I guess…I guess I could have been one of those that contributed to the end of America. If I had known how it was going to end, though, I would have been one of the first to start fighting! But I didn’t see that by remaining silent, by clinging to my misguided belief that the government would not, could not, turn against the people of this nation, I was helping them do just that.
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Now, of course, Benjamin Franklin’s words are a haunting warning. But by the time we realized that, it was too late.
Our leader has asked me to write down what happened, in the hope that someone in the future will find it and learn the truth. As I look out into the darkness of two o’clock in the morning, I can see the shapes of the APCs and tanks in the distance, rolling towards our hiding place. After chasing us with fighters and bombers for most of the day, they were finally able to pin us down in this valley. What we thought would be a place of safety from the air strikes has instead left our troops cornered in a dead end.
“Dead-end.” My God, never have two words sounded so final, so deadly.
I am wasting time getting philosophical. Just write the facts, John, I tell myself!
I shift my weight to the other side of my buttocks, and take another glance toward the east. There is no light except the moon; by its soft glow, I can see the approaching armor and troops of the Joint Task Force. It gives me a renewed urgency to finish this journal. I turn back to the notebook in my lap, and start writing again:
“In hindsight, I can now see when it started, or rather, how it started. What seemed like totally unrelated occurrences, then, can now be seen quite clearly as parts of a larger plan. Most were in the name of ‘safety,’ while others were such small acts they didn’t seem to matter one way or another. But taken all together, they did what no invading army could ever have done—disarm the American people, take away their means to put up an effective defense, and enable certain factions of the government to control them.
“I’m sure anyone who may someday read this will have been told we were rebels, traitors to the American way of life—assuming any mention whatsoever of our fight hasn’t either been erased or forbidden by then. So I guess I should tell you of the circumstances that led us to take up arms against our own government. I’m not going to list the causes in order of occurrence; the sequence is not nearly as important as the effects, and to try to recall all of the dates would take too long. Time is running out; I hear the sound of the approaching armor on the wind.”
I shift again; the ground is hard and uncomfortable to sit on, but if I were to stand, or even kneel, I would expose my body heat to the sniper’s infrared scope. He had made his presence known two hours ago. I looked at the sixteen-year-old lying toward the back of the embankment, half his boyish face gone, blown off by a 30-06 round fired from three quarters of a mile away. A year ago, the sight would have made me sick. Now, even the tears I shed as friends fell at my feet are dried.
I finally find a comfortable position, at least temporarily, and gather my thoughts. Once more I write, beginning the list:
“The price of gas skyrocketed, making SUVs senseless to drive or own. Sales of the large, rugged vehicles dropped. People who already owned them soon traded them in, or gave them away outright. Soon, the manufacturers announced they would stop producing them completely. Other than a few monster truck fans, most people said nothing, seeing SUVs more as luxury vehicles than any sort of necessity, in this modern, paved, and civilized world.
“It was not until a government whistle blower stepped forward that anyone knew it had been part of a plan. Once the civilian sector had been purged of large, powerful, and—most important—four-wheel drive vehicles, our ability to escape into more remote areas was greatly diminished.
“It also meant we had little capacity to mount a mobile strike force against them. What with the price of gas so high, we had little surplus of fuel at the ready and the few four-by-fours we did have were soon useless. A Volvo station wagon is extremely fuel efficient, but it doesn’t do very well in areas where there are no roads and you have to make your own path. That sort of terrain is, however, well suited for the kinds of vehicles the military has—a plus for those bent on distorting the democratic system.
“We’ve been forced to move primarily on foot, except for the few times that we’ve been able to find a vehicle with some gas left. Those have been kept in reserve for the times we need to move large numbers of freedom fighters. But as our numbers dwindle, there is less use for transports. I myself have not ridden in a vehicle for some time now. There just hasn’t been a need.”
As the scent of diesel suddenly strikes my nose, I put down the notebook and grab my rifle. The wind had announced the approach of the Joint Task Force’s armored units. Hy heart feels as though it is trying to pound its way out of my chest. I risk a quick glance, and see they are still a good two miles away. Although impeded somewhat by the terrain, they would still be attacking within the hour. That hour would feel like a lifetime, I knew. To sit and watch them come would be to die a thousand times each minute, just waiting for the first shot. Instead, I decide to finish the journal.
“Hillary was able to do what Bill had not, in all his eight years in office.
“Ah, even their first names burn my tongue! Their last name has come to be used as a slang term for a certain bodily function, and the part of the body you wipe after performing it. That started not long after they had openly dissolved the constitution, declared marshal law, and forcibly disarmed those few who still owned firearms. Handguns had already been banned before that, along with any long gun that could hold more than three rounds in a magazine.
“That was the real beginning of the fighting, I’d have to say.
“The job of confiscating weapons was too big for local law enforcement, so Hillary mobilized the army. By executive order, she authorized the military of the United States to operate within the borders of our own country. But she could never have expected what happened during the first confrontation with the citizen militia.
“A platoon of the First Division was sent to back up twenty-five B.A.T.F. agents in a raid on a farm outside of a little town called Argonia, Kansas. A group of farmers had banded together there, in defiance of the order to surrender their guns. The troops surrounded the farm and ordered the farmers to give up, and turn over their weapons.
