Try not to faint on the coffee table, Mrs. Grundy.
Chapters 9, 10, & 11
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Opening Gaunts Brook Camp
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking:
What would things have been like if every security operative, when he went
out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return
alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass
arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the
entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with
terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the
staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly
set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes,
hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very
quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and,
notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have
ground to a halt! If...if...”
— Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn , The Gulag Archipelago
Mary Morris woke up. Through the window she could see it was still dark outside. On the desk the rapist's laptop was open and displaying an email client. From his snores, the man who had asked her to call him Jon was sleeping soundly.
After reading the leaflet the evening just prior, Mary had gone to her bunk. There was a little shelf formed by the bed frame of each bunk. During her third day in the camp while being told to grab a toothbrush to get to work on the toilets, Mary had grabbed two by mistake.
It had gone through her mind to drop one back in the bucket with the others, but at that very moment across the room, one of the other slaves, seeing the backs of all the guards, had run out the door. The opening door and the sound of running feet had attracted all the guards, and three of them set out after the escapee. Mary had the presence of mind to tuck the spare toothbrush into her waistband, untucking her shirt to cover it. Thinking of that time again brought to mind the screams of the slave being beaten unconscious. Later there was a streak of blood on the floor where the body had been dragged away.
Hours later she had used her "exercise time" to locate a bench where she could sit on the ground, leaning against the side of the bench, conveying to the other slaves her desire to be let alone. Reaching under her clothes, she had felt the rough concrete path under her. She began very quietly scraping the handle of the toothbrush back and forth.
It wasn't every day that she could sit at her favourite bench, and she never idled there for more than twenty minutes when she did. But every week the toothbrush took shape as a sharper and sharper tool. She had not been sure at the start what shape she'd make, only that she needed to give vent to her frustration and urge to rebel. She wasn't sure what she'd do with it, but a stilleto-shaped shank made of hard plastic seemed like a good tool to own.
That same night she had worked her hand under her mattress and pulled at the foam until she could tuck the toothbrush into the mattress where it rested on the shelf made by the mattress frame. Working quietly helped extend the project, giving her a feeling of accomplishment. Mary made no effort to have other belongings, as the indoctrination was very clear. Owning things was wrong. Even owning their own bodies was denied slaves. It was part of what convinced her that she was not "Inmate 378299710" but a nameless slave to her captors. So breaking their rule was her duty, as she saw things.
Now Mary stood beside the bed, her shank in her hand. She reflected for a moment. If the leaflet was false, or something prevented the rescue teams from coming, what she was about to do would be her last act of defiance. Glancing at the laptop, which the rapist had not bothered to close or screen lock, gave her courage. Maybe she could do several acts of defiance, even if there were no dawn rescuers.
Picking the rapist's shoe up off the floor, Mary quickly inserted the shank in his ear, and slammed the shoe into the shank, driving it with all the force she could directly into his brain. Six inches of shank were embedded in his brain, killing him instantly. His body jerked and quivered. No sounds disturbed the tranquil hours of early morning.
Over the door, the camera was covered by the rapist's suit jacket where he had put it in the opening moments after pushing her into the room. Mary didn't call him Jon. He was "the rapist" and she was glad he was dead. She now sat down at the desk and looked at the screen. It was 03:29 on Monday 5 June 2023. Dawn would be in just over two hours. Plenty of time to work before the rescue teams arrived.
Mary's next act of defiance was to send a series of emails to family and friends whose email addresses she remembered. Her skills as a systems administrator in her former life made the task of looking up a domain name or visiting a web page now and then easy and quick. Using the open email client and the rapist's email address was clearly the best way to bypass whatever firewalls and security systems through which it was connected.
Breathing deeply, Mary realised that her enormous adrenaline rush seemed to have knocked her flu symptoms down. Good! She needed a clear head. She said a silent prayer of thanksgiving.
Now it was time to look through the laptop files and find out what she could. By the time pre-dawn light began coming through the window two hours later, Mary had sent all the user files to a few people she knew. None of them needed guidance, the information would be sent to the freedom alliance. Mary smiled at the laptop. It had told her many useful things. Outside she could hear another plane approaching.
