tagSci-Fi & FantasyDan and the Bottle Ch. 21

Dan and the Bottle Ch. 21


Ed Mason sat back in Murphy's bar, going over what he knew of this new 'militia' movement. He knew, first off, that they were fighting the Cubans here in Texas, which was bad for business. He ran guns for a few Cuban supply sergaents, men who were just as corrupt as he himself was.

He knew that they were most likely cattle ranchers, since the supply of beef was down significantly. The rest were likely farmers and hired hands.... something he'd briefly tried his hand at before figuring out that it was too much like actual work.

He'd made his living by sucking up to a few of the Cuban military troops, supplying them with stolen stockpiles of whiskey and ripping off a few of the hippie farmers in the area, waiting until their crops of pot plants were close to complete maturity, then moving in with a few friends and uprooting entire gardens and drying them in hidden drying sheds, trading the ill-gotten goods for a few rifles and ammunition, trading those to gangs of punks who specialized in home invasions and stealing some of the few old cars and trucks that were still kept roadworthy.

After all, where you couldn't trade, you could raid.

He'd expanded his operations over the years, adding several moonshine stills and whorehouses to his little empire. The women came from all over the territory, mostly captured by the raiders he supplied with ammunition and other goods.

The raiders, in turn, kept him supplied with all manner of goods, among them cattle and other livestock rustled from ranchers to the north of his main holdings in the ruins of Dallas and Ft. Worth.

Now, though, it looked like he'd have to get actively involved; or, at least, get some men in place. He needed some boys who had a minimum of tattoos, who could clean up well, put on some shitkicker boots, plaid shirts and blue jeans, and blend in with the other men looking for work at the ranches to the north.

Mark Powell wasn't a rancher, a farmer, or a fighter; he was a prospector, of sorts. He didn't look for silver or gold, though he found a fair bit of that, and he didn't use a metal detector or a shovel. The main tools of his trade were a pair of boltcutters, heavy work gloves, and an aging panel truck.

Mark made his living by going into abandoned towns, generally bypassing the already-looted stores and houses, and looking for old storage facilities. People put the strangest things away in them.

Kitchen utensils? He found 'em by the ton. Appliances? He'd quit taking those, over a year ago.... he still had a warehouse full, at his main base near the ruins of Atlanta. Guns and ammo were particularly prized, as were anything he found that was related to camping, hunting, fishing, and primitive living. He'd long since lost count of how many lockers full of tools he'd found, and not too long ago he'd cracked the door on a locker containing five big barrels of motor oil., still sealed and completely usable. Those he kept for his own use, and some of the wandering traders he dealt with.

Today he was in South Carolina, going through a series of lockers at a place called 'U-Stor-it'.

Cutting the lock on his sixth locker of the day, he groaned.... another dirty mattress, in front of a bunch of clothes. He was about to turn away when something caught his eye.

The clothing was packed in an orderly fashion, which was a sign all by itself; most of the time it was in garbage bags and old cardboard boxes, usually half rotted.... this stuff, though, was hanging from coathangers on makeshift racks, and much of it appeared to be new... what's more, there was a fair bit of what appeared to be military surplus camo uniforms. Those he knew he could trade for food, fuel, and other things he needed. Many of his customers were hunters, after all.

Digging further in, he found tents, several sleeping bags, and a number of other camping supplies. Those would come in handy, even if he couldn't trade them off. These went straight onto the truck.

Behind all of this he found several big storage tubs and two military footlockers, all of them taped shut at the seams with duct tape. These he dragged out into the fading sunlight.

The storage tubs, he soon found, were full of foil packages of dehydrated foodstuffs, of the sort used by hikers and campers back before the war. There was a good chance that most of that would still be edible. He quickly loaded all eight of these in to the truck as well.

One of these caught his attention.... it was significantly heavier than the rest. Cracking it open, he found reloading die sets and bullet molds in a dozen different calibers.... including .454 Cassull, .50 caliber Desert Eagle, and .650 nitro. That was for an elephant gun.... something he'd never seen before.

Finally, he came to the two footlockers... and they proved to be a treasure trove.

The first was packed with ammunition-hundreds of small boxes of it. Everything from .22 LR to .308 and .30-06 to dozens of boxes of 12 gage shotgun shells.

