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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 within their areas.

Itty Bitty Bigger World | utopian

A glittering Utopia and the last would be Tyrant. (+SPOILER!) And Alan was there, too. #And so was a KittenBot! (-spoiler) Mew!#

Introducing SanSan | Good Morning | Search & Rescue | Jameson Creek LZ | Recovery (+"Unusual Event" snip NSFW?) | Spammed | Scrambled | Flushed | Sacramento River (-3 years) | Light My Fire | Hook Up | Strike Commit | Construction (-10 y) | Hardly Cover | Northbound aka S***y In The City | Suntan Lotion | Hanging In |

The Last War DETOUR (-7 y, 1 of 4) | Driving Home (-7 y, 2 of 4) | A Spot of Bother (-7 y, 3 of 4) | Russian Home (-7 y, 4 of 4) |

Speed Run | Hands Up! | Splashdown | Protocol | IBBW FAQs | Public Food Dispensers | The Interview | Even Steven | Not My Day | Resuscitation | Death | Simply Not Allowed | ^*^ Pounce! | Waking Up (-25 y) DARK | ^*^ No Mugging My Human! (-5 y) | Waking Up Alive | On Trial | Civil Intelligence | Civil Intelligence? | Intrasystem Geography | Unpacking On The Run | Network Integrity Solutions | Cut No SLAC | Armageddon Sick Of This | BART Rage | ^*^ To The Rescue! | BART Rage (cont)

Guardians of the Emirate | religious space opera

Trapped between vicious interstellar empires, low on technology, high on Inshallah... and the Emir's last best hope for the survival of his people is a Guardian. If she survives.

A Guardian of the Emirate | To Be Linked ... in the shelter, after Ayers Rock | Missile Bait | Change of Command (snippet)

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 | Judgment Day | Firecracker Day | Fallout | Day Off | Package Delivery | A Tiny Problem | RT & SF ROE | 5150 Post SF | Rolling Hot | Forever Young | Slow Roll | Hanged Man | Ridin[g] Dirty | To Be Continued ... Proven By The Body | Post 7 | Convoy Operation

Bruce Anders | modernist

The street builds nothing up. It only grinds down. You Have Been Warned | In Our Last Episodes ... | V-Day Blues | Too Kind | Happy Christmas

Down The Rabbit Hole | surreal (LJ link, inspiration post)

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. LiveJournal links are provided _at the reader's own risk_.

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

Back to DW | 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 | Meeting With Mohammad

Non Fiction | the biggest lies of all

Too bad it's true. HIatus | On Complexity predator repellent for retired social ecologists | 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)
Riding Dirty

"They see me rollin ... they hatin ... patrolling they trying to catch me ridin' dirty..."

-- "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire

I tap Brooke's leg and Tiny's thigh at the same time. This is easy to do, we are jammed into the front cab of the diesel pickup truck like sardines ... except that Tiny is driving and Brooke is standing next to me, top half out of the sun roof swaying with the hardpoint mounted M249 light machine gun.

We smoothly come to a halt, turning slightly right, and Brooke tracks with the MG, fires a burst, then another.

"Go, go!" I command and we lurch forward into motion, tires squealing. The dismount crew in the back swears involuntarily.

Six souls, one pickup. And one huge mess.

The dash mounted GPS tells me where we are ... wrong way down Interstate 680, headed towards Milpitas.

The flashes ahead tell me where we are going ... to the rescue of a rescue convoy, ambushed repeatedly during its last leg of travel to our base in San Jose.

I am not looking at the radiation badge taped to a lower corner of the windshield. I don't want to know, and there is nothing we can do about it anyway.

The attackers are making only one big mistake, but it's enough. They are shooting on the move. Their only effective fire is when they pull alongside the convoy and fire broadside into it -- which gives them the chance to accurately shoot back, because they aren't stopping for trivia like dead crew, blown out tires and/or vehicle fires.

Speaking of which ... one of the trucks is giving off a column of thick black smoke. Crap.

I am supposed to be commanding this mess but it's all I can to do keep track of the pieces.

I tap driver and gunner again, we screech to another halt, and while Brooke fires two more bursts I jam the binoculars into my eyes and acquire a sight picture.

I key the radio, one of our radios, on our encrypted frequencies. Allegedly the frequency they have for us. I hope.

"Wagon, this is Apache. Wagon, do you copy?"

"This is Wagon. We are in serious shit. Wounded on all vehicles, multiple fatalities, at least one vehicle on fire."

"Copy all. Wagon, I need you to use the off ramp at Jackson. We're going to link up with you at the top of the ramp. Your exit in two miles."

"Copy!"

I key the second radio. "All elements, meet point is Jackson and 680. I need rifles and MGs on the military crest facing north. Buddy, we've got a rig on fire. Need emergency uncouple. Medics prepare to conduct triage and transfer."

We plow our way up the exit ramp at Jackson, swing hard right, and line up nose facing the freeway. Tiny gets out and I get out past him; he is already reaching for the rifle clamped under our seats.

Buddy's tow truck pulls a herringbone stop adjacent. The flatbed trailer with sandbag bunker makes a brief left, then backs up hastily and smoothly -- no beep sounds -- to make a three point turn, ready to go back down the ramp to escape.

Gunfire already. The rifles have targets; we're under 600 yards.

They're shooting back at us, from their motorcycles and buggies and trucks. They aren't hitting anything. But they are weaving around the stricken convoy like army ants surrounding spiders.

Then they start crashing, crumpling and veering off.

We are providing a vivid demonstration of effective fire from a stationary platform by trained personnel, as opposed to random gunfire from a moving platform by idiots.

The lead vehicle of the alleged rescue convoy pulls in. The armored windshield is starred. So are the sides.

