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It felt good to shoot Mercedes Man. I liked blasting the smug look off his face and watching his sense of superiority fly out of his head with his brains and blood. In fact, something about the whole invasion felt like REAL freedom and revenge. The world was going to die one way or another. We all knew it, but no one figured The End would happen like it did.

Me. I had dreams once. Big dreams. Dreams the size of a Cadillac rolling over an empty highway on an open prairie before corporations and greedy politicians fenced-in America and made everything a commodity. See. I wanted to be a painter. Yeah, I know: it sounds kinda gay, but that's what I was born to be. My "career" started with what older people called "graffiti." Now, looking back, I feel old, and I'm using buzz words from decades ago.

Time hunts us all. We leave our brains, blood, and muscles behind just to stay alive. In the end, we're dead either way.

I grew up in Five Points: Denver's most infamous ghetto. My mom managed to keep me in school and out of the Crips. I mean...I knew all those guys. They let me tag around the block 'cause they understood I was a writer, not a toy. Plus, I'd go around and cap other gangs' tags when I found 'em. The Crips never admitted it, but they didn't want a war. If another gang disrespected their territory by putting up a signal, then they had to retaliate. I prevented that from happening. In a way, I saved a lot of dudes' lives just by covering up their spray paint with a piece. Meanwhile, I kept my eyes down and my head up in high school.

The Art Institute took my money and my time for degrees in Graphic Design and Fine Art. Most of my instructors said I had talent, but the economy collapsed just before I got out of school. No one wanted to buy my pieces or my skills, so I went into the Marines. The military, not the ghetto, taught me to focus, aim, and fire with conviction.

My conviction still tells me Mercedes Man deserved what he got.

I know most of you won't give a shit about how I served the United States of America. Neither do I now. Bathorses, Apebadgers, Wendigo's, and so many other monsters have picked-over America's rotted flesh, but they're just the scavengers.  We killed our country and our world.

I signed up for th Marines to pay back my college loans.  I won't bore you with details about which unit I served under. I was no hero either. I was a soldier. There was a big difference between the two. One type fought for glory and God and country and all that other B.S. the military-industrial complex used to snag kids into service. The other kind understood he was an ant.

See, an ant colony might become extinct if even one bug refuses to kill or die to keep the others alive. No one wants to be that ant. Know this: I murdered people. Some were innocent. Most weren't.

Hell, a lot of the Afghan people I met were just trying to make a better situation for themselves. They lived in slum villages, with no jobs, where nothing would grow. Half the time I felt like my unit had landed on Mars. It's no wonder so many of those people were mad at America. We'd taken a lot from them. We'd helped put Al Qaeda and the Taliban in power too.

For decades, our government's business was to make sure Americans had better lives by looting other countries, exploiting their labor, and supporting puppet dictators. And by "Americans," I mean rich ones. Poor people were just guilty by proxy. The rich guys lied to us too.

Christians against Muslims. Poor versus poor. All of us ants bought into what the kings and queens told us: that the other anthill was evil. Meanwhile, the rich got richer on dollars stained from the blood of soldiers and workers. We killed each other for the devils in charge on either side. "Democracy, freedom, and righteousness" were the lies they fed to us. Truly dedicated soldiers and patriots died so we could starve children, rape the world, and the guys in the ivory towers could make more money.

Anyhow...

I got out of the Marines when the grit-teethed killer inside me started bending the bars I'd put him behind. The faces of dead babies and maimed women were the hardest to forget. Even after I left my unit, I drank on weekends and evenings to numb the painful memories of things us soldiers had done for our anthill. The self-medication worked for a while. Sometimes I couldn't remember the name of the Marine who'd crawled along the sand outside Mohmand, Pakistan with his intestines hanging behind him. The gin helped me forget that burned baby, in Zabul Province, who made me burst into tears beneath my gas mask.

While I tried to forget about my life in the "service," government contractors like Burtihalliton, Aware Security Consultants, and Fulcrum International Security started calling me. These companies made billions of dollars off wholesale slaughter. They wanted me as a mercenary, but I couldn't go back there. I'd begun painting again, and everything I'd locked up in the back of my head started flowing out of my hands. These thoughts and feelings took the forms of monsters biting out each others' guts and eating their own children on the canvas. In time, I learned monsters like that walked the earth. Mercedes Man was one of them.

I knew Mercedes Man. He worked for some subsidiary of a subsidiary of one of America's favorite black ops and technology vendors: Lockheat Honeygood. We worked together overseas to find terrorists for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I called him by a different name back then, but Mercedes Man still fits him the best.

