PAIN! Fiery burning PAIN! Gasping to scream and feeling like her lungs were on fire. She awakened yet again to the echoes of her screams. She was still thrashing around, covered in sweat, gripped by her dark and fiery memories. A weight was pinning her down. Frantically, she tried to push the weight away while brushing the hair out of her eyes so she could see. As soon as her hand encountered the thick soft fur of Shtiya, reality started to return. Reality was brutally reinforced when her missing hand was unable to brush her hair out of her remaining eye. A sob escaped her as she struggled to sit up. Burying her face in the giant Alaskan malamute's fur, she wrapped her remaining arm around the dog and cried. The well-trained comfort dog patiently sat there and licked her hand until she managed to compose herself.
Thank god for Shtiya, whose name meant 'My Strength'. If the VA recovery center had not assigned the dog to her, she almost definitely would have given up and killed herself in the long, desolate, pain-filled years after the IED had blown her apart. The dog and her restaurant were all she had now, and she poured her heart and soul into them.
It was only 4AM, but she knew from bitter experience she would not be able to get back to sleep. She was lucky, her PTSD was getting better and she rarely had dreams of THAT DAY more than two or three times a month. Straightening, she said, "Good girl! Now get down so I can get you a treat." 'Good girl' got Shtiya's ears to perk up and her fuzzy tail swinging, 'down' and 'treat' got the huge snow dog scrambling off the bed onto the floor where she waited patiently for her promised treat. Slowly and carefully, Becky sat up and started getting dressed. Bra, right arm, tee shirt, left leg, right leg, underwear, pants and finally her black eye patch. Carefully standing and using Shtiya to balance, she finished pulling up her pants. Even after all these years, it still took her a minute to get used to walking with her artificial legs. Although she had never been trained to, Shtiya always walked right beside Becky, gently pressing against her left hip. She would turn her head to the side across Becky's thigh to help her balance walking. Having the 105 lb. dog glued to her hip whenever she walked, Becky had long ago gotten rid of her cane.
A brief smile lit her face as she remembered decking the idiot storeowner who had insisted that the dog was not allowed in the store. Only Seeing Eye dogs were allowed in, and the big dog 'obviously' was not one. The police had been very understanding once they got past the image of a raging amazon standing over the poor man with the broken jaw. The fact she had both VA and ADA certifications for her dog meant the dog could go anywhere and everywhere she could.
Patting Shtiya's head again as she walked at Becky's side, Becky went into the kitchen and gave her a large dog biscuit smothered in peanut butter. She then finished her morning rituals and made a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese, French toast and bacon. As usual, half the breakfast wound up vanishing under the table accompanied by enthusiastic tail thumping. After breakfast, she headed out to her car.
It was a personal victory that she had been able to get a civilian driver's license despite the extent of her injuries. While in the Army, she had driven everything from Hummers up to the largest heavy haul tank tenders. Now she was limited to a small sedan. Every time she thought about that, she sighed in pain. As usual, however, the sight of Shtiya sprawled out in the back seat made her smile. The huge snow dog almost completely filled the back seat when she lay down, and she was so cute, looking at Mommy expectantly. "Ok, ok," Becky laughed, "Time for a ride."
It is time, time it is. The fools are in place. I've used them well and they never knew. Never knew they danced to my tune. The others are no better, and they will take the blame, let them all go down. Dear Rachael, soon you will have lots of company and the murdering bastards will know what it's like.
The only good thing about the early morning wake up was that she was able to plow through the backlog of the restaurant's paperwork before starting the usual morning prep work. By the time the morning staff finished straggling in, almost everything had been done. In the years since the Confederacy had started doing pickups, her business had boomed. Since the Confederacy often targeted restaurants, diners and cafes for pickups, volunteers and hopefuls flocked to them, just in case. Eventually, she'd had to set a minimum hourly purchase amount to keep people from spending the entire day sitting around drinking water. Even with the required hourly purchases, the place was packed all day, every day. In only a few months she had made enough money to remodel the place and made it into a Wi-Fi hub so business professionals could tele-commute. It was pure luck that the city's building inspector was also ex-Army and had quietly upped the building's maximum occupancy so even more people could hang out all day.
As usual, by 9AM the place was just about standing room only. 'So much hope and dreams packed into one little area, ' she thought a touch bitterly, since she had none. Becky liked to think the food served here helped keep the people coming back as well. Looking around from her vantage point behind the counter she spotted dozens of regulars. Scowling, she noticed the Earth First group in their usual spot in the corner. She absolutely hated them! The fact that there always seemed to be different faces in the mix also pissed her off. How many of the bastards were there? As far as she was concerned, they were as bad as, or worse, than the terrorists she had spent years fighting overseas. Unconsciously, she fingered the huge Glock-20 10mm semi-automatic pistol she always wore concealed in the specially designed hollow area of her prosthetic leg. It had taken years of daily shooting to train her left hand and strengthen her wrist to shoot accurately and handle the punishing recoil. Of course, it had to have been her right arm she lost. It had made her recovery even more miserable having to learn to do everything left-handed. She sighed and moved her hand away.
The Earth Firsters always made her minimum hourly purchases and did not respond to her rudeness or insults, giving her no excuse to throw them out. Well, that one guy had come close, always tapping the most identifiable part of the Metallica song, "One". When the leader of the group noticed how upset she was getting, he made the guy leave, never to return. The nightmares had been horrible that week! Besides, she did not really want to risk coming in one morning and seeing nothing but a smoking ruin where her beloved restaurant used to stand. As long as they played by her rules, and the government did not declare them criminals, she swallowed her personal prejudices. As she so often did though, she fantasized about drawing her gun and systematically shooting all eight of them. She never knew about the frighteningly feral smile that bared her teeth or about the hot fury that filled her remaining eye as she dreamed about filling the Earth First terrorists full of 10mm hollow point bullets. Being so focused on the table she knew about, she completely missed the other two tables with unfamiliar faces.
Rana looked over at her boss and shivered. Becky had that look on her face again and it scared the crap out of her. She had never gotten the story of what had happened to Becky, but it must have been bad. Even with the deep wrinkles etched in her face by pain and sorrow, Becky was still strikingly beautiful. At almost 6' tall, she towered over Rana. Becky's single gray eye was really pretty; at least it was when she didn't have the look of an insane berserker looking for a victim. The eye patch, dark clothes and long braid of bright red hair hanging down to her ass reminded Rana of a pirate captain. Just looking at her got Rana hot and bothered, much to her embarrassment. She knew with her CAP score of 5.8 there was only one way off the planet and she really hoped it would be at Becky's side. The thought made her blush yet again, but it was true.
Of course, Becky had never shown any interest in anyone, male or female, and Rana was far too shy to try and initiate anything. At 5'2" tall and slightly overweight, she was completely dwarfed by the huge woman. To her great annoyance, she had managed to inherit her father's short, squat Inuit genes rather than her mother's tall, thin Cherokee build. She had to admit though; she had gotten her mother's beauty. It looked like her twelve-year-old twin daughters would grow up to resemble her mom in both looks and physique. It was too early to tell which way her seven-year-old daughter would go.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /