Ladies and gentlemen - yeoman - natives of any stripe and all ships at sea let's go to press .....

Radio crackled a dusty Ian & Sylvia tune, while the girl shook me down - what's mine is yours, baby ... competent, without a craftsmans flair, but mebby the piny mountain smell distracted.   I figured a carnal  freelancer  or one of the  dedicated hangers-on ... a violence-groupy? For second-line security she knew her business; she gave me time to think,  shivering naked, but not time to feel a professional side that ignored intention. That error would kill her cell soon enough. What reporter doesn't bitch ; had she found a wire she would have shot-me-dead with the 38-cal S&W leather strapped to her bare waist. Then she snapped on the sneeze rap. First the ACHU laws, then sneeze ... you could gag on the young, earnest male voice ... smarmy for my taste and too determined.  He flogged some  constitutional outrage, then started pounding the riff-raff  ...  nancy-boyz, wog, kfir, sand-nigger ... I wondered if  the station  gagged on professional voices? So I wanted to shoutfocus, project, identifyya twit! Project out-of the movement - twit. Yeah, right ... forget it. But the girl ... she  lacked none of those virtues ...  I studied her face - an open blushing face from which her hair flew out every-which-way pushing everything out front ... she had re-buttoned the Sears flannel shirt that her breasts pushed up and like her hands, jeans rough-worn and washed fresh ...  they  carried oxygen bitter smells of  outside drying --  yeah she projected just fine and revealed nothing.  Appearances count ... when you report them nothing else counts.

Internet readers donate only 7-seconds to an ezine - no exception granted to HRI.  From splash-screen to the lead,  ya got seven seconds to bury into a websurfers reptile brain. That's my rap -  HRI drives a metal spike clean, hot, virtual ... not a human voice at all. The dame, the camp, cabin ... I didn't feel that sense of urgency here.  So whethersneeze smarm and the girls smooth action  got reported as  who-what-when-where-why,  a part of the interview our've  ... I decided  character decisions got dumped to the rewrite. Better to know end-of- story, and that's me as much as anything before gushing a lonesome first paragraph.  Trailing HRIsdid made you part of the story ... I'd learned that fast.

Ever considered capping a pig, I thought self-conscious like a slow nights lead-in  or blowing a power-line ... and figured it was the right thing to do? Is Jefferson your god and Paine the high-priest? Casual readers might entertain those fantasies, and  think they sensed out're intentions in me. Did my techno-savvy readers sense  a reporters inner eye as well as feelings of  the hard and desperate men I interviewed? Crap! Who needed lies with truth like that? Those fantasies, imagined and brought  screaming to life sure ...

I scratch down such thoughts random and insecure ... another personal trip-note after the banging, slamming drive  miles up a gravel road, my mouth  gagged and eyes blindfolded. We had first driven two lane asphalt an hour north of Truckee. What's it worth to be inside a terror cell?Yes I was, trailing  a serious man and at first I figured the dame just stood in my way or made the path longer or steeper or slower ...  time matters. Once you've found readers, nothing else really matters, not to a reporter. A story  gets read happens now and here,  even a patriot militia story or it's yesterdays news ... nothing.

I was cold.Stop talking to yourself, Will Scranton ...  it makes slow news ugly. Cold and slow - ever feel that way?

"You finished?" I said it irritated. She had given back my clothes and watched in the careless way satisfied women do  while I put them on. I shivered kneeling, lacing up the Chippiwas. Beside her, a shotgun leaned  on the bookcase. I rapped."Some detail, huh sweets,  maybe you missed ...?"

"In your dreams, cowboy."  She had lit a Camel, smoking it blandly."If you suffered I didn't notice.  Still, I had to search for a wire."

Self-conscious ... she was working on me that way, certain and smooth like wax on the shotguns maple grip."Your machines ..." I pointed to a rectangular metal grid at the door."Isn't that what the machine does?"

"Only  metals. The Federals are ever so clever these days with conducting plastics."

"But not clever enough to shut down thesneeze." I pointed at the radio."The kid ever shut up?" She said nothing ... smooth, self-contained ... I probed for a crack."For broadcasting,  your people use a van? They must." I listened a bit closer."The hesitations ... the voice is  live, isn't it."

Dame bit her lip."I'm not to be interviewed cowboy!  Now  am I - Mr Will Scranton the oh-so-famous and  connected reporter? The Websconnected right side, they call you. Not  time enough for me -  it's the Ferryman you need.  He'll decide what or if you know."

"Not you though ..." I let the words hang out."You seem like the talkative type ... I'm sensitive to what people expect of themselves."Maybe I thought she owed me something.

Her shrug brushed me off."If  we actually didn't trust you, Will --- ."

Casual ...  words hung dead in the air. I could fill in that dead-space'... right-wing web jockey found dead of  blood loss and no head ...'

The dame blushed before she giggled, a little girl quick, happy sound."They're Gods hands he gave me." For her that settled it - whatever she thought IT might be. She blew a long thin grey stream of  smoke toward the door."As for your sensitivity -   it's more than I expected  in a short man."  Her womans flush unguarded, optimistic ...  she had slipped the chair after lighting her cigarette, and paraded to an open window her face turning over a shoulder to talk behind ..."When you leave, if you leave, we'll give you something makes a shit - just to be sure."

"Be sure anytime ya want, sweetheart."

"Do you try to be a pig?"

"Pig? Before ya hate me,  try gent. Usually I let a dame stay all night."

"Hate is a corrupted word, cowboy ..." Curls of cigarette smoke wreathed her mouth."When you're not writing ... if you write ..."

I hacked as the smoke reached me. I'd had the cough for months; city smog I figured and lungs not accustomed to the bitter, high-country air.  Outside the cabin an ax-head chipped patiently. I'd seen the man as we drove in,  heard the patient chip-chip-chip ... a lumberjack, and that wasn't half  his job so the cold ripple across my neck told me. He had been whacking  at fresh Chestnut logs  ...  Chestnut  - food, shelter and warmth to an enterprising militiaman. It made you believe in coincidence. Without corrupting rot,  chestnut trees had flourished since the climate changes ... the chainsaw lay on the ground behind him.

She had passed by without a word, padding through the fresh-blown leaves.Ax and saw and lumberjack ... all of it, the entire gothic scene had made me itchy. Those same  padding,leather sole mocassins  now scrape the brick floor and echo right up to thick, rough-finished pine rafters. It was that kind of  cabin ...  this room  stripped clean as a womans bare azz and nothing sat on the brick beside the firebox, bookcase and  oak table plain as a Quaker. A  storage room of sorts  came to mind ... where the past is stored ...

"Damn," I spit."Are you threatening me? What do you mean - if I write?"

Something outside had caught her attention. Sound or shadow - up here in high Sierra woods  north-west wind never stops ...  every branch a flag - or snow skiffed on ledges north side  ...  The wind had stiffened, driving cool September air. It had snowed, she said, night-before last, but sun  had skimmed it away dry - leaves  red and yellow rustled.  And she, with the small, feral interest in such things  a child might  have tuned out just burying her focus ...

Then she turned easily to me and snapped."Don't be coy, Will!"

I snap back."Threat's same as a whack! I shoot straight, sweetheart. You too! That's the deal - in and out.  I get the Ferryman interview ... no threats, no interference no ... none of theprodding ..."

She continued studying the woods, talking to them and away from me, her hair like blond camo that said 'watch me don't listen ...'"We don'tprod the press, as you say  or threaten. We look for those interested in our project, and for steel where it's least expected ...  reporters like you."

Her voice slid into you effortless ... like a cold knife-blade. I slapped back at her."Did I say I supported you?"

"The question is  one of  interests, not what you believe."

