Pudding

Been awhile since I’ve a done a mash-up such as this.  Funny!

Profoundly glad he’d not taken that girl he’d been chatting up at Zom’s back to his place – he’d gotten some odd signals from Nike about that, and if anyone knew crazy women, that’d be a fag – it was more chance and luck that his hand didn’t make it to the pistol in his nightstand by his bed after his door was kicked in.

He’d only laid down thirty minutes ago, slightly buzzed, but the thinking about the number five, just three floors above… with a bang, there was a light in his face and the smell of well-oiled weapons all about him.

“Joseph Kreeft?” Someone had barked at him.

“Yeah?” He squinted into the flashlight, knowing better than to move his hands.

“Civil Emergency. By order of the Mayor, you’re coming with us.”

No chance to get dressed, he followed the two ahead with two behind down the stairs into the lobby. Steve, behind the desk with his hands up to the man with a gun on him, didn’t move. It was only in the lobby’s light that he saw the PP: “Portland Pins;” the city flag on their lapels. After the Breakup, the real city police looked the same and did their hard work. But, Hizzoner had his own agenda, and meant he needed his own men. No one ever used the term ‘secret police,’ but they all knew it.

Out the door into a mist. His bare feet freezing for the three blocks they walked before getting to their truck. That’s why he’d not heard anything! He was pushed up into the back and down onto a bench.

“Hey, Joe.”

His head came up fast.

“Phil?! What the hell’s going on?!”

Phillip’s look was his answer: he was just as clueless, and not about to say a word when covered by the firearms of the secret police.

Joe wiped the mist and sweat from his forehead. They weren’t in handcuffs, and he’d heard nothing about a pogrom. Why only him and Phil… wait! The Intel Captain, at the bridge… when he and Phil had…! But how to say…!

Joe looked up with a grunt. Phillip raised his head. Joe rubbed his upper incisors with his thumb and index finger while tilting his head towards the driver’s compartment.

Phil covered his nod as they passed over broken pavement.

Something to do with the cannibals, he guessed. But… what?

The drive went on and on; impossible to know in the dark where they were going. Easy enough to fall asle –

With a jerk and squeal of brakes, Joe was awake.

 

“Fuck you, you fucking fake cops!”

Joe was trying very hard to not laugh; not smiling was already failing.

Northwest of town, around the POL tanks, they’d been dragged out of the truck. Joe was surprised at all the temporary lighting in the area. It looked as if the entire Regular Army was in one place. Why? He and Phil got rough pushes in the back forward, making their way through trucks, armored cars, and, Joe was shocked to see, AFV’s with 90mm guns. Just what was going on?!

“Captain! These are the civs you wanted!” The contempt in the secret policeman’s voice was palpable. Joe took heart to see that it was chief of intel, Captain Hong. He stood, looking at Joe and Phil’s condition.

“…fake…?!” The fake cop was floored. Two of his six men swung their weapons about –

“Do it!” Captain Hong taunted them. “In the middle of our laager, pick a fight with the Army! Corporal!”

“Sir” A man immediately replied.

“Escort these Checkist fucks out of my sight! Now!”

“Sir!”

Several rifles came up in support. The secret policeman who’d been talking abruptly turned on his heel and left with his men.

“Sergeant!” Hong yelled, again. “Don’t mean to bother you with details, but my Corporal’s busy! These militiamen need uniforms, boots – ”

“On it, sir! Less than five!”

“Thank you.” The captain let them into a lean-too off of his armored car.

“Jesus Christ, Joe! Are you okay?” He asked.

“I… I think we are now, Captain…”

“For Chrissake, Joe, you were almost my son-in-law! Let’s drop the rank for a few minutes! Tell me what happened?”

Joe told his story. Phil’s was much the same.

“Which all begs the question, sir,” Phil was always more formal. “Why us? Why now?”

The sergeant returned with BDUs and boots. And jackets and covers. These were good men, Joe thought.

“The cannibals have crossed and taken the L&C Bridge,” Captain Hong said. “Honestly, you two, besides me and mine, have the most experience with these freaks. I…”

“I’d personally asked for the both of you, but…” He trailed off, at a loss. “I didn’t know the Checkists would round you up like criminals! I am so sorry, you guys!”

Checkists? Joe had no clue. Perhaps Phil knew that as he made a tiny, dismissive flick with his left hand.

“Water under the bridges, sir.” Phillip said while they both got dressed. “Once we’re underway, tell us what to do!”

Joe beamed at his friend.

Some of Hong’s men were taking down the lean-to. He waved them into his Gage APC while he attended to last-minute items. Sitting quietly in the back, Joe asked.

“What’s a ‘Checkist’, Phil?”