The second was even better. Who ever had packed it must have been a collector, or an old gun show dealer, because underneath a layer of assorted pistol ammunition were several pistol cases. Aside from four Berretta M-9s, there were half a dozen genuine Colt .45 automatics, a pair of Smith and Wesson .44 magnums, and three Desert Eagle .50 caliber revolvers. At the very bottom he found two double barreled shotguns, cut down to the length of large pistols, and something he considered the Holy Grail.... another revolver, this one chambered for the .454 Cassul cartridge.

He quickly went back through the ammunition he'd stacked to one side; sure enough, there were five boxes of cartridges for it. This one he loaded and stuck in his belt.

Once everything was loaded into the old panel van, he found that there were two long cases in the very back, that he'd almost missed. Long cases brought two possibilities to mind.... and he was willing to bet these weren't guitars. The first held a pair of good, solid Browning Auto-5s, both chambered for 12 gauge, and the second held the most massive gun he'd ever seen. Closer inspection revealed it was a double rifle.... holy shit, he'd found a frickin' Elephant gun! It was chambered in .650 Nitro, and there was a long double row of shells for it, just below the rifle itself.

He took the extra time to load up both Desert Eagles, the sawed off shotguns, and four of the Colts, arranging them in the console of his truck before heading out... a reasonable precaution considering how unsafe the roads were these days. If he pushed it, he could be back at his warehouse in seven or eight hours.

The ride back, though, was uneventful, for a change. He radioed ahead while he was still ten miles out, letting his employee, Paul Hemmings, know that he'd be pulling in in about ten minutes, and to have the main garage doors open for him.

"How'd it go, boss? Anything good this time?"

" Oh, a little bit, yeah.... "

Paul knew That tone... considering he was back three days earlier than planned, he must have hit on some good rooms early in the trip.

Mark pulled the truck inside, closing the heavy double doors behind him, and then turning around, backing up to the sorting tables. They had a routine; nothing got opened up until the entire truck was unloaded.

Paul raised an eyebrow at the long gun cases, but held his peace for the moment, helping Mark with the foot lockers, then grabbing the storage tubs, the racks of camoflage, six big tool boxes, half a dozen old milk crates full of car and motorcycle parts, and finally, up against the seats of the truck, two complete Harley-Davidson engines... a Sportster and an older Shovelhead.

"Damn, Boss! Are these for real?"

"You betcha! Found 'em in the third locker I opened.... wish I'd found some frames to go with 'em, though. Hey.... don't we have a few old bike frames here somewhere?"

"Those are Hondas and one Kawasaki.... that's blasphemy."

"Hey, we make do with what we've got. All of those toolboxes are full. We want to get at least ten gallons of fuel for 'em, each one, gas or 'shine, I don't care which. Anything good going on here?"

"Depends on what you call 'good'. Ol' man Jensen brought in a bunch of butter, milk, and about five dozen eggs.... plus a quarter of beef. I swapped him that old .308 rifle and two hundred rounds for it. Most of it is still in the refrigerators. Been selling it off a few steaks at a time. Widow Henderson brought in a pretty nice Beaverskin jacket, wanted a few boxes of assorted groceries, I took pity on her, set her up with a couple of week's worth and two big beef roasts. Should be enough to see her through till her crops come in. Mike Clark brought by sixty gallons of 'shine, just in time... we needed fuel for the generators. I traded him three hundred rounds of 12 gauge double-aught buck and a few thousand of those .22s you found last month. Jimmy dropped by, he ran across an old grocery store that still had some odd stuff. Brought in a couple of cases of coffee and two more, of peanut butter. It's an off brand, but he opened one jar right here, so we could try it. Still good, so I took the rest off him for ten boxes of 9mm and a couple of army camo uniforms. Oh, and Lou Carmichael stopped by this morning.... that new shelving unit will be ready tomorrow afternoon."

"Good.... we need more shelf space. How much room have we got in the gun cabinets right now?"

"Plenty.... I was hopin' you'd find something to fill 'em back up, in fact."

Mark grinned and flipped open the first of the long cases, revealing the old double rifle. "Ask and ye shall receive."

"What the fuck is that?"

"Double rifle.... if I'm right, I think this is English, a dangerous game rifle.... they used these for things like water buffalo an' elephants and so forth, about a couple hundred years ago, on hunting expeditions to places like Africa. I've read about them, but this is the first time I've seen one. It'll stop a charging bull moose in his tracks and drop a full grown bear in one shot. Found these too...." he said, opening the other case to reveal the pair of Brownings.

