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Author Topic: MamaLiberty's new story  (Read 67766 times)

MamaLiberty

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MamaLiberty's new story
« on: April 18, 2010, 05:42:13 pm »

This just popped up as a brainstorm in a regular thread, and has taken on a life of its own already. I don't have a title for the whole story yet, but have now written the first two chapters which are named. Here you go...

Tactical Errors

Charlie watched the flames reaching into the sky, just a block away. He was carefully shielded from casual observation from the street, high on his former balcony, but he didn't dare stay long. No point to it anyway.

Replacing the plywood on the old French Doors, he screwed it down for the last time. The room was empty, and dark since the other windows had been boarded over after the attack a week before. The bullet holes in the walls gave silent testimony to the senseless savagery of that night. He could still smell the blood and his jaw trembled as he struggled to cope with the anguish anew.

Cathy waited patiently in the basement with the two little boys. Evan, just 10, had wanted to go upstairs with his father, but 6 year old Donald clung with desperate fear to his mother and hid his face at any sound from outside.

"We can't stay here any longer," Charlie said softly. "We should have gone months ago, and I don't know how we can get out now. But if we don't at least try, we'll die here."

Cathy didn't respond. Her vacant stare suggesting that she had reached the limit of her coping ability, with no more tears to shed. She had even stopped looking out the remaining window to the back yard where her baby girl occupied a shallow grave. She wouldn't fight him, he knew, but she would be no real help either. She had not been willing to pick up her gun since the night of the attack that killed Jackie.

The terror had begun quickly after the trucks stopped coming into town with their loads of food and medicine. Charlie figured it was a combination of no gasoline and the increased danger over the preceeding week, when the looters and criminals remaining in the city had begun indiscriminate shooting of anyone or anything that moved on the streets. First it had been only at night, but the last two days the sporadic gunfire in the distance had gone on day and night. He had seen the bodies of a few neighbors, and one policeman up and down the block, and it made him sick to know he would not have dared attempt to help someone wounded if he had seen one.

Charlie had had watched his neighbors board up their homes and leave over the preceeding months, clinging desperately to the hope that something would happen to defuse the coming crisis. Once the shooting had started, he continued to hope that the situation would stabilize somehow, with the shooters either killing each other off, running out of places to loot and leaving, or being taken out by the authorities.

He and Cathy had enough supplies to keep them alive for a month or more, and so far the looters hadn't discovered their existence, keeping busy in other more prosperous areas. The bullet that had ended his tiny daughter's life had been a chance stray when a large group of young men had gone down the street shooting out the windows of all the houses they passed.

But now the looters were getting closer and beginning to set fire to the buildings. Time was running out. Charlie sat on the bed rolls and put his face into his hands. He hadn't planned for this - and he knew now with sickening certainty that he should have. He just didn't know what to do - or where to go if they did get out.

The Marines Have Landed

Charlie came up out of the bedroll instantly alert as the roar of a large engine tore apart the breaking dawn. His M1A was in his hand, and the sling was snug a second later.  Suddenly, the roar was very close and a kaleidoscope of sounds included a heavy thumping on the basement door.

"This is it," he said to himself, "payback for all my screw-ups!"

Safety off, Charlie waited for the battering ram to break down the door, unwilling to fire first, knowing he couldn't win even if he did so. But he was spared that dilemma. A loud, throaty voice on the other side of the flimsy barrier said, "Charlie, get your butt in gear! The Marines have landed!"

Throwing off the lock and turning the knob, he came face to face with the last person he had ever expected to see again in this world - a bristle headed older man, the scourge of his stint in the USMC, Sergeant Bradshaw - his sister's new husband. Bradshaw and two other men in full combat gear poured through the door and immediately scooped up Cathy and the children. Wordlessly, Charlie grabbed his ammo packs and the "bug out bag" he'd so carefully packed a month ago, never even thinking to look back as he followed the men to the big, black Hum-Vee idling in the drive way.

An incoming round hit the armored side of the truck as the final door slammed shut and the big vehicle almost burned rubber getting out and down the tree shaded street.

