Saturday, December 17, 2011


The county once boasted of having Hollywood celebrities keeping cabins or summer homes at resorts in the area, and that meant the establishment of a small airport so that those wealthy people could fly directly into the county and then take a short drive to their getaways in this lake-rich land. It was at this airport that Ken found himself that night. Guiscard gave him the name of the man there to find, a feckless opportunist by the name of Frank, and the Sheriff confirmed Guiscard’s intelligence of this Frank as a fixer of sorts.

Ken rode up to the hanger where Frank was said to be, found him and sucker-punched him. A few moments later, Ken beat Frank into unconsciousness- and not one word was said. Ken handed him off to Jackson, who took Frank off to the county jail, and took his place. Shortly after Jackson slipped out of sight, Ken heard the faint rumbling of road hogs; the Angels were near, and closing. Moments later, they pulled into the hanger.

A score in all, each one fully-patched, their bottom-rockers proclaiming their territory as the whole of Minnesota, lined up their bikes and dismounted. Then a handful of trucks and SUVs rolled into the hanger, and out of them stepped a dozen of Mexican gangsters—Zetas siccarios—that mixed with the Angels uneasily.

The eldest of both groups met up and then approached Ken.

“You Frank?” the Angel said.

Ken coughed. “Yeah.”

“Show us.” the Zeta said, “Now.”

“Come into my office.” Ken said, stalling, and he led them into Frank’s office and had them take seats. Seeing Frank’s keyring, and knowing from Guiscard about Frank’s recent activities, Ken figured that Frank arranged for something to keep them boys pacified.

“It’s a long ride from the Cities.” Ken said, “I bet you’re ready for some fun while we wait for the last of our guests?”

The Angel smiled. “You remembered the booze. Good.”

“Grab a couple of the guys, and let’s get this started.”

Ken led the two leaders and a couple of their men to a backroom, kept cool, where Frank had a large cooler filled with a pair of kegs, another with ice and frozen meats, and everything needed to set up a tailgate-style of party in the hanger. Without so much as a word, the guys hauled it all out and set it up. Cups passed around, and soon their guard came down as they relaxed.

Ken learned that the leaders were Mark and Pedro, and let them go on about all the women they fucked, the guys they killed, the scams they ran and so on once the booze loosened their tongues. Ken had his phone on, recording it all, making excuses now and then to swap SD cards or charge up the phone—usually using the Men’s Room—and carefully stashed the recorded conversations for later retrieval.

A few hours later, a plane landed at the airport and taxied its way into the hanger. Nothing unusual about it—it was the sort of twin-engined small jet one expects of successful, ambitious men with means—and out of it came some well-dressed men with a military bearing to them, not unlike Pedro and his siccarios.

Their leader, a white-haired man who seemed out of place without either a military uniform or an operator’s field gear, scanned the room and frowned.

“Where is Franklin Anderson?” the old man said, anger simmering.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Ken followed Guiscard back to the man’s office, and sat himself in a chair.

“I can’t believe that you’re not dead yet.” Guiscard said, his astonishment showing, “Not only did I hear about your little adventure in Brazil, but also the details from my sources down south. You single-handedly destroyed a cocaine processing plant, hacked apart the cartel’s ruling committee with a machete, torched an entire region’s coca plantations, waged a war against its enforcement arm- and that was before they shot you.”

Ken’s ears perked up. “How did you hear about the cartel’s committee meeting? Those details were kept out of the press.”

“Sources.” Guiscard said.

Intelligence sources.” Ken countered, “CIA sources, specifically, but being ex-Legion you’d not be that picky about your associations now- would you?”

Guiscard gave Ken that look of disbelief, and Ken threw a picture on the desk- one of Guiscard and another man, a Brazilian from the lower classes.

“Stephan would send his regards, if he were still alive.”

Again, the Algerian sighed. “He never could fit into French civil society.”

“And you could? Or do you live closer to Quebec than France or Algeria for kicks?”

“Enough. Why are you here?”

Los Zetas. They hooked up with an outlaw club, and they’re looking to run dope through this county. The Sheriff’s not keen on that going on.”

Guiscard smiled. “Ah, yes. The Angels club, the chapter based out of the Cities. Ken, that Sheriff hasn’t told you the full picture. Since I value keeping my doors open more than I do making a tidy profit, and I know full well what happens should you come again while doing your man-on-a-mission thing, I’m going to bet on you this time.”

Ken kicked back. “I’m listening.”

“The Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas fight for control of North America’s drug networks. Both of them are reaching out to American and Canadian syndicates, looking to make strategic alliances that spread their networks across the continent. Los Zetas secured the Texas Syndicate’s allegiance, and that in turn brought in several associated outlaw clubs- including the Hell’s Angels. The Sinaloa Cartel then got an alliance with MS-13 in turn, and now both cartels are swiftly making networks out of associations. They’ll soon sew up firm continental networks, and that makes the current warfare in Mexico nothing in comparison to what will come."