The driver's side door opens and a body flops out, amid a splatter of blood. Our medics pounce immediately.

On the opposite side, a man wearing armor and helmet in digicam is bandaging his arm. I see the single star on his helmet.

"Major," I acknowledge. "We have five minutes to rally." He finishes tying the bandage tight and nods briskly. He keys his radio, giving further commands.

The flaming truck stops about a truck length short of the top of the ramp.

Buddy and I are running towards it. We are passed by Janine's pickup truck, which blasts the front half with a barrage of compressed air powered foam. It conducts a reverse three point to hit the opposite side. That's Fire Captain Janine to you.

Buddy has already climbed the back of the cab and is already checking the air brake and electrical connectors.

The fire ... is out. Molotov, napalm, flammable liquid, whatever.

I draw my baton and strike each of the front trailer tires, the ones most exposed to the flames, as Buddy taught me to do. They thunk with a reassuring meaty rubber sound -- as opposed to say, exploding and ripping my torso apart.

Buddy gives me a thumbs up. "She's good to roll!" He is already talking to the driver, after using his long K-bar type knife to cut loose what is left of the driver's side window.

There is no one in the trailer. The tail end Charlie of the rescue convoy is pulling up, with both mechanics and medics swarming it. Then we are transferring our one precious .50 caliber tripod mounted heavy machine gun.

We are bandaging wounds and thunking tires. The walking wounded are put back in their places, the hors de combat are carried on stretchers to our flatbed bunker-trailer for further attention, and the dead are bagged and stacked at the rear. Additional cover; I'm sure they won't mind.

Buddy rushes back to his tow truck. I follow, intending to ride shotgun with him - Tiny and Brooke have the run-and-gun regime down now.

That's when the other half of the enemy forces hit us from all sides, and things get really fucking busy really fucking quick.

Motorcyclist with lance. What is this? A Camelot remake? I draw my pistol and give him ten reasons to fall off and acquire a sudden case of road rash to go with his kinetic lead poisoning. The lance goes skittering into the wheels of another biker, whose face plant catapults his helmet - head still in it - like a demented bowling ball.

Minivan screeching to a halt, all doors removed, and people piling out of it just as Brooke tosses a grenade within. *WHOOOMP*

Not a professional grenade, but Mo does good work.

I am still looking at the guy with empty pistol holsters strapped to both legs. They are empty because he is holding both guns and firing rapidly.

Someone punches me in the gut. I stagger and take it, dropping my mag, smoothly reloading, and acquiring a sight picture. Pop pop pop, assess.

The two-gunner drops. He still has two guns, but no head.

Shot placement matters. He got me in the gut, but I am wearing armor. I got him in the face, where there is no armor.

As swiftly as the attack began, it is over. We are rapidly consolidating, neutralizing enemy wounded and bandaging new injuries. I reflexively reload (last one!) and holster.

Then I raise the binoculars for a quick scan.

A dark stain spreads from my groin down my right leg.

"GO GO GO!" I shout, and key up the radio. "GO GO GO!" I repeat on the tac net. I run behind Buddy's tow truck and leap onto the back bumper, bracing an arm against the extra piping we rigged as handholds.

It rips in my hand and I start to fall just as Buddy stamps on the gas.

Next I know, I am dangling upside down as the pavement whizzes past me. My right leg hurts like an anaconda is making sweet, sweet love to it.

The tow cable! It is wrapped around my leg!

My radio mike, attached to the radio by a coiled cord, skitters on the pavement, catches a Botts Dot, and shatters.

It is true that people in moving vehicles cannot hit anything with any accuracy.

It is the only reason I am still alive, as two motorcyclists with riders come up on either side of me and their riders level AK rifles.

I tighten my abused gut and curl up and fire at them, upside down, first one then the other.

They spin crazily out of my sight.

The tow truck comes slowly to a halt. Running feet come up to me and the cable loosens, dropping me into a pair of big, burly manly arms.

"Stop hanging around and get in front!" Buddy screams in my face as he carries me to the passenger side. The former shotgunner is already snapping his harness - why the hell didn't I put on a harness! - to a hard point in the back of the tow truck.

I get in and try to fasten my seat belt. I can't - the recoil assembly took a round.

Buddy hits the horn twice, checks his mirror, then slams on the gas without bothering with seat belts.

"Sorry about that, boss," he says, as close to awkwardly as his personality allows.

Then he smiles cheerfully.

"You can tell your grandkids you were a tactical pinata. Good shooting, boss, you got them both."

I turn around painfully in my seat to assess the situation, as best I can.

Where are all these attackers coming from? More motorcyclists, more modified cars and vans and pickups and even a couple of trucks, the latter sandbagged.

They really, really want this convoy. I mean, bad.

We make it to the 101 flyover ramp, from 680 to 101 south.

It's far too late for me to be in command of this mess. We are following contingency orders. Stick together, don't stop for shit, consolidate a defense at Point One next to the front gate.

If I hadn't envisioned this situation and planned for it well in advance, we'd all be dead shortly.

A pickup truck ahead of us groans into slow motion. It is heavily overloaded. So is the six-by horse trailer connected to it. The two are heavily chained together and to metal plates let down between joists in the overpass sidewalls.

Instant road barrier. Just add karma. Both sacrificial vehicles are loaded with rocks. And more than rocks.

Positioned correctly, just under the slope of the overpass -- that "military crest" I mentioned earlier -- as the driver runs for her motorcycle, long hair flapping. She picks it up, starts it and races ahead of us, using every bit of her acceleration advantage.

