TIME SPIKE – snippet 32:



Chapter 24



            Terry Collins whistled softly as he walked toward the armory. Things were working out perfectly. The Indian with his sob story had been the icing on the cake. Captain Blacklock, along with over two-thirds of the guards, was gone. They were off to save the world, the silly bastards.

            Collins gave a small chuckle and slowed his pace. He wanted to enjoy the night. It was beautiful. The sky was clear of clouds, giving him a spectacular view of the heavens. He had never realized how many stars there actually were. The moon was just as impressive. It was full and golden.

            If he’d still been a kid he would have skipped across the parking lot, or tossed a rock at the man in the moon, just for the joy of it. He hesitated. Grinned. Bent and retrieved a rock.

            But when he looked up at the sky once more, the mood was gone. There was work to do. The rock fell from his hand.

            He knew from the shift roster, which Joe Schuler had so kindly given him a copy of, that the armory was unmanned. Almost everything was unmanned. The sixty-four guards still inside the walls had been divided up into two twelve-hour shifts—forty guards on days, twenty-four on nights. He suppressed the urge to laugh out loud. This was going to be like taking candy from a baby.

            He didn’t bother to look around, to check if anyone could see him. If they did, so what? He was the night supervisor, making his rounds. He was just being thorough.

            He pulled a key ring from his pocket and flipped through the keys till he found the one he was looking for. Unlocking the door, he felt a twinge of doubt, but suppressed it. If Andy Blacklock stayed in charge they were going to spend their lives working like dogs, and for what? To keep a bunch of guys who weren’t worth the air they breathed alive and locked up? No. It was crazy.

            The prisoners needed to be released, or shot. That simple.

            Oh, he had heard the arguments. If they were released they couldn’t be given guns and ammo, so that meant they would starve. And those that didn’t would freeze if this time and place had a winter. They wouldn’t be able to build a shelter and gather enough firewood to make it through even a mild cold snap. Winter could be too close. As for prisoners being released and allowed to stay inside the prison, that was an impossibility. There weren’t enough guards to keep things controlled.

            Well, keeping them fed and watered till spring was not an option.

            Everyone would starve.

            This was a primitive time. Survival of the fittest, and he intended to be one of the survivors. If Andy Blacklock and Joe Schuler and Rod Hulbert were too stupid or weak to do what had to be done, that was too bad for them. He wasn’t. He could do what needed doing and it wouldn’t keep him up at night.

            He stepped through the armory’s door and closed it behind him before turning his flashlight on. He had a right to be here, but there was no sense in advertising his location. He glanced at his watch. He was well ahead of schedule. Luff had already been given his key to the cell-house and a hand drawn map. In one hour he would unlock the door and then he and his boys would remove the guard and make their way to the armory. The guard would be easy to take out. He didn’t have a gun, a nightstick, nothing. Not even a can of pepper spay. His protection was a battery-operated radio whose battery had been removed twenty minutes ago.

            That was another example of Andy Blacklock’s stupidity. Sure, in the world they’d come from, guards didn’t carry guns inside the prison. That was standard procedure. No gun meant no prisoner could take it from a guard and then be armed. Well, that might have made sense when the world was still outside the walls. But now, the rules needed to be changed.

            When Joe suggested that change, Andy had shot him down. “No. That rule is there for a good reason. We can’t afford to panic.”

            Blacklock just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand how much things had changed. But he would. When he got back and found his prison was now Collins’ fortress, he would finally catch on.

            If he got back at all. Collins wouldn’t be at all surprised if he didn’t. A man who couldn’t figure out what to do with a prison filled with cons, sure as hell wouldn’t know how to handle a bunch of marauders and wild Indians.

            Collins checked the shift roster once more, just to make sure he hadn’t overlooked anything. He grinned again when he saw Marie Keehn’s name scratched off. Obviously, that had been done at the last minute. Hulbert must have gotten his way, and taken the little honey with him.

            Collins couldn’t blame him. Marie Keehn was fine-looking. Not as fine as Casey Fisher, though, whom Collins had already picked out as his own.

            Andy Blacklock had left them forty women. Collins had made it plain to Luff that all forty of them were to be taken alive. Even the old, ugly ones. That had been the one and only point the bastard hadn’t argued about.

            He checked his watch once more. A half-hour to go.

            He unlocked the doors to the cabinet, and left them standing open. He pulled out the vests and the helmets, and then took down the radios. These were C.E.R.T. radios, set to their own channel. The guards wouldn’t be listening to that channel. Collins and his people could keep in touch, and no one would know.