Lost Angeles

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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DAVE KI
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Favorite Zombie Movies: WWZ though nowhere as good as the book.
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by DAVE KI » Fri Jan 31, 2020 1:08 am

Very good. I hope you keep it going as long as possible. :)
Looks like I get to kick it to page two.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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CaptainCrunch
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Sat Feb 01, 2020 10:02 pm

DAVE KI wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 1:08 am
Very good. I hope you keep it going as long as possible. :)
Looks like I get to kick it to page two.
Thank you DAVE KI.

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CaptainCrunch
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:07 pm

Chapter 7
Gentle breezes turned into howling winds as Mike led them through a jungle of twisted steel, and freakishly tall weeds. Jax reckoned they were in the remains of an outdoor sports venue. Moments later, a battered sign confirmed they were passing through Roosevelt High School’s football stadium, home of the Rattlers.

They paused for a moment to don Bandanas and safety goggles from their packs as the beginnings of a sandstorm pelted them from all directions.
Sections of chain link fencing and razor wire trampled flat on the ground slowed their progress as they picked their way through the maze of rusted metal and dodged flying garbage. The parking lot to their right held abandoned military and police vehicles. An oversized white and blue utility van with a FEMA logo on the door lay on its side beneath the remains of a carport.

Jax tensed as seared memories of his own experiences with FEMA rose to the surface. In his opinion, their installations were nothing more than government death camps.

Established soon after the initial attacks, the authorities commandeered schools, stadiums, shopping malls, and even airports in a vain attempt to maintain a continuity of government and control the survivors not killed by the missile attacks. A call went out. Borders were sealed and interstate travel was restricted. Millions of people were forcibly removed from their homes and imprisoned in those camps by National Guardsmen dressed in HAZMAT suits.

"For their own good," said the politicians who sought to preserve their own interests above the country’s survival or the welfare of their constituents. In the end, despite their evil intentions, most of those liars were slow-cooked by fallout, just like everyone else.

Meanwhile, a prepper buddy with a Ham radio told Jax that riots had broken out in every major city still standing. He wasn’t surprised. Jax had witnessed, first-hand, the effects of a horde of demonstrators that turned violent. They barraged the outnumbered first responders with rocks and Molotov cocktails. They were dealt with tear gas, water cannons, rifle butts, and rubber bullets from National Guardsmen and a handful of overworked cops.

The protestors were mostly younger folk, anarchists who believed that the government would take care of them, come hell or high water. When the government failed to deliver, they were outraged and many became the most violent of offenders. Over half of the population had been hooked on entitlements and they resorted to violence when their freebies and handouts ceased.

Jax's parents had been rounded up on October 30th, and he never saw them again. His father suffered a massive stroke that disabled him after the sneak missile attack and his mother would not abandon her beloved husband. While both his parents decided to face their fate together, they also chose to send Jax away. New York would soon reach freezing temperatures, and without electricity, one’s chances of survival were slim. Of course, Jax refused at first. He wanted to stay with his family. But between his mother’s tearful pleading and his father’s stern insistence that it was his dying wish that he leave and procreate, Jax finally folded and agreed to obey his old man.

His father's last words still echoed in his mind, "Run Jaime. Keep running, son. Don’t look back, ever. Your job now is to keep our legacy alive."

First on the list was transportation. The Montoyas possessed a Nissan Rogue as their primary vehicle, an old Toyota Corolla for backup transport, and Jax’s Mini Cooper. In addition, they had an ‘80’s Winnebago, two ATVs and a lovingly kept 2016 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Given the clogged transportation arteries, Jax chose the touring bike as his getaway wheels.

Next, he needed to decide his destination. There were three choices in his mind; Florida, Texas, and California. While Florida was closer than the other two, the problem with Florida was that everyone on the East Coast wanted to settle there. As a result, Florida was over-populated and all points of entry into that state were blocked. Besides, Florida had alligators, mosquitoes and killer hurricanes.

Texas, like Florida, had an influx of out-of-staters due to it’s warmer climate. Like Florida, getting into Texas would be difficult, but not impossible. On the minus side, Texas had tornadoes, floods and was rife with Mexican cartel violence.

Then, there was California. Though it was the furthest destination of the three, the golden state was large and had the widest range of climates and growing zones. That meant the probability of hunting wild game and growing crops was better than the other two after the nuclear freeze. And yes, it was the most liberal state in the union. Before the SHTF, individual rights were severely curtailed by cradle-to-grave socialists and big-government Marxist proponents. But that was then. Things were different now. Before the SHTF, people and businesses were immigrating OUT of California, relocating to friendlier states. In theory, since much of the state’s industry and wealth had flown the coop, there might be less enforcement and regulation there when compared to Texas or Florida.

So, it was California or bust.

Jax stuffed his saddlebags with dehydrated trail meals, bottled water, a backpack with survival gear and assorted camping supplies. A first aid kit rolled up in a sleeping bag was bungee’d to the handlebar. At midnight, he rumbled west toward the Allegheny National Forest.

As the sandstorm intensified, Jax tried to clear his mind of those poignant memories by concentrating on the road ahead.

He spotted fragments of charred bone, scattered among the debris on the street. Human remains? Cannibalism was common nowadays, or so he’d heard, especially in the Red Zone.

The wind howled like a whipped dog as they crossed the median and took shelter in the crook of strip mall. The air crackled with electrical discharges as swirls of dust and debris blew past them.

"Wait here," Mike motioned with his hand, as he probed a derelict storefront's broken windows, boarded shut with sheets of plywood, marked with graffiti and bolted down from within. A tangle of chain and two rusty padlocks lay useless at the door’s entrance.

Using a and old Zippo lighter for light, he cautiously stepped through a hole in the smashed doorway, then was swallowed up by the darkness. Jax caught a brief glimpse of broken fixtures, panels, and tangles of exposed wiring as Mike’s lighter flickered in the building. As the number two man, a very reluctant Big Jim followed Mike into the abyss and disappeared in the pitch of the corridor.

A moment later, Mike motioned them inside. The rest of the team entered the refuge. Hanna lit a votive candle and placed it in the center of the room. It was a small place, not ravaged by fire, but damaged by heat and water. The linoleum was cracked and faded. Cheap plastic chairs lay tipped over in the garbage. The room smelled moldy, the air tasted grainy and burnt. They settled in after blocking the hole in the entrance with rubble.

"This used to be a nail salon," said Hanna, after a cursory examination. Jax detected a trace of enthusiasm in her voice. Chicks. What’s so special about a tacky nail salon? he wondered.

It was time to sweep the place clean. Looking around in the dim light, Jax took a moment to orient himself. Per protocol, they started checking the room for anything that might be worth taking, but after 15 minutes, Mike announced there was no loot there to speak of, and the sweep was over.

Jax righted a chair, sat down, shrugged his ruck off and removed his boots and socks. He started checking his feet for blisters. His right heel held one that had popped. He poured a little bit of canteen water over the red puncture. "Hey Doc, can I get a Band-Aid from you?"

Doc pulled a first aid kit from his ruck. "Put some antibiotic on it first," he said.

Jax did as instructed, then wearily put his socks and boots back on. Hanna, who had found a bottle of polish remover and some dark paint and was servicing her fingernails. For a moment, Jax almost felt normal. Watching Hanna attend to her nails, an act so ridiculously unnecessary, yet so innocent, made him relax. He almost felt happy. Then, the smell of nail polish remover reminded him of his dead girlfriend, Jenna.

Nope, nope. Not gong there, he thought.

"Let's eat. I'm starving," said Big Jim.

"You're always starving," said Hanna, standing up and disappearing into the salon's restroom.

Jax's stomach was growling, and his shoulders ached from humping all that weight. Everyone pulled a can of ravioli from their rucks. Mike used a can opener to cut the lids off. Using his penknife as a spear, he started popping ravioli bites into his mouth. Jax carried his father's ancient Boy Scout Barlow knife with its handy dandy built-in fork and spoon. Sometimes people made fun of his oversized pocket knife, but its value was personal, and it had everything he needed, and then some.

Big Jim used no utensils and slurped his pasta down like he was chugging a brew at the frat house.

"Don't forget to chew," said Doc, between lip-smacking nibbles.

"Very funny Doc," said Big Jim, his rosy cheeks puffed out.

"You look like a freakin' chipmunk, Jumbo," said Hanna, returning from the restroom. She grabbed her can and flicked her switchblade open to pick raviolis out.

Big Jim belched heartily at her and grinned. He had a tomato sauce mustache. Hanna shook her head in disgust and turned away from him.

"Troglodyte."

Jax thought the ravioli was delicious, even cold. He almost couldn't remember the last time he had real food. They were accustomed to eating what they could find. Sometimes it was dog chow or cat food. Sometimes they didn't eat for days. Jax ate slowly, savoring each bite.

"Wonder how long we'll be stuck here," said Big Jim, heading to the restroom.

Jax pulled a few more cans out of his ruck and shoved them into Jim's while he was away. "He's a big boy; he probably won't notice the extra weight."
Hanna and Doc nodded and did the same with their loads. Mike ignored their shenanigans and started cleaning his rifle.

"I wouldn't go in there if I were you," said Big Jim, fanning the air behind him. He was grinning like an idiot, which pretty much summed up what he looked like when he smiled, Jax thought.

The blizzard grew stronger, the rotted door shuddered against its hinges."Big Jim and I will take first watch. You guys might as well get some shut-eye while you can," said Mike.

He didn't have to tell them twice. Doc, Hanna, and Jax cleared a spot in one of the corners and laid their tired bodies down on the cold linoleum floor.
Through droopy eyelids, he watched Mike and Big Jim clean their weapons. I should have probably done the same, he thought, but I'm too damn tired.
Jax thought about his parents before he drifted off. A heavy sadness came over him.

A moment later, he felt a poke in his ribs.

"Stop snoring," said Hanna.

Mustn't snore, Jax thought, as he drifted back into oblivion.

The wind was still pounding when Mike woke them up four hours later. They traded places and took up the watch. As his eyes adjusted to the faint candlelight, the eeriness of the nail salon started getting to Jax.

"Creepy place, isn't it?" he said to Hanna and Doc.

"Yeah this sucks," she whispered back.

"At least it's a roof and four walls," said Doc.

"True, but that doesn't make this place any less creepy."

"I feel like a prisoner in here," said Hanna.

"Me too. I wish we could have kept going," Jax said.

"I'd kill for a ciggy right now," she sighed.

"Cigarettes will kill you," Doc said sternly.

"Whatever, Doc. I'm cold."

Hanna drew her knees up to her chest and put her arms around them. She started rocking slightly. The tough girl act only went so far.

"At least the weather's tolerable here, most of the time," Jax said, "Back home it's not so nice this time of the year."

"Same everywhere above the 35th parallel," said Doc.

Hanna said, "Getting out of Detroit was next to impossible. Cars lined up for miles, bumper to bumper on the interstate. Cops blocked it off and told us to turn around and go home. They said help was coming, but everyone knew they were lying through their teeth.”

Jax waited for her to continue, but her mind had trailed off, and she was alone with her thoughts.

After a moment, he turned to Doc and resumed his tale. "We were under martial law at the time. No one was allowed to travel, let alone leave the borough, but I came up with a plan to head west. The more I thought about leaving, the more it made sense to me. I had a tent, some camping gear, and a shotgun. I'd been a hunter ever since I was a kid, and an Eagle Scout too, so I knew how to live off the land. Or so I thought. Anyway, I left Homer when the National Guard started forcing people into mass shelters. Made my way to Pennsylvania on a motorcycle, then cut west on the I-40. My bike broke down in Utah. I joined a caravan there."

Doc was about to say something when Hanna suddenly bolted upright. "Hey, did you hear that?" she whispered.

"What?"

"Something's moving around in here... There it is again!"