I have a beautiful view of the first three enemy motorcycles to go over the crest. Two scream briefly before colliding with the trailer. The third tries to lay down his bike to stop sort of the chains - which instead at those speeds, turn his body into a windmilling collection of disconnected limbs, torso sections and a brief streamer of intestine.

I reach into my pocket. Yes, I still have it. The blood runs down my abused leg as I pull it out.

I mutter to myself, "Safe to Arm, Arm to Ready, Ready to Fire, FIRE!" as I flick two switches, lift up a safety cover and press a key.

The trailer blows up just as the ersatz armored truck, a U-Haul converted with welded steel sheets, reaches it.

The chains should survive the blast just fine, but the load of rock is both very effective shrapnel and a continued barrier.

I look down at my leg. Then back at me in the mirror, turning white. Then my leg, then back to me, then to my individual first aid kit. I fumble out the tourniquet. I immediately apply it. Tight. Tighter. Cranking it down.

The leg now hurts like a white hot blowtorch. But I am probably no longer bleeding to death.

Eight minutes later we are at Point One. Adjacent to the Main Gate, but we are not about to move any of the gate defense out of the way right now. We hold here.

The medic who helps me out of the tow truck tries to lie me down.

"NO! That's an order!"

I sit up instead as he dashes off -- clearly I am not about to die, and that is his priority. I take what is left of the radio mike harness off of the radio and key up.

"Echo 18, Control on Command, how do you copy?"

"Copy good," a relieved voice states. "Instructions?"

"Hold hard. Defend the base. Only wounded go inside. Prepare for immediate mass assault."

The employee Reaction Force has already been at stations. I hear alarm sounds distantly. Everyone is either armed and taking up a defensive position, ready to perform according to the Emergency Operations Plan - Defense, or sheltering in a bunker.

Stretcher bearers are running forward out of our base.

I hear a throaty gasoline growl from one of Detroit's finest engines, and a brief siren squawk.

It's the Hate Truck. Now with extra barbed wire chunky goodness. Splashed red in places.

"We already fought off one attack!" shouts Patty, normally one of my two night shift supervisors. But this is a all hands on deck routine. The other night shift supervisor, Sarah, is at the Main Gate Bunker commanding the defenses.

"Excellent," I shout in reply. "How many?"

"About thirty!"

"We got hit by over fifty! They've got more coming! It's a Dead Man's Party!"

A single motorcycle appears on the road behind us. One of our own scouts.

He transmits on Command.

"Here they come, fast as hell and thick as grass!"

I never, ever should have let these people watch _Zulu_.

Limping, I drag myself to the bunker-trailer. The medics can look at my leg while I whiteboard the outer perimeter fight.

But I have one chore first.

"Command Relay. Fire mission, Point Seven, Ranging Round."

Obligingly a single FWOOOP sounds from inside the perimeter. Putting the captured mortar to good use.

A single explosion, then another. That's a secondary.

"Fire mission, rapid fire, fire for effect, rapid fire."

Six more FWOOPs and the mortar falls silent. That's all we got, seven rounds. But what better place than here, and what better time than now?

More secondary explosions.

"Break. All units are cleared for selective defensive fire. Take your time, make every shot count, punish the bastards."

A disciplined crackle of small arms fire, with the occasional short burst, echoes along the otherwise empty road and apparently deserted perimeter. The only obvious target is the heavily fortified Main Gate Bunker, and us among our convoy vehicles.

The enemy commander has even less operational control than I do. His people are enraged, wounded and have an obvious target. But attacking it brings them broadside down seven hundred yards of our perimeter defenses.

They don't make it. None of them.

"Launch recon drone," I order calmly as the medic loosens the tourniquet to see if the pressure dressings will hold. Let's see what's left.

"Battlesight, command vehicle, multiple antennas," I hear on the radio. Then from the rooftop of H5 Executive. CRACK CRACK CRACK. CRACK CRACK.

Gasoline vehicles do not normally explode. But if you have a markswoman with a gyrostabilized heavy rifle put incendiary high caliber rounds into the engine block and then the gas tank ...

WHOOMPH!

That's what defeat smells like, asshole. Avoid it.
drewkitty: (Default)
In the Tarot, the Hanged Man - sometimes by the neck, sometimes by an ankle and upside down - represents either death or transformation. The end of the story, or the end of _this_ story and the start of a new one.

I start with a Hanged Man. Quite literally -- strung up by wire, by the neck, dangling from a Highway 101 overpass. Obviously been up there for a bit, but not long enough for the vertebrae to separate and leave yet another corpse on the highway below. No idea what he did to get up there, other than the obvious "He pissed someone off and didn't have enough friends nearby to save him."

The relief convoy coming to the rescue of the relief convoy is in full battle rattle and I am in command. I should not be in command of a rubber ducky in a bathtub, but here I am and there it is. Two armored trucks, three convoy trucks, a battered minibus, a tow truck and a tractor trailer towing a flatbed with a sandbagged bunker on it.

So how did I get from there - braced on the edge of a sunroof at about 70 MPH, trying to steady binoculars to see what is going on ahead - to dangling by my ankle from a tow cable, upside down at about the same speed, playing tactical pinata and/or swaying target for a horde of unhappy campers with rifles?

Therein lies a story.
drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: Slow Roll

The long-awaited convoy is expected tomorrow. It has been delayed, again and again, by various dramas. Left Utah, breakdown on I-80, waiting on parts. Border closed by Nevada state troopers. Negotiate past the border, Winnemucca, no fuel left there. Have to get a supply convoy to supply more. Lurch into Fernley, just east of Reno. Need permits to cross the California border. Permits. No permits. What permits? Stage in Reno. Start going over the pass. Make it to Roseville. Local police try to 'requisition' the convoy. Bypass Sacramento. Fight off looters. Again. Stack in Vacaville. Wait for fuel. Fuel cards declined. More waiting. Fuel acquired. Make it just down the freeway to Fairfield. Screened by US military. Eleven convoy members - three of them drivers - impressed for military service. Bridge closed at Vallejo - official traffic only. Corporations are insufficiently official. More permits, phone calls, papers waved around.

