I don't want anyone reading this to think that I was out to be a hero. I wasn't. None of us were back then. Let me rephrase that, no one in my sphere was out to be a hero. Your hear stories but they are mostly after the fact. You might even suspect things after the fact. But I can say for sure that our sole objective most of the time was survival. We just wanted to get through the bad times we were living in and try and have confidence that there were better times coming down the road. For me that night was no exception, my chosen actions had nothing to do with being a hero. I had simply run out of ways to deal with what kept coming at us from town in general ... and Matt specifically. It was time for me to attack directly … or semi-directly. Just keep reading, you’ll grasp the concept.
As I peddled along in the dark I wasn't ruminating on how things used to be. I wasn't wishing for things to be the way they used to be, nor wishing for things to be better now. I wasn't pining for the young man that I had once had feelings for because frankly I was wondering if he had really existed or had he just been another avatar for Matt to use to get what he wanted.
In hindsight and with everything that came afterwards I can say with some confidence that Matt and I had been real for each other, at least for a while. When it stopped being real however I am less certain of. Part of me thinks it was me that pulled away first; that it happened after my family was murdered, during the period that I had to grow up and be stronger than I had been. Maybe that is what initially broke whatever ties that we'd had. On the other hand it could have happened before that or it could have been Matt that changed during his own period of growth and change when the terrorists attacked the town's water supply and he lost his father, the one source of authority in his life that he consistently listened to. A romantic historian might even suggest that it was both of us that changed and it was a culmination of our fate to face off. But I was not a romantic then, neither am I one today and I find the idea of fate less than appealing because it makes it seem that no one has a choice. If I’ve come to understand nothing else over these long years it is that we all makes choices every day, and with them come consequences.
I made a choice that night. Matt was going to be taken out one way or the other. The reasons are numerous and anyone that has followed the story over the years knows what those reasons were. I won't paint myself innocent. I was well aware that what I planned to do included the possibility of murder. It also included the real possibility that because of the actions I was choosing that I wouldn't be going home any time soon, if ever. And if that was the case, if I was going to have to pay for my chosen actions, I wanted to make sure that I accomplished my goal.
My ride into town was a silent one. The fog was back, caused by another temperature inversion. As bad as visibility was I still managed to get to my first stop undetected not too long after the sun set. I spent the rest of the night preparing the execution of my hastily cobbled together plan, only occasionally running into guards and problems.
When those of us living on our side of the county had agreed to bring down the highway bridges to try and stop Delorey’s attacks … or at least slow the down … Jax had taught Reggie the finer points of bringing down large structures. What he likely hadn't expected was for Reggie to turn around and teach me. Bringing down the highway bridges on our side of the county had been our learning ground. Now I was on the other side of the county setting up the same kind of destruction. I had a timetable and couldn't wait around. I was using up all of the toys that Reggie and I had been using our spare time to fabricate. They were both the large ones and the small ones and could serve multiple purposes; booby traps, timed destruction, and as direct attack weapons. The speed at which I was having to move was nearly my downfall on more than one occasion.
I climbed up the embankment from wiring one of the last bridge expanses out of town and only the heavy fog saved me. I was barely three yards from two town guards.
"What was that?"
"One of them rocks tumbling in the water. We hear them all the time on this shift."
"You sure?" the man asked still unsure.
"Look, you're new around here and I'm telling you it's just rocks being pushed around by the high water."
There was a few moments of silence as they seemed to be covering a circuitous route and then the first guy asked, "That kid really expect them people to hand over the girl he's been looking for?"
"Yeah. No doubt. I mean listen how he set it up. Even if she is a cold-hearted b**** and refuses to come herself them people out there are gonna capture her and use her to get their own back."
Like the guy was thinking over the answer he followed it with another question. "That Mayor dude ain't really plannin' on letting them guys go is he? That won't go over too well with Hickson and Tyrell. They lost a lot of their soldiers trying to capture them and what little justice they were allowed to piece out ain't gonna be enough."
I heard the other one snort and then chuckle. "Like I said you are knew around here. Give it time, you'll catch on. One way or the other we are gonna have us a show."
All that conversation did was harden my resolve and as the men walked to the other end of the bridge to take up their position I headed further in town towards my next target. The dam.
Over the winter Reggie and I had perfected a way for those on recon to bring back more intel in physical form. It was unbelievably simply. I felt pretty stupid not having thought of it before. Reggie found them when I was moving some of my dad's personal stuff out of his study to make room for some books and office supplies that needed to come in out of the barn before the weather destroyed them.
"Hey Shrimp, I don't think Lydie will want you to play with these. How about a trade?"
I turned sharply to find Reggie trading a wax pencil and a piece of paper for the binoculars Kelly pulled out of a crate of miscellaneous items I had hauled up to the bedroom.
Envisioning having to wash walls and wood of artwork I said, "I'm not sure I want her to have those either Reggie."
