01 MAY 03/0629
While Sean and the military-types were getting aquainted, a rumbling could be heard around the corner, and suddenly a APC and a HUMVEE sped into view. Several (10+) soldiers disembarked, and fanned out in a defensive semi circle around the scene. It was Shadow, and his Band of Merry Men...
A man, Captain's bars on his helmet, came forward. He grinned and saluted LT1 Jones, and eyed the civilian, Sean.
The man faced Sean. "Sir, I'm CPT Ryan Tyler, US Army, and I'm asking that you come with us. You are in great danger here. This area hasn't been secured. You won't be harmed. Just listen to what we say..."
Apparently, the smaller group of soldiers is part of the larger group of soldiers' unit.
"I trust all went well?"
"Some resistance in the church. Harper blooped 'em... Probably local bandits, I'd guess. Town's deserted."
[Tyler] "Well, let's not overstay our welcome. MR McCain, if you're feeling fit, could you fill me in on the town of Lewisburg? Points of interest, or anything else relevant."
McCain is able to, and does so....
"Well, that's where we're heading. We're attempting a linkup with another unit. Hopefully they're friendly", said Tyler sarcastically.
"Capt. I would be happy to join up with you and your men...Just give me a few mins. to gather up my gear." Without waiting for an answer sean turned and trotted back to the mill with Guiness on his heel. On the way back to the group Sean stopped to check the bodies for anything of use. (Especially .45 and 30-30 ammo) Sean uprighted his bike and packed all the gear in it. Guiness wagged his tail and hopped into the sidecar. "OK Capt. anytime your ready!"
01 MAY 03/0633
Tyler snapped his fingers, and gestured to his men with his chin. Two uniformed guys with M16s peeled off from the perimeter and went with Sean. "You have two minutes, Mister."
On the way back to the group Sean stopped to check the bodies for anything of use. (Especially .45 and 30-30 ammo)
These raiders must have travelled light. Their clothes were scroungy, smelled of BO and booze, and they had very little of value. The soldiers waved Sean off, warning him, "no looting, Mr.", but Sean was able to snag a box with 13 rnds of 30-30 ammo in it.
Sean uprighted his bike and packed all the gear in it. Guiness wagged his tail and hopped into the sidecar. "OK, Capt... anytime you're ready!"
The man smiled, perhaps in recognition of the big man's accent. "We're heading north into the town of Lewisburg. There are friendly forces there. Stay on RT 15, and it's 25 klicks, aw, about 13 miles north of here. The HUMVEE, this car, will lead. You follow the HUMVEE. The M163, the Personell Carrier, will bring up the lead. We run into any trouble, get off the road and keep down. Listen to what any of my men tell you what to do -- it could save your hide. Questions?..."
"OK. Then let's saddle up. We should hit Lewisburg in 20 minutes or so..." Tyler took a minute to discuss some things with the man who ID'd himself as LT Jones, earlier...
"Yes sir! But as far as getting down...I believe the extra firepower would be of more value to ya then my saftey...I um...(looking distastfully towards the bodies he left in hs wake) have had some experience in such matters."
You got that right Sean, we don't want to end up like those guys or the pizza man back there.
"Pizza Man...what are you talking about? I got here in the dark and set up in here last night...these guys attacked this morning so I didn't have a chance to look around."
[McCain]v "Back at the Pizza Place in town, the proprieter was robbed and killed. Looked like he had been there several days."
Sean shook his head slowly and sighed as he looked up at the sky for a moment, "Death is all around us lads...at every bend and curve...and the worse thing is there is no clear cut foe to be identified. Caution is definetly the word of the times!" Sean mounted his Harley and over the roar of the engine he shouted, 'Shall we be off then?"
"I appreciate your willingness to help, but the best way to avoid stopping one is to keep your ass down." He gestured toward the HUMVEE and the M163.
