Category Archives: SHTF

False Flag Is On Sale

The third book in The Retreads series is now on sale for 99 cents at Amazon.

False Flag is a near-future SHTF speculative saga of economic collapse and civil war, in which the specops-veterans-turned-military-contractors from Hell & Gone and Tier Zero face catastrophes on the home front.

“Henry Brown takes down some very dark paths in this cautionary tale of the near future USA. Using lots of story straight from today’s headlines (and back page articles…) we see a very nefarious plan against the citizenry…..and the Retreads spring into action putting their mettle to the test….” – J.G. Scott

“Henry Brown is a talented author, a man with a mastery of dialogue and pacing that knows his craft intimately. This book, I can tell, was his attempt to try something a bit…uncomfortable. A challenge. And he pulled it off with the same dexterity I’ve come to expect from him.” – Nate Granzow (Author of Hekura, The Scorpion’s Nest,  the Cogar series)

“Henry Brown has crafted an action-packed romp that is both enjoyable and terrifying.” – R.A. Matthis (Author of The Homeland series, Ghosts of Babylon)

“This book keeps you wanting to know what happens next – and really makes you wait to find out. The divergent story lines of regular Americans eventually tie together to culminate in a larger story of a nation in crisis.” – Amazon review

What an exceptional story.” – Amazon review

Third book in the series,. Could stand alone but you don’t want to miss the first two. So go back and purchase Hell and Gone (one of the best military thrillers ever written) and then Tier Zero. You won’t be disappointed.” – Benjamin Drayton

 

 

Dialog at Twilight’s Last Gleaming #1

There’s some notable conversations taking place in “flyover country” these days. I think I’ll document some of them.

NGV: I know (our co-worker) has a family to provide for, but stealing from the company…pissing off the customers…I don’t see how they wouldn’t fire him.

RAV: I don’t want anybody to lose their job–especially in this economy. He needs to go on welfare or something, because he’s damaging our reputation.

NGV: I feel bad for his family, though.

RAV: Yeah. There ain’t that many jobs out there, and frankly, depending on what happens in this election, there might not be an America for much longer. It could be a lot more like Brazil or Venezuela pretty soon.

NGV: Speaking of that, when the shit hits the fan, you’re welcome to bring your family and follow me to (redacted) in Idaho.

RAV: No kidding? (Wow, he’s a lot more prepared than I thought.)

NGV: Yeah, seriously. If all you’ve got is your bug-out bag, that’s cool. Ammunition won’t be a problem, either–we’ve got plenty to share.

RAV: Oh yeah? (Holy cow, he’s blowing OPSEC all to hell. Doesn’t he realize we’re talking on cellphones?) I don’t know where I’ll be when the day comes, or what my travel options will be, but I really do appreciate that. (I just wish you’d be wiser about what you say on an unsecured line.)

amerigeddon

Amerigeddon–A Review

There’s a scene in the movie The Right Stuff which takes place during the first few months of “the Space Race” after Sputnik was launched. An American muses, “Why do our rockets always blow up on the launch pad?” or something to that effect. I would have had the same question, seeing as how America was still an industrial giant and the world leader in technology. How could Russian rocket scientists be enjoying more success than ours, especially in a country like the USSR where people capable of creative thinking are among those targeted and routinely murdered by the state?

I’ll bet I have the same kind of frustration those late ’50s rocket scientists had. How is it that smart, hardworking, independent thinkers are consistently outperformed at cinematic storytelling by the left-wing hive mind? Why do our movies always suffer poor story telling, cheesy dialog and generally inept suspension of disbelief?

The first couple minutes of Amerigeddon are promising. But then the primary villain was introduced and my cringing began. But I didn’t cringe because of how eeee-veel the bad guys are. The ensuing conversation is corny enough to embarrass a B-Movie Nazi, and it doesn’t get better from there.

Unfortunately, some of the characters are soldiers in the 101st Division. I say unfortunately because the film makers evidently did not bother to recruit a technical advisor with some basic military knowledge. I suppose they get things wrong no worse than most movies and TV shows with alleged military elements, but this is a big taboo for me. I wouldn’t try to shoot a film about doctors or stock brokers without consulting one or more. With all the veterans out here, there’s no excuse for getting the basics so utterly jacked-up.

The plot is fairly weak, though I have seen worse. The hero confronts a Congressional committee about our state of helplessness in the case of an ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP). One wonders what he hoped to accomplish, other than get himself placed on a Domestic Terrorist (“red”) List. The politicians ignore the warning and make veiled threats against the hero.

The EMP occurs once all the exposition is established. A few of the characters know it’s an EMP from the moment the lights go out. Meanwhile, the “soldier” character realizes that the US Army has been subsumed by the UN, and deserts. The rest of the movie depicts a small conglomeration of family and friends retreating to the safety of the rich prepper hero’s backwoods retreat; then fighting off an attack by UN troops in a slipshod, lackluster climactic sequence.

Filming the climactic scenes was probably more exciting than watching them is.

wearenotok

Even though the producer is a millionaire, and millions probably went into making this film, it comes off as very low-budget. With the right choices, that wouldn’t have been as obvious. But no budget is big enough to compensate for what coulda’/shoulda’ been straightened out in the screenwriting stage.

I wanted this movie to be good. It is not.

The only people who will cut this movie some slack are those like me who appreciate what the film makers were trying to do. Watching it is not going to change anyone’s mind, or nudge fence-sitters into an epiphany…because the glaring problems result in a total package which doesn’t come off as believable.

The culture war is not a fair fight. The left has been sneaking their messages into entertainment for a long, long time. They could afford to be subtle because they had so much time to program the minds of the masses, and almost nobody called them out for it (before the Internet came along, anyway). Most people alive today have had The Narrative spoon-fed to them for all their lives. We can’t boil frogs the way they have, for a number of reasons.

And frankly, we are running out of time. We haven’t yet felt the bite of efforts like “Net Neutrality,” just as the “greatest generation” didn’t suffer the full consequences of the New Deal until it could be blamed on convenient scapegoats (like the free market itself), and like the Great Recession and “housing bubble” didn’t manifest until their architects were retired and could safely blame their successors. And like the catastrophic effects of Obamacare won’t be fully felt until Hussein is duly whitewashed, canonized, and (with the media’s willing assistance) can blame his political rivals. But even beyond “Net Neutrality,” Hillary has hinted at her intent to shut down the alternative media. A clear violation of the law she will swear to uphold and defend, but who is going to hold her accountable to her oath–the FBI?  The DOJ? The Supreme Court? Congress? You?

Yeah, just like Obama has been held accountable.

Ahem. So with time running out, we can’t plant little seeds like the left did over the course of generations. Besides, they were virtually unopposed while we have opposition everywhere. When it comes to the arts, the left has an overwhelming numerical advantage. When it comes to film, TV, video games and other expensive arts, they have every conceivable advantage (other than their Narrative itself, which is built with and on lies, and routinely contradicts itself).

