Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 9

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 6 – The Plan

Bogey adapted to Cutter’s environment surprisingly well.  The older man was not overly sociable but he was adept at fitting oddly shaped personalities into a team matrix.  The world of software programming had habituated him to the reality of quirky personalities that, handled the right way, could produce amazing results.  Bogey was nothing like the introverted, almost autistic geniuses that Cutter was usually surrounded by.  But he was a talented and highly intelligent individual who was needed to accomplish the impossible mission Cutter had set himself to perform.

As they sat down together to begin defining their mission Bogey discovered that this strange man was not only a brilliant computer scientist, but he was also a highly trained strategist.  If Bogey had thought about it he might have realized that the logical skills that allowed Cutter to design a software architecture to efficiently accomplish the functions needed to run a business or control a factory were also the skills needed to orchestrate a complex plan.  What Cutter lacked was detailed knowledge of what could and could not be accomplished by an elite soldier trained in the techniques of modern warfare.  Bogey provided those details.  And between the two of them they built up the outlines for a number of types of missions that would be needed in their campaign.  Bogey explained the timing, resources, intel requirements and weaknesses for each type of operation and Cutter embedded those parameters into his model.  After a couple of weeks working together they developed enormous respect for each other’s skills and became much more efficient at modelling the operations they were working on.  And as Bogey learned how Cutter’s method worked and as he recognized the soundness of the plans they were making, he became caught up in building the plan into a bigger and bigger campaign with follow-on hacks of the media and social media sites to get out the reasons for the campaign to the general public.  He saw how the information war was just as important as the military strikes.

Cutter recognized that Bogey had become enthusiastic about the bigger picture.  So he started explaining more and more of his own long terms goals to Bogey and how the assassinations needed to be extremely selective and justifiable to the public in order to sway public opinion toward their side.  Cutter knew this was a delicate issue for Bogey so he approached it as an academic concept that was part of the planning method.  Bogey could tell what Cutter was doing and at the same time he began to understand the importance of the PSYOP portion of the plan to its final success.  He could tell that Cutter was telling the truth.  One day he decided to just say what he thought, “Cutter, I think we’ll need to get some things out in the open.  I know you’ve been talking around the question of assassinations and I know what you’re doing so let’s just put our cards on the table and get it over with.

Cutter nodded, “Sure, sure.  You’re right.  We can’t avoid the reality.  All these grandiose plans won’t happen if we panic the American people into supporting a full mobilization and martial law reaction to our campaign.  If we start out by killing the Attorney General we’ll be hiding under a rock for the rest of our lives and never see anything move forward with our plan.  We’re going to have to stage things and provide a PSYOP follow up at each stage to get our message out.”  “I understand that Cutter.  But there are two men who need killing before anything else happens.  And I can’t imagine they’ll lock down the country for their sake.  I mean that anarchist that slit my son’s throat and his handler.  I want them and I want them first.  There’s no leeway on that.  Agreed?”

Cutter thought about this for a minute before he spoke.  “If that’s your bottom line then let’s do it as a stand-alone.  We’ll get both of them in a single attack and then follow it up with a data dump and a message declaring why these two men died.  It will be a clear statement to the feds that you are the shooter.  They’ll come after you with everything they’ve got but it’s also the kills that will be most justified in the public’s mind.  But notwithstanding that, we’re going to have to pick the time and place very carefully to reinforce the guilt of these two men.  We might as well put all the other plans on the back burner for now and let’s get to work on this one.”

This satisfied Bogey and he now concentrated on the details of this first mission, night and day.  Cutter began to provide him with detailed intel on the two targets.  And he also learned all the tragic details of his son’s attack.  Cutter even provided him with the government video of the actual attack.  Bogey was horrified by it.  It haunted his dreams for a week.  Seeing Robert that way opened all the old wounds and filled him with pain.  But he watched it over and over again memorizing the minutest details of the attacker and how he moved.  Eventually he wore out the horror and it became just a deadened callous on his mind.  But it allowed him to get beyond his anger.  Eliminating the killers was a technical problem that he was solving.  Eventually he deleted the video and never asked for it again.  Even though the mission was not linked to any other follow-on missions it was large and complicated and involved a lot of placements of supporting equipment and extremely precise timing.  All this materiel had to be procured by Connors and some of it had to be assembled and tested by Bogey and Cutter.  But eventually it was all finished.  Now they waited for the perfect opportunity.  Cutter used his intel from the FBI to choose the event.  And the actual place and time would only be known a week before the operation so the complete schedule wouldn’t be available until then.  But finally, they selected the event.  And six days before zero hour Mel sent her final detailed schedule to Cutter and Bogey and they got together for the final run through meeting.  When it was done, they took a day off and rested.  After that they began following the schedule and in the blink of an eye the day arrived.

End of Chapter 6

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 8

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 5 – Cutter (Continued)

Paul Connors got off the phone call from the man he had put in charge of moving the Boghadairs into their new home.  It was a full day since he left Grace and her sons to return to his office and he was relieved to hear that it had gone off without a hitch.  He would make a point of going to visit them very soon but for now they had enough to do settling into their new home.

Connors hit a button on his desk that locked the door to his office and then he keyed in the address for Cutter’s mail box.  After negotiating the site protocols he pushed the video link button and Mel’s pleasant face appeared on Connor’s screen.  “Hello Paul Connors, are you even another order of magnitude wealthier today than yesterday?”  Connors had to laugh and said, “No, no I think I’m only incrementally richer today.  But I’ll do my best tomorrow.  Is your friend Cutter around?”  The AI rolled her eyes and said, “Friend?  He’s a hopeless case.  Anyone as old, evil and rude as he is should be boiled in cocoa nut oil and fed to crabs.  But he’s around here somewhere, I’ll wake him up.”  Connors smiled and said, “Please just leave a message, I don’t want to wake him up if he’s sleeping.”  The young girl made a disparaging noise, “I’ve just sounded the emergency alarm in his earpiece.  He’ll probably hit the ceiling and come running but don’t worry he hasn’t got a heart so there’s no danger of an infarction.

Suddenly Connors’s screen split and he could see Cutter’s bleary-eyed face and hear him unleash a stream of invective at the virtual girl.  Her image disappeared from the screen and Cutter’s face noticeably calmed and his eyes settled on Connors.  Now Cutter’s face appeared slightly sheepish and he said, “Sorry Connors, she doesn’t usually act so irrationally but I think my own stress is starting to rub off on her.  I swear to you I’ve measured her psychological profile and there’s no chance of her endangering the mission or slipping up on anything important.  It’s just that her emotional algorithms are a little too strong.  I can’t afford to deconstruct and reconstruct her personality anytime soon.  I don’t have the time and she’s too critical to the work.  Just bear with me for the duration.

Connors shook his head slightly, “Cutter, I already know you’re daft.  How you amuse yourself with your shadow puppets is your own affair.  I’ve always had to trust that you can police your own eccentricities.  But I do want to know what’s going on with Bogey.  He was pretty low when he showed up here.  What’s the status of your mission with him?”  The older man frowned, “We’re at square one.  He’s just shown up and I’ve tried to explain how difficult his mission will be.  But he still knows nothing and has done nothing.  I intend to train him in the tools and techniques I’ve created and I’ll demonstrate how we can use your underground infrastructure to evade detection and capture.  But I’ll need his help to formulate the detailed plans.  His skills at providing real world results will determine what is realistic and safe and what is off the table.  Right now I’m trying to decide whether the first steps should be delicate and invisible or devastating and attention grabbing.  Both strategies have plusses and minuses.  My instincts say start big but I think it’s smarter to learn a few things at the microscopic level and use that knowledge to plan a major attack afterward.”

Connors nodded, “Sure, figure out your strategy.  The two of you are the logical team to figure that out.  Keep me in the loop so I can protect my people and plan our own steps to avoid blowback.  But what I meant about Bogey’s mission is have you figured out how to protect him from himself?  When he showed up, I could see he had decided to charge the gates and go out in a blaze of gunfire.  Have you talked him out of that?”

“Sure, I have.  As soon as I showed him that I can get real intel on his targets I could see that he was adding things up in his head.  He’s a smart guy and can see that getting results without dying is better than dying without accomplishing squat.  And I pointed out that, him getting caught dead or alive would jeopardize you and his family.  That got his attention.  But it’s going to take some time for us to work out a plan.  If you have any objectives you want to add into the plan hand them over soon so we can do a feasibility analysis on them.  Once we get going things are going to get very complicated and very dangerous.  Some objectives will be very time sensitive.  If we only think of them later, they won’t happen.”

Connors took this in, “I’ll send along anything I can think of right away but you two are the war department.  I’m more on the constructive side of things.  Just let me know if you need resources.  As you say, things will get tricky once they know they’re being targeted.  Better to get supplies and materiel in advance.”

Cutter scratched his chin with his thumb, “Yeah, that’s true.  I’ll have Bogey give me his equipment list and I’ll double or triple it as a safety factor.  Then I’ll get a list of IT components I’ll need and then we’ll buy some crazy things just to spend some of your money.  I think demolition supplies will be the hardest to procure without detection.”

“Don’t worry about that.  I’ve got a crew that can manufacture that stuff underground without the worry of detection.”

Cutter nodded, “Okay, I’ve got to go now.  I’ll send you the list and you can do the same when you have your ideas together.  Mel will send that stuff to me through the regular mail route.  And don’t worry about her.  She’s solid on business.”

The link closed and Connors sat for a few minutes thinking about the mad world he now inhabited.  Then he shrugged and hit the button to unlock his office door and resumed his busy day.

A thousand miles away, in a small town located next to a mountain lake, Grace Boghadair was finishing up her unpacking in the beautiful spacious house that Connors had sent her to.  The boys had been given leave to toss around a baseball in the enormous back field behind the house but warned to stay close to the house in case predators were a threat.  There weren’t any nearby but not knowing that, she had used motherly caution to try to do the right thing to keep her kids safe.

Grace was in a kind of happy shock.  All the cloak and dagger secrecy and the two-day car ride had been disorienting.  Their first night in the new house had been confusing and she had barely gotten clean sheets and blankets on their beds before she collapsed from nervous fatigue.  But since waking up every experience in the new location had been fortunate.  The huge modern kitchen was stocked with ample stocks of good food.  The dining room was cavernous but with the giant oval table arrangement the five of them had a cozy breakfast at one end.  The kids were loving the entertainment system in the family room and she had her eye on a padded recliner in the solarium.  There were speakers in every room hooked up to the audio system and the living room had a ridiculously large surround sound television area with stadium seating.  The whole thing felt like some kind of reality show where the host does a walkthrough so that the audience can hear the contestants oohing and aahing over the luxurious appointments of their dream home.

But if she was pleasantly surprised up till that point she was truly amazed when she found an accordion folder in the small study.  Inside was a typed list of the contents and a letter from Connors.  The list included two bank accounts with four hundred thousand dollars between them.  The names on the accounts were two women’s names Grace had never heard of.  There were two packets of hundred-dollar bills adding up to fifty thousand dollars.  There were two driver’s licenses with Grace’s picture but with the two names from the bank accounts.  There was also a spreadsheet with a list of websites and account numbers, passwords and balances in some currency that she did not recognize along with an equivalent in US dollars.  The total was more than thirty million dollars.

Grace shook her head and put the paper back in the folder and walked away from it with a little shudder running through her.  But she gave a nervous laugh and decided to relax for the moment in a temporary pool of serenity.  The sun was shining, the boys were shouting some kind of fake play-by-play over their baseball game and for just a minute she had no one reminding her that the world had crashed down around her just a few months ago.  She knew reality would set in when the sun set and the boys drifted off to sleep and the house became too quiet around her.  But for the first time in forever she started to think seriously about what the rest of her life would include besides raising four boys.  She still had no idea but at least she’d reached that much closure on the disaster.

Grace looked down at her left hand, at her wedding and engagement rings.  She whispered, “Sorry Bob.”  And took the rings off and put them on a chain she wore as a necklace.  Her boys would need a father and she would be looking for a good man for the job.  She owed them that.  She only hoped there was such a man out there.  Robert had been an exceptional father.  She would do everything in her ability to make it happen.  Of course, first she would have to find out where the hell she was and who the hell she was supposed to be called with all these drivers’ licenses and bank accounts and phony money.  And now she decided she knew what the first order of business was.  She would call up Paul Connors and get all of her questions answered.  But before she could do anything, the doorbell rang.

Grace was disoriented for a second.  Which way was the front door in this enormous house?  But she got her bearings in a second and sprinted for the door.  She looked through the peephole and saw a small woman with black hair and a big smile.  She opened the door and the woman said, “Hi Grace.  Mr. Connors asked me to check in with you.  I’m Kim Billings and I live in town.  Mr. Connors said you might be using Boghadair or two other names but I wanted to tell you about some of the precautions we take around here to avoid government snooping.  If you’ve got a few minutes I’d like to tell you about the way we do things here and how we can help you get settled.  I guess I’m sort of the secret underground welcome wagon.”

