, and the flash started a forest fire that was ultimately extinguished two weeks later. Fallout from this ocean strike was insignificant. It is believed that this weapon malfunctioned and that it was targeted somewhere between Menlo Park and Mountain View, California - Facebook, Google or Moffett Field military airport.

The fourth weapon was targeted inland and was swiftly engaged by theater anti-ballistic missile defenses from bases in Nevada and Utah. It crashed in rugged terrain outside Livermore, ironically near several sensitive US government facilities, and did not detonate. Based on ballistic trajectory it is believed to have been targeted on Folsom Dam east of Sacramento.

America's retaliation was swift and decisive.

In the next forty-eight hours, over one thousand nuclear weapons were launched from ICBMs, nuclear ballistic submarines, Naval strike aircraft from carrier battle groups, long range bombers, and a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (in gross violation of the Outer Space Treaty).

The number of Chinese casualties will never be known but is believed to exceed eight hundred million.

In other words, America killed at a ratio of over one thousand to one in retaliation.

Immediately, American power projection forces - aircraft, ships, Marines, Army paratroops followed by conventional soldiers - raced to strike all throughout China. They made no effort to interfere with or to replace local government, if any. Their goal was to destroy all nuclear capable facilities, sites, forces, and command and control facilities and capabilities, as swiftly as humanly possible.

Another hundred nuclear weapons were used as 'called shots' on facilities that could not be immediately overwhelmed by more conventional means. Most of these were air bursts to minimize fallout, but some were 'penetrator' weapons used against deep bunkers such as Hohhot in the Yinshan Mountains well north of Beijing (which itself was worthy of no less than 30 weapons in the first twenty-four hours).

The use of nuclear arms only ceased when scientists warned that further atmospheric fallout would so badly contaminate the Western Pacific as to permanently affect the viability of the world's largest ocean ...

###

[The page is torn across at this point]

###

REJECTED FOR REWRITE.

1) We don't care why they did it. They did it, that's enough. No more of this 'we will never know the reason.'

2) The US does not violate treaties. There is no "Outer Space Treaty." Remove references to it.

3) The nuclear retaliation for China's sneak attack was completely justified. Comments even vaguely critical are to be redacted. Implying that there is something wrong with the ratio is unacceptable. Gook lives are worthless. Drop the number.

4) Environmental concerns are also to be redacted. We know. We don't care.

5) Punch up the horror and pathos of the San Francisco sneak attack. Make it more personal. Mention names of people who died. Mention what they were doing when they were murdered. Example: "The air traffic controller at SFO barely had time to call out 'FLASH' on the North American Air Defense Command net before being blinded by the first strike. Blinded and bleeding, he never had time to realize what killed him three minutes later."

[signed]

Major John Pritchard, US Military Press Liaison
drewkitty: (Default)
"Democracy Fixfic"

That is the fiction challenge of the week. Write a story about how American democracy got fixed.

First get it drunk.

Then tie its legs apart.

Then get out your scalpel.

Not the story you were looking for?

Then go out and make a better one.
drewkitty: (Default)
Mo and I were in the blast shed security and auditing inventory when the shed door banged open.

I turned and drew, then holstered when I saw that it was Legal One. Mo didn't care who it was, he went hands on and pushed my client right out the door, shouting "No! No!"

I followed as Mo kept pushing him backward on the path. He was too shocked to react. Then I saw what Mo had seen, and my bladder cut loose as my knees gave way and my vision grayed.

I took two deep breaths and verbalized after each, "No! Get back! Danger!" On the third breath I blurted out, "No radio or phones! Ever! Back behind the red line, sir, right now. Right now!"

As we crossed the literal red line of used brick set on the ground marking a fifty foot radius from the shed, I would have pissed myself again if I'd had anything left.

His radio crackled and I took it from him, putting my body between the antenna and the shed.

"Control, this is Echo 18 actual. Do you have emergency traffic?"

"Negative, Legal One is looking for you and headed to the shed."

The golf cart rumbled into view down the path to the shed, with the reaction team on board. Obviously responding to same.

"Copy. Legal One is with me and Bravo 2. Break. Cancel response to the shed, word of the day is Hightower. Control confirm."

"Control to React Two, 10-19, Code 4."

"React Two copies." The electric golf cart made a U-turn - neat trick on a narrow path - and rumbled back up the hollow.

The demo shed was set in a small valley, a hollow between two hills, for many tolerably obvious reasons.

"Echo 18 to Control, I will be off radio for a half hour. Use the shed emergency strobe if you need me for an emergency. Out."

To one side of the path, well outside the red line of bricks, was a sheltered overhang supporting a few solar panels. They were wired to a battery, a couple of radio cradles, and a strobe light. The dispatcher in the command center can flick a switch to light that strobe over a wireline connection, letting the bomb techs know to call in, whether they are inside or out.

Safely.

From outside the RF danger area where radio traffic could set off stored demolitions and vaporize anyone present. Not to mention losing the explosives, which have many uses.

"All three of us just came within seconds of sudden violent death, sir. If that radio had received in that room, what is left of us could be picked up with toothbrushes and buried in a coffee can. Mo, go lock the shed from outside, then 10-19."

No one - not even me - is ever allowed in the shed alone.

Legal One sat down heavily on one of the rough benches, and wrinkled his nose at the sharp smell of urine.

This area was still within the "Off Limits To All Personnel, This Means You, Security Access Must Be Authorized By Control, Two (2) Person Rule At All Times, Deadly Force Authorized Inside Red Line. No Radios, No Phones, No Photos."

Clearly he hadn't read the signs.

"Who owns this land?" he asked.

"This parcel is landlocked, actually. It was a farmhouse at one point. Some LLC in Delaware keeps trying to sell it to you folks, someone told me once."

Legal One's secretary, actually.

"So you did not actually build a ... bunker on Company property?"

"As you know, we have built a bunch of bunkers on Company property. This is the only large explosives storage. We have three ready use lockers with small quantities, enough for one incident each."

"South Gate, Mezzanine, Motor Pool."

"You got it."

"Why?"

"The weapon of choice for terrorists, if you can't or won't mount a direct attack, is IEDs. We were hit with a truck bomb. Several attempts have been made at the gate. IEDs are a constant threat to our convoys. I am amazed that I did not encounter any during my time off."

"Except the ones you brought."

"A breaching charge is not an IED." And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

"What about the item on the upside down table?"

"A bluff."

He's seen the video from the colo site invasion. Possibly analyzed it.

"And the Lexus."

"I have no idea why that car blew up."

"I may have been born at night but not last night!"

"Is this conversation protected by lawyer client privilege?"

"Fuck no!"

"There was no difference between the Crown Vic and the Lexus."

True. Mo and I had rigged both vehicles because I wasn't certain if I would have to order Mo to blow one or the other, or both.

"You actually let them go."

"I did."

He knows I'm lying. I know he knows. But the best lawyers can conceal even that fact.

Legal One, despite his callsign, is not that good.

"What if I told you to tear this," handwave around us at the demo shed slash training area, "all down?"

"If I couldn't change your mind, and couldn't go over your head, I'd have to quit."

"Why?"

"There is a samurai saying. It is false to your sworn oath to die with a weapon you have not yet drawn."

"Huh?"

Now we were getting somewhere, past anger and disbelief. He was thinking.

"The fastest, safest and most economical way to defeat an IED is to blow it up at a time, place and manner of your choosing. That means bomb squads need bombs. No getting around it. Techs have to train on live ordinance. We have no police and no military support. This is not Ghostbusters! There is no one left to call!"

"What will you do when there is?"

"Be grateful that some of us survived. Demill the toys."

"De-mil?"

"Demilitarize. Cut the barrels in half, burn or controlled detonate the junk. Put the Hate Truck on a pedestal and put a plaque on it. Have Landscaping mow Boot Hill since they're not too busy trying to grow food."

"Do you know how to set up an LZ?"

"For civilian. Read up on military."

"Set one up. We have visitors tomorrow. Marines."

I nod.

"The vehicle turn-around at the base of this hill. There's already a windsock tied to the nearest light pole. A few weighted cones and a marker panel. Two guards and the Fire Brigade light engine for crowd control and aviation safety. The flags on Boot Hill are good for wind direction. No smoke - unless you want me to get one from the shed."

"What haven't you planned for?"

"I have a guard dead because we couldn't get him to surgical care in time."

He winced. I continued.

"I have no plan for keeping prisoners for more than a few days. We have a brig for processing and for minor matters, but a jail is an expensive way to feed your enemies when we can hardly feed our friends. Letting them go is the best thing we can do."

"Yet you gave Daswant a Lexus?"

"I expended an asset to speed them on their way."

Finally the penny drops and he gets it. He visibly pales.

"Did you... ?"

"I know your law degree is in patent law, but somewhere in there did they cover the concept of an accessory after the fact?"

He pales further.

"You're my client. You have the right to ask me the hard questions. Be very sure you want the answers."

He looks at me. I mean, really looks.

With a spreading stain on the front of my pants and cold wetness down my legs and in my shoes, I undergo his scrutiny.

He nods once, briskly.

"Let's go count some explosives."

I get up and follow him back to the shed.

Without prompting, he has hung up his radio on the charging cradle. Turned off even.

We may have a chance.
drewkitty: (Default)
A happy Bruce Anders story!?!

Fine.

###

Today was just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.

Sometimes the nurse remembered to adjust my pillows. More often not. Sometimes the radio was on, sometimes the TV.

I couldn't see so it didn't matter. But I couldn't move either.

Spine damage will do that to you. Brain damage too, they'd said while shining bright lights in my eyes.

Nothing hurt.

Can you imagine that?

My body didn't hurt. My soul didn't hurt. I had no family but I didn't miss them. No memory either.

It doesn't hurt.

I'm not even sure it hurt when it happened. A quick starburst of brightness on the top of my head, and a cut string collapse that lasted ... well... forever I guess.

Time doesn't mean much here either.

I napped.

# # #

Man Struck Over Head With Chair Still In Coma

###

Two people are arguing over me.

"Let him go. He's done here. You've done enough."

"No. He has to play it out."

"Were you there when he called to you?"

"No."

"You lose your claim on him."

"You cannot hurt him!" G-D warned, dangerously.

"Furthest thing from my mind," she replied, unfazed.

###

Man... Strike ... Chair ... Comma

# # #

I am spinning, dazed, on my knees in the dimly lit bar as the man raises the barstool over me.

"You have one second," an elfin voice whispers to me. It is a bittersweet voice. Hearing it shatters men's souls. It inspired the ancient stories of Sirens.

And modern ones, too. The bartender's threat to call the cops is still in the air. This one's too drunk to listen.

I twist instead of trying to get up. My back grinds into the dirty floor as my legs come up and intercept the falling stool with the full power of my desperate thigh muscles.

The stool shatters. Dumbfounded, the drunk man lets go of the pieces.

I turn and pluck the shotgun out of the bartender's hands. He knew I hadn't picked the fight, and I wasn't the threat. Bad mistake, but it wouldn't cost him his life tonight.

The drunk man starts to stoop to pick up a sharp piece and I level on him.

"Run, man, or die right here, right now. Run. Run. Run."

The bar takes up the chorus. "Run. RUN. Run man run!"

He does. I hand the shotgun butt first back to the bartender.

"Thanks for the quick loan, John, I owe you one."

He is too stunned to take it, so I gently set it down on the bar top.

I am cold stone sober, more so than when I walked in.

I walk out of the bar.

###

Police Log

A Quiet Night In Midtown
drewkitty: (Default)
We had taken over the work tables next to the stock rooms for mission prep. Security had its own storage, armory and magazine - and that was just inside the building. But we also maintained and had input into the Site Operations stock rooms, which had both disgorged and gathered an amazing variety of parts, goods, equipment, tools and gear. Logistics now took the place of the catalogs one sees in every place of employment: Grainger, U-Line, Aramark/Galls, Snap Tool, Graybar - as none could deliver in a place where there was no UPS, FedEx, US Mail or even DHL.

No Fry's Electronics, Costco, Home Depot, Ace Hardware or Orchard Supply Hardware either. Oh, there were occasional empty buildings, looted shells or wrecked storefronts - but they depend on trucks too.

No trucks, no deliveries.

We, meaning Security, had risked lives - and in self defense taken them - to fill these rooms. Now the eight of us were packing for a little excursion, a field trip, which might require rebuilding equipment and would require keeping control of a small cage in a big facility.

If we didn't think to bring it, we wouldn't have it - and would die lacking it.

I'd lied to Legal 1. One of the three guards should never have left the site. Not only was he a veteran, he was my budding hope of developing an organic counter IED capability. But he was neither a veteran of the US military nor was he suited by temperament or personality to very dangerous, precise, finicky work.

Too damn bad.

He had been through his nation's basic military training, combat engineer school, and a brutal counter-mining program in which pass/fail was measured in trainee lives. He'd also walked away from the US joint EOD school after his sponsors had flown his wife and kids to America. He correctly realized (dumb people don't go to bomb school) that his own odds of seeing his kids grown up were essentially zero if he returned home to do the job he had been drafted into.

While fighting deportation, he'd gotten a job as a landscaper. After a review of my newly created security files post-Firecracker, I had immediately transferred him to Security and launched a successful rescue operation to save his family. Then he'd been assigned a course of sprouts - all guard posts, infirmary guard, assistant trainer, assistant security systems tech, cross familiarization with facilities engineering, our data center, IT support and our budding automotive shop.

