Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by Rilbur and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Pain. Mat's world was a haze of rage and pain, pulsing in red and black, but he still hurtled forward. Andrew McClarence had rushed his shot, missing anything vital, and didn't bother to take the time to bring his weapon down and re-aim it before pulling the trigger again. The first bullet grazed Mat's chest, right under his armpit. The second whizzed past his ear, and where the third and fourth went only God knew. By then Mat's left arm was up under Andrew's, forcing the gun up and out of line. Their eyes were less than two feet apart when Mat pivoted, knife slashing in and up.
Andrew screamed in agony as the blade sliced into him, it's long edge cleanly cutting cloth and skin and flesh from left hip to right nipple. Mat continued his run as he pivoted, ducking himself under McClarence's arm as his knife rose up.
McClarence would die. Mat would see to that. But he wasn't about to ignore the other two goons, who were already drawing their weapons. He let the pivot bring his knife slashing back around, it's edge cutting down the side of McClarence's face and then back along the side of his neck, grating on bone as it bit too deep.
And then the pivot pulled him away again as he stepped into the personal space of one of the goons, and the knife came flashing up. No games with pain here. Mat's knife came up with every ounce of speed and force he could put behind it, an uppercut with the emphasis on the 'cut'. The blade slid straight up inside the goon's jaw until Mat's fist slammed into flesh. As if in slow motion, Mat watched the goon's eyes rattle around and then glaze over with pain, even as Mat twisted the knife and yanked it out. The goon's gun dropped to the ground, falling out of limp fingers, even as Mat let the pivoting motion turn his momentum sideways, using the impact to change the course of his charge.
But the second goon was already on the ground, Kayla having clearly dislocated at least one of his shoulders while putting him there. And then Rob was there too, charging past Mat to make certain the other goon stayed down. Mat turned to the screaming McClarence, moving slowly. So slowly. The world seemed to crawl past as Mat turned to face the man who murdered his father. Around them, the crowd had exploded into a full blown riot. Some people ran, screaming and shouting, trying to get away. Other's were yelling furiously, charging on anyone and anything that looked like a threat. And oh so conveniently, as if that first shot had been a signal -- and for all Mat knew, it was -- the agent provocateurs were all drawing their pistols, turning themselves into threats. Unfortunately for them, they were scattered throughout the crowd. Unlike the Breckenridge massacre, the unarmed civilians were close and numerous enough to wade through the fire and take those weapons from them, and without mutual support they were swamped under an instant tidal wave of flesh and anger.
Mat, for his part, enjoyed the victory. He walked around the bleeding, screaming McClarence to where the idiot had dropped his pistol. Contemptuously, Mat kicked it aside, then crouched down next to the man he'd hated for so very long. "Shut up," he hissed, using the tip of his knife as a prod to get the man's attention. A simple touch was all it took, really, and Mat slowly forced the man's face up. They matched gazes for a long moment, tears streaming silently down McClarence's face. Mat felt his face twist with contempt, and didn't bother to suppress it. His nose wrinkled in disgust, and Mat let his eyes flick down McClarence's body for a second just to confirm what it had already told him. The man's clothes were stained with worse than blood.
"You murdered my father," Mat said, almost conversationally. "A police officer who never did anyone any harm, but thanks to you I didn't have a father around while I grew up. Thanks to you, my mother gave me The Talk, instead of him. My mother had to explain to me about why my penis was getting hard all the time. Why I was growing hair. Which, of course, left me really worried since I wasn't. So I had to go a doctor to get the reassurances he should have given me. Thanks to you, when my girlfriend broke up with me in high school, it was my grandmother who told me the words I needed to hear. Not him."
"I never killed anyone," McClarence protested.
"Bastard," Mat growled. "Liar. I heard about the confession."
"They beat that out of me!" McClarence shouted.
Mat blinked, then shook his head. "Liar. I know the man who interrogated you. He'd never go that far. He was the entire department's touchstone for morality." Some traitor part of Mat reminded him that that wasn't quite true. Mr. Knight had only become so upright, so painfully honest and by-the-book after his father's death.
After the trial that let this bastard go.
No. Couldn't be. Not possible.
