drewkitty: (Default)
2017-05-12 09:19 pm

[sticky entry] Sticky: Drewkitty's Fiction Page

Welcome to Drewkitty's Fiction Page.

All of these works are copyright 1984-2017 by [Drewkitty].* All are ordered from Oldest | More Recent | Most Recent.

Itty Bitty Bigger World | utopian

A glittering Utopia and the last would be Tyrant. And Alan was there, too. #And so was a KittenBot! Mew!#

BART Rage | Kittenbot: To The Rescue! | BART Rage (cont)

Globall War of Terror | dystopian

In post Firecracker America, we are all united by one thing. Fear. And divided by nothing. Or else.

Door to Door Inferno | Pink Terror | Equal & Opposite Critical Analysis | A Day At The Races | Shopping Trip | Week One | In The Breach | Solicitors | Connection Lost | Connection Restored | Reality Check | RESERVED | Firecracker Day | Fallout | Day Off | Package Delivery | A Tiny Problem | RT & SF ROE | 5150 Post SF

Proven By The Body | Post 7 | Convoy Operation

Bruce Anders | modernist

The street builds nothing up. It only grinds down.

| Happy Christmas

Down The Rabbit Hole | surreal

Versions of reality sharing a common character.

2012: Future Imperfect | 2013: Door to Door Inferno [also GWOT] | 2014: Pile It On | 2015: Log of the _Blue Oyster_ | 2016: Atrocity Day | 2017: Lifeboat

2011 & earlier: links to be migrated

2005: Proven By The Body

Miscellaneous Fiction | oddball

Too good to be true.

Teasers | Scary: A Litterbox Story |
News From The Future [Cascadian border, 2019] | Democracy Fixfic

Non Fiction | the biggest lies of all

Too bad it's true.

HIatus | Still Out There [Election 2016] | #operativelivesmatter

* He doesn't like to have to get out his real name here. Don't make him. But if you have to, you can reach him at his u$3rnam3 aaht Ye Olde Goog!3 Ma!l.
drewkitty: (Default)
2017-04-25 07:45 pm

Globall War of Terror: 5150 Post SF

FICTION

Globall War of Terror: 5150 Post SF

After a long day of planning, schedules, unscrewing the latest screwups by my people and our clients, and attempting to find a way forward through the postapocalyptic madness, I find it restful to take an hour and actually do the job.

Besides, watching people scurry like mice as I walk through the halls like a slightly underfed tomcat is fun.

So I walk off dinner -- a pepper flavored pasta with unidentifiable bits of alleged protein floating in a thin oil based gravy, with occasional leaves -- by going from door to door, trying door handles.

We require that company offices be locked after hours. This requirement is especially important because we do allow visitors and guests during normal business hours, and (if someone is able to pay) dinner.

Another sign of apocalypse: people are happy and pleased to have the privilege of paying $25 a plate for this goop, which would have been sent back to the kitchen with great prejudice before San Francisco had her coming out party in a burst of thermonuclear plasma.

So far I have resisted the pleas to open a bar. The speakeasy in the perimeter compound that I officially don't know about, serving the distilled brake fluid Buddy makes with the still I don't know about (and the bartender has tested by the infirmary for safety, which I also don't know about) will have to serve for now.

I have also turned a carefully blind eye to those employees who sleep in their offices, and more than sleep. So I fail to hear the two toned low moaning in the janitor's closet, after a moment's listening to make sure it is at least deniably consensual.

I go from door to door, checking locks. Locked, locked, locked. Not locked. I listen for a moment. A low regular buzz. I slowly, carefully open the door and see a passed out developer slumped over his desk. Unconscious and ... I look carefully ... breathing. Well, snoring. Probably exhaustion, but he's going to have a stiff neck if he sleeps like that.

So I reluctantly knock on the door. "Excuse me, sir?"

He groans, flinches, opens his eyes and sits bolt upright in a panic. "Not asleep!" he gasps.

"Badge check, sir." I relent slightly. "It's after five, you're good."

He shows me his badge; it matches the plate on the door. Then he carefully stumbles towards the door, in search of whatever weak warm tinged fluid we are presently serving in place of coffee or tea.

He has code to finish. Code wins wars. It is also the only reason we are all still here, getting fed and paid and shielded from the angry hungry masses.

I hand him his keys before he locks himself out of his office, and make sure he is actually able to keep his feet before continuing my patrol.

This really is a customer service business. I will keep telling myself that for as long as I have to. Even if the customer being serviced resembles a pop up target on the 50 meter line.

