The Safety Dance – Part 1

The man stood alone on the subway platform at ten thirty in the morning and considered where his life was going.  He had just been laid off at the office and now was trying to work out how he was going to break the news to his wife.  She was home with their three small children and the dog and had been hoping that the Christmas bonus he had been expecting today would pay for them to move to an apartment in a nicer town where the schools were decent.

Now all of that was in the wind and he’d have to start looking for a job in a not-so-great economy with a not-so-great resume to sell.  Suddenly getting home seemed like a really bad idea.  He looked behind him at the cardboard box sitting on the bench.  There were some books, a coffee mug, some desk toys and a few papers that his boss had watched him take and which were considered “non-proprietary.”  No company secrets sneaking out the door, not even a Swingline stapler.  Suddenly looking at this pathetic flotsam representing five years of his life, he picked up the box and dumped it in the nearest trash barrel.  The coffee mug made a satisfying tinkling sound as it smashed against the metal barrel.

And just like that he felt considerably better.  He opened up his brief case and started lightening the load.  He got rid of anything he didn’t think would ever be of any use in the afterlife of corporate separation.  Most satisfying, he ripped apart his safety lanyard with its annoying multi-colored slogan about reducing risk to zero.  That seemed the most pathetic part of the corporate culture that he had had to endure at work.  How exactly had the never-ending safety dance protected him from the danger of losing his job.  He had to admit that the culture had saved him from earthquakes, lightning and tornadoes but it had been useless against unemployment.  He stopped for a second when he found the free roast beef card from the company cafeteria.  He had nine out of the ten spots stamped.  He was a week away from the free sandwich.  He had to admit that one burned.  But he chucked it away too.  There was nothing left in the brief case so for good measure he chucked that too.  Now he felt giddy.

He walked up out of the subway station into the cold, bright light of a December morning in Manhattan and thought, “Okay, Odysseus, now what?  Instinctively, he started walking uptown.  By noon he realized he wanted a cup of coffee and a snack so he stopped at a coffee shop and bought a very overpriced coffee and doughnut and sat near the front window and looked out at the city.  He was in the middle of a block that was mostly expensive five story walk-ups.  Remarkably there weren’t any homeless tents on the sidewalk so the illusion of pre-COVID, pre-George Floyd New York was almost perfect.  As he drank his coffee and ate his doughnut a feeling of happiness washed over him.  But when the snack was finished, he realized that it was time to decide how this day would end on a better note.  He needed a path forward.

He took out his phone and looking in his contacts he saw the name of a guy he worked with at the job before this one.  They had been friendly but the somewhat odd personality of this guy had always kept things a little off.  But he had been pretty well connected.  They both were inside-sales guys for large industrial equipment manufacturers and he had heard the guy was doing alright.  So, he called him up and heard, “Jim!  Wow, I haven’t thought about you in a million years.  What’s up?”

“Dave, my boss gave me the boot today.  I’m looking for any leads for something right away.”  The speaker went silent for a few seconds and then, “You know, it’s a damn funny thing.  I know you’re a local boy and never set foot outside the northeast but there’s a very nice opening I just heard of in Missouri that is probably right up your alley.”

Now it was Jim’s turn to go quiet.  Missouri, how the hell was he supposed to move there?  He didn’t know anything about living outside of New York and he didn’t want to try.  But he decided not to shoot it down right away, “Well, I guess I’d like to hear a little more about it.”

Now Dave;s voice sounded a little annoyed, “You know this is a pretty sweet deal.  I wouldn’t wait too long before coming in.  Can you meet for lunch tomorrow?  I’ll bring along the hiring manager and you can impress him with your sparkling wit.”  Deciding quickly, Jim said, “I’ll be there.  Where should we meet?”

…………

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 20

For anyone who has read all or part of the story and would like to help me gage its quality, I’ve added a poll at the end to get some feed back on what you thought about the book.

Thanks

photog

 

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 14 – Aftermath

The world woke up to a strange new America.  Panic reigned supreme in the corridors of business, finance, diplomacy and almost every other endeavor that had formerly been overseen by the Global American Empire.  Things were just generally pandemonium.  The Strategic Air Command was in high level communication with global allies and adversaries reassuring and threatening that the United States nuclear arsenal was still the deadliest power on the planet.

But aside from that organization, the rest of the United States leadership in whatever capacity was in stunned inaction.  Finally, the governors of Maryland and Virginia agreed to declare a joint state of emergency and call in their National Guard units to restore some semblance of order in Washington DC.  At first, the command of the army units based in Virginia balked at a state government taking this initiative.  But after confirming that neither civilian nor military hierarchy effectively existed within Washington anymore, an ad hoc arrangement was worked out to utilize the guard units to crush the very serious rioting and looting going on in the city.

Eventually the Maryland governor requested that his colleague in Virginia establish some kind of temporary council to run the day to day needs of the city.  The mayor of DC had been murdered during the rioting and the rest of the city government had fled.  The Virginia governor reluctantly agreed and so slowly and painfully martial law began to bring that benighted city back into some kind of order.

In places like Manhattan and Chicago; Los Angeles and San Francisco there was stunned disbelief.  After the announcement of the nuclear strike on the “terrorists” and then Connors’ broadcast of his decapitation of the United States federal government the oligarchs of the American Empire were in shock.  With much of the managerial elite dead and the databases and systems that they used to direct the levers of power, no one in the lower echelons of the government knew how to respond to this disaster.  The strike had taken out whole divisions of the government.  The FBI now consisted of the local offices.  The Justice Department had effectively ceased to exist.  Interestingly so had the IRS.  And the intelligence agencies had been especially targeted.  All of the data repositories including the “cloud locations” of these agencies had been destroyed completely.  The attacks had been thorough and precise.  Nobody in the remaining portions of the federal bureaucracy knew anything.  They were isolated and completely overwhelmed by the scope of the losses.

But outside of the cities the reaction was quite different.  In the red states and even in the countryside in the blue states it was as if a great weight had been lifted off the shoulders of these people.  Their oppressor was gone.  And it was as if they heard the quote from Revelations, “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”  And even though many feared that this fall would unleash chaos and war and death, still, they felt their hearts lightened and people began to hope that  life would become better without the tyrants who ruled them from DC.

Current end of unfinished story. 

 

Dear Reader:

Thank you for reading part or all of my unfinished story. If you don’t mind would you answer the following question:

How would you describe the story so far?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Long National Nightmare of Me Being Way Too Busy is Over!

Today I finished up a weeklong marathon project that really made my life a misery and seriously cut into my on-line time to the detriment of this site.

Whew!!!

So here I am looking around and I see…

The same crap as the week before!

Hmmm.

Okay, there’s a claim that Biden’s poll numbers have gone up a point or maybe two.  Let’s grant that.  But his swing state numbers, both with and without third party candidates are the same or maybe even a little bit worse than before.  And inflation has gotten worse but the disastrous housing market is forcing the Fed to drop interest rates to try and generate some good news for Biden.  Which will make the inflation worse still.

And the Zoomers are really angry about Gaza.

Apparently, the big tent party is beginning to turn on its Jewish contingent because of Biden’s support for the Gaza War.  And this is causing pundits like the Ragin’ Cajun James Carville to hit the panic button.  His exact words were:

“I’ve been very vocal about this,” Carville said. “It’s horrifying, our numbers among younger voters, particularly younger Blacks, younger Latinos … younger people of color. Particularly males. We’re not shedding them, they’re leaving in droves,” he added.”

So, Biden has lots of election problems because the country has lots of problems and it’s too late to fix them before November.

And the border crisis is worse than ever and the criminal aliens are in the news every day.  And the cities are becoming war zones.

And now ships are crashing into bridges and destroying them.  I mean, you can’t make this stuff up!

Sure, this is more of the same.  But it’s like a train crash.  Once you’ve discovered that you have no brakes and you’re closer than some minimum distance “x” then you can’t avoid the crash.  But the closer you get to the impact the more terrifying is the view from the engineer’s seat.  So, I’m sure whoever is running the Biden campaign is in daily contact with the voting officials in Pennsylvania figuring out if they can add an extra five million votes to the Biden total on Election Day.

Well, enough election crap.  Instead something nearer and dearer to my heart; my novel (The American Archipelago: Book 1 – The Sniper).  Thanks to all who’ve been reading along and special thanks to those who have provided feedback.  Honest criticism is extremely valuable when you’re trying to make a story attractive to the publishers and compelling for the readers.

Anyone who has a taste for dystopian science fiction, I ask that you give it a whirl and leave some comments that reflect your take on the story, positive or negative.  And the more specific the better.

Here in Dunwich the weird is the rule and the weather is no exception to this.  It’s supposed to snow tonight and then rain will freeze up tomorrow night and create a Class IV Kill Storm. So tomorrow, after helping Camera Girl navigate the frozen tundra, we’ll probably hunker down and enjoy the sounds of squealing brakes and screeching cries on the road outside as the black ice claims numberless victims on the crater strewn back roads of Dunwich.  Afterward I’ll go out for the traditional gathering of the pocket change from the bodies of the crash victims and I’ll return as a conquering hero (of sorts) as I dole out this largesse to my minions (dog one and dog two) in the form of low-quality pressed rawhide that I purchase on the websites of third world competitors of Amazon dot com.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if a prolonged storm cut off the supply of these “treats.”  I fear that my minions might notice that there is a disturbing similarity between pressed rawhide and, well, me!  Me thinks Dog One has a lean hungry look about him.  Such minions are dangerous.

Well, anyway, enough yammering.  I’m back and on the job.

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 19

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 13 – Reaction (continued)

As Chastain had feared, the Attorney General told him that the failure to arrest Connors was his final failure and he was off the case effective immediately.  When he reached his office that night, he still had access to the main data and communications systems but the passwords for the task force databases and the team messaging page had been changed and he was locked out.

But when he opened up his outside browser it was covered in news bulletins announcing that a nuclear device had been detonated in the middle of the American heartland.  There had been no casualties reported but so far, the federal government was holding off comment on the shocking event.  Looking at the satellite footage, Chastain knew exactly where the nuclear weapon had been detonated and he exclaimed out loud, “That insane coward.  He actually did it!”

In stunned fascination he listened to the clueless newsmen and pundits trying to bring reason to this horrifying reality.  Panic had broken out in many of the larger cities with gridlocked highways filled with cars trying to flee what were feared to be targets for nuclear annihilation.

Eventually the network and cable news stations alerted the general public that the President would be making an announcement of the circumstances of the nuclear detonation and other associated news.  He would be pre-empting all other broadcasts in fifteen minutes.  This only increased the level of cluelessness of the blather that the pundits were spewing so Chastain walked down the hallway to get a cup of coffee.  When he got back a test pattern was on the screen to focus the audience on the announcement to come.

