Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 7


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 7


The guards visited Jimmy Marzan in his cell at dawn. They hooded and zip tied him, as they did whenever he was transported, and escorted him to an infirmary cell. There, he was unhooded and reshackled to a bed. He waited there alone for fifteen minutes, then a guard and a physician in teal scrubs carrying a clipboard entered the room. He was the physician who had repaired the wound in Jimmy’s side.

“I’m hoping this will be our final examination,” said the doctor. “How is it healing?”

“Everything seems fine,” Jimmy answered. “Sometimes a piece of lead will work its way to the surface. I just pick it out.”

“That’s pretty typical.” The doctor set his clipboard down and put on a pair of latex gloves. “Do you mind unbuttoning your jumpsuit? I’d like to take a look.”

With his uncuffed hand, Jimmy unfastened the front snaps of his jumpsuit and pulled his left arm out of the sleeve. The doctor had him sit upright, then he examined the scar that had healed into a pink slash.

“Any pain?” the doctor asked as he gently pressed on the wound.

“Not much.”

“Any unusual redness? Does the area get warm?”

“Sometimes it seems warm. It feels like there’s a cramp, like something sharp is working around in my side.”

“Any fever? Night sweats? Would you call the cramping severe?”

“No. I wouldn’t call it severe.”

The doctor removed his gloves and threw them in the trash. “You can button your jumpsuit.” He took up his clipboard and scribbled his signature, then handed it to the guard who turned and gestured out the cell window. “I’m giving you a clean bill of health and releasing you from my care. Gentlemen, he’s all yours.” With that, the physician left.

Four guards in black riot gear stormed in. They rehooded and re-zip tied Jimmy and carried him out. He was placed alone into the back of a truck and driven for five minutes. The vehicle stopped and the door was unlocked and opened. Jimmy was pulled out and placed on his back in a wooden box. He only heard one voice. It was the one that had interrogated him several times before.


Marzan, still hooded and bound, didn’t answer.

“It’s been decided that you’ve died of complications related to your wounds. As we do with all expired detainees, we’ll be burying you adjacent to the facility in a plot marked with a number. I don’t expect anyone will be coming to visit. I wish I could say that it has been a pleasure working with you. Unfortunately, we have no more use for you. Try not to panic. Just breathe normally. Eventually, the oxygen will run out and you will lose consciousness. Chaplain…”

Marzan heard the verses of The Lord’s Prayer as the lid was placed over the box he was lying in. A hammer pounded nails down to seal it. He felt himself lifted briefly, then lowered which he sensed by the pitch and roll while the ropes suspending his coffin were let out. He did not cry out but remained helplessly tied, silent and hooded. The box descended, coming to a rest on the floor of the hole. It was silent for a moment. Jimmy felt his breathing quicken. He fought the urge to cry out as it built inside, consuming him. He heard shovels scoop dirt above. He lost control of his breathing. His muscles tensed. The dirt fell onto the wooded lid of his box. Swoosh. Thump. Swoosh. Thump. He writhed in his bindings. It felt as if the air was already gone. The shovels of dirt piled upon one another. The sounds of the world above muffled and dimmed, leaving only his gasps in the dark wooden box. Each shovel full of earth piled onto his coffin, insulating him from the sounds of the world until he couldn’t hear anything but himself.

He sensed the madness bursting through him.

“Stay calm. Don’t fight. Breathe slow.”

It had become suddenly hot, as if he were in an oven, baking alive. Rivulets of sweat ran down his face and neck and body under his hood and clothes. His shoulder ached. The air was heavy and hot, like breathing steam in a sauna. Each breath was as if it held no oxygen. Thick. Hot. He couldn’t straighten his legs. They ached. His arms went numb. His body felt as if it was swelling up inside the tiny, infinitely dark wooden box, filling up all the space and driving out the remaining air, leaving nothing to breathe.

From that point the madness took over.

Jimmy screamed, screamed as if his voice might blow the tons of soil right off his grave and raise him up into the air. Oh, the cool clean air. He screamed again, a plea for mercy. Somehow, they would hear him and take pity. He kicked against the box but was kicking against an impregnable wall of earth bracing the wooden planks. The terror drove the humanity out of him. He screamed again, and again. Sweat flooding into his eyes, down his neck and chest. He braced and pushed against the coffin with every ounce of his might. It would not budge, not even a fraction of an inch. Air! Air! Air! He swallowed for it, like a fish on the shore, gasping out its death throes, kicking, writhing. He began to thrash, smashing his head against the inside of the coffin.

Jimmy Marzan was transformed into something else, something not human.

He stopped, physically exhausted. It was incredibly silent with only the sound of his breathing, a tumultuous, resounding, crushing, asphyxiating silence, louder than any sound he had ever experienced or could imagine. He sobbed to drown it out. His heart raced, his arms and legs went numb, and his face bled. He prepared to lose consciousness. Breathe. Breathe up the last of the air and be done with it, he thought. Jimmy Marzan was ready. He wanted it over. A thousand memories flooded his mind. Then he thought of that night and what he had done to Bob Garrity, leaving him to freeze to death in that garage.

Then he heard shovels.

They dug at the dirt above him. They grew louder as they dug. Louder, louder, louder with each shovelful. Then they scraped. They had reached the wood planks of the coffin. He felt the cool air and moist earth sifting in through the cracks. He felt the box being raised by the ropes, up, up, up and out of the vault. Crowbars clawed and pried at the planks. The nails squeaked and yielded. The brittle slats of pine cracked and snapped. Hands reached in and pulled Jimmy Marzan upright and brushed the dirt off of him. Someone placed a stethoscope on his chest.

“Bob…” Marzan mumbled.

“James,” came the familiar voice in his ear.


“There’s no Bob here, James.”

“Take my hood off.”

“We can’t do that, James.”

“What do you want from me?” he mumbled, barely audible.

Someone leaned in and whispered in his ear. “We want nothing, James. Nothing at all. We have everything, already.”

“Why did you dig me out,” he mumbled.

The voice whispered. “We didn’t think waterboarding would have the same effect.”

“I’ll tell you anything you want.”

“We already know everything.”

“Then what do you want?”

“You’re the star of the show, James. You’re the villain, the devil. The men here, guarding you, they are the heroes. And everyone they tell about what is being done to you is the audience. And this, what we are doing to you, this is what we call justice. We’ll let a few videos of this leak out. Americans hate traitors. They’re going to take great pleasure in seeing what we did to you.”

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 6


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter Six


“And who is this?” Jess asked as she knelt and extended her hand.

“This is my new dog, Fitz,” Croukamp answered.

“What happened to Nicco?”

Croukamp bent over and patted the mutt on the neck. Her tail wagged vigorously. “I had to get a new watchdog. Nicco is too old. He’s deaf.”

“Where did you find this little girl?”

“The Wilmots had her. She wasn’t getting along so well with their other bitch.”

“So where’s Nicco?”

“The Wilmots are watching him for now.”


“Look at her. You got some meat on your bones, don’t you girl?”

“What do you mean by that, Mr. Croukamp?” Jess asked.

“My dear, just that it might be easier to butcher someone else’s dog than my own…if it ever came to that.” Croukamp stood upright. “So are you ready to go?”

“Don’t say things like that.”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Clayton. I’m sure Fitz will have many happy years.”

“I’m ready, then. Sharon’s got Brooke. They’re hanging laundry.”

The two of them walked to Croukamp’s rusty truck which sat parked under his carport. He opened the creaky door for her, then let himself in on the driver’s side. The shocks squeaked as their weight shifted in the cab. He turned the key and the truck roared to life, rattling and smoking.

“I can’t believe this thing still runs,” Jess observed.

“She’s a sturdy old beast. No computers to fry. Runs better than my dead Lexus.”

“Are you going to fix it?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s expensive. Say,” he continued, “do you mind if we make another stop after we cash in these FEMA cards?”

“It’s your truck, Mr. Croukamp. I’m just along for the ride.”

Croukamp backed out of the driveway and onto the road. The power steering whined as he tugged and turned the wheel. The gearbox clunked into drive and down the snaking foothills road they went. Jess had not been into the city for a month. The farthest she had gone since was the 285 overpass where squatters had taken up residence. The squatters were always followed by the looters.

The aspen leaves had burst out on the sunny-side slopes of the flume they travelled. The creek that rippled along the canyon floor was filling with crystal clear water, runoff from the melting highland snows to the west. Beavers had gnawed off a dozen or so trees near the ponds along the way. Jess spotted a roof that had collapsed during the heavy spring snows. No one lived at that property anymore except raccoons and skunks, or perhaps a black bear. An old family car sat in the driveway, tires and wheels and windshield removed by scavengers. The gas  had likely been siphoned long ago. The hood was raised and the engine compartment was gutted. Battery, hoses, and belts were stripped out. Solenoid, starter, air filter, spark plugs, water pump, and the windshield wiper motor would have been taken as well, if they were deemed working. The side windows were smashed in and birds nested in the dashboard. The wild things made good use of the detritus of human decay. They would happily use it until the decades of the elements gobbled it up and returned it to dust.

Croukamp saw what Jess was looking at. “All this concern over man’s impact on nature is much ado about nothing.”

“What do you mean?” Jess asked.

“Wood rots. Metal rusts. Cement crumbles into sand. Nature always wins in the end.” The road bent away from the abandoned lot and into a narrow section of the gulch. “My father used to always say that man leaves behind no permanence. The closest he can get, if he cares about such things, is to see to the endurance of his kind.”

“What did he mean by his kind?” Jess asked.

“His family. His community. His way of life.”

They connected onto Highway 285 and followed it down out of the foothills towards the city Along the way they were passed by a convoy of semis with trailers emblazoned with blue eagles. Their windows were covered with metal grates and tires by plate steel. Along with the semis drove an armored escort consisting of two Humvees. Any state-sponsored venture outside the zone of control was accompanied by mechanized escort and at least a drone overhead.

They approached the first checkpoint which was just before a highway overpass. The checkpoint was the unofficial border between the ZOC and the wild, wild west called the “red zone” or “RZ.” Beyond the overpass, directly downhill from the checkpoint, sprawling outwards on a flat plane extending to the eastern horizon, lay metropolitan Denver. Half the population—well over a million people—had left. The metroplex spanned an area of roughly five hundred square miles of “gun free zone,” unless you were a DSF trooper, a militant, or a gangster—all with comparable power in the region. If you weren’t armed, then you were prey, completely dependent upon one of those three armed gangs for your very survival. The population’s loyalty was fairly evenly split into thirds.

Croukamp stopped the truck at the checkpoint and a trooper in all black approached.

“Papers, please.”

Croukamp chuckled.

“Do I amuse you?” the trooper asked.

“You actually said ‘papers please,'” Croukamp replied, grinning. He handed his license, registration, insurance, gas ration card, and ZOC travel permit—which edict required citizens to have to legally drive on the 285 corridor.

“Where you headed?”

“FEMA distribution center. We’re stocking up.”

“What are you bringing back? How do I know you’re not supplying insurgents?”

“Because I’m seventy years old and my neighbor here has a five-year-old daughter.”

“Why would that stop you?”

“I suggest that if you suspect me of a crime that you make an arrest. Otherwise, I’d prefer to be on my way.”

“Why are you living up there? There’s no power. Nothing’s open”

“We like the views,” Croukamp answered.

“You just need to know where to go to get things,” Jess added.

“It’s suspicious,” the trooper said.

“I don’t see why living in the house I own would be suspicious,” Jess replied.