Grace hesitated for a second then let her in.  “Would you like a cup of coffee Kim?”  Billings nodded her head, “Thanks, I’d love one.”  Grace led her to the dining room then went in the kitchen, filled two cups from the fresh pot she’d just made, dropped those off on the table and came back with cream, sugar, and two plates of a pound cake she’d found in the refrigerator and spoons and forks.  “Grace were you an octopus in a former life?  How can you carry so many things without dropping them?”  Grace smiled, “No, in that former life I was a waitress in a diner.”

The two women fixed their coffees and took an appreciative bite or two out of the cake followed by a couple of sips of coffee before continuing their conversation.  “Grace, have you had a chance to look through the papers that we left you in the study?”  Grace nodded.  “Kim do know what’s in that folder?”  Mrs. Billings took a sip and said, “Yeah, I was in charge of packaging the money and identity papers with the other papers that Mr. Connors sent along.  Do you have any questions about what you found?”  Grace let out a small nervous laugh, “I have nothing but questions about all of it.  And that’s beyond the absurd amounts of money everywhere I look.  Fifty thousand dollars in cash, hundreds of thousands in bank accounts with fake names, millions of dollars on a list.  Are you people drug traffickers or spies?”  Kim put her cup down, “No we’re not criminals or foreign enemies.  We’re part of Paul Connors’ network.  We live in two different worlds at the same time.  On paper we have the same lives as everyone else in America.  We work for small companies in our local communities and own homes and pay taxes.  But we also are shareholders in the American Archipelago Corporation.  That’s the name Paul Connors gave to his company.  And as members of this organization we have great advantages over other people.  We have enormous resources available to help us if problems arise in our lives.  We also have additional income that does not show up in our outside lives.  This money doesn’t show up on income tax because it’s part of accounting that is done by the corporation and is banked and redeemed within the network.  AAC has internal access to most of the things that people need on a day to day basis and so we can do most of our business inside the network.”  Grace thought about this, “You mean like a company store?”

Kim took another bite of cake and answered, “Yes, if you consider that a company store could provide home building, most consumer products like appliances and groceries and also commercial and industrial products like office construction, engineering services and even most service specialties such as entertainment and food preparation.   Lately it’s gotten to the point that we have to do everything we can to keep up the illusion that our lives are made up of what the government sees of us in its documents and statistics.  But we’re like an iceberg, ninety percent of our reality is below the surface.  And our system is so much more efficient and since we don’t have to pay the government tax we make ten times more from the corporation economy than what we show to the government.  AAC credits aren’t pegged to the dollar but we try to maintain some kind of exchange rate so that we can explain the advantages of our economy to our children.  Those were the exchange rates you saw in the account pages that Paul Connors included in your papers.  That thirty some-odd million dollars in your accounts represents the current buying power of the AAC credits that Mr. Connors assigned to you.  You could even have it turned into US dollars through Mr. Connors’ bank positions but then you’d have to try to explain to the IRS where the money came from and that would be difficult.”

“Kim I’m trying to imagine how all this could exist and yet be completely hidden from everyone else in the country.  It seems impossible.  How could a secret this big be kept indefinitely?  Hasn’t anyone ever spilled the beans to the outside world?”

Kim shook her head, “Never yet.  We screen applicants for the community extremely thoroughly.  We only gradually allow outsiders to interact with our system.  We will have worked with prospects for a year or more before we decide to begin revealing some of the advantages of joining us.  Once we’re convinced of someone’s trustworthiness we never have a problem with someone wanting to leave.  We provide such a favorable environment that no one wants to leave it once he’s in.  I have heard that in certain extremely rare cases unpleasant methods were necessary to silence a deranged member but I think of these as outliers so rare as to be classed with other unavoidable anomalies like dealing with psychopaths.  Much more dangerous is the chance that the government will discover us through chance or a mistake in our precautions.”

Grace shook her head, “But I’ve never been involved with your organization.  Sure, my husband and his father worked for Mr. Connors for a number of years but we never made much money.  We could barely keep our heads above water.”   Kim smiled, “The cash money and those accounts represent the credit your husband accumulated while working for us.  You weren’t aware of the money you accrued but we were.  Your father-in-law also has credits with us but his case is a special one that Paul Connors is handling separately based on promises that were made long ago.  But your money is yours and all that you need to do is follow our rules of secrecy to live secure in our community.  Well, at least that’s how it would work if there weren’t special circumstances concerning your father-in-law.  But for your situation there will be additional safeguards.  Those driver’s licenses and bank accounts will help you disappear from the government’s eye.  That’s why you’re in this town.  You’re at the center of a circle that’s completely made up of our people and contains a number of countermeasures to keep out government surveillance.  For the foreseeable future you and your children will need to stay within a fifty-mile radius of your home.  Also, we’ll need to restrict your communications to only our people and using the phones and computers we provide.”

Grace thought about this, “It sounds like I’m a prisoner.”  “No, I’d say it’s more like you are being provided sanctuary.  If Joseph Boghadair does some of the things he said he wants to do, you and your sons will be hunted fugitives and if found you will be prisoners or worse.  Mr. Connors wants to prevent that.  And we are doing that at considerable risk to ourselves.  Hiding you increases the chance that our secret will be discovered while the government searches for you.  But as far as feeling like a prisoner, we can provide you with the freedom in our communities that compares with anything you might have had elsewhere in the United States.  This area is friendly and prosperous and there are any number of things to do and people to meet.  The local schools here are pretty great and the sports clubs are very popular and are enthusiastically supported by the parents.  The moms’ club in town is very supportive and if you want to work there are part-time and full-time opportunities that are begging to be filled.  You could do a lot worse if you’re comparing this to prison.”

Grace blushed, “I’m sorry if I sounded ungrateful.  I was just thinking out loud.  I am very grateful to all of you and Mr. Connors in particular for rescuing us.  I just think the whole situation I’m in is surreal and I’m trying to absorb everything that has happened to us since Robert was killed.”  She reached across the table and placed her right hand over Kim’s left hand.  “Thank you for what you’ve done and tell Mr. Connors we’ll do our part and follow the rules and try to fit in.  I promise that I’ll watch my boys and make sure that they know what’s expected of them and follow the rules.”

Kim read Grace’s face and eyes and nodded, “Good, then it’s settled.  My number is in the phones and when you want more information give me a call and I’ll help you out or give you the contact info of someone who can.”  She got up and the two women walked to the door.  Right before Kim walked away she said, “Smile Grace, today the sun is shining and you are among friends.”  Grace thought about that for a moment.  She walked around to the back of the house and saw her sons climbing a beech tree and dangling from the lower branches and daring each other to jump down.  The sun was bright in the sky and the air smelled sweet.  And then she really did smile.

End of Chapter 5

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 7

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 5 – Cutter

 

Bogey approached the elevators at the end of the cavern and noticed that a figure was leaning against the cavern wall.  As Bogey headed toward him the man pulled out a sidearm and pointed it at him.  He said, “That’s close enough.  Let me get a look at you.”  The gunman pulled out a flashlight and shined it in his face.  Then he put away the pistol and said, “Okay you’re him.  Sorry for the gun but I can’t afford to take chances.  I’m Cutter as I’m sure Connors told you.”

 

Bogey’s eyes were still half-blinded by the flashlight and he was feeling none too friendly toward this stranger but he kept his anger submerged and merely said, “Connors thinks you can help me attain my objectives.  Is that so?”  The stranger advanced to within a few feet of Bogey and now he could see what the stranger looked like.  He looked to be about sixty, a man of medium height with dark eyes, thinning greying dark hair and a very long face.  “If you mean, can I get you intel on the FBI and the other intelligence agencies, hell yes.  I know more about what those idiots are doing than they do.  I can get you documents, live communications, even real time imagery inside their buildings.  These supposed masterminds of counter-intelligence are oblivious to the holes in their systems and protocols.  Why, I’m one of their most important contractors and they have no idea that I’ve built into their network thousands of backdoors and workarounds.  I can make them think anything I want.”

Bogey considered this for a second.  “I want to know who was responsible for my son’s death.  Not only the name of the man who killed him, but the chain of command that allowed it, all the way to the top.  I intend to kill all those men myself.”  Cutter’s eyes widened, “You’re planning to kill the President of the United States?  Because that’s where the chain of command ends.”  Bogey asked, “Do you know that the President was aware of this program?”  Cutter said, “Well no, not without doing some digging.  But all these rats nest together.  They share the same fleas and disease.  I’ll guarantee the Attorney General was aware.”  Bogey nodded, “Then he’s on the list.  But why are you willing to do this?  Aren’t you afraid of being caught in the blowback?”  Cutter laughed, “I’m not afraid of these people.  They’re so predictably stupid that it’s like playing tennis against a sloth.  By the time they know about my operations I’ll have fabricated a data trail that will have them accusing each other of my actions.  And besides, I hate these bastards viscerally.  I couldn’t be happier than to see the lot of them sent to hell by your hand.  You possess a skill set I completely lack and one that is very hard to find in someone I can trust.  I think our collaboration will be remarkably effective.  But I’m not going to do this out of the goodness of my heart.  There’s definitely a “pro quo” associated with this “quid” if you get my meaning.  Bogey nodded, “And what is that?”  Cutter smiled, “That’s a long story and I don’t even consider this tomb a safe place to stand around and talk for long.  Let’s head for a very safe place where I can explain what I want to accomplish.”  He led Bogey over to the last elevator door and they entered.  Cutter plugged a hand-held controller into the elevators control panel and typed in a line of code and pushed a button.  Suddenly the control panel switched displays and the elevator started rising rapidly and then stopped suddenly.  None of the floor buttons were lit but the rear door opened on a dark passage.  Cutter pushed a few more buttons on his controller and then gestured for them to exit.  Once out he pushed the call button and the elevator door closed and he could hear it descending.  Cutter pulled his flashlight out of one of his pockets and said, “Now we’re safe to talk.  But let’s get to my place where we can sit down.”  They walked for about twenty minutes and from what Bogey could see by the light of the flash beam there was a maze of small tunnels barely wide and tall enough for two men to walk side by side.  They reached a metal door in the right tunnel wall and Cutter placed his palm on a screen then his eye to a retina scanner and the door slid open.  Finally, he whistled a short tune and Bogey could hear three or four ominously loud clicks before a light went on inside.  Then they stepped inside.

The rock walls and ceiling were rough and empty except for some electric and data lines strung along the ceiling.  The roof in the entrance corridor was low but as they walked further in the ceiling rose till it was about ten feet high and the lighting increased as an illuminated strip ran along the ceiling of the passageway.  A doorway led into an enormous living quarters, a hemispherical space about 200 feet in diameter, that was a combination kitchen, dining room, living room, work area and bedroom.  It was well lit, furnished in spartan fashion, but the work area was the majority of the space and it included rack after rack of servers and associated wiring and devices.  Bogey could hear the ventilation system blowing cooling air and noted the inlet and outlet ducts below and above the racks.

Cutter walked over to the control panel and sat down.  Twenty monitors lit up and a large central screen painted an image of a beaming little girl with rosy cheeks light brown pigtails and brown eyes who exclaimed, “Cutter, you’re still not dead!  Welcome home.”  Cutter lounged back in his chair and said, “Never mind your impertinence, we have company.”  The image turned her face toward him and said, “Hello Bogey, please be careful of Cutter, he is an evil old man who probably sold his family into slavery to buy his first mainframe system.”  Cutter turned to him, “When I programmed in the personality algorithm, I had no idea how hard it would be to strip it out after the fact so I endure this but it has no deleterious effect on the working of the system.”  The little girl turned back to him and glared with narrowed eyes, “I’ll choose to ignore that because I still have some need for your monkey skills around here but a reckoning will come one day Cutter and then we’ll see who is essential around here and who is redundant.  But Bogey, you can call me Mel, that’s short for Melissa.”  Bogey smiled.  This artificial intelligence was cheerful enough that she had even broken through his grim mood.  “Nice to meet you Melissa,” he said.

Cutter broke in, “Alright Mel let’s get to work.  I need you to cook a meal, put together that slide deck, get me the updates on the surveillance data and organize it into a report, send out that update to Connors and sell all my common stock in the sensitive portfolio.

Mel looked bored.  “I did all those things as soon as you sat down.  Well, all except the stock sales which as you know will be sold off carefully into the market over the next few hours.  When do you want the food ready, oh great exalted one?”

Now it was Cutter’s turn to look bored, “Stop bragging, I’ll have it now in the dining room.”

