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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 7a , by Christopher Young

The Battles

Chris and Gomer came back into Sam's house. It was about 7:15, and they had  just gone out to investigate shots fired. Fortunately, no friendly's hurt. Scrub a couple mussies who were trying to burn down a house. Chris was a bit winded, had to pour himself a glass of water. Gomer was in his element, looked like he was enjoying the adrenalin rush.

Sam spoke from the dining room table. Said he was calling a family conference, all adults were required to attend. Chris and Gomer didn't quite know what that was. Chris turned to Gomer, and asked if Gomer was old enough to attend one of these. Gomer told him to shut the face up, or be seriously injured. They both came in to hear what was going on. Sam indicated chairs, and they sat. The kerosene lamp sat in the center of the table, and lit their faces. The baby slept in the crib in the living room.

"I called the conference, because several big decisions have to be made. It looks like they are giving away our freedom. While I was listening to the radio, it became clear to me that the UN is moving and taking charge of the US. The leaders have sold us out, it was many years ago they stopped being our elected reps. Now, they think they lead us. This time they gave control to the United Nations. We're in big trouble. We have just become a third world nation. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is that we've only got a couple weeks food, and the UN guys will be here soon, and we don't know what they will say. We now have some new gun control that sounds like confiscation, and things aren't good."   

The meeting opened on that somber note. The adults in the room realized this is a major breaking point in the nation's history. And in Sam's family's history, also. Sam wasn't the only person having big things happen.

At the retreat in Tennessee, Bill thought he heard a noise, off in the direction of the road. He stood up, and switched off his LED red light, that he had been using to read. Reading Lights Out, which seemed like a fitting book to be reading about that time. A not too similar crash of the society, and all the problems which had occurred. Years before the crash. Bill had printed out the story on acid free paper, and had archived it in a waterproof storage container, with a desiccant packet, to absorb any remaining humidity and oxygen in the container. Bill opened the package long enough to extract a few pages at a time, closing it back again to keep the paper good for as long as possible.

The noise turned out to be a pickup truck full of rowdy drunks. What David didn't know, was that Chuckie and his crew had followed him home the one night. Their lights had been turned off on the van, and so David had no way to know that he was being followed. Not that David took much care, about light or noise discipline. Chuckie and his crew were OK, and there was no real reason to be worried. And of course, Bill knew none of this.

Anyhow, Chuckie had mentioned to some other friends of his, that he'd sold the generator. And that the guy seemed to have plenty of gasoline. Gasoline was in short supply, and that's the one thing that  was really cramping their style. The roving band of land pirates had been driving from town to town, and stealing what they could. But, preferably, anything containing drinking alcohol. In their travels, they had accumulated a motley assortment of firearms. A couple shotguns, and couple rimfire rifles, and a revolver or two. And one centerfire rifle from David.

When the friends found out that David was willing to trade guns for a generator, they mentioned to David that they had just about anything he would want. They figured the obvious, with guns, you can get anything else you want. So, that was their big trade item. David had never really viewed guns as weapons or defense, but only as hunting and target practice. He was perfectly wiling to trade, especially when he was having a major nicotine fit.

So, with their new found guns, (one of them from Bill) Chuckie's merry band of misfits was off to galavant around,and find some more liquor and women and gasoline. They figured that David could not have smoked all them cigarettes, yet, so they would get some of them back from David. Such a good fellow, that David. Trade for stuff, and then give it back. They knew he would be reasonable.

Reasonable. Well, that's not what Gomer would use to describe Chris at that moment. After all, Gomer was a decorated combat vetran, with proven record of kills. He wasn't some Ensign Checkov, waiting to be bossed around by a Starship captain with a speech impediment. "aye, kaptahn" wasn't  Gomer's thing to be saying. If anyone should be in charge, it would be a combat vet with experience, and rank in a real military. Not some fat slob who couldn't even drive a Ford.

And driving a Ford. Was the driver in Tennessee, rumbling down the road, the driver barely able to see the road. Suddenly, the entire 50 yards or so of road was lit up. Bill had just turned on the battery powered halogen lights that lit up the entire length of the road. Bill next used the power megaphone to announce that they should drop their weapons, and come out with their hands in the air. Partly account of the alcohol, and partly account of figuring this was a soft touch, a couple of the guys in the truck stood their ground, and started shooting at the lights.

Bill racked the slide on his rifle, and shouldered. Figured if they were shooting,he should also. The loudest sound in battle, is the hammer of a rifle landing on an empty chamber Or so the military says.  In Bill's case, that sure was true. Bill responded in his best battle trained manner, racked the slide, and shouldered the rifle again. The same resounding noise occurred, and Bill started to wonder. The listening post was well camouflaged, and the drunks were hammering away in every which what direction. Fortunately, none of the fire was incoming. Yet.

Bill felt into the open action of the rifle, and found himself feeling only the spring plate of the magazine. Something wrong with this picture. So, he opened the jump kit which sat next to the front opening of the listening post. Pulled out another magazine, and a third, and they were all empty. Bill turned around and looked in the ammo locker in the back of the observation post. The ammo locker was empty.

