The last chapter of the Assassin Chronicles series: The Red Cross of Gold XXX:. The Wayward GodKing is now available on Amazon for Kindle and at Smashwords for all eReaders. Only $3.99!
The following sample is from Book 30 of the Assassin Chronicles, Epic Fantasy Series, The Red Cross of Gold XXIX:. The Perfect Sun. It is available from Amazon for Kindle $3.99, Smashwords and other venues including paperback from Amazon.
The ragged band of Fox Soldiers stood waiting skittishly in the shade of the flapping canopy they had erected against the merciless sun. It was winter, but the seasons were skewed. Nothing had returned to normal since the floods and their hurried escape from New Babylon. They wore everything they owned on their backs and they held their automatic rifles ready to take out whatever this new threat might be.
Lucifer waved to them with his left hand and pulled the canvas bag gingerly from his sore shoulder.
“Greetings, fine warriors!” Lucifer called to them when they did not respond to his waves and Ernst grabbed his arm.
“Hold on, Luke,” he said in a low voice. “You’d best let me handle this. They don’t look very friendly.”
“Advance and be recognized!” One of the soldiers shouted to them and raised his rifle a bit.
Lucifer jerked his arm from the General’s grip, but allowed him to go in first.
“General Ernst Schweikert, Central Command Fox, Babylon!” Ernst answered the challenge and held up both hands, allowing his own rifle to hang from the straps.
“General Schweikert?” The soldiers looked at each other nervously and the name was said several times.
“Come on in, sir!” The soldier called. “We will need proof of your identity.”
“I have my papers, Corporal.” Ernst looked back at Lucifer and smiled. “Follow my lead, friend. Just keep cool.”
“Cool, yes.” Lucifer smiled and raised his own arms in the air. “A very strange greeting ritual.”
“Whatever,” Ernst mumbled and they walked into the camp.
After a tricky exchange of identification cards, orders and other official papers that now meant nothing, they settled down around the fire to share the men’s meal with them. They drank and ate and talked about nothing in particular until the Corporal asked Ernst how long before they could return to the city. Ernst had no idea what had transpired in the city. He had no idea where Omar, the Prophet, had gone or how he had found himself running for his life along a deserted highway. The last thing he remembered was being in a boat off of the coast of Ireland with Omar Kadif and his wife, Ruth.
“It might be some time before we can get the situation under control,” he told them vaguely. “Where did you say you were heading?”
“We thought to rendezvous with some of the companies that left the city ahead of us, but we are beginning to think they went north instead of south,” the corporal explained and the others nodded their agreement.
“Well, we should try to connect with Colonel Bardsley’s battalion. Is he still in Jordan?”
“Jordan?” The Corporal frowned and the others fell quiet.
“We have no battalions in Jordan, sir,” another of the soldiers answered quickly. “We don’t even know if Jordan exists anymore.”
“Yes, of course, but we have to make some sort of plan.” Ernst nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose you’re right. Well, perhaps we should head north when the sun goes down. What mode of transportation do you have?” He looked around and saw nothing, but empty rocks and the flat landscape of formerly rich farmland.
The corporal laughed and held up one foot.
“Boots, sir. That’s how we got here. Same as you.” He laughed sarcastically. “We ran out of gas before we got out of sight of the city. There weren’t many supplies left. By the time we decided to run, the good stuff was taken.”
“Then you have no command structure? No contact with HQ?” Ernst’s frown deepened.
“Are you kidding?!” One of the men burst out and then fell quiet. “No disrespect intended, sir,” he said after a moment.
“Then it would seem we are all in the same boat, sir,” the Corporal added. “We have no orders, no communications network, no transportation. No mission.”
“We are not all in the same boat as you put it, young one,” Lucifer spoke up for the first time. His strange accent and inflection caused them all to gawk at him. “I have a mission, which is quite clear from the Most High Command.”
“Oh, really?” The Corporal eyed the sergeant’s bars on Lucifer’s collar. “What mission is that, Sarge, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Lucifer stood up and held out both arms. He looked up at the sky and a beautiful smile spread across his face.
“Lo, I bring glad tidings of great news! A son will be born to you and He will be a sign unto you from the Most High. And He will be called Michael Emmanuel, the Deliverer, the Savior. You will find him lying in a manger, and He will bring a sword to cast down the Ancient One.”