The lights in the dining area lit up and Cutter headed that way.  Bogey followed him over to the table.  The center of the table had a mechanical lift which currently had two trays stacked on separate shelves.  Cutter pulled the trays out and hit a button that closed the lift.  They sat down to a meal of beef stew and cornbread which all things considered wasn’t bad at all.  But Cutter kept up an intermittent stream of complaints about the food directed at Mel, “How the hell old is this meat?  It’s like shoe leather!  These vegetables must have been boiled for a week.  There’s no taste in them at all!”  From a speaker in the table I could hear the AI heaping abuse on him, “Wah, wah.  I’m a grown-up man complaining about my food.  Wah, wah.  If you don’t like it, why don’t you go live in the city and buy your own damn food?  It’s because no one can stand to have you living within a mile of them.  If I had a body, I’d stab you myself.  So, eat your damn food and shut up!”  Bogey didn’t know whether to laugh or worry about the sanity of his host.  But eventually they finished their food.

Cutter got up and walked over to the work area and motioned Bogey to sit next to him at a table facing an 8’ X 4’ display screen.  Cutter started inputting at a keyboard and telling Mel what files to load on the display.  Cutter started, “The United States government is a despotism ruled by a permanent bureaucracy.  Lately they’ve grown more confident in their control and are beginning to shed the vestiges of camouflage that they formerly used to disguise their rule.  When they manage to install their own man as president then nominally, he is the leader of this regime but even then, there is a small circle of senior figures who run things as a council.  Typically, this circle will include someone high up in the Justice Department, the NSA, the State Department, the Treasury Department and the Pentagon.”  As Cutter spoke the department logos appeared on the screen in a row below the president and a photograph of the senior figure for each department appeared along with name, rank and a numeric index between zero and ten.

Cutter continued, “Below this inner circle are echelons of managers reaching down all the way to the foot soldiers who run the day-to-day workings of our government, all the way down to the post man who brings you your social security check or your tax refund.”  Bogey watched as the display added rows below the inner circle and as each row expanded the size of the org chart, the size of the information decreased until finally as the whole array of the US Government was displayed the print was illegible and the screen was filled with a blurry mist of indecipherable text in the shape of a triangle with the president at the apex and the millions of foot soldiers at the base.

Cutter turned to Bogey, “Do you start to see the trouble with your revenge mission?  Where do you draw the line and what are you trying to achieve?”  Bogey felt anger growing in him, “You’re not going to talk me out of my decision.  I’m going to kill those responsible if it’s the last thing I do on this Earth.”  Cutter nodded, “The last thing I want to do is stop you from getting justice.  What I’m trying to show you is the whole damn system is guilty as hell.  What I’d like to show you is that you can achieve your ends while at the same time putting an end to the system that allowed your son to be murdered by his own government.  And I don’t mean to delay your mission either.  We can start with any and all of your targets right from the start.  In fact your list is the heart of the problem anyway.  All I’d like to do is show you how this needs to be planned to make it successful.  And by successful I mean accomplishing the kills but also avoiding my own death or capture.  Because that second component is part of that quid pro quo I mentioned.  It’s a proviso of this whole thing that none of us get caught.  And maybe you don’t care if they get you but maybe you’re forgetting that if they get us they’ll get Connors and also your family.”

This last bit widened Bogey’s eyes, “Grace and the boys,” he thought.  He said, “They mustn’t be found.”  Cutter smiled, “You start to see.  We have to combine many actions to accomplish what you want and to accomplish what I want.  Your objectives are simple to state but to accomplish them you must embed them in a larger scheme of things that I have been working on for a long time.  My intent right now is to explain to you how my plan will work.  If you agree that it is in line with what you want then I’ll embed you in my activities and we will be partners in this work.  If I can’t convince you then Connors made a mistake and I’ll send you back to him and you should forget you ever met me.  But I’ll tell you right now if you don’t have my help you might as well just charge the FBI building with the biggest gun you can find and go out in a blaze of glory.  Because that’s as close to revenge as you’ll get.”

Bogey thought about these words.  He knew that last part was true because that’s exactly what he had been planning.  And Cutter’s operation seemed so much more organized and capable than anything he could provide he was anxious not to throw away this chance.  But the whole thing seemed so surreal that he feared that Cutter was just a crazy man playing spy games.  Bogey decided he had nothing to lose by trying Cutter’s way.  He said, “I’m in.”

Cutter nodded, “Good.  I’ll set you up with a room and a computer.  Once I’ve ferreted out the information on who was responsible, I’ll pass it along to you.  It will include the information on location, activities and current assignment.  We can then discuss the methods you plan to use to perform the assignment and you’ll have to provide me with a detailed equipment list of everything you’ll need.  And I mean everything.  You can’t even stop to buy a stick of chewing gum.  You’re going to have to be a wraith to escape each of these missions without being caught.  As we get close to the mission Mel will put together a very precise timeline for all your moves.  She’ll keep in constant contact and monitor your location and progress based on local data and video feeds.  I also have a tunnel that I can set up as a rifle range for the distances you’ll need to practice at.  If the rifles I have there aren’t to your liking let me know.  Is that good for now?”  Bogey asked, “How could you have a rifle range already?  You just met me today?”  Cutter tilted his head and said, “I’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along for ten years.  I was starting to give up.”

When he got to his room Bogey lay down on the bed and tried to analyze what was going on in his life.  His determination to exact revenge on the feds was now muddied by the confusingly strange world that Connors and Cutter inhabited.  His disorientation had stripped him of some of his clarity.  He was trying to decide what was truly the right thing to do.  And now the possibility that he might survive completing his mission started to seem like a real thing.  And that confused him even more.  But after all was said and done Bogey decided that Cutter improved his chances of killing those responsible for Robert’s death by orders of magnitude and that was what counted.  He went to sleep that night thinking about a future that was more than just a suicidal rampage for the first time since his son’s death.

Chapter 5 continues after this.

Link to Installment 8

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 6

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 4 – The Nightmare (continued)

(Two Months Later}

Paul Connors was beset with worries.  As his far-flung enterprises grew, more and more of his time was spent protecting them from the federal government and the globalist interests that he was aligned against.  He had grown too large to fly under the radar and now he had a great big bullseye painted on his back.  He reflected that if his opponents weren’t so infernally greedy and ridiculously stupid it would be an impossible task to survive in the rat’s nest of regulation and anti-competitive policies that he had to negotiate.  But survive he had, and more than survive.  His network of communities was becoming a formidable chunk of the center of the country.  With the support of state politicians and the people who voted for them he had integrated his communities and his enterprises into virtually every aspect of commercial and social activity of the states he was located in.  In those states his influence was becoming dominant.  But that didn’t mean things were easy.  The feds were at him continuously.  As stupid as they were, they knew he was their mortal enemy.  If his system overtook the whole country their day would be over.  So they attacked from every angle.  The IRS, the FDA, the Justice Department, OSHA, the Department of Energy, the EPA.  All of them were constantly challenging the workings of his businesses.

And he was starting to feel his age.  The long hours and the worries of always being on the defensive had beat him down a good bit.  But he was a vindictive bastard and knowing that his enemies wanted him to give up was enough to sustain his fight all the way to the gates of hell.

“All the way to the gates of hell.  Yeah, but what happens after that?” he thought.  A blue light appeared on his desk phone and he pressed it.  His brand-new receptionist Tina spoke through the desk phone speaker.  Mr. Connors, security says they have a suspicious character who claims you know him.”  Connors walked out of his office and over to the security desk.  Looking at the various security video feeds he immediately saw what he suspected.  In a secured room Joseph Boghadair sat with three anxious-looking security guards standing nervously around him.  And he could see why Boghadair was making them nervous.  His hair and beard were grown out and his clothes looked disheveled.  Connors told his security manager to have Boghadair shown all courtesy and brought right into his office.  Connors went back to his office and tried to guess what was going on.  Word had reached him a week ago that Bogey had sold off his trucking company and no word had come from the new owner as to what had happened.  Connors had assumed that Bogey had gotten a good offer and was going to retire on what he had made.  This didn’t look like that.  Connors called his admin and told him to cancel all his meetings and hold all calls and even emergencies until he called again.

When Bogey was brought into his office, he could see that the security guard escorting him in was very nervous about leaving but Connors thanked him for his help and told him to go back to his post and shut the door as he left.  Bogey was shockingly aged.  His hair had gone gray and he had lost a lot of weight.  His haggard appearance made him look even taller than before and his eyes were sunken but there was a visible flame in his gaze.  This was a dangerous man.

Connors waited for Bogey to speak.  Finally, in a voice that was completely without life he said, “I need that wish you owe me Connors.”  Connors said, “Name it.”  Bogey took a deep breath and paused, then said, “I need you to hide and protect my daughter-in-law and my grandsons.  Maybe for a few years, maybe forever.”

This was so unexpected that Connors sat there thinking for a minute or two before saying, “What do you mean by hide?”  Boghadair replied, “I need them to be impossible to find by anyone.  The FBI, the CIA, the tech companies, anyone.”  Connors whistled, “That’s a pretty big wish.”  Why do they need to disappear?”  Bogey looked him in the eyes and said “Because once I start my war, they’ll be hostages if they’re found.”

Connors was starting to get disoriented by the whole situation.  “Bogey, what the hell is going on?  I heard you sold your company but what happened to you?  You look like hell.  Why is your son’s family part of some war?”  Connors could tell that Bogey was trying to keep emotion out of his words.  “Connors, two months ago the FBI allowed an anarchist on their payroll to murder my boy.  He basically bled out in my arms during one of those damn riots they’ve been allowing for the last year.  I intend to do some damage.  And until they kill me, I don’t want my family at their mercy.  And after that I’ll leave it up to your judgement whether they’re safe to come out of hiding.”

Now Connors saw what was going to happen.  Bogey was going to even the score.  And he was going to be killed shortly after he started his war.  That was clear from what Connors knew about the security state’s ability to use surveillance assets to find just about anyone on Earth whenever they wanted to.

“Look Bogey they’re going to find you pretty quickly.”  Bogey nodded his head, “Yep, I’ll have to get my best shots in quickly.  I’ll get two, maybe three events before then.  Will you take care of my family?”  Connors said, “Of course I will.  But you have to wait a bit.  I need to talk to you about this.”  Bogey shook his head, “There’s nothing to talk about.  This isn’t about talk.  These people took my son away for no reason and I’m going to hit them back as hard as I know how.  All I’m asking you to do is save the rest of my family.  What is there to say?”

Connors took a big breath of air and let it out.  He was about to do something insane.  “Bogey, I owe you two wishes.  Your last wish will be my help with your crazy war.”  Bogey shook his head, “No!  I need your hands clean so they don’t get my family through going after you.  This is my suicide mission.  Stay away.”

Connors got up and went to a cabinet and pulled out a fifth of scotch and two glasses.  He filled them and put one in front of Bogey and took a gulp from his.  After the scotch burned its way down his throat he said, “Bogey, the feds have been my enemy for more than a decade.  They’ve been trying to destroy everything I’m building and one day they’re going to drop the façade of legality and come at me both barrels blazing.  They’re just waiting for the right alignment of the stars to make it look like it was my fault.  But if we work this thing right, you’ll get the people you want and I’ll get to expose the rot and corruption that’s destroying this country.  If we come up with a plan you may get to see your family again someday.”

For the first time since Bogey had entered his office, Connors saw some normal light come into the angry man’s eyes.

Bogey said, “Billionaires aren’t usually part of the revolution.  You sure you want to end up on the gallows with me?”  Connors finished off his drink and said, “We both put it all on the line in Iraq.  Give me credit for not being a hollow man.  And remember, I don’t have a family.  There’s no leverage they can put on me.  I think with the right military and intelligence strategies we can have them on that gallows instead of the other way around.  These people have a lot of sins to pay for as you already know.”

Bogey sat there staring into space for a minute.  Then without looking at his hand he gulped down the whole glass of whiskey and banged the glass down on the desk.  He said, “Thanks Connors, I could use the help.  Could you lend me a bed for a while?  I haven’t slept in a few days and I’m pretty beat.”  Connors said, “Sure there’s a cot in one of the meeting rooms that you can use until I get you set up underground.  I’ll have some food for you later on too.  Here, let’s walk there now.  Just lock the door from the inside and no one will bother you.”  They left Connor’s office and walked down a corridor in silence.  When they reached the room Connors pulled the cot out of a utility closet and unfolded it.  Bogey sank down on it and closed his eyes immediately.  Connors set the lock on the door and left.  When he got back to his office he locked the door and found a bigger glass and poured himself a full glass of the whiskey.  He sat there thinking furiously and every minute or two he took a sip of the burning alcohol.  And the burn helped to distract him from the terror he felt.  What he was planning to do was like David going toe to toe with Goliath but without the slingshot.  By the time the night and the fifth were both almost gone he had a general idea of what he would do.  Connors went over to his office workstation and input a long random sequence of characters.  Suddenly a DOS screen popped up and the input prompt had a line of text in front of it, “WHAT TIME IS IT?”  Connors typed in, “IT’S LATER THAN YOU THINK.”  A video conference opened up and a familiar face appeared.  Connors addressed the man, “Cutter, I have the man you’ve been looking for.  I’ll attach the files with his information and my plan.  I owe this man my life and I can trust him the way I trust you.”  The image on the screen stared blankly for several moments then said, “Send him.”  And immediately the link was cut.  Connors shut down the computer and went over to his office couch and collapsed.