"Cool.... 12 guages?"

"Yup.... Browning Auto-5s.... five round capacity, great for ducks or deer. Lock 'em up, I'll be back in a minute."

Heading back to the driver's seat, he took along a small box, filling it with the pistols and shotguns he'd left in the console.

Paul took one look and whistled, long and low. "Not taking any chances, huh?"

Mark shook his head... "All of these came out of one unit up there. The place is a fuckin' treasure chest. There's more in the footlockers, and a shitload of ammo, too.... and there's at least another ninety units up there to check out yet. I want to wait until some of the teams come in, take about four or five trucks up there."

"I can see why... if you could hit just one or two more like this...."

"We'll be fully stocked for a month, yeah. Anyone buying furniture?"

"Not to speak of, no. Missus Harrison bought them two end tables, traded a sheep for 'em, but other than that, we're just sittin' on it. There just isn't anyone moving in to this area to buy it."

He scratched his chin in thought for a moment and continued. "I called out to the farm, had 'em take the sheep out there. It's breeding age, so I figured you'd want to get a few lambs out of it before turning it into mutton."

"Oh, and Mike Henshaw dropped by.... traded that whole stack of DVDs in, the ones he bought last week... swapped 'em for another bunch. He said he was looking to upgrade that crazy home theater system he's been building, so if you run across anything of that sort, he'd be interested. He's got fifty acres of corn, another hundred of wheat thats close to harvest, and he said he's already harvesting peaches and apples, so he'll have plenty to trade."

"Ok, well... do me a favor. I'm going to lay down for a bit, get a little rest. Get the truck refueled, check the fluids, and keep it down to a dull roar for a few hours, huh?"

"Okay.... when you wake up, I'll have some steaks cookin' on the grill. Baked beans and mashed potatoes?"

"Sounds like a plan.... but give me at least six hours.. Thanks, Paul."

He went back to, and through, his office, to the small apartment behind, jumped through the shower, then stretched out to sleep for a few hours.

Frank Bergen was at the Klamath base, overseeing the emplacement of more defensive armaments when the air raid sirens started going off. A calm voice came through the loudspeakers spaced around the base.

"Enemy aircraft headed this way, two hundred miles out. ETA 30 minutes. Gun and missile crews to station. Pilots, man your planes. Snipers to your posts. This is not a drill. Repeat: this is not a drill. Quick but efficient, people. Be safe. That is all."

"Well, I wanted to see these boys in action... " Frank mused as he watched.

The new base sprang to life as the crews of the radar-sighted guns got to their stations, loading the first rounds of the airburst Flak shells into chambers, belts were loaded into the .50 calibers and the miniguns, and missile batteries were brought online, the smaller, more localized radar units firing up in rapid succession.

He walked over to the outside operator of the long-range radar.


"Sir! Radar shows a pretty substantial group headed this way... at least forty planes, plus what appear to be ground troops, with armor. "

Bergen nodded. "Time to earn your pay, then, Lads. Get the garage on the horn, get the Abrams crews alerted and warm up the engines. Bradley and mobile AA crews to stations, just like we taught you, Jimmy... calm and steady, guy. Calm and steady. Everything is moving along nicely so far. Remind our aircrews to turn on their IFF transponders... we don't want any friendly fire accidents."

He watched as Blackhawk, Apache, and Cobra gunships spooled up, taking to the air quickly, and 'Identify Friend/Foe' transponder links popped up on the radar screens, ensuring that the computer guided missiles and guns wouldn't target them. Harrier ground crews ran off the runways, getting out of the way as the big jets literally jumped straight up in the air, and one by one, a flight of ten of the F117 Stealth fighters joined them in the air. These were followed by ten of the A-10 Warthogs and a dozen F-16s, while a secondary squadron of F-18 pilots went to a standby-alert status, some of the pilots hoping they wouldn't be needed while others hoped there would be a chance they'd get in on the action.

On the shooting platforms built onto the walls, snipers brought out their favorite rifles and laid out spare magazines, rocket launcher crews laid out dozens of LAW rockets, others laid out dozens of grenades for their launchers, and the men and women of Klamath base prepared to defend their new home.

The Stealths got the first shots off, choosing targets and firing off sidewinders as quickly as they could shift between targets. Dozens of missiles left the formation at once, finding targets all down the line of Chinese fighter jets and helicopters. Harriers flew well above the lines, attacking from above, adding their volume of firepower to the mix, confusing the Chinese even further as they flew out of the sun.