"I. Hate. You." Mat continued. "And now..." He looked up, and the surrounding crowd, and smiled. There was a small space around him and McClarence, but no one was paying attention to them. They were too busy being angry, arguing, screaming, and otherwise rioting. "Now, I'm free to do whatever the hell I want to you."
"Mat," Kayla said softly. "Don't."
Mat looked up at her and smiled. "Don't what? Give him what he deserves?"
"If you do this, you'll be no better than he is," she warned him. "Remember your own words. Justice, not-"
"Don't you dare talk to me about justice!" Mat screamed, furious. "This is justice!"
"Screw justice," Rob rumbled, moving beside Kayla. "If you're going to kill him, kill him. Don't drag it out." He shifted his weight then stomped, hard, on the neck of the goon Kayla had taken down. "We need to get out of here, and I'd rather not leave any witnesses. If you don't have the balls, I'll handle it."
Kayla looked at her boyfriend, clearly shocked. "We can't do that," she protested.
"Think about what he said," Rob told her, his deep voice almost impossible to hear over the roar of the crowd. "Ashwood provoked this. If we're going to fight him, it's important not to leave any tracks he can use to trace us down. What Mat said, earlier, was bad enough, but I doubt anyone will remember it. This man will, though, and he's already sold his soul." Rob looked over to meet Mat's eyes. "Kill him, or I will, but don't drag it out. That's wrong."
"You're right," Mat agreed. "Fuck. Fucking hell" he screamed. He looked down at McClarence and thought about how to do it. Slice his throat? Too quick. A stab to the gut wasn't sure enough. Maybe- Mat shook himself and stood up, hatred churning in his guts. "I..." He hesitated, swallowing. "If I do it, I'm not..." He couldn't finish. "Please," he looked at Rob. "Cleanly."
Rob nodded, took two steps forward, and gripped McClarence's neck in his large, oversized hands. McClarence didn't even have time to shriek before those hands clamped down explosively. An instant later, it was done. Rob dropped a corpse to the ground, the head flopping loosely on a broken neck. "Lets move," Rob growled.
"Mat, we've got problems!" Harry broke in. "We've got military clamping down all over the fucking place. At least three squads are blocking the central walkway, and they aren't hesitating to open fire if anyone gets close. There are other squads trying to get into place on the other exits, and-" Harry broke off for a moment. "Shit, there's chatter on the police radio. They're clamping down on the protest at City Hall, too. Same tactics. Shoot anyone who gets too close to the line, and just keep moving the line in closer. The local cops are not happy, but the bastards at HQ keep telling them to use the encrypted channels and stay the hell away from it. Sounds like HQ is actually supporting this!"
"This is not the time for jokes!" Mat snapped. Not that it was a funny joke anyway.
"Whose joking?" Harry snarled. "The mother-fucking bastards really are pushing this."
"Did either of you think to collect their pistols?" Mat turned and asked Kayla and Rob. "Find them if you can."
Rob mutely held up two pistols. "The other one is lost in the crowd."
"Harry, I need more information," Mat said. "Keep the crowd moving away from the soldiers. I need to know where else the bastards are, so we can keep people moving around them."
"I've got about twenty minutes of power left on my laptop, and then we're done," Harry sighed. "I'm trying to develop a map, but it doesn't look good. Also, we've lost contact with both Jeremy and Ralph. Jeremy's radio is still on the network, but it looks like someone damaged his headset. Ralph's device is just gone. Could be electronics failure, or..." Harry trailed off. "There's no way to tell."
"Understood," Mat turned and took one of the pistols from Rob. "There," he pointed at a nearby building. "We should be able to get a decent vantage point from the third floor." They pushed their way through the crowd, weapons held low at their sides. With a single kick, Mat shattered the glass in the door, wincing in pain at the idea of deliberately vandalizing a building... Emergency or not. Plus, tactically, it was as good as announcing someone was inside.
"Mat, I'm getting bad news and worse news," Harry broke in as they reached the third floor. "I'm mapping the reports of police, and it looks like they're trying to bottle you guys up."
"And the worse news?" Mat asked.
"You're still near the library, right?" Harry asked, clearly worried.
"Right next door, actually," Mat agreed. "Why?"