Moving carefully, Mary began going through the pockets of the rapist. There were a number of things she could use. And the clothes were better than what she had on, so she dressed in them. Not terrible, with the cuffs rolled up and with her camp shoes, she could still move quietly. She struggled a bit with the belt, finally using the rapist's pocketknife to create a belt hole where she needed to cinch it tight enough to hold the heavyset man's pants up.
Again grabbing his pocketknife, she unplugged the power cord. The power conditioner was a bulky mass halfway up the power cord. She cut it off, stripped the wires, and put them back in the socket, creating a short and sending full strength power into the laptop. As it smoked and let out an acrid tang, she remembered her mentor saying that computers run on smoke, and if you let the smoke out they stop running. Mary laughed and was delighted by the idea.
Just then a loud concussion came from outside, and the shockwave blew the window in. A series of even louder bangs came, first from the near side of the camp, then another. The rescue team had arrived! They were blowing the mines in the mine fields. Time to move.
Karen Runningwolf woke up at 03:30. It was time to wake her team. Ten men, ten women, and herself, just 21 specialists would drop into Gaunt's Brook camp in two hours. The flight crew would set about taking out guard towers, dropping munitions to shred the fences, and using their heavy machine gun to clear as many of the mines from the mine fields as possible. Karen and her team had aerial photos of the camp, had memorised the major features, and would do their best to get everyone out, head for the Ocean County airfield for retrieval, and send the survivors through Double Trouble state park to the inland waterway where rescue boats would take them away. The mission outline was in her head for only a few moments as she sat up, got herself together, splashed water on her face at her sink.
She looked at herself in the mirror, a small one about two feet tall, mounted on the door to the medicine cabinet. Rank hath its privileges, and a tiny room with its own sink and window were among them.
"Time to free the slaves, team leader" Karen said to her reflection. She dressed in her battle utilities and opened her door.
Steve Phillips was already up, standing next to his cot just a little ways outside her door. He had his pants and boots on, but only his undershirt covered his chest. He looked at Karen, and could see the steel-eyed determination in her. He drew breath to shout.
"All right you apes drop your cocks and grab yer socks! Get out of the sack and muster. Ten minutes!" Karen shook her head a bit, and smiled. Steve could be nasty, but he knew his team. And nobody hesitated to work with him.
Everyone had eaten the night before, showered, and were in their cots in the barracks at 21:00. Coffee and water would be their breakfast. The muster line was complete at 03:45, ready for her attention. She walked their lines, glancing into the face of each member of her team. Then, standing next to Steve again, Karen addressed them.
"We started seeing the new barracks go up at Gaunts Brook in November 2020. There were satellite and aerial confirmations of the arrival of captives from all over the region. There are now twenty thousand people housed there. We have only a vague idea of how many have been killed. By all accounts this camp is feeding them. There are factory rooms where they seem to assemble parts for one of the owners. There's a big telecommunications centre where some slaves make calls for Puny Mike.
"You knew what this mission was about when you volunteered, and you've had many opportunities to back out. This morning is your last out. If you get on the plane with me, we're going in, and we're getting as many of them out as we can. You don't know them. I don't know them. But they are our brothers and sisters, and they have family and friends on the outside, and we are not going to have a fucking slave labour camp in my country, not while I'm breathing. If you aren't getting on the plane, piss off right now. If you are, get your gear and check each other. Roll out!"
Twenty sets of boots clicked their heels. Nobody saluted. There were no "yes sir" choruses. It wasn't an army, and none of them needed to be reminded what was at stake. Their team had drilled together and discussed plans with the tactical leadership for three weeks. Every one of them was an experienced jumper. Not one of them needed help packing a chute. They had extensive training in weapons, unarmed combat, and they'd worked with a mock up of the camp.
Nobody backed out. Karen led the way, drew equipment from her locker in the next room, and headed out to the flight line. It was 04:02 when the last of them boarded and the doors were closed. Inside the aircraft seemed filled with their gear bags. Each jumper would push a rucksack of supplies, special weapons, rations, ammo, and care packages, weighing in at 220 pounds, out the door ahead of him or her. Each rucksack was already hooked to the static line overhead and had its own chute. At 500 feet there was time for the chute to deploy and the pack to land safely. One rucksack, one jumper, then another rucksack and another jumper. Just over two metric tonnes of support would be landing in the camp with her team. Karen had gone over all of it a dozen times. So had her jumpers.