Nobody said a word as they rapidly traversed the long streets, dodging the burned out cars and occasional corpses. By some miracle, only a few more shots connected with the armored vehicle, and none seemed aimed at the tires. The Sergeant rode "shotgun" beside the driver, and Cathy - still catatonic - sat between Charlie and the other man in the back seat. Evan soon crawled into his father's lap, and Donald had finally stopped whimpering by the time they reached the edge of town.

The last bit of road before the highway was blocked with a significant pile of junk cars, so the big Hum-Vee simply lumbered over the curb and retraced its own incoming tracks through two lawns and a shallow drainage ditch to the road beyond. Nobody was guarding the barrier, and they had not heard any gunfire since they had left the burning neighborhoods behind.

Two other vehicles, two armed men in each, waited on the highway. They pulled out rapidly to leave the "Hummer" in the rear guard position. Neither of the others had any sort of armor and were pocked with bullet holes. 

The man on the other side of Cathy passed Charlie a big canteen, and another one to the Sergeant. Charlie poured some water into the cap and got Cathy to drink it, then did the same for the boys before he tipped the container and drank greedily. What a chump they must think he was, he thought, but he'd not realized how desperately hungry and thirsty he'd been until he put the canteen to his lips.

With a grin and a nod, the big man next to Cathy reached behind him and pulled out another canteen and quickly drank his fill as well, then handed around granola bars. Charlie relaxed, and prayed he could avoid any more screw-ups, even though these folks seemed very forgiving. He didn't want to push his luck.

Cathy groaned suddenly, and Charlie knew that meant she had to urinate. The message seemed to be clear to at least the Sergeant, and he spoke into a small radio. Soon the little convoy stopped next to a small wooded area.

"Don't go far, and don't get out of sight," Bradshaw said as Charlie half carried Cathy down the gentle bank to the grassy verge. He nodded as he helped her squat, noting that only the Sergeant had dismounted with him,  watching the back road. The boys erupted from the vehicle just as Cathy stood again, and Charlie helped Donald with his zipper while keeping close watch on Evan as he watered a bush.

When they were all settled again in their seats and travel resumed, Sergeant Bradshaw gruffly introduced his companions as "Mutt and Jeff," with no further explanation. The driver "Mutt" chuckled and "Jeff" just smiled, so Charlie understood this was an inside joke. He knew there would be time for explanations and introductions when they were clear of the danger zone.

[Edit to correct typo]
[last edit, add an important few words!]
« Last Edit: April 29, 2010, 09:05:06 am by MamaLiberty »
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gaurdduck

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2010, 05:55:05 pm »

It seems to be becoming a fast-paced thriller... Cool.
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Rarick

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2010, 09:21:38 am »

Hmmmm........... recruited/drafted?  Hard decision time?
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Most of the time news is about the same old violations of the first principles of consent and golden rule with a dash of force thrown in........ with just enough duct tape to be believable.

MamaLiberty

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2010, 09:28:20 am »

Hmmmm........... recruited/drafted?  Hard decision time?

?? Don't know what you mean here. :)

New chapter by tomorrow. This thing has a life of its own!
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Rarick

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2010, 09:41:42 am »

I await developments.  Just paranoid speculation: recruit someone you knew was a good marine/soldier by providing for the family?  What if this is a case of providing for the family thru unprincipled action?
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........Duct tape is like the force, it has a light side, a darkside and holds the universe together.¬  It is theoretically reinforced with strings too.¬  (The dome has a darkside, lightside and strings of rebar for reinforcement too!)
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Most of the time news is about the same old violations of the first principles of consent and golden rule with a dash of force thrown in........ with just enough duct tape to be believable.

MamaLiberty

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2010, 10:00:18 am »

I await developments.  Just paranoid speculation: recruit someone you knew was a good marine/soldier by providing for the family?  What if this is a case of providing for the family thru unprincipled action?

