The Party: Lt Col Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 18: Lt Col Flynn

Tyler Flynn crouched behind a bush on a hillside overlooking a small town in West Virginia. In his earpiece, he heard a single click. Go time. He made a motion with his hand and watched as his troops moved down the hill. He was responsible for surrounding the southeast side of the town. Not too close, though. The plan was to bomb the place.

Two days ago he’d been in a staff meeting with Colonel Marcus and other company commanders. A map of the town, Collinwood, was projected at the front of the conference room. They’d already discussed their individual approaches. Three sides, in all. Now the rest of the plan was being detailed.

When Marcus said the town was going to be bombed, the room fell dead silent. “I know,” Marcus said. The man wasn’t stupid, Flynn thought. “A daylight raid, us surrounding the town, and a full-scale bombing. Yes. There will be elderly, women, and children in there. The order is to kill every person.” He looked around the room. “We’re sending a message, gentlemen. There will be cameras, in the air and with the surrounding men.” He took a deep breath. “This will be televised. Anyone escaping will be captured and eventually interrogated for information on the insurrection. Any questions?”

There weren’t. Later in the day, the men were briefed. They didn’t like it, he could see that clearly on their faces. But like their officers, no one asked any questions. This was no longer an army where questions were welcomed.

So now it was beginning. A few cars had left town, but his team didn’t stop them. There were details further down the road to pick them up. In his earpiece, he heard Marcus’ voice. “Bombing run beginning. Hold your positions.”

Flynn keyed his mic. “Hold your positions. Bombing run initiating.”

From his position he could see his men taking cover. It didn’t take long. Drones came overhead and flew straight for the town. Bombs fell, silently, and Flynn felt as though he were watching a silent movie. The bombs fell, black silhouettes against the bright blue sky. They hit, first at the edges, then moving into the town center. Factories, churches, schools, stores. They all lit up in flame and then smoke. He could hear the screaming from his perch on the hill and his stomach rolled. Another flight of drones followed, hitting buildings untouched by the first pass. People were beginning to straggle out of the town.

“Pick them up,” he said into his mic. As he watched, his men stood and began to move forward. He watched as his men directed the people to the temporary confinement area. Trained since birth to trust their own soldiers, forgetting they didn’t live in that world any longer, and truth be told, more than likely confused from the bombing, the survivors did what they were told.

He knew there was first aid set up there, there hadn’t been any orders to be cruel. The people would be treated and moved into the fenced area. Flynn looked at the town, it was totally on fire. There didn’t seem to be a single building that wasn’t already a pile of ruble or on fire. Immaculata my ass, he thought. More like Satan’s spawn. He spat to the side to try and get the taste of treachery out of his mouth. It didn’t work. He moved down the hill. It was time to join his men.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 17 – Andy McGuire, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 17: Andy McGuire

Andy sat in the row along the wall behind his boss, Duncan Angelson. Andy had a lapful of files, all color tabbed and memorized. He’d read the entire pile, of course. He had no idea what his job, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of the Chief of Staff, was before the President for Life, but now, it seemed to him, to be nothing but a go-fer for Duncan.

He tried to focus on the current speaker, Joe Evans. Not that he was interested but because if Duncan raised his hand over the top of his leather high-topped chair, Andy had better have the file that pertained to whatever the current blow-hard speaker was talking about.

The meeting had begun half an hour ago and to Andy, it was overkill. Hadn’t The Party already contained any possible interference? Thousands had already been rounded up, killed, detained, children sent to camps. There he caught a breath. Camps. What had some of the World War Two Jewish survivors said about camps? They’d been stunned by the term. “Camps!” They’d said. “You think these were summer camps where we swam and hiked?” They were outraged.

Andy had to agree. He knew entirely too much about camps. This isn’t what his college classes had prepared him for. He managed to check into Joe Evans interminable speech. Nothing yet. The blow-hard was still pontificating on how he and his organization deserved credit for the current state of affairs. As though the Sons of America white supremacy organization was the be all and end all of political high-ground.

Andy wished he had the spine to record this crap. Someday, he thought. Then quashed the idea. No. Not the country he’d grown up with. Damn his father, shoving him into this hell hole. But that’s what it was now. Sons—shoved into opportune positions to further the family fortunes. He tried to clear his throat of the bile, but quietly. No need to draw attention to himself.

He envied his sister, kept at home, though he knew full well that she chafed under the confinement. Safer for her, he thought. At least she’s not in this mess. But he knew she’d disagree.

He focused. What had Evans said? Oh, yes. Duncan had his hand up. Andy pulled the file and passed it up. Numbers on Jews rounded up. Dim wit, Andy thought. Bankers, stockbrokers, docs, lawyers, judges, social workers, it was endless. The Jews were everywhere and were the glue holding the whole country together. What were Joe’s people thinking? It was obvious to him but the rest? Nope. Just shoving their heads in the sand.

It didn’t matter. The whole thing was water under the bridge. There were no more independent judges or lawyers, doctors or social workers. Everything was now about the Party. There would be no dissent. There would be no others. Andy sighed. The numbers were rolling in. Production was down. Mental health issues, as far as the Party tracked them, were up. There weren’t enough people to do the work in farms or factories or even in fast food places.

Joe Evans sat down. The next person, some professor of what and which that Andy didn’t catch, stood. He chanted on about the rebalancing of socio-economic status. As though no one recognized the euphemisms. Andy understood. They were going to start to transition the enslaved population into the subservient roles in society. Slave labor, though he already knew that was happening.