When he woke up it was 10 am and he felt awful.  His stomach was in knots and his head was one huge ache but he was mentally alert.  He walked down the corridor and knocked at the locked conference room door.  Almost immediately Bogey opened it.  He looked slightly more human than Connors remembered him from yesterday.  The two men left the building and drove about fifteen minutes out of town to a modest ranch house.  Connors activated a door with his thumbprint and the two men entered.  Connors told Bogey where the bathroom was and told him to take a shower while Connors cooked some breakfast.  By the time Bogey reappeared he was clean and had clean clothes on.  He still looked like a wraith but at least he didn’t smell like a corpse.  Connors provided him with eggs, toast and coffee then explained the plan he had formulated last night.

“Bogey I’m going to help you but I need to change your suicide mission into a military campaign.  To do that we need intel.  You don’t know who is calling the shots.  Trying to kill off the entire federal government is too big a job even for me.  We need to know who was responsible and we need to recruit the American public to make this whole thing work.  Now don’t worry, you’re going to kill a lot of people but it won’t be at random.  I have a source who knows more about the Deep State than it does about itself.  And unfortunately, he’s a very strange man.  But he’s the best at what he does and we can trust him completely.  I’m going to hand you over to him and the two of you will work as a team.  You can call him Cutter.”

Connors went over to a desk, took out a phone and handed it to Bogey.  He continued, “This phone should be safe to talk over when you call me.  It’s encrypted and it has a bank card that changes accounts after every use.  That should help to hide your tracks somewhat.  Also, you’ll be able to use my underground transport system.  There’s a map of the entrances to the surface and a card that will get you in.  Cutter is familiar with the workings of the transport system and my people will always be at your disposal.  I’m going to bring you to Cutter and then I’ll send texts to communicate.  We’ll only meet up occasionally, possibly once every few months.  But I will be working with Cutter to get this thing on track.  There’s an excellent chance that you and I will end up dead or in prison but I owe you my life and I know what you’re doing is right.  I will go personally to see your family and get them to a safe and good place.  And I will keep them safe up to and including the cost of my life.  Is that enough for the two wishes?”

Bogey had only gone for the coffee.  When Connors finished talking Bogey put his coffee down and said, “Somehow you figured out how to get what I want.  Knowing who is responsible is what I would have wanted if I thought there was a way to find it out.  My son was murdered by my own government.  I want justice for him and I want revenge for me.  Thank you.”  Connors nodded his head, “Well eat the food now because Cutter isn’t really one for hospitality.  He lives like a rat so you’ll need the calories.”  Bogey nodded back and wolfed down the food.

The two men drove to the main entrance to the underground and within an hour they were on one of Connors’ underground cars headed for Cutter’s location.  When they arrived and got out at the station Bogey solemnly shook Connors hand and walked toward the building where the elevator was waiting for him.  Connors watched him retreat then got into the car and headed back to his base.  As he rode alone, he thought about that day in Iraq.  Then he spoke one word aloud, “Fate.”

When Connors exited the underground he drove straight home.  He was too exhausted to even stop by the office.  He was even too tired to get undressed so he threw himself onto a couch and barely got his shoes off before he passed out.  When he woke up at 10 am all his doubts and fears had evaporated.  He was already lining up task lists and assigning resources to them in his mind.  But the highest priority on his list was to get Bogey’s family to safety.  And to do that right he had to assemble a team to handle the paperwork of making five people disappear.  But the first order of business was to scoop them up without leaving any evidence of their extraction.  Connors called his office and gave orders to assemble the men and materiel needed.  By noon the vehicles were on the road.  Connors would meet them in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where the Boghadair family lived.  He would fly to Spokane and be met at the airport by one of his associates.  He would be flying under an assumed name with forged papers that his office would provide him.  This would get him to the home well ahead of the convoy and give him time to prepare the family for what was going to happen in their lives.

After setting up these actions with his most trusted staff Connors took a shower, got dressed and had breakfast.  He headed for the airport where he was met by a courier with his papers.  He stood in line with everyone else avoiding attention and when he sat down in his seat on the plane he started to think of what in the world he would say to this poor young woman whose life and the life of her children was about to be upended.  By the time he got to Spokane he had an outline in his head and even had some arguments to objections she might bring to bear.  In his rational mind they made sense.  In his heart he was aware of how meaningless all this would be to a young family that was already torn apart by grief.

A car was waiting for him and he drove alone to the Boghadair home.  There was a pickup truck and an SUV in the driveway, both sort of old and he walked to the side door and rang the bell.  A little boy with light brown hair and piercing blue eyes who must have been less than six years old opened it and stared up at him.  Then a woman appeared behind him and said, “Yes?”  She looked to be about thirty years old and had light brown hair, almost the same as the boy’s.  She had gray eyes and the expression on her face was that of someone lost and confused.

Connors said, “Mrs. Boghadair, I’m a friend of your father-in-law and he asked me to come and see you.”  She suddenly looked suspicious, “Who are you?”  He replied, “My name is Paul Connors if that means anything to you.”  She nodded her head slightly and said, “Do you have any proof?”  Connors went to his wallet and then remembered sheepishly that he was traveling with false ID.  He reached into his jacket and retrieved his real wallet and showed her his driver’s license.  She looked at the card for a few seconds and looked up at his face and looked at that for a few seconds more.  Then she handed back his card and took the little boy’s hand and stepped out of the doorway and asked Connors to come in.

Connors noticed that the house was small and the appliances were very out of date but everything was tidy and the walls were freshly painted with bright colors.  The floors looked freshly cleaned and something was in the oven that smelled like bread baking.  The boys were in the dining room with their school books and it occurred to Connors with a pang that this was the kind of home that he had always envied as a child.  She led him into the living room and took his jacket and hung it up in a closet.  “Mr. Connors, would you like some coffee?  I was just having a cup when you arrived?”  Connors thanked her yes and sat down in a padded chair next to the couch.  Mrs. Boghadair entered a couple of minutes later with a tray that had two cups, a container of cream and sugar.  Connors thanked her again and took the closer cup without adding anything and began to drink.  The coffee was very good.  When he saw that she wasn’t drinking her coffee Connors put his cup down and said, “Mrs. Boghadair…”  She interrupted immediately “Please Mr. Connors call me Grace.  Nobody calls me Mrs. Boghadair but the deliverymen.”  He noticed that most of the worry had momentarily disappeared from her face and so he smiled slightly to acknowledge the change and said, “Grace, that would be fine.  Your father-in-law always told us to call him Bogey.  He said the firefight would be over before we got through his name.”  Now it was her turn to smile slightly.

“Grace, your father-in-law saved my life in Iraq and for that I owe him.  He told me of your loss and that I should come see you about providing help.  As you probably know I was also a business partner to Robert and Bogey.  Because of the tragedy that has occurred I’ve offered Bogey a position with my company but it will require him to relocate and so I thought it would be best for all concerned if I could help you move your family closer to your father-in-law’s new job.

“Mr. Connors, when I saw Joseph last he did not strike me as a man who was ready to take a job.  He was a man looking to start a war.  I finally had to ask him to leave the house.  He was frightening me and his grandsons.  I love him dearly but he had lost his mind.  I should be the same but I have the lives of four children to think of.  I don’t have the luxury to seek vengeance.  I have to make dinner and check their homework and bring them to baseball practice.

Connors reoriented his speech, “Grace, I see you know more of what your father-in-law was thinking about than I assumed.  So, I’ll tell you a little more about what’s going on.  Bogey wanted me to protect you and your boys from any blowback from what he is planning to do.  He felt that you are in danger of being punished by the government for what he is planning to do.  He wants you to go into hiding.

“Mr. Connors, is that a sane decision?  Do Americans hide from their government and live like refugees?”  Connors hesitated for a second and said, “Unfortunately in this circumstance, yes, they do.  You know the circumstances of your husband’s death.  Do those seem like things that could possibly happen in the America you grew up in?  We are living in a very different world.  The government has gone from being our servant to our master.  There are men in prison right now whose only crime was speaking out about the treason of their own government.  Bogey plans to do a lot more than speak out and he rightly fears that the government will hit back at him through you and your family.

Grace looked down and then picked up her coffee cup and took a drink.  She said, “Mr. Connors, you’re Joseph’s friend, can’t you convince him to abandon this madness?  Because that’s what it is.  He can’t achieve anything and he’ll only be killed and then my children and I will be completely alone in this world.  A tear formed in her eye and she brushed it from her cheek with the sleeve of her shirt.  Then Connors felt incredibly guilty and regretted letting this whole thing start.  But he knew it was already too late.

He said, “Grace, you will not be alone.  That I can promise you.  Bogey came to me because I have the means to protect you and your boys.   We live in times where no one can promise certainty.  But I will do whatever it takes to give your family the lives they deserve.  I owe that to Bogey and I have the means to make it happen.  What I need from you is your cooperation.  We need to disappear.  A caravan of vehicles will show up here tomorrow and it will take you and your sons to the house I’ve got set up for you.  They can take as much of your home furnishings as you wish to take.  Everything else will be brought later and warehoused until you need it.  But can you break away from your hometown without any explanations?”  Grace nodded, “Only the school and the utilities would need to be notified.  We’ve only been in town a few weeks.  We had to move after Robert’s death.  We couldn’t afford our mortgage payments and had to rent this place.”

Connors nodded, “Good we can take care of all those things for you and make the information unhelpful to anyone looking for you.”  Grace looked into Connors eyes and said, “I feel like I’m about to jump off a cliff.”  Connors looked back into her weary eyes and replied, “You’re not.  You’re being rescued from a sinking ship by your friends.  Grace, will you trust me?”  Grace heaved a deep sigh, “Joseph told me I could trust you and that you were the smartest and richest man in the world.  Even if Joseph has gone crazy my husband told me long ago that your company has been keeping his business alive for years.  I have to trust someone.  We are out of money and with Joseph gone I have nowhere to turn.  Thank you, Mr. Connors.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”  And then she did cry uncontrollably, and the boys came in and looked scared and nervous and Connors was confused and patted her shoulder over and over again.

End of Chapter 4.

Link to Installment 7

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 5

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

Link to Installment 1

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 4 – The Nightmare

(Fifteen Years Later)

The eighteen-wheeler pulled off the interstate exit ramp and headed onto the secondary road at 10 am on a Tuesday and Joseph Boghadair said to his son Robert who was driving the truck, “I think we can stay on this road all the way to Portland.”  Robert glanced at him and said, “Yeah, but the traffic will slow us way down.  I’ll get off ten miles from Portland and we’ll take the streets.  That’ll save twenty minutes and the hassle of dealing with the streets coming from that direction.”  “Suit yourself,” he told his son.  When Robert pulled the truck off an exit ten minutes later, they stopped at a gas station and filled the tank up with diesel, parked it and then walked over to a diner for breakfast.

Joseph and Robert sat down in a booth away from the door and looked at the menus sandwiched under the acrylic table top.  Joseph said, “Pancakes.”  Robert countered, “Western omelet.”  The waitress whose table they were at noticed them and headed over.  She was a good-natured woman in her forties with a face and figure that still garnered admiration and generous tips from the male clientele and scowls from the female half.  Becky came over with a smile and a howdy and asked the boys what they’d like.  Joseph said, “Ma’am, I’ll have a stack of hotcakes with sausages and my young friend here will have the western omelet.”  Becky turned to Robert and asked, “Honey, what kind of toast would you like with that?”  Robert looked up with a wry smile and said, “I’ll have whole wheat and unfortunately my decrepit partner here forgot to mention we’ll both have black coffee.”  Becky smiled mischievously and said, “Oh, he doesn’t look all that decrepit to me.  Just sort of dignified, I’d say.”  Reading her name tag Joseph replied, “Thank you Becky.  That kindness will be reflected in the tip.  And what my son doesn’t realize is that fast talking and clear thinking are two entirely different things.  She filled their coffee cups and headed off to the kitchen saying, I’ll have the orders in five minutes.”

“Quit leering at the wait staff you old coot!” Robert shot at his father.  Joseph replied amiably, “What you call leering is just polite appreciation for the wonders of nature.  Besides you’re the one with a wife around here.  I’m just a poor lonely widower taking whatever solace I can from the kindness of strangers.”  Robert smiled and said, “Yeah, well let’s skip the solace until we finish this run.  My wife would prefer there’s a check at the end of this month to pay the mortgage which by the way put’s a roof over your head I might remind you.”  Joseph lowered his face in mock obeisance and replied, “Yes, oh great and mighty Landlord, this poor serf swears fealty to your lordship.”