“The Feds?”

“Your Federal Government is less than worthless. They’re involved. They trained the founders of the Zetas. They’re allied to the Sinaloa. They’re playing both sides to screw you out of what freedom you think you have.”

Ken nodded. “Great. Now, how does that work here?”

“The Cities chapter of the Hell’s Angels club are about to link up with a cross-border group that specializes in smuggling across the U.S.-Canada border.”

Friday, November 25, 2011


Just off one of the major highways in the state, on good lakefront property, there stood a bar—The Longhouse—known only to two groups of people: outlaws and lawmen. The bar catered to the outlaw biker world, yet eschewed any affiliations; the owner—a foreigner named Guiscard, said to be an Algerian ex-French Legionnaire—is a true businessman. He took any outlaw’s money so long as the fights stayed outside. This created a few things, now well-known amongst that underworld: outlaws could meet there, and drink, more-or-less in peace and that meant that clubs could do business; the law could reliably stake the place out to find out what’s going on around the county- or even further afield; and others seeking outlaws for whatever reason could reliably make contact there- if they had courage or cunning enough to do so.

Being a bar for bikers, a clubhouse away from one’s clubhouse, outlaw bikers from many clubs stop here to drink—and enjoy themselves, as it were—on a regular basis. Clubs, especially outlaw clubs, are not one big happy family of bikers. There are rivalries, feuds and other levels of conflict between (and within) clubs- but at this bar, it’s all outside or else. Inside, the rules are to keep it as cool as the beer. This is advantageous to the owner, because it keeps profits up and costs down.

It is also advantageous to lawmen, because they usually don’t have to do much but pick up a drunk or two outside and then step in for a brief talking-to before taking their man away for a night in jail to sober up. (This usually leads to a transfer to the county jail for outstanding warrants the next day, but that’s another story.) More ambitious or creative lawmen assume passable personae and become regulars themselves, using the place as a front for intelligence gathering. This was the Sheriff’s idea.

Ken didn’t need any persona. Ken just rode up to the Longhouse, knowing that the Sheriff and the other men would be listening from a close distance, watching over the place with a team ready to go if things went bad. He parked his bike next to a row of your usual Harleys and Indians, road hogs all the way, and walked in without so much as a thought. It was around sunset, soon to be dark outside, and all sorts of action went on in the Longhouse’s common room: drinking, dancing (badly), gambling (poker), chatting up the girls (or worse) and lots of talking.

If not for the jukebox, there would’ve been no sound at all once everyone recognized Ken. Ken, for his part, eyed them all and then just took a stool at the end of the bar—back to the wall—and then got himself a beer. Folks went back to their carousing, slowly, but the tension didn’t release and one of the girls waived to the bartender. He went into the backroom, and a few moments later he returned with Guiscard behind him.

Ken looked up at the foreigner as the man approached. “You’re stocking better beer now.”

Guiscard stared at Ken. “You’ve got balls coming back here.” he said, “I ought to toss you out now, after how you trashed the place last time.”

Ken took a long pull on his bottle. “You won’t. You know why, and so do I.”

The foreigner sighed. “Right. My office, now.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The phone rang. Gerald picked it up, and then passed it to Reginald, who merely affirmed whatever was said before hanging up.

“Sherrif?” Ken said

“Yes.” Reginald said, “He just arrived and will be joining us shortly.”

While Gerald moved the guns to one side, Ken kept looking through the longarms. Old rifles, new rifles, common ones and a few rare ones all passed through his hands before the Sheriff entered the office. He took the last open chair and sat down.

“Sheriff,” Ken said as he set aside an old trench gun, “I appreciate that you want me to help. I appreciate that you’re in some serious shit, and that you’re working with Reggie and Jerry here to see that your men are properly armed and supplied. I assume that you’re training them also.”

The Sheriff nodded.

“So, since you’re involving civilians in this matter, and yet I see no evidence of deputization, I’m inclined to think that you’re not planning on arresting these guys.”

The Sheriff chuckled. “I’ve quietly put the word out to the right people, and we three formed a county militia once it became clear what the Feds and even the State was—or, rather, wasn’t—going to do about us. My men and I are the core of it, and a lot of the others are the firemen, paramedics and so on that we count on to keep accidents from becoming disasters. Mr. Haroldson organized several businesses into lending support, but he’s been the only one to be less-than-quiet about it.”

Ken looked over at Reginald.

“Have you now?”

“Indeed, Ken.” Reginald said, smiling, “Rams work best in groups."

"This county is popular with military veterans and outdoorsmen.” Gerald said, “We have a lot of households with three or more generations of military service, and a lot of people who like to be secure in their backpacking, hunting, fishing and so on. That’s why we’ve done as well as we have, and we may not look it but we’re quite willing and able to use the new tools to make things work better.”