So what can we do?

I’ve drifted too far off-topic already. This movie will not win hearts and minds.

Below is a link to some speculative SHTF tales that are much better (though the plausibility of the Red Dawn remake is questionable).

Random Musings on Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Entertainment

CATEGORIES

TEOTWAWKI or “The End Of The World As We Know It” is a brand which has been traditionally applied to post-apocalyptic movies, games, and books. In such narratives, the story begins AFTER some cataclysmic event has forever altered life on Earth.

SHTF or “Shit Hits The Fan” stories are about, or take place DURING the cataclysmic event. (Most “patriot fiction” fits inside this genre.)

It occurred to me we’ve been throwing everything under the TEOTWAWKI umbrella (including my own latest novel). Because I review so much work in the genre, I have now made a SHTF category and moved all (I hope) the relevant posts into it, for ease and accuracy of navigation.

UNFINISHED STORIES

I’ve been consuming a lot of SHTF and TEOTWAWKI entertainment lately. Recently I’ve tossed two books aside before finishing them. That has prompted me to create a new category called “Pet Peeves,” and this is my first post to be categorized that way.

There are a few different tropes that often annoy me enough to quit watching or reading whatever incorporates them. As regular readers of Virtual Pulp can probably guess, left-wing propaganda is one of them (explaining why I rarely go to movies anymore, and never watch TV). Another nauseating trope is the obligatory “strong female character,” which in action/adventure manifests as the obligatory Amazon Superninja.

Another deal-breaker for me is excessive stupidity, in whatever form. Going back to TEOTWAWKI, this is why I didn’t get very far watching the Jericho series on Netflix. It started out with a lot of promise, but smacked me out of my suspension of disbelief too many times to even be engaged by the point where we discover the EMP was caused by the Right Wing Boogeyman (egads! What a surprise!).

I recently picked up a handful of books on free promotion, for my Kindle. One of them featured a rare (for the SHTF genre) protagonist: an extremely naive civilian suburbanite victim of normalcy bias. I know too many people like this guy in real life (throw a rock in North America, and you’ll hit one), and find them a real challenge to engage with on any meaningful level. Yet, for me, it was a unique storytelling perspective (and perhaps overdue), and I guessed he would have to wise up in order to survive.

The character did show signs of maturing over the course of several chapters, and I gritted my teeth through his Pollyana attitude/reactions. I even held my peace, with an eye-roll or two, at how cash was still accepted after the economy, infrastructure, and even government itself were all rendered moot.

Then I came to a scene in which the protag and his companions are waylayed by literal highway robbers. Our hero is armed. The villains are not. He has some supplies he and his pals will require to survive along their journey. The bad guys want to take it.

So he lets them take it, in an alleged compromise (they won’t rape the girl traveling with him).

You have to wonder why some people even have guns, if they’re unwilling to use them even in matters of survival. The sad part is, this character is all too real, and the “compromise” is too perfect a metaphor for how we’ve allowed our freedoms, our government, and our country to be “compromised” away from us. Real life and its stupid people are more than enough, thank-you. This story and character is too much stupidity for something I read voluntarily and sacrifice time for.

OVERHAULING STRAIGHT AMERICA

The population has been so relentlessly conditioned that it’s hard to escape from the malignant sodomiphilic echo chamber even in indie fiction.

Another book in the genre was also from a suburbanite perspective. There were some trace amounts of the “all men are rapists” attitude in this one, but it wasn’t so “in your face” as to make it unreadable. I had finished reading about 90% of the book before the author sucker-punched me by revealing a character as homosexual.

The reaction to this by one of the main characters was how all reasonable, “open-minded” people are supposed to react: immediate support, equal or surpassing what a “straight” individual should get. Just in case there are still some dirty brains still out there, the efforts to wash them are ubiquitous and never-ending.

No thanks. Pass. I have no interest in reading the remaining 10%.

THE ROAD/JOURNEY PLOT

This really should have been pondered long ago, but only lately has it really become a point of fascination to me that 95-99% of post-apocalyptic tales depict a journey of the protagonist. Most often, the journey is taken in order to reunite with family.

On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. When the SHTF a lot of people will be separated from loved ones by varying distances. They’ll be away on a business trip, or at the office, grocery store, etc., when disaster strikes. So it’s a valid plot.

It’s also a grossly overused plot. So overused that I’m now rethinking a few sequels to False Flag, and a zombie parody I had in mind.

That’s all for now. Happy weekend.

We Defy!

There was activity by one of the vans. Some agents were trying to get back to a van, probably to get some gear they intended to use.
Roberts figured that had to be stopped. We can’t afford some
counter sniper activity, when it came down to it there would be no extra risk tolerated to either his men or himself. “All X-ray
elements, this is X-ray 47, prevent equipment recovery from the van on the highway, 4th vehicle from the last.”
The FBI Hostage Rescue Team was in a bad spot. They (or more
accurately, previous members of the Team) had been present at Ruby Ridge and at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Those incidents were sore points with the tea bagger movement, and the agents on the Team knew that if given the opportunity, the tea baggers would kill them with relish in revenge. The agents had to get the sniper rifles into action, or they would be dead men.
There was no way the average agents, even those who had SWAT training, were going to get the Team out of this situation. The tea baggers were over 300 meters out, and they knew that most agents couldn’t hit an elephant at 200 meters. The Team had to get back to the van.
Roberts RTO was approaching, saying into the microphone
“Standby for X-ray 47 actual.” And then he handed the mike to
Roberts.
“This is X-ray 47 actual, over.”
“This in X-ray 72, request to take targets by van down, over.”
“Shred the van, knee cap them if you can, then take them down, over.”
“Roger, out.”

Above is an excerpt from the action chapter of this book, when the JTF (Joint Task Force) raid runs into an ambush by a well-organized militia.

To describe this book in one sentence, I might say Atlas Shrugs meets Armor at Fulda Gap. There is no character development, to speak of. In fact, character establishment is mostly lacking throughout. Yet it is a gripping story of a few good men who have had enough of the long march to a 3rd World police state, and band together to do something about it–something more effective (and realistic?) than “going Galt” to some fantasy retreat where the jackbooted Feds will just leave them alone.

In this speculative tale of a near future secession effort in Texas, the focal character is Jim Roberts, a former armor officer who is well-versed in military SOPs, TOOs and overall military doctrine. He also knows a great deal about the law and politics, though toward the end we discover he hates politics (and I can relate). From a storytelling perspective it seems he’s not all that necessary for 2/3rds of the narrative, which is in a summary format. Nevertheless, after a couple pages it was hard to quit reading.