Finally, clearance to cross the Vallejo bridge and punch it down Interstate (hah!) 680 to San Jose. A maybe two hour road trip.

I have been -- reluctantly -- cleared to resume work.

The Logistics Manager and I are going over the motor pool.

We realized early on that Facilities - which normally does logistics - was going to be overwhelmed if they had to both fix the site and stock the parts. So we broke out Logistics as a separate function under Site Operations. All company owned vehicles, and all the vehicles we scrounged or acquired or bought from employees, belong to Logistics.

Security has primary use of the Hate Truck, the one gasoline powered vehicle devoted to Security and kept in daily service. A backup is under construction; key parts including bolt on armor are on the convoy.

When we can buy gasoline, which is fairly rare, we are paying between $10 and $20 per gallon when we can pay in money at all. It is much more common to trade other valuable stuff for gasoline. It will still be several months before pre-Firecracker fuel supplies go bad - but most is used up, and what little gasoline entering the Bay Area does so via a fragile chain of truck tankers from Oregon. All our refineries are down and with the condition of the Golden Gate Bridge, it's not really viable to bring in crude oil anyway.

Diesel powered pickup trucks are worth their weight in gold. Security has markings on two of them, but all are equipped with at least some level of armor, overhead hard points (which would make them a technical if we had enough weapons to mount), PA systems and radios. The site has between six and ten, depending on parts status. A couple are flatbeds but most have big racks in the back, for carrying large quantities of bulk.

We have a lot more vehicles than we can keep functional. Parts are nearly non-existent. We continue to collect junkers and wrecks when convenient, not only for parts but to use as construction material for perimeter obstacles. Mostly this is by hooking up a tow bar and dragging behind one of the diesel pickup trucks, or with a winch onto a flatbed trailer. One of the outer parking lots is a literal junkyard of half-stripped cars. The limitation is skillage - only so many mechanics, working as hard as they can, doing 12 hour days.

There are even _coders_ pulling half-shifts as mechanics. That is saying something because writing code is the reason we are all still alive, and the only reason a convoy is coming at all.

The Fire Brigade has a single gasoline powered pickup truck devoted to emergency response. They also have an actual municipal fire engine, long story, but the last thing we want to do is run up the odometer on it. No grocery store runs, even if there were such a thing as grocery stores. Once a week, the Fire Brigade starts the engine for ten minutes, which is also a training class for those employees who choose to volunteer to save lives rather than take them. They also have a beat up gasoline van converted to an ambulance. The former owner is pissed but understands; I looked him in the eye and told him that we needed it to save lives, then nodded to myself in the mirror.

In all seriousness, the Fire Brigade has rigged three of the site's electric powered golf carts as rapid reaction vehicles. Security has four, all smaller because we only have to carry people and weapons, not ladders and pumps and tools and SCBA.

Yes, we can refill both oxygen and air tanks with equipment on site. See above under 'trading for other valuable stuff.'

We tried a hardpoint on one of the larger golf carts, it just ended up looking silly and having a very limited arc of fire. So the machine gun is on a rear-facing tripod instead, rapidly detachable for ground pounding.

Landscaping is no longer in the business of trimming bushes and petting trees. What little construction equipment we have been able to scrape up is all theirs. Bulldozer, excavator, water truck, an ancient grader that looks like it was dragged out of a pre World War II museum. A single tractor with a PTO, Power Take Off, that is in all seriousness parked in a bunker when not in use in the fields. I don't like to think of what our food budget would look like without that tractor.

Logistics has three forklifts, all propane powered, and one -- one! -- rough field forklift. They have lots of pallet jacks and hand trucks and other material handling gear, but the big advantage to forklifts is that they are FAST. This matters when a convoy has to go out again a second time on the same day.

Facilities is very fond of their electric scissors lift, which they use the hell out of every day. Changing light bulbs used to be a safety issue. Now it is a life safety issue and no joke. We don't have a contractor to maintain our old parking lot or new perimeter lights, and they keep getting shot out too. Not often but it adds up.

Motorcycles are on the wrong side of the man-hour per mile equation, even though they use so little fuel. We devote one full time mechanic and several helpers to a motorcycle shop and keep several motorcycles running, after a fashion, but these are for couriers and reconnaissance.

We have several critical vehicles that spend almost all their time parked in the motor pool. This is because when they break, they are broke, and we might need them very, very badly. An honest to goodness cable tow truck, an 18 passenger shuttle bus, a street sweeper (one man's trash is another's IED), and last but not least, a roadable construction crane.

We still use them. But very carefully, with each use as a planned operation. The crane in particular is the only way we have to get heavy equipment on and off the rooftops of four of our buildings. The Fire Brigade will eventually work its way up to using it for high angle rescue, but they are just as far behind the skillage curve as everyone else. The last crane lift removed the last HVAC unit from the roof of H5 Executive for use on the server farm, in exchange for structural steel for the roof armor and rooftop bunker.

The three Security vehicles on the critical vehicles list are all identical. This makes maintenance much easier. Diesel-powered armored trucks formerly used for cash pickup and deliveries, all from the same company and with complete service histories. The only difference between them is the unit numbers and the bloodstains, only some of which would scrub out.