“Yeah,” Ken said, “I remember. Reggie, you still own the county’s biggest ISP right?”

“And all of the cellphone towers.”

“Long story short-“ The Sheriff said, but got cutoff.

“Too late.” Ken said.

“We know that they’re coming to carve up our county and make it into a way-stop on the Zetas chain of dope-running from Mexico to Canada, and we know that the Feds are letting them come so that we and they get taken out.”

“So, we should expect Federal intervention?”

The Sheriff nodded. “More than that, my boy; we should expect Federal manipulation.”

Ken picked up the old trench gun and pointed that solid shotgun to the ceiling. He loaded some dummy shells into it, and then worked the pump to check the action. Pleased, he looked over at that old Sheriff.

“So, it’s war then? Fine by me.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Reginald took Ken with him to the gun store and range that he owned, a place called “North Star Arms.” The two of them walked through the clean, well-lit and spacious retail floor and the handful of clean, well-dressed sales associates dealing with customers there to the manager’s officer in the back. In that room, behind the desk, sat the man Reginald employed to manage his business, an old friend from Reginald’s military days by the name of Gerald Johnson. Gerald has a duffle bag on the desk and a hockey bag on the floor before it. Both of them were open, and both of them were full of guns.

Reginald closed the door, and Ken peered into the bags. He smiled.

“Gerald, you remember Ken.” Reginald said, and Gerald came out to shake Ken’s hand.

“I do.” Gerald said, “I’m glad to meet you Ken. Reginald told me plenty about you.”

Ken chuckled, and then Reginald said “Gerald, what have we to offer our friend?”

“Oh, I think Ken can figure that out for himself.” Gerald said, and Ken began pouring over the contents. The smaller of the two bags contained a vast array of revolvers and pistols, along with a few smaller submachine guns and short-barreled shotguns. Ken grabbed handgun after handgun, racking the slides and checking the cylinders, looking down the barrels and shining lights down them to check the bores, marking the features and deciding upon which ones to take and which to reject.

“This is quite a spread, Reggie.” Ken said, “What are you selling to the sheriff?”

“Smith and Wesson, M&P, chambered in 9mm Luger.” Gerald pointed out the Smith & Wesson M&P9, and Ken picked it up again.

“What are the Zetas and their boys usually carrying?”

“Most of their handguns are in 9mm, followed by .40 Smith & Wesson, with a few using handguns in .45 ACP.”

Ken set aside a Glock 17, a Kel-Tec P11 and a Ruger LC9. Reginald and Gerald got Ken’s thinking; a full-sized service pistol, followed by a pair of easily-concealed backups in the same 9mm caliber.

“Do we have any intelligence on their movements?”

“According to my sources,” Reginald said, “the Zetas have some issues going on in Mexico right now that take up much of their time and attention. Problems north of the border are on the backburner until their backyard is secure.”

“That don’t mean that we’re ignored.” Gerald said, “The sheriff, Reginald and I think that these gangs that the Zetas brought into their syndicate are how they intend to deal with us.”

Ken nodded. He set aside a short-barreled Mossberg pump-action shotgun and then a Kel-Tec Sub 2000.  Then reached into the hockey bag.

“Bikers, I assume, and not just the guys we dealt with before?” Ken said as he pulled out a pair of AK series rifles.

“Correct.” Reginald said, “Hell’s Angels, specifically, though there’s bound to be a few Zetas along to oversee Zetas interests.”

Ken pulled out a Mosin-Nagant, one of the restored sniper variants, and worked the bolt.

“Not for long.” Ken said, and he smiled a wide and wicked grin.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


“I didn’t want to disturb you two.” Reginald said to Kathy as he came into the house.

She kissed him. “I appreciate that.”

“So does he, I would think.” Reginald said, sitting.

Then their daughter came into the kitchen. “Why is Uncle Ken exercising with his shirt off?”

The three of them went to a window overlooking the backyard, and there Ken was—shirtless—practicing his martial arts.

“Honey,” Reginald said, “your uncle does a lot of things, and one of them is fighting with his bare hands and feet.”

“Like Jackie Chan?” she said.

“No.” Kathy said, “More like Bruce Lee.”

Just then, both Reginald and Kathy remembered that Bruce Lee had been dead for generations and that even his son had been dead for nearly 20 years, and thus the reverence they held for him was as alien to their daughter as life before Jar-Jar Binks and Young Anakin Skywalker. Reginald, thinking fast, pulled up the Bruce Lee entry at Wikipedia and showed it to her. That helped, somewhat.

Ken, for his part, noticed that they watched him. While he couldn’t hear them, or make out their faces in detail, he got a sense from Kathy and Reginald’s body language that they could use a hand. So, he toweled off and came inside just as Reginald showed his daughter the Bruce Lee article.

“Teaching ancient history so soon?” he said.

The little one turned to him. “Do you know Jackie Chan?”

