The Devil’s in the Details
“The cavalry ain’t coming to save you,” Jack muttered in the half light as he bent over the computer in his disheveled home office. “Besides, when the government says we’re here to help is when you should be afraid.” The mantras rang in Jack Dawson’s head from so many visual memes on the Internet. He made many of them into banners for his social media page. Jack smirked. Having just woken up in his chair at the desk, he rubbed his face and smacked his lips. In his headphones crooned the patriotic play list of instrumental and country music. It blared in Jack’s head. He realized he must have been listening to it all night, but he didn’t remember turning the music on. He sat forward and puzzled on all the sites before him on the computer screen. He wrinkled his nose trying to remember if he been looking at this when he fell asleep. Jack’s hand hovered over the touch pad on his computer as his eyes tracked over the options. Should he pick the Glock long-slide model 41 or the 1911 compact? He considered all the choices and the .45 APC ammo. The array of weapons was dizzying. All he had to do was click. there was a little message bubble from MaryMagdaline7. He paused.He frowned a little feeling a pang of guilt. How many guns did he need? He thought on that and realized he had a back-up piece that was not registered. It was a gift from his father which the old man had gotten from an uncle that passed. He kept his pistol hidden. Maybe he would get a new weapon and finally get his conceal and carry. Blinking icons on his taskbar from below the images of handguns called to him; scrolling past were knives, gleaming and tantalizing. His eyes lusted after the cold metal. He could strap one of those on his leg. He did not think he could achieve security, but he was not going to be caught off guard. It was sensible, really, after all he had trained in knife fighting, so he was not some urban-wanna-be-warrior like so many he’d met at the gun range. Not that his skills were still worth talking about now a days. Shifting in his desk chair, he realized he needed to pee, but the screen suggested a video about self-defense he really needed to watch and a news feed told him there was something called the knock-out game, just more acts of random violence. There was so much to hold his attention. He glanced to the letter from his father. It sat unopened. His heart felt heavy in his chest. The old man just did not get him, try as he might. Times were changing; things were getting pushed forward, but what the old man did not seem to get is all that his father held dear was going to get rolled over by the government. Dad was just too unplugged to see it. You just couldn’t see the danger unless you were plugged into the net.
It had been so easy to come back from overseas and just hide in here, in the computer, and not go out there anymore. Everyone he met seemed so damn stupid; Americans had everything and didn’t appreciate it at all. Jack was not like some guys that came back, the kinds that buried their dicks in every woman, the kind to toke and drink their troubles away. He had principles, missed the military, and the mental challenges. He missed being a man with a purpose, and it had been hard over there and coming back to this wreck of a country where no one saw you was even harder. Jack felt at times like he was made of glass, and people looked right through him without seeing him really or understanding his pain. He felt disconnected from everything. It had taken its toll and left him mute until he found a voice in here, in-world. Jack ran a hand over his mouth, so thirsty. His hand ran across the rasp of the dark stubble on his jaw and chin. He tried to blink his eyes, but they were so dry from staring at the screen.
A big man, Jack sat hunched over the desk in the dim light. His shoulders and neck ached from being bent over in such an unnatural position. He kept his eyes locked on the screen even though his eyes blurred from time to time. Running his hands through his thick dark hair, Jack sniffed his finger. He figured his hair could use a washing. He looked to the letter from the IRS. He’d filed on time and answered every question. Grunting, Jack knew he had not intentionally done anything wrong. He wondered if a few days off from his on-line business, was a help or hindrance. Still, he had to be on-line to help Mary. She was going through something again. Just the other night he had listened to her frustration with her husband Wayne spending money out of control. Jack knew he had to be around the computer. He blinked and looked up and tried to remember when he had last gone to the grocery store. His lips were parched, and he was quite sure that they were cracked as he pressed his lips together and pulled them apart feeling the dry skin.
So many messages blinked at him on screen demanding answers. So many ways to communicate, but still he felt gagged and bound. One was his brother’s e-mail bitching at him and asking if he was alright and trying to get him to come visit up in Montana. They worried because he was an army vet, recently divorced, and his business was having a down turn. Well the whole economy had a down turn, didn’t? He ran a hand over his eyes. He was ashamed to tell his brother or his parents about the fight. His buddy Morales had taken him to a sports bar to talk it out about his divorce. He felt his guts clinch to think what might have happened if he had seriously hurt the guy that came out of nowhere. The man smug man hassled him repeatedly about his army t-shirt. The guy kept pushing his opinion and anger on Jack and when he got up next to Jack, almost nose to nose… It happened in a flash, broken furniture, frightened faces of bar patrons and the guy on the ground banged up. He had felt like a monster looking at all those people staring at him. He felt like he was defending himself, but the judge had him in anger management counseling at the VA. It had been humiliating to have to sign the PTSD form. Maybe he was on edge, but that guy, he just kept coming at him. In the damn sessions with the shrink the guy kept saying don’t isolate yourself, but the humiliation of being sent to the sessions did just that – made him feel he like a freak. Now the IRS was after his business. He just couldn’t answer friends and family, he had no idea why he was being audited again; he always obeyed the law. Jack was not even middle aged really, and he always felt tired and old. After all he had been through overseas it just didn’t seem fair. He closed his eyes feeling empty.
The bleep from the computer made him open his eyes. The social network messenger flashed from his friend Martin Morales of The Free Sons of Texas, or as Jack first new him, jedimaster123.
Jedimaster123: Heard you were struggling, Brother. Hey did you see the rallies in Houston, Austin and Dallas, going to be today, might even get to be nationwide. We got to stand together. I had some guy watching my house this week, same week my ammo arrived from the gun shop. Did you ever by that pistol off that fellow you knew? I know you still got that 9mm right? We are screwed. You heard about them social workers that picked up a kid in Arlington because the family had weapons and wanted to home school the kid. Times are getting bad. Get back to me.
Jack typed back to Martin Morales as his on-line personae – SaintMike1
SaintMike1: Rally, right sure. I want to go to that, but have stuff to do. No never did buy that guy’s gun. You know I got one, but might get another, but I’ll buy it through a shop.
Jedimaster123: I heard you were having a hard time. These bastards in DC need you to lie down like a little girl, just like that little girl taken from her parents by social worker in Missouri. We got to stick together. Jack the noose is tightening, and we all got our necks in that noose. You feel me, Brother? You want I will come get you. Pick you for the rally? Come on, Man.
SaintMike1: Will let you know. Busy. Get back to you.
Jack closed the window and for a moment thought he should get up. Maybe he should go out on the porch with his tax papers and work on them in the sunshine. Maybe get things organized when his eyes slid to the side of the computer screen.
Jack, this week Shopper’s Best Buys recommended for you:
Gold is your best bet.
Buy a gun, get the holster free.
Prep your house, with solar power, water filtration, and rations.
This video will save your life; fight, fight, fight for your freedom.
A baton book of tactics for one on one contact.
The Terrorists Cookbook.
The net, the information giants, gathered data on everyone, on him. The web thought it knew him, and he snarled at the automated assumptions about him. Jack frowned at the last suggestion that pulsed on the screen, and he tipped his head a little. Terrorist? He looked over the page in brief at all the suggested items, and frowning bitterly. He shook his head dismissing them.
Jack closed his eyes and weaved ever so slightly. He frowned as his bladder ached, and he wished he could just get up and move around, but he was sure the twenty-four hour news cycle would come around once more to the former Soviet Block where the revolutions were spreading or maybe it would go back to the White House and that damning smug DOJ woman in her red suit, saying again no comment to violations of the 4th amendment.
“Nothing to see here; move along,” he sniped out loud to no one. He glanced to the tool bar at the bottom of his screen, and his instant message chirped at him some helpful short message from some like-minded soul in his political rant group. He liked to tell himself that he was a good person still, and that he was fighting the good fight and defending truth, justice and the American way. It was true, he thought, and there were times he surrounded himself with hopeful slogans about man’s freedom which he shared on his social media site. There were times he tried to call for compassion and peace, but then he found himself enraged at some on-line person that spewed irrational slander and vile condemnation of all he held sacred. It was why he took a second look at the flashing ad about weapons. Just a few blocks over, there had been a home invasion, and a man he remembered from the home owners association saw his wife raped in front of him, and the poor man was put in the hospital from the beating he took from the attackers. He knew only too well some traumatic events never left you. He would not be a victim. Closing his eyes, Jack wanted to pray to God. His Catholic mother and Baptist father told him over and over again how important prayer was. He was so tried, but God took so much effort — mass, church groups, getting dressed, and going outside his home. His father had been a farmer, a good honest man; he knew his father would be disappointed in how far he had back slid. He wasn’t even a back-row Baptist any more. He tried on-line mass. That seemed kind of weird. He tried listening to the rosary on-line. For a moment, he missed his mother, who was still alive but never charged her cell phone and had no e-mail, so he filled his life with things with which he did connect.
The icon on his computer desktop of Dystopia, the semi-pornographic on-line video game, beckoned to him. He stared at the little ball of fire on his screen, and with one click he could be in the game and playing. He frowned trying to resist the temptation. He knew the flashing icon would mean his on-line friend, MaryMagdalen 7’s avatar would be in the game, calling like a damn mermaid, um, a siren to him to come and play, and to lose hours, and days in there with her. Mary, as he called his unseen friend, was so beautiful, well her avatar was. In reality, she was patient, so kind and yet so damn demanding. He frowned because somehow without even seeing him, MaryMaggie7 worried, truly worried for him being on-line too much. Ironic since she never got off her computer or so it seemed, she always told him to get up, go outside, to live his life and do real work with his hands.
Jack had not divorced Karen for Mary7. No, no he and Karen had been falling apart a long time ever since he came home from his tour of duty and gotten out of the army. Karen complained and complained at him that he was not happy. Why could he not be happy? He wasn’t unhappy he just felt like he was gagged and watching his life go by him. His wife made clear that she just couldn’t wait any longer for him to be the man she expected. Karen started her on-line charity work and women’s empowerment group – forums, chat groups, tweeting, twittering, blogging, photo-sharing and self-publishing. She built a life for herself like a wall building up brick by brick, an invisible wall between them.