I’m tempted to call this “an optimistic dystopia” because everything seems to fall into place for the good guys. Oh, they have opposition, and that opposition is depicted credibly. The optimistic part is how so many individualists can put aside petty differences, come together with realistic plans, attainable goals, and work selflessly to actually make a change while pretty much getting everything right along the way. From my experience, this would never happen. Nevertheless, it is an engrossing read because I like to dream about how we COULD preserve some of our freedoms IF IF IF this, that, that, and this all went right, and if key people handled thus situation exactly in this fashion, and Joe and Moe could check their pride at the door in order to work together, etc. Perhaps patriots and Texicans would enjoy this book as much as I did. It might be just the ticket for those who don’t normally read fiction (or read at all), because it’s full of information and action plans which could, theoretically, be mimicked in real life.

The version of this book that I read was not edited. It reads like a first draft by somebody who doesn’t know (how) to punctuate, with seriously challenged spelling and grammar skills…and who only made matters worse with what spell check function was utilized. In other words: a typical Indie e-book. Difficulty telling dialog from inner-dialog from narration was compounded by a haphazard use of quotation marks. During one passage of dialog which went on for quite a while, there were no attributions at all and you might could figure out who was saying what if you took notes and kept score. There were several paragraphs I had to re-read a few times to deduce what the meaning would be without so many errors, and more than a couple places where the sentence construction was so mangled that I just couldn’t figure out what information the author was trying to convey.

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Executive Orders Cover Final

Executive Orders: Homeland #2

The second book in R.A. Mathis’ SHTF series has just gone live on Amazon. I was fortunate enough to have read an advance copy (after nagging the author a little bit–that’s how much I liked the first one: Falling Down), so I’m ahead of the curve.

I reviewed the first book here; then the author and I had a conversation about our books and TEOTWAWKI in general here and here, if you want to get up to speed. You can also read an excerpt.

Executive Orders follows the three main characters from Falling Down as order is established from the chaos. But order isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be–especially when the chaos was purposely orchestrated to bring it about.

Unfortunately, I think the author’s take on how easy it is to manipulate the masses is spot-on (which is to say: even easier, when they’re facing starvation and other severe hardships, than it is now).

America’s “second founding” is how characters in this story refer to the whole order-from-chaos/pheonix-rising-from-the-ashes plan to swallow the USA into the globalist dictatorship certain insiders have referred to as the New World Order . They have utterly destroyed the US economy; taken down the power grid; hijacked the Armed Forces; implemented martial law; begun to kick off their population reduction and relocation initiatives; blamed the patriot resistance for all the above; obliterated what individual rights Americans had left; and made the average Joe beg for servitude by using food shortages as a weapon. This is all right out of the globalist playbook.

I was a bit surprised at how much freedom and initiative Sheriff Hank was able to enjoy, given the stranglehold Big Brother has on everyone and everything. In retrospect, perhaps he was merely given enough rope to hang himself. And scapegoats are always needed in situations like this.

The stranglehold was achieved very quickly. The author has illustrated just how fast our way of life can permanently change. (The same government/media complex that so expertly herds the population using the Hegelian dialectic before the fall will have an even easier time herding with the simple carrot-or-the-stick paradigm.) They waste no time weaponizing the surviving population (now reduced to property of the State), starting with the very youngest.

I got irritated with Sheriff Hank a couple times, due to his naivite`…but, to be honest, he’s no more naive than most people are, or will be, in real life. Will normalcy bias linger on, even after normalcy has been shredded, napalmed and nuked into oblivion? Yes, it probably will, while evils are sufferable.

This is a dark vision of the near future. However, there were just enough glimmers of hope to read on. And Mathis has set the stage for the resistance to bring some major smoke on the bad guys in the third book.

Amerigeddon

A Counter-Narrative Hits the Big Screen

…On May 13 in select cities.

Not since John Milius filmed Red Dawn (the original) has Hollywood been slapped in the face like this. And while that cold war kiddie flick has aged poorly, and dealt with only the most superficial threat to America, this one digs much deeper.

Imagine this: In the not-so-distant future, a large-scale electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S. energy grid wipes out all power in the country. Electronic devices cease to function. No more phones. No Internet. No TV. Credit cards become useless as the entire banking system grinds to a halt. Food, water and mere survival become every person’s primary concerns.

Amerigeddon” depicts a dystopia in which the American government reacts to a debilitating EMP strike by declaring martial law and stripping Americans of their constitutional rights and their guns. And by the way, it was the U.S. government, in conjunction with the United Nations, that staged the EMP attack in the first place.

It was a plot that none of the studios wanted to touch, so Norris and Heavin independently produced and financed the movie. In an interview with WND, Norris called it “a film of passion” that he and Heavin very much wanted to share with the world.

“We just decided we’re going to do it ourselves,” said Norris, the son of legendary actor and WND exclusive columnist Chuck Norris. “We said we’ll go take it to the theaters in areas that we think people would gravitate toward a film like this, and [hopefully] it’s something that resonates with people that believe in the First Amendment, the Second Amendment; people that believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights – this is a movie that was created just for them.”

 

Amerigeddoninterrogation

No kidding the studios didn’t want to touch a story like this. Their mission is to condition movie-going audiences to irrationally fear “right-wing extremists,” not seriously consider some of their concerns.

I don’t know for sure yet what kind of quality we’re looking at, here, in screenwriting, acting, etc., but it does seem to comprise some themes that need to be explored…all of it related to the fate of our country and the world, and how it will affect each of us–our lives, liberty, and property.

Those themes have been explored in indie fiction–including some published here at Virtual Pulp. But for people who haven’t opened a book since high school and never intend to, this movie could get them thinking. At least, I hope so.

Kudos to Norris and Heavin for the guts and commitment it took to put this on the big screen. Here is a list of theaters that will be showing it.

Executive Orders Cover Final

All This and Civil War Too (Part Two)

Here’s the continuation of our discussion of Homeland: Falling Down, and the trends which inspired it.

 

HENRY BROWN: So, whether faced with our own military or with modern-day Hessians under globalist command (assuming the 3 percenters have prepped adequately enough to avoid being simply starved to death) with no support from a foreign ally and probably without popular support, how viable do you consider a guerilla resistance effort to be?

R.A. MATHIS: You mention in False Flag that no insurgency has ever won without foreign intervention and popular support, which I thought was a very good point. The two things America has to counter that are the 2nd Amendment and the 2008 election of the best gun salesman the country has ever seen. We have over 300 million citizens and about as many firearms in this country. We are also buying up ammo as fast as it can be produced (at least what is left over after DHS gets their share). Combine that with hundreds of thousands of highly trained combat veterans scattered to every part of the country, and the odds don’t look so long.

(HENRY BROWN: What a coincidence that veterans, patriots and gun owners top the list of potential “domestic terrorists” the government is most worried about, eh?)

R.A. MATHIS: This alludes to the working title of book three, “Every Blade of Grass.”

