This story is set in the Swarm Cycle Universe created by Thinking Horndog. Get a grip: this is fiction. Any resemblance between the content of this story or any of the characters depicted herein with real persons, places or events is totally coincidental.
I very much appreciate the patience and efforts of Mulligan. His help has made this a much better story. I claim full responsibility for all errors and omissions.
Pursuant to the Berne Convention, this work is copyrighted with all rights reserved by its author unless explicitly indicated. Reproduction for profit is forbidden. Any distribution must include this note and the author's email address.
WARNING: This story contains material unsuitable for minors and narrow-minded individuals. It contains sex, violence, and other socially unacceptable material. You have been warned!
There is no geographic location on Earth that more clearly demonstrates how a few men with guns can change the course of history than the state of Texas. But, with their opening gambit being The Alamo, and its example being the standard for all that followed, what else could be expected of native-born Texicans?
The populace may squabble like a horde of siblings who constantly fight with each other, but it's patently impossible for an outsider to pick a fight with just one Texan. An assailant must be prepared to fight them all.
The "Good Ol' Boy" mentality permeates more than politics in Texas. Written contracts are typically between Texans and non-Texans. A handshake is all that's needed between two Texans, and if it's a couple of "Good Ol' Boys", then a simple nod of the heads can close a million dollar deal.
Of course there are those who argue that the only real difference between a redneck and a "Good Ol' Boy" is that a redneck just throws his empty beer can out the window of his pickup truck where a "Good Ol' Boy" will hook shot his empties into the bed of his truck. In either case it's a statistical fact that the most common last words of either group are, "Hey! One o' ya'll hold my beer an' watch this!"
Texans are unbelievably proud of themselves and their state. Every new Cadillac that comes off of the assembly line in Dallas has a sticker in the back window that says, "Made in Texas by Texans".
The general population in Texas had mostly ignored the ruckus caused by the Earth First movement disrupting Confederacy pickups in the state until people began to notice the dramatic drop in extractions from Texas compared to a rise in extractions from New York City, which has roughly the same population. Both the "Good Ol' Boys" and the rednecks agreed that something had to be done.
The Earth First supporters in Texas were reasonably easy for native Texans to spot because the pinheads were mostly a bunch of bleeding heart liberals from places like California or Massachusetts who were trying to push their values onto others. And very few of them drank beer.
Beer was present at the very beginning of civilization. This observation could lead statisticians into making a case for Texas being one of the most civilized places on Earth. The only real competition for Texas in the arena of breweries per capita is Bavaria.
Chester Rawlings and Miguel Diego had consumed a rather large quantity of Shiner Bock and were arm wrestling for the tab they had run at the Toro Rojo Bar and Grill when a huge foreigner with a Georgia accent stepped up to the bar and called for everyone's attention. Chester and Miguel ignored the rude man and continued their contest.
Mr. Rude loudly announced, "Excuse the interruption everyone, my name is Corporal Mullins of the Confederacy Space Marines. My companions and I are here to retrieve six volunteers. If the six of you will kindly step up to the bar and identify yourselves we will begin the next phase of this extraction."
About a third of the women in the bar, including Chester and Miguel's waitress Debbie, were shedding clothes as soon as the word 'Confederacy' was spoken. Chester and Miguel figured they had enough time to finish their contest before stepping up to Mr. Rude and continued to stare each other down. About the time the first of the volunteers arrived at the bar a rude and unfriendly person shouted, "Die traitors, take everyone or no one," and began firing at the big Marine and the volunteers.
Chester and Miguel were no strangers to bar brawls and immediately dove under their table content to let the 'rude' duke it out with the 'rude and unfriendly' up until one of the latter group shot Debbie. The two friends looked at each other and sighed. Each knew that they had just chosen a side. One thing you don't do in Texas if you want to live; well three things actually: you don't kick a Texan's dog, you don't insult a Texan's woman, and you don't shoot a Texan's waitress. And it's pretty much in that order.
Neither of the men particularly liked Debbie. She was as dumb as a post and hadn't missed a branch on the ugly tree that she had fallen out of twenty-six years ago, but she was THEIR waitress. Those who think that this is a dumb reason for two grown and normally sensible geologists to begin killing people are clearly not from Texas. As dumb a reason as it might be it was enough for a Colt single action revolver to appear in each men's right hand as if by magic. The two men stood back-to-back and began clearing the bar of 'rude and unfriendly' people.
