When the Earth Shakes
Jacob Prisgrim pressed of a hundred buttons on his remote and the television set flicked on. A blonde newscaster reported the story, not in a typical canned reporter’s tone, but with a hint of haste and genuine apprehension.
“In national news, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that the Second Amendment of the constitution is an ‘Unlimited and Inviolable Right’, and cannot be subject to change, the end result of the ongoing Davison vs. Picketts case,” she said.
That same piece of news had been repeated with the same urgency throughout the entire day.
— — — — —
A year later, things had changed.
Off in the distance, an earth-shaking, full sound boomed. The china in the cabinet rattled and the floor vibrated beneath people’s feet. Mr. Prisgrim sat on an old chair in his living room.
“There it is again, that infernal blasting,” he muttered under his breath. When the noise was over, he threw his coat on and walked out to the car. The engine puttered as he pulled out onto the main road. A few minutes down his side street lay the battered foundations of a house. His neighbor knew who used to live there. They had talked about the event several times since then.
“There it is, where the Forrests used to live. Why do the gangs around here have such bad aim?” complained the man. He kept on driving, with a bit of an empty feeling inside.
At the grocery store, a television by the counter showed another similarly decimated house which belonged to a low-ranking gangster in the Snipas gang. A voice droned on and on about how he had upset the adjacent criminal group The Shanks in some way, and how he had been killed by an artillery blast just one day later. A helicopter fluttered over the scene, recording the blackened remnants of wood, plastic, and the huge crater swallowing up most of the property and even some of the next house’s yard.
Evidently the neighbor of the gangster was going to try to sue someone to recover the money from her destroyed orchids.
Mr. Prisgrim humphed and frowned.
On another channel, the territory wars were being made into a reality show called Shanks vs. Snipas. It already was the second most-watched show on the air.
— — — — —
On the other side of the city, in one of several normal-looking but extremely fortified houses that he owned, sat the man known only as Crimp. He wore a tuxedo, taking his job as leader seriously. His hair was black, and gelled backwards, except on days where he didn’t do much. Those days were getting fewer and fewer.
Times had changed.
This wasn’t like a gang from five years ago; Crimp and his enemies were professionals.
More than a dozen monitors lined the wall, each showing the view from a different hidden camera around the city. On the table in front of him sat a HAM radio, which would give off security updates around three times a minute. He sat in a cheap chair; the only object in the room without the high-quality aesthetic of it.
From time to time, Crimp took a sip of extra old cognac. At times he simply drank Serbian mineral water.
Chore though it was, he enjoyed his time in his basement bunker. Aside from having persistent worrying thoughts of snipers, he felt nearly at peace.
“Damn, I’m late,” he whispered, turning on his swivel microphone and talking into it.
“This is alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo,” he repeated twice.
“10-4,” replied another voice, muffled slightly by static.
“What’s the word?” asked Crimp.
“Noodles,” replied the voice.
“10-4. Have you checked Highway 28, and made sure Maggonicelli’s has paid their tax?” inquired Crimp.
“Affirmative,” was the reply. “Twenty-four hundred for the month.”
“Perfect. Keep it up and you might get promoted. Alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo over and out.”
He turned the microphone off, but only a second later another voice was already coming in.
“Is this alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo?” it asked.
“What’s the word?” asked Crimp, in a serious tone.
“Affirmative,” said Crimp. After a polite pause the informant continued, copying the tones used by police on their radios.
“I have a tangent on Highway 87 heading northwards towards the Highway 28 intersection on the south side.”
“A Snipa?” asked Crimp, forgetting his clandestine protocol for a moment.
“Affirmative. Sausage. In about two minutes the tangent will be at the H-28 intersection.” The voice couldn’t help but sound slightly awkward for the first half of the sentence.
“Perfect. Lat and long?” asked the leader.
“41.8369° North, 87.6847° West. I repeat. Red hatchback, right lane.”
“Is there other traffic on the road?” asked Crimp.
“Not much,” replied the voice.
“Good.” He smirked. “We should avoid extra damages since what happened in September,” said Crimp.
“10-4. Good idea, C. Over and out.”
The boss repeated the coordinates to an associate a mile out of town who had a heavy artillery piece surrounded by a huge foam box to muffle the noise. Crimp observed the screen showing the relevant intersection and waited. The moments passed uncomfortably by before, at last, the car appeared, slowing to a stop at the intersection. It looked expensive.
The boss knew that this was the moment for action.
“Fire,” ordered Crimp. He heard the explosion a moment later through the other side of the radio. Three seconds later, the blast rocked the surveillance camera, suddenly sending the vehicle to a many-pieced end. There was little peripheral damage. The execution was perfect.
Crimp smiled, although he wished someone was there to see him. The adrenaline coursed through his veins as he watched police arrive at the scene in their huge armored vehicles. Three-quarters of the police force was now armored, the rest being reserved for pursuit.
A tank armed with a four-inch cannon even showed up for backup. Nobody found the Shank’s security camera. Their cover was intact.
Crimp grinned to himself, pleased at the result.
A few minutes later, he saw one of his highest-ranking group members on the screen. He was the second-in-command, and the most probable to take over if Crimp’s home defenses were breached.
“Joe,” Crimp said to himself. The man walked on the sidewalk towards the camera, which was mounted around the second story of a nearby building. He smiled at the camera and waved. Crimp nodded his head, appreciating the attention. He felt nearly warm for a second.
Joe’s head exploded and he fell to the ground, bleeding all over the sidewalk.
The boss took the sight in, unbelieving.