Jax felt a chill fly up his spine. "I hear it too, but I don't see anything moving."

They reached for their rifles.

Then Jax saw two hairy lumps waddle across the floor and stop where they had left their empty ravioli cans.

"Just rats. It looks like we're not the only ones trying to stay alive," Jax said.

"Filthy creatures," said Doc with a shudder.

"Aww, they're cute," said Hanna, "My python would've loved them."

A pet snake. Yuck, thought Jax. "Hey, how come we don't see any cats around here? I haven't seen a cat since..."

"KraZy Boyz ate 'em all. Yeah, they eat everything. Dogs, cats, people," Hanna said, matter-of-factly.

There was a pause in the conversation. Jax finally spoke up.

"On weekends after work, dad and I would have a rum and coke and talk about hunting and fishing, politics, all kinds of stuff. When the weather was good, we'd sit on the front stoop and call out the planets and constellations, til Mom demanded we hit the hay because we’d have to be up in a couple of hours for the breakfast rush.”

“Smart lady,” said Doc, kindly.

Jax nodded. "Yeah, she was. Mom was a middle school teacher. What I remember most, she loved reading those sappy drug store Harlequin Romance novels — always bugging me to get married so she could have grandkids. I'd tell her to ease up. I hadn't even graduated from college. God, I miss them," Jax said.

"I hated my foster parents, ‘specially that creepy jerk that wanted me to call him daddy. Hated their kids. Couldn't wait to get away from all of them," said Hanna.

All at once, Jax understood her perfectly. He felt pity for her. She was damaged and not of her own doing.

“I noticed you have a wedding band on your finger, Doc,” said Jax.

“Married twenty-two years. She died when the shit hit the fan," said Doc.

"I'm sorry for you loss, Doc," said Jax. "I had a girlfriend, Jenna. We were talking on the phone when she... when it happened,“ said Jax.

Hanna stared into the dark. "My man was a Hells Angel. Got shot by some crazy bitch that thought he was the father of her kid," she said.

"Everybody lost someone,” Doc replied.

“Sorry I brought it up,” said Jax, “Sometimes I just say shit without thinking about it.”

Doc pulled off his glasses and cleaned the oversized lenses with a handkerchief. His eyes were bloodshot.

“Don't mean nothin'. What's done is done. I used to be a Southside Crip. Being a banger was my life. I didn’t know anything else. Moms was a whore, I never knew my father. One day I saw a girl that took my breath away, Lucy. After weeks of pursuing her, she finally broke down and invited my ghetto butt to meet her parents.”

Doc almost smiled. “Little did I know she was inviting me to church. Me, the most wicked man on earth. You talk about irony, this was the very definition of irony.”

Jax grinned. Doc noted he did resemble Mike’s younger brother Ray.

“Well, what happened? Don’t leave me hanging, Doc’” said Jax.

“OK, if you really want to know, my life changed that day. 180 degrees. Lucy’s father was a preacher. He was senior pastor of Freeman Chapel, A.M.E church, and tell you what, he could preach a sermon like nobody’s business. I’m talking fire and brimstone, love and hope all rolled into one. He was talking to me that day. To make a long story short, he told me I had a heavenly father that loved me in spite of every evil thing I’d ever done. Said his son Jesus died in my place, and I could be a son of the father too. He said my life would change and I’d finally know my purpose for being here. When the altar call came, I followed a dozen other folks to the front of the sanctuary and got my sinner gangster ass saved.“

Jax laughed. “Sorry, not laughing at you, just the way you put it... you’re a natural, Doc. You should be on TV or on Youtube. If they still existed. Almost makes me want to get saved too.”

“You can be saved too, Jax. This life is just a breath, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s not what you do, it’s who you know that determines where you’ll spend eternity. You ever want to talk about that, let me know. I’ll be glad to fill you in.”

Jax nodded, but Doc could see he wasn’t interested.

“The next day, I joined the Navy to become a hospital corpsman. I figured with all the harm I’d done dealing drugs, it was time to do some good in the world. I married Lucy a year later. Put my twenty in and retired a Master Chief.”

“Later, I earned my chiropractor's license and became a physical therapist at the VA hospital where Lucy worked.”

“Wow, really inspiring. I don’t hear stories like that these days Doc. Thanks for sharing. So how’d you end up here, in SoCal?” said Jax.

“I met Mike and his clan on the road. We traded some food and meds. I treated one of his party, a guy with a broken finger that had turned gangrenous. Happened to be his younger brother Ray. He said they were headed to California and asked me to join them. I had nothing better going on, so that’s what I did.”

“How about you Hanna?” asked Jax.

She just rolled her eyes and settled down on her parka. “Wake me in a couple of hours, newbie,” said Hanna indifferently.

“What the hell?’” said Jax, offended. She’d just dissed him for no reason at all. Who did she think she was?

Doc shrugged. “That’s Hanna for you,” he said.

“I heard that Doc,” she mumbled under her parka.

“The Ice Princess is related to Mike, on his mother’s side. She’s his niece, but who knows for sure? Nevertheless, Hanna’s the family black sheep, the prodigal daughter, so to speak,” Doc said with a wink to Jax, egging her on.

“Screw you very much Doc,” she said with exaggerated precision.

Doc laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that was as welcome as it was contagious. Soon Jax joined him, then Hanna followed, giggling under her parka.

Note to self; Hanna’s a snobby ball-buster. The less contact. the better thought Jax.

Jax spent the rest of the night watching the rats clean the ravioli cans. Hanna was fast asleep, Doc had dozed off, leaving him on watch alone. It’s OK, he thought, groggy with exhaustion. Someone’s got to follow the rules and make sure we’re still safe in the morning.

At first light, Santa Ana winds replaced the sand storm and put an end to their layover. Sunlight stabbed through the cracks in the boarded-up windows.
Jax woke Hanna and Doc first, then roused Mike and Big Jim from their slumber. They boiled instant coffee for breakfast, donned their gear, and prepared to hit the road.

idahobob
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by idahobob » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:27 am

Interesting respite. Now MOAR pleeze! :awesome: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

DAVE KI
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Favorite Zombie Movies: WWZ though nowhere as good as the book.
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by DAVE KI » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:03 pm

I kinda like this better than zombies. Moar or more along the lines of what could be. I have noticed some vehicles road ready that shouldn't be, but it's a small price to pay for a great story. Then again maybe I'm not paying attention.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by 91Eunozs » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:14 pm

Nice additions...thanks!
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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CaptainCrunch
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Mon Feb 03, 2020 11:29 pm

Thanks all, for your comments and encouragement.

Chapter 8
Stepping into the ship's industrial cooler, a young lab tech from Nanjing picked up the clipboard atop body bag 13. The gruesome manifest stated that the subject’s heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, his undamaged lung, and eyes had been removed from his corpse and preserved just moments after his arrival onboard the M/V Guangdong. This, he already knew of course. Most of those procedures were executed under his direct supervision.

The manifest further stated that those valuable organs were already promised to cartel middlemen who would sell the harvest to wealthy recipients south of the border. His stylized signature was present on those parts of the release as well.

Having been bled, washed and refrigerated, Freddie's excavated corpse was dumped on a gurney, ready to be rolled to the ship's meat processing plant. Preliminary blood work had confirmed the corpse was free of infectious diseases and ready for butchering.

He felt the beginnings of a migraine and gritted his teeth. The young lab tech’s primary job wasn’t all that difficult. In fact, there was little to do for the most part, and he spent much of his time playing Chess or Go on his computer between toxicology screens and other health tests. It wasn't labor that was crushing him, it was the emotional toll of handling all those bodies. People killed and recycled like livestock. Though not particularly religious, the lab tech believed in karma and feared his participation in such heinous acts would one day revisit him in full measure. The itchy Urticaria hives around his skinny waist were physical manifestations of that guilt.

That and the fact that he’d just stood a mind-numbing four-hour watch on the ship’s stern and his relief was 45 minutes late, drunk as a skunk. By sunrise, he was exhausted and completely exasperated. Well, the inebriated sailor wasn’t his problem, he’d let the ship’s authorities deal with that.
Still, he wondered how much longer he could endure the job. In the past, his sweet Malaysian wife and two children were reason enough to keep going despite the karmic cost. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

He glanced at his wristwatch and uttered a curse. He would get less than four hours of sleep today. Sleep was more precious than food, sometimes more treasured than a letter from home. The hours were brutal, 12 hours on and 12 hours off, plus four hours of standing watch every other day.

The unhappy lab tech wheeled what was left of subject 13 into the ship's processing compartment. Pushing the gurney through the PVC strip air curtain, he was greeted by M/V Guangdong's jolly master butcher, Fang Lo, who himself hailed from Jiangsu province and felt a special bond developing with his young kinsman.

The feeling was not mutual, and the young lab tech went out of his way to show disinterest in establishing any kind of relationship with the portly butcher.

Unfortunately, Fang Lo either ignored the lab assistant’s rebuff, or simply didn’t care. He kept the lab tech busy with superfluous tasks that held him, prisoner, near the butcher’s vicinity.

A touch here, a brush there, the overpowering smell of cologne made him wonder if those occasional close encounters that unsettled him so were secret come-ons from the freaky supervisor. Maybe they were, then again maybe not. For that reason, he positioned himself as close to the door as possible whenever Fang Lo was in the vicinity.

The spartan processing compartment smelled of copper and industrial disinfectant. There were two adjustable dismembering tables in the center of the space. Metal cabinets and a sink were attached to the far bulkhead. A series of pneumatic cutting tools and their coiled cords hung from the ceiling.

After helping Fang Lo position the corpse on the slatted steel table, the lab tech collected the trash from a previous rendering and left quickly. He did not want to hang around and see what Fang Lo was going to do next.

With his scrubs protected by a full-body plastic apron, Fang Lo lowered his Plexiglas face shield and donned a pair of surgical gloves. He grasped the pneumatic bone saw suspended above the table and began cutting.

First, he cut around the perimeter of the skull cap and removed the top of Freddie's head. Careful not to damage the grey matter, Fang Lo worked his fingers into the skull cup and extracted the brain. Back home in the northern provinces, the brain was a delicacy, and Fang Lo handled the gelatinous sweetmeat appropriately.

After removing its filmy sheath and unwanted veins, he blanched the eggy organ and placed it in a bath of chilled water to soak overnight and remove any impurities. In the morning, the treat would be seasoned with salt and butter, then sauteed to golden brown with garlic and a squeeze of lemon.

Next, the deceased's head was removed at the base of the neck. Then, the arms were sawn off at the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular shoulder joints. There was very little blood splatter involved in the procedure. Two minutes later, the legs were separated at the pelvis along with the genitals. The genitals would be sorted and freeze-dried, then ground to powder and eventually sold for medicinal purposes.

The last bit of business was to remove any remaining organs and glands not previously harvested and to quarter what was left the torso and appendages.

Humming a catchy Korean pop tune, Fang Lo cut open the chest cavity and removed the ruptured lung, the intestines, bladder, and spleen. He placed those useless parts into an incineration bag. The choice meat he bisected, then arranged the cutlets neatly on flat metal trays that rested on a conveyor belt.

When he finished, Fang Lo switched the conveyor belt on and sent Freddie Washington's body parts to the slow roasting oven in the adjacent compartment. By the end of the evening, the meat would be tender enough to can.

Fang Lo peeled his gloves off and removed his apron. As he scrubbed his hands in the sink, the ship's intercom announced breakfast was served in the mess deck. M/V Guangdong's chef was hand-picked by Joey Chao himself and was renowned for his culinary skills. On the menu today was a selection of steamed bao buns, chicken feet, and congee rice porridge. Of course, there was plenty of soy milk to wash everything down.

