Sunday, March 11, 2012

Goldstein Republic Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty Two

The trio clung to a slimy tree trunk as it worked its way down the meandering stream. The water was bitter cold but their suits kept them dry. Occasionally, their tree would get hung up on the pebbly shallows or the exposed roots dangling in the embankments. A good shove with their legs would set them free and put them back into the current.
The cold of the water contrasted the heat of the bright sun which warmed and dried their faces and made the long, miserable, frigid swim survivable. On two instances they heard the thumping of dragonflies within a half-kilometer of them or so but they never came into view.

They paddled on, catching glimpses of an assortment of wildlife that Ramielle had only seen on holovision. A moose and her calf were spotted foraging along the banks and later they saw a bald eagle perched high in the skeleton of a dead spruce. It watched them perfectly still until they got within fifty meters when it extended its gigantic brown wings and flapped away.
“How much longer?” Ramielle asked. “It’s been four hours.”
“Shhh! Do you hear that?” Roth whispered.
“What is it? More dragonflies?” asked Ramielle, to exhausted and cold to feign concern.
She and Devin listened intently but heard nothing but the splashing of the water on their floating trunk, the gentle breeze combing through the tree tops, and the rushing of water ahead that was growing louder.
“Is that rapids?” asked Devin.
“Kick! Paddle for shore!” Roth yelled. Give it everything you’ve got.”
The three kicked frantically, steering the giant log towards the northern banks against the swirling eddies and swift current. The trunk started to spin and they lost control of it. The roar of the looming rapids grew and the more they tried to right the log and steer it from oblivion the more its entropy worked against them. Their efforts were useless.
“Swim for it!” Roth ordered.
Devin and Ramielle let go of the log, flailing their arms about against the current.
Roth grabbed his backpack which was hooked to one of the branches and swam out to a stony sandbar. Devin and Ramielle reached the banks and crawled up onto the shore. They looked back at Roth and watched as he curiously fiddled around with something in his pack while their log spun downstream and dropped into the rapids a few meters ahead. Roth finally swam back to them holding his pack over his head.
“Is everyone all right?” He asked, setting his backpack high on an adjacent boulder.
“We’re fine,” Devin answered.
“I’m freezing, can we start a fire?” Ramielle asked.
“Not a good time for that,” Roth answered. “We’re about ten kilometers away from the Goldstein perimeter. We need to keep moving. I fear we blew our cover swimming for it.”
“You’ve got that right!” Came a voice from the trees. Four nats emerged from the forest pointing automatic rifles. “Big Brother, Big Brother, this is Ranger Three, we have the Mohicans,” advised their sergeant. “Put your hands up, anti-pats!”
“You don’t have nothin’,” replied Roth.
“Shut your mouth, Eskimo, before I smash your teeth out,” Barked one of grunts. “Get down on your knees before I pulse you!”
“Go to hell. Shoot me!” replied Devin.
“Oh, don’t tempt us,” came another nat. “There’s nothing we’d like more than to fill you anti-pats full of lead. Now shut your god damn mouth and get on your knees like he said.”
“Nice blip by the way,” came another nat. “Did you lose your jammer or something?”
Devin felt a flush of vertigo as he realized that he had left his jammer with his backpack upstream.
“It’s pretty difficult to hide from us with a beacon in your brain. Now get your damn hands up!”
“Keep your hands down,” ordered Roth. “He isn’t going anywhere with you,” he explained casually.
“One more peep out of you, Eskimo, and you’ll get yourself hauled out of here on a stretcher.”
“None of us are going anywhere with you,” assured Roth, “and don’t try anything unless you fancy getting vaporized.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked one of the nats.
“Hey Stasi,” Roth continued, “why don’t you have a look in my backpack over there on that rock. Tell everyone what you see.”
“Shut up, Native.”
“Devin, go open it up for them so they know it’s not booby trapped.”
“Freeze!” ordered their sergeant.
“Listen to me,” Roth explained. “There’s enough explosive in that pack to turn all of us and everything else within a hundred meter radius into ash.”
“He’s bluffing!” answered the sergeant. “Take him out.”
“Careful. If I die, we all die. See this switch in my hand? If you shoot me then I release this button and you nazis get vaporized. Just try it if you don’t believe me.”
“Check his backpack out!” ordered the sergeant.
One nat stepped forward and nervously unzipped the pack. He immediately jumped back.
“He’s not bluffing. It’s armed. Looks like a micro nuke.”
The other grunts began backing away from Roth, Devin and Ramielle.
“Stand your ground!” ordered the sergeant.