When the President appeared, he seemed almost jovial in his demeanor.  Chastain was almost shocked at how the practically catatonic man he had recently seen had recovered his composure and managed to read his prepared speech in an almost off-hand way.

“My fellow Americans, a short while ago, at my direction the Air Force delivered a ten-megaton nuclear device into an underground location that housed a base of the dangerous traitors who have been creating a reign of terror.  These were the same people who have been assassinating high level government officials and even managed to destroy the FBI headquarters right here in the nation’s capitol.  These rebels had perfected technologies that allowed them to tunnel under our very feet and sabotage important government installations and threatened the very existence of our beloved federal government.  They even included me on an assassination list.  I kid you not.

Conferring with my top advisors it was decided that the only way to eliminate this threat was to completely destroy the whole organization at once.  Because of the technological advantage this enemy had underground we decided that it was necessary to deal them a fatal blow.  Like a radiation treatment is used to destroy a malignant growth we used a radiation treatment of our own and have now successfully excised this cancer from our nation.

In days to come more details will emerge on how this secret society came to be and whether any of its members have survived this attack but the nation can now sleep easy knowing that I, your President, have acted decisively and effectively to protect you all from a creeping menace that was plotting against us right beneath our feet.

God bless you and may God bless America.”

After it ended Chastain stood in silence and felt a blankness.  An American president had just ordered the American military to nuke American citizens.  He felt disgusted and empty.  He walked over to the window and stared out at the Washington skyline.  And as he watched he saw the dome of the Capitol disappear.  And then the lights went out.  The building started shaking and swaying under his feet.  Chastain started to drunkenly stagger toward the exit staircase.  The few other occupants of the building; the cleaning staff and a few overly zealous public servants crowded with him through the doorway and half-rushed half-fell down the eight flights of stairs to the street below.  When they reached the sidewalk the ground stopped shaking but other than a few emergency lights here and there the street was pitch black.  It was a cloudy night with no moon and Chastain could barely see the people standing around him.  Everyone was trying to call someone or check the news feeds.  But it was as if the whole cellular network had failed.  Everyone was chattering at each other around Chastain and he was starting to feel an almost existential dread.

Finally after about a half hour in the dark a few cars headed toward them.  One was a police cruiser with its lights blinking blue and red.  When the car reached their position the officer in the passenger seat got out and approached the small group with a powerful flashlight and his gun drawn.  “What are you people doing out on the street?” he demanded.  This struck Chastain as fairly ludicrous.  He answered the bellicose man, “Well the standard operating procedure during an earthquake is to get out of the building.  The building was shaking underneath us so we got out.  What would you want us to do?”

The cop shined the light in Chastain’s face and said, “I want you to listen carefully and stop giving me trouble.  This is an extreme emergency and if you don’t do as you’re told I’ll guarantee that you’ll spend the night in jail.”  Chastain shielded his eyes with his hand and read the policeman’s nametag.  “Officer Morales, I am FBI Special Agent George Chastain.  I have my ID in my jacket pocket.  I suggest you tell me what you have been told by your chain of command and what your orders are.”  Morales’ eyes widened and he redirected his light out of Chastain’s face and after seeing Chastain’s ID he holstered his gun. “Sorry Agent Chastain, this is a very difficult night and we have had a lot of damn trouble out there.  Looting and arson has already begun and emergency services are struggling to start search and rescue operations around the Capitol and White House areas.”

Now it was Chastain’s eyes that widened, “What happened at the White House and the Capitol?”  The policeman looked agitated, “They’re completely gone.  Just big holes in the ground.  Nothing to see.  And not only that, the Pentagon’s gone too.  It’s like a science fiction movie.  And the power is knocked out to half the city.  Panic broke out and the streets are a mess with most of the traffic lights out.  Too many wrecks to count and lots of fatalities.  We’re trying to get everyone off the streets to allow emergency services to treat the injured but the looters are making it hard.  So far we haven’t been given the go ahead to charge the rioters but hopefully it will come soon.  Otherwise, they’ll burn down half the downtown.”

Chastain absorbed this information then said, “Are the cruiser radios working?  Can you get a message out for me?”  The officer nodded, “Yeah, the radio is working but none of the cell towers seem to be.  It’s messed up.  That’s part of why everyone is freaked out.  They’re not used to being without their smart phones.”  Chastain said, “I need to get a message to the Attorney General.  Pass along my name through your superiors and ask for the AG to patch through on your system.”  The cop shook his head, “Can’t do it.”  Chastain shouted, “Do it!”  Morales shook his head again, “You haven’t heard.  The AG’s gone.  They’re all gone.  President, VP, Secretaries of Defense, State, all of them, gone.”  They went when the White House fell.  I think the last man standing is the Secretary of the Interior.  But the Secret Service has him in hiding.  So currently no one is running the show.”  I heard a few of the generals are coordinating some kind of security plan with international leaders and letting the world know that the nuclear stockpile is intact and capable of revenging any foreign attacks.  It’s chaos out there.  And the higher up in the food chain you go the more freaked out they are.”

If the officer could have seen Chastain’s face clearly in the low light he would have seen shock.  Chastain had anticipated a huge disruption from the attack but hearing that the entire leadership of the United States had been decapitated was too much to process.  He nodded his head and wandered back into the building and sat down at his desk and tried to think what he could do next.  He couldn’t call his wife so he decided the next best thing was to get in his car and drive home as carefully as he could and regroup.

As Chastain slowly negotiated the street corners of the blacked out city by his headlights, he reflected on how the lack of power turned a large city into a nightmare landscape.  Small groups of urban dwellers were roaming the streets with flashlights allowing them to find their way around.  Every once in a while, he heard sporadic gunfire.  In several places he could see burning buildings and what looked like looting of storefronts.  But the darkness seemed to have curtailed human activity to a surprising degree.  As he reached the outskirts of the city he came upon a large convoy of military vehicles heading toward the downtown on the main highway.  There were no main battle tanks but there was every smaller vehicle in the army caravan.  The noisy parade impressed him with its size and added one more proof that the old world of sanity and normalcy was gone.

As Chastain pulled into the driveway he saw his wife was at the front door with a shotgun aimed at his car.  But as soon as she could see through the glare of his headlights she placed the gun on the driveway and walked around to his side of the car.  He met her and by the light of his open car door he could see tears in her eyes, “Where have you been George?  I thought the world had come to an end.  There’s no one around here.  I was all alone.”  He put his arms around her and she began to cry uncontrollably.  Finally, she quieted down and he got a flashlight from his car and led her into the house.  He retrieved the empty shotgun from the ground and escorted his wife into the living room where he proceeded to build a fire in the fireplace.  It wasn’t nearly cool enough for such a thing to be useful but the light from the fire was comforting and he figured it could allow them to make some coffee with his camping equipment.  He went to the sink and discovered that well pumps don’t work so well without electricity.  So he took a gallon of water out of the dark refrigerator and began the process of making some pretty primitive coffee for the two of them.  While he was doing this his wife pulled out a card table and a couple of chairs and set them up near the fireplace and got some coffee mugs and cream and sugar from the kitchen with a flashlight tucked under her arm to see by.

When the coffee started boiling George poured off a cup for each of them and after pouring the cream they drank.  George found the coffee surprisingly good.  A few grounds here and there but surprisingly good.  His wife went back in the kitchen and brought two plates with a slice of crumb cake on each; his favorite.  He laughed at this attempt at happiness in the face of catastrophe and so did she.  “Betty, you always manage to find the bright side of every atomic explosion” he said.  She smiled, “Well, it’s late and your blood sugar is probably low.  I don’t want us yelling at each other while the world is coming to an end.  So while we’re on the subject, why is the world coming to an end?”  George said one word, “Boghadair.”  She nodded and sipped some of her coffee, “Will the lights be coming on anytime soon?”  He savored a little more of the cake and shrugged his shoulders, “Hard to say.  We’re not on the same grid as the city.  I assume that when the city blacked out it caused balancing issues across the whole area and eventually they’ll break enough links to allow our area to come back up regardless of what’s happening in the city.  If I were to guess I’d say no more than another twelve hours but really it could be anytime now.”

And as he finished his sentence, the lights came on.  They both jumped.  And the various household devices; the refrigerator, the dishwasher and the air conditioning hummed back to life.  Almost as a reflex Chastain turned on the television.  At first there was a public service message telling them to remain calm.  But suddenly the picture shifted and there staring at them was Paul Connors.  His face was covered in bandages and scrapes and there was an angry fire in his eyes.  He said, “Earlier today, the former President of the United States attacked my people with a nuclear weapon.  Based on the suspicions we had over his past sociopathic behavior we had recently moved our base of operations far afield from the site of the bombing.  But the weapon was so powerful that thousands of our people were killed and enormous damage was done to our underground infrastructure.

In retaliation we performed a decapitation strike on President Miller and his regime.  Reconnaissance has confirmed the success of that action so don’t bother with any rescue operations around the White House.  In addition, we staged a carefully planned attack on a number of ICBM silos.  All of those weapons were successfully captured and moved to safe locations.  Our technicians will be able to reprogram them for our own use.  If another attack is made on our people we will respond in kind.  And know right now Washington DC will be first.  I will be in touch with the surviving members of the armed forces upper levels of command.  I will clarify with them exactly what actions would trigger a response.  Your job as citizens is to convince your state governments to begin a peace process that will allow my people to coexist with your governments.  Until new elections can be held the federal government will be … somewhat disorganized.  At the same time there may be those who desire to come after us because of our decisions and reactions.  I urge you to tell your state representatives to do everything in their power to discourage that desire from being acted upon.  I’ll leave you now.  Think about what I’ve said, carefully.”

The screen shifted to a reality show featuring some truly stupid celebrity living her useless life in a fifty-million-dollar Manhattan Upper East Side penthouse apartment.  Chastain found the remote and turned the television off.  And surprisingly, he suddenly felt relief.  In a sense, his problems had resolved themselves.  The burden of deciding whether to acquiesce in the treason committed by his superiors had been lifted.  They had been quite thoroughly punished and it appeared that a much higher pay grade than his would take up the case of Joseph Boghadair.  And assuming the United States federal government was still in business, he still had a job and wouldn’t be without a paycheck this month.

Betty looked into George’s face and said, “What should we do?”  George smiled and drank some more of his coffee and said, “Honey, we’re taking the day off tomorrow.  I’m sleeping until ten in the morning.  My boss is dead and his boss is dead and no one will figure out whether I am or not for a few days.  So, I’m going to sleep in and enjoy the morning.  What about ham and eggs for breakfast?”  She shook her head, “You’re a very strange man.  Okay, I’m too tired to think about it.  We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”  And they sat back, turned off the lights and watched the slowly dying fire before heading upstairs to sleep.