We keep meaning to upgrade them but have not had the chance. The armor is good enough for small arms fire, the tires are really run-flat (this has been tested), and the push bumpers will do a number on any smaller vehicle and some large ones. We did manage a paint job - they are all painted gray now. An odd color for security vehicles. I'd been going for white but we were short on white paint.

One is parked well inside the Front Gate, near but not too close to the Hate Truck. We swap out weekly with the other two, which are parked on opposite corners of the motor pool and part of its defense plan.

All three are recently maintained and in good shape. This comes at some cost, mostly maintenance of other diesel vehicles.

The reason I am going over our vehicle availability in such painstaking detail is the incoming convoy.

They are bringing a lot of very valuable stuff through an area that we know fairly well to suck ass.

Details are sketchy but the convoy is said to consist of over a dozen eighteen-wheeler trucks towing chock-full cargo trailers. One is supposed to be refrigerated and containing medical supplies. The "tail end Charlie" is a flatbed truck with an RV lashed down to it for the security detail, food and crew rest. The initial lead vehicle was apparently confiscated. Its replacement is a modified U-Haul type cargo truck with sheet steel and a tube-based hardpoint welded on over the cab. Ugly, but if it works...

I am concerned that whatever security they have will not be enough. We have OK intel for 680 from San Jose to Fremont, fragmentary intel for the Sunol Grade (mostly what a motorcycle rider can see with binoculars), and basically jack shit from Sunol to Walnut Creek. The trauma center there is said to still be up, but heavily guarded and not accepting patients from the street.

Fremont sucks. East San Jose really sucks, as in snot through a straw. Sunol Grade worries me most, however - there are no alternate roads except a twisty windy Calaveras Boulevard (hah!), a one and half lane road ideal for ambushes. The 680 freeway is fairly straight and in fairly good shape, but has a long uphill and a longer downhill. The CHP weigh station has been stripped and abandoned.

A little bit of air recon would go a long, long way. But what little we have is based on drones and batteries, which gives a range in miles and a flight time in minutes. An ultralight would work; under the correct wind and weather conditions, even a hang glider would help. But if anyone is patrolling with a Cessna, the way the Highway Patrol used to do, they are not telling anyone.

Also, if we know that the convoy is coming tomorrow, we have to assume that bad guys will also know and can plan accordingly.

Even without details of the convoy, just the fact that we went to all this effort suggests that the contents are 1) extremely valuable and 2) literal unobtainium in the ravaged Bay Area.

To pick an example not at random, we had acquired the armored trucks by trading for them, from a gentleman who had the trucks to trade and wanted a large quantity of computer servers in working order. He'd expected us to salvage them from data centers, meaning that he could plunder the data for fun and profit. We instead sourced them from distribution facilities, the equivalent of a new car dealership. But he'd _wanted_ used and our last parting had been tense and involved a lot of shouting and muzzling.

He was the most reputable of the several ... warlords? ... that had cropped up. The black market always had something to sell for those able to pay. Safe food, or guaranteed safe food? Be ready to pay high. But for really safe food, bring your own Geiger counter and check it yourself - but have enough firepower to keep someone from taking your counter away from you.

Maximizing availability right now always means a future day in which all your equipment breaks at the same time, or accepting reduced availability during a catch up period.

But my timing itch was huge. We had been mortared only last week, and the pounding headache reminded me of it every time I took a step. Someone disliked us enough to make several 81mm mortars and 'liberate' a truckload of shells, US made, diverted from the supply chain going from America to China - which is very much the hard part. Especially the part where the Marines shoot you. Never mind the act of terror, you're diverting resources from the War!

But they had to know, even if they'd gotten away (they hadn't) that it would only soften us up, not break us down.

So they wanted us soft right now. Which meant it was my job to keep us frosty.

I could sense it. Tomorrow was going to be the pure suck. But we would inexorably travel towards her at one second per second.

Ready or not, here it comes.
drewkitty: (Default)
My head aches with every step. I should stay in bed. But I have a duty to perform.

Shane helps me dress, with the same lack of precision and tact he brings to all his duties. He is puzzled that I am putting on the white long sleeve shirt and tie, polyester pants, and no duty rig except the handgun on my leather belt.

I should be putting on full battle gear, or staying in bed. He is more right than he knows.

The duty cart carries me to the hill. We used to call it Boot Hill because from a certain angle it looks like a boot.

Now we call it Boot Hill because of all the graves on it.

Chairs have been set up at the front. Benches along the back. I have a seat in front. Shane sits to my left, the barrel of his riot shotgun in his off hand and butt against the ground.

Several of the security team, in full battle rattle, are on overwatch. Others are concealed in the bushes. We only own this area on paper and in daylight.

There are three fresh graves. We lost one of the wounded in the night.

It's a hell of a thing, to half wake up, hear CPR in the background and go back to sleep.

The Site Location Executive officiated exactly once. He won't be doing that again. It is technically a leadership responsibility but his skill set is running a coding shop, not wrestling with life and death.

The coffins are repurposed server rack crates, cut in half the long way. One is draped in a US flag. Two are covered in blue sheets.

Janine is taking this one. She used to be a tech. She is now, by unanimous acclamation, the Captain of the Fire Brigade and reports to the VP of Site Ops. I also report to Site Ops, but directly to the SLE. On anything touching Security, she takes my word as gospel. We work well together.

Her stretcher bearers saved my life yesterday, at great risk to themselves. I saw the video. A round landed where they had picked up my unconscious body.

"We are gathered here today for ourselves. These beloved people are at peace. Their work is done, their tour of duty finished. We celebrate their lives and we celebrate our own.

"We have worked so very hard for what we have. Our work continues. Today is not a day of rest. It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the great tasks ahead, to protect and defend our nation from the obscenity that has befallen her..."

Careful, Janine. Careful.

