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Skinner's War

Skinner's War

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Skinner's War

Longueur:
434 pages
6 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 12, 2012
ISBN:
9781301415212
Format:
Livre

Description

Neal Davidson is a man in his late thirties who was forced out of the motorcycle business by federal regulations. Forced to work in a government meat processing plant skinning beef carcasses, he takes the nickname Skinner.

The year is 2010. The federal government has taken over most private enterprise, power companies, and all medical care. When the influx of paperwork from socialized medicine becomes over- whelming, all citizens are required to have a scanable microchip implanted in their arms to simplify the system.

The government has distribution centers where food, clothing, and other necessities are collected, processed, stored, and rationed out to the public.

When unjust laws and restrictions make his life unbearable, Skinner spends a year collecting the necessities to live in the now forbidden wilderness. After faking his own death, he escapes to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Living in an abandoned tungsten mine above the Wishon reservoir and power station, Skinner spends four years in isolation, living off the land, content with his freedom.

America's decline started after an upset victory by an obscure third party in the elections of 2004. Raphael Major, a well-meaning but naive president, was overwhelmed by the office he never expected to win. He became paranoid, fearing the American people, the military, and the stress of running the most powerful nation on earth.

Through deceit and collaboration, he turned America into a fascist dictatorship, amassing and holding an increasing amount of power over the lives of the citizens. His advisers are radical zealots who each have their own agenda, and who fight constantly among themselves, driving Major to the point of distraction.
Early in his administration, President Major finds that neither civilian law enforcement agencies, or the military, will kill American citizens to confiscate their firearms as per his orders, so he forms the National Police Force.
Run by a sadistic and murderous cocaine addict named Captain Bill Schlocker, the N.P.F. is the American equivalent of the Nazi SS. They rape, torture, and kill with impunity, while exercising total control over the people with an iron hand.

Their murderous and perverted activities are obvious to everyone but President Major and his gullible advisers.

Travel has been curtailed by strict fuel rationing, and travel papers are required to leave your home area.

All tobacco products have been outlawed because of health risks, and motorcycles because of their inherent danger.

To protect the wilderness, entry into most federal land and national parks is prohibited, with prison terms for unauthorized entry. Hunting and fishing are also illegal.

When the N.P.F. soldiers guarding the Wishon power station capture Donna Brown, a beautiful saboteur, Skinner rescues her. She introduces him to the "underground" where he soon becomes a leader, along with Black Eagle, a Native American chief.

Persecuted by the N.P.F. in Nazi fashion, the Indians have returned to "the old ways," and are in the midst of a guerrilla war. They are forced to seek refuge in the mountains after a decisive battle, and resettle in a secluded alpine meadow.
Riding two of the only operable Harley Davidsons left in America, Skinner and Donna lead the Black Rock Militia in daring raids against the N.P.F..

With covert aid from General Bryce McBride, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Skinner, Donna, and the militia wage an all-out guerrilla war to rid America of the hated N.P.F., and restore the Constitution, and America's freedom.

Skinner'S War is about freedom. How easy it is to usurp a little at a time, and how difficult it is to regain.

It champions love, courage, devotion, and patriotism, as the characters test their physical and emotional limits in a desperate struggle for justice and freedom.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Oct 12, 2012
ISBN:
9781301415212
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