"The guns on these two vehicles alone are gonna pour out around 50-70 rounds in the time you rack off 3 shots on your 30-30. Then there are 7 guys here with M16s, each spouting 15 or more rounds rounds in that time. That's 105 more. Then when Sneed cuts loose with the M249, that automatic rifle over there, brrrt! that's another 50 rounds for good measure. So these guys are gonna shred whatever's out there with better than 200 rounds in the first five seconds..."
The Captain eyed Sean up and down.
"Sir, I'm glad we could help you, and again I appreciate your wanting to help, but when the shit starts flying, find a ditch and let my men do their jobs... Respectfully, sir, save your 30-30 for a nice deer." With that the Captain turned and went to another trooper, who offered him a radio headset.
"Your the boss Cap!" Sean said with a half assed (but not disrespectful) salute.
The Captain was already aboard the M163. The boxy vehicle revved it's engine, and a large, older man with SGT's "bars and rockers" looked around, counted assholes, and pounded on the armored side of the vehicle. The M163 lurched ahead, and the HUMVEE pulled into the lead, both of them heading north.
The little convoy of HUMVEE, Harley with sidecar, and M163 rumbled up RT 15, past Hummel's Wharf, through a pass, and then onto a steady incline. The HUMVEE pulled substantially into the lead, while the Harley and the M163 brought up the rear.
There were perhaps a dozen or more sites from which an ambush could have been launched. Tyler knew this. Ordinarily, he would advance by bounding overwatch, leapfroggin, if you would. He was trusting the intel he had gotten from these guys in the 3/103rd was on the level. Tyler was not one for trusting anyone, correct codes or no codes. Shit, faulty Intel was a major factor why they were here, driving north on RT 15 in US Army vehicles they had "liberated" from a mixed bag of mutineers and rebellious civilians. Tyler thought of the rest of Aviation Brigade, and wondered how many of them might have made it to the comfort of Pittsburgh...
01 MAY 03/0705
The convoy continued north, over a substantial hill at Winfield, and then over another gradual hill. Their destination, so it would seem, was a fenced-in compound near the summit of the hill.
Tim remembered the spot quite well. They were about to enter Lewisburg. The most memorable 2 things about pre-war Lewisburg were the Bucknell college babes, and the 3-4 good restaurants in town to take them to. Tim doubted if either still remained.
The convoy slowed as it reached the top of the hill. The compound was on the right, and seemed to be a motley collection of tents, and a few sandbag-reinforced buildings. A 2-story log barn was set off the road, a little down the hill, and there were sandbagged rifle pits here and there. A few of the Amish, the "plain people" from the movie "The Witness" could be seen, carrying lumber to the barn, their kids feeding chickens, two older men hitching up a team. Sean and Tim both spied the American Flag on the pole, and beneath it another, less familiar banner. An from somewhere, that scent, THE SCENT that signaled morning was here, and people were up and moving. COFFEE!
Captain Tyler, and LT Jones, his second in command, got out of their vehicles, saluted the guard and entered the compound. The other men in their unit waited at their vehicles. Men in the rifle pits, a mere 40 meters away, eyed Tyler's men suspiciously. And the same went for the APC and HUMVEE. Some of Tyler's men took a more relaxed posture, not wanting to start anything. But the men on the vehicles' MGs held fast at their weapons. Not threatening, but ready. Thankfully, before long, Tyler returned, albeit without Jones.
"Men, I have an order for you. Lay down your arms, and go with this SGT. Leave it all, and I mean IT ALL in the vehicles."
Some of Tyler's troops eyed him in disbelief, but this was Tyler talking. They obeyed. Within a second or two, all had complied. A SGT in a Canadian, (perhaps?) uniform, along with two men in hunting clothes, armed with bolt action rifles, led the 7 men of Tyler's squad into the compound. They disappeared into a large tent.
Tyler turned to the civilians he was more-or-less responsible for. "MR Slade, MR McCain, MR Cunningham, I cannot give you an order, but I have a strong request for you. Lay down your weapons, and come with me into the compound. If you have any forms of ID, then I will need that as well. No harm will come to you if you cooperate."
Tim and Sean both noticed that Tyler still had a pistol strapped to his belt, and also, he had some variant of an MP5 SMG, slung over his arm. One with a thick suppressor on it...
