The Farmer exited his back door, striding across his barren field to the woods. His Wife and Daughter emerged from the brush, both draped in heavy camouflage jackets, his daughter tucked under his Wife’s protective grip. In Her right hand she held the handgun. She put the gun in her jacket pocket, the stoic look on her face giving way to relief. They embraced, a family hug that was too short lived.
“For now,” she replied.
“They took too much,” he said.
“We have more stashed in the caves.”
“I don’t enough if it’s enough.”
The Farmer reached down then lifted his daughter into his arms. He looked into her fearful eyes and knew what had to be done.
“Will the bad men come back?” she asked.
“No,” The Farmer replied. “The bad men won’t come back. Daddy is going to make sure of it.”
The Farmer’s Wife looked at him skeptically and he shook his head. Once they were in the house he carried his Daughter to her room then tucked her in bed.
“Get some rest, little bird,” he said. “Mommy and I are going to lay down, too.”
“Okay, big bird,” she said. She held his cheeks with her small hands then kissed his nose.
His Wife waited for him as he left the room.
“You shouldn’t tell her things that aren’t true,” she said. “The Nomads will be back.”
“I didn’t lie,” The Farmer replied. “I called the Elder.”
The Wife’s eyes widened. The Farmer handed his shotgun to his Wife then took the handgun from her.
“I should be back by nightfall,” he said. “If I’m not, take her and go to the caves. Stay there until someone comes for you.”
The Farmer and his Wife kissed for a long time, like they used to when they were young. They held each other for a moment longer then let each other go. The Farmer went to his shed. As he reached the building Rufus met him, the old hound dog panting hard.
“You can’t go with me,” the Farmer said. “Get on that porch and keep and eye out. I’ll be back at sundown.”
He patted the dog on its head and it licked his hand before ambling off to the front porch. The Farmer climbed into his truck. It started with a loud bang and belched a cloud of white smoke before settling into a steady idle. He backed the truck out of the shed then stopped to climb out and close the shed door. Climbing back into the truck, he drove down the road to the Meeting Oak.
He was not the first to arrive. Blacksmith’s truck was there, as was Potter’s and Beekeeper. He could see the Meeting Oak’s canopy towering over the other trees, its branches shedding its leaves as the tree crept toward a winter’s sleep. As he trudged down the narrow path he heard other trucks pull up and doors slamming. The others gathered around him; they nodded and shook hands. There was little talk; everyone saving their words for what was about to take place.
They reached the oak. The massive tree dwarfed the men and women sitting in a half circle under its branches. Sitting before the trunk, flanked by her great-great-great grandchildren was The Elder. She seemed frail wrapped in her familiar woolen blanket, her wrinkled face resembling a land with many rivers. A small knit cap covered her head, strands of gray hair extending from beneath it.
“I’m glad you all could come,” she said, her voice resonating across the clearing. “The Nomads came and they took too much. If they come again, we will starve. They will take us, keep the weak, sell the strong and kill the useless. There is Unbalance.”
The Farmer nodded with the others. He knew what would come next, words that had not been uttered under the meeting oak in centuries, words than none but the Elder had heard beyond bedtime stories.
The Elder gazed at each of those gathered with a certainty that belied her age.
“We must reclaim the Balance, for without it we Farmers and Nomads will perish. One cannot exist without the other, but all must be equal. There must be a Summoning.”
The trucks stopped before his house. The doors swung open and four people emerged wearing heavy jackets, canvas pants and boots, their faces covered by thick scarfs that rested on their shouleders. Each of them carried automatic rifles.From the rear of the second truck voices drifted, words of reassurance being spoken to calm the those whose sobbing caused The Farmer’s hands to instinctively tighten around his shotgun. One of the nomads approached him, walking to the edge of his stairs.
“That’s close enough,” The Farmer said.
The nomad halted, lowered the rifle then pulled down the face scarf, revealing the hard face of a middle age woman.
“Where’s the Portion,” she said.
“In the shed out back,” The Farmer replied.
The nomad motioned with her head. As The Farmer moved toward the stairs Rufus jumped to his paws, growling as he bared his teeth. The Nomad took aim at the dog.
“Down, boy!” The Farmer shouted.
Rufus sat, still bearing his teeth. The Nomad kept her gun trained on the dog.
“Did you come to kill a dog or did you come to get your Portion,” The Farmer said.
“Meat is meat,” the Nomad said.
