Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 05

But with those two, you never really know.  These things could have come from Sumer, or from any of two dozen other places that make Volgan-designed arms.  Be funny if they came from the Zhong, though, all things considered.  And that’s not impossible; the Zhong will sell anything to anyone.

The rising had come early and, apparently, spontaneously with the news that the Tauran Union expeditionary force to Balboa had been defeated and destroyed, while the smaller one in Santa Josefina, east of Balboa, was fleeing for its life to the furthest corner of that country.  On the whole, Khalid thought, I doubt it will make any difference.  Carrera pretty obviously – well, to me it seems obvious –  wanted the uprising to completely destroy the Tauran Union once the armed forces of its member states were destroyed or captured.

He stopped his progress to turn back to the rows of strangled, dangling, darkened face corpses.  I would guess that ‘completely destroyed’ means something like that; the ruling class of the Tauran Union lynched.   He looked up again at the sky, glowing with the reflection of the many fires burning below.  And collateral damage just isn’t something that would much deter him….or them.  Both Carrera and my chief, Fernandez, are wicked, wicked men.

He resumed his long walk home, path lit by that same reflected fire.

As am I, come to think of it, since I…

Hmmph, what was that?  

Khalid stopped walking and waited, ears straining for a repeat of the sound.  He thought it might have come from a human being but, if so, it was neither quite masculine nor quite feminine.  Rather, something in be…

He heard it again, head snapping in the direction from which he thought it had come.  There was a thin slit in the rows of buildings. Yes, there it is again.  Maybe it’s a little more female than male, after all.  Even so…

The next sound was laughter, from at least one man, though Khalid thought two more likely. 

Slipping the rifle off his shoulder, Khalid advanced cautiously.  What had seemed a thin slit widened as he neared into the opening to an alley, perhaps half a dozen feet across.  From its opening came more laughter, and definitely masculine, as well as a more or less feminine voice saying over and over, “I will not cry out.  I will not cry out.  I will not…”

Though the alley was open to the sky, the pattern of light reflecting from above mostly missed it.  It was much darker than the broad boulevard. 

What is happening in that alley is none of my business, Khalid tried to convince himself.  It was a doomed effort; he felt his thumb flicking the safety off the rifle even as he brought it up to his shoulder. 

Well, fuck, the woman is probably near the ground, whether on her back or on all fours.  So I go low – he crouched down – and aim somewhat high.

As quietly as he could, aided by typically smooth Sachsen paving and tennis shoes on his feet, Khalid advanced toward the alley’s mouth.  As he did, shapes began to form outlines inside.  Four, he thought, plus one I cannot see who’s probably fucking the girl.  But this is still none of my business. 

On the other hand, I detest Moslems, so…

“I will not cry out.  I will not cry out. I will not cry…:

It was the laughter, actually, that caused Khalid’s finger to depress the trigger.  Bad enough to rape.  Worse to gang rape.  But to laugh at the girl at the same time is just too much.  He closed one eye.

His first burst ruined his night vision in his open eye, even as it lit up the alley as if by a strobe light.  He shifted left and fired again, going on nothing but the memory of target placement as he’d seen it in the muzzle flash. 

Shift…squeeze….bababang.  Shift…squeeze….bababang.  Shift… squeeze…

He stopped then, for a moment.  He thought he’d seen all the standing targets go down like ninepins.  But one remained, he thought, and that one was on both knees, still behind the girl, frozen stiff with fright.  If he’d been stroking he had apparently stopped with the shock.

Of all the horrors of a night like this, a woman feeling someone die while he’s inside her is just that one step too much. 

Khalid arose from his crouch, padded forward and delivered a butt stroke to the right side of the head of the last rapist.  That one, apparently frozen in terror at the earlier firing, was thrown to his left, head bouncing off first the wall of the alley, and then the ground.  Khalid reached down, took a good grasp of the hair, and began dragging him out of the alley. 

They trend skinny but this one weighs next to nothing.