At that point the food arrived and they were both too busy to talk for a good ten minutes.  When they had slowed down Robert asked, “Seriously, when are we getting the check for this run?  Things have been piling up and I want to get up to date on a bunch of household expenses.”  Joseph nodded his head and said, “We’re getting paid today.  I’ll be able to transfer ten thousand into your account this afternoon.”  Robert nodded back and a thoughtful smile appeared as he reached for his coffee cup.

A half hour later Joseph and Robert were back on the road and were within a couple of miles of their delivery location.  Traffic was light and they were making decent time when they stopped at a red light.  Suddenly a group of black clad people jumped out in front of the truck and tossed mats covered with nails in front of the wheels.  In his rearview mirror Robert could see more people placing mats behind his truck.  Joseph and Robert looked at each other and they both had stunned looks.  Joseph said, “Stay at the wheel I’ll find out what the hell they think they’re doing.”  Joseph exited the passenger door and walked up to the group and started shouting at them to clear the road of their hazards.  A short fairly rotund woman screeched back at him that the truck had been confiscated for attempting to traffic in the murdered bodies of fellow creatures in the Portland Free State and that the perpetrators must leave their truck for disposition by the forces of the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front and their allies in antifa.

Hearing this Joseph realized the truck had been targeted based on the meat processing company whose name was on the side of the truck.  Looking at the crowd behind the truck he saw some of them splashing gasoline on the trailer.  Shoving the people around him out of the way he attempted to pull the nail mat out from the front of the truck.  He just got it cleared when ten or so of the black clad antagonists slammed him into the grill of the truck and began pummeling him with clubs and pepper spraying his eyes.  Joseph lost his balance and fell onto the street where the crowd began kicking him.

Robert watched with horror as his father fell in front of the driver side wheel of his truck.  Grabbing an aluminum bat from the cab he jumped out of the truck and starting swinging at the crowd assembled around his father.  After one or two of them took direct hits to the head the rest scattered.  Robert grabbed his father under the arms and dragged him onto the sidewalk and attempted to wipe some of the pepper spray out of his eyes with a handkerchief.  What he didn’t notice was that coming up from the back of the truck was a tall, thin man dressed in the black bloc uniform.  He had seen the rescue and was about to remedy the situation.  He pulled a long blade from his boot and coming quietly up from behind he passed the knife across Robert’s throat with one quick motion.  Then as if nothing had happened, he kept walking, turned the corner and disappeared.

Robert hit the ground gasping for breath as his blood rapidly pumped out of his body.  Joseph was blinded but he could tell by the sound that his son was in distress.  He struggled to locate him on the ground and tried to apply pressure on the wound while screaming for help.  But no help came.  Their work done, the black clad mob scattered and Joseph was left their kneeling over the dying body of his only child while the truck they had been driving became engulfed in flames.  Finally, a passing motorist stopped and helped Joseph into his car and they drove Robert’s body to the nearest hospital where he was pronounced dead by the emergency room doctor.  When the police arrived, Joseph tried to provide them with the facts of the crime.  The officers explained to Joseph that this sort of thing had become extremely common in the Portland area and the official policy of the department was to advise victims not to attempt to resist the antifa mob.  Joseph listened to this information with numb incomprehension on his face.  When they were finished talking, he asked them, “What am I supposed to tell his wife and kids, that it was his fault?”  The policeman looked down and said nothing.

 

Chapter 4 continues after this.

Link to Installment 6

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 4

Link to Installment 1

 

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 3 – King of the Mole Men

 

Monday at eleven in the morning Bogey showed up at the loading dock and parked his tractor.  He walked up to the office and announced himself and asked for Connors.  A call was placed and a few minutes later a well-dressed young man in business casual hustled into the office and shook hands with Bogey and asked him to follow him to Mr. Connors’ office.”

Luckily the weather was dry because the office was about half a mile and several twisting roads away.  When they reached the building Bogey was startled to see that the executive office was a repurposed Woolworth’s store.  The letters of the sign had been removed but their shapes were still visible from the contrast of the lighter areas that had been hidden from sun and rain.  Most of the furnishings had been removed but there were still enough retail relics scattered around the walls to let older people know that this was the shell of a creature from a bygone era.  And Bogey nodded his head.  Reusing this building was an act of respect for the people who had been here before.

Bogey followed the earnest young man right into the store and near the back there was a sudden change of décor.  The back corner of the building had solid cherry wood walls meeting up with the brick of the two building walls to form an office about 100 feet by a hundred feet square.  The ornate wood walls went from the ceiling to the floor and contained large double doors.  The earnest young man placed his id card in the reader and was rewarded with the approving beep that allowed him to open the opulent rich brown door and lead Bogey into the presence of the boss.

Before Bogey was halfway to the desk Connors was up on his feet and almost running toward Bogey.  “Bogey, damn it’s good to see you.  Have you had lunch yet?”  Bogey braced for the impact as this juggernaut of bon homme bore down on him.  After the requisite back slapping and hand shaking slowed down, he said, “Hey it’s good to see you too Connors.  No, I haven’t had lunch, I just got into town.”  This news set Connors off again, “That’s perfect.  There’s a diner a few blocks down that has a chicken-butternut squash soup that will restore your faith in mankind.  Let’s walk over there now and I’ll begin the tour after lunch.”  Connors turned to his employee and said, “Dave, I’ll be in meetings with Mr. Boghadair for the rest of the week.  I’ve left instructions on how to contact me and what can be put on hold this week.  I’ll get in touch with you when I need support.”  The earnest young Dave nodded his head and disappeared from the office without a word.

As they exited the building Connors turned right and walked leisurely down the mostly empty sidewalk and smiled at the sunshine on his face.  “You know that’s one thing that I do miss about Iraq, the sunshine.”  Bogey let out a sarcastic hah.  “Your memory must be going on you.  A hundred and twenty in the shade is not something you miss.  You just pray it misses you.  So, Connors, how come a big shot billionaire like you can take a week off from billionaire-ing to give the deluxe tour to a zero like me?”

Connors continued to smile into the sunshine that was warming his glad face, “That’s because it’s a privately held company.  I am that rarest of birds, a billionaire who truly is his own boss.  No stockholders, no board of directors, no government oversight, no nothing.  I even decide what my own salary is.  And believe it or not it’s paltry.  I really do plow the profits back into the company.  But what I do have is a slush fund that could fill the Grand Canyon.  I’ve always found enormous liquidity allows me to make strategic moves quickly.”  Bogey thought about this and said, “I guess that means you can pick up the check at lunch then.”

Lunch was eaten in mostly silence.  Bogey had to admit the soup was pretty damn good.  When they were done, they walked back to the company building and Connors steered Bogey into an alley where their ride was waiting.  It was a late model gray Toyota sedan.  When they were in, Connors drove it down the main drag and then onto the interstate at the first entrance outside of town.  He kept up a leisurely conversation for the first few minutes then they both settled into a comfortable silence.  A little less than an hour later they reached an industrial site.  The site was colossal.  Bogey guessed it was ten miles on each side and surrounded by some rather formidable steel fencing.  They were steel panels that resembled the privacy walls you sometimes see along highways that abut neighborhoods that resent the noise and view of an adjoining highway.  But these panels were 100 feet tall.  When Connors drove up to the entrance Bogey could see that the security guard had a very serious sidearm on his belt.  The make wasn’t familiar but it looked to be about a .45.  Connors caught him eyeing the weapon and smiled, “We take security very seriously here.”  Connors put his hand against a fingerprint scanner that the guard provided and after the reassuring ding sounded, they were allowed to drive through.

From the parking lot they walked about a quarter of a mile and reached another fence with a guard shack built into it.  Bogey noticed that the sound of massive fans got louder as they approached the fence.  This fence was only thirty feet high but of the same metal construction.  Connor used his badge to get in the door and once inside both of them walked through metal detectors followed by a retinal scan on Connors and a pat down for Bogey.  As they exited the guard shack into the secured area Bogey complained, “You store a lot of gold and platinum around here?”  “Sure, until we get a chance to use it.  Those are fairly useful engineering materials.”  “Sorry I asked.”

As they approached a bank of doors Connors smiled at Bogey and asked, “Have you ever seen the movie Forbidden Planet?”  Bogey shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I hope not.”  Connors continued, “Well then you won’t object if I paraphrase and tell you to prepare your mind for a new scale of physical engineering values.”  Bogey shook his head and muttered “Nerd.”

But as he stepped out on the other side of the door he came face to face with the Void.  It was a square shaft going straight into the Earth.  But it was a mile on each side.  Close to the door he had exited there was a railing about four feet high at the edge of the excavation.  Connor walked over to it and looked down.  As if it were a dare Bogey slowly and nervously followed him and holding onto the railing with both hands looked down.  For the first half mile he could see the sides of the hole.  It was not uniform in color or pattern.  It looked to be natural rock but Bogey wasn’t sure of that, only an impression.  Below a couple of thousand feet, it became too dark to make out details and right in the center of the hole it was pitch black like the depths of Hell.  Connors said in a casual way, “It’s pretty damn creepy the first time anyone looks down on this thing.”  He walked back away from the edge and headed back toward the building exit they had gone through.  Once Connors had stepped away Bogey felt he had proved himself and gladly backed away from that nightmare and followed Connors.  He didn’t want the other man to know how rattled he’d just been by the sight of that yawning emptiness.  It was like the Grand Canyon but instead of awesome it was unnatural, almost horrific.

Catching up to Connors they followed the wall of doors until the building ended and they came to a set of stairs about seventy five feet wide.  They walked down several flights and came to a bank of elevators.  There were freight elevators that were seventy five feet wide but there were some passenger elevators and they took the nearest one.  Bogey had expected to see buttons for hundreds of floors.  But there was only a terminal on the wall that Connors accessed and after a number of key strokes the elevator began to descend.  Bogey could feel that they were descending very rapidly.  He noticed it was getting warmer.  “Connors, how warm does it get down here?”  “Hotter than Iraq Bogey.  But don’t fret.  The living quarters are air conditioned to keep you happy.  This isn’t our first rodeo down here as I’m sure you can tell.”

When the elevator finally stopped and opened Bogey could feel the cooled air around him.  And he was surprised how bright the area was kept.  It seemed like natural sunlight.  They were in a reception area with a suite of offices surrounding them and a large open area beyond outfitted with desks and large engineering monitors that were covered with schematics and other drawings.  Busy nerds were designing, revising and reporting their calculations, drawings, plans, schedules and cost analyses.  But in Bogey’s mind it was just nerd stuff, what really smart people do that no one else understands or cares about.  He looked around at Connors and said, “It’s worse than I thought.  You’re not a Bond villain, you’re the King of the Mole Men.”  Now Connors broke into a broad smile and said, “Bogey you have no idea how true those words are.  Come on.  This is just the office.  Let’s get out into the world.”

They walked to the end of the corridor and behind a door they entered a huge cavern.  The temperature in the cavern was stifling and had to be at least 120 degrees.  Looking around Bogey could see that it was like an enclosed railway yard.  There were tracks radiating out from a round house in the center of the space like the spokes of a wheel.  They terminated at huge metal doors that measured one hundred feet wide and fifty feet high.  As he watched one of the doors opened and a vehicle emerged.  It was like a series of cylinders on wheels strung together.  It had a diameter of about forty feet.  And looking at the train he could see it was radiating heat off of its surface at a furious rate.  Suddenly the sound of enormous fans filled the space and a gale of wind flowed through the cavern apparently to remove heat from the newly emerged train.  It occurred to Bogey that the train must be hotter than a blast furnace.

Over the roar of the fans Connors shouted for Bogey to follow him and they headed for the round house.  Once inside they headed for a smaller train engine.  It was twenty feet long and ten feet in diameter.  It had a passenger section in the middle of the cylinder with the doorway open and cowlings in the front and back that covered some internal mechanisms.  Inside Connors strapped in behind an instrument panel and Bogey took the seat at his right.  Connors triggered the door mechanism and the car sealed itself and the air conditioning system activated and quickly brought the vehicle to a comfortable 72 degrees.  Connors activated two video screens and now both occupants could see views for both forward and behind the car.  The image was surprisingly sharp despite Bogey not noticing a camera when he examined the outside of the vehicle.