HENRY BROWN: How appropriate–that very quote (whoever said it) was just going through my mind as your words sunk in.

R.A. MATHIS: I think the success of a resistance would vary by region. Rural areas would be virtual no-go zones for regime forces. Some urban areas may just welcome them like the Vichy French.
It seems to me that the biggest problem for the resistance would be the lack of electricity. If the regime restored power to each region as it was brought into compliance, it could make for effective deadly propaganda against the resistance. It’s the old “freedom vs security” dilemma on steroids. I’m not sure which way the populace would go in that case, especially in winter.

HENRY BROWN: Very good point. Most people  take electricity for granted. Few of us have any concept of what a struggle life will be without it. And that’s even without somebody intentionally trying to kill you.

R.A. MATHIS: How would you go about establishing a resistance? Could it succeed?

HENRY BROWN: That endeavor would be a kettle of quandries stuffed full of dillemmas and wrapped in Catch-22s. What I would encourage is a cellular structure perhaps similar to the French Underground or other successful resistance movements. But if it is successful, at some point it would have to take the offensive. And that would require somewhat centralized leadership–anathema to the principles hopefully held by those who constitute such a movement. That would require very rare leadership–willing to step down and surrender the reins of power when victory was secured–as George Washington did.

Could it succeed? Yes. But it would be an uphill struggle from start to finish, with no room for mistakes at the strategic level. At a tactical level I like its chances a little better, partly because of the points you made.

In Falling Down, Cole’s father, Hank, is an honest cop. In my experience that’s a rare, dying breed. But now and then I come across memes regarding certain sheriffs who have gone on record stating they will not comply with unconstitutional orders from the Feds, including civilian disarmament. As with the military, I’m skeptical that many who wear the badge will honor their oaths at crunch time. How do you see it?

R.A. MATHIS: Again, I think this may be regional. I believe small town sheriffs would be more likely to resist the regime as they personally know most of the people they would be asked to arrest, kill, etc. The impersonal nature of bigger cities allows collaborators to see numbers rather than real people. Like Stalin said, “The death of one man is a tragedy…”
Of course, there would be exceptions on both sides of the spectrum. And we must always remember that power not only corrupts, it draws the corrupt.

That last sentence ran through my mind as I read the McMillan scenes in False Flag. You mention window tint citations a few times in regard to this trooper. Was this character and situation inspired by actual events?

HENRY BROWN: Actually, yes. I made friends with a state trooper a few years back. Unlikely, but true. Stories he shared fit with things I’ve heard from other cops and ex-cops. Basically, somebody with a badge can make your life hell now for any reason at all. Window tinting was one of the specific excuses he used to harrass people and help eat out our substance. And that BS fits thematically so well, because the Surveillance State just HATES it when something impedes their invasion of our privacy.

In Homeland: Falling Down, Cole strikes me as a character who’s just an honest soldier who wants to do his duty and avoids politics like the Plague. First of all, is this an accurate assessment?

R.A. MATHIS: Yes. Like most people, he just wants to be left alone. But also like most people, politics affects him in huge ways, whether he likes it or not.

HENRY BROWN: Like the saying goes: You may not be interested in politics, but politics sure has a keen interest in you.

R.A. MATHIS: I found your character Adiur rather fascinating. His connection to Greeley, the secret government training program, the other members of his unit with equally unusual qualities and names. Can you go into detail about this character and your inspiration for him?

HENRY BROWN: This goes back to my research on the occult and mind control, again. There are documented cases of this kind of thing, including superhuman strength, drastic voice changes, change in spoken language, and being oblivious to pain. There’s other bizarre stuff like “remote viewing” and “automatic writing,” too, but I don’t know much about those phenomena yet. Anyway, molestation as a child is pretty common in these “sleeper agents” and sex acts are incorporated into the occultic rituals for adults, too. This is where Greely comes in.

It’s all pretty horrific stuff, which is why I left it behind closed doors, and only implied “vanilla” sex, at that.

Is Cole based to any degree on some particular individual?

R.A. MATHIS: He is the personification of the dilemma faced by our troops in such a time. Hank is the same, but for civilian authorities.

I’ll ask you the same thing about Greeley and Adiur.

HENRY BROWN: Greely and Handel are amalgam characters, based on different people I’ve known and met. I’ve never been involved in drugs or the occult, but I’ve rubbed elbows with others who were. Niether of these characters are what they seem to be on the surface. Greely appears to be the sultry cougar-type “strong independent woman.” She’s the object-of-every-schoolboy’s fantasy. But deep inside she’s a sick tool who is about as independent as a marionette.

Handel’s facade is perhaps just Joe Blow Normal Dude. He’s handsome, clean, in his prime, average intelligence, a “good person” on paper…but there’s more to him than superficial observation would ever indicate. He’s been horribly abused since childhood and doesn’t even know it. He’s fractured. At the risk of spoilers, he has been conditioned to surrender his will and his body over to be used as a vehicle by Adiur–a malicious personality given access to Handel when his psyche was fractured.

I don’t know for sure that anyone I’ve ever met was a bona fide MPD. But I’ve known some guys who were blank slates like Handel, susceptible to that sort of conditioning in my opinion. Such a person has a hole in their soul, and nature abhors a vacuum.

When you first introduced Eduardo in Falling Down, I couldn’t help thinking of Geraldo Rivera. But as the story progressed, I shelved the connection. You really drew a 3-dimensional character in him. He’s a disingenuous self-promoting media whore on the one hand, but he proves to have streaks of decency as well. Congrats on that, BTW. What were your thoughts when you conceived the character, and did he wind up like you first envisioned him?

R.A. MATHIS: He actually was inspired partly by Rivera, especially after I saw how Geraldo behaved on Celebrity Apprentice (not a good look for him). He represents exactly what you stated: the self-serving, headline-grabbing media. He doesn’t care if his reporting is biased or disingenuous. The next step in his career is all that matter to him. He’s not an ideologue, but he will toe the line and support ‘the narrative’ his superiors provide to get ahead. He is a tool (in more ways than one).
It’s interesting that you ask if he is winding up as I first imagined him. I like the question because it implies Eduardo has a life of his own and makes his own choices. As a writer, that’s when I know I’’m onto something…. When I stop directing the characters and let them do their thing, writing down what I observe. That’s when it’s most fun. I don’t know what Eduardo will do or how he will turn out. How will he react when he discovers the true nature of the regime? I don’t know. He is a bit of a wild card.

HENRY BROWN:  Definitely onto something. He lives, breathes, sweats and stinks. Seriously: kudos. Very well-drawn character.

Will the presidential candidate from the prologue appear again in subsequent books?

R.A. MATHIS: The candidate, Martha Jefferson, will have a big roll down the road. And that road is gonna be a rough one.
The assassin’s “little green book” will be a factor going forward.