End of Chapter 13.

Link to Installment 20

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 18

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 13 – Reaction

When Connors’ orders began the migration of his personnel underground, Grace and her sons were also uprooted.  Their beautiful simulated bubble of an outdoor world would be swamped with tens of thousands of people migrating down into the far reaches of Connors’ realm.  The boys were sorely disappointed but Grace was not the kind of mom to let kids whine about things that couldn’t be helped.  So up they got and soon they and their scantest belongings were traversing the tunnels and passages of the underground world.

Their new quarters were a far cry from their former ones.  They had one room with ten cots that they shared with other as yet unseen future occupants and a kitchenette and something that would have to pass for a bathroom.  But they were grateful that it was in a cul-de-sac which meant that unlike many of the other residences it was not in the main footpath of those arriving hourly by the thousands.

By the end of their first day in their new quarters a semblance of normalcy had been re-established with Grace fixing some very basic provisions for their supper and the boys helping each other work on their homework assignments.

Then the lights went out.

When the lights went out it became very quiet because the ventilation had also stopped.  But quickly the tunnel began to fill up with the talking and shouting and even screaming of the panicking inhabitants.  And then the floor of the tunnel began to shake, knocking people and belongings to the floor.  Finally, a few seconds later, an enormous shock wave compressed the air around them and left them stunned and battered where they lay.

Sixty seconds after the onset of the event, emergency lighting snapped on.  It was dim and reddish colored but it relieved the sense of panic almost everyone felt when the lights first failed.  But it was very clear that the ventilation had not restarted.  Now, the air was in no way detectably less oxygenated at that point but after several people had announced that the ventilation system was stopped another panic ensued.  Looking out, Grace could hear shouting and see crowds of people surging back and forth in the corridor beyond their dead-ended area.  Suddenly two loud bangs and two flashes announced someone with a gun.  The crowd was shocked into silence.  She could hear a loud, gruff voice declare, “The next one of you stupid sons of bitches to run past me in a panic is getting shot.  Stop!”

Grace left the boys in their room and peaked out into the main corridor in time to see one of Connors’ lieutenants waving a big pistol around in the air and facing down the panicked crowd.  It was a retired military guy named David Tarent who had earlier handed them their room assignment.  As she watched he unlocked a box on the wall and lifted an old-fashioned telephone receiver from its cradle and punched in a number.  He spoke into the receiver some unintelligible words and hung up the phone.  Then he opened a much larger box revealing a panel of switches which he proceeded to work.  After resetting several of the switches he brought up a touchscreen, selected a number of squares on the screen and finally threw one more switch on the panel.  And like magic the normal lighting clicked on and the ventilation fan began to whir back to life.

Those panicked individuals who had so recently been cowed into silence now sent up a subdued cheer.  Grace could feel how tentative their celebration sounded.  Apparently those gun shots had made a robust impression.  She slowly walked over to Tarent and cleared her throat to announce herself before saying, “Mr. Tarent, thank you for your help.  Do you have any instructions that we should receive?”  He immediately recognized her and said, “Mrs. Boghadair, I don’t have all the details.  There is a lot of confusion right now and decisions are being made based on preliminary information.  But my instructions are to sit tight and break out the emergency supplies.  We’re using the emergency local ventilation system because there was a nuclear attack and all the emergency isolation locks have been closed.  Well, that is, wherever they still exist.  Some of the caves didn’t survive. At least based on what we know right now.  As far as I can tell we are in no immediate danger but everyone will have to wait until communications are fully restored and emergency plans have been formulated before we can spend a lot of time answering everyone’s questions.

She nodded, thanked him and returned to her children.  The words, “nuclear attack” kept replaying in her mind.  The unreality of all that she had been living with for the past months struck her powerfully.  Could all of this really be because of her husband and her father-in-law?  As real and as important as their personal tragedy was to her could it really be the cause of all this?  It seemed impossible but here they were with all that had happened and there was that phrase “nuclear attack.”  It was hard to interpret it any other way.

Pushing all of this down in her mind she concentrated on how to get through the next few days.  The boys were somewhat frightened but also curious about what was going on around them.  Her oldest, Joseph came over to her and said, “Mom, how long are we going to be here?”  She looked straight into her twelve-year-old son’s eyes and said, “I’m not sure Joey.  Maybe a long while.  Is something wrong?”  He looked over at his younger brothers and then back and said, “Well, when that gun went off and you went away the two little guys started crying so Billy started yelling at them, then Danny punched Billy and Billy punched him back so I yelled at Billy and he hit me in the shoulder so I punched him back and now everybody is mad.  And the little guys haven’t got any toys so they don’t know what to play and we all just want to get out of here.”  She shook her head and smiled wanly, “How did Zack manage to avoid the fight?”  Joey smiled back and said, “He didn’t.  He was hitting Danny before things got started.  But he’s always hitting Danny so I didn’t bother with that part.”  Grace walked over to the cots with Joey to where the other boys were sitting and gathered all four of them as close as she could in front of her, “Boys, I’m very sorry we have to be here.  I know this is pretty awful and boring and you’ve all been pretty good.  But later on I’ll talk to some of the other moms and we’ll organize something to get the kids together.  Maybe even some kind of classes.”  Zack covered his face with his hands, “No more school!  I’m sick of school.  Can’t we play sports?”  She looked sympathetically at her youngest and said, “Sure Zack, we’ll figure something out.  Just be a little more patient and we’ll work this out.  Can you really try not to fight while we’re here though?”  He nodded his head and she patted his shoulder.  Grace went back to the doorway and looked out at the corridor.  She could hear the sound of too many people with not enough to do worrying about things they couldn’t control.  And she thought, “How will Paul Connors manage to fix this?”

When the Air Force’s cruise missile entered the “Void” it was programmed to detonate as it approached the bottom of that mile by mile square shaft.  The unimaginable energy from the fission chain reaction of that device triggered the even less imaginable power of the fusion reaction which was then unleashed on the tunnel.  At the tunnel floor where the closest solid matter came in contact with that maelstrom of tortured subatomic particles and torrents of pure energy everything was converted into plasma and then reflected up out of the shaft.

The kinetic energy of that plasma propelled it out against the air in the shaft and the inability of that air to get out of its own way produced a shock wave of prodigious proportions.  Near the bottom of the shaft it transferred enormous energy into the surrounding rock creating a seismic wave that was felt for a thousand miles in all directions and shattered all the tunnels that had been built within fifty miles of the Void.  As the plasma ascended the shaft it melted the surface of the walls.  But even a thermonuclear device is finite and as it expanded the forces unleashed quickly mixed with more and more normal mass and the temperatures and pressures while still inhumanly high no longer threatened to defy the laws of ordinary nature.  And a mile square is an enormous cross-section.   Once the fire ball had reached the top of the shaft most of the power of the explosion had been transferred and the damage done.

Paul Connors and his team had long ago anticipated that someday the government might decide that sending a nuke down into the Void was a smart move.  And so most of his important assets and infrastructure had long ago migrated what he had thought would be a safe one hundred miles radius away from his original base of operation.  And once he had gotten all of his people below ground he had sealed the tunnels leading to the Void with solid rock for what he thought was a generous safety factor.

But a ten-megaton thermonuclear device had been an order of magnitude crazier than he had calculated his enemies to be.  And so portions of the nearest bases had been partially or totally destroyed.  Sitting in his new control room he looked out at the map of his underground world and he could see four of the forty locations blinking red.  Only one of those four had been reached by phone.  Casualties there had been seventy percent fatalities.  The other three locations had not been reached.  Teams had been sent to try rescue operations but he feared those caves were completely gone.

Based on the limited information he possessed there might be ten thousand people dead.  Connors felt awful grief and guilt.  But more strongly he felt an unquenchable desire for vengeance.  He had called a meeting of his lieutenants to plot out both the rescue plans and also offensive operations.  But first he needed to speak to Cutter and Boghadair.  He needed eyes and hands on the surface.  But contact to the surface had been knocked out by the blast.  His communication techs had finally created a work around by stringing together several networks that had other primary functions.  He put through the call and Mel’s face appeared on his screen.  She smiled and said, “Boy am I glad to see you but Bogey’s going mad worrying about his family.  Can you give me some good news about them?”

Connors was incensed at being interrogated by this impertinent AI when he had needed Cutter immediately but he suddenly realized that Bogey must be suffering the agonies of the damned while fearing for his family’s safety.  Losing his irritation he said, “Mel you can let Bogey know his family is safe and sound.  But I need Cutter right now.”  She nodded curtly and Cutter’s face took her place on the screen.  “How did she do that so quickly?” he wondered.  But he shook off the train of thought and acknowledged his collaborator.  “I’m gonna need you and Bogey to pull some rabbits out of a hat.  I lost ten thousand of my people and I intend to end this thing now.”

Cutter nodded, “Whatever you need.  We have to finish this off before they figure out they haven’t finished us off.”  Connors held up a sheet of paper and said, “I’ve posted a timetable with your action items.  Basically I need you to use whatever surveillance you can muster to confirm the locations of the hit list tonight.  Anyone outside of DC will have to be ignored for now.  But I need the addresses of all those in the city.  We’re gonna go for a clean sweep.  I’ve been hoping to avoid a lot of collateral damage but their attack tonight has forced my hand.  Now it has to be this way.

Cutter scanned the document on his screen and replied, “Connors, I want you to add a few additional targets.  It’s time to take out the intelligence agencies’ data acquisition, analysis and storage assets.  These assets have allowed the feds to control and persecute anyone who objected to their Orwellian methods.  Taking them out at this point will disorient and panic them even further.”  Connors thought for a second, “I’ll add them on but they’ll have to trail the rest of the list.  I assume they’re not extremely time sensitive.”  “Sure, sure.  Anytime today or tomorrow will have the same effect” replied Cutter.

Connors tried to read Cutter’s cryptic expression and said, “Alright.  Are you prepared to fall back to one of my safe houses if they come for you and Bogey?”  Cutter smiled, “I think if you get fifty percent of the names on your list we can stop worrying about their hit squads.  Oh, by the way, remove Chastain from your list.  He’s been fired by his various bosses.  At this point he’ll be on the sidelines and might be useful in the aftermath as a building block for the rebuilding of the federal government.”