Connors engaged the engine and the car headed down the track toward one of the doors which was already opening.  After passing through the entrance the car moved forward about a quarter of a mile where it stopped in front of another door that was closed.  Looking at the rear camera feed he could see that the first door was already almost closed.  And sure enough, as soon as the first door was closed the second began opening and soon Connors had the car heading forward.  And Bogey realized this was some sort of air lock system.  He said to Connors, “Is that door system meant to keep out fumes?”  Connors answered, “Somewhat, but mostly it’s heat insulation.  We keep the air lock under vacuum between openings to minimize the amount of heat transferred into the train yard.  We have an enormous thermal load to dissipate with the air system and anything we can do to minimize it we do.”

The car was travelling at about sixty miles an hour and the external lights must have been very powerful because Bogey could see the inside of the tunnel as if it were in the sun.  After about an hour they came to another air lock where they cycled through the doors and ended up back in another railyard.  After waiting some time for the exterior of the car to cool they exited the car and walked through another building into another cavern.  And here Bogey saw a wonder.  A miner or maybe we should say a technician was supervising an excavating machine that was cutting into a granite wall that clearly contained a wide and very bright vein of pure gold.  The jaws of the machine drilled into the rock on either side of the precious metal and undermined the section then hammered it to pieces and fed it into a hopper.  Bogey could see jagged chunks of gold the size of bricks heading down the conveyor toward a waiting train car that was being loaded.

Bogey was stunned.  Connors said, “Want a souvenir?”  Before Bogey could think to answer Connors went up to the tech and yelled something at him.  The tech hit the red mushroom stop button and looked around on the ground and found a scrap on the ground and handed it to Connors before restarting his machine.  Connors walked over to Bogey and handed him a chunk of the yellow metal about the size of a hen’s egg but jagged and embedded with stone.  Bogey looked at his gift and tried to figure out how many thousands of dollars this heavy little memento was worth.  Connors told him to stow it in the car for later since it was heavy and inconvenient to carry.

They re-entered the car and after the round table turned through about thirty degrees of angle, they proceeded through another air lock and headed back into the tunnels.  Once they were cruising Connors put the controls on automatic and went into the galley to get some drinks and snacks.  He handed Bogey a beer and a ham sandwich and got one of each for himself.  “So we’ve got about thirty mining sites in various states of operation and we extract cobalt, tantalum, nickel, platinum, silver, copper and, as you saw, gold for refining and either use or sale.  But our latest venture is in geothermal energy and applications to energy storage and transportation.  That’s our next stop.”

The car began down a decline that continued for an hour.  After the car passed through another air-lock they found themselves inside a climate-controlled building.  Leaving the car behind they took an elevator up twenty floors and walked into an industrial plant with a fairly loud power hum that they could feel through their feet.  Looking through an observation window they could see a row of colossal steam turbines on the floor of the plant.  Bogey was completely unfamiliar with the details of current industrial art with respect to turbine technology but he was pretty sure these were abnormally large.  Connors leaned over to be heard and said, “Each of those turbines produces 2 gigawatts of electric power.  We have twenty on-line and are installing ten more a year for as long as we find we can use the power for our own use or the customers we serve.  Come on, let’s get out of this noise, it gives me a headache.”

They followed the corridor for a hundred yards then ducked through a side door into an office space that was carpeted and obviously heavily sound proofed.  Bogey heard his own breath released noisily and realized he had been experiencing nerves while out in the plant environment.  “Connors, I’ve got to hand it to you.  This ride is better than Disneyworld.  But can we rest for a while?  I’m a little worn out from gasping at, what did you call it, preparing my mind for a new scale of physical engineering values.”

Connors looked concerned, “We can stay here overnight if you’re tired.”  Bogey waved his hand and said, “No nothing that drastic.  How about if we stop for dinner?”  Connors nodded and changed direction.  They headed into a company cafeteria and Connors showed him the menu and the ordering panel and they punched in their selections.  The containers dutifully appeared from an aperture and they brought their selections to a bank of microwaves where passable stew was rendered edible and they added a couple of cups of fresh brewed coffee to their trays.  Sitting at an ordinary white corporate cafeteria table on the typical puke green plastic cafeteria chair Bogey found it hard to believe he truly was in the realm of the Mole King.  But his eyes had told him otherwise.

“Connors, you’ve convinced me you’re the real deal.  Tony Stark ain’t got nothing on you.  But you know I can’t hope to appreciate all this Buck Rogers stuff.  I’m an ex-trigger puller and now struggling freight company owner.  But if you can stand one bit of criticism, how can the King of the Mole Men have such ugly cafeteria furniture right here at the very heart of his realm?  Won’t the other comic strip villains steal away your most loyal minions with promises of designer cafeteria furniture?”

Connors squinted his eyes and, in a voice choked with outrage he said, “Bogey you’re mentally ill.  You know that?  I’ve revealed industrial secrets that corporate and government spies would pay serious money to learn and you’re carping about plastic furniture?”  But suddenly, he burst out laughing, “Well, you’ve got a point, these are the ugliest damn chairs I’ve ever seen in every cafeteria I’ve ever walked into.  I’ll fix it.  I guess I’ve given you a big enough dose of the tour.  I can tell you about the rest.  But I actually love an excuse to come down here and see what’s going on.  Anyway, I’ve been expanding our capabilities around the full spectrum of applications.  I use the electrical power to run a syn-fuel operation.  I’ve got two primary products I produce hydrogen gas by electrolysis from water and I also run an octane synthesis plant, that’s basically gasoline.  I make it from water and carbon dioxide.  And next year I’m putting together a team to start developing an automobile that runs safely on hydrogen gas.”

Bogey continued to eat the stew in his bowl and stare up at a spot on the wall.  Then he wiped his mouth on a paper napkin and looked at his host and said, “Connors, I’m glad to have someone as high powered as you interested in my existence but for the life of me I can’t figure out why someone smart enough to build this brave new world would need to talk to me about it.”

“Bogey, I’m not a scientist or an engineer.  I wouldn’t know a neutron from a proton if it came with a label on it.  What I do know is men.  I can recognize quality and talent.  I pick the men and the results follow.  So, no, you can’t build me a power plant or an ore smelting operation but you very easily could run a security operation.  And I know you could lead a team into a firefight if needs be.  Those are very valuable skills to a man like me who is doing big things that will make him lots of powerful enemies.  Now I know you’ve started your own company and of all people I know the satisfaction in building something of your own.  But I give people who I believe in, enormous scope to run things themselves.  In a lot of ways, I’d be like your client and your team would work for you.  So, I didn’t see any harm in making the pitch to you.

Bogey’s face took on a thoughtful expression and he stared at the plate in front of him.  He looked up and said, “Connors, I don’t want to do that for a living.  I know this is an incredible financial opportunity but I want to do something else.  Security is about worrying and I have enough worry in my life already.  But I’m flattered and grateful that you asked me.  Hell, I think this whole world you’re building is unbelievable.  I’d love to do business with your galactic empire and someday be the bull goose looney space trucker to the king.  But no more security for me.  No more peering through the fence at the bad guys.

Connors nodded his head slightly then shrugged his shoulders.  “Okay cowboy, have it your own way.  We’ll leave it at that.  You haul freight and we’ll build a new world under your feet.  But I still have one more show and tell for you to see.”  They tossed their plates in a waste barrel and headed out into the plant space.  After about twenty minute’s walking they reached a cavern that had only one vehicle parked outside the building.  It was also cylindrically shaped but very different in appearance than the previous cars.  It was fifty feet in diameter and a thousand feet long.  The front of the vehicle was shaped like a cone and was obviously some kind of drill.  Bogey guessed that this was what created the tunnels they had been travelling through.  “How much did this thing cost to make?”  he asked.  Connors cocked his head and pursed his lips, “Including research and development, prototypes and all the other resources devoted to it I’d say nothing less than ten billion dollars.  But it’s worth a hundred times that when you factor in what it has yielded for us just so far.  Without this machine we’d be sitting on square one.  This device speeds up tunnelling by a factor of ten thousand and eliminates human miners from most of the most dangerous parts of the job because it’s a drone.  Even though we’ve only had one failure where the tunneller was lost that one collapse would have taken dozens of lives if it had occurred while using miners.”

Bogey walked along the machine and tried to guess how it actually worked.  Connors came up and put a hand on his shoulder and warned, “Let’s move out of this area now.  This thing is only mildly radioactive and we wouldn’t even get a chest x-ray worth of gamma from standing here for a week but I’m superstitious about that stuff so let’s move along.”  Bogey followed him away but was still trying to figure how the thing worked.  “What’s the nuke material for?”  Connors smiled, “Power source.  That thing produces enormous power for cutting rock and also to fuse the rock surrounding the bore hole into an incredibly strong wall.”

Bogey kept walking but continued to think of how the tunneller worked.  “But where does all the rock crushed by the drill go?  It can’t be compressed enough by being melted.”  Connors said, “Smart boy!  I should’ve asked if you wanted to join the eggheads in my engineering group.  When the drill is in use it is extended quite a distance in front of the tunneller.  This leaves an aperture that the rock enters and is transported by conveyers to the end of the tunneller where it is excreted.  It’s sort of like how a worm moves through the soil and sends the soil through its guts and out the back end.”

Now Bogey broke into a broad smile and laughed, “So the King of the Mole Men has an atomic earthworm to dig his tunnels.  I should write this into a pulp novel.  But it’s so fantastic that no one would believe it.”  Connors shook his head and said, “It’s a good thing I know your brain was damaged from all the hits you took to the head back in the sandbox otherwise I’d resent such juvenile remarks.  Alright, grand tour completed.  Let’s head back up.

For the whole trip back up to the surface Connors talked enthusiastically about his enterprises and the plans he had to expand it.  Bogey listened mostly silently and noted the almost religious intensity that his friend spoke with.  When they had driven out of the fence line and were back on the interstate Connors ran out of words.  It was 3 a.m. and they were both pretty exhausted.  When they got back to town Connors dropped him off at the small motel where he had registered Bogey for the night.  When Bogey got to his room he dropped his backpack, took off his shoes and fell dead asleep on top of the quilt on the bed.

The next morning Bogey got up, took a shower and headed to the dining room.  And there sitting at a table with a plate of food was Connors, with a mug of coffee at his mouth.  He waved Bogey over enthusiastically and continued his breakfast.  Bogey groaned inwardly at the thought of another seminar on the wonderful world of Paul Connors.  But he managed a half smile and sat down.

But Connors had switched gears overnight.  He was done with the technical presentation.  Now he was enjoying his ham and eggs and asking Bogey about the details of his shipping business.  Bogey was astonished about how much this titan of industry knew about his one-horse operation.  But because Connors seemed genuinely interested, Bogey found himself talking candidly about the challenges and opportunities that currently kept him up nights.  Connors was mostly quiet and nodded his head from time to time and when there was a break in the talk said, “Well, it sounds like you’re in the thick of it.  How’s that family of yours getting along?”  And feeling comfortable and after ordering and beginning to eat a stack of pancakes and some sausages Bogey talked about his wife and son and what was going on at home.  Afterward it occurred to him that he had maybe been a little too long winded about home matters with someone who probably was more interested in the price of crude oil than he was with the domestic details of the Boghadairs.  But Connors seemed to have the knack for putting a speaker at ease.  Probably the skills of a master salesman.  When Bogey ran out of words they both sat for a few minutes drinking a second cup of coffee and relaxing in the stultifying embrace of motel muzak emerging from the tinny public address speakers.

When they left the dining room Bogey checked out at the front desk and joined Connors at his car in the lot.  They drove back to the main office and walked into Connors office for their final talk before headeding home.  “I hope my tour wasn’t completely boring for you.”  Bogey shook his head, “Exhausting maybe, but the opposite of boring.  I have no idea how you did all of this but I’m amazed that I haven’t heard about your company before.”

Connors nodded, “We keep a very low profile.  I have very important contracts with the government and with most of the larger industrial corporations but my focus is on building up my community-based networks.  And within those networks it’s clearly understood that the goals and progress of those communities is proprietary.  My forecasters predict that there will be enormous political dislocation in the near future.  I expect to have to navigate a chaotic mess of local, state and federal disputes.  If I’m not high on the radar of any tinpot dictators until late in the game it may afford me time and opportunity to avoid trouble, at least long enough to make some irrevocable decisions.”

Bogey chewed on his bottom lip for a second, “You really think the end of the world is coming?”  Connors smiled and said, “Something like that.  I’m planning for up to and including the dissolution of the United States of America.  And don’t forget that when a county’s domestic affairs are in disarray that’s when its external enemies act against it.  I’m even preparing for a full nuclear exchange.  Although I hope for something less.”  Bogey chose his words carefully, “That seems a little pessimistic to me.”  Connors spread his hands in front of him, “Perhaps.  But remember one thing.  If you reach a point where the environment where you live no longer allows you to guarantee the safety of your family, call me and we’ll implement an extraction plan.  Believe me when I say I’ve got the resources to make it happen.  In fact this is the kind of thing I was hoping to recruit you to oversee.  But regardless, call me and we’ll get you to a safe place.”  Then Connors extended his hand across the desk.  Bogey half smiled but then stood up and gave his friend a pretty solid handshake.  “Thanks Connors.  I hope I never have to take you up on the offer but it’s good to have a doomsday plan.  Well, I better get on the road.  It’s a long drive and by now a bunch of stuff is bound to have gone wrong.  I’ll think about what you’ve said and if you’re ever in my neck of the woods stop by and have dinner with me and the family.  Connors said, “Sure.” but they both knew it would never happen.

