The Last Ones Left on a Sinking Ship...

Date: Early Winter, 1999 (note: this is 4 years ago)
Place: Bryn Mawr College, PA

Hannah was relieved at the arrival of the Military Police Company to Bryn Mawr University, late in 1999. Since the July 4th, 1999 nuke incident in Independance Square, Philadelphia was no longer the "City of Brotherly Love", if indeed it had been in a long while. Gangs and looters often would often roam the campus, targetting small groups of students, especially females. The Campus Police, well... You quickly found out why the soldiers were there.

"In response to the unrest in and around Philadelphia, the Company is assigned to continue relief operations in the area of conflict". At least that is what a National Guard private recited to Hannah when she asked him why the soldiers were there. While he helped pick up the books which Hannah cleverly dropped, she learned from him that the MP Company was apparently attached to the headquarters of the 56th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. In turn, the 56th Bde. is a subordinate unit of the 28th Mechanized Infantry Division, PA National Guard. This young fellow, his face studded with acne, was taking his "mission" way too seriously. But perhaps not...

Later in conversation with some of the MPs, Hannah learned that the rest of the Division had recently deployed to Saudi Arabia, but the MP Company remained in the Philadelphia area. It would seem many of them much rather wanted to be "over there".

Due to it's location near the edge of the devastated area in Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr Campus was chosen as the headquarters for the Local Relief Effort, or LRE. You laughed to yourself at how the military always made up acronyms -- probably to give the illusion that they're the only ones who know what's going on. This LRE was where Hannah met Jack.

Being a well-liked Command Officer and former detective, Major Jack Martigan had a loyal and efficient staff. They sought to keep him well-informed, and tried to deal with any petty annoyances that might arise. Apparently Hannah was seen as a petty annoyance. But she persisted. At first, the other staffers would send Hannah on her way, but eventually Hannah prevailed.

Hannah became interested in lending a hand. And lend a hand she did. She worked in the soup kitchen. She visited wounded soldiers. She organized a daycare for recuperating children. She even accompanied soldiers into the City. She convincingly argued that she knew her way around without a map. She could recognize areas that were confusing to most people, in the rubble-strewn landscape of devastated Philly.

What seemed to impress the troops, and eventually, the Major, was that Hannah was willing to help, no matter what the job, unlike most of the spoiled rich kids on campus, who did a little community service once in awhile to get through SOC 201, or whatever. Eventually, with Martigan's forceful recommendation, Hannah was honored with an Award for Outstanding Public Service, and met the Governor of PA as well as the President himself.

The Major and Hannah became close friends. He was in his late 30's, and was a dashing figure, a real gentleman in the old sense of the word, very tan, with blond hair. He had one other close friend, and that was Sgt. John Sherman. The two would often get together for "Staff Meetings", which Hannah was pretty sure included a drink or two and a cigar or two. Eventually, Hannah was responsible for handling many of the non-military details of the LRE. In fact, the intelligent Hannah did the work of 2-3 Army-types, much to the chagrin of Martigan and Sherman. This was how Hannah, Sherman, and Martigan had known each other since late 1999.


Fast forward to Spring 2003.

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 2300
Place: Bryn Mawr College Compound, PA
People: Hannah Ruth Mordecai / Sgt. John Sherman

Sadly, Major Martigan was one of many who died from the Cholera outbreak about a month ago. Hannah's own health has not been what it used to be, what with exposure to Radiation, barely surviving cholera, malnutrition, exhaustion, and generally living in crowded conditions.

Sharing the last of the Folger's Instant coffee, two friends warmed their hands over a barrel of burning wood. It had been a long, terrible, cold Winter, but the renewal, and life, that Spring had to offer was in the air this evening. The two were alone, away from the sentries. The two paused from time to time, and spoke in whispers...

"If I did 'leave' I would try to go with as many of my trusted friends as possible, especially as things are not improving in the 56th Mech. Things are in a slow decline, and after all, unit morale is all about looking after your mates..."

Hannah smiles and places her hand on his forearm, gently squeezing it. A warm smile lights her face, seeming to pull some of the exhaustion out of it. "I thank you for the trust, John. I know this isn't an easy decision for you to make. Jake...Major Martigan always said that you were one of the old breed of soldiers, loyal to his country. And he always spoke of your dedication to the well being of your men. I think he would want you to do what you have told me, and I know he would want me to go along...

The wind whipped up somewhat, propelling pinpoints of glowing embers skyward.

...I don't think I'll be much use to anyone here for very much longer. And...I don't trust Captain Ralston. The Major always enforced the lawful orders from the Governor, with as much compassion and common sense as possible. But Ralston is a madman. His plan to take the State Hospital in Haverford -- there is no point in it. But how do we leave without being caught?"

[Sgt. Sherman]
Sips from his coffee mug, pauses... "You're right, Hannah, Ralston is mad. I think he's beginning to enjoy all this. We should leave take just what we can carry, maybe a vehicle. A horse would be better, at least it doesn't need gas. I figure we could head northwest, up into the hills. I still trust a few of the guys but most of 'em will obey the Captain. If we leave after midnight and not take too much stuff, by the time Ralston finds out he might not bother looking for us. I think we should warn them folks at Haverford though."