Fang Lo turned the faucet off and dried his meaty hands. He slapped a bracing splash of French black market cologne on his cheeks and took one last peek in the mirror before he climbed down the ladder to the galley.

The master butcher made it a point to never miss a meal.

****
Joey Chao had risen early and was jogging in the shipyard. The sun was out today, burning away the evening fog and casting long shadows among the harbor cranes and shipping containers.

The cool morning breeze was sharp and briney. It felt good to be up at the crack of dawn, pushing himself physically, riding his endorphins to that level of hormonal bliss that only hard exercise could deliver.

The Panamanian girl he’d bedded last night was a real surprise. She was rather chubby, a little too talkative for his taste. Not his type by any stretch of the imagination. But after a few tokes of Asian Fantasy, Joey found her more than adequate for the evening’s games. She was a bit older than his usual visitors, but her experience and enthusiasm for his bedtime peccadillos earned her two black eyes and a fistful of hashish, which she could use to convert to money or script. Either way, enough for several years of essentials.

Pounding pavement instead girls, Joey wore black market Tommy Hilfiger sweats and Ferragamo sneakers. A single gold Cuban necklace bounced on his neck. Today’s workout music, Led Zepplin II, throbbed through his Audeze earbuds. A vintage Apple watch that was actually a clever pre-war Hong Kong knockoff completed his activewear.

Huffing and puffing behind him in regular street clothes were Snaggletooth, Lazy Eye and a local KraZy Boy he named Mocha because he was half black and half Chinese. Mocha was on loan from one of the affiliates in San Pedro. His job was to guide and escort Joey and his bodyguards within city limits.
Like Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye, Mocha was a large, muscular thug who might have been a club bouncer or a WWE wrestler in a previous life. But his gold-toothed, tribal-tattooed ass couldn’t run for shit, thought Joey.

“Come on, keep up,” he yelled, glancing back at them beneath the deep hood of his jacket. Why couldn’t they be more like him?

Joey picked up the pace and doubled the distance between himself and his protectors.

Sparks and a puff of dust kicked up from the asphalt in front of Joey, followed by the muffled boom of a high-powered rifle. It took a moment for Joey to realize someone was shooting at him.

“Sniper!” yelled Joey, simultaneously scrambling behind the nearest shipping container, several yards away.

He pulled off his earbuds and heard a second shot fire off as Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye crashed into him clumsily, almost knocking him down. Joey ignored their faux pas.

“Where’s Mocha?” he asked.

His bodyguards shrugged, then ducked as the clang of a third shot blew a hole through the container’s outer edge above their heads.

“Son of a...”

A fourth shot rang out and Mocha screamed “I’m hit! I’m hit!”

Joey peeked from behind the container and saw Mocha writing on the ground. Judging from the direction of the shots, the sniper was somewhere to their three ‘o clock, at an elevated position.

Indeed, the flash of a scope pinpointed the shooter on the top floor of a three-story building, half a mile away.

The irony that he had been the hunter here yesterday, and prey today was not lost on Joey. Perhaps the shooter was a friend of the black boy he took down with his crossbow. Joey’s heart raced as conflicting thoughts of excitement and worry surged through him.

But enough of that, he chided himself. He needed to find a way out. Joey looked around and found a defilade created by a group of triple-stacked containers, 50 yards away. A plan began to take shape in his mind.

“Mocha’s just twenty meters from us. Give me your gun,” Joey said to Snaggletooth.

Snaggletooth reluctantly handed over his Norinco Type 77 semi-auto and a spare clip.

Mocha screamed again.

“I want you two to get Mocha and drag him here while I lay cover fire,” said Joey.

The two bodyguards looked at each other, then at Joey. The expressions on their faces were full of fear and resignation.

“I will bust a cap in your collective asses if you don’t follow my instructions, understand?”

The bodyguards nodded together. What choice did they have in the matter?

“Get ready,” said Joey, pulling the slide back and letting it slam back.

“Go!”

Joey popped around the edge of the container and fired off four of his eight shots as Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye scurried into harm’s way. He dropped back as a fifth shot took a chunk of metal from the container where he’d just been. Yelling in Cantonese, Joey fired four more shots, ejected the spent mag, slapped in the spare, and fired another four rounds.

Mocha screamed as Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye began dragging him to cover by the arms.

To the bodyguards' great surprise and relief, the next shots that came fell short, as though the sniper had dropped his scope and was firing blindly in their general direction. Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye succeded in pulling the wounded KraZy Boy behind the container. Joey could see Mocha had been gut shot and was bleeding out fast. Nevertheless, he slapped Mocha with a backhand that snapped his sweaty face to the side.

“You said your people controlled the harbor,” whispered an enraged Joey.

Mocha couldn’t catch his breath to reply. His eyes were fluttering involuntarily. He coughed up bloody sputum and bile.

“Nothing we can do for him now,” said Joey, backing away in disgust. “Get him on his feet, lean him against the container.”

Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye did as they were told as Joey continued. “When I give the signal, push him out into the open. Then run like hell to those containers by the dockyard. We should be safe there.”

“No.” pleaded Mocha softly as his eyes glazed over.

“Do it!” Joey yelled.

The bodyguards flung Mocha into the line of fire and began running in the opposite direction as three shots slammed into the spasmodic Krazy Boy.
For once, Joey noted with grim satisfaction, Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye almost beat him to the triple-stacked containers.

*****
Tyrone Jackson picked up his brass and slung his Remington 700 over his shoulder. No doubt the Dragons were behind his cousin Freddie’s demise. This after all, was where the poor homey’s tracks ended.

All that was left of Freddie was his monogrammed hoodie, pasted against a spot of blood-soaked asphalt where he fell and died.

He warned Freddie against foraging solo in Triad territory. “No one goes it alone in the Red Zone,” had been the number one cardinal rule for locals and outsiders alike. But the boy was hard-headed. You couldn’t tell him anything. Freddie never listened to sound advice or corrective reproach. He ran off like an ignorant fool looking for trouble and got himself killed.

Damn shame all around. His Aunt Tasha will hold me responsible, of course, no matter the facts. At least I got one of them, Tyrone thought.

****
"Welcome to Los Angeles,” said Wade MacArthur, reading aloud the sign posted at the city gates. “More like Lost Angeles, if you ask me. Right, Stan?”

The city gates creaked open as a handful of raggedy men with shovels over their shoulders trudged through the mud. Behind them came a convoy of mule-drawn carts, contents covered with tarps.

"Burial detail," Wade told his dog.

Wade pulled his tattered John Deere ball cap off and paid his respects as the burial detail passed in silence.

"Well, now that's done let's head on in."

At the checkpoint, a skeletal militiaman in a threadbare work coat asked for his passport, coughing and wheezing between shallow breaths.
Wade pitied him but kept his distance. "Guard duty's for the sick and elderly," he whispered to the dog. "For citizens who outlive their jobs and have nothing else to offer. So much for utopia, eh Stan?"

"Business or pleasure?" asked the guard.

"Business."

Trembling digits in fingerless mittens clawed at Wade's dogeared document. Watery eyes gave him the perfunctory once-over. Satisfied he wasn't an infiltrator, the militiaman waved him into the dying city.

"Become A Citizen Today" was posted on the front of the guard shack.

"No, thanks."

Just past the entrance, near the courthouse, he spotted two hanged men in the rubble of civic center square, heads bowed as if asleep, under execution sacks. On their chests were handwritten placards, mute testimony of their capital crimes.

"A traitor and a drug dealer. Looks like they've appointed a hangin' judge this time."

Wade pushed his wiry frame through the mobs at the day laborers camp, where most of LA's unskilled residents milled about, desperate for work and a meal. Past the camp lay the Barter Outlet, a collection of ramshackle stalls on either side of Figueroa Street, where enterprising merchants hocked their staples. Rodent food carts, medicinal herbs, and wild mushrooms, rotgut moonshine, homespun clothing, sundries, weapons, and ammunition were displayed in the open-air market.

"How 'bout some breakfast boy?"

He walked past the screech of haggling butchers and stopped at the nearest fishmonger's stall. "What can I get you, pops?" said the fishmonger.

"How much for a cutlet of that smoked salmon?"

"What do you have?"

Wade shrugged his ruck off and laid it on the table. "Some ammo. A pair of sunglasses. A straight razor..."

"Sorry, not interested, You have any uh, recreational goods?" he said with a wink.

"Dope? Hell no. Tell you what slick," said Wade reaching into his pack, "How about this?" He held a gold chain up for fishmonger to see.

"What the hell am I going to do with that?"

"Gangbangers love these. You could trade it for whatever illegal substance you're jonesing on the next time your pusher comes around. Provided you don't get caught like those strung-up peckerwoods yonder..."

The fishmonger eyed him warily. The old coot had a hard look on his face.

"We got a deal?"

"On the house," the fishmonger said, reluctantly chopping off a generous portion of rotting fish flesh. Wade tossed the gold chain on his table. "Thanks, but I don't take charity, and I sure as shit don't want to be beholden to you. Come on, Stan."

Glad to see him go, the fishmonger wiped the sweat from his forehead. Who the hell is Stan? He wondered.

Wade took a bite of stinky salmon and tossed a piece to his dog, who all but swallowed it. "Take it easy will ya?"

They made their way to a makeshift police station quartered in the remains of a gutted warehouse."Wait here Stan,"

The rusted relic of an old Crown Vic black and white sat by the loading bay, a peeling "Report Hate Speech" bumper sticker on its rear fender.
Hate speech was whatever they said it was, Wade thought. He knocked the caked mud off his boots and entered the cavernous void through the shipping door. Resident work crews had done much to spruce the place up since the last time he'd been there. The jagged concrete floor was level now, filled in with rock and sand. Still under construction was the framework of a dozen or so offices. Timber was hard to find. Wood had been used as heating fuel during the nuclear freeze, so they used mud and garbage instead. Wade was somewhat impressed with their progress. He was no stranger to scrounging and repurposing found objects, even before the war.

The new sergeant at the reception desk was reading a worn-out paperback novel. He was doughy-looking, with long graying hair and a thick tobacco-stained beard. He smelled like moonshine and garlic.

"Where's Willy?" Wade asked.

The sergeant looked up from his half spectacles, a recently pulled front tooth, revealing a gap in his mouth, "Who's that?"

"The guy that used to sit at this desk."

"Oh, he's dead."

Somewhat at a loss for words, Wade finally said "Sorry to hear it."

Sergeant Willy Thompson was an ass-kisser, that was a fact. He'd never pulled his gun on duty, probably never touched a criminal, but he was a good source of scuttlebutt on the inner workings of city hall and the police department. Willy had been one of the few cops on Wade's shortlist of trustworthy people in LA. Wade would miss his rambling stories and terrible jokes.

"I'm here to see Chief Brown."

"What about?"

"Business. He's expecting me."

"What's your name?"

"Wade MacArthur."

After signing Wade in and procuring a visitor's badge, the sergeant offered him a seat on a salvaged church pew and sent a gofer to fetch the chief.
Instead of sitting, Wade ambled over to the "neverending wall", tacked with missing relatives and the latest most wanted posters. The former cried out for justice; the latter dared him to do something about it.

Chief Brown appeared, wearing his usual charcoal sport coat, matching slacks, white shirt and black tie. Even his shoes were spit-shine polished. Like a mortician, only his world-weary eyes betrayed his carefully cultivated image."Hello Wade, what do you have for me today?"

Wade shifted under his army poncho and produced a waterproof tote bag from his backpack. "Roscoe Redmond. I'm here for the reward."

Chief Brown cocked an eyebrow and placed the bag on the sergeant's desk. He pulled a handkerchief from his coat and covered his nose and mouth as he opened the tote. The stench was so bad even Wade's eyes watered.

The new desk sergeant doubled over and gagged. “Oh for the love of...That’s so vile!” he said, sputtering breakfast on the floor.

