Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dark Winter: Chapter 19

Violence rocked Clare this morning as three alleged members of the Michigan Militia died in an early morning shoot out with members of the national guard during a routine firearms aggregation sweep.

Major Clarence Wagoner had this to say, “Regrettable, of course, but compliance with the law during a time of national emergency matters now, more than ever.  My troops rigidly obeyed the rules of engagement.  But, sadly, these members of the so-called Michigan Militia escalated the situation into violence.  I am pleased with the professionalism of my troops, which ensured there were, at least, no collateral injuries.”

Families members of the deceased strongly disagree.  “They weren’t no members of no Militia.  Bobby and his boys just wouldn't’ give up their guns, that was all there was to it.  They wouldn’t give up they guns.  So they shot’em for it.”

Special Executive Jennifer Kent added, “I strongly support the actions of Major Wagoner and his brave troops in upholding the law in this time of crisis.  These Militia Members cannot be permitted to take justice into their own hands.”

-- Traverse City Record Eagle

Gregory Medina had to excuse himself from the meeting.  He walked down the hallway of the Michigan National Guard Headquarters.  Turned left.  He walked down to the basement and found a spot where he could hear the least amount of noise from above and hoped that no one could hear him.  Barely keeping himself together, praying no one would see him until he was alone, he found a room marked “storage” and went inside.

When he was certain no one was going to hear him, he let himself go and started crying.  Tears gushed down his round cheeks, “she doesn’t care,” he choked out.  

“She doesn't care about me at all,” he wailed tightly, to himself.  Trying not to make too much noise.  Trying not to attract attention. Trying not to be heard.  He’d die if someone saw him now.

Him!  That military clown Major Clarence Wagoner!  Oh no.  It’s Colonel Wagoner now.  His mind kept playing back the afternoon as if he was trapped in a memory loop.

Long, chipped and duly-finished rectangular tables had been rearranged in two rows to create one big rectangular table.  Office chairs on rollers that squeaked loudly, or locked up entirely, surrounded it. The faint drone of the neon lights overhead had been temporarily extinguished for that most dreaded of all things in the entire United States military: a PowerPoint briefing.

“Synergistic utilization of time-shift has lead to a 47% upshift following these critical success factors.  In our firearms public safety program...” Major Wagoner droned on endlessly, as he pointed to various meaningless graphs that were being displayed.

Gregory caught Chelle’s eye, which wasn’t easy because both of them were rolled back in her head. He started to giggle.  Jennifer’s gaze stabbed at him, and turned it into a muffled cough.  Chelle smiled at that.

It wasn’t that Gregory wasn’t proud of Jennifer; he honestly was.  She was now the Federal Emergency Director for Southeast Michigan, an area that stretched from Cold Water to Clare and all the way over to the coast of Lake Huron.  She was getting way more air time than their increasingly lost-looking GOP governor.  National air time, too!  She had even been on FOX.  He couldn’t believe she had been brave enough to do that, but that was Jennifer.  So fierce, so beautiful.  

She was on the STE to the White House twice a day.  The White House!  She was constantly texting back and forth with her good friend, Senator Rutnick.  She was moving very far, very fast.

But...but she just didn’t have any time to talk with him anymore.  Not like they used to.  Ever since he had had to turn over that Kerensky bitch to the military.  His swollen nose still throbbed when he thought of her name.  He had two black eyes from when she broke his nose.  

Apparently, Jennifer’s new friends in Washington had been delighted when she had told them that she had Doctor Kerensky locked down, for some reason.  And then they had been pretty upset when she had to tell them that...that...“an imbecile who worked for her had turned her over to General Sertorio.”  He had overheard the call to somebody in Washington named Allwhite.

“An imbecile...”  

Things had been different since then.  The easy, friendly intimacy that he and Jennifer had shared was suddenly gone.  She had no time at all for him now.  The relationship he had been building with her over the last two years seemed to be...gone.

