Melville – FUBAR

We pulled off into a rest stop right across the Alabama border for one last meeting before going in. I took the opportunity after my briefing (which basically amounted to “drive fast and don’t die”) to ask a few questions.
“Hey, Aonghus,” I asked the dwarf as he was gently buffing out a scratch on the fender of his heavy vehicle, “Why did you choose that ugly thing for your heavy?”
“My dear boy,” he grinned, “This is a 2001 Pontiac Aztek.”
“Yeah, I know,” I waved him off, not wanting another lecture on cars, “It’s ass-ugly.”
“Aye, laddie,” Aonghus wiggled his bushy eyebrows at me, “And y’know, I bet no one’ll notice that I’ve reinforced her out the arse to be a bloody tank, will they?”
He had a point. With all the body cladding and odd styling, it was almost impossible to tell that the entire thing had been kitting out for war.
“My father worked for GM as a designer,” Aonghus patted the fender of the Pontiac fondly, “Those Nancies in the front office, they’re only out for th’ money: make a car that’ll die in ten years so you buy another. Buy my father, he knew how to make a car that could last, and he taught me how to do it.”
“So that’s why we all drive twenty year old heaps?”
“That, and they don’t draw too much attention.”
Xandra threw in that last bit as she approached us, handing us both a Coke from the vending machine.
“Although, with what Ishmael’s driving, I think that’s going out the window.”
Indeed, the muscular, low-slung Corvette didn’t seem to fit the profile of the others.
“It was designed to his request, Lassie,” Aonghus shrugged, opening his Coke, “It’s what he wanted.”
“Figures,” she sniffed, “there’s hardly any room in the backseat.”
My mouth went a little dry then, although I wanted to ask her just exactly what she meant. Instead, I dove into my Coca-Cola until we were given the order to move out. It was a simple plan: get inside, detonate, and get out. The Olds carried the ordnance, so once it was dumped I’d be able to motor out of there quick enough, following that ugly Aztek if any walls needed busting. As for Ishmael in his Vette, well…
“I know what I’m doing.”
Quiet as always. We pulled up to the church camp that was the front for the extraction center and were immediately pulled over by severe looking guards.
“Who are you all supposed to be?”
It was then I went into high gear. Dramatic Society, don’t let me down!
“Well glory be, brother! We’re the entertainment for this weekend’s’ camp.”
“Band?” the sour-faced man shot back.
“You bet! We’re called Justified, and we rock out for our Lord!”
I could almost hear Brigitte rolling her eyes in the seat behind me. The guard heaved a sigh and shook his head.
“And all these cars are with you?”
“Well, the car behind us has all the band gear.”
“And the Corvette?”
“Oh, you know those high-profile preacher types.”
The guard snorted at that, but he seemed to buy it.
“And your car?”
“Oh! Well that’s the band, you see.”
“You’re riding pretty low. Hauling anything?”
“Oh, yes! Er…”
I panicked. My brain locked up and I couldn’t think of anything. Thankfully, Father Mulcahey was able to lean over into my seat and make the save.
“Packed full of Bibles, my friend. Would you care for one?”
“Uh, no thanks.”
The guard pulled a sour face and waved us all in. I blew out a massive breath as we wound our way up a country road. My part of the plan had gone off all right.
“Good thing we have you,” I heard Brigitte snicker from the back seat, “No one else is lame enough to pull off that story.”
“Ah, shut up.”
Octavia was quick to jump in with some flattery.
“I think you did wonderfully, John.”
I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard Brigitte repeating those lines in a mocking tone quietly under her breath. There really was something going on there, I suppose. I didn’t have much time to think about it, though, as the Corvette suddenly surged ahead of the other two cars and disappeared into the night: lights off, nothing reflective, only the rumble of the engine betrayed its existence among the blackness.
“Well,” I muttered, gripping the wheel tight, “I guess we’re here.”
It was almost too easy. I suppose, with their tight control of national security, government, and pretty much everything else, the AE hadn’t thought anyone would be crazy or suicidal to try something like this. But there was something about Ishmael: his focus, his determination… it made all of us come along for this almost without question, ready for whatever might happen because, in all of our hearts, or souls, or whatever… we knew that as long as he was here, there was a chance it would work out. Maybe it was that prophecy about his special powers, or maybe it was something more visceral, more…primal. I popped in a wireless earpiece and heard Rat’s endless chatter on the other end about infrared and images and checkpoints, but it was all white noise at this point. I was in a daze.
Something cold and awkward was pressed into my hand by the warrior priest after we got out of the minivan. I looked down and noticed it was a handgun.
“You might need it, friend.”
“I hadn’t really thought of that,” I replied, stunned.
“Don’t worry bout it,” Rat’s voice cut through, “It’s a simple point-and-click sort of interface.”
“Yes,” Father Ken nodded before reaching forward, “just make sure the safety’s off, John.”
“Oh, yeah,” I felt myself blush despite the cool night air, “right…”
We laid the bombs at several strategic points, all laid out over the earpiece by Rat, always wary of the prying eyes of guards. At least once, I saw Kenneth or Brigitte or even Aonghus sneak off into the shadows, only to hear Rat confirm a “neutralization” with glee.
“Ooooh, nasty!”
“Ooop! That got him.”
“He ain’t pretty no more!”
At one point, Dr. Bill excused himself politely, and made it all the way back to the group before anyone thought to ask Rat what happened.
“I got no fuckin’ clue,” came his shaken reply.