Surely, there must be some kind of awful mistake. Bill switched on the overhead light in the observation post, which brightly lit he OP. However, it also gave away the position to the drunks, who saw the bright light along the side of the road. Suddenly, the OP was taking incoming fire.

Fortunately, only for a moment. Suddenly the fire stopped. The drunks figured it was too easy. They would take their time. Bill frantically looked around the OP, and then clicked the microphone on the FRS radio, and called for backup. Searching from compartment to compartment. Shelf to shelf, But there was no ammo to be found. David called back on the radio, said what the hell did he want this time. From David's voice, it was obvious that he didn't want to be interrupted. Bill told him to get his ass down here, someone shooting at me. David replied to hang on, he'd be there in a second. With drunks wobbling towards the OP, firing at random moments. Did Bill have a second?

Stress appeared to be everywhere, that night. Heather had been doing the dinner dishes, scrape the plates, and put the dishes in the dish washer. The kids had gone off to bath and bed. All five of the kids couldn't fit in the bath tub at the same time, so the women set up split schedule. Girls first, boys second. With the three girls,  it was a seriously tight squeeze.   Heather  asked Faith to pick up the kids clothes, and put them in the washing machine. Faith had her Ipod on, and was enjoying some really kewl tunes. A couple minutes later, Heather walked down the hall, to the bathroom. She found a whole bunch of kids clothes scattered around on the floor. Why didn't you do what I asked? Well, Faith replied, I'm not your house servant, Massah, and it's not my job to clean up after your kids. Heather replied (ignoring the dripping sarcasm and Massah reference) that it's the least she could do for free room and board, and in a crisis we have to pitch in and work. Work! Faith exclaimed! You got no clue about work. Miss Dishwasher, and power everything. Try hauling baskets of laundry five miles in the mini van to the laundromat and staying with them for an hour, amusing the kids while the machines ran? Ha! Work! Pop em in the machine and go watch DVD in your own living room. What's work about that? And, so, the claws came out. The cat fight had started.

Incoming fire was just what Heather was taking. Thought she was being reasonable, asking Faith to do her share of the work. After all, Faith has been drinking Pepsi, burping, and living high on the hog for the last couple days. And then Heather finds herself getting a tirade of attitude. That was the first time Heather had heard such crudity from what she believed to be a lady. And it was clear that nothing she could say was going to calm Faith down.

Wasn't the only cat fight in the works. Brenda and her daughter had been on each others nerves for days. Much the same  thing, dishes instead of clothes. Stella kept leaving her dishes and glasses and plates and such in the living room. She'd eat out there, to watch the TV or listen to the radio. Not much TV on any more, with the power off. But she'd eat in the same chair. And leave her dishes in the same living room. On the same end table. Brenda kept reminding her to take the dishes in and wash them. Finally, Sella told Brenda to take her Midol some where else, and just leave her alone. That was the wrong thing to say, and even Sam at the far side of the house could tell. Stella started her tirade about how they treated  her like a little child. And Brenda told her that if she didn't do her share, she could move out.

Moving out was starting to sound like more and more of a good idea. For Faith, that is. Like, uh, you know, if Heather was going to treat her like a personal servant, and have her waiting on Heather hand and foot, she'd just go. No sense in letting herself be degraded any more.

Faith stormed into the bedroom where all five kids were getting sleepy. She clicked on the light, and hauled two suit cases out of the closet. Savannah and Bobbie softly and quietly started to cry. They were enjoying being around other kids. They didn't know who Joanne Crawford was, but they knew when Mom got a mood on, they should be very quiet, and do what they were told. Under the covers, they quietly hugged the other kids.

Faith snapped at the girls, told them to get out of bed and walk over here. Get dressed.

In Tennessee, the looters were already dressed, but they weren't doing much good at walking. Too liquored up. So, they wobbled, crawled, and staggered towards the OP which was now brightly lit. One of the drunks was more sober than the rest. He was able to stagger towards the OP. Snuck around the back door, and pointed his revolver in. He fired all six shots, moving the muzzle up, down, around, while he was firing. When the revolver clicked on empty chamber, he shoved the revolver tightly into the holster. A couple letters of the last owner's name, engraved with decoration on the side showed over the top of the leather holster "Bil....."

 About that moment, David came running down the road from the house. He barely had remembered his rifle, and battle grab bag. As David came around the bend in the road, he recognized the van. It was the one that had held the generator he had at the house. David hollered to them, how the heck are you. And then hollered to Bill that it was A-O-K, these are friends of mine.

The drunks paused, and then looked to Chuckie for cues. Chuckie smiled, and held out his hands in a gesture of friendship. David walked into the light. "Dave, ol buddy...." Chuckie started. You still got my generator? David nodded. Bill looked confused. "Dave.... you got my cigarettes?" and David nodded again.

"Where they at, buddy old pal..." David said up to the house. Chuckie smiled again. But this time  it wasn't a friendly smile. Matter of fact, it was downright evil. David suddenly had a cold shiver, but wasn't sure why. Good thing they seemed friendly enough. Glad that no one got hurt. Unfortunately, David didn't look into the OP. If he had, his reaction would have been different.

Chuckie stumbled over to David, smiled, and put out his hand. David and Chuckie shook hands. But, David noticed there wasn't much life in Chuckie's handshake.

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