In the game Dystopia, MaryMagdalen7 role played a reformed prostitute, and the sultry secretary for his character Jack Dash, detective and former, burnt-out cop. She was his friend at 6 AM and every afternoon for the role-play games like Dystopia, Nova Wars, or Dragon Lords of Walmord. No, he would not blame MaryMagdalen7 for his problems with Karen. Marymaggie7 was a nice person, and after all, an older woman. She said, she was in her 60’s, 30 years or so older than he was, and married with her own life, but like him often alone. She never made demands to meet him, even though they lived in the same city, or to pursue anything other than game play, but still, there was nothing he would not do for Marymaggie7. It little mattered to him that she was a lot older than he was or that he had never seen her, they were friends, maybe more. In that world of virtual reality, they had experiences even if they were virtual and expressed real emotions to each other, something he had trouble doing in real life. In the game, faceless and disembodied, he could say things and whisper them through the long dark night that he was too ashamed to say to anyone else, nothing perverted, just things that kept him tied in knots about his time in service. Meanwhile, Karen had bailed on him, and he on her, what with the modern pace of life, the long hours of jobs, and the decision to delay kids to get that bigger house, the constant parade of divorced family members, and finally, the time on the computers. Their self-imposed isolation and hectic schedule with faceless friends on the net had been the lynchpin that had driven him and Karen apart. Hell, they had separate rooms for their computers and only interacted to message each other and bitch back and forth. No, it was not MaryMaggie7’s fault. No, it was all his fault, and Karen made sure every day since he returned home that everything was his fault, and he was not living up to expectations and didn’t play his role right. He had come back broken, and he understood that he had used the wrong things to try and patch back together his life.
Jack knew he was a mess, but fighting with Karen yesterday when she stopped by the house had left him looking for relief. Weary and his thirst screaming at him, he glanced around his desk littered with food wrappers, plates, and glasses and spotted an unopened energy drink; there were several empty cans there on the desk from his all night game session. Got to keep moving mentally. He was so tired and hungry, but he glanced along the side of the screen where advertisements for porn rolled down along his screens side bar. No delicate or taut body part was too dark, moist or private too avoid being flashed at him unbidden. It was his own fault. Curiosity led him down that path, just hapless stumbling around in the cyber world, and it was all presented and laid out spread eagle for him. Even though he had long stopped idly pursuing those images it seemed they stalked him now. It was like being sexually assaulted every time he sat down at the computer. Still, he was no prude and did not feel enormous guilt because what were a few flashed tits and the like. He ran a hand over his mouth thinking on how much more enticing the on-line game and sex chat of Dystopia’s fantasy world of drug dealers, cops, prostitutes and innocent victims needing his help had been. There you could play any role, and for fun, he had been a detective in a corrupt world and every alley way and dive in the game offered a real person roleplaying their need for the handsome gumshoe to save the day. He had a real advantage over all the wanna-be guys in there writing their story because he had actually lived combat. He could do more than parrot tactics from google searches as most on-line gamers did; he knew death and killing. The escape into Dystopia was fun, creative and had eaten a few years of his time. He rubbed his head feeling so out of it. How many times had Morales/jedimaster123 called him last night when he tried dozing on the couch to tell him about some damn story; another outrage. That was why he so needed Mary at times to escape.
Marymaggie7 had been his friend in there, his partner in crime, and he had to admit they had steamed up the stories with some hot scenes. It was all for fun, just stories. He was a good man under all the foolishness and respected her boundaries when it came to her real life. They talked as friends about game play. He never turned on his camera when they chatted on-line, but he sent her pictures of his dog, his truck’s new paint job, and pictures of the mountains from his trip to Colorado. He never asked to see her; he just let it be what it was a friendship, well at first. They made other virtual friends in the game, but friendships on-line seemed real only to become elusive and slip through his fingers and left him with nothing, or people you met on-line lied and were not what they seemed. Only MaryMagdeline7 seemed real. Hadn’t he heard her grandson, Sam, sing happy birthday to her, and heard her crying when the dog died, and comforted her when things went wrong with her husband and job? Hadn’t she told him sad stories of pain and loss to rival his own war experiences? Mary was a neo-pagan, kind hearted and funny, and she snorted when she laughed. She could listen and spin brilliant conversations about art, music, and philosophy. Marymaggie7’s grandson and even her sister, June, knew him, and said hi to him over the computer’s mike. They were all more real to him than Karen ever had been. He hated that, but it was true. In the end, Marymaggie7 encouraged him, kept him honest, and loved him as a friend, just for who he was, screwed up and all, and that was something.
Between Marymagdeline7, his on-line business, and his concerns about the country, he never got off the computer. He brought up his groups on his social media page. Their icon-faces scrolled by him, and he logged on to the site. Jack had chosen his patron saint as his moniker, Saint Michael the archangel patron of soldiers and cops.
SaintMike1: Heard about the freedom rallies?
Jack watched for a response, but then let his eye crawl over the posted videos suggesting further violations of the fourth amendment and the arrest of a citizen journalist filming a beating and illegal search. He frowned deeply offended as the cops in the video lost control, and beat a handcuffed suspect charged with illegal possession of a weapon. The cops repeatedly used over-handed swings of their batons to beat the suspect and took the guy down while other officers, in the background, kicked in a door to the house. Jack grimaced as the police officer, sweating and baring teeth, turned on the person with the camera shouting. The image froze on the red face of the cop with eyes bulging. Jack had been an MP in the army. He wondered if he had ever seemed so out of control. He stared into the eyes of authority run wild. He closed his eyes and looked back to see the scrolling replies of his on-line friends.
EagleEye: Sure Saint Michael, we been talking about them all day. There has been a rallying cry going up for protests after news anchor, Jeff Welsh, was arrested today for revealing supposedly classified information about government spying on journalists.
Anarchyslittlesister: What? They arrested him? I mean I hate the media guys but… What are we going to do? 0.0 I mean we got to do something, NSA, CIA, secret courts, assassination of accused US citizens abroad? I have been getting hit up all day about going down to the rally, here in Dallas by Cristero1. He is saying we got to stand up and protest. The Liberty Movement is saying they are backing the protests.
Patriot13: What the… typical. Just freaking typical! Welsh should have run like Snowden, but they are prepared for that now, can’t fly, can’t post, can’t run anywhere they don’t GPS track your ass.
Mother of Two: Watch the language Patriot13. I am getting fed Twitters about these rallies. I got a ping from JordanRiver saying they are going to include Welsh’s arrest in the protest; they are making signs here in Dallas. The Liberty Movement says the whole thing is going nationwide today at 6 PM. I am going down there, but I just remind you to please, please remember to keep cool heads if you go out to one of these events. We are good people; we don’t want to let things get out of hand.
Oceaniaenemy#1: What the hell, Man? It is out of control already! WE JUST GO DOWN THERE and go to the federal building and go toe to toe with those SOBs. They got a media talking head arrested, so that means we might get covered, and people will see what is happening. We take camera’s laptops, and we up load everything they do – stream it around the world. My camera does that now quick feed video. It worked in Cairo, right? If we sit back, they will have us in pens, and you can just shred The Bill of Rights.
Jack watched the fear and discussion rolling by him as he watched people he had known for three years, who had been mildly concerned, now spinning out of control. He closed his eyes tight. Once he had been the voice of reason in the group but now… He swallowed hard. He shook his head. He wanted to get up and move off. He was in pain, cramped up and tired, but then he saw Jedimaster123 posting — Jedimaster123/Martin Morales his friend. Jack had met him on-line and then at a The Liberty Movement get-together in Galveston.
Jedimaster123: I am going to go to the one here in Dallas. I got to stand up when there is so much corruption. I don’t give a damn about some anchorman, but it is time. Too many abuses to ignore. I hear they are having a rally now in Pennsylvania and on in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it looks like one in Denver also. You going to the Dallas one, Mike?
Jack hesitated at the question. He sighed. Get up? Drive downtown? Fight your way back home after, but he liked and respected Jedi, well most of the time, so he typed back.
SaintMike1: I don’t know I will have to wait and see.
EagleEye: Kansas I am seeing Kansas too and Ohio. Look Mother is right. We have to be peaceful. I know you agree right, SaintMike1? I mean you get hot sometimes, but I know you are a good guy. We can’t let anything detour us from a peaceful path. I mean we may have to face being arrested and such, but come on, guys… Each of you and those that come on throughout the day need to make a commitment in your heart to follow the non-violent path. We have to win hearts and minds, and this is how we do it. We just remind people that being an American is about the constitution.
Jack typed up as SaintMike7: Maybe.
Motheroftwo: Eagle’s right. You listen to Eagle. They need us to be angry. They need us to mess up and give them an excuse to come down on us.
Anarchyslittlesister: Please, nothing is going to happen. That is so much pity party melodrama. I don’t do drama. We will show up do our thing, but you know nothing will happen, Man, and I hate to say it, but nothing’s going to happen or change. Sometimes I don’t know.
Patriot13: Lexington and Concord! Things do change sometimes dramatically.
EagleEye: We can still find common ground or at least explore options for reinvigorating state’s rights and maybe each state does its own thing.
Jedimaster123: Wrong analogy, Patriot! Those were battles, know your damn history! 1917, that’s what we are talking about here! Time to do something drastic instead of getting gunned down, and you, Eagle, just keep calling for hand-holding and singing Kumbaya around the campfire, and its progressive conservatives like you selling out that will get us all in Mao suits. I bet you even voted for Senator Drakeson and that SOB squashed automatic weapons sales in his state, and even limited the number of bullets in the magazine. Some good people better start seeing things for the way they are and dealing with reality or guys like you Eagle will end up in a cell saying, I just wanted to compromise!
Jack watched the rhetoric heat up and frowned as Jedi got going. Jedi like himself was once in the military, and he had liked Martin Morales/Jedimaster123 right off. They communicated on the net all the time and had even met up in reality. It had felt good to have a guy that got where he was coming from. He stood up to go to the bathroom and saw Anarchy light up the screen, and there was a little message bubble from MaryMagdaline7. He paused.
Anarchyslittlesister: Uh don’t crap on Eagle, Jedi, cause talk about bad analogy, 1917? They were communists! What the hell kind of analogy is that to us. I would have said Boston 1770! In the end all the same — Czars, Kings, strong man dictators and their suck-up minions, or in our case, capitalist cronies humping the leg of big government while they stomp anyone trying to change the world. They will kick the crap out of the little guys, so that citizens can’t rein in power and secure rights, so don’t talk down to Eagle, Jedi! I mean, lay off him. He is a damn pacifist, but he is our damn pacifist. He means well. If it were up to me, I would burn the whole damn thing down to the ground. Less is best!
Jedimaster123: Would you? I don’t think you got the guts to even stand up from that computer and actually do anything. All you do is whine about being in debt from school, your crappy job and your blow hard boyfriend. I bet you don’t even go to the rally. You will just sit around and wait for another bill or another beating and bitch. Aren’t you tired of being an arm chair participant in your own life? Stop pretending to be an anarchist. That is a cop out. Stand up and start being a patriot! Fucking do something. Shit, show up for a change and stop phoning it in. Get off your ass and quit being a victim. Saint Mike is going to go to the rally? Right Mike?