One of the A-10 Warthogs got too far ahead of his fellows; he managed to drop his load of cluster bombs, and fired off two Mavericks at an enemy tank, but was targeted by three of the enemy helicopters. His ejection system failed, and the pilot went down with his plane, the big ground support craft turning into a fireball as the five seperate missiles all caught up to him at once.

The aircraft took it's own vengeance; the wreckage slamming, headlong, into a deuce and a half full of enemy troops.

His cluster bombs did their job, tearing holes in the roughly paved road and tearing into Humvees and foot troops alike, leaving disabled vehicles and screaming wounded in their wake.

The tank that he'd targeted, known to the Chinese as a type 4/mark IV, exploded in a massive fireball, the turret flying thirty feet before landing upside down alongside of a bend in the road.

Minutes later, the foot troops caught up, coming around the bend in the road, only to come under fire from the rifles of snipers, some of which were firing the .50BMG based Barret A8. The big rounds could, and did, in some cases, rip their way through up to three men.... and kept going for half a mile or more.

The Chinese, hearing a mere handful of the big rifles, thought that that was all they were facing, and attempted a wave attack, thinking that some of their number could get through.

Those of the defenders who were holding .308 and .30-06 rifles let them come closer.... and opened fire when the enemy was within three hundred yards. The effect was devastating. Bergen watched as men loaded up their grenade launchers with high explosive rounds and let fly, adding to the chaos.

Bob Sharpe brought the F-16 around in a tight turn, to see that the Hind he'd targeted was headed earthward in a plume of black smoke, He calmly looked around for another target, of which there were many. Then he saw them.... three of the Chinese copies of the Mig-25s were attempting to chase down a solitary F-16.

Jenny was in one of the F-16s.

"Oh, HELL, NO!" He shouted as he kicked in the afterburners, targeting the lead Mig with two sidewinders.

An F-18 joined the fray, targeting the other Migs, even as a Hind chopper flew towards them, two Apache's in hot pursuit of the much larger helicopter.

Bob switched over to his main gun. His personal F-16 was the only one equipped with the inch and three-quarter 'machine cannon'. It didn't have a high rate of fire, and the rounds were so big, he could barely carry two hundred, but the explosive rounds, with a range of close to three quarters of a mile, packed a punch like no other weapon in their airborne arsenal.

And Bob was well within that range before he unleashed the deadly cannon.

Five rounds hit the first of the Chinese jets, causing it to literally disintergrate in mid air.

The F 18 pilot looked on in awe for an instant. "Holy shit! What the hell was that?!?"

Bob chose not to answer him just yet; not over the radio, at least, but turned his attention to the Chinese helicopter. The high explosive rounds hit the windshield squarely, causing it to explode into the cabin of the big chopper, which cost the Chinese pilot any semblance of control....

"Thanks, honey!" Came over his headset from the other F16, which was, indeed, being piloted by Jenny. She sent two sidewinders of her own at the distracted and disabled chopper, and it, too, exploded in mid-air.

One of the Migs managed to slip past, and unleashed a barrage of air-to-ground missiles against the snipers on the raised shooting platforms..... five men died instantly, while six more were crippled by shrapnel. Cries of 'Medic!' filled the air, and men and women wearing the red cross armbands were soon far busier than any of them ever wanted to be.

Three of the missile batteries and one of the computer aimed miniguns responded, targeting the enemy plane; it, too, was soon a ball of falling, flaming wreckage, falling from the sky in pieces. Some of those pieces rained down on the ancient American armor, bringing one of the Bradleys to a halt. It wasn't too badly damaged, and, in fact, would be back in service within a week; the Captain in command was merely curious as to what was hitting his APC, and the cameras built into the hull had been disabled by falling debris.

His curiosity nearly got him killed; some of the debris was still falling, and he barely got back inside before a largish chunk of the destroyed jet impacted the backside of the old APC.

Four of the big Abrams tanks lined up, running down the road and the shoulders side by side, the commanders in the turrets calmly calling out targets to the gunners inside. Sabot and heavy armor piercing rounds were soon raining down on the numerous old Chinese tanks; their armor, while thick, wasn't quite thick enough. The Abrams gunners had been taught to target the point where the turret joined the tank hull, or the track, and they were taking full advantage of this.

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