“Clean that up when you’re done, Jenkins,” Chief Brown told the desk sergeant, who was still dribbling from his mouth and nose.

Peeking inside, Chief Brown identified Roscoe's severed head. A bullet hole through the left eye made a ragged exit wound on the other side. He quickly closed the tote and handed it back to Wade."It's Roscoe all right. Where'd you find him?"

"The LA River."

"It figures," said Chief Brown. "When did you get him?"

"Last night, before the storm."

Chief Brown nodded. "Scratch one outlaw biker. What about the others?"

"It was just him."

"Did you recover any drugs or paraphernalia?"

"Nope, not this time."

"Want to look in the evidence room for your reward?"

Wade shook his head. "I'll take a chit this time. There's a pony for trade, caught my eye on the way in."

The chief wrote the reward amount on a piece of paper and had the desk sergeant stamp it with the official city seal. "You ever want a job with the police department, just say so."

Wade nodded and took the chit, then shook the chief's clammy hand. He always said that when they settled accounts and Wade wondered if Chief Brown realized how ridiculous his proposition sounded. Why would anyone in their right mind give up their freedom and risk life and limb for nothing except a roof over their head and a bowl of mealy gruel?

Then again, many survivors had done just that.

"Be seein' ya," said Wade.

"Who the hell is that guy, chief?" asked the desk sergeant.

"That crazy old fart's Wade MacArthur, a private contractor."

***
At the livestock exchange, the horse trader threw in an ancient western saddle and tack and reluctantly shoved a bottle of Jack Daniels into one of the saddlebags. Not the real stuff, of course. Wade had driven a lazy bargain, and he knew he was on the short end of the deal.

Whatever. Haggling wasn't his thing, and he had work to do. His new pony was a six-year-old pinto mare, well broken and cared for. A bit skittish around strangers, but that was a good thing.

Stan yawned as Wade mounted the brown and white paint. The trio left the market, heading south towards the Red Zone. As they left, Wade considered his next mission. One of the drawings on the perp wall had caught Wade's attention. Tyrone "Zippy" Jackson, leader of the South Side Pee Wees street gang, was wanted for multiple murders and Wade had an idea where he might find him.

DAVE KI
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by DAVE KI » Tue Feb 04, 2020 6:16 pm

Kinda had to check back to see who Wade was. Thought maybe he was going after Joey next. You write it, I read and I like it!
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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bodyparts
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by bodyparts » Wed Feb 05, 2020 11:05 am

great story so far . that first prat with Wade and the missiles was good stuff . thank you for sharing it with us . more story moar better!!
:clap: :clap: :clap:

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:27 pm

Thanks, DAVE KI and bodyparts for your comments.

Chapter 9
The mid-morning sun was beating down on his uncovered head like a molten fist, turning his skull into an oven set on broil. Jax licked his dry lips as mother nature cooked his brains. Heatstroke? Naw, not yet. Better hydrate though before we get there.
He pulled his faded New York Yankees ball cap from his backpack, fastened it on his coconut and took a swig of tepid water from his plastic canteen.
‘You OK Jax?’” asked Big Jim.
“Yeah, and you?” replied Jax.
Big Jim shrugged. “Just checking on you, bro.”
“Time to move,” said Mike, rising from the shade of a Walmart trailer, lying sideways.
The five-minute break was over. Moaning like tortured beasts of burden, they all struggled into their rucks and shoved off.

They followed the 110 interstate north. The freeway itself was raised on a berm above street level; only a moron would travel that way, so they walked beside it on the adjacent boulevard to minimize their exposure. It was the Red Zone, after all. To keep their situational awareness on point, Mike retook point from Big Jim and assigned Doc to cover their rear.

Hanna was in front of Jax, who found himself mesmerized by the swing of her shapely buttocks. In his mind's eye, he pictured himself smacking it playfully. No, she wasn't his type, Jax ruminated, but who could afford to be picky these days? Young, unattached women were few and far between. And Hanna had fine features. She wasn’t exactly the girl next door either, but she was hot enough, so, maybe a hookup wasn’t as far fetched as he’d first thought.

“Stop staring at my ass, newbie,” Hanna muttered, not turning around.

“What? I wasn’t...”

Hanna turned her head silently shushed him with stern eyes and a finger on her lips. They were still under ‘hand signals only protocol’.

Embarrassed, Jax looked away. He almost apologized for lusting her after posterior, (being the ass man he was) but what the hell just happened? Had he encountered some sort of hallucination? An out of body experience?

Several paces ahead Hanna continued walking as if nothing had been said between them.

Some scary shit, whatever it was, thought Jax as he withdrew a Saint Christopher medal on a necklace from his collar. He prayed, kissed it, resolved to stay frosty and ignore Hanna’s cute bum until they were safe at home.

They were passing through an industrial zone. There was a railway that ran parallel to the freeway. It was littered with hundreds of rusted containers that had scattered during a train derailment. By now, the intermodal boxes had been thoroughly searched and ransacked; anything worth taking was long gone. Overlapping graffiti and open double doors said so.

The boulevard was a mess as well. Rows of downed telephone poles, power lines, abandoned big rigs and cars, and dead trees were obstacles that had to be carefully climbed over or skirted past.

There were few buildings left standing in the area and it was obvious that most of the structures had collapsed in a raging fire. A microwave tower sat crumpled in a heap over a ruined warehouse. The husks of iconic Mexican Fan palm trees lay mummified on the center divider like fallen soldiers, too desiccated by beetles and time to be used for fuel.

They approached a baseload power plant behind crumbling cinder block walls with razor wire on top.

Mike slowed and raised his rifle to high ready. The rest of them followed suit as they approached the wreck of a SoCal Edison repair truck. Weapons were brought up to ready position whenever they approached a vehicle that conveniently blocked their path. Bangers sometimes hid inside to ambush unwary foragers.

Not this time, though.

As they passed the truck and the powerplant, something darted on to the pavement from behind the wall. Jax nearly jumped out of his skin. The others saw it too and trained their weapons.

It was a raccoon, fur matted and gnarly. Open sores covered its face and bloody drool hung its mouth. The zombie-like creature paused in front of them and hissed. Then it launched itself into the air and landed on Big Jim’s chest before anyone could fire a shot.

Big Jim screamed and flailed as the mutant creature chomped greedily into his jacket. Big Jim finally dislodged the animal by slapping it with a meaty hand, tossing it to the pavement. Back broken, the little fiend settled down to die.

"You've got to be kidding me!" shrieked Big Jim, jumping about like a spastic hip-hop dancer and checking himself for evidence of a bite.

Jax let out the breath he'd held for thirty seconds. Hanna and Doc Hughes remained frozen, guns trained, mouths open.

“Why the hell does crap like this always happen to me?” Big Jim roared, fists clenched, stomping left and right.

“Because you’re a shit-magnet, Jumbo,” said Hanna, deadpan.

"Enough already. Keep moving," said Mike, before Big Jim could reply.

The debris on the boulevard thinned out as they pushed further into the industrial sector, and they were able to pick up their pace. A large plot of undeveloped land, overgrown with weeds, stretched for a mile in front of them. "You could hide an army in there," whispered Doc.

There was no way to avoid it. Following Mike's silent cue, they picked up the pace but kept their weapons at low-ready.

Once past the weeds, they slowed and reached a railroad crossing, where a portion of the freeway overpass had collapsed. Two cars were crushed flat under tons of concrete and rebar, their occupants’ dry bones entombed in the rubble.

Mike paused at the intersection. He pulled the map from his pocket and studied it as the rest gathered around him. "According to the map we're on Figueroa Street. It should take us into Los Angeles. We can call home for a pick up from there.“

Los Angeles had several amateur ham shacks that survived the initial EMP and nuclear attacks and were kept operational with cannibalized parts and ingenious hacks by their aficionados. The networked stations featured voice and Morse code capabilities and were used as a primary source of news and entertainment. Open to the public, for a fee, they ran on primitive electrical generators made from stationary bicycles as well as batteries to power the radio equipment.

Additionally, portable stations, run by operators beyond the city walls, were used to extend the range of their transmissions. Mike‘s group had their own fixed station at the observatory and someone on the watch schedule would be monitoring the radio, day and night, especially now that they were long overdue.

“How long will it take us to get to L.A.?” asked Jax.

Mike shrugged. “Don’t know yet, Jax. I’ll see if I can figure out where we are. Let’s take five, y’all.”

They shook their rucks off and sat on the curb. Mike took the map and his rifle and climbed up the embankment to the freeway. Jax watched him use a car for cover as he glassed the horizon through his riflescope.

"I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting low on water," said Big Jim.

"You'll be OK. There's water in the cans," said Doc.

"Really? We got canned water?" said Big Jim.

"No, there's water in the food. Most of its water by volume,” said Doc.

"That doesn't count."

Doc gave him a sour look and shook his head. There was no arguing with a fool.

"Everybody, check your feet for blisters," said Doc. "One at a time, please. And stay alert.”

"I'll go first," said Big Jim, pulling one well-worn boot off. His feet were huge.

"Hey Jimbo, what size are those Cadillacs?" asked Jax.

"Fourteen," replied Big Jim rubbing his feet. "That's why I always raid the shoe department first. You have no idea how hard it is to find my shoe size nowadays."

“Hurry up, will you?” said Hanna.

“Tell you what, I’ll give you a nickel if you suck my toes,” whispered Big Jim, extending a bare and gnarly foot toward her.

Hanna smiled wickedly at Big Jim and breathed in slow, gathered sputum in her throat, prepared to hock it in his direction.

For a wild second, he was convinced she was going to spit in his face. “Bitch, don’t you dare,” he said, eyes going wide as he tensed. He could see her throat muscles flexing, like a cobra.
At the last moment, she casually turned her head and spit the loogey past him.

“Yeah, thought so,” said Big Jim, voice vibrating with the hint of a nervous smirk.

It was Jax's turn to check his feet. He unlaced his boots, peeled his sweaty socks off and wiggled his toes in the fresh morning air. Being barefoot felt like heaven on earth, if only for a moment. As bad as things were, their situation could be a lot worse.

"Here," said Doc, tossing a box of Band-Aids and bottle of disinfectant to him in anticipation.

"Thanks, Doc."

Having finished checking her own feet, Hanna tied her bootlaces, stood up and sauntered off into the weeds. Big Jim raised an eyebrow. "Number one or number two?"

She flicked him the middle finger without looking back.

"Number one it is. You know Jax, I think she really likes me,“ said Big Jim.

“Sure thing buddy. Keep thinking that,” said Jax.

“No, really. She’s got the hots for me. She’s just pissed ‘cause it’s that time of the month and I’ve been too busy to give her the attention she wants.

“Jimbo, this is weird, even for you. Just drop it.”

Big Jim laughed maniacally. “Yeah, OK Jax, I can tell you like her. I get it. It’s cool. But don’t you want to know a little bit about her before you hook up?”

“Like, you of all people would know,” said Jax.

“Yeah, I do. No shit Jax. You need to know who you’re dealing with here before you go all in. Trust me.”

“Alright, Jimbo. I’m listening.”

We were married, Jax. We had a kid,” said Big Jim.

Jax was about to call his bluff but paused to think instead. Married? A kid? Big Jim‘s kid?

Big Jim continued, “He died. That’s why she hates me so much. She thinks it‘s my fault.”

Big Jim caught the confused look in Jaxs’ eyes and instantly regretted what he‘d said.“Dude, I’m kidding,” said Big Jim.

“Fuck you asshole,” said Jax, “There’s something seriously wrong with you, DUDE!”

Jax got up, turned away and disappeared in the weeds. Big Jim sighed. “Jax? Jax? Aw, man. I’m sorry, dude, you’re right, I’m an asshole, I know it. I just say stupid shit sometimes, OK? I don’t mean nothing by it,” said Big Jim weakly. Big Jim was talking to himself.