Then, Andy perked up. The sad-sack professor began talking about women. Not just baby-makers, he said. Servants. Nannies, housekeepers, more. Andy’s thoughts flashed to his sister. She’d stab someone’s eyes out with a pencil before she’d submit to this crap. He feared, for the first time in this whole nightmare. CarrieAnn would die before she’d put up with this crap. His hands began to sweat.

The Doctor sat down and Andy tried to breathe. Can’t happen, Andy thought. Cannot happen. Then the Director of Homeland Security stood up. “We’ve found a pocket of dissidents,” he told the room. Andy paid attention even though he didn’t have any files that pertained to that topic.

“It’s been a difficult road,” the Director said. “Here’s the near end. After much surveillance, we’ve found what we think is the center of the resistance.” A map flashed up on the end wall behind the Director. “Look here.” He walked back to the projection and pointed at a map of West Virginia. “A small town, apparently a hot bed. We’ve been slowly extricating the loyalists from the town. We’re now ready to move.”

A new slide appeared on the wall. “We have three divisions of the Army surrounding the town and one company of the Immaculata at strategic points. We’re going to hit in twenty-four hours. The entire town will be obliterated. The resistance will be sorely injured.”

The room erupted in clapping. Andy’s stomach rolled. The town was his sister’s college town. She had friends were there—favorite teachers. Duncan turned and gave Andy a look. Andy’s half effort to rise failed. He sank the two inches back into his chair and Duncan turned back to the table. What would CarrieAnn think of him? He clasped the files to his chest and closed his eyes in an effort not to see the glee on the faces of the people supposedly superior to him.

The meeting finally closed, and Andy followed Duncan from the room. They had to stop every few feet to shake a hand or trade a quip. Nothing to do with him, he thanked his lucky stars. He was in no shape to be social.

Duncan waited until they were back in his office. “What the hell, Andy!”

“Sorry, boss.”

“Don’t be sorry. I don’t want to bring your father into this.”

“No, Sir. Won’t be necessary.”

“Better not be. Get out of here.”

Andy scurried out. It took eighteen minutes in the bathroom to get his emotions under control.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 16 – Bill Brown, Friday Flash Fiction

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 16: Bill Brown #9645990

Bill, rose stiffly from bed at the chimes. It had been two weeks since he’d asked Officer Fernald about writing to his family. Before he knew what was happening, Fernald, someone Bill had thought was pretty nice, given the circumstances, was zapping him with the cattle prod. The officer, while Bill was still writhing on the hall floor, blew a whistle. Three other guards ran up and Fernald began beating him with the prod. The others joined in with their prods and with boots to the back, stomach, anywhere they could reach.

Bill had woken in the infirmary, hands and feet strapped to the bed. A tube was in his mouth, he couldn’t breathe through his nose, and an IV was hooked to his arm. A headache felt like the top of his head was going to blow off. A white-coated doctor came in.

He glanced at the monitor beside the bed, turned so Bill couldn’t see it. “Well, 9645990, you’re a lucky guy.”

Bill didn’t feel lucky. Every part of him hurt.

“I would suggest, in the future, you not ask for anything. You have four broken ribs, a broken arm, kidney damage, and your left femur has a fracture. Your nose is broken, that’s why you can’t breathe through it. I’ll get the nurse to unhook the ventilator. It looks like you’re breathing on your own now.”

Bill grunted. It was all he could do with the ventilator in his mouth.

“I’ll see you get some water. Your mouth is probably very dry.”

Bill managed a small nod.

“Headache?”

Bill nodded again, though the movement made his eyes water.

“We’ll get you something for the pain.” He looked at the monitor again. “Trust me on this. The next time you’ll be headed to the morgue.” With that he turned and was gone.

After the nurse came in and unhooked the ventilator, given him some water and took a few minutes to wipe his face. Bill felt somewhat better. The male nurse had been gentle, but all of the activity had ramped up the pain levels. He was happy when the nurse came back and shot something into his IV bag.

“Pain meds. Doc says you can have them for the next twenty-four hours. After that, you’ll have to suck it up.” With that the guy was gone.

A day later, despite the kidney pain, and casts on arm and leg, he was sent, with a crutch, back to his dorm. No one spoke to him.

It was two days before one of his dorm mates told him, they’d all been hit with the cattle prods for his indiscretion. The whole thing was a huge lesson for him. And, he realized, for everyone. They really were nothing but farm animals. Slaves, he finally recognized. And anything any one of them did was going to result in punishment for the whole group. Bill went into a slump, emotionally. It was too much to take in.

After a week, the other men began to talk to him again. George, from his work room, walked with him a moment on the track. “You okay?”

Bill shrugged. “Yeah. I can hobble along, after a fashion. Try and get my strength back.” The crutch hurt him under his arm. Especially since he couldn’t change sides with it. But he’d learned his lesson. He didn’t ask the guards for anything.

“Happens to at least one person in every group. They make an example. Sorry it had to be you.”

“Me too.” Bill nodded to George, then George moved off before one of the guards blew his whistle.

Bill hobbled on. It took him the whole thirty minutes to get around the track once. He was breathless and light-headed as they went back into work. He’d learned his lesson. Now, he watched everything around him. What he’d thought was kindness on the part of any of the guards was simply a strict adherence to their rules. Mostly it was that they weren’t sadistic assholes. And some of the guards were sadistic. They’d cattle prod a man for no reason, then snigger when the man fell to the floor, flopping like a fish out of water.