I was born in Santa Rosa, California, in May of 1949, and one of my earliest memories is watching motorcycles roar down the Redwood Highway past our house. My father rode Harleys and Indians, as did my grandparents and uncles. I got my first motorcycle in 1962, and haven’t been without one for long since then. My wife, Reggie, tolerates my love of open roads and throbbing V-Twin engines with patience born of long association with a modern day saddle bum. When I pack my gear on the bike and head out on a run, or to cover an event for Thunder Press, she either rides beside me on her custom trike, or just waves a cheery goodbye, then heads for the nearby Indian casino to donate to the one-armed bandits. One of these casinos was the inspiration for the scene of a major battle in Skinner’s War. I began Skinner’s War as a short story after the passage of California’s helmet law. Frustrated by constant intervention in my life and freedom by well-meaning bureaucrats, I started thinking about what our lives would be like if absolute power over the people was ever achieved, and the idea for a novel was born. In writing Skinner’s War, I situated much of the action in my “stomping grounds”; The Sierras, and the places described in the book actually exist, including the old mine that becomes Skinner’s home. I hope those of you who choose to read Skinner’s War enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve interspersed the battles with political satire, woods lore, sex, and even a bit of motorcycle maintenance. Pretty much all the good stuff! I think you’ll find it an exciting read, as well as a thought provoking look at what the future could hold in store

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Aperçu du livre

Skinner's War - C.L. Cake

Skinner's War

by

C.L. Cake

aka Buckshot

Smashwords Edition

* * * * *

Published by C.L. Cake at Smashwords

Skinner's War

Copyright 2000 by C.L. Cake

License This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person with whom you would like to share it. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should go to http://www.facebook.com/SkinnersWar and follow the links to purchase your own copy. This author is not a part of any publishing house or corporation, and is self publishing his work for your enjoyment. Thank you for respecting the author's hard work.

Also by C. L. Buckshot Cake:

Skinner's War (Print 2000 ePublication 2011)

Conquistador (Print 2001 ePublication July 2011)

Eagle Falling (ePublication July 2011) (Sequel to Skinner's War)

C.L. Buckshot Cake

Howdy! I'm C.L. Cake; Alias Buckshot and I'm just an old dog trying to tell some stories. I don't have some big publishing house advertising my book, it’s just word of mouth among the folks who’ve read it. If you enjoyed this book, you could do me a huge favor by visiting my website below, clicking on the Facebook page for my book, and clicking Like at the top of the page. It takes you just a moment, but it does a lot for me in spreading the word about my book.

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/CLCakeFiction

http://www.facebook.com/SkinnersWar

Chapter One

Blood ran off the edge of the stainless steel table. It splattered the tops of the man's boots, and pooled in large sticky puddles on the floor at his feet. He wielded the large knife with surgical precision, it's blade glistening with crimson as he went about his work.

His mind drifted as he sliced the tough hide from the flesh, finding solace in memories of better times. Sure, he had a job, such as it is, and a roof over his head, which was more than some could claim, but he was as far from content as a man could be.

His memory often slipped back a decade, returning him to the little shop where he turned boxes of rusty parts into fire-breathing steel steeds. To the shiny chrome, glistening paint, and supple leather that his hands assembled into an extension of his soul. To the wind blowing through his beard, and the long black hair that flowed from under the small helmet he wore as he cruised the back roads, his Avon tires caressing the curves.

Inadvertently, his right hand twisted the knife as his mind twisted the throttle, causing him to slice through the hide. The hole was small, but if the foreman caught it, they'd dock him the price of the hide for damn sure. Son of a bitch! he mumbled, In a bastard society like this, you can't get ahead no matter what you do!

He'd had to close his motorcycle shop ten years before, ending a life-long dream because the damned bureaucrats in Washington had decided that motor vehicles were ruining the air quality, so they had rationed gasoline, and restricted travel to a bare minimum.

No more cruising the back roads and boulevards. No more trips to the coast for the weekend. Now, you had to have papers to travel, and those were only issued on an as-needed basis, for business.

He laughed under his breath when he thought about how it all began.

In the mid-90's, both major political parties, who had been the only viable leadership for over 200 years, were embroiled in scandals the likes of which were never seen before in American politics.

One of the oldest families in the political arena, the Kennerlies, were involved in drug use, sex with teenage girls, adultery, and financial double dealings. Used to the media turning their heads at the appropriate time, they were shocked to discover that this new found notoriety cost them seats in the Senate and the House, and even forced some of the family into taking private sector jobs.

