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Author Topic: Robin Hood's Revenge  (Read 4105 times)

Joel

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Robin Hood's Revenge
« on: January 25, 2007, 12:44:02 pm »

Barnett was getting worried.  He’d been trying to raise the gulches around Medicine Bow on his PDA for some time, and the only response had been an increasingly ominous silence.  The last time he’d talked to Auntie Mabel and some others, months earlier, they’d been worried over the Forestry Service’s voracious desire to expand the forest.  Since the rangers had become part of Homeland Security, their tactics had become more and more paramilitary; they no longer took “no” as a willingness to negotiate.  Now the usually rather chatty gulches had gone quiet.

Barnett had done well among the Mormon groups.  When the Latter Day Saints of Utah had first entered the area back in the nineteenth century, they had brought with them some peculiar practices that the locals didn’t always hold with too well.  It led to persecution and sometimes to violence which the Mormons had given back as well as received.  A century past, most of them had given up on polygamy – though Barnett had sometimes wondered if this was driven as much by a desire to get along with the government as by a shortage of Mormon women willing to put up with that sort of thing, it had never seemed polite to ask – but their memory of the need to prepare well for bad times had become institutional with a lot of them.  Maintaining current stockpiles of food was an article of faith among many LDS, practiced in canning and preserving facilities right in their churches. 

With the hard times that swept the western states, and the proliferation of people learning independent living, some little Mormon groups had figured out that their skills and tools were marketable.  Being pretty well set themselves they weren’t interested in barter; they dealt only in gold and rather sharply at that.  But he’d come prepared, and now his van was crammed with the tools for three complete large-scale canning operations.  He knew, or at least he had thought he’d known, where he could sell two of them right away.  Of course he also wanted to interest the Medicine Bow folks in the new Deer Lodge Boxes.

But first they had to answer their damned emails, and it seemed awfully strange that nobody was doing so.  Strange, and a little scary.

He’d already crossed into Wyoming, and now drove east as fast as he dared.  He got his first shock when he came to the little town of Medicine Bow, where Route 287 hung a right and branched with Route 487.  On his map and in his excellent memory, the national forest was a fat 35 miles away as the crow flew.  But now he saw official signs right against the highway.

He stopped at a run-down little market to ask about the change.  The only man there, a short, dried-up old fellow, looked up sharply when Barnett mentioned the forest.  “Where you been?” he asked angrily.  “The goddam federal land runs all the way to I-25 from here, and north and south from Casper to Laramie.  Has for over a month.  And it ain’t a national forest any more, it’s a ‘wilderness area’, whatever the hell that is.  Goddam executive order; nobody’s allowed in there no more and they’ll shoot your ass for tryin’, damn’em.”

“But…what about the people who live there?  I’ve got friends…”

“You ain’t got no friends in there no more.  Hell, they cleaned out whole goddam towns, been there for a hun’erd years.  Damn near overnight.  Just, ‘get the hell out.’  Hope your friends ain’t the shootin’ kind, ‘cause the feds shot some as were.”

Barnett returned to his van and sat in the driver’s seat, too stunned for action.  With the exception of the crescent of land that had once been Medicine Bow National Forest, the area delineated by Route 487 and I-25 east and west, and Route 87 and I-80 north and south, had held a loose-knit clutch of the most prosperous and peaceful gulches in the west.  Now if the story were true they and all their people were just…gone.

He had to find out what had happened to them.  This had nothing to do with trade any longer.  He needed to find his friends.
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UnReconstructed

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 12:52:46 pm »

oh very nice.......

(turns and starts the crowd chant):

More...More....more...more....more......
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Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2007, 12:55:43 pm »

The Commander’s voice was incredulous, though he could hardly still be surprised.  “Do you know what you’re asking?”

I knew exactly what I was asking, and so did he.  I’d provided him with all my intel, and he and his officers had pored over it for days.  The mission was insane and we both knew it.  The militia might just possibly carry it out, but it would certainly not survive the aftermath.

At least, not unchanged.  And I wondered if he had thought things through to that possible conclusion.  If he had not, he would certainly refuse.