The Farmer climbed down the stairs the sauntered around the back of his home to the shed. He heard the trucks rev up as they followed. He unlocked the shed then opened the wide doors as the nomads approached. They brushed by him then into the shed. In moment they returned, their arms fill with his hard earned harvest. Three trips they took before it was all gone.
The Nomad stood before him.
“Not much,” she said. “We here you’re supposed to be the best.”
“Hard season,” The Farmer replied.
The woman spit at his feet. “Where’s your family?”
The Farmer’s eyes met the Nomad’s.
“Like I said, hard season.”
The Nomad smirked. “We left enough. We expect more next year.”
The nomads climbed into their trucks then drove away. Rufus jumped from the porch, barking as he chased them down the road. As they went down the road the canvas on the rear truck opened. A faces appeared, faces filled with fear and desperation. The Farmer looked away. There was nothing he could to for them. Yet. He waited until he was sure the trucks were far away before firing one shot into the air. His family would hear that shot then come out of hiding. He went inside his home to the old ham radio which shared a table with the sewing machine. He cranked the charger until he had enough power then radioed The Elder.
“Yes, Farmer?” The Elder spoke with a voice burdened by wisdom and time.
“We need to meet,” The Farmer said. “Next year may be no better than this year.”
“I’ll gather the others,” The Elder said. “We’ll met at First Oak. You sure you want to do this? We could reach out to the Citizens.”
“They’re no better,” The Farmer said. “We need to handle this ourselves. We’ll meet at First Oak. Tomorrow.”
The Farmer dreaded the day. The troubles began at the end of winter. The snows, the source of the spring surge that filled the rivers and overflowed its banks, had been light that year, barely covering the peaks of the distant mountains. The Farmer and his family stayed snug in their modest home, feeding off the smoked meats and preserves from the prior year. If there were no floods His land along the riverbank would not be fertile enough for planting.
The situation worsened with the arrival of spring. The western rains did not arrive in their normal abundance, leaving the high fields too dry. But still he planted and prayed, hoping that they would arrive in time for the growing season. His prayers were not answered. For a while there was hope. Healthy sprouts emerged, promising a good season and although the anticipated harvest would not be what he hoped, it would be enough.
That hope was crushed when the summer drought began. The crops withered in the fields under the brutal heat. He was forced to harvest early and plow what was ruined back into the dry soil. It was then that the Farmer knew. It was not enough.
So he sat on his porch, his shotgun resting in his lap patting his old hound dog Rufus on the head, waiting. His family hid in the woods beyond the dead cornfield, ready to flee if things did not work out. They would not work out. He sat up when the felt the rumble from the engines of the heavy trucks that always arrived this time of year. They were coming for his due and he would not have it. He lifted his shotgun, checking it one more time. There were three shells in the magazine, another ten in his vest pocket. Like the harvest, it wasn’t enough. As the trucks came into view on the dusty road leading to his house, he stood.
“You ready, Rufus?” he said.
The old dog licked his hand then looked at him with rueful eyes.
The Farmer grinned.
“I hear you,” he said.
‘My interest in Sword and Soul came from my love of indigenous African martial arts and my first encounter with Bilbo Baggins.
I have been a student of the martial arts of Africa since I was four years old. I have also been reading since I was two years old – first with comic books, then I moved on to fiction. By the time I was six, I had read Watership Down. Hungry for more fantasy, I picked up my sister’s copy of The Hobbit and read it over a weekend. I wanted more fantasy!
My sisters checked out the Lord of the Rings trilogy from the library and I fell in love with Epic Fantasy…but I yearned to see myself in fiction. Also, during this time, I became acutely aware that the world of Epic Fantasy was very…white.
I searched for non-white worlds of Epic Fantasy to no avail. However, my search did lead me to a subgenre of Fantasy I enjoyed even more than Epic Fantasy: Sword and Sorcery. My favorite tales were those of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Elric of Melnibone. Later, I got into the Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan comic books from Marvel Comics. Still, I wanted to read about African heroes, using African weapons and African spirituality in African settings.
I got my wish in 1980, when I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons and due to the racism of the white players, I was quickly thrust into the position of Dungeon Master for an all-Black group of players. As I mastered the game, I began writing my own adventure modules and eventually created a campaign set in Africa.
I enjoyed writing African adventures so much, I began writing Sword and Sorcery stories set in Africa.
In June, 1987, issue #122 of my Dragon Magazine subscription came in the mail. I checked the contents and I was surprised – and elated – to find two entries: Out of Africa, by Charles R. Saunders and Gaming the Dark Continent, by Roger E. Moore.