Finishing his coffee, he stares into the empty mug.

"Well that's the last of the coffee... suppose it's time to go."

"I'll need some time to gather a few things...perhaps ten minutes. I think I can get us several horses and tack, perhaps even a few pack horses and saddles. As meager as the gasoline situation is I don't see how the automobiles would help us. But...well...I think you are wrong. I think Cpt. Ralston will look for us. Perhaps we can disable the automobiles somehow. That would give us some time to get to Haverford and give them a decent amount of warning." Hannah stands, and gathers her long hair behind her back. Just a few short months ago she would have flipped it over her shoulder with a careless shake of her head, but the last bout of sickness really took much of the life out of her. "I'll head over to the stables and see who is working there tonight."

The two friends discussed the disposition of MP company. At this point, the company was now more the size of a platoon, about 40-50 effectives. Both Sherman and Hannah had been living and working with these people for about 4 years. Everyone knew everyone. Some people were real pains, while others perhaps could be trusted as friends. Hannah and Sherman agreed to play it by ear, and accept the company of those they felt they could trust.

Hannah gathered her stuff and headed to the stables. She hoped that since she spent a lot of time in the stables both before and during the war her presence will not seem unusual.

Time: 2315
Location: Stables

When Hannah entered the stable, the only other people there were two female students, friends of hers, an overweight campus cop, and one MP, dressed in woodland camous, M16 shouldered by it's strap...

Hannah nods to the two friends of hers. "I can't sleep, so I thought I'd check that cut on Dancer's leg." Hannah sidles to the back of the stables and enters a stall. There she gathers several lengths of rope(halters most likely) and a saddle blanket.

Carefully, she took her pistol out of her backpack and draped the saddle blanket over her right arm, concealing it, just in case... She then made her way back to the front of the stable and attempted to casually get behind the soldier and cop.

The cop and soldier seemed oblivious to Hannah, so Hannah took two of the saddle horses, claiming she and a friend were going to the far side of the secured area to help out with some sick and wounded people. This, she rationalized, was a decent cover story, as doing something like this was not unusual for Hannah.

"Be careful, Miss. No tellin' who you might run into on a nite like tonite. Do you and your 'friend' want some company?"

"I appreciate the offer, but I think I'll be safe enough. I should be back in several hours. Is there anything I might bring you from the cook tent on the way back?" Hannah made small talk while saddling the two horses, taking the time to place saddlebags and extra latigos on the saddles. When done, she rode one horse while leading the other to the rendezvous with Sgt. Sherman.

Hannah left the stable and waited perhaps 10 minutes, with no sign of Sherman. Hannah fidgeted on the saddle, shying at every noise around her. "I thought we were going to meet here", she thought, "but I'm so tired -- I'm not sure." Hannah rode slowly back to the stables still leading the other horse. Once there she stopped a short distance away and looked for Sgt. Sherman...

Time: 2315

Elsewhere, Sherman skirted around the campus, arriving at a point near the garage. Leaving his pack in the shadows. John observed the garage. "Shoot! Gripweed and someone else..." Sgt. Sherman approached the two guards. One he felt he could trust, the other he was sure would be trouble. Sherman, thinking fast, orders the troublesome guard, a Pvt. Gripweed, to go to the armory to get some parachute flares.

"In case we're hit tonite, we need to see what's going on, right?... Now go. I'll stand your post." Sherman then quickly lays his and Hannah's plan on the line, to Pvt. Franks, and hopes for the best.

[Pvt. Franks](a friendly NPC)
"Look, Sarge, what you're talkin' about is desertion. That bugger of a Captain of ours'll shoot us dead for running. You wouldn't just be testin' me, would ya?"

"Of course not! Listen, Franks, you want to live, don't you? Well, you'll not see your next birthday if you stay here. This place is going to the toilet, but fast! Look, there's no time. Gripweed'll be back in like 5 minutes. Can we count on you?"

[Pvt. Franks]
"Aw, crap!" Thinking for a moment, he answered. "Yeah, I'm in. What do you want me to do? I don't wanna kill anyone, though."

"No one does! Take the carbuerators out of the vehicles, and toss 'em somewhere. I'm gonna see what I can do with the M113...


With that, Franks opens up the hoods of the Blazers, and then the HUM-VEEs, and slashes at wiring, removes carbuerators, and flings vehicle keys onto the roofs of nearby buildings. When he is finished, he quietly closes the hoods of the vehicles, so no one will be any the wiser. In the meantime, Sherman grabs 2 large cans of brake fluid, and another of antifreeze, and empties them into the fuel tank of the M113. He is about to do more, when Gripweed returns, carrying an M79 grenade launcher, and a bandolier of parachute flares.

[Sgt. Sherman]
"Okay, I'll see what I can do about disabling the vehicles. I'll see you at the stables in about ten minutes. Be ready to leave."