At that moment, the Commander’s radio crackled.  He excused himself and plugged in his headset.  “I’m in a meeting,” he said.  He listened to someone speak.  “Well?  What does he want?”  More listening.  “What do you mean, you don’t know?”  Yet more listening.  “What the hell does he think this is, a fucking party line?”  Even more listening.  “You know what?  I’m gonna do it.  This, I’ve gotta see.”

He unplugged the headset jack, unclipped the radio from his belt and handed it to me.  “It’s for you,” he said.

***
It had taken Art Barnett days to piece it all together.  Emails and telephone calls to people on the periphery of the new wilderness area, leading to discreet inquiries with third parties, leading in turn to either flat refusals or dead ends.  But at last he found someone who knew someone who knew where Auntie Mabel and her people had gone.

It took longer to get permission to visit, in the form of directions.  And when at last he saw Mabel he was shocked.  Everybody knew she was an old woman.  But this was the first time she had ever looked old.

She sat in an overstuffed chair in the living room of someone else’s house.  A shawl was draped over her legs and a blanket around her shoulders, though the room was quite warm.  When she first looked up at him, at first it was with no recognition.  She was withdrawing into some other world, ancient and private and very sad.

She wouldn’t tell him the story for several minutes, just talked about nothing.  But finally a bit of the old Mabel peeked out, and with it a world of anger and grief.

“Hell, they didn’t even send us a letter, Arthur.  Just showed up with trucks and police.  Wanted to cart us away, like Jews from a ghetto.  If there’d been railroad tracks nearby, I think they would have brought cattle cars.

“They ended up shooting poor Tom and two others.  That big, dumb…God damn it, Arthur!  I should have been nicer to him.”  She stopped, her eyes on her lap.  She didn’t cry.  But her voice had the sound of a cry.

She didn’t say anything more for a while.  But finally she started up again.  “The other two were running away, toward the barn where we keep the bus.  I don’t know what they were thinking.  I like to think they just got flustered, forgot that we had a clear path to the bus, and were going to get it fired up for the rest of us.  But I don’t know, really. I don’t even know why the cops shot them.

“Tom, though – he got shot facing them and shooting back.  Got some, too; I saw them go down.  The rest of us made it to the bunker and the bus, so at least we didn’t end up…wherever they were taking us.  Not sure any of it was worth anybody’s life, I just don’t know.  It all happened so damned fast.  All we knew was they came with guns out and pointed, like we was the Aztlan Liberation Army, or something.”

She shook her head.  “It’s all gone now.  All of it.  Tom went down covering us while we ran to the tunnel.”  She looked up at him, and for a moment he saw the old fire in her eyes.  “I’ve lived all this time, and I never wanted to see anybody come to harm.  Not ever, not really.  But as God is my witness, I wish the ones poor Tom shot were the ones who gave the orders.  I wish they’d been there, and right out front.”

She lowered her head, sank her chin into her chest, and tugged on the blanket.  “God damn it, Arthur.  I should have been nicer to him.”

***
Nobody around here needed his canning gear now.  He went through his stock for anything that might be of use to the refugee camp the kind family’s home had become and left it all with the sad-eyed owner.  It seemed very little.  There just wasn’t anything else he could think to do.  He drove away feeling empty, inadequate, like there was something he should have done to make it all go away.  But there just wasn’t anything.

“I wish they’d been there, and right out front.”  Yeah.  Me too, Mabel.  But they never are, are they?

They never are.

For a day or so he just drove around aimlessly, burning precious fuel.  A large part of him wanted to run home.  Hug his girl, roughhouse with the dogs, embrace some normalcy.  But that felt too much like cowardice.  There was something he was supposed to do, after all.

He finally did it, two days after he talked with Mabel.

***
When the Commander handed me his radio I just held it like a fool for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I held it to my mouth and pushed down the Send key.  “Uh…hello?”

“Hello,” said a voice over the speaker.  “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.  But you’re the guy who went to Boise a few months back and did a job there, right?”

I lowered the radio.  “Is this line anything like secure, or are we really just broadcasting over the radio here?”

The Commander rolled his eyes.  “Sort of half-and-half.  He’s calling on a telephone.  If his line is tapped we’re screwed.  But the radio is encrypted.”

I lifted the radio again.  “Um…where are you calling from, please?”

“I’m calling from a pay phone.  Nobody knows me, and I’m not from around here.  Don’t worry about it.”