Ah, I see what you mean. All will be revealed in the next chapter. :) After that, I don't know. This story is telling itself. I'm just the channel.  :rolleyes:
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jeremy mcilroy

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2010, 11:51:37 pm »

I like it, Mama. Keep it coming.
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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2010, 04:01:23 am »

Yes, please!  More, please!
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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2010, 05:00:23 am »

What a great way to start my day!
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MamaLiberty

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2010, 06:26:14 am »

Sorry, guys... I got busy. But I'll post more today. :)
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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2010, 06:34:45 am »

Ok, I'm in. Let that story flow!
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MamaLiberty

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2010, 07:09:54 pm »

Ok, here is the next chapter. Sorry it took me so long.

Bandits At Noon

"I knew you were going to be trouble from the moment I set eyes on you."

Charlie's head came up from a light sleep, just barely grasping the softly spoken words from the grizzled Sergeant. Silence had reigned for many miles after their quick pit stop, and the combination of motion and the warming day had made exhaustion finally claim him. Cathy was actually sound asleep beside him, and both boys were out like lights.

Bradford turned his head and grinned at the little family group, eyes full of compassion and sorrow at the same time. Charlie gave a weak grin back, but didn't know what to say. He knew he'd been a royal pain in the butt in boot camp, and probably even more so afterwards in Iraq.

"You had plenty of guts and a good head, but you were never going to relate well to authority. Too much thinking, son. I wish I had understood that at the time."

Charlie could still remember the sore muscles and weary days of marching, push-ups and extra duty dished out by the Sergeant after his frequent episodes of rebellion or unwise remarks. He grinned a little himself, remembering what a smart-ass he'd been so often.

"Yes Sarg!, he said. I came home just happy to have stayed out of the brig."

The little convoy followed the old state highway, making a wide detour around any town where possible, but a squawk from the radio Bradshaw held announced trouble. The sun was just past high noon, and blazed in a cloudless sky all around them, but they could see a good sized town in the distance. The bridge had been out when they came through before, and there was not much of a way around the town without it.

"Stop here," the Sergeant said, and the convoy came to a halt in the middle of the road. "We ran into trouble here yesterday, and it wouldn't be smart just to barge in now."

A driveway nearby caught his eye, and he directed all of them to turn in there and park behind a row of trees. Without another word, two men in the lead vehicle jumped to the ground and began a careful reconnoiter up the hill, vanishing over the slight rise in a few minutes with rifles at the ready and the easy movements of long experience with such maneuvers.

The boys woke fussing to get out, but Charlie had them pee in one of the plastic water bottles they had emptied earlier. He worried about Cathy because she would hardly drink, and was showing signs of dehydration already. But this didn't seem to be the time do anything about it... even if he'd known what to do. The boys were enjoying the adventure with the bottle, and Charlie was busy keeping them from spilling the contents, so he was startled to hear a shout from beyond the hill, and then the sound of gunfire.

Immediately, he pushed the boys onto the floor of the HumVee and pulled Cathy's head and shoulders into his lap as both Mutt and Jeff leaped out. He couldn't move her over so he could get his head down too, so just leaned as far forward as possible. Bradshaw had jumped out his door, and all of the other men had taken cover as well as they could  - watching in every direction while they waited for a report from the forward scouts.

Once again the radio squawked, and the Sergeant motioned for everyone to remount the vehicles. They drove on up the road and into a deserted farm yard behind a deep windbreak.

Well, not actually deserted. Two corpses were inside the small fenced area around the front door, and two obviously fresh ones lay in the open door of the house. The two in the yard appeared to be the farmer and his wife, while the others were clearly armed bandits. They had not been given any chance to shoot.

Bradshaw gathered everyone around for a little conference after the corpses had been decently hidden in the barn. Charlie helped Cathy into the house to use whatever facilities were available, and hoped they would have time for her to rest in a bed for a while. He washed her face and hands in some water he found in a big Arrowhead bottle, and then did his best to get her to drink as much as possible. No telling when they'd have another chance like this.

Mutt came into the kitchen and shook his head at the mess the marauders had made of it. Food was strewn all over the table and counter, with a burned mess in a pan on the stove. Like hyaenas, the bandits had destroyed more than they used. Cathy sat on the single chair that had not been broken. The boys stayed near her, but were obviously eager to get outside and explore.