HENRY BROWN: How many books do you think the Homeland series will last?

Right now I.m thinking at least three, maybe four. It really depends on where the characters take the story…and sales (You’re laughing–I’m not laughing).

HENRY BROWN: Not laughing, really. Just smiling. But think of it as a smile of solidarity.

Is there anything you’d like to share about Executive Order?

R.A. MATHIS: Yes. President Tophet is just getting started. If you thought things are bad now, just wait.

Can you give a hint as to what is in store for the next Retreads book?

HENRY BROWN: I haven’t woven it all together completely yet in the cobweb of my mind, but there’s got to be a showdown between Adiur and Tommy Scarred Wolf. Also between McCallum and either Rennenkampf or Cannonball. The latter would be more dramatic. An EMP. Grid down. Starvation. Dissident extraction. Internment camps. The clergy response team. Jihadi terror cells completely unleashed. Texas secedes. Rocco and his crew take in some refugees. Clashes with occupation forces. And, oh yeah: World War Three. That’s a few off the top of my head.

Changing gears a bit, where did the idea for Ghosts of Babylon come from?

R.A. MATHIS: A few months before deploying to Iraq, I found a picture of my grandfather taken in Germany during WW2. With the photo was a note written on the tissue paper issued to GIs to write home with in those days. He had just learned of Germany’’s surrender and was looking forward to coming home and not sleeping in a foxhole anymore.

I wished I had more. More of his experiences. More of his thoughts and feelings. More of him.
So I kept a journal during my Iraq deployment so my family would have more than a picture and a note decades from then. When I finally got back home, I started writing, using the journal as the basis for a memoir. It was partly self-therapy and partly out of a desire to pass my experiences down to my children while they were still fresh on my mind.
It eventually morphed into a novel. I still don’t know why. Maybe there were things I needed to say that could only be said through fiction. In any case, it eventually turned into Ghosts of Babylon.

We all begin writing for different reasons. I once read that no one writes because they are happy. What inspired you to start writing?

HENRY BROWN: First of all, that is a cool story unto itself. Thanks for sharing that.

As for me and writing, I’ve always had an active imagination, for one. Also, from a very young age, no matter how much I liked a story (either on film or on paper) I saw room for improvement. “It would have been even better if this was changed, that was tweaked, if so-and-so would have said/done such and such…” At least that motivated me in my first creative efforts.

I kind of did that with real stuff throughout my life, too. “Hey, what just happened would make an intense scene in such-and-such type of story.” Or, “Oh wow–check that out! I’d love to be able to capture what I’m seeing/feeling right now and reproduce it.”

There have been times when I really should have been completely focused on reality and my part of whatever task was at hand, but part of my mind was already busy plagiarizing the situation. Somebody once called me “a cultural scavenger.”  I still have mixed emotions about that remark. Maybe he meant it as a compliment, but it still seems a bit insulting. Nevertheless, there must be some truth to it, since I’m constantly compelled to weave fragments of life experiences together into stories (which are much more exciting than real life).

In fact, that’s still at work today, in yarns like False Flag. All these trends are converging toward a perfect storm that promises a bleak future and an end to life as we know it…so why not insert some guys like the Retreads, who won’t take it lying down, no matter the odds. Islands of integrity in a world of treachery. They’ve got the skills and wits to bring smoke on some scumbags in the process. And most important, they’re compelled to try to make a difference.

You strike me as a voracious reader. I sure used to be. When I was on active duty, when possible, I always had a paperback stashed in my cargo pocket or rucksack, for the inevitable “wait” phase of the old hurry-up-and-wait S.O.P. Did you keep a book stashed in your tank?

R.A. MATHIS: I read a little of everything. I especially enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, history, philosophy, and even a little horror. Unfortunately, working and writing leave far less time for reading than I would like. I read as much as I can, but am frustratingly slow at it. I often supplement reading with audio books and YouTube.
I usually had a book handy in the Army, but never got to read it on the tank as I was the platoon leader and barely found time to eat and sleep during operations. But I read constantly during after-operation downtime. Like you, there were also the times waiting on the tarmac for a flight, leaning on my rucksack, stealing a few pages here and there.

HENRY BROWN: Oh yeah, I got a lot of reading done sitting around Green Ramp in my lower enlisted days.

R.A. MATHIS: What do you enjoy reading most?

HENRY BROWN: Excepting horror and philosophy, the same ones you listed, plus classic pulp; westerns; war (fiction and non); military history; and various & sundry fare from the blogosphere in the “neomasculine” genre.

Have you/do you read SHTF or TEOTWAWKI fiction from other authors? If so, which do you recommend? (Some authors I recently discovered, who have written some enjoyable books, are “Joe Nobody” and Mark Goodwin. I’m curious about “A. American” and some others, but haven’t taken a chance on them yet.)

R.A. MATHIS: Oddly enough, I haven’t read many other SHTF works other than False Flag (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and a bit of James Wesley Rawles first book, Patriots. I want to keep Homeland original as possible, so I’m avoiding similar works right now. I do plan to read them once I’m a little further into the Homeland series.

HENRY BROWN: Interesting. It seems that it’s paying off–Falling Down did not seem derivative or imitative of any other SHTF works I’ve read. And thanks for that!
I read Patriots as well, and have considered trying more of Rawles’ fiction…but haven’t, yet.

R.A. MATHIS: Which authors do you recommend I start with?

HENRY BROWN: Me, of course. But seriously, you might want to try “Joe Nobody“–he blends prepping info into his narratives fairly well. The protagonist in the ones I read was easy to root for. The action was believable. Overall a good read.

R.A. MATHIS: Thank you again for having me, Hank. Your questions were enjoyable and thought provoking. I truly enjoyed them.

HENRY BROWN: Hey, same here. We should do this again some time.

treason

All This and Civil War Two

What began as an interview with R.A. Mathis about Homeland: Falling Down turned into quite a discussion about America teetering on the precipice of oblivion. Here is Part One:

 

HENRY BROWN: First of all, thanks for agreeing to do the interview.

R.A. MATHIS: Thank you for having me, Hank.

HENRY BROWN: After reading Ghosts of Babylon, I guess I assumed you might follow up with something similar, or possibly move on to more mainstream literature. What made you decide to spin a SHTF yarn?

R.A. MATHIS: I wrote Ghosts of Babylon because I had to. It began as an effort to mentally sort out my Iraq experience. The Homeland series is the same.
The seed was formed from the occasional news story of another general being fired for questionable reasons, a new executive order being announced, or the IRS being used as a weapon. That seed took root as these stories began to appear with alarming regularity. I thought it was just me being a bit paranoid, so put it aside and kept my mouth shut. But then I noticed others voicing the same concerns, both on the street and even in the popular media.
The last straw dropped when a guy came to our house to work on the air conditioner. We struck up a conversation as he worked. He told me that he was mortally afraid of the government. That’s when I began to realize how widespread the concern really was. (As a side note, I believe this sentiment is a contributor to the current election cycle’s rebellion against all things establishment.)