Reporters like me ... I thought about that, what the dame figured I believed, what upsidedown spin she counted on ... She'd spun me all ready - I had figured me first ...  made my gut squirm, what could have happened to thefirst. I hacked twice, and my voice came out gravel."Let's say I finish, huh? The Brothers approached me, remember ...?  Like the others. You needed me! They, or you or the Ferryman wanted to go public. First the rap, me and the Ferryman one on one, that's the deal no preview questions and no editing of my notes. Then I publish the interview, and my story on HRI . That and the photos."

"Photos have been canceled, Will."

"What! By whom?"

"The council."

I stop - step back and suck in thin mountain air ... I had been close enough  to grab her ass and she might have liked it - again ... she ... I ... she and I, people like us had learned to like quickly, in these days only an optimist would calltroubled. And I thought it's been  a year ... twelve months since the shooting started: since the rabble had organized, or been organized ... I knew people who wondered about that, or worried whether American patriots could ever NOT be organized ... raid, counter-raid and daylight ambush following yet another legal atrocity.  And almost exactly three year since I'd met the first of the disaffected and disowned patriot militia and  slapped their stories across my Website.

Arrogant really, calling it HRI ...  the left or right of political economy didn't count much now, and the sides ...  Americans cutting down Americans - bloody combat  for the sake of America the emotions crossed all  classes except that of power.  A few cynics smirked and saidlook closely , but ...   the girl shivered and stretched, her hair grazing top of the open window as if she had expected my hands. A hack sunk into my lungs made me see white stars and sent me spitting brown slime into the firebox ... then I said."What council ... which council. There is no council, only the Ferryman."

"Something else for your story, if you get to write it!"

"Garbage. It's leaderless resistance." The girl, who's name I had as Brenda, but I didn't believe the name just turned puckering her full lips and grinning.  I insisted!"The Brothers  organization, if it deserves the name organize is a 9x9  leaderless cell matrix. No top no bottom. The Ferryman is number 81. There is not an 82 ..."

"Who gave you the number 81?" I said nothing."Did you get that number from an NG, or do you know some-one in the cells?"

I smirked."If I didn't have that number ... clueless writers don't get  invited do they ... I wouldn't be here, now would I."

She started to blurt, and choked it back."How many hits does HRI get a day?"

"I figure that's the first thing you'd check. Sure we're hot! On a newsless day, about 17000 clicks ...  only a thousand less read-throughs."

"Oh really? This month?"

"It varies ... sometimes we run higher ... much, much higher but you know that."

"Bet it does," she was scoffing, playing with buttons on her blouse."Your hits just fly up before another HRI interview ... true or false, theory  and speculation. Has anyone mentioned you talk the same way you write?"

"Nobody I care about."

She swallowed a laugh."Your rants, Will - they get long-toothed." Dame was chewing on her lower lip ..."Pay your own bandwidth?"

"No, sweetheart I take recruiting ads for the Navy, pay coders with Special-K tabs and glue  servers together with pine-tar."

Brenda smirked."Don't start spitting, Will. Anyway you're more attractive silent, when you don't talk. I can imagine you padding away at your keyboard. Lonely nights I imagine, at HRI." She walked to the firebox and spread her hands into the warmth. I followed close ... she didn't look around, but said casually.

"Do you casually fuck your female editors?"

"When they've nothing better to do."

"Why haven't the Federals closed it down?"

"Closed HRI?" She had set me up for that shot ...  I expected it."There are still laws - some laws ... I don't know, really  ... they could cut my fat pipes in seconds.  Maybe ... maybe  to Federal Web Security  I'm a source. At first they didn't mind ... maybe it was the New Israel series ..."

Cold from the open window and warmth from the iron and Brendas smell and the unstudied way she stood quiet ... it was easy to drift ... I don't remember talking out loud, but maybe I did. New Israel, huh, or when the Rapture comes early.

Fscking bloody swill!That  series of interviews,  and pictures of butchery had been the third  issue of HRI.  Words and pictures recorded under the unremitting fire of Arab 120s ... they're a nasty South African gun firing ballistics so fast and so flat you're head's razored off and you're dead before you're surprised.  I damned near died with the zine, but on that Palestine copy and blood and fields of burned-out  Jewish and Arab corpses we both lived fat. After the 4-th war ...  after the Syrians and Iraqis and Egyptians had captured by surprise and  treachery the Negev.  And captured  most Israeli nuclear weapons.

In  2005 the Americans exchanging blood for oil had left conquered Iraq in the hands of Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish and French mercenaries. First the Turks, then French departed leaving Egyptian generals to organize a regional all-Arab confederation. Only one target existed. I had reported the treachery as speculation and got HRI its first million-hit day.  Common knowledge, really, that  a liberal Jewish scientist at NOAA had spotted the  Israelie nukes, their underground neutron signature and passed it along to his French boyfriend. And French intelligence passed the photos around like syphilis.

Five-thousand years of bad blood  had been waiting ... and Cain slew Able. Al Jihad had gone in with sarin and mass parachute attacks - thousands floated into the hardened Negev compound.    And of thousands a few dozen  Mujadheeden reached the underground bunkersholding the Israeli nukes.  Two small neutron bombs - borrowed from the Kazaks -  sterilized the Israeli warheads.  Them gone, Arab armies had  massed and over-run Jerusalem ... its smoking, dead remains ... and poisoned Haifa with plague, ebola, dengue .... America pissed, but  when two plane-loads of marines were shot down, and  three more plane-loads died of Ebola within a week of landing in Haifa ...  having seen death-up-close ...  America closed its borders and backed away.

On the ground, Zionists and Moujid butchery reigned. After the initial savage exchanges, remnant Zionists had taken refuge in the Judean hills and shook out what hell remained.  Damascus and Bagdad had been vaporized - the slaughter went hand-to-hand. Some thought it Biblical justice, that  this time only the Northern tribes survived,  where five years of butchery still found them living and fighting from the caves ... I'd spent three months  in Samaria, near Kedesh living like a mole for an interview only to have the bastard die on me. My cough ... perhaps it had started in those caves - I can't remember ...

I caught the mind-drift, and looked sharply at Brenda." Then, now ...  plenty of sharp people think for the Federals. The pay's good, I understand ...  My server is fully compromised - they're sure of it -  backdoors to the OS ... keyboards loggers ...  windowpane vibrations monitored ...  bastards think they get my stories two days before they go online."

She turned quick her hands on my shoulders and kissed my cheek."Is it compromised, HRI? Are you?"

"Sweetheart one persons gift is anothers blowjob."

Her hand brushed my neck ..."And are you connected ... or just experienced?" And when I said nothing she padded back to the window.

Crap questions! The kind of friendly question cats ask trapped canaries ...  that sort of crap took me nowhere, so I said nothing.  She tapped on her wristwatch. Her cheeks flushed Gaelic and unhurried ... at peace, I thought and in a natural way, slow.  Whatever had caught her eye outside was gone ... or had been caught.  Her grin said that.  She closed the shutter,  then  opened a cabinet ...  a Baretta 32-caliber appeared which got tucked into her belt, and she handed the digicam batteries to me."I'll  supply a publicity shot when you leave - if you leave - a shot of the Federal Marshall we took down last month in Big Pine.  Better hurry, now. Bones is a busy man."

"What Marshall?"

"Write your fingers to the bone, cowboy."


"The Ferryman,  he's a physician, you know."

Behind me, the door slammed shut.  A solid door - the cabin hadn't been built in a weekend. Ax-trimmed log walls and a brick floor ...  if you wanted to build this solid you could ... with determined people, people who intended to stick around. I didn't know many like that.  Not that I wasted time with riff-raff, or common criminals, but the Federals changed a hunted man. I'd seen it - smelled it!  My previous interviews had been with men on the lam, haunted men all but caught and skinned. We  met in cold dark cars, shabby motels or rock ledges half-way down some hard-pan arroyo. Haunted, ghostly men ...  some had been intellectuals, and many were fools.