He noticed they didn’t laugh, though. They eyed the cameras; then would kick the guy they’d just zapped to stand up with a slur matched to the man. Nigger, Spic, Kike—Bill thought those names had been long forgotten, but apparently not. He also realized the guards were under as much scrutiny as the workers were. Perhaps just not punished as much. Though after a month and a half, he recognized that guards were replaced. Especially the sadistic ones. Just one day, someone else would be in the old guard’s place. That was something, he thought to himself. But it didn’t make it much better. He was still a slave. And that stuck in his craw.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 15 – Lt Col Flynn, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 15: Lt Col Flynn

Lt. Col. Tyler Flynn stopped in the hallway at work as someone tapped him on the arm. He turned quickly, startled.

“Uh. Sorry sir. You must not have heard me calling you.”

Flynn felt a little ashamed. He still wasn’t used to people calling him Colonel. “Sorry, Captain Woden.” Flynn just now remembered that Woden had been a lieutenant just a couple of weeks ago. He’d been promoted in the catch up the same as he had. “I guess I’m still not used to my new rank yet. What is it?”

“Yes, sir. I agree. Everybody has a new rank and it’s a bit confusing for sure.” He took a breath. “I just wanted to let you know you’ve been relieved of the Interview room duties. Beneath your pay grade, so to speak.”

Flynn took the paper Captain Woden handed him and skimmed through it. Yes, orders relieving him of that task. “It doesn’t issue any new order.”

Woden shrugged. “Probably something coming through the pipeline, Sir. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, Lee. Appreciate it.” Flynn tucked the order into the covered notebook he carried.

“No problem, Colonel. Hope the next assignment is better.” He stepped back, came to attention and saluted.

Flynn saluted back and went on his way as Woden turned to go back the way he’d come. New assignment, he thought as he walked on. He was glad to drop the interviews. He left that room every day drained, with his soul sucked dry.

A couple of hours later, his electronic pad dinged. A new message had arrived. Flynn opened it up. Here was the new assignment. He was to report to Colonel Marcus, a special operations department, he saw. Marcus reported to a General Billings. Mad Dog Bill, he’d heard the man called. That meant he no longer reported to Colonel Green. Not that it mattered about Green. He didn’t know the Colonel all that well though they’d gotten along well enough. He noted that there was an appointment scheduled for three this afternoon. A meet and greet, Flynn figured. Just an introductory thing. It was for the Officer’s Club. So probably multiple new officers. That was fine with him. He shut the email. Special Ops, he thought to himself. Wonder what kind of Special Ops. Something more in line with why he joined the Army, he hoped.

At the Officer’s Club, Flynn checked his hat at the front lobby and went into the bar. Sure enough, several officers were already there, standing in small groups, drinks in hand. The colonel wasn’t there yet. He got a beer from the bar and joined a group with an acquaintance of his, Major Peter Farland. “Pete. Good to see ya.”

“Good to see you, too, buddy. Long time!” Pete clapped him on the arm. “This is Roger Luton, best comm officer you’ve ever seen.”

Flynn shook Captain Luton’s hand. “Nice to meet you.” He thought Pete’s accolade a little over the top. His wife, now out of the Army, was one of the best in his estimation but that didn’t count any longer, did it.”

Pete went on. “Tyler here is the best behind the lines guy you ever want to work with. He can find his way through the dark, blindfolded and still get the mission done.”

Roger grinned. “Good to know.”

Introductions were cut short as the room was called to attention. A solid looking man, crewcut dark hair and dark blue eyes that looked like they didn’t miss a thing strode to the front of the room. He stood on the slightly raised fireplace edge. “At ease.”

The men relaxed, but not too much. Sloppy wouldn’t cut it. “Welcome. You’re all newly assigned to the 708th Special Operations Group. This afternoon is a chance for you all to meet each other. The rest of the group will be in at four-thirty. In the meantime, I’ll be moving around the room to meet each of you. Dinner will be at six. Make whatever phone calls you need to make, dinner is mandatory. As you were.”

With that, he stepped down and began to make his rounds. Flynn was impressed. Direct and too the point. He liked that.

“What a hard ass,” Luton said.

Pete agreed. “I heard he’s a hard-ass. That kind of proves it right there.”

Flynn checked his watch, Just fifteen oh three. “I’ve gotta make a call. Be right back.” He went out to the lobby where it was quieter, and on his cell called his wife. “Laura,” he said when she picked up. “News. I’ve been transferred to the 708th Special Ops Group. I’m meeting the commander, Colonel Bill Billings.”

“Is that good?” Her voice made it clear she was suspicious.

“Unclear. We’ve got a mandatory dinner at six, so I thought I’d let you know.”

“Not social, then.”

Smart woman, he thought. She’d been in long enough, even in this new Army, to read the signs. “Apparently not. Our old friend Pete Farland is here, too. Major now.”

There was a pause on the line. “Interesting.”

“Right.” She knew not to mention her thoughts on the phone. “So I’ll see you when we’re released.”

“Be careful,” was her response before she hung up.

He sighed. He could remember when she would have said, “have fun.” No longer. Now everything was a test of some sort. Thank god, he thought, he had a smart wife. He tucked the phone in his pocket and went back to the party. Water might be the drink of the evening, he thought. Better safe than sorry.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 14: Stacy Zimmer – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 14: Stacy Zimmer

“What’s your name?” Stacy decided to ask.