The soldiers sat staring at Lucifer with mouths agape.
“He’s been affected by the sun,” Ernst shrugged and broke the silence. “It’s all right, Sergeant Ramsay. They already know that story.”
“They do?” Lucifer looked very disappointed and dropped his arms to his side.
“Of course we do, Sarge,” the Corporal said and leaned toward the General. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Say, General, sir. Is Sergeant Ramsay a guy or a girl?”
“He says he’s a man,” the General answered in like tones. “But it’s hard to tell, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm.” The Corporal nodded and then smiled at Lucifer. “Say, Sarge, we have some time before we bed down. Would you care for a shower? Bennett’s rigged one back there in the rocks.”
Lucifer frowned and glanced toward the rocks.
“A shower? You mean rain?” He asked. “I’m afraid I can’t do those anymore. At least, not yet.”
“Oh, I see.” The Corporal sighed and circled one finger around his temple in the universal sign for ‘wacko’. “Well, we’d best try to get some rest before nightfall. It’ll be too hot to sleep soon. General? We have a few bedrolls. We can share.”
Schweikert glanced at Lucifer, and then at the soldiers who were staring at him. The ‘Sarge’ seemed oblivious to them as he frowned at the water in the bottle and then made a terrible face.
“What is wrong with you?” Ernst stood up abruptly.
“I don’t know,” Lucifer looked up at him. “I think I have the same disorder Michael and Galen had.”
“Oh? And what disease was that?”
“The running off disease.” Lucifer frowned again and clutched his stomach.
“Oh! Diarrhea. Yes, well. Probably the water.” Schweikert helped his companion to his feet. “Corporal, do we have any facilities here?”
“Are you kidding, sir?” The Corporal shook his head. “We just go in the rocks like always.”
“Oh, well, then, Sergeant, just go in the rocks like always,” Schweikert said and pushed him toward the nearest likely cluster.
“Wait. Here you go!” The Corporal tossed a roll of toilet paper toward him. “Be my guest, Sarge.”
Lucifer caught the paper out of the air as a dawning realization took hold of him and he began to sweat. Another terrible thing he had to suffer in his present form. Humans were certainly messy creatures. Within the space of a few moments, the Heavenly Messenger had three lessons in human anatomy he could have done without for eons. He lost a great deal of weight and lot more dignity before it was all over, but he gained an enormous measure of humility.
My apologies! This blog was written and supposed to be published yesterday while I was out, but I see that it was not. So here it is, out of order and a bit late. Please forgive! Do not disassemble Johnny Five!
This topic, “Extra Duty”, is supposed to be a minor sentence for breaking minor rules or multiple minor rule infractions Behind Bars. I say ‘supposed to be’ because, in order for “Extra Duty” to exist, there must first be “Duty”. I was particularly amused by what passed as “Extra Duty” in the prison system where I worked for over 23 years.
Since most prisoners/inmates soon learn how to live Behind Bars or perish, one of the things they learn, is how to ‘work the system’, in other words, they look for all the cracks and crevices in the rules and regulations and like so many bugs looking for hiding places in your kitchen cabinet, they have a way of disappearing when it comes to work or duty. You know the ones I’m talking about. They even have a term for this disappearing act: Ghosting.
Now, you might wonder how in the world a prisoner can disappear while he is locked up in prison and I understand why you might wonder. Let me tell you, it is easier than you think. There are multiple methods of doing so. Some are more effective than others and some can get you deeper in trouble, but whatever the case, the pay-off is generally outweighs the risks.
If an inmate plans ahead, he might avoid “Extra Duty” by scheduling a visit to the prison infirmary immediately before his disciplinary hearing and get what is called a “lay-in” for as many days as he can get, by faking injuries or illnesses long enough to get past the “Extra Duty”. They might figure out how to get into full-time classes because ‘schooling = rehabilitation’ and class hours outweigh everything except the most severe disciplinary action. If you have class, you can’t show up for “Extra Duty” and classes take precedence. However, if you do incur severe disciplinary action, such as confinement in Solitary Status or Administrative Segregation for say…. Protective Custody purposes, you not only get out of “Extra Duty”, you get out of everything and you get a whole cell to yourself. This can be a perk since you don’t have to share you cell space with a loud, stinky, obnoxious stranger, who might have you for breakfast instead of pancakes, syrup and biscuits.