“You should move down here. DHS will get you properly housed, temporarily, until the grid is restored.”

“I’ve heard about their accommodations. No, thank you,” Jess said. “We have all we need.”

“It’s still suspicious,” remarked the trooper.

“If I leave, the scavengers and looters will come in and take everything.”

“And how do you intend to stop them, now?”

“Can we please get going, officer?” interrupted Croukamp. “We’d like to get our supplies and get home before dark. There’s going to be a long line and we still have to come back through here.”

The trooper handed Croukamp back his papers. “Look here at my visor,” he said. “Say cheese.” The trooper got their picture with his visor cam and then motioned them through the checkpoint. Facial recognition software meant that they were now pinged at this time and location and recorded in an NSA server buried in the Utah desert. This data collection had been occurring for years, but if one had nothing to hide, one had nothing to fear.

They drove through and stayed on the highway as it converged into a boulevard flanked by empty strip malls and boarded up big box retailers. Liquor stores and hamburger joints were about the only active storefronts. The liquor stores were heavily barred and most had evolved into drive-thrus. It was safer for the legally disarmed purveyors to defend themselves from the heavily armed bandits who prowled the night. The fast food joints no longer accepted cash and so were an undesirable target.

What survived of other forms of commerce—unasphyxiated by the ever-encroaching volumes of regulations and swarms of government-paid code enforcers working on commission, evolved just off the strip mall zones. Entire manufacturing operations, fulfilling local needs, were sprouting up in backyard toolsheds, garages and basements. Mechanics and apothecaries, dentists, brewers, surgeons, tailors, and gunsmiths built black market businesses just beyond the edge of state control. Anything could be had, so long as someone had real currency.

The black markets proliferated, propelled by the availability of a pool of desperate labor and a dozen forms of money—all deemed illegal by government decree. Government hates competition. In addition to the traditional precious metals, a half dozen varieties of scrip, issued by respectable merchants and fully redeemable for gasoline, coffee, and alcohol, had acquired the public’s trust. Cigarettes thrived as alternative legal tender, as did cannabis and over-the-counter medications. A carton of smokes, smuggled in behind false walls by the truckload by Hmong immigrants living in Vancouver, was worth five gallons of gas. And there was, of course, the hardest currency of all—bullets. And just as predicted by Gresham’s Law, the bad money drove out the good. Reloads of .223 became the popular unit of exchange while new rounds of 5.56 and 7.62 were hoarded as a store of value, slowly appreciating against their weaker counterpart.

None of this money was any good at the local school district football complex which had been converted into a FEMA distribution center. Concrete barricades surrounded the lot and a fleet of growling semis pulling trailers with blue eagles painted on their sides, guarded by troopers in black, pulled through to drop their loads. Croukamp parked his truck in the lot farthest away. He and Jess got out and walked into the queue.

After a two hour wait, they managed to acquire the Homeland Security-determined essentials of dried noodles, rice, flour, canned beets, bricks of white soap, single-ply toilet paper, powdered milk, toothpaste, and three five-pound blocks of cheddar cheese. They swiped their Chase-issued FEMA ration debit card and pushed their goods back to the truck in two rickety shopping carts.

Croukamp drove north, away from the FEMA center. He turned off the boulevard and into a residential neighborhood. They wove through a subdivision of weathered ramblers on a crumbling, residential lane where the unkempt sumac and junipers seemed to swallow entire houses. The lane was littered with looted cars, cans and bottles, bursting trash bags and broken goods—appliances, furniture, tires, shopping carts.. The brown lawns were overgrown and the sidewalks were decomposing into gray rubble.

Each brick facade of the circa 1965 house faced the street with a wide, novel glass window opening into a living room. Many were covered in plywood, steel bars or both. The driveways were cracked by the winter thaw and freeze and heaving in the shifting Bentonite clay. Asphalt shingles curled under the intense, year-round sun. Aluminum gutters dangled loose from rotting soffits. Some doors stood kicked in. Some insides were charred. Some siding was tagged with gang signs. This neighborhood had been wasting away long before the dollar default. Most buildings were rented to struggling immigrants; they were the only homes they could afford as the rents exploded in the pre-crash run-up.

Croukamp pulled his truck into one cracked concrete driveway. It was a house better kept than most, but not kept too well. A well-maintained property would draw the attention of bandits and the code enforcers that worked on commission. In the yard stood a six-foot-tall twig of an elm tree, staked and mulched, with two dozen spring green leaves sprouting from its delicate limb tips.

“I’ll be right back,” Croukamp said. “If you see anything, honk the horn.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Jess answered.

Ian got out of the truck and slammed the old door twice to get it to close which made the truck shake and the suspension squeak. He went up to the door, knocked, someone answered and Jess watched as he went in.

“How’ve you been, Ian?” asked a stubbly-faced man with dark hair and eyes and an even darker expression.

“I’ve been well, Markus.”

“You sure you haven’t had enough of it up the hill?”

“I’m doing just fine.”

“You want a drink? I got some JB?”

“No thank you. I’ve got to pass through the checkpoint, again.”

“Can you believe them Broncos?” his host asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t keep up on it,” Croukamp said. “Didn’t they move, anyway?”

“They’ll always be my Broncos,” he said as he went into the kitchen cupboards and took out the whiskey. He poured himself a glass — neat because there was no ice. “What a season. I had to run my generator to watch half the games. You know how much that cost me?”

“But they’re in Los Angeles, now, I thought,” Croukamp remarked.

“Of all the places to move them…Los Angeles. It isn’t permanent, though.”

“I don’t think they’re coming back here any time soon. Have you had a look around? It looks like a hurricane went through this place.”

“They said the power will be on in a month.”

“They’ve been saying that every month for a year, now.”

“Yeah, well people need their bread and circuses. Here more than anywhere. When they come back, it’ll be like the Saints after the Katrina, a public lovefest.”

Croukamp looked around the living room noticing the bars on the windows. “I hate to be rude, but I’ve got someone waiting in the car and I promised her we’d get back by dinner.”

“I’m sorry, Ian. I’ll get your stuff. One second.” He left and returned with a bedroll he handed to Croukamp.

Croukamp unrolled it, revealing two Armalite rifles. He took one out, pulled the charging handle and locked the bolt back. He looked down into the chamber to clear it. He listened as he released the bolt. He tapped out the two pins and removed the lower. Then he wiped his finger into it and examined for corrosion. He reattached the lower and flipped the sites up. He raised the rifle to his cheek and stared down the line of sight. “Should have mounted the foresight on the barrel rather than the rail. It’s truer.”

“You’re free to mount it wherever you want,” Markus replied. “Those are excellent rifles, Ian. I cleaned them up real good and oiled them, but they were in great shape when I got them.”

“Where did you get them?”

“I get all kinds of stuff. You’d be surprised what you stumble on when you work in law enforcement.”

“Actually, I probably wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Now don’t get caught with those. Possession of an AR would probably get you a year in prison.”

“Nah. It’s only six months for a first offense. I wonder what kind of dumbass would let the police find these.”

“Actually, the dumbasses turned them in.”


“They lost their nerve, I guess.”

“How much for the two, and the magazines?”

“Four ounces gold, 150 silver or 4,000 .223.”

“Now what would I shoot if I paid you with my .223?” Croukamp asked while he produced four Kruggerands from his money belt.

Markus took the coins. “You got a way to get them rifles past the checkpoint?”

“I made a secret compartment.”

“How James Bond of you. Are you sure they won’t find it?”

“I’m old and they have idiots working the posts.”

“You sure you don’t want to move down here? I’ve got plenty of room here.”

Ian sighed. “Maybe I should be asking you if you want to come up the hill.”

Markus took a seat in his easy chair and reclined with his coins and his drink. A look of exhaustion came over him. He took gulp of his whiskey. “You can’t get her back,” he said, fixing his dark eyes onto Ian’s.

“Where in the hell did that come from?” Croukamp asked, still examining his rifles.

“There was nothing you could do, Ian.”

“Says you. I could have been there.”

“I could have been there, too. And then we would both be dead. Burned alive.”

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Croukamp answered stoically.

“There were hundreds of them, Ian.”

“They’re cowards. Had we topped a few, the rest would have ran off.”

“Only to return the next day, and the next, and the next…”

“One day more is better than one day less.”

“So is that what this is all about? You staying up in those hills, protecting that widow? You think that will bring you peace?”

“It already does. She has a child. Her mother-in-law is with her now, too. I can’t leave them. But I probably wouldn’t leave regardless.”

“They can come here. I have room.”

“They won’t leave.” Croukamp set the rifles down and glared at Markus. “What makes you think this place is safe? You know they’ll find out about you. Then you’ll be a marked man.”

“They respect me.”

“Who? The gangs?”

“I’m a cop.”

“No. You’re just a survivor, working both sides and building a list of enemies.”

“I’m the only justice there is.”


“Don’t judge me, Ian. Don’t judge me by some failed ideal from the good old days. The rules have all changed.”

“It’s been lucrative for you,” Croukamp said.

“Yeah? So? It’s dangerous work. I got you what you needed, didn’t I?”

“Maybe you’re not a survivor. Maybe gangster is more appropriate.”

“There will always be gangsters, Ian. Some wear tattoos and hide in the shadows. Others wear suits and ride in limos. And others carry badges.”

“I’m sorry, Markus. I’m out of line. It was a pleasure doing business with you. Thank you for these.” Croukamp rolled up the bedroll around his rifles, stood, and tucked them under his arm.

“You be careful.”

“You do the same, Markus.”

They shook hands and embraced,  then Croukamp walked out. Markus scanned the street then closed and locked the door behind him. Ian lowered the gate of the truck and set the bundle down. He used a small screw driver to loosen the screws holding the inside surface of the bed door secure. He pried it up just enough to slip in the two rifles. Then he screwed it back down as far as it would go. He got in the truck and they drove off.

Traffic was light on the road back, but they did not speed for fear of getting shaken down by a traffic cop or getting the truck impounded. They would reach the checkpoint within four minutes. Jess watched Ian as they drove. His thick, weathered fingers worked the steering wheel, his eyes concealed by mirrored sunglasses, his thin silver hair combed back, his face cracked and spotted by decades in the sun. His beard was full and white.

“Mr. Croukamp,” she asked.


“I’ve been with you to that house three times and you’ve never introduced me to the person that lives there.”

“Maybe next time.”

“Why not?”

A black Homeland Security Humvee sat parked on the shoulder. Its .50 cal M2 tracked them as they passed. The dulling bronze sun was sinking into the foothills. It would be down behind the hilltops in an hour.

“He lives dangerously,” Croukamp continued.

“You sound like my father.”

“If I was your father, I would come get you and take you to some place safe.”

“Nobody is taking me anywhere.”

“Then someone needs to look after you.”

“That’s very patronizing, Mr. Croukamp.”

Ian focused on the road ahead.



“I do want you to know that I appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”

Croukamp was expressionless, his gaze fixed ahead. “You’re welcome,” he replied. “But I’m happy to do it.”

“I am not helpless, Mr. Croukamp. I will not be a burden to you.”

“The only burden to me would be to be of no use to anyone.”

They were approaching the checkpoint, ahead. There was no line. There was never a line to leave the ZOC, only to enter it. Croukamp let off the accelerator. A blue eagle eighteen wheeler rumbled past them in the left lane going close to a hundred miles per hour. It was waved through the checkpoint at full speed.

“Who is he?” Jess asked.


“The man who lives in that house.”

