To Gain the Motherland
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by Rick Baber
Description: In 1985, a loveable loser from a small town in Arkansas stands helplessly by as his brother is murdered by a madman. The killer escapes into a cryogenic sleep by submitting himself as a guinea pig for a university experiment, and thereby evades prosecution. As much to liberate himself as to avenge his brother's death, David Rounds follows the culprit into his hundred year slumber. Scheduled to lie dormant for a century or more, Rounds is violently awakened in the year 2010, amid a chaotic and unpredictable time. Middle Eastern terrorists have invaded the United States and the country is under a form of Martial Law. A twenty-first century hero named John Daniel braves the lawless "Outland", in search of his wife and son--kidnapped by the same psychopath Rounds pursues. As fate would have it, the men join forces in their quest for justice, and their desire to gain the Motherland.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2002 Synergebooks
eBookwise Release Date: October 2004
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [256 KB]
Reading time: 171-239 min.
"Sometime after lunch, you wonder how John and David are faring, devising ways that you could help, or wondering if you'll see them later. Suddenly, you stop what you're doing, and laugh at yourself, realizing that you're thinking about a book's characters. The sign of truly good storytelling is that you find yourself, through the course of your day, thinking about the characters and what they are doing. To Gain the Motherland caused this to happen to me about 8 times. I thoroughly enjoyed my romp through the near future with the heroes in this tale of boiled-down realities. Rife with action, vivid post-near apocalyptic societal descriptions, human interaction on human levels, and of course humor (it wouldn't be a Baber creation without it) To Gain the Motherland is a sure winner. Personally, I can't wait for the movie."--anonymous
July 24, 1986. 12:15am
"Dear Bitch," David Rounds began his nightly letter to his ex-wife. It was another slow night at the rock quarry scale house. There hadn't been a truck in for hours. As usual, there was nobody around but him. The use of the typewriter was free, by virtue of him credit-carding his way into the locked inner office. He knew he wasn't going to mail this one either, but he wanted it to be special. When he completed the salutation, he sat quietly in the boss's high-back leather chair looking at the cobwebs and smashed flies on the ceiling. He searched his over-taxed mind for something clever to say.
In a moment, a thought came to him and he walked to the photocopier, switching it on. It would take several minutes to warm up. Looking around, he spied the perfect chair and dragged it over in front of the copier. He pulled the paper from the typewriter and loaded it into the paper cassette. Then he went back into the scale room and walked into the quiet of the night where he looked for lights and listened for the roaring of trucks. There was nothing. Dead quiet. Somewhere up in the quarry, Slisher was asleep in the front-end loader. Nobody else was out here. He had time.
Back inside the inner office, he dropped his jeans and jockey shorts, stepped out of them onto the chair, and took a seat on the cold copy machine glass. The glass broke.
David had encountered enough misfortune in his life to not be terribly upset by this occurrence. Too bad, he thought. The letter would have said it all.
He gave it more thought. There was no getting around this one. At six o'clock Y.M. or Mike would come in and find the shattered copier glass and blood in the inner workings of the machine. Blood on the floor. Blood on the toilet. Sure, he could have cleaned most of it up. But what would be the point? He was toast, and he knew it.
As he sat picking little slithers of glass out of his butt, David recalled his recent job history. Last position--night watchman at a furniture store--fired when the boss caught him asleep in a pink canopy bed. Prior to that--hammermill operator at another rock quarry--fired when he went to sleep at the controls and overloaded the mills. The conveyor belts, carrying the rock to the hammermill from the stockpile, continued to run for twenty or thirty minutes after the machines shut down, burying the thing under tons of limestone. Before that job, he was night watchman at a mobile home sales lot. Fired after he fell asleep with a cigarette in his hand and burned three units to the ground.
That was pretty much it for working in this part of the world. It seemed like every employer in this small town knew David Rounds. Even this job would never have come along had it not been for some begging and pleading on the part of Mike, his older brother.
Pee Wee, as Mike was called, had been employed with the quarry for a few years. His performance got him promoted from running the scales at night to daytime office manager. He was excited and used his influence with Y.M. to land his old job for his screw-up older brother.
It was almost a year ago, on what was to be the next to last night of training, that Pee Wee was murdered. At his superior's command, David was under the scales with a big fire hose washing the lime dust away from the beams. Pee Wee stayed up at the office to weigh out any trucks that came across. There were usually a lot of them in the springtime. It was so dark and quiet down there. David had already been down there too long when he was awakened by the rumbling of one of the rigs above him. He shut off the hose, as he had been told to do when there was a vehicle on the scales, and waited for the truck to pull off before he continued.