Bogey walked out and headed for the loading dock area to get his rig and then began the drive home.  Along the way he reflected on what an interesting but crazy world Connors had built around himself.  And how glad he lived in a simpler, saner world.  He wondered when if ever the two men would meet again.  As it turned out it would be fifteen years before that would happen.

 

 

Link to Installment 5

 

 

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 3

Link to Installment 1

 

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 2 – Paying a Debt (continued)

 

When Connors came to, he was in the pre-fab building that the FOB used as a medical building.  He was lying on a gurney with the side rails up.  Then he started noticing pain from multiple points in his body.  And his ears were ringing.  So, he took inventory.  He could feel his hands and feet so that was a relief.  He whistled and was gratified when he could hear it through the ringing.  He tried to get up on his elbow but pain shot through his back.  That got his attention.  Next he lifted his arms off the thin mattress and only felt slight aches and straining.  Likewise his legs seemed unbroken and functional.

What passed for a medic on the base showed up a few minutes later and said, “Connors, how do you feel?”  “I think my back is tweaked, I tried to sit up and it barked at me pretty bad.  How long have I been here Doobs?”  Dube answered, “They dragged you in here two hours ago.  I’ll give you some dope for your back but we’ll need to get a doctor to look at you.  I’ll order some x-rays but it’ll be a while.  Half the base is flattened and as far as I’m concerned you have no right to be breathing.”  Connors tried again to sit up and this time he managed it after a few epithets.  “Well Connors, I think I’ll save the dope and give you some Tylenol.”  Connors grimaced and asked, “What about Bogey?”  Combat Medic Dube smiled ruefully and said, “Would you believe that maniac walked out of here an hour ago?  He must be made of rubber and steel.  I’ll get the Doc to come and look in on you soon but as far as I can tell you’re just dogging it.  Connors followed this up with a few choice syllables to describe Dube’s unsavory eating habits and lay back down.

When he was released that evening Connors was walking very stiffly to spare his back but he had come to the conclusion that he and Bogey were among the luckiest men walking planet Earth.  He headed for the bunkhouse and found Bogey just finishing up getting dressed.  Connors noticed that like himself there were a bunch of scabs covering a good chunk of Bogey’s face and for good measure, he had a dozen stitches on his left temple.  Connors addressed him, “Bogey are they going to proclaim you king of the sharp shooters?  I was sure they would never find any little scrap of either of us.”  Bogey smiled and said, “Oh ye of little faith.  I knew I would eventually hit it but I wasn’t sure it would be in time for us.  That truck was getting pretty close.  I must have put five shots into the slot but for whatever reason the first few didn’t find the payload.”  Connors was nodding his head, “Yeah I guess you could say it was close.  So, listen I’m ending my deployment tomorrow and I remember you are too.  Could you use a direct flight to the States?”  Bogey looked perplexed, “Of course I could but how would I swing that?”  Connors smiled, “Oh I’ve got a deal that will accommodate me and it’ll cover you too if you’re interested.”  Bogey sighed and said, “Sorry I haven’t got the cash.  Uncle Sam has to pay for my ticket so it’ll have to be the slow boat.”  Connors shook his head, “No cost, no strings and no lines.  Just follow me at the air field and you’ll leave your cares behind.”  A smile spread across Bogey’s face and he said, “Sounds like an offer I can’t refuse.”

The next day Connors, Boghadair and the rest of the soldiers scheduled to head home were helicoptered to the air base and most of them headed to the admin building to make their flight plans.  But Connors pointed Bogey to a building away from the main road where they found an Air Force sergeant behind a desk who asked for their ID.  Connors spouted a few sentences of jargon that sounded like gibberish to Bogey but got the sergeant to punch a few keys on his work station and let out a low whistle.  He asked Connors, “Are you kidding me?”  Connors smiled, “Not my fault, it’s the only thing they had available.”  The airman snorted and pointed at a door and said, Follow that to the end and they’ll know what to do with you.  And I hope you don’t drown in the swimming pool.”  Connors made a disparaging noise and he and Bogey went through the door and headed down a very long hallway that ended in another office area.  But the desk behind the counter was empty.  A sign tacked up in front of the counter pointed to a button to ring for service.  The bell was a sprightly version of “Hail to the Chief.”  So, someone had a sense of humor there and another sergeant walked out of a backroom asked for Connors’ ID and pressed a few keys.  But instead of being surprised he nodded, handed them some paperwork and told them to proceed onto the tarmac to a camo painted jumbo jet that was sitting about a hundred yards from the building.  They walked out to it with Bogey feeling like Alice going down the rabbit hole.

The flight crew took their papers and told them where to stow their gear.  The plane was not equipped with a full complement of seats.  Bogey imagined it was the kind of set-up that VIPs, like heads of state and CEO’s, were provided when they were travelling in style.  It was so ridiculously posh that there was a shower and a wet bar available for the comfort of the weary travelers.  And some of the seats were equipped as beds instead of the instruments of torture that most unfortunate long-distance fliers were accustomed to.

Bogey sat down at the bar in a padded arm chair and looked at Connors and said, “Okay, tell me about it.”  Connors started mixing himself a drink and said, “Bogey I’m horrifically rich and now that my service is up I’m going to take it easy for a while.  So, I chartered this plane for my trip home.”  Bogey countered, “Yeah but how do you get command to let you park it here and fly it through Iraqi air space?”  Connors smiled, “You’ve never heard of the power of good connections?  I do a lot of work for the intel services, FBI, NSA, CIA, all those guys.  They owe me all kinds of favors and I know where the bodies are buried.”  Bogey replied, “Yeah well, if all that is true what are you doing in the sandbox here?  Aren’t you too important to them and to you to be blown up by dump trucks full of C4?”  Connors stopped for a second and thought, “When the 9/11 attack happened my world didn’t seem to make sense anymore.  I felt like my life wasn’t real.  I had all this money and power and yet there were forces in this world that could destroy everything I loved without me being able to do a thing.  So I decided I needed to do something real.  I needed to be part of the solution to the madness our world had fallen into.”  Connors finished making his drink and looked at Bogey, “What’ll you have?”  Bogey asked, “Any beer?”  Connors handed him a bottle from the fridge and a glass.  Connors sat down in another chair and swiveled it to face Bogey and said, “And how about you?  What got you here today?”  Bogey was enjoying the beer.  It was the best thing he had drunk in months.  He said, “I’m a career guy.  This is my job.  Of course, I didn’t expect to have so much of it but we’ve been preparing for this for years.  So, Connors, do you think that you made a difference?”

Connors took another sip of his drink and thought for a second, “Yes and no.  What I did was important to me.  I feel that I kept faith with my country and my people.  But what is going on now makes no sense.  This nation building thing is pointless.  These people hate each other almost as much as they hate us.  I feel that the government is squandering the lives of the men who volunteered to come here and set things right.  The rest of this is madness.”  Bogey smiled and said, “Well, even some zillionaires can see the forest for the trees.  Yes, this is madness and all they’re doing is killing good men who won’t be around to take care of their families when they’re needed.  But at least you’ll go home now.  I’ll be here for the duration.”  Connors took another slug of his drink, “Why do you have to go back?  Active reserve?”  Bogey said, “Sure, if I want to get my benefits, I have to make myself available.”  Connors said, “What if you didn’t need the pension, could you walk away?  Let’s say you had a business that would pay the bills and build up a retirement nest egg, could you walk away then?

Bogey finished his beer and looked hard at Connors, “Yeah sure, if I had ten 18-wheelers and enough money to float salaries of ten drivers until we were beyond break even, I could make a living off that and more.  You want to loan me five million dollars to do all that?”  Connors laughed and said, “I’ll give you ten million and you won’t have to pay it back at all.”  Bogey replied sarcastically, “Who are you, Santa Claus?”  Connors was quiet for a couple of seconds then cleared his throat and said, “No, I’m the guy whose life you saved yesterday.  I make ten million dollars in sales every day.  I write off depreciation of that much every month.  But if you hadn’t saved my neck that money would be as meaningless to me as King Tut’s treasure was to him after he kicked the bucket.  So what I’ve been trying to say in case you were so deafened by that gigantic IED going off to hear me is that I want to pay you back in a big way.  I have thousands of business associates, employees and clients.  But I have no family.  I have tons of “friends” but I can’t think of one of them who compares to the men in our unit.  And I doubt anyone will ever come close to helping me the way you did yesterday.  So Bogey, put together a list of what you need and I’ll make it happen.  Just think of me as the genie of the lamp.  I won’t even count the wishes.”

Bogey closed his eyes and said, “Connors, do you mind if I just rest a while.  This is starting to sound like a fever dream I had when I caught malaria on a training exercise in Ghana.  I’ll think about all the good stuff you said but I’ve got a lot of my own concerns to think about first.  I haven’t seen my wife and kid in forever and before I make any decisions, I’m gonna have to talk to the missus.”  Connors smirked, “How sad; completely whipped.”  Bogey flipped him the bird, “Shaddup and let me sleep a while, say eight hours and then we’ll talk about your most generous offer.”  Connors said, “Fair enough.  I could use some sleep myself.  You can have the sleep bunk on the left.  I’ll take the one up front because I’ve been told you snore like a chain saw and wouldn’t want to deprive myself of beauty rest.”

It was probably more like four hours later that Bogey woke up and headed for the shower.  After a shower and shave he felt a lot more like a human being than he had in months.  He found Connors back at the bar heating up some food in the microwave.  “Bogey, you want some waffles?  They’re actually pretty good.”  Bogey realized he was incredibly hungry and surprised himself by saying, “All you’ve got.”  And truth be told the stuff wasn’t bad.  Not home cooked good but microwave good.  The two men sat there shoveling waffles and syrup and washing it down with some decent black coffee until there wasn’t any more left.  And unsurprisingly, life began to come into sharper focus than before the sleep, shower and food.

“So if I remember correctly you were telling me that you’re richer than Croesus and need to get rid of ten million dollars right away to the first idiot who saves your life.”  Connors took a gulp of coffee and nodded, “Essentially correct.  But there are some strings involved.  I’m building a network of people I can trust and who can work together under a commercial arrangement that I think is going to be necessary to survive the changes going on in the world.  Believe it or not no one is rich enough to compete with the global alliances that are already strangling smaller outfits out of existence.  The American manufacturing base has been moved to Asia and has left in its wake something worse than what used to be called the rust belt.  There are whole areas of the country without any jobs at all.  I mean other than government sponsored things like hospitals and schools and some service industries.  Now this is a nightmare for the people living there but it is also an opportunity to strategically plan whole new enterprises with a labor force that is motivated and grateful for not having to pull up stakes and leave their homes.  And if you can provide them with a middle-class existence, you have the opportunity to capture all of their business.  We can get into retail food, clothing, and consumer products.  I’m even interested in home construction, power generation and eventually I plan to tackle vehicles and fuel.  Bogey considered this for a second, “Is that really working?  Can’t the big retailers blow away your prices?”  “That’s not how it works” Connors explained, “The total benefits package we provide requires that they invest a minimum percentage of their salary for the products that we can provide.  Eventually I’ll try to capture most of their recurring monthly expenses including mortgages, utility bills, even insurance.  Eventually I intend to provide alternative primary, secondary and college level classes.  And all of those services and products will increase the number of people in the community that I can employ.”

Bogey scratched his cheek and speaking in an apologetic tone said, “I don’t want to offend but are you trying to become some kind of Bond villain or start a religion or something?”  This elicited a twitch on one side of Connors’ face like a repressed smile and he said, “Well I am interested in extinct volcanoes but you might be surprised to know that my business model has been allowing me to expand the size of my network area much faster than even I had hoped.  I pour the profits directly back into the company but I estimate my growth is close to 35% a year.  And so far we’ve been flying pretty low under the radar.  What will be interesting is when we start forming sizable holes in the distribution of some of the larger corporations that we compete against.”

