Doug Clemson peeked through the rubble of the crumbling row house, looking for rebel snipers. He saw none. He looked across the street at his buddy, Bill Hollis, waved, and Hollis ran forward to the next cover. Clemson looked at the other bombed-out buildings – the guys in the Cobras did a good job, he thought – and looked at Hollis, who waved him on.
Clemson ran forward to the stairway of another house. The cold January air hit his face, stinging his eyeballs. The body of a dead woman lay across the big front window – civilians got caught in the middle in the campaign against the rebels. Clemson heard an impassioned female voice coming from a radio in the empty building:
“The rebellion against this corrupt and oppressive regime will never stop until the oppressors are over-thrown! Every means of peaceful, democratic expression in this country, media, unions, parties, has been put down with force! But we will never give up the right of free men and women to stand up and defend our freedom, so we had to resort to armed struggle…”
Clemson knew that came from the rebel radio station they were hunting down; people actually listened to this shit!
A bullet flew past Clemson’s head – Sniper! he thought, they spotted us! Clemson hit the ground and fired his M16 on the shadowy figure on the third floor of the row house facing him; Hollis crossed the street to the car near Clemson and fired.
The squad sergeant radioed the coordinates to battalion headquarters, so they could send in the Cobras. The rest of first squad moved in on the building, ducking and firing at the figure firing at them.
Then another sniper fired, from the first floor – and another from the second! Clemson ducked by a building on the same block as the enemy, firing to cover Hollis running towards him – Hollis also spraying the building with his M16 as he ran.
“Sarge says stand fast, the Cobras’re comin’,” said Hollis quickly.
“Which one is it?” wondered Clemson – there were several rebel groups working together.
“Don’ know, maybe Amazon!” grunted Hollis – the Amazon Legion was the all-female guerilla group, and one of the craziest – they were known to kill and castrate known rapists.
“Them bitches!” snapped Spec 4 Jordan, who crouched close by, “I’d like t’ get ‘hold’a one a’ them!” The troops had their orders concerning the rebel groups in general, and the Amazons in particular. There was nothing “ladylike” about the Amazons, so the troops could kill them without remorse – but first they could be rape and beat them, if they could catch them.
The troops kept firing on the building – then they heard the Cobras, and they let out a tired “Yay!” One of the copters sprayed the building with machine gun fire – and the troops got into position to close in on the building, just as they had done several times before in putting down rebel positions.
Then the Cobra stopped firing, but kept hovering nearby as the squads closed in. Squad two went to the back of the building, ready to catch anyone trying to escape and shoot them on the spot.
Clemson moved to the front door, and Hollis was right behind him, both men aiming their rifles at the door. Clemson shoved the door quickly with his left hand – then just as quickly ducked away – and they looked inside the shattered building, with chunks of plaster and bullet holes strewn around. Clemson crept inside, his back against the wall as he slid in, his eyes jumping throughout the room and up the stairway, his weapon pointed forward. Hollis followed his buddy inside.
When Clemson jumped into the room, he found the body of a young woman spattered with blood and her own torn-up flesh, her hand holding an M16 – how did they get those weapons? he wondered – and she wore a t-shirt with the double-headed ax. Hollis was right, it was the Amazon Legion.
Dragging his back along the wall as he crept to the next room – it looked like a kitchen – Clemson heard a sound-dying Amazon? Our guys? Clemson rasped the password, “Daisy!”
“Buzz-saw!” The counter-sign – our guys! He then saw Staff Sergeant Dorner.
“Clemson,” Dorner whispered, “you and Hollis up the stairs.” The two men nodded, and they crept up the stairs, their backs sliding the wall. Hollis went up first, Clemson behind him, and Hollis peeked through the rails of the banister.
A row of shots! Hollis ducked down as the bullets zipped past his head, and Clemson jumped beside him. Hollis recovered and he and Clemson lifted their M16s and fired over the banister – they did this many times. Hollis ran to the top of the stairs and jumped into a little room – a bathroom – and continued to fire into the room where the shots came from.
They stopped firing. Clemson joined Hollis at the top of the stairs, and both men aimed their weapons on the room where the shots came from. The air smelled of blood, gunpowder, and plaster. There was the sound of coughing and gurgling. The two soldiers crept inside, and they found the body of a woman, wearing a denim work shirt and jeans, twitching and bleeding. They turned her to her back, and they found a medallion around her neck – the same double-headed ax sign. Wounds were gouged into her chest and neck, and her eyes stared. A puddle of blood grew around her.
“Wanna fuck it?” said Hollis, hissing out a laugh.
“What’re y’, sick?” replied Clemson.
“Waste’a some good pussy,” snickered Hollis.
Clemson also smiled and said, “Wanna call the medics?”
“Wha’, f’ this bitch?” grunted Hollis. “She’s gonna die, so – ” and they pounded her body with their rifle butts and boots for a few seconds. Nobody had to know.