"... loss of San Francisco still affects us all."

On cue, one of the firefighters ... a volunteer employee who chose the Brigade instead of the Reaction Team ... hits Play.

The rock band takes us by surprise.

"We built this city!"

Oh God.

"We built this city on rock and roll!"

Jefferson Starship. It is a song about San Francisco.

The City that is no more. Murdered. Just as surely as the three bodies in front of us.

Everyone but the security team is teary eyed. Some are weeping.

Our countersniper hefts his rifle slightly. No doubt to avoid an arm cramp.

The spoken bridge, the DJ ... for a dead radio station in a dead city ... "The city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that NEVER sleeps!"

I blink away a tear.

I saw The Fire. Firestorm. Nuclear ignited urban wildland interface fire. Leaping from tree to tree, from roof to roof. Held only by a block of man-made destruction cutting through the former San Mateo, another murdered city not quite as famous. I'd helped.

The song ends. Janine speaks into the silence.

"We will rebuild. We rebuild where we are. Here and now, we work and we build. Let not a single person die in vain. Remember. Then get to work."

Mic drop. She professionally scans the crowd then loiters a moment, after which she immediately comes over to me.

I stand. It costs me. "Sit," she whispers. Hastily Shane gives up his seat to her. She takes my arm, slides down to my wrist and takes my pulse.

As the coffins are carried to their final rest, I am carried to the cart and put on a nasal cannula, oxygen, and the cart rumbles its way back to the infirmary I should not have left.

My rest is still a long way away. But people had to see that I was alive and doing all right.

It is Apocalypse. But duty is heavier than mountains, and death lighter than a feather.
drewkitty: (Default)
Warning: read at your own memetic risk.

###

Wow. That really hurt. A lot.

But this doesn't hurt. Odd choice for a hospital to dress me in cotton robes. I suppose it's better than being fitted for a halo and wings.

Non survivable injury. Oh dear. I'm dead. But I hear strange musical instruments, my bare feet are on a cool tile floor, and there is a bowl of sherbet on the low brass table at my right hand.

Can I file a complaint? Clearly I am in the wrong hell.

A jaw droppingly beautiful middle aged woman wearing a burqa and showing a shocking amount of ankle ... and her face! ... sits on the low couch across the table. I look once, then twice.

Ok. Big foul up.

"You are in the right place. He who saves the life of one man..."

I blink. I realize two facts. 1) She's transgender. 2) She's the one upon whom peace be. You know. The Big M. THE Prophet.

I died throwing a backpack into a storm drain. The jihadist carrying it was one of His. Hers?

"Not mine. He is going to the true dwelling place of Shaitan, where there is only salt water and the plant that causes hunger."

I stretch. I don't feel dead. But I am.

"So, Mo, we gotta talk."

She stretches an open hand intriguingly. The fingers are long and slender but masculine.

"What is with this bestiality thing? A man who discharges his lust with an animal commits no sin..."

Not what She expected. But if this is the complaint department, that is only one of a couple hundred items on the list. And if I've got eternity to bitch Allah out, it might be enough time.

"I never thought a mullah would say something so stupid. But have you ever tried to keep an Arab man from sticking his folly in places it never belongs?"

Yes. Ouch. Two points to the T-Prophet.

"72 virgins. Only four wives. Beating them with a stick."

"Variations on a theme. Trying to civilize some really barbaric people."

"Aisha."

"I died in her arms. I have no idea how Jesus does it. One death was hard enough."

"Age 8."

"Oh. You really have heard some stories about me." Her face turns crisp. Cold.

"Just trying to reconcile the religion of peace with a child rapist."

"Bitter?"

"Very. Never mind the ontological questions. You personally fucked an 8 year old. Yet we are here. I think I should pull a Marcus Aurellius and bash your head in with this table."

I start to get up, to do exactly that.

"Ten. We married when she was eight. Lived with her parents until she was nine. Then she lived with me for a year. Shared my bed. Warmed my heart. Then seduced me."

I sit back down. I've dealt with short eyes and sex offenders. This was neither. No attempt to justify or to defend. Love and ... wistfulness.

Then I got smacked on the back of a head with a pillow by a woman in her sixties. Hard.

"Aisha!" the Prophet exclaimed, and suddenly turned male.

"I am sick of these lies!" she shouted. "And you too damned proud to stand up for yourself!"

I had never imagined the Prophet being defended by his ... victim? No... spouse. The love and affection between them was plain to see and crossed meaningless boundaries like gender.
And much as it did not fit my culture, age.

I stood and bowed slightly. It was one thing to give a God a wedgie. But this was a saint.

"The lies men tell carry such heavy weight," she said.

"Sometimes the truth is heavier," I replied.

She nodded.

"You may hold many sins against men acting in my Beloved's name. Including the sin that killed you. But in his life, he strove to always act without sin. Can you or any of you say the same?"

I shook my head, and helped myself to the bowl and a spoon.

Delicious.

Three thimblefuls of hot coffee appeared on the table, and the three of us sat to talk.

It would be a long conversation, but a good one.

###

"Lift, on three! One, two, three! Male in his forties, blast injury, difficulty breathing, flail chest, collapsed lung. Intubation on scene. O2 sat low 90s. Blood type as indicated. Two units wide open. Head CT clear, chest CT hemo and pneumothorax. Page thoracic stat."

###

"Why jihad?"

"'As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free...' ...?"

###

"Seven dead, four expectant, eighteen immediate, at least thirty delayed. Requesting all available air ambulances, ten ambulance task forces, four rescue companies and any available hospital physician teams."

###

The coffee was delicious. The question was not.

"The suffering of woman... of course you realize men are the weaker sex."