I pictured the girl ...  but that's not you, is it, a fool for love ... and  not THE BROTHERS ... their cell matrix  arrays were big and growing and aggressive. Support  came not just from among the left-behind cowed and bitter ...  support  stiffened within the productive craft, engineering and scientific classes - those demolished by a global workforce and  anger murmured within the government itself - some said a cell existed in Congress, another at Cheyenne Mountain. Mindshare and money ...  THE BROTHERS had been smart.  Too smart I figured to allow formation of a central council. Me too ... the dame outside now, and I'm inside ... I made a note of that, what I felt  ... she might have wanted to join me - us - she hadn't hated me or been disgusted I was a visitor who before and after would be safe ... even saved, by the Federals cause they had their purpose in allowing me free - sure of it. Christ!

Ya wondered sometimes which circle has your name burned in, and who'd pray for your damned soul ...  I was in a long, narrow corridor lined with pine studs. A bare ceiling bulb lit a second door at the end, and  half way down a third door slightly ajar. I picked that one.

Natural light filled the room. In one corner  stood a metal-frame bed.Rough wool blankets in red and black triangular Hopi design  covered  it ... mountains red and black and sharp-edged like teeth of a saw. Christ, some old squaw  threw it ... took her a winter I bet buttoned up on peyote ... what did she know?  A lever 44-40 caliber was racked against a bookcase. It had been honorable, once, books and rifles ... use had worn the receiver bluing, in places, but the metal still smelled of gun oil. Other side,  an oak-pegged desk reached  toward the center with its maple top wax shiny.  Deer-hide covered the chair. The fireplace sat on fieldstone close enough to reach with a poker - The fire was fresh now, and licked at iron vents, the entire scene as well ordered as it was artless. But  you'd think aboutclose on a cold evening with embers burning low ... a coffee-pot gave off warmth and the smells of home-grind. Two cups sat on a table.

Through the patio door I could see  bleached rock edges of a lake. Three canoes were drawn up to the wooden dock. Other side of the table was a low window, its  glass double-paned, like the patio door  ... thick glass not the paper-thin condo stuff . Windows and doors built to hold against Sierra winters, or creatures coming in from the winter. A man could live in a room like this ...   I didn't exactly lust for measured living ... but I scribbled furiously. It had once been honorable ... all of it ...  the American Gothic scene  both rude and determined and my  city readers  more comfortable skinning browsers than deer would eat it up like Aunt Jemima ... while HRI drove it into their reptile brains till they glowed red-white-blue.

A trail led up to the cabin.I heard  boots crunch on gravel. A man in a black check shirt and Levis fetched onto the patio. He left the glass door open ... the outside blew in full of pine and laurel smells and dry-leaf tannins ... and the fresh, clear, autumn stench that sometimes forms over a lake or inside it at 7000 feet. I'd been cold all day, but dry, fresh bitterness and mountain chill still surprised me.

It had surprised us all, the sudden cooling in the North West. Not just here, of course, thesuddeness had become global. I'd seen the same quick autumn in New England ... as perhaps autumns arrived in 1710, not 2010.  Average earth temperatures had risen just under two degrees. Weather patterns danced parching Australia, Brasil and Chile, but  where temperatures did not rise, north of the equator they had dramatically fallen.

Blame it on water. The Gulf Stream ... with warming temperatures in the southern Hemisphere, and  lowered ocean salt, the Gulf-Stream unable to burrow and drive its warm waters north now  fumbled along  Carolinas ragged coast and dumped into the Chesapeake Bay. The broad southern current narrowed, swung west toward  barrier islands and tunneled its warmth and wealth into Virginia ...  coastal lowlands had become impenetrable rainforests!  Barrier islands silted and grew and connected forging a virtual  inland sea from Charleston to Norfolk. Damnable climate bleated the nancy-boyz, and simultaneously heaven sent for militia yeoman.

Extremes favor the bold. In its new outpouring the Gulfstream  had mothered new geographs,  though the warm current  moved no farther north. Last year the Hudson River had froze solid November through May and a marathon was scatted from West Point to Manhattan. New England frosted white and deep. Nothing moved then, in Boston Harbor  last year and the year before ...  except  recent immigrants moving out. Not everyone had adjusted well. Old Yankees had damned bleating  Ha'vad  liberals who in turn demanded more Algerian gas and Tennessee electricity - new power-lines snaked north ... and were regularly blown away. Southron and  Great Lakes militias based in the more dense and less hospitable forests had adjusted well ... and driven mechanized Federals from swamp and swale ... driven them in a snarling, bloody rush back to the cities.

Our Left Coast didn't escape. Warm Southern Pacific water west of Chile had driven the Japanese Current two-hundred miles farther north, into the Gulf of Alaska. The mass of cold water sitting south of Japan spilled against the Alaskan panhandle both cooling the Arctic and being cooled before  the current  swung south. Jet-stream winds followed ... summer temperatures  fell seven degrees along the western coast -  winter temperatures fell eleven. It gave new meaning to the dour, northwest temperament, and spine to the disaffected. Snow blanketed beaches from Bremerton to Moro Bay.

Ice-breakers kept  Seattle and Portland harbors open last  winter ... the effects moved inland, striking a cold wet arc between Vancouver and Las Vegas. Six  month long snows piled into the Cascades and Sierras, where tunnels were now being dug to re-open the Interstates. Fat chance! May blizzards and glaciers following them grew down into Sierra passes as did the Western militias.

East and West, the polar oscillator driving cold air south had frozen open. Northern climate and the culture of northern freemen  ...  the change had happened so fast; I shivered thinking better about removing my jacket. And wondering how Brenda stayed warm at night and who walked the 4-AM post?

Dreams ... Gent at the door  -  watching ... quiet - not a type to worry about 4-AM or about cold. I figure that fast! He unslings the Kalishnikov and pauses ... scratching  short, thick, curly hair - his other hand fixed to his belt from which dangles a brass compass. What do I recognize? Grey hawks eyes  - seems to me they quietly and acutely feel for  betrayal. Not me pal ...  his face ...  a clean shaven face - rough, dark ... a   face unremarkable except for the nose.  Roman ... earlier, I think ... Above an erect frame that nose without arrogance buried in time to men set sail  with no compass, save their own two eyes ... yes,  ruthless eyes and a harsh god -- yes -- not Roman that nose, but  ... it buried back straight  to Carthage.

No ceremony. We shake  hands and he says."Please be seated, Mr Scranton."

"You the Ferryman?" No raptor glare, no tired musing. Plenty of nos ... I shuffled uncomfortable."Call me Will ..."

"If you insist on casual."A bowl of roast chestnuts appeared. Steam rose from the two cups of camp coffee.He and I sat down across the table. From his shirt pocket  he extracted a pack of Camels and  offered me one."Call me Bones."

"Bones it will be," I said. Then I rolled the Camel Straight around my palm."Camels ... the official fag of the revolution."

"We don't sell banner ads, Mr Scranton."

'Prick', I thought. I don't always dislike a person straight off ... prefer starting an interview on the light-side, allowing conversation to drift ... drifting away from questions anticipated and pat answers to the viscera  readers of  the Internet darkside  so love. Dominating ... it wasn't happening now ....

"A pleasant adventure so far, Mr Scranton," Bones japed  without irony?

"Yeah, sure, Bones ... Brenda's a real charmer, except for the gag and hood."

"American made ..."

Damn the bastard.  I drop a lead brick."I did a survey, Bones. Most readers of HRI don't believe Jews ... Jews and Negroes, say,  are members of THE BROTHERS."

Bones lit his cigarette."We never recruit members. A citizen sees his duty, a cell appears then links then vanishes. ..."

"Is that an answer?"

"Each citizen answers for his choice."

"Same for the militia cells, huh Bones?  I've heard that Apaches train with some of your cells. Don't you think that's  extreme ... even for nativists? I mean ..."

