“What is wrong with you?!” the girl was yelling at Rob, after they had moved a bit down the road. “You just killed three innocent people!”
Rob snorted “ha, hardly innocent.”
“What? Hardly innocent? What do you call gunning down people you don’t even know, who haven’t done anything to you, from a mile away?”
“Alright, that’s enough!” Rob shouted back. “Let’s break it down, First, I don’t want to kill anyone, I’m not some heartless monster – I have to live with what I’ve done, I’ll be carrying those mens souls with me for the rest of my life, and ill have to answer for them, as well as every other one. Second, you saw who that was, you know who it was. We have been moving at a pace that would be hard to keep up with, let alone catch up to; you think that guy got his buddies and their guns to come and frickin’ say I’m sorry, no hard feelings? No, of course not, they come looking to extract revenge. Third, we now have an injured person that we must take care of, if it were just you and I, things may have played out different, and we could have outrun them. I did the best thing at the moment, and it’s done – now stop judging me or your on your own, sanctioned or not!”*
She held his gaze for a bit, deciding what she could do – but his stare broke hers and she looked away. “Whatever, let’s just get Holly and get going.”
When they reached Holly, she was trembling and on the verge of hysteria “thank god it’s you! Are you ok? I herd gunfire, then screaming, what’s going on?”
Rob responded “We got attacked and had to defend ourselves, we need to get moving incase there’s more.”
Holly’s wide eyes turned wider, and she started mumbling incoherently. The girl could pick up a word or two in-between the garble, but it made no sense. “Guns… People… Forest… Cave… Danger…”
Rob slung his rifle, slipped an arm under Hollies armpit, reached across her back, picked her up, and got her to hop towards the bike with his help – with her mumbling the whole time. “Deserve… Bloody… Run…”
He got her on the bike, Holly passively reacting to instructions, but not responding to conversation. With her on the bike, Rob grabbed one side of the handlebar, and indicated that the Girl grab the other. Once in position, they started pushing, once again on the move.
After about fifteen minutes, Holly stopped mumbling, so the group moved on in silence.
The silence continued for the next few days, silent meals, silent trails, and silent breaks. Rob and the girl silently agreed that they would be the only ones pulling guard, and put Holly to bed each night.
One morning, the girl handed Holly a breakfast of reconstituted eggs and bacon, with some fresh onions and potatoes cooked in.*
“Thanks.” said Holly, as she accepted the meal.
Stunned, the girl almost dropped her breakfast. “You’re talking again?”
“Yes, sorry, I don’t know what came over me. The last few days have been like a dream, I remember everything, but I had no control over what I was doing. I think the gravity of what has been going on hit me, and I think I need to change with the times. Maybe my mind was making that change?”
Rob was listening to the conversation, and towards the end of the females talk, he started digging though one of the bags attached to the frame of the bike. He walked over and handed Holly the 9mm Taurus that they got off the first group of ambushers the girl and he took out. “It’s time you stop being food – a sheepdog needs fangs.”
She accepted the handgun, and he spent the next hour showing her how to use it; preform a consistent draw from the holster, how to acquire a proper sight picture, how to squeeze the trigger, how to breathe, and how to load/reload the pistol. ****** **
They cleaned up, and got moving. Each break, Holly practiced what she learned, and Rob showed her something else; how to reload one handed, how to break it down for maintenance and how to adjudicate basic malfunctions.
That night, they stopped on a hillside overlooking another town. Fires were burning all over the city, some whole buildings or houses, some camp or cooking fires.*
“Why are we stopping here? We should go around it?” the girl said.
“I agree, but we have to stop. You see that yellow building on the edge of town? That is one of our main rally points, as well as a resupply point. Amongst other things, there should be a car in it that still runs. It’s old, but that’s the point; nothing electric, and no computers to get fried.”
“We should go down now then, what about the fires?”
“Don’t worry about them much, we chose that facility because it’s an old public storage building. It’s made out of cinderblocks and has a metal roof. Fire should not be an issue. Let’s get a few hours rest, and go down in the middle of the night.”
Each of the trio got about two hours of sleep when Rob declared it time to get ready. He had each of them get in their darkest clothes and put a dark green cream on their faces from a tube fished out of his backpack of never ending surprises.*
During his guard shift, while the others slept, he covered all the reflectors and chrome parts on the bike with some black electrical tape. He lubed the joints, gears and chain with some of his gun oil. The final preparation was using some parachute cord to tie down any hanging items, ensuring they will not clang, drag, or get snagged in the bikes mechanics. **
While the other two got ready, he spoke “we are going to do this fast but quiet. The only people up right now are the pros, that’s the good news because professionals are predictable. They will not mess with a group like ours without a reason – and we will not give them one. Follow my lead in all engagements. If we get separated, rally back at the storage facility, it should be easy to find because of it’s yellow paint, even in just moon and fire light. Do not take a direct route to it, work in a circle to see if you are being followed. This should be quick and painless, but be ready for anything.”
The precautions ended up being for naught. The only person they ran into was a fitly drunk man who was persuaded to mind his own business after the three pointed their respective firearms at him.*
The storage facility was surrounded by a black fence, each rod that made up one of the components looked like a spear, thrust upward into the night. Rob went to an old man-gate, and unlocked the padlock that kept it secure by using a key on a chain around his neck.*
“How do you have a key for this place, is one of the members an owner or something?” Holly asked.
“Nope, something much more complicated. When this place was selected, we noticed that this gate was almost never used. We changed out the lock and distributed a key.”
“That’s not complicated, just sneaky.”
“Well it didn’t end there, we had to get a key onto the managers key ring without him knowing, just in-case he wanted to open it when we were not around. The last thing we need is them changing the lock without us being aware. We could still get in, but not as cleanly.”*
“So how’d you do it?”