A moment later, Mike returned. "We're in Carson," he said, climbing back down the embankment. "Still a long way from Los Angeles."

"How far away are we, Mike?" Doc asked.

"About forty klicks as the crow flies. Maybe a skosh more than that," he replied.

Doc groaned. "Somebody remind me not to do this again."

"This is a cakewalk, Doc,“ said Mike, sarcastically.

"Maybe for you, Mikey, not for me. I'm too old for this Rambo crap."

Mike rubbed his feet and nodded. "Aren't we all.”

Hanna returned a moment later and stopped in front of Mike. "Uncle... sorry... I mean Mike, there's a dead guy back there," she said, tipping her head.

Mike felt a stab of pain in his heart. What happened to you, my sweet little niece? Who screwed you up so bad?

Hanna caught the look in Mike’s eyes and felt his empathy. For a moment she softened. His tortured face seemed older, like a hundred miles of bad road. Hair thinning, beard flecked with strands of white and silver, he looked like one of those big stuffed bears no one ever won at the county fair game booth. But he was still ruggedly handsome, just like she remembered.

Hanna looked away and cursed herself for that momentary lapse of weakness. She was tired. “Anyway, he ain’t getting any deader,” she said.

“Lead the way,” said Mike, softly.

Everyone stood up and followed Hanna into the brush to investigate. Not from of morbid curiosity, Jax knew, but out of necessity. Dead bodies were always scrutinized to determine hidden threats.

As they drew close to the corpse, the odor of decay forced them to cover their noses. The recently deceased was an older man. Most of his clothes were gone. His eyes had been pecked out, and his pale, bloated body was covered with red ants. Entrails blossomed from a ragged hole on the side of his abdomen. But, for Jax, the most horrifying part of this hellish scene was the missing nose, ears, and lips. He felt his stomach squeeze tight.

"Dude, that's rank," said Big Jim, breaking the silence. He prodded the corpse with a stick. Dozens of Black Flies buzzed out of the wound and swarmed around them in protest.

"What the hell's wrong with you? Show some respect!" snapped Doc, his voice muffled behind the bandana.

Big Jim's cheeks turned red, and he glared back at Doc. "Chill out, will you? It's a damn corpse, Doc. Freakin' roadkill."

"Who the hell raised you?"

Big Jim had murder in his eyes, but Doc stood his ground. Mike stepped between them before they came to blows.

"Jimbo back off," he growled. “Everbody listen up! I’ve had enough of this, ‘everyone always at each other’s throat bullshit!’ I‘m sick of it! Either y’all pull together right now or we separate and go our separate ways. And if that’s the case, don’t bother going back to the observatory, you won’t be welcome. That’s a promise! Are we clear?”

Bandana pressed against his face, Mike waited for their reply. All of them nodded.

Big Jim and Doc followed Mike out of the brush.

"Retard," mumbled Hanna, her eyes like daggers pointed at Big Jim as she fell into formation.

"Why can’t we all just get along?" thought Jax. His pulse was racing and his gut was on the verge of blowing chow. Swatting uselessly at the flies, he turned and followed Hanna through the weeds.

"Probably just a dumbass drifter," muttered Big Jim.

Who cares? Jax thought. The guy was someone's son, maybe a father and a husband too.”

He'd seen naked, desiccated bodies stacked like cords of wood in Utah during the freeze. Dead or alive, no one deserved to be treated like that. They were sold as fuel. Jax wondered if his parents had suffered such indignities after they died.

***
Joey, Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye made it back safely to the ship where Joey promptly headed to the showers for his daily sauna session. The ship’s shower compartment was open 24/7 to the entire crew, except when Joey was there. Snaggletooth and Lazy Eye stood guard at the door to ensure their boss enjoyed complete privacy.

All four showers were running full blast, scalding hot water only, as Joey lowered himself onto a wooden stool.

That was an interesting run, he thought, wrapped in a towel, sweating in the hot mist as lactic toxins oozed from his smooth skin.

Rather than scare him, the ambush had quickened Joey in a way he hadn’t felt for a very long time. There was a special euphoria that manifested itself when one’s life was threatened. It was a secret thrill that few would ever know and fewer still could even appreciate.

He’d scheduled last night’s hunt half-heartedly, as an angry response to Captain Peng’s damned insolence.

Truth be told, Joey seriously considered calling the hunt off.

Plan A: After his daily run and steambath, he’d lock his stateroom door, get high as a kite and sleep the rest of the day away.

Plan A was no longer valid. Today’s unexpected perils had awakened something primal in him, Joey felt reborn, regenerated, and once again, ready for sport.
****
Notorious KraZy Boyz headquarters was located in the rolling hills of Rancho Palos Verdes, once the fairy tale abode of the well-to-do, now the home turf of the most vicious street gang in the world.

A majority of the multi-million dollar homes in that exclusive neighborhood had burned down early in the war. A few mansions survived, though, because of natural firebreaks in the topography. Steep hills between rocky canyons helped preserve some of the more remote domiciles.
Ultimately, their owners had been driven out by gangs or killed by the global pandemic created by the nuclear freeze.

Charlie Wu, the local leader of the KraZy Boyz gang, Los Angeles County chapter, sat on his porch swing with two of his lieutenants, enjoying the mid-afternoon breeze.
A half dozen street soldiers were playing craps on the sidewalk. Others were chilling out on the veranda nursing chemical hangovers or tinkering with their motorcycles in the vast, hangar-like garage.

They are my cadre, thought Charlie. Homegrown local boys, loyal centurions, every one of them.

Here in RPV, they had it good. Better than most of their members and affiliates, who lived in the poverty of the ruins below them.

Charlie felt no pity or remorse for them. They were lucky to find themselves employed in his organization. And they had every opportunity to prove themselves worthy if they truly wanted to better their lot and move up in the world.

Charlie was boss because he earned it, had been at the right place at the right time, had seized the day and taken advantage of every circumstance, good or bad.

Today was a good day, Charlie thought. The sun was out, and the ocean breezes were mild. He'd even spotted a couple of seagulls swirling in the thermals.

Charlie couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a bird in the sky. Their presence was an omen that the natural world was slowly returning to normal after three stark of years global nuclear winter.

Things were looking up. The Pee Wees gang encroachment had been stopped at the 105 Fwy where, after a bloody battle their 2nd in command had been killed and his severed head was piked and displayed for all the world to see.

Now, the Grim Devils, the most enterprising of the outlaw biker gangs, were knocking at Charlie’s door bearing gifts and tokens.

Best of all, that bastard Joey Chao would be leaving soon and that put Charlie in a good mood. Ever since his arrival, Joey had been watching him like a hawk.

Charlie took a hit from a fatty passed among them and pondered the thought. Joey Chao was an enigma, both personally and professionally. His ideas were equally revolutionary and impossibly rigid, the exact opposite of the traditional structure Triad members and affiliates employed.
His new business model reminded Charlie of the Italian Mafia and the Japanese Yakusa gangs, where nothing happened without the consent of the godfather, and the lion’s share of the profits were sent overseas.

There was no autonomy. Gone were the days where Chinese American gangs had the freedom of movement to expand their sphere of influence in local communities and beyond, without interference from their patron sponsors on the other side of the world.

The problem with the new paradigm was that Joey was too demanding, his expectations of the gang too high. Charlie could feel him breathing down his neck at every turn. Not that Charlie was a slouch. He ran the organization with ruthless efficiency. But Joey was a micromanager, and he wanted everything done his way. It left no room for innovation, and Charlie resented it deeply. And yes, he’d contemplated mounting a coup, starting a grassroots revolt against Joey's hamfisted approach, but by the time Charlie had realized what had happened, Joey's mercenary immigrants were embedded in the gang, and now, they outnumbered the local KraZy Boyz almost two to one. A coup was impossible.

But the real reason behind Charlie’s consuming hatred of “China Boy” was this; Charlie wanted more interaction with the powerful drug cartels south of the border. He wanted a working relationship with the Latin kingpins that presently supplied most of the drugs to North America. Joey forbade anything more than a mutual agreement to keep their operations distant and apart. His obsession with keeping their business isolated and locked into the Triad seemed intolerable to Charlie. And stupid.

Cocaine was far easier to traffic than opium because the supply was closer, and the demand was higher. If China Boy Joey couldn't get that through his thick Hong Kong skull, then Charlie would set up a supply line without him. Joey wouldn't have to know about it.

Another thing on his wish list was methamphetamine. Crystal meth was also a popular drug, especially with the working classes in the cities. The Grim Devils Motorcycle Club owned the market on meth and Charlie wanted a piece of that action too.

“Hey boss, Joey's car is heading our way,” said one of his bangers.

Charlie’s pleasant morning dissolved like crack on a hot spoon.

“What the hell? He's supposed to be on his way home by now. You sure it's him?”

The banger shrugged.

Charlie rose to his feet and glanced down the winding road.

It was Joey, alright.

Damnit.

He yelled at the craps players, “Hey, pack that shit up and look busy. China Boy's coming.” They quickly stopped the game and disappeared into Charlie's 4-car garage.

“Make some of that crappy tea he likes,” Charlie said to the messenger,” and wake the girls, tell them to be ready in case he's here for poontang.”
Snaggletooth parked the Land Rover and set the brake. He and Lazy Eye, waited in the idling pickup while Joey slid out of the passenger's seat and walked towards Charlie.

“Hi boss,” said Charlie.

“Charlie. You look a little anxious.”

“No boss, I'm just surprised. I thought you were leaving for China today.”

“We've been delayed.”

“Sorry to hear that. What can I do for you?”

“I need three of your best soldiers and a vehicle with a full tank of my gas.”

“Of course, boss. Anyone in particular?”

“No, you pick them. They need to know the neighborhood like the back of their hand. We're going on a hunting expedition.”

“You got it, boss. Can I bring you some tea?”

“Yes.”

“I'll be right back.”

Charlie returned a minute later with Joeys favorite Ganlu tea in a thermos. A red Toyota pickup truck pulled up behind the Land Rover with three sullen KraZy Boyz inside.

Joey took the thermos and returned to his vehicle. Charlie followed him and closed the door.

“By the way, Charlie,” said Joey, rolling down the window, “I’ve heard rumors that some of the KraZy Boyz are cozying up to our competition locally and south of the border. Anything from your end on those allegations?”

Charlie gulped, his Adam's apple traversing up and down in his throat like a chesspiece trapped between two rooks before the inevitable checkmate.
“No boss, if that was true, I’d know about it. I swear my boys are as loyal to you as they are to their own mothers.”

Joey just stared at Charlie, gave no indication of his thoughts. He disappeared as the heavily tinted window rolled shut with the press of a button.

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by idahobob » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:42 am

Drugs.......not even the end of the world can get rid of that shit, eh?
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:52 pm

Thanks for the comment idahobob, I suspect when the SHTF happens, for many, drugs will be worth their weight in gold.

Chapter 10
The stinky salmon he’d eaten in Los Angeles was wreaking havoc on Wade. Twice, he stopped to throw up, then again three times later for those ‘drop everything right now’ Hershey squirts.

“Food poisoning, most likely,” he said to his horse, gingerly climbing back on.

He steadied himself on the saddle. The whiskey in the square bottle... what was it called again? I’ll remember in a minute. Anyway it helped a little.

Too bad it was already gone.

He wasn’t all that drunk. Not really. It was a case of CRS: Can’t Remember Shit. A condition sometimes caused by fast living, but usually it was just genetic, said the VA doctor after his mandatory PTSD session.

Of those wild and woolly days, only fragments remained.

Three tours. One with the Army, two as a PMC, private military contractor.

A roadside IED, Afghanistan.

Six weeks of physical therapy, then back to sheep dogging supply convoys.