Most of the jumpers would also jump with the static line, though they all preferred to free jump. After securing the deployment bags, Karen and Steve would free jump from opposite sides of the aircraft. Lisa, Chad, and Ira had white cross medic insignia, no rifles, only sidearms. Extra med gear replaced the weight of their rifles and ammo. The rest of the team had AR-15 rifles and plenty of ammo.
The jump plane was modified to suit the mission. Jump doors at port and starboard, with Karen as dispatcher behind the pilot and Steve dispatching behind the co-pilot. After the group leaders exited, the drone operator, Dick Smith, would close the doors as the pilot turned his attention to the mine fields, fences, and guard towers.
The wait was the hard part, of course. Knowing what to do, knowing the contingency plans, knowing her team was ready, Karen had few things to worry about. But she was always keyed up. Six combat jumps and endless training jumps had taught her that focus and meditation could relax her during this part of the journey. They would be riding in low the whole way, tree hopping to reduce ground control radar perception of their approach.
Their pilot, Jerry Drake, made effective use of terrain hugging skills he'd learned for years in similar twin-engine aircraft. He knew the route, having flown it before the ugliness and in simulators during the training for this mission. He also knew that there were dozens of other jump planes, masses of drones, and several command aircraft all going toward different camps in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Baltimore, Delaware, and Virginia. Across the continent, at the same time, though it was hours before dawn would be approaching the West coast, similar teams would be moving on camps in California, Oregon, and the state of Washington. The simultaneity of these attacks was to avoid the anticipated massacre by the owners of many of the slaves rather than face the prospect of them being freed.
To Jerry's way of thinking, a country was making good on its claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Finally.
The jump warning light and siren came on, blinked red twice, and the siren stopped. Karen had asked that this device be modified so voices could be heard instead of the siren.
"On your feet ladies and gentlemen. We're going out in five minutes. Check your partner, check the person across the aisle from you," Steve bellowed.
Yellow light. Two minutes. Doors open. There was a loud crump from overhead and to their rear. The plane dropped about ten feet as Jerry instinctively dove for a moment.
"Anti-aircraft battery from McGuire airbase. They can't depress their muzzles far enough to reach us at this range," reported their gunner, Harry from the co-pilot seat.
Green light. On Steve's side, Bill pushed the first rucksack out and jumped. On Karen's side, Susie did the same. Within moments Peter, Sal, Ira, Phil, and Gavin had followed Bill, pushing out their rucksacks and jumping. Mirroring them, Janet, Carla, Phyllis, Lisa, and Marian had done likewise.
There was now a return to yellow light, as expected, and the aircraft executed a sliding, slipping, rapid turn before coming back over their landing zone. One of the guard towers opened up with a machine gun, but it wasn't well positioned, firing out from under a guard tower roof. Jerry easily avoided the fire, while Harry directed return fire from one of his guns. Dick, meanwhile sent a drone at the guard tower to take it out.
"Green light, Karen, go with God!" shouted Jerry.
Chad, John, and Ollie exited on Steve's side of the plane, and Steve dropped his rucksack, pulled in the deployment bags and fixed them to the webbing just inside the door, and dropped. On Karen's side, Beth, Carolyn, Laura, and Kaia jumped, Karen secured the d-bags from her team, and jumped. Jerry banked the plane and turned sharply to attack the remaining guard towers.
Dick left his drone panel and got the doors closed. With his jump team now on the ground, Jerry took course to the South where the critical mine fields had to be detonated. The entire exit strategy was to escape to the South, although once the fences and mines had been cleared on that side, there would be some time spent on the east and north clearing additional exits. Twenty thousand people needed to get away, and they needed plenty of paths.
Drones dropped special munitions that shredded the fences. Harry hit the mines as best he could with his machine guns and 20mm cannon. Jerry swung wide to the east and made his approach through those mine fields, Harry blasting away. Dick's drones shredded the fences on that side, too. Seeing their approach, one of the guard towers opened up on them, and despite quick thinking on Dick's part, interposing a drone, one of their engines was hit. Harry took out the guard tower moments later.