Ian answered without expression. “I had a farm in Rhodesia, a large farm. My employees lived with us. Markus was my quartermaster. He ran the operation when I was away. It seems like I was always away in the later years. ZANU started taking over the ranches and farms and throwing people out. I was travelling, appealing my case. One trip I had to fly to Salisbury, then London, then New York. Talking. Talking. Lawyers and magistrates and bureaucrats. The cancer had gotten my wife by then. Markus stayed with my daughter Kay and the staff. There were fourteen mouths to feed and we had little coming in, but they all stayed with us on the farm while I appealed my case. I guess they thought it better to stick it out there then to try and find work in Mugabe’s communist paradise.”

They decelerated and came to a stop at the signal of two storm troopers.

“Should I be worried about this checkpoint?” Jess asked.

“You don’t know anything. We’re just neighbors. I gave you a ride into town so you could redeem your FEMA card. That’s all.”

“What if they search the truck?”

“Don’t think about that. Assume they will. But assume those idiots won’t find anything.”

One of the troopers approached. His face shield was down. He carried an M4 with both hands. “Papers…” he demanded.

Croukamp retrieved them from his visor and handed them over. The trooper scanned them and handed them back.

“Where are you headed?”


“And you?” the officer asked Jess. Behind them, another officer was poking through the pickup bed at the boxes of items they had acquired at the distribution center.

“Home,” Jess answered.

“You two live together? Family?” the guard asked.

“She’s my neighbor,” Croukamp answered.

The officer searching the bed began lifting items up and pushing things aside.

“What’s he looking for?” Croukamp asked.

“Contraband, ammo, weapons, anything that could aid Doc,” the guard answered.

“He’s wasting his time,” Croukamp remarked.

“There’s an insurgency in case you didn’t notice,” the trooper snapped. “There’s danger everywhere in the red zone,” he said, looking over the inside of the truck.

“Seems like it’s plenty dangerous down here, too,” Croukamp observed.

“Why would you say that?”

“We’ve heard about the gangs going around, terrorizing people,” Jess replied.

The officer checking the bed disappeared from Ian’s mirrors.

“You suggesting the police aren’t doing their job?” the trooper asked.

“I’m just repeating what I heard,” Jess said.

“Who did you hear that from?” asked the trooper.

“I don’t remember. Someone at the FEMA center.”

“Probably some traitor Doc you’re whoring around with,” the trooper said.

“Excuse me?” Jess snarled.

“Hey Robisch, come check this out,” shouted the trooper at the back.

Jess’s eyes filled with scorn. The troopers were all the same person to her. They were all the very one who had murdered her husband. She reached for the door handle to get out but Croukamp stopped her.

“Not now,” he urged her in a whisper. “Think about your daughter. It won’t mean anything to him to beat you senseless, then drag you to jail.”

She looked at him, her eyes smoldering.

“Think about Brooke,” Ian reiterated, tightening his grip on her arm.

Jess relaxed. “What are they doing back there?”

“Who knows? But if he comes back here and asks me to get out then you need to betray me.”

“I won’t.”

“You will. You will and you will go back to your daughter and protect your family.”

The two troopers popped up behind the truck and the one named Robisch made his way back to the driver side window.

“What’s the hold up?” Croukamp asked.

“I have a question for you,” the trooper stated. “How do you protect yourself up there?”

“What do you mean?” Croukamp asked.

“Up the hill, outside the ZOC, how do you protect yourself from Doc or the looters?”

“We lock our doors at night knowing that the police are there to protect us,” Croukamp answered as he glanced at his mirror trying to find the other trooper.

Two Black Hawk helicopters rose over the hogback, just ahead to the west. They flew over the checkpoint loud and low.

“…And we pray,” Croukamp added.

“That doesn’t sound like much of a plan,” said the trooper.

The officer behind them appeared again. Ian saw that he was running his hand along the tailgate.

“You don’t think prayer is an effective plan?” Croukamp asked as he forced his eyes to look away from the mirror. Jess stared forward, silent, motionless, unblinking.

“Not really,” answered the guard. “I think I would be armed, myself.”

The officer in the mirror jiggled the handle on the tailgate.

“I thought firearms were illegal,” Croukamp said.

“Indeed they are,” answered the trooper. “But we all know that we gotta do what we gotta do to protect ourselves.”

The trooper at the back pulled on the tailgate.

“You can level with me, Mr….” the trooper looked over Ian’s papers, “Mr. Crowkamp. What are you armed with? A single rifle or a shotgun isn’t going to concern the DSF. I myself have a twelve-gauge at home.”

“Having a gun without a permit is illegal. I try not to break the law. Does your friend back there need help?” Croukamp asked as he turned to look back over his shoulder. “It’s an old truck. The tailgate tends to stick.”

“Hey! You need a hand back there?” the trooper asked.

Croukamp watched the officer yank on the gate twice more. Ian glanced at Jess. Her eyes were widening with anxiety. Ian took his glasses off and smiled gently, trying to calm her.

“You wouldn’t be transporting any guns or ammo, would you?” called the trooper.

“Like I said before,” Ian answered. “That would be illegal.”

“Don’t lie to me. It’ll just make things worse for you. Come clean now.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. Am I free to go or are you detaining me?” Croukamp grinned and put his glasses back on.

The tailgate popped loose and swung down with a clang. The officer at the back reached in and lifted a couple boxes and felt the bed. Croukamp’s smile broadened further. The trooper climbed onto the gate and pulled the boxes up. The trooper pushed the boxes from side to side and pounded his palm on the bed. Jess’s eyes remained fixed. Then the gate slammed up twice, catching on the second try.

“It all looks good here,” the officer at the back shouted.

“I guess you’re free to go,” Trooper Robisch said as he handed Croukamp back his papers. Ian started up the truck and he and Jess slipped out of the ZOC.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 5


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter Five

“So how’s the president?” Mae asked.

Forteson had recently returned from another tour on Air Force One. Mae wasn’t invited and remained in DC.

“Paranoid as ever,” he answered as he sat up in her bed, found the remote on the nightstand, and turned on the television.

“…The president was in Minneapolis today to present his economic recovery plan in advance of the Summit of the Americas that is scheduled to take place next week in Banff. Upon arrival at the event, the president’s motorcade was accosted by a small but very animated throng of unruly protestors. Estimates put the mob at around 900, with many behaving erratically. Officials suspect that many were under the influence of illegal narcotics. The president, reportedly working twenty hour days since the crises began, was forced to cancel his appearance and return to Air Force One. National Guard units and the Executive Security Detail of the Secret Service were brought in to disperse the mob, make arrests, and restore order. White House Chief of Staff Gabe Truth told AmericaOne that the president was very disappointed about having to cut the trip short, but that he was encouraged by the initial positive reception his plan has been getting from allies and representatives of the international banking sector.

The president is said to be catching up on some much needed rest and…”

“Does this mean he’ll be flying back tonight?” Mae asked.

“In all likelihood.”

“Will he stay in DC for a while?”

“No. He’ll want to be in his bunker, always moving. Want to do a line?” Forteson reached over and snatched his blazer off the arm of Mae’s leather accent chair and produced two vials, offering one to Mae.

“It’s too early,” she said.

“Suit yourself.” Forteson twisted the cap off one and poured its contents onto the glass surface of her night table.

“Actually, I changed my mind,” she interrupted, “but just a small one.”

Mae’s cell phone buzzed as Forteson chopped the stimulant with his black card. She rolled away from him towards the other night table and grabbed her phone. T was texting her.

You with Forte? He asked.

None of your damn business, she replied.

“Who is it?” Forteson asked, after his snort.

Her phone buzzed again.

POTUS flying into Andrews. Wants us there at 0800 tomorrow.

“Looks like I was right,” Forteson replied, looking over her shoulder and reading her texts. He pulled Mae back over on to him. The starched Hanover 800-thread-count cotton sheets slid off her naked body. Her perfect, porcelain face, bejeweled by her piercing dark eyes and framed by loosened strands of her silken hair, was illuminated in the bluish glow of her cell phone. Forteson, one nostril still powdered in coke residue, slid his hands up from the outside of her cool thighs, raising them over her hips, thumbs passing into the flume of her navel, then climbing up her lean, smooth body, plowing gently through her breasts, up over her erect nipples, and interlocking around her neck. With his thumbs pressed gently into her jugular notch, he pulled her into him. Her unbound chestnut hair fell forward, hiding her face. He brushed it back, pulling her down further until their mouths engaged. She was still clutching her cell as he pressed his erection into her. Her phone buzzed again. She pulled back.

“Doesn’t T ever fucking sleep?” Forteson asked.

“No,” she snarked. “He takes hourlong power naps.”

“Is he at the office?”

“He’s home in Connecticut,” she answered, thumbs texting away.

“Have you been there?”

“It’s nice. It has a small apple orchard. He’s got a full security detail now. Not sure what his wife and kids think of that. I imagine it puts a strain on their love life.”

“I’m sure they appreciate it,” Forteson replied, feeling for the other coke vial on the nightstand. “There are lunatics everywhere that want to kill him and anyone else in the government. Even us.”

“I wish they’d just round them up and put a bullet in them.”

“It may come to that,” Forteson answered. “So tell me, when do you ever get back to see home?”

“What do you mean? This is my home.”

“I mean home home.”

“I don’t have a home home.”

“Everyone has a home home. You weren’t born in the Treasury Department nursery.” Forteson pried the cell from Mae’s hands and powered it off. “Tell me about your life before you became T’s step-and-fetch-it.”

“It’s boring.”

“Tell me or I’ll smash your phone with that lamp.”

Mae grinned. “You’re such an alpha.” She repositioned herself and writhed on top of him, slowly grinding her pubic bone on his, her mouth opened and the tip of her tongue moistened her lips as she stared down into his eyes. Forward and back and forward and back on the shaft between her thighs.

Forteson passed the cell to his other hand, set it on the night table, grabbed hold of the neck of the lamp preparing to obliterate it.

“Okay,” Mae said, as she stopped. She pulled her hair back and tied it up. “But my life story is really fucking boring.”

“It won’t be boring to me.”

“Yeah, it will be. Trust me. So…” Mae yawned. Her eyes wandered away as she began to reminisce. “I grew up near Omaha. My dad owned a trucking business. My mom was a housewife. Exciting stuff, huh?”

“Fascinating. Any brothers? Sisters?”

“An older sister. She married young. Divorced. Raised two boys.”

“What were you like in high school?”

“I was in a clique made up of the bitchiest girls. We were called the Twinkies.”

“Twinkies? Where did that come from?”

“Some jock, probably. I don’t know.”

“What else?”

“I was a cheerleader..”

“Oh really? I’d so love to see you in your uniform. Please tell me it was one of those pleated skirts that fly up when you kick your legs. I bet you fill it out nicely, now.”

“I filled it out nicely then.”

“Oh, you were a heartbreaker. I bet you had your way.”

“High school was horrible. I hated everyone.”

“Oh come on.”

“I did. It was crude. Keggers and skunk weed. Hand jobs and date rapes,” she said without flinching.

“The jocks?”

“Mostly. The quarterback. The point guard. Thankfully, it was always over in about thirty seconds.”

“You survived. Then college?”

“I went to Arizona.”

“Cheerleading scholarship?” Forteson quipped.

“Daddy paid for it.”

“More jocks?”

“No. I kept a low profile. I graduated cum laude, political science. Then I took a job in Denver.”

“For the government?”

“Cheese manufacturing.”

“Cheese manufacturing? In Denver?”

“That’s where the headquarters was.”

“What does political science have to do with cheese?”