Again Bones voice snapped."Yes indeed, we butchered them ... before learning what virtue they taught." Bones eased back his chair on two legs."For sake of the land, g*ds mercy will judge our motives."

"God, mercy and virtue huh ..." I look cross the room."Nice Winchester."

"It was my fathers rifle, and mine. I killed my first mule deer with it, and first bear. Grizzlies have pretty much vanished now, but perhaps harsher weather will bring them back. You approve of the colder weather?"

"Sure, I keep my Alpine Meadows ski-pass up-ta-date!"  When Bones said nothing  I sucked on the Camel and prodded."Bears, yeah, right ... dogs, really aren't they? Like Jews, Negros, Indians they all vanish into ..." Bones said nothing. I stirred a brown sugar-cube into the coffee. The taste was maple. I said."But there's plenty that doesn't vanish, eh Bones? A mans evil lives on, no matter what ya do with the bones ... The murder of Judge Pearlstein ... now THAT   was a public event - he, and  Congressman O'Hare."

"Do your readers really care, Mr Scranton?" Bones eyed me closely, measuring ..."Murder by no means, but  yes, we did execute them."

So came the electric, between us. I gave no sign and Bones didn't care. The militia had made its peace with the killings a matter of principle, as it was a matter of power for the Federals. And for me a matter of ...  I dragged on the Camel and looked beyond Bones to the Kalishnikov leaning against  hand-chipped log.

I say."Murder, execute ...  none of the mainline patriot groups celebrated.  Both the Michigan and Missouri militias disowned the action. They called it  grandstanding after Pearlsteins decision in the so-calledsneeze case ..." Again I was fishing for a rise, a lead-in and got nothing."'Course the media ... the Jewish media called it a hate crime."

Bones jumped on that  bare shin."As you know, we reject the concept of hate crime."

"But you hated Pearlstein!"

"We respect  justice and love freedom, Mr Scranton. You know, as we do that Stalinists have corrupted the meaning of  words -  especially words such as hate and crime. Hate is a private emotional state, basically unresolved even for the owner. Our actions are well considered. We do not promote  hate. Crime is physical behavior violating the social contract. Freedom of speech and association define the American social contract. We do not tolerate crime."

I'm scribbling the rant furiously, then look up."Yeah ... yeah, so the posters said. Now thosedid make the news,  the parchment scripts you nailed to the tree Pearlstein hung from."

"From which we hung the traitor, yes!  We know well  the judges hate and his crime - he spoke for the  Ninth Circuit Court, wrote the majority decision upholding the AHCU law, so violating his oath to uphold the Constitution."

"ACHU ... the sneeze law ... that's it? That's the cause?"

"The cause is liberty, but if  you need a excuse -!"

"Yeah maybe so ...  excuse, cause ... we all read Thucydides, but ... but  even your supporters called that execution  impatient justice. How can a law survive that legislates affection, love ... with felony penalties for violation ... and making it illegal, a hate crime to speak against the law!"

"Your patience with tyranny is admirable, Mr Will Scranton," Bones jibed sarcastic."But even had that law survived one day --  we have been patient for justice."

"Nice slogan, Bones ... 'patient for justice ...' , but I'll bet Pearlstein wished the rope was a bit longer ..." I chuckled humorless - Bones impasssive ..."No doubt,  Pearlestein and the Nineth-Circuit over-reached in ACHU ...  But look, a dozen political groups are appealing that decision."

"That many?" Bones laughed."Groups lacking stiff spines, free thought, and promoting commercial  agendas of their own. Damnable vices! Mark well,  we don't wish a culture with thin merchants and fat women, but free speech - it's much more than sonic crack and video heroin ... an appendage of advertising and media."

"HA! Sonic crack. Nice phrase, Bones ya oughta make it copyright," I laughed and got up hasty,  walking to the patio door, and breathing deep.  Lungs full of pine and clean mountain stench which brought on the hacking ....  hacking and I stood there tear-eyed till it left me.

"You need that cough looked after, Will. We all must make decisions about our vices ..."

"Sure, Bones I'll get an X-ray ..."  I wondered how deep was the rot, and how personal ...  What reporter doesn't worry about emotional involvement.  I walked back toward the table talking fast."Vices? Not so thoughtless, all those commercial interests.   Pearlsteins  railed against the First Amendment;  that's thecommercials judgement.  An overwrought attack against the freedom to sell! The 9-th Circuits decision decision looks shaky as dry pea-pods if ... if-and-when  it's brought before theSupremes."

"Overwrought." Bones smiled to himself then his face stiffened."And  tyrannous on its face, both words and actions. With the UN cheering, and  O'Hare beside them  the Audio Hate Crime Units started busting radio stations the day after Pearlsteins decision. ACHU was a pre-programmed decision of limitless reach, by  a close cabal for the globalists benefit and none other."

"I've heard the speech, Bones."

"Have you felt the claws of that unholy law?"

"On the web we buy smart and sell quick ... the meek are skinned and the weak, eaten." I'd given that speech before -  cold sweat dribbled down my neck."The chattery class feels different. Most eastern media supported the AHCU decision.We need to become more like THEM,they said.WE need more physical poverty and emotive entwinement with ..."

Bones rapped hard."Entwined  with  closely held power, and emotocentric rabble --- a global camp of the saints!"

"Emotocent, huh ... another new word ..." I rapped back."Heh everybody has their own devil, eh Bone?  Those who opposed  AHCU ...   small  weekly rags and local radio stations ...  as the popular media portrays them morally corrupt rubes, yobes,  doobs ... racists with nothing decent to say about ..."

Bones sat back heavily in the chair and sipped at the metal mug of coffee."Corrupt for speaking truth? Certainly nothing decent may be said of  those hating the American yeoman - you know the names as well as I do - ghetto bucks, Shari-fied wogs, Zogs and globalists." Bones glanced into the firebox and back at me."What  power Fascists ... Stalinists could not win by the rifle and knife, they have wormed in through law."

"ZOGS? That's almost funny, coming from you ...  oh yeah, Bones we northern Europeans made a paradise."

"We made nothing! North Americawas a paradise, an exception, g*ds grace. A yeoman family could survive, practice its crafts, pass them on freely ... The world recognized that ...  hated it and us   even as we butchered natives who had preserved it.  We had preserved something of that paradise, through the Constitution.  No, Mr Will Scranton in response to ACHU treason I  think harsh words purify."

"But the 3rd World approved, EU ministers drooled and the French ... especially the Frogs ... how they raved ..."

Bones spit."Corrupt French bastards ... decadent and corrupt." He rolled the coffee-mug around his palm."Continental Europe has been decadent since Aquinas and corrupt since Voltaire. We should, and we shall let the Slavs eat them - when they take a mind to."

"Eat Frogs ? Ha!" I had to laugh out loud."But suchcaring, corruption, Bones ...  ACHU rapped it all into such pleasant smelling mental opium. The UN had proclaimed emotional contentment a human right ... empathy a required behavior ... and patriot American radio stations guilty of causing mental distress."

Chin and forehead and neck muscles strained as he replied."Brothers once - at first we despaired because once Europe had been brothers in freedom and now - and now traitors. Oh yes Mr Will Scranton,  O'Hare and Pearlstein found a way to agree ... course not thesame way.  Pearlstein found justification for AHCU in tyranous, treaty-making powers of the President. So they argued,  the UN diktates and as members we must comply.  O'Hare argued from the rights of immigrants, all of whom he considered disabled and worthy of special protection."

"Protection from citizens ..." I rapped,  fishing for the quick, hard response and got nothing from Bones. I continued."Some of those small,  citizen radio stations called for direct action. Nobody had any doubt what they meant by direct action."

"And now, neither do Pearlstein or O'Hare."

That point went to Bones, but it was a cheap point of rhetoric and he wasn't smiling. His attitude, his bearing seemed to oscillate between a kind of  personal, lonesome triumph and foreboding ... between lines I scratched on my yellow sheet ... fill them in - I couldn't do that ...  anyway  an interview wasn't a debate. Everybody knew thesneeze law sucked ... almost everybody ...