“Sorry, members only secret, but I will tell you that copious amounts of beer, a pretty girl, and periods of memory loss were involved.” Rob said, as the stopped in front of unit 223.
Rob pulled out the same chain from his shirt and around his neck to use a different key to open the hefty lock that secured the roll-up door to the unit. He lifted the gate from the bottom, and the mechanism made much less noise than they thought it would. He saw their surprise and said “seriously, your shocked? We planned everything under the sun to almost story-like perfection, and you are stunned that we would think to grease the chains and pulley system? I’m kinda hurt.”
With a smile he walked into the darkness of the unit, leaving his companions out in the night.
The two stood outside for a little bit, unsure on if they should follow him in. Moments later he returned, carrying a long, sliding ladder.
“One of you needs to get on the roof and provide a lookout, I don’t think anyone will come upon us at this time of the night, but any noise we make may draw attention.” Rob said as he set up the ladder and leaned it against the building.*
Holly indicated that she would preform the lookout duties, and in doing so was handed Rob’s night vision monocular. She slipped the safety cord over her neck, and shimmied up the ladder to the roof of the building.
Rob quietly called up to her “If you see anyone, don’t call out unless it’s an emergency, I would prefer to keep your presence an ace up our sleeves, so to speak. There are some random rocks and pebbles up there, make a pile – if you see anything, just drop a few over the side and we will get ready.”
The girl followed Rob into the dark storage unit. After her eyes adjusted, she could see that the space was lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves, all packed with storage totes. Each box had markings on them, either in sharpie or a printed out label. The center of the unit was filled with two vehicles, front to back, filling the long space. Each were almost identical; older, boxy, Jeep Cherokee 4x4s with roof racks and associated off-road gear. They were not turned into the almost comical, over-the-top trucks one would expect, but more simple modifications to make them capable and provide the ability to carry more supplies. The one parked in the front was black, the rear; a dark green.*
Rob pointed to some scribblings on the wall, made in chalk. “Looks like doc and wings came through here a few days ago. That’s good to know that we have someone blazing a trail ahead of us.”
“Doc? Wings? I assume the first is your doctor, and the second a pilot? What’s your silly nickname? Snake? Wolf?” the girl questioned.
“No nickname for me, most of us don’t have one. Doc is our dentist, and the best thing we are going to get as a medic. As for Wings, yep he is a pilot – but not that good of one, or they would have been flying.” * *
The girl dropped it, and watched as Rob moved some things around under the hood of the first Jeep. After some time, he opened the drivers door, turned the key, and with a few coughs, the truck started. Rob smiled, and let the vehicle run at a low idle.*
He started grabbing totes and had the girl load them up into the Jeep. She noticed some were marked with dates (later to be found out as the expiration date range of the food inside) some with cryptic numbers (ammunition calibers and quantities) and others with obvious titles such as “medical” or “commo”.*
Rob muscled their bike onto the roof rack, and tossed their bags in the back, on top of some plastic totes. The last thing he grabbed were four Jerry cans of gasoline that he strapped to the roof of the vehicle, with a old green poncho bungie corded around them.
Rob tossed his current combat harness and rifle into the backseat on the floor of the truck. He then opened a locked footlocker found in one corner of the storage space, and pulled out new articles of war. A vest system that looked heavy because of the large, bulletproof plates it contained – in addition to the many rifle and pistol magazines in the various pouches attached to the outside of the system. After donning the vest, rob pulled out a short, but heavy looking rifle with a small scope and flashlight attached.
The girl was impressed, Rob looked every bit the soldier that she knew he was. It also made her miss her man; a large part of him was the military, and he talked about it allot. Before Rob could see she was getting a bit misty eyed, she asked: “What kind of rifle is that?”
“it’s a Springfield Armory M1a SOCOM, in a SAGE EBR stock system with an Aimpoint reflex site.” Rob replied, sounding very satisfied.
Rob’s smile faded. “Oh, never mind, all you need to know is it’s shorter and handier than my Garand. You will be driving, and I will be in the back seat. I may have to fight from either or both sides of the truck, and I need to be able to move as fast as I can.”
“Why don’t you use a pistol, or sub machine gun or something if you want something short?”
“I guess I could, if sub’s were legal, but they both also only fire pistol bullets. I may have to stop other vehicles from within or around ours, and the big rifle bullets this fires would be much more effective.”
Rob walked outside, and gave a low whistle. Moments later Holly peeked over the edge of the roof. He asked if there was anyone in the area, to which she responded in the negative. After motioning Holly to come down, he had the girl pull out the now supply filled Jeep.
Once she was down, he quickly put the ladder back in the unit, locked it up, and jumped into the backseat, with the girls taking the front.*
“let’s get moving, we need some miles out of the town before the sun comes up. Don’t use the headlights, and take it at a moderate pace. We have extra quiet mufflers on this, so it should not be too loud.”*
The girl nodded, put it into drive, and took off.
The vehicle seemed like magic. After so long of only using leg-powered travel, even low speeds were a welcome change.
They made it out of the town without incident, and were able to suck up the miles for the next hour before the sun started peaking behind one of the mountains.*
Rob had them pull off the actual freeway, slip it into all wheel drive, and get some distance from the pavement. Shortly, they were completely hidden by trees and shrubs, allowing for a safe stop to spend the day.
Each was accustomed to certain camp chores that were now thrown completely off by adding the vehicle, additional supplies, and unknown locations of everything. They quickly adapted and set up a cold camp to get some much needed rest.
Rob volunteered for the first watch. Before the girl went to bed, he asked her for the marine radio that her man had set up for her. She had almost forgotten the ammunition can with it’s electrical components, and gladly handed them over.
Unable to stay awake any longer, she fell asleep in the dawns first light to the sound of Rob trying to raise the other members of his group.