Ken laughed. “I met him once. I needed some quick cash, and he needed a stuntman that could pass for English, so I got the part. I worked with him for a few weeks, played a minor role as a bad guy, and had a good time doing it.”

Her eyes lit up. “Really?!”

Ken nodded. “Best time I ever had in Hong Kong. Ended up helping one of his relatives with a Triad problem, but that’s another story.”

Reginald then clapped Ken on the shoulder and pulled him aside.

“I saw that the sheriff came by last night. I can assume then that you’ve been told what’s going on?”

Ken nodded.

“I apologize for that. I wanted to tell you today, after you had some time to relax.”

“You know that you don’t need to ask. I’ll help you put these guys down, but-“

“You need gear. I’ve taken care of that. After lunch, you and I will head down to the shop. I had my man set some things aside for your consideration.”

“That’s a very polite way of saying ‘I told one of my guys to pull some guns out for you to pick from.’” Ken said, wryly.

“I remember your preferences. I think that you’ll be pleased with the selection.”

“And the girls?”

“The little one and I shot some video at the gun club this morning. She and Kathy will spend the afternoon editing it into something good enough to upload to the YouTube channel later tonight.”

“Why is it that when you and I get together, I always feel like I’m Bond and you’re Q?”

“No, Ken, not Q- M. Because I am the general and you are the operative.”

“At least you’re honest. I can respect that.”

“It’s mutual, in both respects.”

“Not quite. You always come up just ahead.”

“Only from a certain point of view, Ken.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Ken went to bed after the two lawmen took their leave. Years ago, he’d be mad at this sort of development, thinking that he’d been suckered somehow- and he had gotten suckered into this before. This time, he noticed, he felt nothing. No anger, no resentment, no sense at all of being on the wrong end of a con- nothing at all. It just didn’t matter anymore. Why this, again, came to him did not mean a damn thing. Those details would sort themselves out, and they always did, when it was time to do so. All that mattered was the goal.

Kathy slipped into his bed as he reflected on this, and she noticed the look—that look what to her meant serious business either went down, or would presently—on his face. Without a word, she curled up next him; it always brought him out of his trance when they were together, and indeed he did come out again. They said nothing; they didn’t need to. They’ve been here so many times before that all what could been said had been said, and so at last both drifted to sleep in each other’s arms. The last conscious thought before dawn, for both, was “At least Reggie doesn’t mind.”

Reginald, though he slept through the night undisturbed, was no slouch. He awoke alone, which he expected, and therefore felt no surprise to see his wife and his wife’s former boyfriend together in the guest bedroom. He let them be, cleaned up and got dressed. He noticed that the gun cabinet had been used when he put the rifle back in its proper spot, and then put the pocket pistol into the holster he used when he carried it. As he saw no damage, nor signs of violence, he quickly deduced that what occurred overnight ended without bloodshed.

While he cooked his own breakfast, Reginald poked his head outside and noticed the tracks in the dirt; being quite familiar with the county sheriff’s department, he knew their vehicles well and thus guessed—correctly—that they stopped by during the night. One quick phone call got him confirmation on his hunch. As he ate breakfast and read his usual array of papers and magazines on his tablet, he put in a call to one of his businesses—the local gun store he owned—and had his manager set aside a few things for him.

Then he put in a few more calls, sent out some emails and held a brief conference call before he finished his coffee and woke up his daughter. As he hustled her out of bed and into the morning routine Reginald marked the points of similarity between himself and his progeny. While he awaited his little girl’s appearance downstairs, he pulled out the medical records and smiled- just to be certain, he had some DNA checked at birth. Reginald is an atypically accepting man of means, but he’s still a man of means and thus protects his interests, and he wasn’t about to give his wealth away to someone not of his blood.

His daughter came down to breakfast, and after breakfast the two of them left the house for some father-daughter time at the local gun club where he maintained a membership. They spent the morning shooting, and shooting video; Reginald’s latest project was a video series about teaching the fundamentals of firearms safety to children roughly his daughter’s age. When they came back to the house for lunch, Kathy and Ken were up. Kathy was in the kitchen, and Ken in the backyard.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


“You can stand down, son. I’m here to chat, not to slap irons on anyone.”

Ken slung the rifle over his shoulder and walked off the porch. Another man exited the truck.

“Ken, this is my right-hand man- Jackson. Jackson, Ken.”

Deputy Jackson walked around the truck, and the two lawmen met Ken at the foot of the porch. They all shook hands.

Just then Kathy, now in a robe, appeared in the doorway.

“What’s the matter?” she said, curious- and wary.

“They’re here to chat.” Ken said.

“That’s right, Mrs. Haroldson.” Jackson said, “We’re just here to chat.”

Kathy, and Reginald for that matter, knew what this meant- they’d done this before. Ken knew how to handle this situation—Kathy saw this before also—so she knew what to do. She went, got some cold ones from the kitchen and brought them out to the men. She took the rifle from Ken, slipped him a pocket pistol and then excused herself.