Oh, sure.  Why should I worry?  I keyed the radio again.  “Well, okay.  Let’s pretend I’ve been to Boise.  What do you want?”

“I’m the guy who drove you there and back.  I want to hire you.”

“Uh, well, look.  I’m not a taxi.  I’m not for hire.”

His voice got angry.  “I’m not a god damned taxi either!  But I drove you there, and even though I wanted to run like hell I stayed and drove you back.  I don’t know what that guy you killed did, or why you’re working for those militia idiots.  But I’ve got something a hell of a lot more important that needs doing here.”

Despite the absurd and possibly deadly circumstances, I had to smile.  “Sir, I should tell you that the speaker’s working on this radio.  The idiots are right here listening to you.”

“I don’t give a damn!  I know what you did, and what they’re not doing.  And I know what needs doing right now.  Have you got a map of Wyoming?”

I gestured toward the Situation table.  The Commander, who’d been trying to keep a straight face through this, shrugged and rummaged around until he found a big map of the state.  “Uh, yeah.  I’m looking at a map of Wyoming.  What am I looking for?”

“The eastern part of the state, between Casper and Laramie.  Does your map show a little crescent called the Medicine Bow National Forest?”

I squinted at the map.  “Yes, it does.”

“Well, it’s not there any more.  Now there’s a federal wilderness area that covers the whole fucking region.  Thousands of people were driven out of there at gunpoint, with no notice at all.  Some of them were my friends.  Nobody who’s responsible has died yet.  I want to hire you.  I’ll pay gold, however much you want.”

“Hang on a minute.” 

I put down the radio and looked up at the Commander.  “Do you know anything about this?”

“Sure, it’s been all over the news sites.  The Ecos are doing handsprings.  But a hell of a lot of people were forcibly relocated, and a few of them haven’t been seen again.  It’s the first time anything like this has happened.”

“Had you considered maybe doing something about it?”

“Like what?”

I ignored him and picked the radio back up.  “Friend, you know some things about me I’d rather nobody knew.  But you’ve got to look at the situation.  For all I know, you’re working for the feds, you know?”

The radio’s speaker erupted in obscenities, which went on for an impressive time without repetition.  I waited until he ran down.

“No need to get nasty.  But look at it from my point of view.  How do I know you’re on the level?”

He didn’t say anything for several seconds.  When he spoke, I could hear reluctance in his voice.  “Okay…I don’t know how to prove it.  You’re right, this could be a set-up.  I hadn’t thought about that.  It’s not, but I can’t prove it.”

I had an idea.  It didn’t have anything to do with the van driver’s problem, really.  But here was a chance to make a point with the Commander, that might just advance my own agenda and – in a backhanded way – his, too.

I keyed the radio.  “Well, here’s what I’m going to do, friend.  I’m going to ask you to tell me where I can find you.  Then I’m going to come to you.  I’m not going to come there straight, you understand.  I’m going to sniff around a lot, first.  If I decide you’re setting me up, I’m going to kill you before I sneak off; you and anyone you’re with.  Anybody who’s staking you out will never know I was there till they find the body.  Are you following this?  And are those really conditions you’re willing to go along with?  Just say no, and we’ll pretend this conversation never happened.”

I could tell he was thinking about that long and hard, as who wouldn’t?  He knew I meant it, and he knew I’d do it.  If he was the white van guy – and maybe especially if he wasn’t – nobody had better reason to know.

He didn’t disappoint me.  He finally came back on the line and agreed to my terms, giving me directions as to how to find him.  I told him to give me a week, and put down the radio.

The Commander stared at me, his mouth wide.  “Are you crazy?” he finally spluttered.

I hoped it was a rhetorical question; of course I was crazy.  “Why do you ask?”

“You know damned well it’s a set-up!”

“If it is, I’ll go kill a few feds.  No loss.  But I don’t think it is.  You’ve told me about this guy they call the Traveler.  I understand he’s pretty well known.  He strike you as the sort to sell out all of a sudden?”

“Well…no.  But we don’t know what they’ve got hanging over his head.”

“Hey, that’s the world we live in.  Anyway, I’ll be back in a week or so.”

“But…wait a minute!  We were talking about New Mexico!”