See, the CIA contracted-out over seventy percent of its labor in those days. The funny thing was: the CIA hired and trained most of the men and women who became contractors. Once a CIA trainee had a high security clearance and espionage training, Lockheat's recruiters would knock on their door. Then Lockheat would pay that person three times as much as the government did and contract them out to the government(s) for millions. The same went for soldiers like me. Mercedes Man had been recruiting and commanding government-taught contractor operatives for years.

The problem with mercenaries is that they have no loyalty to any nation, and few people can hold them accountable. Folks like Mercedes Man cashed in on that problem. His men were outside the law--or so he said.

I know what you're thinking...but your party's politicians didn't give a rat's ass about that kind of government waste and corruption either. In fact, the politicians in charge often secretly owned or ran clandestine companies. It didn't matter what party they were claimin'. As for the congressional oversight committees that were supposed to keep an eye on this kind of stuff: If a congressman didn't have a share of Lockheat, then the company's lobbyists bribed them with campaign contributions.

American corporate politics consisted of one big circle jerk. As rich men put billions of dollars in each other's pockets, they gave the poorer classes a false democrat vs. republican cage match to keep us from looking any deeper. We were so busy watching the fight and cheering for our side that we let soldiers, women, and children die to feed billionaire's bank accounts.

Lockheat also developed war and espionage technologies. Gait recognition cameras, the software that picked-up on words like "terrorist" or "anti-American," and the stealth imaging satellite: those all came from Lockheat. The company had recently branched out in their acquisitions, and Mercedes Man wanted me to be part of some contracted homeland security force, which would look after a secret facility on Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. I had a security clearance, and government training, so Mercedes Man wooed me like all the other experienced soldiers and operatives that had recently quit the war.

I think a lot of the guys Mercedes Man recruited had left the military for reasons like mine, but he lured them back with a promise of six figure salaries and million-dollar bonuses. I have to admit: as I heated up Ramen noodles at night and looked under the seats of my Jeep for gas change by day, Mercedes Man's offers tempted me. "If the Cheyenne Mountain thing doesn't work out," he told me one time, "you can work in China or Peru...wherever you want."

I let Mercedes Man think I was going to sign on for a while. Pretending was easy. Something in me missed the danger and power, which came from carrying things that exploded. "Nothing'll help you vent your anger like blowing the hell out of a mud hut," I told Mercedes Man one time. After hearing this, he twirled his magic mustache, and I suddenly owned a Colorado Concealed Carry permit and a gold-plated Desert Eagle .50 caliber--each of which showed up in a box on my condo's doorstep a day later.

Mostly, I wanted to see how much Mercedes Man would tell me about what was going on. I loved our country, despite all it's bullshit and killing and greed. We really did have it better than most other countries, but bastards like Mercedes Man were ruining it, and I couldn't live with the gruesome visions in my head anymore.

I had to atone for my sins and America's genocide somehow. Far as I knew, my personal mission was a one way destination to water-boarding or death. If I killed Mercedes Man and told his secrets, another like him would just step into his shoes, call me a terrorist, and lock me away in Gitmo. I didn't care. Over and over I heard a line in my head. I don't know who said it, or where it came from, but it went like this: "You gotta stand for somethin' or you'll fall for nothin'."

Not me. Not ever.

I never thought that the corporate-owned politicians and mercenaries could be worse than I imagined, but Mercedes Man surprised me again.

Mercedes Man, his wife, and his white poodle lived way up on a Rampart Rock hill, in a mansion. 'Course, people didn't use the word 'Mansion' much anymore. In those days, they'd call a place like that a "two million-dollar home with 10000 square feet of living space." I don't know why. Probably because all the old hippies felt bad about selling out and becoming The Man themselves.

Mercedes Man's place had it all: a spiked iron fence, pure oak furniture, marble counters, gold fixtures, automated windows and doors, and the best security system in the world. Every room smelled of the fresh flowers. His florist delivered vase bouquets every week. Mercedes Man's wife Myriel loved horses, so they owned six of 'em. A Ferrari, Viper, and Hummer decorated his garage. He even had concubines.

If Mercedes Man wasn't an old white guy who wore argyle sweaters over his shirts and ties, I'd say he lived a hip-hop life. Every time I walked in his front door, my head tuned in on a soundtrack of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik mixed with a heavy bass back beat.

Over the few weeks before The End, Mr. D--which was what we called Mercedes Man when I worked with him overseas--had taken me into his home on weekends. I went to most of the parties he had for new recruits, but he invited me to have drinks with him too. His wife asked me over to dinner parties with Congresspeople, Governors, and Air Force officers. Mr. D and his wife began to call me their adopted son.