Out of Africa – a collection of beasts and monsters from African folklore and legend – really impressed me. The article was masterfully written and well-researched. “This is a white man who got it right,” I said after reading the article. At the time, I had no idea that Charles was Black and I really had no idea one day I would call him a friend and inspiration.
Balogun has contributed two outstanding novels to the Sword and Soul archives. His first Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time in Afrika which is pictured above, weighs heavily on his Afrikan martial arts experience and his background as a Yoruba priest. Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors. Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way
Balogun’s second Sword and Soul novel is Beneath The Shining Jewel, a story based in world of Ki Khanga. In this novel Balogun not only deliver his usual outstanding action scenes and storytelling, but he also unleashes his talent to tell a good horror tale. Beneath the Shining Jewel takes place in Ki Khanga’s jewel city, Sati-Baa. Mba, a retired constable, is called back to active duty to deal with a situation that still haunts him twenty years later. Mba and a host of characters battle a scourge that once ravaged the city and may be poised to return. Beneath the Shining Jewel is both familiar and unique, combining African folklore with a good dose of horror and action adventure. Sword and Soul – African-inspired Heroic and Epic Fantasy – has been taken in a new and thrilling direction with Beneath the Shining Jewel, a tale that will have you riveted from beginning to end.
In addition to these two excellent novels, Balogun has contributed Sword and Soul short stories to the Griots Anthologies and is co-editor and writer in the Ki Khanga Anthology. You can purchase Once Upon a Time in Afrika and Beneath the Shining Jewel by clicking the following links:
And don’t forget to check out our Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing Game Kickstarter and level a pledge:
Next up, someone I’m very familiar with. 🙂 Stay tuned!
We continue the Sword and Soul primer with another Charles Saunders character: Dossouye. Just as Charles broke new ground with the creation of Imaro, he lead the field once again with the creation of the first black female Sword and Soul Character; Dossouye. Dossoye was created by Charles when he was approached to submit a story for Amazons! anthology edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. He also penned a Dossouye story for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthology. My first encounter with Dossouye, and my first exposure to Charles’s excellent writing, was in the Dark Matter anthology editing by Sheree Thomas. Sheree reprinted the story ‘Gimmile’s Songs.
Dossouye herself is a woman warrior inspired by the real-life female warriors of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Orphaned at a young age, Dossouye becomes a soldier in the women’s army of the kingdom of Abomey. In a war against the rival kingdom of Abanti, Dossouye saves her people from certain destruction; but a cruel twist of fate compels her to go into exile. Mounted on her might war-bull, Gbo, Dossouye enters the vast rainforest beyond the borders of her homeland, seeking a place to call her own. The forest is where Dossouye will either find a new purpose in life… or find her life cut short by the many menaces she encounters.
Charles has published two Dossouye novels. The first, published is 2008, is a collection of Dossouye stories. The second book, Dancers of Mulukau, is a complete novel and brand new Dossouye adventure. Charles also wrote a new Dossouye short story, Kpendu, which appears in the Griots: Sisters of the Spear anthology which he and I co-edited. As in Imaro, Charles uses a world based on Africa. As a matter of fact, Dossouye’s world in Nyumbani as well, but in another era distant from the time of Imaro.
You can purchase the Dossouye novels here:
Next up; Sword and Soul writer and my partner in crime, Balogun Ojetade. And don’t forget to check out the Ki Khanga Kickstarter: The Ki Khanga RPG Kickstarter.
If you’ve been paying attention to anything I’m up to you know that I’m in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the completion of the Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing game. You’ll also be happy to know that our campaign was successful in only two days and that now we are working to reach stretch goals to add enhancements that will improve the gameplaying experience. But that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m here to write about Sword and Soul. There may be a few of you who have pledged for or are planning to purchase Ki Khanga but have never read Sword and Soul. So I’ve decided to share a required reading list of Sword and Soul titles that will give you a sense of what Sword and Soul is and spark your imagination for exciting Ki Khanga gameplay.