None of this changed the fact that while the EOD instructors would have given him a pass, they had really wanted to downcheck him. Unsure of himself, nervous, prone to guesswork - horrible traits for a conventional bomb tech, who has to stand up to very aggressive people (his bosses) and say, "No."

He didn't need a spine, I would provide him with one. But he needed proper kit and in violation of safety, sanity, what remained of the law, and common sense, I had obtained it for him.

The proper paperwork for our demo shed (signed with "KEEP OUT! NO ENTRY WITHOUT SECURITY ESCORT! NO ELECTRONICS EVER! DEADLY FORCE WILL BE USED!" and skulls) and blast pits at the South Gate, small arms range and the "Back 40" had been typed up and E-mailed to HQ for action. I might have typ0'd th3 @ddR3S$.

So 'Mo' and I were going over the parts of his gear. Mine was already packed and ready to go. We'd already packed and safed the fun stuff in the demo shed. This was the rest of it.

He and I carried the same (crappy) detection gear. Flashlights, hand mirrors, a hand wand as likely to set off a charge as find a wire, a fiber optic inspection camera, high and low voltage probes, and smartphones loaded with vaguely relevant software (magnetometer, camera, ranging) and a picture gallery of related gear.

I also had a thick, very sharp hunting knife and two smaller knives. As the only training I'd managed outside of books (carefully censored) was from Samir (not going on this one) and 'Mo,' my approach to an IED would be to 1) recognize it and 2) GTFO for values of Get The Fuck Out.

But if I couldn't, I would have to cut wire and trust in the same Allah / Jehovah / Yahweh who was down with The City becoming The Barbeque. Bring your own sauce.

'Mo' had a hook, loop, pulley and wire kit on one leg and an electronics tool kit on the other. He wore soft body armor, a helmet and a handgun but his weapon was his mind. And a mini oxy torch in a belt pack. And the carefully wrapped bundles of 'play dough' in his backpack.

I wanted a bomb robot so bad I could taste it. But if there were any left operational, no one was admitting to it. So instead we had two of the next best thing. They ran on love, not batteries.

Attack dogs are easy to train. Teach them to hate everything that moves but to be afraid of their master. But enough about my childhood.

Guard dogs and police K-9s are much harder to train. They work on both love and hate in proper measure.

'George' and 'Richard' were Doberman K-9s in training whose trainer had been killed. We found them frantic in a kennel in the back yard of her home. They were still looking for her, and probably always would. Meanwhile they tolerated their half trained handler, her husband. As stockbroker was a singularly pointless profession here and now, Alvin had made lemonade from radioactive lemons and accepted a guard job.

(I have to hand it to HQ. Once they realized a remote site was not only hiring but doing it to Company standards in the middle of an apocalypse, they'd E-mailed me the relevant passwords and kept further comments to themselves.)

George had worked for us for some years before the Firecracker. Mild, soft spoken, huge - his nickname had been 'Tiny.' He was diligent but not all that bright. His performance evaluations rated him highly on customer service but poorly on safety and foresights.

George worshiped the ground I walked on. He was a genuinely decent man doing the best he could in a world of shit, and it had all come crashing home to him when I had literally beat the piss out of him at the range - in front of a crowd - for muzzling me.

This is a cardinal sin worse than mere battery - pointing a firearm at a person you are not ready and willing to kill.

I'd helped him up, he'd started to bawl an apology, which I interrupted and accepted, and then we'd gone on a run during which I'd explained to him what he'd done, why it was not OK, and that he could either shape the fuck up or transfer, with my blessing, to Cafeteria or Janitorial.

He had shaped up. He now carried one of our few automatic rifles (shhhh! what ATF doesn't know won't hurt us!) and could be relied upon to use short, precise bursts to proper effect. Call him a half trained infantryman. On convoy halts he was the designated dismount for the Hate Truck.

All four of us now carry silenced pistols and suppressors for our primary firearms. (Again, if there are any ATF agents left alive in a one hundred mile radius, they are either deep cover agents or recently retired, involuntary, for health reasons.) Normally Security did not need these toys, but patrols, ambushes, and night operations (including hunting) had given us a healthy appreciation for the ability to reach out and touch someone without waking the neighborhood. The pistols in particularly were silenced .22 long rifle, called 'Hush Puppies' in Vietnam for their use against sentry dogs.

Each of us carried three loads - a combat load, or what we needed to move and shoot and communicate; a survival load, to stay alive; and a sustainment load of water, ammo and food. We would cache the latter, about 100 pounds per person.

Any time I started to confuse us with special operations troops, my body would remind me. Even a twisted ankle would be a mobility kill, followed shortly by the real McCoy. We carried as much as we dared but still probably not enough.

We did share one capability with special operations troops. Each of us was a proven shooter. We would all do our jobs, with intensity and under fire. Four of us on the line meant four of us fighting. That matters.

We couldn't use the technicians as pack mules, as much as I longed to. They had their own loads to carry. Two IT techs, a network engineer and a Diesel mechanic with some electrical skills. Each had their profession's basic tool kit strapped to their body plus one large item they'd requested and I'd approved.

Daswant was your typical H1B IT tech, except for his love of fast cars and faster women. He had not really wanted to go but I'd beg-sisted. In addition to laptop, punch down tools, testers, etc. he'd brought a large, bulky cell phone he kept on his body. Even while showering he'd kept the shower bag containing it nearby. (Do not ask how I know these things, it's my job.)

He'd asked for and gotten the OK to bring a comb jump starter / inflator / power supply with a selection of car tools: tire plugs, crescent wrenches, flat head screwdrivers, etc.

Janine was not your typical IT tech. Rude, loud, covered in tattoos and prone to wearing as little as possible, she was so personally abrasive that a full time handler had to be assigned to her to keep her out of trouble around customers. Short, squat and terminally pretty in a quasi punk way, she liked to knit in her spare time - and now did so at site.

She carried the forcible entry kit - a short sledge, cutting torch, crowbar, saws, fire axe and lots of wooden door stops. She'd sinched her entry on the team by being a volunteer firefighter, and had helped train both Security and the newly organized Fire Brigade.

Curtis had a chip on his shoulder about the size of his home state, Texas. He'd been visiting California on another contract and swept up in his company's rush to find a safe place. He'd packed for a week, now going on four months, and all his gear was borrowed. He carried a package of four routers, with the fifth and smallest on his body as I'd insisted. He was a network engineer that 1) did not work for my client and 2) we could afford to lose in the field.

He was furious beyond all measure that I would not permit him and the other techs to carry a gun.

I had reason.

I looked around the room. Daswant was checking over his car tools again. Oh well.

"Buddy" Nolastname, which is how his badge read and my security files listed him, had done several years in the US Coast Guard as a 'wiper' (engineering seaman) before getting a General Conduct Discharge for habitual brawling. Considering that this happened in the 1980s, a neat trick. He'd been on site driving a tow truck when I'd arrived, and we'd needed the tow truck so bad I'd overlooked his brawling, drunkenness and corner cutting - all on display simultaneously, I might add. So far I haven't needed to beat him into shape. The news that I'd tuned up George aka Tiny, 6'6" and 320 pounds of meekness, kept me from having to tune up 6'3" and 300 pounds of pure mean. Which was good because I wasn't sure I could.

"Buddy" was a man of few words and gifted hands, who had gravitated to Facilities and maintained our 'backup' generators which had now exceeded their service lives on improvised parts. Sure we had mains power, but we had frequent brownouts too.

Buddy carried a 2000 watt portable generator with a duffel bag of carefully selected AC cables, adapters, wiring, plug in items and tools.

This left me to carry the gas can, George to carry the ammo cans, Alvin to carry water and Mo to carry a duffel that clanked.

We were loading up in two vehicles. One was a battered Ford Crown Victoria which had made the police, taxicab, security, discount taxi, private ownership loop a couple of times and looked it. The other was a gleaming near-new Lexus 4-door whose owner had been giving a sales presentation in Burlingame on Firecracker Day.

His bad luck had been to be in a room facing north. Either the body full of broken glass or the 30% partial thickness burns probably would have killed him, but both plus a significant radiation dose had made his end certain. Our good luck had been that he'd left his car keys in his office and ridden up with a co-worker, who'd escaped injury by addressing a urinal at exactly the right moment.

Daswant wanted to drive the Lexus, which I allowed as Mo was sitting right behind him. Buddy drove the Vic with me riding shotgun and both Curtis and Janine ignoring each other in the back. That put Alvin and both his dogs in the front seat of the Lexus and George in the right rear, rifle at hand.

The trunks and roof racks were full, as were the gas tanks and our bellies. It was time.

Big convoy, Hate Truck in the lead, technical second, two trucks with trailers, the Lexus, the Vic and a third truck - a U-Haul - towing an empty flatbed trailer. The flatbed had a powered winch and tow cable.

The convoy leader gave the "Move Out!" hand signal.

The gates rolled open and we rolled out. It looked like a large salvage op, intentionally so, and I tried to put myself in the heads of the observers watching with low power radios or wired phones.

Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time, Environment. Seven vehicles and three trailers leaving South Gate at 1000 hours headed north towards San Jose downtown. All white except the silver Lexus. About numbers thirty personnel, all apparently armed.

And suddenly in a rehearsed movement we wrong-wayed the southbound freeway off ramp and floored it. It was a trick that could only work once, but we only needed it to work once.

Ambushers on top of the ped bridge at Meridian ran to the other side. They ducked as the convoy took them under sustained heavy fire, again a departure from our SOP. One stood and danced, spinning and screaming in a brief greasy ballet which ended in greasy smoke when he folded in on himself.

Mr. Molotov is a fickle drink. Served for others, he sometimes picks you.

We were not playing this one for table stakes. This was for all the marbles.

Armed with recent recon (last night), the convoy exited from an on ramp, crossed an unblocked bridge, and got back on the freeway going the right way, again flooring the gas.

A small car followed us and the very brave guard who had been lying down strapped to the flatbed of the last trailer sat up with his bipod mounted medium machine gun and fired a short warning burst.

When this deterrent did not work, further bursts turned the car into a bleeding wreck. Again, not playing softball.

Six exits to target. We made it without further incident. The convoy exited, the Vic and Lexus turned left, the Hate Truck popped smoke from its dispenser and the convoy got right back on.

"Janine, make sure the Lexus is still with us."

"Fuck you pig," she said and turned to comply. That was the difference between her and Curtis, who would have said "Fuck you fag" and not complied. My normal habit, well known to employees, was to keep friends close and enemies closer.

We proceeded, Vic in lead, down a maze of streets towards what everyone thought the target was.

"Buddy, right, now."

The Vic lurched and the Lexus followed. We pulled up to a locked chain link gate with a warehouse behind it. I shouted and banged on the hood, doing what I ordered them to do.

"Dismount! Now, now now!"

Daswant looked pale. Alvin dismounted but kept his dogs in the front of the Lexus. Mo flanked left and George right, rifles up. Buddy unfolded himself as Curtis and Janine sprang apart in mutual loathing.

A kid on a bicycle rode up and unlocked the chain. He waved as he locked the lock to the gate and rode away.

"Shift to neutral. Push the cars in," I said calmly.

"Why not just drive?" asked Daswant.

"Because that's not the deal."

We went, cars and souls, into the warehouse past two kids with AR rifles. A little hungry, a little angry, maybe fourteen years old. They didn't muzzle us so we didn't muzzle them.

The warehouse was empty except for two men in business suits and an armored truck.

One man's eyes flicked over us, narrowed seeing Curtis, and then he stood loosely out of the way. My practiced eye stopped counting his concealed handguns at five.

The other man extended his hand. I took it and shook. We sized each other up.

"You are known to make poor deals. So when you make a fair deal, I start to wonder."

"What use is an armored truck to you?"

"What use are computer servers to you?"

"Exactly."

"This is the truck. Where are my servers?"

"To be delivered tomorrow, in the truck."

"How do I know you will keep your promise?"

"Because I want three trucks."

"Ah," he says without surprise. "And what collateral do you offer?"

"The Lexus?"

He laughs.

"No, I can see the dogs from here. Messy. Truck today, servers and trucks tomorrow. From a poor dealer like you, I take your word. But just the once. Unless you want to give me her?"

Yet another reason the techs are not armed. Janine comes up from her bundle with the axe. The bodyguard's hand twitches.

"I will shove this so far up your..."

I interrupt with a hand in the air. She pauses, a minor miracle.

"You will need competent installers. That work is negotiable. But I do not trade in lives."

"Oh yes you do. You save them and you take them. As I said, a poor dealer. I will find my installers elsewhere. Keys are in the truck."

"Here, tomorrow, noon."

A second and third truck rumble up to the doors. The businessman, his bodyguard and the door kids mount up. I gesture George to take over as door guard.

"Mo, Buddy, Daswant, go over the truck please. Janine and Curtis, I want exterior cameras installed on this building now. Alvin, perimeter interior patrol with one dog. Other dog in the Lexus."

I go over and pocket the keys for the Vic, then the Lexus. Carefully. The remaining dog looks at me in that "I'd like to bite you, but you're the pack alpha" grin.

The team disperses to their tasks. I lend a steady hand as Mo disarms and then dismounts the tear gas packs. Buddy is doing an engine inspection as Daswant traces the on-board electronics.

Then I get some rags and waste a little precious water scrubbing bloodstains out of the driver's seat and cab floor.

"Where do you suppose he got the trucks?" Daswant asks.

"Probably about the time he stole the cash," I reply idly as I lift and lower the gun port flaps, checking their function.

The US government had pulled its own one shot trick about two weeks into the Firecracker. We were all still getting used to it.

