Authors: Thomas A. Watson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Military
Hearing gasps behind him, Nathan knew the rest saw the group ahead of them. “Stay behind me about a hundred yards and spread out in a line. If it comes to shooting, aim and dump a mag out. If we can pour enough lead out we can take them off guard. John, after you shoot, get off with the sniper rifle and take out what you can hit,” Nathan commanded over his shoulder.
Seeing the group follow his instructions, Nathan kicked Smoke, heading toward the group riding toward them. Nathan lifted up the SAW, putting the sling over him. “Amanda, have they called in anything?”
“Not that I’ve heard,” she called out behind him.
Nodding, Nathan watched the group coming toward them. The group spread out in a line with a man out front. Nathan counted eleven and noticed when they were closer that all of them were wearing cowboy hats and jeans. Nathan flipped the thermal monocular up. With his right hand he gripped the SAW and flipped the safety off.
When the group of riders was a hundred yards away, Nathan stopped, letting them come to him. He could see two of them were carrying AR-15s and the others were carrying hunting rifles. When the man leading them was twenty yards away, Nathan called out in a loud firm voice, “That will be close enough!”
The man in front of the riders held up his hand and stopped. “Where you headed?” the leader called out.
“Any-fucking-where I want to, government man,” Nathan answered, causing several of the group to jump and look around.
The leader laughed. “Mister, we ain’t government.”
“Yeah, heard that one in Arkansas before I killed them. Come to find out when we searched them they were all Homeland. Took you long enough to find us,” Nathan smirked. “I’ll offer you what I did your other government brothers, let us pass or I’ll kill you. If I have to kill you, once I get my family home I’m going to kill your families, just like I am the ones we’ve already killed,” Nathan replied coldly.
One of the men in the line moved his rifle and Nathan lifted up the SAW. “Boy, move that weapon one more inch and the killing will start!”
The leader turned around, looking at his group. “Jeff, get your damn hand off that rifle!” he shouted. “All of you get your damn hands off your weapons!” Reluctantly they all did as he said. Seeing his group was doing what he said, the leader turned around to Nathan. He smiled when Nathan lowered his weapon as well. “Sorry about that,” the leader said.
“Same here,” Nathan said, watching the group. “So, government man, you going to let us pass in peace and live?”
“Mister, my name’s Bart, and we ain’t with any government. Had to kill a few of them ourselves,” Bart said.
“Bart, we were caught down in Georgia when this hit. We’ve had to kill gang bangers, murderers, rapist, marauders, thieves, government troops, U.N. troops, and Homeland agents. Please forgive me if I’m not trusting,” Nathan replied.
Bart raised his eyebrows, impressed with the distance traveled. “That’s a mighty long way,” he said. “But you must understand, we’ve had problems around here as well.”
“If you’re local, I can imagine,” Nathan said. “What river runs through Scottsbluff, and what is the name of the University of Nebraska’s football team?”
“The North Platte and Cornhuskers,” Bart replied, confused.
Nathan visibly relaxed. “You’re the first to answer questions correctly.” Bart and his group all relaxed, seeing Nathan relax.
“Damn, that’s good,” Bart said, impressed with Nathan’s lie. “Where you headed?”
“Home,” Nathan replied.
“And where is that?” Bart asked.
Nathan saw Bart was at least two decades older than Nathan with a very weathered face. “Not here,” Nathan said, and saw Bart’s eyes narrow. “Bart, we’ve killed too many government troops and agents to just let you know where we are headed. I’m sure the bounty is fairly high now.”
Bart nodded his head and looked behind Nathan. “You saying those kids behind you have killed?”
“Except the toddler in my lap and the five-year-old with the lady, they have,” Nathan replied.
Reaching up, Bart took his cowboy hat off, wiping his head. “That is a damn shame. Little kids having to kill.”
Nathan shook his head. “If you had seen what we’ve seen you wouldn’t say that.”
“Oh I’m not doubting you, some of our kids have had to as well. It just ain’t right,” Bart said.
Nathan just looked at Bart for a minute and smiled. “My name’s Nathan. We are heading to our family in Montana. If the government finds out you know that, your family is in danger till they find out what you know.”
“You’ve pissed on their leg that bad?” Bart asked, astounded.
“You have no idea,” Nathan said. Several of the men behind Bart smiled at each other.
Bart put his hat back on. “Since you’re just passing through, let’s get you through Henry.”
