Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 16, 2016
Discuss this story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
It was another ugly night out on the streets of Missoula for Kareem. 7 feet tall, 300 lbs and Black, he stuck out like a sore thumb anywhere he went in Missoula and it was hard to avoid being rousted by the local cops every day. Because of his size and the fact he was pretty shrewd, he had become the leader of a gang of local guys from the wrong side of the tracks. There was Jose, son of a Mexican immigrant who made her way up to Missoula as a house maid for a rich Doctor named Dave. There was Eagle, a Lakota whose family had left the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, and his sister Sparrow, although she wasn't officially part of the gang. Official Gang members were all male, although sisters and girlfriends had their own gang. There was Billy Joe, a white trash redneck whose family had migrated up from Alabama. Kim Long Dong, grandson of Vietnamese immigrants who had migrated to the FSoA in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and had an auto body shop. Kensoto the West African whose doctor parents had migrated in the 80s but could not get licensed as doctors in the FSoA due to the gatekeeping of the profession by the AMA and worked as Janitors at the local hospital.
In High School, none of the white kids fucked with Kareem and his band of tough guys. Really, nobody had the balls to confront Kareem by himself, but the whole bunch of them were just known to be really mean and would strike back hard at the slightest offense to anyone in their gang. They gained a sense of power from this, but after high school the intimidation game got a lot more complicated. First off, they weren't the only gang in town, in fact they were one of the smaller ones and only had a few blocks of turf around the Dong Body Shop. They bordered on one side with King Mustafa's Skulls and on the other with Der Fuhrer's Storm Troopers. The Skulls had no white gang bangers, Der Fuehrer's Storm Troopers were all white skin heads. Most of the other gangs in town also broke down on racial lines, although there were a couple of others that were more rainbowed out in color like Kareem's Terminators. Generally those were the gangs the Terminators had alliances with, and they were sprinkled out around the Skulls and Storm Trooper turf. Anybody encroaching on anybody else's turf could start a multi-front Gang War, which nobody really wanted.
Besides having to watch out for other gang members, the other folks doing intimidation on the streets were the local Gestapo, both city cops and state troopers. They were always up for rousting somebody and making traffic stops for newly broken tailights to generate some revenue for the weekly quota, and just for general busting heads fun. Then there were the periodic shoot-em-ups, which while dangerous for the gestapo was far more dangerous for the gang bangers. The cops of course never got punished for a dead gang banger armed or unarmed, but anybody who killed or even just shot a cop was getting life in prison at best or the death penalty. Besides that, the rest of the gang would be targets for even more rousting and more "righteous shoots" and paramilitary style SWAT team home invasions.
The main thing for maintaining peace and not getting rousted too often was to maintain a low profile and stick to your turf. There were occassional border disputes and periodic Summits of the gang leaders to resolve those disputes politically, and they usually worked too, at least until after the financial crash in 2022. The areas around the mall and Montana State University were considered Neutral Ground by everyone, since quite a few of the bangers from all gangs were enrolled in college. The federally guaranteed student loan program dished out free money if you went to college, so for at least as long as they could get this money they took it, most with no intention of ever paying it off of course.
The Terminators were no different in this regard, with the exception that a few of them were fairly serious about their studies. Kareem was studying Ancient History with a focus on the collapse of the Roman Empire, Eagle was studying Finance & Accounting and Kim was studying Information Technology. Kim actually knew more than most of his professors, as an autodidact he had self-taught computer programming beginning when he was 10 and was an accomplished Hacker and member of the Anonymous collective. Billy Joe was studying Music, and was an accomplished musician himself whose heros were Lynyrd Skynyrd, Guns & Roses and Jethro Tull.
Kim's computer networking abilities gave the Terminators a big advantage over the other gangs, he had hacked into most of their email accounts and social media accounts. He ran bots which scanned all these accounts daily. When he wasn't in school, Kim was almost always in the basement under the Body Shop where his computer work station was. The station had been cobbled together over years of collecting parts from old computers, setting up arrays with different computers dedicated to different tasks and 5 different monitor screens, two large new Samsung OLED screens up on the wall the Terminators bought with profits from the drug and prostituition trade, and then 3 more older screens on his desk console, a large one in the middle which was his main monitor and then slightly smaller screens to the left and right. Kim maintained dozens of different email accounts over the web, and convinced Kareem that they should invest in their own Virtual Private Server from a Hosting company in Iceland. He also built a distributed local network which could operate independent of the Internet over many different frequencies, utilizing the CB radio channels, FRS radio channels or short wave for text messaging.