With that, Franks opens up the hoods of the Blazers, and then the HUM-VEEs, and slashes at wiring, removes carbuerators, and flings vehicle keys onto the roofs of nearby buildings. When he is finished, he quietly closes the hoods of the vehicles, so no one will be any the wiser. In the meantime, Sherman grabs 2 large cans of brake fluid, and another of antifreeze, and empties them into the fuel tank of the M113. He is about to do more, when Gripweed returns, carrying an M79 grenade launcher, and a bandolier of parachute flares.

Looking at the 113 he appears to ignore Gripweed. Then turns to him. "Bring 'em here." barks Sherman.


"Yes, Sgt."

Taking the M79 and bandolier from the Private, Sherman inspected the weapon and flares.

"Okay Gripweed, Captain wants the bucket ready to roll for the Haverford op ASAP. So take out the plugs and clean'em. Do it properly private. The Captain has only one punishment for failure..."

Sherman paused -- each man knew what Ralston would do.

"Well, I'm not much of a mechanic, but if you order it, Sgt. consider it done."

"Franks...", said Sherman as he handed the M79 and bandolier to the private, "take 'em to Burns [GM: NPC who is the unit grenadier]... he's in the barracks... make sure he strips and cleans it. And Franks straight there and back no stopping at the girls dorms."

Sherman was hopeful that Franks would take his hint. While Sherman's back is turned, Franks grinned at Gripweed.

It would appear that Gripweed could care less if Franks was a bit late...

Their work at the motorpool completed, Sherman and Franks leave. Both go to the barracks and get their gear as inconspicously as possible. And meet at the campus stables in five minutes. For all of their scrutiny, Gripweed did not appear to be suspicious.

Sgt. Sherman went in and collected the rest of the equipment. When he was questioned by one of the MPs, he said, "Franks and I are getting ready for the Haverford op early. And that everyone else should be ready to roll by dawn. So start checking equipment and stripping weapons."

Then the two made their way to the stables. Sherman observed the area first to see if everything looked kosher. Then he went in to see Hannah. Sherman asked Franks to wait in the shadows in case there is a problem.

Sherman and Franks left the garage. Sherman retrieved the pack he left in the shadows. Both he and Franks then walked to the MP Barracks.

"I'd sure like to see Ralstons face when he see's what's been done. With Gripweed covered in grease and trying to explain why he took all the plugs out of the carrier."

Sherman lets a slight grin appear on his face.

Franks joined him in the anticipated enjoyment.

"Franks when we get to the barracks get your gear, just the basics. We don't have much time... and remember act normal like. I don't want anyone getting suspicious. And cheer up, I don't think they shoot deserters from the Guard?... Naw they just lock us up and throw away the key."

The grin disappears.

"Seriously Franks we've done our bit, four years maintaining order in bedlam. It was fine with the Major, it was like what we did mattered. At least in our own small corner of the world life may be hard but folks were alive. Ralston changed all that people are afraid of him and us. Not us ourselves but the uniform and what we've come to represent to them. They fear us Franks. I swore to protect and serve the people not to protect and shoot' em. This place is falling apart and I'm not letting Ralston drag me down with him when it sinks."

Sherman hoped he had convinced Franks, but more importantly, hoped he had convinced himself that what he was doing was right. The two finally reached the barracks.

"You right to do this Franks?"

I'm good with it, I guess..."

The two made their way to the stables. Sherman observed the area first to see if everything looked kosher. Then he went in to see Hannah. Sherman asked Franks to wait in the shadows in case there is a problem.

Sherman walked into the stables somewhat apprehensively, hoping that Hannah was alright and that nothing has gone wrong.

"Hannah..." said Sherman in a low voice.

Sherman's thoughts raced. "Something went wrong... Hannah couldn't get the horses, or someone discovered what she was up to or there was somebody else in the stables..." Sherman considered his options. Sherman was glad he remembered to have Franks watch from outside.

Looked around the stables, then addressed the MP by name. "Wynton, have you seen Mordecai?"

[MP Wynton]
"Yes, Sgt. She was here a few minutes ago, and said something about riding out to the far side of the secured area, to care for some sick people. Is anything wrong, Sgt.?"

"Nah, everything is fine Wynton. Ralston just wants to talk to her. I might take one of the horses, save me a walk. Don't want to keep the Captain waiting." Sherman leaned closer to Wynton and whispered in hushed conspiratorial tones. "Especially not since he's still sober."

Sherman saddled one of the horses, for his supposed visit to see Ralston.

"Wynton if you see Miss Mordecai tell her I'm looking for her. I'll be back at the barracks." With that, Sherman trotted the horse out of the stable.

Location: Outside the Stables

Hannah saw Sherman coming out of the stables with a horse. She waited until he was clear of the stables and rodes casually over to him. "Good evening, Sgt. Sherman."

