Authors: Joe Nobody
Tags: #Fiction, #Dystopian
Holding Their Own IV: The Ascent
Copyright © 201
Kemah Bay Marketing
All rights reserved.
E. T. Ivester
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
- Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart
- The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire
- Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skill to Help You Survive
- Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival
- Holding Their Own II: The Independents
- Holding Their Own III: Pedestals of Ash
- The Home Schooled Shootist: Training to Fight with a Carbine
- Apocalypse Drift
10 years before the collaps
Bishop walked into the gym, his face locked in a grimace that betrayed the foul mood consuming his day. It had taken every reserve of willpower to crawl out of his bed this morning―an epic, internal struggle
had raged while the snooze alarm’s red digits executed their countdown to the next sounding. This morning’s battle was becoming familiar ground to Bishop―a no-man’s land between calling in sick and reporting for work. Every day, it grew increasingly difficult to pull back the covers and face life.
, a narrow victory had been achieved―a triumph for responsibility. The motivation to get out of bed had nothing to do with honor or professionalism; it was due to a deep-seated, internal terror that forced him to rise and greet yet another day. It wasn’t that Bishop feared any man or beast. He was beyond caring about such things as defeat by the hand of another. His nemesis was self-imposed―a pragmatic realization that, if he didn’t report for work that morning, he never would again.
ire had peaked with a cocked .45 caliber pistol aimed at the offending alarm clock, Bishop’s finger ready on the trigger. A thread of mercy saved the timepiece―his throbbing head realizing that dropping the hammer would generate an intense wave of sound-induced pain. This was a discomfort that simply couldn’t be tolerated so early in the day.
His crusade racked up another small win with a successful shower and shave, but the triumph was short-lived. The desperate campaign reemerged as he sat in the truck, attempting to work up the fortitude required to maneuver in Houston’s morning traffic. It had been exceedingly difficult not to go back to bed.
You’ve got to go in
, he thought.
You will end up a reclusive hermit, too paranoid to leave your bedroom and eventually wasting away into lunacy.
The gym’s odors were yet another wave of assault, crashing against the weakened bastions of Bishop’s well-being. The mixture of sweat and disinfectant seemed particularly harsh this morning. The
echoes of men lifting weights, grunting, and straining gave insult as well.
I’ll work out
, he thought.
I need to burn some of this stress.
Plugging in the appropriate amount of weight, Bishop went horizontal on his back and began to press the bar up and down. His attention was drawn to some activity at the far end of the room
; a sparring match between two co-workers distracted him.
Unarmed combat training was a regular activity for the security personnel at HBR. The philosophy was that it was always better to subdue a threat without the use of gunplay or excessive force. Bishop didn’t like the training
, but he wanted to keep his job, so he attended and did his best.
Today’s match involved a co-worker who went by the nickname of Bull. He and a smaller man danced around the mats, throwing punches and kicks. Bishop had never cared much for Bull. As far as Bishop was concerned, the man was large, strong, and stupid. Bull hailed from New Zealand, where he claimed to have been ex-SAS. Bishop thought that was just more Bull-shit. For some reason,
the colonel kept the large man around, so Bishop and the other men tolerated the obnoxious fellow―just barely.
Bull was sparring with a quiet, unassuming Korean who everyone called Gangwon. The man had been born in that South Korean province, and the
label had just stuck. All of the HBR men knew that Gangwon was hell on wheels when it came to martial arts. This former ROK Marine was strong, fast, and fearless.
There were certain rules regarding hand-to-hand combat at the security center. Pads and gloves were always required, and some types of blows were not kosher. One such outlawed strike was a blow to the back of the head or neck area. As Bishop watched the two
skillful men scuffle, Bull essentially cheated by striking a powerful fist to Gangwon’s neck. The normally stoic Asian staggered back and raised a hand to halt the match. Bull ignored the signal to stop and landed another kick and punch combination. A loud thump signaled the smaller competitor’s violent introduction to the floor.