“Everything. The government fixes the price. They needed interns to help the execs sort the whole Byzantine system out.”

“Then what?”

“I met my ex-husband. We got married.”

“Why didn’t that work out?”

“I got accepted to Harvard’s global economics program.”

“Oh right. Impressive.”

“But Bob didn’t want to move to Boston.”

“What did Bob have against Boston?”

“Bob lived in Colorado his whole life. Colorado and Massachusetts might as well be Botswana and Sweden. It was not a good cultural fit for him. We tried the long distance thing for a while but when I finished the program I took a job at Treasury. We divorced soon after that.”

“So tell me more about Bob.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Was he abusive?”

“No. He could be controlling and jealous but he never beat me or anything like that. I think he was afraid I’d leave if he did. He was careful. He knew I was way out of his league.”

“Did he cheat?”

“No. I don’t think so. If he did, it wouldn’t have been anyone I would be concerned about…maybe some whore at the pub. That would be all. But I seriously doubt he cheated.”

“But you left anyway.”

“Like I said, he wouldn’t come.”

“Do you still talk?”

Mae stared at Forteson coldly. “He’s dead.”

“Oh right, I apologize. I forgot.”

Mae softened. “It’s been over a year. It’s all right.”

“How did it happen?”

“Everything around Denver’s been a mess since the crisis began.”

“The insurgency?”

“Bob got caught up in that chaos—gangs, terrorists, insurgents. He worked for the sheriff’s department. It was right in the middle of all that chaos. His job required him to make very tough decisions—extra-judicial decisions, if you know what I mean. He had a lot of enemies.”

“And they got to him?” Forteson asked.


“How’d they do it?”

“Broke in at night. Tied him up. He was tortured. Then they murdered him.”

“Oh. I’m surprised I wasn’t aware of this.”

“T got it scrubbed by his pals at NSA. He didn’t want it associated with me. He protected me.”

“Sounds like a good boss.”

“He is. He’s my mentor.”

“And father figure?”

“Since my real father died, yes.”

“Oh fuck, I’m sorry about that, too. I’m really blowing it, aren’t I?”

“It’s been years.”

“When was the last time you saw Bob?”

Mae looked down and away, searching for an answer that couldn’t be exposed later as a lie. “I was in Denver that night.” She reached for her cell phone on the nightstand but Forteson blocked the attempt. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s depressing.”

Forteson handed the cell to her.

“What do you think knocked the grid out there?”

“In Denver?” Mae asked as she read her texts.


She knew that if anyone knew that answer, Forteson did. She knew the answer, too. Everyone in the Beltway did. But she sensed he was testing her. There was nothing to be gained by expressing her beliefs so she avoided it. “I don’t know,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders and averting eye contact. “What does AmericaOne say?”

Forteson grinned, revealing that he knew that she knew. Still, he toed the official line. “More than a few military techs have crossed over to the other side. If you throw the Russians and the Chinese in the mix, it’s reasonable to assume that Doc has access to a lot of advanced weaponry.”

“Should we all be worried?” Mae asked, cavalierly.

“Worrying won’t make any difference. But I doubt they would waste their good stuff on two anonymous bureaucrats like you and me.”

“What about Air Force One?”

Forteson chuckled. He reached up and massaged the back of her neck. Her eyes closed and she set down her phone, again.

“I want you to know I’m sorry about your husband and your father.”

“Just shut up. I told you I don’t want to talk about it, anymore.”

“I want you to know that I care about you.”

“Do you?”

“I do.”

“You’re not just fucking me?”

“Come on, Mae.”

“Prove it, then.”

“Prove it? How would I do that?”

Mae raised her cell again but Forteson grabbed her arm.



“I’m thinking that you shouldn’t go.”

“Go where?”

“To Andrews, tomorrow. To Air Force One.”

“Why not? You afraid you won’t be able to control yourself? That we might get caught screwing in the theater or something? What a scandal that would be.” She searched his face but she couldn’t read him. She broke loose of his grasp, spun off of him and switched on the lamp on the nightstand. “I said why not?” she repeated, sitting on the edge of the bed covering herself with the starchy designer sheet.

“It’s getting dangerous.”

“Why? You said Doc can’t get us.”

“It’s not Doc.” Forteson explained. “I know things, Mae. I’ve heard things. There are plans being put into motion.”


“Reassignments. Promotions. Terminations. Loyalties are being tested. Alliances are being re-formed. An innocent slip could be perceived as an alignment with the wrong clique.”

“I’m with T. Is he in the wrong clique?”

Forteson sighed and the conversation abruptly ended.

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Oathkeeper kept me guessing through the entire thing.  Every time I thought I had the story figured out it would twist and turn and totally change my opinions. Keeping me on my toes in a story that I thought was going to be very simple was a nice surprise…..READ MORE

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 4


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter Four


Jimmy Marzan’s eyes opened in complete darkness. He sat up and stared at the sliver of bluish light beneath the door just beyond arm’s reach. He had lost count of the number of times he had woken this way, in his tiny, tomb-like cell. His mind had resigned itself to the confinement, driving out every thought of the outside world, banishing the thoughts the very instant they appeared.  He felt his wounds. They had healed into tender scars after surgery and months of convalescence.

Then, as it did every morning, the itching appeared. It started in his scalp and then spread down into his face the instant he began scratching. He was not permitted to cut his hair or shave. His hair and beard had grown thick and long. He showered only once per week. Perhaps that was a means of determining how long he had been held prisoner. How many showers had there been? He racked up the specific memories in his mind but lost reliable count after a dozen. He had been there many, many more weeks—months even, and he couldn’t really be certain that his showers were spaced at seven day intervals. He gave up, conceding that it had been many months.

The light came on in his cell. Intensely bright, it pained him like an unbearably loud noise. He was sitting on a vinyl bedroll on a steel bunk with a wool blanket in his lap. His bare feet rested on a cool concrete floor. To his right was a stool and sink, no mirror. The walls were painted cinderblocks, seven feet high. The ceiling was a slab of gray concrete with an unbreakable halogen light fixture set in the middle of it. He scratched his face and then examined the scar in his side again, all that remained of the wound he obtained in the firefight near Sheep Mountain; how close that bullet had come to gutting him. Luckily, it had only torn through his oblique, two inches below his rib, exposing but not damaging his intestines. Now he had a pink scar that had widened over time to resemble a miniature shark bite.

Boots shuffled outside the door. Jimmy kneeled onto the concrete floor and placed his hands behind his head. Fists pounded. Keys jingled. The lock clicked. The door flew open and men in black riot gear stormed in. He was hooded and zip-tied, put in a wheelchair and pushed out into the hall. Down the corridor they rolled him, past a dozen identical cell doors on either side, then through a sliding steel door, and another that finally led out of the stale air of the cellblock and into the outside world. He felt the sun on his arms and a cool, dry, dusty breeze permeated his jumpsuit. They rolled him across an open area, perhaps fifty yards or so. The sun warmed his head beneath the black hood and filled him with vigor and calm. But then it got dark and cold again as they went into another building, through two doors, down another hall, another door, and into another cell. They lifted him up and sat him in a chair but they left his black hood and zip-ties on. He knew this place and what came next.

“Good morning, Mr. Marzan,” came a familiar voice.

Jimmy didn’t answer.

“How is your recovery going?”

Jimmy didn’t answer.

“Do you know where you are, James?”

No reply.

“Do you know what day it is?”


“Do you know what country you’re in?”

No answer.

“Have you ever visited the town of Hermosillo, Mexico, Mr. Marzan?”

Marzan sensed at least two other persons in the cell.

“Do you know why you’re here, James, in this foreign country?”

No answer.

“You are here because here is outside domestic legal jurisdiction. Does that mean anything to you?”

No answer.

His interrogator leaned in and spoke directly into Jimmy’s ear. “In other words, civilian law does not apply. No lawyer for you. No right to speedy trial.”

James didn’t believe he was in Mexico. The helicopter flight from Camp Constantine wasn’t long enough. He was hooded for that trip, too, but he had sensed that he was facing aft and he felt the sun hitting his right shoulder during the flight. Judging by the time of day, they had to have flown north, not south.

“You know you’re a dead man, right?”

Jimmy Marzan remained silent.

“I know you can hear me, Doc.”

Jimmy lifted his hooded head in acknowledgement, hoping his response would be enough to prevent some form of terror that would be delivered by one of the other two in the room.

“You don’t have to speak to us today, James. We’ve been over your story enough times, already. However, we do have some information you may want to hear so listen carefully. Are you listening?”

James nodded.

“Your little insurgent unit—Company Z, as you call yourselves—well, I’m very sorry to report that it has been completely annihilated. All of your comrades were killed in an engagement with Charlie Company, 1st of the 20th Americal Division, near a mountain town called Ridgeway. I’m sure you know very well where that is. It seems that your unit was using several abandoned mines as weapons caches. We found quite a bit of Doc materiel there. Lucky for you, you were in here with us. Report says it wasn’t much of a battle. Your comrades were starving to death. Many were frostbitten, hypothermic. It was cold, but clear and sunny that fateful day. DSF first tore them apart with artillery and drones. It ended up a real turkey shoot. Charlie Company dropped in and wiped out the remnants. Prisoners? You’re probably wondering if we took any. Yes. Six survived in all. They’re at Guantanamo now. Have you ever been to Cuba, James? It’s nasty hot there. It’s nasty, nasty hot. Maybe we’ll send you there, too. You can sit and sweat in your little 5 by 8 cell until we decide we have no more use for you.”

James sat quiet and still, hands tied behind him, trying not to make any sound or reveal anything by his manner—neither defiance nor submission. An exhibition of either would unleash terror upon him. He had already told them everything they wanted to know, even if he had to make a good portion of it up. They always got what they wanted. Resistance was futile. What was happening to him now wasn’t about getting more information. There wasn’t anything actionable in what he still knew and he knew they knew that. What it was about was power.

To the insurgents, the federal government’s forces were known as “Freddy.” For Freddy, it was all about power and power was constructed by obtaining dominance and submission. It wasn’t about breaking a single man. Jimmy knew this. No single man was worth all the effort. He was but a single brick set in a giant foundation impacting the will of a multitude. The men who served at the interrogation centers bore witness to the dehumanization of the enemy. They had acquaintances in other units and contact with civilian friends and family. The chaperones of torture, stationed at numerous bases, were the conduit of terror. Their tales of humiliating and torturing the enemy spread beyond the compound and throughout the country like wildfire. They had perfected their craft with years of experience practicing upon foreigners in foreign lands. They brought it home with them like it was a venereal disease.

The fuel of war is morale. Without morale, defeat is certain. But with morale, victory is always attainable. To Freddy, Docs like Jimmy Marzan were the enemy. They were traitors. Tales of their capture, their imprisonment, their torture, were purposefully leaked out, stoking the morale of the regimists. The acts of domination and dehumanization of the traitors demonstrated and validated the power of the regime. Making an enemy submit, even if he is already helpless, was deeply symbolic. It appealed to the tribalist baseness of human nature. Terror is employed by all sides in war, without exception – without exception. The purpose of torture is torture and nothing more. Tales of woe done unto the enemy were leaked out by design, by both sides.