I chewed my coffee for a moment then slapped back."But about  the  Federal Marshall ... did you need to kill him?"

"So Brenda mentioned  that man?"

"Photos no less."

Bones face showed nothing."A brave Federal soldier, that Marshall,  a strong man. He fought and died well." Bones fingers messed together."About the killing,  if we didn't intend destroying the Federals - destroying them  and saving the June Lake cell, no we didn't."

"If the Brothers weren't terrorists, you mean."

"What I mean I say. We water the liberty tree with blood.  Terror is not an issue."

"The Marshall ... he got inside?"

"Not at all. Brenda said nothing?" I shook my head. Bones rapped."That marshall had tracked a line of  drug money,  north from Vegas. Our money and our man carrying it."

I said incredulous."Drugs?"

A crease broke on the right side of Bones face running from  temple to throat. The crease belonged to an old man ... Bones was not an old man ... I was sure he had been young. Bones scratched at it then said."Drugs, money - drugs are the international currency, don't you agree Will?" He said nothing for a bit."We busted a cartel  bank in Monterey. Belonged to the Cali people, and the DEA. Seventy-five million dollars, transferred from  swollen American noses to us. There was some shooting, of course and people died."

"Some of yours?"

"Bones shrugged."

"How many of theirs?"

"Is that important?"

"Like they say, Bones if it bleeds it leads!"

"Three hundred - mostly Mex . We got the cash out in an armored truck. Perhaps we acted too optimistic, not going ground in a border town. Perhaps we should have waited while pots boiled. But no, we kept moving the money north. That Federal Marshall happened on our man at a rest stop.Terror  was not an issue."

"Only 300, huh..." I rapped skeptically and whistled"Sounds pretty sloppy ... first all those dead Mex, then your man leaving a green paper trail. Is that is an issue?"

"That man the Marshall shot dead."

"Oh ...  then well no, not  terror for this killing, if there was such a killing ..." I put one hand on the table beside my yellow notepad."Papers, TV ... the Web ... nothing! What dead  Federal Marshal," I insisted?

Bones leaned forward - I lit both cigarettes. For an instant he stared right through me, a searching look, then eased back."Course the media has said nothing. No public mention will be made. If they know, and  some do I guess. We killed efficiently, and the Marshals body  flown to New Mexico. It burned in the forest fires."

I hacked hard, till the smoke hit my lungs."So ... so how do you expect ..."

"A response?" Bones face turned up."As I said, we aren't interested in terror. They know, Mr Scranton. The Federals are experienced counting their own."

"Not the first - that's what you're telling me?"

"Their soldiers and ours of course!  In such matters, as success flows first one way then another on a battlefield  precise body counts can be misleading," Bones said with an air of finality. He was silent, for a while.

Expensive coffee I've tasted before ... people get tired of it, expensive coffee and political abstraction. I asked."When I came in Brendas radio was playing asneeze. A live broadcast less I miss a guess ...  the Federals have closed most  militiasneeze stations. How do you evade?"

"The Federals would like to know, now wouldn't they."

"Screw the Feds -  so would other broadcasters ..."

Bones studied me for a moment."Fair enough.  We relay using an induction mechanism over the power lines." He laughed."Setting filters and a horn transmitter on isolated towers is a simple matter of, well, climbing."


"The transmitters? We form them in an owls shape." Bones chuckled to himself , stretching in the chair and glancing out the patio door.  You know how the Federals hate to shoot owls."

"And the undetected live recording?"

"What does it take, but a mike and  line-of-sight modulated laser. An SUV stationed beneath a power line completes the loop. AND  in real-time an editor may remove unfortunate, revealing phrases."

"That your idea, the real-time action, or Brendas ..." Bones hand waved dismissively."Could you broadcast from here?" Bones said nothing ... I glanced round the room, through the patio door to lakeside and canoes drawn up close."Can you live here ..."

"If you mean can we hide here, well, we don't really hide anywhere. Leaderless resistance means not just no Capi'tain-des-armes; that's a hidy-hole too, a mental one. Likewise we do not bind ourselves to any building. Where we work we live, and as the modern expression goes however we think we work locally."

Bones smiled and got up from the table, walked to the fireplace and pokered the coals. Tossed in another log."Do you think we live too casual here, Mr Will Scranton?"

"Some of the New Jersey militia live in trash dumps ... so I understand ..."

"Where they live as free men."

"They live like rats!"

"For now,  we live as we must."

I pushed back in the chair."How did you get the name Ferryman? What did you have in mind,  the deliveryman, or boss of the rig? I understand the name BROTHERS was also your idea."

Bones again studied me."So many names ..." His  black, silver-tinged hair was neatly cropped and eyes hazel without red ... a  stiff chin and strong shoulders. Physicians are built like that -  I imagined, not a leader of killers.

"Who told you that," Bones asked coldly.

"One of the men who kidnapped Judge Pearlstein."

"Oh well, they wouldn't know, now would they?"

"The dame ... the woman who brought me here was one of them."

Bones laughed."Brenda, yes ... yes, she would know ..." He stood and  sipping at the coffee stalked to the open door."She knew and they didn't. The men are being used, of course ... they know that ... as I am being used." Bones turned quickly."The Council assigned my position the name Ferryman - something of a psych-war ploy I believed.  Likewise, they chose the name BROTHERS."

Quickly, I scratched it all on the yellow pad."So much for an unbreakable leaderless matrix."

"The name they chose not me."

"Breakable, Bones, that's the word! I mean the existence of a central council. They get penetrated, without exception and the entire organization under them rolled up, chewed up, distroyed ..."

"Did I say THE BROTHERS areunder the council?"

"So leadership's part of the leaderless matrix, that's what your saying? Spontaneous maybe ...? What feedback triggers a leader?" Bones said nothing."Is the dame ... what's-her-name ... a  Council member?"

"Brenda is a pleasant fuck."

I didn't think he answered the question."Who isn't?"

Bones stopped dead still."Do you believe in serious people, Mr Will Scranton?"

"Serious? Could be, but I don't know many."

"Must free men be serious men?"

"Not on Friday night."

Bones laughed, but his hazel eyes had gone dead still on me."Surely, Mr Scranton you're an educated man, a man who travels among responsible people, among the doers and builders and thinkers, as a reporter must ... how does it come to be that none are serious?"

"Did I say none?"

"What you meant to say wasnone that should!" Bones face drew back showing gaunt cheekbones."Few of the American yeomanry will protect his own."

I pushed my chair back."Yeomanry, huh ... American yeomanry ..."

Bones dropped both fists to the table."You mouth words like history lessons. Perhaps you believe only the judges, or Federal Marshalls ought to be serious men."

"Joe and Jane citizen ... or  Jack and Jill on the American hill? Most don't give a crap," I said stubbing out the butt," They want the digital pleasure needle ... music, sex-vids, vibros ... they want that virtual heroin drilled into their reptile brain. What they consume counts ... but who they answer to ... most don't care or  if they DO care enough to think about yeomanry they ridicule the term."

"So thoughtful slaves ridicule freemen. Insane? Or have most been led to a  deep hole or dead end.  Slaves led to failure? Or led to threats outside their comfort zone as the babblers would say;  they have been anesthetized by pain, something like that Mr Will Scranton?"

The jab I don't like - it points straight at me. I lean forward."Don't you agree, Bones, we all do what we can?" I had dropped the metal cup hard on the table and it rattled."The BROTHERS could kidnap Judge Pearlstein and they did."

"Pearlstein  and O'Hare had three guards and we killed them."

"Just marking territory, most would say ...."

"Oh would they now.  Cholos spraying  wall graffiti - that's what you think?" Bones had been watching out the door, but turned quickly to look at me."You don't like me much do you, Mr Will Scranton?"

