The Redemption of J. Taylor Mohammed, Part 4

A clanking sound in the back of the motionless van woke JTM. Before he even looked around, he reached for his opium and started sipping. The pain was getting bad, not just in his head but all through his body now. There was more banging in the back, then Harlan opened the driver’s door and got in.

How ‘ya feelin’, JTM?”

I’m in a lot of pain… working on my opium.”

Good, but remember to go slow, okay.”

I remember.”

Harlan pulled the truck around a corner and headed through a broken gate in a fence. JTM realized that they were leaving Fort Knox.

We have our cesium, Harlan?”

Yessir, we do, and plenty of it!”

You shouldn’t have loaded it. You might be exposed now.”

No, don’t worry. This is a well-made suit and I was careful. Beside, I’ve been eating Prussian Blue; it’s the antidote for cesium-137.”

JTM looked at the clock in the dashboard. It was 9:54 pm. He was starting to feel numb, which he welcomed. “We’re headed to Paducah, now?”

Well, we’re on our way to meet your partner, and then the two of you will have to drive the last ten miles yourselves.”

My partner?”

Yes. His name is Lyn Gipson. He’s 74 years old and has late stage liver cancer. The two of you will have to work together to finish this job.” Harlan’s instinct was to explain more, but JTM had sipped a lot of opium and was about to fall asleep again. “Go ahead and sleep, son, I’ll wake you at the time.”

JTM woke again as the van came to a stop at 1:05 am. They had pulled off the side of a small country road and another car was in front of them.

Okay, JTM, take one sip of opium, then put it away.” JTM, whose pain was part-way back, complied. Harlan walked to the other car, talked for a minute, then returned and opened JTM’s door. “Okay, son, time to get out for a minute. Join us at the back of the van when you’re ready.”

JTM pulled himself slowly out of the door. He walked slowly to the opened back door, where he stopped and held on. An old, frail-looking man, without a radiation suit, stepped up and extended his hand. “Hello, partner, I’m Lyn Gipson.”

Pleased to meet you, Lyn,” JTM whispered, “I’m J. Taylor Mohammed, or JTM.”

I’m pleased to be working with you, JTM. I know your head is not terribly clear right now, but mine isn’t too bad, so you’ll have to rely on me. Okay?” JTM nodded his approval. Harlan opened the hood of the van and busied himself with wires as Lyn continued. “Here’s the plan. I’ll drive from here to the station. Harlan will drive my car to my house, then get home on foot.

A false alarm is just about to call the night guards down the road a few miles in the other direction, so almost no one will be around when we arrive. We’re going to pull around back, then I have to do some shoveling and you have to unload some things, then stand guard.”

Why shoveling?”

We have to fill in a low spot, so we can drive your van by remote control into the station.” JTM would have asked for more details, but he just didn’t have the energy and he hadn’t had enough opium to kill his pain. “Whatever you say” was all that came out of his mouth and he headed back to the passenger seat.

No more opium for now,” said Lyn. “Got it,” JTM replied, as he fell heavily into the seat.

A few minutes later Lyn got into the driver’s set and Harlan appeared at JTM’s door.

I wish we could spend a lot more time, JTM, but you just don’t have it.” JTM nodded. “Lyn knows the plan and he has a checklist to follow. Just do what he says.” JTM nodded again. “Just a few more minutes, son, and you’ll have done something in your life that matters.”

JTM smiled through his pain. Harlan smiled back, turned, and was gone. Lyn pulled the van onto the road and drove to the enforcement station at a surprisingly high rate of speed.

You with me, JTM?”

Yes, Lyn, I am.”

Okay, pull out a couple of coca leaves and start chewing them. Then put a few more in your pocket.” JTM said nothing but complied precisely. Chewing the coca dulled JTM’s pain a bit and boosted his energy. Still, he knew that he was perilously close to major organ failure. In fact, he was quite sure that his kidneys had already stopped working.

Lyn turned off the road, went up a small hill, and pulled to a stop a hundred meters or more behind the station. “Okay, get out,” he said. JTM complied, taking his bag of medications with him. Lynn got out too and pulled a shovel from the back. JTM, feeling some energy, made a motion to help. Lyn waved him off.

I’ll do it, partner. You’re a mess through and through, but some of my muscles are still okay, and I can shovel left-handed. Just follow the list. I think you’re supposed to get our signs and rifles out, and make sure the light on the bomb is green.”

A bomb, thought, JTM, this is real. Nevertheless, he pulled out the two rifles, a bag of ammo, and the two signs. Just like the famous ones from Florida, they read, I finally did something that mattered. Will you? He prepared the bomb as the list directed then flipped the final switch, turning on the green light. Then he picked up a rifle, scanned for enforcers, and waited while Lyn filled in a low spot about twenty feet ahead of the van. So far, they had not been noticed.

It took Lyn about ten minutes to fill the low spot with dirt. When he returned, he was breathing very hard and had a mouth full of coca leaves, which he then spat out. “We’re ready,” said JTM. “Everything is unloaded and the bomb is ready. The light is green.” Lyn nodded, pulled a small computer tablet from one of the bags, turned on the van, and took two steps away. “Here we go,” he said, sweating on the tablet as his fingers slid across it.

The van lurched forward. JTM saw Lyn slide one control bar to “100% accelerator” and steered with his finger. Obviously, Harlan had reflashed the takeover chip that was required by New Order law. The van bounced at the low spot, but continued straight. It must have been going seventy miles per hour when it crashed through the wall. And then it exploded, blowing out all the windows they could see and filling the building with fire and cesium.

Grab everything and go up to that ridge,” ordered Lyn. JTM did so, as Lyn hobbled down to the building and threw his remote control unit into the fire. Then he made his way toward the ridge that JTM had almost reached; but this was uphill, and he was having a hard time. In fact, both of them were having a hard time and going very slowly.

JTM could no longer balance and had to crawl the last twenty yards or so, but he made it to the top and fell onto his hip. As he did, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and knew that something inside him had torn. He was all but finished. If not for the opium and coca leaves, he wouldn’t have made it.

Lyn was crawling now too, using one leg and dragging the other, but he made it to JTM, who extended his hand to help, even though it was of no practical use. Lyn, seeing that JTM was almost immobile, opened his opium bottle for him. “Sip your opium and relax, JTM, we did our job.” He reached over and shook JTM’s hand, who did his best to shake back. “I figure the drones will find us and finish us in about ten minutes.”

Lyn sat up, took one of the rifles and shot at all the mechanical equipment he could see, between sips of opium. He thought he hit the transformers pretty well. Then he laid it back down.

Are you content, son? Did you do something you’re proud of?”

J. Taylor Mohammed smiled. “Yes, I did, Lyn. We stopped them from hurting a lot of people. At least for some years.”

Lyn rolled over and grasped the two signs. He placed one on JTM’s lap and the other on his own. They both lay back and sipped their opium, faster now.

Are you happy, Lyn?”

I am, my friend.” He was slurring his words now, almost like a drunk man, but he continued. “I did it for my grandkids. I was mad at my son because he did nothing when that damned New Order took over all the businesses. But then I realized it was my fault. I was always passive… it’s what I was taught… he got it from me.” JTM grunted an acknowledgement. “But now my grandkids will see a man act.”

They were both unconscious several minutes later when the Order Keeper drone located them, fired its small missiles, and blew their bodies into pieces.

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Paul Rosenberg