Sherman grinned, and touched the brim of his cap, while nodding at Hannah. "Evening ma'am." He halted the horse next to Hannah's and signaled to Franks to come and join them. "Hannah this is Pvt. Franks... he'll be coming with us."

Hannah nods, saying "Shalom, Pvt. Franks." Hannah dismounts and approaches both animals. "May I look at your mounts, please? It would be very bad for us if one of them cam up lame, or was galled." Hannah inspects the horses and the way the tack is rigged. It would appear that there was nothing wrong with any of the horses.

Once Hannah was finished inspecting the horses, the group rode towards the outer perimeter. Sherman led the way followed by Hannah then by Franks.

"Hey Hannah, did you study to be vet or something ? You seem to know a bit about animals?..."

"No. But, like every other teenage girl, I fell in love with them. I used to work in the stables on the kibbutz, and spend almost every afternoon there when school was let out."

Modifications to the College were done for the sake of security. Basically, key areas around the campus were sandbagged. An 8' high fence enveloped the campus, then concertina wire was strung around on the ground, about 30 yards out, with beer cans woven into the stuff, sort of as an informal alarm. Campus Police HQ was hardened, with firing loops around the building. As Campus Police was near the main entrance to the college, this was turned into what was affectionately termed "Check Point Charlie". All traffic in or out now passed through this gate.

At Checkpoint Charlie the group was stopped by 3 MPs with an M60. They were directed by a myopic corporal, who questioned the group.

[Cpl. Reilly]
"Halt! Where do you think you're going?"

Franks looked at Sherman, and Hannah, in turn...

Sherman was about to say something, when Hannah gave him one of "those" looks, and rather convincingly explained the situation.

"We're heading out to the edge of the secured area. Some folks out there need medical attention." Hannah's delivery, probably more that WHAT she said, seemed to convince the Cpl.

"Always risking it for someone else. Liberals! Humpff! Very well, proceed. And be careful..."

"Thank you, Cpl. Reilly. If I see some of those wild yams growing by the old food bank farm I'll bring you back a couple."

The group exited Bryn Mawr College, and headed northeast, the opposite direction of Haverford State Hospital. Several hundred meters away from the College, the group did a 180 and went back towards the hospital, giving Bryn Mawr College a wide berth.

Being aquainted with the area, the group knew the simplest route to the State Hospital (from the standpoint of giving directions, or if you wanted to make good time in a car, before the war) would be to follow RT 30 or, the trolley tracks northwest for 10 miles, then take RT 476 southeast for another 15-18 miles. This path resembles an inverted "V".

But the shorter, more direct route required a ride of about 7 miles, as the crow flies, through neigborhoods and on less-travelled streets.

Quietly, Franks tried to break the tension abit. "Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, no trolleys are operating tonight. We regret any inconvenience, and hope you have a pleasant journey utilizing alternate transportation..."

The three passed a few of the "trolleys"; they weren't those cute trolleys like in San Fran. They looked like a large, "mod", 1970's bus on tracks. A few of them were on or around the tracks -- burned out, shot up, or worse...

"I rather think that the good Captain would love to send his bloody great tank rolling down the highway to find us. I think we should take the road less travelled, don't you, Sgt. Sherman?"

"We don't have much time. Someone's going to wise up sooner or later. Ralston is no fool, when he realises that the three of us are gone, he's going to be after us. I suggest we go through the older neighbourhoods, it could be dangerous though. I hear the inhabitants are none to friendly. Unless either of you have a better idea?"

"Yes, Sgt. Sherman." Hannah kept her mount close and to the left of Sherman's and kept a wary eye out into the night. "One thing I hadn't considered. Since it's been so long since I've have had what might be considered a healthy diet, my night vision is very poor."

"Do your best Hannah. Your eyes will adjust to the dark -- it just takes a while. Don't worry... everyone else has same problem." Sherman pondered Hannah's words about the healthy diet. Carrots. They were good for the eyes. Thats what Emma (Shermans wife) had said. Why else were rabbits able to see in the dark. Carrots also were good for something else rabbits did a lot of... Sherman reigned in his thoughts to the task at hand, and looked ahead for any sign of trouble.

"Remember to look up. Some of the taller buildings could provide a good place for snipers. Franks, you remember that lesson on patrolling techniques?

Franks remembered the the time the unit was instructed by a Brit MP who served in Northern Ireland. The Tommy explained that the last man of a patrol would frequently turn around and walk backwards. Franks, ever the smartalec, replied, "Actually, Hazelnut here, and I have been practicing her backward trot in anticipation for joining the Circus after we get out of this mess..."

"Then make sure you keep an eye out behind us."

Yeah I'll keep an eye out behind us -- figuratively speaking, that is..."

"Keep your weapon ready, but outta sight Hannah. Then any folks we meet might not see you as a threat. Meaning if something happens you might be get the drop on 'em. And we need any advantage we can get." Sherman reached the 2kM radio strapped over his side, turned it on, and kept his ears peeled, figuratively speaking, monitoring any calls made back at the college.