Bill exchange. All greenbacks had to exchange with the new yellow specie in ten days, and after were worthless.

The act invalidated all foreign cash holdings at a stroke - a huge F U to certain countries, who hadn't been there for America when it mattered. China, which had nuked us and now was attempting to resist an invasion coupled with lavish use of nukes ("They started it!"), and Iran, which was noted for forgery, were most affected. But the Middle East ran on US cash and now it was eye catching toilet paper.

The bill exchange also kept opportunists from pumping stolen cash from shattered cities into the rest of the domestic economy. Had a side effect of wiping out small and/or illegal private savings, money laundering and the drug trade.

The US government would not have dared before the Firecracker. But the world was finding out the difference between America annoyed at peace and America waging desperate, vicious war.

The last news article I'd read prior to leaving site had explained how we were using tactical nuclear bombardment from field artillery to remove refugee columns from the path of American armor, because it was faster than machine gunning them and had less effect on the morale of our own troops.

I'm just a guard. But I'm an American guard.

###

Mo asks what I'd like done with the tear gas packs. I tell him to save them for backhaul to site. Meanwhile Daswant has defeated the antitheft and remote engine kill on the truck. Buddy sticks his head out from under the hood, after his crawl under the axles.

Buddy has gone over the engine, suspension and tires with a fine toothed comb. He smiles with the eight front teeth he still has. I ask him, "Willing to bet lives on this truck?" He nods.

I need more. "My life, or yours?"

He frowns. "She'll do."

OK, if that is the best I can get. Better than a signed appraisal.

We start cross loading gear, but not dogs, to a pile in the warehouse beside the truck. Daswant opens the left front door of the Lexus and George promptly growls at him. With the keys in my pocket it's not going anywhere anyway, but I watch out of the corner of my eye as he closes - but not all the way - that door again.

The warehouse has no power but the eight pack of cameras runs on their own batteries. Alvin returns with Richard, who joins George. Both watch Daswant as if he is the only dog toy left in the entire store.

(We looted a big box pet store last week. The food was all gone before we got there, canned and kibble alike.)

"Interior perimeter checked but not secure," Alvin reports crisply. "Doors missing, holes in walls. Recent occupants in the office area, nothing of value."

"Rest, you and the dogs, in the Lexus."

"Copy."

The Crown Victoria has a fuel pump kill switch. Daswant wouldn't get very far with that one, and hasn't had time to mess with it.

Mo gives George a break. George trundles over to me and has a word.

"Boss, we're being watched. Optics glint from the rooftops to the east. No stray dogs or people. Q is what it is."

My own hatred of the Q word - IET-QUAY in Pig Latin - has thoroughly infected my team.

George drinks some water, takes a piss, and ambles back to his post.

On Mo's return, he is deeply unhappy. He makes a small hand gesture behind Daswant's back - only he and I can see it. A thumbs up. Note: not an American thumbs up. Or perhaps it is.

I minutely shake my head.

Disgusted, Mo checks his gear again. He has a commercial blaster controller and keeps flicking the 'Power' and 'Ready To Arm' switches. He does not touch the two red buttons under their transparent covers.

Janine is unnecessarily sharpening her tools. I go over to Curtis, who is sitting dejected on a broken chair salvaged from the office area. I draw a Colt .45 from under my vest and pass it to him butt first. He grins and tucks it in his gear out of sight.

To minimize drama I walk over to Janine and give her my holdout revolver from my inside pant leg. She tucks it under her belt buckle.

Buddy notices and says nothing. I knew about the three knives he had on his belt alone. He pats himself over his favorite.

Daswant has wanderd off as if out of sight to answer a call of nature. This is a spectacularly bad idea, but he probably figures that the cameras secure the perimeter. He really needs to check his messages, and I really need to let him.

God help us all.

Daswant wanders back, pleased with something, and I consider Mo's gentle suggestion. Not just yet.

Instead we wait. I even take a short nap, to be woken by squealing tires. The rest of the convoy has joined us.

The Hate Truck is shot to shit. Steam pours from under the hood, but the driver ignores this and runs around to passenger side and saying loudly - but not shouting - "Help! Man down! Help!"

One guard from each vehicle is on security, I take overwatch, and the rest run to the truck. The convoy leader gets there first, reaching in, his hand coming back covered in blood, and then reaching again to hold head and neck.

"Rapid extrication! Lift on three! One, two three!" and the wounded 'shotgun' guard is lifted out of his seat and laid gently on the filthy floor.

Our two best medics immediately start working on him while the anguished driver gives the convoy leader a ringdown.

"Ambush, rifles, at a corner, point blank, full mags. Legs, arms, gut."

The medics are already stripping the wounded man down to find all the wounds. Failure to find a wound is always 100% fatal.

He has an airway and is breathing. The junior medic leaves the blood pressure cuff on his right arm, fully inflated, and gets out another one. He takes a pressure on the uninjured left arm.

"Sixty palp," he says.

"Two in the right lower quadrant, no exit, rigidity. Blood type A pos," the senior medic replies.

RH factor incompatibility. Damn. I get out my team form.

I decide that Daswant is A positive.

I volunteer him. He is unhappy.

"I'm a tech, not a blood bag!"

"This is Mad Max and you give blood the easy way or the hard way, asshole," growls Mo and pushes him towards the medics.

The senior medic pulls me aside while they argue.

"Boss, we evac him now to a hospital with surgical facilities or we're going to lose him. Internal bleeding, torn gut, he's going into shock. Blood will only help if he's in surgery in the next hour."

"Any chance back at the ranch?"

"Zero. None. Zip."

Stanford is way overloaded and more importantly, too far away. Valley Med is taking government cases only. San Jose Regional is "Closed To Internal Disaster," which is to say looted and stripped. The other hospitals are not capable of this kind of care and out of supplies.

This is a survivable injury, God damn it! Except after an apocalypse. When every trip risks lives, surgeons are few, and antibiotics and anesthesia exhausted. Our infirmary is minor surgeries only despite a vet surgeon and two doctors, an amputation is about their limit. We have ultrasound only, no X-ray, and so no way to be sure of getting the bullets and fragments out even if we traded for antibiotics in time and had a surgeon up to the task.

Worst of all, if it was the Site Executive or one of the key programmers, we could probably do it. Bribe Valley, cut deals, maybe even get a military chopper to fly him out to Sacramento.

But not for a guard.

The medic and I share a look.

He is the medical professional but I am in operational command. I cannot take this mission sideways for one life.

"Do your best. Keep him comfortable. He goes back with the team tonight."

Daswant is off the hook for giving blood. But my team despises him now.

The team working the Hate Truck's engine, including Buddy, has kept it from melting. They start repairing hoses and changing the run flat tire on the right front, which lived up to its name.

Everyone else - including after a moment Daswant - is unloading good sfrom the U-Haul, trucks and trailers.

To be specific, computer server racks and a scissors lift. The latter is immediately put to use setting up an Observation Post on the roof, stringing cable and rappel lines, and repositioning cameras. One camera is a very expensive and bulky P-T-Z infrared rig with essentially infinite digizoom. It is aimed towards the target building.

The racks - trade goods - are shoved out of the way. The convoy mounts up and heads out again.

George has taken the Hate Truck guard's place. Dammit, not his job! Except that it was his regular duty and I'd attached him to the mission team for a reason. Too late now.

The injured man's breathing slowly grows more and more labored. Then weaker. Mo goes over to him and holds one of his hands. Janine holds the other. I stay away.

His breath rattles, slows, and finally inevitably stops. The medic closes the dead man's eyes and gently places the cut off remains of his ruined shirt over his face.

Daswant starts to approach the body and I swear by what is left of my soul, Mo and Janine growl in unison at him.

He retreats, head bowed.

The junior medic brings me the dead man's pistol. I give it to Buddy.

The sun is low in the sky when the convoy returns again. More servers, parts and a collection of U-Haul hitches.

We are trading racks for trucks. But we are trading new racks, empty of data, that were just spare parts sitting on dusty shelves. Not racks full of other people's information.

Big bolts, nuts and an oxyacetelyine torch Facilities will be very happy to get.

Buddy supervises the installation of a trailer hitch on the armored truck.

We start to assemble the assault convoy.

# # #

Lexus, Vic, armored truck now towing trailer, scissor lift and one server rack strapped to trailer bed. Janine is shotgun on the Lexus. I am shotgun on the Vic. Mo is driving the Lexus and Curtis the Vic. Buddy driving the cash truck and Alvin with him. Dogs much happier now, they have space to stretch out.

Daswant after a moment gets in the back of the Vic. George joins him.

The rest of the convoy will hold what we've got. Worst case, they'll make the trade tomorrow and exfiltrate on their own. They will not attempt to throw good lives after bad. Unless of course, Legal One thinks it looks promising.

(If I'd thought I could get away with it, my real backup plan would have been to take over the target with what appeared to be a refugee convoy. But that would mean far, far too many witnesses -- too many of them Client employees.)

Our convoy passes stray dogs, stray people and bicyclists, piles of trash and debris, abandoned vehicles and not a few bodies - both in various states of decomposition.

As I had hoped, we approach the target building during late dusk. It is a one story office building connected to a four story reinforced steel and concrete rectangle, with tiny windows into two small stairwells and a large fenced yard.

We roll right up to the large iron gate with the armored truck in the lead. Buddy is an artist - he pops the truck into contact at a smooth twenty miles per hour, enough to fling the gate off its hinges and through the conveniently pre-cut crossbar, but not enough to bang the truck into wreckage.

(How did the crossbar get pre cut? An agent lying in the bushes for an hour with a crowbar.)

We roll right through the gap up to the glass front doors and assault dismount.

Janine punches a hole in the door with a spring punch, widens it with a few sweeps of a coping saw, smashes a hole with her axe handle, reverses it and uses the blade to pull the crash bar out towards her and force the door.

It takes a lot less time for her to do than to explain. Practice matters and we'd practiced this trick on prior convoys.

Alvin with pistol out is through the door, at which point his dogs pass him and leap on the two startled thugs who had just begun to think about grabbing their guns. Instead they obey commands to "Hold still or he'll eat you!" as Alvin gets really busy with large cable ties, the poor man's alternative to flexicuffs.

George has climbed on top of the armored truck and is watching our backs, and the roof line, with his rifle at the ready. Budddy is already cursing and wrestling with the tie downs for the scissors lift.

Mo and I swarm the front doors and then the inner service window.

As most facilities of this type do, there is a waist-high slit between the front lobby and the security area. Normally for ID, badges, and paperwork, today the long slim gap - about 8" by 4" in this case - will see other use.

I involuntarily flash back on the satchel charge flung into our former security command center. But this time we are the attackers.

A scared naked woman is fast crawling under the console as the man who had been sitting there draws a handgun, takes a bead, and fires - CRACK CRACK CRACK - starring the bullet resistant laminate separating us. He curses and runs forward to the slot.

I am about to take the hard waist high shot through the gap when Janine runs in the way with her axe. Dammit!

Mo is ignoring all of us and planting what looks a lot like a picture frame - no picture - on an interior wall of the lobby. Except that picture frames do not have dangling twisted wires from a corner.

The hand comes out with the pistol as the sharp end of the axe blade come down and takes the fingers off. She does it again and now he's spinning in a circle inside the security area, splattering blood all over and screaming.

"Fire in the hole!" Mo cries. "Allah be..."

None of us heard what Allah be because BOOM!

I rushed the hole and two men beyond were just sitting up from makeshift beds.

I could not see their hands.

I ensured their rest forever.

We then - including Daswant but not including Alvin and the dogs who held the lobby and our rear - bum rushed the area we had breached into - mixed use offices - and secured it. Six dead, three prisoners, one of whom was wounded.

The security room door opened as I was about to badge into it with a captured card left handed.

"I am unarmed!" a voice shouted as I entered very ready to kill.

The man with the damaged hand was turning purple and choking, dying of a blunt strike to the throat. The naked woman held a MagLite flashlight in her off hand.

"Drop it! Hands up! Turn away from me! Do it now!" I said in half a breath. She complied immediately, which was just in time to keep me from use the other half a breath to empty my pistol magazine into her.

Daswant stumbled in behind me -- apparently pushed -- and threw up. Then he asked, "Aren't you going to help him?"

"No." Once Janine and Mo had followed him into the room, I turned my gun on Daswant. He turned as pale as he was equipped to do.

His "What?" and my "Hands up, Daswant! Now!" intermingled. He did put his hands up which sadly saved me the effort of shooting him in the legs.

Mo immediately took charge of Daswant in approved Company Security (post Firecracker) style, jabbing him in sensitive places and searching him as he fell on the filthy floor.

Mo came up with the sat phone, as I knew he would. Janine secured the naked prisoner with a single cable tie behind her elbows and sat her down on a folding chair, at axe point.

Loud beeping from outside indicated the scissors lift in operation. George was going topside, to the roof.

Things were about to get really busy.

I keyed Daswant's PIN into the sat phone, read his most recent messages "("GET OUT NOW") and pocketed it on my vest. His eyes widened.

"You knew," he started to say before Mo jabbed him again in the gut and helped him join the cable tie party.

"Identify yourself," I demanded of the naked woman.

"Sarah Stewart, [XYZ] Technologies Security. Before these shitheads took over."

"Birthday, fast."

"11 August 1981. Who are you?"

I bowed briefly. "Paid professional rescue. And one of your customers. How many hostiles left?"

