Gaming the System – Chapter 1

GAMING THE SYSTEM

By Travis Hill

Copyright 2017

 

ONE

I listened as I stood in the darkness, but the only sound I heard was the thumping of my heart and my own breathing. With my back against the wall, I inched forward as quietly as possible. The killer was somewhere ahead of me, armed with a chrome or stainless automatic. I wondered where the fuck Tillman was. My partner and I had split up at the entrance, with me taking the stairs while he went around back.

It was stupid, and we were going to catch hell for it. Sergeant Hines would be just the first in a chain of superiors taking a piece of our ass for chasing an armed gunman into a half-finished office tower without waiting for backup. But they hadn’t watched this guy execute two men less than twenty feet from us either. They hadn’t seen the look in his eyes as he stared at us while putting a bullet in the second victim’s skull. The perp was either insane or he was the hardest of the hard-nosed killers syndicate organizations used to take solve problems.

Then there’s the fact that Tillman and I had each burned through an entire twelve round magazine from no less than fifteen feet away. The asshole only laughed before he turned and ran across 5th Street and into a construction site. Neither of us spotted a blood trail, which meant we wasted twenty-four bullets at almost point-blank distance and came up empty. Last time Tillman and I hit the range to renew our certifications, we were thirty out of thirty at thirty feet and twenty-six out of thirty at twelve. Twelve feet and a moving target that randomly swiveled to present an inch of surface area to hit.

Continue reading

The Definitive History of Ronald K. Drumpf’s Presidency: The First 14 Days

CHAPTER ONE – WEEK TWO
White House Waiting Room – 9:30PM Eastern Standard Time

“They’re ready for you, Mr. President,” the Chief of Staff said.

“Did you hear something?” President Drumpf asked his Secretary of Defense as they stood in the waiting room going over the president’s speech.

“I don’t think so, Mr. President,” Secretary of Defense Ralphie Thaddeus Cruise said, hoping that it was the right answer. Wrong answers had caused the previous Secretary of Defense to be fired three days into the new administration.

“Mr. President?” Don Kaylic said again. “It’s time for your speech.”

“There it is again,” President Drumpf said, looking around the waiting room. He spotted an almost invisible man near the door. “Oh, it’s you Don,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s pretty hard to remember you even exist sometimes.”

“Yes, Sir,” his Chief of Staff replied, blending back into the wallpaper.

“Well, let’s get this over with,” Drumpf grunted.

The 45th President of the United States of America and Greatest Nation On Planet Earth and Maybe the Galaxy led the Secretary of Defense from the waiting room into the hallway. They walked for almost a minute in silence until President Drumpf put his hand on Cruise’s arm, bringing the man to a stop.

“I’m supposed to thank you, Ralphie,” Drumpf said in his most presidential voice. “But we all know it was me who solved this important problem. I mean, you did help a little bit, but not as much as I did. So it really should be you thanking me.”

The longing desire in the SecDef’s eyes made the president’s smile widen into a feral grin.

“You know how to thank me, Ralphie,” President Drumpf said, pushing down on the Defense Secretary’s shoulder until the man was on his knees. Continue reading

Bears Are Not Your Friends Either…

Bears Are Not Your Friends Either…

I had just purchased my first DSLR camera and was wandering through Yellowstone, doing my thing, taking pictures, being a “nature guy” in a sense, when two pretty big bears wandered out of the tree line and began to approach me. You can imagine I was both fascinated and yet terrified that a couple of 800+ pound carnivorous animals were within twenty feet of me. I froze up for a second, trying to remember any advice I might have read on the internet or watched in a YouTube video, when one of the bears spoke up.

“Hey,” the larger one said. “That’s a pretty nice camera!”

As I stared at him, an old memory kicked in about how to smile with a lot of teeth and make direct eye contact.

“I don’t think he understands English,” the other bear said and did what I am very sure was the bear version of a shrug.

“We should eat him, then,” the first bear said with, and again, I’m not making this up, a wink. The fucking bear WINKED at his buddy.

“Uh,” I said aloud, not exactly sure what was going on.

Had I accidentally walked through some magic mushrooms and inhaled some spores? I mean, I’m pretty familiar with mushrooms (don’t ask, it was a long time ago in my party days), and I’m pretty sure they don’t release spores that make you hallucinate… but then again, I saw some crazy X-Files episodes so, you know… anyway…

“Please don’t eat me,” I said loud enough for them to hear me, as well as hopefully any park rangers or possibly even Ted Nugent to hear.

The two bears laughed. “We’re not going to eat you,” the second one said. “It’s just a test to see if you’re an American.”

Now, why a bear would give a shit that I was an American or not is beyond me, but again, I’m standing there nearly shaking myself right out of my hiking boots.

“Well, what do you want, then?” I asked, hoping they wouldn’t notice I was about to cut and run (even knowing they’d catch me in an instant, but the human mind does weird things during times of extreme stress).

“Hey,” the first one said as if he’d had the greatest idea ever. “Let us take a picture of you. You can email it to us.”