“Sure we were.  And you were about to turn me down.  But I want to table that conversation, and show you something first.  You don’t think you can do anything about New Mexico, any more than about Medicine Bow.  But I’m about to go do something.  I can’t get it back; I can’t make it right.  But I can make it expensive.

“You can too, if you’re willing to stop thinking inside a box.  Wait till I get back, and we’ll discuss it.”

And I left him standing there.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2007, 01:11:20 pm by John DeWitt »
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Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2007, 01:14:21 pm »

Barnett had searched out places to hide himself away while seeking news of the Medicine Bow gulches.  Casper had seen bad times in the past decade.  Fuel costs and travel restrictions had killed the tourist trade.  Taxes and regulations on raw materials had hammered the area’s limited industry.

On the southern shore of the North Platte, Barnett found an industrial park that had been nearly abandoned.  A little creative burglary had opened a garage door into a small cobwebbed warehouse, which nicely hid the van.  There was just enough life left in the park that a small cargo van wasn’t such an unusual sight.  The cellular system still worked, so he had access to his PDA.  The park gave him a place to sleep and search and plan. 

Now it gave him a place to wait, maybe for destruction.  Did he really call that nutty assassin and demand his service?  Was that something he’d really done?  Maybe it was just a vivid dream, maybe he wasn’t that crazy after all.  Christ!  He was The Traveler, he traded goods with people.  He didn’t do this shit!

What in god’s name was he doing here?

***
The white van of the guy they called the Traveler was tucked into a corner of a little dead warehouse, which in turn was tucked into a corner of a little dying industrial park.  An excellent venue for an ambush, and I searched in vain to find it.  None of the surrounding buildings had electrical power.  I sniffed for electronic signals, and found only one sporadic source.  If they were here, they were being damned cagey.  Electronics telling me nothing, I went in at night for some in-person surveillance.  The fifth-gen night vision goggles I’d inherited made the night bright as day; so much that at first I’d been tempted to carelessness.  It had taken the trainers a lot of time, teaching me how to move at night, teaching me never to assume that my prey couldn’t see in the dark as well as I could.  My prey had the same taxpayer-supplied gear, and a lot more of it.

I cautiously prowled the buildings on either side and across from my target, and found nothing.  Switching to infrared, I could detect no residual heat sources at all.  The FBI wasn’t this good, this subtle.  Could he really be on the level?  It seemed incredible.  I’d told the Commander I believed that the Traveler was being honest with me, but grew to doubt that judgment on the trip down.  Now it looked as though my first call was right.  Nothing to do but try the building he was in.

I entered from the top; it was simple enough from an adjoining building.  There was a storage loft across half the warehouse, and I walked carefully in my soft shoes that my steps shouldn’t sound on the worn and cluttered boards.  At last I could see the van, parked right where I’d glimpsed it when he had the garage door open.  Infrared showed only one heat source, the van itself.  He really was alone in here.  My signal sniffer showed no current communications.  Son of a bitch!  He might not be telling the whole truth, but he really had come here alone.  It began to appear that he would survive the night.

***
Barnett rolled over painfully in his sleeping bag; his shoulder was falling asleep again, and pins and needles kept waking him.  For the ten thousandth time he promised himself a decent air mattress, and to hell with these thin foam pads.

Some instinct made him sit straight up in terror.  A dark mass in a corner of the van unfolded itself and resolved into a man.

“Hi, there,” said Michael Owens.  “You said something about a job?”
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Jac

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2007, 01:41:04 pm »

Cooool... :mellow:

So, if this and Networks are 7ish years after Walt's Gulch, when are the events in Fugue State and In Which the God of War Comes Out to Play taking place?
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2007, 01:42:51 pm »

Okay, I got a little lost there for a moment, but after re-reading it I was able to catch up.

I await with baited breath.
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

Jac

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2007, 01:48:03 pm »

I await with baited breath.
:rolleyes:

Arrest him, officer, he made a PUN!!! :ph34r: And on a family forum, too; what if the children had seen?

Have you no decency, worm?
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
--PSM

Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2007, 02:04:41 pm »

Sorry, having wireless problems.  Thought I could do this with my laptop at work, but the network is just giving me the finger.  I'll finish posting this snippet later today, on my way home.

