"Robinson, get up here!", he shouted. The APC's engine was still running, the drivers body slumped over the console. He grabbed the body under the arms, and hauled him out, dumping him unceremoniously in the rear compartment. He crawled into the drivers seat, taking in the controls. Hard to believe he had never driven one of these things in all his years of service. The curse of being light infantry, he thought. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It can't be all that different from driving a truck.
Robbo jumped up and ran towards the Carrier, making his weapon safe as he ran. Barely breaking stride, Robbo scurried up the front of the carrier. Once on the top he quickly dropped down into the mortar bay.
Robinson appeared in the back of the APC. Raven turned in his seat. "Get on the radio, and try to raise the Camp. We're heading back, they need to know what's going on out here, and we've done about all we can. And tell them not to shoot us up." He chuckled to himself at that, it was the second time today he had given that order, at this rate, the 3/103rd motor pool was going to be filled with vehicles bearing Stryfe's symbol. He put the metal beast in gear, and started back to his new home.
Robbo nodded his assent over the noise of the buckets engine, and turned to where the Radio was located.
As the carrier lurched forwards, Robbo cursed aloud at the CO's driving ability and grabbed for a handhold.
Looking closely at the first radio, Robbo dragged out his notebook, and took down the frequency already set in the radio, for future reference, before changing to the command frequency, and radioing in.
"Phoenix One Romeo, this is Phoenix Six Sunray, Acknowledge Over."
"Phoenix Six Sunray, this is Phoenix Colt. I read you 5x5, go..."
Within 60 seconds, Wu and Robbo had ascertained who, where, and how each other was. The good news was that Raven and Robbo would be returning to camp with an M113-style vehicle. The bad news was that despite the lull in firing around the Camp, there was a great possibility of other enemy forces being in the area.
Berger made a brief report on the Camp. To the best of his knowledge, the CP had been hit hard. LT Jackson had broadcast something over the PA a few minutes ago, but his whereabouts were unknown. The Aid Station was intact, as were most of the militia and civilian quarters. There was no info about the Armory or the Vehicle Areas. SSG Sherman was alive, and had left the gunpit for the Aid Station only moments ago. Yes, Cunningham, Yates, and Hannah were there, tending the wounded. They had been in contact with Berger as much as those duties had permitted. No idea on an exact casualty count -- 4 or 5 KIA and at least 10 WIA... Berger's guess, and it was just a guess, was that upwards of a platoon had hit the Camp. Some heavy weapons over by Rapid Run.
Berger had suggested Raven approach via the South Main Entrance along RT 192, where 5 men were still manning a bunker. At least Raven would have some cover fire on the way in if it was needed. The North Main Entrance of RT 192 was probably not safe -- most of the activity Berger had noted was from the Rapid Run Natural Area. Again, it was some sort of rocket launcher or light cannon in the woods there that Berger had seen and most probably knocked out.
Robbo smiled at getting through to base, and passes over a hand/headset over to Raven, so that he can hear the news first hand.
Once the messages have been passed, Robbo climbs up into the Cupola, and scans the area with his NVG, his SA-58 at the ready.
08 MAY 2003 / 2155 hours
RT 192, .5 KM south of Camp
drizzling and cold.
After a quick discussion of who-would-do-what, Raven ended up driving the APC and Robbo took up a lookout from the commander's hatch. It had been several years since Raven had driven anything of the M113 series, but he hadn't forgotten much. Like how touchy the steering could be going from ground to a road, if you could call RT 192 a road. Or just how underpowered the boxy things could be, especially on moonshine.
Their attack on the vehicle and troops had been an audacious one. The top of the mountain where they laid their ambush was now abuzz with activity. Occasional shots rang out, and there was a lot of vehicle noise, that was eventually drowned out by the engine of their own track. Soon they had reached a point just half a klick south of the Camp. The night was quiet, and the NVGs revealed nothing in the vicinity. Far behind them, back around the peak of the mountain they had only recently left, a firefight continued. The deep, throaty banging of a .50 cal was unmistakable in the miserable drizzling night.
Raven struggled to keep the M113 under control. "Rusty" didn't even begin to describe his skills in driving the thing. He shouted to Robbo over the engine noise, "Have you raised the Camp yet? What's their situation?" The sounds of the firefight behind them had him worried, the possibility that the Camp was already under attack left a gnawing dread in the pit of his stomach. He'd only been in command a day, and now he might be losing that command, permanently. Almost unconsciously, he floored the accelerator.
08 MAY 2003 / 2155 hours
South of 3/103rd PHOENIX Camp
formerly RB Winter State Park
approx 25 km W of Lewisburg, PA
Raven listened closely as CPL Robinson relayed Wu's SITREP. His worst fears had been realized, the Camp was already under attack. He pounded his fist in frustration on the APC's control panel. Damn Stryfe to Hell. Sure, he thought, here I was being so clever, ambushing the bad guys before the could hit us again, and I fell for the oldest tactic in the book, divide and conquer. Caught with my pants down, like a schoolboy trying to cheat on a test. When I get my hands on Stryfe, I'm going to mount his head on a pike, right in front of the Camp, so everyone can see what happens to traitors. The tradition of taking trophies had fallen out of favor in the "civilized" world during the last 300 years or so, but at the moment, Raven wasn't feeling very civil. The old ways were a part of him, but they got you strange looks from the other soldiers.
