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Posted: 9/18/2021 11:47:22 PM EDT
Short Story.


Part I of III


Quarters Six,

The long awaited knock came at the door.  It wasn't an actual knock.  It was the pounding of a rifle butt against the front door of Jean McMahon's home.  She steadied herself, opened the door, and came face to face with a squad of dirty, bearded gunmen.  She would not stoop to call them soldiers.

"My husband is not here," she said, straightening her shoulders and preserving what dignity she could.

The lead gunman looked her up and down, then pushed past her without a word.  His compatriots followed and they spread through the house, searching.  Jean's two adult daughters came to her side, and they huddled together as the invaders tore through their home.  Outside were more men with guns.  They searched the other houses and patrolled across the lawns.  They moved with the confident certainty of an army who had just won a war, which they had.  Most didn't wear any kind of uniform.  The few that did wore the mismatched colors of the enemy; desert camouflage trousers and a green patterned camouflage top.  Their weapons were equally mismatched.  Hunting pieces and captured military weapons and personally purchased rifles.  Some stood guard around an odd assortment of civilian pickup trucks and military vehicles, each as course and dirty as the men around them.  One pickup looked more like something driven by the kinds of people her husband spent his entire life fighting than something driven by Americans.  A large machine gun protruded out of the bed.  Bullet holes pockmarked one flank.  Strips ofblack electrical tape crisscrossed the cracked headlights.  A HAM radio antenna swayed slightly with the breeze.  And everywhere was the enemy standard.  On flags and on patches, a coiled rattlesnake on a yellow field.

Jean sighed as the gunman moved purposefully through the house.  Her husband's house.  Her house.  The house he'd worked for… she'd worked for… her entire live.

Outside the house, twists of black oily smoke curled up into the clear blue sky.  The capital was being put to the torch, again.  Not by a foreign invader this time, but by its own citizens.  Jean's eyes flicked across the skyline.  Many of those plumes of smoke could be traced down to the nation's most important government buildings: the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the Eisenhower Building, the White House.  Another military wife called Jean last night in a panic.  She said they were back in the capital again.  Only this time they weren't scattering papers and stealing laptops.  This time they came to burn it down.  Mid-call the cell service went out.  It never came back on.

After about twenty minutes a new group of gunmen arrived.  They came in a similar collection of battered trucks.  The trucks parked in front of her house and the men inside got out.  This group was just as wild looking as the others.  But leading this group was her husband's alter ego, the commanding general of the enemy army.  The man known only as Haggard.

Haggard didn't look like a general, commanding or otherwise.  He didn't look like an officer.  He didn't even look like a soldier, Jean thought. The man was dressed in less of a uniform than most of his troops. He wore a Vietnam pattern Tiger Strip shirt with the sleeves cuffed a little below the elbow.  For trousers he had a pair of gray-green work pants.  His boots were a pair of civilian work boots, the kind a steel worker or welder might wear.  Slung across his chest was a worn XM-177 carbine, perhaps a nod to his camouflage shirt.  A thick belt held rifle magazines and a pair of grenades, and a handheld radio was stuffed in his back pocket. And that was it.  He wore no badges, no rank insignia, no name tags, no his shaggy head.  He didn't even carry a pistol.  He didn't even have a driver.  He drove his own truck.


Jean scoffed.  The man looked more like a handyman or the foremen of a construction crew than the commander of the enemy armies.  Even so, the man had a hard and serious look about him.  His eyes were fierce and calculating.  His mouth was a flat, horizontal line across his face.  Not only unsmiling, he looked like he may have never smiled in his entire life. Brooding, he looked around and then headed up the path to the house.  Just before the front door he stopped and looked up at the flag flying in the yard.  Four white stars on a field of red.  He looked at the flag for a longtime, then turned to one of his men.


"Take that down," he ordered.  Then he stalked into the house.

"My husband isn't here," Jean said again, as proud and defiant as she could be, the wife of a husband who had not only lost a war but a country.  Her husband's alternate number didn't so much as spare her a glance.  He looked around the house for a bit before replying.


"I know.  We took him prisoner this morning."


The oldest of her two daughters gasped. The other, already a widow, broke into tears.  Jean felt like wilting. 41 years.  41 years she'd been married to her husband and the Army.  41 years her husband had moved up the ranks, achieving the highest appointment in the US military.  41 years of moves and assignments, of hardship posts and political maneuvering.  41 years of work to bring the family to a position of power and prominence.  41 years, and it had all been undone in a matter of weeks by some blue-collar unknown who didn't even have a uniform.  This was a blow. Even so, Jean remained erect, staying strong for the husband and the army she'd been married to her entire adult life.


"We're here to get some of your husband's things,"  Haggard said.  His eyes darted around the room again and locked on the fireplace.   Cradled in a display on the mantel was General McMahon's sword, a pattern1902 Cavalry Saber.  Above that hung an enormous oil painting of General McMahon.  Carbine in hand, General  walked over to the fireplace. He stopped right beneath the painting and looked almost straight up.  His eyes narrowed.