We had a quick whiteboard session. She knew through intensely personal knowledge that there were fourteen tangos, two captive and innocent techs, and - hidden away - a second guard force survivor.

"Secure Sarah's hands in front please. Sarah, please log in and get the access and cameras up."

Ten accounted for. Four loose.

"Echo 18 to Echo 45, there are numbers four adversaries. Hold what you've got. Help on the way."

George's double mike click acknowledged.

"Mo, Alvin" ... the latter looked up from where he waited in the lobby ... "Roof first. Sweep down. The techs and I will hold here."

The scissors lift had a huge advantage over other climbing methods - it allowed us to get dogs to the roof with ease.

Janine still had her axe. Buddy and Curtis had traded up for enemy rifles, and knew how. Daswant was further secured to a chair.

"Echo 45, Echo 18, I have contact with Costco. One on roof, down and dead."

With that long range camera, a good line of sight and good radios, our storage warehouse - callsign Costco - had seen someone trying to sneak up on George and advised him, meaning that George had gotten him first.

Three more to go and search carefully, not trusting the count.

It was a half hour's work to locate and neutralize them. They got only the one chance to surrender and no promises. One took us up on it, and joined his peers in the conference room we kept on its own dedicated camera view.

The other two debuted and gave their last renditions of "The Dance of Lead."

Now we could get to work.

Alvin on perimeter with his dogs. George on roof overwatch, covered by the Costco long-range camera. Mo rigging the front lobby for guests. Daswant and Sarah in the security area under my control. (We'd spotted her a sleeping bag. I was not going to allow a prisoner who had killed with a flashlight to put on anything with pockets.)

The other four prisoners were not enjoying their stay in the conference room. We'd flipped the table upside down and tied them off to the legs, then rigged an IED to the door from the outside, making sure they knew. This kept them in sight by camera but in ignorance of what we might be doing.

Sarah talked Janine by radio to her only surviving co-worker, who had been shot and hiding under the raised floor crawl space in an obscure spot for over a week.

The techs carried the survivor to the security area and went back to work. That left me to play medic.

Male, mid 50s, malnourished, horribly dehydrated, even more horribly swollen left leg I was afraid to even touch.

I gave him a clean wet rag to suck on, cautioned him that I could not otherwise give him water as he would likely need surgery, and checked his vitals. BP and pulse high but not dangerously so.

I checked the leg again, carefully. Horrid purple streaks from the entry wound up and down the thigh on both sides. Compound fracture of the femur. He should be passed out, screaming or dead. But he was none of the above, only an infinite weariness that slurred his words.

I dared not let him drink fluids, and he needed more rehydration than a rag could provide. No ice chips. No IVs.

I briefly, baldly explained that there was one thing I could do for him and that it would be annoying and humiliating but not dangerous. It was however his call.

Daswant let out one startled giggle before I got up from where I had been kneeling, toed him in the ribs until he stopped screaming, and gagged him with a dead man's bloody dirty sock. I'd wanted to kick him to death so damn bad, but he still had one part to play in all of this.

The patient consented so I turned him on his side, used up a precious pair of gloves (from their kit, not mine) and a tube and hot water bottle (from mine) and gave him a low saline enema. His skin color improved almost at once. Hydration is hydration.

I carefully stripped off the gloves and sat them next to the kit for re use later. More satisfied with his vitals after a second check, I now took the time to debrief Sarah.

Ideally, Daswant should not have been present -- but gagged I needed to monitor his airway, I was not about to allow him to communicate with the other prisoners, and the techs and guards were too busy to take control of yet another person. I did find a pair of headphones and put them over his head.

I will spare you the graphic details of what fourteen criminals did to pass the time in between taking over and our arrival.

The key point was that they had shut us down specificially, on purpose and on orders. They had accomplished this by pushing the "Emergency Power Off" button to the area including our cage with a sledge hammer.

The site was still on intermittent mains power, much like our home site, but unlike our home site had full network connectivity.

An hour's work by the techs had triply redunduant communications with our site, which was now back in contact with the larger world.

Now to keep this status.

I jacked my small laptop (carefully sanitized for our protection) into the network and opened a chat with my security control at Site. Sarah and the man with the ruined leg - Wyatt - checked out as clean. Soon the site access control and cameras were remoted to Site, and literally dozens of programmers and techs were flooding through the link, fixing everything that could be fixed remotely.

I offered Sarah and Wyatt a job, including full and immediate medical coverage. They would be back here but not for a few days. The medical benefits sold them on the deal.

Daswant's muttering got to be annoying, so I ungagged him, waited patiently for him to finish vomiting, poured a half cup of water in his mouth - he spat to the side just in time to avoid another rib kicking session - and asked "What?"

"What are you going to do with me?"

Good question. I gagged him again and let him stew for a couple minutes.

Finally I said, "Depends on you. Tell me the whole story, which I already know, and I'll let you go in that Lexus. Fuck with me again and I'll let Sarah beat you to death with that MagLite. Your call."

I took out the gag.

He broke like a cheap bar of motel soap.

He'd been smuggled the sat phone, he'd been promised $1.5 million as his share of the ransom, which is a neat trick with a $1 million ransom. He guessed it was a foreign power that wanted us down. I recorded the whole thing on smartphone. It doesn't get much better than videotaped confession.

He eventually started repeating himself so I told him to shut up, and gagged him yet again when he wouldn't. This time I used one of his own clean socks from his bag. I believe in rewarding good behavior.

I summoned Mo to remove him from the room, which he did more or less gently. Mostly less.

Then I turned to Sarah and Wyatt, talking for them and for the facility's cameras as well as my own recording.

"If I were the police, I'd arrest for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, rape, torture and armed robbery. A court would sentence them all to long prison terms. But there are no courts and I am no cop.

"If I were a soldier, I'd have to treat them as Prisoners of War until their stories could be adjudicated. As bandits guilty of all of those crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a tribunal of three officers could hang or shoot them.

"If I were a commanding officer, I could find them guilty or execute them as a clear and present danger to my unit and my mission.

"I am none of these things. So I have to let them go."

We reorganized. Mo on the roof, George and Alvin on prisoner control - dogs are so helpful in convincing people to do what they are told - Sarah and Wyatt in the Security area with Janine and Curtis, Buddy in the armored truck powered up and locked down. Just in case.

I put the keys in the Lexus ignition and seated Daswant in the driver's seat, handcuffed to the wheel and the key on the back seat floorboards. The other prisoners got seats, tied up and belted down. They could get free but it would take time, and George cheerfully explained that trying to get loose early would get both that prisoner and the prisoner next to them 'splashed.'

Daswant started the car, which we had pointed out the now permanently open (until we repair it) exit gate.

I said nothing. Neither did he.

He drove away slowly - a rifle pointed at you and a truck that will turn you into confetti inhibits road rage.

Out of sight of any camera, Mo switched on the power button.

Daswant floored it, racing out the gate and barely making the sharp right turn to the street.

Mo switched "Ready To Arm" from "SAFE" to "ARM."

The Lexus raced away, bouncing. I could imagine the prisoners complaining about the rough ride.

Mo switched the safety cover up and held his thumb over the button.

The tires screeched as the Lexus made a second turn and kept accelerating. The car fishtailed but Daswant was barely able to recover it.

I thought what Mo was probably whispering to himself, four stories above.

Mo jabbed his thumb down on the button twice.

The Lexus disintegrated into a dark sooty ball of hate. The engine block briefly flew into the air then skidded down the street.

Allah akbar.

The shockwave rattled windows and boomed across the valley.

God is great.

And when He is asleep at the switch, we puny mortals must do the best we can with what we have.

# # #

Wyatt lost the leg (in our infirmary, to a chorus of curses by two doctors and one vet surgeon), but lived.

Sarah is now our night Security Operations supervisor. Just as I do not know how many rads I took while sleeping at the Redwood City emergency command post, she does not know if she has Hepatitis (A, B, C ... the whole score card) or HIV.

Life goes on, for 3500 people in the midst of madness.

The guard riding shotgun in the Hate Truck is still dead.

And I did not enjoy my time off.
drewkitty: (Default)
Global War of Terror: Connection Lost

"Crossing the line separating the [security] industry from military combat services is like losing your virginity. Either you are a mercenary company or you are not." -- James Davis, _Fortune's Warriors_


The man reeks of sweat, blood and cordite. He'd come in with one of the foraging parties and I'd promptly had him arrested - complete with bag over his head - and taken to Medical. One of Medical's exam rooms bordered our brig, and a member of this special detail now stood blocking the door. The fewer people who knew who he was, the better.

Imagining that security stops at your perimeter or within line of sight is one of the gravest sins a security manager can commit.

We ran our own network of agents and this man was one of them.

One of my guards cross trained as a medic was cleaning the knife wounds on his arms. "This is going to require sutures," he commented as he kept working.

The agent didn't even seem to notice the pain.

"They have a rooftop sentry on the northeast corner with either binoculars or night vision goggles, but he only used them twice - both at dusk - during the three hours I observed him. The area was dark but I could see lights reflected through an exterior window, steady not flickering. I did not hear any generator noise. Nearby buildings had full power for lights and some had guards. One building had guards with rifles. The target building had no guards visible at ground level."

He continued his report in detail, covering the area. He glossed over his ordeal in returning, except to assert affirmatively that he had not been followed and his interest in the target area had not been noticed.

"Get sutures, get sleep, we'll need you again shortly," I said.

# # #

To: tier3.support@[company].com
From: wouldn'tyouliketoknow
Re: your site in San Jose CA

Would you like your data turned back on? Wire $1 million to Luxembourg account 321-2312-3143.

# # #

"Unacceptable! Out of the question!"

Legal 1 was in a fine rant, and I thought I'd already seen his repetoire of rants.

"How would your Employer feel about this?"

I shrugged.

"My Employer is a payroll service that sends out increasingly irrelevant E-mails disconnected with any reality we inhabit. Their last safety newsletter was on 'Radiation Safety' and mixed up alpha, beta and gamma radiation."

We had an infirmary full of radiation burns, a decontamination point that saw frequent use, and daily site surveys that requires us to actually clean up 'hot spots' from fallout. We also screen all people and items entering the site, sometimes have an unpleasant surprise, and once in a while make a horrific discovery.

The newsletter was not merely worthless but actively dangerous.

"How would your Employer feel about its employees engaging in offensive combat operations?"

"Aside from the fact that we have done so every day since the first week of the Firecracker War, you mean?"

"This. Is. DIFFERENT! You are planning to seize a building, for all we know from the rightful owners, and commit armed trespass, commercial burglary, assault with deadly weapons and kidnapping. If the occupants resist, you plan to commit murder! JUSTIFY THAT!"

"THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE WILL DIE IF WE DON'T!" I shout back, and take a deep breath. "Some quick, some slow. If we don't get that data link restored. Paying the ransom is right out. No guarantee that they can or will turn it back on, or that they won't keep demanding more. IT confirms that satcom is not an option because all the birds we could use have been retasked to national security missions. AT&T is down. Verizon is down. Sprint is down. This obscure connection to a colo cage is all we had, and the longer it is down, the harder it will be to get back up. No data, no code, no way to honor our contracts, no suppplies, no hope, we die on the vine and we're FUCKED."

Deep breath.

"My plan is to legally go to our leased property, the colo cage, and secure it. We will act in self defense. I expect that we will find a crime scene and as good citizens in the absence of the police, do what we can to restore order within the law. We can and will make lawful private arrests under California Penal Code 837. These arrests will stand up in any court. My company's use of force doctrine explicitly permits this."

"Show me."

I get the tired, wrinkled booklet out and show him that page. His eyes furrow.

"In circumstances where the arrival of the police is delayed . . ." he trails off.

"San Jose PD is controlling a few key buildings, mostly city owned, part of downtown and the airport. They sometimes can set up checkpoints at major intersections. The Sheriff, not even that, witness last week on Almaden. The city police for this building do not even have a police station left - it burned to the ground! - and no one has seen one of them for weeks. The arrival of the police _IS_ delayed, for values of delayed that mean quite a long time. We are technically under martial law and a 24 hour curfew, but there is no one to enforce it. The only soldiers on the street are holding a control line for the ruins of SF, mostly to keep scavengers from trading in irradiated goods, and the occasional convoy pressing veterans for China service."

"What are you going to do with any prisoners? Says here in the book you will give them over to the police on arrival. But as you just said, the police are NOT COMING."

"Do you want to feed and house them indefinitely at your expense? Or give them free rides to a police checkpoint that may or may not be able to do anything with them? The only option is to let any prisoners go. This is what we will do. Lawfully arrest them, discover that the police are not coming, and let them go. If they are good, I will let them keep their shoes."

I threw out the touch of calculated cruelty like a piece of bait.

I have no intent to permit people who have taken 3500 people hostage to walk away.

There are internment camps. But I have no guarantee that we can get anyone put in them, or that they would not be freed to hold us hostage once again, or that they would not talk and we'd be doing it all over again with a more sophisticated gang of criminals.

"I cannot approve this."

"I'm not asking you to. This is an interdepartmental favor between Security and IT, that happens to also be a Severity Ten Critical Incident."

"Who is going?"

I name seven names.

"Who are they?"

"Three guards - all experienced, none military veterans - two IT techs, a network tech and an engineer."

"Who is in charge?"

I tap my badge.

"No. You are Essential Site Personnel and you are needed right here."

"If this mission fails, you won't have a site. You will have 2500 employees that need to be evacuated from the middle of a huge disaster area, and 900 odd refugees that will be left behind to die, and 100 contractors in Security and Facilities and Janitorial and Logistics who will die defending them.

