The moon continued to shine brightly in the night. The group travelled up a slight incline, and sat down to rest on a smallish hill. The group was somewhere north of the town of Northumberland, perhaps 1 klick distant. Lights were on thru the town, and the rumble that could only be tracked APCs could be heard, along with the grinding groan of heavy trucks. Occasionally, a searchlight stabbed out into the darkness of night, but the beam fell far short of the group's path.
Everyone was cold, tired, yet wired from the excitement. CPT Panoke was not bleeding profusely, but had required help from Brooke and the others to get this far. The MAJ actually seemed invigorated from the evening's activities. Berger shuddered as he whispered to the others, and occasionally sniffed his nose, cursing the creek and the dogs that drove them there. Brooke had no trouble at all keeping up with the men, and had been invaluable in watching the POW and assisting the CPT.. Reb seemed so serious, and yet, so professional in his actions this night.
The group again consulted the map. The lay of the land was such that to the south was the town, to the east was the Creek, leading to the area of the VFW, and to their north and west, were a series of ridges, leading ultimately to the rendevous point.
[Berger] "Well, sirs, we're only about 5 klicks from the rally point, by our reckoning." He nodded at Reb. "But it's over those hills to the west. Remember the cliffs we saw earlier this evening? I wouldn't doubt it would take us 2 hours to cross these ridges, what with two people wounded, and us toting a POW. And then there's another 20-30 minutes to reach the RP. So I think we've already missed 1ST PTN. I think it's the safest route, but also, like I said, there's a good chance we'll be on our own in getting back to the Camp."
The noise from the town of Norry continued. Lights could also be seen across the river in Sunbury, and their reflections danced off the water of the Susquehanna...
"Well," sighs the good Major, "We're not getting anywhere just talking about it. Lets get on the horn to 1st PLT to let them know they can go home without us. Make it quick, though - I don't think there's much radio detection gear left these days, but no sense taking chances - 30 seconds maximum from start of broadcast time, even if we don't get through." The intention was to use the pre arranged codes...
"After that - well, Corporal I'm sorry to take you off point, but Berger is more familiar with our route home, and I can't spare two at the front of the line. Ms. Whittacker needs to assist Captain Panoake, and someone needs to guard the prisoner, and someone needs to bring up the rear. Would you prefer to be a prisoner guard or a rear guard Corporal?
Whichever you take, I'll take the other." Panoke continues to try to rely on the help of any one if he can.
[ooc] if he has pain killers with him then take one. He will worry about the effects later. At the moment he is holding the group back and that is not good. Apart from a quiet thanks to Ms Whittacker he is quiet keeping what energy he has in reserve unless it is needed.
[Brooke Whittaker] Brooke slowly stands up in anticipation of starting the walk home again. She paces around as the others make the plans for the route home. Being cold, wet, and tired, Brooke was afraid of having her legs cramp up and further delay their return to camp. Brooke remains attentive to the route that they are planning just in case she became separated from the group.
02MAY03 / 0240 hours
Patrol outside Norry
Reb nods in reply to the Major. "Understood Sir. I'll take Tail-Gun Charlie...you should be here in the center." O'Herren flashes a quick grin that never reaches his eyes before turning away. Stopping beside the Captain and Brooke, Reb leans in talks in a hushed tone. "How ya holdin' up Ca'pin? We'll get ya back and have ya feeling good in no time Sir..."
Casting an eye toward Whittaker, O'Herren adds "If ya need a change of scenery just holler, okay? I'll switch places with you...." With a nod of understanding Reb moves toward the rear of the patrol. Though tired and drained by the aftereffects of the firefight, O'Herren moves with a determined step...a glint of seriousness in his ice blue eyes...
Careful to stay about 10-15 meters behind the others, he keeps most of his attention turned toward the rear and flanks...head on a swivel and 16 at the ready...
02MAY03 / 0245 hours
Recon Team Outside Norry.
After regrouping, and coming to the realization that the Recon Team will probably miss the linkup, the group gets going. Berger explains the radio will be useless at this point, due to it's limited range (2KM) as well as the intervening ridges.
[Berger] "When we crest the last ridge, we should be able to raise them. With the Major's permission, I'll try in about an hour or so depending on our progress." Berger's concern for the MAJ and CPT is apparent. Especially when he sees CPT Panoke downing some pills...
"Hang in there sir. All will be well. We just hafta keep movin'." Berger does his best to 'keep up appearances', but he's shuddering from the chill in his bones, too, and he juicily sniffed his nose, on occasion. Perhaps someone even saw him wipe it on his sleeve once or twice.
