Episode 1 Scene 9
As the War Clans continued their merry, marauding ways, and as humanity began to dig in and fight back, the need for a coherent cop force became redundant. We were protecting the broader community, looking after everyone. It’s what we were trained for. This became less relevant as time went by. People no longer walked the streets. Instead, they hunkered down in enclaves, compounds, depots, or whatever offered the most protection.
We, the cops, were left on the outside. It’s not that we didn’t belong. Actually, fuck it, we didn’t belong. Years, if not decades, of abusing public trust had caught up with us. Those traffic tickets we issued when not necessary, those drunks we slung in the tank when we could have dropped them off at home, those times when it was easier to be a prick behind reflective sunglasses than it was to help a citizen out—well, it was payback time.
The people didn’t outright reject us, but we were definitely not welcomed. If there was a crisis, sure, they’d let us step in and help. Then once the crisis was solved, it was “See you later; close the door on your way out.” The cops began to notice this. Beneath our thick layer of insensitivity and dickness beat the heart of a former human being. We talked about organizing ourselves, building our own community, but guess what? It turns out we couldn’t stand ourselves either.
The upshot of this was the development of a mercenary class of former law enforcement officers, modern-day ronin, the samurai without a leader. And it worked. Most of us passed ourselves off as ex-military. The army had a far more positive reputation than the cops, and many of us had served previously. It wasn’t a huge jump. The Blink had also resulted in the federal government releasing large caches of arms throughout the country, so obtaining weaponry wasn’t a big issue. As lifestyles went, well, if you kept moving and you helped people out, they’d feed and shelter you.
I’d been doing this for years, sometimes with a partner or small crew, sometimes without. To be honest, backup wasn’t always a necessity. If an enclave was having problems with the Clans, it was more about organization than outright numbers or weaponry. The average citizen alive at this time was more than capable with a range of arms. They had to be, or they’d already be dead. What they didn’t have were the tactical skills. This was something I could provide.
I had a relatively comfortable existence. I’d roam the countryside looking for groups in trouble and offer to help. These small groups were of critical importance to humanity. They provided the food. These good folk were the farmers, the fishers, the people of the land. In return for feeding the cities, they received regular airdrops of guns and ammo from the feds. This was the strategy the government had come up with. Keep the farmers armed, keep the farmers alive, and keep the food coming.
The community I’d approached at this time had been on the receiving end of two nasty Clan skirmishes. The Clans at this stage were less front-on and more tactical. They’d been getting their asses kicked when adopting the full frontal charge, so their approach now was to send in a smaller group and see what the defenses were like. Sound thinking. It was at this stage I turned up.
The group in question was happy to see me, happy being a relative term in those warlike days. I sat down with the elders. They said to go talk to the kids. This was normal. The agricultural skills lay with the elders, that being anyone over thirty. Defense was handled by anyone younger. I sat down with the warriors—they hated being called kids—and hashed out a plan. It was a solid plan; everyone was on the same page, and so we waited.
We didn’t wait long. The War Clans moved quickly, once they had the defensive weaknesses mapped out. There were no committees in War Clans, no paperwork, and definitely no double-checking with the bosses upstairs. Clean, clear lines of communication. I was jealous.
The bulk of the Clan massed at the head of the valley. It was an obvious move. They knew it, we knew it, so there was something else going on. I grabbed a pair of binoculars and checked out the throng of warriors. Oh, shit. They looked like Goths. These guys were always a handful, well organized and well led.
I signaled our defensive leader to check out the high points, to see what our watchers above could see. But the watchers were already racing back to the compound. And right behind them was a pack of Goths. This was bad.
We laid down covering fire to get the watchers back in. That worked, at least. But it was having minimal impact on the screaming masses running at us from two directions. To our group’s credit, they didn’t panic. They mechanically fired, reloaded, fired, until the barrels of their weapons were too hot. They then picked up the next weapon and repeated. The Goths were paying a heavy price for this attack. But the Goths were going to win. I’d never seen such a huge Clan before.
I looked around at the young warriors defending their homestead. They were calm and determined. But it wasn’t making a scrap of difference. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but looking at this lot, I’d disagree. They were living for the here and now—there wasn’t a lot of praying going on.
The Goths stormed across the flat kill zone encircling the compound. The chatter of the heavy .50-caliber machine gun opened up. Swaths of Goth warriors were mowed down, but momentum’s a bitch, and those bastards just kept on coming.
The combined packs hit the wall of the compound from two sides—beautiful tactical coordination. We were stretched thin, and we were as good as dead; those walls would only last a minute. The walls creaked and groaned under the weight of Goth warriors. We formed a defensive circle in the center of the compound and kept on firing. It wasn’t going to be enough. There was no way we were going to survive this.
Then the Clan vanished.