Chapter 0:


Cooper Black: Heist

The Sonoran Desert, like a fiery breath from a dragon with bad breath, swirled up dusty waves that slapped unsuspecting faces. A rickety wooden shack, constructed with the architectural finesse of a beaver on a caffeine high, stood awkwardly among the cacti, dead bushes, and insects that probably had their own insect soap operas.

Joe Catshoe Black had seen far warmer summers and temperatures than this. His mouth was grim and silent as a shadow, tensed with a deep fear inflicted in him. Sweat perspired on his forehead and his hands - they had a luster that outmatched ordinary oily glow. Blonde beard tingling of stress, head tilted at an angle like some drunken brawler, he cradled his injured arm on his lap as shades of a rosy liquid poured out from bullet holes in his flesh.

Joe's mind was stumbling over facts faster than a copy of the latest computer processor. It pained him to recall of the series of events that he'd witnessed, that he'd foreshadowed and dreamed of; he was never sure that one day it might come true.

The past was the past - gone to smoldering ashes and oblivion. The present was a scourge of lost hopes, corrupted hearts, rising chaos, and political power.

The future, yes. Joe finally collected an option from his mental well of ideas. The future still holds the truth. The apex of a trail of corrupted men.

Time was slipping free from the universal hour glass. How could time ever be stopped? It was about time that the glowing embers of previous worldwide wars were about to light the fires of a new revolution. The beginnings of the new era were drawing closer, and so was death inching forward to witness the final moments of Joe Catshoe's life.

His shelter was all he could afford now. His land and money at California were now decaying with the new arrival of an infiltrating army from the biggest country in the world. He'd once lived peacefully with his family, living their dreams of a better tomorrow, a new dawn, a dawn of pure happiness that clarified souls. How stubborn his family had been; they hadn't cared to evacuate on time.

They'd stood rooted to their home, their grove of sacred trees of tradition, not long before the huge planes intruded the airspace and ejected deadly bombs and missiles on the West Coast.

Thinking of the past hurt him more than anything. Joe tasted curdled venom and sunburnt wine, as his mind flashed pictures of his brother retreating after his sister-in-law, while all nearby suburban buildings toppled and collapsed under the weight of deafening booms and bangs and sizzling bombs.

"Ghaaah..." Joe dropped from his chair as the cries resonated inside his mind like echoes from a distant valley of torment. Nostalgia was of two types, and sure enough, the old cowboy was being attacked by the tragic ones.

He resolved to his desk and picked up a ballpoint pen with a hand bandaged from wrist to fingertips. With trembling fingers, he scribbled a note on a piece of paper. He inserted this into a manila envelope and rolled it up into a tube.

His only family had been gone within a flutter of a moth's wing. However, somewhere deep in his heart brittle with sorrow and broken with so many losses, he believed that his nephew, Cooper Black, was still alive.

His last strand of hope to accomplish his dream was in the palms of Cooper, that wasn't until the envelope was delivered.

Pain bubbled and fizzed in the hotspots of his left arm. The hut was providing little protection from the sun's hobby of boiling the Earth's atmosphere.

In the distance, something buzzed and hummed. It wasn't a bee, and that was sure; bees cannot survive in deserts. The strange disturbing sound appeared closer and louder - like a thousand beats of some humongous insect's wings.

"In the name of—" Joe's eardrums were ringing like a tuning fork struck continuously. The agony of his left wasn't bothering him anymore. He knew that his arm was as good as dead. His bloody arm limply dangled loosely as he rose from the chair again and walked over to a corner of the barely two square meter hut, where a tool of defense awaited him. "Now this'll come in handy. Hmm... handy and powerful, indeed."

The deafening beat of the flying object was about to be answered by a M1014 shotgun. In the field of handling guns, the forefathers of the Blackburn family tree were never beaten and always respected; Joe Black belonged to this family.

He slipped a chain free from the indoor lock mechanism and proceeded to step outside, in the scorching world of sunlight borne from the smiling sizzling sun. The pupils of his eyes took their time and slowly adjusted to the sudden gradient from dark to light. By squinting heavily, the helicopter could be seen shining like obsidian in the near hand horizon.

'Russians' was the first thought that struck his mind. His hands willed to shoot it down with brute force, although he wasn't 100% sure that it was part of the usurpers' military.

The helicopter was a giant black beetle clad in heavy armor, so shotgun shells and bullets were worthless in contact. The AH-64 slowly flew around the visible corners of the desert, according to Joe Black's point of vision, before turning towards his hut's direction. What were the pilots thinking? Were they going nuts?

"Speak of the devil," Joe felt uneasy as the helicopter started to descend, the distance between him and the machine vehicle decreasing with each second. His right armpit tucked the shotgun into a stable position as his hand fingered the little trigger that controlled the outflow of shots.

Ready to fire.