Jean McMahon watched this ruffian who now glared at the presentation of her husband.  These were two very different men, their contrasts obvious.  One had graduated West Point, then went on to multiple achieve degrees from a host of institutions.  He even had a doctorate from Yale.  The other might not have even had a degree. One had risen through the ranks in a military career that surpassed a generation.  The other had just appeared out of nowhere, a brigand captain who in the heat and chaos of rebellion had risen far above his station.  One had mixed and mingled in the highest of social circles, rubbing elbows with senators, Supreme Court Justices, the highest media personalities, foreign dignitaries, heads of state.  The other looked he spent his Saturday nights drinking beer out of a can in a neighbor's garage, greasy wrenches turning hopelessly on some wreck of a project car.

And yet, for his course appearance and humble background, Haggard's achievements were undeniable.  When the revolution started two years ago, nobody had heard of this Haggard.  He was just another traitor rebelling against his government.  In the months that followed, he'd led one raid after another, derailing trains, burning powerplants, destroying aircraft in their hangers.  It wasn't until he sacked Portland that anybody took him seriously.  Even then, he'd been mocked and ridiculed in the media.  The top military experts made the Sunday news circuits, reassuring all that this Haggard was no real threat.  Just a bumpkin with a rifle who'd been lucky.  Nothing more.  The real experts in warfare, the ones who'd been educated in the war colleges and done their time in the rings around the Pentagon would deal with him in due time.

Then Haggard captured the U.S. Northern Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs.  He took the place with hardly a fight.  Most of the command was captured unarmed at their desks.  The commanding general had put up a fight though.  She'd be the only general on their side to die in the combat.

After Colorado Springs they took him seriously.  Somebody had the bright idea of attacking Haggard through social media.  The Pentagon enlisted giants of that industry.   Stories were run and propaganda was spread.  Accounts were locked and shut down, even though nobody knew if this Haggard even had a social media presence.  Reports were written, and generals like McMahon were assured and assured the country that the media campaign was working.


Then Haggard swept through Silicon Valley and burned everything in his path.

Haggard's following grew.  More reports were written.  More briefs were presented.  Staffs churned out graphs and powerpoint slides.  Drones flew, but the drones were no more effective at stopping this insurgency than they'd been at stopping the others.  And when the airfields were overrun and the supply lines were cut, the drones stopped flying.  Hearings were held.  But nobody fought in any substantial way.  Centuries of American military tradition vanished.  The US military seemed to be nothing more than one giant staff, spinning data around and around in an endless loop.

When Haggard's rebel army crossed the Mississippi River, military units went over to the other side wholesale.  When they crossed the Appalachians, the U.S. government essentially collapsed.


One of the gunmen came out of the bedroom, a bundle of General McMahon's uniforms in hand.  Light glinted off polished shoes and brass buttons.  He presented the bundle to his commander, who approved it with a nod.  Then Haggard snatched the saber and its scabbard off the mantle and turned to go.


   "That's my husband's," Jean protested.  "It's his family sword."

"My sword now," Haggard answered.

"But," she protested, hoping to save something of her husband's legacy.  The family legacy.  "That sword was in his family for generations.  Two world wars.  You can't take it.  It represents…"


Jean's voice trailed off as Haggard stormed right up to her until they were nose-to-nose.  His eyes blazed with anger.  He looked as if he might hit her, but he didn't.

"Your husband lost.  You lost.  You rolled the Iron Dice, and you lost.  Your husband, his sword, this house, the whole country, is ours now, and I'm taking it."


"Be reasonable,"  Jean pleaded.  Haggard's words came slow, and calm, but firm.


"You people had decades to deal with reasonable people.  And every time a reasonable person came forward to represent us, they were mocked, ridiculed, humiliated, and coerced.  You had your opportunities to deal with reasonable people, and you squandered those opportunities.  So now you have to deal with the unreasonable ones."


Haggard went for the door.
 
Jean called out, "What are you planning to do with my husband?"

"He's got a briefing with Danny Deever,"  Haggard answered.  He looked around the house one last time and then said, "You've got twenty minutes to grab your stuff.  Then we're burning the house down."

He didn't wait for any reply or acknowledgement.  He turned away and got back into his truck, sliding into the driver's seat.  General McMahon's flag and uniforms were already loaded in the back.

Another man sat in the passenger seat.  He held a radio handset in each hand and alternatingly spoke into both.  He  turned to his commander.

"Did you tell her how we found her husband?"

They found General James McMahon in a yacht in a Chesapeake marina, with eight duffle bags full of new $100 bills, a satchel of gemstones, and a female aide who was a third his age.  The general couldn't figure out how to start the boat's engine.  He'd surrendered without a fight.

"I didn't tell her that," Haggard said.  "I'm not completely heartless."
Link Posted: 9/19/2021 1:56:01 PM EDT
[#1]
Awesome!  Thank you Shark.
Link Posted: 9/22/2021 10:50:45 AM EDT
[#2]
Interesting start, thanks!
Link Posted: 9/22/2021 9:24:41 PM EDT
[#3]
Keep up the good work
Link Posted: 9/24/2021 12:29:59 AM EDT
[#4]
Part II of III

General James McMahon despaired in his cell, his head hung low.  Even in here the air was thick with smoke.  He could only guess what the rebels were doing to the capital.  He’d spent half his career in the capital, and in the end he’d failed to defend it.  He couldn’t say that plan had failed, because the plan hadn’t even been implemented.  If he was truly honest with himself, no plan was even made.  A defense of the capital had not even been mounted.  When word got out the rebels were closing in on D.C., the government simply dissolved.  Politicians and judges, cabinet members, senior executives, police chiefs… even the uniformed leaders, they all abandoned their posts and tried to save themselves.



