We’d been in Jackson twenty-three minutes when my truck announced drone number one had found something. It was a small house. Someone had rebuilt it. The walls were constructed of different types of material, stucco on part of the front, brick on the rest of the front, vinyl down one side, plywood and fence planks down the other. The roof was not squared properly, it’s peak was left of center, and was bowed, not straight.
“So, there are people living here.”
My truck’s cold voice responded, “Yes.”
The drone circled the house, it’s optics zoomed in, and provided additional detail. A heavily armed white male who wore a very visible metal cross, sat on a metal chair beside the front door. He carried an automatic assault gun on his back, and one cradled in both arms. He had a handgun on each hip, and two survival knives strapped to his thighs.
He sat on that chair, and the drone recorded his words, “Lord, give me the strength to defend my family, and protect them from the evils of the North. For I know, Lord, they are coming. They bombed your houses. They bombed your factories. They bombed your people. But we are still alive. We are still standing by you, Lord.”
He spat on the ground beside him. “I know they will come. And when they do, with your strength, I will defend this, your house, from them, and the demons of Satan they worship.” He looked at the sky, “Give me the strength, and the guidance, to aim true, and protect your holy land, the land you gave to us, from the demons, Lord.”
The second drone left the truck bed, and the truck suspension auto-adjusted to the lack of weight on the rear tires. The second drone moved behind the house, and verified there was a second armed male there. I found myself happy I’d refused to take armed drones on my trip.
The drones held their positions, hanging in the air, virtually silent. The men would not know they were being observed. The drones floated, at rooftop level. Their solar/electric motors produced no sound. You could stand next to them, and not hear them. Each drone was the size of a picnic basket, they weighed 105 kilograms each. And they flew at a maximum speed of 430 knots.
My truck asked if we should approach.
“Yes. It’s in our orders.” I swallowed, “Approach anyone found, offer assistance.” The back seat of my truck had ten coolers in it. Each cooler was packed with medical supplies, and food. I’d come to offer help to survivors, if I found any. We knew from the Spyglass flyovers, there were people living in Jackson. We didn’t know how many, and we didn’t know what conditions they were living in.
We had no eyes on the ground.
“To be safe, arm missile one.” My truck’s dash lights flickered, and the electric generator kicked in. I heard the missile rack on the roof adjust the position of missile one.
The truck answered back, “One armed, and ready.”
“Only when I order it.”
“Approach slowly. 5 knots.”
The truck slowed, and approached the ramshackle house at slow speed. I wanted the male on the front porch to see me coming, and to see I wasn’t in a hurry.
The man stood, studied the truck, and the truck’s audio system recorded his words, “Bobby! Get your ass around here! We got company!”
Bobby’s voice answered, “Friend or foe?”
“Fuckin’ Yankee truck!”
Bobby screamed, “Shit!” and came running around the house from the back, with an assault rifle drawn.
I let the truck move to within 100 feet of the house. “Stop.”
I opened the door, which the truck informed me was not a good idea, and I stepped outside. “You guys need any help?”
The one that wasn’t Bobby growled, “Not from you!”
I didn’t flinch. “I’m not here to fight.”
Bobby pointed his gun straight at me, “You ain’t welcome here!”
“Anybody in the house?”
“None of your fuckin’ business, Heathen!”
I figured that. They’d rather starve than accept food from someone they considered a spawn of Satan. I reached into the back seat of the truck, pulled out one of the coolers and set it on the ground. “It’s yours if you want it.”
The first man drew his gun, and shot the case six times. I never flinched. I asked once more, “Anyone in the house?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Get them out.”
“We don’t listen to you.”
“Fine. They can die when the missile destroys it.”
I got back in the truck. Bobby joined the first man in shooting at my truck. The metallic foam armor shredded every projectile that struck it. The windshield wasn’t glass anyway, so whatever struck it was deflected up. At best, there were a couple of scuff marks on it. I could wipe them off if I wanted to.
The two kept firing, and Bobby screamed at the people in the house, “Get to the basement!”
I waited another minute to see if the two men would give up. They didn’t. When their guns ran out of rounds, they reloaded, and resumed firing.
I flipped on the external speaker. “I don’t want to do this, guys.” I paused, they kept firing. “I don’t want to do this.”
Another half minute. They weren’t going to stop. The hatred in their eyes spoke volumes. They’d die rather than accept that I existed. The truck’s audio echoed the first man’s voice, “Die, you heathen spawn of Satan!” He kept firing. “In the name of God Almighty! You will burn in hell!”
I didn’t want to kill people. That wasn’t why I was in Jackson. I was there to see if people survived. If they needed help, medical supplies, food, water. We wanted to help. There’d been enough death.