"The only route out that isn't blocked is the back door out of the bowling alley. Looks like they overlooked that, probably because the alley is underground. Two of our volunteers got upstairs in the physics building. They can see a squad of soldiers moving to block it. You have maybe three minutes before that's sealed too."
Mat finally reached a window from where he could see things. "Can you get out?" he asked. Looking at the crowd, he knew damned well there was no way he could get himself out.
"I'm not leaving you behind," Harry told him. "By the way... Wave."
Mat pulled his eyes up and looked across the plaza. He waved back at Harry. "We can't get out. You can."
"Actually, I probably can't," Harry told him. "The press downstairs is pretty bad. Even if I left a minute ago, no way I'd reach the door in time. It's a funnel downstairs. Lots of people trying for it. Not a lot fitting through it."
"Going broadcast," Mat sighed. "Hey everyone. Thanks for showing up. If you can get out, do so. The only exit currently available is the back door of bowling alley. You have less than three minutes left before the cops will get it sealed."
"There's not a lot I can say," Mat sighed. "I fucked up. I should have seen this coming. I don't think the soldiers are here to take prisoners. If you can't get out, find someplace to hole up. If you can't find a place to hole up, try to find a place to dig in. Guns are distance weapons. If you can force them to come to you somehow, maybe you can take one of them down with you. If you managed to get weapons off the agents provocateurs in the crowd, I'm planning to try and stage a breakout." Mat switched back to single frequency. "Any data on where the soldiers are thinnest?"
"Yeah," Harry responded, suddenly gleeful. "They just pulled off three quarters of the troops keeping an eye on the path between the library and the social sciences building. Wait." Harry vanished for a minute. "Looks like they're pulling a lot of troops off most of the positions," he reported, voice grim. "The cork in their damned bottle was leaking, so they're reinforcing the troops holding the main avenue. People were getting out by ones or twos by ducking into buildings and then letting the soldiers pass. Not a lot of them, but apparently whoever is behind this doesn't want any survivors. Bastards."
"Library, north and south," Mat decided instantly.
"Wait, Ralph's back," Harry said gleefully. "Where you been man?"
"My battery cord got yanked and I didn't notice," Ralph snarled. "Where are you?"
"Student union for now," Harry responded. "Mat's planning a breakout."
"Fuck that," Ralph snapped.
"It's our best chance," Harry told him.
"No, it's a great way to get your ass killed," Ralph retorted. "You don't have any weapons!"
"Actually, we've got at least two pistols right here, along with a spare clip each," Mat smiled coldly. "And Harry and I are both crack shots."
Ralph hesitated. "Two people ain't enough for a breakout."
"I'm still toting up numbers, but I think we've got something more like fifteen pistols, though not everyone thought to grab ammo to go with them," Harry cut in.
"Harry, just get your ass to the library," Ralph sighed. "I managed to steal a key the other day. Was planning... Well, never mind what I wanted to do. Just get your ass over here. You too, Mat. We can't let everyone in, but the three of us can hide."
"Fuck that," Kayla snarled. "I'm not going to hide and let a couple thousand others get killed without at least trying to save them."
"Then all you're going to do is get your own ass killed, girl!" Ralph snarled. "Just like Sam!"
Mat's world lurched sideways. "What... What did you just say?"
"He tried to argue with some of the idiots who were carting Jeremy off. They popped him. They just... Fucking..." Ralph broke down. "It was right after the riot broke out. He was trying to stop them, and then the sound of gunshots... They didn't even warn him. Just fucking shot him."
"Mat, the backdoor to the bowling alley's been sealed," Harry said sadly. "We've got four volunteers there, two on the radio network, two not. They all happen to have pistols. They want to know if they should try unseal it."
"Negative. Going broadcast."
"OK everyone," Mat said, keeping his voice confident. "The bottle is well and truly sealed. But we are not done. They think we're a bunch of unarmed sheep, and they think we don't have any way to co-ordinate. We're going to show them wrong. Wrong on both counts, and we're going to show them wrong by bloodying their fucking nose."