We all turned to look at Bill, who gave us a chillingly empty look and simply put one knobbly finger to his lips. Finally, we had the last bomb planted, and we were headed back to our transport when, well… when everything went to Hell. A piercing alarm suddenly shot through the air, and floodlights went on all over the place. In an instant, we were lit up bright as day, stranded in an island of harsh, white light among the darkness.
“Shit, SHIT!” for a while, it seemed to be the only word Rat knew. Brigitte took the initiative as we all drew our guns and prepared to fight.
“Rat, what the Hell is going on?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know!!!!” his voice was panicked, more shrill than usual, “Everything’s fine, I mean… everything SHOULD be fine, but it’s all fucked… aw, Christ, it’s all fucked!”
The first rumbled from security could be heard, and almost immediately our group laid down I guess what they would call suppressing fire. Brigitte had two oversized magazines in her pistols, but she was sparing with her bullets, letting Cola do most of the work as the monster-dog was leaping ten feet in the air to drag AE soldiers down off catwalks by the ankle. Aonghus, sporting a massive homemade combination of shotgun and some sort of grenade launcher, was less stingy, trying his best to blow out any light he could and take any AE with it. Dr. Bill was lining up perfect shots with his old M1, and I was just trying to make sure I didn’t get shot. I tried a few here and there, but it always seemed to be off; how do those guys make it look so easy in the movies?
Father Mulcahey pressed another odd piece of metal into my free hand as he needed a firm grasp on the automatic rifle he was firing. I look down with horror to see that it was the detonator. He didn’t have to say anything, I knew it already: if anything went south, we had one course of action and one only: blow the dome. Of course, doing that would probably kill us in the explosion, or at the very least render us unable to fight back enough to avoid either being captured or committing suicide. This is basically everything we didn’t want to do, and it was sitting in the palm of my hand.
God Damn It.
“Aw shit, shit!” Rat’s voice was constantly wailing over the earpiece, “You got thirty more coming on your ten spot, guys! Get outta there, get the fuck…huh?!”
“Now is not the time to get tongue-tied, Rat!” Brigitte screamed.
“I just…” his voice was showing absolute awe.
“What is it, Rat?” I shouted desperately over the melee.
“Guys,” he said almost too quietly to be heard, “I think the cavalry just arrived.”
“What?” several of us cried in unison.
“Those thirty bio-sigs I had… they’re gone. One came in… they’re all gone. Just… fuckin, BLIP, man! Ishmael’s in the house!”
I wanted to yell “Where?” but I realized I didn’t have to. The fire on us had stopped almost completely and then one by one, each of the searchlights went out directly after a bloodcurdling scream. I heard something hit the ground not too far away from me, but I just pretended it was a sack of potatoes… that went crunch. Two other bright lights came on abruptly, and the Corvette roared onto the scene in the middle of us. Xandra popped her head out of the window to shout.
“There’s more coming, guys. We’ve gotta move!”
She didn’t wait for a reply, but instead powered the Corvette off into the darkness. We managed to hustle back to the cars where Xandra was waiting, laying down some fire with her own M4 as we piled into the cars.
“Get outta there, guys, and blow your load!” Rat hollered over the comm.
“Not yet!” I screamed back, surprisingly harsh, “Where’s Ishmael?”
“Don’t worry about him, just go!”
“Bullshit! I’m not leaving without him! Without him, we–”
There was a colossal thud, and a black angel of death landed on my hood, staring directly into my soul with those piercing blue eyes. He mouthed a single word.
Before leaping over to his Corvette. The three cars sped off with the Aztek at the head, its heavily armored nose smashing through roadblocks and AE alike, as soon as we cleared the main gate (I took extra care to look for the guard we’d seen on the way in and give him the finger) I smashed down the button and it was the 4th of July all over again in the middle of nowhere as the entire facility went up in flames. I didn’t stop driving, and I didn’t start breathing, until I was ordered to stop by Ishmael’s terse voice over the comm.
“We stop here.”
I really shouldn’t have, of course, because the minute I took a shaky step out of the car Ishmael had my gimpy elbow in a death grip, bringing me to the ground in a matter of nanoseconds and snarling in my face.
“You broke protocol.”
“You were supposed to blow it when everything went wrong.”
“God! Please! My arm!”
“Stop complaining!” he hissed over me, “I know exactly how far I can push it before it breaks.”
I forced myself to stop screaming then, biting a hole in my lip and crying buckets down my face as Ishmael continued to lambaste me. To be honest, part of me was happy he was talking this much, as messed up as the circumstances were.
“Why didn’t you follow my orders.”
“Because we need you!”
He let go then, and I staggered to my feet, trying my best to stare down his blue eyes with my bloodshot and crying ones.
“We need you. I need you. There’s no way we’re going to blow the payload with you still in there and try to bail. We’d be dead in a week if you weren’t here, and you know it. This is your group: you put us together, you, aagh… you keep us together. We’d all be dead right now if I’d done what you told me to do, but now we live to fight another day. So, sir… I say fuck your protocols, because I was right.”
He was silent there for a while as I continued gasping, trying to make my arm feel a little bit better. Damn, I thought it had fully healed… and finally, Ishmael spoke.
“You’re going to want to ice that.”
And that was it. We got back on the road and made it back to Philly without an issue. The main topic of conversation on the ride back (besides the virtue of Krystal hamburgers) was exactly what had happened to trigger the alarm. With Rat in our ears the whole way swearing up and down nothing had gone wrong in the technical sense, it weighed heavily on all of our minds. Something had gone wrong, and none of us seemed to know what… no even Ishmael.
Hopefully, it wouldn’t happen again.

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