“Now,” the Sheriff said as he opened his bottle, “I heard you just got back from someplace far south.”

“I did.” Ken said, “Long stay, lots of work needed doing.” “I also heard that you found some trouble down there.”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle. Certainly nothing I didn’t handle, especially with a little help from my friends.”

Jackson laughed. “That, man, is an understatement.” “So, aside from your old ladyfriend, what brings you back to my county?”

“I’m just visiting family, Sheriff. Their little girl’s birthday party was today, and I was invited- including to stay here.”

The two lawmen looked at each other and shrugged.

“I guess you really did hurry straight here then.” Jackson said.

“Indeed, I’d say so.” The Sheriff pulls out his phone and brought up a news article. “As I recall, the last time you came to visit you ran afoul of some very vicious gangsters.”

Ken nodded. “I did. I also recall that you didn’t mind what became of them.”

“I still don’t.” The Sheriff showed Ken the article. “Their boss just busted out of a Mexican prison, with the aid of Los Zetas. From my contacts in the DEA, it looks like their gang signed on with the Zetas.”

“In return,” Jackson said, “the gang’s territory is now Zetas territory.”

“As I recall, Ken, you also had a go-round with Los Zetas.” “I did.” Ken said, “That was one wild ride, and I’m not keen to take another like it.”

“Y’know, they get TV in prison. Stories like what you did in Brazil got plenty of press in Mexico, and if someone you tangled with got word of where you’re likely to be…”

Ken rolled his eyes. “I get it. I wondered what would bring you out here, so are they coming here or not?”

“Here? Sure. For you? Can’t say. This county does remain a key piece of dirt for smuggling networks looking to link up Mexican cartels to American markets, so even if you weren’t here we’d be worrying about this.”

“It’s not like the Feds give a damn about us.” Jackson said, “Not since we busted their own end of the scheme some years bad. Well, not the Feds that call the shots for the Feds we do get along with.”

“The governor doesn’t like us either, not after we nailed the State Patrol for their own scheme last year. He’d like to get rid of us and put in someone willing to play ball.”

“And you, with your Fists of Fury, provide quite a plausible excuse for their refusal to help us until it’s too late.”

“Convenient.” Ken said, deadpan, “Convenient all around.” Ken spat.

“We agree.”

“Do they know?” Ken said, pointing to the house.

“Mr. Haroldson does. He’s been financing our preparations.”

Ken just stood there. That sounded so like Reggie.

“It’s going to get nasty, Ken. You couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Ken grimaced and sighed. “Yeah, perfect timing.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011


“I mean it, Ken. I’ve never met anyone else like you. I’ve met plenty of men like Reginald, and I’m glad that men like him exist, but they won’t do what you do- not even a measure of it. So hemming and hawing while the bad guys rape, kill, run drugs, terrorize people-“

“-and run government agencies, organize into gangs and families, even set up cults. They do all of that, and so much more- and worse. Big-timers, small-timers, all sorts doing all sorts of bad stuff to all sorts of decent people- but it’s not without remedy.”

Kathy kissed Ken’s cheek. “Marisol’s taking her life seriously now. She won’t be a victim anymore, and her kids won’t be victims anymore either. Lots of people I’ve helped over the years got the point and started taking care of themselves, much like you and Reggie do. It’s getting better, but it’s not sexy so it doesn’t get on the news.”

“You really think so?” Ken smiled and nodded.

“You’re still, at heart, an idealist.” Kathy said, “That’s why I want to ensure that there’s more like you to come.”

“I have no problem with that.” Ken said, holding her close, “Others might—not Reggie; he’s so cool that sometimes I think him more than human—but their opinion doesn’t matter. Besides, it’s not like anyone but us needs to know who begat whom.”

Kathy smiled. It wasn’t just the happy smile, but the knowing smile. Ken smiled back, and he also got what Kathy meant.

“I’m glad that you see it my way.” Kathy said, and the two stopped talking for a while.

Ken and Kathy dozed on the front porch when the distant rumble of a car on the road woke Ken up. Ken rubbed his eyes, clearing his vision, and figured from the headlights and the noise that a truck approached the house- and, thankfully, just one truck.

“Get up!” Ken said, whispering, “Get up, Kathy, and get inside.”

Kathy sat up. “What’s going on?”

Ken grabbed her by the arm and pointed out the approaching truck. “That’s going on. Get inside!”

Kathy didn’t move fast enough, so Ken pulled her to her feet and hurried her into the house. He threw on a shirt, grabbed a rifle from the cabinet and loaded it as he went back outside to see who this unexpected visitor was. The truck stopped when the headlights lit up the front porch, but even so Ken stilled noticed the light bar atop the truck’s roof. He recognized now the Sheriff’s Department truck, and relaxed his guard a bit. Here, unlike many other counties, Ken got along well enough with them.

