The earpiece crackled in Jake's ear from one of the handheld radios they were each tuned to. They'd picked up a couple of dozen surplused Motorola LE-only encrypted radios on eBay, and after a lot of work, Gene had programmed them all to use a normally unused simplex channel reserved for the authorities for tonight. All anyone else would hear was a brief bit of static with the factory encryption, but they still stuck to brevity codes.
Jake calmed himself. He knew the signs of buck fever, and he took a few moments to stretch his whole body, starting with his toes, and ending with his fingers. It wouldn't be long now, and he didn't want to be fighting adrenaline when the moment came.
The van he was in was non-descript. It was the twin of one belonging to a local business the next city over, and the plates on it would be back in the morning, with any luck at all. Inside was dark and quiet, but he could already hear the noise of the protesters as they moved down the main street, closing at the speed of a 6000-footed caterpillar, fueled by youthful exuberance, and a healthy amount of stupidity. Well, they were about to get a lot more education than what they'd gotten at U Cal, and he was happy to be a teaching assistant tonight.
He focused on the intersection, and checked over his gear one last time inside the darkened vehicle, as the sounds of yet another leftist temper tantrum grew louder by the moment.
Jim, hunkered down behind a load of cardboard boxes in a van much like Jake's, sat at right angles to the intersection.
His weapon too was identical to Jake's: the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22, modified for tonight.
It had a frame optimized for grown-ups, with one of those evil pistol grips that gave the state legislature hissy fits, going back to the late 1980s. Also a high-cap magazine, which torqued them out even worse. In this case, picked up out of state on a visit to relatives, and driven back across state lines into what Jim referred generally to as "Occupied Territory". He had several more loaded and waiting next to the stock. Also present was a heavy barrel, making the thing a tack-driver out to the limits of the relatively weak cartridge. And under the heading of "in for a penny, in for a pound", both rifles had custom home-made suppressors screwed on at the business end. They wouldn't be truly silent, but inside a can, inside a van, a couple of hundred yards away from a herd of screaming protesters, would be as near as. Just to be on the safe side, Jim screwed an earplug into the other ear, the one without the earbud.
Jim hadn't been in the military, and he wasn't the shooter Jake, who'd been a designated marksman when he served, was. But a lot of patient practice and range time had made him plenty good enough. And using the little pop-guns tonight wouldn't tax anyone's abilities at all. He checked the bipod legs to make sure they were securely locked. If they had failed, he had a beanbag rest for backup.
And when they returned, the barrels used tonight would come off, replaced by factory barrels again, and the heavys would go on a fishing trip, after being reamed out with a hardened bit. No evidence, no traces.
Gene spoke in a monotone voice familiar to anyone with long hours in a ham shack. He was the geek in the bunch. He'd found and programmed their radios, made sure everyone understood how to use them, and how to communicate.
There wasn't a leader as such, but he was older than the others by a decade or so, and after raising three teenagers to adulthood, there wasn't much that fazed him or ruffled his feathers, so he made, if not a Daddy to the group, a good Friar Tuck: a bit more mature, thoughtful, and worldly-wise, when it was needed.
He focused on his screen, and his fingers moved the controls to guide the drone slowly and deliberately. It was unregistered (of course), blacked out, and over the din of the demonstration, almost as silent as Jim and Jake would be, on the moment.
He followed the mob's progress as they moved towards the intersection where all their flyers and internet blather had helpfully pinpointed they would end their rally.
The police scanners indicated that, exactly as before, the town cops would be studiously ignoring the protest except for a token presence, and the campus cops were half a mile behind, doing about the same thing.
No roadblocks, so he and the others, in separate vehicles, would take separate, easy, and rehearsed routes out of Moscow-Near-The-Bay, and back to the quiet semi-rural small community they lived in an hour or so back up California's lush Central Valley.
Not so lush now, with dumping the agricultural water formerly set aside to feeding the world now going to a Sacto Delta baitfish to appease the whims of the idiots Gene was watching, and their elected Foole, long known as Governor Moonbeam.
Gene focused his attention on the drone's power supply. He had four of them, and had alternated them in series, swapping hot batteries for the depleted ones, so he wouldn't lose visual on the herd. Other than a minute or two between coverage, it had worked flawlessly, until one of his drones had a hiccup, and had to be retired from the relay. The others picked up the slack, but he was glad he was able to recover it without losing one of his numerous toys. The mob was now crossing the fourth street from the target intersection.