Jack watched the message bubble from MaryMagdeline7 blinking incessantly at him but he cut into the conversation with Jedimaster123/Morales.
SaintMike1: Sure, Sure going maybe. Jedi, come on now. We all got to work together. Don’t ride the kid. You know how down I am with all of this and how we need to take some action, but Little Sister is righteous.
Motheroftwo: That’s enough Jedi. I could ban you and Anarchy, as the monitor for our group site, but instead I am going to ask you to both back off and take a break. Remember: we all are good people here, with a common good goal to monitor the government and hold them accountable when they violate civil liberties. Stay positive.
Jedimaster123: Sorry Anarchy, I know you are trying; but words are not enough. I know you see it in all areas of your life. You have to just do something. Maybe you ping me, and we talk about going to that rally. Sorry, Little Sister.”
Jack waited and watched for Anarchy’s come back. He knew Anarchy, met her at a speech down town once. She was a twenty-something, short girl in Goth clothes. Her bouncy, angry, enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air. She was an edgy, funny, little Libertarian who smelled of pot and cherry lip gloss and was the outer edge of his political spectrum. Anarchy was just as likely to swing left as right. She had been attracted to him, but she was too young, and he was still married back then. He rubbed his eyes waiting for her and Jedi to patch things up. He did not like the descent among the ranks. For a moment, he flashed on EagleEye’s words about peaceful unity. He stood up and stretched and then stared at the bright screen, waiting. Along the side of the screen scrolled bright images of angry Muslims, The Knock Out game video, and a graph of the sliding US GDP. He touched a tab and watched his few investments in stocks slipping. The computer flashed gifs of angry crowds at protests in parts of the former Soviet Union and Middle East. The images of riot cops hung in his head. He squinted and rubbed his eyes hard. The images flashed in his head even with his eyes closed.
Anarchyslittlesister: It’s okay. Np. NVM. It’s all good, Jedi. I know you’re right. You’re right. Ping me, Man, we can talk. We can get it together.
Jack smiled to himself, sighed with relief, and flopped back in the chair. He was a big man, not fat, just big, and the chair felt too small. He noticed he had mail, personal and business flashing away at him. There was a flashing video image of cops in a major city on the East Coast doing a house to house for a terrorist suspect. He watched unsure how he felt as he saw the cops sending a family out of their own house to stand in the yard. In the background, you could see it was happening all up and down the block, families turned out; what upset him was it felt like just common place now. He closed his eyes and then slowly forced himself to tear his eyes away and stood up. He finally walked away from the screen and went into the office bathroom and stood there finally getting some relief. He closed his eyes trying not to think for a moment when he felt the damn phone in his pocket jiggle, and he spritzed the toilet as he jumped at the sound. “Damn it.” He stepped back and wiped the seat and flushed as the phone played the ringtone for Marymaggie7 — a hopeful little tune from a romantic comedy. He grunted and washed his hands and pulled out the phone. He had missed her. Then there was a chirp from the phone and he saw on the screen that he had a text message.
Mary: I am in world. I need you.
He frowned seeing the number on his phone saying he had e-mails. There was a voice mail too. It was a number he did not know. He shook his head. You couldn’t escape contact. Social media, e-mail, texting, GPS maps, TSA scans, warrantless searches, you were never alone. Nothing was private, and everyone was expected to share and stand naked before their neighbor, and now it seemed before the NSA and any other damn government bureaucrat high or low. Maybe it was just this fact that made him feel like rebelling and kicking down the walls closing in on him.
Jack sighed, nodded to himself and walked over to the computer. “I can’t even pee by myself.” He sat down and brought up the game Dystopia. He paused and looked into the kitchen full of dirty dishes and considered his life but went to her instead. As he waited for the game to come up he watched a blond woman from one of the news agencies interviewing the leader of Liberty Movement, Jethro Dawson, a pale faced man with a beard and wild hair that looked a bit like a well-dressed homeless guy, but was in fact, the political strategist and leader of The Liberty movement in America. Next to him sat Senator Stone of Kentucky a grim faced man of forty that did not try to look pleasant and accessible but instead leaned forward speaking firmly about his support of Dawson and The Liberty Movement. They both vigorously condemned the state for any number of egregious examples of corruption. They were not alleged acts by the government but now facts. The terrible thing was, Jack thought, that the government had some time back given up on denial and covering up corruption and mistakes. Why deny them when a shrug of the shoulder would suffice as a defense with no one to challenge them in the media. The corruption felt like chains and weights hanging off of him. Maybe that seemed stupid, but he had taken an oath to defend the constitution, and unlike many modern men, oaths, and signs, and damn it even faith still meant something to him. He hated it, but such things were apart of him down to the marrow. He needed a break.
Dystopia came up on his screen, and he sighed in exhausted relief, escaping into the game if only for a moment. He logged on and the virtual world appeared on the screen. Jack appeared in the game world in the seedy detective’s office of his character and avatar which he had named, Jack Dash. That was his name in this world, the game world. He used the controls to spin the view around to look at himself. He was transformed now into the video game character, tall, dark, rugged and dressed in a slouchy suit and a growth of stubble on his face. Jack smiled seeing his on-line personae. He gave a little chuckle that the character looked a little like him. He then turned the camera angle in the game so he could see where his character was. The garish light from the flashing neon sign, XXX, just beyond his windows lit the dingy office. The game was a harsh world that tipped its hat to the black and white, film noir, well that was what Marymaggie7 said, and she knew a lot. It was a place where ethics were a cheap, disposable commodity, and violent acts on the streets of the fictional city were the point of the story. She was not there. In the game, his character moved to the hall and peered out. Nothing, it was just the dark hallway and the stairs leading down. He went to the window and looked out over the cops harassing a working girl and down the way some kids hanging out by the bar. He worried about her in this game. It was a dangerous place, and while it was not real, people could still make you feel like shit with their abusive horror stories. He was her partner in storytelling, and though it was just fiction, he worried about her in here. Smooth talking on-line guys and devious characters could tempt you into dark alleys and into acts seductive and dangerous. Jack had been protecting MaryMagedeline7, in their story, from a corrupt city official who wanted revenge on Jack for exposing them, and so the bastard in the game had threatened Mary. It was strange how the game reflected real live. It left him on edge and even though it was a game, a story, it kept him up at night. Jack checked his screen and fighting hud for his weapon and looked over the Desert Eagle that flashed in the half light of this virtual world. How many times had Jack had to wade into the on-line story to save MaryMagdalene7 from herself? He had been beaten, thrown in jail and even killed a guy for her in the game. He stowed the weapon in the shoulder holster. He worried about her in the computer world and in reality.
In his headphones, Jack could hear the virtual world where cars honked and someone was yelling outside the imaginary building, and then he heard the soft tap of someone coming up the stairs and sighed with relief when Mary sauntered into the detective’s office with her wide hips rolling and a too tight 1940’s, red dress with take-me-to bed, red high heels. Her blond hair was coiled up smooth and pinned in some fancy knot at the back of her long neck. Her bright eyes sparkled, half hidden by the wide fashionable hat. He smirked, for she might not be real, but she could get a rise out of any man, he thought. In this world, in this story there was nothing subtle about Mary. She removed the hat and gave him an automated smile produced by the game. Jack brought up the local chat box on his screen. In this game you wrote your actions and posted them and only resorted to game fighting when you had to do that. It was a place where you wrote your own story, and where anything was possible, but more often than not, people still opted for the darkest most painful and degrading existence, still, there was Mary, and she made the play all worth it.
JackDash: You need me, Mary?
MaryMagdeline7: Now Jack, that is a loaded question, isn’t it?
Her computer, smile flashed at him, and she shifted her hips and pursed her lips at him. He pushed the button in the game to flash a smile back her.
JackDash: No, seriously Mary? It sounded urgent. Is this about that ridiculous crime lord that’s been stalking you in here, or the guy at the bar — been hitting on you again? Did the Mayor send that police detective, Jamison, by here to threaten you, or is this about real life?
He smirked and then frowned because even in the virtual world he was constantly harassed by people that were vile, cruel, and corrupt. It was like there was no place he could go to escape. Sometimes he felt like in life and in virtual world too, he was being pursued by dark forces trying to drive him crazy.
JackDash: I am sorry, but I’ve been kind of distracted; I am having a hard time lately, but this was about you, right?
MaryMageline7: Hard? A hard time? You keep it up with the jokes Jack, and I won’t be able to say what I need to say to you.
Her little character flashed a wicked smile at him again.
Jack shook his head and typed back.
JackDash: No, I am serious. I am stressed out and feeling ragged.
MarryMagdalene7: Sorry, sorry, Jack. I’ve been having a hard time too in real life too. Oh, is it Karen again? Your father in Montana? Work? Pick up your mike, and I’ll call you. We can talk.
JackDash: IRS… news and things.
Mary looked up at him with brilliant blue eyes that glittered. She was so close, and damn she was beautiful, with a figure out of this world. Yeah, he would have liked to chuck everything and just role play in here with her, forget his troubles, and go off and fight the bad guys or make love to her character. It was all fantasy but even in this terrible virtual world, it was better than real life. At least in here, he thought, you could kill the bad guys.
MaryMagdalene7: Not kidding, right? You mean the IRS is actually after you Jack? OMG. Seriously… You been through so much lately. Why? Was it just a random audit? Did you talk to your VA counselor about this extra stress?
Jack Dash: The IRS is out of control Mary. Does it matter? I mean they’ve been harassing me all week asking for more documents about the business. Now they say they will audit my personal tax returns too. I don’t know after the IRS political scandals and harassment, I just don’t know. I am struggling right now, and things are off the hook in the political world; things are bad. You heard about them arresting Welsh, the anchorman, right? They were doing house to house searches for a terror suspect, and that might seem okay, but it’s in a state where they have restricted gun rights, and they are using this to go in and confiscate guns during the sweep for this guy.
MaryMagdalene7: Sure there is trouble and corruption, but I don’t want to talk about politics. It’s bigger than us both; you know how I feel about all of that stuff. It gets you all crazy, Jack. It’s not good for you. It’s consuming you and your energy. Are you listening too much to your political groups?