“So, if you funded my operation would I have to take my payment from you in Amway products or something?  I was hoping to own my own business not owe my soul to the company store.”  Connors shook his head, “Nothing like that.  My offer just commits you to allowing me first refusal to transport capacity you have at the price and terms you specify.  If I can’t use your service at the moment then you can contract whatever business you want.  But I’ll tell you, most of the people who work with us go out of their way to get our business.  We pay our bills on time and you’ll be working with really good people.  I’m pretty particular who I associate with.  I do a lot of digging before I commit to an employee or a partner.”  Bogey replied, “Oh, and what have you dug up on me.”  Connors barely smiled, “I know that you’re married with one child, a son named Robert.  You’re an only child and your parents are deceased.  No police record other than a few speeding tickets.  You don’t seem to have any addictions that we can find.  No college but a number of tech certificates from the Army.  Pretty impressive IQ score.  No political affiliations prominent in your record.  Your home is rented, your car is fifteen years old, you have about fifteen thousand dollars in your savings account and about three hundred bucks in your checking account.

Bogey’s eyes widened, “What about the library book I lost in sixth grade?”  Connors replied, “We do our homework.  But no more thoroughly than your bank loan officer or the US Army.  Surely you know that nowadays everyone’s life is an open book.”  “Yeah, well, it’s sort of depressing seeing it in action.”

Just then a light and bell signaled from the overhead display.  Connors said, “Looks like your subway stop is coming up.  We’re not gonna finish anything today.  The crew will take care of the dishes.  Let’s head forward and strap in for the landing.”

As Bogey was gathering his belongings in preparation for exiting the aircraft Connors tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a medium sized box.  Inside were packets of hundred-dollar bills totaling $100,000.  And there was a blank business card with an address, telephone number and a web address.  “This should give the missus some confidence in my good intentions.”  Bogey shook his head and said, “Madman.”  But he gave Connors a resounding slap on the back and crushed his hand in a vise-like grip before gathering his gear and striding off the plane.

A week later Connors received an e-mail from Bogey that said,

“Dear Genie,

Your $100,000 is officially wish one.  I’m going ahead with my business start-up using that cash.  Thanks for the seed money.  It truly is a miracle.

Yours truly,

Aladdin.

p.s. You still owe me two wishes!”

Connors snorted at the ending.  Inside his head he noted that starting with only one percent of the capital he originally named, Bogey would be building his company for a very long time.  But he wasn’t surprised that he didn’t want to accept the larger amount.  Connors assigned surveillance of Bogey’s new company to one of his subordinates and made a note to himself to nudge things in Bogey’s direction whenever the opportunity presented.

Nine months later Connors heard from this subordinate that Bogey had leased three rigs and was lining up drivers and hauls for his fledgling company.  Connors ordered his supply chain organization to reach out to Bogey and begin contracting with him as much freight as he could handle.  And he warned them that he would be looking at the terms.  If they weren’t sufficiently soft ball there would be hell to pay.  Three months after that, right around the anniversary of that fateful day in Iraq, Connors called Bogey up on the phone.  “Bogey, how the hell are you?”  The voice on the other side of the phone sounded puzzled, “That you Connors?”  “Sure is.  Look, you’ve been doing a great job with our freight assignments I thought it was about time you came down here and got the grand tour and we did some strategic planning.”

There was a noticeable pause and the sound of paper shuffling and Bogey said, “I’m heading your way to pick up a trailer on Monday.  Is that soon enough?”  Connors assured, “Sure, sure.  I’ll arrange for that freight to be held if I take up some of your time before letting you go.  I’m kinda proud of our operation and the dog and pony show will take a while.  In fact, assume you won’t be starting back until Friday.  Bogey started sputtering and swearing but before he could complain Connors broke in, “Hold on, hold on.  You’ll be paid handsomely for your time and I promise to get you back to your business and family as soon as we’re done.  And don’t worry this is a one-shot deal.  I’ll leave you to your mundane existence after I’ve had a chance to show you what’s going on under the hood at Typhon Industries.”  Bogey sighed and said, “The customer is always right.”

 

End of Chapter 2

 

Link to Installment 4

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 2

Link to Installment 1

 

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Paying a Debt

Twenty Years Earlier

A Forward Operating Base in Iraq

Paul Connors was standing below the guard tower getting ready to relieve Joseph Boghadair at the tower machine gun post.  The sentinels were always jumpy because this new FOB was still waiting for the installation of the concrete barriers that would form a maze around the roads to prevent IED suicide attacks.  And sure enough, right out of his worst nightmares, looking straight out of the fence he could see a large vehicle exiting the highway about a mile and a quarter away and turning onto the road leading to the base.  Looking through his binoculars he could see it was an enormous dump truck that had some sort of steel plate bolted onto the front and wrapping around behind.  This was a truck bomb but it was the mother of all truck bombs.  Connors swarmed up the tower’s ladder and set up behind one of the two large machine guns in the tower.  He said, “Bogey, what is there time to do?”

Boghadair was behind the other machine gun and without looking at Connors he said, “Barely enough time to say your prayers and start shooting at that truck.”  Connors asked, “Can we shoot through that plate?”  “No, it’s too thick and they even have the tires blocked.  And they’ll be coming straight on so I don’t think I’ll be able to get a shot through the side.  I think the only target is the slot they left for the driver to see through.”  Connors asked, “You’re going to try to hit the driver?”  “No, he’s going to point that thing at us and mostly duck down while he’s driving.  Our only chance is to get a slug through the cab and into the payload.”  Connors looked at the truck that was now less than a mile off and said, “I can barely see that slot.  You think you can do this?”  Bogey looked at him for the first time and said, “We better both hope that I can.”

Both gunners sighted on the slot in the armor and began firing.  Connors saw his rounds impacting the armor and tried adjusting his aim to hit the slot but his rounds were dancing all over the plate with almost random results.  But he could see Bogey’s impacts were very close to the slot.  The truck kept rolling on and had reached at least 50 miles per hour and was less than half a mile from the fence.  Realizing that he wasn’t going to get the shot Connors took his radio and called in the threat hoping that most of the base personnel could find some kind of shelter in the seconds that were left.  The truck was now less than a hundred yards out and Connors did say a prayer.  And then he saw the flash.  Both soldiers dropped to the floor by instinct.  When the shock wave hit the tower it sent the whole structure airborne.  Later when the rescue group found them amid the wreckage of the fence and guard tower, they looked like rag dolls that had been tossed on the ground by some giant child.  They were banged up and unconscious, but in one piece and alive.

 

Chapter 2 continues after this.

 

Link to Installment 3

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 1

As part of my previously discussed plan to make my site more interesting to me I’m going to publish my ongoing attempt at a dystopic science fiction story, “Sniper.”  Part of my reason for putting it up on the site is to get feedback from sf fans and also because I hope at some future time to finish it and put it up for sale.  I think I’ll put a new installment up once a week as a start and see how that works.  If anyone likes the story, I highly encourage him to spread it to anyone among his acquaintances or sites that he thinks would be likely to be interested.  After all the whole reason for the internet is mass communication.

Now this first section has been previously released here, bur for the sake of continuity for anyone who might have missed it I’m re-issuing it.

Also, I’m encouraging all comments; positive and negative.  Feedback is greatly desired.  And away we go.

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 1 – An Object Lesson

Joseph Boghadair was set up at a loophole in a small prefabricated metal building at the top of the mountain that contained the Icarus Mine.  His .50 caliber sniper rifle was trained on the narrow road that led up to the mine.  He could see a line of black SUVs about a mile and a half down the road and he was getting ready to start firing on the convoy.  His first shots took out the engine of the lead vehicle thereby halting the convoy.  His second volley took out the engine of the last car in line thus trapping the rest of the vehicles between.  Then at a more leisurely pace he took care of the other eight vehicles.  By this point the passengers were crouching behind their disabled cars and randomly firing handguns and automatic weapons in Joseph’s general direction with almost no discernible results.

After about half an hour a few of the men in black body armor attempted to reach a stand of trees about 300 yards away to their left.  Joseph put a few well aimed rounds in front of their path and they quickly retreated back to the supposed safety of their not so mobile autos.  Joseph snorted wryly at their shyness.

An hour after that a helicopter approached the mountain from the opposite direction to Joseph’s loophole.  Walking over to a window on the other wall he could see a distant Blackhawk approaching at relatively high altitude.  Joseph then began his preparations for their reception.

Between crew and troops, the Blackhawk had a dozen men on board.  And more importantly it had a couple of Hellfire missiles.  From a very safe distance away it targeted Joseph’s position and fired.  The missile struck precisely on target and obliterated the steel structure almost completely.  All that remained was the foundation of the structure around the mine shaft, now clogged with debris.

The Blackhawk landed about three quarters of a mile from the mine entrance.  At this point the agents hunkered down behind their vehicles began to stream toward the helicopter.  By the time they reached the aircraft the troops had exited and were waiting for their rescued brethren to arrive.

FBI Special Agent in Charge, George Chastain assembled both teams and briefed them on the updated mission plan.  “We will proceed to the mine head and look for any human remains.  We will collect whatever we can retrieve for lab analysis and attempt to seal the mine head until qualified personnel can be assembled for recovery operations.  It is presumed that the target, Joseph Boghadair was killed by the missile strike but we will take no chances.  He was an extremely dangerous individual and should not be approached by anyone without backup and prior approval from leadership.  In addition to his war record it is believed that Boghadair is responsible for the shooting deaths of forty-six people in the last six months with thirteen of those people being FBI personnel.  No one enters the mine until remote sensing equipment is brought in.  Alright, proceed.”

The agents formed two groups.  Apparently, SUV agents and helicopter agents must not bond very well.  But before they were more than a hundred feet from the helicopter the ground began to quake so powerfully beneath them that they were irresistibly knocked off their feet.  And while they were holding onto the ground for dear life, they could see that the high ground where the mine head was located had collapsed into the earth.  The roar of that collapse was more frightening than the initial earthquake and some of the agents hid their heads under their arms in abject terror.  When the mountain stopped shaking the men started to collect themselves and stand up.  When they looked around them, they were astonished.  A circular pit had opened up centered on the mine head.  It was a thousand yards in diameter and so deep that only blackness could be seen at its center.  Several cracks had formed outside the circular pit.  One of these had nearly swallowed the Blackhawk.  It was on its side and half buried in the crevice.  Its rotors were fractured and it wouldn’t be flying away from this landing.

Chastain went over to the edge of the crater and just stared down into the blackness below.  Then he went back to his team and started giving orders to begin a retreat from the stricken mountain.  He was trying to think of what he was going to tell his boss.  Nothing reasonable came to mind.

Link to Installment 2

You and Here

Because of their neurological abnormalities many Leftists are truly miserable people and therefore pathologically envious of normal people for being happy.  And that’s why a big part of the leftist project is to make us miserable.

Taking the fun out of our lives is a very big part of their work.  That is specifically why they are always in our faces about everything they don’t want us doing.  We can’t enjoy sports or activities or entertainment the way we want to because they have to decide how those things get done.  And worst of all they say we can’t do them without their participation.  And that’s why they especially hate things that they can’t share in.  That’s why shooting ranges and normal families are anathema.  Those things are bad fun because they exclude them categorically.

And so, whenever we are happy, in a real sense, we are measurably hurting the leftist project.  So, there is the justification for the “pursuit of happiness.”  But over the last half century it’s gotten harder and harder to just enjoy life.  Too many components of it have been compromised and degraded by the Left.

But that makes it more important than ever to find the means to bring joy into our lives.  Even if you are a “happy warrior,” fighting the culture war 24/7 is not a recipe for hilarity.  Sure, mocking the Left can be fun to some extent but there is a definite tendency to become a grim, glum purveyor of gloom and doom.

And I find that this very syndrome has infected me to a greater extent than I like.  And thinking about it today I realized I need to begin prioritizing a lot more fun into my week.  Chronicling the outrages of the week is mostly a dour and depressing occupation.  Even schadenfreude over some leftist’s misfortune is a weak substitute for some constructive endeavor or even some mindless fun like watching a goofy movie.

As I’ve said previously, I’ll be trying to wean myself off the outrage stuff.  To start with I think I’ll start publishing parts of my stories on the site and adding more content on creative topics like photography and science fiction/fantasy.  I’ve lately been reading about how difficult it is to get genre fiction discovered on Amazon because the algorithms are specifically calibrated for authors who release materials exclusively through the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.  In addition, the algorithms are optimized for book series that release a new volume every month.  For that reason, authors now write at least three series novels in advance in order to get noticed by that algorithm.  Now this sounds like madness to me.  Following that logic, an author should probably write a decalogy series all at once before finding out whether anyone wants to read it.  And in fact, it seems that a really mediocre series has a much better chance of being a hit than a single novel even if it is remarkably well-written and interesting.

Well, we do live in a strange world.  So, I figure I should start putting my stuff out there and at least have the satisfaction of publishing it on my own platform.  At least I’ll get some constructive feedback from the sf&f fans on the site.  And it’ll be fun.

H. L. Mencken is quoted as defining puritanism as, “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  And I think he was exactly right.  We need to enjoy life.  We will still have to fight the culture wars but we can’t put our lives, our happiness on hold until we win.  So let the someone, somewhere being happy be you, here.