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“DICTATORS RIDE TO AND FRO UPON TIGERS WHICH THEY DARE NOT DISMOUNT. AND THE TIGERS ARE GETTING HUNGRY.” - WINSTON CHURCHILL
Some say that history is fixed, and that fate is locked in a stranglehold on the throats of every man, woman and child that ever has or ever will live. As Jaraad walked down the cold dark streets lined with cracked sidewalks, he wondered if this was true. It was what the government told the people- that it was their place to work and provide food, or do whatever pathetic job they had for the rest of their lives. It had been seventeen years since the Famine started, and fifteen years since the population laws had gone into effect. He had been born one week after the laws, making him one of the first illegal children. He had been kept hidden for most of that time, but for the past five year he had been living with his uncle in the city. Until he was ten, he had lived with his parents- common farmers who still had books from before the Famine, and he had learned more than the average adult from his hours of study. But when the government raided his house and murdered his mother for giving birth to an illegal child that they could not find, his father had sent him to live with his uncle.
“It will be safer for all of us,” his father had told him, “if you live with Uncle Dwight for a while.”
Jaraad didn’t care. His mother, the only one of his family members who had tried to understand him, was dead. If anything, he hoped that living with his uncle would let him live a normal life, like his brothers. But he hadn’t. It turned out that his uncle was the head of a smuggling ring, and, since Jaraad was off the record, Uncle Dwight used him as a runner- someone who carried stolen or illegal items from place to place for his customers. That’s what he was doing right now.
As he walked down a back street, something moved in an adjacent alleyway. Jaraad gripped the handle of his Grease Gun firmly, and pointed it in the direction of the noise. At the same time his thumb felt for the safety, to make sure it was off.
“Who’s there?” He asked with a quiver in his voice. “Come out, now.”
As his words echoed into the empty silence of the unlit alleyway, and rat with a mouse trap on one of its hind legs shuffled out into the street, making the same strange noise he had heard moments before.
“I should have known better,” He muttered to himself. He was good- almost too good. He had come close to getting caught once. He was eleven at the time, and still carried the scar from where a bullet had grazed his arm. But he had gotten away then, too. As he rounded a corner, Jaraad saw something that made his blood chill. The rendezvous point where he was supposed to drop off a payment for a client he had worked for as a middleman was being arrested, and there were three squad cars lined up in the alleyway. He had been delivering food for an underground shelter for illegal children, and two of the police officers were Resource Agents- unaffectionately nicknamed “Kid Killers”. Police were swarming the area, and it occurred to Jaraad that they were looking for him. He turned, and there, about ten feet from him was a police officer with his weapon drawn.
“It’s alright, son,” the officer said calmly as he lowered his weapon. “I’m not going to hurt you. There are some dangerous people around here who are trying to undermine the government. Have you seen anyone?”
“No,” Jaraad replied. He couldn’t tell if his voice was wavering or not. He kept his Grease Gun tucked underneath his old overcoat. “I heard someone moving over there,” he said as he pointed towards the alleyway the rat had come from.
“Thank you, son,” the officer replied. “Now, you should go over by the officers, over there,” he said, pointing to the squad cars.
Or not, Jaraad thought. “I was just on my way home,” he said.
“Suit yourself,” replied the officer, “Just take care of yourself.” Then he leaned in, to say something into his radio. Jaraad gripped the handle of his Grease Gun even harder. “I just got some intel from a local kid. Says he might have heard something in an alleyway. I’m gonna check it out. I sent the kid home- he’s too young to be the guy we’re looking for.”
Relieved, Jaraad turned and went on his way, back to his uncle’s house. As he was walking away, he turned to look at one of the few kind officers he had met in his lifetime. As he turned, he saw two flashes, from a pistol, and watched the officer drop limply to the ground as gunshots resounded off the nearby buildings. Officers rushed out into the street. One of the officers saw him, and he knew if they saw the Grease Gun in his overcoat, that they would shoot first and ask questions later. Three officers took off after Jaraad, while the rest went into the alleyway and a terrible gunfight broke out. Jaraad decided it was time to run, before the police started shooting at him.