Most didn’t get very far.


If it was any consolation, James McMahon could say he was in good company.  What was once a high end kennel for the pets of D.C. elites was now a prisoner of war camp for the highest ranking military officers.  All day James watched admirals and generals get frog marched into cages.  Most had the same look of disbelief he’d had, the look of a mighty Goliath struggling to comprehend how he’d just been laid low by an insignificant David.


James McMahon didn’t even hear the footsteps approach his kennel/cell.  He happened to look up and there was the man, Haggard, appraising him through the cage with those same serious eyes.  Haggard didn’t speak.  He stood at the cell, silently assessing McMahon.  James expected the man to speak, but he didn’t.  The pause grew into an awkward and uncomfortable thing.  James wondered what to do.  Wait for the man to speak?  Protest the conditions of his captivity?  Make demands of his warden?  McMahon thought it best to try and endear himself to his captor.  He stood up and offered a hand.



“At last we meet.  I must say, you’ve displayed a fair bit of generalship.  Your raid on Colorado Springs was simply amazing.  I’m sure they’ll be studying that at the War College for decades.”


Haggard’s eyes, dark and almost soulless, flicked down to McMahon’s extended hand then back up to his eyes.  He didn’t make a move to shake hands.  The pause continued uncomfortably long before Haggard replied.


“Don’t do that.”


“Don’t do what?”


“Don’t pull this, ‘Hail-Fellow-Well-Met,’ routine.  You and I aren’t cut from the same cloth.  We’re not part of some union of generals.  You are not my, ‘worthy opponent.’  You’re a prisoner, and you weren’t taken under respectable circumstances.  Neither your competence, nor your conduct, were honorable.  Your performance in uniform, both during this war and before it, was professionally embarrassing… to me.  So don’t try to cozy up and curry any favor.”



James McMahon was taken aback.  It was a long time since anybody had spoken that way to him.  Haggard continued.



“Tomorrow morning you are going to put on your dress uniform.  You are going to march outside.  And standing in front of a formation of troops, you are to be stripped of your rank, your insignia your ribbons and badges. And then you will be hanged.”


James emotions shift to anger and incredulity.  Who was this bandit, this blue collar nobody who spoke so boldly to him.  His pale and fleshy face went red.


“Who the fuck do you think you are?  I’m a four star fucking general.  I’m the chairman of…”


Without a word, Haggard removed a phone from his pocket and held it up.  Its screen displayed a picture of the general’s wife and two daughters huddled together in his quarters.  When general McMahon saw his family in Haggard’s hand, he stopped speaking.


General,” Haggard began.  “You will march out tomorrow, compliant and at least looking contrite.  You will keep your mouth shut.  You will accept your punishment.  You will do this because if you don’t I will introduce your enlisted driver-slash-sex pot to your wife and daughters.  I will tell your wife and your daughters how we found you.  The boat.  The money.  I will tell them all this and then I'll have all of them beaten to death.  If you comply however, I will spare both your family and you legacy, such as it is, this final humiliation.”


“You wouldn’t dare,” McMahon said, his voice little more than a gasp.  The edge of Haggard’s lip curled into the slightest smile.


“I’m putting all of D.C. to the torch right now.  All of it.  Once the fires stop, I’m going to flood the ruins and turn this place back into a swamp.  I’ve got a bunch of Army Corps of Engineers cats who switched sides working on that now.  Before I got here, I crossed the entire country, burning and killing most of the way.  And what I didn’t touch, you and your compatriots did, whether it was your uniformed troops, or the cops, or your various, black-clad political militias.


“And then there were all the ruins and wrecks caused before the war.  Shut down steel mills and shut down saw mills.  Abandoned factories.  Closed down mines and closed down pipelines.  Pot holed and ruined roads running alongside high-speed rail lines that were never finished and never intended to be finished.  People that were used up by war that started bad and ended worse.  Homeless camps where Americans shot-up Chinese drugs that were smuggled across an unguarded Mexican border, all subsidized by tax payer dollars funneled through non-profits organizations that were little more than money laundering syndicates.  And all the connected people got rich, and all the little people got fucked.  You people said I destroyed this country.  This country was destroyed before I even got my boots on.  The bottom line is a lot of Americans and their families had to suffer.  A lot of people died for no other reason than they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Your family shouldn’t be any different.  Your stars and your fancy ribbons don’t buy you any exemptions.  Not from me.”


McMahon gasped.  He’d been a general for well over a decade.  People didn’t speak to him like that.  They stood when he entered a room.  They saluted when he left.  They opened his doors and carried his luggage.  They laughed at his jokes and dotted on his wife.  They didn’t speak out against him, and they didn’t threaten him or his family.  “Have you no decency,” McMahon huffed.