“If you don’t mind, we don’t like towns too much. We can find our own way across,” Nathan offered.
Holding up his hands, Bart shook his head. “Nathan, no disrespect, but there are several patrols around looking for gangs and government boys. If they see you they are liable to shoot first, and I’m sure you would kill them. I’m doing this for everybody’s safety.”
Nathan nodded and lifted up his arm, waving his group forward. “You’re right, we would kill them.”
“Let’s prevent any bloodshed unless it’s government or gangs,” Bart said, smiling.
As Nathan’s group came up, Nathan looked at Bart. “If anybody tries to hurt my kids, they will die a slow death.”
One of the men behind Bart moved forward. “Sir, if anybody tries while we are with you, you won’t get the chance before we string them up.”
Bart looked over at the man, shaking his head, then turned back to Nathan. “Like Bill said, you don’t have to worry about anyone trying to hurt you as long as you don’t hurt them. Nobody in town will mess with ya with us there, and if they do, we’ll take care of it.”
“Shit, all we want to do is go home, and everyone wants to kill us or lock us in some camp. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but fuck with my family and you don’t get a second chance,” Nathan said as Jasmine moved closer.
Bart tilted his hat. “Ma’am.”
“Sir,” Jasmine said, tilting her head to Bart.
Bart gave her a smile. “Just talking to your Paw about leading you through town.”
Jasmine laughed. “Nathan’s my husband, not ‘Paw.’” Bart’s eyes bulged from his head and he looked at Nathan, shaking his head.
Shrugging, Nathan looked at Jasmine. “I tried telling her to go after someone else but she just wore me down till she got me.”
Leaning over Jasmine patted his leg. “Don’t forget it either, because I was just getting started.”
Bart and his group started laughing. Bart looked at Nathan, smiling. “Nathan, I can see it in her eyes, you didn’t have much of a chance.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that out,” Nathan admitted reaching down squeezing Jasmine’s hand.
“Come on,” Bart said, turning his horse around. “Let’s get going; my group has been out on a long patrol today.”
Bart’s group fell in behind him. Nathan’s group fell in behind them, forming two columns. As they rode, Nathan told Bart how he had come by the others. “Nathan, you are a very good man,” Bart said when he finished. “Around here we are chasing gangs and government boys riding around in dune buggies. Families around here are grouping up and those that don’t disappear.”
“Dune buggies?” Nathan asked, confused.
“Nobody’s seen one yet in person, but we’ve seen their tracks, and we have a picture of one from a game camera a man had placed out looking for mule deer. They find a farm, and a group of trucks come up, either taking who they find or killing them. Since nobody around here wants to go, we fight. If you don’t have more than a few guns you die,” Bart told him.
“So the dune buggies find them but don’t attack?” Nathan asked.
“Near as we can tell,” Bart answered. “We are coming up on my brother’s farm. Let’s water the horses and grab a bite to eat. Your horses look like they could use some feed.”
“I would really like to keep going,” Nathan confessed.
“The radio we have can’t reach town. I can send someone at my brother’s out in a truck to call in,” Bart explained.
Nathan nodded. “Okay.”
When they were close, Bart called on a small handheld radio. Even though he didn’t get a reply, Bart put the radio up. He turned to Nathan. “We don’t radio from where we live.”
“Smart. I found out in Arkansas they were tracking that,” Nathan said.
“Yeah, we found out the hard way. A cousin over in Wyoming was attacked by government troops a week ago. He lives in the middle of nowhere. They beat them off and asked one of the wounded troops how they found them,” Bart said.
A thought struck Nathan. “Do you listen to a man on the radio calling himself Foxtrot, Uniform, Charlie, Kilo, Uniform, Golf, Mike, Alpha, November?”
Bart and his entire group laughed. “Yeah, we listen to Fuck-u-G-man.”
The laughter died down as they turned onto a dirt road leading to a farm. “He is really pissing them off. I like the guy. You need to get word to him to be careful. He’s becoming a symbol of freedom,” Nathan said.
Bart looked at Nathan with some suspicion. “Why are you so worried? You couldn’t have been hearing him for long.”
Nathan laughed. “No other hams are relaying his broadcast. We first heard him as we came out of Arkansas into Kansas.”
The laughter fell of Bart’s face. “Are you kidding me?”