He ignored me as he was too busy looking at what he'd traded for. While I tried to interest Kelly in a trade for something that was less a recipe for disaster Reggie asked, "Lydie are these what I think they are?"
"If you think those are binoculars then you are correct."
"These aren't just binoculars."
"Sure they are. Just one of Dad's toys."
"Lydie these are digital and have a built in camera."
And so it went. The guys started using them to bring back pictures of the areas they were reconning. In particular Reggie and I used the pictures that were brought back to plan for booby placements and places to put caches since I still was pretty much stuck on the home place between one thing and another.
One of the developments we discovered had been the realization that the flooding wasn't just affecting us out in the country but was creating real problems in other areas as well. One was the reservoir. It was already very full because the town had not been pumping it out, the additional water from the melting snow had softened the retaining walls. I had thought to use that but realized there wasn't enough time. My next choice would have greater consequences but was also more dangerous to set up.
As I made my way through town putting boobies here and there in various locations to maximize the chaos I intended to create, I visualized what I'd seen on the pictures brought back. The flood waters were at almost historical highs; higher than the dam had really been built to withstand. The spillways had been opened to try and relieve some pressure but despite that water still lapped at the crest of the dam. What Reggie and I had noticed was the water pouring through the spillway wasn't being monitored and was eroding the abutment seriously enough that even a layman could see had they been paying attention. Reggie suggested that either no one was monitoring the dam except casually, the water all along the river was too high and they had no choice but to leave the spillways open so much, or the spillway gates were stuck for some reason. Based on other pictures the greatest likelihood was that no one was monitoring what was turning into a very dangerous situation.
I doubted Matt even took it into consideration. The dam had been there as a landmark our entire lives as well as the entire lives of our parents. It had been built back in the early days of the TVA. It was an earthen dam whose only real purpose was flood control and we hadn't had one since before I was born ... because of the dam. But the floods we experienced that spring were hundred year floods, well beyond anything that had been experienced in decades. They weren't something you could simply flip a switch on the dam and walk away from.
I realized just how big a mistake Matt was making in ignoring the dam when I walked onto it, never even encountering a single guard. I learned later that they relied very heavily on their own system of security cameras to monitor their territory; however, the fog had completely handicapped that tool.
I didn't have enough explosives left to destroy the whole structure outright; there was too much concrete capping it. My plan was to compromise one side of the dam which would then allow the flood waters to pour through at a rate that the earthen shell and core couldn't withstand. I wasn't sure how much damage would occur but I was certain that it would be enough to put an end to their power generation and take a while to repair at best.
One of the things that I found at the dam I wish I could have taken back to the farm. A truck that was fully loaded with supplies and fuel. It screamed get-a-way vehicle. Instead I wired a nasty little surprise to the ignition and finished the rest of the job on the dam.
It was only an hour off dawn when I finished setting the last timer. I needed to find out where they were holding the men and I was pretty sure I knew where that would be.
Our town wasn't large enough to fund and maintain our own prison. The Town Council always complained about how much it cost to fund the holding cells that the cops used when they couldn't transport someone to the county or state correctional facility. My dad used to have a lot to say about the Town Council and their complaints and not much of it good and then he would say that the uppity Council members just didn't like the fact that the holding cells were right next to the Town Hall. Knowing Matt he was using those holding cells, he wouldn't be able to avoid the temptation of thinking of them as some kind of status symbol.
I was partially right.
The closer I got to the Town Hall the more guards and security measures I ran into. I avoided the guards and boobied what and where I could. Then I saw it. Too much activity not to see it even with the fog still hanging around. All of the trees that grew on what was once called the town green were gone, chopped down for firewood or some other purpose. In their place was a platform with a dais that looked like it had been built using the old playground equipment that had been at the next door skate park. The large, commercial sized swing set was next to the platform and I saw that it was set up for multiple hangings. I was barely hanging on to my emotions by then and the view of that nearly sent me over the edge into another berserk rage.
The platform with dais itself was hung with red, white, and blue streamers and banners, the kind that looked like they came out of the town's Independence Day decorations. There was also a podium and God help me, equipment for recording what was going to happen. I could see microphones, electrical cables, and a news camera on a rolling pedestal. They were even expending energy on flood lights which I considered foolish from a tactical standpoint as it blinded those putting them on display.
I worked my way closer and found that I blended into the crowd of people forming better than I could have ever hoped. We were all dirty and grungy, all dressed like we'd dug our clothes out of the thrift store clearance bin. Almost everyone had some kind of hat on so mine that I pulled low didn't draw any attention at all. All eyes were focused on the spectacle unfolding before us so no one noticed me staring and strategizing the best points of attack.
Then I saw them being brought out. Jax, Aston, Reggie, Lon, Vern and two men I didn’t recognize. Part of me wanted them to see me and realize they hadn’t been abandoned. The better part of me prayed they wouldn’t because of what they might do as a result. Getting a better look at them I drew a small sigh of relief. They'd been beaten at some point but not obviously tortured. I drew another small sigh of relief when I saw that they weren't all bound together. Then I saw Matt. I nearly spit. I also had to stop myself from being too concerned about him seeing me ... he was just as blind up on the platform as everyone else.
