Sometimes I find that I have a story building inside of me, usually spurred on by current mental stimulus. These tales won't necessarily integrate into The Cache, so they just build and float around in my head until they demand to come out. I guess I have been reading too much doom and gloom lately.
Tales Of The Apocalypse - Warlord
Crouching in the rubble of the burnt out building, he scanned the shadows created by the buildings down the street. He knew they were out there. He could see the crumpled body next to the shot-up mini van and that body hadn't been there 2 days ago. It appeared to be one of the other recon cell’s members from the patch he could see on his shoulder.
He clutched his Mini-14 tight to his chest rig, ready to snap it to his shoulder at a moments notice. It would be nice to have some of the more advanced weaponry that the army had been using, but his attempts at vulturing so far had almost gotten him killed. His Ruger would serve him well enough until he could safely upgrade. His was the traditional 3 man cell which integrated within the militias at the street level. But he was currently the only one left alive.
Communications now were pretty basic. Runners would memorize messages and deliver them to the intended recipient. No written documents to fall into enemy hands. If any documents were carried, it was disinformation to throw off the enemy. There was no more electricity as the massive CME had toasted the grid, indeed it had bathed the planet in its malevolent blanket of magnetic energy and plunged the world back into the dark ages.
There were some areas which had survived by not being connected to the grid, but they were few and far between. When the electricity died, it only took a few days before the cities erupted into a frenzy of rioting. rape and plunder. Arsonists burnt whole swathes of the city and none could put out the fires. There were no emergency services. Everyone was on their own. Long simmering racial tensions exploded into an orgy of slaughter, as Blacks and Whites and Hispanics all formed along racial lines and begin to cleanse their neighborhoods of the "others".
This poisonous line of reasoning spread out from the cities and contaminated the rural areas as well. Once peacefully integrated neighborhoods had become a no-man's land, torn apart by unreasoning hate. Small bands of scavengers scrabbled amongst the ruins of middle class neighborhoods, looking for food and water, fighting and killing along ethnic lines. The President had dispatched the National Guard and all the available troops to try to contain the violence of the cities, but they were targeted by all sides in the conflict and soon abandoned their mission out of self preservation. They formed small fortified areas from which they seldom ventured, only to re-supply from larger bases. All of the troops stationed overseas were marooned, left to fend for themselves and dream of ways to return home.
The police forces of the nation had spent all of three days trying to contain the emergencies before they faded away to fend for their own families. Some special units formed up and fortified themselves into strategic locations near supplies or water. They would hold out for a long time, at least until they ran out of ammo. Once the gangs discovered their locations, they were besieged and harassed by sniper fire day and night, and did not dare show themselves.
The Asians mostly faded back into their enclaves and let the other races fight it out. They were not in a hurry to take on the heavily armed forces that roamed the landscape, looking to purge the others from the area. They would bide their time and when the situation warranted, they would emerge to re-engage in commerce with the remaining population.
The collapse had now entered its 6th year and the skirmishes had diminished down to a few sniping incidences on the war torn streets, littered with the burnt out hulks of the vehicles left where they had died. Occasional turf wars between warlords or gangs erupted briefly, but no one had that much ammo anymore so the battles were over quickly and casualties were light.
He leaned back, deeper into the darkness of the collapsed, fire ravaged building and took a long drink from his water bottle. He remembered the purges that began soon after the collapse. Politicians were drug screaming and protesting their innocence as they met their doom. The lucky ones were shot and killed immediately. Some were hung, others... well they weren't so lucky. He remembered the fires and the smell of burning diesel and human flesh, and the blood curdling screams that still haunted his darkest dreams.
Afterward came the rise of the warlords who commanded large groups of militia to secure their fiefdoms. All resources within these areas were claimed by the warlords and if you wanted any, you must serve them in some fashion. He had been independent for as long as he could, but was captured by a patrol one evening and was forced to choose either death, or service. At least he was not made a slave as had been the fate of other souls ensnared by these roving bands. Most of the slaves were of the different ethnic groups, captured during battle or during raids for supplies.