“Dressel. Daryl. You?”

She told him. “When’d ya get out?”

“Twenty oh seven.” He eyed her, waiting.

“Thirteen years. Long time. Been on the street the whole time?”

Dressel shook his head. “Nah. I had a family. But the PTSD was too much. I left.”

Stacy understood. The comment about doing something though. That was hanging like a ball of fire in the middle of the alley between them. “I got a place. Not much. If you want a hot an a cot.” She watched him think it over, his tongue running around the inside of his mouth, visible in his sunken cheeks.

“If it ain’t too much.”

“Nah. We can talk.”

He nodded and rose, gathering together the cardboard he’d been sitting on and bundling it into his backpack.

She could see his slow rise. Probably arthritis from living on the cold streets, she thought. She was kind of stiff herself as she stood. The thought crossed her mind that she could have been seriously hurt while she was out of it. That gave her a bit of comfort and security at her rash, impromptu invitation to dinner and a bed. No matter. She still had her knife on the bed stand, and a nine mill under her pillow. She could put a chair under the doorknob. It would be all right.

At her apartment she fixed a pound of spaghetti and threw a jar of sauce over top of it and put it on the table with the usual green can of cheese on the side. She poured some cheap red wine in water glasses. It was too sweet for spaghetti, really, but she didn’t have anything else. They ate in silence after he thanked her for the food and wine.

She didn’t mind the silence. Just having someone else at the kitchen table was enough. It kept the memories in check. After dinner she did the dishes while he used the shower. She was surprised to see him come out of the bathroom in different clothes.

“I have a washer,” she told him. He nodded. “I’d appreciate that.” So she showed him how to use it and he put everything cloth he had in there and did his laundry. She poured the last of the wine between them and sat in what passed for a living room. Stacy sat in her favorite chair. He sat on the loveseat.

“You made a suggestion, in the alley,” she said.

He nodded. “I know some people.”

While she rubbed her forehead, she thought this sounded just like back in the sandbox, talking to the natives. They always knew someone. Someone bad, or someone they could trust, or just someone with information. There were always some people. “You know they round up dissidents.” She said it as a statement, not a question. It was a fact, after all.

“Yeah. But when was the last time someone took a look at either of us? We’re invisible.”

Stacy drummed her fingers on the greasy arm of her chair. She’d gotten it at a thrift store for seven bucks. Good enough for her. A sip of wine allowed her to think a little longer. “So why aren’t you already involved?”

“Who said I’m not?” He sipped his wine and watching her, waited.

That’s how they’d worked in Afghanistan. A local did the recruiting. Always. Then if the local thought the recruit was trust-worthy, set up a meet. Stacy didn’t think much of being on this side of the equation. But, if she didn’t like the idea, she only had to say so. This guy, if Dressel really was his name, would just disappear and she’d never see him again. Even if she went to the authorities, and why the hell would she? She didn’t have a damn thing to give them that they didn’t already know.

She drank some more. The kitchen wall clock ticking could be heard, counting off the seconds as she pondered the suggestion. Did she miss the action? Is that why she was even considering this dumb ass idea? More like she missed the purpose, as her therapist kept telling her. Did she miss it enough to be executed by firing squad after a long painful session with interrogators if she was caught? Stacy could feel her heart rate pick up. That was excitement, she realized. Not fear. And weren’t the bastards taking her pay? That definitely deserved a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as far as she was concerned. “It’s a dumb idea.”

Dressel nodded. “Most likely.”

Stacy shook her head and closed her eyes. “I’m gonna regret this. Yes.”

He grinned and held out his glass in a toast. “More than likely. Hoo Ra!”

She saw his toast after she’d said yes and held up her glass. “Hoo Ra!” They drank what was left of the wine.

“Welcome to the revolution.”

“Fuck you.”

They both laughed.

The next morning, when she finally rolled out of bed, he was gone. There were forty dollars on the table and a short note.

            Someone will contact you. Code word, Sybil Ludington.

Response, Great ride.

That was the end of the note. She burned it in her stove’s gas flame after memorizing the code and response. While she made coffee, she considered her tipsy decision from the previous night. There was some regret, and to be honest, a little fear this morning. But also, she felt better than she’d felt for a long time. Purpose, she thought. Is that all it takes? She shrugged as she poured some dollar store knock-off off, too-sugary cereal into a bowl. Must be. As she ate, she considered how to prepare. Lists of supplies, weapons, and other details came flooding through her mind. She was grinning, she realized as she washed cup, bowl, and spoon. Oh yeah. This was going to be fun.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Mara kept her face neutral. Mr. Clarke had helped her set up four job interviews. All for menial positions, most of them pool secretaries. Men didn’t seem to want that kind of job, so they were still open to women. Her current prospective employer was the nicest of the lot. At least he wasn’t leering at her chest and drooling.

“Yes. I’m available immediately, Mr. Zeeman.”

He nodded. “I’ll have to admit, this job seems a little,” he paused, “beneath your talents.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He knew women were being kicked out of anything higher paying or with more responsibility. “Um.” She shrugged. “Circumstances have changed. I needed a break.”

Ron Zeeman pressed his lips together as he nodded. “Of course.” He looked over the folder he had open on his desk. “You seem personable and efficient. Can you start Monday?”

She smiled. “Yes.” What a relief. She hadn’t wanted the job search to drag on too long. “Eight in the morning at HR?”

