Coffee and Contemplation: National Author’s Day

As an indie author, it’s difficult to get the word out about my works. The best way to promote something is with money and most indie authors don’t have much to spare. One review can make or break our confidence because we get such little feedback. National Author’s Day was founded to celebrate authors for their hard work and contributions to literature. The publishing game has changed a lot since this holiday’s inception. It’s now easier than ever to have something published. However, it’s also more difficult to find financial success. It’s not easy scribin’ and vibin’.

If you know an indie author who’s struggling to fulfill their passions and dreams, write them a note or message saying how much you appreciate them and their work. Everyone needs a little encouragement, but writers need a little more to keep going. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Sometimes it feels as though no one sees or cares about the things you create. So, prove them wrong and tell them what you think of their writing. Encourage them to keep writing and to never give up. It will mean the world to them. Believe me. Celebrate the authors you love and the one who inspire you as well. All authors deserve a little support.

Fiction Friday: TG #2

            I kept training and searching for you. I figured out how to buy things off the grid; mostly stealing from drug dealers and gangs. If I bought anything, I used cash, to avoid a digital paper trail. Fighting criminals provided great experience, but it didn’t aid me finding you.
            The new administration pushed their anti-immigrant and anti-homosexual agenda. Despite all the efforts to prevent it, the government deported people back to their homeland, or at least neighboring countries. After a few months, the administration decided their efforts needed to be more extreme, so they built camps to hold anyone they deemed a criminal. And who thought up this dehumanizing scheme? The politician turned dictator. Ronald Teagun. The Tommy Gun. By this point, the government silenced or eliminated any agencies that challenged them. The government discredited the honest news sources, so only the ones supporting the administration still circulated their version of the news.
            The Arabic citizens got thrown into the internment camps first. Homosexuals soon followed. I worried they sent you to one of these camps and several popped up all over the country.
            Searching for you became a huge task to undertake. I spent months getting in shape and learning at least enough to defend myself without fighting someone. I familiarized myself with restraining people until the police arrived, but with the things I planned, the police wouldn’t help me.
            The team of lawyers continued trying to get any information about you or the other airline passengers. I sent them the information I got from Peterson anonymously, but they hit another wall at the county prison. They claimed to have no records of any airline detainees and they didn’t have enough information to get a judge to sign off on a warrant. I believe the lawyers exhausted their best efforts, but the system kept working against them.
            I thought the county Sheriff would know of any special prisoners at the county prison. I knew I would need to get information the way I did before; the illegal method. For a moment, I considered what you would think of my illegal activities. I decided the ends justified the means. I felt I needed more protection to question the county sheriff; like Kevlar protection. I had to get it without it being traced back; off the grid. I asked around some firing ranges. Many required shooters to wear Kevlar, so I said I wanted to buy my own. They offered to sell me a used Kevlar. I wanted a new vest. This felt easier, but I couldn’t purchase one without using my name, so I took the firing range’s offer. They happily accepted and didn’t keep records. They wanted an excuse to buy new vests.
            I knew it wouldn’t be easy to interrogate the sheriff. I spent a little more time getting information. One can learn a lot about people on the internet. To the public, Joe Kennedy acted like a good man and got re-elected several times. His children had grown and lived out of state, so I only had to worry about his wife.
            Dealing with Sheriff Kennedy proved easier than expected. By the second day of following him learning his habits, I saw an opportunity to gain leverage. He drove to a motel. He knocked on a door and a woman greeted him with a big hug. I took pictures of everything. He stayed there for two hours. When he finally walked out, the woman wore a bathrobe as he buttoned his shirt with a loose tie around his neck. I took more pictures. He drove home and ate dinner with his wife.
            I sent a letter with one photo telling him to meet me at an old warehouse to get the other pictures. I wore my vest and mask.
            “What do you want?” Kennedy said.
            “Information. The airline detainees. Where were they taken?”
            “They stayed at the county jail for a couple days and then some feds picked them up.”
            “Where did they take them?”
            “They only told me they were being taken to a classified holding facility. They didn’t say where and I didn’t ask.”
            “Anything else?”
            “No one said, but I got the impression they weren’t getting due process.”
            “You figure that out all by yourself?” I said.
            “I cooperated so I wouldn’t lose my job. That’s why I’m here.”
            “You should worry about losing your wife, but your secret is safe with me.”
            “How do I know you won’t go public?”