"Does that matter," I rapped. A face might have commanded legions returned nothing ... neither anger nor disappointment nor craft.  I had plenty for both."No Bones I don't like ya much. I got problems with leaders who move fast - too fast to get hurt, but with their own people out front, and I got problems with leaders don't know their own reptile brain motivations."

"So only the reptile emotions lead us!  THAT's  it? Freedom, dignity, truth all as much lies for us as for the Federals? No, I don't think so Mr Will Scranton. Spraying graffiti, breaking windows - those behaviors express emotional states like hate. And THE BROTHERS reject hate as surely as we are aware of it! The thin line," Bones said heavily, scowling and then softly," a thin line that sets off the free yeomanry, and a narrow cultural stripe that preserves them. Pearlstein broke that line, in  ACHU  and invaded that stripe. The Federals through him invaded our freedom and we slapped them down bloody,  slapped them down hard!"

"So wherever the law falls, that's over the line ..."

"A  Federal would say that -  or more precisely  the  corporate Stalinists of all stripes insist that laws make the lines. Virtue becomes a creature of  corporate law and not of natures g*d. That is of course not our position, not the position of the American Constitution.  And  that all pervading corporate law is a corrupt, foul whorlwind."

"And  without the law ... who stands in that wind?"

Bones laughed harshly."Well spoken, Mr Will Scranton as a corrupt Jesuit might have spoken to his Talmudic clerk. But we know better, don't we."

Bitterness - I had expected it. We said nothing for several minutes, and I  finished scratching out  longhand rough  outlines of the room. On my  smooth yellow pad, the words caught none of the color or textures - thatdeepness ... I asked."But you don't reject boundaries, or you wouldn't fight. Just where does that line fall, Bones?"

"Do you want numbers?"

"Not all my readers can multiply."

"Ha-harhar and about yeomanry you dare ask." For a while Bones just sat there rubbing his cheek.  Then he said suddenly. Three!"There are three stripes Mr Scranton - economic, political and cultural. Three stripes and six lines. Within those stripes a man may live well and orderly as a free man."

"A bit exclusive, wouldn't you say, not to say elitist? You call them the yeomanry, while Pearlstein called them outlaws. O'Hare denounced them as prisoners of  liberty. What is mans natural state?"

"Simple enough, Mr Scranton. A mans natural state is to make the best of it. A reasonable man finds those boundaries, he does not create them. They taught liberty to bronze-age Greeks and serfdom to the Romish plowman.  Outside is a slaves existence, or a panders.  Same thing, really."

"Which of the six lines did Judge Pearlstein cross?"

"Which boundary was left untrampled? Only one Mr Will Scranton. In the sixties,  immigration laws were changed to let in a thieving rabble - a rabble providing votes for the left and slaves for the right.  A  theft of land and values covered up by guilt in the name of  cultural relativity."

"But we beat them out of  it ... the land."

"And in time they may have beaten it out of us - the land - as they beat out people came before them. But we cheated them! Yet the citizens could speak. At Millenium, the dotcom bubble robbed productive classes of their saving. Then, the younger Bush covered up theft by hiring CIA trained Mujad to stage terror raids on our own soil. Truth in chains, Mr Scranton, yet the LOGO survived as  citizens could still speak"

Bones  had started reaching for a  book ... Livy, I believe when suddenly  he tilts his head, touches a finger to his left ear, then his  lips. He checked his watch, got up slinging the Kalishnikov over his shoulder and motioned outside.

"Enough talk," Bones snapped.

On the patio he stops and whistles  sharp and deep-throated ... a huge, short-hair malamut dashes between aspens and paws up to his chest - one paw ...

The dog is panting and breathless and crippled."Chester here ... that front lg, he lost that front leg to a puma ...."

"Better him than you, eh Bones ...?" The malamut growls at me once then falls silent. Bones steps away. I  leave coffee ...  yellow pad ... butted cigarette ... and follow."I  can't  see the ear-piece Bones. But you're wearing one, right?"  Bones says nothing."An implant maybe from a sympathetic surgeon? Operation hurt ...?"

"Hurts like the devils arse."

Hurts -- present tense. Slippery. Plenty slippery here,  and crippled in ways that are not obvious except - I'm thinking - that prices have been paid.  I caught that shift;  something has been prepared. Show-and-tell  prepared for me while the talk ... it was just talk ... something was now ready for HRI. Sure - words start a revolution ... angry, spiteful words as some class once favored is now chastised and replaced ...  and the revolution builds on words ... why else do men die, but for sounds and images driven so far into their emotions that  money and breath and blood  lose all value. But to finish a revolution ...  a machine, was my guess or machines ...  Bones would show me the how of it ... the tool-craft, the mechanisms determining how THE BROTHERS would bring  down the Federals ...

"Out here, there's nothing special about quiet, but more's the reason," he says padding along.

My Rolex reads  6:22:37-38-39 ...nothing special  to me about that time ... it's the kind of time you use for starting dinner, or catching a flight ...

A flight of geese pass overhead, their stately V heading south. I light another Camel and the hacking starts ... something to tell a doctor - I'd get to it ... when the hacking stops I suck a lungful. We wind half-way to the beach, on the path then dodge off  into high grass toward a grove of  maples heavy and red and yellow. The fall has been wet and most of the leaves still cling. The malamut ranges ahead, and at one point flushed a pair of sharp-tail grouse; their beating wings echoed smoothly across the lake. Mentally, I throw my 16-gauge Fox double-barrel into their path ... imagining the pink bead leading a shot ...

I catch Bones staring through me."When will you beat them," I asked."The Federals won't let you play Fabius."

Bones grins wickedly."Then you also see them as corrupted merchantilists." Maybe I started to speak ... Bones snaps a twig from a pine tree brushing it along his boots." You do understand, that our Federals must  work  the game in reverse. They must play Hannibals role - they must conquer what is not possessed."

"Damned if they'll let you hide in the mountains when to not lose is to win,  as Fabius did, to save the Roman Republic. Think about it, Bones ... Hannibal had elephants not ground attack aircraft."

Bones  laughs."Ha. You DO read history, then. Yes, the aircraft - most powerful!" Bones winked, arguing insincerely."Some Civil War historians say Southron men could have held the Blue Ridge for decades."

For HRI Bones played the history game. I knew it."You see it that way, your fight,  a protracted thing?"

Bones briefly smiles brushing me off."Thrust and retire - that might have  worn down the North, drown them in oceans of blue blood. Bled them dry while traders lived flush." Bones winked and rolled up woolen sleeves to his elbow."But stock options do not win a war.  Lee could have allowed  Sherman and Grant  to roam the Shenandoah as they might."

"Some do say that." I scuffed  leaves beneath my feet; the ground felt newly frozen."It's a gamble coming up snake-eyes, Bones. A loser. A southron romantic suicide tried and failed! At most Web war-gaming sites, Southern armies  slowly starve. Corn doesn't grow well on mountain-sides.  Lee gets forced into a bet-the-farm battle .... ragged Grey units with equipment twenty years antiquated  cannot hold a firing-line. They lose everything. They are exterminated."

Bones shrugged like he'd been there."Well now, timing is everything for major battles. Wouldn't you agree Will? And the war, well, that's hardly begun."

"Have you started that war, Bones? Are kidnappings and shootouts a war?"

"No Will,  they are promise of a war,  a rumor of wars torment, but not a war.  This is a war."

We enter a maple grove. Trunks, colored leaves, branches  - here too the young Chestnuts ... and the netting  ... it wasn't just good camouflage, it was great camouflage ...  even for the horse-trailers. Great camo ...  for the rockets. Once you saw them, a snub-nose trans-sonic design that wouldn't catch a jet fighter and wasn't meant to ...  Some people describe all weapons as oozing a look of evil - these looked  pleasant as spouts on china-ware. Each sat on a mobile launcher small enough for a hefty jeep to tow - perhaps thirty of them, medium range ground-to-air  anti-aircraft missiles. You could fight a war with them.

