Well it didn't take Hashmir long to prove Alex right, There we were last night, only hours after our meeting in his office, down at Insert Coin with the Trevors and the Rogers playing a six player/seven deck game of Spite and Malice (Bishop was more interested in staying in his tent) on the sales counter, which is a nightmare scenario by the way as our discard piles were almost off the counter, when Kaur's voice started booming from the public address speakers all over the community.
“Attention, citizens of Mallville,” Hashmir called, “There are a couple of items I wish to address with everyone, so please give me your full attention.”
“Now what?” asked Molly
“He's probably going to declare himself a god now,” answered Bryan.
“Or just God himself,” quipped Chris
Tara and I exchanged glances, but just listened instead of saying anything.
Bishop's head appeared at the opening for his tent, “What's going on?” he asked.
“Mr. Kaur is making an announcement, “ answered Toni.
“I don't like him,” replied Bishop before retreating back into his tent.
“Respect!” called Toni after him, and then more quietly so only those of us at the table could hear, ”even if he is an asshole.”
“It has come to my attention,” continued Hasmir's amplified voice, “that there has been talk about holding an election to decide who will lead Mallville. I want to put to rest this rumor; there will be no election.”
I could hear voices outside, sort of like every one in the shopping area was talking to each other at once.
“An election is not in our best interests. It will not help us survive the winter and become self-sufficient so that we may survive until this ordeal has come to a conclusion. I am in charge because I am best suited to be, and I shall remain in charge until such time as I am no longer fit to lead. I know what the plans of the council were, and I know how to make them come to fruition.”
“And you know how to be a little dictator,” commented Chris.
“I know the loss of the council has hurt a lot of us, none more than me, but we must not falter, we must remain unified if we are to survive this. We need to put what is best for Mallville as a whole above what each of us may like. If you think that will be a problem for you, I would urge you now to leave. There will be no retribution on those who wish to leave Mallville, and try their luck on their own.”
“Subtle,” said Tara.
“It is with that in mind that I would also like to talk about loyalty, “Hashmir continued, ”You may not realize how important your loyalty to Mallville is, but if we have disloyal people in our midst, they will weaken us; doom us to failure. If Mallville fails, it means we die. We cannot be strong if we are not united. A house divided cannot stand.”
I picked the exact wrong time to take a drink from my cup of water.
Hashmir went on, “There are disloyal people amongst us too. There is evidence that some people within Mallville have been working with a biker gang called The Hell's Postmen, the group responsible for last month's attack on us.”
I choked on my water, and went into a fit of coughing. I sprayed water over the cards in the middle of the counter, and Tara started hitting me on the back until the coughing stopped.
“Now we do not know who these people are, but they are likely responsible for the high loss of life our scavenging crews have suffered in past months as well as the attack on the clean-up crew, and last month's horrific assault. To those people, and I know you can hear my voice, I want you to know that we will find you, and you will be dealt with most severely.”
“I'm surprised he didn't just blame that on Alex.” I said.
“It's probably meant to be a threat; if he gets too out of line then there will suddenly be some sort of evidence that he's the spy,” stated Tara evenly.
“If anyone out there has information on anyone who is disloyal to our cause, please alert your nearest security officer. Any tips that lead to the capture of a confirmed seditious individual will be rewarded.”
“Holy shit!” said Bryan softly, but not so soft as to not earn a dirty look from Toni, “What? I'm sure he's heard the word before.”
“To help keep us all more secure, I am instituting a curfew between the hours of eleven pm and five am. Anyone out during these hours without an official reason will be dealt with. If such people are found to be working with the traitors hiding amongst us, they will be dealt with harshly.”
“I think this place just went from refugee camp to prison,” commented Molly.
“If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask your local security officer, or make an appointment with my assistant, Holly Tanaka to bring your concerns to me personally. I will tell you that I am a very busy man, as running our community takes up much of my time, but I will do my best to make time for anyone who wishes to speak with me,” Hashmir finally finished his announcement, “In closing, I want everyone loyal to the cause of a better Mallville to know that I am dedicated to keeping us all safe and strong as we get used to this new world that we live in. I know that it is hard to lose everything we all knew, but together we can work to create a strong Mallville and a strong future. Good night, and God bless.”
“Is he sure he's not running for office? That last part sounded an awful lot like a stump speech to me,” I asked.
“Did he really just ask people to snitch each other out for rewards?” asked Chris.
“Yes.” answered Molly.
“Now why did you say you thought he would blame your friend for the bikers? Hasn't he lost his own people to them?” asked Toni.
“Hashmir doesn't really like Alex, or either of us much either, “explained Tara, “We're the ones that put the idea of an election out there.”
“But hasn't it been mostly Mr. Sigler's people killed by the bikers?” asked Bryan.
“Yes, but if you can scare people enough they won't think like that when it comes time to find a scapegoat,” I explained, “And it will have to be a scapegoat since the person working with the bikers is-”
Tara interrupted me in her cold professional voice, “ I don't think this is a very safe conversation for us to be having right now.”