            “I’d lose my leverage if I did. I may have use for you later.”
            Kennedy stormed off. The meeting went easier than I expected.
            The camps were running for a few months by the time the public heard about them. I hoped they hadn’t put you in one of these camps. They had only one camp in our state so that felt like the logical place they would take you. Only one road lead to the camp with several checkpoints along the way.
            I’d have to climb the fence to get in and I didn’t know how to tell the buildings apart. I assumed the worst. I thought they would have cameras, motion sensors, or even an electrified fence. I prepared myself for everything. I planned to set explosives on a timer to use as a distraction. If I couldn’t go in quietly, I’d make twice as much noise to keep the guards away from me. I expected the worst.
            I walked almost a mile in the dark to avoid the road to the camp. A sign said they monitor the area with aircraft, but I saw nothing in the sky. They didn’t have electrified fences or motion sensors. They had pivoting cameras attached to the fences. These were easy to avoid. Bolt cutters helped me get through the fence. I had to observe the place for a couple days to learn what the buildings might be and the guard schedule. I got the information I needed, but I had to lie on the ground and not move for several hours. When I tried to leave, I could barely move. I returned the next night to observe the camp from another angle and to confirm information.
            They split the prisoners into two groups and put them into two different buildings. I couldn’t see any reason for the separation other than lack of space. The buildings sat next to each other, but I needed time to get into each one. I couldn’t see what kind of locks the buildings had because of the distance, but I planned to have small explosives and bolt cutters anyway, so I didn’t think I would have trouble. I didn’t know how to distract the guards, so I could get all the people out. 
            A simple plan; sneak in, take out the couple roaming guards, take out the guards by the prisoner buildings, get the prisoners out, and then run like Hell. Too easy. I expected everything to go wrong.
            I arrived later than planned. Not really an issue, but it put me in a bad mood. I hid underneath one of the rotating cameras giving me time to cut the fence. If something went wrong, I planned to leave this way too. The camp had many lights. This made it difficult to stay in the shadows. I took down one guard, but I had few options to hide the body. If I could get to the other roaming guard before he noticed the body, I’d be okay. The other guard turned the corner and never saw me coming. I had two guards down and only two more to go. 
            I waited to take down the two guards at the prison buildings when I saw another roaming guard. They didn’t have three guards before. I ran to take him out before he noticed the unconscious guards. Before I could, the alarm sounded.
            Stealth didn’t matter anymore. I ran back to the prisoners and knocked out the guards. The doors on the building had a keypad on the handle. I had no time to play with numbers. I knocked the door knob loose with my bolt cutters. This took longer than I expected. The prisoners looked surprised someone broke open the door. They didn’t think to leave.
            The guards came towards us as I lead everyone to the nearest fence. The explosives made a nice hole for everyone to run through, but there were too many people. The guards would catch some of them. I took a chance and set my last explosive on one building. When the guards got close, pieces of building fell on them. I hoped it would give everyone enough time to escape, but I’d never know if I killed anyone. The prisoners scattered and ran to the nearest road. I never saw you among them. Where are you, Sasha?
            If you were there and escaped, I would have heard from you after a couple days. Word never came, and I learned the camp reopened after only a week. This disappointed me, but they never caught the escaped prisoners. I did something good, but I never found you. I knew I’d have to break into another camp, but not the same one. Not soon at least. I planned to always destroy the entire camp, so they couldn’t reopen. That required more money and more information; definitely more explosives.
            I had to travel out of state to get to the next internment camp. This alone made the task more difficult. Despite the dictatorship regulating information, everyone knew the location of the camps. The government wanted people to turn in their friends and relatives. I had no trouble finding the camp but getting there undetected wouldn’t be easy. Any kind of travel got regulated and monitored. The government had checkpoints on state border lines of every major interstate and most highways. This required a lot of armed guards and there were too many roads. They installed cameras on some roads, but the process took several months. Several of the highways were still unmonitored. I knew this would change within six months, so I used the opportunity. I drove where I needed to go, but I had to make sure I didn’t leave a paper trail. I made cash purchases, stayed on the poorer side of town, and no vigilantism before getting to the camp.
            The second camp rested near the city. I could stand on top of buildings and survey the camp with binoculars. I knew no one in the city and didn’t know where I could hide if I needed to. Everyone in the city acted paranoid. They suspected anyone and everyone. The clerk at the hotel I checked into never stopped asking questions. I planned for this and had a fake ID prepared.