"Nothing personal Cpt, but this Tommy here means more to me than most people. It's not the weapon itself but what and who it represents. I just can't leave her here like a bail of wire, who knows what will happen to her."
Tyler eyed the antique weapon. "I understand completely. I couldn't expect you to ditch a 70-year-old lady just like that. Give her to me, and nothing will happen to her. You have my word on that."
Tyler outstretched his hand. McCain had only known him for a couple of days, but Tyler had always seemed like a man of his word. If he was up to something, he probably could've had McCain and Slade killed very easily back after the firefight.
Very well Cpt. So far you have been a man of your word...just don't let any of the pimple faced kids get their hands on her, probably take her out for a joy ride...these guys...McCain hands over the Tommy to the Capt.
Sean handed over his press pass and looked at Tyler. 'Meanin no disrespect to ya cap...but I didn't surive the streets of Dublin growin up, and continue to survive reporting this damn war by being foolish. If you were the father Hisself asking me to surrender my piece I would have to ask ya why...so why?"
"Meaning no disrespect to *you*, MR Cunningham, but the CO of this post, who has graciously not shot us to pieces, wants to verify everyone's IDs. He is loyal to the US Government, the Constitution, and the State of PA. He likewise is my superior officer, and I will obey his orders."
Tyler stared at Sean, through cold, narrow eyes, letting the words sink in. v "Something to think about before you let your temper rule your actions, MR Cunningham. Are you a US Citizen?..."
"Trust me when I tell ya Cap...my temper has yet to come into play. As far as my citizenship...yes I am, naturalized. Why... were ya going to deport me Cap?" Sean chuckled quietly as he lit a cigarette. "I am more then happy to wait right here and excersise my right as a citizen to bear arms, while the CO checks me out..." Sean looked around at the armed men, "and all these men..." as he waved his arm at the soldiers "can ensure that me and my 20 rds don't attack!" Sean took a breath "Look cap...I don't want any trouble, and I'm as anxious as anyone to get a cup of that fresh coffee..." he smelled the air "but I ain't giving up my weapons!"
[Tyler] "MR Cunningham, this is the policy. When your credentials clear, I'm sure the CO would be grateful to have another trigger around." Seeing he was getting nowhere, he turned to the head of the guard detachment, but never quite took his eyes off of the big Irishman.
Stone-seriously Shadow snapped, "SGT, take this man's weapon, and place him under arrest. If he resists, shoot him..."
Tyler turned on his heel, and walked through the gates into the compound.
A few of the men at the guardhouse straightened, waiting for the showdown to turn into a conflict.
The accent was not quite Irish or Scottish. Somewhere between the two. He had an L85 rifle slung lazily, pointing muzzle down to the earth. The arched tab on his shoulder read "Canada".
"C'mon laddie. Now that you and this Captain have traded clawmarks, why don't ya be lettin' me have the pistol, now. They just wanna check you out for bugs, bombs, and such. C'mon, we'll go get that cup-o coffee..."
Sean looked hard at the Tyler..."You'd be doing me a favor!" Sean handed the pistol butt first to the Sgt. and motioned to the 30-30 wedged between the bike and the sidecar. "Hey Sgt...I have a touch of Mr. Walkers finest to sweeten that coffee....by the way...have ya ever seen the Outlaw Josie Wales?"
Royce smiled at Sean as he accepted the classic .45 Colt. "Of course! It's a great movie. A true classic." Royce eyed Guiness. "JeezuzGawd! That's a big dog. A Rottie, right?" Royce patted Guiness on the head, and found "that spot" behind his ears. Guiness loved it. "That arsehole Captain ought to have worried about this dog, not you! What's his name? Ah Guiness. Of Course! Hey, I'm on duty now, but I'd love a taste of that JW later..."
Royce, a rather fit man in his 40s-50s, continued babbling about whiskey, cowboy movies, dogs, Whiskey, coffee, deer hunting, whiskey, and 50 other subjects, while two younger men frisked Sean, and a third glanced in the sidecar. The guy who examined the sidecar must not have been a dog lover, and let his 5 second long search suffice.