You'd think I'd have lost my will to kill Mercedes then, but I didn't. I never even suggested that I might sign onto his company either. I just kept quiet most of the time, so I guess he assumed I was seriously thinking about it. As the last couple months before The End went on, Mercedes Man began to talk to me. One night, about a week before I shot him, we sat at the glass patio table near his pool.

He was on his fifth scotch when he told me, "Guys like me, and hopefully you..." He gestured at me with his scotch tumbler. "...we know the whole game of life is a power grab for liars. See those houses down the hill?"

I nodded, looking with him at the porch and window lights belonging to the older, more rundown houses of downtown Rampart Rock.

"Well, those houses are full of dupes. My associates and I tell them what to believe, and they believe it."

"Your associates?"

"You've met a few of them at my wife's parties. People don't realize how dead-on some of those conspiracy theories...never mind...I shouldn't be telling you that yet."

I stared at Mercedes Man with murderous eyes. It must've felt like home to him. He just kept rambling on.

"Anyway," he said. "We sell these idiots drugs and food backed by bogus science, we rob them of their money through both the financial system and taxes, and they don't care as long as they have more food, sex, and video games than the next country."

"Must be nice," I said.

"It's fucking great," he said, snickering. "I mean, we can take something like 9/11 and leverage it for years to make people afraid. Nothing makes people give up like fear. I can completely disregard a man's privacy, build a hearsay case against him, and have him thrown into a dungeon forever by calling him a terrorist. Thank you Patriot Act. Best thing is: I don't even have to work directly for the government anymore."

"You can do that as a contractor?" I asked.

"I, we, my people, can do anything we want. Who's gonna call us on it? We run this bastard now, and we never cared a lick for these lazy lowlifes' liberties." He gestured at downtown Rampart Rock with his scotch tumbler, sloshing liquor and ice onto the concrete beside his pool. "These morons don't deserve democracy," he said. "I wish more people were like you Ted..."

I reached under my shirt, ready to do Mercedes Man with the gun he gave me. I'd hoped to maybe mass murder him and his conspirators at one of his parties, but my heart was thudding against my chest to the rhythm of the cruelty and injustice in his words. I wanted to torture and kill him right then--like his kind had forced my kind to do to people in Afghanistan. The warrior in me had broken out of its cage and beaten down the ant. But this killing wouldn't be for glory or clout. No. It would be justice.

Then Myriel came out in a black thong bikini. Her body was like a Latin goddess sculpture. Yoga and running every day, with no job or housework, kept her looking younger than me. I guessed she was almost old enough to be my mom, but she never told me her age. Her light curly long hair, dark skin, and brown eyes shimmered with vitality.

When Myriel came out to the table by the pool, she looked at me with a mother's concern at first.  Then she gazed into my eyes and licked her lips.

"What are you guys talking about?" Myriel asked.

Mr. D had passed out. I didn't bother to explain. I just took my hand off the gun and stared at Myriel.

"I'm not like him, you know?" she asked as she came over to me, sat on my lap, and swiped her finger across my chest. "I come from a second generation Mexican family on one side, and a poor white one on the other. My father was a soldier like you. He died in the first Iraq war."

I looked at Mr. D, not really caring if he woke up and saw what his wife was doing. "I grew up in Five Points," I said.

"Shhh," Myriel said. "Don't say anything else. I see the way you look at Craig when he's drunk. Vengeance is written on your face..." She started kissing me, and I thought about what it would be like to screw Mr. D's wife with him passed out across the table. Instead, I pushed her off me. I took in a deep breath of chlorine and pine-scented air.

"It's okay," I said. "You're beautiful--on the outside, at least--but I can't do this. Not with you. You live on his money. You watch all these snakes, who steal other peoples lives and money, come in and out of here everyday. How could you let him do these things? How could you know about all this, and do nothing?"

Staring at me coldly, and standing nearby with her hands on her hips, Myriel said, "You know nothing Teddy. Horrible things happen in this world, and no one can prevent them. There's no use going against those kinds of things unless you're willing to watch everything you know and love die. These monsters and men have been draining the masses and plotting together for years."

"Huh?"

"I can't tell you anymore." She crossed her arms and looked around. Goosebumps rose up on her skin. "They'll know," she said. "I mean...the inside of this house is probably the most secure and private place you'll find in this country. But that doesn't matter. Be careful. They hear things on the air." She got up and walked in the sliding glass patio door, which she'd crept out of just seconds before. Mr. D just stayed passed out.

I guess Myriel wasn't mad about what I did that night. A couple days after our spat, she and Mr. D. invited me over for dinner to meet this Air Force General named Ian Thompson. The General was even more of a stuck-up asshole than Mr. D. Other than that, supper went well.