So that’s what Jaraad did. He ran as fast as he could for two blocks with the police close on his heels, shooting at him with their side arms. As he ran, Jaraad tripped over a pile of garbage. Rolling over, he saw that one officer had just finished reloading his gun, and was starting to point it at his head. Jaraad decided that his death would be a rather unpleasant experience, and pumped half of his thirty round magazine into the man in one blinding flash. He turned to face the other officer as a round whizzed past his head and bounced of the pavement. Jumping to his feet and behind an old washing machine, he finished off his magazine on the second officer, filling his body with .45 caliber bullets, and breathed a deep sigh.
“Stupid gangs,” he muttered to himself. “Now this whole place will be crawling with cops and Kid Killers in a couple of minutes. I’ve gotta get out of here.”
And with that, he took off running. Running as fast as he could, he raced home to his uncle’s house.
“They almost got me this time,” Jaraad said to his uncle. “It’s getting more and more dangerous to do this.”
“It’s only a matter of time, now,” Uncle Dwight replied, “and the whole government will be on its knees.”
Just then, something smashed through the window. A small cylinder rolled across the floor, and then a blinding flash accompanied by a deafening bang shook the building.
Jaraad woke in a small room lit by a single bare light bulb. His head felt like it had just been hit by a truck, and his vision was blurry. A thin man in a black suit was sitting on a chair with a bamboo stick across his knees.
“Who are you?” the man asked.
“What?” replied Jaraad.
“Who are you?” the man asked again. “We found no identification on you, and your DNA hasn’t matched anything in our records. So who are you? An Illegal? An off-the-record anti-government nut? Who are you?”
Jaraad didn’t answer. He knew that if he did, his life would be over, just like that. It probably already was. The man stood up and disconnected the security camera.
“What are you doing? Where am I?” Jaraad asked.
“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry. We are the Tigers.”
“What?” Jaraad asked. “I don’t understand.”
“I think you can help me,” replied the Man. “You see, the president is coming here tonight. I want you to kill him. You are in a top security prison, and the president is coming here tonight to personally inspect the facility. At exactly five p.m., you will receive a key to get out of your cell, along with a .40 caliber pistol, and a Mac 10 machine pistol. You will also receive a detonator. If your mission is a failure- that is, you cannot kill the president, I want you to use this to detonate the nuclear bomb underneath the prison and destroy the whole place. Do you understand? If your mission is a success, you will be hailed as a freedom fighter and national hero. If you fail, you will not leave the building alive, and you can achieve the same legacy by using the detonator to accomplish your task. Are you in or out? I’m giving you a shot- what was your name, again?”
“Jaraad” came the reply, “and I’m in.”
Jaraad waited for five o’clock in agony. The last thing the Man had said was that he was sorry, but it needed to look like he had beaten him. The bamboo cane had hit his head and back several times, and the welts were still sore, although after seven hours and a small, pathetic meal, they were feeling a bit better. Someone, perhaps the Man, had smuggled pain pills in with his lunch, and a note that told him not to use them until four thirty. It was time, now. In about fifteen minutes, relief rushed into his body, and the soreness subsided. In a couple of minutes, a man walked into the room with a tray of food and something bulging under his coat. The man was about six feet, two inches tall, with very dark skin and close-cut, strait hair. He handed Jaraad the tray and shut the door. He opened his jacket, and there lay two Glock 35’s and two Mac 10’s. He handed one of each to Jaraad.
“The name’s Tariq,” he said. “Pleasure to be doing business with you.”
“Likewise,” replied Jaraad. “Let’s get to work.”
“The president is on his way to the main block right now,” Tariq said. “Follow me and we’ll get there first. You wait in the doorway up ahead, and I’ll sit at the top of the stairs across from you. When his security vanguard reaches the point where the floor changes, we’ll jump out at take them down. Here is a detonator, in case thing go wrong. Don’t worry, this whole mountain will vaporize instantly, and you won’t feel a thing.”
“Here we are,” Tariq said. “When I give the signal, go, and don’t hesitate. There will be about half a dozen of them, but we will have the element of surprise. Every sector is sound proof, so if we time it right, the president won’t know that anything has happened. Are you ready?”