Royce led Sean and Tim into the compound.
01 MAY 03/0715
They passed the guardhouse, a pillbox made from concrete highway dividers, and then a cannon, (from the looks of it, a Civil War-era fieldpiece of about 60-75mm). Next there were two "buildings", actually a step van up on blocks, and a semi-trailer. Both were sandbagged, and had crude steps up to their doors. An American flag was in a ring of smooth river rocks, and then several tents, some Army, some civilian/camping tents.
There were people bustling about, a couple of HUMVEEs and an APC, and a few more vehicles down the hill by the barn. And hammering, down the hill. And smells -- coffee, a nearby latrine, and something else, dead, or rotting... but that smell came and went. A few more of the tent/shacks were reinforced with sandbags, but before either Tim or Sean could see much more, Royce led them into a large tent. The Mess Tent.
Royce motioned Tim and Sean to sit in an empty corner of the tent. There was a table made out of a crate, and two chairs. And a "brain teaser" puzzle, like some restaurants have to help you pass the time. ("jump these pegs, leaving as few as possible. 1 left=champ, 2 left=chump, 3 or more left=chimp...")
Two young men, 18-20 at the most, were detailed to guard them, along with a woman of about 30. They were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, poorly dyed to a greenish hue. One guy carried a double barreled shotgun, the other a bolt action rifle. It looked like a .22LR. Well, maybe a .22 Magnum. They looked pretty scared, until Royce rejoined the group, offering Tim and Sean each a steaming mug of Joe. The woman, kindof attractive except for the burns on one side of her face, had a Bowie knife in her belt, and a LARGE automatic in a holster on her curvy hip. Royce checked both of the guards' weapons, and gently pointed the muzzles away from the "prisoners" or anyone else.
"Welcome. To the... the mess tent!" He laughed abit, and again reassured the "captives".
Some families were here, finishing eating breakfast. The men of Tyler's squad were seated together, off to the side. Some were laying down on the benches, snoozing. Another 3 played cards. Others were wolfing through bowls of oatmeal, and draining mugs of hot, dark, REAL coffee. None had weapons, or seemed to care, much.
An officer was giving some kind of pep talk to a bunch of men and women crammed in towards the other end of the mess tent. Soon, most of that group left, and a few officers and NCOs stayed behind, asking questions. The officer was informally dressed in jeans and a long leather duster. The fatigue hat on his head bore the silver leaf of a LT COL. After he finished with the officers and NCOs, he made a stop at the coffee urn, turned, looked at Sean and Tim, and left without saying anything. A large man with a shaven head and a Fu Manchu moustache, followed on the LT COL's heels. The man was big, mean looking, and armed with an MP5K, which he kept slung across his ample middle.
Soon, a very round older woman, dressed in a plain, dark blue dress, approached the men with a tray. On it were two large bowls of oatmeal, and a few slices of bread. She put this on the little table. She smiled, and left, humming.
"Don't get too antsy, fellows. It might be awhile till things check out. But for the time being, you're confined to the mess tent. If you need to, the latrine's right out back. One of your guards will be with you at all times."
Soon, people had filed out of the mess tent. This left Tim, Sean, the three guards, and the fat lady, humming some gospelly-sounding tune...
Petey Slade is with Tim and Sean in the mess tent. He's ticked off at the situation. Or is that a look of worry...
Guiness can be heard running around outside in the compound, barking, chasing cats, eating... what the hell IS that in your mouth, boy?
The large humming woman won't let Guiness in the Mess Tent, and chases him away with a broom. Guiness gets the hint, and goes back to chasing cats.
"That's fine by me. I can hold out here as long as there is real coffee."
"Don't worry Sean, been through this before with another unit. They can't be too careful these days. You don't know the bad guys from the good guys no more."
Sean looked at the guards standing infront of them. "How ya doing?" he asked with a smile. He slid the oatmeal away from himself, "I'm not real hungry right now...but thanks for the hospitalty, if any of you would like this please help your self." Sean sipped his coffee and casually looked around.