"I've thought about this a lot. No Company employee can be directly involved in this. I have one manager who can run Security in my absence, sir. You. I am taking people you can do the job without. Even if all eight of us are killed, which is a possibility, you can hold the site and wait for evac or a miracle.

"I won't evac and I don't believe in miracles."

"Not even a last chopper out?"

"Especially not that. You remember that last helicopter off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon?"

We have a picture of it in the Security Control Center.

"Yes."

"Not Army. Not Navy. CONTRACTORS."

He blinks.

"I do not give you permission. I think you are on leave effective at once, for at least three days."

"I understand. I may need to leave the site during my personal time off, and my time records will reflect that status."

He nods and leaves and I continue with mission prep. If I don't think of it now, out in the field will be too late.

My E-mail chimes a few minutes later.

It is a boilerplate vendoor services contract between Client and some guy who shares my first and last name. The scope of work is to restore data connectivity to the site in San Jose, CA. I have access to client owned and leased facilities to perform this work, and authority to subcontract and bill for costs.

The amount is a one time payment of $100,000.

I can't help but do the math. A bill rate of $1,388 per hour.

I E-sign it and send it back. My eye catches on one of the boilerplate clauses.

"Contractor shall comply with all laws, rules and regulations including safe disposal of hazardous waste and a safe working environment."

That these two terms are blatantly contradictory is readily apparent to me.

I double check the several E-mail drafts I'd been working on, send them all, and close the laptop.

The time for planning was over.

# # #

I would learn much later that upstairs, Legal 1 was staring at his E-mail.

"Effective immediately, the area of California north of San Luis Obispo and Kern Counties shall be considered 'Out Of Country' for purposes of contracts and the Company Ethics Code." It is signed by the CEO, CFO and General Counsel.

There is a list of contracts affected by contract number.

One contract number is in bold.

The one with me.
drewkitty: (Default)
I have briefly stopped by the Security Control Center, after a shower but before dinner, when the dispatcher beckons me to look over his shoulder.

As he sits in a wheelchair now, this is easy to do.

One of our long range cameras is zoomed in on two young men changing clothes on a street corner. Unusual before the Firecracker. Very unusual now.

They finish dressing, pick up their bicycles, and start pedaling towards our South Gate.

"Weird," I say, and the dispatcher nods then winces. The doctor has cleared him for only four hours of work at a time. He needed surgery. It wasn't available on site. But he could still think.

The gate called in the contact and we shifted cameras. The outer gate guard called out with his bullhorn and they stopped, both dismounting. One obediently took off his backpack and walked forward. After a short talk, the outer gate guard keyed up his radio.

"Echo 18, we've got Mormons. They are asking for you by name."

I grabbed a mike. "Swap out and hold what we've got."

The countersniper nest above H5 Executive had sights on, I noted from the monitor repeating their dedicated long range camera.

I bicycled to the gate. I had just one question for the gate guard, out of earshot.

"How exactly did they introduce themselves."

"Elder so-and-so of the Church of Latter Day Saints."

"And they gave my name."

"Yes."

"Search 'em and clear them to here."

The solicitors patiently endured the wanding and pat down at gunpoint. They opted to have their backpacks searched instead of being left in the blast pit.

I introduced myself, gave my title and position, and asked what I could do for the LDS today.

They were wearing white shirts with Church nametags and black pants. Clean and neat but only because they had changed. They bore a letter of introduction from the Watsonville Ward.

I offered water, which they accepted, while I read the letter. The letter was a generic 'all assistance' letter with names added in pen and asked for help in gathering names of survivors and dead.

I debriefed them.

No, the ward had no Internet access. Yes, there was amateur radio contact with Utah. No, they were unsure how the Ward President had obtained my name.

I told them that an effort to gather the information they sought was ongoing through Stanford and Red Cross, showed them the site on the gate laptop, and OK'd them to surf it for names.

One thanked me for helping and asked if I knew of other members of the faith.

"No, I am apostate," I said and watched for their reaction.

They blinked. Not many people know what that means, to a Mormon.

Then they appreciated the number and intensity of the armed people quietly watching them.

I knew how they had obtained my name - I'd sent an E-mail requesting biographical data on a murdered survivor. But how it had reached the Watsonville ward worried me. Unencrypted radio? I expressed my concern.

They shook their heads, they said they did not know. I shrugged.

I was not about to have two uncleared persons further enter the site and have the opportunity to survey our situation and defenses, or leave with what they now knew of our defenses and get captured.

So I explained their options as the sun fell in the sky.

They could accept blindfolding, a room for the night, and a partial ride home with the convoy in the morning - or they could go away and not come back, ever.

Elder Matt and Elder Saul - neither over college age - accepted Plan A. I put them up in an interior VIP suite - formerly a storage closet - and had a PA announcement made that any LDS members who cared to talk to visitors could do so and where.

I briefed my boss, Legal 1, and he concurred. We would pump them for intel - of course our VIP suite was bugged - and could afford them for one night.

People were so scared in those days. Any hint of normalcy was desperately clung to. So it did not surprise me in the least that Elders Matt and Saul conducted impromptu services. I assigned one of my sharper guards, Samir, to keep his eyes on them. Samir had steadfastly refused to carry a firearm but in the last breach had given an intruder the full LAPD "We treat you like a King" with his baton. An armed intruder, and shortly thereafter a dead one.

The cafeteria sent them up dinner, which I charged to the Security - Investigations account. Samir showed them how to use the bucket system - two buckets, one with a scoop and shredded sawdust, paper and duff "fines", and the other with a pool noodle around the rim and an oversized wood lid.

I let them have access to another laptop with greater Internet access. I would go through the browser history and keyboard logger tomorrow.

Legal 1 stuck his head in and talked to them for twenty minutes. Then the Site Executive breezed in and out. I was impressed - my schedule and Legal 1's was in 15 minute intervals but his was in 3 minute intervals. He had a secretary, a personal assistant, and a bodyguard - all Company employees and all discreetly but heavily armed.

When the PA chimed for lights out, they got ready for bed. After a brief site check from the control room cameras, I did the same - but in the small office, with a small bedroll from my locker and the furniture folded against the wall. Surprisingly comfortable.

# # #

The next morning was routine, except that when I went out to lead the convoy, the Mormons were there. With their bicycles, dressed once again in their travel clothes.

I had put together a route to give them a good start on getting home. I put them in the truck bed of my vehicle with Brooke driving. I trusted my life to her driving and shooting every day.

One of the Elders was unwise enough to offer to shake hands with her. She turned her head and spat instead. I said nothing until the moment stretched, then said, "Mount up." and did so.

Brooke had no one in the dependent camp. Her wife hadn't made it, and we knew for sure, and why, and how.

My biggest problem with Brooke - and one that I could work with - was that I could never, ever leave her alone with prisoners.

# # #

The route had us punching down the Almaden Valley, via McKean Road, through to Uvas Road and towards Hecker Pass. The Mormons had made it in via Mount Madonna, and that gave them the best odds of getting out the same way - or Hecker if it was open, or half a dozen other routes. I did not ask and they would not have told me.

San Jose PD had a control point at Camden Avenue and Almaden Expressway. They waved us through.

Santa Clara Sheriff had a control point at Almaden and McKean. They halted us. I gave the triple mike click that canceled standing orders to point the technical at the commanding officer of any checkpoint that halted us. That would have been very bloody and somewhat brief.

[To Be Continued]
drewkitty: (Default)
Global War of Terror (GWoT) - In The Breach

"I stopped with my hand about to touch his shoulder, and shuddered at the enormity of what I had been about to do. However horrid his dreams, a far worse thing to do would be to wake him up and return him to this reality, the reality of the camp." -- Viktor Frankl, _Man's Search For Meaning_


In my dream I am an old man. My legs do not work. I am in a power chair.

I am at the base of a large pedestal, erected on Treasure Island.

On the pedestal is a tall statue of a burly man. He towers over us all, easily thirty meters tall. He wears a torn jacket on which there is a star badge - SFPD - and two shoulder patches. I cannot see the motto but I know it by heart. "Oro en paz, fierro en guerra."

At his belt is a baton and a pair of handcuffs, but in his hand is a long-handled sledge hammer, the head of which rests on the ground.

He is gripping the shaft and looking west at the hills where San Francisco once stood, and only now is beginning to rise from the crater glass and broken ruins.

HIs face is tear stricken and covered with dust, but determined. He is here to rescue, to defend, to rebuild.

He is the Statue of Responsibility, erected on the West Coast as the Statue of Liberty is on the East Coast.

At his feet are written the names of every person who perished on that first day of the Firecracker War, in and around San Francisco. There is not enough room on the pedestal, so many are engraved in stone on the cobblestones which bear our weight.

I know several of these names. We are next to one.

Martha Reid. Most stones have a birth date. None need a death date.

Her daughter Amy, who was at home in San Mateo just after school when the city was bombed, is now a strikingly beautiful middle-aged woman.

Amy sought me out as I had been the man with the presence of mind to write a child's name on her forehead before she was removed from her home and evacuated. Otherwise she would not have know her own last name - or her mother's.

I am thinking of all the other names which are not engraved here. The innocent and the guility, in the wild days after the Firecracker War and the Tyranny that followed.

Only after we conquered China did we turn to the problems of our own nation. The "State of Emergency" had continued long past when there should have been elections. We had to fight a longer and dirtier war, and the only consolation was that we had not lost any more cities to nuclear fire.

I could still smell the stench of the false sun to the north that first grim night.

# # #

I woke up with my heart pounding, on a narrow hammock stretched between two empty server racks.

"Echo 18, respond. The reaction team will assemble..."

I leapt out, pulled on my trousers, laced up my boots and holstered my handgun, doing a press check to verify that it was loaded.

Perhaps I had glimpsed the future.

More likely I would not live to see it.

As I locked the cage door behind me, I tried to put the statue out of my mind.

But as I ran he smiled slightly, as one does to comrades.

"Echo 18 responding," I replied as my boots clicked on the tile.

"We have a breach..."
drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: Week One

The psychologist has assigned me to write a simple assignment, one she says she has given to everyone.

"Write about the first week of the Firecracker War, where you were, what you did."

But I read the fear in her eyes. She is absolutely, completely terrified of me.

It's not just what I've done. Or what I am capable of. It is what her patients have told her I have done.

They are alive to have opinions of me. That is enough.

# # #

I have written elsewhere about what I did on the first day of the Firecracker. Linked up with the sheriff's office and helped evacuate a wide swath through what used to be San Mateo.

We stopped the firestorm. We fucking stopped a nuclear firestorm. In its tracks.

We had to demo a swath a half mile wide, of what used to be homes and hopes and dreams. But we did it.

It was no preparation for what happened next.

# # #

On the second day, I woke up at the Incident Command Post in Redwood City. They kicked me awake. It was time to go. Radiation survey indicated fallout and we needed to leave. Now.

I will never know what dosage I took as I quietly slept.

We reported as ordered to Stanford Hospital.

Most people have been in an emergency room. Most people have been in a stadium.

Now imagine a God damned - and I use the word precisely - a God damned stadium full of God damned wounded.

That was Stanford on Day 2.

I was immediately assigned to Triage. Sorting the quick from the dead, the hurt from the hale, the shocked from the wounded.

That was the first time I shot and killed a man. And then immediately went back to work. He threatened a Triage Officer and her life was worth a hell of a lot more lives than his. His body was dumped in Takeaway for Morgue, and that was the end of it.

That was when I learned that I could vomit until my stomach was empty, until I tasted bile, and that I could still try to vomit and couldn't when a child was brought in with half her face burned away.

I stopped changing gloves. There was no point.

I learned to ignore the screaming as I helped play hoses on burn victims. If you leave the radiation in the burn, it won't heal and they won't survive. That doesn't mean it makes sense to a frightened child carried twenty miles by parents with bleeding feet, who has been told that the doctors will make it better, and now mean people are making it hurt more.

I saw a man walk into the side rotor of a helicopter. It was my fault. I was too tired to see what he was doing - who walks into an LZ as a helicopter is taking off, taking three more broken child bodies out via the Air Bridge to Sacramento area hospitals?

Took his head clean off. I had to help search for it. Then ... you guessed it ... Takeaway for Morgue.

As the flow of wounded slowed to a trickle, I was reassigned. To Morgue.

I walked from body to body, reading tags, documenting remains, sorting through personal effects. The pages I hand wrote on the clipboard were uploaded by a Clerk III to a Web site, to help Red Cross and other agencies give people the bad news. They were also scanned. The scanner platen was bloody and filthy and had to be cleaned constantly.

My name appears on over one hundred morgue pages. Each page had thirty information lines. You may feel free to do the math.

I will never be clean again. But we owed it to the living to know what became of their beloved dead.

# # #

I slept for three hours on Day 2, in a lull between rushes.

# # #

On day 3 they told me that they did not need me anymore. They had enough trained people to release me. I slept for another three hours... it took fourteen alarms on my otherwise useless mobile phone to wake me. (Actually, I was dragged out of the sleeping area...)

I called work from a link set up at Stanford. No answer. I called Corporate. They said, and I quote, "We have had no contact with anyone in the area. You are the first caller. Find out what you can and get back to us."

I kept my borrowed POLICE vest, stole a car, filled it up with siphoned fuel, and drove to those locations which I remembered. One was crammed with refugees. Two had been abandoned. One had burned to the ground, apparently after being looted. But it is the last site that will stick with me.