All their own email accounts were encrypted and used https protocols in data transmission, and there were strict instructions and prohibitions on what Terminators were allowed to publish on social media or keep stored on their smart phones. Critical location information of storage drops for Ganga and Coke all had to be committed to memory and were not permitted to be stored either on paper or on the phones. All phones had to be turned off before entering the Body Shop, and the shop itself was set up as a Faraday Cage. Internally, you could reconnect to the internet via the secure connection that Kim had set up and their own private network. Although it was possible for the NSA to pinpoint the location of the body shop, further pinpointing the basement communications center was quite difficult to do, even with infrared sensing drones.
Besides digital encryption, all Terminators were trained in Analog Cypher techniques for transmitting written messages securely in the event they could not use digital means or they deemed them unsafe. A system of creating one time pads was developed, utilizing scrabble letters, dice and cards so a new encryption could be done for every message, never utilizing the same one time pad so frequency charts would not work to break the code. Kim had studied the work of Alan Turing, and knew the mistakes of the Engima Coding machine the Nazis used in WWII, which ultimately was a deciding factor in their defeat.
Kim's father had originally built the basement under the body shop by excavating out from one of the Oil Change pits, which he did over many years. Later with Kim's help, they excavated a tunnel which went to the other side of the block and then connected to the Missoula sewage system. The connection to the sewage system was sealed off with a thin layer of concrete, only to be broken through in case of a Level 1 Emergency Escape. From his experience during the Vietnam War as a member of the People's Liberation Army, Kim's father had learned the value of having secret dugout hiding locations and escape tunnels. In surviving the Vietnam War, he had made his escape through one of these tunnels, pitching his uniform of Black Pajamas and throwing them in a dumpster, putting on civies, then blending in with the rest of the displaced and dispossesed people in Ho Chi Mihn city.
In the 1980s, shortly after making the migration to the FSoA when Ronald Reagan was elected, Kim's father became paranoid that his adopted country was going down the same road as Vietnam, and that he needed to prepare for such an eventuality. Kim himself growing up was not so convinced of this, but out of respect for his father helped build the tunnel, which took several years of backbreaking work in close quarters to accomplish.
The exterior of the Terminator Headquarters Building in Dong's Body Shop looked normal, just another old and decaying auto body shop on the wrong side of town. It was however a Fortress, all the doors were solid steel and the only big windows in the customer area had metal roll down shutters for preventing burgalary when the shop was closed at night. Meetings were held after business hours when the shop was closed, and the main financial business of the gang was conducted during these meetings, as well as the latest issues going on around them in Missoula they needed to be aware of and plan for.
Kim's importance to the gang both because of his IT skills and the fact his father's shop provide headquarters for the Terminators made him Top Priority for protection and he had no further responsibilities to sell drugs, protect the prostitutes the gang was running or do any stealing on burglary jobs. Armed Robbery was not permitted or sanctioned by the Terminators, since it held too much possibility for a murder to take place. They had some income from running a local Protection Racket for the businesses in the neighborhood, and then a portion of the regular income came from dues paid by members, which mostly came from federally guaranteed student loans, although a few members did have jobs. Besides the central council, the gang numbered about 30 in all, and all the members were expected to pony up $50/mo in dues for a base income of $1500. Drug sales were the biggest money maker for the gang, netting around $3000/mo. Prostitution netted about $2000 after salaries to the prostitutes were figured in, and the Protection Racket another $1500 or so. Total monthly revenue was around $8000, all cash and tax free.
Terminator expenses were kept low, they had no rent and paid no salaries, although Bonuses were often paid out and if a gang member had trouble with rent or a major expense like a busted tranny on his car, the Terminators would pick up the tab. The excess money each month was invested after being laundered through a Swiss Bank Account that Kim had set up through the Iceland server, and Eagle did most of the management of the portfolio since his major was in accounting and business administration. There were often though disputes on what was best to invest in, and on the days when the market was volatile those often took up most of their time at the meetings.
The gang also maintained their own transportation fleet, including 2 large vans, a pickup truck, 2 motorcycles and several bicycles. Everything was purchased used, or sometimes traded for in barter for drugs or prostitution services. They also built their own armory, mostly stocked with semi-automatic hand guns, but also including some fully automatic assault rifles. 5000 rounds of ammo were kept onsite, and another 50,000 rounds were kept distributed out in their offsite drug storage facilities, which were mainly public storage units costing between $40 & $80/month.
Friday night as they gathered together for the weekend meeting, everybody was on time except Kensoto.
"Kensoto is never late" Eagle remarked. "I am concerned".
"Can you find his location?" Kareem asked Kim. "Is his smartphone still on?"