Bishop became angry. Not only had Bull
taken unfair advantage of his opponent, he had engaged in dangerous behavior. Gangwon could have been seriously injured or even killed. Despite a strong urge to become aggressive with Bull, Bishop decided to let the incident go, choosing to leave the area. Some voice of reason had sounded in Bishop’s head.
On the way back to his locker,
however, the anger continued to well. Bishop sidestepped a construction crew remodeling a section of the facility, and an opportunity to deliver justice presented itself. A large bucket of plaster drew his attention, sparking an idea. Dipping a pair of work gloves into the pudding-like substance might provide an interesting advantage. By the time Bishop got back to the gym, a coating of plaster similar to a cast was hardening inside of his sparring gloves. The sight of Bull leaning against the wall boasting about his victory escalated the fury-driven desire to teach the big buffoon a lesson.
Bishop started taunting Bull. “Why don’t you try that shit with someone a little more your size, asshat?” Back and
forth, the bravados flew, and eventually the two men squared off in the ring. Normally when sparring, glove-cushioned blows to the head inflict little damage. Bishop, however, was using daddy’s little helper that day, and essentially set about tenderizing a little Bull-meat.
The next morning, Bishop found himself at full attention, standing in front of
the colonel’s desk. Beside him was a rather pitiful looking Bull, both eyes blackened and sporting several dark purple welts around his head. Bishop couldn’t be sure, but he thought the man’s nose looked a little crooked, too.
saw little humor in the situation. He peered over the report he was skimming, his voice booming throughout the small office. “I can’t believe what I’m reading here. This has to be a mistake. I only hire
, and every
knows that safety during training is a top priority. Now, let me make myself clear….” The colonel stood and stepped to the front of his desk, hands clasped behind his back. He stopped directly in front of Bishop and Bull, his head snapping back and forth between the two. “If either of you two fucksticks EVER SO MUCH AS COUGH on another HBR employee, I will personally kick your ass up between your shoulders so far you’ll have to remove your shirt to shit. I’m officially ordering both of you—this situation between you is to be de-fucked immediately. Furthermore, if there is
even a hint
of another problem, I will terminate your employment at HBR immediately. Do you understand?”
Both men replied with a prompt and clear, “Yes, sir.”
The colonel returned to his desk and sat back down. He looked at Bull, saying, “You are dismissed. Bishop, I require a word with you.”
Bull pivoted smartly and left. Bishop couldn’t be sure, but he thought the man limped just a little.
The colonel waited until Bull had shut the door, and then his entire demeanor changed. “Bishop, we have to fix this problem of yours. Since that incident down at the Tri-Border Area, you haven’t been the same. Now, I know how hard that was on you, son. I’ve been there. But since that episode, you have been quick-tempered, sultry, and extremely aggressive.”
Bishop protested, embarrassed that he was receiving a scolding. “Sir, has my work been sub-par in any way?”
The colonel smirked, opened his desk drawer, and removed a sparring glove. He shook the evidence over his desk, and several flakes of dried plaster fell onto the surface. “I found this in your locker, Bishop. Now, I wonder how this interesting substance got inside of your equipment? I also wonder how you managed to pummel a man 30 pounds over your weight, a man known to be an expert striker. I’m curious as to what Bull’s reaction would be if he knew you had doctored your gloves.”
Bishop started to defend himself. “Sir, he could have killed Gangwon
. I was just . . . ”
waved him off, and his voice became soft and friendly—at least as soft and friendly as the colonel could be. “Bishop, I’m not fucking with you. You are one of the best I’ve ever worked with. We have to fix this issue of yours and move on. I’ve tried to get you to counseling, and you won’t go. I can order you to see the shrink, but I know you would just stonewall him.”
It was Bishop’s turn to interrupt his boss. “Sir, my apologies. I didn’t know my behavior had been so
noticeable. It’s just . . . just . . . I don’t know, sir. Since we lost all those men down in the Tri-Borders, I have been incredibly frustrated. Good people died down there and for no reason. Good didn’t triumph over evil, and that is just stuck in my craw.”
nodded. “I understand, son. Believe me, I understand. A lot of people want to lump those feelings of yours into the category of post-traumatic stress syndrome. I don’t think that’s your problem, Bishop. I think you simply want to reaffirm that good does win most of the time. I also think you’d like a little payback against the dark side.”