By now my mind was kind of short-circuiting that I’m standing in a meadow at Yellowstone having a conversation with two giant bears. But it DID seem reasonable. I mean, they didn’t rear up and roar at me or anything. They actually seemed pretty chill, which was my first mistake, and why you should always remember that any advice given on the internet is absolute shit.

I handed the smaller one the camera and stepped back a few paces. The larger one looked at the LCD screen on the camera then to me and waved me back another ten feet or so to get more of the background in the shot. Without warning, they high-fived each other and ran off into the trees.

What the fuck? I thought in surprise. They just stole my fucking camera!

This is the point where I should have just left well enough alone and gone home, eating the cost of buying a new camera and lenses and such. But I had talked to a friend on Facebook before taking my trip. This friend, we’ll call him “Billy,” is one of those hunter types who is also an ex-combat veteran. When I told him I was going to Yellowstone to take pics with my new camera, he warned me to take a high-powered hunting rifle with me. Keep in mind that “Billy” is the type of guy who wants to be buried with his arsenal of assault rifles, knives, a thousand rounds of ammo for the afterlife, and all that.

“Oh HA HA!” I yelled at them with much sarcasm. “Very fucking funny! I’m gonna get my rifle and then we’ll see who’s fucking laughing!”

I think I was screaming with spittle spraying from my lips at that point. I took a deep breath to get myself under control. I ran back to my truck, popped the locks on the gun case, and pulled out a .50cal Barrett, the kind of sniper rifle that can blow holes through 6″ of solid concrete to kill a terrorist/evil dictator on the other side.

“Billy” assured me that if a bear showed up, this particular gun would blow its furry head clean off. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shooting animals with a camera, but I’m not a hunter. I am familiar with weapons, but just enough to not blow my own foot off and bleed to death sixteen miles from the nearest access road in the middle of a national forest.

“Fuck these stupid bears,” I growled as I checked the chamber to make sure the gun was loaded.

After a kick of my truck’s door to slam it shut, I ran back to the meadow and into the tree line. I did my best to be as quiet as possible, and soon enough I heard the bears laughing and cracking jokes (along with the click of my camera’s shutter’s repeated activation). I found a big tree to hide behind and quietly aimed my rifle at them so I could see what they were up to through the scope.

These fucking bears… they were in a small clearing taking selfies, posing in weird bear-human poses, and after a couple of minutes of what I am quite sure was them taking pics of their genitals and using my camera’s WiFi to post them to Twitter or Instagram, they wedged the camera between two lower branches and then began to have… let’s just say “intimate bear relations.”

That’s when I decided that even as an animal lover and friend to the environment, I was going to ventilate some goddamn bears and get my camera back. If they had simply stolen my camera and ran off, that would be one thing. I normally wasn’t the type who thought it was a good idea to track deadly animals twenty miles into a wilderness area to just to get $600 worth of shit back, but watching them act the way they did… no fucking way.

Well, bears have pretty good hearing and even better sense of smell, and they got wind of me before I could get any closer. The gap between trees wasn’t enough to get a clear shot, and besides, they started laughing maniacally and snatched the camera from where it was wedged and ran off deeper into the forest. But not before the big one turned and flipped me the bird with his claws. I almost fired off a shot right then, but I kept control of my growing rage.

It took me another two hours to track them down. This time they were under a rocky overhang in a small canyon. Again, since I’m not a hunter, I must have come in wrong as my smell preceded me. The bears began sniffing at the air while growling and looking in my direction. They must have caught a glint of sunlight from the rifle as they got worried looks and hid behind some rocks.

“Hey, man,” the larger one growled at me, “it was just a joke! Sheesh!”

“Yeah, jokes on you!” I yelled, my trigger finger so itchy that I could barely contain my need to waste these garbage bags with fangs.

“Calm down, bro,” the other one yelled back. “We were just having some fun.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not that funny now, is it?” I shouted from behind my cover. I could just barely see the top of the second one’s skull poking above his rocky barrier.

“Come on, man,” the bigger one said, and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t chuckling. CHUCKLING! AT ME! I’m holding a giant goddamn sniper rifle and this fucking bear is giggling at me! “Put the gun down and come hang out with us. We’re pretty fun bears.”

“You can have your camera back, it’s cool,” the second bear said. I almost blew his stupid bear brains all over the rock wall behind him. “We’ll even share some of our bear milk with you.”

That stopped me cold. I know I’ve read a lot of words and watched a lot of documentaries in my years, but I don’t remember anything about “bear milk” other than on some weird website that might or might not have been a parody article. Or one written by a complete fucking moron. Either way, I suddenly had the urge to try this exotic liquid.

“Bear milk?” I asked hesitantly.

“Duh!” they said in stereo and began to bear-laugh, which is a really weird noise that sort of sounds like they are snacking on a bloody carcass and sneezing at the same time.

“This is a trick!” I yelled. “You just want me to ditch my gun so you can eviscerate me and suck the marrow from my bones!”

“You’re too skinny,” the smaller one said. “Barely a snack for our little ones.”

“And you kind of stink,” the big one added. “No offense.”

“Like you assholes smell as if you just took a rosewater bath!” I screamed, angry at their mocking, insulting words.