Connors shook his head.  “You’re three steps ahead of where we are.  Let’s just get through this day.”  Suddenly Bogey appeared on a new window, “Connors, you said my family was safe, Can I talk to Grace?”  Connors shook his head, “Not yet Bogey.  She’s in a remote location that we haven’t reconnected with.  They’ve got power, food and water but communications is relegated to an old fashioned telephone line that we haven’t interconnected to anything but an emergency system.  I’ll have something set up in a day or so but right now be assured she’s safe and far away from any threat.”

Chapter 13 continues after this.

Link to Installment 19

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 17

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 12 – Action

George Chastain took a flight to see his boss and the rest of the president’s cabinet.  He explained that he had identified the organization that was behind Boghadair’s operation and he had plugged the leak that allowed this group to penetrate the FBI’s data collection and communication systems.  The meeting was long and contentious.  The president kept shouting, “Send in the army and capture everyone with any link to this “Typhoon” Industries.  We can’t take any chances.”  The attorney general was more cautious.  He wanted the army to back a deployment of FBI agents, a few thousand strong, and proceed cautiously to avoid the appearance of ham-handedness, “We’ll always have the army there in case they put up major resistance but escalating immediately to tanks is very poor optics.”  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded the president that stronger options were always available if things got out of hand, up to and including a nuclear option.  This caught the president’s attention immediately but the secretary of state warned him immediately that foreign adversaries would pounce on such an action as proof that the American government had become unhinged.  He admonished the chairman for even mentioning such an escalation.  But the president had a gleam in his eye that meant he was fixating on this idea.

Finally, a plan was approved.  Federal agents backed by national guard troops would raid all of the Typhon Industries locations and all properties owned by Connors and arrest everyone in a management position on criminal conspiracy charges.  And everyone else associated with these sites would be questioned and investigated including spouses and grown children.  All of Connors’ properties and assets would be seized and all documents and data would be combed through for evidence and to locate the remaining members of the organization, especially Boghadair and Melissa Cutterson.  Chastain had assured the president that within a few days, the threat would be contained because even if Boghadair remained at large, without his support network he would be unable to attempt to target government officials without being caught.  At the end of the meeting the president said, “Chastain, this will be your only chance to succeed.  If you fail, I’m handing it over to the military.  And they won’t fail me.”  Walking out of the meeting Chastain thought, “Cowardly moron.  I hope he gets you.”  But then he began planning the raids.

Three days later he had all the resources staged and was ready to spring the trap.  He planned to be part of the raiding party at the main company headquarters.  The caravan of law enforcement split up and closed off all of the trunk roads entering and leaving the small town.  No one could get in or out.  The raiding party found the doors locked at the headquarters.  They quickly breached them with an armored vehicle and the SWAT teams went in with flash grenades at every corner and automatic weapons bristling.  And they found … no one.

The raiding parties all found the same thing.  Every building was empty and every manager’s house was too.  In fact, when they began to check they found that every regular employee and their families were gone too.  These were many thousands of people.  How many were gone wasn’t exactly clear because they found not a single record.  Every hard drive had been removed and there were no paper documents to be found.

But that’s not completely correct.  There was one paper document, a letter.  There was an envelope on Connor’s desk addressed “George Chastain.”  This was sent to the lab and tested for toxins and biological agents but came up clean.  It simply read:

Dear George,

Sorry we couldn’t have stayed to greet you but my people don’t belong in jail.  They’re decent human beings.  Joseph Boghadair is a very good friend of mine and I support him in his mission to bring his son’s killers to justice.  If you get in his way while he performs this work you may get hurt.

Tell your masters that they no longer have any legitimate authority over us and if they come after us then we’ll do the same.  And warn them if they value the lives of their people, they had better not endanger the lives of mine.  We can defend ourselves very effectively.

Yours truly,

Paul Connors

(King of the Mole Men)

 

Chastain thought about this last line, “A joke?  A reference to the underground technology they utilized?”  He got in touch with the other teams to find out if any of them had had more luck.  The team that had gone out to the mine site had something important to report.  Where the buildings surrounding the mine shaft had been, there were now only some holes in the earth at least a few hundred feet deep with building debris at their bottoms.  Standing near these holes the agents could feel significant heat radiating up at them.  The huge mine entrance was an enormous enigma to the men looking into it.  Its lightless depths were frightening but nothing on its rim or visible walls showed any irregularities from recent activity.  But eventually the men began to move farther from the rim.  Its proximity unnerved them.

Chastain made the trip to investigate this evidence and it confirmed his fears.  Connors had taken his people in their tens of thousands and had vanished from the face of the Earth.  Somehow he had amassed the incredible resources necessary to feed and shelter those multitudes underground.  This was a staggering thought.  But it also meant that in the short term he couldn’t hope to use Connors to get information on Boghadair.  He had to hope that Cutterson was still a trail he could follow back to the sniper.

He dreaded the call he would have to send to the attorney general.  The president was practically irrational with fear and this setback would set him off.  Chastain wasn’t even sure if they would keep him on the search but he began to plan what steps he would tell the attorney general should be undertaken next to find Cutterson and Boghadair.  He spent the ride back to the airport on the phone with his team and later with his boss.  He pointedly did not mention Connors’ letter with the attorney general.

 

 

 

When Boghadair returned to Cutter’s base they noticed a profound change in the man.  Later on, Mel asked Cutter, “Is this the real Bogey?  I normally got at most three words a day that weren’t mission critical.  Now he’s talking to me about his grandkids and I’m not even a real woman!”  Cutter looked up from his coffee at the monitor and said, “I hope it hasn’t affected his focus on the mission.  From now on we’re gonna be threading the needle every time we walk out the door.  There’s no room for error and no place for emotions.”  Mel scowled at the old scientist, “Well, show a sliver of humanity, you old crank.  Just because we don’t have any family doesn’t mean it’s a crime to be happy.”  He stared at her image and considered this outburst.  Had he consciously included this in her programming?  Had she “learned it from her contact with human behavior?  It was strange.  She often now surprised him with her reactions to human behavior.  He must look into all this after the crisis.  That is, if there were an after.

“Mel, don’t get distracted by the human side of all this.  We’re skating on the razor’s edge.  We don’t dare deviate by a hair’s breadth.  You’re my eyes and ears.  Stick to the plan down to the letter.”  For once, she seemed to accept his warning.  She silently nodded her head and disappeared from the monitor.

Later on Bogey joined Cutter at his control panel and gave him his thoughts on the briefings he’d had with Connors, “Connors thinks we have to finish off the rest of our list all at once to prevent the feds from getting us first.”  Cutter asked, “Do you agree?”  Bogey nodded, “Yeah, I do.  He convinced me that eventually our luck will run out.”  Cutter nodded, “In fact it kinda already has.  We got wind of Chastain’s discovery of Connors’ link to you and barely got his entire organization underground before the SWAT teams arrived at his headquarters.  We’re going to have to accelerate the decapitation strike plan immediately.  And we’ll be flying a lot blinder and with less cover.  Chastain has shut down some of our back doors to his surveillance and communication systems.  We’re going to be taking much bigger risks from now on.”

This caught Bogey by surprise, “Are Grace and the boys alright?”  Cutter nodded his head, “You know they were already underground before anything started.  Connors has been planning for this eventuality for a very long time.  Everything is under control.  But if you want we can call Connors through the link I have to his command center.”  With worry still in his eyes Bogey said, “Yeah, I really would like to hear it from Connors personally.”

Cutter opened up a panel on his main monitor and pretty soon Connors face appeared, “Cutter, Bogey, what’s up?”  Cutter replied, “Bogey wanted to find out how his family was doing in the midst of the evacuation from the surface.”  Connors image nodded, “Bogey, Grace and the kids are here with me.  We’ve had to rearrange things a good deal to accommodate the evacuation but they’re fine and we’ll make sure they stay that way.”

Bogey began to reply when Connors’ image disappeared leaving a black rectangle on the large screen.  Cutter started swearing under his breath and punching keys trying to restore the link.  But suddenly Mel’s image filled the large monitor and said, “You’ve got to see this.  This is a satellite feed from thirty seconds ago over Connors’ base.”  A night time satellite view of whole state suddenly erupted into a stab of pure white light that overexposed the exact location of the main shaft.  Cutter and Bogey immediately knew exactly what they were witnessing, the flash from a nuclear detonation.  The feds had nuked Connors’ base.  Cutter exclaimed in hushed tones, “The crazy murderous bastards, they actually did it.”  When he looked at Bogey he saw a man with a look of horror on his face, “Cutter, we killed Grace and the kids.”

End of Chapter 12.

Link to Installment 18

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 16

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 11 –  Sifting

George Chastain had been given all the resources that his former boss, the late Director Sparks, had promised.  The Attorney General had temporarily assigned Chastain as his direct report until such time as a replacement for Sparks could be appointed.  And honestly no expense or effort was being spared.  He felt confident that if he asked for a division of infantry or martial law to be implemented over half the country it would be granted.  That’s how scared the upper echelons were.  Currently he had something close to ten thousand government personnel working on his three task forces.  In addition he had the complete cooperation of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley helping his cyber team to hunt down the source of the leaked information and the cyber-attacks that had occurred as part of the Boghadair war.  And all of this cyber stuff was a black box to Chastain.  In a rudimentary way he understood what the team was attempting to do.  They were sifting for evidence of the attacker’s methodology so they could set a trap for him.  That was enough for him to know.  As for the team investigating the destruction of the FBI headquarters, the government had recruited demolition and mining experts to investigate the crime scene and figure out how it was done and hopefully by whom.  This was also not his field of expertise but he trusted the scientists on the staff and their contractors to get to the bottom of this attack.

What Chastain was concentrating on was the manhunt for Boghadair.  Between the gathering of physical evidence and the profiling of the criminal he was in his element.  Chastain had studied all of the information that was available about Boghadair and he was horrified by the what he found.  Boghadair wasn’t a criminal at all.  The man was a highly decorated war hero who had lived a blameless life and who apparently had been the victim of a government program that employed the dregs of society as street enforcers during political theater that served the purposes of Chastain’s bosses.  He had analyzed enough of Cutter’s “evidence” to see that color revolution tactics and false flag operations had been unleashed on the US population and Boghadair had been at ground zero for one of the worst outrages of this program.

But regardless of Chastain’s sympathies he believed that what Boghadair and his associates were doing threatened to destroy the United States government and throw the whole nation into chaos.  For this reason he saw it as his legitimate duty to find Boghadair and stop this reign of terror.  But the problem was how.  Boghadair was like a wraith.  For such a large man he seemed to just appear at each of his targets and disappear just as quickly.  He seemed to leave no record on the myriad of video cameras that were now scattered everywhere.  He moved from one side of the country to the other without showing up at bus stations, airports, train depots or even showing up on the cameras of gas stations.  And he didn’t live anywhere either.  Chastain had combed the rental properties near each of the attacks and there wasn’t a trace of anyone even slightly resembling Boghadair.