The first guard had stayed behind to try to do his job. He'd been disemboweled and defenestrated - excised bowel tied off to the first landing of a stairwell and pushed down the stairs.

The looters had scattered at my armed and quasi official approach. I still wonder which of us were luckier - me for them fleeing, or them for fleeing before I saw what I saw.

The second guard - she was still alive.

No one survives that kind of injury. So I did what was needful, after she begged. When my intention was clear, she had the presence of mind to thank me.

I still have her badge. My company gear was destroyed with my home. So I wear it.

# # #

I called Corporate again from Stanford, and gave my report. They said, "Go to [COMPANY]. Their senior people are screaming to find out what happened to them. Find out."

# # #

I did. Everything was a mess. I found our nominal client, pinned him down, made him give me authority, and used it lavishly. Six hours later we had contact with the East Coast by amateur radio. Eight hours later we had all the wounded in improvised beds. Twenty two hours later, we had 100% accountability for every person on site. Three hours after that, we restored access control, which has been maintained. Breached, yes, but each breach responded to and integrity restored.

During one of the breaches my client was killed.

Thirty two hours after that, according to the time stamp on the first E-mail message I received from Corporate, we restored the fiber optic link to the internal corporate systems.

By then I had fourteen armed guards backed by ten unarmed guards and four bystanders in training, and one subordinate who could be trusted to keep the mess going in my absence.

Then, and only then, I slept for ten hours.

On waking I pulled up the news.

That is how I learned what had happened, in the Firecracker War, which had ended three days earlier and cost us seven cities.

One small consolation for those who are into that sort of thing, and agree with Stalin about tragedies and statistics.

It cost China _every_ city.
drewkitty: (Default)
Dateline September 2019, Canadian Broadcast Service.

Cascadian troops augmented by Norteamericano militia and a battalion of Canadian Rangers have retaken Redding from US government forces and altright irregulars today. American forces retreated in good order down Interstate 5, destroying several key bridges and laying mines.

Canadian Red Cross reports a humanitarian crisis in the city with over 500,000 people, many refugees from the investment of the Bay Area and Sacramento by US forces, suffering from famine. No food had been brought in for over a month, and camps were low priority under American rationing. "Unless large supplies of food are brought in soon, casualties could exceed the Bakersfield Famine in 2018," stated the Red Cross representative. The Bakersfield famine killed over fifty thousand people, mostly immigrant women and children, and helped propel Mexico into the three front war.

The US military governor of California, General Bateman, reached by Skype at his base in Yuba City, confirmed that there had been "logistics difficulties" but that he would not lift the No Fly zone over Northern California for any reason, even humanitarian relief.

"We have seen how Norte and Mexican terrorists use any opportunity to smuggle weapons and evacuate terrorist wounded," he stated before suddenly disconnecting.

Canadian Rangers state off the record that they are continuing to document war crimes committed by altright forces, especially in and around internment and resettlement centers. They have been unable to take any altright militia members prisoner.

We are getting troubling, unconfirmed reports that both Norteamericano and altright forces continue to beat, rob and abuse refugees, although there have been no mass killings since the June Massacre in San Luis Obispo and the retaliatory use of nerve gas by the United States in Tijuana.

A United Nations charge 'd affairs has been sent to Seattle to discuss diplomatic recognition of Cascadia, which would allow for the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops on the still troubled border.

From Redding, this is Sara Brooks with CBC.
drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: Shopping Trip

I left the meeting with Legal 1 and immediately jogged from there to the range.

I kept my fury the entire way.

On arrival, the assistant supervisor was coaching a guard on basic handgun. He hadn't been licensed before the Firecracker, still wasn't sure if he wanted to be, but he needed to learn to use a handgun before we would let him carry one. Given recent events, he wanted to carry.

I announced as I jogged in, "Range is hot!"

The assistant supervisor agreed, "Range hot" and motioned the guard to put down his handgun on the firing line and watch.

"STOP! Armed security!" I shouted as I drew at Lane #3, the 10 yard range. "Drop the weapon! Now!"

I then fired ten rounds in one long barrage, dropped mag, reloaded and re-engaged.

I reloaded with the third magazine, scanned left and right (a precaution against tunnel vision), and holstered.

"Range is cold," I said calmly.

"Copy cold."

I reeled in my target. Literally - fishing reel with fishing line. You don't want to eat the fish from these creeks, thank you New Almaden. There's a reason the local newspaper (now a useful source of toilet paper, as they were no longer publishing in paper) was named the San Jose Mercury News. The ecologists figured that the contamination would have taken a hundred years to wash out of the watershed. Nowadays, who knew? Or cared?

There were eight neat holes centered in the head of the target, and twelve neat holes centered in the torso of the target. One to the head, two to the body, repeat. You do the math.

I swept up my brass, sifted it and placed it in the used bin. I signed out twenty rounds from range stock and reloaded my magazines. I used a cleaning kit and did a quick patch clean.

By then I had calmed down enough to walk back to the campus administration building and deal with the lastest handicap to doing my job.

"Sir, you have a visitor. Mr. Jones from Finance."

The visitor was sitting on a hard wooden bench (formerly outside) which faced the security control point without providing cover or concealment. He looked unhappy. That was OK, so was I.

"Hi Jones. What's your chest size?"

"Excuse me?" he blinked. A nebbish type wearing glasses and a white shirt with a pocket protector, he looked like the essential dork. Until you realized that his pocket protector's pens were neatly aligned and included a pencil, and his white shirt and blue slacks were neatly cleaned and pressed. In the middle of an apocalypse, which took some work. He also carried a brown leather briefcase.

"Your chest size. Your shirt size."

"Forty."

"XL set of armor for Mr. Jones please." The control center lead signed a set out to him.

He looked at it dubiously.

"Put it on. Company employees do not leave the wire without armor. No exceptions."

He put it on. I excused myself, went to my alert locker, put on my armor and helmet and unlocked my rifle. I slung my load bearing equipment over my armor and secured it.

"Let's go, Mr. Jones."

We walked to the motor pool where our four vehicles were waiting. The Hate Truck was on point. Lovingly fitted with a ram plate, spikes and antigrenade mesh backed with barbed wire, it was how we insisted on our right of way. The next two vehicles were ordinary pickup trucks fitted with huge racks so we could carry as much loot as possible. The passenger seats now had sunroofs and the guards stood behind half-shields rigged with rifles.

One truck had a 500 gallon chemical tank trailer hitched behind it. I personally checked both the hitch and the emergency hitch release. The tank was labeled in small print next to the two fire extinguishers, "DIESEL FUEL ONLY."

The last truck was our beloved technical, a converted crew cab with armor on the sides and a single pintle mounted machine gun. At least it looked like one from a distance. In sober point of fact it was a machine gun looking piece of metal with a squib system for using firecrackers to sound like bursts.

The rifles were all quite real, however.

All were painted "SECURITY" on the sides. It would be telling to say for who.

"With me, first truck." We bypassed the Hate Truck and its grinning crew to sit in the second vehicle in line.

I stood in the passenger seat. Mr. Jones sat between me and the driver, an angry young woman with an impressive resume. The only reason she hadn't been drafted yet was because she couldn't carry more than 20 pounds due to a sway back. Private Brooke, formerly of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children and now one of my employees, was worth far more than her weight in gold. To misquote an action movie: "Give her a rifle and she thinks she's bulletproof. Give her a vehicle and she thinks she's God!"

I waved my arm in the classic "Ready" circle, then pointed forward in the "Move out!" command.

We rolled out the gate and into the hot zone.

The road within half a mile of our site was clear of trash and debris. We made sure of it.

Beyond that point were clumps of trash and debris, occasional individuals (who kept their hands plainly in sight for as long as we were near them), and what quickly became urban shantytown. Anything inhabitable was inhabited. Tarps and plastic and metal sheeting added to the livable areas.

This was post Firecracker America, at least in the Bay Area. The former surviving population of San Francisco - which had taken 800 kilotons of atomic goodness right in the Tenderloin - had to go somewhere. Some had already died of radiation poisoning. Others had cancer but no treatment possible or likely. Others would certainly die within a few years of weakened immune systems, but not knowing when or of exactly what.

Sucked to be them. But the wire was to keep our Employees in, and them out.

They looked at our vehicles and rifles with a dull bitterness that did not reach their hands or feet.

We had been tested. It was known that we would shoot. So the bitterness was merely dull.

This convoy was a short run to three known locations. This would be a test of whether our new Finance Officer would have anything to contribute to our expeditions.

First stop was an abandoned auto mall containing several different mechanic shops. They had been looted of obvious items of value, but we were after less obvious items of value.

In this case, Facilities wanted a lift and they cared enough to send two of their own to uninstall it. So we would get them a lift.

We deployed in a herringbone formation (left, right, left, right) and everyone but the drivers dismounted.

The only person who stayed present was a crying old man, Vietnamese, probably in his sixties. From his ribs it looked like he hadn't eaten in a while.

We weren't a charity. I gestured to Mr. Jones of Finance.

"OK, sir, find out if he has a valid claim to any of this property, and if he does, pay him off. That's what you are here for."

Once Mr. Jones made himself understood, the old man dried his eyes and stood up with quiet dignity.

I had to listen. I didn't want to. I'd heard too many horror stories already. But if the man nutted and tried to carve Mr. Jones into steaks and chops, I had to be ready.

"My son owned this shop. He is dead now. He tried to guard his shop and they killed him. They lit a tire on fire and put it around his neck. They made me watch."

As we loaded -- mostly tires, ironically enough, but especially the best of the surviving lifts -- Mr. Jones wrote the man a voucher for the value of the lift, about six thousand dollars. He countersigned it and motioned to me to sign it. I did. What was a signature?

He turned it over and over in his hands.

"What can I do with this?" he asked.

Mr. Jones tried to explain to him about reselling it to someone who could collect from the Company.

I interrupted.

"You can cash it for half its face value in US dollars. You can - during daytime, with a visitor pass - spend US dollars in the Company cafeteria. A not so good breakfast is $20. A good dinner is $50."

He blinked again. Then he bargained for a ride to the Company campus, which we sold him for $200. Cheap at the price. We're not Uber but a bad ride is better than a good walk, and no one else is giving rides in a post nuclear apocalypse.

The hard part would be gently but firmly kicking him out of the perimeter at sundown. He could join the dependent camp, if they would have him. Or he could have enjoyed a good couple meals and then have to walk a few miles back to here, in the dark. He might make it.

We heard loud rap music blasting from other vehicles, cruising down a nearby major street.

"Attention to arms!" I called, but everyone was already alert.

They kept going. Either they hadn't seen us, or didn't want to cross us up. But I mentally noted the problem.

"How long?" I asked the sweating Facilities manager, who was not too proud to turn his own wrench.

"Twenty minutes."

"Keep it going," I said, and scanned with binoculars until he gave the thumbs up.

We rolled, to the next destination.

I took one look and pumped my fist three times. Bypass, keep going.

I'd been hoping that the strip shopping center was approachable, because we really wanted swimming pool chemicals for a variety of purposes, especially water purification.

But it was not worth killing over, and the parking lot occupied by hundreds of people in cars and tents with pairs of big burly men carrying 2x4s and baseball bats along the perimeter made it very clear that we'd have to kill if we stopped.

The third destination was known to us. It was also popular with several other surviving facilities - the hospital, the police, the fire station.

A gasoline station which also sold Diesel.

But we had a problem. The gasoline station owner was standing in front of the Hate Truck waving his arms and shouting in a variety of languages. His guards - rifle armed, like us - looked uncertain but willing to defend their principal.

The technical moved sideways to get a vantage point and per standing orders, the "gunner" leveled his "machine gun" at the man standing in our way.

I dismounted and grabbed at Mr. Jones to get him to go with me.

"You! You rooster mouthing parent lover!" And he continued. That's not what he said, but I trust you get the gist.

"We are here to buy Diesel."

"No, you are not! You are here to steal from me again! Half that jewelry was gold plated! The diamond was zirconium! Do you know anyone who is willing to trade good fuel for costume jewelry? Do I look like a female dog? Why are you trying to embrace me like a female dog in heat?"

He had several guards, mostly family and friends. We could probably take them in a fair fight, but we might take casualties and we would piss off the hospital (no more getting Company casualties treated) and probably the police (which might get us shot at, and would cost us their hypothetical future help in some universe where that might happen.)

"This is Mr. Jones. He is Company Finance. He will talk money. We will pay for what we need. But we need Diesel. One hundred gallons. You will not grudge us one hundred gallons?"

He started screaming at Mr. Jones and I motioned the truck towing the trailer to pull up to #3 and start filling up. The Hate Truck folks pulled up to a gasoline pump, which caused additional screaming and shouting, and a little pushing. Shooting would be next, so I went over to break it up.

"Two cans. Two cans only!"

Mr. Jones then proved that he was worth his weight and space. Instead of epithets in English, he switched to the gas station owner's language and unleashed a vicious display of invective. One of the gas station guards dropped his rifle and started crying. Apparently it was that potent.

The owner replied in kind and volume. They screamed at each other louder and louder, but when the pump showed 100G they both turned and shouted "STOP!" at the same time, then continued their mutual screeching.

Mr. Jones wrote him a Company voucher. The gas station owner looked at it, read it, and started to drop his pants. Mr. Jones took out another voucher and wrote something on it, waving and shouting more.

He switched to English, looking for my support.

"You Company holes of donkeys! You offer me $5 dollars a gallon when going rate is $10! You offer me worthless paper good only for the cleaning of rears that you exchange for cash at half value! You tell me that if I do not like it you will write me paper with half as much value! Do I look like a female dog? Why are you trying to lovingly embrace..."