"Go ahead and find a place to lay her down for a while," Mutt said. We're going to send some scouts into town and that will take a while. But keep the kids in here, at least for now. We need to make sure there are no more bandits in the area."

Charlie herded the boys in front of him as he helped Cathy into the living room and onto a couch. He thought she was moving a little better, and didn't need him to support her weight nearly as much - but maybe it was just because he'd finally gotten some liquid into her.  Evan and Donald found some crayons and coloring books on a table in the corner and were finally persuaded to occupy themselves that way, after he promised that they could go outside as soon as it was safe.

Ducking back into the kitchen, Charlie got a long drink himself, and looked through the cupboards hoping to find something to feed the boys. A big box of crackers had fallen behind some canned goods, and it was half full. A can of corned beef hash and a jar of spreadable cheese was lurking in the far back corner of another cupboard, and the combination soon made a fair meal for them all. Charlie didn't figure anyone would miss the stuff, but he still felt bad about taking it and, self consciously, went about cleaning up at least some of the mess as a token of appreciation. The fact that nobody but him would ever be likely to care made no difference at all.

The sun slowly inched its way to the west as the little family dozed. The men outside kept careful watch from covert positions, the vehicles parked in an equipment shed on the edge of the windbreak. As it was, only a light breeze caught the leaves from time to time, and flies buzzed with ever increasing numbers in the barn. Charlie wondered what had happened to the animals, or if there had been any, but it didn't occupy his thoughts long because the sound of a vehicle on the driveway got his attention immediately.

Bradshaw was speaking into the radio as the old Jeep crested the little hill. Calling everyone into the yard, he briefed them on their plans.

"There is a fairly large bunch of bandits there, but most appear to be dead drunk. Must have broken into the brewery. A few of them are on the barriers at the edge of town, but they are drunk too. If we move fast we should be able to use some side streets and get through without too much difficulty."

The vehicles had all been refueled earlier from the supplies they carried, so it was a matter of a few minutes until all were in their places and ready to move out. The HumVee took the lead now, and they made good time as the day wore on.

Next chapter:
Losers Weepers, Finders Keepers
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 02:06:08 pm by MamaLiberty »
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socalserf

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2010, 07:34:28 pm »

That's some mighty fine reading, Thanks ML!
p.s. MORE!
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gaurdduck

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2010, 08:05:24 pm »

That's some mighty fine reading, Thanks ML!
p.s. MORE!

Yes very good indeed. More please.
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MamaLiberty

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Re: MamaLiberty's new story -chapter 4
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2010, 08:59:40 pm »

Losers Weepers

Dodging an increasing number of abandoned and burned out cars, the convoy approached the town rapidly, leaving the main highway at the first opportunity. The side road took them near the damaged bridge, and Charlie could see that a massive train wreck had been the cause of it. The HumVee could possibly have mounted the siding and crossed the tracks below the wreck, but the other vehicles in their wake could not have done so. The only other crossing was on the other side of the bridge, beyond the commercial district.

Jeff, who was now driving, turned again onto a road that paralleled the railroad tracks and slowed significantly. Ahead was a blind curve with a large manufacturing building jutting into the bulge. It was the best route they could find on the map and with the limited scouting information they had, since they didn't want to go anywhere near the roadblocks on the highway and just needed to get across the railroad tracks as quickly as possible.

Bradshaw spoke into the radio, ordering the other vehicles to drop back and maintain a little greater distance between them. Tension was high, and Charlie realized he was sweating hard... the bile backlash of fear harsh in his throat once again.  He had no desire for another shooting war, but there didn't seem to be much choice here.

The boys and Cathy had been settled on the bedrolls in the middle of the cargo area behind the seat. As their supplies dwindled, there was more room, and the Sergeant had decided they would be safer there than in the seat. They slept quietly in the afternoon heat, and Charlie turned his attention to his rifle. They all had a pouch full of extra loaded magazines, and nobody needed to check again to make sure they had a round chambered.

