Liberty's Run
Interlude #1

By: Walter G. Esselman

Like a ghost, Uncle Danny slid through their newly acquired yacht.

A yacht, he thought with distaste. He kinda hated the word. He immediately heard his grandma talking about wasteful spending; money that could go to feed hungry children.

Danny opened a glass door and removed his prize.

Stepping lightly, he went up onto the deck and towards the yacht's helipad. Seriously, who needs a helipad, he wondered.

But then he considered that— maybe— they had earned a little good fortune. He and his friend Liberty had tried to save as many people as possible, since this zom virus had broken out.

A deck chair, which was a little too fancy, had been set up on the helipad. Settling into the chair, Uncle Danny sighed with contentment.

Dr. Miles Taggart had halted the progress of the zombie virus in Danny's system, but it had not gone away completely. Because of this, Dr. Tagg was reluctant to let Uncle Danny date, have any liquor, or even eat fried food.

Savoring the moment, Uncle Danny held up a cigar to his nose and inhaled deeply. A hint of rum wafted to his nose.

Danny grinned. "But Tagg, you didn't say anything about cigars." Reaching into his coat pocket, he fished around for his lighter.

Suddenly, he glanced up.

There was something on the water.

At first, he thought it might be a whale. And wouldn't that be a great thing to watch with his cigar. But this whale was skimming over the water, directly towards them.

"Shit," croaked Uncle Danny.

He jumped up and ran down through the great ship. He did not even knock, bursting into Liberty's room.

"Mija!" he called out.

Liberty jerked awake. "Danny?"

"We got company," he said.

"Not friendly?" asked Liberty as she jumped out of bed and started to pull on her pants.

Uncle Danny looked away as she did so, but he continued speaking. "Don't know. But they're heading towards us, fast."

"Colin? Smalls?" asked Liberty.

"I'm going to tell them next," said Uncle Danny.

Leaving her, he went to Brent Small's room. The Navy Engineer had taken a VIP room in which someone had died. The others had been uncomfortable, but Smalls didn't believe in ghosts.

Without knocking, Uncle Danny burst into the room. "Get up! We got trouble."

"What?" cried Smalls, who had gotten tangled in his bed sheets while sleeping. He struggled untie himself and fell off the bed.

Darting forward, Uncle Danny grabbed one end of the sheet and yanked hard. It sent Smalls spinning, but he was free.

"What's going on?" asked Smalls, waiting for the dizziness to go away.

"Someone's coming in without any lights on."

The engineer froze. "Colin? Liberty?"

"Liberty knows. I'm heading to Colin next."

Smalls grabbed his rifle and took several magazines for it. He ran past Uncle Danny into the corridor.

"Um," started Uncle Danny. "Pants?"

Smalls, clad only in a Mudvayne T-Shirt and boxers, shook his head. "No time. Where do you need me?"

Uncle Danny hesitated for only a second, but then he moved past the engineer.

"Can you protect Colin?" asked Danny. "I know it's not a glamorous job, but…"

Smalls held up a hand and Danny stopped.

"With my life," vowed the engineer. "Besides, I'm not a SEAL, so I'm probably better on defense."

"It'll make me feel better," replied Uncle Danny truthfully.

They went to Colin's room.

By circumstance, Liberty, Tagg and Uncle Danny had found themselves ad hoc parents of an orphan boy.

This time though, Uncle Danny knocked softly on Colin's door before opening it.

"Whatza?" asked Colin, half-asleep.

"Colin, I need you to get out of bed, and hide in one of your closets, right now," said Uncle Danny in a calm, measured voice.

Wide-eyed, the boy sat straight up.

Uncle Danny continued. "Someone's coming towards us in a boat, and we don't know who they are."

"But it's the middle of the night," said Colin with alarm.

"That's why I want you to hide. Mr. Smalls is going to hide…stay in here too," said Uncle Danny.

Smalls slapped a clip into his rifle and moved into the room. He glanced at the boy.

"You're going to hide, and I'm going to go…," started Smalls, and then he looked on the other side of the big bed. There was a space between the wall and the bed. "If Colin is in one of the closets, then I'm going to crouch behind the bed and shoot anyone who comes in."

"Um…," started Danny.

"Well, anyone that's not you, or Liberty, of course," added Smalls quickly.

"Good plan," smiled Danny.

Smalls looked surprised and smiled. "Thank you. Especially since I just came up with it."

Uncle Danny turned to the boy, who was getting up. "Okay, so Colin, don't come out unless Mr. Smalls, me or Liberty call for you," said Uncle Danny. "Can you do that?"

Colin nodded nervously.

Uncle Danny put a reassuring hand on the boy's shoulder. "It's going to be okay."

As Colin went to hide, Smalls crouched down.

Uncle Danny closed the door gently. The second it clicked shut, he ran to his room. Reaching in, he grabbed the loaded shotgun by the door.

