The real problem of poverty is not a problem of distribution, but of production. The poor are not poor because something is being withheld from them, but because, for whatever reason, they are not producing enough. The only permanent way to cure their poverty is to increase their earning power.
The headline is misleading. California wants all big rigs and medium duty vehicles to be electric by 2045. They do mandate the shift to start in 2024.
There are far too many people (a lot in legislatures) who have this almost dogmatic faith in laws creating reality. Never mind little things like physics or economics. As Thomas Sowell reminded us, those in power rarely suffer the consequences of their actions, but suffer the wrath of voters for their inactions.
This weekend was dominated by my brother-in-law getting himself hitched. This was a very small affair (thanks COVID!) with just immediate family. We remoted in the bride’s family. Everything went splendidly. I did have some musings on the event:
Despite all the teachings from sitcoms of my childhood, the wedding did not cause my niece-in-law (?) who is nine-months pregnant to go into labor.
I smoked two of the large pork loins for the wedding. We had to borrow a neighbor’s grill so we could get both loins smoked in time. The upside is The Wife has tacitly agreed to the purchase of a larger grill when we move next year.
Of course, when we smoke two of the small loins, the pork runs out. Two of the big loins, and there’s an abundance of leftover meat. Not that I’m complaining that hard.
The Wife and her mother are frikkin’ amazing at cake decorating. And cake making.
You know you have a reputation in the family when some describes how much cake they want by saying “half a Derek piece.”
Five miles west of Salem, Wyoming, approximately 50 miles west of Laramie, 18 February 2010, 1600 hours local; Countdown: 1 year, 11 months, 12 days
Jim Collins couldn’t move. He failed so completely, more than he ever thought possible. His enemy had his daughter, had the power of the altar, and was about to unleash some form of hell on the world. Jim watched as Mateo told The Steve to stand guard over him. Jim knew he should get up and help the team as they prepared to stop Alan. His mind told his body to get up off the ground, but it wouldn’t move. He barely noticed as there was some loud talking. Two men in dirty brown police uniforms walked up to Jim and The Steve. Jim knew he should be running. He had been running from these men for over two decades now. Right now, there didn’t seem to be any point. He might as well complete his failure. With a great deal of effort, Jim lifted his head to look at the two officers that were now looming over him.
“Hello Sheriff,” Jim said. His voice was drained and flat. Sheriff Jones hadn’t aged well over the past twenty-five years. The tanned face was creased and weathered. The black hair the Sheriff was so proud of had melted into a few wisps of white that peeked out from under the Stetson. Had he shrunk a few inches as well? Jim looked over at the deputy standing next to the sheriff. The deputy was the spitting image of Sheriff Jones some thirty years ago. So, this was Hal Jones, the heir to the throne. From the malicious gleam in the younger Jones’s eyes, the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
“Well Nathan West, as I live and breathe,” Sheriff Jones said with an evil amusement. A crooked face danced across the sheriff’s face. “I never thought I’d see you in these parts again. You must be one of the dumbest criminals I’ve ever had the pleasure of arresting.” Hal let out a snicker. Jim looked at the sheriff. A part of him screamed to get up. He had to fight. He couldn’t let this happen this way. Then came the crashing guilt, shame, and hopelessness. He was done. Letting the sheriff cart him away on those trumped up charges would put the perfect end on his failure.
“I’ve waited twenty-five years to do this,” Sheriff Jones hissed, “Hal, take him.”
“Sure thing,” Hal said, reaching behind him for his handcuffs. Hal took a step with the silver manacles in his outstretched hand. Then, he stopped with a look of unbelief and fear on his face. It took Jim a moment to realize that The Steve was pointing his Kimber .45 at the younger Jones’s head.
“The Steve thinks you might want to back off,” The Steve said in his normal happy tone. The cheery voice added to the tension. The sheriff fumbled for his pistol. Mateo and Billy appeared with their sidearms drawn and pointed at the two officers. Billy’s dark features were a blank mask, but Mateo regarded the sheriff like a man would a cockroach. Sheriff Jones went red with righteous indignation. Faced with three zombie hunters, the sheriff should have just backed down. Instead he acted the same way he always did.