Plus, Berger is no Spring Chicken like most of the party. He would appear to be about the same age as the Major. It was hard to tell -- the crew cut and pony tail made him look younger than he was, if anything. Maybe that was by design, in order to conceal the thinning hair on top, and the greying stuff at the sides...
The group pressed onward. It appeared despite everything, Berger was an OK point man. He thought he heard or saw something a few times, and once, he held up the group for a moment so as not to startle some nearby deer.
02MAY03 / 0345 hours
From his facial expression, the group hadn't made the progress Berger had hoped for. Still, Berger got on the walkie talkie and attempted to raise SGT Royce and 5th PTN...
There was no response...
The Recon Team continued on their heading.
02MAY03 / 0415 hours
Finally the group crested the last of the hills. Everyone's legs felt the strain of climbing hills half the morning, and this was amplified by the facts that they were also cold, tired, stressed, and burned out from trying to function in the dark.
Plus two people were injured, and the group had a prisoner in tow. Maybe people were looking for someone to blame for everything bad that had happened during this mission. The prisoner seemed a likely candidate, being as he was bound and gagged... No one did anything, but each wondered what, if anything, the others were thinking about this person they had captured.
During a brief rest, Berger glared at the man, as if doing so would burn holes in the man's body... Not far from there, Berger had halted at the peak of the ridge, and now was smiling as he pulled out the radio and extended the antenna.
"We're probably about a klick away. Give or take. And they should be out that way." He pointed to the northwest. He again tried to raise 5th PTN on the radio, but was unsuccessful.
In fact, now he couldn't even seem to get the thing to turn on. Cursing slightly under his breath, he removed the back panel and looked the batteries. He jiggled them around, but no lights lit up, and no static could be heard in the headset. He cursed forcefully, using a favored exclamatory verb beginning with "F"....
[Berger] (pounding his fist against his leg, then looking around apologetically to everyone)
"F....! Batteries! Fn things are dead!?!?.... I'm sorry, Major... you all... the damn things are dead and I didn't bring any Fn spares! Stupid!..."
Berger's verbal assault on himself was interrupted by the distant crackle of gunfire. Although it was some distance away, Berger threw himself down, as did some of the others. It lasted maybe 15 seconds, and included automatic fire as well as some single shots.
The direction of the firing was about where Berger had just pointed, to the northwest, and somehow [GM-actually, by rolling :)], everyone was able to determine that it was about a KM away -- not too close, not too far[GM jusssst right!]. The firing died down after 15 seconds or so, and then resumed for another 15 seconds, maybe a little longer.
Then all was silent. Until two more single shots pierced the darkness, making nearly everyone jump.... It was not hard for everyone in the group to put 2 + 2 together, and grimly realize that 5th PTN had just seen some action.
As for the outcome, it was anybody's guess....
Berger started scrounging through his his fanny pack... Panoke looks over in the general direction. Well what ever has happened has happened. The only thing we would be able to do by the time we got there would be to care for the wounded. He shakes his head, clearly iritated at being wounded and slowly the group down.
Panoke realises what is going on he says to the prisoner. "Sunshine, if you do not move at least as fast as I do then some thing very unpleaaasent is going to happen to you. Do I make myself clear ?"
Panoke does his best to keep up and not to slow the group down. But apart from trying to do this he is silent. He uses his strength and energy to keep moving.
Berger's words echo thru the CPT's mind.
..."I think it's the safest route, but also, like I said, there's a good chance we'll be on our own in getting back to the Camp."
Panoke nods in agreement at the Sgts words.
Major von Fischer had been coming slowly to the conclusion that this recon was going to hell for some time now, but the crackle of small-arms fire finally added a definitive argument. This was it! The team was screwed! No batteries, 5th PTN wiped out, wounded slowing the party down! It was time for drastic measures! Time to bug out! The Colonel would understand - there was no other choice under the circumstances! There was no other... no other...
"I'm panicing," he thought to himself. "Jesus H. Christ, I'm panicing. Take a breath Eric - you'll get these people killed a lot quicker than the enemy will if you don't get a grip." Glancing around, hoping his body language had not betrayed his thoughts (and uttering a silent prayer of thanks that his sphincter and bladder hadn't betrayed him) the Major slowly comes to a crouching position in cover.
"Platoons don't die in 30 seconds," he says with what he HOPES is confidence. "Not with that low volume of fire anyway. Most likely that was just one of the patrols out looking for us that found more than it could handle. But the noise is going to draw every bad guy in the area down on them, and us if we go that way." He motions the others closer, then speaks in a low voice.