"Losing power left, compensating," Jerry said, and the calmness of his voice was reassuring. They made their final pass over the mine fields, this time on the north end of the camp. And that's when another guard tower opened up on them, hitting the cockpit and mortally wounding Jerry.
"Dick, Harry, get out. I'm taking it into that admin tower."
"God bless you, Jerry," were Dick's words as he threw open the jump door behind the pilot. He jumped.
Harry stood and looked down at Jerry, who was now bleeding from a chest wound. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not. Get gone. I gotta go collect my honour guards," Jerry smiled, weakly, as Harry tumbled out of the plane. Turning, and lining up on the fifth floor of the admin wing, knowing from their briefings that the top echelon of the camp administration lived and worked up there, Jerry said a brief prayer.
Down in the camp, Karen's team had begun fanning out, entering buildings, and incapacitating guards. John had landed badly and was limping on an injured ankle. So he was assigned the job of holding post where all the rucksacks were gathered. Karen was directing operations from there, and her team were doing their jobs. So she had a few moments to see her ride home hit the fifth floor of the admin building, creating a huge conflagration.
[End part nine, continued in part ten]
Jay Leaves Home
"Almost everything worthwhile carries with it
some sort of risk, whether it's starting a new business, whether it's
leaving home, whether it's getting married, or whether it's flying in
— Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut
The first sign of impending attack came from an aerial drone several hundred feet up and about three hundred feet away. Every cell phone chip in the house was tasked. That was some trick, given that every one of them was in a device that was “turned off” from the perspective of the cell towers.
Jay was composing a short note for another strider when a pop-up message blossomed on his computer screen. The fact that twenty cell phone chips in various parts of his home had been tasked remotely not only gave his custom software advance notice of the impending invasion, it also revealed the direction of the drone and its distance. Knowing that his home would soon be under attack, Jay hit a shortcut key-set on his keyboard and punched a button on the wall next to him.
He then lifted a corner of an area rug that fit over a trap door, opened the trap door, and descended a nearly vertical staircase a few steps. He closed the trap door carefully, so the carpet returned to its former position, completely hiding his exit. Then he set the lock on that trap door.
By his hand was a headband with an LED light. He turned this on and wore it. On the first landing was a backpack with survival gear next to a rifle. He put the backpack on, clipped the belly band, then slung the rifle over his shoulder, barrel down.
The next set of stairs brought Jay down to the water table. A two-foot wide path was built only six inches above the current water level. He knew this path well, having dug it out himself over the last twenty years. Where the path reached the edge of his property, another door was set. He went through, again carefully locking it behind him.
Above him he could hear Victim Disarming Agency squad cars screeching to a halt. Of course, they didn't think of themselves that way, having some alphabet soup name purporting to relate to tobacco, firearms, explosives, alcohol, and various other commodities. But Jay thought of them as VDA and always would.
From video footage he'd seen of other home invasions by these same people, he knew to expect them to mount the curb and park on his front garden. No doubt a few of their vehicles would meet severe tire damage as a result of the spikes he had planted in various spots in amongst the numerous rose bushes and blackberry thickets he cultivated.
Jay smiled as he imagined these events, and the thought of lots of thorns cutting into the VDA troopers brought a chuckle. His path now joined up with a storm sewer that allowed him to move quickly down the street about 200 feet, to another house about three feet downhill from his home. Here he crawled through a recently dug tunnel, only about three feet in diameter, pushing his rifle ahead of him. Coming to the basement of the abandoned house, he carefully turned off his headlamp, opened a hatch, crawled out in the dark, closed the hatch behind him, locked it from the inside, and turned to the stairs.
He had practiced his escape route twice a week for the last two years, so he knew by touch how to reach those stairs, get up them, and then work his way silently through the house to an upper floor, then the attic. A small window looked back toward his home.
As expected, his house was completely surrounded by rugged 4x4 sport utility vehicles painted in the ugly pale blue of the Victim Disarming Agency. A quick count suggested about six vehicles, two of which were, as expected, sitting in his front garden with flat tires. Further up the street toward the nearby highway, he could see two more vehicles blocking access. Had this attack come years earlier, his neighbours might have been on the street watching these events unfold, but as the economic collapse, war, and terror had swept over this region, his neighbours had moved away, been caught, or died.