"Ma'm could I get a bowl of water for my friend? I will set it otside for him."
[Fat Lady](dressed rather plainly, mostly dark blue / black. simple apron at waist)
"Yes, son. I'll git ya one fer da dog, thurr wunst..."
Sean set the bowl of water just outside the tent...and called Guiness over. He will also give the BFD the bread from his plate. "Hear ya go boy." Sean lowered his voice, "Stay close old friend...yer the only one I trust right now!" Sean scratched the dogs ears and went back to the table.
"I know Mr. McCain...but it does't mean I have to like it! And have you ever seen the Outlaw Josie Wales? Rem what the Red Legs do at the surrender...well enough said. McCain huh??? Sounds like your kin and I may have been neighbors at one time."
Probably so, Sean. You can look back in the family photo album for generations and not find a photo of the McCain men without a bottle of whiskey in their hands. The potato famine drove my ancestors here. What's your story?
After Sean gave Guiness some bread, and offered his oatmeal to anyone, Guiness exited, presumably to relieve himself. There was much barking, growling, etc. Sean's attempts to call the BFD were unheeded.
Soon, a soldier came in to let Sean know his dog was chained down by the barn. Lucky for him, cos someone'd probably shoot him after much more of this. The dog is fine, and is chewing on one of those "pig's ear" toys...
Since the side flaps were up, Sean and Tim noticed many other dogs and cats around the mess tent and surround other tents.
Tim and Sean, relatively new aquaintances, discussed their pasts.
"My story is a long one lad!" Sean reached into his bag and pulled out the bottle of Johnny Walker, "Care for a touch to make the coffee sweeter?" Sean poured an ample shot into his coffee and slid the bottle toward McCain. After McCain excepted or declined he also offered the bottle to Petey and his "captors". Sean took a sip of his spiked coffee "Ahhhh...just right! As far as my story Tim...I can call you Tim can't I...well anyhow...I grew up in Dublin, My Da was a corespondent during Vietnam and I got bit by the media bug at a young age. When I was old enough he sent me to the states to learn the trade...infact right here to PA...Penn State to be exact. After graduating I bummed around a bit, went back to Ireland, and wrote for an Irish Newspaper. I got married and..." The big Irishman's grin disapeared as he took a swig straight from the bottle, "and my lass and baby boy were killed. Nothing was left for me in Ireland so I came back here to work for UPI when this Damn mess broke out!" And that, my good man, in a nut shell; is my life." Sean stared into his coffee cup for a several moments. "So what about you Tim lad...what brings you to this particular moment in time?" Sean lit a cigarette and listened intently.
Just born at the wrong time is all I can figure. Had a great job with the Forest Service...a great office with a wonderful view. Then things got topsy turvey. I'm gonna grab some more coffee, I wonder how much longer we will have to wait.
01 MAY 03/0900
The well-muscled black man that had been in and out of the mess tent no less than 6 times in the last hour and a half, returned. He was dressed in tiger stripe fatigues, and his name tape bore the name "EVERETT". He wore the silver leaves of a major on his collar...
Everett snapped his fingers, pointed at one of the three new men, and the three guards took Petey Slade away. Not roughly, mind you. But Petey looked as white as a sheet, and guilty as hell about something when they led him away. The guards bugged out of the tent like they definately did not want to stay for what would come...
"MR MC CAIN, your ID checks out fine. Welcome to the 3/103rd's little slice of friggin' heaven."
Everett smugly paid McCain no more attention.
"MR CUNNINGHAM, if you can answer me one question, I'll believe you are who you say you are, and not some damned IRA mad bomber just looking for a free lunch. So, for the game and match, tell me who your executive producer at CNN was during the short time you reported on the Battle of Gettysburg. Answer correctly, and you're welcome to stay. Lie to me, or answer incorrectly, and I'll strap you to a tree for bear bait on Jack's Mountain." Everett smiled a nasty smile with his perfect teeth. "Yes, I did happen to see the broadcast, and yes, a big ape like me can have a friggin' photographic memory, so answer carefully..."
