Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dark Winter: Chapter 20

Special Administrative Executive, Jennifer Kent has announced that she will under no circumstances approve so-called “backyard burials.” Due to the non-degenerative nature of the SOD prion it is simply too great of a health hazard to permit the improvised burial of loved ones that cannot possibly meet government health and safety standards.

If you are caring for a loved one at home and they perish due to SOD, you may not dispose of the remains yourself.  You are required to take those remains to the nearest Internment Site.  If you cannot transport them yourself, you are required to notify your county Sheriff's office and they will arrange removal and transportation.  Some limited delays are possible, given the situation.  You will be given the location of your loved one’s final resting place as that information becomes available.

Those who perish in Stage I are mostly children and the elderly, and even though they did not enter the later stages of the disease, they still had SOD.  The bottomline is that the bodies are still contagious after they die.  Possibly even more so, as decomposition sets in.

The Special Administrative Executive has expressed her sympathy and understands the need for closure that the families that have suffered these tragic losses however...

--WUOM  National Public Radio

Mass graves were going to be needed quite soon, although few could yet face this fact.

It was going to be a serious problem once the ground froze.

Refrigerated trailers were being pressed into service as mobile, temporary morgues.  Although with the gas crisis being what it was, they weren’t so moble at this point.  

Identities were being preserved by toe tags.  The Night Shift as these men were now called, were starting to run low on body bags.  There were still a few to be had but not all of the bodies could be afforded the small dignity of having their faces covered in death.

Two men were shifting the body bags between the trailers and the cold storage building, by the mustard yellow light of low sodium flood lights.   Using just muscle power, it was like trying to carry two hundred pound bags of jelly.  The dead weight just shifted around constantly; you could never get a good hold of it.  The trailer was cold.  The building was cold. The air was cold and these temporary morticians were even colder.  They weren’t used to this kind of weather.  They were only here because moving these bodies had become a cash only job.

“Ai!  This is it for me, Miho.” Jose Mendoza said through his white surgical mask while stretching then rubbing his back.

“We got another hour, pendeho,” Miguel Ortiz groaned in reply.

“Naw, I mean this it for me period.  When we get paid tonight I’m heading back down south.  I’ve had it.”

“Bad news hombre.  They closed the border, with Ohio and Indiana.”

“Wouldn't be the first time I crossed a border, Miho” Mendoza said with a laugh.
“You might get shot this time.

Mendoza put his hands on hips and cocked his head.  “Those GOP fuckers bitch like bitches in a bitchmobile because I’m here illegally. Now they want to keep me here?”

“You just too damn pretty for them, Jose,”   

“I’m turning myself into Immigration,” Mendoza said nodding his head in wonder at his own genius.

“Good luck finding them.”
Mendoza really did want to get home.  The Anglos were getting pissy and if he didn’t miss his guess, soon they was gonna be damn hungry.  Hungry and pissed off whites did not historically make for good neighbors.  It really was time to head back south.  Shit, was a dollar gonna be worth soon anyway?  Government benefits sure as fuck had stopped.  Why was he still here?

There was a shuffling sound in the corner of warehouse.  A little movement, too, was seen in the shadows.  That place that was being used for those few bodies without body bags.

“Aw, shit. Dogs got in again.” Miguel said.

“Better get’em out.  It will be our asses if any more bodies get chewed.”

“Do I fucking look like Cesar Millan?  You do it!”  

“Fine, Braveheart,”  Mendoza said as he picked up the crowbar and found his way back to where the shuffling noise was coming from.

Miguel tapped out a cigarette and was looking worriedly at a pack with only three smokes left in it. The guy he usually bought them off of was out and didn’t know when he was going to getting in a new shipment.  Miguel had actually had to go to a gas station to try and buy some for full price but they were out too.  I mean, when does gas station run out smokes?

“Aw shit, man!” He heard Mendoza yell.  “This guy ain’t dead.”

“Don’t go near him, man!” Miguel Ortiz’s last cigarette was only half finished when he walked back to investigate what Mendoza had found.

Mendoza was wrong.  

Neither man would ever know it but they had found the first of the Stage IV Zombies.

“What else did Poon give away?” Sertorio said darkly. They were standing outside Garrett’s room.  Rick and Brett were staying in the room for the moment.  “And why the hell did he do it?”

“His last job before this was one was Armory OIC.”

Sertorio rolled her eyes.  Armory was one of those places in the Marine Corps that was it’s own world but it thought it was the whole world.  Of course Poon would panic at the sight of unsigned for ordinance that was suddenly his out of the blue responsibility.

“Alright, tell whoever the hell he gave them to, he has to give them back,” Sertorio said.

“That would be Lt. Col. Wheeler who I know vaguely. He honchos the Grand Rapids Marine Reserve unit. A good guy.  Solid old school ground pounder and he is not going to give them back without written orders,” John said. “He seems to have an eye on the horizon and he wants that firepower on tap,”

“So we can’t get them back?”