They were as ready as they were going to get.

Rounding the first part of the curve, the hummer took a solid hit in an armor plate just below the driver's window. Everyone was thrown forward a bit as the brakes were applied, and they got a glimpse of a road full of nasty tire spikes ahead. Someone had fired just a few moments too early, and blown the trap. The shooter was not visible, and there were literally hundreds of places from which he could shoot down at them without exposing himself. Impossible to know if there was one shooter or dozens.  They all held their fire, since they had no targets, and they heard no more shots fired at them.

Reversing gears screamed as the hummer backed up, then turned and fled back down the frontage road. The convoy reached the highway and turned east, then stopped when there was no pursuit from the town. The open ground was both an advantage and a disadvantage, of course, since the goblins in town could see which way they went as easily as they could see any movement to follow them. 

Bradshaw's jaw was tight and his brow furrowed, but he showed no other emotion. He'd very much doubted that all the bandits were drunk, and he hadn't shared plan B, hoping that it wouldn't be necessary.

Much as he hated the fact, there was a personal enemy in that bunch, and they knew he was near because they'd recognized the hummer. The road spikes told him that his old nemesis from the Nebraska National Guard was in charge, and he knew that man would do anything he could to kill all of them.

He was not apt to make another mistake like the last one.  And they were not going to make it past this town unless Colonel Millwright was taken out and his bully boys neutralized.

A sign just off the highway announced a private RV park and fishing spot a few miles south of town, visible in the near distance - inviting with trees and a small lake. They needed to camp for a while, and it looked like a defensible place, so they turned in and approached cautiously. Bradshaw didn't like the fact that there was only one way in or out, but their options were as limited as their time.

The main building had been looted and burned, and there were several abandoned vehicles in the lot, but the camping spots near the lake were mostly clear. The convoy pulled into a circle, ignoring the usual camping site lines. They dismounted after a thorough search of the out buildings  and the tiny woodlot, discovering nothing but a single corpse and an old dog that had died from a bullet between the eyes. It was impossible to determine what had happened to all of the other people, or why the vehicles had been abandoned intact. Just one more pebble on a mountain of mysteries.

Charlie checked out a nice camper rig, and got Cathy settled into the bed. The boys were simply wild to run and climb, so he took them to a nearby play area and watched as they enjoyed the slides and swings. He knew that the deep sand would sap their excess energy quickly as they ran back and forth.

Preparations were started for an early supper. They hadn't taken time for a regular meal all day, and everyone was suddenly very hungry. Charlie volunteered to be the cook, while Bradshaw and most of the others sat a little apart, discussing the day and the current problem. Two were on guard, but everyone kept alert with their rifles close at hand.

"Colonel Millwright?, Jeff said. "He's one bad hombre." He looked away from the others, remembering stories told by some Nebraska folks who had joined their refuge in the last few weeks. Evidently, he and a big crew of criminals and former guardsmen had turned rogue within days of the final breakdown of civil authority.

"I know you guys don't like it," the Sergeant said, "but there really isn't much else we can do. I'll take one man with me, and do my best to find and eliminate Millwright. If we can cut off the head of this snake, the rest of them won't present us with too much of a problem." John nodded, knowing he had drawn the short straw for this mission. It didn't seem to bother him.

No word on how he planned to take Millwright out, and nobody asked. They didn't have much to say, but though they plainly didn't like Bradshaw's plan B., he hadn't asked for their opinion and they knew better than to argue with him when he'd made up his mind. Several of them grinned at John, wishing they were going instead, but they knew he was the best choice.

Silence reigned for a little while. Then Bradshaw asked a man named Fred to take his team and make sure the parameter of the camp was secure. Jeff's  team would relieve them as soon as they'd eaten, and they could trade off every four hours after that until he and/or John returned - or they decided they weren't going to be able to make it back, whichever came first.

Charlie called them to eat the simple meal, then took a plateful into the trailer to feed Cathy while the men outside watched the boys.

Cathy was sitting up, and he was overjoyed to see her make eye contact and even give him a wan smile. He helped her to the toilet, and watched while she washed her own face and hands, grateful there was still water in the tank of the camper and enough battery power left to move it.