Bishop shifted his weight and waited for
the colonel to continue.
“Bishop, I have a friend who works for the DEA. Every now and then,
those Washington brainpans dream up some operation and need help from outside of the normal channels to implement it. He contacted me the other day and is looking for a few highly trained individuals who can keep their mouths shut and well . . . wouldn’t have a lot of family members asking questions if said operators didn’t return from the ‘activities.’”
swiveled his chair around and looked out the window behind his desk. His voice became distant. “Bishop, you fit the bill perfectly for what my colleague wants. I normally don’t become involved in these little mystery missions for a number of different reasons. This time, however, I think it might actually have a purpose. You see, what he has planned will provide ample opportunity to prove what is decent and noble triumphs over wickedness. In your current state of mind, I can’t send you on any job for HBR. I also can’t afford to keep you on the payroll, if we can’t use you. So, I’m going to give you a choice. You can take a few weeks of your vacation and go work with my friend at the DEA, or you can go visit the company shrink and see if he can get your hostile ass squared away. One way or another, Bishop, I need the man I had before Tri-Borders. It’s your call.”
Bishop didn’t hesitate. “How do I contact your friend?”
The colonel reached in his drawer and pulled out a folder, handing it to Bishop. Inside were plane tickets from Houston to Washington, DC for the following afternoon. The folder also contained Bishop’s approved vacation request for four weeks and his next two paychecks. “I’ll see you in a month, son. Good luck.”
Bishop was feeling a mixture of foreboding and excitement as he flew to Washington.
On one hand, his very nature didn’t like the mystery of the whole endeavor; while on the other, doing something outside the daily routine at HBR was a welcomed change. During the flight, he mused about being on a super-secret spy mission and was tempted to order a martini shaken, not stirred, from the flight attendant. The mental charade ended when reality overwhelmed his pipedream. After all, Bishop preferred tequila, and 007 had an expense report.
Bishop was greeted at Ronald Regan International Airport by a man who introduced himself as Mr. Smith. After shaking hands, the man looked Bishop up and down and
pronounced, “You don’t look like a badass.” Bishop conducted a visual assessment of his own, deciding that the good Mr. Smith did indeed look like a DEA prick and wanted to inform him of such, but held his tongue.
Mr. Smith had access to a small conference room right on the airport grounds. After punching in a code on the digital lock, Bishop was escorted into an area that contained a conference table, four chairs, and two bottles of lukewarm water.
So much for being treated like a super-spook
, he thought.
His host sat down and began immediately. “Afghanistan
produces the majority of the world’s opium. The poppy farmers are really nothing more than peasants, cultivating the crop that generates the most cash from their shitty land. As you are no doubt aware, we have hundreds of thousands of men in Afghanistan, but for political reasons, we can’t touch the core of the country’s opium economy.”
Mr. Smith stopped for a moment and waited for Bishop to nod his understanding. Instead, Bishop responded with a question. “Why can’t you touch the opium trade?”
The man became annoyed, and responded with a tone similar to a college professor addressing a student’s ill-advised question. “The United States is trying to play a specific, narrowly-defined role with our Afghan partners. Many of the regional governors maintain their powerbase using the income derived from the opium trade. The United States needs these men to fight the Taliban. If we turned our Army loose on the trade, we could no longer enjoy the support of the local warlords. Until recently, the prevailing policy was that ignoring the major players was the lesser of two evils.”
Bishop digested the answer for a little bit and nodded. Mr. Smith continued, “The situation is further compounded by the fact that the Taliban is also interwoven into the transport and distribution of the opium. The money they make supports
war efforts against
troops. So, we have a two-headed snake on our hands. Not only does the opium make it to our streets, the money collected from our drug-addicted citizens supports those that are butchering our troops. In effect, American dopers are fueling the conflict that is killing their own friends and neighbors.”