“Not without something in writing and that is going to attract attention,” John explained.  “Do you want to avoid attention?”


There it was.  They clearly needed to keep this on the down low but she damn well didn’t want to be disarmed.  The question was, which was the more important at the moment?

“How many M-14s do we have left?” She asked.

“About fifty.”

“Jesus Christ!” She blurted.  “Did Poon give away anything else?”  


“And if he does?” Sertorio asked.

“He knows he will be presenting his own testicles to you in a small mason jar”

“Does Mason make them that small?” Dee said quietly as she lowered her head to the desk.  

After a moment or two, she inhaled sharply and lifted her head.  John knew that was her way of signalling that the problem was acknowledged, accepted and that she was now going to plow forward without ever mentioning it again.  “All right we will hold off on retrieving those until the last minute.   Timing is going to be important.  Too soon and the search lights come on.  Too late and Wheeler will have orders to shoot me on sight.

We need to get Shocker out of the pen,” She added approps, apparently of nothing.

John sucked his lower lip.  Things were getting a little worrying in that quarter.  Shocker had been transferred to military custody.

“That pissant Wagoner isn’t even letting me make a courtesy visit as his CO,” John said with his teeth grinding.   “That is very unusual, as well as fucking rude.”

“Shocker was read in on Dark Winter,”  Sertorio said.

“He was?”

“Who would you pick for an intell field officer on something like this?” Sertorio asked.  “Recon. Then Counter Intel, some other interesting things he’s not supposed to talk about.”

John wasn’t so much surprised as knocked a little off balance. Government conspiracies are ninety nine point five percent bullshit.  The truth is there is very little reason for military bureaucrats to stick their necks out like that.  Just being right wing and evil was not enough motivation to risk your pension. John was doing pretty well with the fact that there actually was a secret government conspiracy that was planning, if rather loosely, for a post-United States of America...well America.  

He was having more trouble coping with the fact that that his mother-in-law and his best friend since boot camp were part of it.

“What was his job?”

Dee almost reflexively clammed up but...well, John was family after all. In fact, the only reason that she hadn’t read him in on Dark Winter years ago was that he was married to Charlotte.  Back when they were speaking, she wanted to keep her daughter’s family at arms length from something that could easily be viewed as treason.

“Shocker was in charge of finding alternate sources of things like beans, bullets, and guns.  He said he had the guns and the bullets.  And I stupidly said, ‘I didn’t want to hear anything more’”

“Yay, Opsec,” John cheered woodenly.  

“Wagoner?”  General Sertorio suddenly asked.  “Clarence Wagoner?  “That, Wagoner?”

John nodded sharply. .

“Fuck.”  Sertorio quietly breathed.  Then she chuckled darkly.  “ I don’t believe we can expect much sympathy from that quarter.”

“No,” John granted.  “Not with our history.”

“We need to get Shocker out.  Now.”

Although they didn’t know it, Charlotte Castillo now agreed with this sentiment.  Rather a lot, but for radically different reasons.

She had just gotten off the phone with her lovely little blob, Gregory.  A minor investment that was starting to pay major dividends.

So Dickie had been sentenced to death.  

That doesn’t happen everyday.  Not even to Dickie.  The entire thing smelled of stupidity and desperation.  She had trouble believing that they would actually kill him.  It went against Common Sense.  But then again in the last twenty years Common Sense had become so Uncommon it might better be called Unheard-of Sense.

What did they want?

Well Charlotte knew what that was, thanks to Braylon, but did they value it more than Dickie’s head?  Common Sense would say yes but there was that “C” word again.  

On top of that, getting them to keep their end of the deal would be little short of completely impossible.

Her phone chimed again.  She quietly shook her head, no.  Garrision was now texting her about four times an hour.  When she had abandoned John, That was it.  He never called unless it was something regarding the boys. He didn’t write or text (well he would never texted anyway).  He didn’t stalk her on Facebook or Twitter.   It was ended it was over and done with. There was no groveling.  He handled it with quiet dignity.

In truth, she found that less than validating.  What a woman really wants after they break up with a man is for him to take up a life of monastic celibacy and moan forever about the woman who left him.  But John’s ignoring her was preferable to this constant stream of desperate entreaties.  

There was tug at her sleeve, she looked down,  “Yes, Brett.”  

Her youngest’s eyes were wide open and frightened.  

Charlotte was suddenly off at a dead run for Garrett’s room her heart in her throat.  A cascade of memories falling over her heart.  Coming home from the hospital with him for the first time, just her and her mother because John was deployed.  Carrying Garrett up to bed countless times.  Christmas morning and watching him diving under the tree with his brothers.

My baby! My Baby! My Baby!

She nearly crashed through the door of his make-shift hospital room.  

The bed was empty.  The bed was empty!  She was in panic.