Jack sighed and his brow knit. He loved Mary, and she was a brilliant woman, but they were polar opposites in political views. She was the classic liberal, help the little guy, save the world through helping hands, but also a progressive, regulate-if-you-have-too type, but also she was a defender of man’s freedoms and rights. He often found her views contradictory, but he never doubted her sincerity or good heart even though she had voted in what he thought was paramount to a totalitarian regime. God, he loved talking to her. She knew everything from dying wool and natural medicines to philosophy, but sometimes he ranted at her about his politics, and she tolerated him. He was distracted by the news alert in a window near the bottom of the screen. His brow furrowed, wondering what the upset newscaster was saying. He shook his head and looked back to the game.
MaryMagdalene7: Jack, Jack you still there. Maybe you should call me? Pick up your headset. I need you. I need to tell you something, and you need me. You need me to keep you grounded in all of this.
JackDash: We are in a virtual world Mary, grounded is not an option and kind of ironic.
He made his character on the screen laugh. He smirked and started to type more to Mary when he noticed again the frantic behavior of the news casters in the video feed at the bottom of his screen, and he realized there was a national tragedy. Eyes widening, Jack leaned forward and sucked in a breath. He minimized the game to watch the real news. The stunned blond woman on the news with a hand to her ear was obviously so distraught she was being directed by the producer. The flashing words on the screen said it all. He desperately flicked news window back down and typed rapidly to Mary.
JackDash: Mary on the news, the real news. Look at the news.
MaryMagdalene7: No Jack I need you to hear me. Pick up the set. I have something important to say to you.
JackDash: Someone just shot Senator Stone and Jethro Dawson just outside news studios in New York City! Gunned down! Those are my people!
Jack stood up at his desk in the real world. “Damn! Damn!” He was so angry, and there was no place to put all that mad. He normally hated politicians but these guys were pushing his agenda and been fighting everyone including his old political party to make things happen. He turned and swept his arm out and knocked books and tax documents from his desk to fly scattering, and then he turned and shaking with rage, kicked the wall a few times. He stared at the dented and cracked drywall. Panting, Jack turned to the computer. He was shaking when saw that Mary was typing away to him, but he taped the computer to lower her and the game on his screen. He instead brought up the news feed. He felt the world tipping. Assassinations of political leaders, he thought, was an attack on the followers of, of… It was an attack on him and all he believed. He did not want to be rash. Shaking, he fell to his seat at the computer. The stunned newscasters talked of the impending rallies of the Liberty Movement and the chaos at the network. Camera crews in the area showed the police, and special units swarming over the streets and blocking off key areas looking for the suspects. Jack leaned forward with a hand over his mouth, and his breathing was erratic. “Who did it? Who did it?” He blew out a breath as they showed ambulances and evacuated workers running in business clothing. He blinked and sat up and flipped up the window for his political group. Jack logged in as SaintMike1.
SaintMike1: Did anyone hear about this shooting? Do they know who did it?
He watched for answers but minimizing the screen he followed a news scroll. Stunned news anchors babbled back and forth. Three dimensional maps of the network appeared with red arrows pointing to the streets and then blocky three dimensional layouts of the front of the building where the major news network was and where Dawson and Stone were killed. Displayed were the routes they walked and the point of contact with two gunmen, yet unidentified. He paused the image and ran a finger over the placement of the victims, the gunmen, and their assumed route of escape. Jack ran a hand over his mouth and looked to the screen.
Motheroftwo: I don’t know. Two white guys is all I heard. I am just numb. I met Jethro at a Liberty Movement event. You met him to Mike. I remember you shook Jethor’s hand. I can’t believe this. St Mike, you were in the military. Was this an assassination?
Jack stood up and began to pace. He looked around the room and went to the dark closet and paused as if struggling with something. He let out a breath moved back to the computer.
Motheroftwo: St. Mike?
Jedimaster123: Yeah, it was. I already got reports that some police were pulled off their security positions by an incident in the hotel across the street. A critical route for the police and EMT support on the road was blocked by a wreck. The hotel is situated near major freeways. Yeah this looks professional to me. Damn, fucking, liberal, radical, nut jobs.
Motheroftwo: Jedi, calm down. We need to be calm.
EagleEye: Maybe the rallies should be postponed. Maybe people should just stay home. Bound to be some crazies out there.
Motheroftwo: I’m on my phone. Already down here at the Dallas site – federal building – with The Liberty Movement. We have too much in place to shut down; no way to call it all off.
Patriot13: I am going down there. I think this stinks of an assassination. Screw that. I am going to bear witness.
EagleEye: Mother you need to get out of there. Things could get ugly. We need to reschedule. Go up and tell the leaders there we can do this another time. Someone will get hurt. Mother? OMG, Mother listen to me, will you.
EagleEye: Maybe she is not there anymore. Damn it, Saint Mike? Mike?
SaintMike7: Here. I’m still here.
EagleEye: Mike, Mike they should postpone, right? You going there? Are you going?
Jedimaster123: No way Eagle, we have to take a stand and defend our beliefs. We stand up now and say no by the millions in different cities across the nation, or things will change in a dark and drastic way. Anarchy and I are ready to roll. You sunshine patriots can just sit on your asses. Progressive-conservatives can just ride it out and hope for the best, sell outs. What about you, Mike? We need good men. It’s what you swore to defend.
Jack slumped back into the seat and put a hand over his mouth and tried to think. He glanced to the ads along the side of the news feed, one showed a black and white gif, security footage, of a guy going up and punching an old woman in the face. Another vid showed two men dragging a girl away, followed by a number for a company offering low cost safe rooms. A small video displayed an ad for the US Army where men in uniform carried a little girl out of a war zone. Next, he stared fixed on the ads for a light weight holster for a hand gun. He closed his eyes trying to push the images away as he heard the beep of messages rolling in and calling to him — the group, e-mails, the game, messages. He felt it all swirling in his head. He felt the anxiety he experienced before he went on a patrol back in Iraq; the jumpy nerves and racing adrenaline. He opened his eyes and saw the bright ad for the energy drink. It replicated itself all over his screen like a virus. He grimaced as the ad wildly spawned, and he slowly reached for can of the stuff sitting on his desk. He realized that the can was in his hand, and he stared at it. His gaze swept over his desk at all the empty cans littered there. He feverishly tried to get all of the ads turned off, only to reveal something that made him suck in a breath.
A paramilitary group of federal law enforcement agents in black appeared on the set of the major network where the killings took place. The agents with side arms motioned for the news casters to get up and move off the set of a live broadcast. The blond anchor, a lawyer, refused and shook her pretty head. An agent near her stepped up and tried to grab her and drag her off. Her cohosts raised their hands in surrender to the group of armed agents. The pretty talking head slapped and hit the agent. She pulled away from the Fed that grappled with her, only to be tazed by another agent. Her body went taut and rocked violently. Her blond hair flipped around her distorted and grimacing face. She went down hard to the stage floor. One male cohost yelled and bent trying to help her. The other cohost, the senior anchor, was pointing at the camera crew, obviously telling them to keep rolling. The anchorman was red in the face and shaken as he was pulled off screen by agents. Jack’s mouth fell open, and he stood up. The scene vanished replaced by a network logo. “No, no, no way. Fuck!” He was breathing hard when he heard the sound of a call coming in over his computer. He frowned and picked up his headset and hit the talk button. He was breathing hard as he adjusted his earpieces.
“What? What do you want?!” Jack yelled.
“Jack, what on earth? What has gotten into you?” Mary snapped. “Calm down. I’m sorry. Are you okay? I see the news now. I see it. I do. I know you‘re upset, but I needed to talk about Wayne. Please listen to me. I need to tell you a few things about what’s been happening.”
Jack paced back and forth. He couldn’t think clearly. “Mary, I want to hear about it all, but I got to go down there. I just have to get down there. Something bad is happening. This is, is bigger than any problem you or I have. I swear I will be there for you, but I am going.”
A window on the computer appeared filled with images of a history documentary on Hitler with jack-booted thugs goose stepping their way down the street full of adoring Nazi admirers. BANG! BANG! BANG! Someone loudly knocked on his front door. He turned in his office at the back of the house and listened. He heard more knocking.
“I have to go.” He could not think clearly. “Mary, I want to hear about it all, but I got to go down there. I just have to get down there. Something bad is happening. I promise to listen, Mary I will. If it is about your husband, just take your laptop and go to your sister, June’s place for a while. I’ll get back to you later.”
“Where Jack where are you going? Just sit with me, Jack. Just sit down.”
Jack heard someone banging on the front door of his house. He turned in his computer and listened. There was more knocking. “I have to go. I promise to listen to you, help you, just got to do this. I can’t leave them all down there by themselves at the protest. They’re just civilians.”
“Tell me where you are going? I thought your pickup needed repairs. “
“No, no got that done. Someone’s at the door, but then I am heading out. I am going down there to the federal building, downtown. Big rally. Shit, I guess I will have to park over on Commerce. It’s going to be packed.” The beating on the door grew increasingly louder. “Got to go.”
“Jack wait, this seems all wrong. It strange. I got a bad feeling.”
“Love you. Got to run.” He took off the headphones and dropped them on the floor and padded barefoot towards the front door. Jack hesitated. He felt his phone ringing, jiggling, and it buzzed. . He pulled it out and saw a text message from Martin Morales/Jedimaster123.
Morales: Downtown Dallas. Crowds gathering, opposition rally forming against us, Feds got us surrounded too. Where are you?
Jack looked up from the text, and stood frozen. “Who, who is it?” Jack asked. He could just make out men in suits through the curtains.
“Federal agents, Mr. Dawson, open the door, please. We would just like to talk to you.”
Jack looked around the living room and thought for a moment. He took a few steps back and dropped the phone in the little trash can by the sofa. Through the window he saw what appeared to be three SUVs beyond sheer curtains. “Mr. Dawson, please don’t complicate this situation. We just need a moment of your time. If you would please open the door…” The lead agent shouted to Jack.
Jack paused near the door. He felt his heart beating hard. Jack’s eyes went wide and he looked down at his pajama bottom and t-shirt. He looked all around his simple bungalow house as if he was still in the game Dystopia. “This isn’t happening.”
Jack was breathing hard, but he opened the door. He squinted and blinked at the bright sun and at the ten men and one woman before him. The oldest agent, a pale man, slightly balding with a retro mustache, and as big as Jack at 6’2” smiled and slowly pulled off his shades. He flashed a badge. “Thank you, Mr. Dawson. I’m Agent Carson. We’re with the IRS and just need your help in a matter. May we come in?”
Jack stared at all the efficient, little government monsters on his doorstep, staring expectantly at him. He pushed the door closed slightly and shook his head. “No, you may not come in.” He saw a few neighbors in their yard eyeing his house.
“You got a warrant?” Jack asked, his voice husky and tight. He knew he must have looked angry and anxious.