“Do you think we'll turn you in to Hashmir?” asked Molly, sounding offended, “I'll have you know that Chris and I marched against the war in Iraq even when they were putting protesters on terrorist watch lists!”
“I'm not accusing you of anything, I just think the walls have ears.”
“We're not on his side,” insisted Molly.
“Walls. Ears,” stated Tara, “If there comes a time when we have to choose sides, I hope I know what side you'll all be on, but Hashmir is right about one thing; we are stronger united than divided. If it comes down to a battle between Hashmir's followers and his critics, we all lose.”
Before anyone else could speak there was a commotion out in the shopping area. Raised voices, yelling, I'm not sure what the man was yelling exactly, but I'm pretty sure the phrase “fuck you” was in the mix a couple of times.
We abandoned our soggy card game, which had pretty much been forgotten since Hashmir started speaking, and went to see what was going on. Even Bishop abandoned whatever he was doing in his tent to come out and see. As it turned out, it was an argument on the second floor above us a couple of stores down. A man with wild blond hair was arguing with two security officers.
“Sir, you need to return to your accommodations, now!” I could hear the deep booming voice of one of the officer, a black guy with a bald head. He was brandishing an M-16, but was pointing it towards the ceiling, and not at the blond man.
Other people had come out of stores and tents that were set up in the center are of the ground level. The were crowding in around us, and lining the railings on the second and third floors.
I couldn't make out exactly what the blond guy was saying, only snippets. The word “fuck” was in there a couple of times, as well as the word “fascist”. The other security officer was an Asian man with his dark hair in a buzz cut, and his voice did not travel well either, but he was really getting into it with the blond guy. He also had an M-16, which was not being held in a firing position either, but was not pointed as high in the air as his partner's
The bald-headed officer seemed to finally realize that there was a crowd forming around them, and he started speaking into the radio microphone clipped to his shirt, holding his M-16 in his left hand with his finger on the trigger guard. When he finished his conversation he put both hands back on the M-16, and started aiming it just above the heads of the crowd forming around the argument.
“By order of Mallville Security,” The bald man's voice boomed,” you are to return to your accommodations immediately. More security is on the way, and anyone still out here when they arrive will be dealt with. Curfew begins immediately; clear the area or you will be taken into custody.
What a stupid threat. There's no way they could take everyone into custody. I've been in Mallville's lock-up, and there's just no way that would have worked. It didn't even work as a threat, as virtually no one moved.
It was then that the blond guy made his last mistake. He pushed buzz cut. I think the bald guy saw what was going to happen next, and he tried to grab his partner, dropping his M-16 to hang from its strap on his shoulder.
The buzz cut swung his rifle butt up to hit blond guy in the face. Some people screamed in surprise as the blond guy staggered backwards against the railing separating him from a ten foot drop to near where we were standing. The blond guy rebounded off the railing, and launched himself blindly forward at buzz cut.
I guess the one good thing that happened here is that with the blond guy pushed up against him, and forcing him back into a crowd that was trying to get out of the way is that it caught buzz cut's rifle between them so that it could not be brought up to a firing position, at least for the moment.
They had moved out of our view from the bottom floor now, into the crowd, or up against the storefront of “Gadgets & Gizmos”. No guns fired, but in a second the blond guy came staggering back into the railing again, and buzz cut came right after him.
Bald guy was still trying to pull buzz cut off of blondie, but buzz cut was enraged. He socked the blond man with the butt of his M-16 again, and knocked him off balance. As the guy fell backwards over the railing he reached out and grabbed for something to stop his fall. His hands found purchase on buzz cut's collar.
Buzz cut fell forward with the blond guy. The bald officer tried to grab his partner, but ended up only holding a torn piece of white uniform shirt as his partner and the blond man fell over the railing. The pivoted as they fell through the air. I could see the blond guy's hand come free from buzz cut's collar, and buzz cut's gun came out from between them as he threw his arms up; I guess he was trying to break his fall.
They hit the polished floor hard, buzz cut first on the pack of his head, blondie across of him, his face impacting with the floor. Buzz cut's rifle fired when they hit. I don't know how many shots, five or six at least. The shots were not aimed, or even intentional, as I am pretty sure the officer was dead, or at least unconscious, on impact. The bullets flew into the crowd.
Screams of terror erupted, some were pained screams of the people who were hit by by buzz cut's final shot, but most were screams of fear and panic as everyone tried to leave the shopping area at once.
Being stupid and impetuous, I did not retreat with all of the smart people, I rushed forward towards the pained screams. The wounded were the first ones to have space around them, as no one was running towards them. There were five or six people there, but only four had actually been hit.
I knelt down next to a blond woman lying on the floor, She had been hit in the neck, and was in the middle of a growing pool of blood. Her eyes were already glassing over; she was gone.
I heard Molly behind me, she was calling my name from just inside the store. I took a glance behind me, and saw that all of them except for Tara had retreated into the store, and that Toni was clutching Bishop to her, even though he was struggling to get away from her. That kid's almost as tall as she is already.
Tara grabbed my arm and tried to pull me back, but I shrugged her off, moving to the next body. A little girl with black hair was laying on the floor sobbing in fear and pain. She had been shot in the left leg, and I think her right arm was broken. Someone had stepped on her in the panic. I remember thinking ,”Where the fuck are her parents? She must belong to someone, where are they?”