Quelling the domestic insurgency was a Twenty-First Century war. Gone were the days of the sprawling pitch of battle where mechanized units flanked and outflanked and charged and repelled. The old model was too expensive and put too many eggs in one basket. Post-modern warfare had evolved into a paradox, becoming ever grander, global in scale but with the battles being fought at the unit to unit or even man to man level. Twenty-First Century war was executed in isolated firefights, ambushes and assassinations, and with keyboards and red buttons pushed by paunchy, pimply-faced contractors in corporate cubicles. It was fought impersonally with laser-guided missiles fired from unmanned aircraft, concussions of expanding, superheated gas blasting the flesh of targets and bystanders clean off their bones right where they stood. Post -modern war was fought everywhere, but few battles were ever fought by more than a score of human beings. The discernible pitch of battle—the fronts, the lines, the echelons—were gone, replaced by markings on a heads-up display or digital analogs in a computer. The muddy trenches and foxholes of ages past now existed as algorithms in the digital ether. Objectives were no longer plotted on maps. Victory had become a persistent state of existence rather than the the event of capturing an objective. Even torture had evolved in this new era. Beatings and blunt force trauma were replaced by a psychosis-inducing mind game. Conquering the mind is always the ultimate goal of torture. The old means of bodily trauma was deemed an inefficient route to that end.

“Your leader Captain Rick is dead,” said Marzan’s interrogator. “Your rebellion is over.”

Marzan had an urge to clear his throat and cough but he held his breath instead, trying not to bow his head or slump his shoulders defeatedly.

“In case you were wondering, he was killed by a drone strike.”

Marzan knew it was likely a lie. It was part of the mind game. Still, the possibility of it pained him.

“Your unit is wiped out. Uncompahgre III was a total success. All hope for victory is lost for you.”

Marzan assured himself it wasn’t true. Times for the resistance were indeed tough, but before he was captured, the insurgents were adapting and routinely achieving their mission objectives. They were preparing to move into the next stage of the long struggle—Phase 2 of Dau Tranh[1]. Their morale had bounced from its nadir and was strengthening.

Freddy was pulling back and consolidating its forces and assets in the larger towns. The feds had relinquished vast swaths of the western states, deeming them outside the zone of control. It was simply too big of an area for the Domestic Security Force to control. They would be spread too thin to maintain operational effectiveness if they tried. Originally one division, the DSF had swelled to four—army corps strength—and yet, the territory outside the ZOC remained increasingly unpacified.

Homeland Security, with the consent of the president, withdrew ground forces. They turned their satellites on and watched and waited, launching concentrated incursions like Uncompahgre III here or there, but otherwise standing back from the giant tracts of land that evoked the sprawling Indian reservations so common two centuries earlier. Doc wouldn’t be too much bother so long as he was dispersed in the empty quarter of America. The president’s justification for the pullback was that it was better to have the enemy diluted in the wilderness than operating covertly in the metropolitan areas. So long as there was no significant loss of life or assets in the ZOC, Freddy could declare a state of “ongoing victory.”

James was convinced his interrogators were lying about his unit. They were trying to break his will and compel the submission of his mind.

“I should let you know that we also paid a visit to your family,” the interrogator said.

Everything you say is a lie, James repeated to himself.

“Your mother, we had someone go to Irvine and see her.”

They wouldn’t go after families, he thought.

“She was very disappointed to hear about what you’ve done.”


“So let’s go over your list, again, just to make sure I told her everything.”

James sighed.

“You were a very busy little terrorist. Let’s see, how many civilians have you murdered, James? First up, 01 20. A Pitkin County official by the name of Donalds. Killed by a .50 caliber round from long range. Head shot.”

James couldn’t resist. “I was not a part of that operation, but Donalds was no civilian. He was CIA.”

“02 22. Three state congressmen and their security team murdered by ambush in Colorado Springs. Your team put 130 rounds into their car at close range.”

“I had nothing to do with that.”

“05 15. U.S. 285 ambush at Grant. Your team destroyed four MRAPs. Twenty KIA.”

James didn’t respond.

“05 21. U.S. 285 ambush near Crow Hill. Destroyed one MRAP by remotely activated IED. Led assault on survivors employing use of white phosphorous—recently outlawed by the Geneva Convention.”

Marzan remained silent.

“06 15. Foxton Road. Shot down a U.S. Army Black Hawk with a Chinese-supplied RPG. 19 KIA.”

“The Chinese have never supplied us with anything,” James replied.

“Funny, we find Chinese and Russian hardware all over these mountains. RPGs. AK47s. Crates of 762. Night vision. Miniature drones. Rocket propelled phosphorous. Mines. Nearly all of it is Chinese or Russian.”

“I thought you said we were in Mexico.”

The interrogator cleared his throat. “That’s correct. May I continue? 06 28. North Turkey Creek Road. Took out an entire convoy. Five MRAPS. Twenty Six KIA. I’m afraid that I have to concede that was an impressive operation, tactically speaking.”

James felt the other bodies in the room closing in.

“06 28. Gunnison. County Sheriff Joseph Everson murdered by sniper round.”

“Not me. But he was an operative, an NSA plant. Why don’t you mention the elected sheriff who was assassinated by your people three weeks earlier?”

“Actually, we pinned that on you as well.”

“Everyone there knows Freddy killed him.”

“That’s not what the official record says,” answered the interrogator. “And the official record is the history. Remember, James, the victors write the history books.”

“Who says you’re going to be victorious?”

The interrogator laughed.

“You forgot one,” James said. He couldn’t stay quiet.

“Ah yes. Jefferson County Undersheriff Robert Garrity. Tortured, found with a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the chest. Now that was a particularly cruel assassination. You made him do himself in.”

James didn’t respond.

“Are there any others?”

“I’m not responsible for any of them.”

“But you are, James. You’ve already signed the confessions.”

“What I signed and what I did are two different things. What do you want from me? I’ll sign whatever you want. Just type it up.”

“We visited your father too, James.”

James shook his head.

“We went to his stucco ranch in Scottsdale. There’s a swimming pool with a slide in the backyard. Your half brothers and sisters grew up there. They spent their summers splashing in that pool while you and your mother moved into that shitty condo in Irvine. Did your daddy remember to send you a card on your birthday? It appears that he did quite well for himself out there in Arizona with his new family. ”

“Good for him,” Jimmy answered.

“James, do you want to know what he said about you?”


“Don’t lie, James. Of course you want to know.”

“I don’t care.”

“No, you only wish you didn’t care. You know as well as I do that the paths you’ve chosen are all a direct result of him. He may have escaped you, James, but you can never escape him.”

“What difference does it make?”

“Do you want me to say that your father said he loves you?”


“Well, he didn’t. What he did say was that you are an embarrassment to him. He said that he hopes we show you mercy but that he never wants to see you again, and you should spend the rest of your life in prison.”

“I don’t care.”

“I think you do, James. I think it affects you. You must admit that the most important role model and authority figure in your life abandoned you as a child. How could that not affect you, James? How could that not impact your attitude about authority?”

“Why don’t you ask a shrink?”

“There you sit, not a man, not a soldier, but a boy who was abandoned, thrown away, left for a new family. A boy who grew up and who ultimately abandoned his family for a new one, just like daddy.”

“Congratulations. You figured me out.”

“You shouldn’t be so smug, James. You’re in enormous trouble. You’re a traitor to your country.”

“I love my country.”

“Then why did you betray it?”

“I didn’t.”

“You served your country, then you abandoned her in her time of greatest need. You’re no different than your father, James.”

Marzan shook his head.

“James, how many United States military personnel have you killed?”

“It’s a war. People get dead. They were trying to kill me.”

“You’re a traitor.”

“I’m a patriot.”

“No. You’re an insurgent, no different than the Hajis you fought overseas.”

“I’ve learned a lot since then.”

“Why do you hate America, James? Why do you hate freedom?”

“I don’t. I love America. I love freedom. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

The interrogator stepped back and began to pace. His tone changed from accusatory to contemplative. “Here’s something for you to ponder,” he continued. “When you look back over your life, what good can you honestly say that James Marzan has ever done? What good have you accomplished in this life? What difference have you made?”

James heard the door open, letting through the noise of panting and scraping claws on the concrete floor.

“When we visited your mother, James, she became very distraught. She’s angry, angry at you for the shame you’ve brought upon her and your family. She said she did everything she could to raise you right. She said she encouraged you to join the Army and serve your country. That it would make a man out of you. But now she regrets doing that. She blames herself for what you’ve become. She’s been in a deep depression since we told her everything.”

“Why are you doing that to her? She’s been through enough.”

“It’s not about her, James. It’s about you. We need you to realize that you are completely alone. We need you to know that so before we turn the dogs loose on you or we bury you in a hole or we drive you out into the woods and put a bullet in your head that you realize everything you did was for nothing, that you will leave this mortal coil reviled, unappreciated and totally alone. That is your punishment for being a traitor.”

“What are you waiting for, then?” James responded.

James heard the dog approach, choking and wheezing as it strained against the leash. He felt the animal’s hot breath as it nuzzled into his crotch, its teeth an inch from his testicles. James tensed and the animal growled in response.

“Are you sure about that, James? We could oblige you. We could end it right here.”

“I already told you everything. I signed everything you put in front of me. What else do you want?”

“We want you to beg us for forgiveness. Will you beg us, James?”

[1] Dau Tranh is the term used to identify the long term political and military strategy of the Vietnamese used to achieve independence. Although not a communist movement, the American insurgency adapted and implemented a significant portion of the revolutionary doctrine, referring to it by the same name.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 3

cometake_promo_cover“Be not afraid for the terror by night…”  In part 2 of the Indivisible series, the nation boils in economic collapse and sectarian violence. The president withdraws into his flying bunker to implement his Amero Plan to restore order. Maiden Lane finds herself in peril beyond the government’s zone of control. Marzan is separated from his company during a firefight and rescues an orphaned boy. Jess Clayton defends her home and young daughter from repossession and armed looters.


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter Three


Jessica stood in a clearing on the crest of a high foothill and looked to the west. Clouds surged, boiling up over the mountains along the horizon. Mount Evans, normally a dome of glistening white, was obscured by haze. It was late afternoon. The approaching night was going to be completely dark as the front rolled east over the foothills and obscured the moon and stars. She had to make sure the candles were ready—just another thing to add to her endless list of to-dos. Precious few of the power transformers had been replaced since the radio flash had crippled the electrical grid. Jessica’s house had been without power for fifteen months.

She had hiked up the hill, just beyond the edge of her lot and across the road, to collect a bushel of the first of the spring dandelions. She would take them home, wash them in cool well water, dress the greens and flowers with vinegar and salt, and serve them as salad. Foraging was essential for stretching meals. In the coming month, the high meadows would turn gold and green with fields of dandelions. And soon after, the marsh cattails would shoot up. Their roots were a tolerable, starchy substitute for potatoes if they were cooked right.

She turned and looked east, across the meadow and marsh below, surrounded by the dormant pines and groves of still leafless aspens that stood in gray clusters along the hillsides. Farther east, beyond the layers of rolling, forested ridges, the high plains opened up as flat as glass, all the way to the eastern horizon. Denver sprawled out over it, a cobble of black and gray geometry. A blanket of brown haze hung over the city, a blended cloud of smoke and ash, generator exhaust, and dust kicked up by the warm spring winds. Columns of black billowed up from scattered, unresolved fires. Distant helicopters silently patrolled the heavy air, looking like little black wasps coming and going from their hive at Denver International Airport, which Jess could just make out as a cluster of white spires sitting at the very edge of the eastern horizon.