Carson’s eye twitched just a little, and his perfunctory smile faded. “I see; do we need one? We are here to gather any documents on your business and personal finances. We tried calling. You said before you’d be cooperative.” He stepped up closer to the door. Jack’s eye’s went wide as he realized in a flash of clarity how this was about to go down.
“Yeah, you do. Get off my porch,” Jack said mechanically realizing he was almost reading off a bad script handed to him and that scared him more than anything. They were writing the scenario for him. As Carson stuck his foot in the door and started to insert his body, Jack felt as if he was in a bad movie, and he couldn’t do anything but follow through on the instinctual response to throw his weight on the door bouncing it into the man and stepping him back. In response to their colleague being assaulted, the other agents slammed into the door. Jack stumbled back and felt their hands on him and saw angry faces, squared-jawed and up close as he was driven into the wall near the front stairs. Grunting with pain, he struggled unable to believe it was happening. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Oh now Mr. Dawson, everyone has done something, it is just a matter of time until we expose it,” said Agent Carson as he straighten his tie and windbreaker. Jack’s eyes went wide at the words from Carson. Men and women entered his home with boxes and no expressions. They moved up the stairs and to the back of the house. Breathing hard, Jack felt a bitterness over take him, and he refused to protest what he could not stop. He stood with his shirt in the grip of one man and another holding his arm twisted behind his back.
“Do you have any firearms on you or in the house, Sir,” the young blond agent snapped. Jack did not answer but only glared at the man. “I said do you have any fire arms…”
Carson waved his fellow agent off that line of questioning. “Now then, Mr. Dawson, I am sorry it went this way, but thank you for letting us into your home. Have a seat, and we’ll overlook that you assaulted a Federal agent.” Carson nodded to his men. The agents dragged Jack to the sofa and shoved him. Sprawled on his own couch, Jack watched the men go to work and heard above him things in his bedroom being dumped. Jack watched helplessly as men passed through his kitchen moving to the back of the house to his office. He sat up hearing movement from his office. Grimacing, Jack wondered what the agents were shoving around back there. Jack’s heart raced, and his breathing was erratic. He felt violated and looked up at Carson who gave him a contemptuous half smile. Carson’s phone rang, and the agent blinked and pulled out his cell. “Carson.” He listened. His eyes flicked to Jack. “We’re on it. Checking that now. Everything is as we planned.” Jack stared into Carson’s eyes as he clicked off of the call.
Men came trundling down the stairs with the precision of cogs in a machine. They carried away things that belonged to him, bits of his life, bits of his privacy and sense of control, and Jack could only watch it all happening. Frowning, Jack noticed one young woman with slicked back dark hair in a bun pause and stare at him with some expression he tried to identify. Jack squinted at her, and she saw his gaze and gripped the carton of his stuff tighter to herself. Was she embarrassed — feeling remorse? She heard another person coming down the stairs and moved out sharply. Jack felt a sudden jab in his mind as he thought of searches he had to do in Iraq and suddenly felt a curious deja-vu and guilt. He squeezed his eyes closed. The searches and the frightened faces of the families. He remembered their dark eyes on him as he stood in uniform over them. Had he seemed like a monster to the people whose homes he had searched, not always with clear probable cause?
“Sir, got something,” the heavy set African-American agent said to Carson. Jack glanced up and noticed something undefinable pass between the two men, some look.
“Let’s see it.” Carson pointed to an agent coming down the stairs. “Watch him.” Carson walked back to Jack’s office, and the tall lanky agent holding a box looked around a moment and then moved off to the porch to say something to a colleague. Jack heard the faint buzz of his cell phone on vibrate. Jack leaned forward watching the agent on the porch. Quickly, Jack pulled his phone out of the trash. His hands shook as he brought up a new text message.
Anarchyslittlesister: Where are you Jack? The Red Brigade is here and Student Equity goons. This is bad. It’s all coming together. Too many cops, so many people. Tasers and riot gear. I lost Jedi. Help. Bleeding.
The lanky agent returned, and Jack’s eyes went wide and without looking up pocketed deftly the phone. Men marched back from his office with more boxes and his laptop. “No,” Jack said trying to get up off the couch, but Carson walked up to him and pointed a finger. “You stay in that seat there, Dawson. Don’t make me put you in cuffs.” Jack shook, and he clinched his teeth so tightly he thought they would break, but for the sake of Anarchy and Jedi, he held his place.
Carson reappeared from the back followed by the agents. The older agent took a moment to sign off on some paperwork on a clip board that an agent gave to him. Handing it back to his fellow agent, Carson turned back to Jack. “Fine, let’s head out,” Carson told the men. Carson gave Jack a pleasant smile as the last of the men left his home. “That wasn’t so bad now was it, Mr. Dawson? Don’t worry about the laptop, we’ll be in touch. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about.” Carson went out the door.
Jack sat for a minute in shock as the men beyond his front window loaded up their vehicles. He looked around at the empty silent house and the few papers scattered on the floor before him. He stood up and paced with heart hammering in his chest and his breathing rapid and ragged. He opened the phone. It was full of texts: Mother, Eagle, Patriot, Anarchy, and Jedi. He saw another voice mail from MaryMagdalene7, and his father. With shaking hands, he texted back to Anarchy.
JackDawson: Anarchy where are you and Jedi?
Jack climbed the stairs two at a time. He stopped in the doorway to his bedroom and stood in the fading light of day staring at the mattresses tipped up, his papers and personal belongings thrown everywhere. He walked over and picked up a picture of his unit in Iraq, smiling faces of men, brothers in arms, now in a smashed glass frame. He felt the vibrations of her answer.
He looked to the text message but his brow furrowed. He did not know the number. It was not Anarchy and what he saw was a disturbing image of some young guy with his fingers spread in a v-shape, and his tongue sticking between the fingers and behind him the street filled with people and cops and some other guy holding Anarchy in his grip. She looked banged up, scraped face bloody. The fear on her face gutted him. Jack’s face twisted at the threatening selfie. “Fuck.” Someone had her; Some sick fuck had Anarchy down at the protest. Who were these guys?
Jack turned in a circle and went into the closet and came out with his jeans and a t-shirt and for the first time in two days he got dressed. He hopped around getting into jeans, socks, his shirt and boots and then he slipped on the shoulder holster and a jacket and headed down the stairs. In his office, Jack went to the dark closet when the phone went off jiggling. He brought out the phone. Seeing another unknown number he stared at it a moment and confused he answered, but hit the speaker and dropped on his knees. “Go ahead, If you are the sick fucks that…” he said as he started to pull up the carpet in the bottom of his closet where he kept his fire arms and extra ammo. He paused seeing the carpet had been disturbed and not put back right.
“Jack, its Mary. I see that things are getting really bad out there.”
“Mary? Mary? You never called me on the phone. I mean 5 years… You never used my number.” His eyes were wide, but he was on a mission and could not stop.
“The news, Jack, shows people gathering in cities around the country. They have a riot going on in Ohio over this, and it looked bad — fire, shooting and people running. It looks bad Jack, and I know this is not the right time to bring this up but…”
Jack puzzled on the miss laid carpet. He tipped his head, bent down and pulled it back to reveal the hatch and opened it. He saw there his 9mm Glock. It was there. He frowned for a moment, but then he checked the magazine and satisfied slammed it home. “Yeah Mary, I am sure it is bad. I can’t talk right now.”
“You don’t sound good Jack. What is that you are doing? I need to meet up with you. You mean the world to me.”
“I am going down to the federal building. You hang tough, Mary. I will get to you in time. I promise.” He hung up on her. She called back, and he gritted his teeth. Anarchy was in trouble. He hated to cut Mary out, but history was being made. He had friends down there in trouble, and even more than that, it was a long time coming the stand against the erosion of the constitution. Jack let the phone ring. He took the weapon in his hand and stared down at it. He swallowed hard. Was he really going to go down there and wade into that mess? Rubbing his head hard, Jack closed his eyes. He felt weary. What was his mission op? He looked at the weapon again. He did not want to carry it if he was not clear under what circumstances he would draw the weapon and fire it. This was not a war. This was his home and his people. He felt the weight in his hand. What was his SOP? Draw weapon if a weapon is drawn on me? Draw if about to be overwhelmed? Draw to defend the life of himself and his friends? Would he shoot a cop? Would he shoot a federal agent in defense of the lives of others? He flashed on the cops in the Ukraine shooting the civilians there. A hundred violent images of worldwide protest ran spliced together in his head, angry screaming faces, and clinched fists up lifted, fire, dead bodies, and riot cops. He put a hand over his eyes.
Jack glanced down and saw the letter from his father on the floor. He stared at it feeling something, undefinable that prickled along his senses, and finally, he picked it up. Jack tore it open and read:
I know you got your worries about the world, but I got my worries for you. You think Mamma and I can’t understand you, but that is because you live in a different world. You’re getting closed off to us, and we feel your anger when we talk to you. We know you are a good man and carry in your heart the right answers. We planted the seeds of God’s truth and personal honor in your heart. We believe these things will bring you home again. I know you got to stand up, just be careful. God keep you, Son. Remember this verse and pray it. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
Jack sucked in a breath grimacing at how poignant the letter was and set it on the desk; it struck home. He knew now he was going down there, find Morales and save Anarchy. He felt his phone go off, and he pulled it out of his pocket and looked to a text message. It was from Martin Morales. There was a message box but it was blank. He stared at it. The fact that Morales sent a blank text message, made a chill go through him. Was Morales cut off before he could type out a call to arms? He frowned staring at the phone, but moments passed – nothing – no follow up from Morales. Jack typed back.
JackDawson: You still there, Morales? You okay? You got Anarchy? Situation on the ground?
Morales: I got troub…
Jack stared at the phone.
“Fuck.” Jack felt a sense of anxiety spike in him. He tried to remember what he was doing – getting ready to move out. He rummaged around on the floor of the office for his cell phone charger. He went behind a chair and grabbed up his rucksack. He held it a moment staring at it. He was never supposed to need a bug-out bag. He blew out a breath and unzipped it and went back and loaded up the rest of the ammo into the bag. Jack turned and pulled out of the closet his silver coins and a wad of cash. He stared at the money. It was the unthinkable scenario he had thought about repeatedly. Karen had called him crazy. Maybe she was right. He squeezed his eyes shut and wondered if she was right. He huffed in and out a shaky breath. He pulled up on his phone maps of the area around the federal building. He moved the map in different directions. He had been there plenty of times, but now he looked at alternate routes in and out of the area. His mission was to get in there and support an orderly removal of close friends. Maybe he should have wanted to stand there and let the authorities beat him, arrest him, shoot him in protest, but he had this bad feeling they were past the point of non-violent protest. How would he respond? His first priority was his friends. He pulled out of the bottom of a book shelf a map, a good old paper atlas, and a map of the city.