A key difference between Chester and Miguel, and the six idiots of Earth First is that the true Texans actually knew what to do in a gunfight. It's also possible that the Earth First idiots didn't realize that they were in a gunfight until it was too late. The sixth one fell onto the sawdust-covered floor after two forty-five slugs plastered the wall behind him with most of his heart and about three inches of his spine after passing through the middle of his chest.
Chester looked around for more targets before telling Miguel, "We share that last one, but it's three for me, and only two for you. I get the check." The honor of paying the check meant that Miguel would owe Chester a favor.
"No fair," Miguel complained. "There were more of them on your side of the room!"
"Don't be a pussy, Miguel." Chester admonished his friend.
Miguel was not pleased when he said, "Okay, but I get the tip."
The two men looked at their dead waitress, and then at each other. Chester said, "Don't waste your money. She can't use it now."
Chester looked around wondering what had happened to their ride. It was doubly rude for that guy Mullins to start a fight and then disappear into thin air. Maybe joining the Confederacy Marines wasn't such a good idea after all. If all of them ran from a little bar brawl like a bunch of sissy girls, then associating with them would be just too embarrassing to live down.
The Marines had only managed to push their own wounded, one volunteer, and six mostly naked women through the transporter nexus before shutting it down. The other three volunteers who had made it all the way to the bar lay dead on the floor.
Miguel was sure that Chester was wasting his time when he went to the Confederacy testing center to complain about being left behind. Chester had locked his revolver in his truck and was annoyed when the he was required to also leave his knife with the guard before being allowed to see Tribune Wentworth. The fact that Chester's Arkansas Toothpick was about the length and weight of a Roman gladius didn't keep it from being 'just a knife' to Chester.
The bureaucratic nonsense that Chester had to endure before seeing Wentworth had allowed the Tribune time to review the after action report of the aborted pickup before seeing Chester.
"Good afternoon Mr. Rawlings," Tribune Wentworth said as he stood and extended his hand to Chester. "I understand that you aren't pleased that Corporal Mullins failed to extract you and your friend when violence ensued at the Toro Rojo Bar and Grill earlier this week."
"Mr. Rawlings is my grandfather. My name's Chester," Chester said as he took Wentworth's hand. "Yeah, I was wondering why those four Marines disappeared like a bunch of cockroaches when the kitchen light is turned on."
Wentworth assumed his most sympathetic demeanor, "Well, Chester, Corporal Mullins was seriously wounded and the Marines are not allowed to bring body armor or deadly weapons with them for a normal pickup assignment."
"Well that's pretty stupid," Chester responded. "Who made that idiotic rule?"
Wentworth smiled, "Someone far above me, I'm afraid."
"Look," Chester replied. His patience was clearly wearing thin. "Miguel and I work for a living and are about to be shipped off to a South American oil field for six months. Guys like us could be real dangerous to the dickheads if we had the right equipment. Look at how we dealt with that little problem at Toro Rojo. We were outnumbered three to one and the bad guys were shooting first."
The Tribune nodded and asked, "Yes, but I was wondering why you waited so long before returning fire?"
Chester shrugged, "We don't butt into someone else's business during a bar fight unless we don't have a choice. It wasn't our fight until that Earth First bozo shot Debbie."
"I see," Wentworth replied. "This Debbie was a friend of yours then?"
"Nah," Chester replied, "She was just our dumb-ass waitress."
Wentworth was clearly puzzled, "Your waitress?"
Chester grunted, "You're not from around here, are you cowboy? Look, what will Miguel and I have to do to get picked up?"
Wentworth shook his head, "Pickups have been suspended in Texas. It's just too dangerous. You might have a better chance in South America. Where will you be?"
Chester laughed, "The backside of nowhere. We'd have a choice between snakes and wild pigs for concubines. No thank you!"
"Yes, that would be a problem," Wentworth sympathized. "It's a real shame that the thousand pod Othello is being diverted to California. It'll take weeks for them to recruit a full load there."
Chester was thinking hard enough for Wentworth to smell the smoke from the wooden gears turning in his head. "So, you guys can grab more than five or six people at a time? Why don't you do big pickups here?"
"Like I said, it's too dangerous," Wentworth replied. "And were would we find a thousand volunteers along with a selection of suitable concubines?"
Chester started laughing, "You really aren't from around here, are you? The Rodeo Championships are this weekend in Mesquite. There'll be a couple thousand cowboys and all kinds of high rollers there. Cowboys and high rollers are chick magnets, and the mutton bustin' competition alone will bring in a hundred or two young mother's there with their brats."
Wentworth had a totally lost expression and responded, "Mutton busting?"
Chester filled him in, "Yeah, it's like bull riding for six-year-olds, but on sheep instead of bulls. It's a real scream to watch."