"Unless anyone has any suggestions, we'd best keep moving. Whatever 5th PTN is doing, we probably can't help them. We have a good line on their location, however, so we need to make a decision - head that way and hope we get there before the bad guys do, or use 5th PTN as a distraction and walk home."
[Turning to Panoake] "Captain, I would appreciate your input here."
"Sir. As you say the amount of gunfire suggests that a small group encountered our people. I would guess that there was a short fire fight, with our people winning. Reasoning for this is our people were in prepared positions, the opposition on the move."
Continuing, "... If I am reading what I heard correctly then our people saw the patrol and bounced them, there was a short burst of return fire. Then our patrol finished them off. Now I do not believe that we can do much good heading in that direction. My reasoning here is that we have prisoners and wounded, sir. Also if the commander of that section has any sense then he will pull out soon any way."
"... My advice, if you really want to check, would be to send one person who can move quietly to take a look, and then depending on the situation, either pull out or tell our people to head for base. But we need to get this prisoner back, Sir. As to the prisoner, Sir, well, he is playing, 'I will move very slowly !!!'"
"Better get some one to prod him up a bit. That's my thoughts on the matter, Sir." Panoke salutes.
"Tsk, tsk, Captain. You should know better than to salute while on patrol." He waggles one finger at the wounded Panoake in mock chastisement, then leans close. "We'll get you home - no worries."
" No problem Sir." In the same quiet voice, "And you have done well Sir". Panoke says with respect.
Straightening. "Here's my plan - let me know if I'm off base here. Sergent Berger, give us a compass heading to travel along to head home, and a possible alternate rendevous point along the way. Corporal, you'll take this information and try to catch 5th PLT. Once you link up with them, tell them where we're headed. They have horses, so they can catch us IF you catch them. Otherwise, I'm afraid you're on your own in getting to the rendevous point."
O'Herren nods in understanding. "If 5th PTN have bugged out for any reason, I'll be at the rendezvous as fast as I can. Set a deadline, though, and don't wait. I'll be there, good Lord a willin' and the creek don't rise." He grins through the fatigue, a hard edged glint in his blue eyes. Reb takes out his own compass and begins to take a few readings, stopping only to make a few notes in his field book.
Turning to Berger, Reb awaits the Sergeant's assessment before heading out toward the point he hopes to find 5th PTN.
02MAY03 / 0416 hours
Berger rummaged thru his satchel, but then went to his quiver, and withdrew an arrow with a 3 cm tube duct taped to the end. A small fuse protruded from the rear of the tube.
"Just in case we hit trouble. If it's like you say, 5th PTN took off one direction. If there are any survivors from whoever they were firing at, they might be heading right this way... Just a thought."
[Reb] Reb took off for the rendezvous point that the Recon Team and 5th PTN had agreed on. Being a young whip, he could run if he had to. His speed was moderated by some extent of caution...
Panoke, having seen the man holding the group up, warned the prisoner that he had better not take more time moving than himself (Panoke) if he knew what was good for him....
02MAY03 / 0426 hours
Reb, having pressed on towards the RV point, stopped at the outskirts when he came across the bodies. They didn't look to be any of the men of 5th PTN. Of course he had just met them the night before, so....
02MAY03 / 0427 hours
Reb advanced more slowly, more cautiously toward the little clearing where the horses of 5th PTN had been tethered. He found two more bodies there, and recognized neither of them.
Both had various wounds to the body, but looked like they met their ends from a pistol shot the the head at close range. A couple of little piles of 5.56 N casings could be seen in the humus on the forest floor, as well as some .45ACP casings, here and there...
Reb knew the road was a mere half a klick west of here, so he adjusted his harness, and trotted off in that direction. Meanwhile, the rest of the Recon Team continued to make progress on their heading towards the Camp.
02MAY03 / 0437 hours
Try as he may, Reb had reached RT 147, but the rest of 5th PTN was nowhere to be seen. A few piles of fresh( even warm!) horse manure were in the road heading north, so he felt it was a reasonable guess that they had headed for the camp. He decided to head back toward the rest of the Team.
02MAY03 / 0450 hours
Reb rejoined the rest of Recon Team at the Original Rally Point, and reported that he could not catch the horses of 5th PTN, but they had almost certainly headed north, toward the camp. Berger estimated another hour an a half, then, to reach camp without the horses. The group set out for camp, and arrived there without incident by about 0630, 02 MAY 03.