“I do not have any decency.  My position won’t allow it.


“For years I’ve seen the system weaponize the better parts of peoples’ character and turn it against themselves.  Personal responsibility, integrity, morality, patriotism, loyalty, basic human decency; all the most honorable character traits exploited and used to destroy honest people who only wanted to do good.  I saw it with my own eyes, and more than once.  So when I embarked on this adventure, I took all those better angels of my nature and locked them up far, far away.  I knew the only way out of this was victory.  I couldn’t allow myself any weakness that might be exploited by the likes of you.  Any decency I might have had was replaced by a passionless, calculating, Machiavellian drive to win.  So don’t ask for mercy by demanding I be, ‘decent.’  That will not work here.”


McMahon’s mind raced.  His pale eyes winked and blinked with though about their loose bags.  His brain latched on to something.  “Under what charge?”  McMahon demanded, his body rising with a bit of new found pride.  “You can’t just hang me.  I demand a trial.  I demand a trial by court martial.  I haven't even been charged with any crime.”


That actually brought a smirk and a snort of laugh out of Haggard.


“A charge? Well, let's see.  Oh, I don’t know.  Treason.  Sedition.  Dereliction of duty.  Conduct unbecoming.”


“You can’t hang a man for conduct unbecoming.”


“You don’t get it general.  I can do whatever I want.  All that old stuff… it is gone.  The UCMJ, Constitutional protections… all gone.  Which is what you wanted right?  You weren’t exactly conducting yourself in accordance with the rules and regulations before all this happened.  You and the people you aligned with sought to subvert and undermine the Constitution and the rule of law.  And you did.  You did for many years.  I was only a counter-revolutionary, it was you who was the revolutionary.  And now that your whole revolution fell apart, you don't get to just go back to the safety of thestatus quo ante.  You don’t get to enjoy the protection of the laws and documents you actively sought to destroy. The only reason I don’t shoot you right now in this cell is because I know there is a certain amount of ceremony required when killing a man of your position.  That’s the only reason.  That’s it.”  Haggard tapped the worn carbine slung at his side.


McMahon’s jowly face sank.  His eyes narrowed.  Haggard continued.


“Don’t look at me like that.  I didn’t want this.  I was happy living in a Constitutional Republic.  But that wasn’t good enough for you and yours.  The Constitution, which you and a lot of others swore an oath to support and defend, that was just too constraining on your ambitions.  Your desire for power.  Your desire for wealth.  Your desire to put your dick in whoever you fancied, like that driver of yours.  You wanted to live in a tribal society where one tribe held all the power and made all the rules and took all the wealth.  One tribe. Your tribe.  A tribe I’d never be allowed into.  Well, you got half your wish.  We now live in a tribal society, but your tribe doesn’t hold all the power.  We do.  And our memory is long.  And we want a reckoning for those who destroyed our country.”


General McMahon’s eyes glanced right and left, down the rows of kennels stuffed with Admirals and generals.  "You don’t want to murder us all.  History isn’t kind to mass murderers.  The world could be yours when all this is over, but only if you play it right.  You should think about your legacy," General McMahon said.


Haggard shook his head no.  His voice came out, calm and even, and all the more frightening for its lack of emotion.



"You have no idea who I am, do you?  My legacy?  You think I went through all this shit because I wanted to establish a legacy?  I didn't do this to secure my reputation or secure my place in history.  I've got guys out there in my army who fought with me from Port Townsend, Washington State to Washington fucking D.C.  No pay.  No benefits. No retirement.  Most days with no more than one cold meal to eat and a truck bed to sleep in.  You think they followed me because I was doing this for myself?  Now that this is over, I'm disappearing.  I'm not serving on the board of any bullshit company.  I'm not taking a gig as paid news commentator on some bullshit show.  I'm not gonna take a multi-million dollar advance on some bullshit, ghost-written book deal.  I'm not going to go be the dean or sit on the board of regents of some crackpot academic institution.  I did everything I did because I wanted to win.  My legacy is I took an army to the field and defeated you.  That's my legacy.  And my legacy ends when I put you and all these other star-clad crooks at the end of a rope.  I’m going to hang one of you a day, every day, until the whole lot of you are gone.  Then I’m going to disappear.  That’s my legacy.”



There was no reasoning with this man, McMahon could tell.  He was a zealot, a radicalized zealot who somehow built an army from scratch and destroyed the United States.  But how?  “Who are you?” McMahon asked.  And it was a fair question.  For all his infamy, nobody really knew who Haggard was.  There was a political movement associated with this rebellion, but Haggard had never been a part of that.  He’d never given any kind of interview despite his meteoric rise through the ranks.  Stories abounded.  Haggard was a CIA officer gone rogue.  He was a Navy SEAL, dishonorably discharged.  A Green Beret who’d spent decades building up a network to overthrow the government.  A Russian agent.  A Chinese agent.  An Israeli agent.  The descendant of Nazi officials.  The rumors swirled and circled, grew and multiplied.  Haggard confirmed none and denied none.  He never spoke of himself, ever.