They turned, and Sergeant Dorner stepped over to them – were they in trouble?
“R’lax, I didn’ see nothin’,” said Dorner. “Let’s check the basement.” They went downstairs.
In the basement they found a radio transmitter for clandestine broadcasts, and a small photocopier for printing rebel pamphlets. Dorner muttered, “God-damn things ’re comin’ up like fuckin’ weeds.”
When the building was declared secured, the troops outside let out their chant, “Go, Coach,” a tribute to the President – a university football coach turned television evangelist, who got elected President because he was such a fine, decent, and righteous man, and because only twenty-three percent of the registered voters actually voted. The President was popularly referred to as “the Coach,” just as earlier generations said “der Fuhrer” or “il Duce.”
As the troops got marched away from the building, people came out and stared at the soldiers from a block away. Clemson watched these people stare at him and his buddies, especially one thirteen-year-old girl, her eyes following his. Are they scared of us? wondered Clemson. Don’t they know it’s for their own good? Don’t they know how bad the rebels are?
The next day, the platoon took it easy in the day room. The black guys had their corner of the room, and the white guys had their corner, with the pool table and TV area as neutral zones. The sign on the wall said, “We don’t talk about it!” – the regime’s program for dealing with racial problems.
“Hey, Clemson, Hollis!” grunted Sergeant Dorner with a smile, “The CO heard’ a how you guys did, goin’ into that buildin’ yest’day, an’ both’a y’re gonna be recommended for the NCO school.”
“A’right!” cheered Clemson as he and Hollis clasped hands, almost hugging each other. They both griped about Army life, and waited for their enlistments to run out, but now it was all paying off – they couldn’t find jobs in the civilian world, and unemployment compensation and welfare had long been abolished. Finally, they were getting someplace, in the Army and the world.
They heard a damp thumping sound, like flesh pounding on flesh, and a man crying, “Don’t hit me, please, don’t hit me “– and they saw Spec 4 Coleman raising his fist high and landing it on the form of PV2 Dunson, his face red and wet with tears.
“Break it up!” snapped Dorner, marching towards the scene.
Coleman stopped and said, “Look what he was fuckin’ readin’!”, and he held up a paperback volume of Edgar Allen Poe.
“Wha’ fuckin’ business is it a’ yours?” moaned Dunson angrily.
“Y’a Gawt-damn soldier, Dunson, this ain’t y’ business!” returned Coleman.
“Both a’ y’ shut the fuck up!” barked Dorner. “Dunson, in the office!”
Dunson pulled himself up and trudged to the door.
Clemson saw it all. NCOs were ordered to keep watch on their troops to find any “subversive” or “unmanly” behavior – these were never defined, so the NCOs had to define them by themselves. Reading any books that were not strictly military topped a lot of lists.
One of the white guys, Pomphrey, from upstate Pennsylvania, told another guy, “Hey, let’s give Dunson a pink belly, I ain’t seen one since high school.”
“Y’ went t’ high school?” Coleman asked – a lot of secondary schools were closed along the coasts.
Clemson turned to Hollis and sighed, “I guess we’ll have t’ watch every guy aroun’.” “Any faggot c’n get in,” grunted Hollis, “with the draft back.”
“A’most eight o’clock,” announced Coleman as he moved to turn on the TV – the Coach was about to give his State of the Union address. The troops gathered around the TV.
The scene turned to the House Chamber, and a voice called, “Gentlemen, the President of the Sovereign Christian Republic of the United States of America!” The assembled senators and congressmen – women were barred, for their own good, from voting and holding office – rose and cheered, as the Coach strode down the center aisle – a tall man heavy with muscle. The members of the House and Senate – those who survived the Purge – chanted “Go, Coach, go, Coach,” as the Coach reached the podium.
The troops in the day room loved the Coach – a real man, finally, as President. They all knew of his power over the Congress, how the special prosecutor removed the “disruptive” (that is, opposition) members, and how the rest of the members – those who were only guilty of bribery and corruption – swore an oath to always cooperate with the Coach “for the good of the Nation, Our Team.” The troops agreed, the Coach was the greatest, a hero, a true tough guy who took no shit from anybody.
In his address, the Coach spoke of the dangers of the International Conspiracy, which sought to tear down the country and its wonderful government, and how the Conspiracy got these college kids to wage war on their own country. But, assured the Coach, the true American people stood behind the government, even though the country went though economic sanctions and other nations recalled their diplomats. America is alone in the world, said the Coach, but America stands alone and free – free from any interference in its affairs.
That Saturday, Clemson was in the back of Coleman’s Toyota, with Hollis in the front passenger seat. The Toyota was covered with pictures of the Coach – Coleman was really into the Coach, always quoting the Coach’s two books of political theory, Time Out! and Let’s Huddle!