As Jay watched his home, he could see that his second surprise for the invaders had temporarily stymied them. Although his front door looked like an ordinary foam-core metal door available from any number of home improvement stores near the beginning of this century, it had been reinforced with a separate, carefully mounted interior door made of quarter inch steel plate. Whenever he returned home, he went through the outer screen door, the original foam-core metal door, latching and locking these behind him. Then he would close the massive steel plate door and secure it with cross-bars.
Naturally, the VDA troopers had tried battering rams and sledge hammers. They would soon bring up a cutting torch. But two of them had fanned out around the house to try bashing in windows. These looked boarded up, but also had interior shutters made of plate steel. Failing to gain entry seemed to be frustrating to the trooper in charge who began barking orders at the others.
So it was half an hour later that the cutting torch finally produced a hole large enough for one of the troopers to get through. He had pulled away the cross-bars and opened the steel door, allowing more normal access. Ten troopers went through in careful order, obviously intending to clear the building room by room. But, as Jay knew, there was no one home. There were, however, trip wires both high and low which had come into position when he pressed that button next to his desk.
Less than a minute after the last trooper entered, Jay's view of the house was replaced by a bright light. He flinched and ducked down. The blast wave hit the ten-inch wide plastic window in front of him, rattled the house he was in, and subsided. After counting ten, he looked again and saw an enormous fireball. The explosives in the basement and tunnels had detonated. There was a crater into which the remains of his home had fallen, burning merrily, and the blast had lit up the oak trees lining the street. Looking down the street toward the highway, he saw a second explosion engulf the vehicles there. The same would be true at other nearby intersections.
Above him, he knew, the drone would be circling, its operator using various techniques to try to find other living persons in the area. But the attic he was in had been prepared well in advance. Pulling down a shutter to close out the world, Jay settled in to get some rest. He knew that there were no emissions, in infra-red, radio, or other wavelengths, to make this house look any different from a thousand other abandoned buildings in the area. With the substantial loss of life he had inflicted, he knew that the VDA would be bringing in more reinforcements, sifting through the wreckage, and trying very hard to hide the facts of the immensity of their failure.
In a few days, Jay would get back into the storm sewers, make his way to the edge of town, and head South. After walking five miles to a farmhouse he knew about, he'd connect to the radio networks and make arrangements to meet another strider. His work would continue.
[End part ten, continues in part eleven]
Dancing Toward Freedom
"If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.
— Emma Goldman
Ira Glaser dropped toward a clear area where there were a few people milling about. He could see the rucksack he'd pushed ahead of him making a soft landing. Bill, Peter, Susie, and Sal were safely on the ground. As he descended, Ira could see Sal putting a rucksack down by Bill, who was first on the ground and guarding three of the rucksacks. Susie had gone toward one of the barracks and was holding two guards at gunpoint while Peter approached them with zip ties.
Making a good landing, Ira helped Sal with the sack gathering, as other members of the team made their descent. By the time Steve and Karen joined them, all the rucksacks were together and had been opened for operations.
Susie and Peter had brought the captured guards up, and Karen had Carla and Phyllis escort them to the South fence, near the section torn up by the munitions.
"Sit. Stay seated and stay silent," said Phyllis. The guards sat.
Meanwhile Gavin, Phil, and Bill had gone into the first barracks with Ira to clear the building. Ira retrieved a second med-pak from the rucksacks, entering last. He immediately noticed a group of prisoners getting up from what looked like a dog pile. There were some severely injured people at the bottom, including one unconscious.
Bill took charge as soon as he saw Ira enter. "You need to get these trustees out to the South fence. If they can walk, they walk, and they'll go out ahead of everyone else except guards. If they can't walk, the others need to carry them. Gavin and Phil will help you get them zip tied. See what you can do."
With that, Ira set to work. He started with the most injured, who had been knocked unconscious by the crowd. A quick examination showed a mass of bruises on the back of the head. Ira put a cervical collar on, checked vitals, and moved to the next. While Gavin zip tied the unconscious trustee, Ira set a broken arm on his next patient. Outside he heard a very loud explosion, but kept working, focused on his job.