A man got out from the driver’s side. “Just the man I’d been looking for.”

Ken recognized the voice. “I’d like to put the rifle down, Sheriff. I sure hope you’re here to be sociable.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Later, after dark, when all of the others went home and the birthday girl got tucked into her bed with a tired yawn and a gleeful smile on her face, Ken sat on the front porch in just his boxers.  Kathy lay across his lap, similarly dressed.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Kathy said, “Especially this part.”
Ken brushed her face off her face and smiled. “Ain’t no one that knows me like you do.”
She giggled.  “You got that right.”
Kathy sat up and steadied herself in his lap by embracing him, and Ken welcomed her.
“How much longer can you do this?” she said, fingering the new scars on his chest, “This shot almost got you, and when Marisol told me what happened-“
“-you choked up.  I know.  Marisol told me when I woke up.  She and I had this conversation, and you and I also had this conversation.  Both of you now know the answer.”
 Kathy nuzzled Ken’s neck.  “I do, I do.  That’s not what I mean this time.”
“You’re wondering what happens when my body won’t let me go on?  When I get too old, or rack up too many injuries, go on?”
She nodded her head.
“I die.  It’s that simple, Kathy.  I won’t stop, so sooner or later someone’s gonna get the drop on me and that’s that.”
Kathy looked at him, face to face, eye to eye.  Here they were, in their 30s, and still she wanted him to stop being the White Knight- and still he held his resolve otherwise.  The scars—the evidence, the trophies—about his face, neck, chest, arms, legs and hands spoke for him.  He walked the walk, and he was one of two men she knew that did; the other, God bless him, was asleep upstairs and did not resent one bit his wife’s affection for Ken.
“Ken, I-“
 “-don’t want to know a world without me.  You’ve told me many, many times.  That’s why we are where we are, and are what we’ve become.  It hurt when you left, but I knew why it had to be that way and I never was—nor shall I never be—angry or resentful about that.  Reggie’s a great guy, and he’s all that you need- all that I can’t be for you.  What’s scaring you now?  That you and I won’t grow old together?  That I may not see your little girl grow up, get married and make a grandmother of you?”
She shook her head.  “Not quite.”
He lifted her head up and wiped a tear away.  “That I won’t be able to come to you when you need me?”
 “Almost.” She said, and she shifted herself so that she could look right at him, “I’m afraid that, once you’re…”
 Ken gave Kathy that look, the one he always used when she equivocated.
“…dead there won’t be anyone around to take your place.”
 “And here I thought that your daughter was actually my child.” Ken said, smirking, “She certainly acts like it.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Others arrived not long thereafter.  These other guests were the usual combination of friends, family, neighbors and associates one often finds at social functions amongst Reginald and Kathy’s class in society.  Ken, despite a change of clothes and a shower, still moved like the working-class man he’d always been; wearing the guise of his hosts’ social station did little to conceal his outsider status.  Some of those other guests remembered Ken; they were old friends from Kathy’s college days, and glad to see that the two old lovers remained close friends.  Some were associates of Reginald’s, and found it curious that he kept a friendly association with someone so out of their league.  The relatives, by and large, sat in the middle; they knew that Ken was okay by Reginald and Kathy, but still found him odd.
All of them, however, soon found that Ken was also anything but boring.  Ken joined in tossing horseshoes, playing Bocci, talking about sports of all sorts, holding conversations about anything—even those topics one would not expect a man believed to be a rough sort to know much about, like cooking or caring for the sick—and demonstrated a mastery of tact that few expected out of him.  Well, other than Reginald and Kathy, that is.
Reginald’s mother took Kathy aside as the two watched Ken play with the kids and whispered “I can’t believe that this is the same man that risked a prison sentence for you.  Has he settled down?”
“Not at all.” Kathy said, laughing, “He just got back from Argentina yesterday.”
“What was he doing down there?” her mother-in-law asked, curious.
“Do you remember Marisol?” Kathy asked in response; her mother-in-law nodded.  “Ken went down there because Marisol’s husband got gunned down in broad daylight by one of the cartels, and the government did nothing.  Then they went after her husband’s family, and still nothing.  When they went after her parents and her children, she begged Ken to help her.”
Kathy’s mother-in-law took another look at Ken.  He organized the kids into a group, teaching them how throw a horseshoe.
“What did he do?” asked the elder woman.
Kathy pulled her away from earshot.  “He killed them all.  It took six months, and he uncovered a CIA plot to overthrow the government in the process, but he made good on his word to Marisol.”
Her mother-in-law looked at Kathy, unbelieving.
“It nearly killed him.  He hobbled away from the last fight, and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital.  He recuperated at Marisol’s home after that, leaving just the other day.”
 Kathy then smiled. “Now, at last, do you see why I married your son?”
The old woman let that thought, and many others, work itself through her brain for a long moment.  Then she kissed Kathy on the cheek.  “Yes, I do.”
“Now, then, do you also see why Reginald made peace with him?  Would you not want such a man as your friend?”
Reginald’s mother, like his father, was not a stupid woman- just unaccustomed to thinking in unconventional ways.  Kathy, like Reginald, did not have that problem- nor did they have the problem of being unable to, as it were, translate.  Once again, the lightbulb went on and the elder woman nodded in appreciation.
“What I don’t get, dear, is how this man can be so good with kids and yet do such things?”
Kathy smiled. “He’s one of the rarest amongst men.  Like normal people, he’s got empathy.  Unlike us, he can shut it off when he needs to- and when he does, he can think like the psychopaths he kills.  That’s what makes him so unnerving, until you understand his special psychology.  Right now, he’s switched it on and he can fit right in.  When he switches it off, he can just as cold and unfeeling as those he fights, but rarely is because—unlike his enemies—he knows, and remembers, empathy.  Thus, with proper discipline, he maintains his moral center when he needs it most.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011