But she did have time for...him.  That regressive goon, Colonel Wagoner.  I mean, yes, he did have the right politics, and he certainly had the right priorities.  And he had done a lot to implement firearms reductions.  Real reductions. He was planning on going into Regressive homes to seize firearms (or at least his men were), and he was going to take casualties to do it (again his men would be doing that).  It made him quite admirable, really.  It made him a hero so far as Gregory was concerned.  

Finally, the right kind of military hero.

But that didn’t mean Jennifer had to spend so much time with him.  He was with her everyday now.

Gregory, who was now seated at the far end of the table, kept looking at Jennifer.  She was smiling at Wagoner.  It wasn’t the right kind of smile, Gregory thought. Wagoner didn’t deserve that kind of smile from his Jennifer.

He felt a small, wet smack on the side of face.  He snapped his head around to see Captain Vasquez looking in nonchalant guilt at the ceiling.  

She had hit him with a spit-ball!  

Gregory managed not to giggle aloud, again, but he did tear off a corner of his note book paper and stealthily slipped it into his mouth, then disassembled a pen.  It was so stupid and such a childish grade school game to play at such an important meeting.  It was ridiculous.  

And it diminished Colonel Wagoner.  

Just a little.

Gregory took aim and returned fire at Vasquez when he was certain no one was looking.

A short time later the meeting was (thank you almighty God) over and done with and people were filing out.

“Jennifer, I was hoping I could...” Gregory began.  

She cut him off with a gesture.  “Colonel, I was wondering if I could a have word, if you the time?”

“Of course, Jen,” Wagoner said

He got to call her Jen?

Gregory had gone back to his cubicle.  

A cubicle. When he used to have an office with a door.  He looked around furtively pulled a cheap-looking older smartphone out of his desk.  It was resting on a charger.  And it’s line was already open to another cellphone.

He stared at guiltily.  He was about to betray someone he loved.  Already had betrayed her, he just hadn’t made use of his treachery yet.  

Why him and not me?

La Patrona had suggested it after their last...meeting, at his house with those two apes Naisbett and MacKay.   She had handed the two phones to him a brown eco-friendly paper lunch bag that also contained a pair of surgical gloves.  

The phones were Boost burners she had told him.  Use one phone to call the other. Open Jennifer’s Desktop and plug one of them into an open USB port.  Close it and she would never be the wiser.  Keep yours on mute, obviously.

Gregory had said he would.  And then had almost thrown them out as soon they had left with Kerensky in tow.

Almost.  Then things started to go really south with Jennifer.

He had to know.  He pulled out earbuds jacked them in and turned up the volume.

Wagoner: So what did you want to see me about?

Gregory did not like the low warmth of his tone.



Why weren’t they talking?  His imagination was filling in some worrying details.  He could hear what sounded like heavy breathing.  

Finally, there were some actual words.

Kent: Not just about that.

Wagoner: Too bad.

Kent: Not in the office!

She was using a teasing tone of voice with him that Gregory hated. His heart was sinking like rock.

Wagoner: Fine, I’ve got some things to do.

Kent: Yes, you do.  I’ve got some instructions from Washington.

Wagoner: Instructions or Orders?  There’s a big difference.

Kent: Yes I know and these are Instructions.  I’ll be issuing the orders.

Wagoner: Okay.

Kent:  Here is your desired endstate. Secretary O’Hara wants General Sertorio arrested, and all materials relating to the Kerensky project at Michigan State University seized and transported to the CDC in Atlanta.  This includes all the personnel.  Hmmph, From I’ve been told they are basically war criminals over there.  But for the moment they are to be treated as, and here I quote the Secretary, “useful war criminals.”

Wagoner: How useful can they be?

Kent: They’ve got a vaccine. They also have a treatment serum.  They sent out samples for testing it seems to work.  Reasonably well.

Wagoner: Okay.  That IS useful.  What’s the criminal part?

Kent: They are killing the Afflicted to do it.

Wagoner: What?

Kent: Mm-Hmm.  Apparently they need large amounts of Afflicted bone marrow to produce their genetic cocktail of a serum.  

Wagoner: They can’t do that without killing the Zomb...the Afflicted?