“Damn!” yelled Crimp, throwing his cup and a clipboard from his desk. The cup damaged a portion of his radio, making him even angrier.
“Goddamned snipas!” he screamed, throwing his chair in the opposite direction.
Bought from Ikea and made in China, it shattered when it hit the ground.
Crimp collapsed, hopeless.
“Why can’t I be as precise as them? It seems like as soon as I make one good move, they outclass me.” He knew they were called Snipas for a reason.
The life drained out of him as the gang leader lay on the ground. He felt slightly like his late friend Joe.
“My only benefit is all this huge artillery, but sometimes it feels useless compared to the tools they use… It’s like they’re ghosts; they know where all my cameras are, they use decoy houses and use decoy vehicles, hidden snipers…” Despite the ideas Crimp had stolen from them, they were always coming up with new, increasingly diabolical schemes.
“I bet that car wasn’t even the real one.” Negativity overwhelmed him. He had no good reason to think the car was fake, though, beyond gut suspicion.
“First it was Karl, then Morris, then Joe. I can’t take another one.”
He thought about calling on the radio to broaden and intensify the search for the enemy headquarters, but he would need to fix the radio equipment first. He brought his fist down on the floor, enjoying the satisfying feeling when it connected.
It wouldn’t take long for him to recover from the shock, though, for he had been in similar situations many times before.
Crimp took out his phone, an old but durable model. At least it didn’t spy on him like the new ones. He dialed and it ringed for a while.
“Is this E-Z Repairs?” he asked, in his regular tone of voice.
“Yes,” replied the man on the other end.
“I’m looking to repair a HAM radio, quite urgently,” he replied.
“What’s your name?”
“Just give me a minute,” said the repairman. There was silence for an unusually long amount of time.
“Okay, what do you need?” he said, with extra vigor.
“Just a replacement for a transmitter part.”
At the end of the call, Crimp got up and opened the solid metal door to the ground level of the house. He made sure he had some extra bribe money for the repairman in his wallet so he wouldn’t tell anyone the unusual nature of the house. Still, something in him felt uneasy. His personal assistant was waiting upstairs.
“Louie, would you mind answering the door when the repairman shows up?” asked Crimp.
“No problem,” he replied. Louie was not an old-fashioned butler, but a typical semi-casual man who had knowledge of a vast variety of modern things. Crimp handed him three hundred dollars and left the room.
The leader waited in his bedroom in the top floor. There was a desk next to the bedroom door with one large drawer.
He looked out the window facing the backyard. It was made of three panes of bulletproof glass. He opened up the steel locking mechanism and felt the wind through his hair.
Someone knocked at the front door, so Crimp laid down by the top of the staircase so he could catch a small glimpse of what was going on. Louie answered the door and spoke with the repairman for a moment. They walked towards the bunker entryway and left Crimp’s sight.
The leader heard the repairman call up someone on his phone and say something like “Yeah, you can come.”
That’s when the mayhem started.
A few moments later, Crimp saw several armed and armored men rush through the front door and into the bunker.
“Shit,” he said, running to his desk, opening the drawer, and frantically pulling out a smoke grenade and an MP5.
There was a gunshot, evidently from the armed men and not from Louie as he had not been armed. Crimp sighed. This had been the third downed personal assistant in the last three months.
That’s why their salary was so high.
Crimp pulled the pin on the grenade and threw it down the stairs. It sent out clouds of whitish smoke. He threw his desk down there as well to trip them up.
Knowing their methods, Crimp supposed the Snipas would have scoured the whole house for him in a few moments even if he had not shown any evidence of his presence. They knew, at least vaguely, what he looked like, and it wasn’t at all like Louie.
The leader dropped his submachine gun out the window and it fell two feet onto the roof. An instant later, he went out with it, grabbing it again as it slowly slid downwards.
The neighbor’s roof was ten feet away from the edge of his own but much lower. He ran as quickly as he could and made the jump, but crashed with so much force into the second roof that he had to let go of his weapon. He just managed to be securely on the roof and avoid the threat of falling off himself.
“No!” he said as the gun fell twenty feet to the ground. He started to scramble to the peak of the neighbor’s roof.
To make matters worse, the Snipas in his own house had made it through the defences and were looking through the window. They saw Crimp and started shooting just as he disappeared beyond the apex of the second rooftop.
As most of the fire was directed towards the northern end of the roof, Crimp ran, low to the ground, to the southern end, and pulled his magnum snubnose revolver out from its concealment holster. Crimp popped out from behind the cover and saw one man firing his assault rifle from the open window. The shots ripped apart the other side of the roof.
The boss aimed the revolver sights carefully and took out the Snipa with a loud bang.
“Good thing I chose such a huge gun,” said Crimp to himself as he jumped to the roof of the next house over. From there, he decided to drop down to the backyard. After making it to the fence, he entered the alleyway and started running from the remaining soldier.
The second man could not be far behind in his pursuit.
Crimp took his phone out and called up his second-in-command, although he had been the third until a few minutes before, when Joe was shot.
“Hey Henry, it’s C. What’s the word?”
“Noodles,” replied Henry.
“Great,” said Crimp, still running, revolver in one hand. “Listen, Henry, it’s an emergency. Louie is dead and my location is compromised.” Just as he said so, a gigantic shell slammed into Crimp’s house, destroying a piece of it.
The leader looked back and saw the second Snipa running out into the alleyway. He turned right and entered someone’s backyard as he opened fire.
“Okay… here’s your orders. Henry, I need a strike, now.”
“Where?” asked his friend, nervous.