Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A bit late.

It was a job well done. He told his superiors they needed another few hours though they'd already cleaned the place out. No one was there, so there was no action, and that makes the door-kickers antsy; so he got a few extra hours so they could have some liberty time to unwind.

It was the fourth raid Black Boot team had been on in the past week. The guys liked all the action, and relished the rush they got from taking out Enemies of the State. Plus they got to enjoy a few choice picks from the collections they confiscated. Sure, it was tough luck for the guys that got raided, since they usually got overwhelmed in bed, and were never taken alive, but the law was the law, and without it there would be chaos.

The Black Boots were sitting around the rural property of the house they'd raided checking out their loot, drinking some beer Martinez snuck in one of the duffel bags, and generally horsing around. He avoided the childishness because he thought it undermined his authority over them. He picked a spot under a large elm tree facing the sunset where the roots formed a natural seat for him. He treated his job with a bit more seriousness than they did. It was hard for him to go after Americans. It helped to think of them as he'd been instructed; as domestic terrorists. But he knew they were just Americans. Americans like his grandfather who stood up to firehoses and dogs to secure his rights. All of his rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. But things were different now. His grandfather wouldn't want to own one of these assault weapons... Would he? He protected his family from the KKK, but those times were gone now. We're more civilized. We have better laws.

He ignored the dirty joke being told behind him, and stared at the low-hanging sun trying to quell the odd feeling he always got after he did his job. He sat with one knee elevated, and his gloved hand on top. Something struck him about the black tactical glove that interrupted the natural scene before him. He took it off and felt the cool air hit his hand as he replaced it on his knee. That was better.

As he drifted closer to a welcome nap, he noticed a small black spot grow from the top of a distant hill below the sunset. Like one of the armadillos that plagued the area struggling up the incline, then stopping at the top to survey the land around him. He idly thought, "That's a big armadillo. How far away is that?" He squinted.

First he saw the flash. He could just barely make it out so near the setting sun. Then he heard the buzz of the bullet. Then he heard the sick slap of impact on flesh behind him. Then he saw the spray of blood and matter hit the back of his naked hand still on his knee. He didn't even have time to change his expression. Then he heard the shot. He stared at his bloodied hand.

It wasn't till the second shot buzzed by him that he was broken from his hypnosis. He clambered around behind the tree, and almost tripped over his machine gun. He struggled a thought. "What the hell?! That can't be Jacobs! What balls he must have to shoot at the Black Boots!" Henry Jacobs was the owner of the property they were enjoying, thought to have fled days before the raid. Officially, he was being raided on suspicion of owning silencer parts, but the truth was that he had been a vocal opponent of theirs for years. There wasn't anything in his file about him being a sniper. As far as they knew, he was just a typical fat slob gun nut. Someone was going to pay for this oversight. He moved his back against the tree but lost his footing in the exposed roots and fell backwards into a sitting position, hitting his head hard.

He was frozen in a minor daze. He saw his teammates running for cover, and their weapons, being systematically cut down. Shot in the chest or head, sometimes straight through cover. Those who could make it to their machine guns returned fire to no effect. They were shot in the head when they exposed themselves to fire. He couldn't process what he was seeing as he watched his men die. Those who were not killed on the first shot were hit in the head, ending them in a bloody show. Jackson was the first to run, and was ended before he could make it 15 feet. The remaining members of the Black Boot squad were cowering behind any cover, refusing to expose the smallest bit of themselves. There was a short reprieve, then the shots began hitting the cover, ripping blindly through to their targets. As he regained himself he began to stand against the tree, a shot ripped through the tree trunk just above his head, showering him with splinters. The pain on his scalp snapped him back into his situation. He was lucid now, he had to think about his men, he had to fight back. He grabbed his sub machine gun, took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the tree, leveling his gun at the target.

He emptied his sub machine gun at the small shape on the hill, and became enraged when he saw his shots kick up the dust a little more than half way to their target. "Who messed with my gun?!" he thought angrily. "It always hits dead center at the range!" Then he realized that he'd never shot it beyond 100 feet. Then he realized he'd never shot it at anyone who was shooting back. Then he realized he'd never actually shot anyone who wasn't in their bed, 5 feet away. For a brief moment he felt a repressed thought push to escape; then cease its struggle.

They were the Black Boots, they were number one, they were the best. They couldn't be wiped out by one man.

Presently, he realized he was not reloading his gun. He looked down and found his sub machine gun on the ground, and his arms hanging at his side. A cold wind chilled a spot on his chest underneath his vest. "How can I feel the cold through my vest?" He tried to say. He bent forward to inspect the cold spot, but realized he wasn't bending forward, he was falling backwards. The world spun downward, and the tree he was under came into view. After he contemplated this occurrence, and considered previous data, he came to the conclusion he had been shot.

It was strange. He always thought he would go out in a cacophonous chorus of gunfire, bullets ripping through his body as he expended his final rounds and issued a war cry before rushing headlong at his attackers, knife in hand, defiant to the end. Instead he lay backwards on the cool grass among strangely aromatic flowers, his face warmed by the low sun. The world around him lazy. Frozen in serenity. It seemed odd that such violence could happen in such a beautiful place. He was lost in thought now. The rifle issued death with slow, dull thuds. As he listened, the bullet whiz and rifle crack seemed separated and disturbed the peace of the valley; but after a while, the sound seemed almost natural. Like it was the way things were supposed to be. As if it were as common a sound as the birds singing or the wolves howling.

Time lost meaning as he drifted in the sea of grass, pushed gently about by the wind. Then he heard the faintest footsteps approaching, and forced himself back to reality and his suffering to see the man who had taken his life.

The man was small, and looked younger than the 31 years his file indicated. Everything about him was plain except for his sharp eyes. The man was checking the bodies that were once familiar, but he seemed aware he was being watched. The rifle he cradled looked old, like out of a history book. A small scope was mounted awkwardly forward, and looked strange. Through the haze he thought, "We're so much bigger, and better equipped. How could we have been beaten by that gun?" He looked at the insulting rifle, and noticed an engraving on the stock. It was something he'd seen before. Something from the files he had reviewed. It was that flag with the snake that said, "Don't tread on me" under it. Everything seemed suddenly clear.

He fought for a wheezing breath, attracting the man's attention, and rasped, "I think --- I understand."

The man who killed him squinted at the wind as he scanned the horizon, then turned to his quarry.

"It's a bit late for that."