But these two wouldn’t have it. I was the enemy of their God, and that was it. No negotiating. No deals. No bargains. To them, there was only fighting for their God, until they were dead, or had established God’s Kingdom on His Earth.
I shook my head. “God damn idiots.” I sighed. “Fire One.”
The truck shuddered as the missile’s solid fuel ignited, and it tore away from the truck. It took less than a second for the missile to cross the distance to the house. It went in through the stucco, then exploded. The house shattered. There wasn’t a board left standing. No framework. Nothing. The floor of the house was pushed down nearly ten feet. The two men were gone. I supposed pieces of them were scattered here and there.
“Christians…” I shook my head. “Blinded by their hatreds.” I stared at the splinters of wood floating in the air as they settled to the ground, “Blinded by their fears.”
I wondered how many neighbors they had. I didn’t have to wonder for long. Several additional men, all heavily armed, showed up, and opened fire. They surrounded my truck to prevent me from escaping, not believing my truck could mow them down like a lawn mower mowed grass.
One lobbed a hand grenade into the bed of the truck. It’s tiny boom barely shook my truck. The drone attachments were undamaged. It would take something bigger than any of them could carry to hurt my truck.
I sighed, “Let’s make an exit, shall we.”
My truck lurched forward, and ran over three of “God’s Army” as I drove off. They pursued for a moment, until they realized it was useless. They kept shooting at my truck until we were out of sight.
God’s Army had started the war in 2039, on the Christian Easter holiday, in typical terrorist fashion. Six to twelve bombs had gone off, simultaneously, in thirty-six cities in what had been New York, California, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Nearly three thousand dead. Nearly eleven thousand wounded. The bombs had targeted restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, places where people gathered to celebrate, to have fun.
God’s Army claimed responsibility, and promised more was coming, as they cleansed the country from Satan’s minions. They’d declared we’d be spared if we purged the nation of all the homosexuals, gender fluid sinners, and transsexual devils. They’d declared those weren’t humans. Those were Satan’s minions, sent to corrupt all of us, and the only way to deal with Satan’s minions was to kill them.
For the first six months, bombs went off like clockwork, in cities, and towns. We were unable to stop them. They were set by people who lived among us. Our neighbors, or friends, the people we knew at work. Agents of God’s Army.
Gun violence erupted everywhere. The people of God’s Army shot anyone, at anytime. For any reason. They shot black people. They shot women in hijabs. They shot men who wore yarmulkes. They shot people with tattoos. They shot people with Mohawks, green hair, blue hair, body piercings. They shot people in wheelchairs, people on canes, people who limped. Anyone who wasn’t obviously a white, conservative Christian. They shot them.
The first six years had been hell. It took time, but we found them all. We incarcerated them when we could. Most of them shot themselves rather than be taken prisoner. Many blew themselves up, taking more of us with them.
But, by the end of that six years, we’d stopped them.The bombings stopped. The shooting sprees stopped.
And we were armed to the teeth. Everyone owned guns. Every house was locked, and barricaded. Everyone owned sensors to tell them when someone set foot on their lawn, in the hallway outside their apartment.
We used phones. A lot. We came out with phone apps, if you had one, you could identify who was who. Everyone registered with apps. To be safe. We formed neighborhood watches. Armed watches. Armed gangs walked the streets, looking for God’s Army members.
It worked. The violence stopped. Became rare. Mostly along the borders with the southern states, and a few others.
Then, the Southern Resistance formed, and declared independence from the country. “We are a safe haven for God’s Army!” And the war kicked into high gear. Brother against brother. Son against father. Daughter against mother.
The nightmares would grow beyond anyone’s imagination. We’d learn God’s Army and the Southern Resistance would do anything, try anything, to kill us all. We’d learn, there was nothing out of bounds in that war. No ethics. No weapons restrictions. No civilian population.
It was a total war.
And it nearly destroyed us all.
I remembered the streets of what had been Springfield. My home town. Where nothing was green. Where no grass grew. Where birds that flew past fell to the ground, dead. Where four of every five people who lived there died.
God’s Army had been hell bent on destroying us. And they damn near succeeded.
I was tired of the war. Tired of burying more people I knew. Tired of the cold blooded nature of it all. Of how the machines had saved the few of us who survived. All I wanted was for the fighting to end.
“I didn’t want to kill them!” All I could do was pray to whatever god there was that someday, peace would return to the country. That someday, the killing would stop.
I wondered if there would be anyone left alive in the homeland of God’s Army and the Southern Resistance when it finally ended. Or if they’d be stubborn, and insist on their senseless war to the death, knowing they couldn’t win. Knowing to keep fighting was to die.
“If only they’d stop. If only they’d stop.” All we wanted to do was help.
All they wanted to do was fight.