Pete could barely hear his earpiece, turned up all the way, but he had the most dangerous job. He'd infiltrated one of the local bunches of miscreants some weeks prior, after the first riot. He wasn't one of their anarchists per se, just one of the multitudinous black-clad folks giving them cover.
He had several jobs.
First, on his way to the rally, he'd carefully dumped a couple of hundred pieces of wiped .22LR brass around the intersection; some in each direction, where later investigators would find it, for all the good it would do them. It had been collected off the ground and floor at half a dozen shooting ranges, separated by brand, and location. The consensus was it would look like between 4 and 8 close-in shooters, rather than just the two.
Second, he was the one with an interest in historical sabotage. Careful research on real manuals (not the tripe in The Anarchist's Cookbook, which he was sure had been written by BATFE to get amateur bomb makers to blow themselves up) and practice with real materials had taught him several time-honored ways of getting something to go up in flames or explosion, reliably timed, and without him being there to get the full effect in the face. Most, but not all of the materials would be consumed, making things that much harder for anyone looking into it afterwards, as he was sure they would. That's why after tonight, he wouldn't use that particular set-up again for some time, so as not to create a signature. And just for fun, the night before, he'd left enough parts and exemplars inside the garage of the witch organizing this event to see her off to a long odyssey through the federal courts and prison system, after one anonymous phone call. Life's a bitch, especially when you are one, he chuckled to himself as he salted the items among her possessions the night before.
Third, as the mob moved along, he would place his devices underneath several likely cars about a block behind the festivities, on both sides of the street. That mainly entailed tying his shoes a lot at the bumpers, and surreptitiously sliding his items under their gas tanks. Time and physics would do the rest, in about three minutes, once he set them in place.
Lastly, once he'd done that job, he was artillery.
He had a water balloon cannon ready to attach to poles on the sides of his pickup truck. Practice had taught him that he could hurl small-bottle Molotov cocktails a couple of city blocks with minimal effort, and hit minute of mob, in about thirty seconds. Three shots in 10 seconds, break it down, and then be gone in half a minute.
He was wearing the mob uniform black, head-to-toe: black combat boots, black baggy military-style cargo trousers, black long-sleeved t-shirt and black hoodie, with a black balaclava over his face, and black leather gloves with hard knuckles. On his back, a generic but sturdy nylon black backpack.
Underneath, hard soccer shin guards, knee pads, a cup, hard elbow pads, soft body armor, and lightweight HDPE Level III plates in a plate carrier. A homemade hard helmet shell under the balaclava. He would not be playing victim in the knockout game if he got confronted.
He also had OC spray, a stun gun, a cheap but sturdy full-tang knife, and a Glock 19 with several extra mags, as well as the CCW permit (from a more enlightened sheriff in the nearby county where he lived, but good statewide), to make him almost 100% legal. Well, except for the incendiaries in the backpack.
Like the others, he also had a generic camelback, a small IFAK, and a personal E&E kit, including colorful regular shirt and pants, maps and routes on a removable cell phone thumb drive that led to an alternate and contingency rendezvous, a burner cell phone with the battery removed, paper cash and change, energy bar, and a good plausible and backstopped cover story.
He was young enough to pass for a grad student, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie, hence his choice of assignment, but he was nobody's fool, and they all planned to get home quietly and safely, and had taken every precaution to make it so.
Gene noted everything on the scanners normal, mob moving into position.
Jake and Jim chambered the first rounds in their rifles, and stayed on their scopes.
Now it got hairiest for Pete, and as he entered the last block, he started dropping off his packages, pushing them well under gas tanks, and making sure to trip the chemical chain to start the ball.
The first two were easy, then he had to work his way quickly through the mob as it congealed, to get to the other side of the packed street, and his alley exit. The front end was in the target zone already.
"Target 1. Target 1."
"Target 2. Target 2."
"Confirm Target 1. Confirm target 2."
Jake and Jim both had eyes on the front of the herd in their crosshairs.
Pete pulled out his last timer, and shoved his package delicately along the asphalt under an SUV.
As he hit the alley and made his way along it, he gave the all clear.
"Waiting for ignition."
As Pete jogged towards his truck, the chemical chain ignited his first package. A fire blossomed underneath a sedan on the far side of the intersection.
The drone confirmed it as the orange blossom grew.
"Weapons close. Weapons close."
Two safeties were snapped off, and two pairs of eyes searched for targets.
A second package ignited, as flames from the first began to engulf the first car.
Pete got to his truck, jumped into the bed, and limbered the poles into place.
"Drone's off. Drone's off."
Gene guided his drone back towards his vehicle. When it was well away from the zone of interest, he dropped it to 100 feet, set it on homing, and turned on his burner phone.