Two floors of hundreds of coder, developer and software engineer offices later, and all but two locked -- I lock those, noting their locations on a small slip of paper for a nasty E-mail to their boss, their bosses's boss, my boss (who is their great grand boss) and all the little bosslings -- I have only two floors to go.

I am in the Support Services area. All the miscellaneous folks who don't fit either the paradigm or the org chart accumulate here. Security should have an office here, but we don't. Not anymore. Our job is now a lot more tactical than that, and kind of like combat engineers, our burrows are conveniently placed so that we are the first to die.

The infirmary is located adjacent to the former loading dock. This is partly left over design from the days in which there were ambulances who answered 911 calls and partly convenience in rebuilding - the old security offices were renovated by a satchel charge, you see. C.f. "first to die" above. Well, I felt, then heard, then saw. Then raged.

Our doctors have their offices (and their carefully locked medical files, no longer maintained by HR) immediately adjacent. I'd rather have them saving lives doing doctor stuff than going back and forth down the less than completely secured halls.

There is only one set of medical HR files in this wing: Psychological Services. I have keys to almost everything, and fully authorized access to all the other keys. I listen for a moment and hear nothing. The "IN/OUT" sign is flipped to "OUT." So I key into the outer office of our clinical psychologist, intending to check that the standing file safe containing her records is properly locked.

The bottom drops out of my stomach, my mouth goes paper dry and my traitorously shaky hands drop the key ring, allowing them to jangle against the face of the door. Hundreds of hours of training forces me to open my mouth slightly and take a silent but enormous breath as my right hand drops instantly to the retention strap on my holster, working it free as my thumb and forefinger tighten on the backstrap.

My eyes widen as my legs pile drive my body through the door and my hands come up as my torso goes into a flying tackle head first.

My right hand has departed company with my still holstered handgun. I briefly take flight as (generously) two hundred fifty pounds of terrified security manager collides with less than half that of seated clinical psychologist.

My entire focus, the entire reason for my continued existence - which is now dangerously in question, to my mortal peril and hers - is the Armscor clone of the Colt .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol that she had been holding in her right hand, against her right temple, held tightly enough to make her hand turn unnaturally white.

Tightly enough to disengage the grip safety?

Time sped up, as it does when you are fighting for your last seconds of it, and I found myself sprawled over her in a parody of a romantic embrace, a threesome with her overturned chair that she still occupied.

It was only with great difficulty that I kept myself from smashing my head into hers in a desperate stunning move. I only made the attempt because I had successfully stripped the firearm from her hands through sheer surprise and shock, and tossed it behind me with little regard for angles.

Grip safety. But Colt .45s were prone to negligent discharges if dropped with a round in battery. It kind of evened out.

The muffled thump of the handgun hitting the carpet was louder if anything than the gunshot I expected.

I was already halfway to gaining control, so I kept the initiative. A busy minute later she was once again seated in her righted chair, hands flat on her freshly cleared desk, with me sitting on said desk an arm's length away - my handgun on the far side of my body from her, retention strap restored. In the interim between sweeping her papers off her desk and briefly but vigorously frisking her well enough to count as second base, I switched the door sign to "IN" and closed the door without locking it.

"Keep your hands on the desk, Doctor," I repeated. She nodded her acknowledgement.

I hadn't searched her _desk_ drawers.

I had dealt with the immediate tactical problem. But according to the Standard Operating Procedure I had written, I should now call for backup (both Security and Medical), secure her to a gurney or backboard or wheelchair or (in a pinch) high backed office chair, and page the duty psychologist ... our only psychologist ... her ... to conduct a clinical assessment of whether she was presently a danger to herself or others. Welfare and Institutions Code Five One Five Zero of California state law. "5150"

I decided to skip all that part. The answer was obvious.

This was a bit of a switch.

In interviewing (which is the bread and butter of Security) and interrogation (which is not supposed to be part of Security, for values of not apocalypse), allowing silence to stretch out can be a valuable technique.

This was neither.

"Have you had dinner?" I asked instead.

She mutely shook her head.

"Let's go have dinner. I am afraid I really must insist."

Aping gentlemanly manners, I offered her my left arm so that she would have to occupy her right hand holding my elbow. My right arm and hand were free to keep control of my firearm.

She could probably grab my pepper spray. I would let her, call for backup, and this time apply handcuffs pending Medical, securing her to a backboard, gurney ad nauseum...

Just as so, we made it to the cafeteria just as they were starting to lock up.

The cafe manager started to shake his head, saw the look in my eye and immediately grandly opened the door for us, then led us to a table in the far corner that was rarely used unless the cafeteria was completely full, or I sat there.