###

The door splintered and broke under the weight of three strong, angry men swinging a battering ram. Others flooded in behind, waving the tools of their trade and shouting at the top of their lungs.

"Police! Police search warrant!

###

"The ultimate jihad is always the struggle within each man. And woman."

###

How he longed to wipe the smirk from the suspect's face. He knew they would cover for him. Everyone knew he deserved it.

"You will get justice," he promised.

And stayed his hand.

And jihad was won, by one man on one day.

###

That was one of the oddest threesomes of my life. Afterlife?

Her age kept changing. His gender kept changing.

So many pillows.

###

Whirr. Suck. Whirr. Suck.

Life. Thanks to, and perhaps only while on, a respirator.

My own jihad had just begun.
drewkitty: (Default)
The first thing I become aware of is that my head hurts. A lot. I have a blinding, piercing headache and my head is wrapped in a bandage. There is crusty stuff over my eyebrows, and it hurts like a hammer to my temples when I start to shrug. My eyebrows.

The second thing I become aware of is that I am in the infirmary, in a bed. And the infirmary is full of patients. No, not patients, wounded.

I sit up.

No, actually, I don't. I gray out and stifle a scream as my head falls back to the pillow.

I am a casualty. A helpless one. I start racking my brains, or what is left of them. What happened?

###

I am on the west balcony, second level, of Building 4 scanning with binoculars. As we are at a higher alert level, I am wearing my helmet, which I hate. We have a radio report from a patrol that a team of three was seen lugging something heavy in the next valley over.

So I am immediately able to see the flash from the low hills to the west. Not just one. Four or five. I start counting. The flashes continue, with little dust-clumps.

I realize with a chill what I am seeing, even though I have never seen it with my own eyes before.

I press the EMER button on my hand mike. "Red Alert, mortar attack, shelter alarm. Condition Red, shelter, mortar attack from the west!"

Instantly the public address system starts repeating, calmly and loudly, "Emergency Condition Red Shelter In Place. RED Take Cover Now. Red, Mortar Attack, Emergency Condition Red. Take Cover Now."

I adjust the binoculars to try to get a range. I hear the dull crumps. I start counting. Three kilometers? Thirty six hundred meters?

A black dot gets larger in my sight and I realize that I deeply, profoundly fucked up.

"Range 3600, Bearing 290," I say into the radio as the world turns white.

###

Obviously we held the site. Just as obviously, we were hurt. A fair percentage of the wounded in here are Security and Reaction, but far too many are office or support staff.

The medics are working briskly but not frantically. Some of the people in here are unhurt, but giving blood. The type and cross match program is bearing fruit. I do not have a tube set in my arm, nor am I catheterized.

My eyes are thicker than my head and fall back through the back of my skull, through the pillow, through the concrete floor, to the center of the earth.

###

Someone is giving me small sips of water. It is the most delicious nectar I have ever tasted. I know it's distilled water for the infirmary, but my tongue does not care.

I start to blink my eyes and immediately regret it.

The person giving me water is Patty. The infirmary windows reveal it is still daylight, so she is not shirking her duty as night supervisor.

"Status report," I croak.

"No breach. Two dead, eleven seriously wounded including you, about twenty walking wounded."

"Enemy?"

"Maybe one got away. Seven confirmed kills, three in custody on the perimeter, all wounded, one is expectant. Captured three mortars but no shells. Appears they used bicycles with racks to create a stockpile. Still going over video for exact count, but they fired about thirty rounds at us."

"Why?"

"We don't know yet."

"Who's got the duty?"

"Art." Short for Arturo. Former Sergeant, Philippine Marine Corps. Solid guy. Wants to go home; the fighting there is bad. But he's here and he will fight here, since our Marines won't take him and our Navy won't take him home.

"Good. Doctor?"

"All busy. Said if you wake up before nightfall, you'll probably be OK but need at least a day of bed rest. Remember when you first brought me in and I said I was fine and you made me stay in the infirmary for three whole fucking days?"

"Yeah..."

"Your turn. Sir."

"Copy."

She kept feeding me sips of water, until I'd had enough. Then half an hour later, some more. Then as the sun started to go down, she excused herself to gear up and relieve Arturo.

###

Everything else I found out later.

How the employee volunteer Reaction Team exceeded expectations by taking cover, making others take cover, drawing weapons and equipment and reporting to their emergency stations. This in turn freed up Security to go offensive.

How the Fire Brigade and its stretcher bearers swiftly removed wounded from the danger area, including myself, and put out the small fire that could have cost us the building.

How the Security Command Center (SCC) lived up to its name. Our assault force was rolling to the sound of the guns before the last shell landed. A sniper team on H5 Executive used the ten megapixel PTZ cameras to localize and our single M2 HMG in single shot mode to discourage the enemy spotter. As in splash him all over the fucking rocks he was hiding in. Then they put in long shots on the enemy mortars, with no real expectation of hitting anything, just to slow them down and discourage them.

The enemy planned to use bicycles to E&E ("Escape and Evade") out. They didn't make it. Two of our recon drones under SCC control spotted their potential escape routes and we put block forces across both.

I didn't do a damned thing. They did it all, as if it were a particularly vapid exercise. Perfectly.

Now several night patrols were going out, into the western hills. We were going to show them that this game was played two ways, and that if anyone was still out there, they would not live to see the dawn. And we had night vision gear.

Death in the dark, with sharpened shovels and silenced flash-suppressed pistols.

We were still in business, and in the midst of Apocalypse, that's all we can allow to matter.
drewkitty: (Default)
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)
Reaction Team (RT): Employee members of a unified volunteer force authorized to respond to emergencies and carry weapons in emergencies.