Once out in the glow of the firelight, he tossed the rapist to the ground.  He was surprised – Though I shouldn’t have been ­– that it was only a boy of thirteen or fourteen at the most.  He returned the rifle to his shoulder but hesitated for just a moment.  That was long enough for the victim to say, “No, wait.  Please let me.”

Khalid risked a quick glance.  She was tall, slender, blonde. 

And apparently not a natural blonde.  Not bad looking, but maybe just a little touch horse-faced.

“That seems fair,” Khalid replied, stepping to one side and handing her the rifle.  “Do you know…?”

“Only in general terms,” she answered. 

“That’s probably good enough.”

“Should it bother me that he’s only a boy?” she asked.  “It doesn’t; not a bit.”

“Can’t imagine why it should?”

She hesitated. “I’d like him awake to see me kill him.  How do I…?”

Wordlessly, Khalid walked over and delivered a vicious kick to the boy’s kidney.  He screamed and then sat bolt upright.

“There you go,” Khalid said, stepping back.

“Look here, boy,” the woman said in German.  Once she saw his eyes widen much more than the width of the muzzle, she said, “Ah, good, you do speak the language.  So tell me, was it worth it?”

Tears started to flow from the boy’s eyes.  He shook his head frantically, opening his mouth as if to say something.  No words came forth.

“You want to apologize, don’t you boy?” she asked, in a sympathetic tone.  “You want to convince me that it was the others who put you up to it, don’t you?  That it wasn’t really your fault?”

The boy’s head became almost a blur, so quickly and repeatedly did he nod.

“Tough shit.  Apology not accepted.”  She gave him just enough time to realize she meant to kill him before squeezing the trigger and sending at least several of the remaining nine or ten rounds into the boy’s body.  The rest careened across the boulevard, striking pavement, stone, and brick.

“Motherfucker!” she concluded.

“Here’s your rifle,” she told Khalid, handing it back.  “And thank you, whoever you are.  You can bill me for the ammunition, if you like.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Khalid assured her.  “But my manners; they call me, ‘Khalid.’  And you are?”

“Alix Speidel, at your – but please don’t take this the way they would have – at your service.”

Something about that name.  Khalid looked more closely.  The name, he face: “Alix…hmmm…Alix Spei….I know who you are!  Member of the Reichstag.  Most prominent voice in Sachsen for closed borders and a return to tradition.”

“A lot of people know who I am,” she agreed.  “And, yes.  I think the events of the last day argue more eloquently for closed borders than I ever have.”  She pointed with her chin at the alley where the cooling bodies lay in pools of mixed blood.  “If these had known who I was, they’d have burnt me alive.  After raping me.”

“If any of the others should catch you and find out; they’ll burn you alive.”  Khalid hesitated a moment before adding, “You’re a much cooler customer than I expected, based on what I heard you repeating over and over.”

“I will not cry out’?  Yes, well, the boy was fucking me in the ass without lubrication,” she said, matter-of-factly.  “It hurt like the devil.  What was I supposed to say?”

“You need a safe house,” Khalid announced without even thinking about answering the question.  “Mine will do.  And you will be safe there, even from me.”

“Good,” she said, “because I far prefer girls.”

“Yes, I remember.  But we’ll need…”  He began looking from one street level window to another.  “…a disguise.  Aha; there.”

Walking to one window, Khalid used the butt of his rifle to smash it in.  One he had the glass out of the way, he reached in and pulled out a long section of very dark drapery.  “Wrap this like a burka.  Then walk two or three steps behind me.  No one will question us.”

“Wait.”  She walked back into the alley to retrieve her torn skirt.  Seeing it would not stay up short of a trip to the tailor she let it fall back to the alley’s bloody pavement…  “Burka, it is.”  She noticed Khalid’s armband.  “Wait; aren’t you a Mo…”

“No, I’m not,” he answered.  “My people detest Moslems more than you do, but we’re not above faking it to survive and get our way.”

“After this, my way,” she said, “is likely to involve some very large gas chambers.”  She began to wrap herself in the length of dark cloth.  “And so I, too, shall fake it.  For now.”

She remembered, if only just, to grab the purse that had been cast to one side when she’d been taken.