“That’s what I mean. He is a symbol now. I know last night they took out one of his antennas. I’m sure he is using roving broadcast or multiple sites, but if it cools down enough they will send enough assets to come after him,” Nathan explained.
A group of people ran out of the main house toward the group, waving, all of them carrying weapons. Bart trotted up and talked as the rest rode up. It wasn’t long till the two groups were sitting out on picnic tables, eating breakfast.
Nathan fed Emma as Bart talked to his brother. When the two finished, Bart headed to Nathan and his brother jumped in a truck and left. Bart stopped beside Nathan, smiling as the ‘plane’ flew to Emma’s mouth. “Nathan, when you’re done, can I have a word with ya?” Bart asked.
Nathan nodded and stood up. When he tried to put Emma down, she informed him she wasn’t ready to be put down. Giving up, Nathan carried her as Bart led him a little way from the table. “What’s up?” Nathan asked.
“Are you sure they will go after Fuck U G-man?” Bart asked with a worried tone.
Nathan shook his head. “No, they have already started. When they get a chance they will send in troops to go after him. Not US Special Forces but U.N. Special Forces. I wouldn’t doubt he’s being rebroadcast from coast to coast.”
Bart looked off with a worried expression. “Never would’ve thought this would happen.”
Nathan stepped back. “Bart, you act like you know him. I’m sure he knows he faces some danger. I just want him warned so he can have help nearby.”
Turning to look at Nathan, Bart had a pained expression. “It’s my son.”
Nathan actually stumbled back. “What?” he said, expecting helicopters and troops to start pouring over the hills in the distance.
Bart saw Nathan look around. “He’s not here.”
Nathan looked at Bart with an alarmed look. “I’m not looking for him. I’m looking for the assholes who want him dead.”
Bart closed his eyes. “It just started out as a means to relay information. You’re right, last night they hit one of his broadcast sites with a rocket. He called over on another frequency saying he was fine but would only call us once a month.”
Nathan gestured at the table. “Do they all know who he is?”
“Yeah,” Bart said. “Most around here do, family and close friends.”
Reaching out Nathan grabbed Bart’s arm. “You are in a world of shit, my friend. You are as much a target as your son.”
“We just thought they were trying to shut down radio broadcast. We never knew he was being rebroadcast. I asked him to stop last night but he said no. Then we get a call saying a group of riders was moving through,” Bart said.
“That reminds me, how in the hell did you see us? We have thermal and I spotted some people by a road but I’m sure they didn’t see me,” Nathan asked.
Letting out a chuckle, Bart shook his head. “Andy spotted you. His house is buried in a hillside overlooking a valley. Unless you are right in front of it you can’t see it.”
“Hope he didn’t radio from it,” Nathan said.
“No, he has a radio antenna set up a mile from his home next to an old barn. He ran wire to it,” Bart said.
Nathan smiled, impressed, and looked away over the field. “Your son is in big danger. I would ask him to quit.”
“He won’t. I have to say, I agree with him. Like you said, he’s becoming a symbol, and I want him to continue. I just want him closer. We have several hundred fighters here and a troop of army patriots below Scottsbluff. He’ll be safer here,” Bart said.
“Can’t argue that,” Nathan said. “Just why in the hell are you telling me this?”
“If you’re going to Montana, you can stop by and tell him,” Bart said.
Nathan raised his eyebrows. “Come again?”
“He is, or was, a park ranger at Yellowstone. He has a cabin just outside the park,” Bart said with a pleading look.
Feeling Emma put her head on his shoulder, Nathan started patting her back. Getting close to F-U wasn’t what Nathan wanted to do, just the opposite, actually. He was under no illusions. Nathan was sure the government was already looking for him. “Bart, I really want to help, but I have my kids.”
“And I’m asking for one of mine,” Bart said. “You said yourself they don’t have the assets in place yet. I want him warned beforehand.”
Nathan headed to the table. “Come on.” Reaching his pack and messenger bag, Nathan pulled out a map. “Where is he?”
Bart leaned over the map with relief. He studied the map for a few minutes then pointed. “Here.”
Looking where Bart was pointing, Nathan shook his head. “The closest road is seven miles away.”
“Nope,” Bart said smiling. “There is a road leading right to the cabin.”
Still holding a sleeping Emma, Nathan dug in his messenger bag for his tablet. Turning it on, he looked at the spot where Bart had pointed. The trees were very thick and he didn’t see a cabin. “Are you sure? I don’t see shit.”