“Hey, we can’t help it if shit literally gets stuck in our fur,” the small one said. “I mean, we’re bears! It’s what we do!”

“You guys flipped me off! Don’t pretend you can’t make complex shapes with your paws and manipulate objects. My niece is six and can barely figure out how to turn that camera on.”

“Your niece sounds tasty,” the big one said with a laugh that I didn’t really appreciate much at all. “Right. Bad joke. My name is Ted, and this is Larry. Now we’re not strangers. Come on, I’ll get the milk.”

I’d never heard of a talking, thieving, tick-infested bear named Ted or Larry, and even though it seemed like a dirty trick that bears might pull, the thought of tasting the sweet liquid overpowered my good judgment. My recollection of “bear advice” had been wrong all the way up to this point, but I decided to give it one last chance. Talking bears couldn’t truly be that bad, could they?

Anyway, I thumbed the safety on the gun and wandered down to their little clearing. As I rounded a large rock, I saw the cave. It was a pretty big cave, as caves go, but I’m not a cave expert so it might have been a tiny one, I don’t know. It looked big to me, and it was large enough that both bears could walk through the entrance with room to spare.

The smaller bear gestured to me and I sat down on a rock and waited for the big one to exit the cave. I was wary, and was definitely ready for any bear trickery, but I wasn’t ready for the big one (I refuse to this day to call either of them by their “name”) to saunter back out of the cave with a tray and three frosty glasses of milk. The bear passed out the drinks and sat next to his partner. I had to hold in my own laughter at the stupid milk mustaches the two idiot bears had grown after a few sips.

“It’s good,” the smaller bear assured me with a wink. That wink shit was beginning to get on my nerves.

I sniffed the milk, and to be honest, it smelled like I’d fallen into a bed of heavenly flowers made of honey and sunlight and kisses. A part of my brain screamed at me to not drink it, as there had been news reports of dude-bros (and probably bear-bros) who were nasty types that liked to “spike” drinks and then do weird sexual things to the victims. But, I mean… they’re bears, right? I guess I didn’t connect the dots that explained since they could speak English and use their paws as if they had opposable thumbs, it was likely that they would have somehow hooked up with a GHB dealer.

The milk… it was incredible. It was goddamn magical. I can’t even describe the taste of it. I can, however, describe the drowsy feeling which soon overcame my alert paranoia that I was making a big mistake. The last thing I remember is grinning while they told me a story of some dumbass hiker they ate two summers ago who fell for the very same trick they were playing on me.

When I woke up, the bears were gone, as was my underwear. They left my pants for some reason, but I shivered at the fact my underwear was missing and my pants were still on but down around my knees. I panicked and stood up, checking myself everywhere, especially my “back end” to make sure I was still intact. I couldn’t find any scratches or bites or missing flesh, but I when I lifted up my shirt, there was a giant hickey on my left breast. I freaked out and screamed at the top of my lungs for almost a minute straight, then got a hold of myself.

“Okay, Travis. Don’t panic,” I said to myself. I was most assuredly in a SERIOUS FUCKING PANIC.

I searched the area and found nothing except bear tracks leading deeper into the canyon. Which meant I didn’t find my camera and more worrying, my rifle. I went into the cave, but after about ten feet it was too dark to see. Then my foot hit something solid and metal, which seemed awfully strange. I fumbled around and found the Zippo lighter I always carried in my pocket. After lighting it, I stood staring at the refrigerator for at least two minutes. When I opened the door, there was a small pint bottle of milk and a note.

“Dear stupid human,” the note began, though I had to step back to the cave entrance to read it as bears aren’t all that great at writing and their penmanship is utterly atrocious. “Thanks for the camera. Nikons are pretty good, but you should buy a Canon next time. Also, that gun is awesome! Where did you get it? Larry almost blew himself away messing with it haha. Anyway, eat shit!”

I screamed in rage again and started to crumple the paper up when I noticed it had writing on the back side as well.

“PS: Larry kept your underwear, and will always cherish the time you two had together. Also, don’t pursue us or we’ll post all the pictures we took of two you doing weird (and possibly illegal in some states) stuff together all over Facebook and Twitter.”

I felt defeated. Beyond defeated. I’d lost my brand new camera, a horribly expensive .50cal military rifle, and I’m pretty sure my bear virginity. I felt dirty. Used. Taken advantage of. I’m still in therapy because of it.

I left the cave area and wandered for two days until some hikers found me, mostly delirious and talking to myself. They helped me get back to my truck, and I eventually made it home. As the trauma wore off, I began hunting these bears down on the internet. Sure enough, they were on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, posting silly pictures and videos about whatever animals in the wilderness do. Like Bear Poker Night and How Bears Smoke Weed. When I checked the exif tags on the photos, sure enough, they came from my Nikon D3300.

You’d think this is the end of the story, but it’s not. Somehow they figured out I was following them on social media and now I’m being harassed by them almost daily. It’s somehow worse than what happened at Yellowstone.

So… here’s my advice: never trust a bear. For any reason. Ever. They are not your friends.

Oh, and NEVER believe anything you read on the internet.