"Beseder...I mean okay." Hannah took her Sig out and placed it just under the front edge of the rolled up poncho tied in front of her on the saddle. "You've never seen me shoot, have you Sgt. Sherman?" Hannah chuckled softly, "Most of my targets die of fright or boredom." Hannah scanned around her as directed.

Sherman's eyes darted back and forth as he constantly scanned the dark bleak streets ahead. He was tired and hungry. But no doubt so were the others. Sherman turned around to see how they were doing. Both wore expressions of serious concentration. Franks was a good man, doing as he'd been taught. Hannah, well she was a real surprise. Sherman could remember the first time the annoying college girl came round to the HQ wanting to help. No matter how many times she was told to leave, she always had a new excuse to show up again. In the end Hannah won. And was grudgingly excepted into the company. She had proven to be a valuable member of it. Her parents would be proud of her, thought Sherman.

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 2345
Place: Downtown
People: Sherman / Hannah / Franks (NPC)

After travelling several blocks, the radio traffic is minimal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for 2345 hours. Sherman seemed somewhat jumpy, however. Several times he it appeared that thought he saw something, but thankfully the "somethings" turned out to be "nothings"... The group continued on its journey thru the neighborhoods. After going in the opposite direction of Haverford State Hospital (NE), the group cut an arc thru a deserted community, and headed 180 degrees from their original path (SW). This took some time...

Date: 01 MAY 03
Time: 0032
Location: Near Bryn Mawr Hospital

They crossed the trolley tracks near a substation, and went perhaps four blocks until they crossed a second set of trolley tracks. The trio picked it's way across a garbage-strewn parking lot, where the old Bryn Mawr Hospital once stood. Now it was just a burned out shell. Sherman's radio crackled, somewhat distorted, but he just barely could make out that the Bryn Mawr College MPs were calling in their status reports as they made their hourly rounds. And that apparently, someone had sabotaged vehicles in the motor pool...

"Looks the're on to us. They'll soon figure out who did it."

Time: 0104
Location: College Ave.

The group pressed onward, until finally, Hannah stopped for a moment, looked thoughtful, and said, "College Ave. should be right here. If I'm right, we continue on that until we reach Darby Rd. And Darby road leads right around the edge of the State Hospital..."

The group continued more or less on a SW course, sticking to the deserted neighborhoods along College Ave.

Time: 0132
Location: Darby Rd, 200m W of intersection w/ College Ave

Looking south, the group saw light coming from the hill, and large, bleak brick buildings silhouetted in the background -- Haverford State Hospital. The grounds would dwarf those of Bryn Mawr College. They are perhaps 2 km long by 1 km wide.

The structures in this area seemed to be in abit better shape than the neighborhoods the group just exited. The group continued, Sherman at point, Hannah in the middle, and Pvt. Franks in Tail-End-Charlie. Hannah was about to say something to Sherman, when four men suddenly appeared from the shadows, pointing muzzles of their rifles at the party. All were dressed shabbily in civilian clothes.

Darby road ran west-east at this point. Two persons were to Sherman's left, and right, respectively. A third person was to Hannah's right. And a fourth person was to Franks' left and behind. Two of the people had rifles covering the group from Bryn Mawr. The other two had rifles actually touching Sherman and Hannah, respectively. And Franks was just a little too far back for either of his compnions to see his exact predicament.

The grounds of Haverford State Hospital WERE the south part of Darby Rd at this point. Except that a 10' high, old, wrought iron fence was set into squat brick pillars every 10 meters or so. The lights that the group saw were huge bonfires, up the hill, closer to the main cluster of buildings...

The armed group did not look peaceful. So Sherman, Hannah, and Franks stopped. In fact, Sherman heard the man click off the safefy of the M16 which was currently jammed into Sherman's belly. The remainder of the band seemed to have civilian weapons.

Hannah flinched when the weapon pokeed into her side and let out a small gasp. Turning her head she looked at the man to her right. She quickly looked ahead and sees Sherman being similiarly accosted. She looked back at the man beside her. "Thank god we found you! We have urgent news for the hospital. They can't be far behind us now."

[Mr. M-16](NPC)
"Shut yer hole, points. That's where you're goin' alright..."

Hannah started to say something, but caught Sherman's warning glance, and subsided reluctantly.

Raising his hands in the air, Sherman spoke in a slow and relaxed manner. "Okay everyone, just stay calm and do as these folks want."

Sherman turned his head to Hannah then Franks so that they follow his lead. His mind racing, Sherman tried to ascertain which of the assailants could be the leader. He guessed the fellow with the M16. Sherman addressed him directly.

"We don't want any trouble. My name is John, that's Hannah and Robert. We've come from Bryn Mawr College. Could we speak to whoever is in charge?"

[Mr. M-16]
The leader spoke to everyone, but focused mainly to Sherman: "OK -- now git down offa them horses, REAL slow... Don't try anythin', cos I'm real revved up on caffeine now, and I'd hate ta rip a clip in your belly..."

Franks slowly got down off his horse, and looked very disappointed. One of the men took Franks' M-16.