The Speaker of the House, an abrasive fellow to begin with, lost the public trust when he was censured by an ethics committee for financial misdeeds, about the same time the freshman representatives found their resolve for their revolution had melted under the flood of bad publicity over cuts in social services and welfare spending.

Infighting among the party members was at an all time high, with senators, congressmen, and representatives criticizing each other and their own party without regard of what airing their dirty laundry in public was doing to their credibility, and that of their respective parties.

The White House, long held in reverent awe by most citizens, was turned into a world class hotel, with rooms for rent to the highest bidder, teas and private audiences with the President for a price, and policy made by suggestions from foreign interests who's contributions went into the party's war chest.

A substantial number of White House personnel were working without security clearance because of drug use or criminal records, and the F.B.I. was used as an internal spy ring to sniff out enemies of the most ethical administration in history. (Or so it was called before the President's first term in office.)

The majority of the appointees to major posts such as Surgeon General and Attorney General, and a large number of White House aides and councils resigned or were forced to resign as scandal after scandal was made public.

The lives and business dealings of the President and First Lady before their election were under constant scrutiny by special prosecutors, and rumors of their impending indictment were rampant in the press.

Once more, an arrogant administration had managed to snatch defeat from the slobbering jaws of victory.

The distrust and revulsion that this obvious misuse of power and betrayal of public trust instilled in the people of America led to the rise of a relatively unknown party that was listed on the ballot in the last several national and state elections as the Ecology Party.

Led by a former Underwriters Laboratory product tester named Raphael Major, they were never taken seriously by the two major parties until their upset victory in the presidential election of 2004. It was a victory that shocked no-one any more than the bewildered leaders of the Ecology Party.

Thrust into a position of power and respect that he never seriously expected to win, and was horribly ill prepared for, President Major did what the last new President and most of those before him had done. He tried to amass and hold all the power he possibly could over the American people.

The new president did not trust the military in any way, shape, or form. He also viewed the F.B.I., and the C.I.A. with no small measure of distrust. Therefore, at a suggestion from his advisers, he founded the National Police Force.

The N.P.F. was an entity unto itself, answering only to the White House. The rank and file members of the N.P.F. were called soldiers, rather than officers, because President Major knew that the public held more fear of the military than it did for police officers.

The officers of the N.P.F., who's highest rank was Captain, liked the fact that their acts of domestic terrorism were largely blamed on the military by the citizens. They even received military surplus weapons and vehicles, and resided at former military bases that had been closed by cutbacks during previous administrations.

President Major never consulted the Chiefs of Staff, because he felt that the military was the enemy of the Earth, and only destroyed the environment. He did not inform them of any changes in policy, or apprise them of the fact that a whole new pseudo-military force was now operating on American soil. His only comment was Let those stuffy-assed brass polishers take care of Bosnia or somewhere, and leave us alone!

The Ecology Party had originated out of a coalition of ecological groups operating primarily in California and the Pacific northwest. Opposed to logging, hunting, fishing, off-road vehicles, and any other use of the outdoors that didn't fit into the tight parameters of what they felt were politically correct pastimes, such as hiking, bird watching, and group sex.

A magnet for not only left wing radicals in the elite environmental movement, but for the naive members of generation X, who feel guilty about any wrong purportedly done to any cultural or ethnic group at any time in history, and who feel that it's their duty to right those wrongs at any cost.

Also welcomed to the fold were the militant animal rights activists, who, after repeated exposure to Bambi are convinced that animals really talk when humans are not around, and also experience the full range of emotions that humans do.

Since all these separate groups helped to cinch the victory of the rapidly growing party, President Major felt that it was only fair that each faction had an adviser on his personal staff to assure that his decisions were balanced in all ways. Unfortunately, he did not take into consideration the fact that 75% of the American people were not represented in his cabinet, and furthermore, could not care less about most of the causes those in his cabinet did represent.