"Anyone whose on the outside of the bottle, harass the soldiers on the north and south sides of the bottle. Don't get yourselves killed, but if you can annoy them somehow, do it. Rocks thrown from balconies, or if you have a pistol take a couple of potshots at them. Your rules of engagement are fire and maneuver. Don't let them pin you down. It doesn't matter how many of them you kill, if you're dead you aren't doing your job. And your job is to harass them. Either they'll weaken their cork on the main avenue again, or you'll be able to pull them out of position so people can leak out to the north and south."
"Everyone inside the bottle, meet in front of the library. If you're wounded, we'll stash you with Harry inside the library. You'll help him in maintaining co-ordination. We'll distribute weapons, and then we're going to punch out the troops covering the western exits. I'll distribute the squads when I get there."
"Now move!" Mat ordered.
"No way," Ralph snarled. "You and Harry I'll let in. Hell, maybe even Kayla and her squeeze. But if you try this, they're going to kill you!"
"Yes, they probably are," Mat agreed coldly. "But I'll send some of them to Hell first."
"I'm not getting-" Ralph began to protest.
"And you are going to open those doors, mister," Harry ordered, almost shocked at the tone of his own voice. He'd heard such absolute, unthinking authority from his mother's mouth on occasion, and even from Mr. Knights once or twice. Never his own. Ralph didn't protest. Against that tone, protest was unthinkable.
"Lets move," Mat ordered.
Colonel Bishop resisted the temptation to shred the document his aid handed him. "General, the riot at the new university campus is somewhere between four and five times the size original reports indicated."
General Bush looked at him, frowning. "Yet another mistake by your reconnaissance teams?" he growled.
"Sir, the size of each riot has varied significantly since midmorning, as indicated in the hourly updates you requested," Bishop replied, forcing his voice to remain even. Harder still was avoiding the phrase 'and then consistently ignored.' Printing up a report made a certain degree of sense. It left a good, strong document trail and could be perused at a senior officer's leisure, in bite sized chunks between other duties.
The fact that the general, who had assigned himself to the region in the wake of yesterday's events, hadn't taken on any other duties but the one was, of course, beside the point. After all, rubbing Bishop's nose in how badly he screwed up was clearly a full time job. As was screwing up the operation.
"I recommend we send in Fifth Platoon," Bishop said instead. "With the additional manpower, Captain Jackson should be able to move from envelopment to actively containing the riot."
"Fifth platoon has other duties," General Bush snapped.
Colonel Bishop worked his jaw for a moment, then managed to reply with proper decorum, "I was under the impression fifth platoon was still assigned to our reserves."
"I've ordered the reserves to proceed with phase two," General Bush told him airily. "Riot containment is going well enough that we don't need to maintain a reserve. It's just a bunch of idiot civilians. Putting them down won't be hard."
Colonel Bishop had to take a very deep breath to control his temper. Then another. "Sir, the reserve isn't big enough to manage a complete sweep in one operation."
"So it'll take them three trips out," General Bush shrugged. "You worry too much."
"This is red neck country, sir," Colonel Bishop's voice was perhaps a bit flatter than he should be directing at a superior officer. "Every man has a hunting rifle at home, and every boy has at least a BB gun. All it takes is one neighborhood noticing a neighbor being dragged out of their house, and you're liable to have the entire countryside up in arms."
"You exaggerate, Colonel," General Bush dismissed his concerns. "The power and telephone grids are offline. How exactly are they going to communicate? Telepathy?"
"Smoke signals, runners, tin cans linked by strings, and hand held radios," Colonel Bishop recited quickly. "It may take time for the word to spread, but I guarantee you sir that it will, and faster than you think. It has not been that long since prohibition. These people do not trust the government. They do not like the current government. And they will not hesitate to shoot the government once they're pissed off."
"Then your soldiers, who are armed with automatic rifles, body armor, and truck-mounted machine guns, will just have to shoot back," Bush snorted.
"General, are you aware that West Virginia provides more soldiers than any other state, proportional to population?" Bishop asked desperately. "In fact, they provide more elite soldiers, Navy SEALs and Green Berets and Delta Force, than any other state. The boys are raised knowing how to handle weapons, and the men don't forget that."
"Fine, fine," Bush waved his hand airily. "They're good with guns. We still outgun them."