(HENRY BROWN: I would have to agree. And on the one hand it’s about time. But on the other…it seems to me that the pent-up outrage, now that it’s finally loose, is proving to be misdirected in many quarters.)

R.A. MATHIS: Homeland is an attempt to test the thesis, to mentally sort it out as a kind of mental experiment. Unfortunately, the thesis is proving all too plausible.

On a similar note, I noticed your Retreads series has gone from pulpy men’s adventure to a more serious SHTF genre. Why the shift?

HENRY BROWN: I’m not sure I can answer that in a way that makes sense to others, but I’ll try. Some of the times I’ve been happiest in life were when I had my head stuck in the sand–either voluntarily or unintentionally. That applies to the writing partition of my life, too. My whole experiment in men’s fiction was partly an effort to relive the fun and the rush of adventure lived vicariously through characters in some of the novels I read as a kid and young man. Better yet: to pass that experience along to new readers. Such was my ambition. (And yet, I couldn’t go Full Ostrich all the way–in Hell & Gone you can already see the government attitude–through the goons in their alphabet soup agencies–that certain law-abiding Americans are more dangerous than actual terrorists. In Tier Zero I sort of laid the ground work for False Flag by introducing some ugly little secrets of black ops, and how, if Washington doesn’t have a convenient one to exploit, our would-be rulers are willing to manufacture a crisis as an excuse for the next power grab in their agenda.) But I got to the point where I just couldn’t swallow the blue pill anymore.

I see the world around me drowning in deception. People who recognize this must not let the truth be buried. We have to shout it from the rooftops as best we can, despite the odds. If those sound like the words of a maniac, well, so be it.

I guess I should mention that I’ve had it in mind to write apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction for a long time–but something a little less heavy, like the Last Ranger series or Doomsday Warrior before it (only without the mutants, the Zen philsophy and the weird psychodelic acid trip scenes). However, taking stock of the situation facing us in America, people need to wake up; not be somnambulized into maintaining their complacency.

The Retreads were established characters, who I and some readers really liked. If I could choose anybody to guard my flanks when facing Armageddon, it would be guys like them. After all, they were staring down the barrel of WWIII from their very debut, and handled it pretty well. At the same time, I knew that pulling out all the stops politically would piss off some readers who liked the previous books. Oh well. Life is too short and freedom is too precious to lose sleep over whether I offended somebody or not. I get offended constantly in books and movies. Suck it up and drive on.

Aren’t you sorry you asked that question, now?

When you introduced the DHS involvement with the regular army in Falling Down, it made perfect sense and I wondered why it hadn’t been done before (my own excuse is that I haven’t yet depicted conventional national military forces). After all, the Red Army had its political officers–military commisars or whatever, feared by all the regular soldiers. Same with the Soviet Navy. The Wermacht was, to an extent, gripped by terror due to the SS and Gestapo. Compared to me, your active duty experience is very up-to-date. Did you witness anything first-hand that confirmed for you this scenario will play out in a SHTF scenario?

R.A. MATHIS: You are exactly right about the Soviet commissars being the basis for the DHS “advisors” assigned to active units in the book. In fact, an important parameter of my “thought experiment” mentioned above is that there must be historical precedence for the events in the book, especially in the actions taken by the government. Knowing that the new regime would be suspicious, or even hostile, toward the military, commissars assigned to keep the troops in line would be a top priority. If you put yourself in the regime’s shoes, the DHS seemed like a perfect fit.
My first-hand military experience ended in 2006, before our current President took office. At that time, the political correctness machine was already in full swing, but I never experienced blatant meddling by civilian agents. That being said, the amount and pace of social engineering forced upon our men and women in uniform since then is both staggering and alarming.

There is something I found interesting as I read False Flag. The occult ceremonies woven into the plot and connected with the tier-zero units and other operatives. Can you go into more detail about their purpose to the regime and why you included them in the story? Also, are these ceremonies simply mind control, or are they really colluding with unseen forces?

HENRY BROWN: Well, now you’ve done it. If people didn’t believe me to be a tinfoil hat whack-job already…

This angle came entirely from my research, which encompassed everything from MK Ultra and Monarch to “satanic ritual abuse.” I followed the leads where they led and was astonished to discover how interconnected it all is. It all sounds crazy on the surface–some of it as if inspired by a B-horror movie or bad sci-fi. And don’t get me wrong–there are a lot of cockamamie wive’s tales out there. Unfortunately, much of it is mixed up with things that happen to be true. I could go on at great length on this subject, but will try to pare it down to just a couple aspects.

One of the first bombshells to land on me was that multiple personality disorder (MPD) can be artificially created in people. And I’m understating the fact here, because some who have studied it much more than I have will tell you that EVERY case of MPD was manufactured by high level experts in cognitive sciences; and furthermore, that they do so with a common denominator of ulterior motives, and with government funding.

Some of those same folks will tell you that there absolutely are unseen forces at work. Certain spiritual beings are always looking for a body to occupy, and when a personality is split, they are given entry. This is stuff I don’t really want to believe. I’ve never been obsessed with UFOs, vampires, werewolves or witchcraft. I don’t watch “ghost hunter” shows or think zombies (as depicted in pop culture recently) are very credible. In most of the churches I’ve ever attended, great pains were made to downplay the supernatural in the Bible, and remove the paranormal/supernatural from the Christian worldview. Frankly, that tendency rubbed off on me, so I’ve never taken that stuff seriously most of my life. That is beginning to change. I’m at the point now that I do see a spiritual/occultic aspect to the postwar mind control efforts. But not many rational people can swallow that–which I certainly understand. What I tried to do was write that subplot in an ambiguous enough manner that the reader can take it whichever way they are most comfortable with–either just advanced brain-screwing built on the discoveries of the Nazi mind control pioneers with occultic trappings to make the victims believe they’re tapping into some ancient spiritual power; or human scientists carrying out the brain-screwing at the behest of the unseen beings they serve (knowingly or unknowingly). The bottom line for most readers, perhaps, is that it’s fiction. There are plenty of theories even more far out than this in other books or movies, and people suspend their disbelief for the sake of entertainment. Frankly, I’d love to be proven wrong about a lot of stuff I’ve said both on this blog and in my books.

As to what purpose our domestic enemies would have for such individuals…when you take stock of what they are doing and still intend to do, sleeper agents they can activate like flipping a switch can come in very handy. Especially in false flags. The cream of the crop could be held in reserve for really big jobs–high profile assassinations, for instance; while the unstable sleepers can be used as cannon fodder in the school-shooting-of-the-week. One investigator has discovered that many of the MPD cases are part of a “super soldier” program, which makes sense when you consider that the mind control endeavors in North America took over where the Nazi scientists left off. Pretty scary, if true.