One of the first things on the agenda of the new President was to call a cabinet meeting to discuss gun control. While previous administrations pressed their own gun control bills, never in history did a President have such newly elected support as President Major now enjoyed.

Senator Barbara Shepherd, also of Humans for Animal Ethics opened the discussion at President Majors' call of Ladies First!

We, as a society, she shouted, Cannot continue to let innocent lives be shattered by people with guns! after a sizable round of applause, she continued. Last year alone, thousands of deer, bear, and other species of our fur-bearing friends were willfully and callously slaughtered, leaving behind grieving loved ones to cry their little hearts out in the quiet of the forest!

Waiting for the applause to once more die down, Barbara made a great show of wiping a tear that trickled down her heavily powdered cheek with a monogrammed silk hankie.

The exploitation of animals must not be allowed to continue! she intoned, oblivious to the plight of the silkworm who had more than a passing interest in the manufacture of her hankie.

We really MUST ban the ownership and use of all guns. Rifles, pistols, and especially the ones that shoot those nasty millimeter things!

The President, who was no stranger to firearms, having seen one as a child, rolled his eyes and said, Barb, dear, they are called bullets.

Whatever, she replied with her usual arrogance. We really must be rid of them, whatever they are, once and for all!

The next to speak was Peter Fitzwell, from the gay prison inmate's rights group, Over The Wall. ( Born Daniel Morrison, he had officially changed his name at age 21.)

Every year, he began, home owners with guns steal the lives of hundreds of our brothers and sisters. Are we to allow this wholesale slaughter to continue just so these homeowners can keep their televisions and jewelry?

He was interrupted briefly by catcalls and whistles from his own little group, then continued. What price are we to put on human life? Sure, sometimes burglars or muggers kill someone, but not all! These armed maniacs must be stopped, and stopped now, before more lives are lost to their greed!

Pausing to wipe a drop of spittle from his chin with the back of his hand, he resumed. Australia recently dealt with their gun problem with a series of laws that we may benefit from also. Their law states that it is a crime to use deadly force to protect your property or life, and that all firearms must be surrendered to the authorities by a specified time. That, he stated in summation, is a law that we, in America, need to enact before we lose our best and brightest to armed citizens!

The remainder of those who chose to speak had similar ideas, and before the meeting was adjourned, President Major told his personal secretary, Find out all you can about that 1996 Australian gun law, and get me a draft of it a.s.a.p.

Aww, SHIT! Skinner screamed to no one in particular, as he threw down what passed for a newspaper these days. It landed on the worn and faded carpet with the crumpled front page declaring in bold headline type: WASHINGTON BANS PRIVATELY OWNED MOTORCYCLES.

Surgeon general says injuries could prove costly to national health care plan. Exceptions are police and military use only. All registered vehicles having less than four wheels must be relinquished to the proper authorities within seven days. They'll damn well have to kill me to get mine, Skinner vowed.

A chill ran up his spine at the thought. He knew this government of New World Order would not hesitate to do exactly that. He also knew how vulnerable he and everyone else was after the introduction of The Chip.

Feeling the tiny lump on the inside if his left bicep that marked the location of the microchip, he thought back on how the chip had come into existence.

After several years of socialized medicine, the healthcare system was plagued with so many clerical snafus that it was brought almost to a standstill. The national director of Health and Human Services proposed a system that had been been used to identify show and breeding animals since the late eighties. A microchip was implanted just under the skin, to be scanned by a laser reader. This eliminated most paperwork associated with medical claims. This approach was so successful that once every man, woman, and child had the chip implanted, the government started using the chip's electronic signature for surveillance of dissidents and misfits. (For which title Skinner was a prime candidate.)

The newspapers and mass media began an unprecedented attack on the second amendment, which culminated in it's repeal, and the systematic disarming of the American people. Skinner was one of millions who had seen the writing on the wall.

