Signs & Portents




Chapter 9

This Chequer-Board of Nights and Days

Farlan Jessup, who managed the small apartment building which housed the O'Learys, Sharif Mark, and Barry Newman, had just finished cleaning his guns. His appraising eye went over the neatly racked long range automatic firing rifles with telescopic night viewing scopes just to be sure all was in order.

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He closed the metal safe carefully and locked it. Returning to the handgun on his desk, he examined the cartridge clip to be sure it was full, shoved it into the handle of the weapon, forcing a shell into the firing chamber with a deft experienced motion, locked the safety and consigned this to the desk drawer, which he also promptly locked.

Group Leader Crippman had again emphasized the need for these precautions at the last meeting of the Vigilant Americans for a Free Society. Good VAFS did not arm the dangerous criminal elements with whom they often had to rub shoulders in the society as it was today. Only last week, there had been a burglary across the street. But no casual sneak thief would acquire Jessup's arsenal for his own use. Jessup was a vigilant and methodical man.

Sighing contentedly, he spread the plans for the shelter across the desk. He understood that the secret society, who were pulling the strings in the game of world politics, were stepping up their offensive. Lately, they were not just using their puppet heads of governments to suppress and harass the free enterprise system. The news from the recent VAFS meeting was that in order to gain full mind control of the already brainwashed public (who had so far fallen for every gambit of these secret manipulators), they were now quietly infiltrating the nonsensical mystical groups which abounded in Berkeley. At the meeting, clear evidence of a link between them and the New Islamic Christian Church had been demonstrated.

Rupert Mark, one of Jessup's tenants, who now went about calling himself "Sharif," was a member of this church. Poor stupid clod, reflected Jessup, an idiot knew that most of those Mohammedan Arabs were not to be trusted, they had gone over to the secret organization, who really ran the word through world banking. Why did he suppose they were now trying to organize their own religion over here? Once, Jessup had tried to talk to the Mark boy, but the encounter had failed dismally. Inasmuch as it was important that a proper distance be maintained between tenant and manager, he hadn't persisted, but the experience had convinced him that Mark was not too bright anyway. He'd be alert, all the same.

A vision of the massed yellow faced enemy, wearing drab toned uniforms, carrying oversized weapons, drifted softly into his mental sight. This vision, from an Asian war most had now forgotten, was also dimmed by the passage of time for Jessup. The vision often recurred, but caused him no distress any more. The enemy had looked like children, an endless river of screaming, insane, killer children. He watched them again scramble over the bodies of their dead and come on. They were getting very close now and one could see the line of blood across the uniforms of the first rank who fell back to reveal another rank, their mouths open in frenzied screams. He shook his head to clear it of the scene and brought his attention back to the blueprints. But he would never forget, not completely.

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It wouldn't be much longer now, he knew it, and he and the other VAFS would be ready. It was a lonely job, being the guardian of a feckless, thankless society, where most people did not even appreciate the freedom and rightness of their own free enterprise system. But his time would come.

Right now, he was a little worried about not having found the time to get started on his own shelter. A lot of VAFS had constructed these years ago, completely supplied and secure for themselves and their families.

Well, Jessup didn't need much. There was only himself, and he suspected that he'd not spend much time in a shelter, if it came to that. But he would not fail the VAFS with the job of preparedness. Orders were orders, Jessup respected that. If it hadn't have been for that plumbing job in the O'Leary apartment, he would have gotten at it last weekend. And now, if he pushed himself, he could make up for the lost time. And, the good thing was, this recent order that all VAFS have bomb shelters in readiness, sounded to him like a signal that those in the higher echelons of the VAFS privately knew that would not be much longer. He strolled to the ham radio and seated himself. He had another appointment to keep.



Harvey Morgan had reached home also. Harvey spent the weekdays at his improvised command post and returned to his home in Surbiton for the weekends where he spent most of his hours in the shed at the bottom of the garden to the chagrin of his family. Here, amongst the rakes, flower pots and shelves of seedlings was the temporary command post of the King and Empire Movement (Home Counties Division 4).

Every weekend, Harvey pored over old army manuals, studied logistics and infantry maneurves, and most importantly, how to survive in the wilds on berries and roots. He pushed back all the old army ordinance manuals and switched on his short wave radio which was resting on a rusting ammunition case. The radio buzzed and crackled as he turned the dial, finally locking on to the frequency he was looking for.

"Farlan, good morning."

"Hi old buddy, how you guys doing there."

"Just fine, we had a bad explosion on the Underground last night. No one hurt, but caused one hell of a mess."

"You hang in their old buddy."

"How's about it at your end?"

"Usual civilian unrest. Won't be long before we're out there with you, old buddy. Things are really beginning to fall apart, but we're not gonna let that happen are we? No sir, we're soon be out putting those S.O.B's in their ... Yes ... okay .. Are ya ... "

It was at this point that the thundering voice of Farlan Jessup faded out, and disappointingly Harvey signed off. Despite this abrupt interruption in their weekly exchange, Harvey felt uplifted and inspired—in these darkening times, it was good to be in touch with a kindred spirit. There was a sudden rattling on the shed door which made Harvey jump.

"Dad, dinner's on the table. Mum said, are you coming in now?"

Harvey stood up and from a dusty window looked at his daughter disappearing along the garden path.

'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Day
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays;
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam



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