Altogether there were eight trustees. By the time Ira was finished treating them, Susie had come in with Harry, their gunner.
Bill said, "Harry, you look healthy. But you seem to be missing an aeroplane. What happened?"
"Bill, they shot Jerry and he took the plane into the admin building. That was the big explosion you heard. We got the east and the South fences down, and I worked over the mine fields on those sides pretty good. But we're not going to Ocean county airfield. Karen wants you, me, and Phil to find the motor pool and commandeer everything with wheels," Harry finished his report and smiled a bit.
Bill reflected for a few moments, then looked at his team. "Susie," he started, "I need you and Gavin to get these trustees outside. Don't go to the South fence, go to rucksack central. Report in and someone else will herd them to the fence."
Raising his voice, Bill now addressed the crowd of prisoners, soon to be escapees. "Listen up! Some of us are going to the motor pool. We don't advise you to rush out the fences, because some of the mines in the east and South minefields may not have been cleared. The guards and the trustees are going to find out for all of us. All of you should go out with Gavin and Lisa here, get further instructions from Steve and Karen, who are leading this expedition. If any of you want to help us get the upstairs levels cleared and headed out, I need two volunteers."
Several of the prisoners raised their hands, knowing that they would stay on familiar ground a bit longer. Bill pointed to the two nearest and said, "You'll do, stay here with me a minute. Gavin, Lisa, get everyone moving out."
Now turning to Ira, Bill said, "Ira, this thing is coming along, but without a return flight, we're going to have to improvise. I need you to take these two, what are your names?"
A short black woman in her thirties said, "Eleanor Jefferson."
An extremely thin, tall, not quite emaciated white man in his forties said, "I'm Jake Willis."
Bill held up a steadying hand and looked to Ira. " Take Eleanor and Jefferson to the top floor, work your way down, get everyone here out of this building. When the owners send a response team, this place is going to be levelled, so if anyone can move, get them downstairs and out to rucksack central. If they can't move, treat them and get help moving them. Got it?"
"Yes sir. Got it," was Ira's immediate response.
Bill now put the hand he had held up onto Ira's shoulder and turned back to Eleanor and Jefferson. "Either of you know how to shoot a gun?"
The two escapees looked at each other and Jake smiled. Eleanor smiled back. Both nodded.
"Good! America may survive," was Bill's comment, as he reached into his backpack. He pulled out a blue goo gun. "I'm giving each of you one of these revolvers, they have five shots each. You point the barrel at what you want to shoot, pull back on this lever to cock the weapon. If you have to fire, squeeze the trigger. Ira get out ear plugs for our new recruits."
Bill handed the first goo gun to Eleanor who was overcome with a look of delight. She immediately pointed it at the floor, her finger alongside the trigger guard. Meanwhile Bill had gotten another blue goo gun for Jake.
"Eleanor, thank you for showing me you know what you're doing." Bill tipped his baseball cap's visor a tiny bit as he said these words. "Do me a favour and run through the four rules of gun safety with Jake here. Ira, when your team is ready, get going. Harry, Phil, and I are gonna find our rides. Go with God."
Matching words to deeds, Bill headed for the exit. Susie and Gavin had already gotten their herd of trustees out the door, and a long file of escapees was now exiting. Seeing the three jump team members coming past the line, the escapees began to express their thanks, which caused those nearest the door to stop and turn back.
"Yes, you're welcome, we're glad to be here," said Bill, "But I need you to stop for a moment while we go ahead of y'all. Anybody know the way to where they keep the trucks?"
A short older woman, not more than five feet tall, looking to be in her early seventies spoke up. "You'll find a bus and some pickup trucks up at the north end. I can take you. Let me go first, I'm too old to stay here a minute longer."
Eleanor, Jake, and Ira had been watching these developments. Now Ira turned to Eleanor and gestured to invite her to speak.
"Every gun is always loaded," said Eleanor. "You never put your finger on the trigger until you wanna shoot. You never point the muzzle at anything you don't want to destroy. You make sure of your target and what's behind it." She had her eyes fixed on Jake the whole time. He nodded at each sentence.