I went down next to her, “You're gonna be okay, just try and stay calm,” I said, not knowing if it was true or not. The full extent of my medical training is “Trauma Center” on the DS, “I'll stay until help comes.”
“Clear the area, now!” I heard an amplified voice boom, “This area is under lockdown! Curfew is in effect now. Clear the area and return to your assigned accommodations immediately.” It was the back up that baldy had called for. Their orders made no real sense since a lot of the people in the shopping section were probably quartered there, making the order to both leave the section and return to their sleeping areas impossible.
A group of security officers in black riot armor swarmed the area. The only parts of their bodies that were exposed were their mouths, everything else was covered by their outfits and helmets.
“Come on!” yelled Tara, “We need to get out of here!” she yanked on my arm.
“It's a little kid!” I yelled back at her.
“Security is here, they'll help her. You getting arrested won't do anything for her.”
“I'm not leaving her!”
Before Tara could try and talk sense into me again, she was gone, thrown forcefully aside by a black-suited security officer. The officer pointed an MP5 at my face, but adrenaline was making me stupid, and I ignored it.
“You need to clear the area!” his voice boomed. I could see he had a brown mustache, I was poking out from under his helmet's visor. He also had a southern drawl.
“I'm staying with the kid!” I yelled back.
“Are you a doctor?” asked the officer.
“Then you need to clear the area, or I will take you in!”
“No!” Tara commanded, struggling against another black suited officer who was trying to force her away from where the bodies lay, “Don't you touch him!”
“Fuck you! Let her go!” I yelled. I tried to get to my feet, but something large and black obscured my vision. It was the sole of the armored officer's boot as he kicked me in the face.
My world became one of black, and red, and pain. I could hear Tara screaming, not in pain, but in rage. I could hear Chris and Bryan's voice too, but I couldn't understand anything other than that they were arguing with the security officers. These voices were punctuated by flasehes of pain at different points on by body.
Finally the voices faded. The color red faded too, leaving me just in blackness for a while. The darkness was kind of nice, no pain, no fear, and I wanted to stay there untilI realized that there was no Tara either, and I couldn't leave her behind. I think she needs me as much as I need her, and we would be incomplete without each other.
Slowly the world returned to me. I could feel the thin carpet under my back; I was lying on the floor in front of the counter in Insert Coin. The pain returned too, and I could feel that my face hurt, in fact my whole head hurt... and my ribs, and my left arm. I opened my eyes to the bright lights of the store.
“He's awake!” said a female voice, Toni's voice. My eyes wouldn't really focus on her though, she was just a sort of blond-ringed blob.
As my vision cleared, a dark ringed shape filled it, “You idiot!” the shape yelled at me. The dark ringed shape resolved itself into a very angry looking Tara. Her icy blue eyes were tinged red; she had been crying.
“Are you okay?” I asked gingerly sitting up. My vision became ringed with darkness as my head throbbed, “Is everyone okay?”
“We're fine.” replied Chris' voice, clearly his most calm and soothing voice “Everyone's fine.”
“They could have killed you!” said Tara through clenched teeth.
“I couldn't leave that kid.”
“What were you going to do for her?” Tara asked in disbelief.
“I don't know. Try and keep her calm, I guess.”
“You are a fucking idiot!” she cursed, and then looked over at Toni, who was sitting with Bishop and Bryan, “Sorry!” she said tersely.
“I'm sorry,” I said lamely.
“Yeah, well maybe sorry doesn't cut it!” she hissed, and then leaned down and slapped me across the face before storming off to the stockroom. Stars exploded across my vision, and I fell back over, slamming my head into the poorly cushioned floor. My head felt like it was going to burst. This was worse than the worst hangover ever.
“What time is it?” I asked from my spot on the floor.
“After midnight. You've been unconscious for a couple of hours, “ Explained Molly, “After kicking you a few more times Tara was able to convince them that you were with us. Chris and Bryan were allowed to help her drag you in here. We cleaned you up, and waited to see if you would wake up.”
“What about the kid?” I asked.
“Medical center staff were dispatched to help the wounded,” explained Tara, still cold and angry, “ and dispose of the dead.”
“The shopping area is on lockdown until morning. We were going to take you to the med center if you hadn't woken up by then,” explained Toni.
“Are you okay?” asked Bishop.
“I will be. Sorry if I scared you.”
“You scared mom more than me,” Bishop replied, “I knew you'd be okay,” he was grinning, but it looked like he had been doing some crying too.
Chris helped me to my feet, and guided me to the stockroom. My left leg hurt too, the guard must have kicked me there too. He helped me lay down on the mattress that had been Bud's bed. Tara joined me, and gave me some aspirin she found in the store's first aid kit. Even though she did not speak to me for the night, she would not let me go either even though it turned out that my shirt was covered in dried blood, my own from getting kicked in the face.
I hope Alex knows what he is doing. People are already getting hurt, getting killed, as a result of his idea.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Twenty Fourth Entry : Boot to the Head