You mentioned how the purge of the  US high command partly inspired you to write Falling Down. In my own SHTF book, that purge of field grade officers (which began in earnest about 2009) also plays a part. First off, I’m curious how the average Joe in the ranks feels about this today, as well as the junior grade officers. Secondly, you wrote it in such a way as to suggest that Colonel Lee bugged out before being nabbed by the DHS. Are we going to see him again in future installments?

R.A. MATHIS: On the purge subject: Like the old saying goes, you can’t fool the troops. I still have friends in uniform. They see the attack dogs ejected while the lapdogs are promoted. It has an adverse effect on morale across the width and breadth of the active force.
Yes, we will see more of Colonel Lee. Good catch on that one.

HENRY BROWN: Considering those purges, among other things, what is your general gut feeling about whether the regular military will hesitate to make war on American citizens?

R.A. MATHIS: That is why I included Cole in the book. I needed to see the situation through the eyes of a soldier. I don’t think they will obey that type of order, the outstanding conduct of our troops in the Middle East (with very few exceptions) over the last 13 years will testify to that. But what if extreme coercion is applied?  In Homeland, all military families are brought on base when it hits the fan. This allows the soldiers to focus on their jobs, knowing that their wives and children are protected and cared for. However, this move also gives the regime leverage. If a soldier refuses to commit atrocities, his family may be forfeit. That kind of pressure is enough to make good men do very bad things. I do not envy our troops in such a situation. The same tactic can be used on just about anybody. This was a key tool of the totalitarian regimes in the last century. I don’t see why future regimes would stop using it.

HENRY BROWN: I don’t envy them either. In fact, rarely does a day go by anymore that I don’t find myself opining that I couldn’t be a part of what the military has become. It is no place for a patriot, or even for a good soldier anymore.

R.A. MATHIS: What are your thoughts on the likelihood of the American military making war on its own citizens?

HENRY BROWN: No offense, but in my experience officers often have a perspective on situations and shared experience that is rosier than the grunts see it. I’ve been on the enlisted side and could write quite a hatchet-job on the rank-and-file, even back in my day and even in an elite unit.

It boils down to this: kids growing up in the USA have no appreciation for how good we’ve had it here. They not only take our freedom and rights for granted, they are conditioned to have contempt for America. Very few of them resist that conditioning. Those people grow up and join the armed forces and, big surprise, the motivation is rarely patriotism. It’s for college money and job training. And that’s how the recruiting commercials pitch it. They throw bait out for mercenaries and that’s what they get.  (But perhaps many did join in the months/years after 9/11 for a more altruistic motive).

Career soldiers would just as easily fight for any cause and as part of any army. That’s the impression I got of the average G.I.

All officers have some generic pretense of honor, but when the rubber meets the road, most officers and NCOs are serving their career ambitions, not their country. Some are better than others, but those who rise to the top are nothing more than uniformed politicians.

Baron Von Steuben gave us quite the compliment when he illustrated the uniqueness of the American soldier (unlike any other soldier who receives an order and automatically complies, Americans had to have confidence in the motive behind the order before they would comply). This is definitely no longer the case.

All of this was bad enough when I wore the uniform; I’m sure it’s much worse now. Thank God there are exceptions. But what few good soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen remain are either being purged, or forced out by the increasingly hostile environment the military is being transformed into. So yes: I’m afraid most will fire on American civilians, and with little hesitation–especially with the added head games they are sure to get immediately prior. I would love to be proven wrong, but won’t hold my breath.

So, whether faced with our own military or with modern-day Hessians under globalist command (assuming the 3 percenters have prepped adequately enough to avoid being simply starved to death) with no support from a foreign ally and probably without popular support, how viable do you consider a guerilla resistance effort to be?

R.A. MATHIS: You mention in False Flag that no insurgency has ever won without foreign intervention and popular support, which I thought was a very good point. The two things America has to counter that are the 2nd Amendment and the 2008 election of the best gun salesman the country has ever seen. We have over 300 million citizens and about as many firearms in this country. We are also buying up ammo as fast as it can be produced (at least what is left over after DHS gets their share). Combine that with hundreds of thousands of highly trained combat veterans scattered to every part of the country, and the odds don’t look so long.

(HENRY BROWN: What a coincidence that veterans, patriots and gun owners top the list of potential “domestic terrorists” the government is most worried about, eh?)

R.A. MATHIS: This alludes to the working title of Book Three, “Every Blade of Grass.”

HENRY BROWN: How appropriate–that very quote (whoever said it) was just going through my mind as your words sunk in.

R.A. MATHIS: I think the success of a resistance would vary by region. Rural areas would be virtual no-go zones for regime forces. Some urban areas may just welcome them like the Vichy French.
It seems to me that the biggest problem for the resistance would be the lack of electricity. If the regime restored power to each region as it was brought into compliance, it could make for effective deadly propaganda against the resistance. It’s the old “freedom vs security” dilemma on steroids. I’m not sure which way the populace would go in that case, especially in winter.

 That’s about the halfway mark. Look for the rest of the discussion next time. – Hank

Fallind Down Final Cover

When it Hits the Fan (Falling Down Excerpt)

Here’s an excerpt from R.A. Mathis’ excelent SHTF novel, Homeland: Falling Down. – Hank

 