As he walked out into the living room, He glanced once more at his phone. He punched the number for Morales and held his breath. No answer came back from Morales; it went to voice mail. “You have reached Martin Morales. Leave a message.” Jack closed the call. The silence around Jack felt cold and grim. He stared at his shrinking communication lines. Feeling a heat and anger, He started for the front door. In the dwindling light, he slammed his door behind him and was walking to the truck, when he grimaced at the sight of the neighbors who stood in a yard down the way looking at him. He felt embarrassment rush over him and anger. Getting into the truck he started up and was backing out of his gravel drive-way when one of the neighbors, Jim Ingles, waved desperately at him and ran forward. Jack slowed and rolled down a window.
“Jack trouble everywhere? Right? What do you think we should do?” The timid, pale-faced man was holding his cell phone out to him with a blaring news feed showing fighting flashing in every city. Jack’s eyes locked on a descending nightmare, and he looked to Ingles.
“Get your weapon, your supplies and hunker down and hang on to friends and family, or if you have a place outside of the city, figure a back-road way out of the metroplex for a while.” Jack felt bad when Jim’s face went slack, and the man pulled the cell phone back to himself.
“You don’t think it is that bad do you, Jack? I mean it will blow over, right?”
Jack felt a terrible resolve harden within himself, and he could only nod. He lifted a hand, and a stunned Jim lifted a hand slowly in return as Jack pulled out leaving the neighbors in their little knots of confusion. Jack raced along the major highways thinking of all the ways he would position barricades and support around the protesters. He tried to think of how far back that would be based on the map. He figured with it being a federal building he might see FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement. He roared along the highway noting the heavy traffic was slowed going the opposite direction from the city. Eyes wide, Jack became concerned and brought up the map watching the traffic patterns blinking on his on-board GPS. Red lines depicted that most of the major routes out of the downtown were clogging up, and he figured he better start thinking of the alternate routes out of the area. He was so tense it was painful and gripped the wheel hard in his hands. “Just can’t be happening, just can’t be happening.” He knew it was and was better prepared than most for this civil disruption, but it felt like he had to say it. The phrase came tumbling out of his mouth repeatedly.
He turned on his radio and frowned as it blared out a patriotic tune at him. He winced and tried to turn it down but the swelling epic music reverberated in his bones and felt like it was galvanizing him into action. He gritted his teeth and tried to turn off the radio and barely missed the car directly ahead that had slammed on its breaks for a slow down at an off ramp. He had moments to put eyes on the mirror and seeing no other car near cranked the wheel swerving around and clipping the car. His mouth dropped open as the music crescendo to the shriek of metal when he barely escaped a violent brush with calamity. He growled and beat the dashboard. “Fuck!” He straightened out his wheel and glanced back at the mirror to see no great harm done to the other car and driver, but he realized that he could not stop and be responsible. He had to keep going. People were depending on him. The instrumental music’s beating drums and martial brass was setting a mental scene of what he might see downtown, and it was not good. As he approached the heart of the city, the glass towers glowed golden from the setting sun. Black smoke hung in the air and choppers soared overhead moving in towards the city, a news chopper and two Blackhawks. He felt the beat of the blades in his chest. It was a familiar feeling that made his skin go cold.
Blinded by the golden glare on the glass towers of the city, Jack almost missed his exit and pulled off entering into the tight urban landscapes of long shadows. What struck him was the gangs of roving young people that darted across the first intersection. Some of the young guys had sagging pants, tats, and bulky jackets, the normal uniform of the irregulars of the urban landscape. Jack watched their hands and faces wondering if they were carrying weapons. The young guys darted out in front of the cars. The boys didn’t care that they were moving against the light. They shrieked and leaped in the air feeling the energy from the trouble ahead of them, obviously wanting to get in on the action. He glanced around at the other vehicles and stunned drivers, and in the distance, he thought he heard voices projected loudly by bullhorns or sound systems. Downtown Dallas was a confusing maze of narrow one way streets and skyscrapers. He glanced down at his GPS, and when he moved out into traffic, he turned on a street leading to the federal court building. He grimaced to see anxious office workers and shop keepers standing on sidewalks in groups talking. Half of the people were looking at their phones the other half animatedly discussing the trouble down the way. He wanted to tell them to get back inside their buildings, but he knew it was human nature to want to see even a train wreck, and it was a train wreck.
He saw busses in a big, packed parking lot, and just beyond that were streets blocked off by barricades where the Dallas police in riot gear stood. He watched a crowd of jogging civilians in the distance leaving the area where the choppers circled and black smoke rose in a thin column even as the guy in the car behind him began honking. He could see that cops a few blocks down formed a corridor allowing some of the people out of the troubles while corralling others. He had been to many Liberty rallies and never seen such a thing. He stared wide eyed at the chartered busses where middle aged people were standing around in t-shirts proclaiming their allegiance — Red Brigade, a hard core communist action group and a few of the Students for Equity, a well-meaning if not misguided socialist group, but both funded by the same billionaire, self-serving, global opportunist. Jack frowned with his lips drawing back thinking that they had been brought here purposefully to instigate.
The liberty folks were supposed to be protesting peacefully in that huge parking lot opposite the courthouse. He could not see that area from where he was at on this street. Even before he got to ground zero, Jack heard the stunning sound of a din of people, screams, music, chanting, and orders given by some officious sounding bastard echoing off the buildings. The sound energized him, and his fear spiked. Jack sighed and shook his head because many of the parking lots were full already. He noticed a parking lot where cops motioned the media vans to enter. It was only a few blocks away from him, and though it meant driving the wrong way on an empty street, he gunned his engine and went for it. Jack rolled up alongside of a line of media vehicles he leaned over watching a policeman direct the media vans. Even though his vision was partially obscured by the courthouse, Jack could now see the chaos of several thousand people ebbing and flowing waves of angry humanity just a few blocks down from him. There was the strong stench of smoke and air horns blared commands. The distant cacophony of violence that he heard left him feeling suddenly small. This was strange; for him, fights in Iraq had been more often than not a few guys against a few guys, or spontaneous protests of a few dozen, and as terrible as that was, this was something beyond his understanding. The fearful unknown prompted Jack to drive up and force his way into the line of media vans and heard the driver behind him slam on his breaks. The driver in the van that he cut off blew his horn. The cops on the sidewalk along the parking lot waved and pointed at him to get out of the line, but they knew, and he knew he could not simply turn around in this situation. All he could do was shrug at them. Pissed and afraid, he turned his wheel sharply and went up and over the sidewalk and curb into the last empty row of the parking lot. What were they going to do come and get him? He glanced in his rearview mirror, and two cops broke off from their duties. Jack frowned. Fuck, they were coming, he thought. He parked on the last parking space at the end of the area facing his truck out of there, so he could do the same thing, drive over the sidewalk out onto a street again, if he had to do that. He climbed out shaking and grabbed his backpack and grunted at the weight from the silver and looked down the parking lot to the two cops walking his way pointing at him. Jack had become a law breaker in what he thought had become a lawless time.
He had his backpack out and turned to run from the cops, when he heard the sharp echoing report of a high powered rifle followed by the thunderous screaming of a multitude of people. Both Jack and cops dropped down behind separate cars, and the cops pulled their weapons. Jack fought the urge to pull his sidearm. Not in front of the cops, he told himself. He and the officers looked in the direction of the federal courthouse and those structures just ahead of them past the federal building. They were too far behind the federal building to see much. He scanned for shooters on the roof tops and windows of the buildings, but he was at the wrong angle to see the vantage points overlooking the courthouse and huge parking lot where the rally had been taking place. With them occupied, Jack took off at a run down the sidewalk heading for the side of building on the street leading in the direction of the rally. There were people trying to leave the area, coming up the streets running in little groups of four or five, those that had slipped the net as the officers took cover. The groups were going in the opposite direction that Jack was going. He slowed along the side of the building. So many people ahead of him moving in waves of chaos. He blinked as he smelled tear gas on the wind. Jack felt like he was in a nightmare, but he moved along to the side of the building slipping around some officers fighting with panicked citizens wanting out of the area already.
Coughing, Jack stood on the street corner hugging the building near the barricades where he now saw homeland security’s white SUVs parked along the street in front of the federal building, and many more federal agents, sharp efficient men dressed in dark uniforms and well-armed. There were a lot more of them than he expected. The agents were backing up the local cops. The officers and agent were either behind cover communicating on radios or trying to direct civilians that were now panicked and fleeing. The ranks of riot police with shields were falling back from the angry crowd. Jack shook his head as a ragged of line of maybe two hundred liberty protesters near him locked arms. Jack ran his eye over the hundreds in knots. He thought as the protesters bunched up that they might be protecting leaders of the movement or fighting arrest. There seemed to be no strategy or reason to the actions of the protesters. He moved around the street corner to a gap in the line of law enforcement. It seemed with the gun fire, they let some fleeing civilians pass out of the area. Some protesters had already been grabbed up and were corralled screaming, crying and arguing with armed officers that bullied them into a ragged line processing them back to the jail busses somewhere back behind Jack. Some of the civilians of varying ages and modes of dress, soccer moms, grandmothers, red neck in a baseball cap, a well dressed woman, maybe Hispanic, all stumbled along in zip ties. Still, large crowds ran for cover. Somewhere at the far end of the parking area beyond the protestors Jack could just make out the light of a fire. As the thousands in the crowd began to chant again, the police that had fallen backed lobbed tear gas into the crowd. Jack’s eyes went wide. He hated tear gas. The screams of the people near the grenades emitting the gas ran wildly in every direction, some falling. The wind blew the gas away from Jack, well some of it, and he took that moment to move out.
He was glad that there was no consistent policy about dealing with the civilians, not now at least, it gave him a chance to get into the area. As an EMT unit rolled up with lights flashing in the last rays of the day, he was able to slip past the cops that were banging on the hood of an ambulance not to enter yet. What he saw as he moved along, fighting with his bag to get his respirator, so shocked him that he stumbled to a stop along side of a van in front of the federal building. There two Dallas cops in riot gear were standing with helmets off and respirators on and were shoving back and forth with a Homeland Security agent. Jack finally saw that a fire engulfed two cars far beyond the crowd in the parking lot opposite the federal courthouse. Jack looked up as choppers raked lights over them all. Dallas cops tried to reason with the agent on some point when a sniper picked off a man fifty yards away from Jack. Gunfire, small arms, all around them forced Jack to go low by Homeland Security SUV. Jack slipped on the respirator. He grimaced as it limited his sight and made him feel like he was in space suit. Jack wondered who was shooting at this point. Jack tightened the straps of the mask. He took a breath. There was more gunfire, and one of the windows of the SUV shattered where he was hiding was hit. Glass rained down around him. The cops and agent bent down to the ground and looked back behind them. They pointed high to a building. Around the cops and agent, fallen civilians littered the ground, a dozen, lying dead or wounded. It was madness. Some of the civilians were hunkered down behind sound equipment near a stage and a few vehicles for the rally.