Knowing that once all the guns were out of the hands of the average citizen, he became easy prey for the punks and scum who never gave a rat's ass about the law anyway, he bought some Army surplus airtight ammo cans, and some heavy grease, and buried all his guns and ammunition for a future time of need.

He spent over one hundred carefully hoarded dollars on a vacuum food sealing machine and extra rolls of bag material for it. In the absence of air, ammunition and reloading components will last virtually forever, but Skinner didn't think that he'd have nearly that long to wait.

A tear rolled slowly down his stubbled cheek as he thought of all the lives that were given in the fight against communism all over the world, only to have it voted in right here at home in the name of change.

Due to over crowding in the nation's jails and prisons, (more than two prisoners per cell) a policy of mandatory probation for all crimes other than first degree murder, or threatening a judge or politician, was adopted.

The subsequent rise in crime made it necessary for the government to raise taxes to put more cops on the street. With more arrests, it became necessary to raise taxes again to hire more public defenders.

Skinner knew in his heart that people will only be pushed so far. With thugs and urban warlords terrorizing the streets, and the average citizen having no viable way to defend himself, he also knew that his way of life was about to change forever. Skinner had spent the last year working at his assigned job as a skinner in a meat packing house at the government owned food distribution center. It was this job that had given him his nickname.

Standing six feet four inches, and weighing two-sixty, Skinner was an imposing man. His dark hair hung down his back in a pony tail, and a beard covered his face like an errant black tumbleweed. His upper body strength was enormous from lifting and skinning beef cattle ten hours a day, carrying a side of beef across the bloody sawdust that covered the floor of the processing section for the butchers to carve into steaks, roasts, and other cuts.

The distribution centers were located in every major city in the United States, to process the huge quantities of food necessary to feed the local populations. They were also the collection point for all farm and dairy products produced in any given area, as well as clothing and medicine.

His evenings were spent working on his old pickup, making sure that it was ready for what Skinner felt might be it's last trip, and laying in all the supplies he could buy or trade for without attracting undue attention.

Fortunately, the barter system was still alive and well, and Skinner was able to trade some of the furniture he had collected over the years for items that would have to serve him well for many years to come.

He found a Buck folding hunter knife in pristine condition, a military issue down filled sleeping bag, a lighter sleeping bag with four pound polyester lining, and several plastic resealable five gallon buckets in which to store rice, flower, sugar, and other perishable foodstuffs.

He also bought a Khyber fixed blade skinning knife. Though made in Japan, it's 2650 stainless steel blade held an edge as sharp and as long as any he had owned.

He thought about a Coleman stove and lantern, but not being sure of a fuel supply, he decided to pass on these luxuries in favor of a candle making kit obtained from a elderly woman at the cost of two table lamps and his ex-wife's favorite candy dish.

He found two shovels, a double bitted ax, a couple of hammers, and a large box of nails, screws, hinges, and other assorted hardware. He packed his newly acquired treasures in two large ice chests that he happily swapped his extra couch for, and made his way back to the one bedroom dump that had been home for the last fifteen years.

After dropping his purchases off on the kitchen table, skinner slid in behind the wheel of his pickup and headed into the seedier part of the city.

He finally found what he was looking for, lying on the littered and urine stained sidewalk in front of a small liquor store just down the street from the meat packing plant where he worked.

As Skinner approached, an old man clutched a crumpled bag that contained the last few swallows of wine a little tighter, but otherwise showed no recognition of Skinner's presence.

Inside the cramped, dingy little liquor store, Skinner bought a half dozen bottles of cheap wine, wondering why the store owner didn't at least knock down the cobwebs that clung to every untouched surface. Shit. I guess it doesn't matter much to the customers of this pesthole, he thought.

Back on the sidewalk again, Skinner took a deep breath of cool night air to clear the musty smell of the little store from his lungs, then knelt to speak to the old derelict crumpled at his feet, the bottle still clenched tightly in his bony fingers.