Heading back to where Liberty waited, she pointed aft and he nodded in agreement.

They moved quietly.

Uncle Danny went to hold his shotgun with both hands, but he found that his left hand was still full of cigar.

Liberty also saw and gave him a Disapproving Look.

"Dr. Tagg never said I couldn't," he whispered. But even to him, it sounded pretty defensive.

Before she could comment further, they heard something up ahead.

A voice at a normal volume suddenly piped up. "It's too dark."

"Keep your voice down," hissed another person, Judah. "And don't even think about turning on a light. You'll give us away."

"I'm just saying," grumbled the first voice, Reuben.

There was the sound of someone getting thumped with a fist, and then it was quiet again.

Liberty stopped and put a hand out to touch Uncle Danny's arm. He stilled and looked at her. There was just enough light to see each other. She pointed at him and then down a cross corridor. Then she pointed at herself to keep going straight. She brought both hands together.

A little reluctantly, Uncle Danny nodded in agreement. He moved away from Liberty, though it pained him. If anything happened to her, he would never forgive himself.

But this plan was their best chance.

Moving silently, Uncle Danny halted before the doorway of the movie room.

From the room, the first voice, Reuben, said in a loud whisper. "This place is so big. I want to pick my own room."

"Will you shut up!" hissed the second voice, Judah.

There was the sound of someone getting hit again and a person hitting the floor.

Uncle Danny shot forward. Sprinting around the corner, he saw three men by the pleather couches.

"What are you THREE doing?" demanded Uncle Danny in a loud voice.

The owner of the second voice, Judah, was standing over Reuben on the floor.

Uncle Danny swung the stock of his shotgun. It connected with Judah's head, who dropped like a sack of potatoes.

"What the…!" cried the third man, Benjamin. He started to swing around with his handgun.

Uncle Danny dropped to the floor on top of someone, knocking the wind right out of Reuben.

The third man, Benjamin, shot twice at empty air, but he was quickly getting his aim.

The shotgun was pinned between Uncle Danny and Reuben. Before Danny could roll off, a bullet hit Benjamin in the chest. The handgun clattered to the ground and Uncle Danny scooped it up.

Just as Reuben was getting his breath back, Uncle Danny punched him, hard.

Scrambling to his knees, Danny brought up his shotgun. But the three men were barely moving. Still, he moved a little further back to cover them.

"Danny!" called out Liberty from the other side of the room.

"I'm okay," he replied loudly. "I have them."

"What happened to waiting for me?" asked Liberty with a frosty voice.

"Um, I saw an opportunity," replied Uncle Danny, a little sheepishly.

"I'm turning on the lights," said Liberty, and that was all the warning she gave.

Uncle Danny flinched at the brightness. But he powered through it to keep guard on the three men.

Liberty came in through the other door and walked over. But she did not go over to the men. Instead, she went over to the Big Mexican and looked him over.

Satisfied that Uncle Danny was unharmed, she let out a breath of relief and rested her head against his shoulder for a second. Straightening up, Liberty turned to the men on the floor.

"You recognize them?" she asked.

Reuben, from the floor, piped up. "Of course. They're my brothers."

Uncle Danny aimed his shotgun at the man. "She wasn't talking to you!" Then he added with frustration. "Pendejo." He looked at Liberty. "I've never seen them before."

The brother that Liberty shot, Benjamin, was starting to paw at his bulletproof vest.

"Hey look!" said Liberty in relief. "He's alive!"

"Ow," whined Benjamin.

"Serves you right," sniffed Liberty. Then, she turned to Danny. "I don't know them either. What do we do with them now?"

"Throw them overboard?" suggested Uncle Danny, half-joking.

"Tempting," muttered Liberty. "But first, we need to call the Fleet."

"Actually, First, can you see if Smalls can get some rope?" asked Uncle Danny.


"And what did you do then?" asked an attorney from the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps.

Uncle Danny looked up at the woman in her crisp uniform. She was an African American woman with beautiful, intelligent eyes.

"Um, we tied them up," replied Uncle Danny.

"Why didn't you just shoot them?" asked the JAG, Rosita Jefferson.

Uncle Danny blinked. "Um, what?"

"I'd wager that most people, if they had caught these men sneaking onboard their boat in the middle of the night…," started Jefferson.

"Objection," called out the Defense Attorney, Caleb Nakamura.

The JAG attorney only looked to the judge.

"I'm only trying to set the scene," explained Jefferson.

"A little less scene," replied Judge William Banks, but not unkindly.

Jefferson looked back at Uncle Danny.

"You made it a point to take the three men alive," she said.

"Well, um, I guess," said Uncle Danny. "I never really thought about it. I mean, it's one thing to have to shoot zoms…" But his voice trailed off.