Haggard shrugged.  “Just a guy.  Just a guy who maybe read too much.  I did all the things America told me to do.  I graduated school.  Worked my jobs.  Started a family.  Paid my bills.  Paid my taxes.  I did my patriotic chore, signed up and went and fought in all those overseas misadventures.  An overseas tour here.  Another overseas tour there.  I saw a lot of good people die out there.  And every day I saw the American dream I believed in die a little bit more, killed off by the people who were supposed to preserve it.  Every day I saw more corruption, more incompetence every day and always from people lecturing me on how bad I was.  I got really angry about that.  But I always took comfort in one thing.  For all their lecturing.  For all their smugness.  For all their condescending attitudes, these elites weren’t good at anything.  Ever.  Whether it was fixing a road or waging a war, you and all these other elites just could not get it done.  So when push came to shove, I knew I could win.  And I did.  And here we are.”



“Bullshit,” McMahon said.  “You’re not just some guy.  Some guy couldn’t have done what you did.  Some guy couldn’t have defeated me like that.”



“You were never that much of a commander,” Haggard said.  He turned and began to walk back out of the kennel.


James McMahon thought of one last play he could make.


"Wait," he called through the bars.  "Wait.  I can help you."


Haggard stopped and turned back around.  He didn't speak.  His face remained blank.


"I can help you capture the others.  You say you want to round up your enemies.  I can help you.  Politicians.  Media people.  Bureaucrats.  Embassy types.  Cabinet members.  Other service members, generals and admirals, and retirees.  I know them all.  I know who they are.  I've met them all, worked with them all.  I've host them at parties. I’ve had dinners with them and their families.  You want to round them all up.  Okay.  I'll help you do that."


Haggard looked General McMahon up and down with one last time.  His expression was one of pitying disappointment.


"I know you would.  That's a big part of why I have to hang you."

Link Posted: 9/24/2021 6:07:53 AM EDT
[#5]
So this is the first 3 parts of 20 right?  Yes?
Link Posted: 9/24/2021 8:50:21 AM EDT
[#6]
Glad you’re writing again.

Let’s see this turn into a multi book series instead of a three part short story.
Link Posted: 9/24/2021 3:53:11 PM EDT
[#7]
Great stuff, man.  Keep it up.
Link Posted: 9/24/2021 4:29:16 PM EDT
[#8]
Great read!!  Can't wait for part 3!
Link Posted: 9/24/2021 4:55:38 PM EDT
[#9]
Great to see you in action
Link Posted: 9/25/2021 9:33:01 AM EDT
[#10]
Good stuff.

Glad you’re back at it.

Link Posted: 9/27/2021 10:00:02 PM EDT
[#11]
Moar?
Link Posted: 9/27/2021 11:05:58 PM EDT
[Last Edit: sharkman6] [#12]
Part III of III

What unfolded that morning was fast-paced and formulaic.  It followed a script of military tradition and protocols, and it did so for a reason; in the heat of the action, it wouldn't give anybody time to think about what was happening.  The idea was that everybody would have time to reflect on the hanging after the fact, not during its execution.

When he entered the courtyard, General James McMahon blinked against the sky’s hazy brightness.  Smoke and ash from the burning city filtered the sun's rays.  An unnatural, hazy orange light washed over everything, adding to James McMahon’s sense of the surreal.  What was happening didn’t feel real to him, even though he knew it was.  He knew it, but he didn’t feel it, even though his hands were bound behind his back and two giant non-commissioned officers stood at his flanks.  Over the course of over four decades he had risen to the highest position in his nation’s military.  He’d be dead in the next fifteen minutes.

When his eyes adjusted to the weird light he took in the scene.  Enemy troops stood in an open square formation.  They’d formed up in an courtyard that had previously been used to exercise the kenneled dogs.  The troops were a motley bunch, mismatched uniforms or no uniforms at all.  But there were enough uniform bits and pieces for McMahon to discern the intent.  There were four detachments representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  Within the Army ranks, McMahon recognized unit patches he’d worn himself, long, long ago.  Many of those soldiers looked old and gray, just like McMahon.  Had they served under him?  It was possible.  Had they been selected for this detail specifically because of their ties to him and the units he commanded?  That was likely. For all his rag-tag, “devil-may-care” appearance, this Haggard did seem quite demanding when it came to some military traditions.  Had they volunteered?  That was also a possibility, and one that made James McMahon ashamed.  If his former soldiers volunteered to see him hang, what did they say about him and his leadership? His character? His performance as a general?

Haggard and his staff stood on one side of the formation.  Haggard had dressed well for the event, by his own standards.  He wore a uniform in the enemy’s manner; pixelated green camouflage top over pixelated desert camouflage trousers.  His face was freshly shaven and his head was covered.  But his sleeves were cuffed just above the wrists.  And that ridiculous carbine was slung over one shoulder.

Between the staff stood a metal gantry from which dangled the noose.

A sergeant major sounded off.

“Present the prisoner to the commanding general!”

When James McMahon commanded, the U.S. military had more musicians than the U.S. State Department had foreign service officers.  At his execution, the music was played over speakers hooked up to an old phone.  The tattoo of a digital drumbeat began, and the guards marched McMahon right up to Haggard.