Charlie... Hey, Charlie! Skinner half whispered as he shook the skeletal shoulder, trying to get a response from the pathetic figure in smelly rags that had once been his co-worker.

Charlie Fields had been a meat wrapper at the plant until a couple of years ago, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. When his health plan reached it's spending cap, he was terminated from his job, (excessive usage of sick leave was the official reason) and his benefits were stopped immediately.

No wonder he took to the bottle, Skinner thought, as he gently helped the semi-comatose figure into his truck. At least I can make his last days a little easier, and help myself in the bargain, he mumbled to himself as he drove slowly away into the night.

When Skinner awoke the next morning, Charlie was lying beneath the old wool blanket on the sofa where he had left him the previous night, but the bloodshot eyes now held recognition, and something else... Gratitude? Skinner didn't know, but he knew it was time to explain that nothing is for nothing, and that Charlie could help him in death, as he was helping Charlie in life.

After a bath, and wearing a clean pair of Skinner's sweat pants and a black Harley T-shirt, Charlie sat on the old sofa and sipped a steaming cup of coffee as Skinner finished outlining his plans to escape the clutches of the National Police Force, who treated Americans like dogs in their own country.

With a chuckle that sounded like the creak of a rusty gate, Charlie said, Boy, I think you're on to something, and you can count on me for what little help I can give you. My only regret is that I won't live long enough to see the hell those N.P.F. bastards are gonna raise when they find out that we screwed 'em good! With that, he leaned back into the soft cushions of the old sofa, and within minutes was snoring softly.

With a grunt, Skinner pulled the last of four boards up from the floor of the kitchen where the refrigerator had been.

Taking up his shovel, he started to dig in the soft earth beneath the floor, and piled each shovel full carefully onto an old sheet spread on the floor beside the growing hole. At last, the tip of the shovel made a scraping sound as it slid across metal under the surface.

He carefully brushed the dirt away, and lifted the now rusty green cans from their resting place. He set them gently, one by one, on the floor beside the pile of dirt. As each can was opened, it made a gentle sighing sound as the lid was released, filling the room with the musty odor of long trapped air.

Skinner reached inside the first can. He removed it's contents, and carefully arranged each piece on the scarred surface of the kitchen table. With mounting excitement, he tore open each vacuum sealed bag, and carefully wiped the grease from the surfaces of the weapons within.

The first to emerge from its slippery cocoon was his Norinco copy of the 1911-A-1 Colt .45 automatic. This was an excellent weapon, and Skinner was glad that he had been able to buy it way back in '93, before the price had almost doubled. After wiping it clean, he cycled the action, then gently let the hammer down with the thumb of his left hand, not wanting to risk damage to the firing pin.

This process was repeated with each bag, until on the table rested the Norinco .45, a Smith and Wesson model 28 in .357 magnum, which had been designated Highway Patrolman, having been designed as a service arm for the now disbanded agency,

a Taurus PT-22, a Star Firestar 9mm, imported from Spain back in the 90's, and proving itself as a powerful and reliable firearm, with a compact size perfect for concealment, and a Ruger BN-.45, in .45 long Colt caliber. The latter was a very accurate revolver with the strength to withstand years of abuse if necessary, without breakage, even when shooting hot loads.

After the handguns were cleaned, Skinner once more returned to the hole to retrieve a long hardwood crate.

He pried the lid off with a claw hammer, and gently withdrew more sealed bags, these considerably longer than those containing the handguns, and layedeach of them gently on the table.

The first bag produced a Mossberg model 500 12 gauge pump shotgun with an eighteen inch riot barrel, and a longer barrel for hunting or trap shooting. (A pastime Skinner used to enjoy before the firearms ban.) This weapon, like the others, showed no signs of rust under the coating of grease, and was leaned against the corner of the table to make room for the next bag to be opened.