Hannah took the reins and handed them towards the man holding the weapon on her. "Please hold Dancer's head. She gets skittish sometimes" Hannah flipped the reins at him, and dismounted in one smooth motion. She took advantage of the man's momentary hesitation, and tried to fish her pistol out from the poncho in front of her and transfer it to her waistband. Hannah thought, "Since you always mount/dismount a horse from the left side, and as the man is on the right, I might have a good chance at getting away with this deception. Particuliarly with the reins being tossed more or less in the man's face."

[Mr. Shotgun](another NPC)
"Ozzy, the chick said something about people not being far behind them. I think that they've been followed."

"Yeah, or these dunks are their eyes and ears. Hammond, ring the Director and tell him we have 3 prisoners from Bryn Mawr College, and company comin' after 'em..."

A man went back behind a low wall, really just a pile of rubble, and called someone on a field telephone.

Hannah moved up beside Sherman. "If this is the welcoming committee I can only imagine their glee club..."

Quietly to Hannah. "Yeah, we're getting the real red carpet treatment." Then to Mr M-16 (Ozzy?). "Tell the Director that we've come to warn you. Your going to be attacked soon by the guard forces at Bryn Mawr College."

Hannah walked closer to Sherman, and gave him a hug with her back away from the security patrol. "Oh John! I'm so worried!" As Sherman instinctively put his arms around her, Hannah quickly took his hand and placed it over a hard lump in the waistband of her pants in the small of her back and left it there. She whispered in his ear "A little insurance policy if the need arises". She then pulled away from him, but kept his right hand resting on the small of her back.

"Hey, big guy, just lemme know when it's MY turn with 'er!"

While waiting for the NPC on the field telephone to reply with an answer. Sherman asked Ozzy.

"You mentioned caffeine. You wouldn't have a spare cup of coffee?"

Covering the group with the M16, Ozzy smirked and then spoke. "What are you, kidding? There's water and a ladle over there in the rain barrel. Go get some if you want, but don't try anything, see. Cos I'd love to blow someone away tonite..."

Going over to the barrel, Sherman gulped down a ladle full of water and offered another to Hannah and Franks. After quenching his thirst, he continued talking to Ozzy.

"You just might get your chance to do some shooting tonight. But it won't be us you shoot, and the people you'll be shooting will be shooting back. Like I said, we've come to warn you that the garrison at Bryn Mawr is planning to attack this place."

Glancing over at the man on the field telephone. "There isn't much time. Take us to the director."

"Please listen to us! Do we look like an invasion force? Or even the scouts for one? We've come to give you warning and help you. Just pass us along to the director. Surely you can see the sense in that?" Hannah pleaded with the men while remaining close enough to Sherman that he could retrieve the pistol if necessary.

[Field phone guy]
The man returned from the field telephone, and said, "Director's comin' down, pronto. Said to frisk em all, especially the girl. And to strip search her..."

"Yeah, right. Idiot, what did he REALLY say?"

[phone guy]
"Awrite... He said hold them, but don't kill 'em... and to, ah, leave the girl and the cute young man alone. He'll be right down."

Turning to the group. "Sorry, folks, this IS a State Hospital. We just hafta be careful..." Then to his mates. "Well, look sharp, punks. Director's coming. Keep your hands off each other, and keep your eyes peeled for those people from Bryn Mawr.

A jeep roared in the distance, and came barrelling down the hill. A middle aged man in a sweatsuit hopped out, and waddled over to the group. He held a mug of steaming coffee in his hand. Smelled like REAL coffee, too... A large revolver was strapped to his pudgy waist. Two ape-ish men covered him with M16s.

The man spoke with the accent of an Afrikaaner. "Hello, my name is Johannes Marcus. What brings you people to my hospital so late at night?..."

"Sir. My name is John, John Sherman and these are my friends Hannah Mordecai and Robert Franks. As we've already told your sentries. The hospital is going to be attacked by the garrison from Bryn Mawr Campus. I don't know the specific details of the plan. Only that they should attack sometime this morning."

Sherman has an odd thought -- something on the order of a plot for a modern horror novel, where the employees of a mental hospital kidnap people and....

Finally he glances over to Hannah's waist and judges the distance to the hidden pistol should he need it.

Sherman gets ahold of himself, as he remembers his earlier conversation with Hannah. Haverford State Hospital, Hannah told everyone earlier, was a facility for people with mental illness and/or mental retardation. Throw in some sex offenders, criminals, people milking the system, and a few "borderline" people who fall through the cracks in the system elsewhere, and so on.

Care for these unfortunate individuals entered a state of decline by 2001, and health care for such persons was roughly what it was for the "general population" of the US back at the turn of the century. That is, in GENERAL terms; better and worse situations DO still exist in 2003, everything from integrating the people back into families or extended families, all the way down to "warehousing" people, chained to the walls, naked, living in their own filth, and "snowed" into submission with drugs.