He offered the warlord his skills as a scout and was enlisted in the service of Harold Blackstone, Lord of War and protector of New Hope. It seems that Blackstone had been the owner of a security service that had military contracts, thus giving him access to more advanced weaponry than his competitors. He was also a retired Special Forces Captain which gave him an edge over a lot of the other warlords who's military experience was little or none existent.
A slight movement in the doorway of the old pharmacy down the street brought him to full attention. He carefully raised his rifle and looked through the 3x9x40mm scope and saw what he thought was a human foot. He gently released the safety and readied himself for a shot if the opportunity presented itself. More movement, this time to the left side of the appendage and about four feet above. Two or more targets made him a bit nervous. There may even be more than that, possibly flanking his position, even though he had done nothing to give it away.
He could shoot the foot and hopefully cripple the target, drawing off combat resources to tend to the wounded, but he would rather deliver either a killing shot or a more serious wound. He continued watching through the scope and straining his ears for any tell tale sound of movement. More motion, down the street this time near the old bank. It would seem that this is more than just a scavenger mission, perhaps a recon in force to probe Blackstone’s strength and presence in this claimed but disputed territory.
A Black Muslim warlord who called himself Hussein Abdullah, also claimed this territory, for Allah. Not that there was much left here to fight over. The town had been picked clean and then mostly destroyed. Hell, the ground wasn’t even that great to grow anything in, but it was an important buffer area to keep insurgents out of Blackstone’s protectorate.
In the third year after the collapse of the power grid, food had become very scarce and there had been reports of some groups resorting to cannibalism. Several scouting parties had not returned from those trips and Blackstone sent out a much larger force to deal with this scourge. Upon locating the town, his forces surrounded it and killed every one of the cannibals. They freed twenty or so prisoners who were to be future meals and then burnt the disgusting place to the ground. The cannibal leader was crucified on a cross just outside of town as a warning to any other groups who might harbor this same idea.
He saw more movement, deep within the shadows of the pharmacy, the movement of multiple bodies. Still watching the foot, a Hispanic face peered out of the darkness and looked out upon the street, glancing both ways before withdrawing. This appearance startled him, as there was no reported presence of any Hispanic groups nearby. The nearest known group was 150 miles away, near the old sanctuary city that had been going bankrupt just before the collapse. With unemployment so high there was not enough financial support to keep providing services to all the illegals’s that flocked here since Arizona and other border states enacted their own versions of federal immigration law.
A shape quickly flitted to the cover of a rusting hulk of an SUV just outside the pharmacy. It was joined by another hurried shape seeking cover. It appeared that they were going to try to reach the body by the mini van. He saw movement as others took up supporting positions in windows and behind counters in the pharmacy. None seemed to be covering his particular location, perhaps because it was in such a state of destruction that they did not feel that it could offer much of a threat. He had a clear path of retreat behind him so that if he did take a shot or two, his escape could be implemented without exposing himself to direct fire.
He readied himself for the shot, for he knew he was going to take at least one before retreating. That would slow up the advance and give him ample opportunity to escape, he hoped! Both shapes sprinted from behind their cover and raced to the temporary cover of the mini van. One of the scavengers appeared to be just a youth, even though he sported an AK-47. The other was an older man who was also armed with an AK. The older man slung his weapon and began to search the corpse for spoils. The youth was covering their position, looking away from his location. It was then he knew he could take them both.
Taking two deep breaths, he let out the last one and held it. He centered the crosshairs on the youth's head and gently squeezed the trigger. The youths head erupted in a fountain of pink mist and he dropped like a stone. The older man whirled to look for the source of the shot and was rewarded with two rounds through the chest. The third shot allowed those in support to locate his possible hiding spot and they proceeded to light up the area with all their firepower. But it was too late, he had already slid down the pile of rubble and was running out the back yard and into the surrounding brush.