And Stan, of course. He was still a pup when they adopted him; a half-starved, mangy little critter. Wade and his buddies got him into a veterinary clinic in Kabul, where the special forces dogs were treated. After that, Stan became everyone’s favorite and it took some effort to keep him hidden, as pets were forbidden on base.

Yeah, Stan was the best. A real morale booster.

After that, a career with the ATF, a year as a field agent, the rest undercover.

Wade’s gut rumbled like a volcano. There’s gotta be something I can do for this... Oh, right. Nettle Tea. That worked before, in the ‘Stan. Nettle grew like crazy along the banks of the LA River and its reservoirs.

Synapses started firing on all cylinders again. Wade dismounted and started looking for wild Nettle and a few other medicinal plants he remembered using for digestive problems.

As he boiled the Nettle leaves over a campfire, Wade decided the best part of this morning was the moment he purchased his new horse. They’d hit it off right away. She was a beauty of a beast. The horse was everything he’d wanted, and then some. A gentle nature. An uncanny sense of situational awareness. Physically fit and mentally quick to respond to commands. But best of all, the mare connected with him almost preternaturally. She seemed to sense his next move instinctually, rather than wait for his command.

Throughout history, a beast of burden had no function beyond it’s job to haul people or merchandise from point A to point B. Traditionally, domesticated animals were mere livestock, to be driven and eventually destroyed or used as food when their days of labor were over. Unfortunately, this calloused view of those simpler souls among us is once again a worldwide philosophy, thought Wade.

Feeling stronger, Wade slowed his new pony as they climbed down the concrete banks of the LA River. The windy entrance to the Los Angeles River was as iconic as it was inconsequential. It featured a rusty, shot-up ‘No trespassing,’ sign, tangled in razor wire and almost illegible. The gateway to River City, as the locals called it, was altogether different than the one in Los Angeles. No one was ever denied entrance to the river community, where all manner of industry, vulgar and profane, might be found for the right price.

Wade steered the mare to Sam’s Place, a popular spot with a peculiar ambiance. It had once been a coffee house, later, a dedicated cop bar, then, a craft brewery, and today in its current manifestation, a Mexican Cantina... Run by no other than Pete Garcia himself, retired Border Patrol Tactical Unit Supervisor, and long-time friend of Wade MacArthur.

Outside the establishment’s crumbling brick walls, Wade eased his sore, crackling frame off the saddle and stroked his horse’s cheek.

“Be right back,” he said, tying her off.

“Wait a sec, you need a name. How ‘bout Gypsy? I always liked that name.”

The loyal horse snorted in reply.

“Then Gypsy it is. Stan, keep an eye on Gypsy for me.”

Inside, Wade pushed past the motley crowd in the semi-darkness, to the back of the noisy bar. Strings of Christmas lights, hung from the walls, blinked merrily, even though it wasn’t yet noon. A Mariachi band made it’s way to another corner of the bar, playing standards and favorites along the way, lending an air of happiness in the midst of ruin. Laughter and conversation drowned out the normal misery outside on the riverbank. An interesting fact, thought Wade as he looked around, that Sam’s Place was as full of “Peace Officers” as it was of criminals. An unspoken rule made Sam’s place a sort of “No Man’s Land,” a public commons where deals between opposing forces were often made surreptitiously in lieu of the court system. It was a place where looking the other way happened more often than not and, on the other side of the coin, whereby some folks sought to purchase frontier justice.

“Pendejo,” said Pete with a half-smile, no longer as fit and in fighting trim as before, but still as quick-witted and driven.

A fist bump followed, then Pete extended a shot glass full of his best rotgut. Wade downed it, grimaced, then nodded his thanks.

“What brings you ugly gringo mug to my fine establishment?”

“Same as usual,” said Wade.

“Who’s the perp this time?”

“One Tyrone ‘Zippy’ Jackson,” said Wade.

Pete whistled. “South Side Pee Wee’s bossman.”

Wade nodded and shoved his shot glass back to Pete. Pete poured another half-inch of firewater into the glass.

“Anything you can tell me about his whereabouts?”

“Sure,” said Pete, as Wade swallowed and convulsed.

“OK, Pete. Same deal as always.Ten percent off the top for any info that leads me to him,” said Wade.

“Make it fifteen, this time. I'll give you his exact coordinates,” replied Pete.

Wade raised an eyebrow.

“One of my deep covers was killed last week following the Pee Wees. His family could use compensation.”

Wade nodded, “Fine. I’ll give you that. Just point me in the right direction.”

Sometimes it takes money to make money.

Pete motioned Wade to follow him to his office. He lit a candle and motioned to a large guard, someone Wade found vaguely familiar, to lead them there.

Taylor Henderson, formerly BORTAC Agent Henderson, now much fatter than muscular, averted his eyes. Gone was the cavalier gunfighter, replaced by just another guy trying to survive in the apocalypse.

A stone staircase beneath a worn Persian rug, and a trapdoor, revealed steps carved into the concrete. The steps led them into a tunnel that was rumored to belong to Al Capone, or some other equally famous ‘30s gangster. Undulating shapes, caused by the flicker of candlelight, added visual effects to their echoing footsteps. There was a faint sewery odor, but it was the same smell everywhere in the LA River. Only a first-timer would have noticed or been bothered by it.

Of course, this was all part of the act and Pete made Wade suffer through it every single time he sought information on the bounty he was after. Wade rolled his eyes, unsure of the psychological effect Pete was after, but he did admit to himself that it grated him some.

The ornate double doors of Pete’s underground office screeched on their hinges when he pushed them open. A little bacon grease might keep them silent but Pete enjoyed their jarring effect.

Pete offered Wade a seat on a sofa and sat down behind an antique mahogany desk. Raised panels, decorated with inlays of geometric shapes, seemed to dance in the candlelight. He pulled out a pair of cigars from the top drawer and handed one to Wade. They both lit up and blew blue smoke into the musty air.

Then Pete stood up and walked to the wall, where an old pre-war street map of Los Angeles was pinned to a corkboard. He stabbed a location on the map with his finger. Wade followed with a worn pocket notebook and a stubby pencil.“Zippy’s last known location; an apartment complex in Carson, off Figueroa and 17th Street,” said Pete.

Wade wrote it down, squinting in the candlelight. “How old is this information?” he asked.

“24 hours, no more. In fact, word is he’s trying to broker some kind of deal with your old crew.”

“The Grim Devils? Strange alliance, considering their history. What’s the angle?” said Wade.

Pete shrugged. “Not sure, but the Pee Wees got their asses handed to them in a turf war with the Krazy Boyz and the Triad. So, as of yesterday Zippy controls everything from the outskirts of San Pedro, Long Beach and East LA, to whatever’s left of Los Angeles county, with the exception of the city, of course. KraZy BoyZ control everything else. My best guess is dick-head Zippy wants his block back and a pound of Chinese flesh,”

“One hell of a rumble, mused Wade.

Wade studied the map for a moment, then snuffed out his cigar in an ashtray and put the unsmoked portion in his poncho pocket. For later, after he brought Zippy’s head back.

“You sure you’re up for this, Wade?” said Pete.

“He’s just a man, like any other,” said Wade.

“OK, well if you want to contract some help, I can hook you up.”

“No thanks,” said Wade.

“How about firepower? I just got my hands on some exotic battle rattle, a little dated, but not by much, courtesy of a three-letter agency that starts with a C and ends with an A and shall remain unnamed for no reason at all.”

“Don’t need it Garcia, I got my own weapons.”

“Well then, I guess it’s off to the barrio for you, eh?”

“Well, there is something you can help with. I’m all out of JD. I don’t suppose you know where I can snag a couple bottles?”

Garcia laughed. “Don’t worry Wade, I got your back. Henderson, see that Wade gets what he needs from the storeroom.”

Henderson nodded mutely.

Henderson, thought Wade. Now I remember. What the hell happened to you, snowflake?

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by idahobob » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:17 am

MOAR, please. :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:42 pm

idahobob wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:17 am
MOAR, please. :clap: :clap:
Thanks idahobob.

Chapter 11
An hour into the trek Jax found himself surrounded by an odd mix of ramshackle buildings. Odd, because some of the structures, what remained of them, seemed out of place in what was supposed to be a residential neighborhood. For instance, the dirty plaster shell of a hardware store, weathered, once painted in red, white and green, advertised water heaters in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Beside it, a small neighborhood church, most likely Catholic, maybe 7th Day Adventist, or some variation thereof. Its steeple lay toppled in the parking lot, burnt black. A humble stucco bungalow, long-abandoned sat next to the church, then there was a two-story craftsman with broken statuary scattered among the weeds.

On and on it went, as though the zoning laws encouraged a melding of residential and industrial chaos. But then again, this was California, he reminded himself.

An apartment complex, boasting free cable TV. A palm reader’s home/business, a tire store, imprisoned behind tangles of rusted razor wire, protected a dozen sets of useless rims and auto servicing equipment. The ever-present stench of melted tar and asphalt clung to his passages like a never-ending nasal infection. Jax wondered if he’d ever smell pure air again.

His eyes wandered over to Hanna’s slim body, moving like a stealthy tiger, self-aware, unafraid. What is this strange compulsion that draws me to this wench? The more he saw, the more he wanted her. If the old adage that opposites attract was true, then this was a textbook example. Well, a one-sided example for the moment, but Jax was confident he’d win her over with his Latin charm and good looks. He had a way with girls that most guys might pay good money to learn and emulate. At least before the apocalypse, that is.

But still, the question remains unanswered. Of the half dozen bachelorettes in my new tribe, why her? It was a question that might go unanswered for a very long time.

Directly in front of him, Doc was limping. It was slight but noticeable. Jax made a mental note to offer to take some of Doc’s burden and lighten his load the next time they took five for a rest. Or maybe he’d just relocate some of the canned food from Doc’s ruck into Big Jim’s backpack, as before.

Then again, maybe not. Big Jim was messed up, to say the least. If stupid was an illness, Big Jim’s atrocious yearbook portrait would probably be found in most medical journals.

As soon as it entered his mind, Jax regretted the cruel thought. What if Big Jim was bi-polar? After the SHTF, there were no remedies or prescriptions available for the manic mood swings Big Jim exhibited. Jax had a fragile uncle that killed himself because his meds ran out and he was too whacked to renew them. Maybe that was Big Jim’s lot in life as well.

Man, I’m such a bastard sometimes, thought Jax, glumly. Stick a knife in a guy’s back and twist it for fun. Dear God, forgive me. Please save me from my stupid self.

And so it went, on and on, as the miles melt away and the team strove to find safe haven, away from the Zone.

Thirty yards ahead he spotted Mike, on point, again. Most leaders led from behind. Not Mike.

Pre-SHTF pop culture might characterize Jax’s and Mike’s relationship as a bromance, but Jax truly felt it was deeper than that. Whatever their connection, there was genuine respect and admiration between them. A rare thing, sometimes spoken of in times of war or extreme situations that drew like-minded men and women together. It was as if they were blood brothers, from another mother.

Across the street, an auto body and upholstery shop, beside a coin-operated laundromat, a garish pink adult toy store, still lewd and vulgar. A tiny neighborhood sports bar and a Mexican drugstore were shoehorned together among the weedy rubble of a strip mall. Then, they found themselves in the shade of a rundown apartment complex. Probably government housing Jax reckoned. Debris on the street was noticeably thicker here, with evidence of mass rioting and looting. The neighborhood felt more sinister and menacing. Something in Jax's gut told him they were being watched.
He noticed the rest of the team was feeling uneasy as well. They seemed tense, more alert, looking hard for potential threats lurking in the shadows.