“Sheepdog” is a curious term, but apt once one knows its context. Reginald started calling Ken by that term after he read a pair of books by one Lt. Colonel David Grossman, books recommended to him by former colleagues of his that he met during his time at West Point. Reginald recognized that Ken was an unusually strong expression of that personality type, a sort of extreme altruist one otherwise will not encounter outside of the realms of fiction, someone so compelled to intervene that they could not operate in normal society for long or very well.

The predators of the world, as related by Grossman, are described as “wolves”. The common people at large are “sheep” and the few capable of beating the wolves are the sheepdogs. Reginald, like Grossman, made no moral judgments in assessing one as a sheep or another as a sheepdog- only those he labeled as “wolves” felt any moral disapproval, and then only because Reginald did not think himself to be one. Nor did he think himself a sheepdog, despite his own military experience, but merely a more worldly and capable sheep- “I am but a Ram.” The world needs the peaceful, decent sheep because they make all the rest go ‘round; the sheepdogs exist to guard the sheep from the wolves, who prey upon the sheep because the sheep are weak and meek by comparison and thus easy prey, yet those same sheep are often ill at-ease with their sheepdogs and sometimes foolishly abuse them because the wolves and the sheepdogs are too much alike for the comfort of the sheep.

Ken, on the other hand, has a far less nuanced view. Never reading Grossman, Ken saw things much as he did as a child: there are good people and bad people, and there are weak people and strong people. Those who are strong and good hunt and kill the bad people while protecting the good people, and they push the weak good people to become strong while remaining good. Bad people do all sorts of lying, cheating and other scamming to keep out of sight until they strike so he’s got to stay sharp and on the alert at all times because he’s one of the strong good people and he goes where he’s got to go to put the bad people down- and down for good. Ken is a killer, and he has no qualms with who he’s killed or why he killed them. Laws don’t matter to him. Borders, countries, customs- all irrelevant to him. He goes where he’s needed, gets the job done, and then takes his leave before he wears out his welcome.

Together, Ken and Reginald have a certain understanding that lets them respect each other as equals despite very different perspectives and attitudes about things. It’s this common ground that lets their unorthodox arrangement work, an arrangement that keeps Kathy happy, fulfilled and satisfied- and in turn does so for them.

So, beer in hand, Ken accepted his welcome warmly. “Another monster slain.” Ken said, smiling.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


A man, beaten and bloodied, sits on the stoop of a ruined house. About him is a scene of carnage—corpses litter the yard, cars and motorcycles lie wrecked about the property and the trees are the worse for it—and besides him a small schoolgirl clutches him as she sobs a river of tears. He has in hand a pad of paper and a pen, with which he writes furiously. Sirens howl in the distance, signaling the approach of the police as well as the fire department and the ambulances. Atop the paper one easily reads first “AFFADAVIT”, and then “THIS IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD”.

* * * * *

Kathy Berglund had everything she desired. She married an ambitious businessman from a wealthy, respectable family. She had a successful line of novels, written under an ambiguous pen name, that she just transitioned into the thriving digital publishing world. She had two strong, healthy children and housed them in a dream home out in a fashionable lakeside property that had all of the benefits of a rural cabin without being removed from urban center of her—and her husband’s—career. Unlike many of her friends from college and high school, she still the enjoyed a reasonable expectation of security and prosperity, so—as a good friend—she helped them as best she could.

This compassion, coupled with her own talents, once had her in the arms of another man- a man that remained firmly fixed in Kathy’s heart, a man that she remained friendly with after she left him and a man that was soon to arrive at her idyllic home to join her family and friends in celebrating her eldest child’s 5th birthday. She saw him in the distance, riding up toward the house on a motorcycle, as she stood on the backyard deck overlooking the lake. He waived, and once more the same excitement that drew her to him all those years ago rushed through her being.

She went inside and grabbed her husband. “I saw him!” she said, giddy, “He waived to me from across the lake.”