            “What are you in town for?” The clerk said.
            “What kind of business?”
            “Circuit board manufacturing.”
            “Circuit boards?”
            “For computers.”
            “Oh, yeah, yeah. You travel a lot? I bet your wife hates that.”
            “Not too often. Just once a month. I make sure I’m never home long enough for her to get sick of me.”
            The clerk laughed. He relaxed. He noticed the ring on my finger. I wore it as part of my cover. I had no trouble with the clerk for the rest of my time there.
            I saw the camp from the hotel roof. I had a thousand-millimeter camera lens. I set this up to look like I took pictures of the moon. Before the country lost its mind, you might remember my early photography and since art remained legal, and I thought it would become illegal, I used this to my advantage. 
            I heard someone open the door to the roof. I hid my notebook and binoculars in my bag.
            “You can’t be up here.”
            The hotel security guard said. He wore a red shirt and his keys jingled.
            “Sorry about that. I’ll pack my stuff up. The door was open, so I thought it was okay.” I said.
            “Yeah, the A/C guy probably left it open. Is that a camera?”
            “Yeah, I got some nice shots of the moon. There’s a few of the sunset too.”
            I showed him the pictures which put him at ease. He appreciated them.
            “My sister has that same camera, but she mostly does portraits.” He said.
            “That’s how I started but then I got other lenses and tried different things.”
            “Well, look, I gotta have you go down tonight but if you want to come up here tomorrow, just let me know. I’m Robert.”
            “I appreciate that. Let me see how these pictures turned out and I’ll let you know if I need more.”
            Sometimes just being friendly gets you more than you ever hoped. After reviewing my notes, I felt I had enough to get started. I needed to look at the camp up close. I had to differentiate the buildings. I thought I could drive over, but there wouldn’t be much for me to do. With it being close to the city, someone would see me.
            I wanted to keep a solid relationship with the security guard, so I got two photos printed for him. And then lady luck blessed me with the best news. I phished for information and got so much more.
            “Hey Robert, what’s that big place with the lights outside the city? It looks like an airport or something.”
            “Oh, that’s the criminal internment camp. The city’s very proud because the crime rate dropped after it opened. They give tours every Thursday.”
            “Really? Have you gone on the tour?”
            “No, but I heard it’s a whole new way to rehabilitate people. It’s really organized.”
            “That sounds interesting. I should check that out. Today’s Tuesday, right?”
            “Yep. Next tour is in two days.”
            “Thanks Robert. I’ll bring you another photo tomorrow.”
            Who knew they gave tours? I could get all the information I needed in just one visit. I felt confident this would be a more successful operation than the first one. I wondered if you were there; if I’d see you.
            The tour went better than expected. I saw all the things I needed to and all the other people asked questions I wanted to ask. We didn’t go near the prisoner buildings, but the guards told us where they were. I spent a couple more days planning and gaining any gear I needed. I checked out of the hotel, so I could go straight home after I completed the mission. I’d be across the state line before they blocked off the roads.
            The guard shift changes started at ten in the evening. There were fewer cameras and the shift change had fewer roaming guards by the fences. I got in quickly and I put explosive charges on some buildings as I moved quietly to the prisoner buildings. I didn’t have enough explosives for every building, so I had to choose carefully. I easily picked the door locks, and I saw people in individual cells. Most of them slept. I heard a voice to my right.
            “You finally get my coffee, Mick? I’m falling asleep over here.” The guard said.
            He watched a small television with his feet propped on the table. He faced away from me. I knocked him out and took his keys. I opened each cell one at a time and they each required a different key. Thankfully, they labeled the keys. I went back to the door after I had one prisoner open the rest when another guard entered the building.
            “Mick said you needed coffee, Steve, so I brought… What the hell!?”
            I hit him before he could get his firearm then I threw his head against the wall and knocked him out. Once all the prisoners were ready to run, I hit the alarm and told them which part of the fence to run towards. The alarm got everyone out of the buildings, even the guards. I blew the charges on the buildings when the prisoners got to the fence. This disoriented the guards and gave us more time to escape.
            I ran back to my car as the prisoners’ scattered. I heard the news on the radio say terrorists infiltrated the camp.
            “The terrorists damaged the facility so heavily, it will be several months before they can reopen the prison.”
            I never understood why they needed such a huge place for a few prisoners. Sadly, you weren’t among them. It took several hours to get to the next camp. That one didn’t have a tour, but I planned things without too much trouble. I hoped the mission would go smoothly. Long story short… I got caught. Someone knocked me out after I snuck into the prisoner building. I never saw who hit me and everything went black.