Roth casually continued, “Now, being a ‘Type A’ personality, you are probably asking yourself what can you possibly do to regain control of this situation? Am I right?”
The sergeant didn’t answer him. His eyes darted to each of his grunts, probing their wide, terrified eyes. Roth continued, “That is how you nats are trained, isn’t it? Always take control?”
“Shut up, Native. I said stand your ground, troopers. We are not retreating!”
“Well, please allow me to educate you. There is nothing you can do to regain control. I know that’s hard for a tax-feeding bully like you to grasp but I strongly suggest you come to grips with it. You’ve lost all control of this situation.”
“Stand your ground!” He ordered to his troops who were slowly slithering back into the woods.
“Ever read Sun Tzu?”
“The Art of War. You violated a fundamental rule of combat. You didn’t leave us with an option to save our own lives. You see, Devin here knows what you will do to him if you to take him alive. He’s already been there and he knows what awaits him in a Mexican torture cell. So he’s decided that he would rather die than surrender. And I know what you will do to me because after you find out that I was once one of you, you’ll torture me to death. So I’m obviously not going with you, either. We’d both prefer an instantaneous, fireball death, on our terms, to a slow, tortured death on yours.
I’ve prepared for just this very situation. Rather than go with you, I’ll just blow us all to hell. The loser will be you because you’ll be just as dead as me. You, a wage slave, a low-ranking goon taking orders from assholes who are running your entire mission from computer monitors four thousand kilometers away. You’ll get nothing out of this other than a quaint state funeral with those fucking annoying bag pipes.”
“Get down or I will shoot,” ordered the sergeant.
“Shut your mouth or I might just blow us all up out of sheer annoyance!” Roth ordered. “Listen carefully to me. This is a situation that need not end too badly. You don’t have to die. None of us has to die. I’ll let you sulk back into the woods. You’ll live to tell your C-O that you’re sorry. You’ll get a reprimand and you’ll have to scrub a few toilets but at least you’ll get a chance to see your families again. It’s that simple for you. Just walk away.”
“I can’t do that,” explained the sergeant still aiming his rifle at Roth.
“I’m actually not speaking to you anymore, asshole,” replied Roth. “I’m speaking to your troops. Your men here and your two snipers in the woods back there are free to go. You, however, are coming with us.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Oh, you most certainly are, asshole. You most certainly are. That is if you want to live and your troops want to live.”
“Not going to happen!” barked the sergeant.
Roth continued speaking to the grunts. “I promise this to you: so long as we remain unharmed, you’re sergeant will remain unharmed. When we get to the Goldstein plaza he’ll be released. Hell, you can even call in a chopper to pick him up.”
“And what kind of assurance would we get that he will not be harmed,” asked one of the nats.
“You’re not in charge, troop,” barked the sergeant.
“We can’t let you take him hostage. We’d be severely disciplined.”
“Suit yourself,” Roth answered. “I’m going to count down from ten and then we all go boom! If you believe in God, begin praying now. Ten…nine…”
The nats looked at each other incredulously. One shrugged his shoulders.
“What do we do?” asked one nat, frantically.
“Ask HQ. They’ll tell us.”
“Stand your ground!” Came the voice of their C-O who was safely located four thousand kilometers away. “You are not permitted to negotiate with anti-pats!”
“But he’ll kill us all! I didn’t sign up for this sh…”
“Wait!” exclaimed Ramielle, halting Roth’s countdown. “Take me. Take me as insurance!”
“No, absolutely not!” shouted Devin.
“Calm down, Devin. It’ll be all right,” Ramielle assured him. “You guys get to Goldstein and they’ll swap me for Sergeant Slaughter there. It’ll work out fine. What do you think, Roth?”
“Sounds reasonable to me. It beats Mongolian barbeque, anyway?”
“Not acceptable!” barked the sergeant but the other nats had already turned their rifles onto him.
“Sorry, sir. It’s the only option,” explained one trooper while he took the sergeant’s rifle out of his hands and set it on the ground.
“Don’t worry, Devin. You’ll still get a chance to profess your undying love for me when this is all over.”
“If anything happens to her then your sergeant gets it,” exclaimed Devin. “I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”
“She won’t be harmed,” explained the nats as they disappeared with Ramielle into the woods leaving Devin, and the sergeant to stare at Roth, contemplating his next move.
“Pick up your rifle, sergeant,” ordered Roth. “This is bear country.”


For those who missed the beginning of Devin's journey, click here for Chapter 1

Goldstein Republic can be purchased here at Amazon