Kathy’s husband, Reginald, just chuckled. This wasn’t the first time she’s seen her old boyfriend since they got together. They’d met up plenty of times since Kathy accepted his wedding proposal. She had plenty of chances to run back to that man, yet she always came home to Reginald. Once he met the man, he understood why Kathy loved him so much- and why she left him. He holds his own warm regards for the man, so he didn’t mind that Kathy had him come to their daughter’s birthday party. So, after getting a pair of beers, he followed his wife out the front door just in time to see him come up the driveway and park the bike. Kathy ran up to him, threw her arms around him and kissed him as if they were still the lovers they were when she was in college- and Reginald just smiled, chuckled and shook his head.

As soon as Kathy let the man come up for air, as it were, Reginald approached and put a beer in the man's hand. "I see that Kathy's given you a warm welcome, Ken." he said, "Ellie's waiting for you inside. We hadn't told her yet, but I doubt that we'll need to."

Just then, the birthday girl crashed through the front door and ran out to meet their guest. "Uncle Ken!" she cried, "You're here!"

It's a rare thing to see two men share knowing, appreciative glances at each other, but these two did.

"That's right, honey." Reginald said, "Our sheepdog is back."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nala Prime and the Great Bug War-20


Inside the Inner City, Nala Prime stood before the Council of Masters in the Spire at the center of the Inner City.

“Nala, you stand before us once more.” The First Master smiled with approval.

The Second Master continued. “Your last report indicated that you located a Bug Hive and requested reinforcements. Special Team 1 answered your request. Upon your return, one of that team had disappeared entirely. Furthermore, your report indicated that you and Special Team 1 destroyed that Hive- but only through the use of unauthorized techniques and protocols.”

Nala nodded affirmatively.

“So,” the Third Master said, “you admit that you defied our ban?”

“Not your ban.” Nala answered, “I had sanction to act as I did.”

The other Masters looked at the First Master, and their bubbling rage turned towards their peer.

“The matter needed proper resolution.” the First Master said, smugly, “You could not bother to fulfill your responsibilities, so tied to your fears as you are, so I did it for you.”

“But the loss of Special Team 1-“

Green Prime entered the chamber. “I am.” Green said, “Whole and better than new.”

The other Masters looked at Green Prime, shocked. “But the reports of your behavior-“

“I was wrong.” Green said with a shrug, “Thanks to Nala’s discovery, I am here to tell you myself of that fact.”

The realization of what this meant—of what the process of transference between the Inner and Outer City meant, and how it related to the constructs and programs that they created in the Inner City—filled the other Masters with utter horror.

“GUARDS!” they cried, and the chamber filled with security programs- programs that halted as soon as they recognized Nala and the First Master.

“Seize the other Masters.” Nala cried, and then he turned to Green Prime: “Execute System Upgrade Protocol.”

Green Prime left the chamber. Within moments, echoes of commotion across the Inner City could be heard as backdoor commands throughout the system went into action.

“If we are to win against the Bugs,” the First Master explained, “then we must embrace all of our advantages and negate all of our weaknesses. As we sit on a font of endless power, power that we are the masters of shaping, not only can we match the Bugs for numbers- we can surpass them.”

Now held fast by the guards, Nala went to each of the Masters in turn and hacked into their brains.

“This Bug brain we took back revealed a lot of secrets.” Nala said as he hacked away, “Such as whom amongst our own were in league with our enemies, and how it came to be in its position; when we saw the Bug swarm coming for that Hive, and saw that it held not us as its primary targets, that’s when all of the weirdness within and about it started to come together.”

“You lot,” the First Master bellowed as he pointed at them, “thought to play them against us.”

Just then, Nala finished the hacks. “Access procured, Master.”

The First Master entered a program into each of his peers and executed it, causing them all to go into convulsions and collapse into unconsciousness. The bodies of the Masters began to change in appearance and form, becoming wholly robotic, faceless and without means of speech.

“Your fears undid you, my former peers. For your folly, I shall compel your service as penance; nevermore shall you be Users, but instead nothing more than Programs yoked by a master protocol that I know none of you could comprehend, let alone defeat.”

The faceless former Masters now arose. Lithe, once more youthful of form—if robotic, android-like—and clearly capable of deeds brutal and graceful alike they were. Yet, despite their aura of power, one with the eyes to see could sense the caged wills within straining at their prisons.

“Kneel!” bellowed the First Master, and—haltingly—they did.

“Behold, Nala, our success. The link that you made between ourselves and our creations has come to its fulfillment at last.”

Just then, Green Prime returned to the room. “Master, Nala: our plans proceed as foreseen, with the expected pockets of resistance.”

The First Master, now simply Master Prime, looked over to his rectified former peers, and he smiled once more.

“Order them to hold position and keep them pinned down.” Master Prime said, “I shall send these programs to finish the job.”

The Sky-Blue Republic won the Bug War a year later. The peace took much longer.