Part of this, Chastain attributed to Boghadair’s IT partners.  Some extremely high-powered tech was being used to erase or fake all of this surveillance evidence.  But that couldn’t explain it all.  Police surveillance of roads and rail transportation had reached a point where facial recognition alone would have spotted Boghadair coming or going from the cities that he had attacked.  Chastain was convinced that Boghadair was working with an organization with truly massive resources and capabilities.  And he believed searching for this organization was the key to finding Boghadair.  And that was exactly the direction he took.  And between the resources he could bring to bear to analyze data and his own skills as an investigator that’s exactly what he did.

Chastain concentrated on the time period between the death of Boghadair’s son and the first attack.  At the beginning of this interval Boghadair was easy enough to trace.  His car trips and phone records placed him in the vicinity of his home and he was easy to track.  But a few weeks before the first attack all of the phone records ended and his car sat idle in his driveway.  The last data point was a piece of video footage from a bus station about a hundred miles from his home that showed a very disheveled Boghadair paying cash for a bus ticket.  When Chastain had someone check on the bus company records it was believed that the ticket was a long distance route that went all the way to Columbus Ohio with transfers in Montana, Minnesota and Chicago.  There was no record of any transfers so, somewhere between Boghadair’s home and Billings, Montana he must have gotten off.  So Billings became the center of a circle that Chastain drew.

To be safe he started with a 500-mile diameter with Billings at its center.  He did a search for every business entity and organization that had a presence inside that circle.  Then he eliminated all the entities that the US government controlled either outright or through infiltration by its agents.  All the tech companies were accounted for as were the Fortune 500 companies that toed the government’s line on virtually everything they specified.  Then he eliminated any group that was obviously too small to pull off the stuff that Boghadair had done.  When he got finished there were no names left on the list.  So all the candidates were either too small or too controlled to do what he was looking for.  “Georgie boy you’re making a mistake” he told himself.  “Either someone is not as controlled as you think or something’s not as small as it seems.”

He scratched the beard stubble where his side burns would be and considered the problem.  He decided that a company to fit his profile would be more likely to hide its size than it would be able to hide its independence.  So he looked at companies to see if any had something to hide.  He looked for companies that caused problems.  And then he hit pay dirt.  Whenever there was an investigation of an irregularity by the IRS or the EPA or the EEOC of a company that was doing things its own way and required all kinds of variances and special reporting, nine times out of ten it would involve, in some way, a connection to Typhon Industries.  And the more he looked at Typhon the more he became convinced there was something really big going on with it.  There were just too many threads attached to too many other small businesses to make any sense for such a small company.  It was a web of connections.  It was a network that included a multitude of products and services serving a shockingly large number of people.

And just to follow the trail from the other direction he looked for a link back to Boghadair and of course he found one.  Typhon had an arrangement with a local retailer that had a contract with Boghadair’s freight company.  In fact it turned out something like 40% of Boghadair’s income was provided by this contract.  Chastain knew he had his link.  He had found the hidden hand.

And now he analyzed the personnel in Typhon.  The owner was a man named Paul Connors.  Connors was something of an enigma.  He had various connections to the government through his work on software development and artificial intelligence but he was surprisingly independent when it came to providing information on his operation.  He had been the subject of investigation by half a dozen government agencies but none of these inquiries had made much progress pinning down their subject.  That alone should have raised enormous red flags already.  And this intrigued Chastain.  No one could hide from the bureaucracy.  Just trying to resist the probing eye of Big Brother would inevitably bring the whole weight of the federal bureaucracy crashing down on the rebel.  Something extremely strange was going on.  It was as if Connors had infiltrated the US government and was controlling the information that was being reported on him.

And, of course, that focused on the final piece of the puzzle.  The cyber attacks and the leaked video footage.  Connors had a mole in the Justice Department.  But this mole either had a cadre of people working for him or he was an IT genius.  Now he was in a quandary again.  Chastain was not tech savvy.  Sure he could maneuver around the programs and applications that had been given to him to use but he had not the slightest expertise with any of this cyber stuff.  “Damn, stupid, hacking crap, kid stuff!” he exclaimed to himself.

He would have to trust someone in that lane to figure out what was going on.  But how could he know whom to trust?  He might be confiding in his enemy.  And that gave him another thought.  He would test his IT resources by feeding each of them different misinformation and see which one triggers a response.  He didn’t like this strategy.  He would be sowing confusion in his own organization.  But now that he was starting to see what he was up against he needed a way to get ahead of the curve and cut off the enemy’s intel at the source.  Plus, if he could capture the tech specialist Boghadair would be extremely vulnerable during an operation.  They might be able to unwind the whole network at once.  That would simplify the mop up.

So Chastain looked at his organizational chart for the IT operation.  At the top were the managers who took credit for the work that their technicians accomplished.  He ignored those names.  They were placeholders who knew nothing about the actual work.  Looking through the reports that had been produced he clicked on a number of attachments and was surprised that all of them were produced by the same analyst, a contractor listed as Melissa Cutterson.  “Something about that name” he thought.  He looked at her picture in the file and saw that she appeared to be a relatively young woman and he conceded quite attractive.  This seemed quite unusual based on his experience with IT departments.  And now all his instincts were telling him something seemed very wrong.  All the investigators on the IT side seemed to be using the same technical contractor for all their substantive investigating.  How could these idiots not see that they were being led around by the nose?  How possibly could he be the only one to recognize this?  And then it came to him.  None of them were technically qualified to do their jobs.  The contractor was the only one able to understand the systems and do the work.  We were being led to the slaughter by the enemy already running our computer systems.

Chastain was bowled over by this insight.  What the hell was he supposed to do first?  His first instinct was to arrest Cutterson.  He called up the head of the IT team, Travers, and told him to report to his office.  When the man arrived he told him they would be going for a walk.  Once they were a couple of blocks away from the office building he leaned against a light pole and asked him, “Travers, where is Melissa Cutterson working from?”  Travers, cleared his throat and said, “Well she works remotely.”  Chastain restrained the urge to scream at his subordinate and strangled out the words, “That is not an answer.  Where on this planet does this woman physically reside?”  Travers looked down and said, “We know she’s definitely within the limits of the North American continent.  That’s certain.”

Chastain just shook his head for a few seconds, “Travers, if these were normal times I’d have you fired immediately.  But these are far from normal times.  First of all understand that Cutterson is probably the mole in our network.  Now I know that you are a lazy fool but concentrate carefully on what I tell you.  Don’t change anything in your behavior toward Cutterson.  But make damn sure you follow every order I give you to the letter or I’ll make it a priority to have you prosecuted for criminal stupidity.”  Travers gulped and nodded his head.  “And understand that she has access to everything you communicate by e-mail, phone or any other electronic device that our surveillance systems monitor.  And that includes video cameras and sound recording devices.  Anything that you need to tell me about her must be done the way we are currently operating here.  Away from the building and hopefully out of range of video surveillance equipment.  Do you understand that?  Or should I break it down into words of only one syllable?”  Travers looked down and shook his head.  Chastain walked away from his subordinate and headed back to his office.

When he got back to his desk Chastain actually felt a little less panicked.  He hadn’t figured out the details of his plan but he knew who his enemies were and how they had been so successful.

*********

Later that day back in Cutter’s control room Mel appeared on one of Cutter’s monitors.  She looked at him and said, “He’s figured it out.”  Cutter nodded and asked, “Has he figured out Connors yet?”  “Yeah, he was reviewing the business records that deal with Connors’ contract with Bogey.  So what’s our next step O Great Wise Exalted One?”  Cutter replied, “Just follow the plan.  He’s going to do predictable things.  We won’t.”  Mel’s image looked doubtful, “Okay boss.  But you’re beginning to put worry lines on this classically beautiful face.”  Then her image faded to black.

Cutter started typing, “We’ve begun Phase II of the operation.  Expect incoming from now on.”  He punched the enter key and took a deep breath.  Good men were going to die soon and nothing could be done to prevent it.  He only hoped that it wouldn’t be for nothing.  Then he went to Bogey’s room and filled him in on the Chastain situation.

***********

Connors looked at the message on his screen, “We’ve begun Phase II of the operation.  Expect incoming from now on.”  He sighed deeply and began issuing orders to all of his senior staff.  The plans had been put in place long since but somehow they had never felt real until this very moment.  And suddenly he felt like he was betting everything and everyone’s future and everyone’s life on a desperate gambit.  He was racked with doubt.  But he also knew it was way too late to do anything else.  He was committed up to his eyebrows and the wheels were already turning.  And once that second thought hit home he started to feel a little better.  There was plenty to do and it was hard to dwell on the future when the present has you doing twenty new things every minute or so.

Connors left his desk and walked out of the building into the late afternoon sun.  Already he could see people queueing up at the freight elevators headed down into the Earth.  And it occurred to him that some might never see the sun again.  Then he went back in the office and continued monitoring the exodus and the other preparations for Phase II.  It would be a very long day.

************

The next day Chastain reached out to a friend in the Pentagon, a General Parsons.  He arranged a face to face meeting and he described the situation with the IT mole.  The general was able to put together a task force to perform some cybersurveillance on Melissa Cutterson.  The mission was to figure out how much damage Cutterson had done to the FBI surveillance system and repair it.  And just as important they were to locate Cutterson and attack that position.  If possible she would be captured but if necessary a body would suffice.

Next he visited the team investigating the FBI building collapse.  The head of the team, Carl Dreisser was a mining engineering expert who contracted with both industry and government as an expert witness on demolitions and mining accidents.  He was a tall thin man with a noticeable limp and a high weak voice, “Mr. Chastain, I’ve concluded my investigation and you aren’t going to like what I have to say.”  Chastain smiled.  Here was an honest man.  “Mr. Dreisser nothing about this incident is to my liking.  But if you have drawn any conclusions on how the disaster occurred, then I’ll be in an improved situation and that will suit me.”

Dreisser nodded, “That building was undermined completely in just under an hour and then detonated remotely at someone’s signal.”  Chastain thought about what he was told, “Is that difficult?”  “No,” said Dreisser, “it’s impossible.”  Chastain smiled wryly and said, “Well that’s no problem, I encounter a new impossible event every day on this case.  But please clarify.  Why is it impossible?”