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

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

Collectively: Security Personnel (SP)

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

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

Therefore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning shots are not to be used.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALL SP are to receive ethics training.

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

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

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

Addendums, in the present emergency:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children are a higher ratio of lives per pound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are still thousands of them.

But there are tens of thousands to care for them.

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

###

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

My head hits something hard. I stop.

End of the line. End of the track.

I reach forward.

What I touch will tell me my fate.

Smooth concrete? Metal? Or jagged rock?

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

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

Spark, spark. Finally it lights.

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

It is in a cross tunnel between two trackways.

I am half lying in one of them.

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

But if I do not, I will die here.

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

The screams bring no reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I start crawling and start to fall off the edge.

No no no no no no!

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

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

My hand touches the plywood of the sign.

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

A radio!

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

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

I key up.

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

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

No reply.

The metal box is a first aid kit.

The cans are water. They are pop top.

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

Then I pass out again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Copy."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where to, boss?"

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

"South Gate bunker."

"Yes, sir."

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

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

"Why isn't he at Point One?"

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

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

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

That was just not on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I investigated the driver.

"What's your employee number?"

"Huh?"

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

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

Not a StateWye driver.

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

"Packages and stuff."

"The one for us?"

"Yeah."

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

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

He didn't demand his pistol and grenade back.

So far we had two strikes out of three.

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

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

The driver came out with a rifle.

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

Then the world blew up.

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

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

A large cloud of filthy black smoke mushroomed upward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My pistol was not noticed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I walked up the stairs.

The living room was a scene of horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Yamashita Family, San Francisco."

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

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

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

And every one a tragedy.

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

My entries have been fairly dark.

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

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

Lifeboat is a "get the humans off the planet" story with a twist.

###

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)
Moffett Field, CA
Firecracker War: Day Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The helicopter crew chief spoke through his filter mask.

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

"Doesn't matter."

The crews stopped and saluted as the helicopter lifted.

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

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

It was a foggy afternoon in March.

This saved a lot of lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They lost.

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

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

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

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

America's retaliation was swift and decisive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

[The page is torn across at this point]

###

REJECTED FOR REWRITE.

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

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

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

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

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

[signed]

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

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

First get it drunk.

Then tie its legs apart.

Then get out your scalpel.

Not the story you were looking for?

Then go out and make a better one.
drewkitty: (Default)
[In which there is no mystery about who is coming to dinner...]

The Black Hawk helicopter orbited the campus at about 500' AGL [Above Ground Level], clearly inspecting where it was thinking of landing. With two exceptions, the guard force was on normal alert status for 0900 on a weekday morning. I had issued strict instructions that no one was to point anything at the nice helicopter. Marines _always_ shoot back and have been known to shoot first.

Just about anything might come out of the helicopter, so I had ordered Mo to escort a scavenging party off campus and Brooke to take the day off locked into my quarters in a data center cage. I felt that they were the most vulnerable to being drafted - both were extremely competent and had very specialized training and skills.

At the turn-around we had retasked as a helipad, I waited with two guards, one firefighter, one contractor technician (wearing her Fire Captain hat), the executive assistant to the Site Executive, and a sales representative who thought he was in charge. I was OK with that for now.

The rotors flared and the door gunner pointed his minigun at us.

Fucking rude.

Also the other reason I had my key players on the bench. Damned if I would let one little mishap -- such as pressing down on a butterfly trigger -- deprive us of our defenses.

The fire captain, Janine, waved angrily. She had at her feet a coil of aircraft cable tied off to a crowbar - we had no Halligan bars and keenly felt the lack - and I could read her thought as clearly as if she had spoke out loud.

'If that asshole hoses us down I am going to throw this crowbar right through his rotors and find out if the Jesus Nut or the axle of my brush truck snaps first."

Officially of course, she was there in the unlikely event of a crash landing. The rotors whipped the air into us, but not grit as we had watered the pad down in advance.

Prior planning had saved all our lives so many times that it was now second nature. To my relief, the door gunner angrily yanked his barrel upwards and fumbled with it - hopefully putting it on safe, but no longer muzzling us.

I'd shot people and beat up subordinates for less. So I pasted a grin on my face as several men in Marine camo dismounted and walked briskly towards us.
drewkitty: (Default)
Mo and I were in the blast shed security and auditing inventory when the shed door banged open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safely.

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly he hadn't read the signs.

"Who owns this land?" he asked.

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

Legal One's secretary, actually.

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

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

"South Gate, Mezzanine, Motor Pool."

"You got it."

"Why?"

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

"Except the ones you brought."

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

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

"A bluff."

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

"And the Lexus."

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

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

"Is this conversation protected by lawyer client privilege?"

"Fuck no!"

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

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

"You actually let them go."

"I did."

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

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

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

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

"Why?"

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

"Huh?"

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

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

"What will you do when there is?"

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

"De-mil?"

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

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

"For civilian. Read up on military."

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

I nod.

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

"What haven't you planned for?"

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

He winced. I continued.

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

"Yet you gave Daswant a Lexus?"

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

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

"Did you... ?"

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

He pales further.

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

He looks at me. I mean, really looks.

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

He nods once, briskly.

"Let's go count some explosives."

I get up and follow him back to the shed.

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

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

Fine.

###

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

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

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

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

Nothing hurt.

Can you imagine that?

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

It doesn't hurt.

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

Time doesn't mean much here either.

I napped.

# # #

Man Struck Over Head With Chair Still In Coma

###

Two people are arguing over me.

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

"No. He has to play it out."

"Were you there when he called to you?"

"No."

"You lose your claim on him."

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

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

###

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I walk out of the bar.

###

Police Log

A Quiet Night In Midtown
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