But after two cigarettes the truck still had not moved--although somebody was inside it revving the engine. It usually didn't take that long. David sensed something was wrong. Sometimes, these belligerent truckers would try to con the scale operators into writing a phony ticket--reflecting more or less weight than the truck actually carried. Often, they would become angry and close to violence when their requests were denied. Pee Wee wasn't about to let any truck get out of the quarry without an accurate weight ticket. He was funny that way. Honest to a fault, David thought. A real company man. That was probably what was taking so long. He was into it again with some truck driver. One guy at the scales was pretty easy to bully. If his suspicions were correct, David figured that his presence might persuade the trucker to take what he had and leave. He laid the hose down in the muck and sloshed his way through the darkness toward the crawl hole to the topside of the scales. He stopped in his tracks when he heard what sounded like a single gunshot. Then the truck engine quit.
David heard one set of footsteps above, trampling away from the scale house entrance. Then the truck door slammed and the engine started. But the truck didn't move. As David popped his head up under the light between the scales and the scalehouse, the door opened and a man stood there carrying the petty cash box like a football.
David froze. He had seen the man before and had heard enough stories about him from the rough-?n-tumble types that worked on the dayshift to know to be afraid. His name was Trogey. He was a Viet Nam Army veteran who had received some sort of a dishonorable discharge for single-handedly wiping out an entire village after becoming separated from his unit. For whatever reason, he was never tried, but agreed to the discharge. His reputation as a half-crazed stoner a decade and a half later was as notorious as his military history. Nobody messed with him.
As David looked at him from the crawl hole, their eyes met. He was a horrifying sight--if only because he looked so strange and crazy. His long curly red hair partially shadowed his face as he stared at the frightened, muddy, petrified man in the crawl hole. Trogey appeared to have too many teeth in his mouth when he grinned--an invitation to David to come up and be a hero. Unable to move, David studied the figure standing above him. He was no physical specimen. No stud. Didn't really look to David like the badass he had heard about. His forehead was already gushing blood from a diagonal slash that had apparently been inflicted by Pee Wee. So, he was mortal. And, for messing with his brother, David intended to add his own chapter to this guy's legend. With his hand out of the man's sight, he reached to the belt sheath and retrieved his hunting knife. He stabbed it into the top of the trucker's left boot.
The man grimaced as David struggled to scurry up out of the hole before he could pull the gold-plated .38 automatic from his belt. But David's boots were still covered with the lime sludge, and his foot slipped on the ladder. This kept him there long enough for the wild-eyed bandit to regain his composure.
Trogey laughed loudly, even though he had to be in tremendous pain. "Gotta take a little trip, kid." He turned toward the truck and made a big-eyed, open-mouthed, mocking face to somebody there. Then he turned back to David with a more serious and determined look. "Come find me when you wake up." He lifted the big, muddy brown boot over David's face.
That was the last thing David Rounds saw until he came to under the scales about ten minutes later. He went back up to the office where he found his brother leaning over the triple-beam, dead from a single bullet hole between his eyes. Pee Wee still had a box knife in his hand.
Whether it was from his head injury or just the shock of what he saw, everything seemed like a dream to him. He found the phone, sat in Pee Wee's chair and called the operator to summon the sheriff. He never really got a look at the truck. All he could tell them was he heard the guy's name was Trogey, and gave them a brief description of him--including his new head scar and limp. The description wasn't really necessary because the sheriff instantly knew who David was talking about.
In the eternity David waited for the deputies to arrive, he sat staring at Pee Wee, recalling many of the times they had shared?even back to their early childhoods. When he could stand the recollections no more, he wiped his eyes, stood, and paced back and forth around the office. Should he try to catch them? He had no idea which way they went once they hit the highway. Besides, he had to be here to give whatever assistance he could to the authorities?if they would ever get here.
Over by the trucker's entrance, David saw a folded piece of paper lying on the dusty white floor on the customer's side of the counter. Perhaps it was dropped by the killer. He picked it up and unfolded it while he paced. It was nothing but an article torn out of some magazine.
The emergency lights from the approaching vehicles cast alternating red and blue flashes on the lime-covered trees outside the picture window beyond the scales. David stuffed the magazine page into his pocket and stepped out of the doorway to flag them in.