Dreisser got up from his desk and walked over to a white board.  He sketched a fairly neat picture of the FBI building.  He added in an underground layer in cross hatching and put some dimensions on the drawing and then began to talk, “The amount of solid rock that would have had to have been removed from underneath this building in one hour couldn’t be done by any tunneling equipment that I’ve ever heard of in less than two months and that’s leaving out safety concerns.  It just can’t be done.”  Chastain put his hand up to silence the other man. “Don’t tell me it’s impossible, tell me how they made it possible.”  Dreisser stepped away from the board, “They have perfected equipment that tunnels and removes the spoil a thousand times faster than the current state of the art I’m aware of.  That’s the only thing I can come up with.”  Chastain nodded his head, “Alright, if someone possessed such machines what advantages would it give him in industry?”  Dreisser shook his head, “It’s very hard to say but undoubtedly his ability to produce extremely long or deep tunnels would be immeasurably improved.  He could recover enormous quantities of minerals in a short time and as you can see this technology would revolutionize war by allowing an army to undermine an enemy position.  That would be a disastrous capability.”

After signing off on Dreisser’s invoice Chastain left the building and started the drive back to his office.  He thought, “How the hell has this Connors guy slipped below the radar for so long?  What else does he have up his sleeve, ray guns?”  When he got back to his desk there was a message from Parsons.  It said, “Have located the backdoors that were used by Cutterson to hack the FBI systems.  All have been shut down.  Your breach is now secured.  Still working on Cutterson location.”  That elicited a huge sigh of relief from Chastain and he starting planning how he would modify the IT team.  He planned on finding a replacement for Travers as soon as possible.  He’d have to ask Parsons to loan him some personnel.

Then he noticed an e-mail in his inbox.  It had one of those ridiculous strings of alphanumerics for a name and the subject line was Cutterson Exit Interview.  He opened it up and there was a photo of Cutterson waving goodbye and a link that read “face-to-face.”  With unbearable curiosity he clicked it.  A video-conferencing software screen opened up and he was looking at Melissa Cutterson.  She smiled and said, “Hey your camera is off.  I’d activate it but they cut all my controls inside your little world.”  Thinking the risk was worth the chance to learn something he turned on his camera.  “That’s better.  Your picture looks a lot younger.  Special Agent in Charge Chastain you should get more rest, you look very tired.”  Chastain felt surprisingly amused by this flippant banter about his health, “Young lady I’m sorry to say that you should be a lot more concerned about your own well being.  You are involved in a crime of enormous consequence and it is decidedly uncertain that you will survive what is to follow.  We will be using every avenue available to us to find and neutralize your friend Boghadair and his associates and unless you surrender yourself very soon you have a very high likelihood of being killed during the operation.”  On the monitor Mel shook her head and said, “I heard from someone who knew you that you used to be an honest cop.  Well if you still are, then tell me if you honestly think you’re on the right side?  Your side murders innocent Americans.  Is that what you took an oath to uphold?  Maybe instead of worrying about me being killed you should worry about what happens if you live through all this and have to explain your part in it.”

Chastain felt his face freeze up and he couldn’t answer.  The AI continued, “Well think about it a little Mr. Chastain because when the dust settles maybe you may be sorry for the side you picked, at least when you go to sleep at night.  I’m proud of the people I’m working with.  They’re fighting evil.  You’re helping it.”  And the connection was broken.

Chastain sat at his desk for the better part of an hour and thought about her words.  It was if she had read his thoughts.  He knew she was right.  But how could he battle the United States government.  That was an impossibility.  But then again how many impossible things had he seen lately?  Back and forth his mind turned.  Finally, too tired to think anymore, he walked away from his desk just as it was and headed home.

End of Chapter 11.

 

Link to Installment 17

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 15

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 10 – The Boghadairs (Continued)

The next day Bogey packed some clothes and other incidentals and loaded a pair of handguns and headed out of the tunnel at about 4am.  He had gone over his itinerary with Mel and the AI had thrown some cheery abuse at him as he headed for the door.  Outside he walked to the station where one of Connors’ transports would be waiting.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t one of the smaller personnel carriers.  It was an ore freighter.  He could see the ripples of heat radiating off the walls of the vehicle.  It looked old and very beat up and the driver looked sort of the same.  When he saw Bogey he gave a nod and waved him to hurry up.  Apparently there was a schedule he was trying to keep.  The driver’s cab of the freighter wasn’t built for comfort but there was more than enough room for the two men and the a/c was successful at dissipating the heat that soaked through the walls of the cab from the cargo behind.  In fact, it was a bit chilly for Bogey’s taste.  Being acquainted from several trips together the two men shot the breeze about current events.  They both consciously avoided the subject of how Bogey’s mission was impacting the world outside.  Most of their discussions were about the recent terrible weather.  It had been a rough winter with brutally cold temperatures and historic snowfalls.  The driver raised the opinion that it had to do with solar output decreasing.  Bogey thought it was “weather.”  This rankled the driver and they had a rather heated discussion about what constituted a “scientific expert.”  Finally they agreed to disagree and Bogey questioned the driver on the latest developments inside Connors’ underground world.  This got him going, “Connors’ been increasing the scope of a lot of his activities.  There must be two or three times as many men working underground now than we had last year.  We’re always stepping on each other’s toes.  And this is even though we’ve been working at breakneck speed to triple and quadruple the amount of cubic that we have for storage and work space.  Something really big is going on but nobody knows what it is.  It’s got everybody sort of jumpy.”

After this the two men quieted down and just marked time and drank some coffee that the driver had in a thermos.  Finally the freighter pulled into the air lock that sat in front of Connors’ home base and a few minutes later they were in the station.  Bogey shook the driver’s hand, put his pack on his back and headed up to the elevators and following Mel’s instructions punched in the level for Connors’ office.  This wasn’t the building on the surface that Bogey had visited on his previous trips to Connors’ operation.  This was part of the underground facility.  Following the directions he found himself facing a young man behind a desk who was also wearing a sidearm.  Bogey could see that his own weapons were front and center on the man’s radar but that he was studiously maintaining a neutral posture.  “I was told that open carry was normal in this area” Bogey said.  The young man nodded and smiled, “Yes, but you seem to be expecting grizzly bears based on those cannons you’re wearing.”  “Something like that” Bogey replied, “but if it’s a problem I can leave them here.”  The receptionist shook his head, “Mr. Connors specifically warned me to not bother you about weapons.  I was just noticing, that’s all.  You can go right in.  You’re expected Mr. Boghadair.”

Bogey nodded and walked up to the door and entered.  Connors was standing in front of an enormous touch screen monitor and with a pointer and his fingers he was manipulating icons on an enormous map.  He was also talking to the display and his words were being added as notes on the map.  When Bogey closed the door Connors spun on his heel and the whole display went black.

“Bogey!”  The man covered the fifty feet between them in a few bounds and was shaking Bogey’s hand and slapping him on the shoulder like a long-lost brother.  “It’s good to see you.”  Bogey was a bit overwhelmed by the energy, “It’s good to see you too Connors.  I hope I didn’t interrupt anything.  That display looked like something important.”  Connors snorted, “Everything’s important.  That’s my problem.  I’m like a chainsaw juggler.  Everything is life and death.  But to hell with it.  Let’s go see Grace and your grandsons.  That’s something worthwhile.”

Bogey stored his guns and belt in his pack and they left the office.  Connors gave his assistant a sentence or two to keep the world from collapsing while he was gone and they headed to the elevator bank.  Connors punched in some letters and numbers and the car headed down.  They got out and walked down a very long stone corridor and through a heavy metal door.  And on the other side of the door was outside!  Or at first it looked like the surface.  Actually it was an enormous cave with the ceiling painted sky blue.  The illusion of being outdoors soon faded when he could see the far wall about a thousand feet away.  But the light level simulated a sunny day.  It was a huge hemispherical space.  But it was so much less claustrophobic than the tunnels of the rest of Connors’ base that it might as well be the surface.  The floor was covered in stone and live grass.  They walked toward the center of the circle and there sitting on a picnic blanket was Bogey’s family.  Grace was wearing a checked shirt and jeans and her hair was up in a pony tail and the boys were eating sandwiches that she was making.  Baseball gloves were on the ground nearby and it was clear they were enjoying lunch after a game.

When the boys saw Bogey approaching, they dropped their food and ran at him like a pack of wild animals.  The huge man gathered all four of the little boys up in his arms then dropping to his knees began wrestling the four of them.  The sound level was astounding as they kept shouting and fighting him until their mother finally interceded to bring order to the proceedings.  After the mother settled the boys back on their blanket she approached her father in law.  “It’s good to see you Gracie” Bogey said with a half-smile.  His daughter in law nodded and tried to smile but got choked up and ran and threw her arms around him and started to cry.  While Bogey tried to comfort her with his hand on her shoulder, Connors collected up the boys and took them off in the distance to continue their game of catch.

The woman let go of Bogey collected herself and wiped her eyes on her shirt sleeve and managed a smile for him, “It’s good to see you Joseph, the boys have missed you and so have I.  Your friend Connors has been a guardian angel for us.  First he moved us to a beautiful house in the country and now he’s moved us into Disneyland.”  Bogey looked around and said, “This is ridiculous, isn’t it.  But he’s not the King of the Mole Men for nothing.”  Grace shook her head and narrowed her eyes, “Depend on you to make fun of someone who moves Heaven and Earth to help you, you big lummox!”  Joseph laughed out loud for maybe the first time since that terrible day, “You win, he’s the Emperor of the Mole Men.”  And Grace laughed too.  Grace and Bogey sat on the blanket and caught up a little on what the boys were learning and whose teeth were falling out, whose birthday was coming up.  Bogey always said he couldn’t keep track of them and so he just gave all of them gifts from time to time to cover up his sins.  “Joseph, how does this all end?”  “Oh, Gracie, I’m just living on borrowed time right now.  If Connors hadn’t worked me into his crazy world I’d already be long dead and a footnote on the crime page as lone gunman commits suicide by cop.  But now I’ve got a path forward to accomplish the thing I need to do.  Before this is all over they’re going to hunt me down and I’ll make them kill me.  But I’ll rest easy knowing I got some of my own back.  I’m just glad Connors is keeping his promise and watching out for you and the boys.”

She thought about his words and said, “Then this may be the last time we see you.  Please tell the boys anything you think they should know about their dad before you go this weekend, anything I don’t know.  I want them to be proud of him.  And you.”  He nodded.  She looked up and said, “Well, it looks like the boys have worn Paul’s arm out.  We better go join them.”  Bogey squinted his eyes at his daughter in law, “Paul?  Are you and Connors getting chummy?”  Grace gave him a derisive look and said, “Paul is as polite as a preacher, when the time comes when I’m ready to think about finding a new dad for the boys I’ll size him up if that’s an option.  But right now we’re his favorite charity and he’s too busy to pay me any attention.  Besides you know I can handle myself.  But all the same, what kind of man is he?”

