Read Dux Bellorum (Future History of America Book 3) Online
Authors: Marcus Richardson
"You think you can get this thing across the lake?"
The old man hooted from the interior. "No problem at all! She's in
good shape. Got all kinds of charts—everything you need’s down here, even some GPS gear and shit. Battery’s probably dead, but I think I can hook 'em up to the engine and get her runnin' once we get some power."
"No—we're not using the engine."
"Not using…? Why?" The old man looked around him and tossed down one of the navigation charts on a little desk—not much more than a plank of wood sticking out of the hull. "Unless we got a good stiff breeze, this thing's not gonna be very fast…"
Evans smiled. "I don't care about speed—I'm looking for stealth." He glanced over the hatch toward the mansion across the lake.
He could see it in his mind’s eye: standing behind the wheel, the ship silently plowing its way across the lake in the middle of the night, loaded for bear with the roughest, meanest of his crew. They could beach just below the house, slip up in there and kill anyone inside, take whatever they want and be back across the lake to start ferrying his men. They'd be like a bunch of modern-day pirates.
He peered back into the cabin. "So, Gimpy…what do you know about Vikings?"
Evans struck in the middle of the night. According to the cheap Casio watch he'd taken off the undersheriff's corpse, it was 2 AM. Perfect. He signaled Bondo.
"It's time. Take your men over to the neighbor’s house. Kill anyone inside and lock it down as fast as you can. Keep the curtains closed and for fuck's sake don't turn on any lights until I get back.
Think you can handle that?"
A few of the raiders chuckled.
Bondo glared at them, then nodded.
Evans frowned, far from certain.
"Split your crew between that house and this house. I don't think anyone's in this one, but be ready."
"You got it, Spike." The man paled once when Evans looked at him. "I mean sheriff."
Dammit. Actually hoped you would work out.
He pulled the crampon from his pocket and held the eyes of the man who had called him Spike. Quick as a snake, he drove the metal bar straight up under Bondo's chin and sunk it deep. He watched as the little man's eyes rolled up into his head before he let the body collapse to the ground, quivering and leaking blood on the snow. Evans turned the rest. "Who am I?"
"You're the sheriff," they said in unison.
"Good. Get going."
He pointed to the biggest man in the group. "You're in charge."
With the first group dispatched, he turned to his hand-picked crew for the sailboat. They all sported clubs or ax handles, even a shovel—whatever weapons they could find in the boat sheds. It wouldn't matter, his men were tired, cold and hungry. They were ready to rip into anyone who stood in their way.
Halfway across the lake, Gimpy tapped his shoulder. He had ordered strict silence to get across the lake so he was happy someone had remembered not to speak.
The old man grinned from behind the sailboat's steering wheel and pointed off to the side.
A faint glow rippled off the surface of the water, perhaps a half a mile across a wide bay. It was too cloudy for him to get a good view, but there was definitely
over there. Something darker than the surrounding darkness.
It looked like a long low building along the water. Whatever it was, someone had a light on.
Evans turned back to the front of the boat.
He'd worry about that later. They were approaching the shoreline. He took a good look at the massive house. It grew taller and taller above him as they approached the shore—an imposing sight. As they came ashore, Evans hopped over the side and splashed into the ice-cold water, ignoring his feet.
"Okay, boys, let's have some fun."
Time for a New Car
small triangular window of ballistic-hardened glass.
The Georgia landscape had been reduced to a gray blur in the first few moments of the day.
He rubbed his eyes, wishing once more they could just find a place to stop and sleep for a while, free from fear.
It'd been another long night.
Somewhere well north of the border, they'd rumbled into a small town, hoping to find supplies.
Before they could even find a spot to park, people came out of the woodwork, on the attack.
In their haste to leave, Ted had driven the M-ATV through a number of cars.
As tough as it was, their vehicle was not a tank, and the damage was starting to take its toll.
When it'd been Erik's shift behind the wheel, he noticed the big vehicle constantly pulled to the right.
As a result, he spent hours fighting the steering and when his shift was up, he collapsed into the passenger seat in an exhausted heap.
Brin had done likewise, yet somehow managed to have enough stamina and energy to look after the kids during the firefight as well.
"I'm starting to get the idea that we've got a big target painted on our asses," muttered Ted as he struggled with the steering wheel.
Erik grimaced at the sound of the transmission grinding while they traversed another pockmarked road outside Dunham, Georgia.
It was the third town in the county where the road had been intentionally damaged to slow traffic.
It was smart—that's what worried Erik.
Someone was organizing the county, someone with brains.
He looked down at the map in his lap and fought the vibrations of the M-ATV to keep it steady.
"No matter where we go, people swarm us," he muttered squinting in the dim light.
"I don't understand it."
"I've seen it before, I just hoped to never see it stateside.
Things have gotten so bad that when people see a military vehicle, they think relief is on the way.
Remember the aftermath of Joyce?
Same thing with Katrina—even as far back as Andrew.
Desperate people see the military as offering hope, help, and safety."
He shook his head.
"This time, it couldn't be further from the truth.