Jess would sometimes climb that same hill at night and look east across the city. The patchwork of sporadic city lights shimmered like the reflection of ten thousand amber stars on the surface of a placid lake. There were so few lights even then, despite the frantic Department of Homeland Security Americorps reconstruction effort. She had heard on the radio that fifty thousand men and women were employed in the government program to reconstruct Denver, but there was little to show for their hundred million man hours of toil except for the ubiquitous billboards heralding their glorious arrival. At night, the brightest beacon of all was the airport. Though the blackouts rolled in patches through the quilt of the city every night, the airport never stopped shining bright.

Jessica Vaughn’s neighborhood was not officially outside what was known as the zone of control—or ZOC—but being wooded, hilly, less-populous, and fertile territory for ambush, it was deemed lowest priority for Americorps reconstruction. The MRAPs of the Domestic Security Force didn’t roll up into the foothills unless absolutely necessary, and then only by massive mechanized convoy preceded by drones and covered above by the thump-thump-thumping of Black Hawk helicopters. The thumping of helicopter rotors was ever present. Jess heard them seven or eight times each day and almost as often at night.

Other than the occasional civilian car or sheriff’s patrol, the days and nights were otherwise bereft of the sounds of civilization; just the whine of wind or the mew of cow elk or screech of a fox…or the occasional rat-tat-tat-tat of distant small arms fire. No one drove much because gas was too costly and many of the automobiles, damaged by the radio flash, still required extensive repairs. Ration cards were required to purchase gasoline, but the gasoline was rarely available at the licensed stations permitted to sell it. To obtain gasoline or diesel, one needed to engage the black market with hard currency or something to barter. Plastic debit cards with federal imprints and green pieces of paper with dead presidents bought little or nothing, and even less than that outside the ZOC. When fiat money was obtained, it was spent as rapidly as possible as it was not known if or when the next round of devaluation would reduce its purchasing power. Because no one wanted it, those spending it were forced to pay premiums in order to get rid of it. The pernicious rise in prices continued at rates that outpaced the Federal Reserve’s printing press. The public loss of faith in the dollar compounded the difficulty the government faced in restoring price stability. As the dollar fell and fell, the Treasury Department was forced to officially devalue again and again in order to meet the trillions in debt requiring a roll over each quarter. Any attempt to restore confidence in the currency by decree, such as controlling the price of toilet paper, merely resulted in the shelves being cleaned out. The people who were supposed to be aided by the regulations found that while they once objected to the high price of squeezing the Charmin, now they couldn’t squeeze it at any price. But at least the government was “doing something.”

Foreign currency, coins, scrip, bullets, copper wire, and other commodities of value were hoarded by civilians whenever possible. The bad money had chased the good right out of the market and into personal vaults. This meant that the burden of securing one’s wealth now fell solely upon each household. Guns, although highly illegal, were widely owned. They were not brandished carelessly, but it was universally understood that everyone who was off the government reservation was capable of defending themselves.

Americans, so careless and apathetic before the collapse, had learned self-sufficiency and unlearned their trust in the State. The infinite reams of laws, controls, regulations, edicts, schedules, codes, taxes, fines, and levies went mostly unheeded. Unless a federal agent was offering them a meal or a bed or demanding something from behind the barrel of a gun, the government was simply ignored.

Jessica came down the hill towards her house with her basket of weeds. Her mother-in-law, Sharon, spotted her as she approached and shouted out the window. “Looks like it’s going to be cold, tonight,” she yelled.

“Probably windy, too.” Jess answered.

“Can we run the generator?”

“We’ve only got five gallons of gas left,” Jess answered.

“I guess we should try to save it, then.”

“Yes. For the water pump at least.”

“Maybe I can ask if I can ride with Mr. Croukamp down to the post office and see if I can get some more fuel, tomorrow. How much is it, now?”

“Ten NATO per gallon or fifteen feet of copper,” Jess answered. “But we’ve nearly spent all ours.”

“I’ve got a hundred dollars. How about that?”

“I thought you spent that,” Jess answered as she came down the driveway.

“My sister sent it.”

“That should get us a gallon,” Jess answered as she lifted the garage and pulled the starter cord on the generator. “We need to bring some wood in for tonight, and some water, too. Can you send Brooke out with the tote?” The generator turned over and sputtered to life, blue exhaust puffing out; its roar drowned out the sound of the well pump’s pressure switch which clicked on soon after. The exhaust flooded the garage, then wafted out the door to be carried away by the breeze and comingle with the brown cloud hanging just a few miles east. It would only be run for five minutes, just long enough to pressurize the water lines and enable them to fill their jugs and flush three toilets times. The crude setup would not have even been possible had Mr. Croukamp not done the electrical work for them.

The door opened and Brooke appeared, all three feet of her, cheeks tanned, her brown hair braided into two taut pigtails. She was dressed in a pink and kelly green fleece and worn Winnie-the-Pooh sneakers. Her used clothes were purchased for the bargain price of three hundred dollars at the bazaar held at the post office parking lot. Almost anything could be bought or bartered for at the bazaar. In addition to clothes and gasoline, sundries and produce, firewood, ammunition, tools, hardware, luxuries like chocolate and alcohol and cannabis, and even labor could be obtained. If it wasn’t available on a particular day, then one could write it on the big board and someone would bring it the next.

Jess wasn’t thinking about the bazaar, though. She was looking at Brooke’s tiny, shining face. Little Brooke had known no other life than the one scratched out in the foothills: frigid dark winters, hunger, helicopters, chores that demanded too much from the small hands of such a young child. She had learned how to dress herself and how to recognize letters and stack wood. She watched her mother shoot a pistol and split a log with a maul and clean and dress a chicken and a deer. But the little lady revealed no memory of her father which pained Jess, greatly. What Brooke learned of him would be a myth—the legend of a man constructed from the spoken memories of others with the spaces in between those words filled in with her imagination. Perhaps, Jess hoped, that would make her father larger than life, which is the only reward the dead can hope for.

Brooke trotted out towards her, dragging the tote behind. Jess turned to the woodpile by the side of the house, scanning the diminished mound of splits for the driest, choicest pieces to lug into the house for the cold, cloudy night ahead. The pile was hidden from the road on the side of the house as opportunistic thieves, trolling neighborhoods for easy loot, might otherwise see it and return to raid it in the night. With the pile by the side of the house, away from the road, Jess had a chance to hear them carrying it off and intervene before they took too much.

She had never been forced to decide if it was necessary to shoot someone over wood, and she was grateful for that. Should a man be killed for stealing? If the thieves ever came, she would be confronted with that dilemma. She knew she would have to decide before she ever drew her pistol. This and other matters of survival tormented her through many nights as she laid awake in bed with her daughter and mother-in-law at her side. One should not draw a gun unless one has accepted the consequences of firing it. Without that conviction, a gun may fire at you before you resolve your indecision. She wondered what Vaughn would think of it all. He would say he would draw and shoot the thieves, but she knew her husband, and she knew his male bluster masked a thoughtful, cautious man who wouldn’t be cavalier about taking a life. A woman’s mind is not afflicted by the perceived utility of bluster like a man’s is.

Rumors had been circulating of armed bandits, but despite the Firearms and Neighborhood Security Act—which survived a constitutional legal challenge and resulted in a nationwide program for the confiscation of civilian firearms—most of the populace was armed. It took only one thief getting his kneecap blown off by shot from a twelve-gauge to dampen the firewood thievery racket. The Constitution may theoretically mean whatever the court says it means, but the rulings of the State’s high priests, festooned in their flowing black robes, are vaporized in an instant by the thunderbolts of reality. Governments legislate within their own, insular perception of reality. The people, however, were now existing entirely in another. When the choice is whether to either abide by some subjective concept like the law versus freezing to death, the law, as it is ascribed by the lawmakers, becomes irrelevant.

Jess had Brooke bring the tote with her to the pile. Together, they filled it with pine and lugged it back to the garage and up the outside stairs. They dumped the wood there and went back down. It was going to take three trips to gather enough for the cold April night if they wanted to be cozy. Oh, to be cozy! Cozy was impossible in the winter. It required too much wood for the fire to achieve it when the insulation of clouds had blown off and it was three degrees outside and the wind was howling. On those nights, they would endure a fifty-degree house, sharing their bed and body heat under layers of blankets. The house cooled in the wee hours when the fire burned down, so much so that when they woke, they could see their frozen breath as they lay in their bed. But the winter was over. This was April and the nights barely dipped below freezing. They would snuggle into bed while the silent, flickering firelight in the portal glass of the stove radiated its comforting warmth. Being able to throw off the covers and sweat herself to sleep was a much longed-for indulgence for Jess, signaling triumph over winter. The three of them had earned it.

Jess reached down to lift the tote. Straining to pull it up, she turned and then walked towards the garage to shut off the generator. Brooke followed. Her neighbor, Mr. Croukamp, had wired it in exchange for a thousand NATOs—.556 rounds. That arrangement was their first meaningful interaction and they had grown close ever since. It was a costly investment for Jess, double her annual firewood purchase, but buying a cistern and having water of dubious potable quality delivered by truck would have been much more expensive over time.

There were so many things to do without on-demand electricity. Every chore was done manually. Water required a pump powered by a gasoline generator. The wood stove had to be constantly fed. Clothes had to be hand washed and line-dried and mended with needle and thread. Lights had to be hand-lit. Words had to be handwritten. To make money to buy food and other essentials the three of them would stack neighbors’ firewood, tend their animals, shovel snow and horse shit, pull weeds from gardens, and make mail deliveries—which was illegal even though postmen stopped making rounds months earlier.

Mr. Croukamp fared somewhat better. He remained in his home, defiant, a stubborn, grizzled, tested old man. He had a working truck, a mid-1970s pickup with rusted out wheel wells and a cracked windshield. It rattled and rumbled along, smoking, misfiring, evoking the same traits as its owner. Croukamp used it to make deliveries and drive to jobs and to taxi neighbors about. For a fee, of course. He earned a good amount with it, enough to keep the truck fueled, his pantry stocked, and his property maintained. When he wasn’t driving, he was hanging barbed wire, mending his network of fences, canning vegetables that he grew in his green house, and tending his chickens and securing their coops against the foxes and cougars and two-legged thieves. Croukamp lived alone and he preferred life that way, but he performed many services for Jessica. Originally he did so out of pity, then out of his sense of duty, and then finally out of a feeling of fellowship with the struggling women. His socializing consisted of giving advice on everything from how to make dandelion salad to how to clean and dress a deer.

As Jess piled more wood, she noticed Croukamp poking around in the matted prairie grass in the draw dividing their properties. She waved but he didn’t see her. Brooke followed quietly behind as Jess stacked another bundle of splits and lifted the tote over her shoulder. She lumbered up the steps with it and unloaded it at the door, then went back to the pile for another. There weren’t enough decent pieces left for the third load so she would have to split more.

She looked around for her maul. Finding it, she picked it up and stood it on its iron head. She righted a bucked log on a wide stump, then took hold of the axe with two hands. She let the heavy head hang down, allowing it to build momentum using its weight, then she arced it back and up overhead, letting the heavy maul and momentum do most of the work. The blade hit dead center on the end of the pine and it cracked half way down sending out shards of bark. She noticed Brooke was standing too close. Thinking of the damage an airborne splinter could do to an eye, she cautioned her to stand back. Brooke backed away. “Further.” Brooke retreated. Jess gripped the handle and with her foot braced on the bucked log, she gave the maul a yank which released the head.