"And you're sending out three platoons, about a hundred and twenty men, to pick up over three hundred people," Bishop pointed out quickly, doing some math in his head. "To pick up the entire list in three runs, you'll have to deploy each squad independently. That puts barely ten sets of boots on the ground in each location, in neighborhoods that are likely to boil over the instant the residents find out what you're doing. I repeat, these are red necks General. They stand by each other, and are not likely to just let you take their neighbors, kicking and screaming. They're going to stick their noses in."
"Enough!" General Bush snapped. "You've had your say. Now go do your job. Get those riots locked down!"
"Sir, yes sir!" Bishop snapped, saluting. Taking it for a dismissal, he dropped the latest report onto the pile, then departed the command center. "Idiot," he muttered savagely. HQ had approved Bishop's plans for a reason dammit! That moron was going to get his troops killed, and to no good purpose! Bishop had joined in with this little coup d'etat because Ashwood was right about needing to put stricter controls in place. Bishop couldn't give a rats ass one way or the other about the fags -- who cared what they did in their bedrooms -- but the tighter weapons laws were important, necessary. His father had been killed in a hunting 'accident' that the entire town had known was no accident. Not, of course, that it was ever proven. Anymore than his uncle's accident the next year had been proven a murder. Bishop didn't know who had done it, but he was still bitter that it took them that long. He'd survived a year at his uncle's house. His younger brother had hung himself after a mere seven months of that beast's verbal abuse. And a year of mis-management had all but depleted the family's once abundant financial reserves, leaving Bishop barely enough to put himself through college. Especially since his uncle had left all his possessions to his latest wife. Who wanted nothing to do with her step-nephew except when she was drunk enough to want in his pants.
With years of practice, Bishop ground that train of thought under heel. He had more important concerns than a whore. That moron of a general was going to get his men killed unless Bishop found a way to prevent it, and that didn't seem likely.
"Open up! Open up now!" The shouting was bad enough, but the pounding made Gran wince as she made her way to the porch. They were going to damage the Wilson's door if they kept pounding like that. It was just a horrible day. With the power out, she couldn't cook a single thing. She'd told Mat that all these new-fangled electric ranges were a bad idea, but he and Jacob had convinced her that the power savings would be worth it. That scamp, Harry, had tried to get her to go for some silly electronics to go with them, but that at least she'd managed to put her foot down on.
Still, what she'd do for a proper gas range, with a gas stove.
Opening her door, she peeked out. Those weren't even police! Hobbling out onto her porch, she made her slow way to the side and leaned on the rail. What were soldiers doing, showing up in this neighborhood and pounding on the Wilson's door? For a second her mind flashed back to years gone by, when a pair of police officers had shown at her door, but that was absurd. Sure, the Wilson's had a son serving in the Navy, but if something had happened to the boy, it would be Navy soldiers come to call with a great deal more politeness. Not a bunch of Army soldiers -- or were they Marine soldiers? Gran really couldn't tell the uniforms apart -- pounding on the door.
And then the inevitable happened. The baby woke up. The Wilson's were taking care of their eldest son's child while he and his wife were apartment hunting out west. "Oh you idiots," Gran chided the soldiers. "Do you know how long they had to work to get that child to sleep?"
"Go inside ma'am," one of the soldier's turned and ordered her brusquely. "This is none of your business."
"None of my business?" Gran snorted. "Sonny, I raised three good boys of my own, and helped raise my eldest grandson into a fine gentleman. Not to mention babysitting countless other babes. If there is anything on God's green earth that is my business, it's helping people with babies. So you idiots need to quiet down before you wake up the other babes."
"Other babes?" the soldier asked. "Our information only had one infant in the building."
"The Smiths have two babes in their house," Gran raised her cane to point across the street, "and Sarah and her husband just brought him their first," she pointed at another house. "Oh, and-"
"Nevermind, ma'am," the soldier cut her off. "I'm only interested in the Wilson residence."
"What in the name of God-" John Wilson opened his door, snarling. Gran cast an amused eye at his robe, complete with a moderately obvious, if subsiding, bulge below the waistline. Clearly he'd been otherwise occupied when the soldiers showed up. She was not prepared for the soldiers to reach out and yank him bodily out of the house, then toss him to the ground.
"What are you doing?!" she screeched angrily as several of the soldiers rushed in.