As they drove into the city for a few beers and some “pussy,” Hollis turned to Clemson and asked, “Hey, Clem, what’s y’ sister say?”
Clemson had a letter from his sister, and he said, “My little nephew’s four, an’ he’s learin’ pretty well the Pledge of Allegiance – the new version, without the ‘with liberty and justice for all’ part. My sister’s goin’ along pretty well with her role in the home, after she lost her job as a computer programmer. Women ought’a stay home an’ take care a’ the kids anyway. My brother-in-law’s got that promotion to general supervisor, whatever that is, but it’ll be inland, away from the coast. Nothin’ but trouble on the coasts, anyway, so good for them! The other guy goin’ for the job was a Jew, so my brother-in-law had no problem. Great these regulations bein’ ignored, like the Coach did, y’ can hire anyone y’ want!”
“I’m glad y’ sister’s gonna stay home,” said Coleman.
(Uh, oh, thought Clemson and Hollis by themselves, Coleman’s gonna talk about the Coach again.)
“The family is the first team a man encounters,” proclaimed Coleman, quoting the Coach. “In a family a man grows up to learn his role in the family and in society. If he fails in his duty in either the family and society, he is cut from the team.”
“That reminds me,” said Clemson, “Gangs a’ homeless’re roamin’ the city. Y’know some a’ them ‘a joined the rebels. Think we’ll have any trouble?”
“Naw,” grunted Coleman, “the city’s now secure, all the rebel positions’re destroyed. An’ we’re in our dress greens, people respect that.”
Clemson felt better. The Coach ordered that military personnel wear their uniforms as often as possible – “Take pride in your uniform, be proud of your team.” While wearing their uniforms, the troops off duty ruled the streets, like princes; everything they saw was theirs, especially women. The Coach said, “Girls, keep yourselves ready to make our fighting men happy – it’s an honor that God allows and approves. For when you’re married, you belong to one man, but when you’re not married, you belong to all of them.”
They drove past what was once the campus of the university, and they glanced at the empty buildings crawling with homeless people.
“Why don’t they tear down these fuckin’ buildings?” Hollis wondered out loud.
“Maybe they plan to rebuild the college,” said Clemson.
“F’ what, another fuckin’ battle?” sneered Hollis. For a whole month, the university area was the scene of combat, with rebel groups coming together to fight government forces from the buildings in the university. The area was declared a free-fire zone, and the troops were happy to take advantage of it.
“Education without purpose is dangerous,” declared Coleman, again quoting the Coach. “Unless what you learn is useful and productive, it is in vain.”
“Let’s stop here,” Clemson said, pointing to the small pizza parlor on the corner. The car pulled to an empty spot near a fire hydrant.
As they out of the car, a police car cruised by, and a cop called out, “Hey, y’can’t park there!” – Then he saw the three men in dress greens, and said, “Uh, okay!”
“Go, Coach!” the three soldiers called out. The police car went on.
As they got on the sidewalk, Clemson turned to Coleman and asked, “Hey, Col, y’ain’t jealous ‘a me and Bill bein’ NCOs are you?”
Coleman bowed his head and grunted, “Yeah I guess I am, I wanna make rank, too – ”
”Fuck the Coach!” was heard, and the three soldiers saw a small, dark-bearded young man down the street.
“Get ‘im!” they snapped. They ran, and he ran, and he turned the corner, and they turned the corner after him. The street was dark – municipal services, like streetlights, didn’t work in many parts of the city – and the young man disappeared into the darkness.
“Shit, we’ll never find ‘im,” moaned Hollis.
“Wait, let’s think,” said Clemson, “If we’re gonna be sergeants, we’ll have t’make decisions. I say we report this back to the base.”
“Naw, man,” said Coleman, “Can’t we get ‘im ourselves? We’ll be heroes!”
“Naw,” said Clemson, “we gotta play this right – ”
A series of pops, and bullets slammed into their bodies, ramming through organs and bones, and the three men fell in pain, with blood flying.
Clemson was hit in the stomach, legs and ribs, and he howled, “Oh, Jesus I’ll be good please let me live…” He tried to get up, rolling to his side, trying to stand, pain through his body, but he collapsed. He knew, from his superiors, that the rebels tortured and killed captured soldiers. Blood soaked his uniform and the sidewalk.
Two young women. wearing the sign of the Amazon Legion, came from the darkness and looked at the bodies. Clemson saw them – They’re gonna kill me, he thought.
One of the women looked at Clemson and said to her sister, “This one’s still alive, let’s treat ‘im.”
Clemson passed out.
The next thing Clemson knew, he was loaded into an Army ambulance. The women patched him up and left him for the ambulance – they didn’t torture him, as the lecturers on base told the troops that they would. The women didn’t torture me, thought Clemson, as the pain laid inside him. They said I’d be tortured, but I wasn’t. They said the city was clean of rebels. Don’t they ever stop lying to us? What else do they lie about?…