The next to emerge was a Ruger 10-22, in .22 long rifle. One of the best ever produced, it was tough and accurate, and Skinner had collected six 30 round magazines for the little gun.

The third bag contained a model 94 Winchester 30-30. One of the most durable rifles of all time, it was a necessary and welcome part of Skinner's armory, and had been a gift from his father.

In the last two bags were a Winchester model 70, in 7mm Rem. Magnum with a Leopold 3-9 power scope, and Skinner's favorite; a Marlin 9mm Camp Carbine. This was one of the best all around weapons ever made, in Skinner's book. Light, quick pointing, with a medium power cartridge that was interchangeable with his Firestar. The Marlin used Smith and Wesson 15 round magazines, which were plentiful in the mid 80's, allowing him to stockpile a dozen for the potent little rifle.

Last out of the hole were the cans containing his reloader, dies, powder, primers, and bullet molds, and the ammunition that he had meticulously vacuum sealed and packed in styrofoam beads inside the steel G.I. can, what seemed like a lifetime ago.

As he bent to brush the clinging dirt from the can, Skinner sensed movement to his left, and raised up so fast his head banged the edge of the table.

Charlie grinned from his position in the doorway, one hand bracing his frail body against the chipped and dirty wood of the door frame. Skinner cursed the table, and rubbed the knot that was growing on the side of his head.

You're 'bout as quiet as mouse farts, ol' man, he mumbled. You scared the shit out'a me.

Charlie slowly made his way to the table. He pulled up a rickety straight backed chair, and turned it around to face Skinner while he leaned against the high back.

Looks like you got life in prison sittin' right here on your table, son, he said, in a voice barely more than a hoarse whisper.

Yeah, Charlie, but it couldn't be much worse than the way we've all been livin' for too damn long now, so I guess I'll just take my chances.

The gaunt old derelict nodded his head almost imperceptibly, then coughed into a stained handkerchief. Back in the nineties, he began, it was politically correct to be a victim, and it was considered wrong to make any attempt to defend ourselves from the human piles of shit that robbed and murdered us. Man is the only one of God's animals who is stupid enough to try and protect the ones who want to kill him.

Skinner looked up from wiping the gleaming surface of the little Marlin, and gave Charlie a long look before he answered. I guess I just wasn't worth a damn at bein' a victim, and I always thought that political correctness was nothing but a pile of horseshit waiting to be stepped in. The whole damn movement was like a box of cereal. If you take out the fruits and the nuts, all that's left are the flakes.

Charlie put the rag back to his lips to politely cover his laugh. A bit oversimplified, but true without a doubt, he said.

With the weapons cleaned and repacked in unidentifiable cardboard boxes, Skinner made his way to the garage, where he began loading the boxes into the back of his truck.

The beat up gardener's trailer he had purchased a month before rested behind the truck, with the tongue on blocks at the right height to slide onto his bumper hitch at a moment's notice. In the trailer was his old Harley Davidson Softtail Custom. With the wheels and front end removed, it was hidden in an old hollowed out chest freezer where it had slept for the year and a half since the ban was initiated. A new battery with a plastic container of acid was stored with it for it's rebirth.

Skinner's tool and parts boxes filled the rest of the trailer, with brush and tree branches on top, tarped down with canvas and nylon rope. With luck, anyone seeing him drive through the pre-dawn darkness would just think he was a gardener getting an early start.

He had sold or traded as many of his personal belongings as he could without raising suspicion, and loaded only what he considered necessities for living off the land.

For the last year or so, he had been making frequent trips to the clinic, complaining of sinus and ear infections. The deception was made easier by the nationalized health plan, because you seldom saw the same doctor twice.

They prescribed Penicillin, Erythromycin, and other antibiotics, which Skinner had refilled as many times as they would allow. He bought several large bottles of aspirin, over the counter cold remedies, and nasal spray.