“You boys might want to think about what you’re doing,” the sheriff said in his best intimidating voice. Jim remembered how that voice terrified him so long ago. Now, it just seemed weak. The pistols didn’t waver, so the sheriff threw down the law. “You are threatening officers of the peace and harboring a man wanted for murder. Keep this up, and you’ll be spending the rest of your lives behind bars.” Something clicked in Jim’s mind, and his paralysis vanished. It was one thing for Jim to pay for his failure, but he couldn’t let his friends do this. Jones was a vindictive and petty man. He could make life rough for the team. He could keep it from completing their mission. Jones wouldn’t care about an apocalypse. All he would care about was taking revenge on those who humiliated him. Jim stood up off the ground.
“Matt, stop,” Jim pleaded, “There’s no need for this.” Jim took a step toward his team leader, but Mateo kept his eyes on the sheriff and his son. Jim tried again. “Listen to me, I’ll go with them. You need to go find my daughter. Time is running out. I’m not worth this.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” the sheriff blurted out, trying to seize the chance to end the confrontation. “You let me take Nate in, and I’ll forget about all of this. Friends have to protect their own after all.” Jim knew Sheriff Jones wouldn’t just let any of the team go. Not after this. Still, Jim needed to give the team time. Time enough to find Alan and his daughter. Time to stop whatever Alan was going to do.
“I don’t think so,” Mateo answered with a tone colder than winter. Mateo holstered his pistol. He took a few steps towards the sheriff, his boots crunching the snow and ice under his feet. “You see, here’s the thing. We work for an insurance firm. One of the oldest and largest. The kind of firm that can afford to hire the best investigators.” Mateo’s dark eyes bored into the older man’s.
“Funny thing about insurance firms, they like to know who they’re hiring,” Mateo continued, “It took a bit of time, but we found out everything about what happened. We know that you framed my man and stole his life from him.” The sheriff stood stunned. Mateo’s words hit the man like a baseball bat.
“Oh yeah, we know who killed Sonny Smith. We have the evidence you thought you’d destroyed,” Mateo said, his cold tone melting into a malicious warmth, “Now, you have a choice. You can let Jim Collins do his job and save your little town from someone who is truly evil. Or, you can try and take Nate West in and have everything we know come out into the light of day. Better decide fast though. Time is running out.” Jim watched in amazed fascination as the man that terrorized him for years broke down under Mateo’s words. Eternal seconds ticked by as Sheriff Jones searched Mateo for any sign of mercy or weakness. There was none. Finding no way out, the sheriff slumped down and waved the team on. He couldn’t even form words.
“No!” bellowed Hal, vibrating with anger. His hand shot down to his holster. Before the young man could draw his pistol, Billy had him on the ground. Billy contemptuously pinned the larger man on the ground and zip tied him.
“As my friend Collin would say, bloody bad move, mate,” Billy said into Hal’s ear. Hal struggled a bit, but Billy simply tightened the zip ties and slapped the back of Hal’s head. “You keep fighting, and things are going to get worse.” There was a promise of violence in Billy’s voice. Hal went limp. The Steve and Billy escorted the sheriff and his son back to their cruiser.
“Um, Matt,” Jim started, and then stopped. Jim was elated, grateful, ashamed, and scared. The emotions threatened to tear him apart. Mateo gave Jim a look and held up his hand.
“I told you before Jim, a man needs his secrets,” Mateo said, “I was waiting for you to come to me about it. Maybe ask for our help. I probably should’ve forced the issue before we got here, especially in light of what’s happened, but that’s not important right now. We’ve got to stop Alan.”
“How?” Jim demanded, “We don’t even know where he is.” Mateo started to say something, but stopped as the steady thrum of helicopter blades filled the area. A large helicopter roared over the team’s heads to land some fifty yards away. Soldiers in full battle gear stormed off as a ramp was lowered from the rear of the helicopter. The last man wore simple BDU’s. Jim recognized him as Col. Bull Allen, the commander of the Army’s anti-zombie forces.
“Seems Alan screwed up and let his little rant be picked up by the Army,” Mateo explained as the colonel strode over to where Zombie Strike had congregated. “Soldiers have this thing about young women being taken to be murdered in evil rituals.” Jim swallowed back a wave of emotion. Col. Allen saluted as he neared the group. The colonel’s hard face softened as he looked at Jim.
“Mr. Collins, we’ve found them,” the officer reported, “Your daughter and the target is maybe fifteen miles from here. We’ve got a Predator tracking them right now. My boys are shadowing them, waiting to engage.” The officer turned to Mateo. “Load your team in the chopper, Mr. Cortez. Don’t want to keep him waiting.”