Two missiles have been exposed, into launch configuration. Bones led us to one. He patted the side, and it gave off a dull ringing ..."This is a war, Mr Scranton."

For seconds, I just stare at it ... then touched the casing."Ceramic! And not really smooth."

Bones looks up at the tip, five feet above our heads."Why, yes it is ... the bodies and engines built from high temperature ceramic and totally without radar signature."

"The electronics ... the signal processing ..."

"All optical ... not a pound of metal in the entire weapon."

"Not a pound, maybe ... so it's not big-iron, but ... but the reflecting surfaces ...  mirrors for the lasers and waveguides ..."

Bones eyes me cautiously."Well yes there's that. Gold reflects microwaves, but  total radar cross-section for this weapon  is  one-tenth square centimeter. Even that's reduced, because in flight, surface pores  on the missile ooze a dielectric film - the Bernoulii effect you know - that evaporating film acts as a quarter-wave interference layer. That same film also reduces air friction. Sure, the Federals radar is good, but  C-140s or B-3s don't see this baby till it's 400 meters from impact."

"But it does have a heat signature."

"For the first  nine seconds, during launch. Zero to mach 0.8 ...  for the initial, vital thrust she needs heat:  even these babys have to obey Newton."

"Then ... then  your launch position is revealed."

"Yes it is,  Mr Scranton, to no benefit of the crew. If they have nothing better than watching the attack they should find somewhere else to be. But after that launch, our intercept stage is turbo-fan. Heat dissipates through turbulence at the fin-tips. Stealth, so a sea-gull looks hotter." Bones thought for a bit still watching the sky then laughed."Gulls, yes or geese."

"So the missile can be detected on launch ... WILL be detected. That gives any  Federals aircraft time to maneuver ... to evade ..."

Bones bared his teeth and chuckled."We're ready for that cat and mouse game. What we don't want is random violent movement just before impact, when most aircraft will escape no matter how accurate the tracking has been. We play the game,  our algorithms against the Federals and for our trouble we get predictable, evasive behavior."

"Who usually wins ...?" Bones said nothing."And the warhead?"

"A beaut. Devastating! Like a mini-gatling gun. We've wrapped  two dozen 20-mm cannon tracers in a spiral, patterned and timed and very effective at say, 300 meters.  What they hit shreds before it catches fire."

"But that's not bringing down most  armored military aircraft."

Bones hesitates, chewing his lip. His voice takes on a hollow, far away tint."The unit has been tested in  New Israel. It's hell on Iraqi Mirage over the Golan Heights." Bones jerked a quick glance at me."You were there, I believe!"

"Too long."

"It's beautiful land, really - something of value. Or did you stay in the caves?"

"When they didn't collapse!"

Ah yes, the penetraters. I think the French gave some to the Syrians. The French Prime Minister had a Syrian lover you know."

"No, I didn't know that."

"But you stayed underground. Better, perhaps."

"If I died in New Israel there's no story and no zine. No HRI for you ..."

"By all means. Mr Will Scranton staying alive feels important. I felt safer above ground, even with death thick in the air. Who wants to die a smothered white meat pulp? Who wouldn't rather shoot back!"

"I stayed alive, Bones ..."

"Course you did -- course you did. Many weren't as fortunate. Of course these missiles and the ground-attack planes, that's subsonic contact. So against the latest ground-support aircraft no ... no  our missile won't bring them down. Not the Birds of Prey, as some call them. Not certainly and never most."

There is noise and movement,  far end of the grove. Bones glances at his watch and touches his ear ... listening ... then says."Best you not watch the vehicles, Mr Scranton. I'd hate  the Federals thinking they could torture license plate numbers out of you."

"Thanks for nothing.  Why would they think to try that," I ask? Bones says nothing. Jeeps had already started moving some of the horse-trailers."What's going on ... were they manufactured here?"

"Why yes. We build them  in caves around the lake."

"And the components?"

"Catch-as-can, Mr Scranton. Optics are made here, high temperature ceramics at friendly job-shops while others are scavenged from the Federals own depots."

"Maybe so, Bones ... the pieces dribble in, but what goes out ...  won't it look suspicious, a line of jeeps on that dirt road leading into the cabin?"

Two men come up to Bones and they talked briefly. Then Bones said."Not one road,  Mr Scranton - there are two other logging roads leading away from the lake." He thought for a while, then pointed away, to the grey-rock hills surrounding the lake. Early snow had skimmed them white."Funny thing, how evening temperature gradients work near a mountain lake. From 35,000 feet, we are invisible to IR snooping." Then he smiled."Tomorrow, in  Reno, there's a rodeo. Town's packed and road's jammed. Every  county road will be filled with horse trailers, including ours. They drive through town, disperse and vanish."

"Where are they headed?"


A fit of hacking takes my lungs over, and I have to stoop down on a knee -  the coughing passes leaving me rung-out and gasping at the thin air. Bones was staring at me ...  not me ya bastard I think  forcing myself up straight, then  patting the body of the missile exposed beside us."Headed everywhere, eh,  but not this baby?"

"No, Mr Scranton, not this one."

"Where's it going?"

"To dinner, you might say."

All the horse trailers had been towed away, the maples now quiet smelled wet and cold and ... and pure. That's the word I found ..."Who's bringing the ribs, Bones," I say casually,"or am I the only person ready for barbecue?"

"No Mr Will Scranton, you're not the only one."

"Then I DO get to stick around for a feed."

A naisly twang voice broke in."Talk to Brenda, Bones?" A gangly cowboy had sauntered up his eyes fixed on the two exposed missiles. They weren't new to him ... his eyes those of a mechanic, though they were eyes travel weary. He wears a macintosh and cowboy jeans, and carries a leather notebook and cellphone."Bronco 5, eh,  and Bronco 4 - good luck with these frisky critters."

"We've done our damnedest. And the boggie?"

Cowboy shuffles and grunts."The plane left Denver at  18:07 hours. Figure another twelve minutes till we get optics on the critter."  He glanced at the few clouds floating the purple evening  mountain sky."Trackin'  - that'll be easy."

My head snaps around at the cowboy."Tracking? What tracking? What plane ..."

Cowboy gives me bad-eye."This the HRI fella?" Bones nods. Cowboy handed him the notebook - which he signs and passes back - but the cowboys eyes sat on me."It'll get te'chy. He leavin' or stay'n ... Brenda said ..."

"No!" Bones stuck his face up into the sky ... sniffing at it's clear deep blue  like some people read the Tarot or tea-leaves or ink-blots ... said quickly not looking at me."Take him with you, across the lake."

Shadows have got long. Pine tops stretch swaying west-to-east across the lake. It ends like that, the interview  -  Bones stops talking - shadows grow  from the quiet. It seems best not to argue. Dread, terror, nerves, loss ...  I have reasons for feeling them all ... the damned settledness of the camp. The Americaness of it - how that had been ... I feel nothing. Nothing like emotion, or empathy for whatever Bones thought ... or how he feels. Christ, maybe the bastard needed personal time with the missiles ... or with Brenda.

High mountain cold flows down into the water,and with the cowboy I load into a canoe.The  electric motor pushes us through fields of low white-caps, like the lake had harvested, waiting, then spewed  roughness all up for me. Wind stings my face and I would have appreciated rap from the cowboy. 'Where, when, who ...' We land on the far lakeside in a cove surrounded by steep granite walls and where culms broke across second growth pine. The cowboy says not one word.  Sharp tooth quiet ...  quiet enough to hear granite get old.  The path follows a small dry stream-bed curling around the cliff, and up, so when we finally come into open ground Bones cabin sits  due-south a half-mile away.