Mr. D invited me to come to his house for one last recruiting party. That was the evening before The End. "If I can't convince you to join my team tonight," Mr D. had said over the phone. "Then you're a terrorist." He chuckled long and hard, but his words sounded strained and suspicious. I knew I'd have to kill him soon.  

"I'll be there," I told him.

Later that night, after everyone else at the party passed out, Mr. D and I had our most important conversation.

"The Cheyenne Mountain Security Force," Mr. D said, his feet dangling in his pool. "You seriously want to know what this is all about, right?"

"Yeah," I said, sitting a couple feet away from him on the pool's edge. "There's a lot of stories about that mountain."

"Right. NORAD's just a front. Always has been."

"What's going on?"

"I can't...no...shouldn't tell you." He looked at me. I poured us both new drinks from a bottle of Glenlivits Scotch, which I'd given him. I waited for him to finish that drink, and a couple more, until he could barely hold up his head. Staring up at the Milky Way, I saw Orion. Ever since I was a kid, Orion helped me find all the other constellations.

My mom used to tell me stories about the heroes, monsters, and gods among the stars. In one Greek myth, Orion kept bragging about how he was the baddest hunter on earth. Scorpio stung and killed Orion for his vanity. My mom believed in horoscopes too--even though she used the Indian zodiac. She'd finish the Orion story by saying, "You're white sign is Scorpio. Sting the hell out of anyone who hurts you or your people."

Far as I knew, my "people" were gone. My mom was a full-blooded Ute, but she'd moved from the res. years before I was born. Mom never told me much about my tribe. White people had either killed them, or converted them to our way of life. Mom's words about Orion echoed in my head that last night at Mr D's place.

Waking from my thoughts, I looked at Mr. D. "Come on Mr. D," I said. "You can tell me anything. You told me I was like an adopted son to you, right?"

"You are," he said in a slur. "But I don't trust anyone."

"Fine," I shrugged.

Then Mr. D went into a sort of glass-eyed trance. "We're guarding a compound on the mountain," he said, as if in a dream. "I'm also forming a small army of mercenaries."

"Why?"

"Something's coming. Years ago, we took these kids and shot 'em up with all kinds of drugs to make 'em forget that they were building machines..." Mr. D. started to nod off.

"Wake up Mr. D," I said, clapping my hands. "Please continue."

"Right, right," Mr. D said. "Where was I going with this?"

"I don't know. Something about machines."

"Right." He raised his pointer finger in the air. "The sewing machines that bring the monsters. See. We thought we could control the world ourselves with the banking system and debt, but the fliers made us a much faster deal: Get rid of all the rabble once and for all, and see our kind prosper without all the years of systematic oppression. Anyway, those genius kids have almost killed themselves off now. They're the only proof of our plan."

"You're not making any sense Mr. D." Maybe I dropped too much Thiopenthol in his drink, I thought.

"There's big, mean creatures lurking around Rampart Rock," Mr. D said. "The invasion's going to happen soon. I want to save you Ted. You're like the Oedipus I never had."

"I have no idea what you're talking about sir. Besides, Oedipus killed his father."

"As all good, greedy American sons should want to do. You picked yourself up by the bootstraps kid. All those lowlifes on welfare and in the gutter got no excuse with heroes like you running around. You and I will be kings in the new worlds. Humanity is doomed. We're not. We're Over Men. Sign onto my company. Let me help you. Monsters be-damned."

"I don't get what you mean by monsters?"

"You know. The fliers the kid mechanics brought in for us before they got married, adulterated, and suicided. I explained this already."

"Those aren't even words Mr. D. You're not making any sense."

"Ah you're hopeless kid." He waved his hand at me. "We'll talk about this tomorrow."

Mr. D. passed out again. He had a habit of doing that every night we partied, but I knew he'd told me something important. I was too drunk to figure it out just then. Last thing I remember was trying to keep my eyes open while reaching for the gun in my waistband.

The shooter and all other materials on Tim's Blog are copyrighted by me, Tim Miller.  Please contact me via email regarding publishing or redistribution of stories or blogs. My email address is tim@himtim.com.  I apologize for any formatting errors.  I'm a writer, not a code monkey This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel. 

Chapter One: The Mechanic

Chapter Two: The Walker

Chapter Three: The Mechanic 2

Chapter Four: The Walker 2

Chapter Five: The Hunter

Chapter Six: The Cop

Chapter Seven: The Hunted

Chapter Eight: The Escapee

Chapter Nine: The Mercedes Man

Chapter Eleven: The Monster

Chapter Twelve: The Yehasuri

Chapter Thirteen: The General
 
Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo

Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian

Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites

Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian

Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted

Chapter Nineteen: The Captive