"Go back inside your house ma'am," the soldier she'd been talking to ordered firmly.
"Let him go this instant you brutes!" Gran screeched, waving her cane angrily as the soldier's yanked John's arms behind his back, holding him to the ground by the simple expedient of placing a knee at the small of his back. John bellowed in pain as they pulled his arms too far back, and in moments the soldiers had a zip tie clamped tightly in place around his wrists. "Stop this insanity at once! You can't do that!"
"Bernie, get her back in her house!" one of the soldiers snapped.
"Go inside, ma'am. That is an order from a duly appointed representative of the federal government, and you are bound by law to obey," she was told.
"You're nothing but a bunch of hooligans!" she shouted back. "You aren't even cops! You can't do this!"
"Go inside now ma'am," the soldier repeated. This time he raised his weapon. He didn't quite point it at her, but she took a step back in shock anyway. He was threatening her!
"Is something wrong, Mrs. Peterson?" one of the boys from next door asked, coming around the side of her house. "What the hell?" His hand froze, halfway through brushing his hair back out of his eyes. Under other circumstances, she might have told him to get a haircut, but this really wasn't the time. Gran struggled, but couldn't quite come up with his name. It certainly wasn't pimple-nose, even if his younger brother had called him that not an hour ago. She knew him, but she knew all the local kids. She just couldn't keep them straight these days. "Get back home," she ordered. "Tell your mum to keep the kids inside the house."
"He's threatening you!" the boy growled, not quite hearing her words.
As if by magic, people were coming out of their houses now. And not just kids. Sheryll Wilson was hauled out of her house, protesting at the top of her lungs, just in time to be seen not even half-dressed by most of the neighborhood. Under other circumstances, she might have been in for a degree of social trouble for walking out her front door with her robe open and unbelted, but given the soldiers holding her arms, the reaction was quite different.
Hauling John out, maybe the soldiers could have gotten away with. "What are you doing!?" Gran shrieked, forgetting about the boy behind her. "At least let her close her robe up!"
"Bernie, I told you to get her back in her house!" another soldier shouted
"Sorry sir," Bernie replied. Turning, he trotted up her porch and grabbed her by the arm.
"Let go of me!" she ordered, trying to shake loose.
"Let her go!" the boy who'd come out earlier ordered. "Dad!" he turned and shouted. "Help!"
Gran gasped in pain as the soldier yanked her around, barking her shins on a porch chair. Unable to hold up her weight, she found herself falling, only to be stopped short, gasping in pain, as the soldier held her up by the arm.
"Get off her!" Al shouted. That was his name, Gran remembered, Al. Then he was on top of the soldier, pummeling him.
A fourteen year old boy had no business trying to tackle a twenty year old man. The soldier didn't even try to restrain his annoyance, simply caught the boy by the front of his shirt and tossed him across the porch. The wood splintered and cracked as the boy went ass over teakettle, and Gran shrieked in sudden rage.
"Bastard!" she shouted, trying to kick the soldier holding her. He shifted to block the blow, then a bellow of rage distracted him as Al's father jumped up to the porch. Benjamin didn't even bother with the stairs, he simply leapt over his son and finished the destruction of the railing by plowing through it. In an instant he was on the soldier holding Gran, and this time the soldier was forced to let Gran go to defend himself.
A shot blew one of the posts on her porch to smithereens, but it went wide of Benjamin. Benjamin simply fell back through the door, keeping his hold on the soldier. Al was already trying to climb back up on the porch, but suddenly his shoulder seemed to explode as thunder roared behind Gran.
Gran turned and saw another soldier standing by her porch, weapon ready. She couldn't believe it. He'd shot a boy. A boy!
Then his head exploded. Unlike the unfamiliar roar of the assault rifle, she recognized the crack of the gun that killed the soldier. A hunting rifle. She turned her head, and across the street she saw one of the Ramirez boys leaning out of the attic window, hunting rifle already training around to another soldier. The soldiers began to open fire, but the boy stood there and calmly lined up his next shot before ducking back behind the window.
Out of the corner of her eye, Gran saw another of the soldiers fall. Then another. She crawled back into her house, unable to track the chaos around her as a simple morning turned into a firefight.