Borrowed access sux.
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Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2007, 02:05:29 pm »

Cooool... :mellow:

So, if this and Networks are 7ish years after Walt's Gulch, when are the events in Fugue State and In Which the God of War Comes Out to Play taking place?

It's all the same story.  Just bits'n'pieces, out of context, with lots of missing stuff.
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Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2007, 05:46:19 pm »

The first problem was that he couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Barnett didn’t seem to have any talent for this sort of thing at all.  What are the names?  Where can I find them?  What the hell did he want me to do?  He didn’t know; just “make them pay.”  Jesus, Barnett!  Make who pay?

Once again I was on my own.  Christ, people needed to learn how to fight their own battles, if they wanted them fought.  The only thing left to finish with him was dickering over pay.  I didn’t tell him that I really didn’t care whether he paid me or not; I had my own reasons for being here.  But since he’d done the calling, he could damned well pay up.  I had expenses, after all.

So it was with a cheerful jingling in my pocket that I made my farewells.  I had him drop me where I’d stashed my car, and then went off to find a place to hole up and do my research.  This was going to take time.

***
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Bertram Pallard rode in the back seat of the gleaming black Suburban, proudly touring his – that is, the people’s – new domain.  He didn’t give a damn about the pristine wilderness, or the welfare of some mangy mongrels that could now live without interference from the peasants.  But he did care about turf, and this coup had increased his own immeasurably.  By forcing this new initiative through, all the way to the President’s executive order, he had damned near ensured that he would be the successor to the current brainless occupant of the cabinet position.  He’d seen his boss’s lush office and staff budget, and he would soon have them for his own.  No, he hadn’t stood smiling behind the President while he signed the Order and the cameras flashed.  But he would next time, oh yes.

The SUV came to an unexpected stop.  “What’s the problem?” he asked the driver.  The minor sycophants who shared the back seat stared out the windows as if to gauge and correct the trouble with their vast outdoorsy knowledge.  Idiots.

“There’s a tree down on the road, sir,” said the driver.

“Well, get it out of the way, or go around it,” Pallard snapped.  “We can’t sit here till it rots.”

“Yes, sir,” the driver muttered, and opened the door.

And so not even the Suburban’s thin steel protected him from the shaped charges hidden in bushes on either side of the road, which sent a quarter ton of shrapnel slicing into the vehicle at the speed of sound.  Not that it would have helped him; his body was no more pulped than those of the other occupants.

It took some hours before a search began for the missing vehicle, with its august passenger.  Initially the search was delayed and hampered, since key command personnel seemed to be missing and their underlings feared reprisal for making unauthorized decisions in their absence.  During that time the local scavengers, once they recovered from their fright at the blast, enjoyed a welcome if unscheduled meal.  They avoided the cooked portions, preferring their meat raw.

***
Assistant Chief Administrator Bernard Huxley entered his office, angry with the world.  His boss was off on that stupid tour with the Assistant Secretary, and there was work to be done. The appropriation for demolition of those crappy towns that cluttered the wilderness hadn’t gone through today as promised.  How was he supposed to clear away all that polluting debris, if the Department wouldn’t give him the money?  He had contractors lined up, panting for the work.  He longed to see all that concrete removed, and the land reseeded with trees as nature intended.  But once the Executive Order was signed, the Washington bureaucrats seemed to have lost all interest.  Dammit, the work wasn’t done!  It had only begun!  How shortsighted could they be?

He reached for the office door to close it, but it swung out of his reach on its own.  Startled, he turned to see what the problem might be.  But he never completed the movement; something hard struck the back of his head with awful, stunning pain.

How much time passed, he couldn’t possibly know.  When he regained consciousness he was lying on some uneven but soft surface.  His head pounded sickeningly.  He couldn’t seem to move his arms, which were somehow uncomfortably trapped behind his back.  He could move his legs, but couldn’t separate them; something was holding them together.  Damned odd.  He forced his eyes open against pain and struggled to focus them.

“Administrator Huxley!  Thanks for joining us at last.”  The voice came from behind him, and he tried to sit up and see who was speaking.  There was something scratching around his throat, but it didn’t impede his movement as much as the bindings – was he tied up? – around his wrists and ankles.

“You’re the last of my guests,” said the voice, “And we’ve been waiting for you most impatiently.  Please wake up and join the party.”