Summing up, I must tell you that “Extra Duty” causes more problems for the Officers and Staff than it does for the offenders. Sadly enough, this situation is often encountered Behind Bars.
Everyone knows (or, at least, I hope they do) what “Fishing” is. Fishing involves a hook, a line, a sinker and a water hole, right? Plus a little bait, a little faith and a lot of luck. Include a bit of patience, a bit of repetition and bunch of beers.
The above formula, if you hold your mouth just right and the wind don’t blow and the fish are biting, you might just end up with supper on your stringer.
If you knew some or all of the above, you have a fair idea of what “Fishing” is, but there’s another kind of “Fishing” and I’m not talking about the kind spelled with a ‘Ph’ instead of an ‘F’. There’s another kind of “Fishing” that goes on Behind Bars.
Fishing Behind Bars is a little different from fishing for cold-blooded, scaly creatures that swim in the water and put big smiles on millions of people’s faces every day whenever they show up at the end of a ten pound test mono-filament line. Fishing Behind Bars actually does involve hooks, lines and sinkers, but that is where the similarities to something that Gramps used to do every Sunday except Easter, but the line might be made of a strip of cloth from a bed sheet or an unraveled or braided potato chip bags or a piece of purloined string from the laundry or their job in the field office or some other ingeniously engineered material and the hook is often made of a sock. The sinker can be anything with weight ranging from a rock ripped off from the rec yard, a pencil pilfered from the Law Library to a bottle of hot sauce bought from the commissary.
The offender, sitting in his cell during a shakedown, has little to do other than watch the growing heap of contraband piling up against the wall as the Officers went from cell to cell, searching for contraband (illegal goods, weapons and/or hoarded items). Whenever they saw something they might want or need from the pile, they would hopefully throw out their fishing lines, using the same faith, patience and repetition as Gramps, he might be able to land the item he wants, his ‘fish’, and drag it back to his cell.
There are other forms of ‘fishing’ that go on Behind Bars, depending on the size and shape of the prison unit, itself, and how the Officer’s conduct general shakedown operations, but for the sake of keeping this blog post short, I’m only describing one. I think you get the picture, if not the catch of the day.
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More things heard Behind Bars and elsewhere:
The term “Road Dog” (pronounced DAWG) apparently started out Behind Bars and then spread to general use by certain segments of the general population by way of contact with prisoners through the mail, visits, movies, television and ex-convicts/parolees, etc. So it’s a fairly common occurrence to overhear people, especially young people, using the term almost anywhere you might find yourself. Like all words and terminology springing up in our modern society, “Road Dog” has been simplified to “Dog”, dropping the “Road” for no reason, but making it entirely acceptable to call someone something that might have been termed a “fightin’ word” only a few decades ago.
“Road Dawg”refers to people who are ‘along for the ride’ or friends just coming along with you on a walk around the rec yard or down to the library or church or simply just someone considered a friend on the inside (Behind Bars). You might even think of them in Facebook terms as a friend that exists on Facebook or, in Twitter terms, a follower, but not actually someone who comes to your home or hangs out with you outside the prison setting, generally speaking. Of course, some people do carry over their friendships once they are released from prison, but it is never recommended or encouraged because of the truth of the old adage: “You are what you eat…” no wait… “A penny saved…” hang on. Look, Dawg, I’m thinking here; give me a minute.
Oh, yeah, “Birds of a feather flock together” meaning if you hang out with criminals, you’re gonna go to jail. In other words, if you get out of prison and go back to the same friends you had before or ‘hook-up’ with new friends you made Behind Bars, you’re more prone to recidivism.
Also applicable here. “If you lay down with “Dawgs”, you get up with fleas.”
Or, better yet, take your “Road Dawgs” to the shelter when you get out and let someone better equipped adopt them.
(Disclaimer: Not everyone serving or having once served time Behind Bars is a criminal. Some are proven innocent, some are just innocent, some are proven guilty, some are just guilty from the “git-go”, some were in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the wrong time, some were framed and some were just simply idiots, but the thing is, make sure you choose your “Road Dawgs” wisely or you’ll find yourself and your world disintegrating like that fellow in the third Indiana Jones adventure who “chose poorly”.)