My eyes reluctantly acknowledged the plaster patches on the facing wall, the most visible evidence of why.

"Two dinners, sir, right away."

She sat down carefully in her appointed spot and still didn't speak.

They were served with forks, knives and spoons. I discarded the fork and knife from my tray and traded trays with her.

This caught the server's attention, and taking advantage of the invisibility of service workers, promptly excused herself to the kitchen. I could see through the service window her frantic gestures at her boss, and his swift departure from my tiny line of sight.

I took a bite left handed. Unconsciously prompted -- in neurolinguistic programming ("NLP") we call it mirroring -- she also took a bite.

My radio broke squelch.

"Echo 18, Control, status check."

I put down the fork, keyed up with my left hand on the hand mike dangling from my left shoulder lapel (which is as awkward as it sounds), and said, "Status normal."

"Norm..." a rising tone started to say, there was a brief pause, and the duty supervisor interrupted the dispatcher and coolly replied, "Copy status normal."

Neither of us said the words "Over" or "Out" because neither of us was done talking, although I let go of the mike and resumed eating.

The psychologist ate like an automation, with the occasional interspersed drink of water.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw three of my people - CS or Contractor Security - take trays to tables where they could with lidded eyes indirectly but fervently watch us like hawks. One had a slung rifle, which we generally avoided indoors, and another wore a pair of Tasers like Wild West handguns, quick draw style.

Message received and understood clearly. Good.

One of their radios squawked and before they turned it down, I heard "...gency traffic only on Dispa..."

I picked at my food, normally a cardinal sin given the enormous effort required to gather and prepare it, but I needed my head as clear as possible.

It didn't help.

This was far, far outside my skill set.

So I punted and keyed the mike.

"Echo 18 to David 8, respond Code 2 to cafeteria."

Perhaps madness would have something useful to say to madness.

Because a crazy psychologist is much more dangerous than a merely active shooter.
drewkitty: (Default)
2017-02-06 07:35 am

Globall War of Terror: Reaction Team & Security Force Rules of Engagement

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)
2017-02-04 08:36 am

Globall War of Terror: A Tiny Problem

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)
2017-02-02 08:17 am

Itty Bitty Bigger World: BART Rage (continued)

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)
2017-01-27 08:16 am

Global War of Terror: Package Delivery

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)
2017-01-22 02:15 am

Globall War of Terror: Day Off

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)
2017-01-21 04:59 am

Down The Rabbit Hole: Lifeboat

"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.

###

I am very sharply dressed, wearing a $1000 suit tailored to my body. The armor underneath was five times as much. I am wearing a radio mike on my lapel and an earpiece. I am not Secret Service. There are SS agents about, but they have been strictly instructed to leave us alone. We are on the same team, but they are the outer perimeter. The cover.

We are the inner perimeter. We are between the world and our principals, and the world really, really does not like our principals.

A bit about me: after my father was killed in a car accident in Virginia when I was seven, my mother ended up in an institution and so did I. She is rehabilitated now and lives in a nice halfway house. I see her sometimes.

I graduated. The failure rate was 50%. The fatality rate was 15%. I saw my first dead body when I was ten. I deployed operationally at fourteen, to Poland.

We usually operate in the shadows. But the light is very, very bright right now.

Thus this summit meeting. We were briefed three days ago on something these leaders are here to learn today. We needed to know.

Experts in solar weather state that the Sun is going to essentially blow up, sometime between a month and a year from now. I don't know their jargon, and don't care. But they all agree -- at least the ones with clearances -- that we're fucked.

As the blast wave will wrap around the planet, the only hope is to be in space, literally in shadow ... such as the dark side of the Moon.

99.999% of humanity will suddenly perish. Only a lucky handful... thousands, perhaps tems of thousands... will have any chance at survival. Underground might work, in a prepared shelter deep enough. Underwater depends on the depth, the deeper the better. But the survivors will have to terraform the planet, because the only plants and animals that will survive are the ones they take with them, or recover from sampled DNA.

Us Operatives will not be among the survivors. That is not our place. Nor is it our place to idly stand by as the rich and powerful rush the Lifeboat, or sabotage it, or play stupid human tricks and petty bullshit with the legacy of the human species.

In the last three days we've been busier than the height of the Gulf War, leaving horse's heads in beds and rigging fatal accidents. People find out, people freak out, people need to shut up.

The Lifeboat is literally this hotel, and the convention center complex around it, and some support facilities -- all functional, but all much more complicated and expensive than they have to be. A diligent hotel guest might notice that their windows are double sealed and the balconies all have two sets of doors.