Then she saw a young Garrett shaped form standing in front of the window.  

He was up.

He was awake and not screaming or trying to kill everyone around him.  He was going to be alright!

She started to run towards him to seize him in her arms...and then she faltered.  And then she stopped as Garrett’s body spun around on the ball of his foot and faced her.

The set of his body was familiar but it wasn’t Garrett’s.  His feet were a shoulder width apart.  His hands were loosely clenched in fists at belt height.  It looked like he was standing at  ROK Ready. His head twitched towards her with his nose in the air.  He asked in a terrifyingly familiar sing-song voice, “Who are you?”

Charlotte was outside the door of his room bent half over clutching her tummy with both hands and panting, when her mother came running up.

Their eyes met and Charlotte whispered, “It’s him, Mama.  It is him!”

Darlene Sertorio’s teeth started to chatter.

“Well?” Senator Hildebrandt asked imperiously.

“Gentlemen, please give us a moment,” Jack O’Hara snapped out his words from behind the Resolution Desk.

Sid, Brandon Allwhite and few other functionaries to include the Secret Service Officers filed out.

That was little different, Liz thought to herself.

Jack got up, unsmiling, and came around desk.  She started to stand but he suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved back down in the chair;

Jack?” She said in a state of shock “Jack!” She said quite a lot louder hoping to attract someone’s attention from the outside.

He firmly spun her around until she was facing a TV screen.  He picked up a remote and clicked on it.

It was a courtroom setting but everyone was in uniform.  She recognized Sergeant Major Cahn; he was wearing a very ill fitting Marine Corps Dress Blue uniform.  They all rose as the presiding  officer read the sentence.    The prisoner was to be transferred to the Fort Leavenworth Penal Barracks to carry out the sentence of the court martial:  Death by Lethal Injection.

Liz nodded in satisfaction.  Finally there would be justice for Kenzie Styles and all those other poor people that this monster had...

“Keep watching,” Jack growled at her.  

The judge, a Colonel  walked up to Cahn smiling.

“That is Colonel Wagoner, whom you may remember I promoted against my better judgement at your fucking instance for that little friend of yours, Kent.”

Liz swallowed angrily.  She was not used to being spoken to like this by any man even if he was...


The Colonel started by ripping loosely sewed stripes and chevrons off Cahn’s sleeves. Then he pulled the medals off Cahn’s chest.  Liz felt Jack's fingers dig angrily into her shoulders when Wagoner whipped the Medal of Honor off of Cahn’s neck and threw it on the ground. “Nobody has done this shit in decades.  Keep watching.”   The Marine Corps NCO Sword was broken across his knee.  Then the button’s were pulled off.  

Cahn at that point said something to Wagoner with a smile that clearly triggered the Colonel. He punched the handcuffed Cahn across savagely in the mouth.  Again and again.  He pulled him over the table and on to the ground.  He sat on his chest and started to ground pound him as the other soldiers pulled the judge off of the condemned man..   

“Well, I didn’t demand that!” She said shocked.  She could not be blamed if these animals in uniform couldn’t control themselves. “Jack, I...”

“Shut the hell up and fucking listen, Liz.”  The would-be President of the United States growled at her.  “I have, at your insistence and to send a message, condemned an innocent man to death.”

Liz Hildbrandt opened her mouth in protest.

“Shut up!”  He barked in a stentorian tone.  “Now, I am keeping most of the rest of our bargain because it’s vaguely convenient for me to do so.  But if you don’t deliver my Supreme Court Justice right fucking now -  I am voiding the whole damn deal. And publicly blaming you for this.”

He released her shoulders and walked around to face her, hunched over with his huge jaw inches from her eyes.  “Right now, you are holding a whole card that you think is infinitely valuable to me.  Let me now assure you Liz it is depreciating cat-a-strophically.”

That got through to Hildabrand enough that she looked at him questioningly.

O’Hara gave a half nod while smoothing his hair back in place.  “Van Djik has revived the old Roosevelt Plan for the Supreme Court.”

Her eyes widened.  “He can’t do that!”

“He’s going all in, Liz. His back is to the wall and he knows it.”

“But he doesn't have a Senate majority.  Or anywhere near it.  It’s completely unconstitutional!”  She tried to laugh.

“Liz, you ignorant slut!  If you had been paying attention for the last forty years, you would have realized that you can make anything constitutional if you have enough SCOTUS Justices!  Eighteen will damn well do the job”

Liz Hildabrandt was shocked enough she blurted out a secret truth, “They aren’t allowed to do that!”   

They are, when the shelves are bare and the country is terrified.  You’d be amazed what they will be allowed to do by the American people when they are hungry and frightened enough!”  Jack O’Hare roared at her.

“Now shut up! Get back across the street and make me the Goddamn President!”

Senator Elizabeth Hildabrandt swallowed fearfully and ran nodding for the Oval Office door.


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