David went over everything he knew about the incident and the man with the sheriff's deputies?everything except the magazine article. The idea that it might have any relevance never crossed his mind. Once he started talking to them, he completely forgot about it.
It wasn't until a month later, when the newspapers broke the story that Trogey was found, that he realized he had also managed to screw up the investigation and allow Pee Wee's killer to escape. They found him, alright. But it was too late.
Trogey had gone from the scalehouse to a nearby farm, where he hid the dump truck in a barn and stole a car. He drove two hundred miles west to Fayetteville where he had pre-arranged to undergo an experimental process at the University of Arkansas. Trogey had a brain tumor likely associated with some chemical agents he had encountered in Viet Nam. He had agreed to be one of several subjects that would undergo cryogenic preservation. He would be frozen alive--then revived at some point in the future when there would be a cure or a new surgical process for his inoperable tumor. He checked in the day following Pee Wee's murder and underwent the process four days later while the authorities were still looking for him in the eastern half of the state. He had kept his arrangements a secret. Only his cousin knew about the plan. The cousin was with Trogey on the night of the murder. He finally broke down and confessed after pressure from the sheriff's office.
The legal name Trogey had been using in the Batesville area was an alias. He had used his real name in his dealings with the medical research people at the U of A, even though the State Police had an APB out for him. Nobody made the connection. When the cousin provided the information, authorities went to university to claim their suspect. They were met with resistance from the university citing the fact that this was an unproven process as far as humans were concerned. The estimated the thawing process had a 50 percent chance of killing him. Part of the plan was that by the time Trogey was supposed to be revived, the process would be perfected thus eliminating the current risk.
The ACLU joined the science department and filed suit on behalf of Trogey, aka William Paul Collins. After a high?profile, media-frenzy trial that lasted over six months, the ACLU prevailed. Despite the best efforts of the lawyers for David and his family--who worked for the sheer publicity involved--the court ruled that since Trogey was only a suspect and wasn't going anywhere, it would be a violation of his constitutional rights to unnecessarily risk his life in order to bring him to trial for Pee Wee's murder. The court further ruled that upon his revival, scheduled for January 1, 2100, he could be arrested?if he survived. By then, David and his family would be dead and gone. The court ruling was the most disappointing event in David's tormented life.
Time passed and David did his best to continue his life. The last thing his brother ever gave him was his job, and he had intended to hang on to it because of that. Because of a stupid little stunt with the photocopier, he knew he had managed to screw that up, too.
David had always worked nights because he thought he was a nocturnal creature. He simply couldn't stay awake during the day. His problem with that was he couldn't stay awake at night either. It was that realization that prompted him to begin his nightly letters to the ex-ball-&-chain?something to keep him awake. A cause of vengeance against the only woman he ever loved. A woman who finally gave up on him and ran away to sunny southern California with his temporary employment agent.
In the last few minutes, it became obvious to him that suicide was the only way out. It would be quick and painless. At least, less painful than the only alternative in sight: starving to death. He wasn't going to get another job. His brother was no longer around to bail him out. He was three months behind on his rent. His car had been repossessed earlier the same day. Since he hadn't managed to break the typewriter, he returned to it and loaded another sheet of paper to write his final letter. If not for the fact that he had trouble spelling, David Rounds would have perished on that very night.
Epitaph. He needed to use the word, but he wasn't sure how to spell it. Or what it meant. Fortunately, there was a pocket dictionary in Y.M.'s top desk drawer. David had seen him use it many times to write wordy reprimand letters regarding David's minor screw-ups. As he dug through the drawer searching he spotted a magazine lying on the desk. It was folded open to an article about a Cryogenics Research program at the University of Arkansas. The newly formed project was actually advertising for human subjects that had terminal diseases. It asked them to contact the University regarding the possibility of being cryogenically preserved until such time that a cure for their illness was found. The ad said they were open 24 hours a day.
David received an electrical jolt through his body, like he had grabbed the spark plug of a running lawn mower. He reached into the inside pocket of his vest and retrieved the folded magazine article he had carried with him since his brother's murder. It came apart in squares as he unfolded it and laid it out on Y.M.'s desk. The same article! It was like rubbing salt in an open wound. David put his head in his hands, feeling a familiar lump in his throat.
He recounted the words said by the killer. "Gotta take a little trip. Gotta take a little trip... take a little trip. Come find me when you wake up. When you wake up. When you wake up." David laughed. Sleep was a big part of what had brought him to this point in his life. Maybe it was time to wake up.