A century away, and quiet - that's how it strikes me. Our overlook had got busy. Beside a battered old Ford pickup stood two vans, four men with binoculars ... and Brenda. She carries my recording equipment and camera, and when I try to talk she tells me to shut up. I want my hands on her so bad I bite my lip till it bleeds. Does she notice ... is she watching my face ...  her nose buried in a cellphone,  but the Nikon and telephoto lens she passed over.

Static action ... you could smell the acrid sweat. She and the men and I were waiting. Smoke rises carelessly  from Bones cabin. Flights of geese pass over. Trout  slap in the shallows  tails splashing and heads arcing after a late hatch. Nothing else moves.

We're good at that - humans are - finding the slightest movement. A white trail appears in the sky - the trails front edge moves East-to-West .  Eyes pay attention to those things ... a last bit of sun glints from the airplane body ... I'd say the angle to the ground was about 30-degrees and approaching  ... I put the telephoto on it and could identify  wings, a tail and three contrails ...

... suddenly Brenda said"THERE" and pointed across the lake ... is this why she had socially engineered me and so quickly to ... I  am snapping images in auto-mode, three clicks a second ... lake, cabin, maples ... when  two explosive roars pounded over the lake,  ceramic bodies leaping upward from the maple grove trailing two long fire-tongues bending east.

"Promised you photos," Brenda said crispy,"now didn't I."

"I figured bare azz and honeycombs, sweetheart, and a little privacy," I try shouting over the roar."

Brenda says  tilting her long neck into the sky."My ass? You lost that, war, cowboy. Welcome to the war,"

"Christ Almighty," I shout." You're going to shoot down a passenger plane!"

The heat and pressure shadow of the missiles passed over. Then  a man  grunted satisfied and  tosses his binoculars to me. Hasselblad. I swing them up catching bits of pine-top, migrating geese ...  superb German optics lit up the plane, an old L1011, a tail-dropper that hadn't carried a passenger in thirty years. Now it's a target. The two missiles roared, rose swiftly  taking now a slight curve to the North.  Then boosters drop away and both missiles vanish ...

In a second the entire afternoon plays its tape through my brain. Gothic memes erased,  it had become a cold, abstract thing, a matter of physics and electronics.

Brenda is peering at me as women do at old lovers they no longer recognize,  but her eyes gleam at the recognition on my face.  She says sharply."Save your guilt. It's a Federal  Reserve money plane. Stuffed with thousand-dollar bills. That and some bullion payment to friendly wog agents in Seattle. The Chinese like gold, you know."

Hack, hacking ...  it sucked my breath away. The ..."And the crew?"

"Pilot, co-pilot and four  Federal Marshals guarding the loot. Maybe they're afraid geese will steal it!"

"A money plane?"

"If the Federals don't fly, the sky belongs to us."

"But money ... paper money ... gold? It's all electronic!"

Brenda snapped harshly."Hard value may vanish,  but it can't appear that way, now can it Will? Not something abstract, but concrete - certain. Abstract value doesn't fly with the MANS weepy  lambs and hangers-on and house-Niggers." Then her eyes cruelly bit into mine."Reality versus appearance, Will, that's something you're a real pro at, isn't it?"

My face goes hot."Spare me the blow-dry warrior crap, sweetheart."  I swap back to the telephoto, and its broader  view-field following the  plane."You ... THE BROTHERS have done this before?"

"Once before, in Alaska. Never, actually, in the southern states.  This is the first time." She smiles casually."Of course we studied them. The social engineering, Will ... we take pride in our work."

"But why two missiles?"

"Sometimes  for the money-planes a stealth  rides shotgun."


"BOPs. They hang in the IR shadow."

Through the telephoto I can feel unsettled motion in the contrails.  Federal  L1011  - now at about 60-degrees  is banking sharply ... evading ... diving ... aircraft and unseen missile dancing a slow-motion duet when --


It yanks my face down from blue sky and out along a red horizon, those brute explosions a few miles east and right above pine-tops  the pressure-wave slamming into us and lighting up the sky like sunrise. Sound -- a hooting, lunch whistle sound and  simmering heat furnace escaping from a low-flying exploding aircraft.  Expanding waves of  shrieking, glaring  heat ... I got the lens on it lucky and snap furiously.

The fireball - it  rolls and tumbles over, spinning,  clipping the pines and throwing off  its twin-tail as one piece, and bits of  crimp-wing and fuselage and burning fuel tanks and exploding munitions ... Hot hellish rapture at 7000 feet ... worth a million hits to HRI, but all four men beside us - they  are dashing toward the vans.

Brenda  standing frozen  her face has gone frost white. And she swears ..." ... low ... the bastards trailed low this time, not above ..." and her eyes glue to Bones cabin cross-lake.

Adrenaline roars through me."Bones covered his azz, huh ... while he cut. That's one damned ice-cold surgeon." Don't miss the action, sweetheart I'm thinking ... I check the film. Eight shots left only.  Only for ...  And I remember the L1011,."High and low, sweetheart, damnation what a show!" I swing my camera up finding purple sky and into the planes path  finding  its white, diving contrails.

From my angle,  the Federal L1011 sigmoid evasion profile is written in aluminum glint and white smoke -- then a cloud of sparkling pinpricks obscure it. I have steady focus as the airframe shudders, the missile striking out  with it's pinpricks shredding a wing.  Sterile flashes of  fuel flaming  trail behind. The L1011 starts to roll. A crippled, dying  bird  it arches lower  rolling over its belly glinting and tumbling toward the horizon. If God's  money then one of his angles just died. Damn that shot was going to sell virtual copy like dead-tree-print had never seen Gutenberg!

"Ya whacked it, Brenda," I shout."Damn whacked it dead!"

I barely hear her steps. Brenda slams into me, shoulder to my gut  putting my azz on the ground and taking breath away ..."lets roll, newshound before it gets ..."

"How much money did Bones just burn up," I rant struggling to my feet?"Hundred million ... a billion ... readers love that personal touch to a story."

"NOW Will ...!"

Brenda has grabbed my arm. Fingers strong and unprofessional dig into my sweater, but I pull away running to the cliff edge. SNAP-SNAP-SNAP I click off the shots ... one of the cabin and maple grove, one of burning pine tops where fragments of the destroyed, low-flying plane still cling and one of the twisted L1011 contrails - even now the wind distorted their clean ballet ... but an insane sense of the present drives me ... has overcome me.

I yell back."How 'bout the crews family ... no hot-shots, eh in an L1011 ..."  I stand tall on that cliff edge an evening north wind biting my face  and screaming ..." Ferryman, Ferryman cross the dark rivers ..."

Gone insane with it ... I laugh back at Brenda her eyes and chin and cheeks now a black mask and my own - feeling a  subtle vibration turning so ... the black, crimp-wing slot in the sky snatch my eyes. The new American gothic,  a second Federal aircraft riding shotgun ...  it  banks over the lakes north shore and bird-like in  shape the silhouette now flickers cross rippling lake surface.  Low as a goose landing  with it's jet-fan whine trailing ever-so-much behind ... as the aircraft banks again laying its silver egg and ... and the fireball ...


... across the lake ...  a shining silver pour of  metal flowing liquid sheets into the maple grove ... pouring  viscous dissolving metal over the rocks frost snow edges facing north ... and the gothic American cabin ... homeground coffee and hand-woven blankets ... ax-heads and chestnuts and a 44-40 never used to kill a man  ... Livy ... roasted, melted, vaporized, all of it vanished in the blaze heat of white and orange, silver and yellow ... all around me,  table-scraps of Birds-of-Prey as they feast. My knees have gone weak as water snapping the last two pictures of  hells inferno. That's a lead-line I think -HELLS INFERNO --  fire consuming and carrying  all before it cross the dark river ... that last picture of the Ferryman burning  my brain before Brenda drags me to a van and slaps on a blindfold ...

... with another HRI. Returning to port. Ladies and gentlemen, good night.