The drumbeat stopped right after the guards stopped.

The two guards saluted.  McMahon didn’t.  He wasn't expected to.  His arms were tied behind his back.  And prisoners do not salute.

Haggard’s eyes fixed hard on McMahon.  He returned the guards' salute and commanded, “Publish the order.”

The adjutant stepped forward, raised a piece of paper, and read it aloud.

From:  D.D. Haggard, Commanding General of the Western Armies
       To:  General J.R. McMahon, U.S. Army.
1) You have been found guilty of the following:
a.Treason.
b.Sedition
c.Dereliction of Duty as a flag officer.

2)You are to be stripped of all rank, insignia, awards, badges, and unit identification.  Then you are then to be hanged.

D.D. Haggard
Commanding General.


“Sergeant of the guard, execute the order,” Haggard commanded.

Both guards went to work on McMahon’s uniform.  They tore off his buttons.  They tore off his ribbons and badges.  First one, then the other, produced knifes.  One was a big leather handled kabar.  The blade nicked and scarred.  They sliced away the patches on his shoulders and the stripes on his cuffs.  As they removed each item from McMahon’s uniform, they tossed them carelessly over their shoulders.  The brass buttons and bright ribbons lay in sparkling piles on the pavement.

Haggard stepped forward last.  He removed each of McMahon’s four-star rank insignia and dropped them onto the ground.  Then he turned.  The adjutant came forward with McMahon’s sword in its scabbard.  Haggard seized it by the covered blade, looked once at James McMahon, then raised it up and smashed it down on the ground.   The pommel came apart.  He raised the sword and smashed it down again.  The guard broke loose.  Bits of metal flew everywhere.  James watched it all.  Disgusted, embarrassed, humiliated, disbelieving, too shocked to move.

Haggard drew what was left of the sword and struck it, flatwise onto the deck.  The blade bent at a 90 degree angle.  Haggard tossed it aside.  The he took the scabbard and brought it down over his knee.  The bright metal folded in half.  He dropped that too then returned to his position in the formation.

The gantry came next, bringing the noose with.  James didn’t speak.  He didn’t cry, but he shook with fear.  It paralyzed him.  His jowly face shook, loose skin rippling.  For James there wasn’t any moment of deep reflection, no moment of his life flashing before his eyes.  There was nothing but the immediacy of the moment.  The world was nothing but the panicked disbelief of the moment.  How could this have happened?  How?

The gantry was an improvised thing.  It rolled forward on big rubber tires, pushed by old soldiers with gray hair.  Did they volunteer for this duty, James wondered?  Had they served with him before?  Or maybe their sons and daughters did.  A lost child in one of the many military misadventures from his earlier career.  Before the revolution.  Before the end of it all.  He wanted to know but dare not ask.  He dare not speak.  He trembled and his body felt cold.  Was that why he was trembling?  A guard brought the rope forward.  James could see a big counterweight at the other end, the one that would lift him to his death.  He dropped his eyes.  The noose went around his neck, but he didn’t even perceive it.  All he could see was what was on the ground before him.  His ribbons and badges.  His buttons.  His stars.  The shattered bits and pieces of his sword. They were all gone now, as if he’d never had them.  As if he never earned them at all.  They were all…

And then James McMahon was up in the air.

Properly hanging a man is an art.  Done correctly, the condemned will die almost instantly.  The weight of the man, the distance of the drop, the mass of the hangman’s knot are all factored into the art of the execution.  But it was a lost art.  The gantry was a poor substitute for a gallows and none of Haggard’s people were professional hangmen.

James McMahon was pulled up instead of dropping down.  Choking, spitting and kicking, his body twisted on the end of its rope.  Eyes bulged.  Tongue wagged.   The body spasmed in protest, fighting involuntarily against the rope.  Fighting against the strangling noose. The rope twisted, thrown into motion by McMahon’s convulsions.  It first counterclockwise.  It spun its weight to an apex, paused, then spun back the other way.  James McMahon’s twitched and gurgled.

Haggard stepped forward and took hold of James McMahon with one hand.  He stopped the spin.  With the other hand he unslung his carbine.  He put the muzzle to the base of McMahon’s skull, right where the head and the neck met, and he pulled the trigger.

The report of the gunshot echoed across the courtyard.

D.D. Haggard, Commanding General of the Western Armies, returned to his position in the formation.  James McMahon’s corpse resumed its twisting spin on its rope.

The adjutant stepped forward again.  He bellowed, a pause between each word

“Pass. In. Review.”

The speakers issued forth music again, broadcasting The Rogue’s March in tinny, digital glory.   The subordinate commanders called out their commands, and each company paraded past James McMahon’s dead body.



After the ceremony, they left the discarded sword and stars where they’d fallen.  They left the condemned at the end of the rope.  The courtyard cleared.  The troops returned to their duties.  Haggard and his staff returned to theirs.

Haggard took off his cover and stuffed it in a pocket.  Bareheaded, he walked back to the tent that served as his office.  One hand was stuffed in his pocket.  The other held the carbine.  His adjutant walked at his side.

“By tomorrow morning I’d like to see that gantry replaced with a proper gallows,” Haggard asked.  