Haverford more or less went the way of Bryn Mawr College -- the facilities survived the inital unrest, so then they became isolationist communities unto themselves. One word that conveyed the situation was "Cantonments" -- isolated, self-sufficient communities. Most everything one would need as far as support services would be there -- cafeterias, laundry, steam plant, housing, medical facilities, security. The College and Hospital both existed, operating at greatly reduced capacity, and both had a quasi-military group around for security.

[Director Marcus]
Well, John Sherman, if you are indeed from Bryn Mawr College, perhaps you could tell me why Major Martigan wishes to attack my facilities? Before the intervening districts became so, ah, "difficult", we treated soldiers from the Police unit here in our infirmary. And last winter, even though your own situation was "intense", you sent us some of your excess military equipment with which to protect ourselves. Martigan, He was a reasonable man, the two, or was it three, times we met. Perhaps we could come to a non-violent agreement?"

"Director Marcus, you obviously don't know. Jack...Major Martigan died of cholera a few months back."

Sherman cast a sad glance at Hannah.

"The new commander is Captain Ralston. I don't think you'll be able to come to any agreement with him. He will attack your hospital sometime this morning. Ralston is a premium SOB, Mr Marcus. My friends and I took a great risk to warn you. If Ralston see's us again he'll have us shot as deserters. You can try talking with him but at least boost your defences, he can be very unpredictable."

Or drunk, thought Sherman.

[Dir. Marcus]
"I had no idea. You must have been friends... I am truly sorry about your loss, John."

Marcus projected the air of great intelligence, and genuine concern. The situation rapidly crystallized, and he paused a few moments in thought...

"It is unfortunate that this Ralston is as you have said. We must prepare for the inevitable. Now, think carefully, all of you... what can you tell me of the forces at Bryn Mawr?"

At the mention of Martigan, Hannah steps slightly away from Sherman and turns to her horse. She begins fiddling unnecessarily with the saddle, and moves things around.

Realising now for the first time what the results of his desertion from his unit could mean to the men and women he served with for the past four years.

"Mr. Marcus, you must understand. I'm no Benadict Arnold. I will not betray the details of my comrades to you. Most of 'em are good people just obeying orders. I came here to warn you against Ralston."

Sherman's sense of loyalty and honour was torn between betraying his unit or upholding his oath to protect the innocent.

"I think I was wrong Mr Marcus. All this is a mistake. I should have confronted the Captain. I should have done something before things went this far."

Sherman looked at the young faces of Hannah and Robert.

"Now I've dragged you two into this mess as well....."

Sherman felt completely at a loss. He had let everyone down. His unit, Hannah and most importantly Jack Martigan.

Date: 01 MAY 03
Time: 0137
Place: Darby Rd, 200m W of intersection w/College Ave.
People: Sherman / Hannah / Franks (NPC) / numerous other NPC's.

Franks looked as if he wanted to say something, but his response was cut short by the "bloop" of several grenade launchers in the distance. Seconds later, a series of explosions rippled through the perimeter of the compound.

Men and women scurried for cover, while a few scanned the exterior blackness for targets. A few people shot into the darkness, but no targets were readily visible.

"It would appear that your former comrades have made your decision for you". Marcus looked around, then spoke. "I am certain that the incoming shrapnel or zinging bullets would love to debate your moral-ethical dilemma with you, but at this point, isn't the question moot? Join us, and you'll be free to go should we get out of this infernal mess. What say you?"

Franks looked to Sherman, slowly shaking his head "yes".

With grenades dropping around him and bullets zinging by, Sherman resigned himself to his fate.

"My choice has already been made Mr Marcus."

Without waiting for an answer Sherman speaks to his two friends.

"Hannah, take the horses to cover. Robert, do you still have that M79 and those flares?"

"Yeah, Sarge..."

Hannah finishes gathering the reins of Sherman's and Frank's horses and vaults into the saddle of her mount. She begins to gallop them all towards the Garage where Marcus indicated.

As more grenades popped along the permimeter, Sherman explained to Franks what he wanted. Director Marcus shouted a few words to one of the guards, and he returned Frank's M16, and Sherman's shotgun, to their respective owners.

Franks took aim at an area that he supposed the attackers were located. The grenade went left 6 m from where Franks intended it. The flare popped. These parachute flares typically would provide illumination in a 100 m area for 1 minute...

Which was somewhat of a lucky event, as a small group of black-clad figures could be seen crawling on the ground now, dragging a long tube, perhaps a recoilless rifle? They were more or less right smack in the middle of the illuminated area. The men in the nearby guardpost shifted their fire, and now it was their turn to "light 'em up"...

The Haverford guards fired wildly, mostly with civilian rifles. Ozzy, the nasty-tempered guy with the M16 seemed to know how to use the rifle, and fired short bursts into the group of attackers... Generally, the fire was wild, yet several of the guards would certainly be arguing later about who got the most kills...

There was return fire from 3 different points. Two of the Haverford men were hit, and lay on the ground, to brag no more...

The Haverford men crouched down abit lower and weren't so bold when their fellows were hit...