Wentworth walked around his desk and pulled up information about the Championships on his computer. "Yes, this type of crowd could easily fill a thousand pod ship, and then some. But, there's too much risk that the civilians will be armed."
Chester nodded, "Some of the competitors will have a piece in their trailer, maybe. But spectators are screened for weapons. If you're worried about security I can get some of the guys from the Oil Workers Union to be there. Even cowboys respect those guys. In any case, the more of them that are armed, the less trouble you'll have."
Wentworth was almost afraid to ask, "Why's that?"
"Well," Chester considered how he could relate to this guy before beginning his explanation. "A few cowboys are freeloaders, but most are working stiffs. The Earth First guys seem to be a bunch of pansies that expect something for nothing. If they start trouble, the cowboys will throw them in with the bulls, literally. Now, there might be a problem if you interrupt the main event. The cowboys won't stand for that, but if your guys lock it down during a break you should be fine."
"Saturday night, Mr. Wentworth. Be there! I'd hate to have to come back and get your attention before explaining things to you again," Chester warned the Tribune before shaking his hand and leaving.
Wentworth knew he'd been threatened, but didn't exactly know to what extent. But, he got on his computer and sent some messages up the chain of command.
"Come on, we need to be at the rodeo tomorrow," Chester was recruiting everyone he knew. "There's going to be a big Confederacy pickup. It's going to be real entertaining to see how those Marine wimps deal with a rowdy Texas rodeo crowd."
"How can you know that?" Miguel complained. "You told me we'd get laid if we went to the Toro Rojo and look how that turned out."
"Hey, that wasn't my fault! Come on, guys!" Chester was doing his best to motivate the crowd at the backyard barbeque at his mom's house. "We can take highway six instead of I-45 and get a busload of college girls at Texas A&M on the way to Mesquite."
"They're not going to believe you," Miguel insisted. "I've got fifty bucks that says the Confederacy is a no-show."
"You're on! Does that mean you'll go?" Chester looked around, "Anyone else want fifty? I'll give you two-to-one odds?" Chester figured it was a safe bet. He'd collect from Wentworth's hide if he had to pay off because of a no-show. Wentworth as a big fucker, but Chester had him figured as a candy-ass.
No one else could be tempted to bet with him, but Chester talked everyone at the barbeque into chipping in to hire a tour bus and come along. Not only did his mom ride along, but the Johnson's and Crawford's did also.
They didn't go through College Station, but everyone brought along family, friends and neighbors. Chester's younger sister, Veronica, had talked fourteen of her sorority sisters at Rice into coming along on the 'family outing'. It was a warm fall day and the girls weren't wearing much. Several of the outfits could have been made from a single bandana.
Looking around the bus on the way to Dallas, Chester realized that the dozen or so girls with them would be no more that a drop in the bucket for such a large rodeo event, but his sister's friends had some very nice buckets to drop into. Too bad his mom and Mrs. Johnson were keeping a close eye on everyone.
It was a four-hour ride from Houston to Dallas. The late lunch stop in Corsicana had everyone sleepy when they pulled into the rodeo arena's parking lot right at 2:00 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. Chester and Miguel met up with the guys from the local union hall and briefed them on what to watch for in the crowd.
It took a bit of rowdiness for them to get into the arena offices and convince the manager that extra security would be needed before opening the gates at 5:00 o'clock that evening.
The extra security at the rodeo didn't affect the typical carnival atmosphere. Over a hundred were turned back to the parking lot when they came to the gate packing. The Texans could have been allowed through with their weapons without causing trouble, but today everyone had to secure their weapons in their vehicles before being allowed inside for the event. About every tenth person in Dallas is packing on a normal day, and you'd never know that they had a sidearm.
The Confederacy was smart enough to wait until after the bronco and bull riding competitions were completed before a voice came over the arena's sound system.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your indulgence please! My name is Captain John Porter of the Confederacy Space Marines. My Marines and I are here to extract as many of you as we can in as short a time as possible. Even if you don't wish to participate, the proceedings should be very entertaining. A word of caution, there may be some terrorists in the crowd looking to stop us from evacuating anyone. Please do not confront anyone acting suspiciously. Just bring them to the attention of an arena security officer or one of the Marines. Thank you for your assistance."
Chester held his hand out palm up and didn't even look a Miguel. When Miguel saw his friend's hand, he reached into his pocket and began counting out five ten-dollar bills into Chester's hand.