Kent: You’d think!  I mean just anesthetize them for God’s sake.  Apparently they just gas them to death on the operating table and go to work on them.

Wagoner: I always knew.  ALWAYS knew that Ma Sertorio was a Nazi in her deepest heart.  She and that pet turd of hers, Cahn.  They are the biggest reasons I left the Marine Corps and joined the Michigan National Guard.

Kent:  Don’t like him much, hun?

Hun? Gregory thought.  HUN?

Wagoner: We have a history.

Kent: Then you might like the next part.  Sergeant Major Richard Cahn is to be transferred to military custody.  Thats you - and then shipped to the Penal Barracks at Fort Leavenworth for immediate summary execution by lethal injection for the crime of multiple murders of the Afflicted during the Great Divide Game.

Wagoner: Fucking A, Right!

Kent:  Wow, you really don’t like him do you?

Wagoner: Baby, you have no idea what that asshole cost me.  I’d be happy to set up a firing squad.  

Kent:  That was the suggestion from Washington.  The Secretary rightfully feels that the military is going to need to be sent a message on subject of respecting the civil rights of the mentally ill.

Wagoner: Like I said, I’d be happy to set up a firing squad here.  More dramatic, thus a better example.

Kent: Easy, Tiger.  That was what was suggested.  I was the one who shot that one down.  I don’t trust Washington quite enough for that..  Better if the blame can be spread in case there is a popular backlash.  You just take custody.  Conduct a quick drumhead court martial. Sentence him and ship him.  Your job is done.

Wagoner: Pity I can’t shoot him myself.

Kent: I know Baby.  I know.  Now on to the other business.  Sertorio.

Wagoner:  What about her? You gave me my orders.

Kent: She has already threatened to destroy the ///MAGICDRUG.  So you have to be careful.

Wagoner:  Yeah...She is ruthless enough.  Also, Castillo is still her go-to guy.  If she leaves him some kind of deadman switch order, he will carry it out.  She may have to be talked into surrendering.  She might do it if enough of her assets are threatened.  She’s hard, but she can be sentimental.  She probably has her grandkids with her.  Do it right and they can legally be taken hostage..

Kent: Really?  Well, I leave it in your capable hands. And speaking of Assets...

Wagoner: You like my “capable hands,” Do you?

Kent: Not now ba-by.  Like I said.  Assets.  The Michigan State Police are getting pretty ragged, pretty quick. We’re going to have to declare outright  Martial Law.  I’m going to have to roll state and local police forces in my Administrative Zone under you.  

Wagoner: Is that why you had that big titted Latina in the meeting?  So you could roll her under me?

That is so fucking sexist! and unbelievably racist!  Gregory had raged in his cubicle. There is no way.  No way in hell my Jennifer will stand for that!  

HE IS DONE! Gregory thought to himself jiggling with delighted excitement in his sudden and unexpected  triumph over his foe.

Kent: I’m not enough for you? Already?

Wagoner: Maybe. Maybe not.  Why don’t you invite her over tonight and we can find out?

Kent: You pig!

The rollercoaster of Gregory’s heart sank again.  She was calling him a “pig” in the wrong way.  Why wasn’t Jennifer angry? Wagoner had said very racially derogatory and extremely sexually objectifying things about Captain Vasquez. Jennifer should be furious.  She should be kicking him out of her office.

Wagoner: Why not? You told me you’ve done it before.

Kent: It’s been a long time since college.  

Wagoner: It doesn’t look likes its been that long.

Kent: Also, she’s useful.  Quite capable really.

Wagoner: Really?  I honestly you thought you only had her at the meeting because she’s the pet of that jelly-roll Medina.

Gregory‘s face turned darker red as he listened.

Kent:  Actually, it’s the opposite at this point.  I’m keeping him on a string because Vasquez actually seems to like him.  God knows why.  However, Gregory has turned out to be a colossal  fuck up.

Wagoner:  If you don’t like the little blob, why do you keep him around?