Stepping over a downed cell phone tower disguised as a palm tree, they passed a corner Mexican Carneceria that had been looted bare. Its doors and windows were missing, and no one had bothered to board them up. The iron bars that once had covered them lay on the sidewalk ripped from their bolts. Painted on the front were the words "LOTTO" "EBT" and "ATM Inside." A faded hand-painted mural featured the Virgin Mary floating over a Mexican desert landscape. Layers of graffiti from rival gangs covered most of the structure's plaster.

“Well looky here,” said Wade MacArthur to himself, glassing the city block through his binos.

A group of five foragers were picking their way through Zippy’s last known whereabouts; the Royale Apartments, at the outer edge of the city once known as Carson.

Gypsy, whinnied and grunted at the sound of Wade’s voice.

“Shush now, Darlin’’,“ said Wade softly as Gypsy nuzzled him with her nose.

Wade stroked her cheek and scrutinized the foragers, one by one, then together as a whole.

“Damn amateurs, they’s walking straight inta my kill box,” he whispered.

Wade stashed the binos into his saddlebag and mounted his horse. He’d have to shoo those blundering innocents away before Zippy detected them.
He clucked his tongue twice. The horse catapulted Wade from zero to forty in the blink of an eye.

Mike stopped and looked ahead through his riflescope. Everyone else crouched and fanned out, weapons trained to the front, just as Mike had taught them to do.

"We've got company," he said.

A man on horseback stood in the middle of the intersection a block away.

"Now there's something you don't see every day," said Doc rising slowly.

It was obvious the stranger had seen them as well. He was wearing a dark poncho with a hood. A rifle was clutched in his hand, its buttstock resting on his thigh. Jax wondered if he was a drifter or a marauder. Maybe he was just another guy, out foraging like they were. That he carried a rifle wasn't unusual. Everyone packed something these days.

The stranger slowly raised his hand in salutation. Or was it a warning to stay away? Mike cautiously waved back and pointed toward the San Gabriel mountains, their destination.

The stranger nodded and motioned for them to continue their journey north on Figueroa.

Mike nodded and glanced back over his shoulder. "Let's move on."

"Local?" Jax asked.

"I doubt it," said Mike.

"In case you haven't heard, Jax Boy, the locals ain't friendly ‘round here," said Big Jim.

"I know that. He seemed pretty confident though, like he owns the turf."
****
At that very moment, Zippy Jackson and his bodyguards were negotiating their terms of endearment with Chuey Madrigal, of the Sinaloa Cartel, and a half dozen of his best sicarios. They were discussing a shipment of cocaine that had gone missing during the battle at the 105 freeway with the KraZy BoyZ. Neither side took responsibility for the gargantuan loss.

The meeting was being held in the Royale Arms’ landlord’s office, that had been expanded and turned into Zippy’s crib away from home. Six months ago, Zippy had his contractors knock out four walls and install a jacuzzi, a bed made for an orgy, and build a sound and stage system without rival.
For his endeavors in the realm of home-made pornography. Now that things were stabilizing a bit after the nuclear freeze, men and women were indulging in things not directly tied to survival, and Zippy decided to capitalize on that particular vice.

“The fact remains, the shipment was still in your hands when it was lost, homeboy,” said Zippy, waving away a fatty that was being circulated among his bros. His bloodshot eyes were like obsidian stones set deep into his handsome brown face.

“And equally true is the fact that the exchange was held on your turf, my nigga,” said Chuey, with mock exaggeration.

Zippy almost laughed, but shook his head instead. His lieutenants bristled at the brazen remark from the overly tattooed beaner, struggled to control themselves despite the centuries of racism and subsequent slavery. The look on their young black faces was pure hatred. Nobody calls you that except a fellow member of your own race...

“What? you can dis me but I can’t dis you back?” said Chuey, reading them like comic book villains. “You might be wise to remember I’m not your homeboy muthafucka.”

Zippy knew a thing or two about history, slavery, and racism. As a halfie, half black and half white, he’d seen both sides of the equation and had finally concluded that the only winners in that broken paradigm were those who could look past race, creed or religion and broker deals that ignored superficial differences and capitalized on shared goals. No matter how much it hurt. Being offended was an indulgence that cost money. And this meeting was all about money.

Chuey saw Zippy’s lack of response to his jab and raised his hands in question.“Well?”, he asked.

The standoff was going nowhere. Zippy stared past Chuey and sighed. He was about to introduce Plan B, a compromise when a loud knock on the door caught everyone’s attention.

Guns were drawn and cocked, some pointed at the door, some at the two principals. The door opened slowly.

“Sorry Mr. Zippy,” said a dreadlocked brother, all of thirteen years, but his eyes belonged to an old soul.

“What’s up.”

“Foragers. And some cracker on a horse, coming our way.”

“You know what to do,” said Zippy, impatiently.

“Yeah, but I thought you should know, the guy on the horse ‘been askin’ folks about you.”

“That right?” said Zippy, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yeah, word is he’s a bounty hunter. Some crazy old honkey named Wade something.”

Fuck me, thought Zippy. It didn’t get much worse than that. He turned to his 2nd in command. “Round up as many soldiers as you can. Get them on the forward edge of the block, armed and ready to fight.”

To Chuey, he said “We’ll settle this bullshit later. If I was you, I’d get my ass as far gone as possible, homeboy.”

Chuey glared at Zippy but withdrew. Whatever had spooked Zippy, ex-Army Ranger, sniper, 3-tour Afghanistan veteran, was no small matter.
****
Gunfire smashed into the pavement, kicked up deadly debris all around them.

Hanna screamed. Mike yelled, "Cover!"

Shots rang out from both sides of the street as they dashed behind a cluster of abandoned cars.

Jax crashed into Big Jim and nearly knocked him on his back as he scrambled backwards to get out of the line of fire. "Watch where you're going," Big Jim scolded.

Jax gulped air, too terrified to be embarrassed by Big Jim's rebuff. Sneaking a glance across the street, he saw Hanna and Doc crouched behind a rusty gold Cadillac pimpmobile, making themselves as small as possible.

"Sniper! three o'clock" yelled Doc.

A muzzle flash and the supersonic twang of a bullet replied from one of the second story windowsills at the apartment complex. Jax and Big Jim pulled back behind a wall of dead cars.

Poncho man suddenly appeared in the corner of his eye. Jax watched in awe as he scampered up the narrow fire escape ladder to the apartment building's porch.

The heroic stranger tossed a flaming Molotov cocktail through the open door of the corner unit. The bottle exploded, and fire spread inside the apartment as the rug and curtains exploded. Crouched low, Poncho man shot every burning banger as they stumbled through the blaze of the inferno.

Seizing the moment, Mike suddenly popped up in front of Big Jim and Jax.

"On me, Jim," he shouted.

Mike saw that Big Jim was wild-eyed, bore the proverbial deer in the headlights look. The big Texan was done for the moment and would be of no use, at least for a while.

Wasting no time, Mike turned to Jax, who nodded but inwardly wanted to climb into a hole and hide. Mike snatched Big Jim's rifle and a spare mag and gave it to Jax. Braving random bullets, he followed Mike to a position under the stairs of the duplex. They paused for a moment to replace their spent magazines and prepare for the assault. Jax saw Mike mouth the words, “Go!”

Mike and Jax bounded up the stairs, hell-bent for leather. Doc watched as they rushed in through the doorway. Several shots later, they emerged unscathed and ran down the stairs.

Two gangbangers ran out of the first story door firing blindly into the street and nearly collided with Mike and Jax. Mike promptly dispatched them both with center mass double taps. In the meantime, Jax spotted several more bangers rushing out of the blazing apartment building across the street and swung his muzzle in their direction. Before he could fire, Poncho Man shot them in the back.

Suddenly, time stopped and Jax found himself listening to his own heavy breathing. The gunfight was over almost as soon as it began. Figueroa Street stank of gunpowder and burned flesh.

What the hell just happened? he thought. Jax felt moisture against his crotch. He looked down and was relieved it wasn’t blood. When did that happen? Somewhere along the line he’d pissed himself. Unfortunately, he couldn‘t hide the stain, but It was better than getting his gonads shot off.

"Anyone hit?" said Mike. None of their party had been shot, but Doc had a grazed cheek and Hanna had debris in one of her eyes.

They counted nine dead bangers, none of which possessed automatic rifles."What a waste," said Doc, who had fixed a bitter gaze on the dead bangers. They were all in their teens.

It happened so fast. Jax stared at the bullet-ridden bodies, wondered who among them he slew, while fighting the urge to vomit. Sure, they shot first, intent on murdering him and his friends. Jax had every right to defend himself and his comrades. Still, there was no peace to be found among the crumpled bodies lying askew on the pavement.

Big Jim bent down and picked up a chrome-plated .45 ACP. He checked the magazine and tucked the pistol into his waistband. "Fuckin’ Pee Wees," he said.

Poncho man appeared from the gunsmoke-haze. He squatted down on his heels and started checking the dead bangers' faces on the far side of the street. None of them were Zippy Jackson. Somehow he’d managed to escape.

"He's definitely not a local," said Mike.

"How can you tell?" said Doc.

"He lacks swagger. Look at him. He acts bat-shit crazy, but he's all business. Obviously not from these parts." Mike dug into his ruck and placed a grocery bag with a small token of tuna and ravioli cans on the pavement as Poncho Man approached.

"Thanks for the help," said Mike.

"These vermin moved in a few days ago. Property values were taking a dump,” said the Poncho Man.

Mike nodded.

"Got any whiskey? That was my last bottle," Wade drawled.

Mike shook his head, "Sorry. You might find some liquor in the duplex, though."

"That's just what I was thinking."

Poncho Man scooped up his payment and backed away, a finger on the trigger of his rifle. He disappeared into the duplex. Hanna broke the silence.

"Really? A freakin' hillbilly?"

"Probably West Virginia or Kentucky, from the sound of his accent,“ said Mike.

"Guys, I think I hear something," said Jax.

"What?" said Mike.

"I don't know. Sounds like a buzzing noise."

"I hear it too," said Doc, cocking his head to the side.

All strained to listen above the crackle of the apartment fire.

Jax looked up into the sooty sky. A tiny drone hovered overhead, beyond the thick black smoke.

"Somebody's watching us," said Mike, taking aim with his rifle.

The drone zipped away before he could fire and zig-zagged behind a distant building.

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by idahobob » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:30 am

Quick and dirty.........Me likes :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by DAVE KI » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:45 pm

This IS good and getting better. Wonder who the drone belongs to. Got a good idea.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by CaptainCrunch » Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:04 pm

Thanks, idahobob & DAVE KI, for your kind comments.

Chapter 12
Two miles away, Joey watched drone's video feed with keen interest. Though he'd missed the battle, the outcome of the fight was displayed on his smartphone’s screen in glorious in Hi-Def, thanks to a recently launched SpySat-1 from Xi'an Satellite Monitor and Control Center, aka ‘Base 26.’
The ‘bird’, as satellites were called it in government-speak before the war, was tasked to a dedicated geostationary orbit above Southern California. This was no mean feat, either technically or politically, except for the fact that Joey’s request for constant surveillance there made it possible. Uncle Ma needed no further argument, for or against Joey’s chit. It was accepted at face value, thereby making Joey the most powerful executive officer in the Triad, under Uncle Ma.

Caked in blood on his smartphone‘s screen, nine bodies lay askew like crimson snow angels on hard asphalt. Brass bullet casings glittered in the sunlight around them. Some of their faces were frozen in agony, others appeared to be slumbering peacefully in fetal repose. Regardless of what they looked like, they were all stone-cold dead.

“Pee Wee’s,” said Joey, with a curious tone in his voice. “Apparently someone’s helping us take out the trash. But who?”

No one in the luxury Land Rover dared answer him. The question was rhetorical, and well above their paygrade. Joey often talked to himself as if another person, no, as if a demon resided with him in his mind, Snaggletooth thought with an involuntary shudder.