Jack, with shaking hands, took out his phone and dialed Anarchy’s number.
“Jack?” She mumbled out in a ragged whisper he could barely make out.
“Where are you?” Jack shouted and wondered if she could even understand him in his mask.
“Look at the link,” She said.
“Anarchy? Melissa! Where are you?” He shouted at her. He glanced up to see the two cops and federal agent had set aside their differences and moved off to render aid to a woman who was shot but alive. They seemed to have made a decision to break ranks from the other law enforcement and help the civilians. He was distracted and then realized the call from Anarchy closed off. He felt a cold shiver and he gritted his teeth and shook the phone growling, but stopped when he felt it buzz in his hand. He glanced to the screen and there in a text message was a link to a video site. His hand were shaking as he hit the link in the text message. It was a quick load video the new kind kid journalist used.
In one of those live phone broadcasts, he saw Anarchy with her face beaten and blood on her mouth. She stared into her phone, and then she turned her phone from herself to scan around and show him that she was in a parking garage. He could read her lips as he mouthed help me, the video ended. Her almost-live video gave him the clues he needed. Jack leaned out to see the end of the block and spotted what appeared to be the most likely place for her a parking garage on the same side of the street he was on. Jack considered the movement of many people and police officers near him.
There were more shots fired, and Jack heard more screaming. He looked back again to the two local cops helping a woman on the ground. To his surprise, the Homeland Security agent they had argued with covered the Dallas cops by turning on his knee and aiming up at the building roof tops and fired at where the muzzle flash of the sniper had been. The loud crack and reverberation of the sniper rifle in return shuddered Jack, and the agent tumbled back with his brains knocked out. The two cops flinched and hunkered down on their knees, and pulling themselves together, they seemed to agree to move. They grabbed up the woman they were helping and ran bent over for better cover behind the stage. The fearful civilians seeing the officers helping a protester gravitated to them and ran to them for protection. Jack let out a shaky breath relieved to see the two cops motioned the protestors behind them. Jack felt a moment of pride in the local cops protecting people from the violence, only to watch a man in black and wearing a ski mask shoot one of the officers and then turned and shot down three more running protestors. Jack felt a sheer terror like being drenched in ice water hit him. It was efficient the way the man in black moved and scared Jack in a way other combat had not. The dark killer moved along quietly slipping in and out of confused civilians that did not realize he was shooting people. 0Jack popped up over the van he was near drew a weapon and aimed at the mask man when he realized, as more shooting took place, that there were other masked men moving in the crowd causing chaos with seemingly random acts of death. Yet there was a method to their madness, something automated in their behavior. He might avoid the protestors and cops, but he had no idea what to make of the killers. He pulled back.
He kept an eye on the assassins in black and looked again to the parking garage, and bounced on his toes and puffed out a few breaths, and finally, Jack sprinted out of cover. As he ran passing some cops. He got too close to one of their mobile headquarters parked in front of the federal building. A few cops turned on him. One stepped out to stop him and was yelling. He ran down the side walk and elbowed a cop out his way. The deafening pops of handgun fire made him dodge and weave. He juked left to get around a screaming girl and spun to avoid being knocked over by a big cowboy only to feel a smack and fire in his right shoulder. He had no idea who shot him. He stumbled on the sidewalk and went down on his knees. He could not move for a few moments. Jack was knocked back and forth by people running almost over him. Gasping in air, he stumbled up to his feet and felt along his left upper arm where the jacket was ripped to feel a wound oozing blood, making his fingers sticky. He trotted forward through the fleeing people. Making it a few more feet, Jack came around the corner of the parking garage and saw some urban bad boys bent beside a comrade that was wheezing and gasping and behind them by a car sat Anarchy looking disheveled and battered. Frowning and spiking on adrenaline, Jack still had his weapon held low but brought it lifted it, and quietly moved around the preoccupied thugs to Anarchy. She seemed to be breathing normally, so he bent and slipped the respirator up onto his forehead. “Melissa, Anarchy, it’s me, Jack.”
She looked up with her eyes wide at him and then as he touched her face, and she sobbed softy and put her thin arms around his neck. He stood up holding her with his weakened left arm.
“We got to get out of here. Fuck this scene. Fuck this,” rambled a scared young guy with the teens near them. The sound of instructions to civilians rang out echoing, and directing them to lay down on the ground and stay still to avoid further bloodshed. “You hear that? We got to get D’andere some help. Shouldn’t have come down here.”
“Fucking asthma! You pussy, D’andre.” The biggest one said to their wheezing buddy. “Grab his punk ass up, and let’s try to go. Damn five-O’s everywhere. We are going to get picked up with these crazy crackers.” It was then that the bare chested leader of the little group of thugs noticed Jack and turned to him. “Who the hell is that?”
Jack brought up his weapon at them. Shaking with rage, he had a mind to shoot them all, seeing Anarchy’s condition.
“Oh shit,” One of the young guys holding D’andre said.
“Whoa, whoa,” the big tough guy’s hands came up in surrender. “Fuck man.”
“No, Jack, no it wasn’t them,” she said from behind Jack.
“Yeah, Jack, it wasn’t us.” One short kid tried to sound reasonable and gave a tentative smile.
Jack looked out to see an APC roll down the street, and the roar of choppers again. “You better get out of here,” Jack motioned the young men to take off. They nodded and tried to run with their ailing friend between them. Jack backed up into Anarchy. “Go, go on over to that exit over there.” “Where is Jedi? Have you seen him? I was supposed to meet him.” As they came to a stop at the other exit from the garage they watched civilians streaming by them. Jack holstered his weapon and took off the mask and put it in his bag. They looked back and saw one of the masked men walking calmly down the street a pistol in his hand. Jack noted the other masked men spread out evenly in the crowd moving ever forward in a sweep. They made him think of some of the shyster private contractors he met overseas — operatives of what? The government? Jack drew down behind the half concrete wall, pulling Anarchy with him. He watched people crying, screaming and running in the street and through half-filled parking lots. He glanced back to where the APC’s began to off load paramilitary law enforcement. Jack looked down at his phone and dialed Morales. He heard a phone near them go off. Confused, both he and Anarchy looked over the half wall of the parking garage to see one of the masked men looking down and pulling out a phone.
“Morales?” Jack said softly into his phone. Anarchy stared at Jack wide eyed, and they both glanced cautiously over the wall again.
The masked killer standing still in the middle of running throngs was speaking into his phone. “Jack that you? Where are you buddy? Time to take down some Feds and their goons. Time to stand up against these bastards. Something bad has happened to Anarchy. Some of those Red Brigades took her. Time to step up Buddy. Where are you?”
Jack looked with wide eyes to Anarchy. She shook her head no. “No, no not Red Brigade. Three young guys and, and …,” She whimpered, her lips drawing thin. She looked back with tears in her eyes to the man in black. “… a man in a mask.” Jack had a sinking feeling as he watched the man on the phone.
“I can’t understand you, Morales, you’re muffled.” He watched holding his breath. The one on the phone pulled off his mask and began to walk along in the stream of people as his work here seemed done. It was Morales on the phone, he was the guy in the mask. Jack felt fear thrill through him at the sight of his friend there like some evil thing out of nightmares. Jack wanted to shoot him, shoot him over and over again and kill his ass, but he knew suddenly in a flash the truth. Morales, the friendship, the long talks, the pushing and pushing him down this road, and the computer promoting him with every radical temptation and the constant bombardment of paranoia, hell, even the guy in the bar, and finally the IRS harassment. He gasped in and out, the terror threatening to drown him. He turned his head away and muttered, “Manchurian Candidate.”
“What, Jack? What was that? Where are you, Buddy? I know you brought your piece, got to defend our people. Tell me where you are?” Morales/Jedimaster123 asked. “We need to hook up, you and me. Got to get this shit sorted out.” Morales was looking around for him. He sensed his presence and to Jack’s horror Morales hung up and seemed to fiddle with his phone. Jack was about to say something to Anarchy when Morales looked up from his phone and snapped his head in the general direction of the parking garage.
Jack felt a cold rush of adrenaline spike in him. He dropped the phone and crushed it under his boot heal. “We got to go.” Jack grabbed Anarchy and bent low and pulled her along with him to the opposite side of the garage. With a grunt of pain, he climbed over the half wall and helped Anarchy over as well. They moved off down the back street and they paused at a parked police car. They looked to the parking lots. Down a block near the riot, he saw lined up people being processed into the busses to be taken away. “Stay close.”
“What does it mean, Jack?” Anarchy asked him.
“Set up. We trust no one.” They ran between cars, and he felt acutely the weapon in his holster bouncing there against his ribs. The cops down at the end of the block funneled civilians into lines, but so many had run down the opposite way just past Jack and Anarchy, that the system had fallen apart and the shield line had not held. Jack pulled her up, “Can you run?”
Anarchy nodded to him, and they moved quickly along the back street to the corner and looked at the street that had parking lots on either side. Down one block passed him in the direction of the city was where he parked. The people parked too close to the court building would soon find their way blocked off by federally-gifted, police APCs that jack could see about 4 blocks over in a line with men around them preparing for something, but Jack was at the far end of the farthest parking area away from them. Far enough away, he thought, that he could simply drive over the sidewalk and be gone. He stood now and jogged along with Anarchy holding his hand. He saw in another row of cars running parallel with him a young man and woman in pink Students for Equity shirts. The young man had blood smeared through his hair, and the girl was pale. They glanced at Jack and Anarchy, and he was struck by the thought that those in the status quo had effectively begun the silencing of any voices outside the bloated corrupt system. He saw in their young faces the fear and recognition too. He moved past them towards his pickup. He was horrified to see that another block out from them in the direction of down town was a secondary barricade being set up, and cops were there to ring them into the net. He was at his door fishing out his keys when he stared at them. He was breathing hard. “GPS tracking, damn it.” He looked around anxiously and backed away from his truck. He looked around when an old 74 Trans Am, Classic white with blue stripes roared to a stop, rubber smoking. Coughing, Jack stared at the cute blond woman behind the wheel and another woman in the back and a child about ten years old. The small curvy blond with big hair popped up out of the driver’s side her cheek slightly swollen and darkening. “That’s it. That’s it. I knew I would find the truck with that damn patriotic theme, big eagle, I remember that,” She chirped. “Jack?” She asked, but she seemed positive it was him.