"So, because they were not zoms, you tried to take them alive," finished Jefferson.

"Objection. Leading," called out the defense attorney.

"Sustained," agreed Judge Banks, and he looked at Jefferson. "Restate."

"Sorry your honor," replied the JAG attorney to the Judge. She returned to Uncle Danny. "Why didn't you and Liberty just shoot them?"

Uncle Danny shrugged. "Basically, what you said. We already took them alive. I mean really, we got lucky."

"Why is that?" asked the JAG.

"They had some serious firepower," replied Uncle Danny.

"Thank you," said Jefferson with a softer voice. "No more questions."


Uncle Danny dropped into a folding chair beside Liberty. He looked worn thin.

In front of them, there was currently a lull in the ad hoc courtroom.

"You did good," she said encouragingly, bumping shoulders with him.

"Thanks," replied Uncle Danny absently. He was glancing around the room.

"What?" she asked.


"Oh, he was having trouble with…well, everything, so Smalls said he'd show him the engine room," explained Liberty.

"The engine room? Lucky kid," said Uncle Danny sincerely.

"Actually, I'd like to see the bridge. That would be really cool."

"Maybe we should add that to our next deal. If we do such-and-such on the mainland, we get a guided tour of the carrier. Because who doesn't want to see the inside of an aircraft carrier."

Liberty grinned. "Great idea."

"Quiet!" hissed a voice across the middle aisle.

Liberty and Danny blinked at each other.

Across the way, there sat a skinny woman, who was wearing an oddly layered dress, which had seen better days. But most people in the fleet were doing the best they could, so Liberty reined in her mean girl judging.

"What?" asked Liberty instead.

"Be respectful," snapped the woman. She looked to be in her 40's and was vibrating with anger. "Even if this is an illegal trial, have some fucking respect."

Liberty blinked at the F-bomb. "We're just talking quietly."

Before the woman could say anything more, Uncle Danny touched Liberty's shoulder, who looked back at him.

"Let it go," he whispered.

"Who is that?" wondered Liberty softly.

"I don't know, but…," began Uncle Danny.

"Don't you dare ignore me!" shouted the woman. She jumped to her feet and loosed a string of obscenities at them.

Liberty and Uncle Danny recoiled in surprise.

"I… I don't know what you're…," started Danny.

"You! You shut your mouth! Shut your Goddamned mouth right now! You've done enough," snarled the woman.

"Quiet down yourself!" boomed Judge Banks from his table at the front of the room. "Or, I will have you removed!"

The military police at the back of the room started to inch forward.

"Mom," pleaded one of the defendants, Reuben. "Please…"

"Don't you ‘Mom' me," snarled the Defendant's Mom. "If you'd done what I had told you! You wouldn't be in this situation."

"Mom!" hissed another defendant, Judah.

"Let her speak," said the Judge in a curious voice.

"Great," snarled the Defendant's Mom as she glanced at the Judge. "You people can never make up your mind."

"Don't yell at the judge," whined Reuben.

The Defendant's Mom growled at him. "I told you to move through the ship and go slow. And you lost our best guns!"

"Oh, you've lost so much more than that," said a voice from the door.

Rear Admiral Cirilo was there with more military police.

The Defendant's Mom suddenly pulled a gun from somewhere in her layered dress. She began to aim it at the Rear Admiral.

Liberty was already moving, but she would not reach the woman in time. At least, not before the Mom got off a shot or two. And Liberty knew absolutely that everyone who had survived this long, was a very good shot.

A large book slammed into the back of the Mom's head. She stumbled, but thankfully did not fire.

Liberty grabbed the Mom's wrist and twisted it sharply until the woman dropped the gun.

Then the military police were all over the Mom. They took her from Liberty and pinned her to the ground, hard. The Defendant's Mom kept ranting, spittle flying, even as the MP's read her Miranda Rights.

Liberty stepped back, but she did put her foot on the fallen gun until the MP's could grab it. Her eyes went to the thick law book that had been thrown.

Uncle Danny was at her back, fists raised, just in case one the defendants tried something.

As he walked up, the Rear Admiral quickly nodded to Liberty, but then he looked past at the defendant's table.

Standing up, the defendant, Reuben, had tears rolling down his face.

The defense attorney pointed to Reuben. "He threw it. To save anyone from getting hurt."

"What the hell Reub?" demanded Judah. He started to rise.

Benjamin turned to his brother. "Just shut up, will you."

"But…," started Judah.

"Sit down," said Benjamin with a heavy voice. "Just…sit down."

Deflating, Judah sat heavily.

Stepping past the brouhaha with the Mom, the Rear Admiral went over to the judge.

"I have another case for you to try," he said. "Once you are done with your three defendants."

"Their mother?" asked the judge.

Circilo just nodded.

"I figured," sighed Judge Banks.