He had one medium sized suitcase filled with first aid supplies such as bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointments, merthiolate, splints, eye wash and medicated eye drops, scissors, and any other medical odds and ends that he deemed useful.

The large quantities were vacuum packed with his meal sealer, with just a small amount left in zip lock bags for immediate needs. Suture packets stolen from the doctor's office, a snake bite kit, mosquito repellant, and Calamine lotion went into a plastic tackle box.

Next came a heavy enameled coffee pot and matching cups. The look and feel of these, blue with black flecks, always reminded Skinner of the summer camping, fishing, and hunting trips that he used to enjoy with his dad. They would sometimes be gone for several weeks at a time, backpacking all over the Sierras. He loved to lie in his sleeping bag, looking up at the stars, listening to the sounds of small animals as they scurried in the brush, and the cry of a hunting owl. He often awoke in the middle of the night, even now, to the song of the coyotes, cursing when he realized it was only a neighbor's dog crying to be let in.

His mind had been so numbed by the everyday business of living, that he just now realized how much he really missed the mountains. How glad he would be to see them once again, and to breathe the clean, fresh air of freedom once more.

Most of his selection of clothing was strictly utilitarian, while others were strictly defiant. Two wool sweaters, two pairs of long underwear, six pairs of Levi's, a dozen pair of cotton socks and six pair of wool socks, a down parka, a pair of snow pack boots, and assorted underwear.

He could not bring himself to part with his Harley T shirts, and his leathers and engineer boots, though he had not worn them since the ban on motorcycles, to avoid suspicion and subsequent searches.

He tossed his spider infested helmet into a dank corner of the garage, where it rolled to a wobbling stop at it's final resting place like a fractured dinosaur egg.

Three weeks had passed since Skinner had found Charlie on the cold, littered sidewalk, and brought him home. Charlie's condition seemed to improve as the days passed, and his diet of cheap wine was replaced by the simple nourishing meals that Skinner provided. Skinner was beginning to hope that the old man would make it after all, and was gladly preparing to alter part of his plans, when Charlie took a turn for the worse.

Skinner came home one evening to find Charlie lying on the kitchen floor, too weak to drag himself back to his customary position on the couch. He groaned in pain as Skinner lifted him from the cold linoleum floor, and sat him gently in a chair.

His frail body jerked spasmodically as he coughed into the old blue bandanna that he always carried, now soaked with fresh blood. He grabbed Skinner's hand with a grip that was still surprisingly strong, and pulled him down so his hoarse whisper could be heard. Son, you've got a hard road ahead of you, and it'll be a long time 'till it gets any easier, but you planned well, and you're gonna make it. Just remember an old man when the time comes, and take care of yourself. With that, the feeble old heart ceased to beat, and Skinner wiped a tear from his stubbled cheek with the back of a huge hand as he reached out to close the old blue eyes for the last time.

Skinner carried Charlie's body into the bedroom and laid it gently on the bed. He took no pleasure in this part of his plan, but knew, as Charlie had known, that it was not only necessary, but indispensable.

Taking a single edge razor blade from it's package, he made a tiny incision on the inside of his left bicep, and an identical cut over the chip in charlie's arm. With a slight squeeze, the chip, a symbol of government control, popped out of his arm and was inserted into the rapidly cooling arm of the only friend Skinner had known for many years. The chip that was Charlie's was smashed to bits with the butt of the .45 auto that Skinner now carried in a shoulder holster at all times.

It would take a few minutes before the cigarette that lay smoldering on the oily rags by the bed would ignite them into flame, and a few more minutes before the flames reached the cans of gasoline stored in the kitchen, but he knew that the old house would become an inferno before it could be put out, and that Skinner's death would be attributed to smoking in bed.

My ex old lady always said that smokin' would be the death of me, he chuckled. As the flickering orange glow in his rear view mirror continued to grow, he pointed the old pickup toward the black outline of the distant mountains.

Chapter Two

Daylight

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