She paused and examined the deep fracture she had made and imagined, for an instant, that it was the skull of a DSF trooper. Just like the ones who murdered her husband. She gripped the maul and swung again, sending a third of the log tumbling off to the side—a jawbone or skull fragment set loose in her imagination. She took a breath. She swung again, breaking apart the remaining piece. She stacked another upright on the stump and cleaved it with one blow, imagining bone fragments and dislodged teeth flying out, blowing back and grazing her exposed skin. Jess had split five cords of wood that year. It had a profound effect on her body, a tautness and hardness that she felt and noticed when she looked in her reflection in the windows. Her shoulders had broadened and her posture had firmed. Triceps had formed where there was once just delicate flesh. The burn from swinging the axe that initially came after only three or four swings, didn’t come until after several dozen blows now.

She heard a car came up the road. She recognized the sound of it. The next log she would split would be that of a bankster’s head. There might not be any mail delivery due to the lawlessness and transportation costs, but the banks still sent their debt collectors. They came by her house every month. There were usually three of them, two in charcoal slacks, white dress shirts and ties, looking like Jehovah’s Witnesses. The third was a security detail, typically an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.

In the winter, Jess had swapped some NATO for one ounce of silver which was, remarkably, enough to cover three mortgage payments. But she was behind by twelve. Her original intent was to pay off the house with Vaughn’s life insurance proceeds but it had already been fifteen months since Vaughn’s murder. She was convinced the insurance company was intentionally stalling before they would pay up. With the mass inflation, every day that passed diminished the real value of the payout. The insurance companies and banks took advantage of the circumstances and stalled payments to reap the financial benefit of paying their debts with less valuable money. Originally furious and feeling helpless, Jess eventually cooled. Her solution came to her and she decided that she could play their game, too. She bought the silver rounds on the advice of Croukamp and hid them in a coffee can in the wall of her kitchen. With the rate of price increases—prices doubling every three months or so—her silver would be worth as much as six mortgage payments by the end of summer, and twelve by winter.

Jess was beginning to think like a banker. But unbeknownst to her, Congress had passed a bill called the CPA—the Creditor Protection Act—which was going to double the remaining principle balance of mortgages on December 31st, in order to make things fair for the banks. Congress was convinced it was good policy that banks be guaranteed they would be paid something for their outstanding loans, in inflation-adjusted terms. The homeowner lobby howled in outrage at having their principle balances doubled by congressional fiat, but Congress passed it anyway, citing economic necessity. “If inflation destroys the value of loans, then no one will lend anymore! Credit is the lifeblood of the economy. Without credit, the economy will die! Our national security is at risk! We must pass the bill!” they screeched while they quietly counted their re-election campaign contributions. Clearly, the half dozen remaining mortgage lenders had more Washington influence than the hundred million outraged homeowners. But that’s democracy. When asked about the CPA at his presser, the president said, “No one should be allowed to benefit unfairly from the inflation. We all have to make shared sacrifices for future generations.” After two days had passed, the public outrage cooled and Americans moved on to the next distraction in the news cycle: Chinese hackers.

The approaching car slowed at Jess’s driveway. She filled her tote with the fresh splits. She curled the load up to her chest, feeling the strain in her tendons, the hardening of her forearms, and the new power in her back as she pulled herself upright. She searched around for Brooke. She looked towards the wellhead, then to the house and then towards the drive. The banker’s pickup was coming down her driveway and tiny Brooke stood directly its path. Jess shouted as she dropped the tote and ran towards her. Brooke was transfixed on the approaching car. Cars were so rare that she did not understand the danger of being run over by one. Jess sprinted towards Brooke, shouting her name. Brooke didn’t move. The car careened towards her. Jess ran yelling and flailing. The car continued. Brooke remained in its path. Twenty feet. Ten feet. Five feet. Finally, the driver saw the child and braked, stopping only a foot from catastrophe. Jess reached Brooke, took her arm and dragged her from the pavement.

The door opened and the driver, a thin, pale fellow, hopped out. He was dressed in charcoal slacks and a white dress shirt and tie, just as Jess had expected. Two others remained inside the vehicle.

“What do you want?” Jess shouted, heart pounding, thinking at that instant that she should have grabbed the maul before chasing after her daughter. The visitor looked at Jess and grinned. “Can I help you?” Jess asked again.

“I certainly hope so,” he responded.

“What’s your name?” Jess asked as she pulled Brooke close into her side. The agent approached and extended his hand but Jess refused to shake it. “Please identify yourself.”

“I’ve been here before. I am Officer Hiserman.”

“Officer? Officer of what?”

“I’m with the FDFR, the Federal Department of Forbearance Recapture.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Jess replied.

“I’m here about your mortgage.” Hiserman took out his wallet, removed his card, and offered it to Jess. She took it. It read: “Officer of Collections.”

“Oh, I remember you. I thought you worked for the bank.”

“I do.”

“This card says you work for the feds.”

“I work for them, too. I’ve been deputized by the U.S. Treasury Department.”

“I don’t have your payment, yet. I’m still waiting on my husband’s life insurance payout.”

“I guessed as much. Still, I have to make my rounds.”

“So is that all?” Jess asked, attempting to slide off back to her wood pile with Brooke.

“I need to serve you this,” Hiserman said as he produced an envelope and presented Jess with it.

“What is it?”

“It is your sixty day notice to vacate the premises.”

Jess laughed.

“I do apologize,” Hiserman continued. “The bank has decided to take possession of the property.”

Jess laughed again. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Pardon me?”

“You know I’m about to receive a payment large enough to pay this place off, with interest. Why would you want this house when you could get your money?”

“I only work in forbearance recapture, ma’am. I don’t get to see the repossession metrics.”

“Let me guess, then,” Jess said. “You plan to hold on to it because you’ve made a deal to sell it back to the government for a profit.”

“I’m just the messenger, ma’am. You’ve been served. You’ve got sixty days.”

“Well I’m not going anywhere.”

“If you’re still here, I’m afraid we’ll be forced to evict you under the supervision of DSF.”

“What about the sheriff’s department? They’re supposed to handle evictions.”

“Not anymore.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not leaving. You’ll get your money.”

“Look,” Hiserman said in a patronizing tone, “it’s not realistic to take a stand against your lender. You have a small daughter and all. This place is just not worth it.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means this is no place to raise a small child. You should be in the city, closer to the aid centers. Look around. It’s Road Warrior out here.”

“It’s not dangerous here. It just takes hard work.”

“I’m not so sure Child Protective Services would agree.”

“Now what the hell does that mean?” Jess asked.

“Calm down, ma’am. Calm down. I’m not the enemy. I’m just doing my job.”

“You people always say that. ‘I’m just doing my job.’ If you’re not responsible for your actions then who is?”

“What does he want from us?” shouted Sharon from the house.

“Nothing,” Jess answered. “It’s under control.” She turned back to Hiserman. “So will that be all, then?”

“Yes. But can I ask you a question?”

“No,” Jess answered as she started away.

“Why are you out here?”

Jess stormed off without answering.

“This is no place to raise a child, ma’am,” Hiserman shouted.

Jess went around the back of the house to calm herself, out of view.

“I think we can be professional about all this,” Hiserman shouted.

Jess muttered to herself under her breath.

“That’s how adults would behave,” Hiserman continued.

Jessica’s rage built.

“Have a nice day, ma’am.”

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 2

cometake_promo_cover“Be not afraid for the terror by night…”  In part 2 of the Indivisible series, the nation boils in economic collapse and sectarian violence. The president withdraws into his flying bunker to implement his Amero Plan to restore order. Maiden Lane finds herself in peril beyond the government’s zone of control. Marzan is separated from his company during a firefight and rescues an orphaned boy. Jess Clayton defends her home and young daughter from repossession and armed looters.


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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter Two


Five hundred thousand people gathered on the National Mall beneath the five hundred-foot-tall Masonic phallus dedicated to the memory of George Washington. They waved placards and shouted slogans calling for more government-funded jobs programs, the resignation of the president, and free money—and why not? The cronies had all gotten theirs. How about some cash for the great unwashed? These middle-class people were reeling; they were economic refugees from the unabated financial crises that had wiped out their savings, increased prices fifty times over, and wrecked their lives. Some hurled curses and raged, but the vast majority stood quietly and politely clapped as each speaker got up at the podium before the reflecting pond and actualized their “I have a dream” moments. No media was present and the demonstration was invisible to the rest of the country. When their permit expired at 8 p.m., battalions of Americorps and mounted police in riot gear converged, hosing the protestors down with skunk water and tossing flashbang grenades into the clusters of humanity. By 10 p.m., it was all over, and an army of migrant workers and garbage trucks was on scene cleaning up the mess left behind. Suffice it to say, the peaceful demonstration failed to convince the president to resign.

Maiden Lane’s alarm went off at 4:15 the next morning. She threw her feet onto the floor and levered herself up out of bed with the vigor of an Olympic gymnast. In ten minutes, she was on her stationary bike, grinding out the miles, bronze quadriceps flexing, sweat beading and dripping off her body, black spandexed breasts heaving, inhaling, chest expanding, exhaling, abs flexing. She finished at 5:00, and began washing and exfoliating and shaving in her twenty-five-square-foot, cobalt-tiled shower. She dried and straightened her hair, applied her makeup, and dressed. Breakfast was a poached egg. She scrolled as she spooned the egg’s yolk and sipped her special blend coffee, beans hand-picked by an actual Incan field laborer…although he was not named Juan Valdez.

“Drones Dis-Employ Thousands of Troops reported the headline. Just after that: “Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Declines by Age 25,” and below that: “President Unveils Massive Package.” She clicked on the television…


“…So how would you describe the present situation?” an androgynous anchor asked his guest. “Are we winning the war?”

The Secretary of Homeland Security hesitated. “Um, yes. We are winning but we don’t call this operation a war. It’s very important to draw that distinction. A war involves nation states, some degree of combat symmetry. Geneva Convention and all that. This is what we call insurgency counter-insurgency. ICI for short. So it’s not a war. But to answer your first question, yes we are winning. We’re in what you would call ‘mop up’ operations. Large numbers of the terrorist leadership have been taken out. At last count, twenty-nine of thirty-five of our most wanted have been killed or captured. The insurgency leadership has been wiped out. We are continuing to hunt down and scatter the remaining cells. We’ve infiltrated several of the more significant ones and are ‘in their huddle,’ as we like to say. The country has been saved by the tireless efforts of the tens of thousands of patriots in Homeland Security, FBI, armed forces and police.”

“And the president, too,” added the anchor.

“Absolutely. We have had the full support of the president every step of the way, and will going forward. He had to make some very difficult decisions at times, but they turned out to be the right ones. We fully expect complete order to be restored before winter.”

“Some have argued that the response was heavy-handed and that the insurrection, if I can call it that, might have been dealt with in another way.”

“Can I just say that we are operating in real world situations out there. There are known unknowns, but many unknown unknowns and even unknown knowns and known knowns. The task is daunting and complex. The insurgents—sorry, let’s call them what they are: the terrorists—they have some advantages related to terrain, logistics, small sympathetic local populations…”

“Now you make it sound like they’re winning.”

“No. Not at all. I’m just trying to say that the situation is complex and often requires rapid, forceful response. A soft touch or nudge isn’t going to get things done. This is the real world. Things have to be dealt with in a manner which leadership feels gives us the best chance for success. These are terrorists we’re dealing with here. They abide by no known rules. They use mines to kill and maim our troops and destroy our assets. They shoot at our men and women in uniform. They are uncooperative and hostile. There is no diplomatic resolution here. We can second guess things, play Monday morning quarterback, but we are all in strong agreement that everything that was done and is being done has been necessary. We are trying to win a war.”

“I thought you just said it wasn’t a war.”