"I'm working on it Kareem….yea it looks like it's on. Looks like he is on the border of the Skull's territory, near the 7-11."
"Is he moving in this direction?"
"No…WAIT…Police Scanners are saying there is a shooting at the 7-11. Multiple officers down, squad cars on the way!"
"FUCKING SHIT!" Kareem screamed. "What kind of bullshit mess is this?"
"Kensoto would never shoot anyone. He doesn't even pack heat most of the time." Jose remarked.
"Not a chance." Kareem agreed. "Suit up everyone, we gotta go get Kensoto out of this mess, whatever it is."
Kim was typing furiously on his keyboard. "Kensoto: Cavalry coming. Are you in safe location for pickup?"
There was tense moment and then an encrypted message came back. "Yes. 2 blocks from 7-11, alley. Big shooting, big mess. I am shot, hiding behind dumpster."
"Kim, you stay here and man communications. Jose, Eagle, take the motorcycles. Billy Joe and me will follow in the van." Everone donned their body armor and pulled the hardware from the armory. They were on their vehicles and out the door in under 2 minutes. This drill had been done before, many times.
Jose and Eagle got to the scene first, in about 5 minutes. The gestapo was still streaming in, lights flashing, but heading toward the 7-11 and not toward the alley Kensoto was hiding in.
"Jose", Eagle radioed to his partner over the headsets embedded in their helmets, "Take up watch position outside the alley. I am going in for Kensoto".
"10-4" Jose replied.
Eagle got to the end of the alley, then spied the dumpster. taking off his helmet, with no one else nearby, he yelled. "KENSOTO! IT'S EAGLE. ARE YOU CONSCIOUS? I AM COMING FOR YOU."
Kensoto replied quickly, crawling out from behind the dumpster. "Thank god. You got here fast! I'm not hit too bad."
Kensoto had a wound to the right arm bleeding fairly profusely, but it wasn't life threatening immediately. He was holding some cloth he ripped off his shirt over the wound, placing on direct pressure.
"Can you ride Kensoto?"
"I'm not sure…gotta keep the blood in…it's an arterial puncture."
"We can't wait for the van. Gotta GTFO of Dodge here before the whole neighborhood is loaded with cops. Eagle pulled off his belt and wrapped a quick tourniquet around Kensoto's right arm, near the shoulder. "Get the fuck on the bike and hold on with your left arm." Eagle yelled. "Stay fucking conscious, because I am not going slow!"
Kensoto felt on the verge of passing out, but Eagle's screaming got his adrenaline going and he got a recharge. "I'll make it Eagle, fucking hammer down!"
"Jose, coming your way with Kensoto! All clear?" Eagle radioed.
"Looks good for a right out of the alley and take the long route back to HQ."
"Kensoto holding on good now but not sure how long he will stay conscious. Gotta get him into the Van."
"Understood. Will radio Kareem to meet at the bridge turn off."
Jose and Eagle sped to the bridge, and they quickly transferred Kensoto into the van. Billy Joe removed the tourniquet and put a proper dressing on the wound, allowing blood to flow back through the rest of Kensoto's arm without losing too much blood.
"I got the bleeding slowed here Kareem, but we gotta get him to a hospital. The bullet has to come out and this has to be sewed up proper." Billy Joe said.
"Can't go to a hospital B-J, that will get us all wrapped up in this clusterfuck."
Kensoto replied faintly. "No hospital. Call my mom. She was trauma surgeon in West Africa. She will fix."
Billy Joe got on the secure channel to Kim. "Kim, need Kensoto's mom asap at the HQ. Emergency Medical attention. Inform her to tell no one. Bullet removal and stitching required on Kensoto."
It was another 15 minutes before Kensoto's mom arrived at the HQ, carrying a small bag of surgical instruments she had always kept with her, scalpel, forceps and sewing equipment. However, she had no anaesthetic for the surgery.
"Anaesthetic? How about some Heroin? Billy Joe asked.
"Oh, that will work fine, just not too much." Kensoto's mom replied.
"No problem. I'm an expert at anaesthesia." Billy Joe replied. Which he was, having anaesthetised himself many times.
Although the arterial puncture had caused a large loss of blood, it was a fairly clean wound and the bullet was easily withdrawn, a small caliber 9mm. The artery was easily sewn closed and then the skin wound after that. Antiobiotic cleanser was applied under the dressing, and Kensoto was given antibiotic pills to back it up. Kensoto's mom stayed with him overnight, and by morning although somewhat weak, he otherwise seemed fine.
Figuring out what to do with their injured gang member after that was a much bigger problem though.