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Chucho Says, "Fuck. This. Shit."

In the relatively halcyon years before The Collapse, there were many who couldn’t quite fit into the society in which they lived, mostly young men of every color and creed—though conspicuously never the rich—who through any number of mechanisms intentional and unintentional had been pushed so far to the fringe that their minds could no longer even pretend to reconcile with any popular notion of life, but neither could they quite end things themselves. So they sought out death. More precisely, they sought out cops. This phenomenon would not have been foreign to someone like Chucho. Dying in a shootout with the police was honorable where much else was indignity. Add to that a deeply ingrained belief that one was already tainted by evil, that one was just a stupid piece of shit society didn’t give a fuck about anyway, and it was no surprise when some bright cholo with no hope and a deficit of dreams pulled out a gun right in front of a cop, finally dictating something in life, a time and a place, in essence, saying exactly what Chucho said in camp that day: “Fuck. This. Shit.”

 

Chucho was wearing his sidearm and yet it wasn’t the gun he went for; he slid his machete out of its sheath and started toward the mercenaries, who sighted him in, one red laser sight on his chest, one glowing on the black 18 in the middle of his forehead.

Did he stop? No. He raised the machete and sprinted toward them.

 

The mercenaries calmly raised their weapons, but just as they did, their sunglasses shifted in unison to their right and, in that instant, the ex-footballer Christopher Martin appeared at a dead sprint, laying himself out like a missile, blasting Chucho off his feet, driving him into the dirt—one of the finest saving tackles in history.

***

The mercenaries made to move in, but the rest of us had already trained our weapons on them and Starbucks was rushing out of the barracks, yelling impotently for everyone to stand down, followed close at heel by Custer, who was apoplectic with rage. Despite his splintered peg, he was upon the scene in a second. In one hand, he wielded his shotgun; with the other, he ripped Christopher Martin off Chucho and hurled the big man back onto his ass like a toddler and yanked Chucho up from the ground by the collar of his shirt, Chucho glaring up at him through that intricate tattooing, as inured to the captain’s fury as a real skeleton would have been.

 

“Your life isn’t yours to throw away!” Custer was suddenly screaming down into my friend’s face. “What don’t you understand about the concept of a contract? is it the fine legal language? did we not translate sufficiently for you? no hablo? Well, allow me to summarize! I own you until this job is done and if that won’t keep my skeleton friend alive then, by god, hear me right: if you so much as think about throwing this widget you call a body away, I’ll not only toss you in the box alive but also that gawking lump of shit there!” Here, he pointed at me. Maybe I was proud he singled me out as Chucho’s friend but.…

Gawking, sure. But lump of shit?  

“Every man here, listen up!” he continued. “You contracted with Plymouth and I am captain of Plymouth and you have orders before you: kill the white zombie! for all I care, the second your contracts terminate, every one of you can blow your brains out in the woods but, until that moment, your energy belongs to—!”

 

A deafening boom drowned out his next words.

We jerked our heads toward the explosion to see a cloud of black smoke and debris curling in on itself, consuming itself, beyond the camp’s hangars. All sound, the very existence of sound, seemed to have been sucked out of the air all at once with the explosion, but here it all rushed back in.

Over by the depot, men were shouting. Gunfire was erupting in staccato bursts, more and more by the second.

Custer had ducked and released Chucho so that my friend now lay on his back, propped up on his elbows, trying to process what had just happened. The captain turned back to him, extended a hand.

“Sorry,” he said, pulling Chucho to his feet. “But your contract is not up.”

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