“See!” He grinned back at her and stood up. “Very efficient.” He held out his hand.

Mara stood and shook the offered hand. “I hope so.”

After about an hour in the company’s HR, filling out forms and receiving the in-processing plan for Monday, Mara left the building. Getting the job was a huge relief. As she walked to her car, which she was able to save from being sold by selling most of her furniture, she thought about a tiny celebration. Lunch out, she decided. She’d been pinching pennies so hard they screamed, but with an income promised, a little splurge seemed appropriate.

She stopped at a mid-range nice restaurant she’d never been in before near her new job. Mara didn’t want to run into any old neighbors, ex-co-workers, or old friends. The mix of pity, disgust, and finger-pointing she’d received since being branded nigger-lover was more than she wanted to deal with. She just wanted to relax and have a nice meal. In the restaurant, soft music playing in the background, she ordered a salad, with salmon, as her splurge and a glass of Riesling as the celebration. When the waiter brought the wine and had left, she lifted her glass to herself. Well done, Mara, girl. Well done. A job. A place to live. Away from the old life and on to the new. She sipped and sighed as she set the glass down.

Her new life. She remembered weeping the first night in her new apartment. At about five hundred square feet, there was really no living room. Her single bed sat opposite the apartment door. The walls hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades and the curtains were so dirty and dusty she’d choked as she’d tried to pull them closed at dusk.

Now, she thought as she sipped more wine. Now with a steady income, she could get new curtains, paint the walls, and perhaps get some sort of bed that tucked away so the room could be used as an actual living room. Anything to keep it from shouting “Loser”, and “Despair”, at her every time she walked into it.

The waiter brought out two fresh, hot rolls and while she didn’t normally eat bread, she indulged. Mara had just torn one in half and was slathering butter on it when she happened to see her new boss standing at the entrance. He gave her a nod.

Her heart dropped. Oh no, she thought as she watched him talk to the hostess. He nodded in her direction. The wine in her stomach turned to acid. Oh no. He’s coming over here. She put the bread down. The hostess stopped at her table.

“Ms. Brown.” Zeeman nodded to her. “I’m surprised to see you.”

“Yes.” Mara swallowed and smiled. “A little celebration. For my new job.”

“Excellent. I find people don’t celebrate their victories as often as they should. Would you mind if I join you?”

She pasted on a happy face. “No. I wouldn’t mind at all.” She nodded to the hostess. “That will be fine.”

“I’ll send the waiter right over,” the hostess said.

“Thank you,” Zeeman smiled as he took a seat opposite Mara.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve already started.”

“No problem.” He looked at her bread plate. “I love the rolls here. Enjoy.”

Feeling more than awkward, Mara tore a tiny bit of bread from the roll and put it in her mouth. What seemed so delightful a minute ago now tasted like sawdust.

The waiter hustled up and Zeeman ordered a scotch on the rocks, and his meal, the same salad that Mara had ordered. When the waiter left, Ron Zeeman explained. “My doctor is after me about cholesterol. A salad is what my wife insists I eat for lunch.”

“It’s funny,” she said. “That’s the same salad I ordered.”

Zeeman laughed. “Perfect! We’re in sync.”

While he talked about the business, and what she could expect, Mara nibbled at the bread. Then, the dreaded questions.

“My son is graduating Harvard in the spring. My wife, Lois and I are so proud of him. Any children?”

A pain filled Mara’s upper chest and throat as she fought off bursting into tears. “Two,” she decided to tell him. “A boy and a girl.”

“Oh. Lovely. How old?”

“Eight and six.’

He looked up from his rolls, realizing she was in distress. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry.”

She sipped from her water glass. “That’s all right.” She took a deep breath and told him about her husband and children. “I’ll understand if you don’t want me to work for you.” Mara folded her hands in her lap and studied the crumbs that had fallen on the tablecloth.

“Nonsense. Don’t worry about a thing.”

She looked up—tears in her eyes. Mara found a sympathetic face gazing back at her.

“Nothing to worry about at all.”

The relief hit her like an avalanche, and she cried.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 11 – Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Chapter 11: Devon Brown, #9280970

Devon Brown, now number 9280970, stood in line in his cohort. That’s what he’d learned to call his group. It was physical education time. PE the instructors called it. There was weightlifting, calisthenics and running. All out in the hot sun. He’d overheard two instructors talking in the first week and so knew he was in the mountains of North Carolina. So that was something, anyway. Not much other information came through. Not that he had time for it.

Instructor Orville called out for jumping jacks. “Begin!” he shouted.

Devon began to jump. Perfectly in sync with the rest of the cohort. The boys in his cohort had all arrived the same day, twenty of them. They’d learned fast that stragglers were punished. If the stragglers proved unfit, the entire cohort would be punished. Devon had experienced his share. He eyed the slim rod at the instructor’s waist. A cattle prod. His first time had been the first day.

He’d fallen asleep at the desk, hands folded in front of him. Instructor George had zapped him as he sat at the desk, and he woke, thrashing on the floor, blood pouring from a cut on his forehead from hitting the desk leg beside him. After much shouting about falling asleep in class, Instructor George had jerked him up from the floor by the front of his shirt and slammed him back into the chair.

Devon remembered lifting his hand to feel the cut when the instructor slapped the cattle prod on the desk making him jump. “Did I tell you to move!” he’d yelled.

“No.”

“No, sir!”