"Okay, Franks illuminate that area again..." Pointing to the closest guard post, he said, "...and fire another flare in front of that guard post."

While waiting for Franks to fire a flare, Sherman wondered if the tube was an RR, maybe even an old bazooka. Or it could be a demolition device. What were they called, torpedoes or something? Looking over the Haverford men, Sherman stops at Ozzy. He seems to know what he's doing.

"Ozzy keep your eye on that long tube. I think they'll try and get it again. The rest of you only shoot if Ozzy is. Don't waste your ammo."

The man appeared to be having the time of his life, mowing down attackers as they scrambled for cover. There were two ill-fated attempts by the attackers to regain the tube, whatever it was. Both failed...

Sherman continued to think about the tube. "Bangalore! That's it", thinks Sherman. "Bangalore torpedo... Wonder why they called it that?"

Looking over the guard post wall, Sherman scanned the perimeter in front. Apparently, the attackers were working in teams of 3-4 each. All together, there were perhaps 30 attackers. Very few heavy weapons were sighted. In wondering about the identity of the attackers, Sherman could think of nothing that the MP platoon had that was heavier than an M79 / M203 grenade launcher. That would seem to fit with the nature of this attack. As rapidly as the assault began, it was over. Individually, Sherman and Hannah regrettably thought that it was only a series of probes...

Sherman relaxed once the raiders withdrew. He had only one thought on his mind. To no one in particular he asked "Who were they?"

"Weren't they the dudes from Bryn Mawr?

Sherman considered the response for a moment. Sherman was intrigued to find out what the tube was. "We should go out and look for any wounded, as well as see what those tubes are."

"Tell ya what -- YOU go out and check stuff... I've got your six!" Ozzy gyrated his hips in a perverted maneuver, and the group from Haverford laughed sporadically.

"Enough, gentlemen. I can't help but think that this is a diversion. Do you recognize the men's uniforms, Sherman?"

"No I don't, Director. I'm pretty sure they are not from the college. I suggest we send out an armed recce to sweep the forward perimeter. If that was a diversion or just a probe they have a pretty good idea where your guard posts are located and that you lack heavy weapons. We need to know who they are and what they're up to. I'm willing to go and find out."

The Director continued in the strange accent of an Afrikaaner. "Verywell, if you will, go and see if you can learn anything about the attackers. Just be careful, and come back alive. We need all the help we can get..."

"Hey Sarge, I'll go with you. Always better to have a second gun around, just in case."

Sherman and Franks quickly prepared for the patrol. They removed much of their equipment, save for a few grenades and their ammo pouches. They arranged a recognition code with the guards at the Darby Road guardpost, and headed out...


Date: 01 MAY 03
Time: 0137
Place: Haverford Hospital garage
People: Hannah

The horses, being trained for recreational riding with preppy co-eds, were a bit of an armful for Hannah when the shooting started. Her own mount reared violently, and nearly threw her twice until she got it under control. A mere 50m from the guard post was the building Marcus had indicated, and Hannah headed there.

The building was a brick, 4-bay garage. The building was windowless, but one of the doors was open. Outside, a barrel flamed with scraps of wood, which cast a little light and heat toward the building. Inside, a smallish, skinny boy hobbled around on crutches, talking softly to the 5 horses that were already stabled there, trying to comfort them. His legs weren't broken, exactly, but rather they were in heavy braces. Despite the weight of the braces, he was able to move around fairly well. There was a water trough and plenty of hay for the horses inside.

[Boy] "My name's Ronny. Wow, you're pretty! Hey, I don't remember seeing you before. Where'd you get those horses?"

Hannah jumped off her mount. "Hi, Ronny. I'm Hannah. Want to help me tie these horses up?"

Ronny approached the young lady, and he and Hannah began to quickly tie the reins near the water trough. When she finished, she glanced around and found the safest corner of the building to shield her and Ronny from errant rounds. She moved to that corner and sat down.

"Why don't you come over here and I'll tell you a story about a little boy a lot like you named Erat."

Ronny slowly but steadily approached. "Erat? What kindof name is that? Or is this one of those stories like the movie "The Neverending Story"?

Date: 01 MAY 03
Time: 0137
Place:Darby Rd, 200m W of intersection w/College Ave.
People: Sherman / Franks(NPC) /Dir.Marcus(NPC) / numerous other NPC's.

"Enough, gentlemen. I can't help but think that this is a diversion. Do you recognize the men's uniforms, Sherman?"

"No I don't Director. I'm pretty sure they are not from the college. I suggest we send out an armed recce to sweep the forward perimeter. If that was a diversion or just a probe they have a pretty good idea where your guard posts are located and that you lack heavy weapons. We need to know who they are and what they're up to. I'm willing to go and find out."

The Director continued in the strange accent of an Afrikaaner. "Verywell, if you will, go and see if you can learn anything about the attackers. Just be careful, and come back alive. We need all the help we can get..."

"Hey Sarge, I'll go with you. Always better to have a second gun around, just in case....."

I hate when that happens?!?

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