Huxley finally managed to struggle to a sitting position, and looked around.  They were surrounded by old-growth forest.  He was in the middle of a line with five other terrified-looking men.  Their arms and legs were bound, and there were…nooses around their necks!  Was that what was scratching his own throat?

A man dressed in loose green clothing stepped into view.  He was wearing … a Robin Hood hat?  “You’re a man reputed to love nature and all things natural, Administrator Huxley,” he said, “So I believe you’ll appreciate the trouble I’ve gone to on your behalf.  Nothing here is artificial; everything is painstakingly constructed of all-natural ingredients.  The ropes are the finest hemp, the gin pole and gallows are natural deadfall timber.   Even the pulleys are wooden!  But no trees were harmed in the construction of my device.  I do hope you’ll be pleased.

“Around you are several of the men who hoped to profit from what you stole.  Of course you know Assistant Administrators Clark and Helms, and I believe you may be acquainted with Mssrs. Philpot, Ketner and Beaumont.  If not, let me introduce you briefly.  They head the construction firms who built those lovely concentration – so sorry, of course I meant to say ‘relocation’ – camps where the people whose rightful property you stole were sent.  They were paid very well for it, too.  I found the amounts shocking, personally, and I don’t even pay taxes. 

“But that was nothing compared to the profits they’d have made from the contracts to bulldoze all that property and haul it off.  I saw copies.  Every fitting, furnishing, vehicle and other thing of value became their companies’ property, in addition to the direct payments.  A really great deal.  Congratulations, gentlemen!  I can’t imagine the wheeling and dealing, not to mention the bribe money, that went into the making of those contracts.  Really, bravo.

“Of course,” he said, “You know what they say about the things you acquire.  ‘The more you pay, the more it’s worth.’  You gentlemen acquired this land at the expense of others.  And now it’s time to pay.  The cost, I think you’ll agree, will be a little high.”
The odd man pointed upward, and Huxley’s eyes followed.  The ropes around their necks extended into the treetops.  “Fifty feet high, to be precise.  And it was a real chore getting all that stuff rigged way up there, let me tell you.  But I just knew the looks on your faces would make it all worthwhile.”

“It’s not really for your benefit, of course,” he said, picking up a stout rope from the ground.  “You’ll not be in any condition to profit from the lesson, I’m afraid.  But perhaps others will watch and learn.”

He looped the rope around his wrist.  “Yoiks and away!” he cried, and gave the rope a great heave.

Far back in the trees, a suspended tree trunk was dislodged.  It fell to earth, breaking loose a larger, extremely heavy pile of long logs which also fell.  These logs in turn were attached to five long ropes which disappeared upward into the trees, passed through pulleys, and returned to their looped ends near the ground.  The loops, and their burdens, sailed skyward. 

Necks broken, none of the men even had a chance to scream.

Before leaving, the man carefully dismantled and collected the video cameras on tripods he had set up to record the event.
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Yet another Freedomista blog: The Ultimate Answer to Kings is not a bullet, but a belly laugh.

Joel

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Re: Robin Hood's Revenge
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2007, 09:05:45 am »

Guess I should finish this, huh?  My bad.

14 – Worse Than Aztlan

“Oh, God!”  The EAD’s voice in Winston’s ear was almost incoherently frantic.  “It’s all over the internet now!  Netbots are carrying it, jumping from one server to another!  It’s all over the world!  Nobody knows how many thousands of copies there are, and nobody can stamp it out.  The NSA’s gone nuts!”

Winston found to his bemused surprise that he could only absorb so much failure and tragedy, and then his mind just switched to processing inanities.  “What’s a ‘netbot’?” he asked.

I don’t know what a netbot is!” The EAD was practically screaming now.  “Who the hell cares what a netbot is?  That’s what one of the NSA computer geeks called them.  Will you focus here, Winston?  This is completely out of control!  Not bad enough he’s stooped to terrorism, but he’s made it so completely public…”  His voice sputtered to a stop; perhaps he had also reached some internal limit.

Connected by the telephone, they each sat in silence for several moments.  “Christ, Winston,” the EAD muttered at last.  “This will ruin us.  This is worse than the Aztlan bombings.”