The best place to start is at the beginning, and Sword and Soul begins with Charles R. Saunders. Charles is the founder of Sword and Soul, and his writing is the best example of what Sword and Soul is and can be. Like most of us he was originally inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Conan and just like most of us he was troubled by the depiction of black characters in Howard’s work. When he began work on Imaro he was setting out to create a character that, in his own words, ‘could kick Conan’s ass.’ I believe he succeeded. Howard’s influence can clearly be seen in the first novel, but as Charles progressed in telling Imaro’s tale you can see the evolution away from Howard’s style to a point that by Book Four Charles’s work stands alone. Imaro is the standard for Sword and Soul, and Charles’ work, while highly underrated in fantasy writing in general, is highly respected and admired among die hard sword and sorcery readers. Charles’ Imaro collection is currently published by Sword and Soul Media and can be found at Lulu.com. Imaro Books One and Two can be purchased via Amazon.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where we talk about another Charles Saunders’s creation, Dossouye, and another writer who is working to expand the legacy of Sword and Soul. I wonder who that could be. In the meantime, check out the Ki Khanga Kickstarter. Not only can you read Sword and Soul, now you can play it. The Ki Khanga RPG Kickstarter
Yesterday heralded the release of Dieselfunk!, the follow up anthology to the groundbreaking Steamfunk! anthology. The idea for Dieselfunk! came almost simultaneously with Steamfunk. Balogun and I had discussed the anthology at length; as a matter of fact he coined the term around the same time as we adopted the term Steamfunk to describe Steampunk rooted in the African/African Diaspora experience. Many of you are familiar with the aftermath of the release of Steamfunk; it’s was my top selling anthology until the release of Dark Universe and has been taught in a number of colleges and universities including Georgia Tech.
Although Steampunk is relatively well known among speculative fiction enthusiasts, Dieselpunk is a bit more obscure. So what exactly is Dieselpunk, and why does it deserved to be funkdafied? Let’s start with the definition. Wikipedia defines Dieselpunk as a genre similar to that of its more well-known cousin “steampunk” that combines the aesthetics of the diesel-based technology of the interwar period (World War I and World War II) through to the 1950s with retro-futuristic technology and postmodern sensibilities. Balogun Ojetade defines Dieselfunk as ‘a type of fiction, film and fashion that combines the style and mood of the period between World War I and the early 1950s with Afrofuturistic inspiration. Dieselfunk tells the exciting untold stories of people of African descent during the Jazz Age. Think the Harlem Renaissance meets Science Fiction…think Chalky White (from “Boardwalk Empire”) doing battle with robots run amok in his territory…that is Dieselfunk!’
It makes sense that Dieselpunk would be of interest to people of African Descent, particularly African Americans. This was a volatile time in America. The country was 50 years away
from the Civil War and Jim Crow ruled the South. The Negro of the early 20th century was significantly different from the 19th century; black people were educated, restless and becoming more and more vocal against the inequality of America. Many sought to prove themselves by joining the armed forces to fight against the Germany and its allies. What they found when they reached Europe was an attitude that while not perfect, was significantly better than the racism in America. Black soldiers and pilots distinguished themselves in battle; Eugene Bullard became the first Black American fighter pilot, while the 369th ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ earned a ferocious reputation among allies and enemies alike while at the same time enduring the insults and discrimination of their countrymen.
When these soldiers returned home they found an America even more hostile to them than when they left despite their service. The Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence due to the fear of thousands of black men returning from war and the shameless propaganda of the movie ‘Birth of A Nation. Still, black people continued to strive and achieve, building communities such as Harlem, New York and Greenwood, Tulsa, also known as Black Wall Street. When World War II arrived Black men and woman once again answered the call. The push for equal rights at home and overseas resulted in the integration of the arm forces and changes which eventually led to the Civil Rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s.
So as you can see, the time in which Dieselpunk rests its hat is fertile ground for a unique perspective. In other words, Dieselpunk was begging to be funkdafied. While both Steampunk and Dieselpunk stories can be written without mention of the racial dynamics of the time, it is telling that most of the writers of Dieselfunk! chose to incorporate the history within their stories, resulting in stories that in my opinion raises the Dieselfunk! anthology to a level beyond it’s sister anthology.
Balogun Ojetade’s story, ‘SOAR: Wild Blue Yonder‘, sets the pace with an action-packed adventure which includes the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the first all-black paratrooper unit and the Tuskegee Airmen joining forces to carry out a secret mission.
Day Al-Mohamed’s ‘Powerplay‘ centers around the real life story of mob-buster Eunice Carter with a special twist that qualifies her story for pages of the anthology.
S.A. Cosby’s ‘The Girl With The Iron Heart‘ takes us on an inter-dimensional journey where the main character finds himself invisible to the system, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Then there’s ‘Into the Breach‘ by Malon Edwards, an imaginative patios ladened story that takes place in a Chicago like you never
Angel’s Flight by Joe Hilliard tells the story of a boy pursuing his dream and the legacy that fuels his life.