“Everyone load up,” Mateo ordered. As they climbed into the helicopter, they were met by the rest of their team. All of them were grim faced and ready for combat.
“Come on Jim,” Mateo said, “Let’s go get your little girl.”
[Zombie Strike Part 4 Chapter 31]
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
Last weekend, my brother-in-law and I went to the local gun show. This was his first gun show since diving into the gun world about nine months ago. This was my first gun show in a long while, and the first in my new town. It was much more sparsely attended than the last one I was at.
The crowd density was more pre-COVID Walmart instead of pre-COVID mosh pit. Masks were required, but proper usage wasn’t really enforced. Guns were more plentiful than I expected, but prices were running higher. Ammo prices were through the roof. A box of Speer Gold Dots were $60. I did end up picking up a couple of short magazines for my grandpa’s M1 carbine. Now, I need some more .30 carbine ammo.
I’m convinced I want three more guns before I would consider my safe to have the essentials.
I want a better AR than my M&P-15 sport. Maybe a non-AR AR. I’d like an AUG, but I want something that runs AR mags. Maybe an MCX. A friend of my suggested getting a SCAR, but I don’t have the money his employer has to throw around.
A carbine running M&P magazines. Maybe an AR pistol with brace. I’ve gots me lots of M&P mags. This one I’m really tempted to get a can for it.
- A double action .22 revolver. For training and plinking purposes.
Once the niece and nephew turn 21 (thanks Rick Scott!), I’ll need to add a .22 rifle.
Which reminds me. I need to take a couple of days off and take them to the range.
Since the riots started, I’ve been seeing articles asking where the gun owners are to defend the people against the police.
You want me to put my life, liberty, and family fortunes on the line for you? Hmm. Let’s see. How many times did you call for me to be disarmed when it suited your worldview. How many times did you wish death on me because I disagreed with you?
I’m sorry Scorpion, but I know your nature. I’m not going to carry you across the river for you to sting me in the back.
If you want guns to defend yourselves, go put down the money. Unless of course you can’t. You know, because of all those “common sense” gun control laws you demanded right before the cops came for you.
Five miles west of Salem, Wyoming, approximately 50 miles west of Laramie, 18 February 2010, 1400 hours local; Countdown: 1 year, 11 months, 12 days
Jim Collins grunted as the SUV bounced over the rocky road. He still felt weak and hated himself for it. Between the physical ordeal of being shot in the head and the emotional ordeal of dealing with the ghosts of his past, Jim was surprised he was still upright. Having to defend his hometown from zombies and evil magic forces worked better than coffee or caffeine pills. Jim let out a grunt as The Steve, the team’s medic, made final adjustments to Jim’s battle rig. It annoyed Jim he needed help, but that was the price he had to pay. He wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines. Not now.
“Jim, could you tell where the power is on a map?” asked Mateo Cortez. As the team leader, Mateo was busily trying to coordinate Zombie Strike’s activities with the Army’s anti-zombie force. From the snippets Jim heard during the drive from the hospital, the Army was sure they finished off the zombie presence in the area, and they were beginning their withdrawal. Mateo needed the Army to stay near Salem, mostly as cover for the team’s covert mission. They were after the person behind the zombie outbreak. The person who was now in possession of an object of ancient evil.
“I can’t pinpoint it Matt,” Jim said, feeling the pulsing waves of energy. He had run into the magic twice when he was younger. As a result, Jim had some weird connection to it. “All I feel is the pulses and their strength. For it to be this strong, it has to be out of the valley.”
“The Steve would like to know how they got a big stone table out of the valley,” the medic asked, “It’s not like we saw any sign of heavy equipment going in.” Jim pushed down his normal wariness of the medic referring to himself in the third person. There were bigger concerns than one person’s personal quirk.
“I’m starting to think the altar isn’t the source of the power,” Mateo said, “More of a focal point.” Mateo paused as he listened to his comm. His face became stern as his dark eyes flashed with anger.
“Collin, you find a way to keep the colonel on the ground,” Mateo said into the radio, “As long as he doesn’t leave, the battalion will stay put.”
“The Steve says screw the Army. We can do this on our own.” The Steve’s normal bravado took on a hard edge. It was about the angriest Jim had ever seen the medic.