He punched in a number, and a previously selected landline rang.
It was connected to a timer, and the timer to an Israeli-made cell phone jammer sitting in a phony generic utility box as camouflage, on the roof of a building on the near side of the intersection.
For the next 10 minutes, no one would be connecting any calls within 100 yards of the site. All streaming video from the riot stopped. Texts bounced to nowhere. No 911 calls would be going out.
The crowd pushed into the intersection, some of them cheering the fires they thought their own thugs had started.
"Shot out. Shot out."
Pete called the first of three launches of lit Molotovs now arcing towards their target, labeled "to whom it may concern."
The first bottle bloomed into fire amidst the mob. There were screams; they weren't expecting this.
Both shooters confirmed the impacts.
Gene was recovering his drone; he closed the sliding side door as he made the call.
"Weapons free. Weapons free."
Inside the two vans, the shooters began plinking through their 25-round magazines. The rounds might kill, maim, or just leave a painful but survivable wound, but in less than half a minute, they were all on their way. Inside the vans, the rounds tick-tick-ticked off, and the brass went into catch-pouches.
The mob was careening around the intersection now. Panic set in with a vengeance as people started to go down. The herd started to stampede back the way they'd come when the first vehicle's gas tank went up with a "Whoompph!", and sent them in new directions. The third package ignited across the street, just as the last of three molotovs landed in the confusion and screaming terror, amplifying it.
"Rounds complete. Rounds complete."
Both shooters changed magazines, and began to send the second batch of 25 shots into the fleeing mob. They both aimed low; a lot of knees and legs were hit.
"Three, Tally Ho."
Gene was already on the road and outbound.
"Four, Tally ho."
Pete had dropped his poles, and was on his way out too.
Jake and Jim had gone through their second magazine apiece. They each dropped the hinged windows back into place and secured them there. The rifles were dropped into hide boxes, then covered with a couple of heavy crates.
"Two, Tally Ho."
Everyone waited breathlessly for Jake to announce he was rolling as well.
"One, Tally Ho."
Three other hearts started to slow down to normal.
NOW the idiots would know what a "WAR" was. None of the men driving away thought they'd like it very much in reality. And the authorities were still trying to figure out WTF had already happened. They wouldn't learn anything useful, though the anonymous call the next day that snitched out the organizer of the violence for cooking her own people "for the greater good" would come as a great PR boost, rather than their usual "we're investigating all leads" B.S.
The cards on their steering wheels led them to separate freeway entrances. After that, the routes were in their heads. Cruise control kept them driving at the speed limit. Radios were switched off. Each drove silently into the night. Behind, the screaming continued, and the nightmare for the protesters, and TPTB, was just beginning.
One hour later, the radios came back on.
They each checked in by number, and verified from different directions their primary rendezvous site was clear and uncompromised.
There, the rifle barrels would come off, the brass would be policed, and they'd switch to the cold license plates.
The rifles were put back to original configuration. Jake took the weapons. Jim took the silencers, and the custom stocks.
Gene got the hot barrels. Pete got the brass.
Everyone changed clothes. Gene took these to an all-night laundromat.
The other three, in sweat clothes, hit the 24-hour gym next door, and took long showers, scrubbing every trace of residue from their bodies. Then they changed into their normal attire.
Pete took the hot plates back to the lot where the delivery vans they'd borrowed them from were parked, and put them back on without incident.
They drove home individually, at intervals, and by separate routes. Gene drilled out the barrels; next deep sea trip, they'd fall off the boat at night on the ride out. Jim cleaned and stashed the other parts, and Jake cleaned the weapons thoroughly. Pete took the brass home, where he pounded it into lumps of scrap with a sledgehammer, then shot off a bridge into the tule marshes with a slingshot.
And they all slept like babies.
This is entirely a piece of fiction. And a cautionary tale. Hopefully it stays that way, but I wouldn't put chips on that square. If it gets your panties all twisted, too fucking bad. Get over it.
It took about twenty minutes to type out, and I haven't even been thinking about this much.
If I can come up with this off the cuff, so can five hundred thousand other people. Some already have.
Bet your ass on that.
And if you're one of the erstwhile protesters, many of them wouldn't be as merciful towards you and yours as I was in this little tale. You ARE betting your ass on that, every time you show up for another piece of street theatre. And when it actually happens, 100:1 they'll see that YOU get the blame for it. Win-win.
So, contrary to all experience thus far, you all could grow the fuck up, knock your silly shit off, and just suck it.
Or keep pushing your luck.
Call the toss in the air, kids.