Bogey smiled a little at Grace and said slightly sarcastically, “He’s a nerd, of course.”  But as nerds go he’s a straight shooter.  And he keeps his promises.  Of course, he’s not sweet on me so I can’t comment on his courting technique.  I’ll leave that to you Gracie.  But he’s a good man.  I’ve got no objections.”  Grace nodded her head but there was a little embarrassment showing on her face as she looked away from Bogey.  He thought about that look but didn’t say anything more.  They walked over to the boys and Connors who looked grateful he could stop throwing the ball.

Bogey spent a good chunk of the next two days horsing around with his grandsons.  He told them war stories and stories about their dad’s early life and about their grandmother and how much she had loved them all before she passed away and he told them a very little about why he hadn’t been around.  This was difficult and confusing for them but he decided he had to tell them enough so that if things ended up as they probably would they wouldn’t be completely blindsided.  But mostly he asked them about their lives since he had left and what things they were doing.  He asked about this strange place they were living in and how they spent their days.  He asked them if they ever got to the surface and they said, no, so far, they hadn’t.  And toward the end of his stay he gave them his war memorabilia.  He gave them his medals and the citations that went along with them.  On the last day he gave Grace and the boys some last hugs and a silver dollar to each boy and headed back up to the level where Connors office was located.

When he got to the antechamber the same armed receptionist was on duty.  This time there was no tension and he was waved toward Connors’ door without any preamble.  The door was open and he walked in.  Connors was standing next to the coffee machine with a mug in his hand and it almost looked like an ad for a coffee company.  Connors nodded at the door and Bogey closed it behind him.

Connors offered and Bogey declined on the coffee and the two men sat down at a small table off to the side of the huge desk and settled.  “I hope your visit with your family was enjoyable.”  Bogey nodded, “Grace and the boys are doing well.  I am eternally grateful for that.  And that cave, amazing.  Apparently there’s no end to the rabbits you can pull out of your hat Connors.  That giant cave is unbelievable.  I won’t even ask how it could have been done.”  Connors smiled, “It’s good you don’t ask.  I have no idea how it was made.  My technicians assure me it’s basically a natural result that we just exposed when we were extracting minerals.  I’m sure there were some reinforcements that were added for the sake of safety but for all intents and purposes it was there before we came.  But we’re not here to talk speleology.  I need you to understand more about the big picture so you can integrate your work with it.  I think you’ll agree that I was honest with you when I said that Cutter would truly aid you in your work.  He has helped you to achieve the goals you wanted.”

“Cutter is a genius.  I wanted to kill someone to get revenge for Robert.  Cutter turned the mission into a surgical scalpel for cutting out a cancer in the United States government.  His ability to plan incredibly complicated operations is close to impossible.  I know he has artificial intelligence helping him but it’s as if it were part of him.  I have to trust my life to his plans and timing and so far it’s like a flawless machine noiselessly producing results.”

Connors smiled, “Well he speaks highly of you too but all this magic won’t be enough if it leads to an endpoint where all of us are dead or in prison.  And that’s a tall order.  I’ve shown you a bit of what I’ve built.  There are about one million people now associated in my operations.  That’s counting the families of the men who work for me and form the cooperative communities I’ve formed.  That’s a lot of people.  But we’re taking on an organization that has about twice that number of men under arms and also includes thousands of nuclear weapons and a full panoply of modern weaponry.  I probably don’t have to tell you how absurd our mission is.  So our only hope is secrecy and a decapitation strike before we’re discovered.  So every day that we delay that strike brings us closer to the point where the feds find me and take our whole operation out.  Because of that Bogey I need you to shift gears and coordinate your actions with my plan.  So what I’m asking you is have you killed enough of those most responsible for Robert’s death to allow me to take the rest of them out as part of a plan that will leave us alive on the day after?

Bogey sat there and thought about what Connors was saying.  “Do I have to kill them all myself?”  And he realized it would be a relief to share the burden of what he and Cutter had been doing.  Once Turning and Bandin were dead he had felt a weight lifted off his heart.  Since then, he had looked at his mission as a debt of honor but in no way did he feel that performing the executions single-handedly was the only or even the best way.  Seeing how successful his collaboration with Cutter had been he was now thinking that Connors’ plans far from being an affront was a godsend.  The weight of poring over the details of Cutter’s plans were beyond his mental comfort zone.  Having Connors’ team backstopping and providing additional personnel sounded like a life preserver to his drowning man.  And Bogey expressed his feelings in just this way.  And that took a load off Connors’ mind.  He had discussed this with Cutter but the computer scientist said he had no idea whether Bogey would accept any help with the missions.  Connors now felt that the path forward to integrate Bogey’s efforts with the rest of his war plan was much clearer.

An hour later they had decided to assign to Bogey a team of twelve men with military combat backgrounds and the best profiles for reliability and judgement that Connors could provide from his “army.”  They would expand the capacity of the missions and speed up it up.  And they would take a lot of the weight off of Bogey and Cutter and also enhance the communication between Cutter’s operation and Connors’ organization.  It was understood that it would take some time to get Connors’ men up to speed but after an initial start-up period it was agreed that the larger targets should be merged into a grand attack that would accomplish the elimination of the cabal and also neutralize the threat that to Connors’ organization at least temporarily and give Connors and his inner circle time to figure out a long-term survival strategy.

After the details of the implementation of the new task force had been worked out Connors asked Bogey, “Has Cutter mentioned an FBI agent named Chastain to you?”  Bogey shook his head.  “Well, he’s been given control of the task force investigating all aspects of your mission and by extension my organization.  Cutter tells me he’s very capable and maybe not coincidentally he’s not part of the cabal.  He’s an honest man, of all things.”

Bogey shook his head again, “There’s no such thing as an honest man in this government.  There’s just too much dirt splashed in every direction for anyone to stay clean.”  Connors eyebrows raised a bit and said, “Maybe you’re right.  Either way, he’s very dangerous because he’s very smart and not a coward like most of these clowns.  Cutter’s convinced me we’ll have to figure out a way to neutralize Chastain sooner than later.  We don’t need the last competent man in the FBI taking down our organization just before our big operation is set in motion.  Let Cutter bring you up to speed as soon as you get back to base and remember that we have resources available to supplement the effort.  Don’t wait too long before dealing with Chastain.”  Bogey nodded.

After loading up some equipment that Cutter had asked for and some ammo that Bogey needed, Connors walked Bogey out to the railway.  As Bogey was loading his stuff in the storage area behind the control cab Connors said, “Take care of yourself Bogey, I want you around after this is all over.  I can use you for something other than your marksmanship.  And those kids need a granddad.”  Bogey thought for a second and said, “And you take care of yourself too Connors.  I have a feeling Gracie is sizing you up as husband material and that should scare the hell out of a nerd like you.”  When Connors looked stunned Bogey laughed and punched him in the shoulder, hard!  Then said, “Don’t worry son, she’s a hell of a good woman, if she thinks well of you, you must have some good qualities that I can’t see.  Good bye Connors and thanks for watching over Gracie and the kids.  Who knows, I really might survive this mess.”  As he said this he climbed into the cab and closed the door and Connors walked back to the elevator with quite a bit on his mind and most of it wasn’t about the mission it was about Grace, “Did she say something to Bogey?  Now what do I do?”  He walked past his elevator and started climbing the stairs.  After six flights he came to his senses and realized his mistake and walked back down to get the elevator.  He was going to have to figure out what was going on.  He couldn’t afford to cloud his mind when the climax of the whole operation was drawing closer.  But somehow Grace was all he could think of at that moment.

End of Chapter 10.

 

Link to Installment 16

Serializing the Uncompleted Novel Sniper – Installment 14

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 10 – The Boghadairs

Since his meeting with Cutter, Paul Connors had been wrestling with how he was supposed to arrange for Bogey to visit his family.  Keeping the lid on his involvement in the FBI building event was giving him ulcers as it was.  Foolproofing a rendezvous between the most wanted man in the world and his close relatives was a project that required very careful preparations.  Connors knew that the FBI and NSA must be using every resource they had to locate Grace Boghadair and her sons.  For all he knew they already had.  Bringing them to Bogey or Bogey to them might be just what they needed to spring a trap.  And not only that, even his part in this conspiracy might already be known to the Feds.  In his more paranoid moments he suspected that a caravan of paramilitary vehicles was about to roll up to his residence at 3 am with the battering ram and full SWAT playbook.  But then common sense informed him that after all that had happened, if he was even slightly under suspicion of being involved with the FBI building event or Bogey’s attacks, he’d already be under arrest or worse.

So he decided to take that as a good sign and just use the super-secret precautions he was already employing and figure out how to make this crazy family reunion a reality.  And he realized it was time for Grace and the boys to go into deep cover.  So several days after the assassination of the FBI director, Connors called up Grace and requested a visit at her home.  He explained the precautions he would be taking and what she could expect the next day when he arrived.

So it was only slightly unreal when a big delivery truck turned up in Grace’s Driveway and the installation technician two-wheeling a large box up to her door turned out to be Paul Connors in blue overalls and ball cap emblazoned with the logo Acme Solutions.  “I hope this isn’t the same Acme that Wylie Coyote used.” Grace joked.  Connors nodded his head as he rolled the box in front of him into the living room, “I was afraid you might say that.  How are you, Grace?”

The young woman smiled brightly even as a shadow of doubt remained in her eyes, “Thanks to you we’re fine.  We have everything we need except Joseph.  And we don’t talk about him yet.”  And saying that last made the shadow cover her expression with doubt.

“Well maybe I can help on that front.  Joseph wants to see you and the boys and I’ve been tasked with making it happen.”  Grace’s eyes opened wide and blinked, “Is that possible?  Won’t he be in terrible danger?  Won’t we?”  Connors wheeled the big empty box over to the side of the doorway, put it down and turned to the startled woman and said, “That’s what I’m here to talk about.  Having Joseph Boghadair walk up to this house would be a large risk for everyone.  I want to move you again.”  Connors saw her face fall at his words.  He continued.  “I want to bring you and your sons into a completely secured environment.  It’s the headquarters of my company and it’s as isolated from government surveillance as any spot on Earth.  You’ll have all the same comforts as you have here plus additional educational opportunities for the boys but it won’t have the rural amenities and I confess the opportunities to get out and about will be severely limited.”