“No, sir.” After that Devon let the blood run. When they were lined up to go to chow, Devon had been taken to a small clinic. A doctor had looked at the cut. Then cleaned and put a bandaid over it. No cleaning his face, no kind words. Just the basic medical care then sent back to his group, now eating dinner from trays in a cafeteria where there were a lot of other boys, not just his group.

No one looked around. He was seated at a table with his group. A tray of food already there.

“Eat,” Instructor George had told him.

Devon picked up a funny looking spoon with little points on the end and scooped up macaroni and cheese. It was cold and gross and he really wanted to spit it out. The boy across from him shook his head and scooped his food into his mouth, chewing then swallowing. Devon followed suit. He was very hungry. He’d not eaten since the picnic which already seemed years ago.

That was his introduction to what the boys were calling The Camp.

Instructor Orville shouted stop. And the boys came to attention. “Burpees!”

Devon hated burpees but he dutifully, and in sync, did them. He was going to be glad when the hour was over.

The day was filled. Up at six in the morning to an alarm bell. Rush to go to the bathroom, dress, make his bunk, and fall into formation in just fifteen minutes. March to breakfast, usually oatmeal and fruit but once in a while, eggs and toast, or once, pancakes with syrup and fruit. Then math, then English, then PE. Another class, Russian, then lunch. That was generally soup and sandwich and a piece of fruit. Apple, mostly, but there was a banana once and once a pear. Another class, science, then another PE session. After that was reading. Silently. The instructor assigned the book. A final class of the day, government. That was a strange one, as far as Devon was concerned. All about the glorious President for Life, and how the government was put together and worked. Then it was homework, still sitting in the classroom. That went on until they were marched to supper. This was the one meal with something different every night so far. Even with three meals a day, he was usually hungry. No seconds were ever offered.

Then they went back to the classroom and finished their homework. If they finished before the others, they could continue reading their book. At seven at night they were marched back to their dorms where they could shower, dress in their sleepwear, and take care of their shoes or other gear. Talking was permitted but quietly. No loud talking, laughing, and certainly no shouting or horseplay.

Bedtime was eight-thirty, sounded by the same alarm that woke them in the morning. Devon was ready for bed by then. The stress of the day, doing everything perfectly so that he wasn’t zapped, took a lot of energy. He didn’t have much time to think about her during the day but just before falling asleep, he thought about his sister, Caitlin. He hoped she was doing okay, that she wasn’t being punished too much. With the lights off, as long as he was quiet, tears could flow. He worried about his little sister. Was she doing the same thing he was? And what about his father? Where was he? And he missed his mother. What happened to her after they’d all been taken away? Did she know where he was? Would she try and call him? He didn’t know. None of the boys in his cohort had received any word from their families.

He sniffed and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Devon fell asleep but generally woke several times a night from nightmares. Monsters, chasing him through the dark with electric claws.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 10: Duncan Angelson: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 10: Duncan Angelson

“What’s the President doing?” Duncan Angelson shuffled reports as he asked.

“In his room, in front of the screen bank. Same old, same old.” Andy McGuire at in the chair in front of the Chief’s desk and waited for the Chief of Staff to continue.

“How’s that new manager working out for the Twitter operators?”

“Good. She knows the President’s history, his usual hot button topics, and has today’s list of propaganda. No problems since we fired the last manager. It was a good idea, setting up that office. The President’s tweets go to them, they clean them up and then post them. Have you seen some of his raw tweets? They make no sense at all.”

Duncan nodded. “Yeah, they had to be monitored. It was getting out of hand.” He paused, the asked, “Any problem from the old manager?”

“No, sir. He’s sticking to the agreement.”

That drew a snort from Duncan. “Ought to. He’s being paid off enough.” He drew a deep breath. “Here’s what I need. The Party has agreed that select people we’ve picked up can be released.” He tapped his pad. “I’ve sent you the criteria for the releases. Associated family, if any, will also be released.”

Andy’s pad dinged and he opened the document. He scanned it quickly. “What about these people’s homes, jobs, whatever we took?”

Duncan shook his head. “Reparations will not be offered. They’re lucky they will be released.”

Andy thought that was unfair but he kept his mouth shut. “Very well. I’ll set up a committee to look at the internees and start the process. First ones out should be in about three weeks.” He rubbed an eye. “What are we doing about Popov?”

Duncan rubbed the back of his neck. “The guy is insatiable. Wants everything for Mother Russia.” He leaned back in his chair, resting his head back and staring at the ceiling. “He’s trying to take our nukes. We told him we want ours back. He pretends they’ve been lost.”

“Lost!” Andy blurt out. “Are they really?”

“No.” Duncan sat back up. “He’s stalling. Probably has his engineers in a lab, disassembling one or more to find out our guidance systems or something. The Director of National Intelligence is having a stroke, wants those nukes back ASAP.”

“I can hardly blame him,” Andy was shaking his head. “What’s the next step?”

“Sanctions, not that they bother Popov, but we’ll freeze his and his oligarchs’ bank accounts. That will get their attention.”

Andy took a note on his pad. “I’ll get the sanctions process moving.” He looked up. “What about the dissidents? They’re not on the release program, are they?”

“No. They’re in a whole other category.” Duncan leafed through his reports then put them back down. “I am concerned about the creation of dissidents, though.” He drummed his fingers on his desk. “There seem to be more than ever now. We clean up one cell and three more pop up.”