Ronald T. Jones ‘Unusual Threats and Circumstances‘ takes us back to Chicago, specifically to the city section known as Bronzeville, where Jericho Aldrige’s terror filled night becomes the beginning of an amazing adventure.
Carole McDonnell gives us rocket men and the personal trials of the Jim Crow South in her story ‘Bonregard and the Three Ninnies;’ and in my story ‘Down South,’ Roscoe Tanner travels back to the South against his better judgement to help a woman retrieve something of great value.
The Dieselfunk! Anthology ends with ‘Big Joe and the Electro-Men‘ by James A. Staten a perfect blend of science fiction, espionage and undercover brothers and sisters.
Though significantly shorter than the Steamfunk! anthology, Dieselfunk! packs a punch. The weight of history and the imaginative storytelling makes it an anthology I’m very proud of. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
To get your copy of Dieselfunk!, visit http://www.mvmediaatl.com/.
Moses hesitated. He turned then stared into the eyes of Amanda Berkowitz. Her dirty gray hair fell off her head in disarray, blood splattered on her blouse, apron and skirt. She pressed her small hands against her chest, the village posture for prayer.
“Come on Amanda, don’t do this,” Moses said. “You let this bastard go and he’ll be back with friends.”
“I won’t! I swear to God I won’t!” the man said. Tears escaped his wide brown eyes.
“We’ve had enough of your brand of salvation today,” Amanda said. “Let him go.”
Moses lowered his gun. ‘I don’t understand you people.”
He raised his gun again, smashing the barrel against the slaver’s head. The man fell to all fours as he moaned.
“Get the fuck out of here,” Moses said. “If you’re smart you won’t come back.”
The man scramble to his feet then ran for the lead truck, the only one untouched by Moses’ attack. Moses raised his gun, firing off a round that struck the ground before the man’s right foot.
“No, buddy. You’re walking out of here.”
The man sprinted by the truck , through the other burning vehicles then down the main road.
Moses holstered his guns then strode to Amanda.
“You’ll be seeing him again,” he said.
“Maybe not,” Amanda replied. Villagers emerged from their hiding places to care for the wounded and collect the dead. Amanda trudged to the crowd that surrounded Christopher’s body. Together they prayed, their voices barely louder than a whisper. When they were done Amanda stepped away.
“Let’s get him buried,” she said. “No use staring any longer. Chris is gone to Glory.”
“When are you people going to listen to reason,” Moses shouted. “As long as you stay Outside this is going to happen. You’ll all be gone to Glory before the year’s out!”
“Mr. Pritchard!” Amanda strode them, standing so close their noses almost touched.
“I will not let you use this tragedy to further Newlanta’s agenda! It’s not your place to do so!”
“You’re correct Amanda. It’s not his place. It’s mine.”
Thomas Dern stepped between Moses and Amanda, his wide white smile in contrast to his umber skin. He wore his usual khakis and books, although the uniform looked more like that of a zoo guide than a soldier. Moses had been so distracted he didn’t hear the Extractors arrive.
Thomas was a tall, attractive man, the perfect eye candy for retrieval duty. He shared a sympathetic smile with Amanda as he took her hand.
“My team will tend to the burials and your wounded,” he said.
“We can take care of our own,” Amanda replied, the harshness gone from her voice.
“I know, but we wish to help,” Thomas said. “It’s the least we can do.”
Amanda kissed Thomas’s cheek. “Thank you, Thomas. God bless you.”
She glared at Moses before walking away.
Thomas held onto his smile until Amanda was gone from view before snapping his head around to face Moses.
“God damn it Moses! What were you trying to do?”
Moses shrugged then folded his arms. “You’ve been trying to sweet talk these assholes into Newlanta for three years. Thought I’d try some tough love. I’m tired of saving people that don’t want to be saved.”
“It’s your job,” Thomas retorted. “If you have a problem, complain to the mayor…or leave.”
“Maybe I’ll do both,” Moses said. He sauntered to one of the dead slavers, knelt beside him then searched his pockets until he found keys. He climbed into the damaged truck the pressed the start button. The truck bucked then rumbled to life.
“What are you doing?” Thomas asked.
“I blew up my bike, so I’m taking the truck back,” Moses said.
“The trucks belong to the village now,” Thomas said.
“Not this one. I’ll see you back at the ranch.”
“I’m filing a report!” Thomas said.
“Can’t wait to read it.” Moses back up the truck then steered it around.