The adjutant nodded.  “Who do you want hanged tomorrow?”

“Who’s the next senior prisoner?”

“By date of rank,  Admiral Chrystal.”

“Then there’s your answer.”

"I don't think he expected that.  Expected his life to end that way.  He went all the way to the top, then was defeated, stripped down to nothing, and hanged in less than a day."

"He couldn't take a hint," Haggard said without any trace of remorse or apology.  "How many wars does a general need to lose before he realizes he's not cut out for this line of work?"

The conversation paused.  Boots clicked with each step.  After a several paces, the adjutant spoke.

“That was pretty extreme,” the adjutant said.

“It was extreme,” Haggard agreed.  “Sometimes extreme is what’s required.”
Link Posted: 9/27/2021 11:34:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: juan223] [#13]
very nice, thank you

ETA: I have to admit I had not read any of your previous work, only reason being I just never clicked on the threads. I see now that I made a mistake in not clicking on those threads,  that changes now.  
Link Posted: 9/28/2021 6:03:31 AM EDT
[#14]
Well done shark.  Fitting last words.
Link Posted: 9/28/2021 8:59:18 AM EDT
[Last Edit: DesignatedMarksman] [#15]
Only thing I'd change is the wording of the order. I think it should be "you will then be hung by the neck until dead."

ETA: currently it says "then you are then to be hanged"

Great story so far.
Link Posted: 10/4/2021 5:49:23 AM EDT
[#16]
Are we supposed to be celebrating a bunch of unwashed hillbillies burning down the government in this story?
Link Posted: 10/4/2021 8:59:46 AM EDT
[#17]
Found the Fed.

"Unwashed hillbillies", May as well call them deplorable.
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 4:21:22 AM EDT
[#18]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tc556guy:
Are we supposed to be celebrating a bunch of unwashed hillbillies burning down the government in this story?
View Quote



Loooooooooooooool.

Do you think you’re part of “we”?
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 8:21:40 AM EDT
[Last Edit: tc556guy] [#19]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tigglesworth:

Loooooooooooooool.

Do you think you’re part of “we”?
View Quote

Oh, I'm sure that for the people who consider such fables to be excellent bedtime reading I'm not. I don't consider myself to be "we" with anyone who would consider a story about the national seat of government being burned to the ground to be a great narrative.
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 11:51:35 AM EDT
[#20]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tc556guy:

Oh, I'm sure that for the people who consider such fables to be excellent bedtime reading I'm not. I don't consider myself to be "we" with anyone who would consider a story about the national seat of government being burned to the ground to be a great narrative.
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tc556guy:
Originally Posted By tigglesworth:

Loooooooooooooool.

Do you think you’re part of “we”?

Oh, I'm sure that for the people who consider such fables to be excellent bedtime reading I'm not. I don't consider myself to be "we" with anyone who would consider a story about the national seat of government being burned to the ground to be a great narrative.


Think of it more as a cautionary tale.  
The fact that you missed the entire point of the story tells me everything I need to know.  

I'm sure that 250 years ago the British considered the reports coming out of the colonies nothing more than fables as well.  
Out of that sprang a system of government that was set up to exist at the consent of the governed.  The corollary being, don't do anything that would revoke that consent.  

The framework is very clear.  The more that framework is eroded, the closer we come to removing our consent; our recognition of their right to rule.
The Bill of Rights isn't a list of things the government gives to us, it is a limitation of the government's powers upon those God-given rights.  
Our leaders on both sides of the aisle would do well to remember that.  This isn't something that "we" do to them, it is something they are doing to themselves.  


From Part I -

"You people had decades to deal with reasonable people.  And every time a reasonable person came forward to represent us, they were mocked, ridiculed, humiliated, and coerced.  You had your opportunities to deal with reasonable people, and you squandered those opportunities.  So now you have to deal with the unreasonable ones."  
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 12:07:57 PM EDT
[#21]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tc556guy:

Oh, I'm sure that for the people who consider such fables to be excellent bedtime reading I'm not. I don't consider myself to be "we" with anyone who would consider a story about the national seat of government being burned to the ground to be a great narrative.
View Quote


In the United States, citizens have the right to alter or abolish a government that has become harmful to our liberties and interests.

It sounds like this story really struck a chord with you. Sorry the idea of citizens taking control of their government back from corrupt, treasonous officials scares you so much.
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 12:35:55 PM EDT
[#22]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By tigglesworth:


In the United States, citizens have the right to alter or abolish a government that has become harmful to our liberties and interests.

It sounds like this story really struck a chord with you. Sorry the idea of citizens taking control of their government back from corrupt, treasonous officials scares you so much.
View Quote

No, it didn't strike a chord with me at all. I think it's pretty predictable, and like so many stories in the genre it's unrealistically black and white. Life isn't black and white. But some people lap up such missives without much deep thinking, so to each their own
Link Posted: 10/5/2021 2:02:00 PM EDT
[#23]
It is a cautionary tale warning against “Rockstar Generals,”. Military leaders who are good at self promotion and enjoy the trappings of power, but who aren’t really concerned about solving military problems.