An excerpt from the novella The Tommy Gun.

Fiction Friday: TG #1

            I can’t do anything yet. If I act too soon, everything will fall apart. I’m not making the same mistakes. I learned to be more patient since you last saw me. I learned more than patience; so much more.
            I need one guard to walk a little closer. As long as the other two don’t move too much, everything should be fine. I’ll only have a few seconds before anyone else shows up.
            I’ve broken into so many internment camps and this won’t be the last.
            The guard walks into the right spot.
            My heartbeat pounds my chest, but I can work through it. The stress bothered me the first few times I broke into internment camps.
            Time to move; the guard won’t stand there forever.
            I hooked up a net to a jeep with a pulley system in the front. I fire the net at the first guard and retract the cable. The net drags the guard as he kicks and screams. Before the other guards can comprehend the situation, I throw a bola at one. A bola is a throwing weapon with weights on the end of connected strings. I hit him in the face and knock him out. I aimed for his legs. I’m close enough to the last guard to take him down by hand. I flip him over with one hand, spin around and knock him out with one blow. The first guard struggles to get out of the net. I get to him before he can untangle his radio.
            I’m certain someone heard him yelling.
            A camp this size would usually have more guards. Before my onslaught, I heard a guard say something about budget cuts. I wondered if my vigilantism influenced the government. As yet, I have no notion that my presence worries anyone in government, but they know of me. They captured me once.
            I open the gate easily, but my concerns are for the people being held captive; the prisoners being locked up because they exist and having committed no crimes, hated for who they are. Society got persuaded by hate speeches started by one man. The politician turned dictator. Ronald Teagun. The Tommy Gun. He earned his nickname because of his own love for firearms and T-gun was slang for the semi-automatic Thompson rifle, or Tommy gun. The only difference between Teagun and the Thompson; Teagun had killed more people than all the Thompson rifles combined. Then the election made him the leader of the richest country in the world. People are idiots.
            I know where the prisoners are being held. My mission is to get them to safety and then destroy the compound. Years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I could do something like that. Now it feels like second nature.
            Four more guards come from around a building. I throw a smoke grenade and switch my face cover to infrared visuals. The guards stumble through the smoke and I pick them off one at a time.
            I find the building with the prisoners. I place explosive charges on one side of the building and then on the fence nearest the building. My planned exit strategy.
            Another guard wanders over without realizing I am there.
            “Hey! Who the hell are you?”
            I detonate the charges and the wall falls on him. People are clamoring inside, and this makes it easy to take out the guards. There are so many prisoners, mostly women and children. Many of them have torn shirts around their heads as hijabs. Devout to the end I guess. I hear someone shouting at me, but I only catch two words.
            “Al Hafiz!”
            They speak Arabic. I only understand Al Hafiz because I chose that for my codename. I guess they’ve heard of me. They are all staring at me, confused. They don’t know what to do. I blow the charges on the fence giving them a way out. It probably made a cool silhouette from their perspective.
            As they all run to the open fence, I run off to blow the compound. I am hoping the camp’s armory has more explosives. I can only carry so much with me. Unfortunately, there are more guards to fight. I see prisoners fighting them. And the prisoners are winning. They take rifles and create a nice distraction, so I can get to work.
            I am forced to break into every building. Normally this would be time consuming, but the breakout has everyone preoccupied. Three buildings later, I find the armory and it has a ridiculous number of explosives. I take all I need and even a couple more Kevlar vests; you can never have too many. I set charges on every building. They are close enough to set each charge off after each explosion. All the explosives in the armory will create an awesome big boom.
            I set the charges; I punch in sixty seconds on the timer and run like hell. The guards and prisoners keep fighting. I throw a flash bomb to disorient everyone. I throw people through the fence. I remove weapons, so no one can keep firing. And then I hear the booms. It almost sounds like fireworks; almost. I run a separate direction from the prisoners. The guards don’t care about anyone anymore. Both objectives are complete; another successful mission.

An excerpt from the novella The Tommy Gun. Available for free on Kindle on February 22, 2019 only.