A week later, Liberty and Colin sat on one side of the kitchen table, aboard their unnamed ship.

"Sorry I'm late," said Smalls quickly as he walked in.

"It's okay," said Liberty soothingly. "I just wanted to talk about what we're going to do next."

"Did the admiral give us a list?" asked Uncle Danny.

"Yeah, and I thought it'd be best if we left," said Liberty, and then she added, softly. "Soon."

"Is this about the hanging?" asked Colin curiously.

Liberty's eyes grew wide. "How did you find out about that?"

Colin blinked. "Um, the other day, you had me stay with Tagg on the medical ship, ‘cause you had a thing."

Liberty wanted to correct the boy's grammar, but she figured that now was not the time.

Uncle Danny asked of the boy. "When we went to get that oil tanker?"

"Yeah," replied Colin. "An' I heard some people talking about it. Actually, everyone was talking about it, except for Tagg."

"Did you talk with him about it?" asked Liberty.

Colin shook his head and mumbled. "Wasn't sure I was allowed. An' I didn't want to get into trouble."

"You're not in trouble," said Liberty swiftly and sweetly. "And you're allowed to ask questions."

"Really? My father wasn't really big on questions," replied Colin.

Liberty made it a point to not speak badly of Colin's dead father. So, she took a different tack.

"I want you to always feel comfortable to ask questions," said Liberty and she gave him a quick reassuring hug. "And I'm sure that Tagg feels that way too."

"And you can always ask me mijo," nodded Uncle Danny.

"Or me," added Smalls.

Colin looked at all of them in surprise. Then, the dam broke.

"Why are those people getting hanged? Isn't making them dead a little extreme? I mean, no one was hurt. And are those really the people who came onboard our ship?" asked the boy breathlessly.

Liberty chuckled. "Okay, so you did have a few questions."

"If that's all right," said Colin, suddenly cautious.

"Yes, yes, of course," replied Liberty, quickly and kindly. "Okay, let's start at the end. Yes, those were definitely the people who came on board our ship."

"And their Mother sent them," added Uncle Danny.

"But…why would they do that?" asked Colin.

"Some people make very bad decisions," said Uncle Danny. "And those decisions can have consequences. Very bad consequences."

"Well, I heard this one guy say that those people were going to get hung by the neck over the edge of the carrier, and then dropped into the water with weights on their ankles, so they sink to the bottom," said Colin. "And the Navy is gonna do it all in front of everyone."

Smalls spoke up. "The Rear Admiral is really worried about people stealing other people's boats." When Liberty and Danny looked at him in surprise, the Navy Engineer explained. "When I was last on the carrier, I got a quick debrief about the situation."

"So, the Admiral's worried about stealing?" asked Colin.

"That's right," said Smalls to the boy.

"But…don't you guys steal from the mainland?" asked Colin. "You even say you're pirates."

"Ah, that is different," said Liberty.

"Like how?" asked Colin, confused.

"We're not there to hurt anyone," said Uncle Danny.

"What these people were really doing, was really called ‘hijacking'," said Smalls. "And they were not going to let us go."

"You mean…they really would have…". But Colin stopped.

Liberty put her arm around the boy again. This time he leaned into her.

"Which is why we've started going away from the Fleet at night," explained Smalls.

"And we take turns keeping watch at night," added Uncle Danny.

"So, when you're doing ‘watch', you're looking for bad people?" asked Colin.

"Yep," nodded Uncle Danny.

Liberty continued. "And we only got this ship, because it was abandoned when we found it." She decided not to get into the fact that the captain had been a zom.

"So…," began Colin. "You're pirates, but you only take stuff that isn't anyone else's anymore."

"Exactly," replied Uncle Danny. "Because stealing from another person is wrong, but if…let's say some prescription medicine was abandoned."

"How do you know if it's been ‘abandoned'?" asked Colin.

"We have to make sure that there's no one else around," said Liberty.

Colin looked down for a moment, deep in thought. And Uncle Danny wanted to give him a hug, but he couldn't across the table.

"Okay," said the boy at last. And his face scrunched up. "But I really don't want to be here when they get…you know."

"Well," smiled Liberty. "As it so happens, the Admiral has quite a laundry list for us."

"We can cast off after dinner," said Smalls.

Colin looked up with bright eyes. "Hey! Can I stand watch tonight?"

"Well…," started Liberty uncertainly.

"Pleeeeeeeeease!" asked Colin.

"I guess I could use some company," suggested Uncle Danny to Liberty. And she smiled.

"Better than a cigar," said Liberty. "Okay. This time."

"Yay!" cried out Colin.

Seeing the boy's smile made the knot—which had been wedged in Uncle Danny's chest since that night—loosen up and disappear.

Liberty's Run will continue in September's edition of World of Myth with "Interlude #2". And then on to Volume 3 of the series.


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