Anybody they’re seeing now are probably fleeing the Russians following the fall of Orlando."
"Then why the hell," Erik began a little too loud.
He checked himself and glanced over his shoulder at Brin, hovering over the sleeping children.
She shot him a warning look and turned back to the kids.
Erik lowered his voice.
"Why the hell are they
Ted shrugged one shoulder while he cursed under his breath.
The big vehicle slammed into a rather large pothole.
The M-ATV didn’t stop, but it slowed down considerably.
"Problem is, when they realize you're not bringing food and water, they get pissed off.
If they've got guns…"
"And when they realize the only soldiers they see are running
from the Russians…"
Erik rubbed his face, trying to wipe the fatigue out of his eyes.
The constant jostling of the M-ATV threatened to make him expel his last meal all over the dashboard.
"God, can't we just drive over one of those fields over there?
Isn't this thing designed for off-road?"
"It is, and we can, but those are somebody's crops…" Ted observed.
"We need to start looking for any food we can find in this next town—without fighting.
Not trampling somebody's only source of food would be a good way to do it."
Erik bit off his reply and stared out the tiny window.
He forced himself to think as he was jostled in his seat.
He bounced against the door and cursed.
This fucking thing is like a weight hanging around our neck now that we're clear of the Russians.
He sat up straighter.
"What if we got rid of the matvee?"
Ted took his eyes off the road for a moment, "Get rid of it?
Are you kidding me?"
Erik braced himself against the door as one of the M-ATV’s tires rolled into a deep crater.
It felt like the top-heavy vehicle was about to roll.
Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the vehicle righted itself and climbed up out of the hole.
Erik closed his eyes to fight the nausea.
"I'm just saying," he said tightly, "maybe people wouldn't shoot at us so much if we just had a regular truck or something, you know?"
"Yeah…maybe…" mused Ted.
"But if they did shoot at us, we may as well be driving a cardboard box.
My kids—all of us—are a lot safer in this thing."
Erik looked at Ted.
"Yeah, but for how long?
How long will it be before somebody gets enough people to block us and pry this thing open like a can of sardines?
How long will it be before somebody is smart enough to do something to disable this thing?"
Ted sat in silence for a moment as they traversed a clear spot in the road.
"You might be right…" he muttered.
"This thing doesn't have the greatest gas mileage in the world, either…"
"A minivan would be a lot more comfortable for the children," said Brin quietly from the back.
Erik turned his head, hoping to catch a smile from her, but she’d already turned back to the children, gently stroking Teddy's forehead as he slept.
Erik sighed and sat back in his seat staring at the roof.
"We can't go on like this much longer."
"I know," said Ted and Brin at the same time.
Erik closed his eyes.
He needed alone time with Brin.
He needed time to talk to her.
He needed time away from the smell of unwashed bodies, the cries of the children, the close confines of the M-ATV.
He needed open sky and the smell of trees and grass and dirt.
He needed peace.
He needed Brin.
I just wish there was a way I could get through to her.
He stared out the tiny window.
His wife had changed so much since the Russians had taken them to that godforsaken prison camp.
He clenched his fists.
Whatever they did to her in that place…it made her angry at
She flinched when he touched her—even by accident.
She snapped at him.
She didn't talk to him.
It was like the Russians had already killed his wife.
Lost in his thoughts, Erik abruptly realized the M-ATV had rolled to a stop.
He blinked and looked out the windshield.
"What is it?"
He asked, reaching for his M4 leaning against the dashboard.
Ted sat in silence for a moment.
"You believe in coincidence?"
Erik wrinkled his brow.
Ted didn't say anything, but he pointed out the grimy windshield.
In the distance, at the far end of the next field, surrounded by tall Georgia pines sat a small car dealership.
Erik looked at Ted, who stared at the neat rows of new cars.
He glanced over his shoulder at Brin.
A half smile played on her lips.
It warmed Erik's heart better than hot soup on a cold winter night.
"You ready to go shopping for a new car?"
the binoculars until his eyes watered.
I see the main building—looks like fire damage…a couple of cars look pretty smashed up at the main entrance, only a few along the road look vandalized…”
He lowered the binoculars and blinked.
“Everything looks like it's been sitting untouched for the last six months."
"That's not surprising," replied Brin from the back.
"Without electricity, there's been no operating gas stations.
Without gas stations, what’s the point of having a new car?"
“Or any car…” added Erik.
"I don't see anything with these, either," said Ted, tapping the night vision goggles strapped to his forehead.
"No movement, no light…no nothing."
"Well, should we go check it out?" asked Erik.
Ted removed his goggles.
"We only have about a quarter tank left.”
He looked up from the dash.
"If nothing else, maybe we can find us some gas."
"Let's do it then," said Erik.
"Agreed," whispered Brin.
"Alrighty then, here we go…" said Ted.
He shifted the big vehicle into drive and winced as the transmission groaned in protest.
"We might not have much of a choice, anyway.
She’s in sore need of some TLC."
The M-ATV crept forward.
Dawn was just creeping over the tops of the pines on the back side of the dealership.
Everything around them still lay in the dark shadows of twilight.