The only bright spot in all of this madness was the track that they had managed to capture. Maybe there was still a chance. Raven shouted over the noise of the APC, "Robinson, find out where the heaviest concentration of enemy at the Camp is at, and give me directions. Maybe we can use this beast to our advantage." The enemy might think that the M113 was on their side when they saw it coming in, and buy them enough time to take them out. The APC didn't have an machinegun or an AT weapon, but the track itself was a weapon, it could turn a man into an unrecognizable mess in less than a second.
As the Mortar Track moved forward, Robbo does his best to guide Raven through the dark forest, without getting his own head knocked off in the process, all the while scanning the area with his NVG looking for any un-friendlies out in the forest.
"Bucking Fuckets!!! Sir, I thought you knew how to drive these things!"
08 MAY 2003 / 2200 hours
South entrance of PHOENIX Camp
formerly RB Winter State Park
Raven gunned the M1064 in to the Camp, hoping the word had been passed that they were on their way. A FF incident would be a tragic but possible ending to his short stint as CO of the 3/103rd Armored. Actually Robbo might be the first to perish in such a case -- it was the Aussie that had his head poked up past the armored sides at the commander's position. A brief laugh came to Raven's mouth, but then vanished as he pondered a MAJ acting as jeeves to a CPL in the commander's spot. Well, there was some truth in the bit about "from each according to his ability", and the ride probably would be even bumpier with Robbo at the helm.
The track pulled up to within 50 meters the bunker located in the strip of ground between RT 192 and Boyer Gap Rd. at the south end of Camp. Nothing. Dead quiet. No firing, but then again, no nothing. Was the place deserted? Damn! If this was the security at the front door, it's no wonder the place had attackers running around inside the wire at leisure. Then from within the bunker came a quiet, almost weak voice.
Crap, now what had Berger's response been for the blasted challenge? Raven asked Robbo, and Robbo puzzled back to Raven. Something so simple, yet important, how could they both forget it. Berger's passwords were almost always music-related stuff, and... what was it? Berger liked Clapton, was it White Room? But could it be White Christmas, to throw Stryfe off? Finally, Raven remembered and offered his response.
"Album". Berger was a huge Beatles fan. That had to be it.
Honestly, both of you failed miserably the first time vs INT...
A figure appeared on either rear oblique sides of the M1064, perhaps 20 meters away. Both had rifles and grenades ready. A quick flash went through both 3/103rd men's minds as to how vulnerable their mount had been when it was the two of them doing the attacking. It was startling for a few tense milliseconds until both Robbo and Raven realized these were friendlies.
"Welcome back, sir. Nice ride you have there."
Raven hopped out of the M1064, rifle in hand. He shouted to the defenders he had managed to gather together, "Grab your weapons, and follow me. We've got to get to the vehicles. With the weapons they have mounted, we can counter-attack, and drive these bastards out."
"Sir, PVT Hartman here. There's 5 of us here at the bunker. Do you want all of us to follow you? We've not taken a lot of fire but we've heard some commotion up near Rapid Run..."
It was basic tactics for mounted troops, but none of the militia had done this before. There were a thousand things that could go wrong, but he couldn't just stand by and watch his command decimated on his first day. That sort of thing was bad for morale, not to mention how it would look to a promotion board. Gen Applegate would probably give him a royal chewing out, but on the bright side, he'd most likely be dead.
Raven thought furiously for a moment. "No, two of you stay here, the rest of you pile in. We need this area kept under observation, but if it looks like you're about to be overrun, get the Hell out of here and make your way back to Camp. Don't be a hero. We need you alive a lot more than we need this bunker occupied."
Robbo ducked down out of the command cupola and scuttles back to the rear ramp and un-dogs the rear door set into the ramp, letting the militiamen into the back deck of the carrier.
"Mind your heads, and pull up a pew. I'd strongly suggest you hold on, the Major isn't the best carrier driver."
08 MAY 2003 / 2205 hours
M1064, heading N on Boyer Gap Road
formerly RB Winter State Park
Raven and Robbo continue north in the M1064 with the 3 militia (two hunting rifles and a pump shotgun) they picked up at the roadblock, until they reach the point where Bake Oven Trail and Boyer Gap Rd (North) intersect. Shadowy forms can be seen running back and forth between the Q and M areas of Parking Area #3. A few seconds later, 2 more forms cross the road near the line of vehicles parked on the EAST side of the road.
Raven shouted to Cpl Robinson and the militia in the back of the APC, "Heads up people, we've got movement up ahead. Can't tell if they're friendlies or not." He bored in, heading straight for the parking area. The time for subtlety was over, his Camp was in danger of being overrun. His Camp. He hadn't even been in command for an entire day, and yet he already thought of the people here as his own, like his surrogate family. He had no living blood relatives, his parents had been dead for years, and the rest had gone to join his ancestors, one by one, leaving him alone on the Earth. It didn't matter, the Army had really been his family for the last 3 decades.
But too many members of that family were no more as well. He had ended up with the 28th Division after he had been separated from the rest of his unit in the Middle East. Separated from his unit. A polite Army euphemism for saying that the Big Red One had been slaughtered like cattle, and the remnants scattered to the four winds. He had lost too many friends already, there was no way in Hell he was going to lose any more here.
He shouted again over the noise of the engine, "Robinson, we have to get to the Armory as well. We need to grab the Recoilless rifle and machinegun I brought here." He thought to himself, time for the Hunt.
"Understood Sir. Keep the Militia in the carrier as security, or bring them with us?"