Ira smiled, and, with no further words, headed for the open stair well at the back of the barracks building. Jake gave a " you first" wave and Eleanor set off on Ira's heels. Jake looked around and headed with them, pausing every few steps to check behind him.
Pausing at the first landing to be sure he had his team together, Ira noticed Jake checking their rear. "You seem to have done this before, Jake," said Ira.
"Yeah, a tour in Iraq. They put me here because I was an Iraq Veteran Against the War," said Jake.
Ira nodded and headed up the stairs.
Later, In Paradox
Sarah Pinero gavelled the crowd silent and smiled at them. She was standing next to the desk where Tyrone had been sitting that morning. A tall slender woman in her mid-sixties she was dressed in recent styles. She had entered from the back of the building through the same door that Tyrone had come in through at the start of the proceedings. Sarah had a standing desk adapter that she placed on Tyrone's desk on the dais so she wouldn't have to lean over.
"Folks, as you've no doubt heard, Tyrone was asked to take up an important assignment back east. My name is Sarah Pinero, and I'm here to help you see this process through. You'll excuse me for standing, but I don't enjoy sitting for long periods due to some back issues. Thank you for returning from break and taking your seats. I'm glad to see the grand jury all here," Sarah said.
"Sally, let's hear what you have to share, please, " and Sarah gestured at the table marked "prosecution."
Sally stood up and marshalled her thoughts. She then turned to face the grand jury and looked at each one for a moment.
Having finished this examination, she began. " Bernard Grossman was a friend of my husband. He lived here in the valley for two years. He's dead now. His family hired me and Robert to prosecute the defendant, Joe Jones, for the crime of murder mitigated by circumstances involving high emotions, also known as second degree murder, which we have alleged against the accused. Today I will show you the evidence we have, including camera video, including witness statements, including the autopsy report, and we ask that you indict the accused, form a petit jury, and complete these proceedings."
Before she could continue, the door at the back of the room, which Sarah had come in through, opened again. A young woman of about 12 years carrying a message ran in and rushed up to Sarah.
"Mom!" she cried, "you have to see this now!"
Sarah smiled indulgently at her daughter and took the message slip. She looked at Sally and the grand jury for a few moments and said, "Folks, meet my daughter Dori. She's here with news."
The audience and the grand jury smiled and everyone shared a chuckle, but these soon died away. Dori only stared at her mom, not showing any sign of embarrassment. Sarah, reading the message, went from indulgent to intent to deeply concerned, all these expressions passing over her face during the short period that she was reading. She looked up at Sally, then glanced at Ben, the grand jury, and the audience. She sighed.
Putting her hand on Dori's shoulder, Sarah said, " Thank you. I'm glad you're here right now."
Gathering the rest of the room with her eyes and demeanor, Sarah said, "I regret to inform you that Scott Hitchens was killed this afternoon. Sheriff Green has requested that the militias of Paradox Valley bring everything you have to the Bedrock post office, immediately. There's a convoy of vehicles out of Denver full of Red Rangers. Five minutes ago they gunned down Scott on the road from Naturita during a firefight. They have 23 miles to get to Bedrock, and could be arriving in eight minutes. Dori and I will take care of locking up here. Go, now, please."
Ben Stone had stood up as soon as he heard the word "militias" and was already heading for the exit. He paused and turned back to hear the rest of Sarah's words.
Ben spoke loudly and calmly: "If your equipment isn't with you or in your truck, either go home and get it together, or ask a friend if they have spares for you to use. We'll want Jane's truck out on Highway 90 with her .50 cal pointed east. Bob, Sally, please find out if anyone has heard from our team out toward Utah."
With that, Ben was out the door, walking quickly. He went to his pickup and opened the driver's side back door of the crew cab. Inside were body armour, a helmet, and his tactical vest. Getting these on in under a minute, he was in the driver seat and going before he had his door closed. A few short stretches of city street and three turns got him onto the highway, and he floored it. As a result of his preparedness, he was at the front of the line, and arrived at the Bedrock post office in under five minutes.
The day was warm, and the sky was clear. As he pulled to the right to park by the general store, Ben glanced in his rearview. Fifty cars and trucks were following him from Paradox. Whatever came at them out of the east, they would be ready.
[End part eleven, continues in part twelve]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim. He appreciates any support you can provide.
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