She sat and began to eat, a little shaky and hesitant, but clearly coming around. She said, "thank you" a few times, but didn't speak otherwise - only turning her head to look out the door when her sons howled with laughter. The big block of ice that had encased his heart for so long began to melt, and he suddenly felt so weak he was glad to be sitting down beside her.

Even though she wouldn't eat much, he encouraged her to consume as much of the "sport's drink" as she could tolerate. She patiently swallowed until she could take no more, but he was encouraged to see that she'd gotten down most of the liter bottle and knew it would restore much that had been lost from her system over the last week. 

Twilight was long and colorful from the smoke that hung over the town, but soon the bed rolls came out and no time was lost getting into them. The boys were snuggled with their mother, and Charlie placed his bed in front of the trailer door, making sure his rifle was exactly where he needed it to be.

He didn't know when the Sergeant and his partner had left, but he said a silent prayer for all of them, with a special prayer of thanksgiving for Cathy and her recovery. He hoped she could be spared further shock, but he knew now that she was stronger and more resilient than he'd dared to expect.

*****

Bradshaw was no longer young, and his body had been given a number of serious insults over the years, but the younger man had to work hard to keep up with him. John grinned about it occasionally, and kept on moving, thinking that the bad ass Colonel was about to regret the afternoon's error in a big way. He'd almost had them, and if he knew the Sergeant, he wasn't apt to get many more chances.

Night found them half way to the edge of town, a sliver of moon giving them all the light they needed. Night vision glasses were clipped to their helmets, and there wasn't much in the way of rough ground ahead of them anyway. It would have been easier walking on the road, but they'd have been far more visible then of course.

Fires in the residential areas continued to burn, but they seemed to be more smoke than fire now. John mentally reviewed the map he'd memorized, and tried to think where the rogue Colonel would set up his headquarters. The old National Guard building was the most likely place, but there were other possibilities and he had no real idea what intel Bradshaw might have that he hadn't shared. He wasn't worried about it... he'd know when he needed to know.

Stopping at a flood control ditch, they carefully climbed down and walked further south along the dry watercourse. Distant gunfire could be heard occasionally, but there were no moving vehicles or people anywhere they could see.

John touched Bradshaw's shoulder lightly when they reached the street that led to the Armory on the outskirts of town. Climbing out of the ditch on the other side, they melted into the shadows like ferrets on the hunt, stopping at the official chain link fence only long enough to make good use of the heavy cable cutter John had carried. Then, after crawling through the cut wire, the tool was abandoned to reduce the weight of his pack.

They came to a 6 foot retaining wall, and took a breather while they looked over the large sprawling installation beyond the storage lot on the lower level where they had entered. Few vehicles were on the lot behind them, and only two sat in front of what looked to be the administration building nestled in a crescent of smaller structures and trees. The concrete of the parking lot reflected the warm moonlight faintly.

"Bingo," John thought. " But he wondered how they could cover the 200 yards of bare concrete unseen. A diversion would work, but then Millwright would KNOW they were there. He would be expecting Bradshaw to try this, of course, and he'd be ready. No guards in evidence, but John didn't expect that. Too obvious, and too vulnerable. At least the ordinary guard soldiers would be vulnerable.

Bradshaw started to move, and John followed along the wall until they came to the end at a driveway. Close by was one of the small buildings, door hanging open and windows broken. He could see others beyond it, but no details were discernible in the shade cast by the many trees around them.

Gliding silently from tree to tree, and building to building, John constantly consulted a small electronic device, hoping to spot surveillance or alarms before they tripped them. Twice they came close, and several were passed with a wide margin, but they were both drenched in sweat by the time they reached the back of the main building. It wasn't likely that the Nebraska National Guard had more sophisticated electronics than they did, but anything is possible.