One the one had you have a prominent general who did not take his military duties seriously.  On the other hand you have a guy who started out as a nobody who didn’t care much about what he looked like or what people thought of him.  But he did care about winning.  In military contests that can be important.  Nobody in the Taliban was angling to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine or traveled around with the personal biographer.   And they just ran us out of Afghanistan.

Military failure can have consequences.


The politics are incidental to the story, not essential.




Link Posted: 10/11/2021 5:18:59 PM EDT
[#24]
It's good to see you posting your writing again Sharkman.  Thanks for the short-story.
Link Posted: 12/18/2021 11:31:18 PM EDT
[#25]
Good read. Thanks, OP.
Link Posted: 12/18/2021 11:52:25 PM EDT
[#26]
Nice work. I would love to see this story continue.
Link Posted: 12/19/2021 12:09:01 AM EDT
[#27]
Link Posted: 12/19/2021 1:25:36 PM EDT
[#28]
Very good.
Link Posted: 12/19/2021 7:08:12 PM EDT
[#29]
This is the one.
Link Posted: 12/20/2021 1:38:21 AM EDT
[#30]
.
Danny Deever ...

somebody has read Kipling
.
Link Posted: 12/20/2021 10:00:54 PM EDT
[#31]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By kar98k:
.
Danny Deever ...

somebody has read Kipling
.
View Quote


And Robert Heinlein.

Quick show of hands, who'd be in for 3 more parts to this story?
Link Posted: 12/20/2021 10:58:27 PM EDT
[#32]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


And Robert Heinlein.

Quick show of hands, who'd be in for 3 more parts to this story?
View Quote

Attachment Attached File
Link Posted: 12/20/2021 11:04:12 PM EDT
[#33]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


And Robert Heinlein.

Quick show of hands, who'd be in for 3 more parts to this story?
View Quote




Moar chapters would be the best reward for tirelessly promoting your work in GD. 👍🏻
Link Posted: 12/21/2021 12:23:42 AM EDT
[#34]
I have two hands up. That means you need to make 6 more parts. One of those hands is holding a beer. Don’t know how that plays into things.
Link Posted: 12/21/2021 8:42:50 PM EDT
[#35]
All hands on deck!

And the Bastle raid on SF.

And the Scimitar.

And the Spartans.

Link Posted: 12/21/2021 10:38:00 PM EDT
[#36]
I'd love to read more.
Link Posted: 12/22/2021 9:12:28 AM EDT
[#37]
Oh hell yes!
Link Posted: 12/22/2021 12:35:03 PM EDT
[#38]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


And Robert Heinlein.

Quick show of hands, who'd be in for 3 more parts to this story?
View Quote



Hands
Link Posted: 12/23/2021 4:48:43 PM EDT
[Last Edit: TnG27] [#39]
Absolutely more.  Enjoyed your work since Sean Bastle first appeared.  Happy to see you back.
Link Posted: 12/24/2021 12:17:00 AM EDT
[#40]
Link Posted: 12/27/2021 10:08:45 PM EDT
[#41]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Vaquero:
All hands on deck!

And the Bastle raid on SF.

And Across the Scimitar.

And the Spartans.

View Quote


This one gets rebooted first.

Look for something after the New Year.
Link Posted: 12/29/2021 1:04:09 PM EDT
[#42]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


This one gets rebooted first.

Look for something after the New Year.
View Quote

Link Posted: 1/7/2022 6:54:28 PM EDT
[#43]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By greyguy:

View Quote View All Quotes
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Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By greyguy:
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


This one gets rebooted first.

Look for something after the New Year.



I'll have Across the Scimitar back up Sunday night/Monday morning.  A few changes, an update, and seven more weekly updates planned.

In the meantime, I've set up a Patreon account under JG Elliott.  

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post this, so mods, kill it if you need to but:  https://www.patreon.com/JGElliott


Sharkman's Patreon Link

Thanks.

Link Posted: 1/8/2022 9:51:25 AM EDT
[#44]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


I'll have Across the Scimitar back up Sunday night/Monday morning.  A few changes, an update, and seven more weekly updates planned.

In the meantime, I've set up a Patreon account under JG Elliott.  

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post this, so mods, kill it if you need to but:  https://www.patreon.com/JGElliott


Sharkman's Patreon Link

Thanks.

View Quote





Link Posted: 1/12/2022 2:13:23 AM EDT
[#45]
I can't recount how many times I've used this quote talking to my "Rockefeller Republican" family and their "Country Club Lake Forest" types...


"You people had decades to deal with reasonable people.  And every time a reasonable person came forward to represent us, they were mocked, ridiculed, humiliated, and coerced.  You had your opportunities to deal with reasonable people, and you squandered those opportunities.  So now you have to deal with the unreasonable ones."
View Quote
Link Posted: 1/28/2022 9:47:44 AM EDT
[#46]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By sharkman6:


And Robert Heinlein.

Quick show of hands, who'd be in for 3 more parts to this story?
View Quote

Hell yeah !
Link Posted: 1/28/2022 7:54:02 PM EDT
[#47]
I really enjoyed the original story you posted, and look forward to new installments, but, Dude, with all due respect, you desperately need a copy editor.
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