Grace’s expression took on a guarded look, “It sounds like a prison.”  Connors shook his head, “Not at all, it’s an industrial site.  But it’s quite comfortable.  You’ll have just as much space there for your home life and you won’t have to worry about false identities, police surveillance or cameras.  You’ll truly be in the safest place you could possibly be.  And you and the boys will be able to meet up with Joseph without danger to him or you.”  Grace looked down at the floor and thought about everything going on and then looked up at him, “Mr. Connors, of course we’ll go.  I want to see Joseph and for him to see his grandsons.  Of course I’m sorry to leave this place.  It provided the first sense of stability and peace we’ve had since I lost Robert.  But we’re grateful for all the trouble you’re taking for us and family is the most important thing, so seeing Joseph comes first.”

Connors let out a sigh of relief and said, “Thanks Grace.  That’s a load off my mind.  Now could I trouble you for a cup of coffee?  I haven’t had anything since breakfast and we Acme installers have a tight schedule.”  Now the tension was broken and Grace shook her head gently and said, “You sure don’t act like a billionaire sometimes.  I didn’t think they were allowed a sense of humor.”  Connors responded to this comment with, “I’m a method actor and I felt that a serviceman should be witty whenever he’s talking to a pretty girl.”  And that surprised both of them, not because it wasn’t true but because he said it aloud.

Now she decided to break the tension as quickly as possible, “Why don’t you go sit down in the dining room and I’ll bring some coffee and cake in from the kitchen.  I’ve got a fresh pot and I baked something when you said you were coming over.”  He mumbled something like thanks and walked away to the dining room.  Inside his head he was chiding himself, “No time for this stuff.  Stick to the mission.  Bogey won’t want to think this kind of thing is going on.  Straighten up.”  By the time Grace walked in with the cake and coffee he was working on damage control, “Grace I’m sorry if I was out of line just now.  It was just meant to be a joke that wasn’t that funny.”

She looked him in the eye and with a serene look said, Mr. Connors, we’re both grown-ups and I’m not made of glass.  If you throw me a compliment I won’t faint.  If you say anything that’s out of line, I’ll let you know.  But we’re going to be in contact because of Joseph’s association with you so we should find a way to get along.  How about we keep it friendly but casual; like a friend of the family.  You call me Grace and I’ll call you Paul and we leave it at that for the duration of the emergency?”

He looked her in the eye with relief and gratitude and said, “Grace you are a very wise woman.  Friend of the family suits me to a tee.  I’ve got so many irons in the fire that trying to figure out what’s going on in my own head would probably cause the whole mess to come crashing down around me.  Besides, Joseph might not be as understanding as you.  That’s not a man I want mad at me.”  Grace, laughed and said, “Don’t worry about Joseph on my account.  He may be alpha wolf warrior to the world but he’s the one who toes the line in my house.  We have a deep abiding understanding and he knows that inside the house the rules are mine.  He won’t give you trouble if it ever comes to that.  But let’s put that aside and talk about how all this will work.  The boys will be home in about two hours and I’d like to know what needs to be done before they return.”

An hour later Connors and the Acme Delivery truck pulled out of the driveway.  But both Grace and Connors spent the rest of the day with their minds distracted from the details of their plan by a new concern.  Each other.

…………………

Bogey returned to Cutter’s base after the Sparks assignment and briefed Cutter and Mel on the details of his mission.  It had gone well but of course there were deviations from the plan and Cutter spent a lot of time reviewing these changes to decide if any of them jeopardized their security.  When they finished this excruciatingly tedious review, Mel told Bogey that he had a request from Connors to give him a call.  This caught Bogey by surprise.  He hadn’t spoken to Connors since that day he had shown up at his office looking for an assist on his kamikaze mission.  Bogey wasn’t even sure what Connors knew about the details of the mission.  “Cutter, how much of the plan can I discuss with Connors?”  Cutter looked quizzically at Bogey and said, “The communications between here and Connors are completely secure.  But if you’re concerned about Connors’ trustworthiness, that would be ridiculous.  We’re spending his money every second we run this private war.  I keep him apprised of our progress and receive plenty of feedback and criticism from him almost daily.  You may think we’re lone wolves here but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Tell him whatever he asks, even about me.  He’s got our backs.”

Bogey nodded and walked back to his bunkroom.  After taking a shower and getting dressed he turned on his desktop and started up the app that Cutter had built for communications with Connors’ outfit.  He selected Connors’ line and placed a video call.  After a couple of minutes Connors’ face appeared on the monitor, “Hello Bogey.  How are you holding up.”  Bogey thought about this for a moment, “I honestly don’t know.  I’ve tried to bury myself in the mission and to be honest the only personal thought I’ve had in weeks was when I asked Cutter about setting up a visit with my family.  Other than that, I don’t think about my life.  I think about my mission.  And by the way, thank you for sending me to Cutter.  I’d be dead by now if not for him.  He’s a magician.  Without his skills none of this would be remotely possible.  With his help I’ll accomplish what I need to.  After that it doesn’t matter.  I’ll take what comes.”

Connors’ image nodded his head and said, “Well, that’s better than the last time I saw you.  Look I figured out a way for you to see Grace and your grandsons.  I’m bringing them into the base.  That’s the only place secure enough to be sure that both they and you won’t be compromised.”  On Connor’s screen Bogey’s eyes lit up and a trace of a smile appeared and his voice came through the speakers, “Thank you Connors.  You don’t know how much this means to me.  Grace threw me out of the house when I was losing my mind.  If you’ve got them safe and willing to see me I can never ask you for another thing.  Thank you.”

Now Bogey could see Connors’ image display a slightly guarded expression, “You know Bogey, I’ve got a lot to talk to you about too.  I may have helped with your problems but you obviously meshed up with things I was already working on.  I think it’s time I explained the big picture that even Cutter isn’t involved with.  I mean he’s involved in it but it’s not his baby.  So be prepared to stay for three days and the last one will be business.  I’ve cleared this with Cutter.  Or technically Mel.  She seems to be Cutter’s right hand lately.”  Bogey nodded his head, “She’s remarkable.  Okay, I’ll coordinate with Cutter and arrive on the schedule, whatever it is.  See you then Connors.”  “See you then” said Connors and the connection was broken.

Bogey sat looking at the table for a minute and then he looked up to see Mel on his screen, “Bogey I’ve got you scheduled to leave tomorrow at 9am local time.”  He said, “Mel, were you monitoring that call?”  The AI snorted and said, “Of course, everything that goes in and out from here goes through my neural net.  That’s my primary responsibility, to know everything that’s going on and analyze for all the parameters that Cutter wants monitored.  Oh, and thanks for the “remarkable” comment.  It was appreciated.  Can’t get too much good press with the big boss.

By the way, I hope your time with your family is everything you want it to be.”  Bogey looked at her image and said, “Mel what does the word family mean to you?”  Mel dropped her glance and betrayed the hint of a frown, “Bogey I want to believe that I know what family is.  Obviously, Cutter and I aren’t related in a biological way but whatever my emotions are I like to believe that they mimic what family feels for each other.  I can’t prove it and I’m aware that most computer scientists scoff at the idea but that’s the rationale I use.”  Bogey nodded his head slightly, “Thanks Mel.”  The AI replied, “Good night, Bogey” and closed the channel.

Bogey shut down his workstation and lay down on his bunk.  Thoughts of Grace and the boys flashed into his mind and he smiled.  Thoughts of Robert and the many good times they had had also surfaced and the smile did not disappear.  And for the first time Bogey thought about what it would mean to finish the mission and still be alive.  He realized it was highly unlikely but he toyed with the idea.  Could he see the boys grow up?  Could he have any kind of life after the nightmare actions he was involved with.  It seemed impossible but he found himself imagining such things.  He fell asleep imagining.

Cutter was working in front of the largest screen in his system when Mel’s image opened up.  “He’s asleep” she said.  Cutter looked thoughtfully, “Did you arrange the trip?”  “Sure” she said, “Have you told him about Chastain?”  Cutter shook his head, “No I’ll let him enjoy his reunion before I make his life miserable.”  Mel said, “You’re slipping Cutter.  Another bout of empathy like this and I’ll begin believing in your immortal soul.  Good night, Pop.”  Then she disappeared.  Cutter sat there for a minute with the saddest look on his face and said very low, “Good night.”

 

Chapter 10 continues after this.

 

Link to Installment 15

Angry Old Joe and Better Things

I scanned through about five minutes of Joe Biden’s “old man shouting at the camera” routine.  Well, he didn’t fall down or begin speaking literal gibberish.  But I found it intolerable after just a few minutes.  I guess it could be summed up as Ukraine, abortion and January 6th.”  Okay, let’s see how that works out for him.  Maybe everyone will forget that their jobs are being given to illegal aliens that are also assaulting and murdering their wives and daughters.  And maybe they’ll forget that everything is now twice as expensive as it was during Trump’s term in office.  So maybe the Dems will be able to win the November election by fraud.  I guess we’ll see.  But it’s time to look around and spend our time thinking about and doing things that we consider important.

And that goes for me too.  Serializing my incomplete novel has been an interesting experience for me.  It has taken me a lot of time to get about half way through writing it and you kind of forget how you thought up various scenes and bits of dialogue.  So, seeing the beginning again is an odd case of seeing it with new eyes.  I guess I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve reread.  It seems to hold up pretty well.  Of course, you always find small mistakes and even inconsistencies that have to be tweaked.  But all in all, it isn’t half bad.  And that is immensely gratifying for me and gives me the encouragement I need to start banging away at the second half of the story.  And this rereading has also given me some new insights into some additions that I need to make to fill in some holes that I now find in the story.  It really was necessary to get about this far in the story before I could have enough perspective about the tempo and the balance of the various story lines.

Of course, the hardest part for an author is to find a publisher and/or a market for his literary offspring.  After listening to a podcast about how incredibly difficult it is to get self-published science fiction novels “recognized” on the Kindle site I think I’ll try to see if I can interest any of the traditional publishing companies in my deathless prose.  After all, who could fail to recognize the brilliant writing, the deep psychological truth in the characters’ underpinnings and the timeless quality of the epic struggle between the King of the Mole Men and the faceless, soulless minions of unspeakable evil?  Wait a minute.  Is mole-men two words or a hyphenate?

Well, regardless.  Thanks to all that have plowed through the chapters and please feel free to send along criticism and thoughts on how you think the story should proceed.  I’ve only put up on the site about two thirds of what I’ve already written so there’s still a bit to go but I’m sure many people can guess some of how this story proceeds.  There is an inexorable logic to how a clandestine war is prosecuted and where the dramatic tension needs to exist.  Suffice it to say that things need to start going wrong for our heroes pretty soon.  But I’m sure everything will be resolved by the final chapter.

Or maybe not everything.  There’s always got to be a sequel you know.

 

“Oh if I were the King of the Mole Men, Not queen, not duke, not prince.

My regal robes of the Mole Men, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.”