Under the complex is a massive armor plate. Newport News shipbuilding was the subcontractor for that piece. Because this complex is an Orion launch system, and the armor plate is intended to withstand the thrust of a nuclear explosion. Then another, and another, and another.

Think of an upside down pie plate pooping pellets. But each pellet is plastic explosive. POP. The plate goes up, and releases another pellet. POP. And so on, until we reach orbit.

I can't do the math for how many tons we are going to bring to orbit. But I have been given the math for the people. Four thousand.

But even with clean nukes, this is going to do some serious damage to the biosphere.

Not terribly relevant any more, is it?

Obviously that was built well before the Solar Menace was known about. Or was it? Perhaps Certain People knew for years, before the lid came off? Or this is just an insurance policy.

Down on the loading docks, tractor trailers are frantically delivering all the needs of a future civilization. There is no effort to preserve artifacts, there isn't time. A lot of electronic information is preserved in miniature data centers scattered throught the building - disguised as boilers - but the Magna Carta and paintings by Picasso will have to fend for themselves.

I am overseeing access control. Only authorized people, on a really tight list, are being allowed into this auditorium. It seats about three thousand.

This is not coincidental.

Someone is arguing with the screeners that they must be on the list. I start to sidle over. One of the customer service reps is there in instants, beating me to it - just like I intended.

Not listening to Customer Service. Copy.

So I flick out my baton in a quick, smooth motion and pop it into his gut. He gasps and falls down, and as I help him down, my left hand punches him eight times in particular spots.

Two other operatives are here to help in moments, wrapping him in a fabric stretcher that can be zipped over the top.

It looks like he suddenly took ill, unless you were watching carefully and knew what you were watching.

I wipe my push dagger on the corpse just as they drag it away.

There are no more disturbances. The screeners move away, the doors lock, and we escort the screeners and Secret Service to the outer doors.

Inside the auditorium, they are getting the news. They have been drafted.

Outside the auditorium, a dozen operatives ready for the task are sharing the news with about thirty screeners and eight Secret Service agents, who sadly know too much and would try to 'protect' their charges inside the auditorium.

Only one of us is injured, twisting her ankle while dragging a body.

As things are under control here, I move to Operations. I feel more secure watching several hundred cameras.

My badge no longer works on the entrance reader.

I nod once, briskly, and immediately head for the exit.

Apparently we are launching a bit sooner than we had planned.

We file out obediently under sharp eyes and dull guns - we're not stupid, and dedicated Special Operations troops are much deadlier than we are - and the transport capsule we board whisks us away to the perimeter.

Here I can be useful. The very outermost perimeter is local police, themselves starting to wonder what is going on. Then we have the State Police, then the Feds of various stripes. Inside that we have military, Marines to be specific. Their orders are very clear. No one comes in. Anyone who comes out, does not go back in. Deadly force authorized.

My phone beeps and a countdown appears. We are T-minus ten minutes for launch. Space weather has detected a massive coronal discharge event...

There are no deep bunkers in half an hour's range, but the one I just left.

I have been expecting to die, quite horribly and violently, for over half my life. But the immediate prospect is another matter.

There is a concept called the Birkenhead Drill. You don't rush the lifeboat. You DON'T rush the lifeboat. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Birkenhead_(1845)

Or in this case, the Lifeboat. But I knew that among these panicked ordinary folks, some would realize what was happening prior to launch -- which would vaporize all of us and resolve the issue -- and try to interfere or get on board.

They wouldn't, because I would stop them.
drewkitty: (Default)
2017-01-18 01:18 pm

Globall War of Terror: Fallout

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)
2017-01-08 11:00 am

Globall War of Terror: Firecracker Day

[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)
2017-01-07 12:17 am

"Democracy Fixfic"

"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)
2017-01-04 04:26 pm

Globall War Of Terror: Reality Check

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)
2016-12-26 08:25 am

Happy Christmas: A Bruce Anders Story

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)
2016-12-05 07:27 am

Global War of Terror: Connection Restored

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)
2016-11-28 08:48 am

Global War of Terror: Connection Lost

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)
2016-11-25 09:13 pm

Global War of Terror: Solicitors

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)
2016-11-25 09:09 pm

Globall War of Terror: In The Breach

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)
2016-11-15 06:40 pm

Globall War of Terror: Week One

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)
2016-11-13 07:17 pm

News From The Future

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)
2016-11-03 03:15 pm

Globall War of Terror: Shopping Trip

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.