I looked at Matt long and hard, trying to see what I had been attracted to. Whatever it had been was gone. So were my feelings one way or the other. He was just a target. I refused to let that bother me then and I refuse to let it bother me even now. I know it is callous but it was war, a war I was determined to win. Then I smiled as I realized Matt was angry and kept calling someone forward like he was getting reports. Something wasn’t going his way and I was more than happy to cheer whatever it was on. I was hoping that it was the fact that I hadn’t shown up.
As dawn rose the crowd started getting restless I heard one guy mutter, "If they are waiting on the weather so the little p**** can get a better picture we're going to be standing around here a long time."
Looking at my watch I started counting down. Matt was just putting on what I thought of as his public face and approaching the podium when I heard the first "whump" ... and then the second … then the third. People were looking around and I edged my way even closer to where the men were.
I was pushed roughly out of the way as men dressed up as uniformed guards rushed passed me heading in the direction of the noise. Correction, the noises as some of my other timed surprises went off. Soon people began to smell smoke and then there was a loud scream as someone must have found one of the trip wires in the building behind the square where I had been observing from before joining the milling crowds. Then several windows in the building exploded and panic set it.
I was nearly knocked to the ground several times before I could roll the homemade grenade right beneath the platform. Unfortunately for whatever reason Matt chose that moment to look right at me with instantaneous recognition. His eyes widened as he realized Valkyrie had finally come out to play. I was smiling as he turned away and started running. The exploding platform was satisfyingly chaotic. I turned to help the men but found they were already helping themselves. Then Reggie saw me and started coming towards me but I shook my head and pointed him away from town in the direction I wanted him to take the others in. He understood. He knew where every booby was placed on the hill overlooking River Road.
I knew they'd all think that the Houchins farm and the Home Place had put together a rescue. I didn't stop to explain. I still had a target to reach and took off running in the same direction Matt had gone before I could lose him. I was finally thankful for how thick the crowd was because it slowed him down as much as it slowed me down. This was the part that required me to know Maestro so well. He used the retreat to fight another day a lot to maintain his avatar’s life while allowing other players to die in his place as a distraction. But I needed him to retreat the direction I wanted him to go. I counted on Matt thinking that since the other buildings around the green were rigged that the Town Hall was also compromised. I gave him a little encouragement to think that when I lobbed a grenade through a window of the ground floor. More chaos and carnage occurred.
I saw him running towards the dam. I was right in thinking that the loaded truck I'd found there was one of his escape plans. I kept him running in that direction by triggering some of the nasty surprises I’d left along that path.
Matt had never been into sports. He kept in just good enough shape to keep his mother off his back and to maintain his reputation as Maestro. He liked to look good and that was his primary motivation, but he only did just enough for looks, not enough to build stamina. My whole life had been one of physical labor to offset all the sitting I did studying and gaming. After my family's murder that had been even truer. I could have run with a heavily laden pack and still caught up with Matt but I used the cat and mouse game until he was exactly where I wanted him. In the meantime I picked off the few of his personal guards - who honestly weren't in much better shape than he was – that he’d allowed to follow him. Bad food and bad living had torn a hole in whatever tough guy they'd had.
When I was ready I tackled Matt from behind and brought him down. He kicked out at me and nearly escaped but stopped when I said, "Forget the truck Maestro. It's toast as soon as you turn the ignition."
I was ready and waiting for his first maneuver. "Lydie? Lydie?! Oh my god I've been searching for you forever! You have no idea what I've ..."
Bluntly I told him, "Forget the stupid act. I'm not buying it. What I didn't figure out for myself a long time ago I heard from Marty and the others."
The mention of Marty gave him a start. "Don't listen to them. They're ..."
Continuing on I said, "And what I didn't figure out for myself and didn't learn from them I learned from observing you directly. You screwed up Matt. You screwed up bad."
And just like that Matt tried his next maneuver. "I have troops heading ..."
Confidently I told him, "You haven't got squat heading anyplace. The only control you have is within the town limits. If you'd left it like, not tried to branch out and be more important than you are, I wouldn't have come for you. But you didn't. And now it's time for Maestro to pay the piper."
He laughed derisively. "Oh please. Even with all the hicks at your disposal you can't destroy me."
I had calculated my time and chose my words with purpose. "It isn't going to take an army to destroy you. It is going to be your own stupidity and carelessness that does it."
"Don't you dare say that!!" he screamed letting me see just how close to crazy he really was.
Instead of reacting to it I looked at my watch and counted, "Five, four, three, two, one ..."
I was a couple of seconds off, a couple of seconds of riding the edge of my own worry that my plan wouldn't work. But just as Matt started to smile the spillway behind Matt blew, throwing us both to the ground.