The voiced continued, "A word of warning to anyone disrupting this extraction, snipers are posted throughout the facility and violent disruptions will not be tolerated. We're going to sort everyone out by seating section. This is going to take a while, but if everyone follows instructions it will be over in as little time as possible. I would like everyone who wishes to participate in the extraction and are seated in sections C-1 and D-1 to begin making your way to the arena floor."
"As each section is called, the volunteers should proceed to the staging areas behind the roping or bucking chutes. It doesn't matter which end you choose. Couples wanting to be selected together as concubines should make their way to the arena floor in front of the bucking chutes near the 'D' section. Gentlemen applicants should proceed to the arena floor in front of the bucking chutes near the 'C' section. Ladies, you will no doubt be the star attractions during the selection process. Please find your way to the arena floor near the roping chutes. Those who elect to abstain from consideration should remain in your seats. Thank you for your cooperation." Captain Porter turned off the microphone.
Turning to his senior NCO he said, "Keep everyone alert. If this thing gets ugly I'm in deep shit." Porter was a native of Lubbock, Texas and had stuck his neck out by volunteering to take this pickup mission.
Shots rang out several times as the crowd sorted itself into the five categories. In three cases it seemed that someone who had slipped through security with a Glock was clumsy enough to shoot himself. These three Glocks were handed to the nearest Marine grip first by someone sporting an OWU-299 lapel pin. Stray bullets hit one Marine and two bystanders before spectators subdued another gunman. He suffered several broken bones before 'accidentally' shooting himself.
One Earth First terrorist tried remaining in his seat and waiting until no one was near him, but three stingers hit him before his handgun cleared the seatback in front of him. He somehow managed to shoot himself in the head while unconscious and when no one was looking.
"Miguel," Chester got his friend's full attention with his serious expression. "I know you've had the hots for Veronica since we were in high school. Think you can save her from the meat market by asking her now?"
Miguel was shocked that his friend knew about his fantasy, and was giving him a green light. "You're okay with that? Maybe you can do the same with my sister, Inez?"
"What!" Chester exploded, but looked around Miguel at the raven-haired beauty Miguel was referring to. "She's just a kid!"
"She's sixteen and has never been touched. I know she makes moon eyes at you when she doesn't think anyone's looking, and I've even caught you checking out her chest and ass," Miguel responded with a big smile.
The flustered Chester responded, "Yeah well, Inez is a cute kid who shouldn't be too much trouble. On the other hand, Veronica is no virgin, but life around her is never boring."
Miguel added, "You know that if I take Veronica I'm going to have to keep her off balance, don't you?"
Chester smiled, "Yeah, she's a bit headstrong and a real feisty one. If you were thinking about breaking her in by bending her over the back of one of these seats right now, I'd say go for it. If it doesn't freak you out you might also try out my mom. She hasn't had a boyfriend since Dad died six years ago, unless she keeps one tied up in the basement that I don't know about."
"I don't know," Miguel was hesitant. "Your mom's hot, but she'll be upset with me fucking your sister, won't she?"
Chester shrugged, "Let's find out. Hey Mom," he leaned over and shouted. "Is it okay with you if Miguel fucks Veronica right here in the stands?"
Miguel was pounding on Chester's arm, "What are you doing!"
"Don't start with me, Chester!" Martha's eyes were dangerously hooded as she looked at her son.
Veronica stood up with her fists on her hips, "Don't I get a say?"
"Sit down miss, this section hasn't been called yet," The tall Marine warning Veronica.
Turning to the Marine she snapped, "My asshole brother is asking my mom if it's okay for his friend to fuck me!"
The Marine looked puzzled, "Why is that a problem, miss? Isn't he qualified to volunteer?"
Dorothy turned around in her seat and looked up the row of seats at Miguel. She told her sorority sister, "If you don't want him, Veronica, I'll fuck him. He's cute! Although, I'd much rather give your big bother a ride."
"Dorothy!" Veronica shouted.
"What?" Dorothy responded, "This is a pickup, silly. I'll fuck anyone who's interested."
Martha looked up at the Marine, "Is it okay for Miguel to move down here with us?"
"This isn't working," The voice boomed from the PA speaker. "We have six dead and three wounded including one of my Marines. Oh, wait a minute, I see. The dead guys all pulled guns. Let's try this. Sections C-2 and D-2, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Get personal enough to find out if he's packing."
One person in C-2 was escorted out after the woman sitting behind him pummeled him with her heavy purse when the man next to him yelled, "This guy's got a gun!"
Back in D-4 Veronica sat down again and the Marine asked, "Where's your bother's friend?"
Miguel was six seats down the same row and spoke up, "I'm right here."
The Marine was in the aisle near Veronica and motioned for Miguel to come his way.