Jaraad nodded, and shook Tariq’s hand before he crossed the hallway and took up his place at the top of a flight of stairs. As they waited, Jaraad thought back about everything the president had done to the common people. Population laws, extreme food rationing, excessively taxing the poor, political murders, slaughtering entire neighborhoods, and even walking down streets shooting random people. Then he started thinking about all of the things that the president had done that no one even knew about, like this political prison. Now he will get what he deserves, thought Jaraad. Then his thought froze. Someone was opening one of the heavy, sound proof doors. Footsteps started sounding on the floor. Jaraad heard a click, like the one he heard when the officer in the street had used his radio. A man started talking.
“Everything looks clear right now. The president can come through in a couple of minutes after we finish clearing the area.” The radio clicked again.
“Understood,” came another voice. “We’ll wait here a bit.”
“Do we really have to do this?” asked another man in the room, now only about forty feet from Jaraad. “I mean, what could possibly happen?”
You’ll see soon enough, thought Jaraad.
“It’s protocol, Jones,” replied the first man. “Now stop whining, so we can get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”
As it should, thought Jaraad. He looked over at Tariq. He was listening intently, and then his eyes got wide. He looked up at Jaraad and mouthed “NOW”.
As they jumped out into the hallway, Jaraad saw eight men standing, armed with MP5N’s and Berretta M9’s. So much for half a dozen, Jaraad thought, as he opened fire with his Mac 10. Within three seconds, there were only two men left, and they were laying on the floor, bleeding out, their bodies ripped apart by .45 caliber bullets from the Mac 10’s. Jaraad picked up two of the MP5Ns and slung them across his back. “I’m already low on ammo,” he explained to Tariq. “What happens if the president doesn’t come this way, or if he heard something? Can he get away if we don’t use the detonators?”
“There are four rebel operatives near the exit. If they try to leave, we have them. The only way they could get away is if they made it to the hangar under the building. Security will swarm the building, and we won’t have a chance of surviving- our only choice will be to vaporize the mountain,” Tariq said, handing Jaraad two extra magazines for his Mac 10.
They were inside a mountain, Jaraad thought. That explains why there are no windows.
The door started opening again. Jaraad and Tariq jumped back into their hiding places. From his hiding place, Jaraad saw the president, and his top advisors. He recognized one of them- it was the Kid Killer who had shot his mother. He must be the head of Population Control, now. He broke into a cold sweat. He wasn’t just ridding the world of a tyrant, he was avenging his mother. The president and his staff were surrounded by just over a dozen guards. He was glad he had picked up the extra guns, because he didn’t want to have to reload in the middle of a firefight. Tariq gave the signal, and they ran across the hallway firing their weapons. Five guards dropped dead, and the rest took up defensive positions, while the president hid under a table.
“He’s going to get away,” Tariq yelled to Jaraad as three more guards fell. “We need to get closer! Cover me!”
Shooting as he moved, Tariq ran forward and hid behind a support pillar. He ran forward again, moving across the hall to another support pillar. He was nearly there when he fell, with a bullet through his head. Jaraad was on his last clip for his Mac 10. He finished it, and then grabbed the MP5’s. There were only three guards and the head of Population Control left, now. The president stood up, and ran towards the door, stopping to hid under tables and desks. Jaraad stood up, with an MP5 in each hand, and started walking forward, shooting. The three guards were dead in about a second, and he hit the Kid Killer in his arms and side. Jaraad ran forward, out of bullets in his MP5’s, and drew his sidearm. He kept shooting at the president and finally, with his last two bullets, hit him high in his back and in his neck. The president fell, dead, but the vice president managed to escape.
“The other rebels will get him,” he said. He bent down and grabbed Tariq’s Mac 10. “Good,” he said, “it still has some bullets left.” He walked over to the Kid Killer, who lay bleeding on the floor. “This is for my mother, the innocent woman I watched you kill, five years ago.” And with that, he poured the remaining .45 caliber bullets into the head of Population Control.
Jaraad turned to leave the room. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!!! Jaraad felt three sharp pangs in his back, and fell to the floor. The Kid Killer hadn’t died, and had drawn his sidearm to shoot his killer.
“I win,” he said, blood smeared on his face. “The president’s third in command is in the hangar, and he’s going to get away and bring life back to this country, and keep scum like you were you belong.”
“No,” Jaraad said, pulling the detonator from his pocket. “I win.” And with that, he pushed the button. A blinding light instantly flashed before them, and the Mount Rushmore vaporized. It was finished: the world was free.