Kent:  At the time I thought he might be useful to fill a certain role, but I didn’t like the idea too much even then.

Wagoner: And now?

Kent: I’ve got somebody who is much better at filling things.

Wagoner: Like your nasty little mouth. Like, right now.

Kent: Easy ba-by. I said NOT in the office.

Wagoner: And. I. Said. Right. Now.

Gregory was on his feet.  Oh my God he is about to assault Jennifer.  He could grab Chelle and they could bust in the door together and catch him in the act.  He just needed to hear her say, “no” and he would be on his way.  He would be her hero!

But Gregory didn’t hear anything for a while and then;

Wagoner: That’s it Jenny.  Nice and slooooow.  You like that. don’t you Baby?

Kent: Mmmhmmm

Gregory pulled out earbuds and rose from his desk.  He needed some alone time.

Gregory wailed in misery in his safe space.  Why couldn’t it be me?  I would never make her do something like that in her own office.  

“Why do I have to be alone?” Gregory sobbed.

And then things got worse for him.  The door opened.

There stood Captain Chelle Vasquez.  “Oh shit.  I’m very sorry, Gregory,” she started to close the door behind her.

“No, it’s okay.” He spluttered.

“I saw you weren’t looking well a few minutes ago and so I finally thought I should take a quick look.  I’ll leave you alone.

“It’s really okay if you stay,” he said plaintively.

Chelle sighed deeply, pinched her nose between her thumb and forefinger and slid her back down the wall, until she was seated opposite him.

The USS. Ponce had never exactly been the pride of the Fleet but she had clearly been the first love of someone high on the food chain.  The old troop ship had been kept around way past her sell by date.  There were quite literally tons of ships that were younger then she was that had been sent to the wrecking yard.

At least she wasn’t a rust bucket.  The Navy would never permit such a thing.  She was duly scraped and scrubbed and painted over the course of her half century of life in the US Navy.

However, the lights wouldn’t stay on of their own accord. The ventilation was far gone in its senility; some berthing areas were getting no heat at all.  Depending on where they were berthed,  the Navy and Marine Corps recruits were either huddling in their berths under very thin blankets,  or laying on top of  their racks just in their whitey-tighty underwear trunks sweating to death in the eighty-nine degree heat.

Phil Scheer was one of ones sweating.  He was crabby, tired, exhausted, and as far as he could tell, a kidnapped slave.  When he and the rest of the guys from Traverse city got dumped dockside, the Marines there had jumped all over them.  Making them stand on these stupid little yellow footprints that had just been spray painted on the sidewalk.

Then they got instructed on the proper way to board a ship.  And then were told they weren’t going to do it that way because that way was for Marines and that they were just dirty, nasty, smelly recruits.

After that, they entered the bowels of hell itself, namely the USS Ponce.  Hair was brutally buzzed away. Clothing was stripped away as well, to include underwear.  There Phil had stood with fifty other guys sort of at attention on the cold, wet deck with his dick waving in the freezing night air.  Uniform issue began and it wasn’t even the cool kind.  They didn’t have digi-cam for them so they were wearing the older forest pattern green utility pants with  grey sweatshirts and sneakers (sorry, go-fasters) .  

After that it was time for slave labor, as he the rest of the recruits loaded by hand, trailer load after trailer load of food and equipment.  In and out the ship, up and down the stairs (sorry Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Stetcher, Ladder Wells) which, Phil had to admit, was a way more accurate description of them.  They had fallen down them enough during the day with Stetcher constantly screaming at them for...well, for everything. There was literally nothing any of them could do that didn’t have the Marines in the Smokey the Bear Hats yelling at them at the top of their lungs.  Including not yelling back.  Every word uttered had to be at the top of his lungs.  

His back hurt.  His hands were bleeding from blisters.  His shins were a solid mass of purple from the ladder rungs.

But he was finally, finally after two days without any sleep, in his rack with the lights out.

His eyes were finally closed.  He knew would be asleep in another minute.  Some of the guys were whispering.  He wished to fuck they would stop.

“Where did they get the DIs from?” whispered the voice of one stranger.