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Continuing on with a look at the alphabet Behind Bars:
This might seem almost self-explanatory. Chain. Of course, chains are associated with restraint and prison is certainly the ultimate form of restraint, right? Yes, but even though chains are still used in the physical sense to restrain certain types of unruly or dangerous prisoners inside a prison unit (building), you might hear a lot of talk about a different sort of chain.
For example, you might hear someone ask “When’s the chain due?” or “How many are on the chain?” or they might say “Old Soandso’s gone on the chain.” Or you might even hear someone shouting “Chain Time!”
Naturally, unless you have had the misfortune of being incarcerated on the ‘inside’ or working there or possibly visiting someone incarcerated in a prison, you might be confused by this use of the word ‘chain’.
In these cases, Chain refers to the Bluebird bus (known as Bluebirds of Happiness) that brings the prisoners to the prison unit from the county jailsand eventually takes them away to some other unit or facility. The expression grew out of the fact that prisoners in transport are always transported in hand cuffs, leg irons (larger cuffs that fit the ankles), black-boxes (cuff covers) and sometimes belly chains (lengths of chain connecting the hand cuffs and leg irons to a chain wrapped around the waist.) There are also chains on some of the buss to which the prisoners individual chains are attached while they are in transport. These precautions are almost always necessary to ensure that the prisoners remain with the bus even if it falls over the edge of a 2000 foot cliff, although most of the bus drivers and shotgun riders wish to avoid that sort of thing. Even though these restraints may sometimes seem excessive to some people, prisoners have been known to escape from buses and vans while the the vehicles are in motion without the knowledge of the driver or the shotgun rider. Sad, but true and extremely embarrassing… or so it would seem, for the officers involved. At least falling over a cliff would provide a more reasonable excuse for losing a prisoner in mid transit.
Continuing on today with the Behind Bars theme:
Boss is a common term heard Behind Bars; at least in Texas, it is. This one is easier for outsiders to understand, but it is often used by the upper echelon or the so-called ‘Free World’ employees as a derogatory term, depending upon the vocal inflection and context. The offenders or whatever you choose to call them, generally use the term ‘Boss’ attached to either the word ‘man’ or the word ‘lady’ as a semi-respectful, generic term for Correctional Officers or other uniformed employee they don’t know by name. It is completely acceptable for the offenders to call these uniformed employees “Officer Smith”, “Mr. Smith” or “Bossman”. It is not acceptable for offenders to call CO Smith “Hey, You!” “Smith!” or “John!” It is up to the individual Correctional Officer to make sure that offenders address them properly or else, they will lose respect in the eyes of the offenders and that is not a good thing. Then he or she will become known as “Boss Friendly”, which means the “Boss” is not doing his job and does not command respect or compliance whenever he or she is working with or supervising a group of offenders. Not a good situation and in fact, dangerous.
On the other hand, Correctional Officers or uniformed employees may address each other as Mr. Smith or Miss Smith, but it is not proper to call each other by their first names. Ranking Uniformed Employees are usually addressed by their Ranking Title and their last name, i.e. Sergeant Smith or Major Smith as a sign of respect. Again, it is up to the employees to make sure that other officers are addressing them properly, especially in front of the offender population.
Where we run into trouble with the word “Boss” is that persons employed by the prison, but not required to attend the Security Training Academy or Inservice Programs, think that the term “Boss” is silly or demeaning and use it as such. For example, I was what is commonly known as a Kitchen Captain. This meant I was officially an FSM IV (Food Service Manager IV). My pay ranking fell between that of a Security Captain and a Security Major. In other words, I was not quite as well paid as the highest ranking security personnel on the unit, but I was paid more than a Security Captain. I had the same training as a Security Officer plus I had additional training for Food Service duties and I was in charge of a substantial yearly budget. Unfortunately, the non-uniformed personnel often called me “Bossman” even though I had metal collar insignia and sleeve patches designating me as a Department Head. These same people would never call the Security Major or Security Captain “Bossman”.
This was one of the most puzzling situations I encountered during my career with the prison system. It seemed I could sometimes depend more upon the support of the offenders than my own colleagues in many circumstances and that, my friends, is an enigma wrapped in stupidity