Jack’s eyes went wide as MaryMagdeline7’s voice came out of the buxom blond in a zombie t-shirt and jeans. She was no grandmother that was for damn sure, and was the spitting image of her on-line avatar. “Mary?” He asked incredulous.
“Jack we got to get out of here,” Anarchy squeaked and tugged on his arm, but Jack could not look away from Mary, Sarah Goodman.
“Sarah! Will you come on, damn it! We got to get away from here. This was stupid,” the other woman yelled from the car. He knew immediately it was MaryMagdalene7’s sister June and the child in the back Sam.
“You’re…” Jack stared at her.
“Jack, I will explain really, but she’s right we’ve got to go. I am Sarah Goodman, MaryMagdeline, just get in the car I knew you would be in trouble, and I knew that damn pick up anywhere, just get in…”
“You’re not a grandmother?”
“No, Jack.” She smiled at him.
Behind them cars streamed way, and down a block back in the direction of the riot, there was a screech of tires and a fender bender. The place was chaos as cars tried to exit the parking areas, but the cops did not seem to do much to stop the fish that missed the first netting.
“Jack!” Anarchy yelped.
Jack turned in the street to see not far away Morales/jedimaster123 on the corner opposite them holding a pistol at his side. As their eyes locked, Morales lowered the ski mask looked around himself and stepped off the curb heading their way with the pistol coming up. Jack backed up going for his own weapon but knew that this was not going to end well. He knew right then that this was what was supposed to happen. Morales and someone, something had created a perfect profile of him for the evening news, angry, vet, failing business, divorced, with IRS trouble, goes crazy. Maybe, maybe there were other guys just like himself scattered around the whole protest area dead and perfect scapegoats as well. “Get Down!” Jack ordered the women. There was the sound of a chopper. It was all happening so fast.
Jack blinked rapidly from the swirling wind of the chopper as he heard the loud echoing clap of a high powered rifle, and Morales spun and fell in the street. Jack looked up squinting at a Dallas cop leaning out of a police chopper. It seemed the cops had chosen sides. Morales was not moving, and Jack froze and put his hands out dropping his own weapon to clatter in the road. The chopper banked away going after what he saw on the street, half a block away from him. It was another masked man running. Jack fell forward on his knees hitting the pavement and was shaking. He felt hands pulling him up. He wobbled around taking in the city, smoke and darkness descending on them. Mary was in his face and Anarchy too calling is name. “I’m okay. I’m okay.” He looked around for his weapon. Where was his weapon?
“They killed Morales!” Anarchy yelled.
“Here it is,” Mary said pointing the pistol at him to give it back to Jack.
“My God!” He snatched the weapon from her. “Get in the car.”
“Sorry,” Mary yelped.
A pick up rolled to stop behind Mary’s car, and a man got out, big, shaggy hair, Cowboy jersey, and a furious red face. Mary turned with a start. Jack came around the car and motioned Anarchy to get in the back seat. His eyes were locked on the man who came marching up to them. The air around them was charged.
“Oh shit!” June yelped. “Sarah get in the car; get in the car now.”
“Mommy!” The child yelled.
“Jack!” Anarchy cried.
Jack looked around at the area as more people got free to try and take their vehicles and escape. Wayne was on them, and Jack did not wait for the situation to develop, no time for civil debate or accusations. Jack launched forward a hard right punch at the man. He felt his fist connect and the crack and snap of the guy’s nose. Jack puffed out a few breaths shaking his hand. Suddenly, Wayne pitched forward toward Jack and grappled with him, more to keep from falling.
“Jack be careful!” Mary yelled at him.
“Oh my God, “June shrieked.
Jack banged Wayne against the car as they tussled, and then Jack shoved off of Wayne. Jack went in once, twice, with a punch to the gut and bounced back from Wayne. Wayne stumbled away from them and weaved and bent over and threw up, and nose bleeding he wobbled off a few steps and leaned against the driver’s side door of his pickup.
“Oh Jack, oh Jack,” Mary, Sara Goodman, cried. “Oh no, I am so sorry.”
Jack squeezed his eyes shut hard against the pain and shook his hand, and then he motioned Mary into the car. Wayne came forward with the tire iron again. Stumbling away, Jack scrambled and pulled his pistol. He leveled it at Wayne. “Back it up! I’ll kill you if I have to.”
Wayne froze breathing hard. Stunned from the pain, Wayne slowly backed up to his truck. “Screw you Sarah!”
“Go to hell, Wayne!” June, the sister, yelled back.
Jack kept the weapon on Wayne until he moved out of range, and then Jack quickly holstered the weapon, regretting having pulled it at all here. He moved around quickly to passenger’s side, opened the door and fell into the seat. “All cell phones, give them to me now!” The women yelped and complained, but then he felt hands passing them to him, and he turned them over each removing the cards and dumping them out the window. “Let’s go.”
Jack sucked in a breath when Mary peeled out leaving the smell of burnt rubber in the air as she came around quickly to the next street and swerved around a car that barreled out of a parking lot. Jack gave a grunt as Mary’s driving slung him around in the car. Around them, people moved down the side walks away from the trap that had been laid for them. He gritted his teeth as they rushed towards a barricade being erected. He saw the surprised look of the police officers who leaped out of the way. “Mary! Mary!” Jack yelled as he braced his feet and hands for impact. She shattered the wooden barricade flashed past the authorities. Anarchy’s scream rang in Jack’s head.
They were gone juking and jiving through the downtown traffic and disappearing from this world.
Jack stood on the porch looking out at the expanse of the open pasture land and in the distance a purple mountain’s majesty and felt the warm spring breeze which was welcomed after the long Montana winter. He could smell the bacon frying behind him in the kitchen, and he smiled when the door opened, and the lanky young man Sam joined him. He heard the patter of little feet behind him on the wooden floor, and he glanced back at his two little daughters that joined them. Sam a young teen grinned and was down the steps walking across the yard to the flag pole. Jack followed. Together they raised the flag up to snap in the rain-fresh breeze. He stared up at the symbol of a nation he considered long gone now. Sam didn’t say anything, but patted him on the back. “I’ll go finish up the chores first Pop,” Sam said. Jack smiled and glanced to the herb garden, the wood shop, the sheep pens and heard the chickens clucking. He smiled and considered the windmill and solar panels. It was a good life, unplugged.
Jack turned to Sarah, his wife, who wore a blue denim shirt and skirt and stood smiling on the porch. Inside he could hear June, his sister-in-law, and Melissa, Anarchy, talking. His daughters, Martha and Betsy pulled on his hands. “Yeah, come on Pops,” Martha chirped.
“Come, come on, Pops.”
He nodded and walked that way with them bouncing on either side of him tugging on his hands.
He climbed the stairs into the simple two story farm house and glanced to his crucifix on the wall and around the home at all the little crystals, icons of a woman, and potted plants all signs of Sarah’s faith. There was no TV, no computers only a hardwired telephone, a ham radio, checkbook on the desk with a newspaper, a magazines and lots of classic books. He entered the kitchen to find the table set and the children gathering, and on the side board was a stack of political pamphlets, envelopes stamped and addressed to friends and supporters of the new movement to restore America. He grinned as Sarah went to the mimeograph machine and continued to crank out the newsletter of hope for freedom and a return to the constitution. Sarah smirked at Jack as she churned out his political philosophy. He walked over and lifted the pamphlet in his hand and stared down at it. Jack looked up as he heard the screen door open and close.
“Read it, Pop,” Sam said. The boy fell into the chair at the table and began to fill his plate and his mouth. June punched her nephew in the arm.
Jack stood there looking over the words and shook his head feeling embarrassed and humbled.
“Go on Jack read some of it. What is it about this week?” Melissa, Anarchy, asked.
Jack heard Sarah stop chugging out the pamphlets. She came up beside him, warm and soft. She hugged him tight. He glanced down into her face and smiled a little when she nodded.
“We are the people. We have not left our nation. We have not rebelled and set all to chaos. We have, instead, knitted our hearts, minds, and purpose to that of the founding fathers and each other. We are resolved to continue to live by the principles that all men and women are created equal and are endowed with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that we will continue to support free speech, freedom from religious persecution, the right to privacy and due process under the law when it can be shown the laws are fair and just. We obey such laws as are right, good and which do not violate our conscience. Those laws with which we cannot cooperate have been enumerated by duly elected leaders of the people, and if called upon, we will peacefully conduct acts of civil disobedience against an illegitimate administration which does not represent us. You see, our connection to each other, our love, charity towards all people, and a commitment to certain principles of individual liberty is the moral foundation for perhaps a new social contract when it is deemed the old one no longer can apply.” Jack laughed softly. “And it goes on from there, meeting times, phone trees, letter writing campaigns and the like.”
Sam and the children clapped. Jack shrugged, and Sarah just shook her head and kissed him on the cheek and went to do dishes. He still never agreed with his wife on everything, but after 5 years on his father’s ranch making a life for them safe from the government, he realized she had the right to think of things differently at least here on this ranch a person’s conscience was sacred. After all that had happened with calls for investigations, arrests of domestic terrorists suspects, things had been quiet, people afraid to speak, because out there, being a free thinker put many a man in prison for disturbing the peace of the nation, a nation intolerant of anything but the status quo, but here, just here, he lived free for now, and he would keep planting those seeds in his children and in his friends and strangers he met. Here finally, he was connected to all that mattered to him, God, family, the land, and his values. “Limit power, and free the individual.” It was his mantra now, and the strategy for a long game. It had attracted other like-minded folk to gather in this area and the connections grew in a new organic way.
Sam bolted from the table for the front door. “Got things to do.”
“Hey, you’re supposed to say excuse me,” Jack hollered after him.
June and the girls complained bitterly at Jack’s yelling, and he smiled at them and shrugged.
“Pop,” his son called to him.
Jack hurried to his son on the front porch and stared up into the vast blue sky to see a dark object approaching. He squinted and moved down the steps only to see a drone low fly over their heads, tracking on them. Jack glanced to his son who was staring up and frowning bitterly, and Jack patted his son’s shoulder. “Let them watch; we don’t need them anymore.” His son walked towards the barn shaking his head, and Jack watched the sky. “Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,” Jack murmured, “and save me from bloody men.”