“They were Recruiters who had been on Drill Field,” answered another.

Did that guy know for sure or was it a guess? Phil wondered.  Either way, he’s probably right. Stetcher was clearly an experienced and well practiced sadist.

A black kid (sorry, Dark Green kid)  was playing with his newly issued flashlight (sorry, moonbeam).  

Why couldn’t anything in this dark hellish world have a normal civilian name? Phil asked himself just as the lights came back on after only fifteen minutes.


Twenty minutes later Phil and the rest of his platoon were carting some really cool looking old rifles with plastic stocks out of the ship and onto some Army trucks.

“So how goes life aboard the Ponce, Frank?”  Lieutenant Colonel John Castillo asked over the STE phone.

“It smells, it leaks, the plumbing screams like it's being broken on the rack, and she’s mine, so she’s beautiful,” Frank replied.  “How’s life as an O-5?”

John had been pretty surprised about the silver oakleaves.  He had been about done with a successful tour on Recruiting Duty.  A promotion to O-5 was pretty much guaranteed after that.  But it wasn’t the same as getting one out of the blue.  

He’d asked Ma about it.  General Sertorio had just given a half smile and asked him about the big recruit roundup.  Which was going better than he had planned.

He did have a few kids who flaked and ran on on the spot.  And a few others were missing their Mommies something awful, but by in large it was going reasonably well. About half of them had arrived at the Ponce and were being used as beasts of burden, embarking ship stores.

“How’s embark going?” John  asked.

“A triple distilled full bore linear cosmic fuckup of course,” Frank said with a laugh.

“So it’s going better then you thought it would.”  

“Pretty much.  I’ve got a gigantic untrained, lost in the sauce mob for a crew.  They aren’t even good for cleaning and painting.  Have you ever tried leading Millennials? Even the good ones expect a blow job if they tied their shoes right.”

“I’m familiar with them, Frank,” John said.”It’s an adjustment,”

“Is that what we are calling Broken Pussy Syndrome?” Frank snarled.  “Hey, speaking of syndromes, we’re doing initial inoculations now.  And..uh,”  Reynolds was suddenly very hesitant.  “We got that shipment of vaccine from your lab...”


“Is it safe or is it experimental?”  Frank asked and then expanded.  “What I mean is, are we being used as fucking guinea pigs again?”

“First, yes it’s experimental, and FDA trials will take seven years and we don't’ have seven years.  Second, yes we are being used as guinea pigs again.  Third, as for it being safe, I just had my shot so I’ll let you kno-o-o-o-o-oww Ohmygawd!  Ohmygawd!  Ohmygawd!  What year is this, old chap?  I was just having tea with Prince Tum-Tum at the club, dontcha know?  Arrggh! MUST KILL! MUST KILL ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!! Yeah it’s safe. Pussy, heal thyself.”

“Fucktard,” Frank replied mollified. Then added, “By the way, Fucktard.  When I am expecting the rest of your kids?”

“Well, Dipshit,” John said in friendly tone, “She thought you were going to be swamped.  So, despite what she said in the meeting, she’s keeping about half at the university for the next couple of nights while you get things settled down there.”

“A General Officer who can think.  That is terrifying,” Frank said.  “And it’s deeply appreciated. with all the shit embarking and disembarking.  Then I’ve got about half your guys


“That means stuff coming off the ship...”

“I know that, asshole.  What’s coming off the ship?”  John asked a little worried.

“The rifles in the Marine Armory.”

“What?” John asked softly..

“Your Major Poon found a shitload of M-14s aboard.  Not on anybody’s manifest and nobody seems to have signed for them.  Anyway, he called the Grand Rapids Marine Reserve Unit.  They are offloading the stuff now.  They seemed happy to get it.  Jarheads and their toys.  In exchange, the reservists are helping with the chow situation.  Getting the galley set up has, so far, been an unholy fucking pain. I can barely keep any of my... ”

“Frank!”  John nearly barked, “I, really, really...really need to speak to Major Poon, now.”

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