His first kill had sickened him, and left him vulnerable for two days as he dealt with the nausea and flood of emotions. The second one was not so bad, and by the time he had made his sixth kill, he felt nothing at all. It was kill or be killed, and if you hesitated you were dead. That was what had cost him the other two members of his cell. They were inexperienced and hesitated when they should have reacted. Now they were just carrion for the beasts of the field to devour. He had not met any others that he felt qualified to join his cell to this point, so he operated alone. He didn’t hate the people he had killed, and prior to the aftermath of the collapse he had felt he had many friends that were from both the black and hispanic races. The collapse had destroyed all that.
He traveled covertly for several hours before finding an outpost of Blackstone’s. He reported what had happened in the town to the Sergeant at Arms and received 3 MRE’s as a reward along with 20 rounds of .223. MRE’s were hard to come by, and were only used as a method of payment for outstanding service or a special reward. He thanked the Sergeant for his generosity and quickly disappeared into the underbrush. He was headed to a little traveled spot to make his camp for the night, as it was near dark and the twilight was waning.
Finding his destination, he stepped into a seemingly dense patch of underbrush that surrounded a clump of cedars. Reaching up to one of the highest branches that he could reach, his fingers found and pulled on a hidden cord that dropped a rope ladder down through the branches to the thicket floor. He climbed up the ladder and as soon he had gained the sleeping platform among the middle branches, he pulled the rope up after him. Sleeping at ground level was very dangerous and the wild dog packs that roamed the countryside could find you without any warning, and that would be the end of you.
There was a small lean-to shelter on the platform to keep off the rain and a clay chimnea that he had found and lugged back to his hideaway. The chimnea was surrounded by wood reflectors to direct the heat into the shelter as well as hide any light that might escape from the fire itself. He kept a stash of wood covered with a tarp on the platform along with tinder and kindling for quick fires. Inside the lean-to was a plastic bucket with a Gamma lid in which he stored his meager supply of food. In a wooden trunk at the rear of the shelter he stored his extra clothes and his small supply of ammo. In another bucket was his water supply, which he refilled with runoff from the roof of his shelter. Yet a 3rd bucket had a toilet seat for body waste and a 4th was full of wood ashes to cover the waste with.
No one else knew of his hideaways, as he felt that secrecy was the best type of security. He only burned the chimnea at night to hide the smoke and also because during the daylight hours he was generally on the move. He had 4 of these type camps and several underground camps where he spent the winter months as they were warmer and easier to insulate. He didn’t move around much in winter; the snow was getting deeper with each passing year and he didn’t wish to leave any tracks leading to his dwelling. He choose a desolate wilderness location for these camps, nearby only to water sources and fuel supplies. He spent at least 2 months each summer stocking these retreats with food and wood to last through the lengthening winter months. Soon, he would have to move south as many others were talking about doing.
The earth was entering a new ice age, and new glaciers were forming in the northern territories. The remaining population in these areas were migrating southward with each passing year as the snows deepened and stayed longer. The tardy spring weather finally melted the snows late in June and left a chill in the air that did not disappear until late July. Then later in October the cold began to return, with early frosts and bleary days in which the sun struggled to penetrate the fogs. The larger groups began to displace smaller ones, or they absorbed them altogether. Wild game, which had been almost extinct after the collapse due to hunting pressure, made a great comeback in the 4th year as the hunting population had died off from starvation or had been killed in conflict or plague.
The CME was a depopulation event beyond the wildest dreams of the global elite. Only they had not planned on their own extinction as a result. 5 billion died in the years after the event. War, famine, plague and natural disasters took their toll. Nature was no respecter of wealth and power. All were leveled to poverty, until the warlords arose. It was a new world now, and the old ways were no longer attainable with the current level of upheaval underway.
He cleaned his Mini-14 by firelight that night and thought about his next recon trip. The Sergeant had given him a new task; to go back to the town and look for more of the group he had discovered there. He had been reluctant to go at first, but the Sergeant had offered him more ammo and MRE’s, and if he could bring back a prisoner for interrogation, an RPK with 8 each 40 round magazines! With ammo! He could not pass up the offer, and even if he could not get a prisoner, the intel would pay well. Tomorrow he would head out. He would recon the town from a large tree on a knoll just to the north of town and with a clear view. If need be, he would sleep in the tree, just so he wouldn’t miss anything. Tomorrow…
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