“Over a loudspeaker, one of the farmers made an impassioned plea. He begged the soldiers and agents not do it, to remember that they were all one people, united under the flag of the greatest nation on Earth. If they acted, he said, it would destroy what few shreds remained of our country. Their only crime, the farmer argued was to believe in the Constitution of the United States of America—the very same Constitution those soldiers and agents had sworn to protect and defend. There was no need for bloodshed, he told them. The farmers would not fire on their fellow Americans. But neither would they give up their arms, for that would mean giving up their only means of defending themselves against the tyranny imposed by the one-time Senator from New York.
“The agent in charge of the B.A.T.F. squad was unmoved by the farmer’s words and gave the order to fire. Twenty-five fully automatic weapons opened up on the small farm house but not one soldier fired.
“The B.A.T.F. personnel stopped firing, and turned to the soldiers standing silently behind them. They yelled; they screamed; but there was no prompting the soldiers to fire. So, the agent in charge did the only thing he could think of. Reaching inside his jacket, he produced a folded piece of paper and read aloud an executive order of the President of the United States of America, placing the Army under the direct control of the B.A.T.F.
Should any of them refuse a direct order from a B.A.T.F. agent, that soldier would be subject to court marshal and the death penalty. He gave the order to fire once more, but still the troops stood silent, weapons lowered.
“Then the agent made the biggest mistake of his short life.
“He fired a short burst into the platoon’s lieutenant, cutting him in half. ‘Now,’ he screamed, ‘the rest of you will follow my orders to the letter, or you’ll face my gun!’ He stood defiantly before the soldiers, weapon at the ready, looking at their stunned faces.
“The soldiers still stood with weapons lowered, but now it was shock that kept their guns at their sides. Suddenly, Sergeant Pete Mullum, a man whose place in history was made that day barked an order and the platoon at last went into motion. In moments, the twenty-five agents of the B.A.T.F. found themselves facing a determined line of eleven soldiers, also armed with fully automatic weapons, who had placed themselves between the agents and the farmhouse.
“In a calm but resolute voice, Sergeant Mullum said, ‘Gentlemen, I must inform you that I find your actions to be in violation of the Constitution. I am therefore asking that you cease and desist your attempts to disarm these people, or I will be forced to order whatever actions are needed to stop you.’
“Mistakes seemed to be the rule of the day. Instead of negotiating, the agent in charge just smiled and said, ‘Kill them.’ As much out of instinctive response to years of training as anything, the two forces went into action. Eleven soldiers stood against the B.A.T.F.’s twenty-five agents…twenty-four agents…twenty-three agents….
“That day was a catalyst for the coming days. The military soon divided into two camps. The fabric of the nation came apart at the seams, as civil war erupted in almost every state. It was duty and honor against the mindless following of orders, American against American, until it is came apparent the Clintons were losing. More and more of their followers deserted them daily; they could not win. Then, in a last, desperate attempt to hold onto their power, they did the unthinkable. They asked for NATO’s help. Since they were still the recognized government, foreign troops were sent in to shore up the failing federal army in what became known as the Joint Task Force. The battles were bloody and unending.”
I stop to look at the coming armored division. Time running very short now; their hard metal bodies look to be less than a quarter of a mile away. I check my weapon one more time, and chuckle. My old Enfield has seen better days, with tape holding the cracked butt to the rest of the stock. I briefly wish it were new, then chuckle again, with bitter irony. New or old, it’s still just a rifle against a tank. I suppose I could just let the gunner know where I’m hiding, and make it quick! I go back to writing.
“The war took more and more of the valuable supplies of the freedom fighters, and replenishment was nearly impossible. Large groups became harder and harder to support, until now, all that is left are roving bands like mine. Anyone old enough to take up arms is now in the war, even the children. Every day now, more and more children join up.
“Soon, all that will be left will be the children. That is why we must fight. To protect the children, so maybe someday, they will again know the freedom of being an American.”
An explosive shell from the lead tank shatters the quiet, now positioned just above the ridge.
I know the game. They’re firing mostly to find their range, but they’re also hoping a lucky shot wipes us out. There’s no defense against an armored assault. We just have to wait it out, and hope we get an opportunity to escape past the Joint Task Force lines. Or hope we can survive until the Force gets tired of waiting and sends in the foot soldiers. At least then it will be a little more even, and they’ll have to stop shelling.
Although…the shelling has suddenly stopped. Then, several explosions off to the east rock the mountainside. My fellow freedom fighters and I rise, looking for the source the explosions.
A number of the armored units are ablaze, and the sound of small weapons fire rings out. Another battle is taking place; a second group of freedom fighters seems to have surprised the armored Force. In close quarters, a man is still faster than a heavy tank, and can slip an explosive through the openings.
The trap had been sprung, and the two groups of freedom fighters had merged into one. The man named John was surprised at how easy it had been to win the battle; the Joint Task Force members had given up soon after the battle started.
As John stood watching the battle’s aftermath, the sound of a high-flying bomber drifted down. Instinctively, he looked toward the sky, but saw nothing.
Had he continued to look, the bright flash from the nuclear missile would have blinded him. He would not have been able to see the mushroom-shaped cloud rising into the night sky, even had he not been melted where he stood, dead without even knowing it, his journal tucked deep inside his shirt.