“How does that happen?” Andy looked puzzled. “We don’t televise them or allow demonstrations. So how are the cells being formed?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Do some research, will you? On the fine art of dissidents or whatever you have to do. Some egghead professor somewhere knows how these things happen. Or maybe even the FBI or CIA will know. They’re communicating somehow. Let’s try to nip this in the bud before it becomes a real problem.”

Andy nodded and made another note. “The doc wants to talk about the President.”

That brought another sigh from Duncan. “What about?”

“He said he’s not liking the President’s health. Wants to review options. Do we need the First Lady?”

Duncan shook his head. “No. She’d divorce him if she could. Make him an appointment to see me. Might as well get the news sooner rather than later.” He picked up his pen, then put it down again. “That brings up the replacement. If the President dies, we need to have someone lined up and ready to plug into place. Start a list of possible candidates. It will all have to be cleared through the party, of course, but we might as well get the ball rolling.”

Andy made another note. “Is that it?”

“Sure. Let me know if there are any hiccups with any of those items. Keep them all on the down low. Usual disclaimers and non-disclosures. You know the drill.”

Andy stood up. “Got it.” He tucked his pad into his suit coat pocket and started for the door. He paused, hand on the knob and turned back to the Chief of Staff. “Just off the top of my head, Chief. Those people we release, we’re not making reparations. Isn’t that going to make them dissidents? I mean, we’re turning them lose with nothing. Their lives were ruined.”

Duncan scratched an eyebrow. “No. They’ll be counselled before release concerning any errors in judgement. They won’t want to go back to the camps, especially not as dissidents.”

“Okay.” Andy nodded. “If you say so.”

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 9 – Stacy Zimmer – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 9: Stacy Zimmer

Stacy Zimmer opened the newspaper that had been left behind by someone as she sat in her local coffee shop. She’d chosen a table in the back. She couldn’t bring herself to sit anywhere else in the store. A view of the entire place was in front of her with no windows or doors behind. She felt better that way. Less chance for error. She hated errors. That’s what got people killed. She knew that from experience. Lots of experience. But that was past, she reminded herself. Past. It was over. She was home. No need to be defensive.

The barista called her name and she jumped. Stacy sucked in a breath. No problem, she told herself. No problem, just coffee. She quickly surveyed the shop, a couple of grandmas, a lone guy on his laptop, two twenty-something women, nothing a threat, she assessed as she slid easily from her chair to walk calmly to the pick-up counter. Nothing to see here. Nothing. Nothing but, she still eyeballed the guy. Suit, laptop and briefcase. Big enough to hold an IED. No, she told herself. This is the States. Nothing here. Nothing here.

Her hand shook the cup of mocha latte as she went back to her table. Nothing. Nothing. It wasn’t working. She felt trapped, here at the back of the store with no way out. She grabbed her backpack and her drink and headed out the door. She was three hundred feet from the shop before she could breathe. Moron, she thought. What the hell? It was just a coffee shop. But that’s not the newsreel that was rolling through her head. That was different. That was the sandbox. That was her and her crew, laughing, taking pics with the local boy selling tea. Tea for Christ’s sake. The boy had called them over. “Tea,” he said, smiling. They’d all laughed. He couldn’t have been more than ten. “Tea, Tea.”

Tears ran down her face unnoticed. God damned tea. She’d never drank it again even though that was her favorite. Her morning ritual. Now it was coffee. She stopped in the park, sat on a bench. Her breathing came back to normal as she popped the sipping port on the coffee. She drank and stretched her back taking a deep breath. It was okay. Not a problem. Just a little scare. Nothing to be worried about.

In the open she felt better, more secure. Daylight, clear lines of sight. Not boxed in. Much better. She took a deep breath. Better. Better. She took a sip of the drink and set it on the bench beside her then took the day’s paper out of her pack. It was good. Read the paper. Drink the coffee. The birds sang in the trees nearby and moms were starting to arrive in the park, their little darlings let out of their carriages and set free to toddle in the grass. Yes. This was fine.

Then Stacy read the third page. The government was taking veteran’s retirement and disability funds to create a wall along every continental U.S. border. All about self-defense, she read. But vet’s payments would be cut by half to solve the discrepancy. Half? HALF? Stacy lept up. She couldn’t live on half. Half wouldn’t pay the rent. Half wouldn’t pay for groceries. Half wouldn’t cover her co-pays for her meds. Even in her mental state, she understood she needed her meds or she’d be worse off than she was now. No. NO!

A mother walked by, stroller in front of her, staring. Stacy realized she was hyperventilating, fists clenched, and teeth bared. She shook herself and tried to smile. The look on the woman’s face made it clear she wasn’t reassuring anyone. She grabbed her pack and stuffed the paper into it as she rushed off.

How can this be, she raged as she raced away from the park? I did my time. I was promised. How can they? How can they?

It was late afternoon when through sheer exhaustion she finally came to herself. She had no idea where she was but realized she was hunkered down behind a building, back of a big trash receptacle. A man sat cross-legged a few feet away.

“Hey.” He gave her a nod from behind another of the big trash bins.

She nodded. “Hey.”

“You okay?”

Stacy drew in a deep breath. Despite having missed her meds schedule, she did feel almost normal. “Yeah. Think so.”

“Afghanistan?”

She nodded.

“Get that myself from time to time.”

She took another deep breath. A fellow soldier. “Yeah.”

“Flashback?”

She looked him over. Old field jacket, unit patch still on the arm. Greasy jeans, tattered sneakers about to fall apart. “Kind of.”

He shrugged. There’s a shelter, if you need it. Not too far from here.

