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A note from Morgan Cole

The penultimate chapter of book 1. Final chapter tomorrow.

We were in position for an hour before the Hip rolled by in the Jeep. Hondo and I were hidden in the deep ditch beside the dirt road, invisible from the top. Flattop was on the other side.

"Confirm target," Pargo said over our radio channel. Out in the darkness he watched the road through the enormous scope mounted on his rifle.

"Confirmed, those are our guys," I replied.

"Roger."

It was still another fifteen minutes to 02:00 so they were early. The meeting spot was just over a mile away. When they came back loaded up with weed, we'd hit them.

The drive to our ambush spot had been quiet, everyone occupied with their own thoughts. Pargo drove fast, even once we got off the highway and onto the dirt roads. He hummed along with the Mexican music playing at low volume on the Bronco's stereo system.

When we were close, he'd pulled the truck off the road and we'd geared up. Each of us got a rifle and three magazines, while Pargo hiked up the stone formation we'd determined would be the best for him to set up on.

I was having trouble sitting still. Adrenaline was making me jumpy. Hondo looked annoyed, but it wasn't like he was any better.

"This is going to be a real big score. The biggest since Gato went away," Hondo muttered.

I nodded, then realized he couldn't see me. "Yeah. I'll just be happy to get these fucking hipsters off our back."

"Shit, is that all, Homes? You don't care about the thirty keys of weed? I'll take your share."

"I know you would. Don't worry, I think I'll find a use for the weed too."

That little bit of banter was fun, but it didn't help time pass any quicker. It seemed like forever before Pargo spoke again.

"Incoming," he said.

Hondo and I tensed, ready to charge up the slope. Headlights lit the road above, and I could hear the Jeep's engine getting closer.

"Come on, Pargo," Hondo said. I couldn't help but agree. What was taking the man?

There was a crack of thunder and a flash in the distance. Then two more in rapid succession. The Jeep swerved wildly as the driver fought for control. One second he'd been doing forty miles an hour, and the next his wheels were locked up after the .50 caliber bullets shattered his engine.

The Wagoneer slalomed past us and stopped fifty feet away. Pargo had timed it perfectly. Hondo and I turned on our gun lights and rushed up the slope.

There was a moment—just a single moment—where it could have went to plan. Where the targets of our perfect ambush would realize just how screwed they were and surrender. The Jeep's doors were open and the four men were coming out with their pistols in hand. The three of us had them blinded by the bright beams of our tactical lights and had clear shots. We were even yelling cop-appropriate stuff like 'drop your weapons.'

That makes it sound like there was some kind of pause—some moment where everyone weighed their options and came to a decision—but there really wasn't. Magnus was nothing if not decisive. He didn't even hesitate to open fire as he ran for the ditch. The rest of the Hip hadn't got the memo, but backed his play. They fired blindly at the bright lights, and we fired back.

Hondo and I sprayed the driver's side of the Jeep with fully-automatic fire. Hubert danced as our bullets ended him, painting the interior of the Wagoneer with his blood. Magnus escaped the initial fire with his surprising speed but just before he dove into the ditch one of my rounds hit him in the meaty part of his thigh, a thick gout of blood decorating the dirt road. He tumbled into the ditch out of sight.

Flattop didn't have it as easy as me and Hondo had. With the way the Jeep was skewed on the road, the two on the passenger side had better cover. Byron was out of the fight, lying on the dirt road moaning in pain, but Huck was returning fire from behind an armored door.

There was no way I was letting Magnus get away, so I sprinted after him. There was a thunderous boom and the pistol fire stopped as Pargo ended the fight by punching a fist-sized hole through Huck's torso.

I ran across the packed dirt surface and would have simply pelted down the slope after Magnus, but something stopped me. A faint suspicion, or simply instincts I didn't know I had. Peaking over the edge I saw Magnus at the bottom of the ditch looking back at me. I jerked my head back just in time to avoid the two bullets he sent at me. There was an audible noise of displaced air as they passed just overhead.

I raised the rifle over my head and fired it blind down into the ditch—two long bursts. Doing a fast peek over the edge, I saw Magnus was gone. He'd left plenty of his blood behind though, he wouldn't be going far.