I drew my pistol.

"The man offered you a deal. It's a good deal. I don't offer deals nearly as good. I don't negotiate well. You know this. Hate Truck! Fill 'er up!"

The Hate Truck crew moved to do exactly that, and the guards kept glancing back and forth between their boss (who fed them) and me (who might shoot them, or order others to shoot them.)

"NO! I TAKE PAPER! YOU NO FUEL HATE TRUCK!"

Good call. It had two extended tanks for over a hundred gallons of capacity, of gasoline which was more expensive and harder to get.

I motioned for the Hate Truck crew to stop. They did, reluctantly.

"You no come back! Never! Not until after next Tuesday!"

Meanwhile, behind his back, the truck/trailer crew - on my standing orders - had pumped an additional thirty gallons.

The nearest gas station guard was afraid to point this out. Good call. Better an ass chewing after we left than more drama right here and now.

"I have present for you," I stated. "We fix two portable fuel pumps, 12 volt and 24 volt, hundred feet of hose each. Here, take free, as small token of our esteem."

The guys unloaded it from the Hate Truck, the gas station owner nearly wept - it would allow him to loot non-surviving former competitors, and both of us knew this - and the team at the trailer pumped another thirty-five gallons of Diesel in the distraction.

Then Mr. Jones proved his worth again.

"You do not need to cash this voucher. This is what is called commercial paper. You can use this to pay _your_ fuel supplier. Do you still have Internet?"

Yes, he had Internet - satellite link for credit cards. (He'd stopped taking fuel cards after the City of San Jose had stiffed him on a $40K bill. Your taxpayer dollars at work.)

All of a sudden, the $6,000 voucher we'd written for the Vietnamese father of the shop owner somehow became part of the deal. The gas station owner would discount it at 70%, not the 50% we had offered, because he could flip it for 90% of value.

The Vietnamese man immediately cashed it out in fuel, to be transported to Company and sold to us there, minus our transportation fee for the fuel he still owned until he sold it to us.

I thought the HP-12 calculator would melt from the strain.

But everyone was happy and smiles and cheerfulness.

We rolled with four hundred and thirteen gallons in the Diesel tank, more than I'd expected (and about ninety gallons more than we'd actually paid for).

This made the ambush almost anticlimactic.

We blew through it without casualties, at least on our side.

Except one.

Godddamn it! Son of a bitch!

There is no first aid for a through and through head shot.

Let it never be said that Company does not honor its deals.

Mr. Sam Nguyen, born 1958 in Vietnam, died six weeks after the Firecracker War in San Jose, California, is buried on Boot Hill - next to three of my guards - with a marker. When the Mormon Church replied to my E-mail (they take genealogical records very seriously, it is part of their faith), we added the names of two sons (and approximate date of death for his son the shop owner) and one daughter to the marker.

The $4,450 we owed him went into the indigent fund for the cafeteria, paying for meals for non-Company affiliated employees, in the absence of living kin.

We used up the fuel in about two weeks.

The lift is still in use every day.

This is life after apocalypse.

It sucks. Avoid it, unless it is the last alternative.
drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: A Day At The Races

We have a psychologist now. She has an office and a laptop, and a dependent huddled in the sprawling camp on our east perimeter. As a reward for dropping her off a stack of MMPI-2 tests and forms salvaged from our former branch offices, she has assigned me homework.

Write up a day of my life. Edit out some details, leave out names, but just write a diary of a current day.

As I type this, it is 2345 and I am in the guest office, also known as the tiny office, as opposed to the combat office with the stack of camera monitors and other systems. My files are in the combat office and I have access to it at any time I need it, but my night shift supervisor is using it and it's rude unless I need to do something specific.

The tiny office is a small cube with no storage, formerly a closet, whose only attraction is that it can be closed and has two chairs, one tucked behind the tiny desk and one sideways towards the door. We use it for report writing and one-on-one interviews. (We have set up an interrogation room next to the brig, which is much bigger. I use it for meetings only when I want to bother people, or when I really think it's going to become an arrest, at which point I have two or three burly escorts to make sure the other party's participation is timely and enthusiastic.)

I'm stalling.

At 0430 or so I get up and gear up. Uniform, load bearing equipment, armor, weapons. Then I inspect all of our posts. It is not technically my shift yet, but I am a big believer in "Stand To." An attack is likely just before dawn, so I am up and I make sure my people are alert and ready, just before dawn. To save fuel I use one of the duty bicycles. First stop is the control center, where I check out a set of duty keys. Then the perimeter, then [redacted], then [redacted].

After the round of post inspections, about 0530, I meet with the outgoing night supervisor and the oncoming day shift supervisor for passdowns. They work 13 hour overlapping shifts with an hour lunch - 0530 to 1730 and 1700 to 0600 respectively. This is our chance, the three of us, to compare notes and talk. I am there for shift change, which is 0600, when the night shift crew goes off duty and the day shift crew goes on. Until about 0630 I am in the office reviewing notes from night shift and planning my day.

At 0700 I meet with my boss, [redacted], and we go over the plan for the next two days. I meet with him again at 1900 which is when we go over what happened that day and draft the plan for the following day. This meeting is usually about an hour.

Afterwards the first thing I do is go work out. Generally my meetings with him piss me off, and I don't like working out, so that is the perfect time. The bicycle counts as my aerobic workout but this is my anerobic workout, pumping iron.

Post Firecracker, every guard not only has off-duty access to the Fitness Center at any time, but is REQUIRED to spend a half hour during their shift in the Fitness Center working out. We have a full time fitness trainer who drops everything and works with a guard when they come in during their shift. It is vitally necessary.

About 0800 or so, after a quick shower, it's time for breakfast - whatever the cafe can scrounge, which often isn't much. Whatever excuse they've come up with for caffeine is my biggest need. I am available during breakfast to talk to anyone, these are my informal site office hours. At 0900 I go in back for my standing meeting with the cafeteria manager, and I do mean standing. We have a huddle with him, Facilities, Site Ops, a recent addition of Finance, the two farmers we have relationships with, Landscaping (which is now in the food plants business) and Janitorial. This is our daily "How The Hell Are We Feeding Everyone?!?" meeting.

Believe it or not: we have teams of employees and dependents who go out at all hours of the day and night to scavenge edible plants and to hunt game. We are unable to provide them escort. They usually come back. Sometimes we can launch a reaction to rescue them if they get in trouble. More often not. We also have traps on and in the perimeter.

We are not quite at the point where we have to eat the dogs and cats. But we do feed them with the mousetraps.

By 0930 I am done with that meeting and headed to our motor pool. A quick vehicle inspection, review of the convoy plan with the assigned convoy lead and the scrounging party, and by 1000 we are rolling out the gate, fangs out and hair on fire. Yes, we pack a lunch.

The smallest convoy we run is three trucks. Monster truck in front, cargo vehicle in the center, technical in the rear. But sometimes we run as many as ten vehicles, some of them heavies.

About five days out of seven, I roll with the convoys. There are reasons. The biggest one is to make sure they come back.

We mix it up as much as we can, but when you leave from and return to a fixed point, it's hard. We mix up the destinations too but we have to run certain routes and visit certain things. The electrical connection to our property, the water lines, the gas lines, and the route from here to the freeway all need to get checked. We visit the few sites which are still 'up' - the PG&E facility and power plant, the police station, a fire station, the nearest hospital - but from a distance.

Sometimes we are able to trade. We continue to supply the fire station with recharged extinguishers, which is something we can do fairly easy with nitrogen gas on tap, and they can't. They need them, as they are still in the firefighting business with their assigned police escort. They have conveniently lost some hose line in exchange, which we desperately need and can't buy.

But we are really out there to loot. That's the other other reason I have to roll with the convoys. To keep control over our scrounging, and make sure the stuff gets back to us where we need it.

Today one of the stops is Harbor Freight Tools, which we have looted before and will loot again, right down to the bare rafters. All the 'good stuff' has been taken but there is a lot of stuff that looks useless to the ordinary person, that is gold to us. We have a whole Facilities department to stock. They have machine tools. Any metal has value to them.

The mall is another good loot point. All the good stuff, and especially anything that has to do with food, is gone. But we have over two thousand people to clothe and house ... and keep sane.

If we take the fuel truck, it leaves empty and returns full. This requires great creativity and planning, because a fuel truck is a valuable and tempting target, and fuel even for those who can pay (and we can, thanks to commercial fuel cards, abuse of other cards, wads of cash [don't ask] and at last resort Company vouchers which no one likes to accept, even at gunpoint.)

We avoid other looters. They avoid us. This is not due to any particular honor among thieves, but because we have weapons and are willing to use them. Yet another reason I need to be along.

Outside the wire we are weapons free, but ammo is expensive. I have thought of rigging an MP3 player to play the catchy theme from District 9, "Remember! A smile is cheaper than a bullet!" but I have more important things to do.

We do have powerful PA systems on the technicals and monster trucks. It's vital. "[COMPANY] Security, STAY AWAY!" really is cheaper than a bullet.

We also check a few addresses of Company employees. Sometimes we are checking to see if the house is still there. Sometimes we recover personal effects, especially valueless ones like papers and photos that the new occupants don't mind giving up - typically at gunpoint. The rescue phase is largely over, we've recovered most of the employees who are coming in.

About twice a week, I take a larger crew with me with hand tools, and we work on key stretches of road that are outside cover fire range of our perimeter. But we need to be ready to pick up tools and bail at any moment, especially if we come under sniper fire. This has happened.

We typically return to the wire about 1500. We maintain the vehicles first and foremost before we do anything else.

On the days I don't leave the wire, I am doing something really important. Typically one day is in-service training for Security and/or the Reaction Force, and one day is an inspection (read "raid and search") of the temporary encampment on our perimeter.

By 1600 I am off servicing the meetings on my scheduler. ("Available 1600 to 1730, 15 minute appointments unless otherwise arranged.") These are usually some combination of extremely urgent, urgent, wasteful of my time and downright stupid. Using the tiny office guarantees privacy and short meetings. But that's OK, I'd rather find out what the crazy employee has on their mind during a meeting than after they start waving a knife around. Not a hypothetical.

At 1800 I am there for PM shift change. At 1830, dinner, again in the cafeteria, where I see what they did with today's scrounging. But my dinner meeting is with just one person, for a short time, which I pick based on whatever problem I most need to solve.

(I hardly ever shoot anyone during dinner. It was just the once, and they drew first, and I'm no Han Solo, and I got very lucky.)

At 1900 meet with the client again. Go over the day, plan the next day, by 2000 get pissed enough to go work out again - jogging, leaving the rifle in a rack at the office, checking the posts after dark. Checking sight lines, visibility, function of lighting systems and cameras and other night vision equipment.

2100, get back to the office, turn in my keys, reclaim my rifle. This is when I get work done. E-mails, reports, reviews of procedures, preliminary investigation of incidents. Some of this requires my paper files (mostly Security and Reaction Team personnel records) and other parts require the ability to review digital video recorders, which is done in the combat office. Most of the rest I can do in the small office on the laptop.

I try to wrap by 2330 or so. A little longer today because I wrote this.

I had to donate my personal van to the cause, so I'm not sleeping in it any more. (We needed an ambulance, don't have much in the way of vans, and it has vents and a house battery and a bunk... so... ambulance.) I can't sleep in the encampment, I might become a hostage or simply not wake up. The Security building is not an OK place to sleep, it sets a bad example.

So I sling a hammock (a choice bit of loot) in a space relatively few people have access to, that is secure, dimly lighted and heated. One of the small cages in the Data Center, which can be padlocked from the inside or the outside - and is whenever I am not passing through the door. I've covered the walls with cardboard tied down with zip ties, set up the hammock between two stripped racks, and have some plastic crates for 2 liter soda bottles (otherwise useless) supporting a bit of broken table, to set my stuff on while I sleep. A power strip snakes out of the floor for my radio and flashlight chargers and my one bit of entertainment, a mobile phone now useful mostly as an electronic book reader. (The work laptop is in a safe in the combat office.)

Bonus: the hallway is covered by one of the Data Center cameras we haven't repurposed yet. On the list of cameras it is labeled "E18 Lair."

After four to five hours of sleep, it's time to wake up and Make The World Safe For Coders. Because Code Wins Wars.

Sorry, tired.

[Presses 'SEND']
drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: Equal and Opposite Critical Analysis

The meeting was scheduled for the executive conference room at 1600. Both the location and the time were unusual. But then again, EVERYTHING was unusual.

I usually didn't get to see this five story view of San Jose. It had been made clear to us, as with all contractors, that Executive Country was strictly off limits for us hoi polloi unless we had a strong, legitimate business reason - and not always then.

I keyed my radio.

"Golf 18, Control, I am unavailable to radio except for sitewide emergency. In sitewide emergency only call me on CMF-1."

"Control, Golf 18, copy unavailable except sitewide emergency, monitoring CMF-1."

For some reason the dispatchers had gotten a heck of a lot crisper with radio traffic over the last twenty-four hours.

I changed frequencies to CMF-1 and holstered the radio. I was carrying a laptop - a little unusual, but not in recent days.

When I reached the door, the conference room attendant standing by it put a hand up.

"I can't let you in here with that," she said. By her appearance, clearly she'd had a rough week, but then again, so had we all.