This is how madmen speak.

He caught a quick glimpse of Joey in the rearview mirror, face buried in the smartphone, fingers maximizing the image, then moving through the mortal tableaux like an unseen god.

“Could it be the Grim Devils biker gang? Was there a falling out?” Joey continued. “Possibly, but not likely. Though they’d been accused of being white supremacists, those one-percenters never murdered their clients, especially when there was money at stake. Besides, more than a few of them were present at the battle of the 105 freeway, fighting side by side with their dark-skinned counterparts. We even recovered quite a few of their bodies and had them processed for export. No, whoever did this was not a member of the Grim Devils Motorcycle club.”

Joey’s eyes met Snaggletooth’s in the rearview mirror. The burly bodyguard simply nodded noncommittally and looked away.

“Perhaps it was one of the local cartels, the Sinaloa, or the Cali or the Moica. There’s always been bad blood between the Mexicans and the blacks.”

Joey stole another glance at Snaggletooth. Not a peep or a twitch from the big lug.

He continued thinking aloud, “Nevertheless, I doubt the cartels would turn on their largest distributors, even if they detected some skimming along the way. No, they’d deal with it privately and surgically, not like this.”

Snaggletooth felt Joey’s eyes on him, staring, daring him to look back. But he kept his attention on the road ahead. It was a strange and twisted game Joey played with his underlings and Snaggletooth knew better than to engage his boss in a challenge. Those who did were never heard from again. Best to shrink down as far as possible and stay out of his crosshairs.

“The beginnings of a civil war? An attempted coup by some overly ambitious street soldier looking to make a name for himself?” Joey shook his head. Not bloody likely. The Pee Wees were a family, in the broadest sense of the word. Like most men with a history of oppression, regardless of race or creed, they follow the pack rather than strike out on their own. Sticking together for survival was a primary characteristic of people who were used to being prey. Anyone who challenged that hive mentality would find himself ostracized.

“No, whoever was responsible for this massacre is a new threat, a new adversary, undetected until a few minutes ago.”

The thought curdled Joey’s blood and excited him at the same time, though no evidence of those conflicting emotions were detectable on his face. Joey never showed emotion without purpose.

There was a peculiar irony to this revelation, though, he thought. This being his first expedition into the LA basin, on the day he was scheduled to depart and head for home. He’d never ventured so far inland since most of his work revolved around the coastal settlements and the refinery.

His first impression of the interior was one of utter disgust. These lazy Americans had left their neighborhoods in shambles, unlike the industrious Chinese immigrants who worked tirelessly to improve their holdings. Interesting, how the Americans invited the weak and helpless into their country while shunning those who worked hard to prove themselves.

His spies had reported that conditions in the Los Angeles settlement weren't much better than this. After all these years, they still lived like rats in a ghetto sewer.

The Land Rover rocked over an unseen crater with a bone-jarring whump. Snaggletooth tensed, waited for a painful smack on the back of his head from Joey. But none came. Joey’s attention was focused on his smartphone. The drone’s artificial intelligence search function detected live targets. It homed in on them using a grid pattern established by an algorithm based on heat, movement, and sound.

“Bingo!” said Joey with glee, as the interlopers came into view. They were huddled in a group at the border of Carson and Willowbrook. His heart was really racing now. Had he finally found an adversary worth pursuing?

Wait, what’s that? Right then and there, a thin white girl gazed up at him through the drone’s main camera.

Absorbed by her image, Joey felt a shiver of anticipation as he zoomed in on her face, once, twice, then took a screenshot. Her features were striking if not attractive. Perhaps even beautiful, potentially so, after a little cleaning up and a bit of subtle embellishment.

Despite recent history, females were treasured in China, where men outnumbered women by almost two to one. Especially if they were “exotic,” as most non-Chinese were women described by their slave traders.

After the freeze, white girls, also known as “gwaimui”, or “ghost girls”, were practically non-existent in the far east, and were prized for their beauty and liberal sexuality.

Joey felt an overwhelming urge to pull a fatty from his cigarette case and fire that sucker up. But he resisted that temptation and allowed his practical mind to delight in this stroke of luck, unencumbered by chemical enhancements. She would be a trophy, a fetish to dangle before his peers. She would fatten his wallet, increase his influence. Indeed, a blond, blue-eyed gwaimui would fetch top dollar on the black market.

Joey paused for a second and reconsidered. No, this ghost-girl would make an excellent gift to Uncle Ma, whose appetite for the fairer sex was legendary. A present, so rare as this was worth a lifetime of markers. In that capacity, the captured female would serve best for all concerned.

"Boss, the ship just contacted us. Captain Peng says we're ready to pull anchor," said Lazy Eye.

"Tell him to wait," Joey replied, "I want that white girl alive."

Then, the rest of the group on his screen looked up at the drone’s camera. Several rifles and a shotgun came up and pointed at him...

“Oh shit!” said Joey, quickly banking away and jinking the tiny craft away from them. The drone was too valuable to lose, especially now!

Joey managed to fly the drone out of their line-of-sight and set it down behind a building. Joey slaved it’s homing beacon to the Land Rover’s GPS display.

While Lazy Eye texted back to the ship, Joey slapped Snaggletooth's skull with the palm of his hand.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Get me within striking distance."
***
Chuey, his Sicarios and Zippy’s Pee Wees left the pow wow in their respective getaway vehicles, but Zippy fled on foot, blending into the shadows and hollows of Carson’s urban sprawl like the expert sniper he’d once been.

There were several advantages to hoofing it rather than riding out of a lethal situation. First and foremost, was the stealth factor. Little sound and visual stimuli made concealment much easier when noise and movement were kept to a minimum.

The second was flexibility. If he decided to fight back, and most likely he would, he could do so from a safe spot of his own choosing, perhaps even one with a backdoor. Because a competent operator on foot had more options than someone stuck in the confines of a targeted vehicle, regardless of its ballistic armor or the range of its gas tank.

Zippy stopped every few meters and listened for the sounds of his pursuer. It was a habit ingrained from sniper school, one he’d never forgotten and often employed. His instructors had taught him that sometimes there were no such sounds downrange, just the wet smack of a bullet on flesh, followed by a scream or a grunt. Or sometimes it was just the thud of meat and bones falling on pavement.

Unfortunately, Zippy wasn’t carrying his beloved Remington 700 at the moment. All he had was a backup Beretta 380, that he kept tucked in his pant’s waistband with a cheap clip-on holster.

He shuddered at the thought of being on the wrong end of the rifle scope. He’d been there, and it sucked royally. The first time was six years ago in the ‘Stan, nearing the end of his third tour. With nothing to show for his service to his country except a divorce, child support he couldn’t afford and a sentence in Leavenworth - for kicking some loud-mouth pogue officer’s ass at an Air Force base bar.

Zippy fled and deserted his unit before the MPs could lay their meaty white hands on him.

He turned to a local Terp, an Afghan Army interpreter, whom he knew to be a Taliban double agent, and asked him for help.

Shortly thereafter, Zippy disappeared into the Kandahar mountains. There, he helped establish an international hashish connection between outlaw US military operators and Tajikistan tribal warlords. When the CIA learned they’d been punked by an enterprising high school dropout with special forces training, they placed a twenty thousand dollar bounty on Zippy’s head, to be delivered dead or alive.

Enter Wade MacArthur. That joyless hardass son of a bitch had been an instructor at the Army sniper school when Zippy was passing through.

One might imagine that Wade, a redneck from the Appalachians would be deeply prejudiced against a half-breed like Zippy. But Wade was full of surprises.

Long story short, that misrepresentation was laid to rest when Wade taught Zippy everything he knew about guns and ammo and shooting. Wade became a priest and a father to corporal Jackson. In fact, Zippy graduated first in his class, because of Wade’s tutelage.

That was not to be interpreted as a nod to civil rights or social change in the military establishment. Wade was an equal opportunity ball-buster by nature, rode all of his students hard; black, white or any shade in between, and put them away wet with little or no empathy.

An hour into his trek, Zippy removed his shoes and shook them upside down. A pebble, no larger than a speck fell from one of them and disappeared in asphalt. Finally, he thought. The tiny hitchhiker had plagued his left foot’s tender heel for three throbbing miles. In one way, the pebble reminded him of Wade MacArthur.

“Let’s not turn this abysmal failure into a public spectacle, you blind morons,” yelled Wade as he berated the 30 hopefuls of sniper school class 2924 for their average marksmanship skills on the rifle range.

There were other recollections, flashing through his mind at the speed of light. How Wade, of medium height, build, intelligence and musculature had nearly beaten two gangbangers to death outside a bar in Fort Benning, Georgia, for shaking down a student with a drug problem.

That student had been Zippy.

That same nightmare cracker came after him ten years later when Zippy went AWOL and migrated to the dark side.

Wade had failed to get him in Afghanistan, though he’d come close twice; once during a drug deal where Wade beheaded Zippy’s body double with a .50 caliber round from a mile away. The other when Wade had tracked him to a network of caves in Tora Bora.

There, Wade had Zippy pinned down with the M82 Barrett and would have eventually killed him, were it not for a drone strike that buried them both under a mountain of super-heated rubble.

Apparently the CIA wanted to make sure Zippy was deader than dead and didn’t care if his hunter Wade was lost to collateral damage.

“C’este la vie. Too bad for them, we both survived,” Zippy sighed, wiping his sweaty brow with the back of his hand. He felt the sinewy scars of that attack on his forehead, where shrapnel from the General Atomics AQ-7 Medusa drone’s missile penetrated his facial armor and tore into him like tiny daggers.

He imagined that Wade had probably absorbed the brunt of that attack, as the explosion’s impact point was closer to him than to Zippy. That he’d survived such a blast was a miracle. Human bodies were usually liquified and pulverized by the shock waves of such lethal explosions. But Wade was very much alive and still hunting him, even after all these years.

Zippy worked his gun’s slide and checked the magazine for the umpteenth time. Both he and Wade were equally matched when all the variables were taken into consideration. It broke down to age and experience versus youth and stamina. A coin toss might determine the winner. Luck versus skill if such a paradigm even existed.

But it wasn’t Wade he truly feared. It was his own response to the only man he’d ever truly admired and respected.

Then again, that never-die, rat-like instinct to survive had been drilled into him by Wade himself, and Zippy was confident that Wade harbored no mutual respect or empathy toward him.

Zippy entered the narrow confines of an alley and paused for a moment to rest. He sat down beside an overturned dumpster and fanned himself with his hand. It was damned hot in this dead city.

He heard a wheezing belch as his eyes adjusted to the low light and stood immediately. His lightning-fast reflexes drew the Beretta and pointed it at the black void across the alleyway.

A bundle of rags, stirred as if by magic.

Then, the wizened face of a homeless man became visible as he rose and untangled himself from the garbage piled against the corner of an apartment building.

A hot breeze sent the bum’s body odor his way. It was atrocious. He farted nonchalantly, as though his ass had just heralded the words he would soon speak.

Zippy noticed his mouth was stained with dried blood, and traces of rat fur.

“Wish I had me another jelly donut right now,” said the amiable drifter, with a twinkle in his eye.

DAVE KI
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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by DAVE KI » Sat Feb 22, 2020 5:05 am

Glad I wasn't eating dinner rats gross me out. A while back I was eating dinner and someone started talking about rats BLAAGH.
So much with the rat fetish. That was a great update, it looks like people will clash and ally soon.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by idahobob » Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:40 am

I like the way you sneak these little back stories into the general narrative. :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by Lettuce Pray » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:41 am

idahobob wrote:
Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:40 am
I like the way you sneak these little back stories into the general narrative. :clap: :clap:
Agreed. This flows really well. The story gets richer with every chapter.

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Re: Lost Angeles

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:31 pm

Nice bit of backstory... thanks for the moar!
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