She thought it over. It was almost promising. “You stay there?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no. They’ll slit your throat for your shoes in there.”

She smiled. “Thanks then. I think I’ll pass.”

He nodded. “What set you off, if I may ask?”

“G’ment. Assholes. Taking our pay, our meds.” She still shook. This was too much.

He spit off to the side she wasn’t on. “Assholes.”

She nodded. “They promised.”

“Yeah. They always promise.”

She looked closer. He was grizzled, wrinkled. He was a lot older. “The same?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Same old, same old.” He sighed. “What’cha gonna do about it?”

Stacy blinked. “Do?”

“Yeah. Do. Don’t cha think they’ve about worn out their welcome?”

She ran her fingers through her short brown hair. “Like what?”

“You been readin’ the news the last three years? You think it’s a quirk that it’s just us white soldiers left? Just takin’ our pay? Just throwin’ us away? You’re young. You can do something.”

Stacy stared at him. Do something? Fight back? She didn’t think she had anything left.

He looked at her. “You’ve got the skills.”

She stared back. “So do you.”

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 8: Captain Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 8: Capt Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn’s notebook chimed with an incoming message. It was from Commander Green. Flynn sighed. Report to the Colonel immediately. That was never good he thought as he rose from his desk and headed for the door.

At the Colonel’s office, the secretary, a Sergeant, sent him right in. Tyler missed the Colonel’s old secretary, Arlene. She’d been the Commander’s secretary for at least ten commanders and knew everything there was to know about the base and how to get things done but since the female purge two weeks ago, of course, a male had to be put in her place. Sergeant Boyle was good, but he had to look up everything and just wasn’t as efficient.

Flynn stopped in front of the Commander’s desk and saluted. “Captain Flynn reporting as ordered, Sir.”

The Commander looked up from his pad and returned the salute. “Good, Flynn. Have a seat.”

The Captain sat in one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk.

The Colonel tapped his notebook as he began. “Flynn. I have some good news.”

Flynn braced himself. In this political climate, he didn’t trust anyone to have good news.

“We’re restarting the promotion system and you’ve been selected to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”

Tyler thought for a minute his heart stopped. He consciously took a breath. “Thank you, Sir. I’m surprised.” He reached across the desk to shake the Commander’s hand.

“Glad to do it. With the promotion system down for so long, it made things like retention very difficult. If it had gone traditionally, you’d be an LC already, so Personnel just caught you up.” Congratulations, Captain.”

Tyler stood and saluted. “Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate this.”

The commander stood and returned the salute. “It’s effective the first of next month so you have time to update your uniforms.”

“This is great news, Colonel Green. My wife is going to be thrilled.”

“Good.” He sat back down. “That’s all, Captain.”

Flynn pivoted smartly and strode out the door, his mind bouncing from one thought to the next as we walked back to his office. Once there, he called his wife, Laura. She suggested they celebrate by going out to dinner and he agreed.

Word spread as the Colonel brought one officer in after another to tell them about their promotions. Not a lot of work was getting done as men traveled from one office to another to congratulate the promotees.

Outside at quitting time, Captain Dean Joyce met Flynn in the parking lot. “I hear congratulations are in order for you,” he said as he held out his hand.

Flynn shook it. “You too. Major, right?”

“Yeah. And you went straight to LC. That’s great. You must have passed the loyalty test.”

“Loyalty test?” Flynn felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach. “I didn’t take any test.”

“Remember your sister-in-law? That was the test. You handled her like any other undesirable. Even with her sobbing and begging, you kept your cool. The higher ups liked that.”

“Oh. Just being professional.”

Joyce clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Flynn. You’re going to be going places now.” He moved on to his car.

Flynn walked slowly to his car, watching Joyce get in and drive off. A loyalty test, that was what was going on? Zuri’s time in front of him was excruciating. He couldn’t sleep that night or for several nights he was so upset about having to pass his own brother’s wife into the system. He’d argued with his own wife, Laura, about it in strained whispers, because they both were sure their house was bugged.

He reached his car and got in, but just sat there, not even rolling down the windows to let the sun baked heat out. How many other things had he done that were loyalty tests? Tyler tried to think back but nothing in particular sprang to mind. Wait, he thought, right after the President announced he was President for Life, a lot of soldiers disappeared. Had the brass already begun purging the ranks even then? Other things sprang to mind. Orders tasking him to do crappy missions rounding up undesireables, coloreds, Jews, and activists. He nodded to himself. All of those were tests to see if he’d kick up a fuss.

Sweat began to trickle from his armpits. He turned the car key and rolled down the windows. The fresh air felt good. Tyler pulled on his seatbelt and put the car in drive then pulled out of his parking spot. And now, a promotion. Was the testing done? Was he deemed loyal? He’d have to talk to Laura about this. Let her know. She could be set up for tests, now that she was a housewife. Who knew which woman was working undercover, looking for malcontents? She’d have to be careful who she talked to.

He drove home carefully. Traffic violations were now severely punished. He wondered for a moment about Captain Joyce. How did he know about the loyalty testing? He worked in Supply. Maybe Joyce was undercover. Tyler shrugged to himself. Maybe not. With things the way they were now, anyone could turn in anyone else for suspicious behavior or comments. He’d have to be careful too. Watch what he said and to whom. He sighed. He missed the old days. How did they get to this point? It didn’t matter, he thought. We’re here now and we just have to survive it.

Thank you for reading.