Well, I had to have the radio. I could see past her shoulder that the Senior Executive (gulp!) had his radio by his laptop, while typing furiously and talking into a cell phone in his ear. Not that the public cell network was up or anything, but IT with heroic effort had patched people's phones to use WiFi on the corporate network to make phone calls, at least on the internal company network.

I saw nothing objectionable about the laptop, either. It was more normal than not for regular employees to bring laptops to meetings, although it was admittedly unusual for a contractor to do so.

I saw what she was glaring at. The holstered handgun. One of the first things I'd done after the horrible events of the prior day, after the wounded had been triaged and stabilized, after the police had briefly come and gone, after I'd swiftly beefed up security with the limited means at our immediate disposal, had been to borrow a table in the Facilities group area and clean it. Even before bothering to clean up myself.

"Let him in," called another manager from inside.

I stepped in and a chair was clearly reserved for me at the foot of the conference room table. (Double gulp!) It even had a bottle of water, a notepad and a pen. These simple items were getting harder to come by, day by day.

I took it, set up laptop and charger (from the agenda, it looked to be a long meeting), took off the radio and set it to the side, volume high as I expected.

"Let's get started," the Senior Executive said as he hung up and (triple gulp!) closed his laptop.

"First of all, Mr. [Name], we all know the extraordinary events of yesterday. What has been done to keep that or something similar from happening again?"

I'd been working on that question at my highest priority, with a three hour cat nap between 2 and 5 AM, ever since.

"The North gate has been closed and barricaded with abandoned personal vehicles. The Facilities team has used our one backhoe to trench either side of both the North Gate and South Gate to make either side impassible to vehicles. This work continues. We have installed all available J barriers to create a serpentine approach and departure to South Gate which is required for all vehicles entering and exiting the site. We are staffing three guards at the South Gate at all times, one to halt, search and verify traffic, two to overwatch from a more protected position. The overwatch is armed with rifles. The lead position rotates every fifteen minutes."

"Why?" one of the managers interrupted.

Another manager answered, "Because if there's another attack, the lead guard is dead."

"Correct," I stated. "We are also rotating officers between the gate, two additional overwatch positions -- one on the hillside, one on the roof of the damaged shipping and receiving building, and the security control center downstairs in this building. We are staffed with a total of thirty six personnel, which gives us 9 positions around the clock. I have personally verified with each guard that they are willing to continue to work for at least the next three days."

"Can the guard company supply more guards?"

"I have had no success in getting contact with local guard force management." Actually, a week prior I'd led a team to the company offices. They were abandoned and unsecured. We'd carried the live personnel files and remaining computers down three flights of stairs, and I'd stripped everything else of value, except the safe which someone else had gotten to first. No one had interfered. Looting was still rampant and the appearance of legitimacy was enough.

"Also, I've verified with our corporate office via E-mail that they are still direct depositing pay to employee accounts, but the only place to draw cash is the on site ATM machine in $20 bills, and it ran out of cash last week. There are no safe places to spend it anyway with most stores closed. Right now most of my guards are working for two reasons: they can get food here from the cafeteria, which is still taking cash at the old prices, and they have families and friends in an encampment adjacent to the west perimeter. Long term we will need better incentives, but they are working now.

"As for a return event, our intelligence indicates that the attack was motivated by the desire to loot the site and punish the company for its defense related contracts, because of the Firecracker War. We have power because the main grid is still up to our location and defense priority, when most places don't, so people mistakenly think there is considerable wealth here as well. This is in the context of literally hundreds of what the media is calling terrorist attacks, but are more along the line of armed looters and/or bandit raids."

"How was this intelligence gathered?"

"Documents found on the bodies of attackers, and interrogation of a prisoner."

"Where is this prisoner now?"

Oh, this was going to be awkward.

"Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack while questioning him."

"While _you_ questioned him."

"Yes," I said, and met the eyes of everyone in the room.

Yeah, this was going to be very awkward. But I knew I had done the right thing then, and I knew I was doing the right thing now.

"What ... equipment ... does your team need in the immediate future to keep this site secure?"

"Sir, the site can be secured. The employees are another story. A lot of people are staying here and a lot of people brought their families. They are living in the cars, in some cases under tents and tarps and whatever we can spare. Some of the offices are being used as apartments. People try to go home to get stuff, or to find family members, and they don't always come back. We are running out of fuel for escorted trips, despite heroic measures."

Heroic measures including the flagrant abuse of fleet fuel cards, individual bank cards and credit cards, the 'borrowing' of a gasoline tanker (the driver and his family were now happy to help and be part of the team), people in Facilities who were both creative and crazy in their use of company equipment, and an employee who had been a POL specialist in the Navy Reserve who knew how to get at underground storage tanks at damaged gas stations. (Active gas stations were now guarded by heavily armed friends and family of the owner.)

"What we need most, the entire site, is to restore access to basic goods. The cafeteria has two days of food left, and that is despite resupply runs escorted..." [read: looting conducted] "... by Security. We need to establish what the military calls a PX, or a food and goods store, to supply the site population. A normal employee population is about 1,500 people. At last count, and Security has been very careful to hold everyone accountable for entries to the site, we have 2,327 people authorized for site access as employees, contractors and immediate family of same, and another 732 in the perimeter encampment."

"We are good for water for now, but I have a continuing concern about access to water supply. Once our fire water tanks are gone, they are GONE, and at current rate of consumption we have about a month left. I'd like to impose immediate emergency sanitary measures."

"What do you mean by emergency sanitary measures?"

"Shutting down the toilets and restroom sinks because they are using potable water. Facilities has a plan for separated outdoor facilities by gender. We have enough landscaping chips for at least three months of alternative sanitation. The break room sinks will stay up for potable water use but under stringent restrictions. Dishwashing only by trained persons to minimize water use while keeping clean."

"I see the plan here. Buckets? Really?"

"Yes, sir, although I should let Facilities speak to that part. Each flush is 1-2 gallons, that is one to two days survival for someone, if we lose water to the site. The water mains have been intermittent. I don't want to think about fire protection water, but that is the next big concern. Fire safety. We have had two people start warming fires inside the building. We have a single flatbed Diesel pickup truck with a gasoline pump as a fire protection engine. We need to train everyone in basic fire safety and evacuations and organize a fire brigade. Security had been doing it but we are not enough."

"These are important points, but I think I missed my phrasing on the main question. What _security_ equipment do you need to keep the site safe?"

Oh.

"We need more IP cameras. We really need DVRs, digital video recorders. Facilities needs light bulbs, we have had issues with perimeter lights being shot out. Fuel if we lose power, especially Diesel. Generators for the gates, we tried but were unable to obtain..." [read: loot] "... portables. More construction equipment: bulldozers, backhoes, dump trucks. A rough field forklift is especially vital, we can unload trucks by hand but then we have to hand-over-hand the items up the stairs with the elevators out of order..."

He interrupted.

"Weapons. Ammunition. Support gear."

"That really depends. We have required all employees, contractors and tenants to register all firearms and turn them in to Security as a condition of entry. They can have them back whenever they leave. This means that we have guns but our ammunition needs are all over the place. We have a room full of .22 long rifle and 12 gauge. We are down to two cases of 5.56mm but that would be adequate to resist at least one more attack. As horrible as yesterday's events were, we gained numerous firearms and more ammunition from the attackers. We have found ammunition to be especially unobtainable. Facilities is starting on a reloading shop for 12 gauge shotgun, we are standardizing on that for the reaction force weapon. If we could get anything we wanted, it would be in order - any and all 12 gauge reloading supplies including especially powder and primers, 12 gauge slugs, 5.56 ammunition, and any rifle caliber you can get: 7.62, .308, even odd calibers like .303 Then and only then other shotgun and pistol ammunition.

"The biggest support item we need but don't have is ballistic armor and helmets. We are wearing hard hats which is better than nothing but useless against a bullet. Military helmets are expensive and impossible to come by. We have several sets of hard body armor, mostly from military who couldn't make it to their units and reported here instead, and about twenty sets of soft armor. If we could, I would put body armor on all Security, all reaction force and everyone who leaves the wire..."

"The wire?" someone exclaimed?

"The perimeter, ma'am. At least once a day we send out a convoy to try to get supplies, recover employees and check on critical infrastructure. If we could I'd love to have armor for all those folks, but we just don't have it. Kevlar isn't something we can make."

The Human Resources Director asked, "Earlier we had an employee count. Are there still employees out there, unaccounted for?"

"Yes, sir. Of 2,208 Company employees in the Bay Area, we have 1,309 accounted for and present on site. Of them, 57 are injured and in the infirmary. Another 238 are confirmed to be dead, by credible eyewitness report, or by found bodies and effects. That means almost seven hundred are still out there, we hope. We are spreading the word - but we are having increasing problems with imposters. People are figuring out that they can get in if they can successfully impersonate..."

Interruption, "What are you doing about it?"

"If we catch an imposter, and we've caught four, we strip them naked and send them out the South Gate. Tends to discourage others. In two cases the impersonated employee's manager did not survive. In one case, an employee was trying to get a friend in as if they were an employee. We sent the friend to the outer encampment. In the last case, the manager vetted the employee but we determined..." [don't ask! please don't ask!] "... that the manager had been deceived."

The Senior Executive cleared his throat. "We're getting off topic. So for the short term, the next two or three days, the situation as we have it now is fairly stable. Would you agree?"

"Yes, sir."

"That is an enormous achievement for which a lot of people would be commended if we had time, which we don't. Next agenda item, clarification of reporting chains. I am the Senior Executive. That means that like the Captain of a ship or the Principal of a school, I am supposed to be in charge of this madhouse. I have department heads that have been reporting to me throughout this crisis. I have been getting my reports from Security through Site Operations. But where is the Company Security representative?"

"He was killed on Day 5, sir." He had died in my arms, as a matter of fact.

One of the first things I had removed from the shattered Security Office and hung up on the new control center wall, for everyone to see, was a letter that I'd insisted on having the Company Security representative print and sign, on the 2nd day of the Firecracker War. It instructed my Employer to take any actions necessary to preserve the lives of Company employees and protect Company property and assets under extraordinary circumstances.

It was now splattered with blood from the murdered guard who had been microwaving his lunch when the satchel charge came through the window. I'd framed it over the bloodstains and put it up where everyone could see it.

This is what we do. This is also what happens when you fail. Avoid it.

"Security needs direct access to me. Site Ops is too busy. I am appointing Mr. Pritchard in Legal ..." [aw shit!] "... as my department head for Security reporting directly to me. As the contract security, you report to him."

"Yes, sir."

"Now we need to discuss the workplace violence incidents yesterday and earlier today."

I belatedly realized that the meeting was as much tactical as operational, and that two of the men sitting behind me were employees who also happened to have been police officers. That probably meant they were armed. I'd been fairly liberal in authorizing firearms to anyone who had indicators of trustworthiness, and that was one of them.

I had run out of gulps.

"I am asking no questions and you are giving no answers. This is a statement. The use of force by Security, reaction team members or Company managers inside ... the wire ... or against a Company employee will be strictly in self defense, by California law _before_ the Firecracker, and the highest traditions of the law and of our Company will be upheld. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Outside the wire, you do what you need to do. I consider the gate area 'outside the wire' for this purpose. But I do not want any more 'heart attacks' on this site. Am I clearly understood?"

"Absolutely, sir." Drag them off campus before you kill them.

He met my gaze and neither of us flinched. Everyone else in the room did.

The Captain of this tiny ship of order in the sea of chaos had established his authority.

I drew enormous comfort from it.

"I want Finances involved in future supply expeditions. I would like to resume purchasing what we need whenever possible. We have arranged for a very large convoy of supplies from our Utah offices. We need them to get our wish lists ASAP, as in within the next two hours, so they can pack tomorrow and head out at first light the next day.

"We are continuing operations. I have had two Generals and three Admirals call me today, to ask if we were still in business and if we could help them with their problems. This nation is at war and we are supporting those who fight that war. Code wins wars. We are coders. Having a safe and secure working environment is essential, but it is only the first step."

"I am telling everyone in this room. If you have a problem with Security, you take it to that man," pointing to me. [Quadruple gulp.] "If you still have a problem, you take it to Mr. Prichard. But if Mr. Prichard feels he has to, he can recommend to me I _terminate_ someone. And you had all better bet your last dollar, your last meal, and your last gallon of water that I can and will fire someone who interferes in the mission of this site. Anyone."

And in this apocalyptic nightmare, being fired was about the same as a death sentence, but with no last meal, no chance of a pardon from the Governor, and no guarantee that it would be either swift or painless.

"The Security part of this meeting is over. Contractors are excused. Next up, Customer Commitments."

I got up and stepped out. Mr. Pritchard followed and stopped me in the corridor.

"I am carrying a radio on CMF-1. My callsign is Legal-1. If you need me, call me on radio."

"Yes, sir."

"This is my instruction, which I discussed with the Executive first thing this morning. Carry on exactly as you have been doing. You are doing great and your team is working miracles. I'd like a meeting with you twice a day, 7 AM and 7 PM, my office. Let me carry the water and wood trying to get what you need. You just tell me what you need. The government really needs us up and running and that gives us some leverage."

"Sir, with respect, we have five people _dead_ yesterday. Two of them were Employees. That's not great."

"If you hadn't insisted on the film on the cafeteria windows, it would have been a lot more than that. You are saving lives every day, just by doing what you do. For God's sake don't stop. That's an order."

He clapped me on the shoulder.

"You just keep ahead of the curve, just like you've been doing. See you at 1900."

As I walked away, something struck me. I needed to check Mr. Prichard's resume.

Army? Or Marine?
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