The mess tent cleared out very rapidly.
[Sean] Sean knew the answer to that nearly as well as he knew his own name. Jack D'Angelo was the CNN exec-prick-ducer that pulled Sean off of what would have been the biggest story of his career. The 2nd Battle of Gettysburg was big news, easily overshadowing the boring Airwar over China, or the Food Riots in the Ukraine. It might've even been the biggest story of the whole lousy war, what with most everyone in the USA at least hearing of the 1st Battle of Gettysburg. But according to CNN, Sean's image was wrong, and they just didn't like the "angle" Sean was giving on the FS thrust running out of steam in South Central PA. So they canned Sean, and plugged in Spencer Clark. Clark looked better in a bulletproof vest and helmet, anyway...
Sean looked Everett dead in the eye, and said the name, "Jack D'Angelo. Is he here? It's been a long time. I'd like to kill him..."
"Well, you win! Congrats."
Then Everett addressed both men, but like they weren't in the room. It was wierd to say the least. "The Colonel will be by shortly to accept your loyalty statements. Oh, and before you ask, no, there is no alternative. You must swear loyalty to the Legally Elected President of the US, swear to protect and uphold the US Constitution, and to obey your superior officers who are loyal to the precepts of the US of A, and all that rot, ad infinitum..."
He continued. "Everybody takes the oath, from the Colonel, right on down to the lowest snot-nosed private, to every civilian man and woman above the age of 15. You wanna eat, you gotta work or otherwise contribute. It's that simple. Oh, and one more thing..." Again he smiled that coldly intelligent, I-got-you-by-the-short-ones smile, and said, "If you're thinking of 'going over the wall', don't... you'll be caught. And I'm sure I don't hafta say a word about what will happen to ya next, right?"
"So, sit tight. A schoolteacher-turned-soldier named Berger...", he sneered as he said the name, "... will find you to indoctrinate you. You're stuff is in the large tent near the commo shack. That's the tent with the big-assed antenna sprouting outta da roof. Don't mess with other people's stuff. You'll be bunking with some other folks. Stealing is a shooting offense, and we really don't need to burn more rounds than we have to. Go get settled in, and by that time SGT Berger will probably be by. That is all..."
Everett no sooner pronounced the last word than he left the Mess Tent.
The Colonel entered as Everett left. "Good morning gentlemen. I'm Nathan Stryfe. Welcome to the 3/103rd Armored."
The man was dressed in a long leather Duster, blue jeans, and had the silver leaf of a major on a camo fatigue cap. He recited an introductory paragraph, that more or less said, by swearing, you would protect and defend the Constitution of the US, it's lawfully elected officials, as well as the Government of PA. You would not be members of the Armed Forces, per se, but rather paid employees. The penalty for breaching this loyalty oath, was death...
Stryfe paused and offered to answer any questions.
"Do you so swear?..."
[McCain] Well, first I'm not taking any oath until I find out where those guys took my friend Petey. I've travelled a ways with him and can vouch that he is a good man...that is about all that matters these days, I think.
The stern-looking Colonel's eyes turned more grey. "How long have you known Petey? A year? Two years? Three?... I doubt it. According to our records, *PVT* Pete Slade has been AWOL from C Company of this very Battalion for nearly two years now. Plus, He's been wanted for questioning as a possible suspect in a rash of serial-style killings over three states during the last 2 years. Seems a certain Pontiac GTO was placed on the scene of all of the crimes. Slade had a GTO registered under his name. Now how many GTOs do you think are wheeling around these days?!?!?"
The COL paused, and regained himself.
"A 'good man'... that's some compliment! According to his rap sheet, the only thing he's good at is killing people. I'm sure he never shared those little pieces of his past with you..." The Colonel slowed down, and paced his voice. "Petey has admitted to being AWOL, but not to the murders. I am forced to hold him under arrest until we can straighten this mess out. But we know there's been no identity mixup. I'm very sorry about your friend, MR McCain..."