“Love to,” Mateo said over his shoulder, “But the minute the Army leaves, we lose our official reason for being here and our current exempt status.” Zombie Strike’s normal anti-zombie operations were now technically illegal in most countries due to events in Mexico City a while back. None of the governments wanted to be outshone by a private group in defending their citizens against the undead. The colonel in charge of the US Army’s new anti-zombie brought the team in as consultants. Mateo never bothered to burden the colonel with the pesky details of the cabal dedicated to bringing about an apocalypse through an Aztec god, and its minions behind the outbreak here in order to find an artifact of power. As far as Zombie Strike was concerned, the Army had enough on its plate just figuring out how to effectively fight zombies. Why get the feds involved? They’d just screw it up. Unfortunately, that position caused small problems like the one Mateo was dealing with.
“Billy, get us to the valley, now,” Mateo ordered, his annoyance clear in his voice. The diminutive Native American nodded and hammered the accelerator. Say what you wanted about Billy Shakespear, the boy never did anything by halves. The jostling in the truck worsened. Jim closed his eyes and concentrated on keeping his guts inside. It was worse than his days in the rodeo. If Matt didn’t tell that kid to slow it down…
Billy slammed on the brakes, and the SUV violently fishtailed. Jim was slammed up against the window. What was that kid playing at? The chorus of moans killed Jim’s. A horde of forty zombies surrounded one of the sheriff’s squad cars. The front was crumpled, like it hit something much bigger. The light bar was still flashing with red and blue lights. The windows were cracked, but it didn’t look like anyone was still in the cruiser. Drawn by the noise of the roaring engine, the zombies turned and slowly shambled towards the now stopped SUV.
The bad news was Billy stopped the truck only twenty yards away from the edge of the horde. The good news was the four occupants of the truck were all experienced zombie killers. Twenty yards was all the space they needed. Jim felt his weakness fall away as adrenaline flowed through his blood. He kicked the door open and came out with his .45 in hand. As soon as he hit the dusty ground, Jim fell into a Weaver stance and double-tapped two zombies at the edge of the horde. Jim sensed more than felt as Mateo came up next to him. The team leader fired short, controlled bursts. The suppressed carbine’s report reminded Jim of his mother’s old electric typewriter. The Steve and Billy stationed themselves at the front and rear of the truck. Jim could barely hear their carbines over the ragged chorus of hunting moans. Jim lined up another zombie and stroked the trigger in a practiced double tap. Jim saw the puffs of gray mist erupt from the back of the zombie’s head moments before it collapsed. Jim swiveled to his next target and fired again. He felt as the pistol’s slide locked back on an empty magazine. Jim would never know why he chose to transition to his revolver. It made no sense, no matter how he looked back at it. Reloading the .45 would’ve been faster and easier. Sometimes you just have to chalk some things up to divine intervention.
The zombie emerged from the horde as the ones around it were cut down by fire from the team. It was dressed in heavy black tactical armor with POLICE stenciled in white across the front. The heavy riot helmet was locked into place. The helmet rocked as the zombie hunters put burst after burst into it. None of the rounds penetrated the sloping glacis of the shield. The zombie continued its shamble towards the team. Purely on instinct, Jim took a step to the side, lined up the helmet in his sights, and fired the big revolver twice.
The first .500 Magnum round didn’t penetrate the helmet any better than the rifle bullets. What the big and heavy bullet did do was knock the zombie’s head just enough to the left. The second bullet nicked the edge of the helmet. The nick did two things. It changed the bullet’s trajectory up just enough and caused the heavy bullet to fragment. Speeding shards of lead tore the zombie’s brain into shreds. There was no good reason for that shot to have happened that way. It was beyond the normal probability of physics. Sometimes, you just need to chalk things up to the divine. The team stopped firing as they all stared in amazement as the zombie collapsed to the ground.
The hunting moans snapped the team back into action. Jim brought the revolver around to a group of zombies coming directly at him. Four shots boomed through the air. Four decapitated zombies were on the ground. The Smith was heavy and loud, but it did the job. Jim didn’t wait to revel in his small victory. He thumbed the cylinder open and slammed on the ejector rod. As the spent casings fell to the ground, Jim snapped open a pouch on his armor and fished out five rounds. He really should get a speed loader for the Smith if he was going to carry it into battle. Jim slapped round after round into the cylinder. Once all five rounds were in, he closed the cylinder and brought the weapon back up. In those short few seconds, all of the zombies were down.
“Y’know, if you’re going to bring that antique into a fight, you should really have a speed loader,” quipped Billy in his thick Brooklyn accent. Jim glared at the insolent kid, but didn’t say anything.