After what seemed like a hundred miles, they finally reached the hospital. The ground outside was littered with patients. Doctors and nurses rushed from one victim to the other, trying to conduct triage as best they could. Walking wounded crowded the emergency entrance, blocking the door. Cole had seen this before in Syrian refugee camps. Whether the staff knew it or not, that’s what this place was turning into. He couldn’t believe this was the same city he visited two nights before.
Lieutenant Young ordered the vehicles to form a perimeter around the entrance to clear the way for medical personnel. The crowd wasn’t happy about it, but relented. Young went in to find the administrator. Cole helped his passenger from the Humvee “You’re safe now.”
The woman sobbed. “They just pulled me from my car. I don’t know why. They tried to rape me. I was trying to get to my son’s school. He’s in the first grade. I never should have let him go this morning.”
“Some of our guys are going to schools. Tell Private Hicks which one your son goes to and we’ll try to get you to him.” He gave her an MRE and a bottle of water, wishing he could do more.
Cole noticed a nurse kneeling over an old man who was lying in the grass. Her blonde hair was pulled into a neat pony tail that fell gracefully over her shoulder as she treated a gash on the man’s forehead.
Cole grabbed a first aid pack from the back of his Humvee and walked over to her. He squatted next to the pretty nurse and handed her the sterile bandage. “This will help.”
“Thanks.” She examined the man’s head and asked Cole, “You have any water?”
“One sec.” Cole ran to his vehicle and brought back some bottled waters.
“Thanks again.” The nurse opened a bottle and washed out her patient’s wound, applied a spray-on antiseptic, and bound it with the dressing Cole gave her.
The old man took her hand. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She gave him another water. “Drink this. You’ll be fine. Just rest a while and call if you need me.”
“You’re an angel,” the old man said.
The man took the words right out of Cole’s mouth as he watched her brush a lock of hair from her deep blue eyes.
She held a hand out to Cole. “I’m Amber.”
He took it, hypnotized by the young nurse’s striking gaze. “I’m…Cole.” He regained his senses and looked at the multitude waiting for care. “You’ve got your hands full.”
“It’s getting worse every hour. We’re already low on bandages and antibiotics. I don’t know how long we can keep this up.”
“I’m here to help.”
“Be careful what you offer. I’ll put you to work.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Someone yelled, “Help! Somebody help! Please! My little girl!”
Cole saw a man carrying his daughter. She was pale and limp, her limbs dangling as he staggered through the crowd. Both were covered in blood.
Cole ran to them and took the child into his arms as Amber asked, “What happened to her?”
The father responded, “Car accident. Truck came out of nowhere.”
Cole sprinted to the ER, holding the girl tightly. A doctor blocked him and said, “You can’t take her in there. We don’t have any more room.”
Sergeant Crowe walked up and grabbed the doctor by the collar. “Make room.”
The doctor wilted under the sergeant’s cold stare and iron grip. “I’ll squeeze her in someplace. Follow me.”
Crowe took the child from Cole. Her eyes opened slightly and looked up at the crotchety sergeant. He said, “I gotcha, sweetheart. You’re gonna be okay.” He snapped at the doctor. “What the hell are you waitin’ for?”
The doctor trotted into the hospital with Crowe and the girl close on his heels.
Amber was true to her word. She worked Cole and his men relentlessly. He lost count of how many people they treated as the hours passed. For every one they helped, three more arrived in need of aid. By dusk, almost every inch of ground around the hospital was covered with wounded waiting for help.
Streetlights came to life as Amber went back to the E.R. for more supplies, but returned empty handed. Her warm breath puffed in the chilled night air as she told Cole, “They’re out of everything. Do you have any more supplies?”
“No. What little we had ran out hours ago.” He surveyed the mass of humanity sprawled across the grounds. “The temperature is dropping fast. If we don’t figure something out, most of these people will freeze to death by morning.”
Crowe grabbed an MRE and a bottled water from his vehicle and yelled, “Hicks!”
“Yes, Sergeant!”
“Take these to the little girl we brought in a few hours ago then report back to me with her status.”
“How do I find her, Sergeant?”
“Just tell ‘em she’s the one I brought in. They’ll know who you’re talkin’ about. Her name is Becky. Tell her Sarge says hi.”
“Will do, Sergeant.” Hicks sprinted into the hospital.
Cole jested, “I always thought you had a heart in there somewhere.”
Crowe saw Cole staring at him with a grin. “What the hell are you smilin’ at?”
Cole tried to straighten his face. “Nothing, Sergeant.”
“Then wipe off that shit eatin’ grin.”
“Yes, Sergeant!”
Smoke from the smoldering city burned Cole’s nostrils. The cold night bit at him through his Gor-Tex jacket. He gazed at the poor souls shivering on the hospital grounds, wondering how many would be alive come morning. The chatter and beeps of the Humvee radios filled his ears, making him feel detached from his surroundings. The audio didn’t match the visual.
He looked at the blood smeared across his uniform. A little girl’s blood. American blood. This wasn’t supposed to happen here. This happened in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a hundred other places like them. But not here.
Amber asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Cole lied. “I’m good.”
Sergeant Crowe walked up to them and said, “These people are gonna freeze if we don’t do something. Gimme a hand. I got an idea.”
Cole, Amber, and several soldiers from the platoon helped Sergeant Crowe gather empty metal drums from inside the hospital and filled them with anything flammable.
Crowe told them, “We’ll set these on the ground and keep ‘em burnin’ all night. Gather the wounded around them close as you can. Should keep hypothermia from settin’ in. A nice warm burn barrel saved my ass on many a cold night.”
As the men set out the barrels, Crowe said to Cole in a low voice. “It’s time to think tactically. Prepare to defend this position.” He pointed to spots on the edge of the hospital grounds. I want fighting positions dug there, there, and there. You know the drill. Get moving.”
Amber ran up to Cole. “What’s going on?”
“We may have to defend this position.” Cole pointed to the hospital. “This place is full of drugs, food, and a bunch of other things people will need. If they’re desperate enough, they won’t think twice about killing us to get in.”
Amber shudder as gunshots crackled a few streets away.
Cole looked into her frightened eyes. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Private Hicks reported back. “Where’s Sergeant Crowe?”
“He’s over there.”
The soldier ran over to Crowe. “I found Becky.”
“How is she?”
“She didn’t make it, Sergeant. The docs said there was nothing they could do.”
Crowe stared at Hicks, his jaw grinding.
Hicks added, “Her dad said to thank you.”
“You take it from here,” Crow said to Cole, “I’ll check on the L.T……. Ain’t seen him in a while.” The platoon sergeant suddenly seemed old and tired.
Crowe turned and walked back to the hospital, kicking a trashcan over with a curse. Cole saw him wipe his eyes before going in.
The glow of fires in the city silhouetted the buildings nearby, casting ghostly shadows across Cole’s gaunt face as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. He looked at the sick and wounded civilians huddled around the fire barrels. The points of warmth shone brightly in the darkness. It looked as if the stars had fallen to Earth. Cole never believed in astrology, but he could easily read the ominous portents of these flickering terrestrial constellations.
Shouts echoed in the twilight from the edge of the clearing.
“Help!” a woman shouted.
“Hey!” More yelling. A man this time. “Dammit!”
Pop! Pop! Then screams. People running. Stampeding.
“C’mon!” Cole and his men rushed toward the disturbance, weapons at the ready.
A fire barrel went over. Flame danced across the frosty ground.
“Freeze!” Hank shouted as he ran at the front of his troopers.
A thug held a woman by the hair, her body shielding his, a gun to her head.
At their feet lay a well-dressed man bleeding from several bullet wounds to the chest.
“Back off or the bitch gets it!” the gunman yelled.
Sergeant Crowe arrived next to Cole.
“Take it easy,” he said to the gunman. “Put the gun down.”
“You first, soldier boy.”
“I’ll give you anything you want. Just don’t hurt me,” the woman sobbed.
“You can’t win this one. So put it down. Now!” Crowe ordered.
“Please, don’t let him hurt me,” the woman begged.
“Screw you!” The gunman whipped his pistol about and shot the sergeant.
Crowe staggered backward. Cole’s men returned fire as one. The shooter and the sergeant both hit the ground.

 

Stay tuned for a discussion between me and the author about America’s fate in the near future, and how it might play out. – Hank