“Right. I don’t mean war in the traditional sense. Not a war war. I meant that in the broader sense that this is part of the war on terror but more specifically a full scale ICI…but not a war…”


Mae heard a car pull up. She looked across her reclaimed mill wood vintage oak table, over the porcelain Tiffany’s tea service and the internet-connected DeLonghi Toaster Oven with integrated panini press, under the pleated shade crafted of Egyptian Ertegun cotton and through the triple-paned, argon-infused, green-rated glass of her kitchen window. A driver popped out of the limo parked on the street, clamored up the steps, and rang the doorbell of her brownstone. Mae tossed her titanium egg dish, silver spoon and un-slipped and unglazed English clay designer coffee mug into the hand-hammered copper sink and darted to the door. She handed the chauffeur her suitcase and went down to the car, descending the stone stairs with intense purpose, a furrow creasing her brow. Her posture was erect but her movements were fluid. The driver followed, scurrying behind. She stopped at the door looking annoyed as he passed her and set her bag down to open the door. T was waiting inside.

“Good morning,” he said without raising his eyes from his mobile, his greeting drowned out by the helicopter thumping that had just erupted overhead.

She slid in elegantly, preventing her hem from retracting and exposing anything beyond her upper thigh. The door closed with a suction sound, sealing out the external racket. She took out her phone as T remained preoccupied with his. The car sped away

It took over an hour and a half to travel the five miles to Reagan National Airport. Passing through the Rock Creek Gate had always been an ordeal, ever since it had been erected in the wake of the dollar devaluation—or “dollar reset” as the government officially coined it. The checkpoint backed cars up all the way to Virginia Avenue NW. Thankfully, the Treasury Department merited a patrician-class escort that evaded most of the queue. The limo escaped over the slow-rolling Potomac and onto the George Washington. They eventually wheeled onto the tarmac at Reagan, pulling under a purple awning a hundred steps from the cyan underbelly of the president’s personal modified C5. The door opened with a reverse suction sound and the noise of jets and helicopters flooded in.

“So this is the new Air Force One,” Mae remarked as she stepped out of the car.

“Wait until you see the inside,” T remarked. He had not spoken the entire ride and was still reading his phone as he got out of the car. Mae came up close beside him, invading his space as if they were a couple. He walked with her that way up the escalator, past the marine honor guard and through the portal door into the president’s personal flying bunker.

“What do you think?” T finally asked as Mae absorbed the interior that reminded her of a boutique.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re on an airplane,” she answered.

T pointed. “Go that way, through that door.”

She walked through a lobby of small sofas, delicate glass lamps and brass-framed mirrors, a Van Goghish canvas, a Zulu mask, a silver platter cradling a petrified dinosaur egg, a framed reproduction of the Emancipation Proclamation and a signed photograph of the president standing on a golf course with Snoop Dog and Matt Damon. They pushed through the bi-fold doors emblazoned with the presidential seal. Before them were four rows of leather seats that reclined and swiveled 360 degrees and were equipped with flip-out LED screens. They passed through another bi-fold door with the seal. Through it, they found an aisle with enclosures on either side, each with two more seats. These fully reclined into a bed with extendable privacy blinders on either side. Mae and T found their assigned enclosure, marked with a nameplate, and stowed their carry-ons.

“I can’t believe you brought me along, T. This is amazing. What a terrific experience.”

“The president wanted to reward you for your efforts…for taking one for the team.”

“Not sure why he would be impressed. It didn’t end so well with Tsang.”

“We put you through a great deal, Mae. We knew it was a suicide mission of sorts.”

“Pardon me,” interrupted a gentleman wearing a tuxedo and white gloves. “Is there anything I can get you? Appetizers? Beverages?”

“I’ll have a Bookers,” answered T.

“And the Madame?”

Mae looked at T before responding. He nodded.

“A vodka martini. Belvedere if you have it. Up. Blue cheese stuffed olives…Bella di Cerignolas. If not, then dry with just a twist of lemon.”

“Of course, Madame.”

The waiter withdrew, replaced shortly after by a diminutive man with receding hair and a rigid but narrow posture. “Good morning,” he said, in an over-compensating baritone.

“Have you met?” T asked Mae.

“Not officially,” Mae answered as she extended her hand to the president’s chief of staff.

“Gabe, this is Maiden Lane, my top deputy.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Mae,” Gabe replied. “Great show with PBC. The president is well aware of how difficult that situation was.”

“What did I tell you?” T said, looking meaningfully at Mae.

Despite the praise, Mae felt uncomfortable shaking Gabe’s child-sized, delicate hand. She gazed down to avoid prolonged eye contact but had time to notice he was wearing lifts.When standing, she guessed she was a full head taller than him, taller than that in heels. The handshake lasted too long and she sensed that he was aware of her discomfort. She smiled and he withdrew his hand.

“So do you know the schedule?” Gabe asked. He continued without waiting for an answer. “At 0800, the president will have his coffee and breakfast and watch an hour of AmericaOne. We’ll convene in the romper room at 0900. T, you’re slated for 9:05. You’ll have seven minutes to brief him on your proposal. Don’t go over. You need to leave time for Q & A, too. By 9:45, we’ll be into domestic security issues so you two can excuse yourselves. Just ghost away. No announcement is necessary. Until then, make yourselves comfortable.”

“How long will we be airborne?” T asked.

“We stop every twelve hours to empty the tanks and refuel. We’ll more or less be flying a big figure eight over the middle of the country, returning to either Andrews or Reagan on the 14th.”

“How is it decided which?”

“The president prefers a coin flip. For now, relax. Get some work done. Enjoy the amenities. There’s a full service bar. There’s a gym. I hear that you work out religiously, Mae. There’s also a golf simulator, a bowling alley with a gyroscopically balanced lane, and a movie theater—although Forteson’s probably getting the DoD feeds down there. Have you met him, Mae?”

“Arman Forteson?”

“Uh, no. His heir, David. You know what? I think you should go down there and talk to Forte. I bet you two’ll hit it off. He’s a quite a rising star, not unlike yourself.”

“I thought he was running the family business,” Mae said.

T rolled his eyes.

“Sepulcorp more or less runs itself. David’s considerable talents were called into service.” Gabe continued. “He’s being groomed by DoD and possibly the president for a cabinet appointment.”


“I’m going to steal T for a while if you don’t mind. Go say hello to Forte.”

“Where’s the theater, again?” Mae asked.

“Go that way, then take the escalator down. You can’t miss it.”

Mae got up and Gabe pushed his way into their berth and sat in her chair.

“Oh, but I just ordered,” she said.

“We’ll have it sent down,” T answered before directing his full attention to the chief of staff.

Mae stepped out past the partition into the aisle and made her way aft. She passed ten partitions populated by White House well-to-dos scanning their mobile devices, nursing beverages or napping. She walked around a conference chamber, through a lounge, and found a spiral escalator. At the bottom, she came upon a double doorway opening into a dark chamber. She walked in. There were twenty plush seats in the theater. AmericaOne Business Channel was playing on a giant screen. An anchor with glistening eyes and translucent teeth read the news. One person was sitting in the second row.


“In other news, the Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the unemployment numbers and it’s great news for America! The unemployment rate has dropped for the third month in a row to just under twelve percent. When asked for comment, the White House released a memo praising the efforts of the Council for Economic Recovery, citing the 300,000 jobs created last month alone. The Industry Infrastructure and Security Program is strengthening the country’s economy and security with public partnerships. 200,000 new law enforcement officers are expected to be on the streets by year’s end, working to keep us all safe. The White House memo also praised the resilience and patience of the American people.

Yesterday, the first lady gave the commencement address at the Americorps graduation ceremony. She reminded the class of nearly four thousand of their momentous duty to defend democracy and their responsibility to the democratically-elected government of our great republic. She reminded the eighteen and nineteen year olds of the power that comes from the right attitude and that anti-government speech is hate speech that should always be confronted or reported whenever it is encountered.

And finally, as part of our ‘America Strong’ segment…”


“David Forteson?” Mae interrupted.

He turned. “Yes. Who’s there? Is that Linda?”

“No.” She stepped into the theater so that her eyes could adjust. “My name is Maiden Lane, Mae for short. I work for T.”

Forteson hit the remote, pausing the network feed. He pressed another and the lights came up. He turned and looked her over, but he wasn’t ogling. Then his face brightened. “Oh yes, I’ve heard about you.”

He stood and moved into the aisle and approached. He was tall and thin and in his mid-forties. His appearance and posture was crisp, and he was sharply dressed in a charcoal suit. With his black hair greased back, he invoked the image of Jay Gatsby that Mae had held in her mind ever since she read Fitzgerald’s novel as a teenager. At that moment, she regretted that she was wearing conservative navy blue.

“Oh? So what have you heard about me?” she asked.

“Ha,” Forteson smirked. “They say that you’re T’s honey badger.”

“Honey badger?”

“That’s right,” he said as he glided towards her.

“A rodent?” she asked.

“No. No. No. Badgers aren’t rodents. They are ruthless, tenacious, fearless and resourceful predators. They devour rodents. That is, if there’s nothing more worthwhile to prey upon.”

” I guess I’m supposed to take that as a compliment?” Mae asked, looking unimpressed.

“Of course,” he answered. “Is this your first time?”

“On Air Force One?”

Forteson grinned. “Yes.”

“It is. And you?”

“This will be my fourth flying bunker tour. But hopefully the last in my current capacity.”

“Why’s that?”

“Years of planning and hard work are coming together.”

“Ooh, a plan,” Mae replied with playful mockery. “Do tell me more.”

Forteson pursed his lips and rubbed his chin. “I suppose it’s many plans, actually. Three main ones, anyway. A three-legged stool, as they say. Economics, politics, security. Security is predominant.”

“You’re being vague. I must be prying. I imagine you know a great deal about security. That is Sepulcorp’s business. Won’t you be taking it over, soon?”

“I think my father’s intending to run things into his eighties. I don’t intend to wait around that long. I’ve said too much. I’m boring you. Did you come down here to watch AmericaOne?”

“I’m surprised someone like you watches it.”

“Why?” Forteson asked.

“It’s engineered for mass consumption.”

“If I was being frank, I would describe it as propaganda, myself.”

“You’re not uncomfortable using that term while sitting on Air Force One?” Mae asked.

“It is what it is, Mae. Times like these demand blunt pragmatism. Honesty between members of the leadership is crucial for continuity of government.”

“But not for the masses?”

“God no. An honest dialogue with the public is impossible. The public can’t even comprehend a TV sitcom. Expecting the hoard to grasp the realities and demands of saving this republic would be like trying to convince a three-year-old to choose broccoli over ice cream.”

Mae laughed. “So they get bread and circuses, instead?”

“I liken it more to religion. Everyone is getting the calling.”

“So why do you watch it?”

“For its brilliance. I enjoy watching how they navigate the precarious minefield of molding public consciousness. If the media is too forceful, too demanding, their message will be resisted. In a sense, the media is a barometer of the public. They still have to give the masses what they want…even if they want them to hear the Gospel.”

“Sounds theoretical to me,” Mae said.

“Trust me. You really can discern the attitude of the public by the media they’re willing to digest.”

“I guess I always thought it was the other way around. I thought the media manufactured public consensus.”

“It does. But it has to tell them what they want to hear in order to do it. You must think I’m a bore, Ms. Lane. Have you seen the rest of Air Force One?”

“Actually no. We just boarded.”

“Then please allow me to give you a tour.”

Forteson walked Mae out of the theater, guiding her with one hand placed just faintly upon the small of her back.

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