“See you later, Tommy Boy!”
Thomas’s shook a fist at Moses as he drove away.
“I told you not to call me that!”
The trucks sped down the main road of the village, stopping in the center of town. Christopher Talbert, the village elder, emerged from the wooden town center building and strolled to the trucks. He raised his hands in the customary village greeting. Armed men sprang from the truck, firing automatic weapons into the air.
“Slavers!” Moses shouted. He clambered down the tree, dropping the last few feet and landing on his booted feet. He sprinted to his bike.
“Back up is on the way,” the voice said.
“Won’t get here in time,” Moses said. He jumped on his bike then kick started the engine to life.
“I got this,” he said.
Moses sped down the narrow trail then merged onto the main highway. In minutes he was at the town’s outskirts, streaking by villagers fleeing the intruders. With his left hand he pulled out his magnum from the hostler nestled under his right arm, blasting two slavers chasing the villagers. He downed two more slavers on his way to the town center. Fiver slavers lay dead by the time he jumped from the bike. The bike crashed into the rear of the truck then both vehicles caught fire. Moses scrambled to his feet then ran for cover. Minutes later the truck exploded, killing those slavers too foolish to seek cover.
“Moses?” the voice said. “Are you okay? What’s going on?”
Moses weaved through the remaining trucks as bullets whizzed by his head.
“I’m in town center,” he said as he ducked behind a burning truck. “Five slavers are down, about ten wounded. I figure ten, maybe fifteen still standing but not for long.”
“Moses, disengage!” the voice commanded. “Our team is almost there!”
A slaver jumped around the truck facing Moses, an automatic pressed into his gut. Moses sidestepped as the man fired then shot him in the chest, blowing him from behind the truck.
“Moses! Get out of there now!”
“Shut the fuck up!” Moses said. He shut off his head set.
He was taking fire from all sides, pinned between two trucks.
“Divide and conquer, homeboy,” he whispered. He took out his second magnum.
“Let’s do this!”
Moses sprinted to his right, guns in both hands. Three slavers stepped out to cut him off and Moses shot them down, one shot for each man. Before the other slavers could pursue he disappeared behind the nearest building. He holstered his magnums then took his rifle from his back.
“Time to go hunting,” he said. He worked his way between the buildings and vehicles, hunting down the slavers with methodical precision. One shot, one man. The last slaver cowered behind a small jeep, his head exposed. Moses raised his rifle then took aim. The man seemed to sense his predicament; he stood, his shaking hands raised over his head.
“I give up! I give up!”
Moses’s finger tightened on his trigger.
“It’s a little late for that,” he said.
Moses sat cross-legged in the tree stand overlooking Crim Valley, watching the village below. For three days he observed the villagers going about their daily routine and he was getting aggravated. This was retriever work. But orders were orders, so he calmed down and waited for further commands.
He blinked, answering his headset.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“Sanchez spotted a truck convoy heading in your direction two days ago.”
“Don’t know. There were no armored cars, just trucks. They seemed to be travelling light, moving fast.”
“Coming from the south?”
Moses puts down his binoculars then leaned against the long leafed pine as he massaged his forehead.
“I’m tired of going in circles with these villagers. Just send in the damned retrievers and bring them in already.”
“You know the rules,” the voice said. “Assimilation must be voluntary. Otherwise we’re no better than slavers.”
“Yeah, yeah. If it was up to me I’d dragged their assess behind the Perimeter kicking and screaming. They’d thank me later.”
“That’s why it’s not up to you.”
The rumble of heavy vehicles stole Moses’ attention. He lifted the binoculars, looking to they ragged highway snaking through the dense pines.
“The trucks are here,” he commented.
“What do you see?”
The vehicles sped down the highway then veered onto the two-lane leading into the village. They continued into the central square, filling the roundabout before stopping and blocking traffic. Christopher Tolbert, the village elder, emerged from the elders’ compound covered in his rank robe, his gray beaded braids bouncing off his narrow shoulders. He strolled to the trucks, his hands opened in the traditional village greeting. A dozen armed men leapt from the truck. One of them leveled his automatic at Christopher then emptied his clip into the man’s chest.
“Slavers!” Moses shouted. He clambered down the tree then sprinted to his bike.
“Back up is on the way,” the voice said. “Hold your position until they arrive.”
“Not enough time,” Moses said. “I’m going in.”
“Moses wait! You can’t…”
Moses checked his weapons then started the bike.
“Yes I can. I’m a neutralizer, remember?”