“Billy, go do something useful and make sure our little firefight didn’t draw more zombies,” Mateo snapped. Billy scampered up the road, seemingly oblivious to the rebuke. Jim stood over the zombie in the armor. He knelt down and yanked the visor of the riot helmet open. Deputy Young’s face was older and distorted by Jim’s bullet but still recognizable. Jim hated this man for decades. He’d even thought about killing him once or twice. Now though, Jim felt no satisfaction, glee, or even sadness at his enemy’s demise. Just another zombie.
“Someone you know?” Mateo asked as The Steve checked him over. None of the zombies got close enough to injure the team, but The Steve always did a quick once over. Never could tell if an odd bone chip or something managed to lance through and cause damage.
“Yeah,” Jim said emotionlessly, “I think we made a mistake taking so much time on this one. With the visor down, it wasn’t like he could have bitten any of us.”
“Maybe not,” Mateo said, “As armored as he was, any punches he threw would be enough to take one of us out of the fight. When we get back, I’m going to have the armorers throw something on this rifle to take something like him down.” The Steve clapped the team leader on the shoulder. Mateo was clean. The team leader examined of the scene. The Steve began his once over on Jim. Jim felt his adrenaline slipping away. The weakness returned. It was bad enough that Jim wanted to ask The Steve for something to keep him going. Instead, he just gritted his teeth and summoned up all of the strength he could. In a few short moments, The Steve clapped Jim on the shoulder. Jim walked over to the police cruiser.
What was Young doing out here? The sheriff and his deputies were supposed to stay in town to help the Army coordinate its efforts. There was no good reason for Young to be out this way. Mateo was on the far side of the cruiser. There was a scowl on his face. That was never a good sign. As Jim rounded the cruiser, he saw the back door of the cruiser lying on the ground. It looked like a cutting torch was used on it. Zombies didn’t use simple tools, much less something as complex as a cutting torch. What happened before the team arrived? The radio crackled to life. Mateo and Jim were both startled by the sudden noise. The two traded sheepish looks, both amused and ashamed at being caught off-guard by the radio. Jim opened the door to silence the constant sound of static. Then came a taunting voice Jim hadn’t heard in thirty years.
“Nathan, my old friend, I’m so glad you’re not dead,” Alan said with a bubbly, almost singsong voice. Jim recoiled from car in shock. Alan continued, “I am quite annoyed with you for killing my son. I don’t know what you used on him, but it was very messy. Don’t worry about finding a way to make it up to me. I’ve already found one.” Jim’s blood went ice-cold. He reached for the radio’s handset, but Mateo grabbed him. The team leader slammed Jim against the side of the cruiser.
“Don’t. Let him talk,” Mateo ordered, “Steve, get a trace going.”
“The Steve, bossman,” the medic corrected as he tapped away at his PDA.
“Oh yes bossman, try to find me before it’s too late,” Alan laughed over the radio. The three zombie killers snapped into guard stances and began searching around them. They were in the middle of a flat land. Where was Alan watching from? Alan laughed even harder, stopping for a moment as he broke into a fit of coughing.
“Oh come on you fools,” Alan said after managing to compose himself, “Do you think I would be stupid enough to come anywhere near rifle range to your little team? We know exactly how dangerous you can be. But because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll let you in on the secret. I rigged the radio so I could listen in on you as well as talk.” Mateo let out a string of curses, which elicited another round of laughter from Alan.
“Why are you talking to us Alan?” Jim asked, trying desperately to keep his voice calm despite his fear. The laughter ceased.
“Thank you Nate,” Alan said with a disturbing calmness. “Normally, I wouldn’t be talking to you at all. I have read the Evil Overlord list. Plus, my superiors would discourage it. But if I didn’t, then you wouldn’t know how badly I’ve beaten you. How much I’ve taken from you.” Jim’s stomach tightened to an icy ball of fear. Did Alan manage to get his hands on Jeannie again?
“You spent all those years running from that murder charge,” Alan said tauntingly, “She never had the chance to tell you, did she? What became of that last night before the sheriff and his goons broke down your door? About your daughter?” Jim felt the world begin to spin around him.
“Don’t worry Nate,” Alan said mockingly, “She’s right here with me. She’ll make an excellent substitute for her mother. Shame you won’t get to meet her before I sacrifice her.”
Jim let out a scream of primal anguish as Alan cackled over the radio.
[Zombie Strike Part 4 Chapter 30]