“It’s a term from Russian, from over a hundred years ago,” Phil replied. “Basically means ‘secret police’ or ‘political police.’ Most professional soldiers, anywhere in the world, don’t like them, so it’s become a very derogatory term.”

Oh. So that’s why the Captain was so angry! Who chose that moment to fling the door wide, coming to sit next to Joe. Three of his men took the bench opposite. The last pulled the door shut and the driver turned over the engine, but they didn’t move.

“My mission might be Intel, but for the next twenty four hours, everyone from the General to the cooks are line soldiers.” Now there was a small lurch, as they moved out, slow. “Tell me, militiamen, what’s the best way to take a bridge?”

“Both ends at once.” The captain was taken aback at Phil’s answer.

“That’s… that’s exactly right! I might offer you a job when this is over!” He laughed. “Anyway, because we’re all such experts on the enemy, we’re part of the force crossing the river and assaulting the far side.”

Joe examined Hong’s face for a sign he was kidding. He didn’t find one. Their APC accelerated to about thirty five or so.

“Shit! I mean, you’re serious, sir?” He asked.

“Very.” The captain replied, handing out some photocopies of a handmade map. “We’ll be boarding a barge on Prescott Beach, just out of sight of the bridge, before dawn, God willing. After that, it’s full speed around and across, making landfall by those grain silos. At the double up Terminal Way – ”

“I hope it’s not,” Phil muttered. Hong grinned wolfishly.

“Right! We take the north end of the bridge and start clearing it.”

Joe looked up from the paper.

“Why are you telling us everything?”

The captain’s face fell.

“From the General on down, every unit is having their mission brief right now. If I’m shot before I make it across the river, I’d like to think my men will complete the mission without me!”

“You said we’re loading before dawn,” Phil spoke up. “So H-hour is at dawn?”

“Yes.” Hong seemed to be taking a liking to his unmartial friend, Joe thought. “That’s puts the rising sun directly behind us, with, hopefully, smoke shells from our side right in front of us!”

“We’ll be about a Company, total, but of mixed units that have never done something like this before,” the captain said, softer. “One of those units is a detachment of Engineers. The bridge is already pre-wired to blow, they just need to light it up.”

He gazed about the five men, lingering on each for only a fraction.

“That’s our core mission: they blow the bridge. If that costs me, you,” he nodded at his sergeant, “or all of us, so be it. Understood?”

“Sir!” They chorused.

 

The sign went by in a moment: Scappoose Pop. 7116.

“Divide by ten.” The General spoke to the night air at thirty five miles per hour.

“Mmm?”

“The outlier cities of Portland; they couldn’t feed themselves.” Tessmer said. “In the Breakup, some just stayed and died, but this close to the City, they migrated.”

“Did they?”

“Of course, Portland was wracked by food riots at that point, so most everyone from the west of the city became indentured servants to the Willamette Valley farmers.”

Another glance over his left shoulder.

“At least they’d work! The city-dwellers, well…” He trailed off.

“The Mayor expelled them.”

Nichole was old enough to read between the lies.

“I see.”

There was an MP with red flashlights. They slowed, but she waved them on; the General returned the woman’s salute.

“We… we lost much of our stores, in all that.” She could hear the catch in his voice. His eyes stayed forward. “Hard to let kids starve… in front of you.”

“Of course.”

There was silence for the next few miles. She saw the sign for ‘St. Helens.’

She didn’t ask; he didn’t say.

“Beyond this point,” Tessmer suddenly said, waving west, “are those tenacious enough to live on their own.”

He finally turned slightly, to let her meet his eyes.

“We’re going to war for them, our future.” Nichole held his gaze. “I might lose half my men, dropping the bridge.”

She dropped all pretense.

“I am an android, immune to injury. I think faster than you humans can imagine.” Nichole declared. “Tell me, General of men: where can I help you the most?”

She saw the disbelief, followed by confusion, chased by uncertainty.

“I commanded Kongo at the assault upon your north. Those missiles came out of the ship at my order.” She was aware her attempt at a smile warped into a snarl at that memory.

“I exist to serve.” Vocals; low.

Tessmer turned forward. Miles went by. At one point he raised his hand to cup the earbud on his left. A nod to the air.

“I want you on the barge assaulting the opposite bank.” He again half turned. “Can you shoot to kill?”

“I don’t know.”

He bit off a curse.

“Can you at least take orders?!”

“Absolutely.”

“Then at the cost of your life, help my Engineers blow that bridge!”

“I obey.” She bowed slightly.

He saw that and turned back to the barely illuminated road sliding under them.

“Thank you.” She heard him whisper to the wind.

One thought on “Pudding

  1. You have an ability to start quick, maintain equilibrium, and, in the end, create a pleasing blur of events. good piece of quick writing. enjoyable.

    Like

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