Looking back at the Jeep, I saw Flattop sitting on the ground with Hondo beside him. Blood was pooling underneath my friend. I slung my rifle and dashed back. Flattop was pressing his right hand down on his side, hand covered in blood.

"Shit. What happened?" I asked, like a complete idiot.

"I'm hit," Flattop replied. "It's not too bad, I'll be fine."

"You dumbass," Hondo said. "That's a bullet wound, not a paper cut."

"Status," Pargo said over the radio. He wouldn't have much of a view from his position. Neither of the Soldados answered immediately, so I did.

"Flattop's hit, he's bleeding."

"Roger. I'm coming, sobrino."

Flattop looked up at me. "Did you get Magnus?"

"No. He's hit but still alive."

"Do you know how to fix this shit?" Flattop asked, inclining his head toward the wound.

"No, sorry," I replied.

"Then go take care of Magnus. At the very least make sure he's dead. Pargo's coming, he'll fix me up."

Hondo nodded. "Can't let that psycho fuck pop back up in a few weeks even crazier."

Following Magnus out into the desert at night wasn't real appealing, but they were right. The Hip were now mostly all dead, but as long as Magnus was around there would continue to be a problem. I seated a new magazine in my AK and tucked the empty in my vest.

"Okay. If I don't come back, come get me."

"Just go, he's getting away," Hondo said, shooing me.

Following Magnus's blood trail made me feel like a master tracker. Large splashes and drips made his trail completely obvious even to a city boy like me. I moved as quietly as I could, but since I needed the light to follow his trail it was likely that was completely pointless.

Every moment I was expecting him to pop out from behind a rock and shoot me. I was wound tight, pointing the rifle behind every obvious bit of concealment with my finger on the trigger. If a rabbit or deer or something I had jumped out I would have shredded it for sure. After the gun fight there probably wasn't an animal for miles.

When I finally caught up with Magnus, it was anti-climactic. He had his back up against a large rock with a visible pool of blood slowly growing underneath him. His pistol was on the rock next to him, but his hands were occupied with his belt. It was clear he was trying to tourniquet his leg before he bled out. The silver skull with the red gems was stained with his blood.

He looked up into the blinding glare of the tactical light and smiled weakly. "Of course it had to be you, Mack."

I pointed the rifle at him and said nothing.

"You've won. I unconditionally surrender. You've killed my friends, destroyed my organization and my reputation."

"You're the one that took it this far, Magnus. You could have just moved on with your life."

"Maybe you're right. Can you help me with this tourniquet? I'm pretty lightheaded."

"Push your gun away first."

He seemed surprised for a moment, then looked at the gun beside him. "Oh, that. It's empty anyway. Sure."

The gun slid across the rock, well out of his reach even after his weak push.

I was torn about what to do. The deepest levels of my mind were screaming that this man was dangerous, and that I should just shoot him and end the threat. The upper levels were the ones that had been built by my family, by school and society. The levels where the appropriate response to aggression was not to fight back, but call the teacher, or a cop. Where good people never broke the law. They never killed their enemies.

The veneer of civilized behavior that had been layered onto my psyche all my life was growing thin in places, but it was still in control.

I took my left hand off the gun, keeping it pointed at him with just my right.

The barrel dipped a little as I stepped forward and reached out with my left hand. "Give me the end, I'll pull."

When he shifted the belt in his hands something in those deep levels screamed a warning and it was the only thing that saved me. I leaned back just as Magnus lashed out with blinding speed. The belt whistled through the air, and the heavy silver skull belt buckle cut a deep furrow in my right cheek. Pain blinded me and I stumbled back a step, raising the rifle.

If Magnus hadn't been half dead, he could have finished me there. Most of his life had spilled onto the desert rocks, so when his last attack failed he simply sagged back in resignation.

"Mack-" he started to say.

I interrupted him by walking a long burst of 5.45mm rounds up his torso and onto his head. Blood sprayed and his head broke apart.

Title Granted: Victorious

+5 Street Cred

Reason: Destroyed a hostile organization

Victorious.

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About the author

Morgan Cole

Bio: I'm a tech consultant and a part time author (full time during this plague).

I have five books currently on Amazon, my Land of Dreams series and my new sci-fi series The Last Enclave. They're both gamelit/litrpg.

Capo is an experiment to see if I can make gangster a legit subgenre of Gamelit/LitRPG. I hope I can pull it off.

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