John hoped they were not going to attempt to enter the structure, always a much more difficult task, but it was obvious what was needed. John placed another device on the electronic combination lock of the back door and, after a few seconds with a tiny thing that looked like a remote control, the light on the lock went from red to green and the door opened easily. The back up generator was powering the doors, but not the big array of lights that would normally have covered the place inside and out. Of course that was just fine with John... darkness was their friend.

Both men slipped on their night glasses as they passed inside, watching the tiny displays of the alarm detectors carefully. They found the security room easily, quiet and empty as a tomb, and the same device that had opened the door lock turned off the whole system. Not that they quit looking at their alarm snoopers, of course. Back up and redundant systems are an old military standby.

But this time, one was all there was, it seemed. No other surveillance devices or nets were discovered, and the continued quiet seemed to indicate that their presence had not yet been detected.

Silently, they walked the hallway leading to the front of the building. Doors on either side, a few standing open, led to empty, dark offices and one large conference room with a massive table in the middle, all smashed to splinters. Nothing else seemed out of place, but the savagery of the destruction of that table sent cold spikes down John's neck. He remembered some of the horror stories about the mad Colonel, and wished he'd never heard them.

This was all much too easy and he seriously feared a trap, but he would have gladly followed the Sergeant into hell itself, so he kept on walking.

A large suite of offices branched off to the left, complete with a lobby and a receptionist's desk.  A single dim light shone behind the glass door of the office designated for the facility commander, and it stood slightly ajar as if to invite them in. It swung silently as they entered after flipping up the night glasses, and neither of them was surprised to hear someone gruffly say, "Well, you did come after all."

A big man sat in an office chair, behind a massive desk, but John could see immediately that something was very wrong here. The voice had not only been gruff, but weak and breathy. The figure in the chair was slumped to one side and seemed to waver in the pale light of an emergency lantern that had been placed in front of him on the desk. The smell of blood hit the back of John's throat, and he suddenly knew the man in the chair was dying. That didn't make him any less dangerous, necessarily, but he didn't feel so trapped all of a sudden.

Bradshaw didn't say anything for a few moments, but his first words were a big surprise to John, who knew the terrible history between these two - or at least the last part of it.

"Hello, old friend. I'm sorry it has come to this, but it seemed you never wanted it any other way." The Sarge paused, then continued. "I tried to tell you that your own actions would someday bring you to death and destruction."

The Colonel shook his head slightly, his expression hard to read. He was breathing harder, and the smell of blood was strong. He closed his eyes, and pressed his fleshy lips together for a moment, swallowing hard, but obviously unable to call up enough strength to say anything more.

A door slammed in the distance, and the faint sound of pounding boots could be heard between the rough breaths of the dying man before them. Bradshaw took a good sized bundle from his pack and turned a dial, then placed it on the floor in front of the desk. They turned and left the room without another word, but John knew that the Colonel had taken his last breath before the door closed behind them. After all the horror he'd inflicted, he'd simply bled out in his own office.

Quickly retracing their path to the back door, they slipped out into the night and then ran for the retaining wall, knowing that the security system was out. John knew what to expect, but they had barely gotten behind the wall when the night exploded into fire and sound that blinded and deafened them both for a few moments, sending a cloud of smoke and debris that would have cut them to ribbons if they'd been in the open. 

The explosion leveled the main building, and the rest of them were soon burning brightly. A few men staggered out of buildings on the edge of the compound with their clothing in flames, and nobody noticed two shadows that merged with the night and crossed the back of the abandoned base to the hole in the fence.

John labored to follow Bradshaw, and he wondered to himself just what had happened. But he'd done his job. He wasn't much of a soldier, all told, but he was an electronic genius and had never come across a system he couldn't jam or shut down. He was glad tonight had not been any exception.

*****
Dawn had broken, but for the first time in a long while Charlie hadn't awakened with the first light. Even a former Marine occasionally reaches the end of his endurance. So, it was with some confusion that he woke to shouts of joy. Rolling out of his tangled blankets, he saw the Sergeant and John staggering into camp looking dirty and rough, but very happy indeed.

 
[Next chapter:  Finders Keepers
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 12:25:33 pm by MamaLiberty »
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The lust to control the lives and property of others is the root of all evil.
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