The Aztlan bombings of six years before had passed almost without Winston’s notice.  Caught in his own troubles, buried in his Alaskan exile, he had simply paid no attention at the time.  But hundreds had died that awful morning in the great cities of California and Arizona, and the synchronized rush-hour truck blasts had been followed by a wave of terrorism that threatened to sweep across the Southwest.  The news sites of the time had carefully failed to note that the terrorists tended to come to bad ends in Arizona and New Mexico, through no fault of the law enforcement agencies.  But they ran wild among the defenseless throngs of the California coast, and it took martial law and Special Forces to get them under some kind of control.  Even so, the terrorists hadn’t entirely failed:  Parts of Southern California had effectively seceded from the country. 

So on any objective level, this trouble was certainly not worse than the Aztlan bombings.  But Winston knew what the EAD meant; the bombings had given the FBI a terrible black eye.  After years of touting its so-successful antiterrorism campaigns, the bombings had occurred with no federal resistance at all.  The FBI had simply missed the separatists entirely.

And now government functionaries were blowing up, or publicly – so publicly! – swinging from trees.  And again, there was the FBI with its thumb up its expensive and much-hyped butt.  This could destroy the Bureau; in fact it almost certainly would if they didn’t dredge up a miracle quickly.  For years, FBI bureaucrats had fought a vicious holding action against those of DHS, who sought complete absorption.  The war was fought in the halls and committee rooms of Congress, in the battle for the ears of the president and his staff.  This would very probably give DHS all the ammunition it needed to end that war. Yes, this was worse than the Aztlan bombings.   

Perhaps it was the emotional distance Winston had gained from the FBI over the years that caused him to suddenly see the wrongness of that.  The bombings and their aftermath killed thousands of innocents, dispossessed millions, spread fear and uncertainty over an entire region.  But the FBI didn’t really care about that at all.  It was just a factor in a great, sprawling bureaucratic turf war.  By comparison, the effect on the Bureau of one almost-cabinet-level official blowing up in one truck, and six corrupt apparatchiks swinging from ropes on an internet video, was much more serious.

And that was wrong.

Wasn’t it?

***
Well, that was fun, the god admitted.  But could we get back to our purpose now?

“What are you complaining about?  The whole Robin Hood and internet thing was your idea.  I’d have just killed them.  I thought the bit with the wooden gallows was pretty cool, frankly.”

I always was better than you.  I still think you should have worn the tights.

“I know, I know.  ‘I am the god of war, and yadda yadda.’ Serves me right for trying to compliment you.  And I am absolutely never wearing tights in public.”

I felt his complacent chuckle.  Despite his provocation, I knew he was flattered.  He likes flattery.  So what now, Mr. Heroic Freedom Fighter?

“Now, as you say, we get back to work.  Back to freaking Idaho.  That state is getting a lot more familiar than I like.”

***
As the EAD feared, the whole country saw the hanging video.  Most were revolted and upset by the violence.  Ecology groups who had lobbied for the enlightened policy of ‘re-greening’ advertised and editorialized against the barbarity of reactionaries who would brag of doing such horrible things to selfless public servants.

Others were not so sure.  News of what had happened to the communities in the Medicine Bow area, farms and small towns that had been there since the days of wagon trains, became part of the debate.  Why were those people so heartlessly uprooted?  Why was their property taken without compensation?  And what about the deaths of innocents – names began to appear in commentaries – who at most had done nothing more than protest?  Maybe, some timid voices said, those hangings hadn’t been so unjust after all.

Maybe, a very few more adventurous voices said, there should be more.

***
Wow, Barnett thought, sitting before his computer in his Nebraska hideaway.  I don’t remember the last time a pocket full of gold bought so much.  Jesus, I thought he’d just shoot a few people and it would get covered up.  Nobody’s ever going to spin this away.  Michael Owens, wherever you are, I still think you’re a scary man I never want to meet again.  But you do give good value.

A half-grown mastiff pup laid its chin on Barnett’s leg, leaving twin slobber lines on his clean blue jeans.  It rolled its expressive eyes at him and whined.

“Okay,” he said, turning the computer off.  “I know.  Time to stop looking at the box and do something important.  C’mon, let’s go play.”
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Yet another Freedomista blog: The Ultimate Answer to Kings is not a bullet, but a belly laugh.
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